Rob Edgar writes:
Is the North East a "large, desolate and uninhabited area" (Quote from Lord Howell of Guildford)? A couple of weeks ago, in my home-town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, I spoke to local music shop and recording studio owner Brian Martin who has opened a café on the town's High Street, dedicated to live music and jazz.
The Kazmiranda café has been hosting live music since the 6th January this year and puts on everything from open-mic nights (nobody is excluded, the only rule is “no backing tracks!”) to gigs with Brian's band, the Tweed River Jazz Band featuring some of the best local talent including trumpeter Peter Roughead (an honorary citizen of New Orleans; he went out there to learn the style) and violinist Lucy Cowan (who began her career in Vienna, she teaches and plays locally as well coaching annual chamber music courses).
The Café itself is a cosy place; it offers home-made food courtesy of Brian's wife Karen Macdonald (the couple owned a bistro in the early 90s before going into music full-time) by day. There is no bar but Kazmiranda offers a corkage fee. The décor was done on a shoe-string but you would never notice; Brian is a real collector and it can feel as if you are stepping into a museum. Paintings adorn the walls, old radios abound (including a 1923 BBC crystal radio set – totally intact), and, if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Brian's 1936 Rickenbacker electric guitar, one of the first in the world.
Berwick and the North East do very well, a few years ago the management of Berwick's local theatre (the Maltings) changed. The new Chief Executive at the time, Miles Gregory (now living in New Zealand) re-vamped its image, and it was firmly established as a cinema, concert hall and function room. The theatre is now often used as a warm-up venue for stand up comedians and has seen the likes of Jason Manford and Reginald D Hunter on its stage.
And there's more, in Berwick and beyond:
The Berwick Film Festival
Pier Red, a new art gallery/bar/bistro also featuring live jazz on occasion which opened recently
Gateshead's Sage which is where I was first able to hear Herbie Hancock, Lionel Louke, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, and more live.
Until very recently, if you felt like going somewhere more intimate, you could walk to the Jazz Café in Newcastle's Pink Lane and hear some of the finest music in the city.
There are jazz nights in The Chillingham, The Star Inn, and the Black Horse in Whitley Bay – and all of this is admirably and reliably covered by Lance Liddle over at Bebop Spoken Here.
The North East of England is home to many vibrant music and art scenes and some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Desolate is not the word that comes to mind.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight - People Music
(Mack Avenue Records Mac 1070. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘I figure the best way to communicate is to let the people navigate where you should go’ is bassist/composer Christian McBride’s explanation of the title of this, the second album from his quintet Inside Straight (a name that was itself chosen from submissions by fans). Such self-effacing populism might easily have resulted in a somewhat bland and inoffensive album – and there are indeed moments during this determinedly accessible programme when a bit of raucous brawling might have usefully leavened the somewhat polite sound-mix – but overall McBride’s contention that swinging and imagination are not mutually exclusive is vindicated by the majority of the in-band originals that make up People Music.
These range from the bassist’s own classy straightahead offerings (the pick of them ‘Fair Hope Theme’, which intersperses whip-smart ensemble work with a series of cogent, lively solos from altoist Steve Wilson, pianist Peter Martin and vibes player Warren Wolf over the composer’s pulsating bass and Carl Allen’s crisp drums; to a soprano-led tribute to Maya Angelou (Wilson’s ‘Ms. Angelou’); a nimble, driving theme featuring Inside Straight’s ‘alternative’ pianist and drummer, composer Christian Sands and Ulysses Owens Jr. respectively (‘Dream Train’); and an affecting threnody for Whitney Houston, ‘New Hope’s Angel’, which closes the programme on a rather sombre note.
Anyone who’s witnessed McBride perform (and caught, maybe, his wonderfully uplifting James Brown-inspired dancing) will have experienced the full force of his considerable charm and personal magnetism; these qualities are present in abundance on this consistently likable album, which – as McBride himself claims – can reasonably be compared with ‘a classic car – a ’69 Lincoln Continental’.
Left to right: Bill Laurence, Michael League. Manchester Jazz Festival 2013
(Manchester Jazz Festival. Band on the Wall, 28 July 2013. Review by Adrian Pallant)
My first experience of the Brooklyn-based collective that is Snarky Puppy was back in January 2013, when three members of the band – Michael League (electric bass), Bill Laurence (keys), Robert "Sput" Searight (drums) – undertook a week's residency programme in Manchester, a life-changing experience for all involved, as Kieran Mcleod reported at the time. This Arts Council-supported initiative, created by Wall of Sounds (a partnership between Brighter Sound and Band On The Wall), saw thirteen emerging musicians working with the three Americans and creating a memorable gig of entirely newly-forged music.
Fast forward six months to Sunday night, and to a headline sell-out gig at Band On The Wall from a full-scale, nine-piece Snarky Puppy. But first... a wonderful surprise – 'the thirteen' all returned to a packed house to perform their entire set with their three mentors! It felt like a real homecoming for all of us who had gathered there last winter.
And, so to Snarky Puppy – a thunderous, creative New York powerhouse of keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, trumpets/flugel and sax. They are a fascinating group, who interact readily with their fast-growing UK following – they've only been visiting these shores for the last fourteen months and already have a special affection for this venue. Influences are many, but perhaps summed-up as a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, soul, Seventies-retro, dubstep and garage... yet somehow they achieve pounding, improvised grooves which hang together tightly and connect with a wide age-range. The young guys beside me – at the front of a hot, heaving mass! – responded excitedly and vocally to every physical and musical move made by the band who gladly reciprocated. And a great part of the magic is that, for the duration of their fast-moving 90-minutes-plus set, Snarky Puppy constantly amaze and even shock each other with their quick-switching, unexpected improvisations – all pinned together with huge, mutual respect and trust.
Keys player Bill Laurence (from London, the band's only non-American) provides a huge creative influence, clearly relishing the music and thriving on the madcap jinks and camaraderie. League, as leader, is a thrilling bassist to watch up-close, his 'outraged' facial expressions to the rest of the band (and audience) as animated as his technique! He explained to me that they always seek new ways of presenting their music, to keep things fresh – and one fan expressed how impressive it is that they spontaneously deconstruct and then reconstruct their album tracks to create a different live experience every time. That said, they have their 'potboilers', with the memorable pitch-bent synth riff of 'Thing of Gold' (from their 'Ground Up' album) a great crowd-pleaser. At 'mjf', they clearly wanted to party (this was the final leg of a European tour before returning to the States), with League – later seen sporting an "I (heart) MCR" badge – claiming that Manchester was the only crowd that succeeded in clapping offbeat in 7! Playing out with a new album track (welcoming back their 'students' who had helped preview it in January), the whole house vocalised its anthemic hook to a grand climax.
Snarky Puppy have now been together for almost a decade. For their sheer drive, enthusiasm and breathtaking musicality – along with a remarkable sense of community and development – they deserve all their growing popularity.
Next UK appearance: 17th November, Village Underground, London (TICKETS).
Julia Hülsmann Quartet - In Full View
(ECM 371 7777. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘Tom adds hundreds of new colours to our band sound’ is pianist/composer Julia Hülsmann’s reaction to the impact UK trumpeter Tom Arthurs has had on her trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling. Accordingly, since, as she says, ‘many of the things I normally played in the trio . . . didn’t work’, In Full View contains a rich variety of new pieces written specially for the expanded unit by all its members.
The ‘new colours’ Hülsmann mentions range from the mellow plangency, occasionally breaking out into flaring brilliance, Arthurs brings to the bassist’s opener, ‘Quicksilver’, through the brooding lyricism he achieves with this muted instrument on another Muellbauer piece, ‘Gleim’, to the plaintive wistfulness of his contribution to Köbberling’s ‘Forever Old’, the revved-up brashness he adds to Hülsmann’s title-track and the multi-hued virtuosity of his extended solo on his own ‘Forgotten Poetry’ .
Equally adept in both relatively straightahead and freely improvised jazz, Arthurs has rapidly matured, during his Berlin residence, into a genuinely world-class trumpeter, able to move with complete assurance between the most affecting, ringing purity and the almost conversational intimacy demanded by small-group jazz’s more informal moments.
The resounding success of In Full View , however, is by no means attributable solely to Arthurs: Hülsmann is clearly a profound and subtle musical thinker, not only unerringly selecting the moods and textures most suitable for expression by her wonderfully sympathetic bandmates, but also displaying her musical forces with sufficient skill so that the album moves easily and unaffectedly between the gentlest delicacy and the punchiest robustness.
Whether they’re addressing the ten in-group originals or tunes by Manuel de Falla, Fumi Ude (Köbberling’s wife) or even the soft lilt of ‘The Water’ by Canadian singer/songwriter Feist, the quartet, throughout this utterly absorbing and consistently engaging album, constantly pull off small miracles of mutual sensitivity and poetic creativity.
Jean Toussaint/ Julian Siegel Quintet
(Ronnie Scott's. 29th July 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The astonishing bench-strength, the level of talent just waiting there in the wings in the London jazz scene has been proved yet again. Pharaoh Sanders had suddenly flown back to the US and cancelled his remaining UK dates, including two nights at Ronnie Scott's. Reasons of ill health were cited (although conspiracy theorists on social media seemed to have other ideas). This left a gap. A gap is an opportunity, which Ronnie Scott's management filled particularly imaginatively, both for last night and for tonight. There are spaces. Go.
So where do you go looking to find a last-minute replacement for Pharaoh Sanders? Answer: the lower slopes of Highgate Hill, because there you find Jean Toussaint. Toussaint was born in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and by the age of 26 he had already had four years as a Art Blakey Jazz Messenger. Having thus proved himself at the highest level, his credentials as a world-class tenor saxophonist never were, are probably never will be in doubt. He plays with presence, imagination, class - and also with the ease and the geniality of a man who has chosen to live his life grounded in N8 and in his much-admired teaching, rather than dragging a suitcase around the world with him. He plays in a constant state of motion, occupying a far larger space than if he were to remain static, and the freedom he has in every aspect of his playing are remarkable. He also enlisted a phenomenal sparring partner on saxophones, Julian Siegel. Before last night the two hadn't played in any context for well over a year, and the process of them musically greeting each other at the very highest level, each progressively absorbing and internalizing the other's language was just fascinating to watch. It will go further tonight. Their sounds are different, Siegel's more penetrating, probably produced with a softer reed (?) but there too, the imitiation and collaboration tends to lead to reinforcement and complementarity rather than the contest and the one-upmanship which are popularly imagined. As the evening moved on, the listening and the infectious sense of enjoyment of each other's playing intensified. Spurred on by the rhythm section - and arguably also by the aura still left in the club from Wynton Marsalis last week - they began to swing, and hard, on tunes like Wayne Shorter's Fee Fi Fo Fum.
The classiness of this band is not limited to the front line. Pianist Jason Rebello also had a rocket-fuelled start to his jazz career, but has spent many years in rock stadia as a core band member with the likes of Sting and Jeff Beck. With every back-beat head nod, every springy touch of the sustain pedal, Rebello communicates quite how joyful he is to be returning to jazz. Rebello also has that range of sound from the lightest droplet of two or three notes in the right hand to the "how-many-hands-has-this-guy-got?" Oscar Peterson full works. And all the points in between. There were wonderful moments when Siegel picked up a solo from Rebello (these to have hardly ever worked together, if at all?), re-stating one of the pianist's closing phrases and then moving on from it. The quality of listening is extraordinary. Oli Hayhurst is a powerful, supportive bass player, and drummer Gene Calderazzo's gradual adoption of the irresistible vibe of collective enjoyment on the stand, and his contributions to it, were to be treasured.
Pharaoh Sanders was - sort of - present too. The band clearly enjoyed the raucous spaciousness of tunes like The Creator Has A Master Plan and You've Got to Have Freedom.
The support band, Gareth Williams' Trio also invoked - poignantly - the theme of absence, devoting their last number to to the late Chris Dagley, the third anniversary of whose death passed on Sunday. (At LondonJazz we don't forget him: THIS PAGE with tributes is the most-read ever in the whole time our site has been running). Laurence Cottle was in his element both in the supporting role and as fleet-fingered, endlessly inventive soloist. Chris Higginbottom gave the "intensity and sheer commitment" which Chris Parker spotted when he reviewed his debut album as leader . New to me were Gareth Williams' characterful singing and his witty, friendly introductions. Shut your eyes and it's as if you have the pleasure of listening to a mellifluous and hugely musical Richard Burton. More please, definitely.
There has been a quiet musician buzz for quite a while about Kent-born pianist Elliot Galvin, who graduated this summer from Trinity Laban. Look out. Guy Smith's nicely shot video of Galvin's composition Blues (with regular trio members Tom McCredie - bass and Simon Roth - drums) might just be about to let the secret out...
|Glenn Branca Ensemble at London Contemporary Music Festival|
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved
Glenn Branca Ensemble
(LCMF/Bold Tendencies. Rye Lane, Peckham, 27 July 2013. Review and drawing by Geoffrey Winston)
First and foremost this was an event - one of the series of ambitious concerts in the authoritatively curated, inaugural London Contemporary Music Festival held in a disused Peckham car park under the auspices of the Bold Tendencies project - and what better way to utilise the generous sponsorship that the two organisations have attracted, than to make all events free, to bring in an enquiring, open-minded audience to experience new music live, many for the first time?
Mammoth-like bellows periodically escaped from the cordoned-off auditorium to shake the building while the 400 or so ticket holders were held back for half an hour pending resolution of technical issues. The teeming rain, overflowing gutters and lightning flashes added to the atmosphere as the echoey concrete bunker of a venue amplified the enthusiastic buzz of eager, pre-concert conversations. The views over London, veiled in thin mist, revealed a calm beauty, with precise patterns of tiny red lights defining silhouettes of the Shard and other city skyscrapers.
A primeval roar of deep bass, thrumming guitars and crashing percussion ushered in the audience to swiftly pitch camp around the designated stage area. In complete contrast, the opening section of Glenn Branca's new work, 'Twisting in Space', premièred in Berlin two nights earlier, had a preparatory, 'tuning up' feel, with brittle strums and lightly shimmering drum rolls. Branca, at the podium, gradually became animated, jabbing, pointing, calling to his players, hardly pausing to draw on his cigarette, as they cranked up the intensity with staccato guitar chords bouncing around in controlled bagatelle sequences, all eyes scrutinising the detailed scores and the composer's gestures and expressions.
Rampant bass drum rolls rebounded off the low ceiling, cutting through the guitarists' unified rhythms. Branca adopted air guitar gestures and fought demons to articulate the symphonic structure, and the pace accelerated in a curt, upwardly moving spiral of concentrated energy to complete the second movement. With a clipped '1-2-3-4' call from Branca, Libby Fab hammered it solidly into the third, and the guitarists slammed down edgy, chopping riffs in a rich cohesive flow with the frenetic pace of 'Sabre Dance'. Greg McMullen, baseball cap on backwards, nonchalantly chewed on gum, while detonating simmering, metallic charges; a waif-like Reg Bloor (wife of Branca) scourged the fretboad unremittingly, impassively; a sense of morbidity and uplift were intertwined.
The room was unexpectedly plunged into darkness and uncertainty - at first it seemed like a power cut - then high fives were exchanged between the performers, signalling the conclusion of the new composition after 25 rather than the advertised 75 minutes.
This made room for 'Lesson No 3, a Tribute to Steve Reich', which Branca composed for Reich's 70th birthday concert series in 2006 and 'The Blood' from 2009, ideal pieces to demonstrate the strength of the bond between the musicians, so much at home drawing out the drama in Branca's works, the hypnotic, anthemic repetitions, the coruscation and corrosion, and the ebbing patterns that gave way to pools of repose.
With the trappings and outward appearance of a rock performance it could have been the natural extension of the Velvet's 'White Light, White Heat'. One crucial difference was that there were no solos to speak of. It was all set out on paper. The fine individual contributions were subsumed within the larger picture - superb playing all round, resulting in focused, caringly textured, and fulfilling interpretations of the works. Harsh, extreme at times, but executed with great sensitivity.
Branca, in the programme interview states that he wants to write music that is '... a kind of primitivism. Ugly, mean-spirited, vicious and dirty.' Yet, despite his characteristically misanthropic stance - he ungraciously, but perhaps theatrically, briefly railed against the sound when it was actually in very good shape - the quality of musicianship, the unceasing momentum and the density of the aural experience will resound for some considerable time. This was a benchmark achievement for the LCMF - not an easy one to cut their teeth on, but they did it in the right venue, in the right style.
Glenn Branca: conductor
Reg Bloor, Scott Collins, Eric Hubel, Greg McMullen: guitars
Arad Evans: bass guitar
Libby Fabricitore ('Libby Fab'): drums
Preview: Sarah Gillespie Quartet- Charity Concert for Norfolk Hospice - Kings Lynn Town Hall - 15th August
|Sarah Gillespie with her mother|
Sarah Gillespie writes about her concert in Kings Lynn to raise funds for Norfolk Hospice:
On a map of Britain Norfolk is a round lump that sticks out of the east coast of England. Annexed from the main traffic routes looping up and down to London, it was a region largely untouched by otherness. Hence the county remains stigmatised by folk laws of webbed-feet fenland clans who wantonly hatch offspring with siblings and pick carrots for tax-free cash. While this is obviously a stereotype, it was certainly the case that, when my parents moved to Kings Lynn in 1975, my Midwestern mum was 'the only American in the village'. I spent much of my childhood squirming in the back of the car as she snapped pleasantries like 'you-goddam-son-of-a-bitch!' at startled local farmers who trespassed onto her preordained car park place at Tesco's. My mum used to jokingly describe Kings Lynn as 'a 2 horse town' but even this slightly disparaging phrase leant a veneer of glamour that the town couldn't quite live up to. The beaches and flatlands that surround Kings Lynn are breathtakingly beautiful but the comical strangeness of the region persists. Just last week the headline news broke that someone had snuck into a farm at night and escaped with 500 potatoes.
My mum passed away at home in Kings Lynn in August 2011, 14 months after being diagnosed with bowel cancer that had metastasised to her liver. After the shock of her diagnosis I spent every day locked in cold dread. Anyone who has been through the common scenario of losing a loved one to a terminal illness knows there is nothing more tormenting than the knowledge that a person you love is destined to be in pain. You have to cope with fear and sadness compounded by the sharp sting of your own impotence. However, when my mum finally died at home with my father and I next to her and a Gregorian choir beaming from the stereo, I realised she had probably had one of the most blissful deaths possible in this unholy mess of a planet.
During her final weeks, while my mum was bedridden in our living-room, Macmillan sent nurses to help us care for her and the local hospice Tapping House unleashed the heroic and hilarious Nurse Johnston (a close friend of my mothers) to keep her entertained while my dad went foraging for presents, flowers, chocolates, ice cream and anything he could think of that would put a smile on my mum's face. My aunt Mary Lou, visiting from Minnesota, was flabbergasted by the level of care my mum received free of charge. In the United States, she claimed the equivalent aid would set you back tens of thousands of dollars, money that most people simply don't have. My mother, who never cried once or expressed a bat-squeak of fear, reiterated over and over how thankful we must be for all our good fortune and for the care she received. Or as she put it 'Isn't it wonderful that no one's sending me an invoice?'
This is why I wanted to put on a gig for Norfolk Hospice, both for my mum and to say 'thanks' from all of my family. I can't imagine how much harder the everyday ordeal of palliative cancer care would have been without their help. Tapping House receives a piddly 13% of their funding from the NHS. The rest is raised at the behest of charity functions and private benefactors. So far they lack the funds required to finish building a much needed residential unit for terminally ill patients who are unable to be cared for at home. The whole of North Norfolk lacks this elementary facility. While we are obviously unlikely to raise anything like the amounts needed, it might go some way to help someone else benefit from the vital day care provided for my mum.
Our concert is in the gorgeous Tudor Town Hall in Kings Lynn on Thursday 15th August with support from a great local band 'Jessie's Ghost' and hosted by by childhood friend and comedy writer Nick Welthall. My brilliant band that night consists of fellow Norfolk bumpkin Kit Downes - piano, Ben Bastin - bass and Koby Israelite - drums.
Tickets are £12 from Tapping House online shop HERE or call 01485 542891
If you would like to donate to the hospice please do via their Justgiving page, if you're in or around Norfolk, come and join the party. But please bring your own potato.
A song for my mum: 'Postcards to Outer Space'
Spitalfields Festival have just announced that the season opener of their CLoSer series at Village Underground in Shoreditch is the 1929 Shostakovich New Babylon music on Weds 23rd October. 'Jazz-tinged', as the press release says? Not really. Just very 1920's and mostly very dark and sardonic...
|Left to right: Kate Williams, Bobby Wellins, Oli Hayhurst, Brian Blain, Tristan Maillot|
Photo credit: Jon Macey
Swanage Jazz Festival
(Various venues, Swanage, Dorset. 12th-14th July 2013. Round-up review by Brian Blain)
Blue skies, Med. Blue sea in Swanage Bay, yachts riding at anchor: it was like our very own Newport for the 24th Swanage Jazz Festival.
Honestly, could anything have been better for the open-minded fan than this festival, with its delicious cross-section of contemporary jazz in the first major marquee venue, and continuing loyalty to the traditionalists in the second? I couldn’t take in all the names down for the weekend, several of them arriving late, owing to the fact that thousands of others were clogging the roads to the Isle of Purbeck.
I was taken with the opener in the Methodist Church, Zoe Schwarz and Rob Koral. Their set grew in intensity as the venue filled up; a great programme with nods to Billie Holiday (Foolin' Myself) and Ray Charles (Since I Fell For You) done with real passion. That meant I didn’t want to make the trek to Marquee 2, even for the very fine Steve Waterman seven-piece.
Bobby Wellins and Kate Williams followed in the Church (photo here). As expected, they sounded great in this attractive new venue - not too echo-ey.
The tail end of Waterman’s arrangements of themes by Mulligan, Dameron, Hancock et al saw Dave O’Higgins in sparkling form. It's odd how he seems to move in and out of one’s consciousness, never quite cementing his status as one of the very best. The same goes for Renato D’Aiello Next day he was back in the church, his fabulous ballad sound and blistering Tranery on the fiercer numbers held the crowd spellbound. Great Italian band with piano Bruno Montrone making a strong impression. I can't understand D’Aiello’s relatively low profile.
I missed Charlotte Glasson’s multi-faceted Quintet but reliable spies told me they loved the band, one visiting American tourist giving her trombonist Mark Bassey the man of the weekend accolade.
In Marquee 1, my personal band of the weekend was the Damon Brown/Christian Brewer Quintet. They were handed the tough early morning slot; in truth they deserved a big evening crowd for their totally in control programme of of hard swinging yet lyrical music. Virtually unknown bassist Adam King, coming back after a year out with tendonitis was a revelation in the perfect rhythm team of Leon Greening and Matt Skelton, a trio who grabbed their opportunity in a good Saturday night slot later. Greening never fails, a real thing player of the highest class, with a dramatic sense that no one else equals.
The other young player of the weekend was Reuben James, pianist with Clark Tracey’s New Quintet, another collection of up and coming talent, with NYJO Director, trumpeter Mark Armstrong falling through the rear tent flap as a last minute dep straight into Freddie Freeloader and one of Jimmy Deuchar’s brainbusters, Suddenly Last Tuesday, with astonishing aplomb; a great professional and yet another tremendous trumpet player (not forgetting the real godfather, Enrico Tomasso, in the trad marquee alongside Steve Fishwick, Damon Brown and Steve Waterman gracing the festival.)
Alan Barnes as usual was here, there and everywhere and as well as sitting alongside Tony Kofi in Somogyi’s Mingus programme, partnered the same player in an an unexpectedly intense set, with Kofi sounding absolutely majestic in the church on unhackneyed material like Hi Fly and Kenny Barron's Voyage. Best intro to a tune as well when,in introducing Ellingon’’s atmospheric Isfahan, he opined that "Once , the State Department used to send Big Bands to the Middle and Far East-now it’s drones and stealth bombers” No wonder we love him…
I missed Gilad Atzmon’s main band, the Orient House Ensemble, but his Power Cats, an organ three piece-again sounding great in the church - despite its early sixties beat group sounding name, was marvellous, with Ross Stanley and the truly magnificent Asaf Sirkis on drums; what a time-player: colossal energy and drive but with volume well under wraps.
I wasn't sure if I would dig Kit Downes’ neo-classicism, with cello and all, but in the end he delivered a wonderful set oddly suffused with subtle blues feeling, and even a gospel tinge on the encore-riveting stuff that the packed house of the glibly reviled oldies that make up the bulk of the audience at these events absolutely loved. They took longer to warm to Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, possibly because it wasn’t the sing-along a-Duke they were anticipating. For me I love the way Mark has re written ghastly warhorses like Satin Doll and In a Mellotone, and half way through the set their resistance melted. Lockheart’s scoring for three reeds and viola lead on some tunes is just amazing-and he does it without any of that jokey de-construction nonsense that became Django Bates’s default setting.
And so to the almost now traditional finale, a bulging-at-the seams marquee for Liane Carroll and her two wonderful players Roger Carey and Mark Fletcher. She loves this festival and the crowd love her with banter and wit flying between the two. Her music is great too of course, as ever a totally spontaneous show, with Roger and Mark following every quirky twist as they have done so many times before and yet sounding totally fresh. If she wanted to she could conquer the world but I really believe that her heart lies in beautifully unpretentious events like this.
Thanks Fred Lindop and all the local volunteers—here’s looking forward to next year’s quarter-century.
Torsten Goods - Love Comes to Town
(Act Music ACT9726-2. CD Review by Alison Bentley)
'I feel like a propeller on an aeroplane from 1975,' says Berlin-based singer-guitarist Torsten Goods at the end of the opening track, You Wind Me Up. His 2008 CD 1980 took songs from the year of his birth as its theme. This summery, breezy recording seems to go back to the 70s for inspiration, though half the tracks are co-written by Goods himself.
His guitar style has been compared with George Benson, and the three instrumentals have something of Benson's virtuosic joie de vivre: precise phrasing with a cool, laid back feel. Goods' own Weekend at the A-Trane and Berlin P.M., could be from Benson's Breezin' era, with guest Felix Lehrmann's fine funky drumming on the latter. (Wolfgang Haffner drums superbly through the rest of the album in tandem with bassist Christian von Kaphengst) The Crusaders' Put it Where You Want It has a Steely Dan-like Fender Rhodes groove; Goods moves from BB King-like bluesy soloing to some speedy gypsy jazz lines.
Goods sings on most of the tracks. In recent years he's been working with soul singers Narada Michael Walden and Sarah Connor, and some of his songs have a jazz-dipped-in-soul sound, a little like Jamie Cullum. Swedish soul singer Ida Sand guests on her composition Brutal Truth. Here and on several songs Goods scats brilliantly in unison with his guitar solo (again Benson-like), and you always wish it would last just a little longer. Sand also guests on U2's much-covered soul-rock When Love Comes to Town (A fine arrangement that could be straight off a Bobby Bland album). Goods' voice sounds very like James Taylor here- also on his own Unlucky Like Me and You Wind Me Up, with his lazy warm tone, but his guitar style is more Pat Martino.
At times Goods has Michael Bublé’s soft plush tone and superb timing; Goods' Freedom Every Day recalls Bublé's Haven't Met You Yet. He covers Richard Marx' ballad Right Here Waiting with a gentle breathiness over Jan Miserre's excellent modern jazz piano reharmonisation and mellow trumpet solo from Till Brönner. (Miserre’s also co-written several tracks with Goods.) His voice sounds smooth and buttery as he duets with Viktoria Tolstoy on his Motown-ish Summer Lovin’ and the only standard, They Can't Take That Away From Me. Perhaps the jazziest track is a cover of Willie Nelson's Night Life, in slow 12/8, sung with a low-key vulnerability, the way Peter Cincotti does, with rich tenor sax from Marcus Lindgren.
The album's pleasantly retro sound comes in part from the fab Blood Sweat and Tears-like horn arrangements (by Miserre, Lindgren and trombonist Nils Landgren) though they're quite low in the mix. I'd love to hear Goods at a summer festival with a big band blasting out the horn lines. This album should appeal to fans of Jamie Cullum and Michael Bublé, but Torsten Goods has a sassy energy all his own.
Two pieces of news in from Roger Farbey MBE who was a close friend of the late Ian Carr. Roger runs the Ian Carr website.
- A new 180 gram vinyl release by the Michael Garrick Sextet from the Gearbox Records stable is scheduled for release on 5 August. Entitled ‘Prelude to a Heart is a Lotus’ it features Ian Carr and Don Rendell with six tracks recorded in stereo for a BBC radio broadcast in 1968. The catalogue number is GB1517.
- With the 80th anniversary of Ian Carr’s birthday celebrated in April this year, a brand new website has been launched in his honour to replace the previous one (which was launched in November 2002).
Note: Ian Carr, who passed away on 25 February 2009 aged 75, has long been regarded as one of the most important figures in British jazz. He was an award-winning trumpeter with both the Rendell/Carr Quintet and his own fusion band Nucleus, which won the Montreux jazz festival in 1970. An influential teacher (his students included Julian Joseph and Cleveland Watkiss ), Ian Carr wrote a definitive biography of Miles Davis and also one of Keith Jarrett. He was a co-editor of the Rough Guide to Jazz and also wrote a major work on contemporary British jazz ‘Music Outside’ published in 1973 and subsequently re-published by Northway Books. Ian's biography, written with his full co-operation before he fell ill with Alzheimer's, is Out of the Long Dark, by Alyn Shipton (Equinox, 2006, available).
Address for the new Ian Carr Website: http://iancarrsnucleus.webs.com/
|Ultra High Flamenco- Manchester Jazz Festival 2013|
This year's Manchester Jazz Festival has got off to a rip-roaring start! Now a well-established event in the city - in it's 18th year! - proceedings are again superbly organised by Steve Mead and a committed band of staff and volunteers, and appreciated by musicians and audiences alike.
Friday evening provided a great kick-off, with Jez Nelson presenting BBC Jazz on 3's 'BBC Introducing' at Band on the Wall - a showcase for four up-and-coming bands on the UK jazz scene, to be broadcast on 5 August. An attentive, ballot-invited audience warmed to Bristol-based 'Moonlight Saving Time' with their easy-going precision and improvisation, led by the enigmatic, commanding figure of vocalist Emily Wright (returning for a full set on Monday). 'Twelveheads' is actually a four-headed 'beast' of drummer Peter Ibbetson's, with bass and two tenors thrashing things out - an earthy, rich, Polar Bear-influenced sound, though with its own identity (great tenor duetting). Seven-piece 'Metamorphic' (the doubling-up on this one being double basses), led by pianist Laura Cole, presented a highly original set, with much use made of 'instrumental' vocals and the powerful concoction of alto/soprano saxes and bass clarinet. Rounding off the evening were the considerable talents of Dominic J Marshall's piano trio - a distinctive style with a hint not just of Django Bates, but also of Jamie Cullum.
|Twelveheads - Manchester Jazz Festival 2013|
Day Two saw the Festival's Albert Square 'campus' - with its large teepee venue (photo above) under the Town Hall clock (which grandly chimes in the beginning of each afternoon gig!) - bathed in hot Summer sunshine. It's a great, relaxed 'hang' for artists and concert-goers, whilst also attracting the busy city's passers-by to become involved in the happy vibe, the teepee hosting great afternoon quartets both from Yazz Ahmed and Trish Clowes' Tangent, as well as the popular and entertaining Ultra High Flamenco.
With several more days to come - and a full and varied programme from local, national and international artists - mjf is already, once again, proving itself to be the jewel in the Northern crown of jazz festivals.
|Benjamin Zephaniah and Peter Wiegold at Club Inégales|
Notes Inégales with Benjamin Zephaniah
(Club Inégales, Euston. 25th July 2013. Review by Rob Edgar)
Thursday night saw the last concert of the summer season at Club Inégales, the intimate bar that is home to the Notes Inégales, a group with a fluid and ever-changing line-up headed by Creative Director Peter Wiegold.
Before a single note had been played, what was immediately striking was the group's set-up: an electric piano/synthesiser cross, a complicated looking guitar rig, possibly the largest ride-cymbal in existence, and a striking sheet of paper on the piano's music stand with odd shapes and mismatched musical symbols, was it a score? Keyboard instructions?
The music is mostly improvised, with Wiegold controlling the flow through a series of simple hand gestures. When the group sat down to play it quickly became clear that this is music that's free but well-regulated; the first piece, Criminal Negligence, started with guitarist Joel Bell improvising a chord sequence, soon picked up by the rest of the band. Snatches of piercing piccolo flute from Rowland Sutherland were complimented by minimal bass grooves by Ben Markland.
The question of that mysterious sheet of paper was answered by the time of the second piece called Stuff; it was a score. Specifically, an open-form score, very much in the manner of Stockhausen's Aus Den Sieben Tagen, or the Klavierstück XI . They started the piece with a movement called Sweet Piano, a descending theme of rolled chords with plenty of notes of added resonance from Martin Butler's piano was foiled by breathy tones and tongue slaps from Sutherland, this time on bass flute. Cyclical, disparate ideas were superimposed on top of each other, the development loosely controlled by Wiegold as the group went through the movements of the piece without a break. Most notable was the movement Rude Bass, which saw Markland repeatedly and aggressively popping the strings of his bass and sliding down the fingerboard.
The last piece of the first set was a South Indian inspired piece in 11/8, based on a modal ostinato it featured a spellbinding piccolo flute solo which tested the limits of what that instrument could do. The piece constantly felt like it was building to some sort of climax but was beautifully frustrated each time.
This evening's special guest was dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah described by Wiegold as “an inventor...human and sane”. Zephaniah is charming, witty and a good orator. His poetry deals with celebrating his heritage, the diversity of modern Britain and challenging inequality. Often, his poems are cyclical and rhythmic. He really connected with the audience with a rendition of his re-working of Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry Be Happy. It was call and response, with the audience gleefully shouting a chorus of “Be Happy”.
The final set saw a teaming-up between the Notes and Zephaniah - Naked featured intense grooving interplay between Markland and drummer Simon Limbrick punctuated by squeals from Torbjorn Hultmark's trumpet (miked up, with reverb) and a riff based on a major scale tri-chord, moved up and and down the keyboard by Wiegold. Zephanias's rhythmic and syncopated prose was matched perfectly by the music.
An interesting evening which provided real food for thought.
Details of the new Autumn series at the club will be released soon.
15th July: Labour politician Bob Blizzard (above) recently resigned the chairmanship of the board of the support organization Jazz Services. He became JSL chair in early 2011, and is seen universally as having been highly effective in the role. Deputy Chair Christine Allen has taken over as Acting Chair. A formal advertising/selection process for a new chair will be instigated in the next couple of weeks.
The other members of the board (BIOGRAPHIES HERE) are Peter Baillie, Brian Blain, Sue Edwards, James Joseph, Juliet Kelly, Dominic McGonigal, Cathie Rae, Catherine Tackley, Barbara White, Ivor Widdison and Geoff Wright.
UPDATE 27th JULY. The formal selection process has now started - see the comment from Jazz Services below.
Among recent significant activity for Jazz Services was an extremely successful Made in the UK showcase at the Rochester International Jazz Festival - WE PREVIEWED IT, AND INTERVIEWED FESTIVAL DIRECTOR JOHN NUGENT
This year's was the sixth showcase, produced by John Elson of ESIP, but it was the first time Jazz Services has been involved in the selection process. A total audience of nearly 8,000 saw the UK acts in Rochester alone. The presence there also gave a springboard for UK acts to head on to several Canadian festivals and to perform in other North American cities.
Community. Connection. Communicaion. The now. The moment. A way of life. Love. Answers in a short Jazz at Lincoln Center film, from Brianna Thomas, Charenee Wade, Maria Schneider, Jason Olaine, Ted Nash, Vijay Iyer, Jane Monheit, Catherine Russell, George Wein, Wynton Marsalis, and our very own Michael Mwenso.
Tohpati Bertiga - Riot
(MoonJune Records MJRO45. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Tohpati Ario Humato will already be familiar to followers of MoonJune releases courtesy of his virtuosic guitar playing on albums by Indonesian fusion groups simakDialog and Ethnomission, but here he leads a heavy (but surprisingly deft) power trio, completed by bassist Indro Hardjodikoro and drummer Adityo Wibowo, through a programme so determinedly various that it sometimes sounds as if the leader has set himself the task of touching every base ever visited by an electric-guitar hero.
Tohpati’s playing, extraordinarily fluent, effortlessly expressive and multi-textured, moves – sometimes between one bar and another – from spiralling Holdsworth-like liquidity or the psychedelic plasticity of Hendrix to the heaviest fusion and tricksiest riff-based jazz rock, but is saved from mere eclectic exhibitionism by its roots in what its accompanying publicity describes as ‘Indonesia’s glorious musical heritage’, discernible chiefly in ‘the rhythmically intricate unison passages’. From tight, breezy funk (‘I Feel Great’) to driving boogie (‘Rock Camp’) and slow-building spacy jamming incorporating sounds spanning guitar history from Jerry Garcia to Mike Stern, Riot can sometimes sound like an illustrative primer for aspiring electric guitarists, but its sheer exuberance and infectious informality (it contains studio chatter between tracks) will undoubtedly exhilarate fans of the genre and make them yearn to see the band live.
Pianist Alex Wilson wrote to us about his new endeavour, curating the 1st Annual London Latin Jazz Fest which runs at Pizza Express from the 19-22nd of September.
In March of this year I was thrown into the world of extreme piano when I played at the Steinway Festival in London at the Soho Pizza Express Jazz Club. It was an amazing experience and I met many great musicians. One of them was the pianist, Jason Rebello, an inspiring player, whose formidable musical CV includes collaborations with artists as diverse as Phil Collins, Gary Burton, Madeleine Peyroux, Sting, Branford Marsalis and many more. Although our meeting was brief it sparked off an idea in my mind to try and find an opportunity to share the stage with him at some point in the future.
That opportunity came when I was invited to curate the The 1st Annual London Latin Jazz Fest – an exciting platform that will showcase some of the UK's foremost Latin Jazz artists over four nights at the Soho Pizza Express Jazz Club. That meeting will be on Saturday 22nd September, the final night of the festival
I'll open every night with a short solo piano set before the main acts: we will have
- Roberto Pla's 10 Piece Latin Ensemble (19th Sept) – mambo jazz in the wonderful exuberant spirit of Tito Puente.
- I will be featuring a host of virtuosi including: Venezuelan percussionist Edwin Sanz, Shanti Paul Jayasinha, Davide Mantovani, and Cuban vocalist René Alvarez (20th Sept).
- On the Saturday night (21st Sept) a second Steinway grand piano will be forklifted into the club and Jason and I will sit down to explore a musical meeting, accompanied by Edwin Sanz and Italian groove-meister Davide Mantovani on bass.
- Snowboy and the Latin Section (22nd Sept) – the UK's very own English Latin conga king – and …
...I can't wait!
More information and tickets HERE
|Don Letts, Neil Brand, Rhianna Dhillon|
The launch, attended by BBC Director of Radio Helen Boaden, BBC Four Controller Janice Hadlow and Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright, gave us excerpts from a three-part film documentary presented by Neil Brand, called Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies, which will be screened on BBC Four.
The time-constraints of three hours of film means that it cannot be comprehensive, and, according to Neil Brand, tends to be 'Hollywood-centric'. The excerpts we were shown featured Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane), John Barry (The Ipcress File), Max Steiner (King Kong), Vertigo (Hermann again), Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins) and - moving forwards - Randy Thom and Vangellis. (Firm dates for transmission not yet available)
It all does seem like a good way to bring the role of the film composer out of the shadows, and Neil Brand - a musician who has also been trained as an actor - is an extremely knowledgeable and engaging presenter. There are a host of other ventures across the BBC. 6 Music's activity will include a major contribution from Don Letts. BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra will feature Rhianna Dillon. More detail from the link below :
AN ADVANCE GUIDE FROM THE BBC MEDIA CENTRE IS HERE
News: Two Bass-Themed Concerts at Guildhall - Alec Dankworth (14th November), and Geoff Gascoyne's 50th Birthday (22nd November)
|The Karr-Koussevitzky (attr. Amati Bass) - Photo: Creative Commons|
Alec Dankworth will be visiting the Guildhall School on the 14th November (2013) to direct a concert of big band and small group music written by his late father Sir John Dankworth (and featuring some surprise special guests).
It is also a celebration of of the Wavendon Foundation's donation of a double bass (not the one above) to the School's jazz department, and will be the first jazz performance in the school's Milton Court Concert Hall.
In other (related) news, the 22nd of November will see a concert (part of the London Jazz Festival 2013) to mark the 50th Birthday of Guildhall professor Geoff Gascoyne, and will feature Guildhall musicians with special guests including Jim Mullen (guitar), Tom Cawley (piano), Martin Hathaway (alto), Trudy Kerr (voice), and Ian Shaw (voice).
Dankworth concert tickets HERE
Geoff Gascoyne 50th Birthday Concert tickets HERE
|The Bulls Head, Barnes|
Ed Turner, Managing Director of Geronimo Inns has put out a detailed statement which answers many of the concerns of people concerned about the future of the Bulls Head as a music venue, and responds to the recent press coverage and the support for "Saving The Bull’s Head" petition. We have reproduced the Geronimo statement in full
Ed Turner writes:
"Whilst we await the decision on our planning application to add a kitchen, first floor dining room, green room and loos (including disabled facilities) at The Bull’s Head, it is extremely important to us that everyone is made fully aware of the plans for the pub and the live music. To confirm, we have not, and will not, be removing any of the equipment or facilities during the waiting period as we are fully committed to continuing with live music at the pub.
The Bull’s Head is in need of a refurbishment and the pub itself needs to cater to the modern demands of those who enjoy live music and who also enjoy Barnes, hence the planning application is largely about the facilities and not about the music room.
Our proposal is to add a centrally located trade kitchen in order to service the pub, the proposed first floor dining room and music room. This in turn required us to look at the location of the music room. Whilst the existing room has a wonderful history, the most important aspect for us is to guarantee the next generation of live music at The Bull’s Head. As the current licence allows for live music throughout The Bull’s Head, the proposed change in the music room is not subject to planning.
Therefore, we have proposed that the music room is relocated to what is currently the Thai restaurant, with a new bar and a further set of loos. However, we would not be able to do this unless we fully comply with all Environmental Health regulations to ensure that we remain a good neighbour to the local residents. In addition, the suggested move would not work unless we are able to match, or ideally improve on, the acoustics in the music room. To this end we have had the acoustic surveys completed and have consulted with acoustic specialists to ensure that we can achieve this.
Whilst we await the decision regarding the planning application I want to again confirm our total commitment to live music at The Bull’s Head and to clarify any confusion over the application.
We have great experience from our time at the Half Moon (which we have been involved with since October 2011) where we have increased the numbers listening to live music and, in addition, we have created a pub that caters for the demands of our neighbours and those who enjoy Putney."
We have not converted that to a "restaurant", we don't run restaurants. We run pubs with great food, great reasons to visit and we fully respect the history of the pubs and the neighbourhoods in which we work. We are committed to investing in The Bull’s Head and to recommence the live music, with bookings already made in November and December, which we are waiting to publicise once we know the outcome of the planning and we are able to get any works completed.(Statement Ends)
COMMENT (Sebastian Scotney writes) : I can understand the sentiments behind the "Save the Bulls Head" campaign, but it has been a bit knee-jerk (it had SW14 as postcode for the first two weeks of its existence) , and I genuinely believe that Geronimo are acting in good faith, and with a respect for the heritage. When I got involved in helping Dan Fleming resolve the noise complaint issue in 2005, I remember a common response to the issue from local residents that they liked the idea of having a jazz club in the neighborhood, but seldom if ever went. Barnes - let's be clear - is no longer an easy or obvious place to find audience for a seven nights a week music venue. (Incidentally, people trying to understand the feel of the neighborhood should read The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen). We'd like to know if the concern people have expressed about the venue is in any way correlated with loyalty through attendance. If people want to comment on this post, it would be fascinating to know if you are writing as a regular attender of gigs.
(OKeh 88765484712. CD Review by Chris Parker)
David Sanborn’s uniquely expressive, keening, intensely human alto playing is probably (whether or not most listeners actually know his name, or even if they’re hearing an ersatz copy of a TV-series soundtrack) the most familiar saxophone sound on the planet, and Bob James – courtesy of his frequent association with relatively undemanding ‘smooth jazz’ – might be said to occupy a similar position with regard to jazz piano, but here, they’ve exploited this basic compatibility in the cause of producing an unfussy, straightahead jazz album.
To this end, a Rolls-Royce rhythm section has been recruited – bassist James Genus and drummer Steve Gadd – and the resulting album (comprising four James originals, three from Sanborn, plus a tune by Alice Sayer and a standard, ’My Old Flame’) is consequently an elegant, polished and intensely listenable production.
Sanborn’s playing (unlike that of a number of alto players influenced by him – Chris Hunter springs immediately to mind) hardens to a slightly rasping harshness at its more intense moments, so is perhaps better suited to up-tempo pieces than to lush balladry, but overall, underpinned as it is by James’s mellifluous, tasteful piano, the music on Quartette Humaine, urbane and radio-friendly as it is, is meticulously arranged (by James, who also contributes the cover art) and impeccably played by its four seasoned performers.
Sonny Rollins, 82, has withdrawn from his concert commitments for the remainder of 2013 for health reasons, including a scheduled appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in the London Jazz Festival.
The full statement is on the London Jazz Festival's website
Nuala Casey - Soho, 4A.M.
(Quercus, 368pp., pb £7.99. Book review by Chris Parker)
Nuala Casey, after graduating from Durham in 2001, spent four years attempting to establish herself as a singer/songwriter, based in a tiny studio flat opposite Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street, London. This experience informs her debut novel, which chronicles the intertwined lives of four denizens of Soho on the night between the announcement of London’s successful Olympic bid and the terrorist bombings of 7 July 2005.
This quartet of characters are all struggling to stay afloat in the capital’s swirling maelstrom, let alone fulfil their various ambitions: Stella is an aspiring singer/songwriter afflicted with bulimia; Ade is her jazz-musician boyfriend, painfully aware of the tawdriness of his sell-out to the world of commercial music and consequently trying to drown his sorrows in drink and impersonal sex with prostitutes; Seb is a public-school-educated artist with a secret sorrow, compromising his artistic integrity daily at a model agency; Zoe is a naïve modelling hopeful, down from Middlesbrough with the intention of establishing herself in the world of lads’ mags and WAGs celebrity culture.
The night of 6–7 July brings varying degrees of shocking disillusionment, pain, suffering (and enlightenment) to all these characters, and the seamy nightlife of Soho and the alcohol-fuelled despair of Seb and Ade, the tragic ingenuousness and gullibility of Zoe, the self-deceit and touching vulnerability of Stella and the callous misogynistic violence of the Soho sex industry are all vividly portrayed in this racily readable novel.
From a jazz lover’s perspective, however, it is perhaps something of a disappointment to find, as seems to be de rigueur in the fictional world, that Ade is a straightforward embodiment of central-casting jazz-musician cliché: self-obsessed, driven by a macho compulsion to express and prove himself no matter what the cost to others, violently and casually exploitative in his relations with women. There are also occasional slips into convenient inauthenticity (repeated encores demanded by a Ronnie Scott’s audience, an unlikely substratum of vicious villains, warm-hearted barmaids, exploitative landladies, self-regardingly vacuous pop stars etc.), but overall, this is a considered and clearly heartfelt portrait of the seedy underbelly of the capital’s nightlife and the havoc it can wreak on long-cherished dreams, from a talented, sensitive and thoughtful debut novelist.
|Wynton Marsalis, Al Ryan. Ronnie Scott's 22nd July 2013|
(Ronnie Scott's - 1st set first night - 22nd July 2013. Review by Al Ryan)
There's always an air of anticipation about any Wynton Marsalis performance. Whether its hearing him at full throttle with the full-blown swinging majesty of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra or the intimate surroundings of his quintet - it's always an event, and last night at Ronnie Scott's was no exception .
Taking to the stage just after 7:30pm and opening the 1st set of the first night of three - six sell out shows, the crowd were in raptures as Marsalis took control of the thermostat at Ronnie's with the opening notes of ‘Knozz-moe-King’ with fine solo work from tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding and pianist Dan Nimmer. The rhythm section of double bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ali Jackson provided hypnotic tempo changes that just melted into each other with such subtlety that you were constantly asking yourself what just happened there. This segued completely naturally into ‘What is This Thing Called Love’ again with sublime tenor work from Blanding and Marsalis displaying every nuance of his horn and the immense warmth of his sound.
The 51-year old was in top form as he welcomed and thanked everybody for coming out and it strikes you how humble and soft spoken the man his especially when he talks about music – everything is so completely natural even down to explaining what just happened in a number.
We got a history lesson in Jazz music too in terms of how everything is connected and how things might be categorised in some people’s minds : we heard the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk – but nothing was deemed old music and nothing was deemed new music, last night it all became modern music. Marsalis has always reiterated the contemporary power of even the earliest jazz. “Jelly Roll Morton’s music proves that all jazz is modern. His music captures the full range of New Orleans life which still applies today”
Marsalis' dexterity with a plunger mute is something to behold especially with a number like Morton’s ‘Tom Cat Blues’ and was a real salute to the early trumpet styles of Buddy Bolden and King Oliver. The performance was full of humour with growls, sobs and laughs from his horn with a sublime New Orleans 2 beat provided by the Nimmer, Jackson and Henriquez rhythm section. We were treated to two Ornette Coleman numbers that again just melted together in ‘Ramblin’ and ‘Una Muy Bonita’ with Walter Blanding providing the wonderfully dissonant lead against Marsalis.
Blanding is the unsung hero of the quintet, with a wonderful diversity in his saxophone sound. He showed off his full muscular tone in the Coleman numbers even managing to sound at one point like he was playing the chanter from a bagpipe (in the best possible way!!). We also got to hear Marsalis use a lot more mutes last night – he displayed complete control over his horn, harmon-muted in his own composition ‘Sophie Rose-Rosalee’ which he wrote for a friend's daughter. A sublime ballad that gave the whole group room to stretch out in the form with long lines and magical phrasing from both Marsalis and Blanding’s with Dan Nimmer providing and almost Bill Evans-ish lyrical piano accompaniment.
When Marsalis plays Monk its always interesting because you never know what’s about to happen and their version of ‘Green Chimneys’ was no exception with Walter Blanding’s switching mid way to give a blistering soprano sax solo. We also got to hear the dynamic duo of Henriquez and Jackson at full tilt in an amazing double bass, drum duet. What an extraordinary talent the two have – there's a symbiosis/ serendipity, with each anticipating the other’s moves.
The final two numbers of the set were Marsalis own composition ‘Sparks’ which I’m sure he recorded as an exclusive for an iTunes live session in 2006 and, as the encore, Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You are”. ‘Sparks’ is a number that Marsalis describes as “fast”, and he’s not wrong! It’s played at breakneck speed - one false move and it's curtains. Ali Jackson provided an outstanding master class in brushwork here; clarity and finesse in his technique and the ability to swing at high speed.
Much to my disappointment when I checked my watch it was fast approaching 9pm and it was nearly all over. The crowd cheered for more and one more was provided - “All the Things You Are” as a gentle ballad with Marsalis choosing to use a cup mute. The whole number was like eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between friends with Marsalis starting the conversation between muted and open trumpet phrases, Blanding changing the subject subtly and Nimmer joining in followed by Henriquez and Jackson, but the whole time nobody getting in anybody else's way.
A magnificent set by the Wynton Marsalis Quintet - all I can say is that I wish I could be there for the next 5 shows. Incidentally if you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets, this series of dates at Ronnie's also present a technological first for the club, as tonight Tuesday 23rd July at 10:30pm a live stream of Wynton Marsalis will be livestreamed on the Ronnie Scotts website to a potential audience of thousands.
Support was provided by the always-excellent Ronnie Scott's All Stars led by its Artistic Director James Pearson and featuring vocalist Natalie Williams. What a versatile singer she is - showing off her vocalise chops on ‘Lazy Afternoon’ and ‘Falling in Live with Love’ with a chorus that Anita O'Day would have been proud of. It was a well-chosen and particularly summery themed set, which was the perfect accompaniment to the current glorious weather. With beautiful readings of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s wistful ballad ‘Skylark’ and Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ the set concluded with a swinging version of Bobby Timmon’s ‘Moanin’ which featured a very witty and updated verse lyric by Ms. Williams! As a friend remarked ‘There is no audience anywhere which Nat cannot defrost!” I think he’s on to something there!
The Wynton Marsalis Quintet
Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet
Walter Blanding - Tenor Sax
Dan Nimmer - Piano
Carlos Henriquez - Bass
Ali Jackson - Drums
Knozz-moe-King/What is This Thing Called Love
Tom Cat Blues
Ramblin’/Una Muy Bonita
Sophie Rose Rosalie
All The Things You Are
Carol Grimes/Dorian Ford andTim Cumming
(Map Studio Cafe, Grafton Road NW5. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
I've moved to within walking distance of a delightful small venue, The Map Studio Cafe, which has the boldness to present a varied programme. The audience is supportive, it's the kind of space where new things can be tried out. It also has good wholesome food.
Once a quarter on Saturdays, it hosts a New Moon Jazz Poetry night, which, according to the blurb, presents: "poets of experience and musicians that understand the art of improvisation and the key to its delivery."
On Saturday this series featured Carol Grimes, and it was a great pleasure to be in right at the very start of such a genuinely promising venture as her Autobiography, an item tucked into her programme of songs, which itself was tucked into a varied evening, of which I heard the first two acts.
The Autobiography is spoken rather than sung. With Dorian Ford on piano, her narrative flashes back and forth between her uncertain teenage years, when a fairytale future as a gamine rock icon was seemingly on offer, and now. This is a project to watch out for as it develops. (The concept is far from new. Schumann, as just one example, wrote spoken melodramas to words by Friedrich Hebbel.)
Grimes has a fascinating story to tell. She also has a command of shaping and delivering words, a performance sense, and the musical and human depth and warmth to really make something of this. The story pulls in songs which reference times of her life. This project has such a strong heart, it really could go anywhere as it develops. It could be a stage play, or radio drama, or album, or any combination of these. Dorian Ford has no music, just her words in front of him. His ability to match mood or word with chord or line, to evoke the ghosts of songs past, is a revelation too.
The opening performance of the evening was a series (cycle?) of poems by Tim Cumming, with video and photographs as backdrop. He did a remarkable job as he brought to life the sights, sounds,the dangers, and - almost - the smells of the Moroccan port of Essaouira at Gnaoua Festival time. Very evocative indeed.