Why International Jazz Day? Eight Reasons From the United Nations website

Why International Jazz Day, asks the United Nations website ?

- Jazz breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance;

- Jazz is a vector of freedom of expression;

- Jazz is a symbol of unity and peace;

- Jazz reduces tensions between individuals, groups, and communities;

- Jazz fosters gender equality;

- Jazz reinforces the role youth play for social change;

- Jazz encourages artistic innovation, improvisation, new forms of expression, and inclusion of traditional music forms into new ones;

- Jazz stimulates intercultural dialogue and empowers young people from marginalized societies.



Report: German Jazz Expo at 2014 Jazzahead

Tingvall Trio.
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

German Jazz Expo at 2014 Jazzahead
(Halle 2 & Borgward Saal, Messe Bremen. 25th April 2014. Report by Alison Bentley. Photos by Ralf Dombrowski)

There’s a Grimm fairy tale (The Musicians of Bremen) where various creatures keep talking about ‘going to Bremen to become town musicians.’ Now just as in the 19th Century, Bremen offers musicians a place to play- at Jazzahead. Bands from all over the world are chosen by international panels to be part of the showcases. The German Jazz Expo had an amazingly wide variety of German bands, programmed in two alternating venues. Moving between the two meant I had just a tantalising taste of some bands, and more of others.

The Tingvall Trio seemed to improvise even more creatively in this larger space than when I heard them on their first UK gig, at London’s Pizza Express in 2012. Martin Tingvall’s melodic, Classically-influenced piano sounded beautifully Jarrett-like on Goodbye. Cuban bassist Omar Rodriguez Calvo brought a Latin feel to the flamenco-edged Hajskraj and a fiery bowed solo high on the bass’ neck. AC/DC are high on the band’s list of influences, and Jürgen Spiegel’s drumming created massive rock crescendos in among the Tony Williams-style subtlety.

Fola Dada at Jazzahead 2014.
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Meanwhile, back in the smaller, darker Borgward Saal, the funky Bartmes were fronted by Fola Dada’s deep soul vocals, a little like Carleen Anderson. In Light at the End, the two drummers Sebastian Merk and Oli Rubow divided up duties between kit and percussion, with a death-defying groove. In Human, Frank Spaniol played wah wah bass clarinet as anarchically as Hendrix over the Latin club grooves. Jo Bartmes’ excellent Hammond bubbled up through the voice- part rap, part sprechstimme.

6-piece vocal group Slix’ remarkable funky arrangements of Prince’s Sign O the Times and Al Jarreau’s Boogie Down were reminiscent of Bobby McFerrin’s multi-tracked recordings (they’re touring with him later this year). They filled the big hall with energy and verve. Imitation guitar, bass and percussion sounds were brilliantly arranged. One piece even had a ‘horn section’, the singers sounding like- and miming the actions for- trumpets and trombones. Another had a whole rainforest of wild sounds. Slix’ version of Prince’s Sometimes it Snows was beautifully harmonised, recalling some of the Swingle Singers’ more recent arrangements. (Katharina Debus, Michael Eimann, Gregorio Hernández, Karsten Müller, Thomas Piontek, Konrad Zeiner)

A very different kind of singer, Johanna Borchert turned her grand piano into an art installation. Images of tapestries, water, constellations were projected into the piano lid. A red light glowed like fire inside the piano when she reached in to pull ribbons along the strings, creating ghostly violin sounds. Her piano was sometimes minimalist Classical, to a triphop backing track, or echoing the style of Jarrett’s Koln Concert, or free and spiky. Her songs had surreal lyrics (‘has anyone managed to deceive such a witty dressmaker?’), sung like Nico performing Rufus Wainwright songs. At one point she played and sang stridently, bluesily, in the spirit of Nina Simone .

I was so much under her spell, I was late for Double Trouble. They have double double basses (Robert Landfermann, Andreas Lang), recalling an Ornette Coleman Quartet. Sometimes one was arco, one pizzicato, or one walked while the other soloed. Tenor player Peter Ehwald also writes the music. The Drummerhad growly sax riffs, Brecker-ish wildness, even Ascension-era Coltrane. Speed Dating started with exciting thrash drumming from Jonas Burgwinkel, with intriguing written phrases to give trig points in the storm.

Slowfox are usually a trio but pianist Philip Zoubek was in hospital. Bassist Sebastian Gramss and saxophonist Hayden Chisholm dedicated all the tunes to him, and assured us he was going to be fine. It was a attribute to the duo’s rapport that they’d chosen not to find a replacement for Zoubek. Chisholm’s alto playing had a wide, breathy vibrato around the pure core of the sound, and a way with delicate arpeggios that tugged at the heart strings. He played melodic and freely, with perhaps some Phil Woods in the tone. Gramss often double-stopped the bass to imply the chords, with a gilded resonance. His solos bubbled and brooded behind alto backing lines.

So many bands, so little time- just enough to catch extraordinary harpist Kathrin Pechlof’s Trio. Far from the sweet tones of folk harp, or Daphne Hellman’s bebop, Pechlof has created a new sound- sometimes like prepared piano, or an oudh. She draws partly on the Classical repertoire- a Gregorian Chant, a Debussy piece, as well as writing music along with saxophonist Christian Weidner. There were interlocking riffs with lots of wonderfully uncomfortable intervals, and angular improvisation. Harp and bass (Robert Landfermann) in unison sounded particularly fine, along with the plaintive alto.

These short sets all left the enthusiastic audiences- and me- wanting more.

You can see them all on video


Thomas Dutronc. Jazz Cafe. May 26th

Thomas Dutronc, son of Jacques Dutronc and Francoise Hardy. The Django Reinhart devotee and  songwriter.... will be in London.

May 26th,  Jazz Cafe.( BOOKINGS)

Have some words to sing along:

Comme un manouche sans guitare
Comme un château sans la Loire
Qund t'es pas là
Je suis comme ça

Comme un rasta sans pétard
Comme un corse sans pétard
Une normande sans armoire

Comme t'es pas là
Je suis sur les points com
Mythique, pornographique
Et je suis comme... un con

Je suis aphone
Jai plus d'neurones
J'tombe de mon trône
Quand t'es pas là
J'n'existe pas

Comme Sherlock sans sa loupe
Comme Tintin sans sa houppe
Comme un mondain sans sa coupe


Comme une pizza sans olive
Une page de pub sans lessive
Si t'es pas là
Je n'suis plus moi

Comme un arbre sans racines
Comme le théâtre sans Racine
Sur cette plage sans Aline

Comme t'es pas là
Je suis sur les points com
Rolex, viagra, tout ça
Et je suis comme... un con

J'ai dix-huit montres
J'me rends plus compte
La bêbête qui monte
Quand t'es pas là
J'n'existe pas

Comme un martien sans soucoupe
Comme un coiffeur sans un scoop
Comme un pâté sans sa croûte


Comme t'es pas là
Je suis sur les points com
Mythique, pornographique
Et je suis comme... un con

Je suis aphone
Jai plus d'neurones
J'tombe de mon trône
Quand t'es pas là
J'n'existe pas

Comme un manouche sans guitare
Comme un château sans la Loire
Une Normande sans armoire

(Comme Sciences Po
Sans Sciences Po TV)


Preview: Slowly Rolling Camera (Rich Mix, 30th April)


Dan Bergsagel previews Slowly Rolling Camera. At Rich Mix Bethnal Green 30th April. He writes: 

On Wednesday evening Welsh downtempo slinks into Shoreditch's prime multimedia cultural venue and social enterprise, Rich Mix. Flying high after their debut album launched in February this year, the Cardiff based ensemble return to London to deliver their ambient grooves with their 7-piece live outfit.

It's deceptively tempting to describe Slowly Rolling Camera's style through shorthand reference to others: the celebrated 1990s trip-hop bands from the other side of the Severn - Portishead and Massive Attack – whose producer they share, or the Ninja Tunes 2000s output of Bonobo and The Cinematic Orchestra. However this alone can sell them short. They are a group who, although comfortable with the sweeping wash of strings and introspective melancholia of the imagined soundtrack, bring energy with strong beats and soulful vocals. Their place at Edition Records brings them into a diverse community with some jazz pedigree, taking in artists from Troyka and Phronesis to Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler. The inevitable collaborations this creates, and the appreciation for different genres which they demonstrate, occasionally break through on the album and bring reverberating saxophones and extended piano improvisation charging through the mix.

On stage they bring a collection of musicians who have played in each other’s company for more than a decade. Turn up on Wednesday for ambient beats, and to try and catch whatever is in the water over in South Wales and North Somerset.

Brian Blain reviewed the CD for us.



Preview: Tony Malaby/ Olie Brice / Jeff Williams (13-15 May)

Tony Malaby

Olie Brice writes:

I'm really excited about a short run of gigs coming up with two wonderful musicians, Tony Malaby and Jeff Williams. On May 13th we'll be playing at one of my favourite venues, the Vortex in London, before going on to play in Dublin (14th) and Belfast (15th).

I've been a huge fan of saxophonist Tony Malaby's playing since I first heard him on the Fred Hersch album 'Trio + 2'. He's both a great changes player and a brilliant textural improviser. Not only does he do both things to a world-class standard, but they both seem to be central parts of what he's playing at any given moment. Described by 'All About Jazz' as 'one of the most distinctive artists of his time', he's a massively important and influential improviser and saxophonist. He leads some great bands, including Tamarindo (with William Parker and Nasheet Waits), Apparitions (with Drew Gress, Tom Rainey and John Hollenbeck) and Paloma Recio (with Ben Monder, Eivind Opsvik and Nasheet Waits). He's also been a side-man with some true giants of the music – Charlie Haden's 'Liberation Music Orchestra' and Paul Motian's 'Electric Bebop Band' to name just two.

Jeff Williams is an incredible drummer, and hopefully a very familiar name to readers of this website. He did some fascinating podcast interviews which can be heard starting here. One of my favourite musicians to play with, we work together in my band (album due out very soon!) as well as trios led by Mike Fletcher and Alex Bonney. Like Tony he is both a great jazz musician and truly open improviser, which is illustrated by the long list of people he's played with – Stan Getz, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Paul Bley, Dave Holland, Bill McHenry, Mary Halvorson and many, many more. Jeff and Tony have worked together before – they can be heard on a John O'Gallagher album called 'Line of Sight' (with John Hebert on bass) and a fantastic live recording on Jeff's website with Michael Formanek on bass.

There's not been many opportunities in London (or Dublin or Belfast, as far as I know!) to hear Tony live in a small venue and such an open context. He's been over in recent years playing the Barbican with Charlie Haden and the Southbank with Lucian Ban, but this should be a really special night in a more intimate setting. Hopefully see you there...

The details of the three gigs are as follows:

13/05/14 - The Vortex, 11 Gillett Square, London N16 8AZ. 8.30pm, £10
14/05/14 - Bello Bar, 1 Portobello Harbour, Dublin. 7.30pm, €14/12
15/05/14 - Black Box, 18-22 Hill Street, Belfast. 8.30pm, £12/10


NEWS: Zoe Schwarz nominated for British Blues Award ; launches Pledge campaign

Zoe Schwars. Photo credit: Phil Bowsell

Popular jazz/blues singer Zoe Schwarz, known for her heartfelt, yearning Billie-esque crying vocal style has just been nominated for the 2014 British Blues Awards. This is in recognition for the six-piece 'Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion’ band. Voting is HERE

Zoe has launched a Pledge Music campaign to help Blue Commotion record their 3rd album. She writes

“Through our musical journey and compatible desire, I like to think we have developed a perfect collaboration, which, when I think about it, comes from two completely different starting points.  Because of this melting pot of musical diversity, there is a uniqueness to the band’s music which is hard to pigeon-hole."

“As you know, we live in the age of the corporate machine, and most forms of creative, intelligent art (and in our case music) have been sidelined to the category of ‘Specialist’. This of course erodes the quality of all our lives and tries to feed us a diet of musical ‘junk food’. Don’t get us wrong, we are incredibly positive people and are enjoying the challenge of ‘getting our music out there’!  Speaking for ourselves, we have been on such a roll these last couple of years and new songs keep pouring out of us. The response to our first two albums has shown us that this band has so much potential, and in return this has really fuelled our energy and desire.



Review: Georgia Mancio at Lauderdale House

Georgia Mancio
Photo Credit: Lara Leigh. All Rights Reserved

Georgia Mancio, Nigel Price and Julie Walkington
(Lauderdale House. 24th April 2014. Review by Brian Blain)

Georgia Mancio’s imaginative curating of her annual ReVoice! Festival, when she always presents  at least one unfamiliar voice from outside the mainstream and her own excursions into Portuguese and Italian music as well as her original songwriting, have told us for some time now that she is a bold and brave original talent. So it was with some surprise to encounter her at Lauderdale House last week with a concert based almost exclusively,with the exception of  a smidgeon of folk and Brazilian, on reasonably familiar  American songbook material: ‘good music doesn’t actually die’ as she reminded us in one introduction to a song.

Performing with just the incredible guitarist Nigel Price, who could even manage to sneak a cheeky blues lick into We’ll Be Together Again, and the big, firm sound and great time of Julie Walkington’s bass lines , this was an evening of pure magic. It is far too long since I heard her last, and in the interim her voice has taken on an extra resonance and conviction. On A House is Not a Home, not one of my favourite songs by any means, her control at the lower end of her range was spine-tingling, while on brisker pieces, like Black Magic and Pick Yourself Up,  there was just a hint of a wraith-like reference to the great Anita O’Day, without the slightest attempt at simulation. Her  intonation was impeccable, her fluidity around the pulse and a feeling of real pleasure derived from her interaction with the other two musicians was just incredibly infectious. A great room for such a show, and the audience showed they were with her every inch of the way.

Brian Blain presents Jazz in the House on Thursdays at Lauderdale House, N6. The next few weeks bring 'Celebrating the MJQ', a project originally instigated by the late Mike Garrick, an evening with Liane Carroll, and Gwilym Simcock, Laurence Cottle and James Maddren in 'The Music of Jaco Pastorius. FULL PROGRAMME


Reports: Jazzahead 2014: Marilyn Mazur solo/ Wednesday and Danish Night Showcase / Thursday

Marilyn Mazur, Jazzahead 2014
Photo Credit: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

Jazzahead 2014: Marilyn Mazur solo and Danish Night Showcase
(City 46, Kommunalkino and Halle 2 at Messe Bremen. 24th and 25th April 2014. Report by Alison Bentley)

Imagine a world where everything is about jazz. Imagine a dream where you go to an ideal home exhibition and find all the stalls (hundreds) are about jazz- labels, promoters, bands, from all over the world- everyone chatting about jazz. One stall is giving out jazz apples. The owner of one local label even seems to have moved the contents of his living room into his stall- a jazz ‘ideal home’.

"The owner of one label had moved the contents of his living room into his stall."
Jazzahead 2014. Photo by Alison Bentley

Denmark was Germany’s ‘partner country’ in Jazzahead this year, with many Danish musicians taking part in gigs over the weekend. The great percussionist Marilyn Mazur (NY born, resident in Denmark from the age of 6), was performing solo in a cinema, following a film about her life (which I unfortunately missed, being hopelessly lost in the wilds of Bremen’s suburbs). Mazur was dwarfed by huge racks of percussion: gongs, bells and mysterious objects had their shadows thrown into sharp relief against the screen behind. She played with extraordinary freedom and creativity, clicking instruments that looked part castanet, part spoon. Mazur sang a little like Mari Boine, moving round the instruments as if dancing. She played tall hand drums like huge mushrooms springing up from the stage; rattling goats’ feet; huge mallets like candyfloss. One minute there were harsh gong tones like the Peking Opera; then tiny tinging cymbals, then rippling thumb piano: we were under her spell. The pieces seemed to start and end whenever it felt right. Some were songs: Looking For the Sun, she told us, was about wondering round New York for the first time since childhood, feeling lonely- having been invited to work with Miles Davis. 'Cross the stream,’ she sang. ‘Join my dream.’ And we did.

Some of Danish Night’s bands were showcased in the conference hall itself. We tend to think of Phronesis as a British band, given bassist Jasper Høiby’s long London residence (he’s now based back in Denmark). They burst on to the stage with Urban Control, their controlled wildness revealed in Ivo Neame’s descending piano lines and high energy bass. It sounded incredibly free, but a groove emerged like a heat haze. In Behind Bars Hoiby’s bass was like a powerful racehorse under the surface tension of the piano. Anton Eger seemed to be playing several time signatures at once, sticks thundering like Magnus Öström. A gentler piece had Romantic piano, with bass and drums running daringly across the beat. The final piece had loud brushes and rocky jagged rhythms; you could feel the seething grooves underneath.

The gentleness of the Aske Drasbæk Group was in total contrast. A second look revealed that Drasbæk was playing baritone, with the richness of a tenor. Drasbæk loves Dexter Gordon (he told me), and you could hear that in his tone- but in the modern context of his own compositions. (You were sometimes reminded of Christian Scott’s writing). Twin guitars (Per Møllehøj, Søren Dahl) sounded ambient and mellow, spiced with dissonance, over Andreas Fryland’s whispering backbeat. Tapani Toivanen on bass soloed beautifully over the bari’s breathy dark tones. Their album is called Old Ghost, the spirit of older jazz living on in new forms.

Live Foyn Friis calls the songs she’s written ‘indie-jazz’; Alex Jønsson Christensen’s Frisell-like guitar was the perfect foil for her intensely ethereal voice. In a song ‘about Spring’ the string quartet’s glissandi drew out the lines of the chords behind the guitar solo. In Can You Live, Jens Mikkel Madsen’s bass had strong percussive force behind the guest euphonium solo. Foyn Friis’ gamine presence and breathy tone recalled Bjork, her fast vibrato intensified by the tremolo strings. Dementor (from Harry Potter) was triphoppy and eerie (Andreas Skamby on drums), while the last song had melodic folk qualities. The arrangements were beautifully detailed through the set, creating a world of beauty and strangeness.

Girls in Airports turned out to be 5 young men on a stage. Martin Stender and Lars Greve were on saxes (often two tenors, rather eclipsed in the sound system) and occasionally clarinet. A minor mode from the two tenors rose like a snake charmer over the mesmerising groove, a little like the UK’s Portico Quartet. Mathias Holm played Fender Rhodes and bass on keyboards, holding together Mads Forsby’s drums andVictor Dybbroe’s percussion. The Grass by the Roses had alto and tenor sparking off each other in catchy, folky cross-riffs. The next piece had angry cat squeals and wild overblowing on sax, over galloping percussion- not unlike Marilyn Mazur. Their final tune had Afrobeat riffing worthy of Femi Kuti.

Jazzahead is a good title. You felt as if you were listening to the development of jazz as it was happening- on the edge of something new.

LINKS: Ralf Dombrowski's photos of Thursday at Jazzahead
Review of Marilyn Mazur at Sydhavnen in the Copenhagen Jazz Fest 2012

(Videos of all concerts are on the Jazzahead website)


Photos:Nikki Iles Quartet at Herts Jazz

Nikk Iles at Herts Jazz
April 2014. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

It's all in those smiles - Melody seems to have caught the vibe of a very happy gig tonight at Herts Jazz. Drummer Clark Tracey (the fouth member of the Nikki Iles Quartet) and the team at the venue clearly make people very welcome!

Stan Sulzmann at Herts Jazz
April 2014. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Arnie Somogyi at Herts Jazz
April 2014. Photo credit: Melody McLaren


CD Review: ASQ (Arabella Sprot Quintet) – Kafka’s Dance

ASQ (Arabella Sprot Quintet) – Kafka’s Dance
(Self-released. CD review by Jon Turney)

Here’s a nice calling card from a new voice on tenor saxophone recently graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire’s master’s course. ASQ are the Arabella Sprot Quintet , and the leader is joined by four other Birmingham players - Nick Dewhurst on trumpet, James Banner on double bas, Ric Yarborough on drums, and the comparative veteran Steve Tromans on piano.

It is actually her second CD – an earlier recording came from a quartet she ran while studying in Bristol a few years ago. This new offering shows a player growing in confidence enough to present a solo saxophone piece, Sphere, which draws on close study of Mark Turner. Her other main inspirations are Joe Lovano and Stan Getz and she shares with all three of those models an ability to muse lingeringly on the beauty of a line or unleash a burst of power just when it is needed.

All the compositions here are Sprot’s and they are the basis for a democratically improvised music, pretty free on the second track, Closer, generally more straightforward elsewhere. There is a lot of spirited interaction here, especially with Dewhurst’s trumpet, and plenty of variety. Cheeky Pint Blues is a fairly routine hard-bopper but the rest sound more contemporary. All five players acquit themselves well although Tromans’ keyboard work is not always well served by the electric piano sound he is confined to throughout. On acoustic piano, on the evidence of a recent gig, he likes to adopt a hard-hitting style that evokes Don Pullen but the electric timbre can sometimes make this approach lose definition– I’m guessing this was a budget constraint on this self-produced session rather than because it was the exact sound sought.

Generally, though, these tracks show youthful ambition very impressively realised. Fittingly, this comes across especially well on the closing two-part Kafka Suite, inspired by one of the leader’s literary heroes. Hard to say whether it will evoke anything Kafkaesque for many listeners, but it is an absorbing 17 minutes of music. Kafka’s Dance is a simple, slightly halting theme that ushers in a solo from Sprot built in unusually long phrases that float enticingly over the rhythm, and appropriate responses from Tromans and Dewhurst. Kafka’s Revenge sounds as if it will turn darker, but remains unexpectedly upbeat– with an impassioned excursion from Tromans and cheerfully jousting horns.

The leader, a German scholar, has just moved to Berlin in pursuit of her other career as a translator and tutor, but hopes to keep this band together. If this CD proves only the beginning for the quintet, it is an excellent foundation. Even if it doesn’t, it marks the emergence of a talent to watch.



Preview: JAZZPROJECTOR at Vortex Downstairs, Monday 28th April

Nicolas Pillai previews JAZZPROJECTOR on April 28th at Vortex Downstairs (free entry), and invites requests for future showings:

It was Oliver Weindling’s idea, conceived on the spur of the moment after one of the Vortex’s midnight sessions last year. A regular film event, hosted by me, which would show off jazz-related rarities. I assented, enthusiastically.

While jazz and narrative film have a long and productive mutual history, the layout of the Vortex Downstairs bar (our venue) didn’t seem appropriate for 90 minute movies with lots of dialogue. Instead, I decided to mimic the ‘two sets and an interval’ structure used by musicians, screening shorter films and TV programmes that foregrounded jazz performance.

Our first JAZZPROJECTOR, in February, contrasted the BBC Dizzy Gillespie Quintet Jazz 625 and an ITV Tempo documentary about Stan Tracey’s Alice in Jazzland.

This month, it’s the turn of Pres, Duke and Monk. We kick off with the classic Gjon Mili short Jammin’ the Blues (1944), groundbreaking in its depiction of jazz musicians as serious artists as well as accomplished entertainers. Famous for his LIFE Magazine photo-spreads, Mili brings his keen compositional eye to bear on the film, which depicts Lester Young and others in an abstract studio setting. Jammin’ the Blues was produced by a young Norman Granz who, later in life, filmed Duke Ellington at the Cote D’Azur (1966). We’ll be watching an extract from this piece, in which Ellington’s trio perform for the artist Joan Miro, surrounded by his sculptures.

After the interval, our main feature is the 35-minute Thelonious Monk Quartet Jazz 625 performance from 1965. I hope you’ll join us this Monday. These events are always animated affairs, with lively discussion between screenings. I’ve taught these films in a university setting but there’s something special about watching them at the Vortex Downstairs. Perhaps it’s simply that, as screen technologies increasingly become less communal, the experience of watching film and television in a group setting becomes more valuable. Or perhaps it’s that when one sees these performances projected and hears them through excellent speakers, new insights can be gained into the most well-known of musicians.

WHAT'S COMING UP: I’ve got some treats in store for the coming months: Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Sun Ra, Carmen McRae, Miles at the Isle of Wight…

We hope to showcase some younger bands in the future, so if any contemporary players have film they’d like us to screen at JAZZPROJECTOR, please get in touch by emailing me.

JAZZPROJECTOR: PRES, DUKE & MONK Monday 28th April, 8pm free entry Vortex Downstairs, Gillett Square, Dalston


CD Review: Singer, The Musical - Composed by Steve Gray and Georgie Fame, featuring Madeline Bell

Singer, The Musical  - (Composed by Steve Gray and Georgie Fame, featuring Madeline Bell)
(Proper Records. PRPCD120. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)

Singer, The Musical was first conceived back in 1984 in collaboration with the Metropole Orchestra, a renowned Netherlands based jazz/pop ensemble (a 60 piece big band and orchestra). The project was eventually given the go-ahead in early 1985 and recorded in Holland in March that year with Madeline Bell as the protagonist and Georgie Fame as the narrator.

This recording is a live matinee, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the show, performed in Tilburg, Holland in 2004, which is now released on CD thanks to Dutch Radio. The formidable instrumental and vocal line up are joined by a 30 piece choir, and the 13 musical tracks tell the story with no additional dialogue. The release is dedicated to composer/arranger Steve Gray (1944-2008, REMEMBERED HERE ). Georgie Fame contributed to the music as well as penning the lyrics.

The plot explores the ‘true’ story of a girl singer from a poor background, who has a successful professional career at the expense of her artistic integrity, she is left unfulfilled and unwisely pursues destructive thrills. There is a heavy injection of blues and Gospel within the sweeping Hollywood style score which is brought to the fore in My Second Home and From Now On. The cheesy arrangement of That’s How Hit Records are Made (The Crap Song) has echoes of big Gershwin stage show numbers as well as Big Spender from Sweet Charity and the more camp Broadway musicals. The irregular intervals built into the melody of Big Town are reminiscent of a big Leonard Bernstein stage number which morphs into a funky, glossy, soundtrack similar to the big budget TV series of the era; Dallas and Dynasty. Where Do You Go From Here embodies a similar vibe, while other numbers have echos of Ellington among other jazz and roots references.

Madeline herself is an extraordinary singer who gives an authentic interpretation to all of the many musical styles the score presents; her range, power and timbre are simply glorious. Georgie as ever delivers great feel, annunciation and accuracy. The two have a real chemistry together that I was lucky enough to witness when they performed in 2011 with the Guy Barker Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra for BBC R2’s Friday Night is Music Night (from which I reported for LondonJazz News at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival). Their voices blend beautifully here in the duet Be True to Yourself, which makes the hairs on my arms go up.

While the story’s concept may be a little pretentious, I imagine Georgie made a direct connection with it; being a performer who has had pop success at the same time as a jazz and blues career. I witnessed him leaving an audience disappointed by refusing to play Yeh! Yeh! at a gig my band supported. I have limited sympathy for performers who won’t play the music their audience want to hear, but I can understand the frustration of an artist whose repertoire is consistently dumbed down by their management or label. It is good when modern day singers like Will Young are able to shake off this commercial control and still go on to have success in their own right. I too would like the best of both worlds!



CD Reviews: Aguabella - Nuestra Era, and Baker – Gateway to Death Valley

Aguabella - Nuestra Era, and Baker – Gateway to Death Valley
(BCM 110 and BCM 112. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Francisco Aguabella was a Cuban percussionist who played with legends including Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie, and led bands around the Los Angeles area for many years. He died in 2010 at the age of 84, but his group continues as a septet under the leadership of saxophonist and flautist Benn Clatworthy.

The two albums reviewed here are available separately but are stylistically similar. The first – Nuestra Era – was recorded just over a year after Aguabella’s death and is dedicated to his memory. It’s exciting stuff, beginning with Kandahar, a Clatworthy composition that has an exotic soprano sax-led line and a rhythmic bustle that evokes the Afghan city.

Continuity with Aguabella’s own combo is provided by the inclusion of three pieces from the original repertoire. Mambo for Puente - the only tune composed by Aguabella himself – is distinguished by great bursts by the ensemble, and linked by a free-ish section from Clatworthy and pianist Bryan Velasco to My Favorite Things. Together with the complex title track by Jules Rowles, they pack a real punch.

The rhythmically repetitive, often-mesmeric Misterioso, by Thelonious Monk, is given a fresh slant. There’s sparkling trumpet from Nolan Shaheed, an interlude for percussion, and a fabulously wild solo by trombonist Joey Sellers that you could still have fun dancing to.

The later CD, Baker – Gateway to Death Valley (the words are displayed on a roadside water tank between Las Vegas and Los Angeles) is, I think, better still. It has the same musicians, except that trumpet duty is taken over by LA stalwart Ron Stout.

Jorge Carbonell and Christian Moraga use drums, congas, timbales and shekere to give a scintillating Latin dimension to material that previously had been presented differently (such as The Boxer, recorded by Clatworthy on “Let’s Face The Music” in 1999). This top team work extremely hard alongside bassist Brian J Wright - who is a rarely-showcased, vital force – and play an important role on La Curandera Negrita (roughly, a black female herb doctor) which has an infectious melody in 6/8 by Sellers and includes a bit of Afro-Cuban chanting.

And there’s more Monk. The cha-cha of Bemsha Swing may be unusual, but it has a truly gorgeous vibe and Clatworthy’s extremely personal tenor tone is at once authoritative, relaxed and vulnerable. The international strand running through the leader’s titles reflect his worldwide experiences and interests. Taxi Terry is a catchy blues written for a London cab driver, and the short Blues for Gaza becomes a brooding, solemn bolero. Spirited exchanges between saxophone, trumpet and trombone on Disaster in Barcelona feed a gutsy set-closer.

Ultimately, though, it’s the well-crafted arrangements – mainly by Clatworthy, with contributions from Francisco Torres and Serge Kasimoff - that make this music so distinctive. Played by a band that’s highly disciplined and probingly inventive, the cracking stuff on both of these albums will appeal to the head, heart and feet.


CD Review: Rusconi - History, Sugar, Dream

Rusconi - History, Sugar, Dream
(Qilin Records. QILIN004. CD Review by Rob Mallows)

'Überjazz'. That’s how Swiss group Rusconi describe their sound. It implies music that goes beyond traditional jazz boundaries, unlimited by what’s gone before. One listen and it’s certainly clear: this is no ordinary album.

Rusconi are an unconventional trio: Stefan Rusconi - on piano, synth, vocals and “sound preparations and space echo”; Fabian Gister plays double bass, guitar and “distortions”; and Claudio Strüby uses drums, glockenspiel and “tape”. They describe their output as "modern creative music" and it seems apt: it’s music that is adventurous, panoramic and anarchic.

Opener Finally, with its grunge-y acoustic guitar and whiny vocals, is an uncomfortable start with no obvious jazz feel. Second track Meditation introduces a siren-like guitar theme built up with drum elements and simple piano chords, but still circles around the rock sound, evident in Gister’s sandpaper-rough guitar. Ankor, with lovely bass work, moves the album towards a jazzier feel before Twisted spins it back into pop territory.

Yogya Trip - opening with plucked piano strings, saw-like cymbal sounds and an unsettling piano theme - hints at more modern jazz ideas but draws heavily on sixties experimental classical music and rock, as does Change, Pt 1 with its layered vocals. Up to this point, it’s rather heavy going, but picks up with jaunty The Return of the Corkies, a snappy track driven by Gister’s double bass and Rusconi’s piano. The rest of the album continues in this vein and offers some uniquely strange sounds.

Don’t expect instant gratification with this music. But if you’re up for a challenge, do consider History, Sugar, Dream. It's an album that definitely needs time to work its magic, but rewards the effort in the end.


CD Review: Monocled Man (Rory Simmons, Chris Montague, Jon Scott) – Southern Drawl

Monocled Man – Southern Drawl
(Whirlwind WR 4649. CD Review by Dan Bergsagel)

The unassuming nursery rhyme introduction is abruptly interrupted by the slam of a guitar, the reverberating atonal climb of the trumpet, and accompanying dramatic cymbal crashes. It recovers by sliding into a restrained reverie, building into a frustrated rant, and then drifting off again into an eerie fairytale. It is all over in less than three and a half minutes.

The juxtaposition of styles and moods of the eponymous first track of the album sets the tone for the following proceedings: a dark and reflective work from a trio of prolific musicians, tying together the threads from their side projects to create a strong record. Rory Simmons' compositions fit easily alongside the works of his contemporaries in the London jazz scene, notably those of the LOOP collective, a network of musicians pushing the boundaries of original composition which he helped establish. Southern Drawl brings moments of Four Tet and Ennio Morricone together and splices them with the avant-garde stylings of Fraud, Dog Soup and Troyka.

The explosive and concise title track is followed by the tangling repeating melodic line of Big Wheeze, underpinned by guitar and surrounded by light percussion, building and allowing Simmons space and time to improvise and develop. Scribbles sees the tempo dropped where sparse drumming and considered guitar backing create a storytelling environment for a beautiful solemn trumpet-led ballad.

The earnest moment is banished for Pud Pud, where the spooked atmosphere returns with Chris Montague's sonic explorations taking centre stage, with synth and stylophone sounds chasing Simmons' trumpet around, seemingly round a corner at the end of a corridor. It effectively evokes the nervous feeling presented by the cover artwork – of cowering naked men with large sticks battling clouds of giant stinging insects in a blood-red forested environment. The brash marching anthems at the start and end of Royalty book-end Jon Scott's engaging clicked and tapped soundscape, accompanied by anguished brass wails, and stringed Doppler effects. The anthem reappears in the penultimate track Royalty Reprise, after Van Vliet, a meandering laconic ballad - perhaps a requiem for the dysfunctional sound of the late Captain Beefheart – and Blip, a thunderous tom-heavy rumbling drum track under an unsteady stomping theme. A unified guitar and trumpet line parts into an extended angry debate between Simmons' forceful and bold improvisation and Montague's halting, spluttering, blustering guitar. Bullet Nose closes the album with an earnest, accessible tune, with syncopated guitar lines occasionally joining the melody, but often just framing it.

Montague's role in the final track - seamlessly switching between supporting and joining the trumpet lead – is worked on throughout the record. At times he provides the structure to a piece, at times he brings it abrasively crashing down around him. In large part the dark tone of the album is created by his guitar tirelessly pursuing Simmons' trumpet lines, with the tension being crafted by Scott's adept touch and subtle post-production creating low-fi backing and accompanying drones. There is real power in the mesmerising loops, they mutations and repeats, and the sharp changes in direction. At times fascinatingly challenging, unsettling and emotional, this album is an emotive piece of composition which gives these three musicians an opportunity to improvise and combine in an exciting new format.


Review: Joshua Redman, Scott Colley, Satoshi Takeishi, Escher String Quartet at Wigmore Hall: Patrick Zimmerli's Aspects of Darkness and Light

Satoshi Takeishi

Joshua Redman, Scott Colley, Satoshi Takeishi, Escher String Quartet
(Patrick Zimmeri's Aspects of Darkness and Light. Wigmore Hall, 24th April 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The Wigmore Hall's association with Joshua Redman has brought him back to the hall on a number of occasions, each time with a different project. Before he started his own series there, he came over in 2009 the long-standing format of his duo with Brad Mehldau. The 'Joshua Redman Series' at the hall has been running since the end of 2012. I particularly enjoyed a superb duo night with Christian McBride, about a year ago. (reviewed here).

Tonight was a larger project, involving a total of eight people on stage. Redman himself, that most complete of bassists Scott Colley, Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and the members of the Escher String Quartet

And the eighth? The American composer  - and also saxophonist - Patrick Zimmerli, who directed the ensemble. The group gave what was billed as the World Premiere of a set of pieces or suite by him entitled Aspects of Darkness and Light. A declared aim of this piece on Zimmerli's website doesn't exactly set the bar at a jumpable height: "It aspires to a comprehensive integration of jazz, contemporary classical, and world music genres." To balance things up, he was rather more self-deprecating in his spoken introduction: "We're not sure what it is we're doing here."

The music combines short interludes and vignettes with more complex structures. There was a wide range moods and styles in the quartet writing, from passages reminiscent of Bartok and Janacek in a piece like Through Mist to Copland and Ives Americana in First Light. Two of the interludes had a boldly stated melody on a lower instrument pitted against frenetic high harmonics. Other devices from the string trick-box were smears and scordatura. The Escher Quartet traversed the styles and captured the shifting moods with energy and panache.

I thought that there were two bits of very good news about the evening. The revelation - for me -  was percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Sitting unobtrusively at floor level, he managed to get a sound in the Wigmore Hall which completely balanced with all of the instrumental combinations round him, was always additive, never intrusive or overpowering. His anchoring of time with Scott Colley was an exercise in quiet excellence.

The other good news is that this was probably one of the youngest audiences ever seen at a Wigmore Hall concert.

This group is a context where Joshua Redman has far more reading to do, more instructions to follow, more of other composers' ideas to convey than most of the other formations in which he appears. I have to admit that I find him at his most convincing when he is the master of his own story and can tell it his way. To me, he felt somewhat subdued and hemmed in by the complexity of the music, for example the hyperactive root progression of Fireworks. I also wondered how the group would have sounded with Zimmerli stepping back from the rostrum.

These are minor quibbles, it was a fascinating evening.


Photos of the first day of Jazzahead 2014 in Bremen - Danish showcase and Skoda Prize Awardee Jan Persson

Phronesis at Jazzahead 2014
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Ralf Dombrowski has sent in photos capturing the atmosphere of the first day of Jazzahead. They show three acts from the Danish showcase, an unusual angle on Phronesis (above), Girls in Airports and Foyn Trio, and the jazzahead!-ŠKODA awardee for 2014, photographer Jan Persson

Girls in Airports at Jazzahead 2014
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Foyn Trio at Jazzahead 2014
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

  Skoda Prize Winner Jan Persson.Jazzahead 2014
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved


Preview: London Contemporary Music Festival - 26 May - 1st June at Second Home, Shoreditch

Second Home, Shoreditch

Following the resounding success of last year's inaugural festival, Sound Four present second London Contemporary Music Festival which will take place from the 26th of May to the 1st of June of this year.

Last year it was at a car park in Peckham, this year it will be held at Second Home in Shoreditch. Tickets are £10 for each show or £27 (a bargain) for a festival pass.

Geoff Winston and Rob Edgar present their picks of the 2014 Festival:

Geoff Winston writes:

My reaction on seeing the line-ups over the 6-day festival is that the LCMF 2014 is a programming tour de force, and each day's combination of performers and composers is an imaginative feat in itself.

I'm intrigued by 'The Japanese Extreme' which will bring together the austere, traditional 14th century Noh theatre music with a Stockhausen percussion piece that reveals the influence of Noh on his compositional practice, and culminates with ear-bending intensity as Japanese Noise pioneer, Pain Jerk, and Russell Laswell join forces.

Equally tempting, but with an entirely different flavour, is 'A New History of Song' which brings together the haunting work of Andrew Poppy, Josephine Foster's unorthodox take on German Lieder, John Giorno, articulating the New York Downtown angle, Lore Lixenberg reciting Aperghis, to introduce a zestful humour to proceedings, and a rare chance to hear Robert Ashley's 1964 viscerally unnerving work, 'The Wolfman', with Jennifer Walshe in the key vocal role.

'The British Underground', to open the festival, facilitates, in a richly diverse programme, a rare collaboration of Gavin Bryars and Christopher Hobbes, revisiting earlier works, and 'Marxist Chillwave' sees Nono and Cardew alongside raw, acerbic cultural critique from Kuwaiti and German viewpoints.

Rob Edgar writes:

I'm looking forward to hearing Kit Downes' and Tom Challenger's colourful Wedding Music again on the 31st of May. These pieces – hugely influenced by Messiaen, but not derivative – follow the tradition of improvised organ playing. Challenger's reedy saxophone tone floats over the top, and special attention is given to silence and space.

Speaking of colour, the 1st of June sees an exciting group of Italian performances: the famous keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (judged to be a better harpsichordist than Handel and whose father Alessandro is credited with the invention of the Neapolitan 6th Chord), will be paired with piano and string works from Salvatore Sciarrino culminating in a performance of artist Michelangelo Pistoletto's piece, 'Fourteen less one'...it promises to be a smash-hit!

LINKS: Our LCMF 2013 reviews:

- The Glenn Branca Ensemble
New Complexity and Noise night, 
 - Round-up review of the final two nights



CD Review: Jenny Green - Caught a Touch of your Love

Jenny Green - Caught a Touch of your Love
(Self Released. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Jenny Green's musical and winning interpretations of everything from Oscar Brown's Hum Drum Blues to Just You, Just Me (aided in duet with Richard Shelton) as well as Duncan Lamont's fetching ballad I Told You So are a delight for all admirers of jazz vocals.

Jenny clearly has great feeling and exuberance for the music and has the ability to swing and float melodies while instilling gripping rhythms. This well produced recording is free from cliché song choices coupled with a skill to deliver the lyric with freshness and élan.

Her first class rhythm team includes Winston Clifford on drums, bassist, Neville Malcolm and the pianist Sean Hargreaves. Dig Sean's haunting arrangement of The More I See You. The stellar soloing of hornmen Ed Jones (saxes) and Bryan Corbett (trumpet) add immensely to the date as well.

A top flight collection.  Jenny's launch gig is at the Pheasantry in Kings Road on 25 June.


George Versus George: The Jazz Debate at the English-Speaking Union on April 30th 7pm

George versus George. In this case Shearing versus Gershwin. A debate at the English-Speaking Union will pit the ESU's artist-in-residence James Pearson (and Dartmouth House in Charles Street W1 is one hell of a residence) against Joe Stilgoe.

Have some blurb: "To mark the occasion of International Jazz Day 2014, ESU Artist in Residence, James Pearson has challenged fellow pianist and jazz luminary Joe Stilgoe to join him in a unique musical debate arguing the influence of the US and UK in the jazz songwriting canon. James will represent the UK, leading with the works of George Shearing, and Joe the US with George Gershwin. Each speaker will present their case both verbally and on the piano and the audience will have a chance to listen and cast their opinion. Whether you prefer Lullabies from Birdland or Americans in Paris, come and watch two of the UK’s leading jazz performers and commentators in fearsome musical combat. George vs. George. US vs. UK. The Jazz Debate."

On a more serious if tangential note, for people who prefer an evening in, America and Britain: Was There Ever a Special Relationship? by Guy Arnold, priced at £20 does sound, very interesting, and costs just £5 more than a ticket for this debate.



BBC Proms Season 2014 Announced

Paloma Faith. Photo credit: Prema Ronningen

The programme for the 2014 BBC Proms is announced today. 

Booking opens 17th May. Away from the classical canon, a quick peruse gives:

2nd August: John Wilson Orchestra Kiss Me Kate
8th August (late): Clare Teal with Big Bands directed by Grant Windsor and James Pearson
19th August (late):  Laura Mvula with the Metropole Orchestra
5th September(late, after the Berlin Phil): Paloma Faith with the Guy Barker Orchestra
9th September: Copland and Brubeck from the BBC Concert Orchestra
11th September (late) : Rufus Wainwright

Our friends, listings specialists Bachtrack, have a user friendly FULL LISTING over two pages


Interview / Preview: Agata Kubiak - Polarity Album Launch at Jazz Cafe POSK. 10 May

Agata Kubiak
Photo Credit: Dave King. All Rights Reserved

Agata Kubiak is a Polish composer / violinist / singer whose début album Polarity is to be launched on the 10th of May at Jazz Cafe POSK. Agata has had some successes in Poland, with multiple groups and projects. She has appeared on Polish TV and toured through the country, she is now living in the London. Rob Edgar interviewed her.

Rob Edgar: Tell me about the album

Agata Kubiak: Throughout my life, I've tried to focus on one thing at a time: my classical violin playing, my string quartet, and the jazz influences that I have. This is the first time that I realised I don't have to make my mind up about one thing or another, because it is never very satisfying for me as a musician. I connected two projects together and the album and the gig on the 10th of May will be a launch of a whole new project and band, and a new way of thinking.

RE: What's your story as a musician?

AK: I have studied classical violin throughout my life (since I was six), I went through the whole conservatory route back in Poland. Besides that, I got into improvisation early on, I actually played in some punk bands in Poland when I was about fifteen.

RE: Playing violin?

AK: Yes. These guys didn't have any musical education so I had to make up my own parts. Around the same time, I got hugely into sung poetry which is quite big in Poland, I was going to some festivals - writing my own songs and exploring the singing side as well as violin from the classical side. I've always been quite divided.

RE: When did you start singing?

AK: Around the age of thirteen or fourteen. My début was in one of the sung poetry festivals in my home town when I was fourteen. I was too young to compete so they gave me an award for a début. I quickly realised that what I get from singing, I can never get from violin playing. It felt much more personal, I couldn't separate myself from it, and it had that overwhelming 'exposed' feeling that's quite difficult to get on an instrument. I think after years and years of playing it's more possible but it's still not the same: I never think "oh I can just do violin instead of singing".

RE: There are to be a couple of new pieces on the night?

AK: I'm listening a lot to Krzysztof Komeda (a Polish pianist who played with Stańko). I'm really fascinated with the idea of free sections within tunes so I want to explore that and I've been working on some arrangements of Polish folk tunes too, one of which we'll play.

RE: What about the musicians that you're playing with?

AK: It's been a journey so far I can tell you! Polarity was recorded with Sam Greenland on drums, Ralph Brown on piano, Jon Mapp on bass, and several string players. Now, we have JJ Wheeler on drums: he wrote his own charts to tunes before I got the chance to send him any! Unfortunately Ralph is now on a South American cruise, so we have Sam James who I've been working with for about half a year now; he's got a great understanding of what we're trying to get, and we have my Konvalia String Quartet joining us.

RE: They are an Hungarian quartet?

AK:Yes. They've been in London for just over a year now and we've been playing together since June. What's really great about them is that they're open to new sounds and music. We agree that it's important to play new compositions and not to lock yourself in one genre of music. They're really interested in improvisation, and they're looking to explore it further so I don't think this is going to be the end of me using a string quartet in my jazz projects; I'm actually planning to do a record just with strings.

RE: You're doing a bit more work with drummer JJ Wheeler right?

AK: Yes, his project Come Back Stronger will be on at the Forge and he's invited my band to join him as a joint act. One half will be his project and the other half will be my band. It's on the 25th of May

Rob Edgar: What can we expect to hear on the 10th of May?

Agata Kubiak: There will be a mixture of some original compositions and arrangements; each song represent a different period of my life. Obviously the originals are quite recent but there will be an Ewa Demarczyk tune - Tomaszów - I'm hugely inspired by her.

We will also have a special guest at the concert: Tom Millar from Way Out West is writing an arrangement of one of his tunes for my band with strings, he will be joining us for that.


Montreal Jazz Festival 2014 Indoor Programme Announced

Montreal Jazz Fesstival 2013
Photo Credit Jean-Francois Leblanc/Montreal Int Jazz Fest

The programme of ticketed indoor events for the world's largest jazz festival has just been announced. A few headliners, including some native and some adoptive Brits : Diana Ross, Keith Jarrett, Michael Bublé, Terence Blanchard, Rufus Wainwright, Trombone Shorty, Beck, Marcus Miller, Katie Melua, Jack DeJohnette, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tony Bennett, Ben Harper, Ginger Baker, Tord Gustavsen, Stacey Kent, Brad Mehldau, Dr. Lonnie Smith. 

For the final concert the city will honour one of its own, with a special 80th birthday concert for Oliver Jones.

Ottawa journalist Peter Hum has already published his top dozen HERE, and also reproduces today's press release in full.

Peter Hum's choices are: The Heath Brothers / Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak / Fred Hersch Trio / Keith Jarrett solo concert / Marc Copland, Gary Peacock, Joey Baron/ Danilo Perez Trio with John Patitucci and Brian Blade / Jeff Ballard’s trio with Lionel Loueke and Terence Blanchard Quintet followed by the Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal / the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra. (pp)


Happy 450th Birthday William Shakespeare with Sir John and Dame Cleo. O Mistress Mine (1961)


Sunday Nights at The Griffin in Whetstone - A Jazz Bar in N20

Stephen Plumb wrote in to tell us about a jazz bar in N20 called The Griffin.

The Griffin is a long established public house on the main drag through Finchley/Whetstone to Barnet - the old Great North Road. The pub is only is a few minutes stroll from Totteridge and Whetstone Station on the Northern Line.

The landlord/manager is a guy named Matt Hope who, when not pulling pints and keeping the Brewery's accounts straight, is a time-served trumpeter and graduate of Leeds College of Music. Simply put, the Griffin is a musician's dream; having as it does, a musician landlord.

Matt has a number of different musically themed evenings in the week including a Monday covers band led by Steve Pearce (the wonderful session bassist) of Fletch's Brew fame. The live jazz takes place every Sunday night at 7.30pm It's a great vibe and its becoming a bit of a "hang" attracting some noted musos at the bar to listen. We've had Geoff Eales, Mick Hutton and Robin Jones pop in on different occasions.

The format is very relaxed and listener friendly with a House Trio of Gareth Hunt on Piano, Wally Shaw on Bass and myself on Drums.

I have worked with Gareth since the 90s; he is head of jazz studies at St Paul's School and is on the staff at the Purcell School. Wally is the house bassist at Googlies jazz club in Enfield.

Since starting last September the Trio has been privileged to back inter alia:

Brandon Allen
Georgina Jackson
Simon Bates
Ashley Slater
Alan Barnes
Brian Corbett
Georgia Mancio
Finn Peters
Dave O'Higgins
Christian Brewer
Derek Nash
Sid Gauld
Kevin Fitzsimmons (vox)
Frank Griffith (jokes)
Gareth Lochrane
Carl Orr (Fletch's Brew)
Nick Newall (The Kinks & Zoot Money)
Dan Foster (Kairos Ensemble)
Gabriel Garrick
Freddie Gavita

This coming week we have John Etheridge.

More information HERE


Report: 2014 La Linea Festival. 3rd April - 2nd May

La Linea Festival
(Various London Venues. 3rd April-2nd May2014. Report and photographs by John L Walters)

As promoter Andy Wood pointed out as he introduced the bands at Koko, his La Linea festival coincides with the onset of hay fever. Though there are undoubtedly a few within the World Music cognoscenti who claim allergies to ‘jazz’ or ‘world-jazz’, it is hard to imagine the broadly ‘Latin’ music in the three gigs I witnessed stirring mind and body without a strong dose of jazz spirit.

Ed Motta at the Union Chapel, April 2014
Photo credit: John L Walters

Ed Motta (above) is a case in point. Motta’s omnivorous appetite for all kinds of music includes a deep understanding of jazz. For the 7 April performance, pianist Matti Klein took advantage of his bandleader’s immaculate pop-funk material to deliver a couple of two-fisted piano solos pitched somewhere between Victor Feldman and McCoy Tyner. (I reviewed his Ronnie Scott’s gig on this very site last October.)

Motta’s ultra-sharp ensemble sound suffered a little from the lofty acoustic space of the Union Chapel (which seems better suited to more acoustic outfits such as Penguin Café), but his genial personality shone through as he discussed the merits of Magnum P.I. over Knight Rider, and bemoaned the fact that he could never sport the Magnum look – mullet and tight jeans. One long vocal cadenza had a touch of Bobby McFerrin, and guitarist Jean-Paul Maunick – Bluey of Incognito – came on stage to jam with Motta on the hustling ‘Drive Me Crazy’.

Daniel Melingo is a tango bard with a Chaplinesque persona, leading his note-perfect band through a series of vignettes with pathos, drama and wit. Pianist Pedro Ornetto has a delicious neuvo-tango touch, sometimes reaching inside the piano to pluck the strings, while multi-instrumentalist Muhammad Habbibi has an ear for unusual timbres, including a highly melodic use of the bowed musical saw. On guitar, Habbibi has a quiet authority and control that suggests he’s listened to (and learned from) Bill Frisell. The show belongs to Melingo, however, who’s a star – both self-mocking and proud. As an Argentine friend noted, ‘you can’t get more porteño than Melingo’. Their Purcell Room date was on 6 April.

Luzmira Zerpa. La Linea Festival 2014
Photo Credit: John L Walters

In Koko (the venue I remember as the Music Machine) the 8 April gig began imaginatively with the movie Nosotros, La Música (1964), a black & white documentary about Cuban music, which put everyone in a good frame of mind for support band Family Atlantica, led by extravagantly attired vocalist Luzmira Zerpa (above).

Cherif Soumano, La Linea Festival 2014
Photo credit: John L Walters

Headliner Roberto Fonseca performed with a terrific quintet: Cherif Soumano on kora and tama; bassist Yandi Martínez; drummer Ramsés Rodríguez; and percussionist/vocalist Joel Hierrezuelo / Cuban. After paying his dues in Cuba, Fonseca found international fame when he replaced the late Ruben Gonzalez in the band of Ibrahim Ferrer, later co-producing Ferrer’s swan song Mi Sueño.

Blessed with a phenomenal piano technique, Fonseca has a talent for unselfconscious fusion, bringing together the naturally occurring montunos of Cuban dance music with exhilarating, two-fisted pianism. But the inclusion of Soumano’s well mixed kora pushes his band into fresh sonic pastures. Their live arrangement of ‘Bibisi’ (from Fonseca’s excellent album Yo) puts West Africa back into Afro-Cuban music and vice-versa, while Fonseca’s rollicking ‘80s’ is a quirky reminder of 1980s pop’s deep jazz-funk roots.

There is one more gig remaining  in the 2014 La Linea Festival: Friday 2 May - Grupo Niche + DJs Johnny G, Julian Mr M & Fercho KBson - Electric Brixton


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in UK, 20 June to 2nd July - Tour Dates and Barbican Residency

Wynton Marsalis in Glasgow 2010.
Photo Credit Willliam Ellis .All rights Reserved
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis will be in the UK from June 20th  to July 2nd.They will perform seven dates outside London, the programme celebrating the Blue Note Label in its 75th year. The orchestra will then be resident at the Barbican and also be working with the Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning Department for the third time with projects in eight East London boroughs.

Tour Dates


Friday 20 June | 8:00PM / Harrogate International Festivals

Saturday 21 June | 7:30PM / CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange

Sunday 22 June | 7:30PM / BASINGSTOKE The Anvil

Monday 23 June | 7:30PM / MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall

Tuesday 24 June | 7:30PM BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall

Thursday 26 June | 7:30PM / BRISTOL Colston Hall

Friday 27 June | 7:30PM / EDINBURGH Usher Hall


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Sachal Jazz Ensemble
Music from Pakistan
Monday 30 June 2014 / 20:00, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35 Find out more

Jazz Inspirations: Wynton Marsalis in Converstion / With Young Jazz East Big Band 
Tuesday 1 July 2014 / 18:30, Barbican Hall /Tickets £5 /Find out more

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guests
The Best of Blue Note Records
Wednesday 2 July / 19:30, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35  / Find out more


Harold Sanditen previews Open Mic 1st Birthday (24/4), Group Show (4/5), Flyin' High (2 & 3/5) - at Crazy Coqs

Sebastian interviewed Oklahoma-born cabaret singer HAROLD SANDITEN who hosts the Thursday Late Night Open Mic at Crazy Coqs, by email:

Sebastian Scotney: Harold congratulations , you've been running the Thursday late night Open mic at Crazy Coqs. Do you have a celebration planned?

Harold Sanditen: Yes - we have our first birthday party on Thursday, 24th April. Doors open at 10 pm when I start taking sign ups for performers, and the music begins at 10.30 on the dot. We normally finish at midnight, but we'll go later than usual, up to 1 am to accommodate all the performers. I have a no "slit-your-wrist" ballad rule, which I relax most times, but on the 24th I will be ruthlessly enforcing it, to make it a party atmosphere! (TICKETS)

SS: London is full of singers, how's it been going

HS: The last few weeks have really begun to hot up. The quality of the performers we get is universally superb, and the worse singers are beginning to weed themselves out. I'm also finding we're getting more and more audience members, who're just there to watch and discover new talent. It's only £5 entrance fee, which is affordable to all the performers, and for the audience is, as many people have said, the best value entertainment in London.

SS: Do you have a regular pianist / bassist ? Have they been the same since the start?

HS: Michael Roulston is our regular pianist and Jonty Fisher our regular bassist. They've been with the Open Mic since the beginning. I needed people who are excellent readers, and cross musical genres and they fit that bill perfectly.

SS: Do you let everyone have a try or how does it work?

HS: I try to give everyone a turn, but I can only get so many people on stage in 90 minutes. As a performer, I make a point of giving each performer a chance to promote themselves - let everyone know what they're up to, bring in promotional material and CDs, etc. I have the system down pat now so that I chat with them while the next performer is discussing their song with Michael and Jonty. That keeps things ticking, and there's no interval in the night, so, depending on length of songs, I can get up to 20 people on in 90 minutes. Still, I'm now having to turn people away. I try to make sure all our "virgins" go on stage, but we have some terrific regulars, and the occasional famous person, who I'll put on instead. Steve Brookstein (first ever winner of the X Factor) came a few weeks ago and did a duet with his wife, Eileen Hunter. It brought the house down. That's another reason punters come along - in hopes someone famous will be there to sing. I don't put people on in order of signing up - I put the show together as the night unfolds, to make it as entertaining as possible and mix the styles.

SS: And it's all sorts of singers /genres?

HS: Being a cabaret singer with jazz influences, I was determined that this open mic would be a place were both could sing comfortably, along with pop, rock, musical theatre and even opera. We've attracted all those genres, which delights me.

SS: Is the mix of people you get performing right or are there types of instrumentalist or singer you'd like more / less of?

HS: We have a great mix of singers, although some nights lean more toward one genre or the other. We have some wonderful original singer/songwriters. We've had quite a few duets and some trios, but a small choir would be fab or a barbershop quartet! We don't get many instrumentalists and that would be nice too. So, I'm really looking forward to having you come along and toot your horn again!

SS: Thanks for the invitation . You'll be showcasing (is that the right word?) on Sunday 4th? What time /who's performing /how were they selected?

HS: Yes - as a natural offshoot of the open mic, four of the best singers are doing a group show on Sunday, 4th May at 7.30 - it's called Open Mic Highights. If it's successful, it will happen at least quarterly. What's really exciting about first showcase is the mix showing the diversity of talent we attract. We have a jazz vocalist - Helen Theophanous, a cabaret singer - Julez Hamilton, a musical theatre balladeer - Gary Bland and a young Ukranian opera singer - Andrij Bukach!

SS: And you're a singer yourself -with a recent album about the colour blue ?

HS: I released Shades of Blue, which was recorded live at The Pheasantry, last August. That was based on my solo show, exploring my fascination with the word blue - from music to sound to colour....and naughty to nice. The CD is greatly influenced by my love of jazz, but still firmly rooted in cabaret. There are revamped jazz standards, like Moondance and Birth of the Blues, along with comedy songs, like my version of Me and Mrs Jones, which goes on to be Me and Mr Jones, and then Me and Mr and Mrs Jones. Equal opportunity cheating. I also jazzed up Coward's Stately Homes of England with new lyrics, but probably my favourite song is a country swing version of a Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me, again with some modern lyrics.

SS: And you have a solo show yourself on 2nd 3rd May.What time?

HS: My new show is my travel show - Flyin' High. It's on 2nd and 3rd May at 8 pm. Travel's always been a huge passion, and when I went to count the number of countries I've visited, I couldn't believe it was 65! As I began to think about all those trips, there were some pretty hilarious things that happened to me. It's going to be a very funny show, covering Albuquerque to the Zambezi! Michael (Roulston) and Jonty (Fisher) will be accompanying me. Michael's writing all the new arrangements, and my favourites are Berlin's I Got The Sun in the Morning which reflects all the glorious sunrises I've seen and a medley of Come Fly With Me and Route 66. Being from Oklahoma, I was born on Route 66! I know how much you love Ann Hampton Callaway - well, I'm doing one of her songs - Never Really Mine to Lose. It has absolutely nothing to do with travel, but I just had to sing it.

Now that things are going so well for me at the Crazy Coqs, it seems like Flyin' High couldn't be a more appropriate title! (FRIDAY TICKETS)


CD Review: L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell

L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar - Music For a While - Improvisations on Purcell
(Erato/Warner Classics 08256 463375 07. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Baroque music often has elements of improvisation, but in the 14-piece group L'Arpeggiata's new CD, director and arranger Christina Pluhar, born in Graz in Austria, and based in Paris, who founded the group in 2000, has brought jazz into the mix alongside baroque instruments with winsome names like theorbo, cornet à bouquin and archlute, with the presence of Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel (they went to school together) and Italian clarinettist Gianluigi Trovesi.

Pluhar’s aim is to be ‘..constantly moving between the centuries in the harmonies and styles of the improvisations…’. Although the music was written in the late 1600s, a progression like the descending bass line of When I am laid in earth could have been written for jazz and there are many moments when you could be listening to an ECM jazz recording.

Wondrous machine, with alto Vincenzo Capezzuto’s light, expressive voice, has a wondrous groove. Quivering African-influenced percussion starts alongside trilling clarinet; guitar and piano improvise together over energetic bass lines. Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky brings grace to everything he sings- those long, pure notes with their miraculous crescendos. His phrasing is languorous but always precise, floating on the walking bass and gently swung brushes; the juxtaposition of classical singing and jazz instrumental styles is strikingly original. Trovesi’s jazz clarinet solo wraps itself beautifully around the voice. Here the deities approve opens conventionally, with trailing piano lines (Francesco Turrisi) behind Jarroussky. A Cuban groove emerges behind Muthspiel’s guitar solo. An Evening Hymn Upon a Ground starts with exquisite jazz-edged solo guitar, Jaroussky’s sensuous voice melting into the jazz piano and guitar solos.

Raquel Andueza sings in the same register as the male singers, but with a folkier edge to the voice. Alfred Deller’s 60s version of Strike the viol runs through my head, highlighting the way Andueza phrases freely behind the beat in this version. There’s a kind of 17th Century New Orleans carefree collective improvisation, the clarinet riffing along with Muthspiel’s guitar, with cornet arpeggios and dramatic percussion; Francesco Turrisi’s organ could almost be Brian Auger. Andueza sings the melody of When I am laid in earth with poise as Jarrett-esque piano trades fours with Muthspiel. Her Ah! Belinda and A prince of glorious race descended have subtle jazz elements, with piano fills between vocal lines and a Muthspiel outro of great beauty in the latter.

Some pieces blur Early Music and folk. The lively One charming night (just a hint of reggae) and ‘Twas within a furlong are sung with verve by Capezzuto. The latter, a ballad of love and marriage, has a country swing, shuffly percussion and a melodica. Dominique Visse treats Man is for the woman made almost like a comic patter song. The instrumental Curtain Tune on a Ground has robust but subtle percussion, and sounds like a folk dance.

Other pieces are performed in Early Music style, highlights being counterpointed duets between Jaroussky and Capezzuto in In vain the am’rous flute, and Jaroussky and Andueza inHark how the songsters of the grove. Veronika Skuplik’s baroque violin heightens the melancholy of Andueza’s voice in O let me weep. The ensemble playing is so good that you don’t want to focus on individual instruments, as in O Solitude where Jaroussky’s voice rests on a cushion of harps and lutes.

Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered Hallelujah, the ‘bonus track’, is an unexpected conclusion to the album, but I’m sure it goes down a storm as a gig encore.

‘Our listeners find themselves in a timeless music room,’ says Pluhar. The experience of hearing the 17th and 21st centuries (and probably a few in between) in the same songs is a thrilling one. L’Arpeggiata play with such finesse and zeal, that ‘Music for a while/ shall all your cares beguile’.


Christina Pluhar- director, theorbo
Doron Sherwin- cornet à bouquin
Veronika Skuplik- baroque violin
Julien Martin, Marine Sablonnière- recorder
Eero Palviainen- archlute, baroque guitar
Marcello Vitale- baroque guitar, chitarra battente
Sarah Ridy- baroque harp
David Mayoral, Sergey Saprichev, Michèle Claude- percussion
Boris Schmidt- double bass
Haru Kitamika- harpsichord, organ
Francesco Turrisi- piano, harpsichord, organ, melodica

Special Guests

Gianluigi Trovesi- clarinet
Wolfgang Muthspiel- acoustic guitar & electric guitar
Philippe Jaroussky- countertenor
Raquel Andueza- soprano
Vincenzo Capezzuto- alto
Dominique Visse- countertenor

Christina Pluhar at Warner Classics . In addition to the standard CD version there is also a Limited Edition "Casebound Deluxe CD plus DVD" version)