CD Review: Bobby Avey - Authority Melts From Me

Bobby Avey - Authority Melts From Me
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4650. CD Review by Eric Ford)

This is a very unusual CD. Listened to without any knowledge of what inspired the music, it's a dark, seething and tangled morass for most of the roughly 54 minutes of this suite. (There are 3 long pieces interspersed by a 3-minute piano solo and a 3-minute drum solo).

The players - pianist / composer - and 2011 Thelonious Monk Competition-winner  -  Bobby Avey, Jordan Perlson on drums, bassist Thomson Kneeland and established heavyweights Miguel Zenon on alto sax and guitarist Ben Monder - all do a great job with both the knotty written material and in improvising over the extremely gnarled rhythmic settings of each section.

Monder's effects pedals help you to "travel without moving", often into dark, dark places. There's not much truly "free" blowing but a lot of the written rhythmic vamps are so oblique and so well-embellished by Perlson and Kneeland that they sound almost free. However they must have invested a lot of time with such challenging material, individually and collectively, to be able to play it so loosely and interactively and to have come up (especially Perlson and Monder) with so many textural gradations to enhance the progress of each section.

So everyone involved "got with the program", but what's it all about? If you'd rather listen to the album without knowing, stop reading now! Avey's excellent liner notes reveal that the tortured rhythms, as well as general concepts for the pieces, are transcribed from Vodou drumming rituals he attended in Haiti in January 2012. (As you may know, the idea of a Vodou ceremony is to gain access to the parallel world of the souls of the dead). This is clearly a deep and rich resource, within and beyond music, given that these rituals fuelled by drumming have been practised in some communities on the island for centuries.

But that's not all. Avey catalogues the grim history of Haiti during the two centuries since it ceased to be a French colony, and whilst that and the current parlous state in which most Haitians find themselves is appalling enough, less well-known but equally appalling is the role of the U.S.A., meddling despicably in Haiti's internal affairs even in the last decade. Avey says: "I hope my music will lead to greater understanding and awareness of Haiti among the American people and ultimately play some small role in inspiring thoughtful action to turn the tide of the relationship between the two countries." We can all help Avey in this noble and altruistic endeavour by buying his CD and talking about the issues raised in his liner notes.


CD REVIEW: Misha Tsiganov - The Artistry Of The Standard

Misha Tsiganov - The Artistry Of The Standard
(Criss Cross 1367. CD review by Eric Ford)

Misha Tsiganov is a Russian-born pianist resident in NYC since 1993, after two years of study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. During his two decades in New York, he's been in and recorded with bands led by Joe Chambers and Chico Freeman, recorded copiously as a sideman alongside a host of great players including the Brecker Brothers, Gil Goldstein, Jonathan Kreisberg, Dave Valentin and Logan Richardson, and recorded under his own name with top drummers Gene Jackson and Antonio Sanchez.

As can be guessed from all those associations, he's pretty special himself; I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't come across him before.

In addition to his outstanding and hard-swinging playing, Tsiganov demonstrates a fertile arranging imagination on a bunch of well-known -  if not necessarily much-played  - tunes. As well as much harmonic wizardry there's a dizzying procession of time signatures within most of the arrangements and occasional metric modulations, superbly-negotiated and made to flow by fellow Russians in New York Boris Kozlov (bass) and Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) - both of whom are familiar as stalwarts of the Mingus Big Band and Michael Brecker's Quindectet - plus drummer Donald Edwards and tenor sax maestro Seamus Blake. It's a juicy ensemble, eating up the challenges posed by the material as if it were all rather more straightforward than it is.

The tune choice is interesting - Fall / Get Out Of Town / The Song Is You / Ah-Leu-Cha / This Is For Albert / Four On Six / Falling In Love With Love / Mr. Day / Make Sure You're Sure. All of them  contain surprises; there is much to confound and delight the ears and mind. Leave expectations of each tune behind...

With such fresh approaches to familiar music, this is a really outstanding album by a superb band demonstrating enviable technique, creativity and finesse.


CD REVIEW: Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra / Bobby Sanabria - ¡Que Viva Harlem!

Manhattan School Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra/ Bobby Sanabria (cond.)- ¡Que Viva Harlem!
(Jazzheads JH1207. CD Review by Eric Ford)

This CD is a love letter to Harlem, and to its denizens from the 1920's to 1950's especially, since it - and they - gave birth to Latin Jazz. Among the valuable things about this album (aside from the detail of a great period in Harlem's and music's history) is the opportunity to hear arrangements by Duke Ellington and/or Billy Strayhorn played with a full Afro-Cuban percussion section and modern soloists. A comparison with the originals is a great reminder of just how characterful and exotic the Ellington/Strayhorn writing was. The arrangements have been transcribed and adapted for this orchestra: Moon Over Cuba, Oclupaca, Royal Garden Blues, Blood Count, plus Strayhorn's arrangement of Royal Garden Blues from 1946. The soloists - like the arrangements - interweave ancient and modern.

Since the Manhattan School of Music boasts alumni such as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Max Roach, Chris Potter and Miguel Zenon, so the current student crop have quite a standard to aspire to. Suffice to say that this group compares favourably with most big bands on the planet and would out-class most in this Afro-Cuban jazz setting. There's especially great soloing on alto and soprano by Patrick Bartley, plus ear-catching clarinet from Xavier Del Castillo and exuberant baritone sax from the irrepressible Leo Pellegrino. Puerto Rican-born, Grammy-winning drummer/composer/producer/educator Bobby Sanabria is clearly an inspiring leader and the band gets a justifiably ecstatic audience reaction from a home crowd at the John C. Borden Auditorium within the School. The sound quality and mix - with the quieter end of the dynamic spectrum preserved - is excellent.

Since this music was originally conceived for people to dance to, anyone who dances to Cuban music or its derivatives will be able to enjoy dancing to the whole of this CD, including the two (lengthy) originals. The first two tracks are from the library of Machito's Afro-Cubans and if they don't make you smile and want to dance ... well, you might as well book yourself in at the crematorium right now! Surely this stuff is an anti-depressant; someone tell the NHS.

If you like your Latin Jazz to be danceable, big and swaggering, with some Ellingtonian adventures in orchestration and juicy solos along the way, don't hesitate to pick this up. As it says on the sleeve, "Proceeds from the sale of this CD will be donated to the Manhattan School of Music Scholarship Fund," so it's for a worthy cause too.


CD REVIEW: The New York Standards Quartet - The New Straight Ahead

The New York Standards Quartet - The New Straight Ahead
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4654 . CD Review by Alison Bentley)

The CD cover is a clue: the deadpan title is The New Straight Ahead but the arrows point in every direction. The New York Standards Quartet are known for what their sax-player Tim Armacost calls ‘twisted’ arrangements of well-known jazz tunes. The tunes, they say, are ‘blank slates to write on.’ The band are all composers in their own right, and have worked with a dazzling number of famous jazz names. They formed in 2006 to perform the jazz they grew up learning, and they play with great warmth and intelligence.

The album opens and closes with Intro (Polka Dots) and Outro (Moonbeams), minute-long slices of luscious sax solo, picking up where their 2011 album Unstandard left off, with its three Polka Beamlets. While the previous album has more original pieces based on familiar chords, this new recording shuffles the chords and time signatures behind the melodies to create something fresh.

Some pieces have a fairly straight treatment: Monk’s Misterioso has playfully bluesy solos from Armacost and David Berkman’s piano. Japanese bassist Daiki Yasukagawa has such clarity of thought, and an opulent tone. Parker’s Ah-leu-cha keeps close to the original’s inventive countermelodies, but sounds more cool-school and Konitz-esque. Gene Jackson is that most musical of drummers: his solo is so full of rich textures, it’s as if he’s playing several melodies simultaneously. Hancock’s The Maze is given a Coltrane Impressions-like edge, the fast minor swing and Armacost’s tough-toned tenor bursting out of the sinewy bass solo. Berkman’s superb comping sketches in new notes, pushing things almost over the edge but always pulling back.

Some tunes play around with rhythm. Autumn Leaves has a Sidewinder slinky groove and scrunchy piano cluster chords. Remember leans heavily on the Hank Mobley swing version, but throws in some 7/4 bars to keep things moving. You can hear the whole band shifting subtly in response to each other. Jobim’s Zingaro, more often known as Retrato em branco e reto, is played colla voce- Armacost’s tenor is the voice, and you can almost hear words in his exquisite melancholy phrasing. Even his solo follows the contours of the tune. The cymbals are like waves and the piano arpeggios are the undertow, and the time is completely free.

Harmonies are redecorated too. When You Wish Upon a Star opens with full-bodied chords from Berkman, Bill Evans-like but becoming increasingly less sweet as the tune develops and the rest of the band join him at slow ballad tempo. There’s a hypnotic ostinato bass line as tenor and piano swap phrases dreamily with elegance and beauty. It Don’t Mean a Thing is the biggest surprise, as the unexpected chords touch the melody tangentially- the tune sounds familiar but also completely different. Armacost’s plaintive soprano climbs and then dips down in swift arpeggios. Berkman’s piano solo really holds your attention with its wit and feeling.

This is wonderful modern jazz, played with profound love for the tradition, brilliance and humour.


Four Years Ago Today....

Chris Dagley (1971-2010)

On July 28th 2010, we received devastating, shocking news. In great sadness - still.


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival

Manchester Jazz Festival
(Manchester, 18-27 July 2014. Round-up by Adrian Pallant)

Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) Artistic Director Steve Mead seems to have the annual event off to a fine art. For 2014, not only did he and his team secure some eighty or so local, national and international acts – including new finds and a new Festival commission – but also arranged the perfect weather for this ten-day musical extravaganza in the heart of Manchester city centre. With virtually wall-to-wall sunshine and soaring summer temperatures, mjf served up a gloriously eclectic celebration of the current, vibrant, ever-widening jazz scene to devotees and newcomers alike.

The strength of this now well-established event is that its main hub – Albert Square, beneath the impressive Victorian architecture of the Town Hall – is ideally placed to tap into the fascination and curiosity of city dwellers, office workers and visitors. And sure enough, weather playing its part, music lovers converged expectantly on this and several other venues across the city including Band On The Wall, RNCM, Matt & Phred’s, St. Ann’s Church and (for the first time) Soup Kitchen.

The programming featured big-name artists such as The Bad Plus (one of only two UK tour dates) and Booker T Jones, whilst also substantially affording local and upcoming musicians to present their considerable talent to enthusiastic audiences, often for only a few pounds or for free. Illustrating just that point is the BBC Introducing evening. Four under-the-radar bands (selected by a BBC panel including and compered by BBC Radio 3 Jazz on 3 presenter Jez Nelson and BBC 6 Music’s Giles Peterson) were given the opportunity to shine in front of a supportive audience, chosen by ballot (and due to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 28 July). From the North East of England, young 10-piece Brassy B (with 16-year-old sousaphone player) took to the Band On The Wall stage with a bold and accomplished set of jazz/funk/disco tunes – surely a bright future for them. Following, Manchester’s own Moss Freed delivered a strong set from the Moss Project album What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?. This eloquent guitarist and composer wove complex jazz/rock rhythms and riffs, Alice Zawadzki glittering in her dual vocal/fiddle role, and drummer Marek Dorcik and electric bassist Ruth Goller generating the band’s retro-referenced energy (Tunnel of Love rocked the place in Mahavishnuesque spirit). Next, with his trio of Max Luthert on bass and popular drummer Moses Boyd, the melodic, driven style of pianist Peter Edwards proved to be a crowd pleaser, citing influences such as Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock and Ahmad Jamal. And closing, local drummer Johnny Hunter’s quartet presented his strongest line-up yet (Aaron Diaz, trumpet; Kyran Matthews, tenor sax; Seth Bennett, bass), performing a set of sparky, accessible originals.

George Crowley and Mike Chillingworth of Klammer. mjf 2014

The first full day at the Thwaites Festival Pavilion, and Rick Simpson’s sextet Klammer captivated their audience with the pianist’s through-composed pieces characterised by rapid tempo changes, melodic interest and free improvisation (great contrapuntal tenor work from George Crowley and alto Mike Chillingworth). Bassist Ryan Trebilcock and drummer Dave Hamblett provided the set’s intrinsic buoyancy, the complexity of I Like Potato – You Like Potato, Too a particular standout, Ralph Wyld exquisite on vibes. The smooth, soulful vocals of Juliet Kelly were a Saturday afternoon hit, Ben Hazleton, Eddie Hick and stand-in pianist Liam Noble illuminating her collection of literary-inspired songs such as Magic and Mystery and Little Things. Noble features in the anarchic quartet Pigfoot which followed, his esteemed colleagues (Chris Batchelor, trumpet; Oren Marshall, tuba; Paul Clarvis, drums) at least as entertaining as on their album 21st Century Acid Trad which expertly deconstructs 1920s and ‘30s standards from the likes of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet. Batchelor rasped, Marshall virtually wretched into his mouthpiece, and Clarvis sat back and beamed, clearly relishing the whole performance – as did the appreciative, amused (perhaps, in some cases, bemused) crowd. Manchester favourite, composer and clarinettist Arun Ghosh, attracts a dedicated following and the evening’s performance of his A South Asian Suite was enthusiastically received. With the six players glowing in white regalia, the music took on its trance-like, tabla-driven, Bangladeshi/folk-infused mystery. Ghosh always enjoys a good rapport with his followers, introducing After the Monsoon and quipping that, following the festival’s only day of thunderous downpours, perhaps this was a case of nature imitating art (or vice versa). Sufi Stomp, its heavily-thrummed bass suggested a deep-voiced chant and Ghosh animated in its devotional transcendence (during Ramadan), brought the house down, whilst the gently pulsating Mountain Song reflected the composer’s love of British landscape as well as that of the Indian subcontinent.

Richard Iles directing the GMJO. Soloist: Alexander Bone (alto). mjf 2014

Respected trumpet player and educator, Richard Iles, presented his Greater Manchester Jazz Orchestra to an eager Sunday afternoon audience, and what a marvellously talented group of young people! Established in 2013 as part of the Greater Manchester Music Hub, the school-age players had in their ranks this year’s inaugural BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, Alexander Bone (alto/soprano). There is a perceptible, encouraging warmth to Mr Iles’ leadership, coaxing consistent phrasing and dynamics from the orchestra as a whole, as well as staggeringly mature improvised solos. In a varied programme, taking on Miles Davis as well as Iles’ own beautifully smooth Sunday Soul, Alex Bone displayed the reason for his recent achievement with blistering solos that belied his years.

Between staged performances, mjf ensured that relaxed, sunshine-loving onlookers were entertained by roaming performances from the boisterous brassiness of Young Pilgrims and Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, their quirky, New Orleans-style brashness catching the eyes and ears of passers-by as the music was taken onto the streets and into the city’s Northern Quarter. The ambient, free soundscape of collective Twelves (Mark Hanslip, Rob Updegraff, Riaan Vosloo and Tim Giles) showed their improvisatory mastery of folk tunes such as Your Love is Like a Red, Red Rose and She Moved Through the Fair, as well as the rhythmically infectious Pentangle number, Light Flight. Scottish saxophonist Matthew Herd’s compositions based on stories, images, books, films and folklore were sumptuously realised by his band Seafarers (Kieran McLeod, trombone; Sam Rapley, tenor/clarinet; Sam Watts, piano; Tom McCredie, double bass; Scott Chapman, drums). Often dissonant/experimental in feel, and then flowingly lyrical with lush harmonies, here was an example of the positive creativity to be found in the current jazz scene. The top billing of the day went, arguably, to Soft Machine Legacy – legendary guitarist John Etheridge, drummer John Marshall and bassist Roy Babbington offering new material with saxophonist Theo Travis, plus a second half appearance from revered pianist Keith Tippett. And, recalling their ‘70s heyday, the band didn’t disappoint with spine-tingling performances of seminal favourites such as Gesolreut, Chloe and the Pirates and The Tale of Taliesin. Closed eyes would doubt Marshall was now in his seventies, the depth and power of his drumming as strong as ever, Etheridge duelling with him in breathtaking rapidity (and, on a personal note, an enormous privilege to meet the ‘prog’ pioneers of my youth, as expressed by many others I spoke to).

Manchester Jazz Festival excels in showcasing young talent via its mjf introduces strand. Trumpet player Aaron Wood (an undergraduate at RNCM) and his quartet were amongst a number of acts who were provided the opportunity to show their creative mettle. Breezing through Ellington, Steve Kuhn and Cy Coleman, as well as a few funk and ballad originals, their confidence suggested that the future of jazz is in safe hands. Adam Fairhall’s The Imaginary Delta was a 2011 Manchester Jazz Festival commission, and this year’s programming paired the same work with original poetry from Jackie Kay. Interspersing the original music - it is an impressive album - with the author’s imaginings of boarding a train with blues singer Bessie Smith provided a poignancy which was appreciated by the RNCM audience. Fairhall’s bluesy piano is a joy and, coupling poetry with this octet’s brilliance (including Corey Mwamba, James Allsopp and Chris Bridges), here was yet another premiere, and a particularly successful collaboration.

mjf introduces brought us Twisted Tubes, another in the current crop of young brass’n’percussion jazz outfits. Already finding success as a ten-piece, the assembled, raucous, ‘lite’ quintet adaptation offered their energetic arrangements of mainly classic pop hits such as Tainted Love, Sweet Dreams, Don’t You Want Me, Baby and Come On, Eileen, much to the smiling delight of the RNCM Studio Theatre gathering. The Bad Plus, from the USA, are becoming something of a jazz phenomenon. Another democratic piano trio (à la Phronesis), their gigs appear to egender a cult following (which the RNCM audience confirmed). Ethan Iverson, piano, Reid Anderson, double bass and David King, drums, strolled out to perform a tight set of mostly existing pieces – although not the anticipated performance of their interpretations of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, due to an administrative restriction from the composer's estate. Nevertheless (some audience disappointment palpable), they embarked on a truly enthralling programme which surprised at every turn. It seems almost futile to attempt to describe this trio’s prowess, but their every move demands attention, revealing new paths and painting vivid images. Gold Prisms Incorporated, written by drummer King, was taken from their new release due in September – and with sinister, pulsing semiquavers redolent of a dramatic B-movie, the mood was on-the-edge-of seat-exciting; in contrast, Reid Anderson’s People Like You created a spacious wash of Tord Gustavsen, J S Bach and Claude Debussy, building in strength, then ebbing away to intense quietude. As an encore, they precisely dissected Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, perhaps like no other trio could. Though recognisable, Iverson led his colleagues in a rock-heavy, almost piano concerto-like reworking, leaving one with the idea that Kurt Cobain, all along, had them in mind. A truly memorable evening.

Tori Freestone, Dave Manington. mjf 2014

Tori Freestone is quietly bubbling to the surface as a profoundly creative saxophonist and composer – and with bassist Dave Manington, and Tim Giles at the drums, the tenorist showcased material mostly from her recent release, In the Chop House, inspired by her favourite Manchester pub. Beautifully-phrased improvised melodies flow incessantly from Freestone, and her enjoyment of this chordless trio is there for all to see. As a contributor to Ivo Neame’s octet album Yatra, the saxophonist has recently been recording with him again for future release on the Whirlwind label. Later, Martin Archer’s Engine Room Favourites blasted the Thursday afternoon audience with a fascinating cacophony of free improvisation, underpinned by no less than four percussionists. Extemporising predominantly on a ground, Archer and his nine colleagues saturated the air with extended pieces which clearly pleased both audience and participants.

Article XI. mjf 2014

Manchester Jazz Festival’s 2014 commission took place in the new performance space of the city’s refurbished Central Library, local composer and guitarist Anton Hunter creating his Article XI in the weeks and months leading up to the event. Having provided each of his ten chosen musicians with a motif to explore, and then receiving back their reinterpretations, Hunter crafted his hour-long suite from these, allowing much freedom in improvisation. The result was intoxicating, with brass and reed sections appearing to communicate across the central rhythm section of guitar, bass and drums. Sam Andrae’s sputtering tenor embouchure and mute popping was unreal, as were the guitar effects of the composer, and the comedic old blues mayhem of baritone and three tenors contrasted well with Fripp/Eno-like soundworlds. A triumph for creative jazz, it enjoyed a second outing just a few days later (27 July) at The Vortex, London.

The straight-ahead charm and sincerity of the Brian Molley Quartet matched a sunny Friday in Albert Square, the reed player’s fellow Scotsmen (with entrancingly extemporised piano from Tom Gibbs) taking us through a varied programme including Chance on Chan from their current album, Clock. En route to Edinburgh Jazz Festival, French quintet Papanosh made their UK debut, matching circus-like antics with inventive musicality (trumpet, trombone, saxes, keyboards, double bass and drums). Manchester’s town hall clock marks the accurate scheduling of the pavilion’s acts, and its resonant three-quarter chimes during Papanosh’s set were subtly and mischievously mimicked by the Hammond soloing of Sebastian Palis (and that’s quite a beast of an instrument to travel with!). A highly recommended theatrical act, full of surprises.

Local favourites, Beats & Pieces Big Band, have been gathering huge interest over the past few years, recently voted ‘Ensemble of the Year’ at the 2014 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Under the spirited direction of musician and composer Ben Cottrell, the band’s confidence has flourished, and their consummate, lively double set of existing and new material set the evening alight (Sam Healey’s alto soloing on Jazzwalk quite phenomenal). With a new album due in 2015, they previewed Cottrell’s magical Norway-inspired composition, as well as their splendidly slow-burning arrangement of Bowie’s Let’s Dance… and fervent demands for an encore were satisfied.

Away from the stage, mjf also hosted, over two days, the inaugural Jazz Promotion Network conference, featuring seminars and speakers, with discussions focusing on the recent issues arising from the Arts Council’s cessation of funding (from April 2015) to the invaluable and highly-regarded Jazz Services organisation – a decision which has caused consternation amongst artists, promoters and audiences.

Elsewhere, Tin Men and the Telephone were experimenting with audience participation via a specially-created app; Silence Blossoms explored textural improvisations through voice, poetry and AM radios; Space Flight utilised 3D mapping and sound, creating real-time improvisations and visuals; Mancheska transformed movie and TV themes into ska and reggae; and Hackney Colliery Band raised the pavilion canvas with appropriate ‘last night’ exuberance.

From the young girl whose parents allowed her to stand near the front, so transfixed was she at Arun Ghosh’s band, to the senior gentleman who each year travels by train from Somerset to enjoy the quality and variety of the acts, Manchester Jazz Festival is categorically a ‘people’s festival’. And my observations here are, of course, a mere snapshot of the ten days’ events (one would need to be a pretty well-qualified time traveller to take in the plethora of musical experiences on offer). 2015 marks the Festival’s 20th year and, with Steve Mead already hinting at an exciting new commission, it’s likely to be another unmissable jazz summer in the city.


REVIEW:Rene Marie and the Bruce Barth Trio at Pizza Express Dean Street

Rene Marie. London, July 2014
Photo Credit Melody McLaren. All Rights Reserved 

Rene Marie and the Bruce Barth Trio
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 26th July 2014. First night of five. Review by Nicky Schrire)

Rene Marie - like Gregory Porter - is a fantastic example of a new wave of vocalists drawing on their wisdom and maturity to make a musical statement that fresh-faced ingénues can only aspire to. At fifty-eight years young, the first night of her five-night run at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club showcased her biting wit, unabashed femininity and vocal prowess with support from the perennially classy pianist Bruce Barth, drummer Stephen Keogh and bassist Mark Hodgson. These dates come near the end of the group's European tour during which the band has headlined at the prestigious San Sebastian Jazz Festival in Spain, .

Performing repertoire from her latest album I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt (Motema - REVIEWED HERE),as well as previously recorded material (Black Lace Freudian Slip a particularly delicious, bluesy highlight), Marie’s performance was beautifully audacious (including shimmying, growling, clicking and percussive vocal effects) yet hugely inclusive, as she invited the audience to sing along at various junctures.

Expressive, with a deep connection to the lyrical content of the songs she navigated, whether in French (C’est Si Bon) or English (Cole Porter’s Let’s Fall In Love and My Heart Belongs to Daddy), Marie displayed an innate ability to marry intelligence, humour and musical authenticity while giving her fellow musicians ample room to be heard and appreciated. New York pianist Bruce Barth was particularly dazzling with his musical, tasteful and dexterous playing.

Opening her second set with an entrancing a cappella medley of When You’re Smiling, Smile and Make Someone Happy, it was clear that Marie was not just smiling widely, but also making her audience very happy indeed.

Supported by the Global Music Foundation. Rene Marie and the Bruce Barth Trio perform for four more nights at Pizza Express (until Wednesday 30th July) before ending their tour performing in Tuscany, Italy.


BOOK REVIEW: Mark Robertson - Off Key

Mark Robertson - Off Key 
(Matador, 322pp., £8.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)

The strapline on the cover of this, drummer Mark Robertson’s first novel (though he has an award-winning TV play under his belt), claims that Off Key is ‘the greatest story ever told about love … and jazz (in Sunderland)’. This is undoubtedly true; it also neatly exemplifies the sardonic wit that characterises and enlivens the book, which is shot through with the slightly grim, world-weary wit so familiar in the jazz world.

The plot traces the fraught relationship between a feckless yet obsessively well-meaning saxophonist, Kyle, and a would-be barrister, Charlotte, who is torn between the world of her upper-middle-class parents and Kyle’s raffish, informal bohemianism. There is also an intriguing subplot involving an alcoholic jazz legend attempting to make a comeback (said saxophonist an ex-European Jazz Musician of the year, having cut his teeth with a thinly disguised Johnny Dankworth) and an autistic twelve-year-old who takes lessons from Kyle.

The book’s main attraction, however, is not the plotting (which basically follows a trajectory which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a feelgood romcom), but the detailed descriptions of the jazz musician’s life, on the road in unreliable vans, performing gigs in insalubrious venues, quarrelling endlessly over the division of the derisory spoils, but occasionally hitting musical heights that make the associated vicissitudes irrelevant. It is also commendable for the scrupulous attention it pays to its female characters, chiefly the wavering but fair-minded Charlotte, but also her feisty, witty and warm confidante, Dainty, who comes close to ‘stealing’ the book with her wisdom and wisecracks.

Sad to report, then (given the exuberance and sheer readability of the novel), that it appears not to have undergone any form of editorial process, routinely mixing up, as it does, its and it’s, your and you’re etc., misspelling words such as hiccup (hick-up), damned (dammed), linchpin (lynch pin), and (possibly worst offence of all) transforming our greatest female novelist into a car, Jane Austin. Punctuation is frankly chaotic, rendering some dialogue almost meaningless, and no decision seems to have been made concerning whether to use double or single quotes. I know I’m a tiresome fusspot on this subject (I recently refused to review a musician’s autobiography on this site because it contained literally hundreds of basic editorial mistakes), but books such as this deserve better from their publishers; what might have constituted an unequivocally enjoyable debut novel has been (avoidably) spoiled by cost-cutting.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Barbara Thompson MBE, 70 today

Barbara Thompson, Bonn 2010.
Photo Credit: Eckhard Henkel/ Wikimedia Commons

We wish saxophonist Barbara Thompson the happiest of seventieth birthdays today Sunday 27th July. Barbara Thompson's inspirational recent life has been chronicled in Mike Dibb's 2011 marvellous documentary Playing Against Time (Reviewed Here).

Birthday wishes have come in from many sources: composer/arranger Mike Gibbs, fellow saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, and several LondonJazz News contributors. (Thank you Colin Richardson for reminding us.)

Colosseum will be on  tour in Europe in October and November. And returning to London! Shepherds Bush Empire, 28th February 2015. Details from the Temple Music website.

=  =  =  =  =  =  =


Dear Barbara

Last time we hung out (at Pepi's Party! - about three/four years ago), you were planning a trip to (one of your) homes in France,

some tennis games,

and had a busy practicing routine with lots of music events on the horizon -

and now - word on the grapevine is that you're planning a tour -


Welcome to turning 70,

Congratulations - as this next phase begins.

With lots of love, and very best wishes, and the Happiest of Big Birthdays -

I will lookout for your tour schedule and catch you somewhere.

Lots of Love, Michael


 Hi Barbara - - happy birthday and remarkable career . Very humbled to see such tenacity in the face of a dreadful illness, my father battled with the same. Particularly difficult for a woodwind player. - - We didn't cross paths very much but I do have a nice memory of visiting yours and Jon's studio with the London Jazz Orch many years back and of you taking care of us all so well. Such hospitality and you prepared a beautiful spread of food to keep us all going. No mean feat! Have a great day. Best Wishes Stan Sulzmann

NADINE ANDRÉ (of the ensemble Trifarious):

Barbara Thompson is a very inspirational, dynamic lady. Her energy is infectious. Most of the time if I’m in a room with composers it can be quite nerve-racking, and they can be extremely pernickety. But she’s really great, open to ideas and suggestions. She’s really clear about what she wants and yet really respects the musicians and allows them to have a bit of input. She’s very open-minded. Thank you Barbara, and Happy Birthday.


Barbara is an inspiration to everyone she meets. Her passion for and dedication to music is formidable. Alongside her considerable personal achievements, she is totally committed to supporting other musicians. Happy 70th Birthday Barbara!


Since 1978, I have seen Barbara alongside Charlie Mariano, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ian Carr, Enrico Rava, Bill LeSage, Dave Greenslade, Michal Urbaniak, Eberhard Weber and, almost every time, her wonderful and lucky husband, Jon Hiseman. She is (still) under-appreciated as an instrumentalist, composer, arranger and an extremely generous teacher. In the nicest possible way, she is the ultimate Jazz Chick and always will be. I wish her a very happy birthday and all the best for the future. Andy

....ROB MALLOWS: Happy birthday - I have enjoyed your vibrant jazz since seeing you with Paraphernalia live in Yorkshire. Keep playing hard!.... ALISON BENTLEY: The fact that Barbara Thompson exists has always been inspirational.....MELODY AND IAN MCLAREN: (see also picture below) Happy 70th birthday to Barbara Thompson - your courageous journey and music are an inspiration to all of us. Best wishes from Melody and Ian McLaren

Ian McLaren, Barbara Thompson, Trish Clowes
St James's Piccadilly 15 November 2012. Photo Credit: Melody McLaren


REPORT: Jazz Promotion Network Conference, Manchester

Tony Dudley-Evans, Amy Pearce, John Blandford, Ian Perry and Steve Crocker at the
JPN conference. Manchester, July 2014

Kim Macari reports from the inaugural Jazz Promotion Network Conference in Manchester:

Following on from its first public meeting in September 2013 - COVERED HERE - the Jazz Promotion Network has just hosted its inaugural two-day conference in Manchester. One of the intentions was to use the time and experience in a room of 100 promoters, musicians, agents and industry professionals (DELEGATE LIST)to shape the future of the organisation. The network should be "self-motivated, self-determining, strategic and national", in the words of JPN instigator Nod Knowles.

Quite separate from the panel discussions and sessions set up over the course of the two days, the opportunity for delegates to put names to faces, share ideas and build connections, was a useful feature of the conference. Many delegates including Jazz North director Nigel Slee cited this as the most beneficial part of the event and an important role for the JPN to take on; regular networking sessions for its members.

The working group (LISTED HERE) had worked hard to structure the event to celebrate the successes from individuals and organisations in areas like international projects, touring, audience development and supporting emerging talent. Three touring organisations shared their expertise with JPN: Music Beyond Mainstream, Making Tracks and Rural Touring Forum. All three curated by committee and addressing different venue sizes, they provided food for thought for promoters keen for JPN to help facilitate tours for jazz musicians.

The international projects panel represented three of the many European organisations that are ambitiously and successfully developing and promoting jazz. Gerry Godley, the newly appointed Leeds College of Music principal (STORY HERE), described the 12 Points Festival and their dual goals to develop the careers of emerging jazz musicians and to align the Irish jazz scene closer to mainland Europe. He warned of the sense of ‘jazz nationalism’ and the tendency to cultivate a sense of isolation for scenes in Europe; the call for collective action in Europe was met with unanimous agreement.

Musician Najia Bagi touched briefly on an issue that JPN should address more fully in coming months; applying for project funding and how to write strong funding applications. Unsurprisingly, many delegates wanted to talk about the recent Jazz Services developments, with questions cropping up in almost every Q+A and small group session. Nod Knowles and Tony Dudley-Evans made time in the schedule to address the issue, reading the open letter written by Dominic MacGonigal to Alan Davey, and fielding questions. Knowles and Dudley-Evans were keen to point out that JPN are not an alternative Jazz Services. Unfortunately, Alan Davey’s open response (LINK HERE) came a day too late to be part of the discussion.

A particular highlight was the panel discussion with the Bad Plus. Their frankness and outside perspective was a welcome addition and they spoke eruditely about the challenges in audience development (perhaps the most widely discussed topic in the conference).

"Jazz asks where is the audience…what Jazz is reluctant to consider is that maybe a lot of it is just not very good" – Reid Anderson, Bad Plus

Anderson and Iverson both agreed that it is the joint responsibility of musicians and promoters to build audiences; the promoters must consider appropriate venues (inappropriate venues really hinder performances) and the musicians must work to develop their music, have a passion and a desire to communicate.

"If it’s good, they will come" Ethan Iverson

Drummer Dave King also talked about the way we promote jazz, referencing musicians like Ornette Coleman and their similarity to bands like Sonic Youth or Mogwai rather than other jazz. Thinking of jazz as an indie music, we should look to build that aura around jazz, to develop a sense of identity through a love of underground music.

The two day event drew to a close with a final session pulling together ideas for what the JPN should focus on doing as an organisation. The recurrent themes included hosting similar events annually, developing their website to act as a hub of information on venues, work permits, taxes etc and having a forum for JPN members to communicate and work together. Other suggestions to support funding applications to strive for every venue having a basic backline to help keep touring financially viable, were taken onboard.

It remains to be seen which of these the JPN opts to focus on first, but the tone of the conference was positive and forward-thinking and it is likely that other, unofficial collaborations and partnerships will form as a result of this meeting.

(Peter Bacon's Jazz Breakfast site also has coverage of the conference, notably the issue of Jazz Services.

The JPN conference was produced in partnership with the Manchester Jazz Festival and was supported by Arts Council England. WEBSITE


NEWS : Open Letter from Jazz Services to Arts Council England and (UPDATED) Reply

Dominic McGonigal, Chair of Jazz Services, has written an open letter to Alan Davey, Chief Executive of the Arts Council England - (and - UPDATE - received a reply from him) :

Dear Alan,

I am writing concerning Jazz Services and the future development of jazz in England.

The decision by the Arts Council not to fund Jazz Services has caused widespread concern among musicians and audiences. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition set up independently by vocalist Emily Saunders. Most have added comments, speaking eloquently about the impact on the jazz scene. Pianist Kit Downes spoke for many when he blogged on LondonJazz News:

“What’s happened now leaves the musicians with less power to do it themselves – something which is integral to both the history and survival of the music. To those that say it is wrong to rely so heavily on one organisation for this kind of help, I would say it is because they are the only ones that offer it.”

Whilst we are hugely supportive of the other jazz organisations you have funded in your NPO round and no doubt this will produce some excellent work in some regions, it does leave huge gaps in the jazz scene.

For example, audiences in Cornwall will become isolated from the national jazz scene from April 2015. Several promoters in the National Rural Touring Forum have told us they will stop promoting jazz next year and mid-sized venues have said they will no longer have jazz in their programming.

Furthermore, for many musicians Jazz Services has been instrumental in helping them establish a successful career and such artist development will not be available to the next generation of musicians.

Without Jazz Services, the opportunity for national touring for the grass roots jazz musician has now been removed. As a result, the promoters networks built up over many years are threatened and audiences in many parts of the country will lose their regular live jazz.

We understand the reasons for your decision. We accept that there were governance issues in Jazz Services at the time of the bid and that we did not demonstrate effective partnership working.

However, since our bid application, Jazz Services has changed significantly.

We now have solid governance, as confirmed by the Charity Commission. We have a new Chair, a new Vice Chair, new Patrons, new Trustees and a united Board.

Some NPO organisations included Jazz Services in their bid and will rely on us to deliver their programme. Following the news of the bid decision, other organisations have come forward in support of Jazz Services and are keen to work in partnership with us.

Already we have addressed underlying financing issues by increasing our advertising revenue and attracting new funds from charitable trusts.

As you know, we have already consulted the sector on the needs of musicians and audiences. We held an Open Meeting, we have launched a survey and we have actively solicited comments and discussion on social media.

This dialogue has confirmed that Jazz Services is unique. No other organisation in the sector is impartial, independent, not-for-profit and national.

This makes us uniquely positioned to maintain the infrastructure that has been built up over the years and to further develop artists and audiences for the sector.

We very much want, not only to continue our relationship with the Arts Council, but to turn it into a more productive partnership for the benefit of the sector.

We hope that you will entertain a fresh approach from us to maintain and develop:

Touring International Education Artist development Audience development

We will do this in partnership with promoters, festivals, other development agencies, public bodies and, of course, the musicians.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Dominic McGonigal Chair, Jazz Services Ltd.

This letter was first posted on the Jazz Services website HERE

o - o - o


Dominic McGonigal
Jazz Services
25 July 2014

Dear Dominic,

The link to your ‘open letter’ has been forwarded to me. As a rule, the Arts Council does not conduct its relationships in public, mindful of the sensitivities of organisations that have not been successful in securing funding. However, as you have chosen to make a public statement, I feel it is appropriate for me to reply publically(sic) , and to release this letter on the same terms as you have done.

Our reason for not granting funding to Jazz Services for 2015-18 was that we have scarce resources and we chose to fund other organisations, including a number of jazz organisations, which were stronger in terms of meeting our Goals.

I think we both share a passionate desire to support jazz development, and doing so effectively will involve a far wider set of decisions than pertain to one organisation. This is demonstrated by the other NPO investments that we have made. In addition to the broad range of festivals, regional development agencies, and promoters we continue to fund, we have brought new jazz NPOs into the portfolio, increasing the amount of NPO funding in jazz - Jazz Re:freshed, NYJO, the National Youth Jazz Collective, and Jazz North are all new to the portfolio and all have the vision and capacity to make substantial and distinctive contributions to jazz in England and beyond. At the same time, we are actively seeking to encourage applications for project funding with our contacts across the wider sector. I know this message has been conveyed to you in phone calls and meetings that have already taken place between Jazz Services and the Arts Council, with another meeting scheduled next week.

We are aware that people who have benefitted from Jazz Services support in the past are concerned about how they will be funded in future. They should be reassured - our intentions are clear. We want to support jazz artists, jazz touring, jazz promoters, international showcasing, jazz commissioning, jazz education: in other words, high quality jazz-related activity and investments that have an impact and represent good value for public money. As I write, a number of Music colleagues are making their way to Manchester to take part in the Jazz Promoters’ Network Conference, part of the Manchester Jazz Festival, and provide support to any delegate wanting advice on how to apply for Arts Council funding.

I am glad to hear that changes are being made to Jazz Services’ internal structure that you believe will have a positive impact on your work. This clearly gives us the basis for a good discussion which places the interests of jazz at its heart. I am also glad that you are seeing Helen Sprott, National Director of music next week. I urge you to continue the positive dialogue that I thought had been established in the hope that Jazz Services continues to play a part in supporting jazz in this country.

But most of all, we need to look at the wider picture and how to advance the interests of jazz as a developing and living artform. That’s what matters here.

Best wishes,

Alan Davey
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

Alan Davey's letter was first published HERE


PREVIEW: Elliot Galvin Trio + The Lydian Tree at the Vortex (Monday 28th July)

Elliot Galvin's Trio will be collaborating with Ben Corrigan's Lydian Tree at the Vortex. Michael Underwood previews their gig on Monday 28th July:

The Chaos Collective's residency at the Vortex continues with a night of experimental music and visuals from the Elliot Galvin Trio (recently awarded European Jazz Artist of the Year at the Burghausen Festival).Elliot Galvin (piano), Tom McCredie (bass) and Simon Roth (drums) will join forces for this one-off performance with London-based sculptor and electronic musician, Ben Corrigan. He'll be bringing his latest creation, the Lydian Tree, to add a twist to this already wild and quirky music. The Lydian Tree is 7 foot aluminium tree of sound and light that responds to touch. The 'Treeo' + the tree have been adapting their material for this unique concert that promises to be something of a treat....

Details/ tickets HERE.

LINKS Elliot Galvin Interview
Dreamland CD Review


PHOTOS: Agata Kubiak, Hilda Sibeck and Jon Mapp at the Ealing Jazz Festival

Hilda Sibeck. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska All Rights Reserved

The Ealing Jazz Festival started on Wednesday in Walpole Park, W5, and goes on till Sunday. Photographer Monika S. Jakubowska caught some of the acts on the South Stage yesterday. FULL PROGRAMME

JonMapp. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska. All Rights Reserved

Agata Kubiak. 2014 Ealing Jazz Festival
Photo Credit: Monika S.Jakubowska. All Rights Reserved


NEWS: The #4JazzFuture Campaign Develops Momentum

Emily Saunders' Petition protesting at the withdrawal of Arts Council funding from Jazz Services is approaching 6,000 signatures.


REVIEW: Brecker Brothers Band Reunion at Ronnie Scott’s

Randy Brecker and Ada Rovatti
Photo Credit: Andrew Lepley/Berks Jazz Fest, Reading, PA

Brecker Brothers Band Reunion
(Ronnie Scott’s, 22nd July 2014 (first of three nights). Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

In recent years, Randy Brecker has played and recorded with a wide range of cohorts from the past in the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion. Now – along with his wife, the Italian saxophone player Ada Rovatti - the four surviving principal members of the group that produced the album Heavy Metal Bebop in the late ‘70s have reconvenedfor a 15-date European tour.

At Ronnie Scott’s, the quintet delivered two 50-minute sets of spirited jazz/soul/funk that included several favourites from the old days, some newer material, and a couple of surprises.

Sporting his trademark Kangol cap, 68-year-old Brecker kicked off with a punchy Sponge. His incisive phrases and fiery tone were an immediate reminder that, despite his pedigree and relatively high profile, he is often under-appreciated as a trumpet stylist (and he’s also the band’s main composer). The second piece, First Tune of the Set was introduced with suitable humour and came with astonishingly accurate work from guitarist Barry Finnerty.

Thoughts of the great Michael Brecker were never far away, and – seven years after his death - the music composed or inspired by him gained a special poignancy. Straphangin’ was written during New York’s crippling subway strike in 1980, and it was one of the highlights of the gig. Despite a heavy cold, Rovatti played well and braved an unaccompanied passage on Funky Sea, Funky Dew. Finnerty’s ballad Mikey B – conceived immediately after a memorial gathering at New York’s Town Hall - was an affectionate tribute.

Although he was rarely featured, Neil Jason provided a rock-solid foundation and a powerful swing on electric bass. Drummer Terry Bozzio may have had fewer than the 53 cymbals in “The Big Kit” described on his website, but his hardware obscured him from much of the audience. He made a phenomenal noise, and worked incredibly hard on Some Skunk Funk as parts of the melody were negotiated at the same time as the complex rhythms.

Mose Allison’s philosophical and funny I Don’t Worry about a Thing was completely unexpected. Led by Finnerty’s grainy singing, it also contained a substantial, electronically-enhanced solo by Brecker. Rovatti’s airy, spacious sound came to the fore again during her own Ghost Stories, and she shone alongside her husband on the boiling unison line that introduced Rocks. Towards the end, East River was dominated by Jason’s vocals and a wonderful repetitive bass riff. The bluesy boogaloo of Inside Out brought this exciting performance to a close.

With this line-up of the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion, one’s thoughts of a “replacement” for an irreplaceable figure were largely avoided. Rovatti lacked the devastating drive and supreme fluency of her celebrated brother-in-law, but her warm tone and expansive approach complemented the controlled frenzy of her colleagues very well indeed. The passion and verve that distinguished the best editions of the Brecker Brothers Band was brilliantly retained.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Christian Scott at The Jazz Cafe, 26th July

Christian Scott plays at The Jazz Cafe on Saturday 26th July. Joe Stoddart interviewed him:

Joe Stoddart: You started playing at a young age with your uncle Donald Harrison. How integral to your musical development would you say playing in that environment was?

Christian Scott: It's hard to put into words how important the experiences my uncle gave me were to my development. I can't imagine where I would be if it weren't for his sacrificing certain aspects of his own career, to make sure I had the brightest future possible. He taught me to lead by example. He taught me to navigate the musical landscape, & the world with compassion & empathy.

JS: You've released an impressive amount of material for your age. Would you say your approach to playing or composition has changed markedly since your debut 'Christian Scott' and if so, how?

CS: My approach to everything that I do in music has changed. The biggest thing for me early on, was to figure out what I wanted people to know about me, my community, my culture & my generation. Now, I'm more concerned with reevaluating the way we communicate as musicians. It's sort of what this "Stretch Music" thing is all about.

JS: I read a quote from a few years ago where you said your uncle had told you 'not to listen to many of the trumpet players who are playing today so I wouldn't sound like them'. Do you still follow this practice?

CS: Absolutely.

JS: Hip-hop influence in jazz is reasonably prevalent in jazz these days but the alternative rock slant that you put into your music is altogether more rare. Where do you see the future of jazz both personally and as a genre?

CS: It's hard to say where a music this dynamic is trending. I happen to be a huge fan of alt rock music & to me it's only natural that my style of playing has been inundated with some of the conceptual elements that are indicative of that form.

JS: You've been working on the score for your brother's film 'Epilogue'. How did you find the transition to composing for film?

CS: When I was at Berklee my concentration was film scoring. When Kiel came to me with this project, I was elated to finally take a break from my touring life to create a back drop to this incredibly dynamic & heart wrenching story. Right now we're working on the sound palette & back drop to his next film "Samaria" the short version of his first full length feature "Epilouge". I feel both of these films are really going to blow people away & I'm excited he likes my music enough to have me involved in his film works.

JS: You've said that you have 27 songs catalogued that you are planning on forming into albums, are you expecting to do this soon?

CS: Yes. The next albums will be out in 2015. Touring with a new band, figuring out what the new sound will be and we'll probably be going into the studio to record the new projects in November.

Tickets for the gig are on sale HERE:.


INTERVIEW: Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne of LUME

Cath Roberts and Dee Byrne are the two London-based musicians behind the increasingly popular original and improvised music night, LUME. Alison Beck interviewed them:

Alison Beck: What gave you the idea for LUME in the first place?

Dee Byrne: From January 2012 I felt like I wanted to run a night. So I started doing it in various different venues. And one thing I found is that it’s very hard to do it on your own. Also, venues seem to close down on me!

Cath Roberts: We’d already met a few years before in 2006. And then we re-met because I hit Dee up for a gig at her Jazz at the Waterline night, and then I suddenly realised who it was that I was emailing. And we talked about doing a double bill with our bands. I’d also been thinking about doing a night.

AB: Why did you create this particular type of night, for original and improvised music?

CR: One reason is that I was thinking it would be nice to have a place where I could experiment with my own new work, because it’s very hard getting gigs,Also, I thought that to be able to give all my friends’ bands a gig would be amazing. The idea of being able to go to people and say, “Oh, do you fancy playing at our thing?” So it was a double-header of selfishness and altruism.

DB: I just liked the idea of putting on gigs, the feeling of creating something. It’s a satisfying feeling. You feel like you’re contributing to the scene, feeling part of it.

CR: you’re doing your bit for the scene I suppose, and the music you like. It’s a community service type vibe, you know [laughs].

AB: So how do you pick acts to perform? Is it quite random?

CR: People do email us now; that didn’t happen at first, but they do now. Our interests are in composition, and fully improvised music. The criteria are really just our taste; what we like to listen to, what we like to make ourselves. Composer-led bands are a big focus for us. Then we have listening sessions!

AB: LUME’s been going for a year now. Has there been a particular highlight, or an unforgettable moment?

DB: Well, what’s always nice is when you get loads of people come down. Paulo [Dias Duarte]’s gig at our old venue, it was packed.

CR: It was amazing. People were coming in and sitting on the floor. It was a great atmosphere. But that was the same night we found out we’d lost the venue! So it was a massive high, and a massive low.

AB: How's the venue you’re at now, Long White Cloud?

CR: The owners, Tannaz and Mehmet, they’re simultaneously very enthusiastic, but very hands-off. They’re really into the music and they’re always asking how it’s going, but they don’t want to have an input into the music – and they made us a pie with “LUME” written on it once!

DB: What I really like about Long White Cloud is that it’s a café, and the food and drink area is also where the music is. It’s more casual – you don’t have to come into a different room to hear the music.

CR: I like that it’s a café rather than a pub – they’ve got teas and coffee and cake, or you can have dinner. They have art on the walls too – it’s also an art gallery. Oh, and it’s very easy to get to on the overground to Hoxton, then it’s a two minute walk – it’s very near the Premises.

AB: What has been your biggest challenge so far in the last year?

DB: Losing venues. It’s really tough. It’s something that happens to a lot of nights; it’s the economic climate.

CR: You’ve got to find a venue that has the same goals as you. Pubs want to sell beers, they want bums on seats. We just want somewhere that’s stable but we can’t guarantee audience numbers. So it’s a process of finding somewhere that fits.

AB: Should we in the jazz community be reaching out to people who’ve never heard this kind of music before?

CR: Definitely. I think that’s definitely what we should be doing, but it’s very hard to know how to do that. I would love it if we could get ‘randoms’ – people who aren’t musicians - to come and check out what’s going on, that would be amazing. But it’s just very hard to know how could reach those people.

DB: We have had people come in who heard about it from the café, so there are people who come and check us out regularly.

CR: And we’ve had some really nice tweets from people that we don’t know, tweeting about having come to the gig maybe by accident, or they were in the café meeting a friend and they really enjoyed the music.

AB: Can you give me an example of a recent LUME gig that was particularly enjoyable?

Cath: Last week’s gig by Shatner’s Bassoon was really good. They’re a fantastic band. They’re from Leeds, and there are six of them: two drummers. No bassoons! The music’s really free, but the stuff that’s composed is so tight. Definitely check them out, they’re amazing. Their label is called Wasp Millionaire Records.

AB: What’s your long-term vision for LUME?

DB: It would be nice to have our own venue, wouldn’t it?

CR: Definitely. We’ve got a few medium-term things coming up too. We’ve got a Vortex residency coming up, and one goal is to make that successful. Long-term we’d like to do more of that: taking LUME to other venues and doing “LUME presents…”. Oh, and LUME is going to be part of the official London Jazz Festival programme again in November, which is going to take us to another audience: all those people that read the festival brochure.

DB: We’re planning a LUME Festival eventually, too. But the foundation is the weekly gigs, and everything else is an offshoot of that.

CR: And we want to make it sustainable as well; to build audience numbers, get some funding from here and there, to make sure that the pay for the artists can increase. It’s a door money gig, so the more help we can get, the better.

DB: We won the Jazz Promoters Award recently from Jazz Services and the PRS Foundation. That’s going to help us a lot, because we do so many gigs.

CR: Next year we should be able to subsidise the door takings a bit for the musicians. Also, we’ll be able to help bands who come from outside of London with their travel expenses. We’ll be able to cover our costs on promotion as well, because we spend quite a lot on printing. We’re skint, basically. So sustainability has got to be the long-term goal really.

AB: If you woke up tomorrow and there’d been a miracle, what would LUME be like?

DB: Ha! Well, we’d be paid to run LUME. Six figure salaries.

CR: Someone would have given us a random venue space, totally rent-free. It’s horrible to say that the miracle would be money –

DB: - but the money would enable us to make it sustainable, and we could pay the bands a really good wage. And we’d have enough money for good promotion. That would be nice…

AB: Tell me about your Vortex residency that’s coming up.

CR: We didn’t plan it at all. We just got an email from the Vortex saying did we want to do it! They had a regular Sunday night slot they wanted to fill. It’s great because we can book bands that are physically bigger, because they’ll fit on the bigger stage, and there’s a piano. It’ll be the first Sunday of the month, for five months starting in August. So we’re really excited.

AB: Jazz is pretty much a man’s world, and you’re both women . Has that ever been an issue?

DB: I don’t think it’s ever been an issue in LUME because we control who we book.

CR: It’s actually really nice being two women working together in this scene, because there aren’t that many of us, and so there is a feeling of solidarity. We have a shared perspective.

DB: You can’t help but have a feeling of solidarity if you’re both in a minority. There’s an instant connection. The industry is male-dominated, and I guess it’s nice to know the few women that are around, be friends with them, and work with them.

CR: It’s great when we have female bandleaders coming to LUME, and we encourage that.

DB: We’ve got Julie Kjaer and Emma Jean Thackray coming up; we’ve had Lauren Kinsella, Hannah Marshall, Rachel Musson. AB: Any advice for people thinking of setting up their own night? CR: Make sure you’re on the same page musically. DB: You’ve got to be a bit mad to do it, I think.

CR: Be ready to put hours and hours of admin in. And list your night in every free listing website going. It seems like a massive faff, but at least then you’ve done everything you possibly can do.

DB: You’ve got to be ready to put your own cash into it, too. We’ve had to.

AB: What do you each do outside of LUME?

DB: I’m a saxophonist and I play in various original projects. I’ve got my own band, Entropi, and we just recorded our debut album, and I’m very happy that we managed to get funding from the Recording Support Scheme from Jazz Services. It’s going to be released on the F-iRE record label. And I’m project manager for the National Youth Jazz Collective too. I’m also in a duo called Deemer with a sound artist called Merijn Royaards from Holland; it’s quite experimental, we use some very strange electronics.

Cath Roberts: I’m a sax player too, and I’ve got my band, Quadraceratops, which has been going for three years. I write the music for that, and it’s releasing its first album with Efpi Records in October. I’ve got a duo as well, called Ripsaw Catfish, which is a free improv duo with guitarist Anton Hunter. We’re doing a collaborative touring project in the autumn with Sound and Music, called ‘Shoaling’, which I’m excited about!

LUME takes place every Thursday night at Long White Cloud in Hoxton. Check out their website for upcoming gig listings.

LUME presents… at the Vortex begins on Sunday 3rd August, and continues on the first Sunday of the month for the rest of 2014.

Cath and Dee are also working on a new project called ‘Saxoctopus’: an all-saxophone octet. Catch them at LUME presents… in December.


REVIEW: Pop-Up Circus at Rich Mix - The Story of the Moon

The Pop-Up Circus Big Band directed by Andrew Oliver

Pop-Up Circus: The Story of the Moon 
(Rich Mix. 20th July. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

Forty-five years on, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins would no doubt be amused and warmed to see how enthusiastically and creatively their legacy was being remembered at the Pop-Up Circus event at Rich Mix in Brick Lane, celebrating the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

The tautology-toying Gods of Apollo set the tone for the evening. A five piece instrumental group weaved audio snippets from NASA's archives into their varied avant-garde sound. With strong interplay between the tenor and soprano saxophones, the texture of the performance built on the gritty 1960s recordings, sourced from the legendary dialogue of the space missions themselves, the warm analogue hum left in its absence, and the restrained throbbing backing of Jon Ormston's drums. While the NASA audio may have lent the piece an American bias, marking the success of one superpower over the other in the Space Race, composer/instigator/saxophonist Rob Cope was keen to point out, his piece had initially sparked into existence by the Soviet space program of the late 1950s, and the peculiar remark that Sputnik, and most of its satellite descendents, merrily beeped a concert D.

The collective performance scaled back, giving each individual an opportunity to explore the outer ranges of their instruments, and that was when the visual backdrop behind the band came into its own. Assembled by Manuel Fernandez, a sequence of animations and video collages was projected above the musicians, moving from themes of bacteria and animals (National Geographic and the BBC featuring strongly) through to the onset of mechanisation and mass-production, and finally the rapid scientific development in aerodynamics and aeronautics that led to the space programs' eventual success, shown in research film footage of fighter pilots having their bodies pushed to the limits by high G forces.

As the mesmerising combination of Hernandez’s animation and Gods of Apollo’s set came to an end, the sensory overload continued: all around people were painting small foam planets, helium balloons floated near the ceiling, and Katarzyna Witek and accomplices performed a short interpretive dance. An interesting foil to the jazz which preceded it, the four dancers, accompanied ably by Alex Roth on guitar and Alex Bonney with his trumpet and laptop, gave the jazz-savvy audience an opportunity to be reminded of what it is like to be nudged from your comfort zone and to concentrate on something unfamiliar and unexpected.

As the strains of the obligatory Sun Ra interval tracks faded into the background, Pop-Up Circus organiser Simon Roth introduced the 20-strong scratch Big Band for the second part of the evening. A group who appear sporadically to perform a rare mix of new compositions and jazz standards on wildly different themes were accompanied on this occasion by the surreal sight of many busy hands above the bands' heads illustrating space scenes. Apt and neat renditions of Fly Me to the Moon and It's Only a Paper Moon book-ended a set of exciting new pieces by friends and band members: amongst them a stomping Balkan piece imagined from a dystopian space parodies, juxtaposing chaotic brass lines with contained vibraphone work; another inspired by the Cassini-telescopes photographic successes and built around Conor Chaplin's electric bass and a Alex Roth’s strong guitar line.

Each new piece arrived with a scholarly introduction from conductor Andrew Oliver, thoroughly explaining at length the context of each composition, and any interesting asides en route. The pre-amble was strongest for his own piece Saturn V, charting the three stages in the journey of the most powerful rocket ever to have left the earth’s surface. Tom Green's trombone introduction heralded the ominous expectation of the countdown as the ensemble joined for the apocalyptic launch , before clarifying into an accelerating resolve, and dwindling into orbit and breakup, here as before Ralph Wyld's vibes crucial to achieving that bona fide 'space' sound.

Mechanical Moon closed the evening, a new group re-interpreting the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, with an expected lunar bent, into a compact 5-man rocky format. Erica Jarnes delivering the poetry with passion (and occasionally props) with a Joni Mitchell air, the music driven forwards by the strongly characterful drumming of Dan Paton.

While a close and stormy weekend was coming to an end, Pop-Up Circus’ multimedia onslaught and eclectic line-up did a fantastic job of firing a room in humid East London, and transporting the minds of an audience to places far, far away.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Gabriel Garrick / TW12 Jazz Festival . Sunday August 3rd

We interviewed trumpeter Gabriel Garrick, whose New Quartet will be appearing at 7pm on Sunday August 3rd at the second TW12 Jazz Festival at the Playhouse in Hampton Hill. 

LondonJazz News: Tell us about the New Quartet

Gabriel Garrick: I have a New Quartet featuring Terrence Collie on piano, Andy Hamill on bass and Paul Cavaciuti on drums.

LJN: And how did you get together?

GG: We met at a gig on which I was the featured soloist of the night and they were the house rhythm section. This was at 'Jazz at Retro' in Twickenham.

LJN: And it clicked from the start?

GG: We played standards the whole night and had a really good time. It was striking just how well we all felt musically when playing as a group. This feeling was worth capitalising on so we agreed to form a casual relationship and start playing as a quartet on a more regular basis.

LJN: What do you choose to play?

GG: When playing standards we choose those which we all know well so can have the best relaxed attitude on each as a vehicle for our jazz creation. On the original gig and since then this philosophy has been the inspiration for tremendous contrasts and stylistic changes that have occurred both abruptly and subtly when performing them due to the freedom inherent through knowledge.

LJN: But you are also a composer...

GG: I have written one or two new tunes for the quartet and also we have been drawing from the vast well of creative output from my Dad's pen who had a 'New Quartet' of his own.

LJN: And this group has helped to crystallize some thoughts about what you do as a jazz musician?

GG: What I dig about this quartet is all about it's 'feeling' and 'feel' emotively and musically. This brings me back to what I feel jazz is primarily about - a 'feeling'.

LondonJazz News: And the date?

Gabriel Garrick: We're looking forward to playing at TW12 festival on Sunday August 3rd at 7pm, and hope to see you there!

= = = = =

TW12 JAZZ FESTIVAL FULL SCHEDULE (all events except the Saturday jam session at Hampton Hill Playhouse.


20:00 Jam Session at the Bell Inn, Hampton



12:00 - Richmond Youth Jazz Band (Theatre Foyer)

13:00 - McCormack and Yarde

14:20 - John Etheridge

15:30 - Janet and Friends

17:00 - Graeme Flowers Band


19:00 - Gabriel Garrick Quartet

20:15 - Shireen Francis Band

21:30 - Gwilym Simcock Trio

All tickets for the festival must be bought in advance and cannot be purchased on the door. TICKETS 


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2014 Marlborough International Jazz Festival

2014 Marlborough International Jazz Festival
(Marlborough Wiltshire, 18-20 July 2014. Round-up by Tamsin Collison)

For one mad weekend in July, the Jazz Festival comes to town. Public spaces all over Marlborough in Wiltshire are transformed into impromptu venues, music pours out of every door.

Founded in 1986 by the redoubtable Nick Fogg, the Marlborough International Jazz Festival has been going for nearly thirty years, and as its reputation has grown, so has the breadth of programming it offers. This year there were over 60 acts on the Saturday bill, plus a further 25 on the Friday night. and Clare Teal headlining on the Sunday. Marlborough embraces local talent and world-famous names with equal enthusiasm, juxtaposing big bands, small bands, old bands, new bands, local bands, international bands and jazz royalty. All you need to do is buy yourself a ticket and dive in.

The highlight on the bill for me this time was the Bratislava Hot Serenaders, an old-school 18-piece orchestra specialising in 1920s 'hot jazz', led by trumpeter Juraj Bartoš, and featuring a close-harmony girl trio and two male crooners (one of whom was a dead ringer for UK bandleader Carol Gibbons). The band earned a rapturous standing ovation for their dazzling performance of Rhapsody in Blue, played in competition with a torrential cloudburst drumming on the roof, which threatened to drown them out and, quite possibly, to demolish their marquee. (With accidentally brilliant comic timing, the following number was Outside It's Raining...)

Other acts I caught on Saturday included ebullient drumming maestro Sticky Wicket and his Swing Orchestra; New Yorker Daryl Sherman, channeling the late great Blossom Dearie and recalling life as resident pianist at New York's Algonquin Hotel; rising contemporary jazz sextet Metamorphic; the ever-entertaining Red Stripe Band (in their 20th year at Marlborough); Roger Winslet's classy tribute to Chet Baker; the jazz vocal ensemble Take Twenty; vocalist/bassist Nicola Farnon's trio; and George Haslam's New Tricks, featuring Bobby Wellins, Steve Waterman and co. For me, a great evening was wound up with a gig of my own, in the company of Geoff Castle, Andy Cleyndert and Paul Cavaciuti. It was certainly a pretty eclectic range of musicians to find on a single High Street, but there’s room for all sorts. And everyone who plays at Marlborough enjoys the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly, appreciative audiences.

LINK: 2013 round-up by Rosie Walters

The 2015 Marlborough International Jazz Festival will run from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th July. WEBSITE