REVIEW: Opening Concert of the Berlin Jazz Festival / Eva Klesse Quartet

Opening Concert of the 2014 Berlin Jazz Festival
Photo credit: © Matthias Creutziger / Berliner Festspiele

Opening concert / Eva Klesse Quartet
(Haus der Berliner Festspiele, 30th October 2014; review by Nicky Schrire)

The 50th Jazzfest Berlin kicked off last night in front of a full hall of appreciative jazz-goers. Artistic director Bert Noglik, whose third and last festival this is, introduced multi-instrumentalist and contemporary jazz artist Elliott Sharp. Sharp had been commissioned by the 2014 Festival to create a soundtrack for Martin Luther King’s historical 1964 visit to Berlin where King held a speech in honour of the late John F. Kennedy at the Berlin Philharmonie.

The promising opening of bell-like, close interval tones from Sharp on tenor saxophone, Alex Harding on baritone saxophone, Terry L. Greene on trombone and Dave Hofstra on tuba, really captured the musical sound of King’s southern upbringing in Atlanta, Georgia in a striking and evocative manner. Once drummer Don McKenzie and vocalists Tracie Morris and Eric Mingus (son of Charles Mingus) entered the fray with lyrics (some spoken, some sung, some growled) and counter-rhythmic undertows, the music became more of a cacophony of sound. With clear breaks in between movements, a brief bout of projected visuals by R. Luke Dubois, and Sharp moving to electric guitar and effects while Hofstra played minimally on the electric bass, the work came to a close as it had started - with melody and harmony.

Eva Klesse at the BerlinJazz Festival 2014
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski

After this somewhat challenging opening set, it was something of the sublime to hear the sophisticated subtlety of German drummer Eva Klesse and her quartet.
Opening their set with an evocative, slowly brooding ballad Orphelia, the scene was set for an hour or so of transcendent music. Orphelia showcased the group’s attention to balance and nuance with a piano-bass dynamic reminiscent of that between Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen and his many pianists. Later unison bass and piano segments underlined this comparison - a technique effectively executed by Munich pianist Philip Frischkorn - also the composer of this tune, it turned out - and bassist Robert Lucaciu.

A rising star on the German jazz scene, Klesse herself is a quiet yet forceful presence. She began most of the evening’s repertoire using brushes. It was a notable choice because it quickly became a sound, an approach that we, the audience, associated with her. Whether a ballad or a song requiring more energy (like Klesse’s composition Nie Wieder, which was fiery even with the thud of full force brushes) she never used them in a typical manner. Highly percussive and adventurous in seeking out a variety in colours, it was clear she had no intentions of being discreet, but she clearly favours the timbre they create. When she did progress to sticks the transition was seamless and a fluid move, only to aid the song and never as a means to increase volume.

This was the modus operandi of the ensemble and their performance-they never utilised loud, flashiness, to win over listeners. Tasteful and displaying a sophistication beyond their years (they are all in their mid to late twenties), there was a controlled yet exploratory nature to every intention. Often breaking down into collective improvisation, seeking out new sonic ideas and building soundscapes, they never strayed too far or for too long into alien territory. With such elegant melodic content, they would return to the theme and play out the tune with clarity. Alto saxophonist Evgeny Ring was responsible for much of the melodic delivery but he also managed to introduce subtle tension into his solos-creating dissonance that piqued our interest without breaking the spell he’d woven throughout the song itself.

There was a definite overall minor sonority to the music of the quartet but it didn’t create monotony. On the contrary, it highlighted the musicianship of the players and their cohesive vision. The compositions were uncluttered, a sense of purpose to every note and arrangement choice. Everything in its right place. These are serious musicians who clearly adore the jazz medium, particularly improvisation as a vehicle for listening and sonic exploration, and who play without ego. The result is one of simmering beauty.

Eva Klesse / drums
Evgeny Ring / alto saxophone
Philip Frischkorn / piano
Robert Lucaciu / bass

LINKS: Preview of Elliott Sharp's Foliage- Apr 2014

Review of Elliott Sharp's Foliage at the Vortex- April 2014

Round-up of 2013 Berlin Jazz Festival (English)

Round-up of 2013 Berlin Jazz Festival (German)


PREVIEW: 100 Years of Song (20 Nov, QEH, EFG London Jazz Festival)

The Board of the Performing Right Society in 1914.
Source: PRS for Music

The Performing Right Society was founded in 1914 as an organisation to collect fees for live performance from sheet music. On Thurs 20th Nov at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, in the EFG London Jazz Festival, IAN SHAW has devised a programme "100 Years of British Song" as part of the centenary celebrations of the body now known as PRS for Music. Ian writes:

To be invited to compile an evening that charts the Performing Rights Society's vast journey of popular songs from 1914 (PRS' maiden voyage year), was a thrill, albeit a muchly challenging one. Echoing the decades were clearly the laments, goodbyes and lullabies that soothed the bereaved families of The First World War, some left from the faded velvet drapes of Music Hall, others that linked American Popular song-form to the 20s and 30s Brit radio crooners, with our very own Ray Noble and Noel Coward to the fore.

Then to the 50s, 60s, RIGHT now. Your over-enthused Welsh boy, two Woolies single boxes under his arms, Chopper bike in the bike shed said that 1977 was the year, jumbo cords and ox-blood brogues was the swag, and although the ears were flooded with US soul (Aretha, Stevie, Motown, Wilson Pickett), those Brit sounds were equally loved (Bowie, Bolan, The Real Thing, Gilbert, Leo, Floyd, Bush).

Tempted? Queen Elizabeth Hall as your jukebox?....

....the Serious team to keep everyone afloat on The Good Ship Song? Some PRS bods in the audience, wondering what the hell happened to that John Martyn ditty?......

......Book the best trio in town ? (Barry Green, Mick Hutton, Dave Ohm) and invite a host of pals that are going to set the EFG London Jazz Festival alight ?..

...Claire Martin singing Kate Bush?...

... The great UK singer-songwriter, Kathryn Williams, singing Ewan McColl ? (cos he asked her to)...

...The great jazz singer, Elaine Delmar, doing Noble and Beatles?...

.... Claude Deppa blowing on a Peter Gabriel? And Ben Cox, Georgia Mancio, Judith Owen, Natalie Williams, Yvette Riby-Williams.......all those female Williamses reminds me... a Welsh boy will be there too (me, you fools)....

..I'll park my Chopper near the river and give that Elvis Costello song (that Robert Wyatt did) a good go.

Some of the omissions broke Welshy's sentimental, but recently mended, heart...there will be no Wombles, Clive Dunn or Gary Barlow. But you never know, if that Liane Carroll happens in town...

100 Years of song on the EFG London Jazz Festival website


CD REVIEW: eyeshutight - Resonance

eyeshutight - Resonance
(Hungry Bear Records HBR001. Review by Patrick Hadfield)

The piano trio is a resilient form - a genre all of its own. When a new trio comes along - new to me, at least - it is hard not to make comparisons. Keith Jarrett and Esbjorn Svensson are the first that come to mind - and I can't help noticing at the same time that an un-concatenated "eyes shut tight" would also be "est". I wouldn't normally burden an artist with such prestigious reference points, but since they're the markers which eyeshutight (sic) lay down on their website, it seems apposite.

Such comparisons are unfair, though: we have a lifetime of much-loved recordings of our favourites to fall back on, and this is just the third CD by eyeshutight, and the first I've heard. Still, many of the tracks do have the same slow, contemplative vibe to early est; others have a similar feel - even a resonance - to the Neil Cowley Trio in the way they couple rock drum rhythms with distinctly insistent, riffing jazz bass.

There are nine tracks, though the CD names only eight - the final, unidentified track being apparently a reprise and re-imagining of the first, the title track Resonance. With several shifts in rhythm and unison playing by the bass and piano, the first version sets the tone for the whole record.

On several slower tracks Kristoffer Wright produces a subtler, somewhat dreamy atmosphere with mallets on his drums. The change of pace brings out the quiet lyricism of Johnny Tomlinson's piano and allows Paul Baxter's fluent bass solos to fill some of the space.

Consistent but varied, this CD is never boring, rewarding repeated plays through the trio's imagination and verve.

Paul Baxter: Double Bass
Johnny Tomlinson: Piano
Kristoffer Wright: Drums

eyeshutight are touring: DATES


CD REVIEW: Ernie Watts Quartet - A Simple Truth

Ernie Watts Quartet - A Simple Truth
(Flying Dolphin Records, FD 1009. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

In a career that began in the early ‘60s, saxophonist Ernie Watts has played with people as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Lee Ritenour and Frank Zappa; he served 20 years as a member of the legendary Tonight Show band, and won two Grammy Awards in the ‘80s. He has led around 20 record dates, and for the last decade has run Flying Dolphin Records with his wife Patricia.

Watts’ first album on Flying Dolphin - Reflections - was a duet with the prolific and versatile Ron Feuer, and it is they who begin this concept album described as “A musical reflection on the arc of a “jazz” day”. The Sound: Morning sets improvised tenor sax against the backdrop of an enticing (synthesized?) orchestral arrangement.

The following six tracks are performed by Watts’ European quartet. Opening with an unaccompanied cadenza from the leader, the lightly swinging No Lonely Nights - composed by Keith Jarrett - sees pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling interlock with the apparently effortless ease of a group that has worked together regularly for over 15 years.

Now in his 70th year, Watts combines phenomenal instrumental control with a tone that is both fluid and filled with emotion. It is all played so perfectly that you almost wish for a minor technical fluff or momentary lapse of improvisational taste, but it doesn’t happen. The intensity builds during Koebberling’s The Road We’re On, yet Watts’ impassioned wails never really threaten to extend beyond the mainstream.

Acceptance has a scurrying riff that changes flavour and settles into a more familiar groove; parts of the tune are clearly drawn from Bronislaw Kaper’s “Invitation”. Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop is taken at breakneck speed and features a thrilling section for sax and drums towards the end. These pieces - delivered by all four musicians with stylish verve - are the highlights of a very fine CD.

The loosely-interpreted jazz day begins to wind down with Billy Childs’ attractive Hope in The Face of Despair. It comes with an assertive gentleness and shows Saenger and Engel at their creative best. When the orchestral accompaniment subtly resumes on the title track, it is reminiscent of the stately music from the later albums by Charlie Haden’s great Quartet West (of which Watts was a loyal member throughout its existence). A duet that mirrors the first track, The Sound: Evening ends the disc with a slightly restless tranquility.

Watts says that he wishes to “Make people feel creating something beautiful”. A Simple Truth has certainly done the trick for me.


REVIEW: Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble at Cafe Oto

Evan Parker performing in the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
Cafe Oto 2014. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights reserved

Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
(Cafe Oto, 26th October 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The quietly energetic equilibrium maintained throughout the final concert of Evan Parker's packed week of seventieth birthday musical celebrations at Cafe Oto and the Vortex, offered enriching views of the transcendental level to which Parker aspires in his playing and compositions, and the mastery of group dynamics that he has shaped through various groupings of the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. At the outset there was a lighthearted rendition of 'Happy Birthday' from the house to which his response was, 'There must also be some 71 year olds here!'

Parker commandeered an inspired improvising sextet to explore the complex areas of interaction between conventional instrumentation, unconventionally approached, and electronics, fashioning a soundscape dominated by liminal, incremental textures and insinuations that would intermittently evolve into frenzied, compacted eruptions and eerily claustrophobic spaces. 'Not quite Butch Morris conduction, but my version!' as he put it.

Bassist Barry Guy, electronics specialist Lawrence Casserley and violinist Phil Wachsmann have been with the saxophonist's 'Electronic Project', as it was originally termed, since its inception in the early 90s. They were joined by two more recent associates, Adam Linson, also on bass, and Paul Obermayer on sampling keyboard, with each, apart from Parker and Guy, processing the acoustic sounds to differing degrees. As Guy mentioned to me, in the early days the computer set-up was tricky and took up much space. At Cafe Oto, the set up, with a high Mac presence, was now relatively painless and compact.

The Ensemble's producer at ECM, Steve Lake, has explained their unique dynamics in this article: 'The musicians play, and their sounds are sampled by the treatment stations and fed back to them (think of encountering a duplicate of yourself from a parallel universe, almost you but not you) … The players have to see the whole soundscape unfolding and contribute to it tellingly while having no idea of what may happen to the notes and phrases they are generating.'

Over the two sets, the overriding feeling was of a sublime and subliminal quiet - a sprightly, alert, tiptoed run through an unexplored landscape, with purposeful break-outs, particuarly in the latter set.

The individual virtuosity was compelling. Parker, on a weathered, vintage straight soprano, listened intently to chose his moments to enter the intense dialogue with taps of the pads, and rolling, trickling runs that gathered up clusters of complex overtones. The ever-mobile Guy unearthed hidden sounds on the bass strings - harmonics which were reciprocated by Parker and by Wachsmann, who sprung passages of staccato surprise with Linson. Key mover in the Electro-Acoustic concept, Casserley worked enthusiastically and feverishly on signal processing to blend strata to points where the processing and the live sounds became one, and he and Obermayer counterbalanced the brass and strings with flushes of near-sound effect electronics and keyboard rushes.

From jarring to softening in a matter of seconds, Guy's single notes defined the space for the group's final fade to bring a perfectly balanced evening to a close, and a joyful week's celebration of Evan Parker's unflinching curiosity and commitment to the creative musical spark.

Evan Parker / saxophones
Phil Wachsmann / violin, electronics
Barry Guy / bass
Adam Linson / bass, computer
Paul Obermayer / live electronics
Lawrence Casserley /signal processing instrument


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Eberhard Weber 75th Gala with Pat Metheny Gary Burton, Jan Garbarek (Stuttgart Jan. 23/24, 2015)

Eberhard Weber. Photo credit : Nadia Romanini/ ECM

We interviewed Martin Mühleis, head of the theatre production house and book publisher Sagas, who is the instigator and mastermind behind the Gala Concerts for Eberhard Weber in Stuttgart in January 2015. The line-up for the concert is astonishing: Gary Burton, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, Danny Gottlieb, Scott Colley, Paul MacCandless, Ralph Towner and the SWR Big Band. In this interview Mühleis talks about his own friendship with Eberhard Weber, and what has led up to the concert

LondonJazz News: Was it your work as theatre producer and film director that first brought you into contact with Eberhard Weber?

Martin Mühleis: Yes it was. I booked Eberhard Weber 27 years ago for a literary and musical project all about the concept of where home (Heimat) is for Hermann Hesse and for other authors. I'd asked Eberhard to write the music for it. We stayed in touch after that, and a couple of years later he also wrote the music for a documentary which I produced for German TV.

Since I also oversee the programming of a small festival, I used to invite Eberhard to perform at it, in extremely varied ensembles. I have also produced concerts for him, with musicians such as Gerardo Núñez, Richard Galliano, Enrico Rava, Paul McCandless - and many others. Then there was the 65th birthday concert that I produced for him in the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart, with the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Wolfgang Dauner, Rainer Brüninghaus and Marilyn Mazur. That concert was on the theme of how his music was rooted in the western classical tradition. It consisted of works by Ravel and Stravinsky, contrasted with compositions by Eberhard Weber, which he had arranged for an ensemble and large orchestra.

LJN: How is he these days, after the stroke?

MM: On the morning after his stroke in 2007 I was on the telephone with him. In that first phase of his recovery it was far from clear how debilitating the consequences of the stroke would be, but he was working on the assumption that with the right drug regime and physiotherapy he could get it all back together again. He was quite pragmatic about it in fact: his bass had a problem and he saw the gap as a good opportunity for the instrument to go in for repair.

After that came a period in which he worked single-mindedly on the course of therapy, and was convinced that he would be able to get back on stage. However, when he realised that it was not going to be possible, there followed a period of severe depression, and it was also during that time that his wife died. However, once he had come up with the concept of the album, he started to be on a more even keel. Today he is very creative, he works for hours at the computer, writes arrangements and composes.

LJN: And the autobiogaphy,“Résumé”?

MM: His work on that is an astonishing process. There are there memories which are clearly very moving for him, and which are resurfacing, from his early musical experiences through to particular concerts. He is indeed in a good, alert, and creative place at the moment.

 LJN: Are you also a big fan yourself?

MM: I studied in Munich, where ECM is based. Through that I came into contact with Eberhard's music quite early, at the time when he was working with guitarist Volker Kriegel. For a long time I didn't pay much attention to the bass, I tended to think of it as an accompanying instrument, but after I left university I began to appreciate it, and became a huge fan. I love the distinctively different sounds of Charlie Haden, John Patitucci – and of course of Eberhard. In that context he is the most unconventional. He developed a sound which at times is very far removed from traditional bass-playing, I was always very impressed by his way of improvising. That is what fascinates me the most about his music.

LJN: Tell us about the January Jubilee concert and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Jazz Prize.

MM: The Jazz Prize of the Land of Baden-Württemberg has been around since 1985. The award is given in order to support and inspire excellence among the younger generation of jazz musicians. There are a few significant conservatoires in Baden-Württemberg: Freiburg, Stuttgart und Mannheim, for example. In Dieter Ilg, who teaches in Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg has one of the very great jazz bassists of our time. The Land's authorities have also been doing their bit to ensure a lively and top-quality jazz scene for many years. There are good clubs, good gigs and many superb young musicians. Culture minister Jürgen Walter comes from the jazz scene himself, and it was he who had the idea to give a prize for the very first time for lifetime achievement, and Eberhard will be the first to win it. Given the fact that Eberhard himself can't play any more, he gave the whole thing over to me, and basically said: “Surprise me!“

My idea was to let a few of Eberhard's 'old buddies' interpret his music. So I then approached a few of the musicians who had been important for him and his development, and was deeply touched by the kindness and the joy with which they responded. They all said that the work they had done with Eberhard had been very significant for their own musical development. Gary Burton had brought him over to the States to work in his group as second bass alongside Steve Swallow, an unusual combination. In that same band there had also been a very young guitarist – that was Pat Metheny – and the two of them have been united ever since by their musical friendship.

Eberhard was on Ralph Towner's 1975 album “Solstice”, which also had Jan Garbarek on it. These are long-term relationships, which we will be re-establishing for these concerts. There is going to be the World Premiere of a composition by Pat Metheny, which he has arranged around solos of Eberhard Weber. We've put these solos, from all kinds of ensembles, into order, they span from the 1970's to 2006. I'm really excited about that!

LJN: And the involvement of the Land of Baden-Württemberg and the state government has been important?

MM: This line-up could not have been put together without the structure we have and without working in partnership with the state of Baden-Württemberg. The young Culture Minister has succeeded in getting the financing on board, and the costs of the concerts are thus carried by sponsors. However, the first pre-requisite of this project is the willingness of the artists involved to participate. It goes without saying that they are offering their services at well below their normal fees, and are taking on a massive commitment to appear in Stuttgart in honour of Eberhard. As a purely private sector enterprise this concert would be an impossibility.

LJN: And SWR and their big band?

MM: Eberhard Weber was the co-founder of the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, so he has always had a strong affinity for big band music. We quite consciously wanted the sound of a big band for the concerts. It also allows us to establish the connection with the jazz scene in Baden-Württemberg, because a number of the Jazz Prize winners of the last few years are writing the arrangements of the Weber compositions for this line-up. The Big Band is such an important ensemble, and we're just very pleased that they're involved.

LJN: And your company is also publishing Eberhard Weber's autobiography "Résumé"?

MM: Yes, that's right. It took quite an effort to persuade Eberhard, because he sees himself as a musician, and not as a writer. What's interesting here is that he lived in and through his music right up to and until his last sound check, so he wasn't yet at the point where he wanted to look back, and that's why the stroke was so harrowing.

In the first stage of the project he was reluctant to write an autobiography, because he was firmly of the opinion that could only tell a story through his music, and not with words. That's why we began working through a series of interviews, to make it easier for him. And step by step he started to trace the story, to take pleasure in his memories and in his reflections on music and things.

Where that led to is that we never actually used those initial interviews. One day Eberhard simply got down to it and started writing. Anyone who has seen him on stage knows what an articulate, humorous and quick-witted entertainer he can be, and in time, the writing came just as easily to him. He is working assiduously on his jazz story, and we're hoping that the book will be published before Christmas, or in any event for the concerts.



CD REVIEW: Fini Bearman - Porgy and Bess

Fini Bearman - Porgy and Bess
(F-IRE Presents CD 76. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

British singer Fini Bearman’s new album features eight songs from Gershwin’s opera. She eschews any operatic style or story, but remakes each song in the individual folk-edged style she revealed on her 2011 debut CD, Step Up. The opera’s narrative thread is replaced by a powerful dramatic sense: each song has its own distinct emotions and fresh interpretation.

Two songs of loss open the album: Gone, Gone, Gone, a wake for a dead man. Funereal marching drums move into jazz-rock 6/8 with oceans of 60s-style reverb. The intensity of the pure, high voice and Ross Stanley’s gospelly Hammond brings to mind Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger. My Man’s Gone Now is slow and melancholy: ‘Ain't no use a listenin'/ For his tired footsteps/ Climbin' up the stairs.’ The voice moves from breathiness to powerful keening as it melts into Matt Calvert’s rock-edged, angular guitar solo- his playing here, and the arrangement, recall some of guitarist John McLean’s work with Kurt Elling. A rollicking blues-rock It Ain’t Necessarily So shows Calvert in fine Clapton-esque mode over a big Chicago blues back beat from the excellent John Blease’s on drums. Bearman phrases the words like a guitar, with a supple lightness and pinpoint accuracy.

There are love songs: Porgy I’m Your Woman and I Loves You Porgy and Bearman sings them with a heartfelt naturalness and directness. The first opens with strong double bass from Jon Cox and bell-like arpeggiated guitar harmonics from Calvert. The textures build (echoes of Radiohead?) as the voice swoops in unselfconscious improvisations. I Loves You Porgy is gorgeous, with delicate opening cymbal work and Durutti Column-like shimmering chords. There’s an exquisite moment as Blease’s percussion sparkles with the guitar and Stanley’s Hammond solo breaks loose in euphoric patterns. Bearman has an affecting catch in her voice, not unlike Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen.

Launch of Porgy & Bess at The Forge, 28th Oct 2014
L-R: Matt Calvert, Jon Blease, Fini Bearman, John Cox,
James Safiruddin. Photo Credit: Kaz Simmons

There are songs of happiness and hopefulness. Bearman has been influenced by Alison Krauss’ work with Robert Plant, and I Got Plenty of Nuttin’ has a country swing that brings out the song’s happy-go-lucky theme perfectly. It also brings out an insouciant folk quality in Bearman’s voice- she admires jazz-folk singer Becca Stevens. There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon has a languorous swing and a sense of yearning where New York is a promised land full of ‘nothing but smiles…that’s where we belong’- Bearman sings with subtle bluesiness, and you can hear the smile in her voice. Prayer (Summertime) is ecstatic, from the opening swooning long looped guitar notes and percussion like rain. Summertime’s melody drifts wordlessly and subliminally by, amidst the trancelike sounds. A thunderous backbeat grows with the powerful vocal improvisation and rock guitar. While studying with Kurt Rosenwinkel in Berlin, Bearman learned the importance of trying to ‘express the inexpressible’- and the band certainly does that in this track.

There’s a variety of moods: love, loss, ecstasy and fun. There’s a range of styles: jazz, swing, folk, progressive rock and blues. Drawing it all together is Bearman’s lovely voice, pure, delicate, and passionate.

Porgy & Bess was launched on October 28th at the Forge in Delancey Street, London NW1.


NEWS: Jazz@Metropolis TV show gets under way, with Neil Cowley as presenter

TV producer Fraser Kennedy is announcing a new weekly jazz show to be filmed in front of a live audience at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, with Neil Cowley as presenter, which is to be marketed to TV channels by Espresso TV.

Ian Mann has the full story.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Hedvig Mollestad (Berlin Jazz Festival Preview)

Hedvig Mollestad. Photo credit: Markus Thorsen

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen is a Norwegian guitarist. She won the 2009 Young Jazz Talent of the Year Award at the Molde International Jazz Festival in Norway, has performed at the 2014 Vancouver and Ottawa Jazz Festivals, and at SXSW in 2013. Nicky Schrire, who will be covering the Berlin Jazz Festival for us, spoke to her ahead of her trio's appearance at the 2014 Berlin jazz Festival (October 30th-November 2nd).

London Jazz News: Tell us something about where your music comes from, and what got you into jazz?

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen: I graduated from the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2010 (my trio members bassist Ellen Brekken and drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad also went there), studying for more or less five years, and before that I studied musicology at the University of Oslo, where I also focused on jazz guitar.

However, jazz came into my life with my father, which means it has been there from the very beginning, as he played trumpet and flugelhorn, and participated in the Norwegian Jazz Scene in the 60’s and 70’s, and even recorded with Jan Garbarek. I've grown up with the musical expressions of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Art farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Oliver Nelson, and I still listen to that music. As I started to play guitar, I explored the work of Hendrix, while simultaneously listening to the work of guitarists like Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie. I didn’t reflect too much on the fact they had different ways of expressing themselves, I just found them all very interesting and enjoyed their playing. I also listened to free improvisation at an early age, and I guess the wildness of that music was easy for me to combine with the quiet voice of guitarists like Jim Hall. As I got older, more heavy music came into my life, and I enjoyed that too. Bands like Motorpsycho, Led Zeppelin, Mahavishnu, Rush, Black Sabbath-although they are very different, I find that they have so much in common.

LJN: Forgive the question, but is it rock? Is it jazz....?

I actually hate talking about genres, because I think we have lost a sense of what rock or jazz actually mean. So I find it more interesting to talk about what jazz means to me, cause it might be something completely different to you or any other reader. To me, the core of jazz is improvisation, it is to listen while you play, it is a way of reacting, a way of behaving, a way of thinking, or not thinking while you play. It is allowing things to happen. It is a set of thoughts on how to relate to playing music. If we succeed in keeping this set of ideas while we make and perform music, then I think jazz is present in the music of the trio.

It is much easier for me to describe how the ensemble thinks than to put words to what the actual genre is. The guitar is distorted in a way that is supposed to make it sing, growl, howl, cry and whisper; the drums are sometimes, hectic, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, but inevitably deeply tied together with the bass, which is pounding, finding its way underneath, in between and sometimes in front of the guitar. The three instruments should, at all times, be a unit, even when not all of us are playing.

 LJN: What have been some highlights for the Hedvig Mollestad Trio thus far?

 HMT: It is hard to talk about highlights, because they appear when we least expect them, and they are most of the time very small and simple. It can be on an old rehearsal tape that you haven’t heard for a while, it can be a moment in a solo where everything comes together just right, it can be an invitation to play in a very remote country, or when we all agree on a recording in the same way. Every time we release a new record, it is in one way satisfying, knowing that a great amount of work is finished.  Still, I think our travels are quite memorable, like the ones to US, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and of course our three Europe tours. I must say, opening for John McLaughlin in London later this November is something that we are really looking forward to.

   LJN: Your trio has released three albums to date (all on Rune Grammofon), and you performed on the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra (TJO')s album “Ekko” (MNJ Records) which featured vocalist Elin Rosseland. The music on that recording is much more orchestral and very different to your trio music. What was the experience of recording and performing with the TJO like for you?

  HMT: Working with experienced and extremely inspiring musicians like Elin Rosseland, is a true pleasure and really interesting. As you know, the TJO’s crew changes from project to project. I also played and recorded the works of Øyvind Brekke (2011’s “Migrations”), which I find to be extremely epic and a masterpiece. To dive into other great musicians work, and participate with my own voice, is truly a great pleasure and helps my own music to develop. I also play with other artists, performing music with expressions far away from the trio’s. But as I have always listened to very different kinds of music, and still do, it is not that strange to play different kinds of music, though I prefer my focus to be my work with the trio, of course.

  LJN: Are you aware of sounds and musical references that you use as being specific to Norway and the music scene there?

  HMT: No, not really. Of course I listen to a lot of my fellow musicians and what they do, and I’m sure they influence me in some way, but I wouldn’t be able to take that down to a matter of common geographic affiliation.

  LJN: What can audiences expect at your performance at Berlin Jazz Festival this weekend? Will you be performing new music as well as repertoire from all three albums?

  HMT: Well, as we have been on tour for a month, and this being our last gig, I suppose we’ll have the urge to burn whatever energy is left. Although we try to do so every night, no matter where or when we play. Still, I believe that it will be a special night, as it often is when it is the last day of touring. We always try to be dynamic, and we change the set list every night. We’ll play music from all three albums, playing like it was the very last thing we were going to do, and hopefully the crowd will be alive and working together with us, making this the BEST Saturday night of 2014!

Hedvig Mollestad Trio performs at Berlin Jazz Festival on Saturday 1st November at Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Side Stage.

LINKS: Hedvig Mollestad Trio Myspace
Berlin Jazz Festival website  


PREVIEW: Sons of Kemet at XOYO, 29th October

Sons Of Kemet
On the 29th October 2014, Sons Of Kemet will take to the stage at XOYO for a special London show in amongst their busy European touring schedule. Michael Underwood explains why this is a must-see gig:

A MOBO Jazz award winning group, Sons of Kemet are led by saxophonist, clarinettist and composer Shabaka Hutchings. The rest of the band are Oren Marshall (Moondog, Radiohead) on tuba and two drummers: Seb Rochford (Polar Bear, Babyshambles) and Tom Skinner (Zero 7, Eska). The double drum polyrhythms combine with deep bass lines and lively woodwind lines to produce a truly exciting, electric sound.

Shabaka Hutchings told London Jazz News: 'We're really excited to perform some new material at our XOYO gig. We've just been in the studio recording our second album and started our autumn European tour, so we are looking forward to bringing the show home'

Sons of Kemet have had an extremely successful first couple of years, with sessions on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz On 3 and Maida Vale Studios for BBC Radio 2 as well as performances at the London Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Ronnie Scotts and a collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra (link to review below) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Their debut album ‘Burn’ (Naim Records) took the jazz world by storm in 2013, however Sons of Kemet are band that you need to experience live!

LINKS: Details of the XOYO gig from the Soundcrash website
CD Review of Sons of Kemet's debut album, Burn.
Review of Babylon at the 2012 London Jazz Festival


LP REVIEW: Yusef Lateef - The Gentle Giant

Yusef Lateef – The Gentle Giant
(Atlantic/Music on Vinyl MOVLP 1160. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Reissues of Yusef Lateef’s classic LPs by the Music On Vinyl label are coming out with commendable alacrity. Just a few months after The Blue Yusef Lateef from 1976 (link to review below), comes The Gentle Giant, another Atlantic album, this time dating from 1972. Consisting mostly of original compositions by Lateef or his keyboard player Kenny Barron — although there is also an obscure number entitled Hey Jude by some jokers called Lennon and McCartney — The Gentle Giant makes for an instructive comparison with the earlier album. Recorded some four years after The Blue Yusef Lateef there is some notable continuity in the sound, and although most of the backing musicians are different, we are treated to the reappearance of Kermit Moore on cello and the backing vocalists The Sweet Inspirations, led by Cissy Houston.

Thanks to Bill Salter’s electric bass Nubian Lady has a funky R&B Muscle Shoals sound, as if Dusty Springfield might be about to sing about the son of a preacher man. Not so surprising, given that the famed Alabama recording studio was a favourite haunt of many Atlantic’s soul artists — although this Lateef album was actually recorded at Atlantic’s New York premises. Also noteworthy here is composer Kenny Barron’s fatly chiming Fender Rhodes. Yusef Lateef’s contribution is very much in the same groove, as he provides funky fusion flute with a Herbie Mann flavour, although his playing evolves towards a more attenuated, sustained and breathy oriental style, evoking Lateef’s work on Eastern Sounds before returning to the Mann mode

On Lowland Lullabye Lateef sits out and leaves the insistent, importuning flute to Kuumba ‘Tootie’ Heath, née Albert Heath, brother of Jimmy and Percy — a bit of a collector’s item from this distinguished hard bop drummer, accompanied only by Kermit Moore on cello. This skeletal duet is melodious, intriguing and unusual. One is entitled to approach any jazz cover of a Beatles hit with trepidation but Hey Jude begins in a striking, ghostly and spare fashion. It’s a quiet and meditative take on the tune — so quiet that the album cover features the advisory “Do not adjust the playback level on your audio equipment, — readjust your mind.” It soon builds to a more loud and urgent interpretation which closely follows the contours of the song. But the presence of Eric Gale on guitar and Chuck Rainey on bass enrich the mixture and Yusef Lateef’s keening flute worries at the tune while The Sweet Inspirations provide eerie and stirring, almost subliminal, backing vocals. Jimmy Johnson bashes away on the drums in a manner that won’t frighten the horses; or Ringo Starr.

Jungle Plum is indeed a plum with Lateef’s deeply groovy flute contributing to an Isaac Hayes/Quincy Jones feel. His playing is raspy, rousing and virile, accompanied by catchy — if incomprehensible — vocal interjections which, again, are reminiscent of Quincy Jones in his Hikky Burr collaboration with Bill Cosby, which featured similar nonsense lyrics and which was similarly infectious and joyful. It’s another Kenny Barron composition and once more we’re treated to Barron’s adroit, rippling Fender Rhodes lines. Ladzi Cammara plays ‘African percussion’ on this hip, swinging, archetypically 1970s number. The Poor Fishermen, a Lateef composition, is a more sober and melancholy piece, as spare and wistful as a Japanese water colour. Once again it features Kuumba ‘Tootie’ Heath, this time accompanied by Yusef Lateef in a duet which provides a dreamy sense of déjà vu as the two flutes call out to each other in plaintive cry and response, like two birds in mist-shrouded trees.

The Beatles cover version may divide opinion (unless of course you “readjust your mind”) but this is otherwise an album of wall-to-wall excellence, with a lovely seventies feel. Music On Vinyl are to be congratulated on making it available again, with first rate sound quality.

LINK: Review of The Blue Yusef Lateef  on Music on Vinyl


CD REVIEW: Claire Martin - Time and Place

Claire Martin - Time and Place
(Linn AKD 423. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Time and Place is Claire Martin's 17th release for Linn Records- a wondrous collection of old and new songs featuring the Montpellier Cello Quartet on seven of the eleven tracks. It could be regarded as somewhat of a tribute to the great composer, songwriter and pianist/vocalist, Richard Rodney Bennett, a frequent collaborator of Claire's over the past twenty years up until his untimely death in 2012.

In addition to his winning four celli arrangement of Kurt Weill's My Ship, two other songs of Bennett's, Early To Bed and Goodbye For Now are included in a quintet format. Needless to say, the latter song closes the proceedings giving the collection a poignant send-off without being mawkish or sentimental.

Ms Martin's voice is ideal for both jazz and popular song with its mellowed huskiness and somewhat veiled tonal quality which is offset by a sharp rhythmic perkiness that suits her material well. Composer/arranger Nigel Waddington, whose 2010 big band CD Bigger Pictures includes Claire guesting on one track states it best when he describes her interpretive skills. "She's not interested in apeing a particular style, sounding any particular way- smoky, jazzy or whatever...why not? Because she's too busy inhabiting the song. It sounds like the only thing that she cares about is the music and not how she should be making it sound. It feels like the music is coming straight out of the writer's brain, channelled through her without picking up any grit, self indulgence or baggage on its journey". Well said, Nigel.

An outstanding band boasts the likes of Gareth Williams' fleet and dynamic pianisms along with Jeremy Brown's lyrical bass which coalesce fittingly with drummer Ben Reynolds' rhythmic agility. Electric bassist Laurence Cottle makes a guest appearance on his brilliant arrangement of "Round Midnight" which effectively intertwines his unique sound amongst the vertically linear motifs of the first-rate Montpellier Cello Quartet.

Unique treatments abound from the pens of Joe Stilgoe of his song, Lost For Words, Simon Woolf's reading of My Man's Gone Now as well as Mark-Anthony Turnage's take on Joni Mitchell's Two Grey Rooms. In addition, pianist Geoffrey Keezer's arrangement of his Featherfall provides a welcome contrast to the programme in summoning up a light and windy ambience portrayed by the flurry of celli in the air.

LINKS: Review of Claire Martin / Richard Rodney Bennett from 2011 Interview about Time and Place with Claire Martin


NEWS: Line-Up Annouced for Paris Kenny Wheeler Tribute/ Fundraiser (New Morning 8 Dec)

Quite a line-up for what the are calling a "Concert Exceptionnel": Norma Winstone (Vocalist), Henri Texier (Bass), Thierry Péala (Vocalist), Riccardo Del Fra (Bass), Michel Benita (Bass), Aldo Romano (Drums), Christophe Marguet (Drums), Francesco Bearzatti (Saxophone), Louis Moutin (Drums), Bruno Angelini (Piano), Geoffroy Tamisier (Trumpet), Yoann Loustalot (Trumpet), Georgui Kornasov (Trombone), Thomas Mayade (Trumpet), Edouard Ferlet (Piano), Matyas Szandai (Bass), Franck Tortiller (Vibraphone), Sebastien Texier (Saxophone), Steve Argüelles (Drums), Airelle Besson (Trumpet), Federico Casagrande (Guitar), Carine Bonnefoy (Piano).

BOOKINGS/ DETAILS. (H/t our friends at Citizen Jazz)


INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Alex Munk (Green Note/EFG London Jazz Festival, 18th November)

Alex Munk
Guitarist Alex Munk has been developing his own quartet to play his own music, leading up to an appearance in this year's EFG London Jazz Festival (Green Note, November 18th.) In this email interview with Sebastian Scotney, he tells the story:
LondonJazz News: Where are you from?  When did you take up the guitar and why?

Alex Munk: I was born in London although we moved to Buckinghamshire while I was still young. I started playing classical guitar at primary school. At secondary school my heart had fallen for the electric guitar my Dad had bought me when I was about 13. I started playing along with some pop/rock records, wailing away with pentatonic scales over the top. Everything I touched turned to gold back then, all I had to do was stick with that 5 note shape, crank the distortion and I was Hendrix reincarnated. My ears have become less forgiving with time.

My brother was also a huge influence. He is a few years older and he suddenly got really into music while we were both at the same secondary school. Even back then he had these great ears that could churn out requests as fast as you could name them and he quickly gained this reputation about the school as this talented, somewhat eccentric musician who could entertain the crowd. I fancied a bit of that as well!

LJN: You left RAM in 2011, what's the story been since then?

AM: I've been very lucky to have been involved in some fantastic sideman projects. I play guitar in the Stan Sulzmann Big Band which is a dream of a band. Also I've recorded albums with Dave Hamblett, Jack Davies, Joan Vidal, Matt Anderson and Reuben Fowler, all sterling musicians and writers. Being good chums with guitarist extraordinaire Chris Montague has been a real bonus and I've filled in for him on occasion in the bands of Trish Clowes, Threads Orchestra and Michael Roberts. Similarly the head of jazz at the academy Nick Smart has been hugely supportive.

It's only recently though that I've decided to stick my own flag in the ground and launch my own project, it's taken a few years to put the music college thing into perspective and playing other people's music to really figure out the kind of music I want to play.

LJN: What's the best thing that's happened in the past three years?

AM: I'd have to say this whole experience of getting my own band off the ground has been really significant. I've been writing the music since December last year and we've been rehearsing it for ages so it has been incredibly rewarding to start playing it live. Another positive side effect is that it has forced me to engage with this digital world, which I've been putting off for years, and to start making a bit more effort with the promotional side of things. To this end, I've finally got a website together and we recently recorded some videos of us playing which I'm really proud of.

LJN: And you're playing at the EFG London Jazz Festival - what's been inspiring your writing recently?

AM: Over the last few months I've been delving into the music of Tigran Hamasyan and that's been a huge inspiration in so many ways. His music is incredibly intricate and complex at times but it never fails to grab me on a very immediate and visceral level. I love its huge, rock energy and the drama of it all, but it's also very melodic, something I'm always striving for in my own writing.

In terms of the rock energy thing I'd also have to cite Wayne Krantz, whose time feel and rhythmic imagination really appeals, and also bands like Troyka and Phronesis, who make very effective use of riffs and grooves with interesting, interlocking parts rather than just melody/accompaniment.

The more melodic side of things probably comes from my Leeds days as a big Pat Metheny enthusiast, although I don't underestimate the influence of all the poppier things I'm into as well, like John Mayer, James Taylor and Sting. Hopefully it all finds its way in there.

LJN: Who's in the band. And why these musicians in particular?

AM: The band is Matt Robinson on piano/keys/rhodes/whatever he can get his hands on, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Dave Hamblett on drums. They're all brilliant and are some of the most in-demand players around London.

Matt Robinson and I spent a couple of years at the Academy together. As well as being a phenomenal piano player with a knack for playing the right thing at the right time, he and I share a lot of the same interests musically and we can often be found drooling over the same Tigran Hamasyan gig/youtube video. He also designed a bespoke website for me. In short, he's a bally hero.

Conor Chaplin on bass is one of the most frighteningly gifted musicians I've played with. He picks up everything incredibly quickly and plays it with impeccable sound and groove, even though that bass of his seems so low it almost dangles round his ankles.

Dave Hamblett and I also go back to academy years and playing in his band was a huge deal for me, a real honour. He's a very complete musician who contributes so much to the shape of the whole composition with his exemplary musical instincts. We also share a lot of the same interests musically; we both turn to putty in the hands of a glorious melody.

LJN: Where and when is the gig?

We're playing at the Green Note in Camden on the 18th November, alongside the fantastic piano player Rick Simpson and his band Klammer. Doors are at 7pm, music starts at 8:30pm. BOOKINGS


LP REVIEW: Frank Lowe Quartet – Out Loud

Frank Lowe Quartet – Out Loud
(Triple Point Records TPR 209. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Frank Lowe (1943-2003) was a Memphis tenor man who followed a very intriguing career trajectory. He started off in the far-out reaches of free jazz as an avant-garde player indebted to Coltrane and Albert Ayler and then moved inwards towards the centre, ending with more of an R&B based sound influenced by the likes of Ben Webster and Chu Berry. In a sense this was coming full circle for Lowe, one of whose first jobs was working at the studios of the great Memphis R&B label, Stax. Indeed one of the founders of Stax, saxophonist Packy Axton, tutored the young player.

Frank Lowe got his first break playing with Sun Ra, probably in New York, where he sat beside Marshall Allen and John Gilmore in the sax section. He was particularly impressed by Gilmore, who catalysed Lowe’s experiments with false-fingering technique. (Alternative finger placements to achieve tonal qualities and densities of sound which can’t be produced by conventional methods on the same note.) Recommended by Ornette Coleman, Lowe went on to join Alice Coltrane’s band and record with her. He later worked with Don Cherry and John Zorn.

This impressive vinyl-only issue retrieves the lost recordings of a short-lived quartet from 1974 when Lowe was playing with trombonist Joseph Bowie, bassist William Parker and drummer Steve Reid. Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah sits in on one track. No expense has been spared on this deluxe double LP package which includes a large, lavish booklet (beautifully designed, by Svenja Knoedler) containing what amounts to a pocket biography of Frank Lowe as well as a detailed account of the genesis of the album Out Loud, illustrated with unpublished photos by Val Wilmer.

Untitled 1 propels us into the high energy music with a rapid run on the bass. William Parker’s frantic pulsing leads into raucous ensemble work that shows the distinctive imprint of Lowe’s time with Sun Ra. Blurting blasts of sax are set against Parker’s metronome-steady bass which begins to slow down as the piece deconstructs itself. Steve Reid’s shimmering cymbals provide background for Lowe’s strident statement on the tenor, squawking and squeaking, blasting raw ragged fragments while Parker’s smooth, cleanly defined bass keeps pace like the sweet voice of reason. Trombonist Bowie remains at a distance from the proceedings, providing primal, almost tormented blasts of sound which call to mind Charlie Barnet’s description of free jazz as sounding like an elephant in, ahem, testicular discomfort — but in a good way.

On Vivid Description the reach and range of the musicians is demonstrated, with Parker sawing at his bass like a giant, agonised violin and Frank Lowe demonstrating his delicacy of touch on the flute. Reid develops a spare, mesmeric pulse on the cymbals before the ensemble blossoms into elaborate fevered decorations. Listen is a brief interlude, delightful and surprising, which begins with bright tinkling, streaming percussion and progresses as a mosaic of oriental shards — a flurry of drums, wordless snarling vocals, whistles and trombone phrases. Untitled 2 is relentless, with Parker’s bass squeezing energy from the players and, in league with Reid’s shimmering avalanche of drums, creating great tension and excitement. Lowe’s high, piercing sax floats over a bed of circus sounds, performing snake-charming enticements and darting and stinging like a wasp, while Bowie’s trombone moans and rages. The intense, repetitive vocal interjections once again conjure up Sun Ra.

Whew! has a Mingus feel, calling to mind A Foggy Day (in London Town) from . The piece assembles itself from sparse fragments and it is meditative, brooding and quiet, pulsating with scintillating, plaintive bursts of harmonica from Frank Lowe who also returns to his snake-charmer sax, trilling, barking, blurting and murmuring. Bowie’s trombone unfurls, spinning in loops around Lowe’s sax, making spooked-horse cries then subsiding into elegant eloquence. Frank Lowe performs a parallel trick, alternating tortured phrases with polished, melodic statement. Parker creates a relentless and unsettling trembling on the strings of his bass while bells ring like an unheeded fire alarm.

In Untiled 3 Reid creates a sound cloud of cymbals as a setting for the ragged, flaring trumpet of Ahmed Abdullah and Lowe’s saxophone blazes intermittently through the haze like the rotating beam of a lighthouse. This a meditative, mesmerising, exploratory piece which once again evokes late 1950s Mingus. Snarling snatches of tenor ride the wave of Parker’s thoughtful bass, which pulses and builds excitement and suspense. Abdullah’s trumpet thrillingly weaves more conventional figures, interleaved by Reid’s drums and a wash of bells. The thin, out-there needling of Lowe’s sax and the fat, rich, boppish sound of Abdullah’s horn unite to perform an accomplished Laurel and Hardy act.

For me this was an eye- (and ear-) opening introduction to the work of Frank Lowe and I suspect other listeners will be equally impressed. It’s a remarkably luxurious package which is matched by deluxe sound reproduction from the excellent vinyl. While it doesn’t exactly retail at a budget price, the outstanding quality provided in every respect — and the bonus of an access code for a forty minute video — mean that this album is a must-have for any Lowe enthusiast, and should be seriously considered by those who have yet to encounter his music.


Jack Bruce talking about Messiaen - from William Ellis's One LP Collection

Jack Bruce: Band on the Wall, Manchester, 24th March, 2011
Photo Credit: William Ellis/ One LP. All Rights Reserved

William Ellis's One LP project - previously covered here - involves ‘a study of the artist portrayed with a favourite recording. Each portrait is accompanied by a short interview that explores the album's meaning and value for the subject.’

William photographed Jack Bruce with the album of his choice at Band on the Wall in Manchester in March 2011. Jack Bruce's reasons for having chosen it are poetic:


"It's called L'ascension by Olivier Messiaen who was a French composer I have loved for most of my life. Why I love his compositions is he shows that music has always existed. Humans only stole it. We borrowed it - but it's in nature, It holds the universe together, ask any skylark or ask any blackbird they'll tell you."

LINKS: RIP Jack Bruce (1943-2014)
One LP website / Jack Bruce page on One LP


PHOTOS: First concert of the ARQ (Alison Rayner Quintet) Tour - Verdict Brighton

Steve Lodder, Diane McLoughlin, Alison Rayner
Deirdre Cartwright, Buster Birch (hidden)
Verdict Brighton 2014. Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz

Brian O'Connor caught the opening gig of the first ever tour by Alison Rayner's Quintet at Verdict Brighton. (TOUR DATES)

Alison Rayner
Verdict Brighton 2014. Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz

Diane McLoughlin
Verdict Brighton 2014. Photo Credit: Brian O'Connor/Images of Jazz

LINKS: Interview with Alison Rayner / Jan 2014
Review of ARQ CD August
Podcast Interview March 2014 for International Women's Day >


Order for the Memorial Service for Kenny Wheeler - Friday 31st Oct, 2 30 pm

St James's Sussex Gardens W2

A Memorial Service for Kenny Wheeler, open to the public, will take place at St James's Church, Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 3UD a church seating around 400 people, on FRIDAY 31st October at 2 30 pm, as announced HERE. Nick Smart, Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music who is responsible for organizing it, has published the Order of Service. He writes: "The music will be interspersed with speakers; as well as the vicar there are a few old friends and colleagues of Kenny's, all distinguished musicians, as you can imagine..."


Entrance Music – Trumpet Quartet Movement 1 & 2

Tom Rees-Roberts - trumpet
Reuben Fowler- trumpet
Robbie Robson - trumpet
Yazz Ahmed- trumpet

Big Band – Opening of “Sweet Time Suite”

Saxophones – Ray Warleigh, Duncan Lamont, Stan Sulzmann, Evan Parker, Julian Arguelles
Trumpets - John Barclay, Noel Langley, Richard Iles, Nick Smart
Trombones - Dave Horler, Mark Nightingale, Barnaby Dickinson
Bass Trombone - Sarah Williams
Piano– Gwilym Simcock Guitar - John Parricelli
Bass - Chris Laurence Drums - John Marshall
Voice – Norma Winstone Flugel – Henry Lowther
Conductor – Pete Churchill

Big Band – Enowena

Saxophones – Ray Warleigh, Duncan Lamont, Stan Sulzmann, Evan Parker, Julian Arguelles
Trumpets - John Barclay, Noel Langley, Richard Iles, Nick Smart
Trombones - Dave Horler, Mark Nightingale, Barnaby Dickinson
Bass Trombone - Sarah Williams
Piano– Gwilym Simcock Guitar - John Parricelli
Bass - Chris Laurence.    Drums – Martin France
Voice – Norma Winstone.    Flugel – Henry Lowther
Conductor – Pete Churchill

Brass Ensemble – Opening movement of “Long time ago Suite”

Trumpets - John Barclay, Noel Langley, Tom Rees-Roberts, Reuben Fowler
Trombones - Dave Horler, Mark Nightingale, Barnaby Dickinson
Bass Trombone - Sarah Williams
Piano– John Taylor.     Guitar - John Parricelli
Flugel – Henry Lowther
Conductor – Nick Smart

Quartet - “Vital Spark”

Norma Winstone - voice Glauco Venier - piano
Jim Vivian - bass Klaus Gesing - soprano saxophone

Sextet – “Mark Time”

Saxophones – Stan Sulzmann and Evan Parker
Piano John Taylor.       Guitar John Parricelli
Bass – Chris Laurence Drums – Martin France

Big Band – “Canter No 1/Old Ballad” 

 Saxophones – Ray Warleigh, Duncan Lamont, Stan Sulzmann, Evan Parker, Julian Arguelles
Trumpets - John Barclay, Noel Langley, Richard Iles, Nick Smart
Trombones - Dave Horler, Mark Nightingale, Barnaby Dickinson
Bass Trombone - Sarah Williams
Piano– Gwilym Simcock Guitar - John Parricelli
Bass - Chris Laurence Drums – John Hollenbeck
Voice – Norma Winstone Flugel – Henry Lowther
Conductor – Pete Churchill

London Vocal Project – “Breughel” from Mirrors Suite

Choir – London Vocal Project
Voice – Norma Winstone Saxophone – Mark Lockheart
Piano– Nikki Iles Guitar - John Parricelli
Bass – Steve Watts Drums – John Hollenbeck
Director – Pete Churchill

This information can/ should be shared. The event is open to the public.


REVIEW/ PHOTOS: Terence Blanchard E-Collective at Unterfahrt Munich

Terence Blanchard at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Terence Blanchard E-Collective
(Unterfahrt Munich. 24th October 2014. Review and all photos by Ralf Dombrowski)

This was a night of old-school fusion with outstanding musicians: Charles Altura, guitar, Cuban Fabian Almazan on keys, bassist Donald Ramsey and drummer Oscar Seaton. They gave the pieces they played considerable space to develop and to build intensity. The soloing had not just professional energy but ecstasy too. Alongside Blanchard, guitarist Altura was particularly impressive. He launched himself calmly into long improvisations, showing a penchant for rock reverb. Also making his mark was Almazan at the keyboard, who cultivates a knowingly retro sound. Overall the focus was not so much on elaborate compositions, but rather on keeping the pulse and the energy level high, on producing a sense of progression, a flow, a groove, on sophisticated interaction between musicians whose collective feeling for sound was casting back into the past for its precedents, to the likes of Hancock, Davis, Shorter et al....

Charles Altura at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Oscar Seaton at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Donald Ramsey at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Fabian Almazan at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

LINKS: Terence Blanchard at the 2012 London Jazz Festival
Terence Blanchard's Soulbop at the Barbican in 2011


RIP Jack Bruce (1943-2014)

Jack Bruce in 2006. Photo Credit: Christian Sahm/ Creative Commons

Sad to report the death yesterday of Jack Bruce at the age of 71. Richard Williams' touching and very personal tribute is HERE


CD REVIEW: Gill Cook - Morning With You

Gill Cook - Morning With You
(Mainstem MSTCD0058. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Vocalist Gill Cook celebrates a wide variety of composers and styles on her second release for the venerable and respected Mainstem label run by David Hays. She clearly demonstrates a significant vocal talent and is joined by a wonderful team of musicians complementing her distinctive and intimate style excellently. Peter Nero's New York on Sunday, a nice easy swinger establishes the mood effectively as an opening track with the assistance of bassist, Dominick Howles' superb arrangement. I also enjoyed Gill's re invention of Black Coffee and Carole King's understated song, Stand Behind Me enhanced by trumpeter Steve Waterman's supportive riffs and obbligati. Howles' unique and sparkling arrangement of Prefab Sprout's (yeah, really) When Love Breaks Down also scores highly bringing out a lighthearted and quirky side to Gill's vocal ouevre. Her own composition, the title track, also delivers wonderfully with her interpretation of a modern theme and sentiment.

Hats off to the talents of drummer Matt Fishwick and pianist Nick Tomalin, both stand-out sideman and soloists in their own right. Good on you, Gill, for this latest offering which increases the appetite for the next offering from the Mainstem label. 

Link: Brian Blain's review of the launch gig for this album


PREVIEW: Undream'd Shores. Grand Union Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert. (Hackney Empire, Nov 1 + 2

Grand Union Orchestra

Grand Union Orchestra is thirty years old this year. Founder and Artistic Director Tony Haynes writes about the background to "Undream'd Shores", two concerts at Hackney Empire to celebrate this significant birthday for this important organization in the musical life of East London. Tony writes:   

In 1984, the Greater London Council commissioned Grand Union – which had already made its reputation touring two remarkable music-theatre shows Jelly Roll Soul and Strange Migration – to produce a work to celebrate its Year Against Racism. In collaboration with co-founders John Cumming, David Bradford and Julie Eaglen I came up with The Song of Many Tongues, which under the auspices of Alternative Arts was first performed to a large and wonderfully responsive crowd on a glorious September afternoon in the Covent Garden piazza. Thus the Grand Union Orchestra was born.

30 years later GUO is still going as strong as ever, and of course its musical reach has broadened enormously. There is still a remarkable number of leading jazz players – Chris Biscoe, Tony Kofi, Louise Elliott, Claude Deppa, Shanti Paul Jayasinha and Kevin Robinson are among those who will grace the Hackney Empire stage – and a growing roster of artists from all major musical traditions worldwide. Above all – since lyrics always under-pin the drama of GUO shows – there is an amazing range of singers.

In the meantime we have also established our own Youth Orchestra, following the model of the parent GUO; an unusual young string ensemble; and more recently a ‘world choir’. These too will be part of the Hackney Empire show.

Most of the performers are from East London, many themselves migrants or from migrant families, and this in turn has determined the theme and musical flavour of the show. For over 500 years the East End has been the focus of migration to the UK, and at a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is becoming so corrosive, it is as well to remember how immigration has enriched – and continues to enrich – our musical culture. (After all, if a similar mixing had not happened in New Orleans a century ago, we would probably not have jazz at all…)

The title of the show (borrowed from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale) seemed to evoke aspiration, hope and even the spontaneity improvisers aim for; but what I could never have imagined  thirty years ago is that Grand Union was itself setting out for Undream’d Shores, or indeed that the journey would still be going on....


Review of GUO On The Edge from 2013
Preview of GUO Liberation and Remembrance from 2012
Review of GUO If Paradise.. from 2011
Review of GUO Rhythm of Tides from 2010

Grand Union Orchestra website
Tony Haynes’s music website


RIP Vic Ash (1930-2014)

Vic Ash

Simon Spillett, has sent the sad news that Vic Ash, one of the great British reedsmen, died earlier today. Simon, who worked extensively with Vic Ash in recent years, writes:

"With great sadness I can confirm that legendary clarinettist and saxophonist Vic Ash passed away this afternoon, aged 84.

"We have lost not only one of the founding fathers of British modern jazz, and a truly gifted instrumentalist, but one of the true gentleman of the music profession. His talent, wit and wisdom will be missed by everyone who knew him - fans and fellow players alike.

"Deepest condolences to Vic's wife Helen and their family.

Vic Ash (March 9th 1930-October 24th 2014) "

 LINKS: Peter Vacher's Guardian Obituary

We reviewed Vic Ash's Quintet playing at the Concorde in Eastleigh in 2009

Lance Liddle has also reported the news


LP REVIEW: The Grip - Celebrate

The Grip - Celebrate
(Slowfoot Records SLOLP024. LP Review by Adrian Pallant)

The concept of the acoustic, chordless jazz ensemble is very much flourishing with the likes of Brass Mask and Trio Riot – and there's no denying that the stripped-back immediacy of such instrumentation can be pretty compelling. So, putting respected musicians Finn Peters (alto sax and flute), Oren Marshall (tuba) and Tom Skinner (drums) together in the recording studio for a single day, following a number of successful live dates, perhaps unsurprisingly results in this strong, exuberant debut release, Celebrate.

Known as The Grip (both Peters and Marshall hold a connection with personnel from Arthur Blythe's classic free jazz album of the same name), the trio take advantage of their crossing, collaborative paths over the years to deliver an earthy collection of the planned and the spontaneous – in fact, multi-reedsman Finn Peters explains it as an intentional shift from his electro-acoustic project Music of the Mind which "covered the stage with wires". The mood is mobile and improvisatory, resembling the brash rhythmicity of South African township and New Orleans street music whilst also incorporating funk and hip-hop grooves – and, befittingly described as 'telepathic compositions', these nine original numbers certainly offer a heady, exhilarating ride.

Acorn immediately declares the album's character with fluent, unison alto and tuba riffs, plus a tangible empathy which allows each to solo freely and boisterously over Tom Skinner's metronomic yet open clattering (tubist and drummer know each other intuitively from their Sons of Kemet association). Deliberate yet insouciant, The 199 Blues is a true slow blues groover which showcases Peters' tirelessly gritty, fluid extemporisations; and the distinctive, vocalised embouchure of Marshall is evident throughout, most especially in cheeky, scrabbling miniature On the Tube – a priceless "vrrOOhh" here, a "bleeUUrrhh" there. The only 'standard' in Oren Marshall's book is the upright position in which he plays it, sometimes teasingly dropping in the merest sliver of a familiar quote, leaving one racking the brains for its origin!

Nails – a spacial, wistful affair with beautiful contrapuntal intertwining – finds Marshall seemingly singing his melodies through the mouthpiece an octave above the keyed register. Then, chirpily and confidently, Compost Fly gently rocks and rolls, certainly not taking itself too seriously as all three players push and pull it around at will.

Finn Peters' misterioso, echoic flute is quite affecting in Saladin (chromatics reminiscent of Debussy's Syrinx), deftly slurring the intervals between semitones, similar to its Native-American instrument counterpart, over an effective hollow drum, soft cymbal and tuba undercurrent. It's a tantalising one-track glimpse of flute, leaving a desire for more. Following, The Grip pulls no punches as the trio use its freedom to compete, amusingly, for the title of 'most outrageous', though its structured phrases bring the anarchy back in line when needed. Marvellous.

With sinister breaths, grunts and cymbal scrapes, Kailash introduces a darker landscape as Peters' alto tentatively treads its way over a single, wavering tuba drone and dull drum thud. Eerily compelling, as the sax utters bizarre screeches amongst its flowing Eastern melodies, it's easy to imagine this broadening and crescendoing out in a live setting. To close, Celebrate brightly exudes an air of 'swingin' safari', Peters' zingy saxophone bubbling over to the infectious playfulness of tuba and drums.

Sure to lift the spirits, The Grip's Celebrate is available as a limited edition vinyl, or digital download, from Slowfoot Records.