PREVIEW: Cedric Hanriot City of Poets Tour - UK dates Sept 22-25)

Cedric Hanriot (centre) on a recent album project with Terri Lyne Carrington (left)
and John Patittucci (right) Photo credit: Beth Oram

Pianist/composer/producer Cedric Hanriot (biography) was born in the Lorraine region of France in 1976. As a musician he was a relatively late starter, having first studied electronics and audio processing at university. He entered the Conservatoire in Metz in 1998,  and later had formative years at Berklee. He was called on by Herbie Hancock to work with him and Lang Lang on a major 2012 tour. Terri Lyne Carrington says of him "He is one of the most talented musicians I know." He has also recently co-produced an album for Dianne Reeves. Michael Janisch, who will be playing in the quintet, and whose Whirlwind Recordings label will be releasing the album to emerge from the current tour says of him: "He's one of France's biggest exports but is not known much in the UK. He's just one of those great guys that does so much stuff at a high level"

Cedric Hanriot has written for us about his current project, City of Poets:

City of Poets is a brand new project that Jason Palmer and I put together this year. This project features Jason on trumpet, Donny McCaslin on saxophone, Michael Janisch on bass, Clarence Penn on drums, and myself on piano and electronics.

Jason and I were fortunate enough to receive the FAJE (French-American Jazz Exchange) grant ($25,000) and this money is going to help the project to tour and to record an album. FAJE supports projects jointly conceived by French and American professional musicians with an emphasis on encouraging artistic exploration, fostering intercultural dialogue, and contributing to the dynamism of jazz. This grant is highly competitive: only five projects were selected last year.

The music that Jason and I have written is a musical homage to sciene fiction author Dan Simmons, utilizing the concepts of Olivier Messiaen’s modes.

Dan Simmon’s 1989 novel “Hyperion” tells the tale of a civilization that struggles to co-exist with the highly evolved and intelligent machines that it has created. The book detail the quest of seven pilgrims as they journey to Hyperion. Our project’s goal was to transfer our fascination with Simmon’s emotional stories into original and improvisational music based on the famed “seven modes of limited transposition”, compiled in the 1940s by French composer Olivier Messiaen, who is a monumental influence both on myself and on Jason. Everybody in the band is very excited to play, as it’s going to be a brand new repertoire, and also because we haven't played with all of us together yet.

We are also very excited that, right in the middle of the tour, we are going to do a live recording at Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. Our goal is to deliver the energy and intensity of our music to an album. This is my second time to play in London, and I’m really excited to be back. The album will be released on Whirlwind Recordings sometime in 2015 and our booking agent in the US and my French agent will book one or a couple of tours next year around the release of the album so look out. We hope to see you at our London show.


Sept 16-20 Dates in US
Sept 22: Live recording at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, UK
Sept 23: Dempsey’s, Cardiff, Wales
Sept 24: Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London, UK
Sept 25: Royal Academy of Music, London, UK
Sept 26: Sunside Jazz Club, Pianissimo Festival, Paris, F
Sept 27: Sunside Jazz Club, Pianissimo Festival, Paris, F



REVIEW: Kokomo at the 100 Club

Kokomo: Neil Hubbard, Tony O'Malley, Dyan Birch
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights reserved.
(100 Club, 27th August 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Whereas some bands of their vintage may struggle to keep the flame alight - and others resort to boosting their bank accounts through endless and desperate reunion tours - Kokomo have retained their natural freshness and a genuine love of the music. This fearsomely fiery, funky and soulful ten-piece provides a near-ideal combination of sophistication, high-end quality, spontaneity and enjoyment.

Under the watchful eye, keyboards and gravel-voice of Tony O'Malley, with singer, Frank Collins, as sparkling up-front MC, the core Kokomo band, whose roots go back to pop band Arrival, are augmented by an impressive rhythm section. Together, they served up an irresistible menu of freshly interpreted favourites and distinctive versions of soul classics.

The tentet threw themselves in to Third Time Around and Yes We Can Can with collective precision, shining the spotlight on the finely balanced vocal triumvirate of Collins, Dyan Birch and Paddy McHugh, and powered by the pumping rhythm engine of Frank Tontoh, Jennifer Maidman, and Glen Le Fleur. I'm Sorry, Babe was dedicated to its author and the band's co-founder, Alan Spenner, and revealed a neat, Beatles-esque melodic twist.

Bluesy routes were explored on O'Malley's Naked Flame, with immaculate vocal harmonies from McHugh and Collins, while Neil Hubbard's stunning, searing guitar solo, measured, carefully mined from his Gibson, was the fitting foil to O'Malley's rolling gumbo piano groove.

Birch, who left the stage for a short spell, rejoined to add that extra dimension to the vocal shine on the feverishly gospel drive of With Everything I Feel in Me, and on the magically mellow Angel, where the rest of the band fell away to let the trio drift out memorably on the words '... keep searching, keep searching ...'.

The perennial I Can Understand it was given new twists and turns and a beautifully constructed, softly spun guitar solo from Jim Mullen, briefly quoting from My Favourite Things, doubtless with Coltrane in mind.

Nigel Hitchcock, the safest pair of sax hands, added assured phrasing, just when needed, to bulk out the melody and flew in his solo spots. Tontoh had the broadest of grins all the way through as he built up the funkiest of frying foundations, while Maidman delivered a demon bass solo in the flurry of solo rounds in the maelstrom of the second encore, Hathaway's The Ghetto, to which Collins exhorted the audience to chant along in unison.

Seeing the mighty Kokomo, blue-eyed British soul survivors, splendidly flexing their funk at the 100 Club, after a gap of a mere thirty eight years since they last appeared there, was a real joy. Only the cream of British funk could bring off a reunion like this so successfully. Here's hoping for a reunion of the reunion.


Frank Collins; Paddie McHugh, Dyan Birch: vocals
Jim Mullen, Neil Hubbard: guitars
Tony O’Malley: keyboards, vocals
with Nigel Hitchcock: sax Jennifer Maidman: bass Frank Tontoh: drums Glenn Le Fleur: congas


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2014 Gaume Jazz Festival

Achille Oattara and Zouratie Kone of Afrikän Protoköl

2014 Gaume Jazz Festival
(Rossignol-Tintigny, Belgium. 8-10 August. Round-up review by Oliver Weindling)

When you attend the Gaume festival in Eastern Belgium, you happily acquiesce to the choices of Jean-Pierre Bissot, one of the most imaginative promoters and organisers in Europe, and his close-knit group of helpers.

"It's a family affair," wrote Alison Bentley's in her round-up last year. This year that congenial vibe was put to the test by the terrible weather on both Friday and Sunday. It failed to dampen the energy of the festival's music, but it did mean that it wasn't possible to enjoy the outside area as much as one should have (especially for the local Orval and Rulles beers to be enjoyed with burger of hot dog). Two concerts really suffered from the storm: the Finnish group Gourmet, and also the set by up-and-coming French vocalist Leila Martial which had been developing in a striking manner, until the moment when it was cut cruelly short.

A regular highlight of this festival is the commitment to premieres and commissions, in which invited musicians are given a “carte blanche.” There was one of these on each day, and they proved a very diverse bunch indeed.

On Friday this slot went to Mik Mâäk, an extended version of Mâäk's Spirit, one of the leading collectives, focussing on horns and wind instruments. By now the members of this group are stars in their own right, such as trumpeter Laurent Blondiau and saxophonist Guillaume Orti. Telling contributions also came from Michel Massot on tuba and from Fabio Biondini on piano. It started the main festival off with style, making up for the horrific outside weather.

Saturday's commission was entrusted to Igor Gehenot, the new rising star of Belgian piano who played at the Vortex in the 2013 London Jazz Festival, melded his own trio with the Polish Atom String Quartet, which some of the newly emergent quartets in Europe (such as Zapp in Netherlands or Elysian in the UK) we have musicians who can not just play as a tight ensemble but are all strong improvisers. As might be expected from such a new collaboration it still remained a bit tentative, focussing much on Gehenot's melodic approach. A few more performances will probably give it a refreshing dynamism.

The third commission went to Antoine Pierre, a young drummer en route to New York. The focus of the show was Enrico Pieranunzi, playing a number of his tunes, first as a lyrical trio with Pierre and Philippe Aerts, who is a bassist to choose when lyricism is required. We had heard Aerts with Igor Gehenot earlier and a highlight in 2013 has been when he worked with Nathalie Loriers and Tineke Postma. The horn section was extended to include Steve Houben on alto and Antoine's guitarist father proudly sat in on 12 string guitar. A fine celebration and send-off.

As ever, there were a number of other memorable concerts. Atom String Quartet moved to the more intimate setting of the church on Sunday and gave a performance of their own music which was gripping. One minute sounding like Bartok, the next like one of the string quartets playing the music of Zorn. Poland has a great tradition of violinists in jazz, such as Zbigniew Seifert and Michal Urbaniak and they take this one level further. Watch this space, certainly.

Another on the main stage was a trio of Majjid Bekkas, who is equally versed in North African and European improvisational styles. He helps Jean-Pierre Bissot programme the Jazz au Chellah festival in Rabat in Morocco (2013 reviewed here). He plays in the trio of Joachim Kühn on guimbri, the punchy three-string bass lute. Here his Afro-Oriental Trio, where he played oud as well as guimbri, evoked the sound world of the likes of Anouar Brahem, with Khalid Khouen on percussion and tabla, and Manu Hermia on saxophones. Hermia is a player with an equal awareness of how to merge global sounds within the jazz context, as I have heard on several occasions here at Gaume, though he has not ventured enough to the UK. (Indeed, I heard about a new trio that he is doing with Sylvain Darrifourcq, the drummer in Barbacana with Kit Downes and James Allsopp.) The interplay, such as on Don Cherry's Mopti, was exquisite and the new album, to appear on Igloo, is eagerly awaited.

Drummer Teun Verbruggen performed for the second time in a piano trio with Pierre de Surgeres, a trio that focussed more on rhythm and harmony than Gehenot. A chance to site in the front row by Verbruggen gave a chance to appreciate why has become one of the “go-to” drummers in Belgium. He has been in London several times with Flat Earth Society and his own Bureau of Atomic Tourism and he will be back in the trio Too Noisy Fish in London in September.

Gaume this year had a number of the newer generation of Israeli musicians. Ofri Nehemya has become, at 19, Avishai Cohen's drummer, and so expectations are high. He presented his own quartet of young cohorts. Assured as with many such groups, but, hopefully, to develop his unique voice soon. Solo bassist Adam Ben-Ezra performed on the outdoor stage. Judicious use of looping and effects allowed him to build the instrument to be a fully-fledged accompaniment to his singing.

Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven is a classically-oriented pianist and, on Sunday afternoon, he managed to make the main tent seem like an intimate club venue in his thoughtful solo set where his melodic inner voicings were a joy.

Saturday was dry and Afrikän Protoköl were much appreciated, particularly for their ability to meld West African and Western European music in a way that encouraged dancing. They reminded me of Outhouse Ruhabi and Fofoulah, though they took their African influence from Burkina Faso rather than The Gambia.

This year's festival was the 30th and all congratulations to Jean-Pierre and the team for achieving such a milestone. Nestling in the Ardennes, you wouldn't expect such a forward-looking event. Irrespective of the natural beauty of the area, such as the wine-growing region around Torgny, or the meandering Sémois, this festival has become an essential attraction for the region and here's hoping that this beacon for contemporary jazz continues for many years! It's so easy to get to from London by train, and is just 3 miles from the main line from Brussels to Luxembourg.

The Gaume Jazz Festival is produced by the Jeunesses Musicales du Luxembourg belge.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Nicky Schrire (Pheasantry, Sunday 28th Sept)

Nicky Schrire
Nicky Schrire arrived recently from New York to live in London, and will be performing at the Pheasantry on 28th September, and at Carnegie Hall's UBUNTU Festival - back in New York - in October. We interviewed her:  
LondonJazz News: You’ve got an attachment to several cities - London, New York, Cape Town - what's your story?

Nicky Schrire: My parents are South African and lived in London for about thirty years during which time they had children. They moved my siblings and me to Cape Town, South Africa in 1991, after Mandela's release from Robben Island. So I grew up in SA and feel very much South African as a result of having spent eighteen years there.

I got my Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Cape Town’s SA College of Music, and then moved to New York to pursue my Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music. I graduated in 2011 and spent the following three years living in the city, working both in music and arts-related fields, meeting musicians and playing in venues in NYC, Boston, Los Angeles and Portland.

LJN: And what made you leave New York and come to London?

NS: Earlier this year, it became apparent to me that my relationship with NYC had run its course (for now, at least). I love Cape Town and my immediate family and friends are there, but I’m not ready to live there again. New York had given me the experience of living in a real city, a place with great public transport, a buzzing cultural scene and a cosmopolitan pace. I knew that I wanted to carry on living in that kind of environment, but with a little more space (to think and live), greenery and family and friends. And that’s how I find myself in lovely London, partaking in ample scone ceremonies and pilgrimages to Jane Austen’s house!

LJN: In the course of releasing two albums and an EP, several journalists have compared you to musicians like Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens, Norma Winstone, and even Esperanza Spalding. Your music also gets labelled as “pop jazz” or “jazz singer-songwriter” material. How would you categorise or describe your music?

NS: It’s hugely flattering to be compared to those vocalists. For writers and listeners to hear even an inkling of their influences in my music and delivery is immensely validating.

Gretchen is one of the first people I approached for a lesson when I visited New York in 2007. I adored (still do!) her debut self-titled album and was thrilled to meet her in person and to enter into a kind of unassuming mentorship with her. She’s very thoughtful and chooses her words carefully creating a gentle manner of guidance. I feel similarly about Norma. I’ve only ever had one lesson with her and it was more like an extended “tea time with Norma”. I basically asked her questions about her musical adventures until she found a way to have me forcibly removed from her abode! She was incredibly generous and is quite underrated and understated while being a truly progressive voice in the jazz vocal industry-historically and currently.

I love Becca’s music and feel lucky to be part of a generation that is seeing the rise of people as creative, versatile and musically exciting as her. And of course there are other singers I’ve been likened to that, for personal reasons, make me feel like I’m on the right track or at least absorbing good things from good people-the magical Kate McGarry and Sara Gazarek are two of those people.

I really don’t mind labels in music and I understand why many people need to categorise things. I was schooled in the American jazz tradition and I learnt how to scat and sing gems by George Gershwin and Cole Porter. However, I also grew up listening to radio programs blasting Top 40 tunes and being force fed a musical diet of Julie Andrews meets Blood, Sweat and Tears thanks to my parents. As a result, I’ve found it more interesting to try and blend the various styles I love (pop, folk, contemporary classical, South African music) with the jazz foundation I’ve developed.

I’ve taken the aspects I love most in jazz-improvisation, reharmonisation- and tried to maintain their presence while reimagining songs by The Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as writing original music in that vein. I believe in the strength of a well-constructed song. A tune with poignant but clever lyrics, a memorable melody, a grounded sense of harmony. That’s the kind of music I’d like to compose.

LJN: What repertoire will you be playing at The Pheasantry on Sunday 28 September?

NS: This concert will probably be the best balanced performance I’ve done in a while. There will be music from my first album Freedom Flight - since I moved towards playing mostly original repertoire this recording doesn’t really get a look in because it contains mostly covers. But we’ll be revisiting the token two original tunes on it. There will also be a song or two from my duo album Space and Time as well as some solo voice pieces. The majority of the music will be originals that have yet to be recorded but have been in existence for three or so years. And there will also be some songs from the South African jazz lexicon that I’m airing before performing them in New York for Carnegie Hall’s UBUNTU Festival, which celebrates South African musicians and music.

LJN: As a relative newcomer to the London jazz scene, how did you choose the musicians who’ll be performing with you?

Nicky Schrire: I spend a lot, and I mean a lot, of time on the internet doing research. This was especially true when I started contemplating moving to London. I like to know about various scenes, how the dots connect, who’s playing with whom, and which venues/festivals/movers and shakers are worth knowing about.

So, I definitely made sure I approached musicians who would be a good fit for my music and me. Tom Hewson (piano) had played with vocalists I knew and I was really impressed by a solo album of his Slightly Peculiar. His writing and actual playing spoke to me immediately. A friend recommended I check out bassist Matt Ridley and I really liked his versatility (folk, West End, world music) and the fact that he’d played with Darius Brubeck. A South African connection is a good thing in my books! (Darius founded and led the jazz program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal before moving to the UK).

I was an admirer of Adam Waldmann’s work as a saxophonist and leader of Kairos 4tet. Their last recording “Everything We Hold” was particularly moving and featured several singers, so I knew that Adam was someone who enjoyed working with vocalists. That’s really important to me because there’s nothing more challenging and disappointing than finding yourself on the bandstand with instrumentalists who loathe vocalists. Lloyd Haines was recommended by several people-always a good sign. I listened to his playing online and was impressed by his sensitivity but also presence. There's nothing worse than a drummer who sees a singer take the bandstand and switches to brushes! I thought Lloyd would be a colourful drummer and would keep me on my toes, along with the rest of the lads.

They’re all tremendous musicians, with lovely personalities, and I’m really looking forward to hearing how they breathe life into this music and put their stamp on it.

Nicky Schrire Quartet featuring Adam Waldmann play at The Pheasantry, Kings Road on Sunday 28th September, music from 8:00pm.

Nicky Schrire's website / BOOKINGS

LINKS: Review of CD space and time / Review of CD/ EP  To the Spring


CD REVIEW: Arthur Barron, Dave Liebman, Abel Pabon - The Miami Jazz Project

Arthur Barron, Dave Liebman, Abel Pabon - The Miami Jazz Project
(ZOHO ZM 201409. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

South Florida-based saxophonist and flautist Arthur Barron describes The Miami Jazz Project as “an extension of the tradition that Miles and other bands like Weather Report laid down”.

With that assertion in mind, the opening piece - John Coltrane’s blues Dahomey Dance - comes as something of a surprise, in that it is strongly rooted in Coltrane and McCoy Tyner's 1961 original, and makes its impact through powerful solos by Barron and his old friend and one-time teacher Dave Liebman (and enhanced by the vibraphone of Alfredo Chacon) A similar gravitas exists on Barron's fine composition Mr. Q, which has Elvin Jones-like accents to underpin its call-and-response melody.

Several tracks do indeed go in the direction of Barron's statement. Lordy Lourdes has a backbeat, a mysterious flute-led Middle Eastern scale and synthethised violin sounds. The saxophone motif of Jinnistan has a similar melody, and its restless riff, unfettered solos and wail of electric keyboards recall the progressive rock-jazz of bands like Colosseum. Winter Day is a peaceful tune with acoustic piano and soprano sax, but it suffers from a synthesized backdrop and superfluous percussion. Together, these new pieces sound dated, and whether they constitute an "extension" of the exploratory worlds of, say, Dark Magus and Black Market is open to debate.

The link between these styles is Liebman: he played with Miles in the early 1970s, produced his own take on jazz-funk a few years later, took an abiding interest in ethnic music, and became a leading authority and interpreter of Coltrane’s music. Slow Dance on the Killing Ground - built on a fast bass and drums riff - first appeared on Liebman’s album Light’n Up, Please! (recorded in the mid-‘70s for A&M, where Barron was a co-producer). Although it doesn’t do much for me, this furious track may be the one that extends “the tradition” more than any other.

The rhythm section plays a central role in creating diverse flavours, and keyboardist Abel Pabon is particularly chameleonic. Josh Allen on acoustic and electric basses, and Eric England (electric bass on one track) acquit themselves well, and drummer Michael Piolet impresses with the swing of Elvin, the power of Al Foster and the precision of Bill Bruford.

Some tunes stand apart from the others. Missing Person is a duet for the saxophonists, during which it is hard to tell where the improvisation diverges from the written lines. Commissioned by (and named after) a German amateur saxophonist, Scheer Joy has lyrical electric piano, features Liebman’s soprano, and is the best of the ballads.

If  your hands - like mine – go clammy at the mere mention of Liebman's name, you will be disappointed to hear that most of this CD lacks the searing intensity of his finest work. However, the music may appeal to many listeners for its retro qualities and the variety that Barron offers, and purists will certainly enjoy the two Coltrane-related tracks.


NEWS: Launch of new Jamie Cullum jazz album Interlude announced today

Just a few days after his 35th birthday, a new album release by Jamie Cullum on Island Records is announced. Release date is 6 October.

Interlude will be a jazz album and will featuring guests Laura Mvula and Gregory Porter. The opening track, Interlude is a catchy, laid-back vocal version of A Night in Tunisia, followed by a speeded up, sassy blues Don't You Know.

Jamie says, “I just thought Interlude was a perfect title for the album ’cause this is genuinely my first proper jazz record. I can pretend that I’ve made albums like this before. But I haven’t. All recorded live in one room in single takes. The whole thing was totally organic and free flowing. Great musicians and engineers doing what comes naturally. A real joyous process - sounds like it too I reckon!"

The CD plus DVD combination - with a live set from Jazz a Vienne - is available for pre-order.

UPDATE 28th August - Interlude Tour Dates

17/09 - UK, London, Ronnie Scott's (19:30 and 22:15 sets)
18/09 - UK, London, Ronnie Scott's (19:30 and 22:15 sets)

A limited number of tickets will be available at 9am (BST) on Friday 29th for fans who subscribe to Jamie's mailing list. Tickets will also be available at for Ronnie Scott's Members only.

07/10 - Germany, Berlin, Passionskirche
08/10 - Germany, Berlin, Passionskirche
Tickets will be on sale at 9am (CEST) on Friday, August 29th.

17/10 - Sweden, Stockholm Jazz Festival. Konserthuset/ Tickets

28/10 - Holland, Amsterdam, North Sea Jazz Club
29/10 - Holland, Amsterdam, North Sea Jazz Club / Tickets

30/10 - Turkey, Istanbul. Akbank Jazz Festival. Zorlu Centre - Tickets

16/11 - Hong Kong, North Sea Hong Kong Jazz Festival / Tickets


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Highgate Jazz with Soul 2014

Highgate Jazz with Soul orchestra trombones: Winston Rollins, Trevor Mires,
Mark Nightingale and Callum Au, with singer James Tormé (extreme left).
Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival 2014
(Various Locations in Highgate, 23-25 August 2014. Round-Up review by Mark McKergow)

The fourth edition of Brandon Allen’s North London bank holiday extravaganza presented its most ambitious line-up to date, including artists like Sarah Gillespie, Laura Jurd and Chris Allard.


Saturday afternoon saw Arnie Somogyi’s Scenes in the City present the music of Charles Mingus. The United Reformed church provided a suitably gospelly vibe for exuberant blowing by Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi, whose baritone sax had the roof lifting a few notches. Somogyi’s bass underpinned proceedings with some very Mingus-like aggression.

Later in the same venue we were treated to a rare outing by Alex Garnett’s London Supersax project, with dazzling orchestrations of Charlie Parker’s legendary solos. We heard wonderful ensemble work by Garnett on baritone, Nigel Hitchcock and Sammy Mayne (alto), and Graeme Blevins and festival director Brandon Allen on tenors, showing the way to read ‘fly-shit at 500 yards’ (as Garnett memorably put it). Trumpeter Steve Fishwick played an important role, not least in giving the reeds a breather after chorus after chorus of hemidemisemiquaver tumbles. The sax section was really on the mark with their performance – the dynamics and subtle pushes and pulls of Parker’s work showed through. And after all the franticness, it was a real treat to hear Nigel Hitchcock, on imperious form at the moment, lay it down solo on Lover Man.


We convened first at Lauderdale House for Jean Toussaint’s JT4 quartet including Andrew McCormack on piano. The music consisted mainly of originals from Toussaint and McCormack, including a sneak preview of part of the leader’s London Jazz Festival commission. Toussaint’s strong tenor sound filled the long gallery, and McCormack was on sparkling form. A word must go to 21 year old drummer Ben Brown, a new discovery for me, whose inventive and supportive work was restless and yet completely solid.

Down the road at the Old Crown the Artie Zaitz organ trio was limbering up for some afternoon groove melting. Much of the music here was original too – not the usual way for this kind of line-up and a welcome change from endless 12-bars. Ross Stanley played up a storm on organ (a proper one, not a synth) and showed he can pedal with the best. Zaitz threw in a couple of Alex Garnett tunes alongside his own. Shaney Forbes gave driving support from behind the kit. Brandon Allen appeared with his tenor sax (responding to a twitter request!) to join the trio at the close. Back at Lauderdale House, vocalist Anita Wardell gave a dazzling display of dexterity. Robin Aspland’s piano was delightfully precise and crisp, while the Italian rhythm section of Dario Di Lecce (bass) and Enzo Zirilli (drums) gave sympathetic support. Their hushed, poised account of It Never Entered My Mind was unforgettable.


Those who braved Monday’s rain were rewarded with a storming lunchtime performance from the Ed Jones Quartet at the Old Crown. It was a real pleasure to hear the intensity of power of his playing once again. Ross Stanley, a key figure at the festival, was back on piano and held up his side of the playing with his usual style and flair. The band performed a mix of standards and Jones’ originals, with drummer Tim Giles forcing the pace in an Elvin Jones-esque way on a rolling 6/4-flavoured Body And Soul workout.


The climax of the festival was the first appearance of the Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival Orchestra at the Gatehouse on Monday night. Allen had clearly pulled out all the stops to assemble a full-on five (super) sax/four trumpet/four trombone big band dripping with solo talent, a rhythm section including drummer-for-the-stars Ian Thomas and a string section. With a capacity crowd surrounding the band in an atmosphere resembling the old Bimhuis in Amsterdam, Allen led the orchestra through jazz (including Ellington’s Rocking in Rhythm and Thad Jones’ Three In One, as well as Callum Au arrangements) towards soul (Allen’s own workings of Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed, featuring Abigail Boyd’s deceptively silky vocals). The first set ended in a romp through Sly Stone’s If You Want To Stay with Allen rooting hard on tenor. The second set featured James Tormé’s slick arrangements and patter, which went down well with the crowd, but left me wishing we’d had more solo space for the horns - but hey, you can’t please all the people all the time.


Allen announced at the end of the night that there will be a fifth Highgate Jazz with Soul festival next year. I really hope he’s right – the event is clearly run on a shoestring, lots of adrenaline and much goodwill from the performers. In terms of giving London a jazz bank holiday feature to remember, it is clearly succeeding and Allen deserves all the plaudits and more for single-handedly luring the cream of London jazz talent up the hill, for instigating some memorable and classy music, and for patiently levering the event to its current position.

It is very much to be hoped that this celebration gains more support. It is a wonderful showcase for the energy, the initiative and the quality of London's jazz scene.

2014 supporters: The 606, Benham and Reeves, Prickett and Ellis the 606, D'Addario Woodwinds, RRC Thai Restaurant, London Music House, and the venues. 


INTERVIEW: Elliot Galvin reflects on the Dreamland installation at Turner Contemporary

Pianist/composer Elliot Galvin was commissioned by Turner Contemporary in Margate to create a multimedia installation there, on August 13th and 14th 2014. We asked him to reflect on how it went: 

LondonJazz News: Your debut album was entitled Dreamland. What gave you the idea to take the inspiration of the burnt-down Margate theme park further, with this installation at Turner Contemporary?

Elliot Galvin: I am really fascinated by the aesthetic of the dilapidated and ruined when it comes together with the kitsch and pop. Dreamland and Margate in general is a really interesting example of this, with a rich social history surrounding it. I thought there was a lot there to be explored, so I wanted to keep exploring it. Stuart Brough, Joe Wright and Alex Morley (as well as the members of my trio Simon Roth and Tom McCredie) were the obvious choice of people to work with it as well, since they have similar sensibilities to what I wanted to explore and I really admire all their work.

LJN: How did you go about playing live to the film?

EG:  Alex Morley knows our music well and created the film with it in mind, so it worked really well when it came to putting the two together. The film consisted of a few clear sections and to each of these sections I chose a piece of music that we play as a trio, in a kind of collage approach with improvisation to bind it together.

LJN: Was there a lot of planning involved?

EG: There was yes. In terms of organizing everything and everyone to make sure it all came together as a complete integrated collaboration, it took a lot of planning from myself and everyone involved.

LJN: Stuart Brough's sculptures - what was the idea behind those?

EG: Well, in the weeks before the installation we collected local resident’s memories of the theme park with the Dreamland Memory Recorder, which is an interactive talking sculpture that Stuart Brough and Joe Wright created. We then used the recordings we collected to create a series of sound emitting sculpture for the installation. The idea was to explore people’s memories of Dreamland, and create a kind of dreamlike sound space from them for the installation, which was reflected in the visuals of the sculptures themselves.

LJN: And you worked closely with the others involved in preparing this project? 

EG: I believe in giving people a strong theme and a clearly defined role and then letting them get on with it. Alex’s specialty is film, Stuart’s is sculpture, Joe’s is sound art and mine is music. I made sure everyone had autonomy within their own specialties. It was bound together by the shared theme.

LJN: What was the audience reaction like, and what are own your feelings in retrospect about how it went?

EG: The audience reaction was generally very positive - there are some in the video above. People seemed to really engage with it, which was fantastic. I’m also really happy with how it turned out.

LondonJazz News: Are there any plans for the installation in the future?

Elliot Galvin: We are currently trying to put a tour together in art galleries up and down the UK. The plan is to use the memory recorder to record people’s memories from these different regional areas, to be used in the installation.

The installation received support from the Dreamland Trust and Help Musicians UK

LINK: Our Jan 2014 interview with Elliot Galvin about the Dreamland album


CD Review: Andy Milne & Dapp Theory - Forward in All Directions

Andy Milne and Dapp Theory - Forward in All Directions
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4660. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Canadian-born pianist and composer Andy Milne worked extensively with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements in the 90s. This striking album has many Coleman influences in its angular harmonies and complex rhythms, but Milne is also influenced by 70s singer-songwriters. He’s previously recorded versions of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young songs, for example, as well as two other Dapp Theory albums. There’s a very pleasing mix of toughness and lyricism in this recording, brought together by producer Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets founder member).

Milne joined the M-Base (Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations) Collective in 1991, and you can hear the characteristic atonal sounds and dislocated rhythms of what Coleman once called "improvisations within nested looping structures." In Hopscotch the intervals leap around like children on the pavement. Sax-player Aaron Kruziki’s pure, classical soprano tone smooths over the jagged edges of Christopher Tordini’s electric bass riffs and Kenny Grohowski’s elephantine cymbal sounds. Photographs’ acoustic bass gives a gentler sound over electronic crackles like old vinyl. Milne’s piano solo is passionate and full of unexpected intervals. John Moon’s poetic vocals remember his grandmother; a photo takes him back to the ‘…roots of the tree…I took my chance and walked in deeper.' Milne once told an interviewer that he writes music with Moon’s rap-influenced rhythmic poetry in mind. There’s a range of moods in the piece, with a gentle drum solo from the extraordinary Grohowski.

Search Party opens with gloriously dissonant lines from Fender Rhodes and Ben Monder’s guitar. The sax adds to the polyphony, like overlapping train tracks- the harmonies lie in the cracks between the lines. The rockiness increases: ‘Send out a search party,’ Moon raps, ‘…barely holding on…’ Milne played on some of Coleman’ hip-hoppier work, (eg. A Tale of 3 Cities), but this piece suddenly changes track again and becomes sweet and lyrical. How and When Versus What also has Fender Rhodes, a little grittier in tone, Herbie Hancock-like. The mellow guitar solo drifts over long clarinet lines. Nice to Meet You has a fine funky drum part, following the tune, which sounds weighted on one side. Synths flesh out the sounds, and the electric bass creates a delicious disharmony under the Glasper-ish piano chords and Ornette Coleman-like sax solo. The Trust opens with clarinet intervals that could be based on one of Steve Coleman’s arcane mathematical principles. But the piano counter-lines bring real beauty and feeling out of what could be a dry exercise.

Milne’s lyrical side comes out in other pieces too: In the Mirror, Darkly is mystical with Middle Eastern percussion from Grohowski, somnambulistic piano and gauzy sax, recalling Paul McCandless and Oregon. The title Headache in Residence pre-empts all criticism; there are prog overtones as the guitar solo builds powerfully- a little like some of Mike Walker’s rockier moments. The free piano over grungy guitar harmonics is wonderful. Milne sounds as if he has at least Fourteen Fingers, as the melancholy sax sketches the tune, Shorter-like, over the highly-coloured spread chords. Jean Baylor’s wordless vocals grace the ethereal Katharsis, counterweighted by Kruziki’s bass clarinet, and sounding uncannily like Norma Winstone with Tony Coe. 'I refuse to be a slave to any old apathy of rhythm', declaims Moon over succulent bass and drum grooves and Gretchen Parlato’s dreamy backing vocals.

This recording is full of fine playing with complex, fascinating harmonies and time signatures. The writing brings beauty, emotion and narrative to more cerebral M-Base patterns in a very satisfying way.


FEATURE/INTERVIEW: Blues Kids Foundation Camp London

This week the Blues Kids Foundation, coming at you direct from the south side of Chicago, has been holding is first ever course outside the US. The course finishes today at the Premises Studios in Hoxton. It was aimed at teenagers, who all participated in the course for free. Blues Kids Foundation, and the camps it organizes, are the creation of singer and guitarist Fernando Jones. Buddy Guy has described him as “one in a million that's trying to get to the bottom of the barrel on the Blues.” We talked to him before a day of teaching at the camp on Wednesday:

What started him? “I wanted to be just like my two older brothers who were playing the blues. The sound of the blues gave me a familiar feeling - that’s what hooked me. Fast forwarding - when I was at university I produced a few landmark blues festivals at my college - University of Illinois at Chicago.

“When I got out of university I had a conversation with a blues artist and it sparked the book, “ I was there when the Blues was Red Hot.” I started teaching in 1988. In 1989 I established the Blues Kids of America programme. And from that I would go around to different school and social organisations and teach and demonstrate the blues.”

 In 2009 Fernando Jones came up with the idea for Blues Camp.”I came up with that idea because I would run into different student musicians throughout the country who wanted to play, but had no place to go and to play. “The cool thing about blues camp when I created it was that I said it would have to be free. Because I did not want to have any from of discrimination whether a kid was rich or whether a kid may have a financial challenge I wanted to have it as a place where kids who wanted to play the blues could be."  The Foundation is philanthropically supported by a range of sponsors who include Chicago's Donnelley family. This support enables all children to attend without paying tuition fees.

“And the original concept was to pretty much target intermediate or advanced players, but instead we ended up getting entry level players, intermediate players as well as advanced players. So it has worked out for the best that way.” The policy is normally to have mixed ability groups.

The concept has grown, and week-long courses now take place at various locations in the US. “As the camp grows we are looking at doing things in the spring or maybe even doing a weekend blues camp in certain places with definitely bigger markets, Chicago, LA, Miami, London -definitely a full week experience.”

Jones describes Blues Kids as very much his baby, and he takes the lead at every camp: “I am always on site. Because when I started it, I was fine doing it at Columbia College (where he has a teaching post) because it was Chicago, but it took off, and the way it grew to other places was by invitation - such as I want to do a camp here - how do I do it? Most of those invitations came from the suggestions of parents who love their kids and wanted to have something in the town where they live so their kids can form bands.”

I was able to eavesdrop on a session. The whole camp assembled for the daily notices and information. The day began formally with a 'blues pledge', recited by heart by one of the younger participants. The students also were asked to reflect on having witnessed blues in an authentic London setting, Dove Jones' Tuesday blues night at the Spice of Life, an outing all fixed and carefully/caringly supervised by the staff of the Premises Studios. The children all seemed to have enjoyed their outing, a lot.

Once they had been broken down into combos, they were asked to think about what they liked about the Blues Camp context, in particular comparing it with the school context. One said he found it “unpressured”, another that he had “more freedom”, another that she had “more chance to make mistakes than at school.” I left them as a group of teenagers dug deep into the grooves of Hello Stranger, the Barbara Lewis hit from 1963.

(With thanks to Michael Underwood for interview transcription)



REVIEW: The Original Blues Brothers Band feat. Steve Cropper and Lou Marini at Ronnie Scott’s

The Original Blues Brothers Band feat. Steve Cropper and Lou Marini
(Ronnie Scott’s, early show, 21st August 2014. First of six shows over three nights. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

The Blues Brothers began in the late 1970s as part of the legendary, long-running American comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. The various incarnations of the band have recorded about a dozen albums, and the 1980 film – which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, and featured unforgettable contributions from the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin – has its place as one of the very greatest feel-good movies ever.

With the death of Belushi in 1982, and, much more recently, of both bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and trumpeter “Mr Fabulous” Alan Rubin, the initial band line-up has been consigned to history. Nevertheless, the current crew showcases two original and significant members: guitarist Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and tenor saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini.

Cropper led out Leon “The Lion” Pendarvis on organ, Eric “The Red” Udel on bass guitar, and drummer Lee “Funkeytime” Finkelstein for the opening Green Onions. The tune – originally made famous by Booker T. & the M.G.’s in 1962 – was guaranteed to get the audience nodding and in the mood for a set of rocking blues. Part-way through, guitarist “Smokin’” John Tropea, trumpeter Steve “Catfish” Howard, trombonist Larry “Trombonius Maximus” Farrell and Marini marched in to provide a rich, beefy backdrop.

The rousing Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini followed, and contained fine solos from Farrell and Marini. Cropper enthused, “It’s all about energy; take a bagful of that home with you”. And with that, vocalists Tommy McDonnell and Rob “The Honeydripper” Paparozzi bounded onto the stage in the black suits, hats and shades that you’d expect from Jake and Elwood, and launched into Going Back to Miami. She Caught the Katy was notable for the emotional, Randy Newman-like voice of Paparozzi and the harmonica-and-horns train effects.

Flip, Flop and Fly was distinguished by a piercing solo by Marini. A third singer, Bobby “Sweet Soul” Harden, mingled with the audience and won them over when he returned – prowling and mugging in a dazzling white suit - for the evocative song immortalised by Cab Calloway, Minnie The Moocher.

A mid-set highlight - the slow Shotgun Blues - had a beautifully restrained solo from Tropea that was punctuated by the brass section. Cropper seemed to be content to play quiet rhythm guitar while others took the spotlight, and was blown away by Tropea on Sweet Home Chicago.

The encore, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, saw all three vocalists having a ball and high-kicking while the crowd clapped on the “on-beat”. It was the last of 15 songs that were crammed into a slick performance of just 70 minutes.

It was a perfectly respectable show by any standards, but one could have wished for a few rougher edges, a slightly less sanitised portrayal of the seamier side of life.


REVIEW: Chris Corsano at Cafe Oto

Chris Corsano at Cafe Oto.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Chris Corsano
(Cafe Oto. Day 1 of 4-day Summer Residency, 20 August 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

New Jersey-born drummer Chris Corsano was eased in to his 4-day residency at Cafe Oto in an adventurous programme devised by Ilan Volkov, focusing primarily on works for strings.

Corsano made his first appearance as the lynchpin of a trio performing Lovers Ritual with Maya Dunietz on vocals and piano and Volkov's violin scourging the room of the delicate afterglow of the evening’s first two pieces for large string ensemble by Howard Skempton and Yoni Silver, respectively.

Silver was one of the ensemble which was dispersed throughout the room to create a 'surroundsound' ambience in Skempton's 1969 Piece for Strings - Waves, Shingle, Seagulls, allowing the musicians to interpret the words, resulting in a coalescence of gentle tensions taking in a mesmerising range of taps, scrapes, slides and scratches.

Silver's own wonderfully titled composition please please please let me bask in the sun for a while - you can come back in about 10 minutes continued in a similar spirit, opening with a whiff of Appalachian Spring that was gradually rerouted to take on a purposefully discordant flavour. Volkov crouched on the floor following the score, intermittently standing to give hand signals, Dunietz added low-key piano while the bassists ran subdued plucked sequences underneath the quietly humming strings of the massed group.

At the start of the second half, Volkov asked for all lights to be extinguished to help the audience - and performers - become immersed in Pauline Oliveros's Out of the Dark (1988), with the 82 year-old composer's 'Deep Listening' principle in mind. Again the string players were not only onstage but scattered throughout the room to intensify the aural experience, at times akin to being within a beehive.

Corsano's constantly surprising solo set rounded off the evening. With constructed instruments and a set up imbued with a Heath Robinson quality he mashed up percussion with electronics and wind, starting off with an instrument comprising clarinet mouthpiece and bell at either end of a short tube to which a horizontal slider was attached, through which he blew on to a small snare – demonstrably extending his range beyond that of conventional drumming.

With inspired creative spirit he moved on to mountainous drum rolls - touches of Ginger Baker and Elvin Jones, piling it on - as a reminder that percussion is at the core of his practice - bright clicks and clacks on wooden blocks, feedback, a short sequence with two of the woodwind contraptions played simultaneously, ending with electronic distortions of every element of his drum kit as he played over them.

This ended with just the right focus, enticingly setting up the next three nights of Corsano's residency with an impressive roster of improvising collaborators.

Chris Corsano: percussion, electronics and misc instruments

Ilan Volkov: conductor, violin, electronics

String Ensemble: Jennifer Allum, Robert Ames, Mira Benjamin, Oliver Coates, Rebecca Davies, Michael Duch, Lina Lapelyte, Dominic Lash, David Lasserson, Marcio Mattos, Aisha Orazbayeva, Daniel Pioro, Noura Sanatian, Yoni Silver, Benedict Taylor, Tom Wheatley

Maya Dunietz: piano, vocals


REVIEW: Bebop and Beyond double bill: Sheila Jordan and Peter King Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

Shela Jordan in 2011. Photo Credit: OhWeh/ Creative Commons

REVIEW: Bebop and Beyond double bill: Sheila Jordan and Peter King Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, 19th August 2014, first of two nights. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Sheila Jordan is that rarity, a jazz singer who is not only revered by other vocalists, but also by dyed-in-the-wool jazz fans who can be dismissive of singers. At Ronnie Scott’s she demonstrated why.

Ian Shaw introduced Jordan and pianist Brian Kellock, and immediately Jordan pounced on Shaw’s failure to identify the other two musicians on stage. So she created a partly-sung, rhyming welcome to “Calum Gourlay on bass, with his smiling face” and “Steve Brown, the hippest drummer in town” before launching into Hum Drum Blues.

Jordan crafted lyrics about the things around her, her early days in Pennsylvania and Detroit, and her beloved cohorts from the jazz scene. Usually it worked (“Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins-Sonny-Rollins” had to be there); and when it didn’t, she improvised on the mistakes. Her vocal dexterity has diminished with the passing of the years (she doesn’t shy away from saying that she is now 85¾), but her scatting on If I Should Lose You was as wonderfully daring as ever. Jordan’s joie de vivre was communicated with the equanimity of someone who has seen and done everything, yet it came with a delightful openness to novelty and just a smattering of vulnerability.

There were too many highlights to relate in detail. Peace was performed for its recently-departed composer, Horace Silver. “I gave him his first piano when he moved to New York City”. The Crossing - written after Jordan recovered from serious problems with alcohol and drugs - told a story of healing and redemption, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was witnessed in silence by a crowd that was completely under her spell.

The child-mimicking Dat Dere - delivered with astonishingly accurate enunciation and intonation - was dedicated to the great Peter Ind, who was in the club. Ian Shaw was called to the bandstand for Workshop Blues, during which the audience was invited to sing along (it was very nicely done, too).

Jordan is adored not just for her longevity and first-hand connection to Charlie Parker. Her elegance, sass, wit, steely resilience and – above all – her fierce love of music and its irreplaceable practitioners pierced the hearts of everyone in the room.

Prior to the American’s appearance, another legend was on stage. Although he is Jordan’s junior by more than a decade, saxophonist Peter King is her British counterpart in many ways: an intelligent, urbane stylist who is central to his country’s jazz history, and similarly unbowed by personal adversity.

King delivered a fine set that ranged from a turbulent Inner Space to an almost-unaccompanied Lush Life. His delivery may have been less forceful than it used to be, but its impact was as powerful as ever.

The long suite/medley The World of Trane was introduced by the rich bass of Geoff Gascoyne. The Coltrane-inspired melody was followed by a magnificent feature for pianist Gareth Williams that included “Naima”, “Giant Steps” and “After the Rain”, then the quartet returned for “My Favourite Things”. Drummer Mark Fletcher was right on the money throughout, and contributed an assertive and logical solo to the concluding, simmering Joshua.

One might have wished that King and Jordan could have shared the stage for some playful bebop, but it probably wouldn’t have been as satisfying as hearing them work their socks off with their respective bands. It was certainly a night to remember.


BOOK REVIEW: Iain Maloney - First Time Solo

Iain Maloney - First Time Solo
(Freight Books, 224pp., £8.99. Book review by Chris Parker)

Debut novelist Iain Maloney refers to this story of a group of RAF recruits training for participation in the Second World War as ‘a tiny pebble added to the memorial cairn for a truly special generation’. Intelligently assembled from first-hand accounts given him by his grandparents and published histories edited by Hugh Morgan and Godfrey Smith, leavened with a fair amount of imaginative plot construction and characterisation, First Time Solo also contains a good deal of jazz-related material: the formation of a band, scenes set in wartime London jazz clubs, ENSA concerts, the dawn of bebop etc.

The novel’s central character, Scottish farmer Jack Devine, is a Louis Armstrong-obsessed trumpeter, and his bandmates are a hardline Communist, a Welsh black marketeer and a Yorkshire poet. The plot follows the progress of this disparate (and quarrelsome) quartet through training, initially in London, but subsequently in Babbacombe and Wiltshire, charting not only their transformation into pilots but also their internecine conflicts, which inevitably result in tragedy and violence. Both worlds, the military and musical, are vividly portrayed, and the resultant novel thus throws welcome light on both a neglected aspect of Second World War history (the transformation of raw civilians into fighting men) and the beginnings of the bebop movement in UK jazz. Its characters are deftly and compassionately drawn and are convincing enough to carry, credibly and entertainingly, a tight plot that compels attention throughout. In short, First Time Solo is an engrossing, consistently readable debut from a skilful and sensitive writer.


CD Review: Mitch Shiner and the BloomingTones Big Band - Fly

Mitch Shiner and the BloomingTones Big Band - Fly

(Patois Records PRCD 016. CD Review by Donald Helme)

If you take casual note of the education of current American jazz musicians, you could be forgiven for thinking there is only one school - Berklee in Boston. That would be an underestimation of the abundance of jazz faculties that exists in the U.S., and the large number of student bands there are across the country, often of startling quality.

I mention this because Mitch Shiner’s Big Band comprises recent graduates of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, based in Bloomington, Indiana (Blooming Tones...geddit). And it has all the polish and snap that you’d expect from a well-drilled group of enthusiasts at the start of their careers. It swings hard at every opportunity. The leader, a fine drummer who drives the band in, dare I say it, an old-fashioned way, also features on vibraphone on several tracks, playing vibes in the school of the Indiana-born Gary Burton.

Mitch Shiner (forgive the pun) obviously shone very brightly at college, and attracted, for his debut album, many of his former teachers - including the Grammy-nominated trombonist Wayne Wallace whose own record company (Patois Records) is releasing the album.

The music consists of a mix of Shiner’s own compositions and a few covers, the latter with new slants on non-jazz pieces like When You Wish Upon a Star and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Though interesting, the mawkishness of the original compositions can weigh them down. Of much more interest are the six compositions by the leader himself, which include a strong Latin jazz piece and a compelling boogaloo shuffle, 6.20 Shuffle. The title piece, Fly has some of the best writing, with perhaps the best of already tight ensemble playing throughout.

His arrangements call for the conventional core instruments of an 18-piece big band, but also extend to french horns and tuba on several pieces. And there is a cadre of substitutions when Shiner takes up his vibes mallets and calls in more drummers and percussionists.

There is plenty of young talent on solo display, although inexperience shows through at times. Some of the best solo work is taken by the faculty members, notably a fine trombone solo by Wayne Wallace on An Evening Thought, a tune composed by David N. Baker, a former stalwart of the IU jazz department, who these days has an emeritus chair there.

If you are a collector of big band music you’ll enjoy this album’s considerable strengths. It’s a real American swing band, playing modern music. And Mr Shiner himself? Well, he’s certainly a talent to watch out for . He’s been playing drums and writing music since he was 9 years old and this first recording as a leader should show off his talents to great advantage.


CD Review: Neil Cowley Trio - Touch and Flee

Neil Cowley Trio - Touch and Flee
(Naim Records. NaimCD206. CD Review by Rob Mallows

What do you do when, like Neil Cowley, you’ve created an exciting new sound and cornered the market in radio- and audience-friendly, chords-by-the-dozen, riff-friendly pop jazz?

Judging by the mix of sounds on Touch and Flee, their fifth album, you take a step back, breathe, take the piano out of overdrive and set out charting some new paths to extend the exciting musical journey the band’s been on over the last decade. You get a bit more introspective, evidently. And the sound becomes all the better for it.

You can detect a subtle shift in Neil Cowley Trio’s sound comparing opening track Kneel Down to one of their earlier hits, such as the thumping crowd-pleaser His Nibs. Kneel Down still offers up simple, luscious chords, but now separated by long quiet gaps over a simple drum pattern, miles away from the pyrotechnics of their earlier sound. Fans of his earlier work may be surprised at this as the choice for an opening track but it sends a strong signal - there’s a change in the direction Neil Cowley Trio see themselves heading in keeping the piano trio format relevant and on top.

More varied keyboard sounds, more space for the melody and a tighter overall band sound - that’s the formula they seem to be adopting. Bryce is rather lovely, a slow meander with little in the way of right-hand acrobatics but full of charm nonetheless. Mission is an oddity, kicking off with unexpected (for this band) electronic keyboard pulses before relaxing into a recognisable rhythm, with Cowley's incessant piano motifs now augmented with new contours. The last track, Art, is a ballad which demonstrates the musical territory the band feels it can now conquer. It’s no crowd-pleasing, up-off-the-piano-stool gig closer - it’s a tune to lie back and luxuriate in.

There still plenty of the recognisable Neil Cowley Trio sounds here: Sparkling is replete with the repeated arpeggios which evolve and build imperceptibly into something new, with the drums and bass providing the harmonic interest. But there’s more here, evidence of a band and artist evolving to ensure that keep their first-mover advantage without losing the fans who’ve come this far with them. The overall mix of tunes is rather good and - disturbing cover image aside - I found myself wanting to revisit the band’s earlier albums after listening to this great fayre.

The recording is also of excellent quality - Evan Jenkins’ drums sound lush with pin-point sharp cymbal sounds and Rex Horan’s bass has a lovely twang to it - Neil Cowley’s piano is mixed very well so it sits nicely between the two. Full marks then to producer Dom Monks.


VIDEO: Chucho Valdes (EFG London Jazz Festival, November, Kings Place)

This is Cuban giant Chucho Valdes being interviewed by Moira Gil of Kings Place (who also did the transcription and the translation) about his EFG London Jazz Festival appearances, three nights in November at Kings Place.

Just watch the powerful gesture as he describes the synthesis, the combining of different kinds of music, see how the fingers of those huge hands interlock. He does it twice:

FIRST[2: 03] : "Y si lo ves en conjunto, la musica afrocubana y afronorteamericana a partir de la misma raz Africa, simplemente se fusionan muy bien: ritmicamente, armonica- y melodicamente, el jazz y la musica cubana son compatibles..."

Translation "And if you look at the big picture, the whole of Afro-Cuban and Afro-American music are from the same root, Africa, they simply merge well. Rhythmically, melodically harmonicaly, jazz and Cuban music are compatible"

SECOND: [8 :05 ]"Yo cogi los elementos que yo conozco que son compatibles, tome elementos de la contradanza cubana, de la conga cubana, del Jazz, del romanticismo de Chopin, del neorromanticismo de Rachmaninoff, del barroco de Bach, del Flamenco, de la musica arabe (risas) de todo! Hay un tema que es Afro, que se llama "Tabu". Y entonces como integra todas estas cosas, bueno, bueno, rompimos las fronteras."

Translation: "I took the elements that I know and that are compatible, elements from the Contradanza cubana, the Cuban Conga, Jazz, the Romanticism of Chopin, the Neo-romanticism of Rachmaninoff, the Baroque of Bach, Flamenco, Arab music... (laughs) from everything! The record (Border Free) integrates plenty of influences, well, we broke boundaries.!


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Joining the Dots Conference, Cecil Sharp House 12th Sept

Julia Payne

In anticipation of the Joining the Dots One-Dayer at Cecil Sharp House, we interviewed the driving force behind it , Julia Payne, Director of The Hub:

LondonJazz News: Julia you've been involved in marketing and audience development for non-mainstream music most of your working life...

Julia Payne: Yes, that’s right. I started out – and got my jazz education – working at The Stables, the venue started by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. Then I moved onto London’s Barbican, where I was their first ever marketing manager for what was then called non-classical music! After that I had a couple of great years at the Jazz Development Trust, where I promoted a conference called – rather boldly - ‘How to develop audiences for jazz. Or die”. What can I say? I was (relatively) young! After a spell at the Arts Council I co-founded the hub in 2002, and since then I’ve been involved in all sorts of audience building projects. It’s about awareness; make people aware of really great music, take it to them, and for some it’ll be the start of a lifelong love of it. That’s what I try to do, and help other people do.

LJN: So tell us a bit about your latest project, Joining the Dots. What’s it about?

JP: So Joining the Dots is based on two premises. Firstly that if the music industry continues to cling to old models we’ll all be a bit, well, buggered. And secondly, that we’d all be a bit savvier if we shared what we know with each other. Joining the Dots is basically about encouraging people to take action, find new models, new ways of making a living from the music we love, and new ways of getting people to love it as much as we do. We’re doing that in two ways. First up, we’re funding people to test new, potentially ‘game changing’ ideas. And secondly, we’re running a load of live events and webinars focused on technology, marketing and fundraising.

LJN: And why is it called Joining the Dots?

JP: Well, because that’s what we’re trying to do... join people up and get them sharing more, and fill in the picture, help people get inside stuff that might be unfamiliar to them.

LJN: And the themes you'll be developing at the Joining the Dots - One Dayer conference on in Camden on 12 Sep, what are they?

JP: So the #OneDayer is for anyone who works in independent music: artists, promoters, managers, labels, everyone. In a nutshell it’s about three things: where technology is going to take us, where the money’s going to come from, and how we can grow our audiences. Why these three themes? Well, because they’re what people working in the industry told us they needed to know more about. It’s difficult to keep up sometimes, when you’re busy running your own career or business, so The One Dayer is about galvanising people, helping them grab a lot of information in…one day. We’re hoping to create a Festival experience – one where you rub shoulders with other really interesting people, learn things easily and quickly, hear brilliant new ideas and come away with lots of new contacts.

LJN: You've trawled wide for your speakers. That's a sign that you see quite a lot of common threads which can be developed across genres?

JP: I don’t really ‘do’ genres – as a punter or professionally! I think that the challenges and opportunities for jazz musicians or promoters are broadly similar to those for people working in other ‘beyond mainstream’ genres. That’s reflected in the breadth of the speakers we’ve booked. So, there are people who your readers will definitely know – say, Laura Jurd, and also Gavin Sharp from Band on the Wall - but also people from other areas of music, and beyond. For instance, Nicholas Lovell, who’s written a great book called The Curve, which is about turning your fans and customers into ‘superfans’. He’s from a games background, but everything he says is bang on from a music point of view. I’ve booked people who have something new to say, people who can inspire and offer something practical. I can’t wait. I’m going to learn so much, and I hope everyone else will too.

LJN: So, what would you hope a musician would gain from attending?

JP: Well, my goal is for everyone to go away feeling three things. Firstly galvanised, that they’ve picked up loads of really practical stuff that they can take home and make happen straight away. Secondly, that they’ve stepped out of the day-to-day and got inside the ‘big stuff’. And finally that they feel better equipped to face the future, more confident and enthused about the change around them. If I had to pick one word I hope people will leave feeling galvanised.

LJN: And what about promoters or people with an involvement in marketing? 

JP: The same really. That they have picked up lots of really practical tips, have had time to ‘zoom out’ and think about that bigger picture that tends to disappear when you’re focused on keeping a programme going. Really good conversations and ideas happen when you mix people up who have different skills and approaches – that’s what we want the #OneDayer to be for people – a swap-shop of ideas, a space to question things, and lots of different viewpoints on the industry so that we’re not creating silos. (A FULL LIST OF SPEAKERS IS HERE
LJN: You also are known for knowing what funders want to see in applications. Will people alien to the funded sector be able to gain insights here?

JP: Absolutely. Totally. Most of our speakers come from a world that isn’t about funding, and this isn’t a conference aimed at fundraisers. This is about the everyday business of making a living from music, and how we can all get smarter about doing that.

LJN: When you were looking for people with genuinely new ideas to fund you invited submissions by video. I assume you can't name a favourite but did one take you by surprise? 

JP: You’re right, I can’t have a favourite! The really great thing about the four projects we’re funding is that they’re so diverse.

- Cafe Oto are building a digital subscription service around the recordings they make of their gigs;

- Eventbox are making an app that lets you listen to listings and working with venues like the Vortex to test it.

- Daredevil Project are making a mobile game designed to increase interaction between bands and fans.

- Un-convention are building a gig-swap platform that has its own trading ‘currency’ built in.

Coming from a venue background I’m fascinated to see how other venues could build on what Cafe Oto are doing, and as a punter I love the idea of Eventbox. All four of them will be at the one-dayer showing people what they’re doing.

LJN: And how much does it cost, and where can people get tickets?

Julia Payne: Aha, the plug! A standard ticket is £40 for the whole day on 12 September, and you can get it via Eventbrite. But, as the MU are one of our project partners, MU members can get in for just £25 (just check the last newsletter for details of the special offer). We want as many independent promoters and musicians to come as possible, so it was really important to us that the event was affordable.

the hub website / Joining the Dots website
Follow the conference on the day via Twitter: @tweetsatthehub #OneDayer 


NEWS: Catching up with Michael Gibbs...

Michael Gibbs

Sebastian writes 

 The eminent, even pre-eminent composer arranger Michael Gibbs dropped by to Kings Place yesterday to chat. What an absolute pleasure. He is a fascinating, lucid and great man. We talked about all sorts of things from the dim and distant past to projects under way....

- His two years of university study in Pietermaritzburg - of chemistry.

- How what has always interested him is harmonic possibilities, making things work, rather than the harmonic rules he was taught many years ago at Berklee.

- A wonderful, incredibly exhaustive, indispensible discography run by Helsinki-based guitarist Esa Onttonen.

- The most durable impression he left yesterday was the series of contented smiles and utterly delighted spontaneous "Aaaaah"'s which came over him when I played him something he hadn't heard before: Dancing Sunlight from the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra's debut CD Treelines (it's like jazz, you had to be there).

He also mentioned some things to watch out for: three CDs with Hamburg's NDR Big Band, at various stages of the production and release process:

- (1) His arrangements of Pink Floyd will feature on an an album by Nguyen Le "Celebrating the Dark Side of the Moon" scheduled for release on ACT (30th October Germany, 3rd November (UK)

-(2) and (3) Cuneiform Records have, somewhere in their pipeline, two albums with a likely spring / summer 2015 release date: In My View features recent compositions, including a homage to Paco de Lucia. Mike Gibbs and the NDR Big Band Play a Bill Frisell Setlist.

LINKS: See also a recent interview about Joni Mitchell's Paprika Plains 
Our interview about the recent Whirlwind album celebrating Gil Evans


BOOK REVIEW: Andy Fry - Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920 –1960

Andy Fry - Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920 –1960
(University of Chicago Press, 290pp., $30.00. Book Review by Chris Parker)

In an attempt to ‘provide a more nuanced account of the French reception of black music from the 1920s to the 1950s by contextualizing it in ongoing debates about race, nation, and culture’, Andy Fry’s Paris Blues undertakes ‘a series of focused inquiries … case studies of various kinds’, ranging from Josephine Baker to Sidney Bechet, Jack Hylton to Django Reinhardt. In the process, courtesy of scrupulous and perspicacious examination of contemporary discourse, Fry replaces widely held assumptions – that the French appreciated and understood jazz before Americans did, that African American musicians experienced little racism in Paris, that the music performed a clandestine subversive role during Nazi occupation etc. – with a much more subtle account, alive to the many ironies, internal contradictions and occasional instances of downright hypocrisy and deliberate obfuscation which permeate the subject.

Fry’s intention, however, is not ‘simply to contest the affirmative view of African Americans in Paris’, but both to ‘actively contest received wisdom’ and to ‘present complementary stories that complicate current understanding’.

Thus, in the chapter ‘Rethinking the Revue Nègre’, the 1927 show Black Follies featured ‘French-speaking Africans imitating black Americans pretending to be Africans – and all this for the sake of a purported authenticity’; while Blackbirds of 1929 (featuring Adelaide Hall) drew this comment (oddly reminiscent of Wynton Marsalis’s contemporary strictures concerning gangsta rap) from the Baltimore Afro-American: ‘It is giving to Paris the wrong idea of the typical American Negro … The danger in such shows … is that they will give generally to white people, the [derisive] attitudes [toward Negroes] of the southerner’.

Again, the chapter ‘Jack à l’Opéra’ quotes intriguing contemporary claims concerning the ‘Frenchness’ of jazz (a word supposedly itself derived from jaser, to chatter or babble), resting not only on assumptions that America was created by ‘the French genius as much as the [Anglo-] Saxon genius, the gallant, amiable, gay spirit of our culture as much as the puritanical, grave spirit of old England’ but also on the fact that the music’s chief instrument, the saxophone, was invented by a Belgian, patented in Paris in 1846, and first championed by a French composer, Hector Berlioz.

Three iconic figures – Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt, Sidney Bechet – serve to embody a great number of the complexities and ambiguities Fry is delineating throughout this fascinating and thought-provoking book: ‘Baker’s skin colour may have remained the titillating sign of miscegenation, but her performance [in a 1934 revival of La Créole, an Offenbach operetta] left no doubt that she was on the path to naturalization. In other words, to invoke colonial terms, Baker evinced the continued effectiveness of France’s mission civilisatrice’; Reinhardt’s concerts, rather than being ‘a protest against the German boot, trampling the Parisian culture of jazz’ [William Shack: Harlem in Montmartre], were actually characterized by the fact that ‘some Germans trampled no farther than seats in the auditorium’; ‘the gap between Bechet’s self-representation [in Treat It Gentle] … and representations of him in the French press [as a national treasure] is … most telling’.

Intelligently illustrated by carefully chosen photos, contemporary cartoons and playbills, and the odd musical example, Paris Blues throws valuable new light on a still contested area of jazz (and social) history, and – as one reviewer states – it ‘urges us to be a little smarter about how we talk and write about the place of jazz in the world today’.


NEWS: Shirley Smart hosts new jazz night at the Blind Bee EC3 (starts Aug 21st)

Shirley Smart

Sshh. Cellist Shirley Smart and Middle East music specialist has quietly got on and set up a discreet new jazz series, under the banner Jazz Nights at the Blind Bee. The band descriptions below are hers. It will be held at an exclusive members club (with a broad-minded well-stocked cocktail bar) near Bank Station. in the City. Entry is free but you need to either get on the bandleader's guest list or email the address below

Upcoming dates :

August 21st - Alex Hutton
Acclaimed pianist and composer brings his lively originals to Blind Bee

September 4th - Will Butterworth
Jazz based on Oscar Wilde's story 'The Nightingale and the Rose' from the imaginative and original pianist

September 18th - Maurizio Minardi
Accordion-led jazz with influences from tango, rumba, classical, minimalism and penguins....another intriguing combination

October 2nd - Al Scott
Firey and virtuostic pianist whose influences include Bill Evans, Herbie Hancck, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis

October 16th - Last Summers Tealights
A unique sound combining marimba, saxophone, cello and percussion in beautiful groove-based hymnal jazz compositions

October 30th - Heidi Vogel
Acclaimed lead singer of the Cinematic Orchestra brings her Quartet.

GUEST LIST: Email : jazz (at)


INTERVIEW: Mark Jennett (Album Launch 16th September)

Mark Jennett. Photo credit: Charlotte Knee

Singer Mark Jennett has been a fixture on the London Jazz circuit for a while. Writer and singer Tamsin Collison interviewed him about his route into jazz, his influences, and his forthcoming album ‘Everybody Says Don’t (Release date September 15th, launch September 16th).

Tamsin Collison: Mark, writing about your new album, Ian Shaw describes you as a singer “who sideswipes the deluge of post Sinatra crooners – yet homage to the great swinging vocal tradition is ever present.” How much have you been influenced by the American Swing tradition?

Mark Jennett: My Mum listened to music a lot and my two favourites when I was little were Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield. Mum had the EP of ‘Songs for Swingin’ Lovers’ and I learned ‘It Happened in Monterey’ note for note from the record. I loved Sinatra’s phrasing and I guess I learned from him that you don’t have to be confined to the original notes and phrases of a song, although it was a while before I could put a name to that and call it jazz. I think what I loved about Dusty was how she always told a story and that there was always so much honest emotion in her singing.

TC: Any other key influences?

MJ: Anybody who sings in their own voice, who doesn’t fake it. I loved Julie Andrews as a child, I think because she was so unaffected, and I was also an Aretha Franklin fan. I particularly loved the background harmonies on her records. My childhood ambition was to be a backing singer for Aretha, or better yet, for Gladys Knight. I really, really wanted to be a Pip. The first instrumentalist who struck a real chord with me was Dexter Gordon.

TC: So how did you move from aspiring soul diva into jazz fan?

MJ: I loved music, but at school I just couldn’t find anybody to play it with! I was into pop, soul and American swing, but everyone else was in punk bands. Much later, I began attending jazz courses at the City Lit. I think all the years of listening to Frank & Co had given me a stronger technical foundation than I realised and I found that things like responding to what an instrumentalist plays – and that they will also respond to your choices – felt very natural. Then I went on some intensive residential course where I finally found other people to play with and things took off from there.

TC: When did you start to perform in public?

MJ: I started out on the open mic circuit, which is absolutely terrifying. I have the greatest respect for anyone who does that – it takes real guts. Then, ignorance being bliss, I managed to blag my way into a playing gig at the Vortex pretty early on.

TC: How did your first album come about?

MJ: Things were starting to happen in terms of gigs when I suddenly got seriously ill and had to stop performing for a while. While I was recuperating, Anita Wardell suggested that I try putting an album together which she would produced. That album, The Way I Am, was a quite a learning curve. We had the basic arrangement ideas and then the band fleshed them out in the studio as we recorded. We only had one properly formal arrangement - pianist Rob Barron set Paper Moon for me. I loved that but it’s only now that I've had the opportunity to do another album entirely composed of tailor-made arrangements.

TC: Which leads us neatly onto ‘Everybody Says Don’t.’ Tell us a bit about this new release.

MJ: Everybody Says Don’t came about as a result of my meeting Geoff Gascoyne who, as well as being a great bass player, is a brilliant arranger. Like me, Geoff is influenced by a huge range of musical styles, and I knew he had done a couple of albums featuring jazz arrangements of pop tunes. Originally I just asked him to arrange a couple of songs I was struggling to put together myself but, when we started work, it was clear that we had a lot in common musically (and that I could learn a lot from him!) and we decided to develop an album of new arrangements together. We both have very eclectic musical tastes, so the tracklist combines songs that come from the fields of pop, soul and musical theatre as well as American standards. We have tried to take familiar songs and invite people to maybe think about them a bit differently.

TC: Some examples of those familiar songs? 

MJ: Quite a few: while some people see Wives and Lovers as just patronising and sexist, I’ve always thought it’s more of a ‘be-careful-what-you-wish-for’ song – maybe Hal David was thinking of all those unhappy wives we now see in ‘Mad Men’ - so now it’s in 5/4 with some wonderfully dark harmonies. We’d both separately had the idea of doing Just One of Those Things as a ballad. Geoff reharmonised it brilliantly and, for a change, it now comes from the viewpoint of the person being dumped rather than the dumper. You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught from South Pacific has important things to say about how prejudice develops and I think bringing out the prettiness of the tune somehow makes the message starker. It’s amazing how a new arrangement can transform the interpretation of a familiar song.

TC: Did you have a concept for this album?

Mark Jennett: Originally, it was just a personal take, musically and emotionally, on some songs that I feel very close to. However, reviewing the final tracklist, I realised that a lot of them question whether people should need or have to conform – and to whose rules – which is something I feel quite strongly about.

Tamsin Collison: Thanks, Mark. A pleasure chatting to you and best of luck with the launch.

ALBUM LAUNCH: Everybody Says Don’t (Jazzizit) will be launched at St. James Studio, Victoria on Tuesday 16th September at 8.00pm with Geoff Gascoyne, Tom Cawley, Sebastiaan de Krom, Martin Shaw and Josephine Davies.