More Captions Please

Sign on crane. Kings Cross, October 2013

".....but if we do that it won't mean a thing?"


Preview: Noszferatu vs Schlippenbach Trio. 3 Date Tour (16 November at EFG London Jazz Festival)

Finn Peters, flautist and saxophonist and a key member of new music group Noszferatu, discusses what Evan Parker, a key member of the Schlippenbach trio, means to him before their three date tour commences at the Purcell Room on November 16th.  Finn writes: 

I first met Evan Parker at the old Vortex on Church Street in Stoke Newington when I was 21 and had just moved to London. He was playing a duo with Han Bennink who is an old friend of mine from Holland. I got to know Han over there as a teenager and played chess with him a bit. When he introduced me to Evan in the break, I started saying all this stuff about how amazing the first set was, how I had never seen anything like it etc. All of this was true and the music was totally mind blowing. Han told me to calm down - “he is just a sax player, don't embarrass him.” Han is right – we needn't put musicians on a pedestal.

There is, however, no getting around the fact that Evan is a giant amongst saxophonists. Over the last 40 years or so he has entirely changed the face of freely improvised saxophone playing as we know it. Solo saxophone concerts require an incredible amount of stamina, both physical and mental. Evan has spent years developing his musical narrative and extended techniques like circular breathing, multiphonics etc in a truly comprehensive way. He has taken saxophone playing further than almost anyone to date and I consider him a true innovator. His broad outlook has led him to work with musicians from very diverse musical backgrounds, from Scott Walker to Derek Bailey. I think the main idea that I have taken away from hearing Evan is how important it is to find your own way of making music which comes from your life experiences. What you read, listen to, people you meet, places you go, ideas you work on – these are the things that come out in your music.

I am very excited about the upcoming double trio dates with Noszferatu and the Schlippenbach Trio and hoping that we can explore the vast grey area between totally through composed music and entirely free improvised music in a meaningful way. I am still not really convinced that it is meaningful or helpful to use these terms – perhaps there is simply human expression occasionally aided by something written down on paper. I recently worked with Evan on an album for his own PSI label with Bill Frisell and Hans Koller (who has written a piece for the double trio tour.). Evan and I discussed different world of music labels and other common musical interests – reeds (Evan has Japanese handmade reeds that have Teflon in!), our collections of birdsong 7”s (and other animal sounds including different kinds of frogs), and improvising. What does it mean and how does it work? It is always refreshing to find out that your musical heroes are just human beings at the end of the day. In Evan's case he is a very warm, giving and an interesting sort of a human too!


Ivo de Greef (piano), Finn Peters (sax, flute), Damien Harron (drums, percussion)

Schlippenbach Trio:

Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano), Paul Lovens (drums), Evan Parker (sax)


16 November 2013 – EFG London Jazz Festival, Purcell Room, 7.45pm, £20/£10
17 November 2013 – Oxford Contemporary Music, The North Wall, 8pm, £14/£10
19 November 2013 – Jazzlines / Frontiers, CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 8pm £14/£12

Featuring new works by Hanna Kulenty, Joe Cutler, Hans Koller, Dave Price and Finn Peters


RIP Frank Wess (1922-2013)

From Kansas City, a member of the Basie, Eckstine and Clark Terry bands, an NEA Jazz Master in 2007, the great tenor saxophoonist Frank Wess died yesterday.

More on Peter Hum's site. In sadness.

UPDATE: Tribute from Frank Griffith

Frank Wess was the classic NYC jobbing reed player who put put his hand to soprano, alto and tenor saxes, clarinet as well as a more than distinctive flute soloist. He also composed and arranged impressively getting his start while with Count Basie's Orchestra in the late 1950s. His 1960 opus, Segue in C, stands out with its Kansas City style unison theme (for muted trumpet and trombone and flute) which then develops tremendously with solos building the depth of the beat. A heroic and swaggering shout section ensues with a full arsenal of brass and sparkling saxes to later wind down to the unison theme.

Frank's "bedroom alto" swooning away on "Laura" coupled with his flute rhapsodisms on "How Insensitive" (both arranged by Slide Hampton) were highlights for me on Dexter Gordon's seminal 1977 Columbia LP "Sophisticated Giant".

I worked with Frank several times in New York City in the 1990s- with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band as well as John Pizzarelli's "All Of Me" CD. He was a kind and encouraging fellow with no airs about him. Quite funny too. I used to quiz him about all of my late heroes that he had played with, including Oliver Nelson of whom he remarked: "Oliver could drink Thad drunk".

Frank Wess, a name not limited to one direction. He strode fully in all four.


Laughlines - The Impossible Gentlemen live in Budapest in 2010

New video just released of a performance at the Muveszetek Palotaja in Budapest on June 5th 2010.


Divas Day Benefit - 10th Nov at Fleece Jazz Stoke-by-Nayland

Top row: Barb Jungr, Claire Martin, Georgia Mancio,Gill Manly, Kate Shortt
Centre Row: Mari Wilson, Sarah Gillespie, Sarah Moule, Tina May, Trudy Kerr
Bottom Row: Dave Newton,  Jenny Carr, Nigel Price

This picture tells quite some story. The Fleece Jazz Club in Stoke-by-Nayland will have this extraordinary line-up on Sunday 10th November for a day of music starting at 1 30pm - DIVA'S DAY (follow the link for more details and tickets)  a benefit gig to support the volunteer-led club in its 21st year. Admission id

There will also be the official appointment of pianist Dave Newton as an Honorary President of Fleece Jazz. As the Press Release says: "Dave played the first ever gig in 1993 and keeps coming back, getting even better over the years."


News: Troyk-estra LJF 23 Nov / album release, launch gig details and sample track

Ralph Wyld, Kit Downes, Louis van der Westhuizen
Joshua Blackmore, Chris Montague

Troyk-estra album Launch - Purcell Room Saturday 23rd November

Troyka (Chris Montague – guitar , Kit Downes – keyboards , Josh Blackmore -drums) have expanded into the eighteen-piece Troyk-estra (personnel here), and will be launching a new album Live at Cheltenham Jazz Festival (Impossible Ark) at the Purcell Room on 23rd November at 3pm in the EFG London Jazz Festival.

As it says on the Troyka Website:

“Last year we all arranged a bunch of our trio pieces for big band and completely new pieces specially written for Troyk-estra. This year we performed at Cheltenham Jazz festival, it was recorded for BBC Radio 3 (Jazz on 3). We’ve since been editing and mixing this with Alex Killpartrick for a big band album release on Impossible Arc Records. We are all very proud and excited about this record! We will be cutting it onto limited edition vinyl and releasing the album at the London Jazz festival this autumn.”

We spoke to Troyka's drummer Josh Blackmore today. The pieces are very much written with particular players in mind, such as Ralph Wyld on vibraphone in mind and James Allsopp on saxophones. And the lead trumpet parts are difficult - Blackmore explained - so Troyka consider themselves fortunate to have players such as Reuben Fowler and Noel Langley in the band. The orchestra is directed by Royal Academy of Music Head of Jazz Nick Smart, who has also had a major role in the co-ordination of this complex project.

The Purcell Room concert will have same personnel as played at the Parabola Theatre in Cheltenham in May. The recording has been substantially edited/mixed/mastered from the broadcast tapes made by the team from Jazz on 3, but there is still very much the atmosphere of a live gig.

Release date for the album is December 2nd.



Review: Colin Stetson at Café Oto

Colin Stetson at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Colin Stetson
(Café Oto, 27 October 2013; night one of a two night residency; drawing and review by Geoff Winston)

Colin Stetson's prodigious talents are much in demand. The Montreal-based, American saxophone maverick has toured and recorded with Bon Iver and Montreal's Arcade Fire, and Tom Waits enlisted his expertise on the albums, 'Alice' and 'Blood Money'.

Opening his powerful solo set at Café Oto on alto sax, Stetson cast a dense, floating net of booming resonances, rebounding rhythms and gritty distortions to subvert, invert and expand the possibilities offered by bass and alto instruments. He relayed pulses, percussive key clicks and a disarmingly wistful lyricism to lay out the the groundwork for waves of deep vibrations and serial rhythms that he would coax from his vintage, industrial scale bass sax - itself, a marvel of rough-hewn precision engineering - with a multi-layered live technique that has evolved from the physical and conceptual challenges that he continually sets himself.

He is so adept at merging all the sonic strands that it seems like the natural way to play, yet there is no denying that his live technique is astounding.

At first it seems that there must be interventions of processed sound and looped repetitions, but gradually it dawns that there's nothing of the sort in Stetson's armoury. All the layers and overlays, techno trance undertones and remote vocalisations are conjured on the spot, with the addition of contact mikes applied in a collar to his throat and to the saxophones' bodies, combined with his mastery of multiphonics and unconventional breathing techniques. No buttons, pedals or other gizmos (see Comments below).

Stetson has explained in an interview with Consequence of Sound that he is constantly working out ways to facilitate the multi-tasking his compositions demand; using "... manipulations of the tongue and inside of the throat and mouth ... [developing] those muscles and seek[ing] out new techniques... " till he arrives at a 'Eureka!' moment when "it just works!"

There are similarities with Oren Marshall's approach to the tuba, an excitement in the distortions practiced by Hendrix and a determination to bring them into the brass repertoire. Equally, Stetson's atmospheric explorations brought to mind Yazuaki Shimizu's quivering saxophone interpretations of Bach cello suites, recorded in a stone quarry and underground, in a mine.

There's a recognition of sadness and near-isolation in his themes, and in a literal sense, too. One piece he introduced, from the final volume of his 'New History Warfare' trilogy, is based on the whale whose call was out by a few herz, so his song was never answered by others. "Isn't that the saddest story?"

His final number was for Lou Reed. "This day is a sad day," he said. He'd lost a friend and a musical collaborator, and in the studied pace of his musical elegy he summoned up the essence of the hypnotic aspect of Reed’s songs – glimmering with the pulse and heartbeats of ‘White Light, White Heat’ and ‘Waitin’ for My Man’.

A mesmerising performance. And an impressively innovative promotion by Cafe Oto, too (see our background piece about how this gig came into being from May).

The first set, by Ex-Easter Island Head, featured an engaging and ambitious composition from this young trio combining percussion, electronics and guitar-based sound in a manner that owed respectful debts to Steve Reich, Kraftwerk and in their finale, the power chords of the Who's 'Baba O'Riley'. 


Preview / Interview: Paolo Fresu.

Sardinian trumpet star Paolo Fresu is playing on Nov. 11th & 12th at Pizza Express’ My Jazz Islands Festival, which brings together British and Sardinian musicians. Alison Bentley - who attended part one of the festival in Sardinia - interviewed him.

Alison Bentley: You play in a number of different idioms- your duo work with pianist Uri Caine, for example. Standards- was that how you started?

Paolo Fresu: For me, there's not a big difference between standards and original compositions. Especially with Uri Caine- we play a lot of different things. We'll be in Umbria Jazz in the last week in December, for four nights. We'll play one night- just standards; one night- original compositions; on another we'll play Baroque music, and on the last night we'll try to play just Italian pop songs- why not? I think that the most important thing is not the material- the material's just a pretext to go inside the music. The most important thing's our attitude to the music. We need to know the history of this music, because otherwise we live in the present, and we don't know about the past. We need to know about repertoire;  we need to know about the artists, because otherwise we have no tool to open new doors. And standards are like bread for us- if we play standards we can also play original music. I like very much jazz- I like Miles, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker... but the real way for me is to mix standards, originals and all kinds of material.

AB: Your ECM music's a very distinctive style too- your recording with guitarist Ralph Towner.

PF: The record title was Chiaroscuro. I made two records for ECM- the first was this one with Ralph and the second was Mistico Mediterraneo. That was a special project with a Corsican choir and a bandoneon player. With Ralph Towner, the repertoire was 80% original compositions- Ralph's compositions,  basically. And Blue in Green, which is one of the most famous standards in the history of jazz. I think that the problem is not the material that we use, but the way we play this music. We can even play very traditional songs from Sardinia. Dear Old Stockholm (played by Chet Baker) was a traditional song from Sweden, and a lot of jazz standards were from the very rich popular repertoire from the 40s, 50s, 60s. We can be original if we know the history of the music. It's not easy, of course!

AB: Your music with Nguyên Lê and Huong Thanh, and Omar Sosa - that sounded very original to me.

PF: Well, yes. With Omar and Nguyên Lê there's another kind of approach. Because we play original music- a kind of mix with traditional music: for example, with Omar, some things from Cuba- and with Nguyên Lê, from Vietnam. We play one note, and that note is the first step to go inside the music. With Omar, the first thing we share is not the music, but the philosophy of the music- the sounds and the silence.  With Uri and with Ralph,  the improvisation is 50% or less. With Omar Sosa the improvisation is maybe 80%. The communication is completely different. I have a lot of projects with piano players like Omar and Uri. Tomorrow I'll be in Poland with Bojan Zulfikarpasic, the Bosnian piano player. Tonight I am in Bologna with Daniele di Bonaventura on bandoneon. Another project is with a string quartet. I like very much to play with small projects, because the quality of the sound and silence is very important for me.

AB: Your Devil Quartet funk made me think of Miles Davis and 'You're Under Arrest'?

PF: Yes! My Italian quintet or quartet is another adventure: with bass, drums, guitar and  myself. I think I need to float between those different kinds of projects. The very simple ones like duos, because they have a lot of silence, and at the same time with the quartet- we play a lot of rock and electric sounds. So the whole personality is very rich and very different.

AB: And you write for film and dance as well?

PF: Yes, I like very different kinds of things in music- and I like to play the things that I like! I hope that the audience can follow me and my music. I think I'm very lucky, because in my life- I started in 1982 or 3-  in my career I just followed myself, and not the audience. I followed my ideas, and finally I'm at the age when the audience is also happy- and when we have a lot of people at the concerts! But the most important thing for me is to be honest and happy with myself on stage first, and with my musicians. If the interplay between my musicians is correct, we can speak to the audience. But if the interplay with my musicians is not correct, we have nothing to give to people.

Alison Bentley: How did you get involved with Filomena Campus’ Jazz Islands project?

Paolo Fresu: Filomena was in my workshop in Sardinia maybe 12, 13 years ago, and I've followed her career. She's a fantastic player, a fantastic singer. She makes theatre pieces, she writes lyrics, she's a great organiser- and has a relationship with England and Sardinia. She composed lyrics in the Sardinian language. I like Filomena because she's very curious and open, and plays with a lot of different people.

I think it's very important  to try to open new doors and windows-  maybe we don't know what happens through those doors and windows, but it's important to push!


Pizza Express Dean Street:

Mon. 11th Nov. DÙOS (CD Launch): Filomena Campus, vocals; Giorgio Serci, guitar; Adriano Adewale, percussion; Sonia Peana, violin, and Paolo Fresu, trumpet (TICKETS)

Tues. 12th Nov. JESTER OF JAZZ:  Filomena Campus, vocals; Steve Lodder, piano; Dudley Phillips, bass; Rod Youngs, drums, and Paolo Fresu, trumpet (TICKETS)


CD Review: Tina May - Divas

Tina May - Divas
(Hep CD2099. CD review by Peter Vacher)

This new album by one of Britain’s most intriguing jazz singers exudes class from every pore. Set aside the quality of the songs Ms May has chosen or the arrangements and instrumentalists that support her and take a look at its presentation, for starters. From the coloured board digi-pack to the erudite liner essay by Dave Gelly, to the photography of Dick Hammett and Adrian Korsner plus the attention devoted to the sound engineering and the efforts of multi-reedman/arranger Frank Griffith and the band, and it’s clear that producer Alastair Robertson has pulled out all the stops to make this an album to remember.

The Divas of its title are the singers who first made something of the songs picked by Tina. Happily she feels no need to replicate their interpretations but rather to re-think the songs with Griffith’s help, in often unusual ways. Leading off with ‘Why Don’t You Do Right’ inevitably brings Peggy Lee to mind, but she didn’t have the benefit of Frank’s limpid clarinet or Adrian Fry’s admirably lucid trombone solo. I like the way the arrangement cushions Tina’s rather louche vocal before ‘There’s a Lull In My Life’, Tina at her lilting best, with Frank’s slinky tenor heard ahead of ‘Forgetful’, romantic and slow, with guitarist Dave Cliff the main supportive voice. ‘Let’s Get Lost’ is quicker than Chet Baker’s versions and if Tina’s edgier phrases hint at Carmen McRae’s astringency, then Freddy Gavita’s flugel is nearer to Chet’s moody sound.

Twelve songs, varied in mood and execution, Tina’s range and actor-like expressiveness allowing her to handle a swinger like ‘Can’t Get Out of This Mood’ with jazzy aplomb, as she trades phrases with the muted Fry, and then to relax on something like ‘When The World Was Young’, with John Pearce’s sublime piano solo and more of that ethereal clarinet.

Occasional vocalist Winston Clifford duets with Tina on the perky ‘Where You At’ and there a reprise for her command of French on a couple of songs too. So something for everybody here, but overall a sense of an artist who certainly knows ‘Where’s She At’ aided by a band of top musical collaborators. As I said before, a classy production.


Gwilym Simcock previews Rhapsody in Blue with the City of London Sinfonia (Cadogan Hall 31st Oct.)

Gwilym Simcock
Photo credit: William Ellis. All Rights Reserved
Gwilym Simcock previews the 'Jazz Kings' concert at Cadogan Hall this Thursday 31st October. He writes: 

This Thursday I will once again be joining the City of London Sinfonia for a performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue in the original arrangement “For Jazz Band and Piano” written for the Paul Whiteman band.

It’s great to have the challenge of playing one of the most famous jazz-classical crossover pieces ever written. I’m also delighted to be furthering my working relationship with the City of London Sinfonia, who are among the UK’s leading orchestras.

Rhapsody In Blue is an iconic work that set a template for the bridging of the gap between the worlds of classical and jazz. It is essentially a mini-piano concerto and it is exciting to be returning to that approach for the first time since the performance of my own concerto at the BBC Proms in 2008.

Approaching Gershwin’s music from the perspective of a jazz musician, one is drawn especially towards its rhythmic possibilities. I’m hoping to open up the piece a little for some improvisation, of course in a reverential way to the written music.

My collaboration with the City of London Sinfonia has already been very fruitful one, and includes a recent recording of my orchestral piece MOVE! which will feature on a new album for ACT Music to be released in early 2014. On this occasion, it’s also fantastic to be working with Michael Collins, a world famous clarinettist and conductor, for whom I’m writing a commission with CLS next year.

This Thursday at Cadogan Hall, the orchestra will also be performing works by Stravinsky and Bernstein, composed respectively with clarinettists Woody Herman and Benny Goodman in mind, and the Shostakovich Jazz Suite No.1  from 1934. There will also be a performance of a suite from Weill's The Threepenny Opera.

This should be a really enjoyable concert, and will hopefully be of interest to anyone fascinated by the integration of classical and jazz music.



Review: Paul Lacey’s Back to Basie Orchestra in Potters Bar

Jacqui Hicks, Paul Lacey

Paul Lacey’s Back to Basie Orchestra 
(Wyllyotts Theatre, Potters Bar. 27th October 2013. Review by Peter Vacher)

Trumpeter Paul Lacey came up with the idea of forming a repertory big band to play the late Count’s vast array of arrangements way back in 2001. Having overcome the initial suspicions of the Basie estate itself, he’s battled against today’s ‘hard sell’ for jazz and kept this marvellous ensemble afloat and on the road, to coin a mixed metaphor.

To his credit and theirs, the band’s zest to play and collective joy seems undimmed if this outstanding concert is anything to go by. With a not-quite-full house lapping up every number, some well-known, others less so, and with Jacqui Hicks adding her own classy vocal interpretations, this was a packed, no-let-up outing, fast-moving, and rewarding, Lacey the cheery front-man and principal trumpet soloist. As pianist Nick Dawson said, “It’s a great band” and he’s right.

It’s all too easy to sneer at ‘tribute’ big bands or ‘ghost’ bands, for that matter, but Back To Basie’s manifesto is a cut above anything those endless Glenn Miller clones can offer. For a start, Lacey is assiduous in tracking down the actual vintage charts, viz those he obtained from the late Ernie Wilkins’s widow and played here, thus allowing this glorious music to live again and his soloists to have their say.

Then again, he’ll balance his concert presentations with hit numbers from the Count’s glory days like the opening ‘Flight of the Foo Birds’, from Neal Hefti’s ‘Atomic’ book, with Allison Neale’s brief alto solo (she added gorgeous flute on ‘Cute’) and Pete Cater making thunder on the drums before giving us something like ‘Yuriko’ by Billy Byers or Quincy Jones’s ‘For Lena & Lennie’ with its soft muted brass.

It was good to hear Ms Hicks taking the place of Joe Williams on the rousing ‘Every Day’ and to enjoy Dawson’s very different solo excursions on ‘The Kid From Red Bank.’ And that’s also part of this band’s success: soloists willing to place their personal stamp on a piece rather than replicate familiar improvisations as trombonist Ian Bateman did so well on ‘I Needs To Be Bee’d With’, making me think momentarily of Al Grey’s exultant approach, and tenorist Alex Garnett did in blustery fashion on ‘Corner Pocket’ as Cater lay into the skins.

Time to give the lead players a plug too for their dynamism, that’s altoist Mark Crooks for the saxes, trumpeter Craig Wild and Andy Flaxman for the trombones, each section gliding as one into the softer things (like ‘Li'l Darlin', described by Lacey as ‘a musical duvet’) and then shouting exuberantly when it mattered. They even made me enjoy Basie’s interminable version of ‘April in Paris.'

And while we’re handing out the plaudits, let’s not forget the importance of Cater’s rhythm role here, balancing percussive bombast with crisp brushwork as required and helping Dawson, guitarist John Coverdale and bassist Tom Mark create the foundations for swing. Good for them all and good for Lacey too. Final plug for Terry Dash Music who put the concert on and took the risk. Thanks.


Happy 86th Birthday Dame Cleo Laine

Many Happy Returns to Dame Cleo who was indeed born on a Friday. And who will be appearing at Pinner Jazz this Saturday


News: Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger Award to be launched at Celebration on 10th Nov

Eddie Harvey (1925-2012)

A new 'Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger of the Year Award' will be formally launched at a concert celebrating Eddie Harvey's life (see more details in Peggy Hannington's preview) at the Royal Academy of Music on November 10th.  

Ivor Widdison writes about the Award:

Whilst Eddie didn’t exactly rage against the injustice of it, he did lament the neglect of the importance of the role of the jazz arranger. We think we can do a little something to remedy that. And indeed to help to perpetuate the memory of the man who gave so much to British jazz.

We propose to set up an Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger of the Year Award, which will be made annually and be open to all ages. For the winner it will be worth £2000.

The rules will be straightforward. The only specific exclusion is that the submitted arrangement must not have been previously publicly performed. Submissions will be notated with no limitations on the combination of instruments or voices.

For most practical purposes, we think applicants should try to encompass their arrangement within 15 minutes. Arrangements can be of original or non-original works.

Arrangers should be resident in the UK; and we think it important to reassure all would-be competitors that the judges will base their findings on charts that do not reveal authors’ identity.

The judges’ (Pete Hurt, Mark Armstrong, Kate Williams and Jason Yarde) verdict will be final and not subject to appeal.

These are early days for the project, but we are looking at a closing date for submissions to be received by the Scheme’s administrator - contact details to follow) of 31 July 2014.

There will be a public presentation and performance of the winning submission by NYJO in an appropriate formation – and who knows what that will be; with strings, perhaps, as a septet, or then again something completely different! It’s this inclusivity which makes the Award so exciting.

Full details of the Award will be available on the night of the celebratory concert – Sunday 10 November 2013, 6 pm at the Royal Academy of Music.


CD Review: Paul Dunmall, Mark Hanslip, Philip Gibbs and Ed Ricart – Weeping Idols

Paul Dunmall, Mark Hanslip, Philip Gibbs and Ed Ricart – Weeping Idols 
(FMR CD 356-0513. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Weeping Idols was recorded in Bristol in 2012. It features Paul Dunmall and Mark Hanslip on tenor saxophones and the electric guitars of Philip Gibbs and Ed Ricart (mis-spelt as “Ricard” on the CD).

Their 50-minute session is documented in its entirety. Although some structural details were agreed beforehand – such as the absence of saxes on the final piece – the four improvisations evolve without any plan or process. That they emerge with form and style is testament to the compatibility of the musicians who (presumably) are referenced in the title of the opening piece, 4 Souls, 8 Eyes.

There are few clues as to who does what, but Mark Hanslip has helpfully explained that the “jazzier” guitar is Gibbs’, whereas Ricart often employs a more distorted timbre. Dunmall’s is generally the faster of the saxophones, while Hanslip plays the multiphonic parts. No-one leads and no-one muscles their way to the front.

Better Than Words begins with a saxophone duet. Soon after the guitars join in, there is a free playfulness and a section that brings to mind the early harmolodic excursions of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band.

Amongst the plinking, buzzing and skittering there is a lot of conventional tone production. Many passages are surprisingly reflective. On Bhutan (which has Dunmall on soprano sax) you can almost hear the men thinking. The unexpected percussive noises are likely to have been created by the guitarists finger-tapping the fretboard and using effects pedals.

The first couple of minutes of the closing track, Weeping Idols, sound like Clapton and Blackmore were crammed into a confined space and told to do something progressive. Gibbs and Ricart pull themselves together, the beefy tones subside, and the album concludes with the thoughtfulness and focus that distinguishes most of this CD.

Free improv has the ability to be the most exhilarating music of all. Fulfilment comes from the sonic relationship between the participants, and it stems from listening and discipline. On this recording, teamwork is everything.


RIP Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)


Award-Winners Announcement / Reports from the 2013 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival

Marching Band in Oliver Plunkett Street
2013 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Melody Maclaren

Melody McLaren is over in 'the real capital', Cork, Ireland, reporting and photographing for us at the 2013 Guiness Cork Jazz Festival.

The Festival has just announced its 2013  Award-Winners:

- Guinness Jazz Legend Award - Billy Cobham

- Guinness Jazz Personality of the Festival: Rene Marie -

(Melody writes: "She was performing in The Everyman, opening for Courtney Pine - an absolutely sizzling set, terrific interplay with altoist Perico Sambeat and other ensemble members as well as the audience in her tribute to Eartha Kitt with songs from her new CD, I Want to Be Evil."

Picture here:

Rene Marie. Guiness Cork Jazz Festival 2013
Photo credit: MelodyMcLaren

- Guinness Rising Star Award: Edmar Castañeda

- The Jazz in Europe Award goes to Bugge Wesseltoft.

Perico Sambeat, Alex Davis

Melody writes: "Altoist Perico Sambeat and young British bass talent Alex Davis together in quartet (with Albert Sanz (piano) and Stephen Keogh (drums) at the Triskel Christchurch Theatre."

For Melody's complete photo archive follow this link.


Kaz Simmons For The Love of the Big L released

- Kaz Simmons' album Signs is released today Sunday 28th October.

- She is singing on the opening night of the EFG London Jazz Festival 15th November at the Green Note in Camden Town.

- Sebastian wrote a feature about the album for the Telegraph.


Review: Mingus Big Band at Ronnie Scott's

Mingus Big Band
(23rd October at Ronnie Scott's. Review by Peter Vacher)

Just to watch a big band setting up, adjusting microphones and stands, checking their music, exchanging banter and sorting themselves out on Ronnie’s stage is enough to set the pulses racing. Well, it is for me and as it turns out for this house-full audience too. Add in the special aura of the Mingus Big Band itself, with its unique dedication to a single cause allied to unfettered creativity, and you sense that huge rewards await you. The continuing validity of Mingus’s music is not in doubt and boy, does that come across when this band finally gets underway.

Leader Boris Kozlov set the tone with his supple bass line on Jump, Monk, trumpeter Philip Harper, short and compact like a young Roy Eldridge, topping and tailing the performance with lengthy, vivid solos. When the ensemble surged in it was to launch altoist Abraham Burton in turn, his extended solo a slow burner initially before he accelerated into fervency, trumpet riffs piling in. And that’s often MBB’s way, deceptive calm at first, with a few succulent ensemble passages and then the kind of solo playing that reminds you of just how challenging this music can be. More of the same followed on Pithecanthropus Erectus with its sweet sax opening, long trumpet solo from newcomer Tatum Greenblatt and sudden raucous shouts from trombonist Clark Gayton, the ebb and flow of its dynamics as striking as ever.

Kozlov introduced Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Mingus’s elegiac farewell to Lester Young, as their most performed piece. Yes, to that, but this version topped any other that I’ve witnessed from this band, principally because of Craig Handy’s wonderfully spacious, unaccompanied introductory extemporisation. All tenor life was there, you might say, from sublime, almost laconic ballad passages through to high shrieks and gutturals rasps before the band played that familiar, melancholy theme. Passions of a Woman Loved was calm, with pianist Helen Sung’s neat solo and Brandon Wright’s soprano featured over Kozlov’s arco bass before Freedom climaxed the set, Wayne Escoffrey’s tenor rant a model of creative intensity and storming brilliance, Ronnie Cuber’s gruff baritone sax rumbling beneath. Of course, its reiterated vocal chant of ‘freedom’ was just another way of reminding us of just how Mingus’s enduring message matters.

Early support – and what an inadequate description that seems to be – was offered by pianist Gareth Williams heading a scratch trio of fellow-pros, viz virtuoso bassist Laurence Cottle and drummer Dave Ohm. As ever, Williams impressed, bluesy behind his own vocal on Come Rain or Come Shine but suitably volcanic on McCoy Tyner’s Inner Glimpse which he cited as ‘repetitive but amazing’. Williams remains underrated but shouldn’t be. He’s the real deal.

The Mingus Big Band continue in residency at Ronnie Scott's till Sat 26th.


Richard Rodney Bennett, Trish Clowes, Kerry Andrew , John Surman, Tim Garland shortlisted for British Composer Award

The shortlistees for the Contemporary Jazz Composition Award at the British Composer Awards are:

Iris Nonet by Trish Clowes

Lifelines by John Surman

Songs to the North Sky by Tim Garland

Other people connected to British jazz up for awards are Richard Rodney Bennett who has been nominated posthumously for the Choral composition for Colloquy with God , and a member of Laura Cole's Metamorphic, Kerry Andrew who has been nominated for a Making Music Award for Screech.

The Awards bash is on Tuesday 3rd December at  Goldsmiths Hall. Radio 3 will broadcast the results on  Saturday 7 December on the show Hear and Now. Sponsor is PRS for Music, producer is BASCA, media partner BBC Radio 3.


News: Georgie Fame + Ginger Baker among Guests Performing at Stan Tracey Tribute, 18th November

Stan Tracey
Photo © William Ellis. All Rights Reserved

Andy Cleyndert writes:

As Stan Tracey celebrates an incredible seventy years as a professional musician this year, Stan takes a back seat as the UK music scene turns out in force to pay tribute to him in a special gig staged at the 100 Club in Oxford Street (TICKETS HERE) complementing his appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the EFG London Jazz Festival on 24th November.

The evening will feature not only many musicians associated with him over the years but also music stars who wish to pay a personal musical tribute.

The first set will feature the legendary drummer Ginger Baker, followed by Dame Cleo Laine with her band.

There will also be sets by Georgie Fame, Julian Joseph with Peter King, a rare appearance by legend Keith Emerson,  The Stan Tracey Alumni (featuring Stan's current crop of the best of the UK's jazz soloists), pianist John Taylor and many others.

Artists confirmed so far are:

DAME CLEO LAINE with her Band

THE STAN TRACEY ALUMNI featuring members of his octet:

Monday 18th November. doors 5.45 pm  gig 6-11pm admission £30/£25 concs. on the door.


News: Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition 2014 open for submissions till Dec 3

Previous winner Laura Jurd
The 2013 Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition is now open for submissions.

There are two categories: Composition for Big Band, and Composition for Small Ensemble.

Applicants should be 28 or younger, and the closing date is the 3rd December.

The prizewinners concert will be held in the new Milton Court concert hall, and performed by members of the Guildhall School Jazz Department

For more information and regulations click HERE

Previous winners are:

2008: James Hamilton (Leeds), Big Band. Nicky Jacques (Birmingham), Small Ensemble
2009: James Beckwith (Leeds), Big Band. Matt Roberts (Leeds), Small Ensemble
2010: Matt Roberts (Trinity), Big Band. Yuriy Galkin (RAM), Small Ensemble
2011: Laura Jurd (Trinity Laban), Big Band. Alex Roth (RAM), Small Ensemble
2012: James Opstad (RAM), Big Band. No competition for Small Band Composition
2013: Daniel Thorne (WAAPA), Big Band. Tom Green (RAM), Small Ensemble

The Dankworth Prize is supported by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the Wavenson Foundation, and was instigated by Art Mead.


Preview / Interview: Femi Kuti @femiakuti (previewing Jazz Café. 4-5 November)

Nigerian composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer Femi Kuti spoke to Alison Bentley ahead of his gig at Camden's Jazz Cafe on Nov. 4th and 5th (tickets HERE). 

He spoke from Lagos about his music, his new album (No Place For My Dream, Knitting Factory Records, 2013) and his late father, Fela Kuti (musician, political activist and Nigerian icon). Femi Kuti sings and plays trumpet, saxophone and organ on the new album.

o - o - o 

Alison Bentley: You mentioned John Coltrane in one interview, and your solos sound like his free jazz. Is that something that's influenced you?

Femi Kuti: At one time. I used to listen to a lot of jazz when I was much younger. But I'm sure it's still in my genes somewhere!

AB: Can I ask you about Afrobeat? Your father said that Afrobeat was like a ‘weapon of the future’. What did he mean by that?

FK: I think it means that music would be in the forefront of change, to fight against corruption and things like this.

AB: One of the amazing things about your music is the contrast between the lyrics which are about social justice and suffering and the instrumental music, which is so uplifting and exciting. Is that part of the weapon?

FK: It is my own way of trying to... it's maybe what my father was grooming me to do. But it's the kind of music I'm playing.

AB: Your band is called Positive Force. Do you think that music can change people's attitudes?

FK: Yes, I think so, definitely. We had a festival, one week called the Felabration. It brought everybody together, over 10,000 people, and it was very peaceful. Everybody enjoyed themselves under one roof. So it shows you the power of music.

AB: Is it dangerous writing such politically explicit lyrics? [Song titles like: No Work, No Job, No Money; Politics Na Big Business]

FK: Yes it can be. As we see with Bob Marley and my father. Yes, of course.

AB: Do you feel that for yourself? You even write in one of your songs about 'dead heroes'

FK: Yes, I've felt it a couple of times, many times in my life. And I need to close my mind and do what I have to do. And if I worried about that then I wouldn't get anything done.

AB: How do you write your music? Do you create all the horn lines yourself?

FK: I write everything myself, everything.

AB: What about the rhythms?

FK: Everything! The only thing I don't do is the improvisation of the percussion, the congas. I give him the basic part and then he can just explore round that. The basic rhythm I give him.

AB: It sometimes sounds like a big band.

FK: Yes, I used to like orchestras. I used to listen a lot to classical music. I used to like Duke Ellington. When I was younger - between the ages of I think maybe 20 to about 24 I sat down and tried to listen to everything.

AB: I read that you were interested in Motown when you were younger as well. Would you say that was an influence?

FK: Not to my notice, but like I said, we danced to everything in America in the 70s- Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. But my father always stood out for me. So I always knew that was where I was going. This is part of my upbringing. But then I had to find my voice. I'm sure all this must be part of my influence, subconsciously or consciously.

AB: It also made me think of Herbie Hancock and Head Hunters.

FK: Aah, I listened to all of them, I loved them so much when I was young.

AB: The grooves, and call and response between you and the backing vocals- is that from traditional Nigerian music?

FK: It's not particularly Nigerian. It's an African thing- it's done all over Africa. It was part of my father's way of writing as well.

AB: How do feel that you've developed your father's music? Have you changed it in any way?

FK: I think, to summarise, I just found my voice in the chaos of his life- a new voice.

AB: What about your work with hip hoppers like Mos Def and Common. Do you find that any of those hip hop rhythms have come through into your music?

FK: Not really!

AB: So that's not something you're going to carry on with?

FK: No. But don't forget that hip hop came out of the Afro beat, so I know where hip hop's coming from. But I really enjoyed working with them. But it's not where I want to go...

AB: What about passing on the tradition to your own children? I read that your son plays saxophone. Is he playing in your band now?

FK: No, he's in England studying Classical Music right now. He's in University there. I want him to study Classical Music and jazz. I think the future is going to be very tough and if he doesn't know how to read and write music... I was lucky to get to do so many things in my time. So I would like to arm him with everything possible. I would love him to be able to work with orchestras all over the world. And the only way for him to do that is for him to have a solid education, so that's what I'm doing with him. The other ones, they're very young right now. They still have a long way to go. My eldest child is 18 now, so he's definitely playing music.

Alison Bentley: Tell me about your band. How big is the band that's coming to London?

Femi Kuti We'll be 12. This is the minimum I can bring on tour- minimum or maximum. But when we're in Lagos the band is much bigger than that. We don't have that kind of budget to bring everybody, so.. I still try to produce the kind of music I produce here in Lagos. It'll be entertaining and delightful.


Impossible Gentlemen at Pizza Express

Sebastian writes:

There have already been some very full reviews from this tour:

- One by Matthew Wright over at the Arts Desk, dwelling on the range of styles the band masters completely, concluding that the Impossible Gentlemen just "ooze authority".

- One from Ivan Hewett in the Telegraph: "The group’s strength [..] is being able to marry ease and humour with the kind of musical subtlety that would otherwise seem over-complex."

- One by Peter Bacon of the Jazz Breakfast, highlighting the deftness of their interaction: "the solo baton was passed from player to player with such elegance and generosity; it was as perfect an example of the balance between team and individuals as I can remember hearing."

- We also have Chris Parker's album review, which called their CD "compulsively listenable."

I'd second all of what they say, and just add that a major departure is Gwilym Simcock taking what looks like a very new Nord C2 combo organ on the road. Simcock thinks compositionally, and is using the Nord not just in conventional ways -as the funk engine of a number like Heute Loiter, for example - but also to build sustained textures and to shape the music in long arcs.

Mike Walker has a vast range of tone colours and groove possibilities, and there is a constant flow of nice surprises. I was taken aback by the positivity and the crispness of Adam Nussbaum's drumming, that ability to settle a band into a groove and then shock them out of it - while staying in it. It was the first time I'd heard Steve Rodby live. The 13-time Graammy winning producer is not the most demonstrative of bassists, he is happy to lie low (in the compass of the instrument) and unobtrusive, but extremely subtle and always clear
and authoritative.

This was a gig to go to just for the pleasure of it, to witness four fine musiciand make the impossible look easy and effortless.


RIP Tommy Whittle (1926-2013) - WITH UPDATES 23 Oct

Barbara Jay, Tommy Whittle, 2012
Photo credit Benjamin Amure. All Rights Reserved

It is sad to report the death, on holiday in Spain on Sunday 13th October, of Scottish -born saxophonist Tommy Whittle. It was the day of his 87th birthday. His perfectionism and his refined and civilised playing graced countless big band, TV and small group sessions. For a time led an octet including Kenny Wheeler and Joe Temperley. He was awarded a medal for lifetime achievement by the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 2005, and continued playing until this year. RIP.

UPDATE Funeral Weds Oct 30th, Bushey Catholic Church. London Road, Bushey at 1.00pm, and afterwards at Bushey Golf Club

UPDATE: The TELEGRAPH and the GUARDIAN have obituaries

Ten Bar Gait by Tommy Whittle.  with Tommy Whittle , tenor sax,  Harry Klein, baritone sax, Joe Mudele, bass, Eddie Taylor, drums, Dill Jones, piano. Recorded 22nd March 1955.


Preview: JJ Wheeler Come Back Stronger at the Forge. 20th November (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Drummer/ composer/ bandleader JJ Wheeler,  writes about music he has written during a period of treatment for cancer, and previews its premiere next month:

I was diagnosed with cancer in August 2012. Half-way through my studies at the Royal Academy of Music and with a busy schedule of gigs and touring, it came as a massive shock, turning my world upside down in a matter of minutes. A diagnosis like that, aged just 23, is the last thing you expect and the following year of chemotherapy and recovery certainly has had it's challenges. Such a battle with a life-threatening illness is always going to have knock on effects, both positive and negative.

However, one positive result of my experience has been a new suite of music, A Question of Hope, started during treatment and completed recently, which reflects on my own journey through cancer. It's an emotionally charged work for 10-piece ensemble, featuring some of London's most outstanding young musicians, including Reuben Fowler, Joe Wright, Paola Vera and Kieran McLeod. Throughout the suite, the question of where we find hope and strength during a time in which it seems devoid is asked. Other pieces reflect on specific feelings or experiences, including guilt, gratitude and frustration.

I am incredibly excited to be presenting the new suite, along with a set of 'covers' of some of my favourite tunes by artists including Jamirquai, John Hollenbeck and KT Tunstall at The Forge in Camden on 20th November 2013 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

JJ Wheeler has given a more in-depth interview to Peter Bacon of the Jazz Breakfast

Tickets HERE


Review: Paloma Faith and the Guy Barker Orchestra at Colston Hall, Bristol

Paloma Faith and the Guy Barker Orchestra
(Colston Hall, 22 October. First night of Symphonic Grace UK Tour. Review by Jon Turney)

“Went down to Colston Hall last night”.

“What did you hear?”

“A soulful singer, in front of a 42-piece jazz orchestra”.

“Really?” “Really?”

“Yeah: Paloma Faith. She’s had some success recently, and wanted to do something more ambitious”.

“What was it like?”



Lots of Paloma love tonight. It’s a full house, and they know all the songs. But this is about more than the songs. The brief first set features the orchestra, serried ranks of string players to the left, a harp that looks as if it’s balancing on the rear of the stage, a mass of horns to the right, non-playing conductor Guy Barker presiding over his own arrangements. The first, a re-working of Goodman’s version of Sing, Sing Sing is a spectacular declaration of intent – Ralph Salmins on drums pounds out Gene Krupa’s tom tom figure, Ben Castle does the clarinet honours, and the whole thing sounds as vibrant as it must have done in 1937.

There’s more from Barker’s crew (the complete touring party, he tells us, number 56), including soul standard features for two backing singers - Naomi Miller going to town on Preacher Man - and a five-section overture combining themes from Faith’s songs and from some of her key influences such as Billie Holiday and Etta James. They sound magnificent throughout.

But it is Paloma we’re waiting for, and the holdouts in the bar make sure they take their seats for the 90 minute second set. She and Barker have done this before, at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last year, but this is the first night of a full tour and must be pretty testing. Her voice has a lot of soul power, but how will it sit with such a big, generously miked band?

It copes easily, without straining: impressive. The voice mostly blends rather than cuts clean through. On her own songs, it helps if you know the words already – but even if all you’ve caught are some of her many slickly moody videos, you probably do. The tributes to past masters, Bettye Lavette, Nina Simone, come off well, then she relaxes back into her own repertoire – 30-Minute Love Affair, New York, Just Be. All come across as if intended for this setting, as well they might. This is pretty much the musical equivalent of riding in a Rolls Royce: there’s quality engineering here in depth, not much scope for fancy manoeuvring but absolutely no doubt you will arrive at your destination in some style.

And style is important. Faith likes to be a little theatrical (see those videos). On stage, she doesn’t reach the heights of the best exponents of song as theatre, like Ute Lemper, but it enhances the evening, and if you are a habitual jazz listener it raises the bar pretty high. Most jazzers are so intent on the music they forget it is part of a show. She doesn’t.

The result, for me, is a set where you can hear Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey or even Cab Calloway contributing to the delivery, as well as the bluesier names she normally cites. And perhaps that’s right, because she looks back, not just to the 1960s, but to an era when “light entertainment” could be seriously soulful, and often swung like blazes. She still loves it, and revels in the sumptuous sound of the orchestra. Music isn’t just something that comes out of a laptop, she enthuses. “This is what real music sounds like. It’s a wonderful thing.”

So it is.


“You enjoyed yourself, then?”

“Hell, yes.”

“Interesting. Really didn’t think people did that kind of thing any more”.

“They do now”.


CD Review: Oddarrang - In Cinema

Oddarrang - In Cinema
(Edition Records EDN1046. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Anyone given a brief description of this album – Finnish quintet playing music composed for independent films – might reasonably suppose that In Cinema would contain carefully wrought, multi-textured, haunting soundscapes, and they’d be right.

Composer/drummer/keyboard player Olavi Louhivuori (who was Tomasz Stańko’s drummer on the Polish trumpeter’s Dark Eyes), has written six of the album’s tracks (bassist/synth player Lasse Lindgren wrote the seventh), and they range from slow-building pieces centred on Lasse Sakara’s guitar riffs to inspiring, anthemic melodies utilising the band’s unconventional front line (trombonist Ilmari Pohjola, cellist Osmo Ikonen) to great effect.

‘Graceful’, ‘patient’ and ‘majestic’ are just some of the recent Twitter comments on this album, which is the band’s third (their first, Music Illustrated, won the Finnish equivalent of a Grammy), and they are all apposite: In Cinema is almost insidiously compulsive, and will appeal not only to admirers of Scandinavian ECM albums with pictures of frozen lakes on their covers, but also to fans of bands such as Sigur Rós or even Scottish duo Boards of Canada.


Review: Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo at Café Oto

Nilssen-Love and Vandermark at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Ken Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love Duo
(Café Oto, 21 October, 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

When Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark take the stage for two uninterrupted sets, you know there's no chance they'll take the easy route. They put themselves on the spot as a duet and as individual performers, asking telling questions about the way their instruments are played; where the boundaries are, sonically, expressively, physically.

Nilssen-Love is the epitome of a timekeeper. He can add a frighteningly precise, metronomic structure to the most wayward of off-road ventures. His industrial, shotgun punches traded places with carefully directed ticks on the centres of cymbals, an expansive use of the large toms which had them sounding like kettle drums, and lightening-fast changes of sticks, mallets and brushes to build up dense atmospheric layers.

Vandermark can be trailing a stonking, punky minimalist stream then nail a classic, fast-moving jazz groove on tenor - his surprisingly unexpected take-off point for set two after an opening set where the roles of the brass, wind and percussion were defined and redefined through a gamut of unconventional strategies.

Vandermark's badly behaved bari refused to stay in the familiar lower registers and play by the rules. Taking on the personas of two saxes - one low down pumping out deep funk reps while up top, a rough melodic seam was sewn; a visceral call and response. His clarinet trilled it's heart out with a raw single-mindedness, sustaining ludicrously out-of-range notes. Back on bari, foghorns, sinewy, gasping runs - air blasted through to liberate strained, strangulated seams.

Late on, the duo slipped from the essence of sharp syncopation to drop in to a vacuum - losing things on the way, no melodies, no beats – an ocean of nervous tremblings and solid sounds. A passage on cymbals, the sharp clacks of blocks, shrill squeaks and ear-piercing runs on clarinet synched with zinging cymbal crashes, before returning to a mean, rolling funk.

Their encore, a lightly executed percussion and clarinet duet drew an elegant, fluttering veil on the evening's richly patterned offerings.

Ken Vandermark: baritone and tenor saxes and clarinet
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion


LP Review: The Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet - Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #1) - WITH NEW UPDATE

LP Review: The Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet - Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #1)
(Gearbox GB1518. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Run by Darrel Sheinman, Gearbox Records is one of the finest small independent labels in the UK. They release limited editions on vinyl, aiming to produce flawless pressings of rare jazz in lavish packaging.

Jazz Poetry SuperJam #1 is the label’s most sumptuous release to date, a double LP set (180gram vinyl, of course) complete with a handsome LP-sized 32 page full colour booklet, designed to provide context for this remarkable lost recording — surfacing more than half a century after the performance it preserves.

The combination of jazz and poetry has a long and distinguished history, stretching back at least as far as Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, and embracing such notable milestones as Jean Shepherd’s improvised narrations with Charles Mingus. And it also thrived here in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the involvement of major figures like Michael Garrick, Joe Harriott and Stan Tracey — the latter dreaming up settings for Under Milk Wood on the night bus home from Ronnie Scott’s.

Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead was very much part of this movement. Recorded in March 1962 it features Stan Tracey on piano, Bobby Wellins' tenor sax, Laurie Morgan on drums, John Mumford on trombone, and Jeff Clyne on bass. The jazz stars are Michael Horovitz, ‘Britain’s Beat Laureate’, drinking buddy of Burroughs and Corso, founder of New Departures magazine and his ‘partner in crime’ Pete Brown, performance artist, poet and lyricist for Cream — he collaborated with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton on a number of classic songs (including White Room and Sunshine of Your Love).

Altogether, this is an impeccable 1960s counter-culture document.

The two LP set begins with a 15 minute instrumental (McTaggart’s Blues) that allows the septet to stretch its muscles. Wellins is especially notable here — acerbic and soulful, eliciting cries of approval from the audience, receiving judicious, pointed support from Stan Tracey on the piano before he segues into his own fine, searching solo, alternately probingly delicate and robustly raw.

John Mumford’s playing is simultaneously swinging and bluesy, Laurie Morgan’s drums shimmer and Jeff Clyne’s bass saunters shrewdly through the proceedings. Jazz fans can thank their lucky stars that someone (Victor Schonfield in fact) was there at Southampton University 51 years ago with a reel to reel tape recorder.

Four sides of immaculate heavy weight vinyl later, the set ends with a brief, ebullient instrumental coda, Afro Charlie. In between, the musicians play under, and over, and in collaboration with a long poem read alternately by Horovitz and Brown.

And anyone who feels they might be dangerously allergic to poetry can relax. Besides the alluring music on offer, the device of alternating between the poets means that no one voice becomes wearisome, and the writing itself is never less than gripping.

The similarity between LND (standing for Live New Departures) and CND is unlikely to be a coincidence and Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead is an elegant and considered Cold War epic. The concrete carnage of World War Two casts a shadow across the text from the past, while the terrible spectre of World War Three looms over it from a possible future.

Lest this makes the whole thing sound too high-minded or grim, I should add that there’s plenty of surreal humour — the Bisto Kids put in an appearance amid the ‘gaunt gun mountings’ and ‘mushroom wilderness — and slyly comic wordplay (‘sniggers in the wood pile’) and anarchic wit (‘Occasionally traffic lights are obeyed’).

Altogether, it’s an intoxicating, evocative and ambitious work, constantly underpinned by and intertwined with the virtuoso playing of Tracey, Wellins and company.

The deluxe booklet includes a complete libretto for closer inspection of the poem — as well as numerous photographs, programs, news clippings and magazine articles from the period, providing hours of entertainment or scholarly research.

It would take a pedantic, mean-hearted spoilsport to point out that I Was a Teenage Werewolf wasn’t a Hammer Films production, as suggested in the poem (one of many amusing pop culture references). I for one would certainly never dream of mentioning that the movie was actually unleashed by American International.

Lycanthropic pedantry aside, Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead is a remarkable piece of work, beautifully presented.

Two further volumes, Jazz Poetry SuperJam #2 and #3, a 2013 collaboration between Horovitz, Damon Albarn, Paul Weller and Graham Coxon were released exclusively for Record Store Day this year and are currently sold out. But if there is sufficient demand they will be made available again.


Michael Burke wrote:

I enjoyed your review of the double album, Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead. I had no idea this poem had been recorded...

I have to mention that the jazz/poem was originally performed in London, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, on November 20, 1960, by Pete Brown and Michael Horowitz, with a group of jazz musicians, most of whom I don't recall, with the exception of myself (Michael Burke) on flute, and someone you may have heard of, Dudley Moore, on piano!

The above feature, which was published in The Guardian the day after the performance, shows, in the photo lower right, myself, flute, and Pete Brown and Michael Horowitz, the two poets, who were friends of mine at the time. Hope this is of interest to you, and I would be pleased to receive any comments!
Cordially, Michael Burke


Preview (in French and English): Maggie Nicols / Denis Charolles / David Chevallier / Vortex. 19th November (LJF)

Maggie Nicols

Denis Charolles has written for us in French about his Vortex gig with Maggie Nicols and David Chevallier - (our English translation is below). French version:

J’ai rencontré Maggie Nicols au festival "Rhino jazz" à Rive de Gier en 2000, nous étions programmés lors de la même soirée.

J’ai invité Maggie ensuite à jouer lors d'une résidence des Musiques à Ouïr au Théâtre d'Auxerres en 2004: Maggie jouait avec son Trio "Nevergreen" avec Pinguin Moschner, au tuba et Joe Sachs, à la guitare. Nous avions invité Maggie à venir chanter avec nous lors d'un concert le lendemain.

Depuis je n'ai de cesse de penser à tout ce qu'il est possible d'organiser pour jouer avec Maggie.

Notre Trio est un "objet sonore " rare et précieux tant il nous fait explorer des territoires inouïs et fort agréables.

J'ai toujours aimé le chant, la chanson, les improvisations vocales, la force du "mot" et des interjections vocales.

Je trouve que Maggie est maître en la matière , elle est à la fois extrêmement précise et infiniment libre dans ses intentions.

C’est une grande chance de pouvoir cotoyer une artiste de cette envergure;

Vive la liberté!


I met Maggie Nicols at the “Rhino Jazz” festival Rive de Gier (between Lyon and St. Etienne in central France), we were programmed to perform sets on the same evening.

I invited her to perfrom during the Musiques à Ouïr label's residency at the theatre in Auxerre in 2004 : she was playing with her trio "Nevergreen" : Pinguin Moschner, on  tuba, and Joe Sachs on guitar.

We invited Maggie to come and sing with us in a concert on the following day.

Following that meeting  I thought again and again about how it would be possible to get things organised to play with Maggie.

The trio we now have is a rare and precious thing, an object for creating sound which gets us exploring lands which are unknown, unheard, and extremely pleasant

 I have always loved singing, song, vocal improvisation, the strength of the word, and what a voice can interject.

 I consider Maggie to have complete mastery in this area, she is at the same time an extremely accurate singer, and yet she is free to follow her ideas and intentions.

I feel extremely lucky to be working alongside an artist of this calibre.

Vive la liberté !

Denis Charolles 



Podcast: Interview with Jay Phelps

We spoke to trumpeter Jay Phelps from Vancouver (but based in London) about his gig at the Hippodrome (Jay's Jitter Jive) on the 22nd November at 8:00pm (EFG London Jazz Festival) with his octet. They play classic swing music from, Cab Calloway to Duke Ellington to Lionel Hampton.

There will also be a dance class before the concert (starts 19:00).

We also chatted about his new project - Projections of Miles, the first of what will hopefully be a series of projections of different jazz giants – featuring musicians like Soweto Kinch and Tim Thornton.


Musical Excerpt

Nefertiti - Miles Davis (Nefertiti. 1967, Columbia) at 09:19

Hippodrome tickets HERE


Winners at the 2013 Scottish Jazz Federation Awards

Jim Mullen

At last night's Scottish Jazz Federation Awards Ceremony held at Le Monde in George Street Edinburgh, the following were declared winners:

Lifetime Recognition - Jim Mullen

Services to Jazz - Keith Loxam

Best Album (Public Vote) - Das Contras "Highest Low"

Instrumentalist - Konrad Wiszniewski

Education - Richard Michael

Emerging Artist - Euan Stevenson

Innovation - Brass Jaw School Workshops

Media - BBC Radio Scotland's Jazz House

Ensemble - Brass Jaw

Vocalist - Ali Affleck

Live Jazz Experience - Scottish National Jazz Orchestra "In the Spirit of Duke"

International - Tim Kliphuis

The awards are organised by the Scottish Jazz Federation and Audacious Music and this year were sponsored by Creative Scotland, the Herald newspaper group and Le Monde.


Review: Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet at Café Oto

Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet
(Café Oto, 20 October 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Louis Moholo Moholo's new quartet - hand-picked musicians who have collaborated with him over the past 5 years - is an effervescent combination; dynamic to the very last fade of the very last note.

At Café Oto, with an appreciative Sunday night crowd, their début was drenched with heavyweight commitment. Jason Yarde on alto and soprano saxes, pianist Alexander Hawkins, on Café Oto's superb new Yamaha C3, and John Edwards, in a considered attack mode on his upright bass, threw themselves in to sparkling dialogue with Moholo, who drove the ensemble with majestic authority from behind the drum kit. His twinkling eyes, minimal gestures of direction and tightly constructed percussive groundwork demanded lightning responses, and passages of mature, inspired extemporisation - duly delivered with gusto and glee.

As Hawkins has kindly explained to us, "we only ever agree the first tune with Louis, and see where things take us from there", so the band had to be on their toes - and familiar with the Moholo repertoire. Hawkins, who has recently been playing lauded duets with the great drummer, was visibly on 'red alert' for any shifts in direction. In a zone combining the fluency of Abdullah Ibrahim and the 'out there', mystical approach of Lonnie Liston Smith, he kept on extracting melodic threads from an unrelenting pummeling of the keys, laced with delicate passages of restraint.

Yarde, at the top of his game, packed the punch of Pharaoh Sanders in his gracefully constructed, intensely concentrated phrasing, and took to just clicking the keys for a few seconds at one moment, with his sax held on to Edwards's bass - indicating that, playing with Moholo, percussion was integral to the message. Edwards, who, with Yarde, first recorded with Moholo in 2008, was effortlessly in to the groove, and added an active, capricious momentum to the melting pot.

As they picked out their path through material from Moholo's rich output from the 70s and 80s right up to the present, they dropped in a wonderfully deconstructed version of 'It's a Wonderful World', reinventing this unmistakable cornerstone with bubbling abandon and turned the gorgeous 'Lakutshon' Ilanga' (almost mistakable for Arlen's 'Over the Rainbow') inside out in their forensically creative explorations of its theme.

Moholo, quasi-godfather to his younger cohorts, oversaw the sets with a watchful and challenging eye, and with great modesty, keeping back from the limelight to allow them full rein, resulting in an evening of dramatic and emotional jazz of the highest quality.

Set list, as recalled by Alexander Hawkins:

First set:
Dikeledi Tsa Phelo
For The Blue Notes
The Tag
Lost Opportunities
Mark of Respect

Second set:
Thank U 4 2Day
What A Wonderful World
B My Dear
You Ain't Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know Me


Preview: Lumen Improvised Music Festival. Oct 24-26 at Lumen Church and Café

Lumen Improvised Music Festival
(October 24th - 26th 2013. Lumen Church and Café, 88 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RS. Preview by Simon Picard)

A few months ago I met up with Bassist Olie Brice and Catherine Packard, who is manager at Lumen Church, with the idea to present a programme of improvised music over three days - a mini festival. The Lumen is a modern church space and offers a unique acoustic ideally suited to presenting small ensembles, solos and duo recitals. The aim was to bring together an eclectic range of creative improvisers from different musical backgrounds, classically trained to jazz influence ... some have been on the scene for many years, and others are relatively new arrivals, all have a unique talent and bring a rich and exciting musical vitality to this collaborative project.

The Programme runs as follows:-

Thursday 24th - doors 7.30pm / music 8.00pm
Tonight we welcome a distinctly engaging trio, saxophonist Rachel Musson, pianist Liam Noble and drummer Mark Sanders, a solo performance from outstanding clarinet player Alex Ward, as well as dynamic duo vibes player Corey Mwamba, and bassist Olie Brice.

Friday 25th - doors 7.30pm / music 8.00pm
Tonight’s superb line up features three exceptional duos, trombonist Gail Brand with drummer Mark Sanders, saxophonist Simon Picard with pianist Liam Noble and guitarist John Russell with violinist Satoko Fukuda.

Saturday 26th - doors 3.30pm / music 4.00pm till late
An eclectic and exciting programme featuring solo improvisations from two extraordinary pianists, Pat Thomas and Alex Maguire, a young and innovative trio comprising vocalist Lauren Kinsella, cellist Hannah Marshall and trumpet player Nick Malcolm, plus a series of,  not to be missed, collaborative performances from reed players James Allsopp and Simon Picard, trumpet player Chris Batchelor, flautist Neil Metcalfe, bassist Olie Brice and drummer Simon Roth.

Ticket Prices:
Thursday or Friday - £9 on the door / £7 advance & conc.
Saturday - £10.50 on the door / £8.50 advance & conc.
3 day pass - £20 advance only
Tickets HERE


Podcast: Interview with Fiona Talkington and Nils Petter Molvær (Scene Norway 2. Kings Place 15-17 Nov)

We interviewed Fiona Talkington (Sebastian) and Nils Petter Molvær (Rob) about the Scene Norway 2 weekend at Kings Place on November 15th - 17th, which Fiona Talkington is curating and for which Nils Petter Molvaer is Artist in Residence.

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Musical Excerpt

Bloodline from Baboon Moon (Nils Petter Molvær. 2011. Sula Records) at 17:04

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SCENE NORWAY 2 EVENTS (with timings on podcast):

Friday 15th November:

(Listen at 1:32) Nils Petter Molvær and Tord Knudsen. 7:30pm, Hall 1
(Listen at 4:38) Annbjørg Lien and Roger Tallroth. 9:30pm, Hall 2

Saturday 16th November:

(Listen at 5:35) Maria Parr's Waffle Hearts. 2:00pm. St Pancras Room

(Listen at 6:59) Conexions double bill: Nils Petter Molvær and Spin Marvel
Nils Petter Molvær and Hilde Marie Kjersem Band. 7:30pm. Hall 1

Sunday 17th November:

(Listen at 9:28) Not So Silent Movies with Nils Petter Molvær and Jan Bang. 2:30pm. Hall 1
(Listen at 11:10)Sidsel Endresen and Philip Jeck. 5:00pm. Hall 2

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Rob Edgar traveled to the town of Ålesund earlier in the month, to meet with Nils Petter Molvær and others. Read about it HERE

Stephen Graham (Marlbank) was with Rob on the trip. His preview is HERE