Preview: Romain Pilon at Whirlwind Festival (Kings Place). 12th October 2013

Guitarist/composer Romain Pilon writes:

I'm originally from France. I've lived in Paris for some years now, and yet, somehow, I have only ever made it to the UK three times. The first time won't be forgotten. I went on tour in a band led by the Catalan saxophonist Perico Sambeat, and organized by Michael Janisch a few years back. We had a great time, we played at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London, and then on a UK tour which took us all the way up to Scotland.

Now, finally, I'm back. Once again Michael is presenting, but there are two big changes: this time it is in his own festival, and I am not a sideman, but will be presenting my own music for the first time in London. And so I am really looking forward to presenting my latest release Colorfield, at the first Whirlwind Festival at what looks like an amazing venue the Kings Place. I'm also very privileged to be sharing the bill with Robert Mitchell. I have never heard a solo album quite like The Glimpse.

I recorded Colorfield eight months ago, in London (that was my second ever visit) with Janisch, Walter Smith III and Jamire Williams, and I'm thrilled to be back here to play it live for the first time. While writing the music of the record I've tried to keep it simple and singable, I've also tried to base it on actual feelings, people that have inspired me and of course what gave the album his title: an art movement from the 50's, the "Colorfield" painting. Man on a wire has been written for Philippe Petit, whom you might know from his walk on a wire between the Twin Towers, Twombly is dedicated to the painter Cy Twombly, Three on Seven is a variation of Wes Montgomery's classic Four on Six.

For this concert I'll be playing with three musicians for whom I have huge admiration:

- Michael Janisch, a bass player I met while studying at Berklee now over 10 years ago, he has a deep melodic approach and a strong groove/big tone.

- Gautier Garrigue, a really creative and quick thinker, who despite his young age is one of the busiest drummers in Paris right now (this will be his very first visit to London).

- And, for this concert I've also invited someone I've been a fan for years: Logan Richardson, an alto player who's sound and unique concepts make him one of the most unique and in demand musician in the world, and I know this is said a lot about a lot of people, but in this case it is true!

I'm also honored to be featured on such an original festival, organized by an independent label totally dedicated to original jazz and improvised music. 18 bands in 3 days in such a beautiful venue as the Kings place is really something else - I hope people will come and support live music.

In Paris, I run the Paris Jazz Underground which I believe mirrors many of the same goals of Whirlwind Recordings. We find musicians who form the real backbone of the scene, but who may not otherwise get heard or released, and make their special music available through a professional set-up.

More information and tickets HERE


CD Review: Blue Touch Paper - Drawing Breath

Blue Touch Paper - Drawing Breath
(Provocateur Records PVC 1043. CD Review by Chris Parker)

‘Catchy hooks, knotty rhythms and moodscapes’ was Mojo’s description of Blue Touch Paper’s first album, Stand Well Back; its successor, with its promiscuous mix of deep grooves, Zappa-esque prog-rock chatter, tight funk and occasional bursts of spacy abstraction, covers similar ground, adding in the odd (in both senses) tango, spooky carousel-in-the-distance effect, or dramatic, carefully constructed climax.

Colin Towns reportedly took two years to assemble this band – bassist Edward Maclean, drummer Benny Greb, percussionist Stephan Maass, guitarist Chris Montague and saxophonist Mark Lockheart -– and it is perfectly suited to his rich and multifarious music: Lockheart, for instance, excels at providing taut, snaking soprano (‘Suddenly a Tango’) or suggesting braying laughter in his tenor contribution to ‘The Joke’ as well as eloquent, punchy solos where required; Montague (along with the ever resourceful percussionist/electronics operator Maass) not only helps establish the various textures that make this such a consistently intriguing album but can also play a blistering electric solo when called upon.

Towns himself plays unshowy piano and keyboards, setting the tone here, subtly embellishing there, and the result is another absorbing, often viscerally exciting album from him, some music from which can be sampled here  – Michael Tang’s animated film accompanying ‘Fair is Foul’, in particular, is well worth seeking out there.


Review: Brass Mask Spy Boy Launch (supp. Trish Clowes Quartet) at the Vortex

Brass Mask Spy Boy Launch, supported by Trish Clowes Quartet
(Vortex. 26 September 2013. Review by Matthew Wright)

Like prog rock or the vinyl LP, the jazz repertoire of the twenties and thirties is emerging from a period of fashionable disregard as an exciting and respected piece of musical heritage that we can reintroduce, freshly and enthusiastically, to the repertoire. Hot on the heels of Pigfoot, Chris Batchelor’s exhilarating reincarnation of early trumpet jazz, comes Brass Mask, reedsman Tom Challenger’s intoxicating homage to the Mardi Gras Indians.

Challenger’s new eight-piece, New Orleans-infused Brass Mask packed the Vortex on Thursday night to launch the group’s début album, Spy Boy. Brandishing their capacious brass instruments, the players looked slightly intimidating pinned onto the modestly-sized stage, as if they would rush the audience at any moment. In fact the only offensive was of the charming variety, as Brass Mask’s technically complex but immensely endearing and engaging take on New Orleans fired up the room.

The purists’ search for perfect historical authenticity is generally a fruitless one in a music as determinedly heterogeneous as jazz, especially where practicality as well as principle makes it difficult to establish a settled, consistent musical tradition. New Orleans wasn’t Vienna, and for her bands of the twenties and thirties, a settled line-up was neither possible nor desirable. So the most we can say is that with its clarinets and brass (though without the double bass and violin or guitar some New Orleans outfits used), this band has an approximately authentic line-up.

The extreme technical skill available to modern band-leaders is an important part of the reason for these bands’ divergence from traditional rhythm and harmony. If everyone in the band is capable of sophisticated improvisation, the leader has options that the original band leaders, with largely amateur forces, could only have dreamt of. So it was here too, with more improvisation, sometimes quite contemporary-sounding, than one would find in old New Orleans. There were superbly taken solos from all of the upper lines, with (and it hardly seems fair to choose) Rory Simmons’ trumpet perhaps the pick for sheer articulacy and panache.

The bass line (with Nathaniel Cross on trombone as well as Theon Cross on tuba) didn’t have quite the same opportunity to experiment as the higher registers, though in their case the quality of the sound was crucial. Tuba, in particular, was perfectly pitched between a sour, funereal march and a celebratory dance beat.

The interweaving of timbres was a crucial part of the band’s fresh sound, from George Crowley’s cheeky, piping clarinet and Dan Nicholls’ treacly bass clarinet, to Theon Cross’ floorboard-pumping tuba, and the trumpets of Alex Bonney and Rory Simmons, sometimes rasping, sometimes squealing, sometimes muted and whining. All three reedsmen, Challenger, Crowley and Nicholls, swapped regularly between some version of clarinet and sax, which offered a diverse and rapidly-shifting sound-palette.

The repertoire was a combination of new writing (‘Onnellinen’, ‘Rain Rain Rain’) and arrangements of traditional pieces (‘Indian Red’ and ‘I Thank You Jesus’), the balance nicely judged to reflect Brass Mask’s character. For the most part, the breadth and variety of the music worked superbly, with sound, genre, mood and period all deliciously balanced. There was, perhaps, some occasional tension between the traditional, regular structures of the music (especially the heartbeat of the tuba) and the need for more freedom during the improvisatory sections. With Brass Mask, Challenger has hit upon such a rich concept that there are musical ideas for him to develop over many years ahead, and this is one feature among many he is no doubt looking forward to exploring further. It’s already a highly original sound, with much repertoire to explore, and there’s a lot to enjoy both live and on the album.

Brass Mask were preceded by a set from a quartet led by saxophonist and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Young Artist Trish Clowes. Although the combination of Gareth Williams on piano, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Dave Hamblett on drums is not Clowes’ regular band, (which is Tangent, with Chris Montague, James Maddren and Calum Gourlay) their exquisitely nuanced performance of Clowes’ new compositions had the depth of interaction and oozed skill and sensitivity. Clowes’ compositions have an immediately recognisable inquisitive, restless quality, their questing melodies flecked with folk and classical influences, yet with improvisational space to show off the finest jazz technique. It was contemporary playing at its most inspiring.

The Brass Mask gig was recorded by Jazz On 3 for transmission on 7th October

Matthew Wright interviewed Trish Clowes earlier this year. Trish Clowes' set was also recorded for future transmission on Jazz Line-Up  


LP Review: Michael Garrick Sextet - Prelude to Heart is a Lotus

Michael Garrick Sextet - Prelude to Heart is a Lotus
(Gearbox GB1517. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

One of the great losses to British jazz of recent years was the death of Michael Garrick in 2011 at the age of 78. But, without wishing to descend into the saccharin, there is a sense in which the music lives on after the man is gone and we can take some comfort in that. What’s more, sometimes we discover music that we didn’t even know existed, and then it’s like the missing artist is still out there, producing works for our surprise and pleasure.

The Heart is a Lotus was a classic 1970 album by the Michael Garrick Sextet originally released on the Decca subsidiary Argo. The new album is taken from the BBC radio archives. It originated with a 1968 Jazz in Britain programme, so it is indeed a prelude to the Argo album. And it sounds simply great.

This version shares three tracks with the original LP (all the compositions are by Michael Garrick) and the same line-up of musicians, except here we don’t have the contributions of Art Themen on reeds, Dave Green on bass or — perhaps most significantly — Norma Winstone’s vocals.

The new album (paradoxically, older than the old one) opens with  the tune The Heart is a Lotus featuring Michael Garrick unexpectedly playing harpsichord, to the accompaniment of Jim Philip’s eerie flute and the insistent, probing trumpet of Ian Carr, all to hypnotic effect. Particularly striking is the way Mike Garrick plumbs the depths of the harpsichord, turning it into an effective jazz instrument and playing it in a way you (or at least I) never heard before.

The rest of Side 1 is devoted to over 12 minutes of the appropriately entitled Sweet and Sugary Candy. In utter contrast to the title track it is jaunty, joyful and upbeat — a light hearted lotus —with swaggering trumpet  from Carr and sweetly judicious piano from the leader. A transported Coleridge Goode sings along to his double bass while Mike Garrick’s piano taps him on the shoulder to offer comment and encouragement. This track has such assertive strut and swagger you might think you’re listening to a big band. It also offers a corking Don Rendell soprano sax solo, which manages to remain lyrical and to evoke Basin Street while pouring out a bebop torrent.

John Philip distinguishes himself again with his high, piercing, bittersweet flute in the elegiac Webster’s Mood. But on the gently measured and sweetly hypnotic Song by the Sea — another track from the 1970 album — the articulate, wheedling flute is by Don Rendell. This is one of the highpoints of the record, melodic and moving, and Mike Garrick provides a beautiful shimmering patina on the celeste. And there is another bass-and-vocal homage to Slam Stewart from Coleridge. Good On Temple Dancer, the third track shared with the original LP, the Eastern influence suggested by the album’s title comes to the fore. There is weaving, sinuous snake charmer flute courtesy of Jim Philip and intense trumpet from Ian Carr combining with the relentlessly marching bass of Coleridge Goode and the percussion of Trevor Tomkins in a manner reminiscent of Sketches of Spain.

The final offering, Little Girl, has a deep yearning quality and features Ian Carr’s trumpet at its most melancholy and expressive.

Gearbox deserve warm congratulations for finding this remarkable recording and rescuing it for us.


CD Review - Dave Brubeck Quartet Live in Hannover 1958

Dave Brubeck Quartet. Feb 28 1958, Niedersachsenhalle Hannover
(Moosicus N1302-2. NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This concert, recorded by NDR in Hannover on Friday 28th February 1958 captures one of the very first concerts by the classic line-up of the Dave Brubeck quartet: Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Gene Wright. The four had been sent by the US State department on a tour which started with UK and European dates, and then took them on to Poland, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), Iran and Iraq.

Other concerts from this tour have already found their way onto CD. Their Berlin concert on the previous Saturday Feb 22nd has been issued by Freshsound, and a subsequent Copenhagen date, March 5 has been realeased by Sony as  "The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe, 1999, and reissued by 101 distribution in 2009.

This concert was recorded and transmitted by NDR, in whose annals it has special significance: it was the first time their outside broadcast van had ever left the radio station building in Hamburg to record jazz. NDR also note that it is one of the early treasures from more than 2000 live and studio recordings, recorded over sixty years of jazz, which currently 'slumber well-protected' in the broadcaster's vaults.

The things I find myself going back to in this recording are the saxophone solos of Paul Desmond. His tone is deliciously airy, ethereal, and yet there just never seems to be an absent-minded note, you really do get that authoritative Mozart sense, of a composition given to him from on high being transcribed and played. The stop choruses have him flying as free as a bird. And the gorgeous lyrical floatiness of For all We Know is mesmerising stuff, pure genius.

Brubeck is mostly inspirational too, but was having to deal with a very poor piano. On a couple of tracks – Someday My Prince and Two Part Contention, it is as if he's deliberately making the point in his solo that life does occasionally hand out a poor set of cards. The sleeve-notes make the point that jazz at the time -  one “of late Nazi echos” - was still seen as music of lower value. The classical concerts in Hannover took place in the fine Stadthalle next door – where there would also have been, presumably, a far better instrument for Brubeck to play on.

1950s mono takes some getting used to, but it's worth it, this concert being of more than historical interest. It  portrays one of the classic groups in jazz not long after the moment of its formation. The quartet, might, after all, have stayed together for just this tour and gone their separate ways. In the event, they were to prove indivisibly great for more than a decade.


The Kansas Smittys at the Vortex

A lively new young band instigated by Giacomo Smith soprano/alto sax, with Ruben Fox, tenor, Jay Phelps trumpet, Theon Cross tuba + valve trombone, Reuben James piano, Dave Archer guitar, Ferg Ireland double bass and Pedro Segundo drums. Caught on video at the Vortex last night. And here's Part Two


Photos of Gary Smulyan / Nigel Price / Matt Home / Pete Whittaker at the Verdict, Brighton

Gary Smulyan
The Verdict Brighton
Photo credit: Bran O'Connor. All Rights Reserved
"Terrific gig", photographer Brian O'Connor tells us. He caught the second of the  presenting the artistry and the huge baritone sax sound of Gary Smulyan with the trio of Nigel Price, Matt Home and Pete Whittaker  at the Verdict in Brighton. Smulyan is appearing in a number of clubs over the next 10 days (Ross Stanley on some dates).

- Full details of the tour HERE

- Check out a track from Gary Smulyan's latest CD with the Mike LeDonne Organ Trio (and drummer Kenny Washington (!)  HERE (pp).

Nigel Price, Gary Smulyan, Matt Home
The Verdict Brighton
Photo credit: Bran O'Connor. All Rights Reserved

Nigel Price, Gary Smulyan
The Verdict Brighton
Photo credit: Bran O'Connor. All Rights Reserved

Matt Home, Gary Smulyan, Nigel Price, Pete Whittaker
The Verdict Brighton
Photo credit: Bran O'Connor. All Rights Reserved

The Verdict Brighton
Photo credit: Bran O'Connor. All Rights Reserved


CD Review: John Abercrombie Quartet - 39 Steps

John Abercrombie Quartet - 39 Steps
(ECM 374 2710. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Although US guitarist John Abercrombie has appeared on over 50 ECM albums, both as leader and sideman for the likes of Charles Lloyd, Jan Garbarek, Enrico Rava and Kenny Wheeler, his pianist here, Marc Copland, has not recorded for the label before. Their musical approaches, however, are supremely compatible, Copland remarking: ‘If I played guitar I would want to sound like him. We’re both into listening, approaching harmonies in a certain way, playing lyrically as well as swinging ...’

This last phrase perfectly describes the music on 39 Steps, seven Abercrombie compositions, two by Copland, a collective improvisation (which continues the Hitchcock theme by being entitled ‘Shadow of a Doubt’) and an intriguing closer, a caught-in-a-strobe-light deconstruction of the Burnett/Norton classic ‘Melancholy Baby’.

Underpinning, embellishing and occasionally driving the thoughtful yet always powerful playing of Copland and Abercrombie is one of the subtlest, most musicianly rhythm sections in the music: bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron. The latter pulls off small miracles of delicacy and touch throughout, making his cymbals ‘breathe’ under Abercrombie’s deft contributions to his own gently insistent themes ‘Another Ralph’s’ and ‘39 Steps’, or crackling assertively under Copland’s more urgent ‘LST’, and Gress – as ever – is the band’s indispensable rudder.

Both Abercrombie and Copland are unhurried, thoughtful players, their solos impeccably tasteful but surprisingly robust, and the entire album simply exudes class, elegance and assurance – a flawless recording from four masters of the craft at the top of their game.


Review / Preview: Ruthie Culver & the Utter Jazz Quartet - Look Stranger

Ruthie Culver & the Utter Jazz Quartet - Look Stranger
(Purring Recordings PURRCD004. Review / Preview by Rob Edgar)

People often ask at performances: “How much of that music was actually by Britten?” The answer is that the melodies are broadly as Britten wrote them, with some freedom in interpretation, whilst his piano accompaniments have been distilled into chord symbols, around which the musicians improvise, with frequent reference to the originals.

Is what the booklet says about Look Stranger, the new album by Ruthie Culver & the Utter Jazz Quartet which is a collection of songs by Benjamin Britten (with words by poet WH Auden) re-worked into a jazz idiom, in celebration of of the composer's centenary this year.

These are musician whose depth of understanding of Britten's music allows them to take liberties and freedoms with it, whilst still retaining its original essence and remaining true, making the  music flow naturally and  inevitably.

The opener, Seascape for example, opens with lilting, gently melancholic, folksy interplay between saxophonist Mick Foster on soprano and pianist Dan Hewson before the main groove, which uses the first line of the original piano accompaniment as its basis (introduced by bassist Jonny Gee), slowed down, more contemplative (there's even what sounds like a quote from Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood at the beginning of Foster's bass clarinet solo). Similarly, Fish in the unruffled lakes is a shimmering, spacey piece with subtle re-harmonisations that owes much to Britten's opening phrases.

Ruthie Culver really gets the delightfully tenacious humour of many of the jauntier songs and sings with with real cabaret-style sibilance, most effective in Tell Me the Truth About Love, a song which lends itself so well this kind of ensemble it's almost criminal (and features some subtly intricate drumming from Andrea Trillo).

The group manage to walk the line perfectly between keeping true Britten and putting their own personal stamp on it. The aforementioned Tell Me The Truth About Love is worked into a bossa nova, closing track When You're Feeling Like Expressing Your Affection is turned into a pure foot-tapping Rhythm & Blues tune.

There are many intriguing and wonderful things about this album, first and foremost of which is the ensemble's deep and thoughtful understanding of the original music:

The album is out now, and there is a tour – currently ongoing – around the country (London-date at Kings Place on 18th November) with the musicians joined by actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Roger Lloyd Pack, Simon Russell Beale, and Samuel West (different dates feature different actors).

The Remaining Dates Are:

Friday 27 September 2013
Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
Roger Lloyd Pack

Sunday 29th September
Ropetackle, Shoreham (near Brighton)
Alex Jennings

Friday 4 October 2013
Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis
Natascha McElhone
(National Poetry Day)

Thursday 10 October 2013
Oxford Playhouse
Sam West

Friday 11 October 2013
South Holland Arts Centre, Lincolnshire
Roy Marsden

Saturday 12 October 2013
Halesworth Festival, Suffolk
Roger Lloyd Pack

Tuesday 15 October 2013
Firth Hall, Sheffield University
Roger Lloyd Pack

Thursday 17 October 2013
National Centre for Early Music, York
 Sir Derek Jacobi

Friday 18 October 2013
Egremont Concert Society, Cumbria
Roger Lloyd Pack

Saturday 19 October 2013
Chester Literary Festival
Sir Derek Jacobi

Sunday 17 November 2013
Theatre Royal, Winchester
Sam West

Monday 18 November 2013
Kings Place, London
Sir Derek Jacobi


Preview: Dan Forshaw / Jazz Vespers at Ely Cathedral. Sunday 20th October

Dan Forshaw writes:

September 23rd saw what would have been the 87th birthday of arguably the most significant jazz saxophonist of the 20th century, John Coltrane. One of the gems that was unearthed by one of my Facebook page ‘fans’ was the original manuscript of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Sketched in his own hand one felt drawn even closer to this amazing work, in Coltrane’s own words ‘a humble offering to God’.

I’ve had many ‘arguments’ with other musicians about Coltrane’s influence as a musician. But few musicians, in any genre have inspired the founding of a church. Coltrane has even achieved sainthood in the African Orthodox Church! The church of John Coltrane meets weekly in San Francisco and uses the music of Coltrane and his writings as a basis for its liturgy.

Despite being born sixteen years after the release of A Love Supreme the work has still had a profound effect on my life. Like Coltrane, I had a strong church based upbringing, but at seventeen I found the life of a professional musician all too appealing, particularly when set against the perceived hypocrisy I found in organised religion. Yet it was Coltrane’s music and his story, which lead me on a path towards my own ‘spiritual awakening’ in 2004. I travelled to New York in 2005 following an invitation from Branford Marsalis, (with whom I’d been in email conversation with since we met at the RNCM in 2003) and discussed the work and its impact at length. I was also fortunate to share a few beers with Ravi, (Coltrane) and get a first hand reflection on his father’s music.

After I returned from New York, I relocated from Fleetwood, Lancashire to study Music and Theology in London, writing my dissertation on Coltrane’s music and spirituality.

Coltrane’s music has indeed lead me to a fuller, more productive life. I now combine my music with a part-time role in the Church of England, quite an usual place to find a Jazz musician! It is this role that has lead to me perform the music of Charles Mingus in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Eric Dolphy style bass clarinet in Hereford Cathedral and the full A Love Supreme suite in Churches in Belfast, Cambridge and London.

My current project is a called ‘Jazz Vespers’ and is a reflection on ‘The Blues', using music, readings and reflections to underline how jazz musicians have taken the hardest realities of life and turned them into music. Our next event is at Ely Cathedral on Sunday, 20th October at 6.30pm. For more information, please click here.

For me my music, in particular jazz has to be more than gigs, record deals or ego trips. I try to keep to Coltrane’s depiction;

“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being...When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hang-ups...I want to speak to their souls.”

For more information about Jazz Vespers or Dan Forshaw please visit


Review: The Visegrád All Stars at European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Maciej Sikała

The Visegrád All Stars
(European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Exchange Square, London, 25th September 2013. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

'The Visegrad Group' is an alliance of four Eastern European countries - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - which has existed since 1991 - in essence to promote political, economic and cultural co-operation in Central Europe and beyond. The Visegrad All Stars, consisting of one musician from each of the countries, plus the British trumpeter Steve Fishwick was formed specially for this occasion.

This concert, instigated by the Hungarian Cultural Centre and presented in partnership with the Czech Centre, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic and the Polish Cultural Institute was arranged to mark the Hungarian presidency of the Visegrád Group.

The five musicians were invited to play at the London headquarters of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Initially it was planned for each participant to contribute an original composition. That would have been interesting, but – perhaps mindful of the non-specialist audience - the quintet opted to play a handful of overdone jazz standards.

Budapest-born piano legend Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – who has just turned 70 - began the performance unaccompanied, before Stella By Starlight emerged. Repeating a formula that continued through every piece except the encore, On Green Dolphin Street (by Polish composer Bronislaw Kaper) started with a long, intricate bass solo by Robert Balzar from the Czech Republic. The crystal clear trumpet of the UK’s representative Steve Fishwick prefaced My Funny Valentine.

Although many of these musicians were acquainted with each other, this was the first time that they have all played together. Much of the material was delivered with that slightly uncomfortable politeness that so often plagues “all-star” groups, but the quality of the musicianship leaves a more lasting memory. The majestic tenor sax of Maciej Sikała from Gdansk signalled a fine What Is This Thing Called Love? and that segued into Bye Bye Blackbird, which began with a quiet and skilful solo by 16-year-old Slovak drummer David Hodek. Just as the group got into its stride, though, it was time to finish. Before 8.30!

Thankfully, an encore ensued and Things Ain’t What They Used To Be was the most exciting piece of the evening. Sikała produced another substantial solo, then Lakatos stepped beyond the prevalent American style with a dark, rumbling creation that owed much to the European classical tradition, and he made it swing like mad.

It was particularly good to hear the highly experienced and accomplished Maciej Sikała - who was playing in the UK for the first time – and Robert Balzar, remembered for his work in London with John Abercrombie a few years ago. At this gig, these musicians had few opportunities to show their individualism, but the organisers should be congratulated for bringing the Visegrád All Stars together for a truly unique event.

The musicians:

Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – piano
Maciej Sikała – tenor saxophone
Steve Fishwick - trumpet
Robert Balzar – bass
David Hodek – drums

The selections:

Stella By Starlight (Victor Young)
On Green Dolphin Street (Bronislaw Kaper)
My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers)
What Is This Thing Called Love? (Cole Porter)
Bye Bye Blackbird (Ray Henderson)
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (Mercer Ellington)


CD Review: Kenny Garrett - Pushing the World Away

Kenny Garrett - Pushing the World Away
(Mack Avenue Records MAC 1078. CD Review by Chris Parker)

The late Richard Cook (in his indispensable Jazz Encyclopedia, Penguin, 2005) discerns ‘a good flavour of Junior Walker-style blues licks’ in the saxophone style of US master Kenny Garrett (attributing it to his Detroit roots), but also notes that Garrett’s playing ‘can otherwise be as loquacious and many-noted in its delivery as that of any other post-bop saxophonist’, concluding that he is ‘a communicative player who likes listeners to be excited and persuaded by his music’.

Garrett is also keen to point listeners towards the music of his own formative influences (as he did so successfully on recent releases such as Songbook and Seeds from the Underground), and here he nods towards Chick Corea (‘Hey, Chick’, which ‘captures that Spain, Eastern Spanish, Moroccan vibe’ according to Garrett), Chucho Valdés (the infectiously percussive ‘Chucho’s Mamba’) and Sonny Rollins (‘J’ouvert’, described as ‘my “St Thomas”’ by Garrett).

Garrett’s core band comprises pianist Vernell Brown, bassist Corcoran Holt and drummer McClenty Hunter, but here they are spelled by the likes of pianist Benito Gonzalez and drummer Marcus Baylor, and augmented where needed by trumpeter Ravi Best and percussionist Rudy Bird, and the resultant album, which promiscuously mixes latin rhythms with whip-smart post-bop, is a typical Garrett production: irresistibly peppy and exuberant, yet graceful, even elegant in its assured adherence to the core jazz values of swing and improvisatory imagination.

As Cook comments, Garrett ‘has gradually worked away from existential solos and towards a more songful, even carefree manner’ (which may explain the inclusion of the slightly saccharine Bacharach tune ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ in the otherwise mostly hard-driving set), and Pushing the World Away is consequently immediately accessible, breezily persuasive but intense, and a worthy successor to its double Grammy-nominated predecessor.


News: Guilldhall School premises in Milton Court officially opened

The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor Alderman Roger Gifford,
Alderman David Graves (Chair, Guildhall School)
Peteris Sokoloskis (principal 'cello, Guildhall Symphony Orchestra)

This shot was taken just after the Lord Mayor of London had unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the Guildhall School's new premises at Milton Court. The new accommodation includes a 608-seater concert hall, a quite stunning 223-seater theatre, and various workshop spaces and much else besides, a total gross floor area of 11,385 square metres. The facilities, form part of Heron International's Milton Court development, which also includes 284 new high-spec residential units in a 36-floor tower.

Guildhall School  Jazz Quintet - names below

  After the main symphony concert and the presentation of a brace of honorary degrees had finished, a fine quintet of Guildhall jazz students took over the main stage of the big concert hall: Trumpet - Miguel Gorodi, Alto Sax - Sam Braysher, Piano - Rob Brockway, Bass - Andrew Robb and Drums - David Ingamells. I was also seriously impressed by a long set of standards played as background to he reception by a trio from the Centre for Young Musicians, a division of Guildhall. Hats off to Jermaine Amissah and David Bush (saxophones) and Patrick McCann (piano).

There are two significant bass-themed jazz events in the new premises in November - see our previous feature.


Concert celebrating the life of Eddie Harvey - RAM 10th November, 6pm

Eddie Harvey in the John Dankworth Seven
Photo credit: Peter Vacher collection. All Rights Reserved  

Family, friends and colleagues of the late, much-missed EDDIE HARVEY are putting together a celebration concert on Sunday 10th November at the Royal Academy of Music, Duke's Hall, 6pm. (See our tribute - and Peter Vacher's Guardian obituary)

- The concert will also be the occasion for the official launch of the annual Eddie Harvey Award for Jazz Arrangement.

- Eddie Harvey's daughter Abigail has made a short film which will be on show in the bar

- There will be a performance of an arrangement specially written for the English Chamber Choir ("my in-laws", Eddie used to call them, being married to Peggy, a member of the choir)

- Pianist Phil de Greg will be over specially from the USA to play.

- UK musicians involved include Pete Hurt and Chris Biscoe - more details of programme and personnel to be announced

- Eddie's last work, Homage to Fats, for organ, will receive its debut performance from organist Chris Stanbury.

TICKETS - 07766 687 418 or peggyhannington (at) gmail (dot) com.


News: Whirlwind Festival (Oct 10-12 at Kings Place) to give Free 20-track Album Sampler to all Ticket Holders + Ticket Discounts

We have just heard that the Whirlwind festival are offering a free 20-track album sampler to all ticket holders for the Whirlwind Festival (10-12 October at Kings Place). The album sampler consists of one track from the latest album of each of the headliners.

To retrieve it, simply email your booking confirmation to info[at] (replacing [at] with @) and they will send a download link. For those that are paying by phone, send over your payment confirmation from Kings Place to the same address.

The festival is also offering discounts for all students and musicians (amateur and professional alike) allowing them to purchase tickets for any event at £6.50. Please bring your student ID and/or evidence of you playing your instrument (or an MU card). Book these by phone (quoting “£6.50 Whirlwind offer”) on 020 7520 1490, or online entering the promo code "whirlwind" (all lower case). It should look something like this

Finally, there is another offer for musicians/students: festival passes are going for £15 (they are normally £59.50). These are not available online do not include the Mike Gibbs and Nia Lynn's Bannau Trio with Norma Winstone concert, the only ticket of the festival which must be bought separately under this offer.

Full festival programme and book tickets HERE
See our interview with Greg Osby HERE
And our podcast interview with Mike Gibbs HERE
Alison Bentley's review of Patrick Cornelius' Infintite Blue
Michael Janisch's article in the Guardian on Jazz for Babies
Sebastian's profile of Michael Janisch on the Kings Place Blog


Film Preview: Titus at Raindance Film Festival. September 28 and 30th (and Barbican Screening Nov 24th)

(28 and 30th September. Raindance Film Festival. Barbican Screening, 24th November. Preview by Rob Edgar)

There's a lot of great music in the film and the space to listen to it; you drop into Titus' imagination and his nostalgia for his life that's passed. When he finally plays in the club, you fall into a seven minute epic jazz piece played by Archie Shepp; and here he leaves his life on the stage for his daughter. Its a film that gives the space to really sit back and dive into the music for the jazz-heads, and for the cinema-goers there's lush cinematography, complex characters, and a lot of questions to chew on when they leave the cinema."

I'm talking to film-director Charlie Cattrall about his new feature, TITUS, which is being shown twice at the Raindance Film Festival, on the 28th and 30th of September, and on November 24th at the Barbican alongside a documentary about Shepp (hopefully with a Q&A session) before he plays his concert with the Attica Blues Orchestra

Titus, played by long-time friend of Cattrall's: Obie Award-winning Ron Cephas-Jonesis a man who's never made it big”, explains Cattrall. “He's a failed genius...a 60 year old black jazz musician who was feted as the next big thing but psychologically couldn't quite cut it. When he was on tour in Europe he found a woman who took him under her wing as his patron and he's still living with her in London but he's got cancer and he's dying.

Then the film starts, he hasn't played for 2 years, he hasn't wanted to since his diagnosis, and if he has the operation, they will have to remove his larynx and he won't be able to anyway. He's basically a dead man walking but he hasn't told anyone because of his pride. His plan is – when he gets a call from the doctor telling him that he's got weeks to live – to kill himself and the film starts with him in that position.

His daughter “doesn't know that she was abandoned, she thinks that she never met her father but he left her when she was 18 months old. She then arrives in London to find him, and the film is about Titus and his daughter's relationship, him trying to run away from her, and her trying to find herself by going to him. Through this day that they spend together he accepts the reality of his Fatherhood and plays for her for one final time, through his own pain, to show her that her nascent desire to be a singer is something that is in her blood, and is her destiny.

The film is a merging of archetypal characters from the two ends of the American civil-rights movement, from Martin Luther Junior to Barack Obama “ it's very much shot through with the Black-American cultural significance of jazz and the knock-on effects of societal violence towards African Americans, embodied in Titus' struggle. At the end of the film there's also the idea of how things can move on from that, Titus is a man who is locked in a vortex of his past and it's something he can't escape from - which is sad and full of pathos but something which I felt was true; you can't escape your destiny and I didn't want to sugercoat it – but his daughter can, hope resides with the next generation.

As for the rest of the music? “In terms of them and the rest of the score, there's Stephen Bentley-Klein who composed it, Shabaka Hutchings plays on it, Nathaniel Facey, Seb Rochford, Tom Challenger, George Fogel, Ryan Trebilcock, Ayana Witter-Johnson, Liam Noble...Ian Shaw is in the film, he plays the jazz-club owner. So we were blessed by a gathering of the greats of the UK Jazz Scene, as well as the indomitable Archie Shepp.

Raindance programme times HERE.
Tickets HERE. Two showings at Vue Piccadilly.

Barbican tickets HERE


CD Review: Sons of Kemet - Burn

Sons of Kemet - Burn
(Naim naimcd195. CD Review by Chris Parker)

With a name referring to the hieroglyph associated with the designation of Ancient Egypt and a line-up comprising reeds (Shabaka Hutchings), tuba (Oren Marshall) and two drummers (Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner), Sons of Kemet might reasonably be expected to produce highly unusual, if not downright esoteric music, but there is a vitality and directness to the band’s rumbling, pleasantly galumphing sound that renders this debut album fresh and accessible from the off.

The band’s default setting is an infectiously enjoyable, rackety, tumbling hurtle, Hutchings’s various reeds spearheading the often anthemic, tellingly repetitive themes he has written for the quartet, with Marshall’s remarkably buoyant, dexterous whump providing ballast, while Rochford and Skinner pound out cross-rhythms and emphatic but consistently imaginative embellishments.

Recent immersion in the extraordinary variety of New Orleans music portrayed in such unusual depth in the TV drama series Treme may have over-sensitised me to Crescent City sources, but the shuffling power and subtle funkiness of Burn’s uptempo pieces bring the Louisiana city’s music irresistibly to mind; tracks such as ‘Inner Babylon’ and ‘The Itis’, like much NO music, take their inspiration from African rather than American roots, and there is an almost carnivalesque, celebratory quality in the band’s overall sound.

The album’s quieter moments (‘The Godfather’, dedicated to Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, and ‘Song for Galeano’, written to celebrate the South American novelist Eduardo Galeano), too, point up the cultural importance of the African diaspora to Hutchings, and overall this is a deeply felt, intensely serious, yet often danceably joyous album from a band with a unique sound and approach.


Jazz North looking for a trustee - 'jazz practitioner with broad experience'

Nigel Slee of Jazz North writes:

We are looking to recruit a 'jazz practitioner with broad experience' to the Jazz North board of trustees. The snag is that once in place they wouldn't be able to benefit from any Jazz North schemes or projects. We really need the input of an experienced musician on the board so perhaps a solution is to find one with northern roots living outside of the region? Plenty in London area! All expenses travelling up to North to attend meetings etc covered.



Kenny Kirkland - Steepian Faith (in Richmond)

What a great tune! Thank you to Kate Williams' and Tom Millar's fine new two-piano quintet with Gareth Lockrane, James Opstad and Tim Giles for bringing it, and along with it a real bit of pep and bounce, into the lives of an enthusiastic audience at the Orange Tree in Richmond last night.

 Way Out West Jazz Collective


Interview / Preview: Tony Kofi tells the story of working with Ornette Coleman - Singing Ornette ReVoice!. 13th October

Ornette Coleman and Tony Kofi

 "This is what I've waited all my life for." Tony Kofi talked to Georgia Mancio about his work with Ornette Coleman, and about his gig with vocalist Barbara Raimondi (titled Singin' Ornette) -  ReVoice! Festival, Pizza Express Dean Street, 13th October.

Georgia Mancio: What was your first introduction to Ornette Coleman’s music and how has he influenced your work over the years?

Tony Kofi: My first introduction to Ornette Coleman came years ago when a friend lent me a CD of The Shape of Jazz to Come. Well from that moment of it changed my life. I didn't totally understand what his approach to playing was but I really dug his ability to put his whole emotions into the music, and that's what I started to emulate, and that's one of the ingredients of what Harmolodics is about as well as the rhythmical concepts. It's about the using your inner human voice and letting it come out of you're instrument. (in Barbara's case, I see it as a natural transition of voice to voice) So I followed the emotional side of music from the beginning, and the journey of that led me to the life-changing trip to New York, to collaborate with the amzing bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Ornette Coleman in 2010 recording of For the Love of Ornette album and my debut on tenor saxophone, and now to the present day with the amazing Barbara Raimondi.

GM: We know you had the chance to work with Ornette himself - can you tell us about that project and what collaborating with him was like?

TK: Well, this project came about because I'd been working and touring with the Jamaaladeen Tacuma in Europe since 2008. We had already recorded a live album entitled Coltrane Configurations, and he really like the way I played on it. Then he told me about a project that had been playing on his mind for a while to do a homage project to his teacher and mentor Ornette Coleman, and how he had me in mind as well as other amazing musicians.

My initial thought was I'm an alto player and how would it work playing alongside Mr Coleman? Anyhow a whole year went by and heard nothing more of his ideas so I let it fade in my head and carried on as normal. Then out of the blue in the spring of 2010 Jamaaladeen called me on Skype from the states and asked if I was ready to come and record the project in New York with himself, Wolfgang Puschnig, Justin Faulkner, Yoichi Uzeki,myself and Ornette Coleman.

My initial thought was 'oh sweet lord this is it, this is what I've waited all my life for, not just to meet Ornette, but be invited to his home to rehearse and record'. Now nothing in my life is ever clean cut so I expected the next installment of obstacles. I asked Jamaaladeen if he wanted me on alto,baritone or soprano which were the only saxophones I played at the time, he said "no I need you on tenor" I broke out in a cold sweat because I'd never even played tenor or owned one, I'd only admired the tenor from afar.

I told Jamaaladeen that I don't play tenor and don't have one, his reply was "well get one because you're on this session. It was April and the recording was to take place in June. I had two months to get a tenor and woodshed it like my life depended on it. I canceled every gig in the book and literally went into the woods near where I live and played long tone and scales for 8-12 hours a day for two months of pure woodshedding.

I asked Jamaaladeen to please send me the music which he said he would, up to this day I've never seen the music and when I got to New York I had to learn the music from memory. Meeting Ornette at his huge loft apartment was amazing, he didn't want to stop playing or rehearsing, his energy is amazing, and commented that I had a good tenor sound, I told him I was nervous because it wasn't my primary horn. He told me then I should make it one of my primary horns and that was that, I accepted and took his sound advice.

On the day of the recording, me and Ornette shared a recording booth and Jamaaladeen told us all in our headphones that this was a one take recording so if you mess up then you'll have to live with it. That's when I switched off and went into subconscious mode.

The rest is history. When I woke up the recording was complete.

Georgia Mancio: Tell us how you met Barbara Raimondi and were you aware of her work before this collaboration began?

Tony Kofi: Well I met Barbara through her drummer Enzo Zirilli who's also a great friend of mine. We were talking one day about these amazing adventures in New York, and he mentioned a singer who sang the music of Ornette. This really intrigued me: I've never heard anyone sing Ornette. So I was very happy to get the call.

GM: Will the ReVoice! date with Singin’ Ornette be your first outing with the project? Would you have imagined Mr Coleman’s music lending itself so well to the voice?

TK: Yes this will be my first outing with this project but I feel I'm stepping on familiar ground here. I truly get and dig what Barbara is doing. Hearing her sing Ornette's music music is very pleasing to my ears, I really love her arrangements and the timbre of her voice. It's very honest and natural.

GM: Recently, you’ve been working with some other great jazz stars and nominated with the group Lineage for a MOBO - congratulations. Tell us more and what’s next?

Tony Kofi: Yes Lineage is a collective of leaders, Trevor Watkis, Byron Wallen, Larry Bartley and Rod Youngs, each leading our own groups and coming together with our individual touch as Lineage. Formed in late 2012, we each bring our own unique compositions to create something very musical, magical and majestic, and an original sound that is totally our own. I'm looking forward to working more with these amazing musicians/composers and hopefully record an album in 2014.

The MOBO nomination is nice too, as we're a new group and it's testament to the power of five to be recognised so early , we sold out Ronnie Scott's for our début London concert. A nice introduction for Lineage.

Georgia Mancio: What an amazing story, thanks for telling it. We're looking forward to the gig!!! 


Preview: The Great American Songbook - New album King's Singers arr. Alexander L'Estrange. Release 30th September / RAH 16 Oct

Alexander L'Estrange

Alexander L'Estrange writes about a new album of his arrangements, sung by the King's Singers, of classic jazz standards. The album is called The Great American Songbook and is released on the 30th September on Signum Classics as SIGCD341(29th October in the US).

Having worked with The King’s Singers on a number of occasions previously, I was delighted to be asked to arrange the songs for their new studio album. The album features seventeen of the best loved American songs from a golden age of song-writing – the 1920s to the early 1960s - including the works of greats such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin.

Essentially I’ve arranged them to take full advantage of the flawless a cappella ensemble singing and individual lead voices of The King’s Singers.

There are literally hundreds of great tunes from this time, so limiting it to seventeen was a challenge. Arranging such popular songs is not to be done lightly either. There are already many a cappella arrangements out there and it seems everyone has their personal favourites. But for me it was an absolute treat to work with these superb melodies and lyrics.

They have a special place in my heart because I first got to know the repertoire as an Oxford University undergraduate, when I had a job as a jazz pianist entertaining diners at Browns restaurant, improvising their requests!”

Stylistic variety sets this album apart. It’s not just a whole album of swinging ‘rat pack’ songs. There’s a real range, not to mention some cheeky ‘quotes’ from other songs peppered throughout. We have some wonderful humorous songs such as Let’s Misbehave and It’s De-lovely by Cole Porter; love ballads like My Funny Valentine and Cry Me a River and then classic swing tracks such as The Lady is a Tramp.

For a couple of numbers – Begin the beguine and I’ve got you under my skin – I’ve gone for a Latin American, bossa nova treament. The song Bewitched, bothered and bewildered, immortalised by Ella Fitzgerald, is often done as slow ballad. In this case I’ve given it a sultry swing feel.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how I’ve approached the famous Fred Astaire song Cheek to cheek. I decided to meld it with the end of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. The contrast of the languorous and rapturous I’m in heaven and the sublime In paradisum really plays to the strengths of The King’s Singers who carry it off with panache and polish. I believe it’s what the youth of today call a mash-up!

The album is released on Signum Classics in the UK on 30th September (29th October in the US)

The King's Singers will perform the music from the new album in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall on 16th October (with Alexander L'Estrange) Tickets HERE

CD Track Listing
CD 1 - A Cappella
The best is yet to come - Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
Let's misbehave - Cole Porter
Night and Day - Cole Porter
Cry me a river - Arthur Hamilton
I've got the world on a string - Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler
When I fall in love - Victor Young, Edward Heyman
It's de-lovely - Cole Porter
Beyond the sea - Charles Trenet, Jack Lawrence
Cheek to cheek - Irving Berlin
Begin the beguine - Cole Porter
At last - Mack Gorden, Harry Warren
I've got you under my skin - Cole Porter
The lady is a tramp - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
My funny Valentine - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
I won't dance - Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh
Ev'ry tme we say goodbye - Cole Porter

CD 2 – Orchestral
Let's misbehave - Cole Porter
Begin the beguine - Cole Porter
At last - Mack Gordon, Harry Warren
It's de-lovely - Cole Porter
The lady is a tramp - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
My funny Valentine - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
I've got the world on a string - Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler
Ev'ry time we say goodbye - Cole Porter


Preview: Harry Collier & Friends. Pheasantry - 30th Sept

This preview of Harry Collier and Friends (Pheasantry, 30th September) has been prepared by his wife Catherine (Bell). Thank you Grace Yee for the introduction


Harry Collier was born in Liverpool to a British father and West Indian mother. The family relocated to his mother's homeland, Tobago, when Harry was four. "My love of music began in Tobago," recalls Collier.  "I played recorder, clarinet and classical guitar in a wind band as well as steel pan." Harry moved back to England when he was 16, to the sleepy Cornish costal village of Gorran Haven and founded his of first proper band, Rootjoose when still a teenager. Rootjoose purveyed a lively style of music reminiscent of surf rock bands such as contemporaries Reef, but came unstuck in the late 90s when their record label, Rage, went bankrupt.

Rootjoose disbanded in 2001 and Collier moved to London where he began working as waiter in a north London restaurant. It was there that, one evening when Rollo Armstrong (producer of Faithless/Dido fame) was in for a birthday meal, Harry was deputised by the other staff to sing Happy Birthday to the celebrant. Instantly impressed, Rollo invited Harry round to his Highbury studio, and also introduced him to songwriters Jeff Paterson and Ben Langmaid (one half of electro-pop duo La Roux).

In 2010 Faithless invited Harry to join them as a featured vocalist on their final world tour. The tour lasted just over 12 months, taking Collier to all four corners of the globe, singing to audiences of up to 100,000 people at a time. "I think doing the tour encouraged me to push my own boundaries, to approach being a singer in my own style.”

It was around this time, in 2011, that Harry Collier & Friends was born.


I’m most looking forward to performing Strange Fruit. It speaks to me personally. Even though I’m half black West Indian and half white I don’t really feel connected to my black roots, but I do when I sing that song. I was never accepted fully into the Afro-Caribbean culture but at the same time its half of me, so I really love it, but feel rejected by it. I guess I live most of my life feeling like I’m outside of it because of the rejection I felt but singing that song makes me feel more connected to those roots that I don’t feel connected to every day. It’s probably my favourite song of our set for that reason.

I’m also excited about playing our new song – Make Love – which I’ve just finished writing. It’s pretty much about the dichotomy of life – the irony of being alive – where, if you’re going to stay sane, and be alive, and not go crazy, you have to hold opposite ideas in your mind, and accept that both those opposing things can be true at the same time. It’s about loving someone – wanting to make love to them – while at the same time being repelled by the things about that person that annoy you.

As far as the audience reaction to the gigs we’ve played so far – I never dreamed the reaction would have been as good as it has…. playing with Faithless in Amsterdam on my birthday and having 40,000 people sing Happy Birthday to me was really moving – but its not as intense as playing to a room of maybe 80 people where you can hear a pin drop in the quiet bits.

I’ve had people come up to me afterwards crying, saying how much they loved it and how moved they were… I guess I’ve always taken praise after gigs with a pinch of salt because – well, I never believe praise – but when people come up and they’re actually crying, you kind of have to go, oh maybe they do mean it…”

Bookingsfor Pheasantry 30th September


Podcast: Interview with Alexander Hawkins

We spoke to pianist/composer Alexander Hawkins ahead of his gig with The Convergence Quartet at the Vortex (only UK date of a European tour) on Tuesday 8th October 2013.

The band - Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Alexander Hawkins (piano), and Dominic Lash (double bass) – released a new CD this year Slow and Steady, recorded live at the Vortex during the 2011 London Jazz Festival.

Alexander talks about the band members, how the group formed, and their compositional and improvisational methods.

Musical Excerpt:

Assemble Melancholy - at 8:03

Vortex tickets HERE


News: Guy Barker to be awarded BASCA/PRS Gold Badge

Congratulations Guy Barker who will recive a BASCA/PRS for Music Gold Badge at the 40th Anniversary Gold Badge Awards bash on 16th October at The Savoy, London. These awards are given to "those from across the [music] business, who through their professional endeavours, benefit the work of songwriters and composers."

The other awardees this year are: Roger Dean, Don Letts, Jane Manning OBE, Stephen Navin, John Scott, Bonnie Tyler, Mike Vernon, Johnnie Walker MBE, Alison Wenham OBE, James Wyllie and Bill Wyman.


News: Evan Parker to receive 'Beyond Borders' Funding in his 70th birthday year

Evan Parker at the Royal Naval Chapel Greenwich, June 2013
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved 
Evan Parker, currently on a tour including New York and Baltimore, has received support from the PRS For Music Foundation's 'Beyond Borders' funding strand for 2014. The announcement, just made, covers eight projects, mostly in contemporary classical music. (FULL DETAILS HERE)

Evan Parker and Sten Sandell have been commissioned to produce events in 2014 with  AC Projects / Counterflows, an organisation which works closely with the CCA in Glasgow and Cafe Oto in London. This project will be in collaboration with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Quoting the Press Release: Evan Parker has been a source of undiminished creativity in music for over 50 years. His music stretches the boundaries of any genre. A constant collaborator and generous advocate of new music, in 2014 he will be celebrating his 70th birthday and creating something new for a series of events in 2014/15.

For more detail, try the PRS for Music Foundation website


National Jazz Archive (and Soweto Kinch) at the British Music Experience in the O2

A partnership between the National Jazz Archive and the British Music Experience at the O2 in Greenwich. has resulted in an exhibition and two - or possibly three - lectures:


- On the four Sundays in October (Sunday 6th, 13th 20th and 27th) from 12 noon - 4pm. National Jazz Archive staff will be at the BME with some items from the NJA Collections. More here


- Saturday 19th October, 2pm. Dr Nicolas Pillai - Jazz, Film and the Dissonant Image, 1930s -1960s.

- Thursday 24th October, 7pm. Duncan Heining - The Empire Jazz Rush - the influx of Black and Asian Musicians on the Jazz scene of the '50s and '60s.

- On Tuesday 22nd October there is also a conversation with Soweto Kinch as part of Black history month at the BME which seems to be running concurrently

- Tickets are £5.50 from


Preview: Julia Biel + Fumi Okiji / Pat Thomas at Lumen WC1 - 10th October

Fumi Okiji. Photo credit: Richard Kaby
Preview: Julia Biel + Fumi Okiji and Pat Thomas. Lumen, 88 Tavistock Place, 10th October

Fumi Okiji writes: 

I am helping organise a new vocal night at the Lumen in Tavistock Place at Kings Cross. I am a singer and am really pleased to have the chance to celebrate the diverse and exciting music of London vocalists working with contemporary jazz, improvised and original material.

Earlier this month we had a really fantastic gig featuring Brigitte Beraha and Barry Green opposite Olie Brice and myself. Brigitte and Barry did a mix of originals and standards with some great improvised moments. And Olie and I premiered our explorations on the outer reaches of standards interpretation and improvisation - a project that satisfies our dual attraction to the jazz standard and freely improvised music.

On October 10th, Julia Biel will be doing a solo set - LISTEN TO HER LONDONJAZZ  INTERVIEW - sharing her music and I will be doing a free improvisation with the truly inspirational pianist Pat Thomas. The idea is to programme sometimes contrasting, sometimes complementary vocal-involved projects of our exciting but, I think, sometimes under-appreciated vocal scene. I will not be performing every month! But am pleased to have been given the space to develop some collaborations that have been sitting in the wings.
Lumen. Photo credit: Steve Cadman

About the venue: the Lumen is a contemporary church which is also set up as an ideal concert/recital space. They have a decent, regularly tuned grand piano, a great sound system which is rarely used as the Lumen has great acoustics (I was going to say it has the acoustics of a church but actually the sound is much more suited to jazz). Its a really lovely place with great management. Its central - in Bloomsbury, 5 minutes walk from Kings Cross station and the same distance from Russell Square.

The address is 88 Tavistock Place WC1H 9RS. Tickets (£7 / £5 concessions)

WEBSITE /  There will also be a free improv festival at the end of October


Review: Adam Waldmann at Spires Jazz Club

Adam Waldmann
(Spires Jazz Club. Oxford. 23rd September 2013. Review by Alyn Shipton)

Another decade, and another Pizza Express Jazz Club. This time, the initiative lies not with the restaurant chain but with guitarist Adam Taylor, who is boldly trying to set up a regular central Oxford jazz club on Monday nights. The setting is a downstairs room with big Georgian windows and oak panelling in the local branch of the restaurant chain, located in a courtyard squeezed alongside the busy Cornmarket pedestrian area. The first ever session in the club welcomed back local boy, saxophonist Adam Waldmann, to front a quartet in what seemed comfortably like someone’s front room.

Away from the particular aesthetic of his Kairos 4tet, Waldmann shone, his sinuous soprano and delicate tenor sax playing alternating from one number to the next, so that his abrasive, edgy soprano sound dominated on his own “Hymn for Her” whilst his deft ballad playing on tenor made Monk’s “Ask Me Now” an intense personal statement. As the evening went on, and the band settled, both aspects of his sound developed, so that the soprano workouts got livelier and involved the rest of the band more fully, while the ballads (culminating in Waldmann’s own “Unresolved”) got more tender.

Most remarkably, this band of twenty-somethings (Tom Wheatley on bass and Jay Davis on drums completing the lineup) played with a maturity beyond their years. If Taylor felt the band was crashing about a bit too much for him to solo, he waited for calm, and then launched into his outing when the backing was just right. Waldmann never seemed to dominate, but asserted his musical presence through calm authority.

If this set is the yardstick, then the club will be a welcome addition to the local scene, not too far from London to prevent fans from coming, and an excellent complement to the long-running Thursday night Spin jazz club, or the more eclectic fare on offer one Tuesday each month at the splendid Albion Beatnik bookshop. For a town that has always had less live jazz on offer than seems appropriate for the potential audience from town and gown combined, suddenly Oxford’s jazz scene is rivalling its recent predominance in the world of rock.

Forthcoming guests:
30th Sept: Tori Freestone
7th Oct:Harry Pope
21st Oct: Martin Speake.

More information HERE


2013 Herts Jazz Festival Round-Up

Reuben James at Herts Jazz Festival 2013
Photo credit: Melody McLaren . All Rights reserved

Herts Jazz Festival 2013
(Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn Garden City - September 20-22. Review by Peter Vacher)

Herts Jazz Festival is everything a weekend jazz festival should be. The venue is excellent and it’s customer-friendly, with decent food and plenty of relaxed chatting space, the musical programme (courtesy Sylvia and Clark Tracey) is first-rate, topped this year by marquee favourite Georgie Fame, branding and publicity are spot-on, and the enthusiasm of its organisers is both engaging and business-like. Just to sample the buzz as audience members and musicians mingled between sets was enough to know that this year’s event was a success. And yes, numbers were up and the portents good enough to ensure that next year’s festival, the fourth in this rewarding series, will run from September 12-14.

Alyn Shipton has already written eloquently about the opening night‘s Stan Tracey Octet concert (minus the ailing Stan, unfortunately), Tracey’s invigorating pieces cast like miniature big band scores, call-and-response personified. Late on, it was the turn of the energetic pianist Tim Lapthorn to hold the attention of the last-minute stragglers in a foyer trio set, this setting in train an emerging festival strand as star pianists queued up and delivered performances of startling intensity.

Other priorities kept me away from the Festival’s middle day but reports suggested that the Ronnie Rae and Kenny Wheeler Quintets excelled, even as Django Bates puzzled some of the jazz diehards. (Melody McLaren's highlights are HERE).

Sunday‘s programme quickly settled any questions of jazz overload as the Reuben James trio kicked off the day. This hip young man came on blowing a melodica, looking sharp in a vividly patterned jacket and wearing a tasty snap-brim hat. His melodica excursion segued into a rumbustious version of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ that seemed to embrace a history of jazz piano, Garner-like delays contrasting with tumultuous chords and the kind of flashing keyboard runs that suggested he might even have sneaked a look at Liberace. James is a star in the making with confidence and technique to spare, whose keyboard dash enables him to move from crash-bang blues figures to light-touch boppish passages in a twinkle of the eye, never more than on his own tribute to the late Abram Wilson, ‘Gumbo’s Lullaby’. Drummer Moses Boyd stayed watchful, alert to James’s every unpredictable move and soloing with admirable panache, bassist Fergus Ireland on message, too.

Winston Clifford in the Tony Kofi Quartet
Herts Jazz 2013. Photo credit: Melody McLaren . All Rights Reserved

Tony Kofi
’ s follow-on was more sober but no less joyous, his quartet concentrating on the Monk canon, with Tony citing Thelonious as a giant of 20-th century composition and then underlining the point with a concert performance that married access to Monk’s varied themes with brilliant variations of his own. Kofi has the on-stage bearing and profile of one of sculptor of Elizabeth Frink’s warrior figures and a similarly heroic approach to improvisation. His alto, always impassioned, soared here over the exemplary rhythm patterns laid down by bassist Ben Hazleton and that most resourceful of drummers, Winston Clifford. Still, it was the compact form of Jonathan Gee at the piano that also drew the eye, no Monkian replications for him, rather wonderfully subtle variations, spacious and harmonically acute. Just to hear this foursome skewer ‘Misterioso’ was a kick .

Don Weller
Herts Jazz 2013. Photo credit: Melody McLaren . All Rights Reserved

Once Alan Barnes and trio had beguiled us in the lunch break, it was the newly invigorated Don Weller’s turn in the theatre. Looking good and in excellent shape musically, Don emphasised the sheer embarrassment of riches with which this festival was endowed, taking some familiar standards through a series of searching examinations, each marked by those characteristic tenor phrases of his, slipping and sliding around the beat. Don’s pianist, the on-form Dave Newton cut loose on his blues, ‘Old Blues Eyes’, his level of invention and drive as hugely pleasing as ever, with bassist Andy Cleyndert and drummer Dave Barry making this quartet sound like the tightest group on show. Bravo, Don. 

Mark Nightingale, Alastair White (with Alec Dankworth)
Herts Jazz 2013. Photo credit: Melody McLaren . All Rights Reserved

Mark Nightingale and Alistair White titled their two-trombone quintet session ‘Tribute to JJ & Kai.' Maybe so, but in reality it was a whole-hearted tribute to the skills of these two local bone-men, their blend and assertive soloing, like the best of tonics. Nightingale, a relaxed front-man, had beavered away, contributing originals, arranging others, while allowing enough room for yet another piano great, John Horler to create his own flow of clever ideas and interludes, the rhythm team of Dankworth and Tracey good for swing. As one observer said, speaking of this set, “That’s what I came for.” Me, too.


Saturday, 2013 Herts Jazz Festival: Kenny Wheeler + John Critchinson + Django Bates/Iain Ballamy reunion

Dave Green (top) and John Critchinson
Herts Jazz Festival 2013. Photo credit Melody Mclaren. All Rights reserved

 Melody McLaren who has been  taking pictures all through, picks some highlights of the Saturday of this year's three-day Herts Jazz Festival. (Alyn Shipton reviewed Friday of the Herts Jazz Festival  for us. Peter Vacher is reviewing Sunday.) Melody writes: 

1. (Above) Lovely to see these great stalwarts John Critchinson and Dave Green (with Clark Tracey) on Saturday afternoon in a free foyer gig at Campus West. Can't imagine a better way to engage the local Hertfordshire community, as well as loyal Festival fans, with the best of British jazz.

Kenny Wheeler
Herts Jazz Festival 2013. Photo credit Melody Mclaren. All Rights reserved

2) - A rare appearance by the legendary Kenny Wheeler, performing in great company with Stan Sulzmann, John Paricelli, Chris Laurence and Paul Clarvis. The finale - Everybody's Song But My Own - introduced as the equivalent of a "rock anthem" for the jazz community - was extremely moving for those of us in the audience who have heard this covered by so many great British jazz musicians.

Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Petter Eldh
Herts Jazz Festival 2013. Photo credit Melody Mclaren. All Rights reserved

 3) - Having performed with his band Anorak in the previous set, Iain Ballamy dropped in for a mini-reunion with fellow Loose Tubes bandmate Django Bates on his Beloved set. The two last played together in a quartet setting 8 years ago, and last played the tune they chose (This World) - when they recorded the album together on which it appears, All Men Amen, in spring 1993.