LP Review: George Benson – Body Talk

George Benson – Body Talk
(Speakers Corner/CTI 6033. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Following on the furry heels of White Rabbit and recorded in 1973, Body Talk was George Benson’s sixth CTI album (counting the A&M issues), and by now the guitarist’s recordings for Creed Taylor had settled into a smooth and relatively lucrative groove — although nothing like the enormous commercial success that was to come with Benson’s move to Warner Bros, his subsequent album Breezin’ and his vocal rendition of This Masquerade (a top ten hit and a Grammy winner) — Breezin’ was the first jazz album to go platinum.

But it’s Benson’s sequence of albums for Creed Taylor Incorporated which arguably represent the cream of his work, and are indisputably the purest in terms of jazz. They are also all consistently and beautifully engineered — by Rudy Van Gelder at his Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studios. This superb sonic quality was a feature which at the time was all too often obscured by flimsy vinyl and poor manufacture. This makes the outstanding new release from Speakers Corner, beautifully pressed on 180g vinyl, all the more valuable. Body Talk has never sounded better. (Well, maybe on the master tapes.)

Musically Benson’s run of CTI albums were highly diverse. In terms of contributing players Ron Carter is almost the only consistent element, having been Benson’s bassist of choice since 1969 and The Other Side of Abbey Road. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, who had brought a thundering, angular modernism to Bill Evans’s trio, had come on board for Beyond the Blue Horizon in 1971 but subsequently sat out on White Rabbit that same year. Body Talk sees DeJohnette back and Carter still firmly in place.

The blues Dance has a Herbie Hancock sound, perhaps deliberately invoking Dolphin Dance (Hancock was another illustrious Benson sideman). Benson makes a mission statement with his virtuoso plucking here. It’s his composition, and he occupies virtually all the solo space with players of the calibre of Harold Mabern on electric piano, Gary King, electric bass and Earl Klugh, guitar, all relegated to rhythm and comping.

When Love Has Grown has a fuller, more joyous and vibrant feel. Klugh fattens the guitar lines and takes his own solo. Harold Mabern also has a chance to shine. But Benson remains emphatically the star of this show. Mabern is given considerably more elbow room, as is Ron Carter, on Plum where they shepherd in a funkier, hipper and darker feel with Benson’s silvery guitar against the black velvet backdrop provided by a larger ensemble. The horn section consists of Jon Faddis, Waymon Reed and John Gatchell on trumpet and flugelhorn and Gerald Chamberlain and Dick Griffin on trombone.

It becomes rapidly clear why Body Talk is the title track. Introduced with an insistent, foot-shuffling beat and an addictive, hummable riff it could easily ignite any dance floor. Benson’s guitar sculpts a melodic mountain range over the lush plateau of rhythm provided by his ensemble. Percussionist Mobuto slaps cascading congas while DeJohnette provides a hummingbird blur of cymbals. The order of the day is elegant excitement. You can feel your heartbeat begin to chase the guitar line. Frank Foster’s tenor sax is sour, soulful and poignant, answered by Memphis Horns-style brass stabs, all tastefully underpinning Benson (the arrangements are by Pee Wee Ellis).

Top Of The World is an ironic title since this track exerts a sharp, wistful, melancholy. Starting as a lonely guitar exploration, it’s soon enriched by DeJohnette’s drums and Mabern’s electric piano, picking up tempo and gaining complexity, but never losing that essential sadness. The tune moves up another level as the sax and horns join in, providing a powerful James Brown soul feel to the settings for Benson’s guitar, which always retains primacy. Impressive and moving, and a testament to Pee Wee Ellis’s contribution as arranger and conductor (and it isn’t surprising to learn that Ellis was a lynchpin of James Brown’s band in the 1960s).

George Benson's later work - all smooth jazz stylings, mellow vocals and tweetie-bird arrangements - is what he is best known for, and this virtuosic, harder-edged album from his prime period is a very welcome treat, both musically and in terms of sound quality. Perhaps Speakers Corner would like to follow up with White Rabbit?


CD REVIEW: Euan Burton - Too Much Love

Euan Burton - Too Much Love
(Whirlwind WR4662. CD Review by Mike Collins)

Too Much Love, bass player/ composer Euan Burton’s follow up to his 2012 Whirlwind release Occurences is as striking for his writing as for the elegant, lyrical fluency of this band of mainly long standing collaborators of Burton, pianist Tom Gibb, drummer Alyn Cosker and newcomer Adam Jackson on alto, all active on the Glasgow scene.

Titles like Prelude and Rhapsody nod at classical music references and it’s reflected in the sound of the opening sections, but both pieces evolve, blending all sorts of influences and evoking different moods. Prelude starts with flowing arpeggios and little contrapuntal melodies between piano and alto before a contrasting stately, elegiac theme emerges, rich chords underpinning a singing bass solo that gives away to a subtly accelerating piano solo. It’s a sweetly melancholic scene setter. Rhapsody starts with more drama and a real work out for Tom Gibbs at times sounding like he might be about to burst into Debussy like chordal cascades, at others edging towards a post-bop burn-up before another change of mood has the band settling into a cycling riff for a hard blowing alto solo.

Krakow has a more dance like feel. There’s an overtly folky, traditional trace through much of this music, whether hinted at by the pianist’s rhythmic left hand or in the showers of pentatonic phrases Adam Jackson sprinkles amongst solos on the more driving pieces. Fading Memories is the loosest in feel, a throbbing bass and a racing pulse from the cymbals anchor a slowly unfolding rubato melody before the band collectively explore the mood created. All that is Left and Too much love return to a more reflective atmosphere, both drawing on the interplay of the rhythm section and the warm blend of piano and alto to pack an emotional punch with strong melodic themes.

This is a short set, clocking in at around 35 minutes, but it’s a very satisfying collection and adds up to a very personal, distinctive statement from Burton as well as great performance from this fine band.


NEWS: Claire Martin and Julian Nicholas launch first South Coast Jazz (first festival 23-25 Jan '15)

Julian Nicholas and Claire Martin at the South Coast Jazz Festival Launch
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor/ Images of Jazz 

The inaugural South Coast Jazz Festival (FULL PROGRAMME BELOW) had its launch event at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea on Wednesday, to launch a programme, with some major acts, including Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe, and a birthday gig for Bobby Wellins on the Saturday. Claire Martin has been interviewed (*) about the Festival and  broader plans to help develop the scene and support community-building endeavours on the South Coast:

- South Coast Jazz and the Festival

"This is the ‘South Coast Jazz Festival’ but we want ‘South Coast Jazz’ to promote work. We want it to get behind new artists and to curate stages at festivals. We want the festival to be annual...We want our brand to really become something quite special that we can expand. We can do master classes, we can do weekends, promote gigs… The festival is the kick-start of our relationship as ‘South Coast Jazz’. There can be quite a few of us on the board, we can start thinking about expanding it into doing stuff for schools, trying to get jazz on the curriculum."

Nicole Carman, Rosie Molloy, of local youth charity The Starr Trust,
with Claire Martin. Photo credit: Brian O'Connor/ Images of Jazz 

- On what the festival can do for the local scene:

"We’ve just got to sell 600 tickets and get this festival as a ‘goer’ and then we will feel elated, we’ll get the buzz from that. We really need people to get behind it because everyone will get a play. We’ve had, this year, to rely on really well known names just to get the ball rolling but we are also including some young up and coming talent, local bands like The Mingus Underground Octet and Mark Edwards’ Cloggz. Everyone involved is from the south coast so we’re keeping it regional. Ian Shaw has got a second house in Hythe, and Joe Stilgoe is moving to Brighton next year so he’s soon to be a Sussex resident.”

- On the fact that Claire Martin herself is not performing at the inaugural festival,  but is taking an important behind-the-scenes role:

“No, I’m not doing it. I didn’t want people to say ‘You’ve created a festival and put yourself in it’. I’d find that really uncomfortable. I will introduce the bands. I will run around with cake and tea. I will liaise with people and ask people for their feedback after the gigs. I’ll be very present at the gigs. Bobby Wellins has asked me to sing with him so I’m bound to get up and do a number with him. I will sing but I didn’t want just to be a performer, I wanted to really be a curator and bring it together and be the party organiser. I want to try this new hat on; I want to be this person now. I want to encourage other singers to get up and have a go. I’ll have enough to do.”

The Jack Kendon Quartet performing at the launch: Jack Kendon, trumpet;
George Trebar, bass; Peter Adam Hill, drums, Al Scott, keyboards.
Photo credit Brian O'Connor/ Images of Jazz


Friday 23 January

8pm: Jazz Vocal Celebration featuring Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw & Joe Stilgoe, (£20)

Saturday 24 January

3pm-4.30pm: Jazz For Absolute Beginners with Kevin LeGendre

7.30pm Bobby Wellins & Geoff Simkins with The Gareth Williams Trio
Mark Edwards’ ‘Cloggz’ featuring Julian Nicholas & Ben Sarfas (£20)

Sunday 25 January 

7.30pm: Peter Long’s Echoes Of Ellington Orchestra - Duke’s First 30 Years
The Mingus Underground Octet featuring Mark Bassey

South Coast Jazz Festival websiteFACEBOOK 
Ropetackle Arts Centre. (Little High Street
Shoreham - by - Sea West Sussex BN43 5EG)

(*)The extracts above are from an interview by Elaine Crouch, and are reproduced here with her kind permission.


REVIEW: Georgia Mancio/ Alan Broadbent at Pizza Express Dean Street

Alan Broadbent, Georgia Mancio, November 2014
Photo credit: Tony Minvielle

Georgia Mancio and Alan Broadbent
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 26th November 2014. Review by James P.K. Pearson)

The collaboration of distinguished pianist, composer and arranger Alan Broadbent, with singer and lyricist Georgia Mancio stepped into new territory last night. During this show, their third appearance as a duo, they launched the first results of their songwriting partnership, which has been a going concern since July. The Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street was virtually full – quite a feat as it was just the third night after the vast London Jazz Festival had come to and end.

Broadbent admits that as a song composer perhaps he was probably “born way after my time.” So what this venture does, rather than breaking new ground, is to explore, extend and build on the tradition of the American songbook. In their first venture, Georgia Mancio put new lyrics to Broadbent's tune The Long Goodbye, which was on the Charlie Haden Quartet West 1991 album Haunted Heart, tempting fate by entitling it The Last Goodbye. As one critic wrote of that album, “Haden nicely paid tribute to the past without being held hostage to it,” and that spirit was very much alive in another Broadbent tune, Heart’s Desire, with words by Dave Frishberg. This tune in a gorgeous slow ballad rendition, takes the chromatic tension one ratchet further than a Richard Rodgers or a Harry Warren tune would, giving echoes of a later writer like Johnny Mandel, whose work Broadbent knows well, having worked with him in the studios of Los Angeles.

After the interval came two original compositions separated by a solo piano performance from Broadbent. Hide Me From The Moonlight, a mystically romantic original number was incredibly well received by the audience, which bodes well for the Broadbent/ Mancio collaboration. That kind of approbation will have encouraged and emboldened them for their work to come.

Broadbent’s solo interlude came in the form of two favourites of his: Borodin’s Strangers In Paradise and Baubles, Bangles and Beads. As he said: “it’s always a new experience. I just close my eyes and go for it”. And that he certainly did. Simply stunning and majestic.

The evening was completed with one of their favourite songs, Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark. After an expertly dissonant introduction, it flowed into a sumptuous glow. Perhaps the masterpiece of the whole evening, it displayed both the delicate perfection of Broadbent’s accompanying craft, Mancio's unfailing ability to shape a long phrase.

There is some early, quiet talk of an album, which is good news, as these new songs definitely deserve to be heard.


1. The Things We Did Last Summer (Styne / Cahn)
2. Falling in Love With Love
3. Heart’s Desire (Broadbent/Frischberg)
4. Chega de Saudade (Jobim)
5. Close to The Moon (Broadbent/Mancio)
6. The Last Goodbye (Broadbent/Mancio)
7. Strollin’ (Horace Silver/Mancio)


Harry Warren Medley:
1. September in the Rain
2. I Wish I Knew
3. This Heart of Mine

4. Hide Me From the Moonlight (Broadbent/Mancio)
5. Stranger in Paradise/Baubles, Bangles and Beads – solo piano
6. The Things That Might Have Been (Broadbent/Mancio)
7. Every Time I Think of You (Broadbent/Mancio)
8. Bud Powell (Chick Corea/Mancio)
Encore: Skylark (Carmichael /Mercer)


REPORT/PHOTOS: 15th European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

Lars Danielsson, John Parricelli, 2014 European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

Ralf Dombrowski has curated the European Jazztival Festival, held at Schloss Elmau in Germany, since inception. He reports on this year's festival, at which he also took these photos:

Last weekend at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria - which is where Angela Merkel will host next year's G7 summit on June 4th and 5th - the 15th European Jazztival came to an end. It is a small and select gathering, and this year it had mainly Scandinavian performers as guests:

Samuel Rohrer, 2014 European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, with live remixer Jan Bang and their Swiss guest Samuel Rohrer on percussion gave us other-worldly sounds, amazing shimmering, unusual sound collages in a performance which was allowed to evolve freely.

Magnus Öström, 2014 European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

Lars Danielsson was at Elmau with his Libretto Quartet. He's no longer with Tigran who now wants to work exclusively as a solo artist, so he works with pianist Jonas Östhholm, without any noticeable degradation in the overall sound of the band. Danielsson in any event delivered strongly melodic, virtuosic music, which was energized through and through by Magnus Öström, who was livelier than I have seen him in a very long time.

Solveig Slettahjell, European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

The set which vocalist Solveig Slettahjell gave with In The Country as her backing band was terrific, with guitarist Knut Reiersrud playing dark Nordic blues. This was music with immense strength, which also made its mark through presenting the listener with contrasts: the uncluttered setting of just a trio, the folk origins of Reiersrud's playing and the intensity of phrasing in Slettahjell's singing.

Bobo Stenson, Mike Mainieri, 2014 European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

Some superb duo-playing was offered by pianist Bobo Stenson, admittedly slightly tired, and his American colleague Mike Mainieri. The vibraphone of the 76-year old - definitely one of the Woodstock generation - produced virtuoso, delicately harmonized excursions in sound, from original compositions, classics like "Islands" to a quite stunning, relaxed account of Come Rain Or Come Shine.

Magnus Lindgren, Dieter Ilg, 2014 European Jazztival at Schloss Elmau

The finale had saxophonist Magnus Lindgren's new quintet. It was poppy and ever so slightly funky; great entertainment to end with.

Schloss Elmau Website


EP REVIEW: Flekd - Flekd


Flekd - Flekd
(flekd.co.uk - EP Review by Adrian Pallant)

The spheres of contemporary jazz, English/Celtic folk and world music unite in this inviting five-track debut EP from Flekd – an acoustic quintet who, between them, draw on an impressive depth of musical experience, possessing the skills to convincingly weave together these various strands into cohesive, chamber music soundscapes.

Fronted by flautist and accordionist Jane South, the line-up also consists of Rebecca Nash (piano), Moss Freed (guitar), Rob Paterson (double bass) and Matt Fisher (drums and percussion). Their original compositions are immediately accessible and, although quite possible to tag ‘easy listening’, the carefully constructed lines and opportunities for considered improvisation possess an integrity and sophistication which becomes increasingly appealing.

Goodson's expectant piano and flute rhythms introduce an atmosphere which bustles with an amiable new-age lightness, each member of the band sensitively gauging their contribution – and it’s those qualities of listening and responding which integrate their sound so well. Moss Freed’s alter ego as a hard-pushing jazz/rocker is exchanged here, in Black-a-Tor, for precise, finger-picked acoustic guitar which blends closely with Jane South’s homely-then-zestful accordion; and Matt Fisher’s tabla-toned toms combine with Rebecca Nash’s legato jazz piano to create a fresh ‘world’ ambience (the gentler instrumental side of, say, The Bothy Band or Michael McGoldrick may come to mind, but this feels like a new cross-genre angle).

Flitterflam, a reposeful flute melody subtly embellished by guitar and piano tracery, is redolent of lazy, cloud-passing Summer afternoons; and Afro-Irish show-stealer Trip to Inishbofin (presumably the tiny Galway island) ticks along to finely-weighted bass/percussion and open, lyrical jazz piano expressions. Reel-like Twice as Nice closes the 25-minute programme, Rob Paterson’s articulate double bass soloing adding weight to the tight briskness of a merry tune in which all players take their chance to shine.

The EP debut foreruns a work-in-progress first album further down the line, and this assured first recording suggests Flekd to be a successful collaboration which can surely grow, perhaps even widening its scope into grittier, more dramatic territories – an intriguing prospect indeed.


CD REVIEW: Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte - The New Standard

Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte - The New Standard
(RareNoiseRecords RNR 041. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Keyboard player Jamie Saft is best known as a member of New York’s exploratory and experimental music scene; he appeared in London last year to mark the 60th birthday of John Zorn.

The New Standard demonstrates Saft’s ability to thrive in a conventional jazz setting. His long-term collaborator Bobby Previte is a versatile drummer who has worked with the likes of Tim Berne and Lew Soloff; and the legendary electric bassist Steve Swallow will need no introduction to most readers. What a great band it is!

The flavour of the session is revealed after the first few seconds. The opener, Clarissa, is a flowing swinger on which Saft’s thoughtful chording and imaginative right-hand flurries on piano bring to mind Horace Silver and Hampton Hawes. The other thing that strikes you is the gorgeous sound, which has a rare immediacy. Swallow always has a distinctive tone, but rarely has the gentle buzz of his bass sounded this warm. And Previte’s drums come across with astonishing presence.

The disc consists of ten original compositions: seven come from Saft’s pen; the others are credited to the trio. Most are straightforward blowing vehicles, ideal for the participants to stretch out and enjoy themselves. The leader says that the high level of improvisation “gives the album a special kind of magic”. Previte expands: “We did the entire record in three hours. Some tunes were completely improvised, some....brought in by Jamie...were sketches, really....we never ever talked about how to start or how to end”.

Along with the pleasant surprises, this spontaneity brings low points and longeurs. After a promising start, Blue Shuffle becomes unnecessarily diffuse; other pieces just fizzle out. The three selections on which Saft uses Hammond organ tend to lack the bite that distinguishes those that are piano-led. But these are minor quibbles, and they are outweighed by the quality of the execution and the excitement that is generated elsewhere.

Trek and All Things to All People are built on repeated three-note bass motifs, and the drums on both have a military bearing. Step Lively is a rumba with a nice retro feel, and I See No Leader a kick-ass swinger where Previte – after a short intro - has a ball with unflashy time-playing. The impressionistic title track is more restless.

It is hard to believe that Saft, Swallow and Previte have not previously worked together as a unit. Much more downhome than Downtown, this CD – all first takes, by the way - is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.


NEWS: Jazz Record Requests to Celebrate its 50th Birthday (transmission 6th December 5pm)

Humphrey Lyttelton, the first presenter of Jazz Record Requests
The BBC programme Jazz Record Requests was first broadcast on 12th December 1964, and will have a celebratory, retrospective programme on December 6th at 5pm on BBC Radio 3.

Listeners were asked to send in memories of the show, and these are cleverly woven into the story of its history. The broadcast date also marks a sad anniversary: the first anniversary of the death of the irreplaceable Stan Tracey.

Treats in store include a blue-blowing kazoo, a washboard, Miles Davis' Milestones, John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble, a live recording of the Ellington band at Newport, Stan Tracey...plus the voices of all the seven people, each with their own distinctive broadcasting style, who have presented the show during its 50 years: Humphrey Lyttelton, Ken Sykora, Steve Race, Peter Clayton, Charles Fox, Geoffrey Smith - who makes a guest appearance - and the current presenter, Alyn Shipton, who also acknowledges assistance in preparing the programme that he received from the National Sound Archive.


INTERVIEW: Frank Harrison, pianist. (New CD: Live at the Verdict )

Frank Harrison. Photo Credit: Jon Frost

Pianist Frank Harrison has just released an album by his regular trio with Dave Whitford and Enzo Zirilli, recorded live at The Verdict in Brighton earlier this year. The album is being talked about as his strongest yet. Sebastian spoke to him about his development as a musician, and how the album came into being:  

LondonJazz News: What drew you first to the piano?

Frank Harrison: My sister was taking piano lessons so we had an old Victorian upright in the house. One holiday when I was 11 we listened to a lot of Billie Holiday, and I really liked the melodies and harmonies in those tunes. So when I got home I started trying to figure them out.

LJN: Who was the teacher who left the biggest mark on you?

FH: Peter Pettinger. He was a great classical pianist but also loved jazz. He introduced me to Bill Evans (of whom he wrote a brilliant biography) and that was a big revelation. Although he knew a lot of jazz theory, he took Bill’s attitude towards tuition: that you can show someone some chords, or a melodic or rhythmic idea, but then they’re just borrowing it from you. But if you let them find it for themselves, it’s theirs. So we talked about bigger things – the sound you get from the instrument, the overall shape of a solo. He taught me to focus on those things rather than on individual notes.

LJN: Was there a sequence in the way you got to know jazz after that?

FH: Yes – actually from Billie Holiday onwards I worked pretty much chronologically. I needed to hear each movement of jazz before I understood the next. I remember loving Blue Trane but hating A Love Supreme! Since then I feel like my musical life has been about removing those set ideas about what I like and don’t like, and becoming open to more and more music.

LJN: When I hear your playing I always find there is a strong melodic line and logic. Is that something that’s important to you?

FH: Yes. I try to play what I hear rather than what my conscious brain might come up with. I think that way you’re more in tune with the listener too – if you want a break in the line, they’re probably ready for one too. I think that’s something that Peter instilled in me from early on.

LJN: You’re a pianist of choice in a number of other bands, right?

FH: I guess so! I’ve got a few projects on the go at the moment. I’ve been playing with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble for fourteen years now and we’ll be touring a new album from January. I think it’s our strongest one so far. And I’ve just finished a tour with the Sirkis/Bialis International Quartet, which was a great experience. Asaf and Sylwia wrote some very deep music for that band, it’s unlike anything else I’ve played or heard. Now I’m starting a tour with Tommaso Starace playing music he composed for the photos of Gianni Berengo Gardin. It’s great – very melodic, and with a lot of humour. And I’ve got a new duo album with singer Edith van den Heuvel about to come out. I’m really happy with that one, it’s very intimate and beautifully recorded.

LJN: How long have you been working with Enzo Zirilli and Dave Whitford?

FH: We started playing together a couple of years ago. They’re both incredibly inspiring musicians to work with. Enzo kind of fits into Louis Armstrong’s definition of jazz: he never plays the same way once. He’s always improvising, always searching, and finds some very beautiful and unusual places. Dave is my ideal bass player. He’s got a perfect balance of rooting things when they need to be rooted, combined with a lot of freedom. Like Enzo, there’s no ego there – he just listens and plays what needs to be played.

LJN: How is this album is different from your others?

FH: The biggest difference is that it’s live! Our previous albums have always involved a lot of preparation, finding the right studio, writing and rehearsing the music… This one was never intended to be an album. We were on tour promoting our Lunaris album and I stuck my digital recorder on stage just to have my own record of what we were doing. But when I listened back to our gig at The Verdict in Brighton I heard something that’s very hard to capture in the studio. Playing close together in a great room and to an attentive audience lets you take risks, and - importantly -  have fun.  You’re not making judgments about what’s happening, you’re not wondering “is this the take”? You’re just listening and responding, so the music really plays itself.

We then spent a day in the studio mastering it – polishing it as much as we could, trying to bring the piano out a bit… The end result isn’t something that ECM would release but there’s something nice and honest about it.

LJN: In what formats are you making it available? 

FH: Since it was free to record, I decided to make the MP3 version of the album free to download. But as some people still like physical objects, we also printed a CD with a bonus track.

LJN: What gigs have you got coming up?

FH: We’ve got a couple of gigs in December to celebrate the new album. On the 3rd we’re at the Albion Beatnik in Oxford (the bonus track on the CD was from a gig we did in Oxford). And then on December 12th we’re back at The Verdict in Brighton. We’ll also be doing a London launch in the spring.

Frank Harrison Trio – Live at The Verdict is available as a free download or to buy on CD HERE  (pp)


REVIEW: Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Suite + Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas: Sound Prints at the Barbican (2014 EFG LJF)

Charles Lloyd. Barbican November 2014. Photo Credit: Paul Wood

Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Suite + Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas: Sound Prints.
(Barbican Centre, Sun. 23rd Nov. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Alison Bentley)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas paid tribute to the ‘warm feeling’ in the Barbican on the last night of the Festival. And so it was: wild applause, and it was only the end of the evening’s first half. Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano had just finished their Sound Prints set, the band ‘put together about three years ago’, inspired by Wayne Shorter’s ‘life and spirit’, including new music specially written for them by Shorter himself.

Douglas and Lovano’s sounds were well-matched for sheer energy as they opened with long tangled lines. (Lovano’s Sound Prints merging into Douglas’ Sprints) The boppish swing veered between tempos, Lovano’s burnished tone in fast clusters of notes as if he was having a friendly argument with himself. The passion in his playing almost superseded the notes.

There were hints of Footprints in Linda Oh’s pulsing bass line in Shorter’s Destination Unknown. It was wonderful to hear new, distinctive music from Shorter, complex and rich. There were convoluted sections and long notes, phrased across the beat, like dark twisting paths opening out into the sunlight- the way Speak No Evil does. Douglas’ solo punched each note into the air- there’s such clarity of thought and direct emotional appeal in his playing. In Shorter’s To Sail Beyond the Sunset, the angular riffs of Lovano’s solo were like geometric forms, filled in with tiny delicate scribbles- but I was straining to hear some of his under-amplified subtleties. Oh was mining the groove, standing very still as her hands flew up and down the bass. Notes ricocheted off the lowest bass string as she soloed with percussive power. Joey Baron crouched low for his short, dramatic drum solo- he’d already revealed his virtuosity throughout the gig.

Dave Douglas, Linda Oh, Joe Lovano
Barbican Nov 2014. Photo Credit: Paul Wood

Douglas’ spacious Ups and Downs was the encore, evoking the country/folk moods of some of his other projects. You just had to let Lovano’s gorgeous deep sound wash over you. One of the set’s most emotive moments was when Lawrence Fields’ piano broke out of the mid-keyboard range into high Romantic swirls over velvety horn backing lines.

Who could follow such a blazing start? Saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s Wild Man Suite, commissioned originally by the Wrocław Jazz Festival, was a far-reaching uninterrupted story with different narrators. ‘You can't shoot an arrow into infinity if you're always in motion,’ Lloyd once said. ‘You first have to draw the bow back.’ He was referring to his retreat from public view from the early 70s to the early 80s, after burning out. (Herbie Hancock once called him the first jazz-rock star). But the image could equally describe this extraordinary gig with its contrasting atmospheres of forceful energy and quieter contemplation.

Lloyd’s tone was soft at first (he’s spoken of the importance of tenderness in his playing). His sinuous lines were phrased as if he were playing lyrics, like his hero, Lester Young. The long, expressive Coltrane-influenced notes, punctuated with intricate runs, were utterly absorbing. His bop phrasing reminded us of his tenure in Cannonball Adderley’s bands. Lloyd was the main storyteller, but each band member took turns.

The set felt like the calm before a tropical storm, though there were outbreaks of collective free improv amidst the gentle grooves- often just one or two chords. It felt like a clear link with his late 60s million-selling albums. Every so often Eric Harland’s drums, which mostly brooded in the background, burst into tempestuous squalls as the rest of the band smiled at him in amazement. Lloyd is known for finding young geniuses in the past- Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Brad Meldhau, Michel Petrucciani...the list goes on. Tonight Gerald Clayton’s piano had an exquisite ringing tone, sometimes like random drops presaging the storm. Joe Sanders’ springy bass moved from pulsating bop to minimalist funky notes. A highlight was the bass bowed in duet with the woody quarter-tones of Socratis Sinopolous’ Greek lyra, like an upright fiddle. Miklos Lukacs’ Hungarian cimbalom- part hammer dulcimer, part harpsichord- sometimes sounded like a prepared piano. He played wild rhythms and eastern scales, the timbre adding a glow to Clayton’s piano.

Lloyd played tárogató and alto flute in the encores- he’s often credited with being one of the first jazzers to dip into world music. He recited lines from the Bhagavad Gita, making clear the spiritual roots of his music- before ending with a bluesy groove, reminding us he spent some of his early years working with Howlin’ Wolf.

A gig among gigs, led by a man whose life embodies jazz history, with a fine band that took us though extremes and out the other side feeling euphoric- the entire audience was on its feet, cheering.

LINKS: Review of Soundprints at Ronnie Scott's in 2012

DVD Review CharlesLloyd Arrows into Infinity

Interview with Charles Lloyd from 2013

CD Reviews of Charles Lloyd's Quartets and Hagar's Song


REVIEW: Bennie Maupin Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

Bennie Maupin from the One LP Collection
Photo Credit: William Ellis. All Rights Reserved

Bennie Maupin Quartet
(Ronnie Scott’s, 24 November 2014, review by Mark McKergow)

It’s hard to credit that this was reedsman and bass clarinet specialist Bennie Maupin's first appearance at Ronnie Scott’s as band-leader, if not his first time at the club: that was as far back as 1968.

A sprightly 74 years old, Maupin himself is a part of jazz history. He was a member of Miles Davis’s early 1970s explorations on albums like Bitches Brew and On The Corner, and an essential voice in Herbie Hancock’s legendary Headhunters quartet. Many of his compositions are named in tribute to his past teachers and old masters, and show great dynamic, tonal and rhythmic range.

A UK-sourced band had been assembled for a short four-date tour, and his sidemen rose impeccably to the challenge of bringing Maupin’s catchy and original tunes to life. Above all, the music was alive.

Over two sets, bookended with Joe Zawinul’s In A Silent Way played freely but unadorned, Maupin gave a masterclass in living and spontaneous musicianship. The hypnotic Walter Bishop Jr. rapidly raised the temperature, with the (underfeatured) Vidal Montgomery’s bass ostinato holding and flexing with the action while Rod Youngs gave himself fully three feet of backswing to launch all-out attacks on his array of cymbals.

The intensity of the music was much greater than on Maupin’s previous visits and on his recent recordings. See The Positive turned into a full-on funk workout with Ronnie’s regular Carl Orr shredding his guitar hard and fast, to the leader’s (and the audience’s) obvious pleasure.

It was a delight to hear Maupin’s delicious bass clarinet on several numbers. Neophilia started with atmospheric rattling bass clarinet keys before landing in a 7/4 groove that felt natural and even danceable, with Orr producing some limpid slide work. Maupin’s tribute to Lester Young, Message to Prez, saw another complex-yet-earwormingly-hummable melody given an almost calypso feel.

The short rehearsal time produced a group nicely on the edge, feeling their way together ,with Maupin sometimes leading from the front (his face-to-face duos with Youngs and Orr on The 12th Day producing some of the most memorable music of the evening), and other times beaming from the side of the stage, loving every moment.

A near-capacity crowd loved it all too, and surely, hopefully, it won’t be decades before Ronnie’s asks Maupin back.


REVIEW: Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records at the Royal Festival Hall (2014 EFG LJF)

Jason Moran (left and Robert Glasper (right) RFH, Nov 2014
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records: Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge, and Kendrick Scott
(Royal Festival Hall, 22 November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Blue Note’s 75th anniversary concert on the penultimate day of the EFG London Jazz Festival saw a host of heavyweights underline the bright future of the label. The first half was taken by Jason Moran and Robert Glasper in close to an hour straight through of piano duo. This was a performance redolent of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s great duets, even culminating in Maiden Voyage – albeit Glasper’s Radiohead-infused version. Both pianists made their own distinct styles clear: Moran with percussive prepared piano and blues licks; Glasper with irresistible harmonies and allusions to R&B. Given its intensity, this first half would have proved ample celebration for many. However, this was but a prelude for the all-star sextet which took to the stage after the interval, when Glasper was joined by Marcus Strickland (sax), Ambrose Akinmusire  (trumpet), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Kendrick Scott  (drums) and Derrick Hodge (bass).

L-R: Lionel Loueke, Kendrick Scott, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge,
Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Glasper. Photo Credit: Roger Thomas  

After a Blue Note classic, Witch Hunt by Wayne Shorter, the sextet really came to life with Kendrick Scott’s composition Cycling Through Reality, which erupted spectacularly from the middle of an extended drum solo. Akinmusire illuminated the Royal Festival Hall with his golden tone and the rhythm section of Glasper, Scott and Hodge grooved effortlessly throughout. Lionel Loueke added fresh perspectives with his West African style, and also shone as a composer as the evening progressed with his Freedom Dance. Regular collaborators Derrick Hodge and Robert Glasper formed the foundation for some of the evening’s best moments: Hodge’s understated, muscular playing creating the perfect platform for Glasper’s virtuosity and wit. The concert concluded with Message of Hope from Hodge’s first album as leader, providing a fitting, almost spiritual end to proceedings.

With artists this talented, collaborating as well as they did here, it’s clear that the future of the label is in good hands. An exceptional evening which gave proof - if any were needed - that Blue Note is in rude health at 75 years old.


REVIEW: Different Every Time; an evening with Robert Wyatt at the QEH (2014 EFG LJF)

Robert Wyatt and trombonist Annie Whitehead.
 Still taken from Mark Kidel’s Free Will and Testament: The Robert Wyatt Story (2003)

Different Every Time; an evening with Robert Wyatt
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 23rd November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by John L Walters)

Robert Wyatt seemed amused that anyone would spend time writing a book about him. ‘It’s not a book I would have written,’ he said to Marcus O’Dair, author of Different Every Time (Serpent’s Tail) the authorised biography of the musician. ‘It’s not a subject that interests me. But thanks!’

O’Dair began the evening by asking Wyatt for his memories of the Southbank Centre. Wyatt had visited the 1951 Festival of Britain as a small boy, and in 2001 he curated the annual Meltdown festival – an experience he describes as ‘heaven’.

Wyatt admitted that nervousness made him talkative, but that was to our advantage: for more than an hour we were treated to a delightful stream of anecdote, opinions, confessions, thumbnail portraits, digressions and heartfelt statements, initially coaxed by his biographer and then in response to a diverse series of questions from the devoted audience. The subject matter ranged from Kevin Coyne to Ukraine; from Henry Cow to hip-hop, and Wyatt handled his interlocutors with grace, good humour and insight.

After the interval we heard from Orphy Robinson, who contributed the tune Pastafari to Wyatt’s 2007 album Comicopera. Robinson played an electronic mallet instrument alongside a laptop bursting with disembodied voices – it was like a funkier version of The Books . The solo set was a counterintuitive preface to a screening of Free Will and Testament: The Robert Wyatt Story (2003).

This inspiring documentary of Wyatt working at home in Louth, Lincolnshire was directed by Mark Kidel and produced by Jez Nelson. The film [Extract] is interspersed with studio performances of Wyatt singing with a version of Annie Whitehead’s Soupsongs band that played the QEH in 2000 (REVIEWED HERE).

There was a bittersweet pleasure in hearing and seeing trumpeter Harry Beckett, who died in 2010, adding his magical, bubbling solo voice to the Wyatt repertoire. Wyatt makes pop music that’s in edgy but ultimately friendly dialogue with jazz. Wyatt’s extreme sensitivity to everything – sound, art, other musicians, politics – was evident in both halves of the evening ‘The political is personal,’ he stated. In a moment to treasure in Free Will and Testament, Wyatt muses calmly that when he gets really depressed about the dire state of the world, he cheers himself up with the thought that at least jazz exists.

The entire evening made a thoughtful closing act to yet another great London Jazz Festival.


REVIEWED IN BRIEF: We also went to... at the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival

Sean Noonan (on drims, right) at the Crypt Camberwell
Photo Credit: John L Walters

"We also went to..." 

When all our full gig reviews of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival been filed, we expect to have well over thirty of them, in addition to twenty-three previews. Nevertheless, we are aware that even our coverage has left many events unremarked. So we try to redress this here with twenty-four mini-reviews of other gigs, in alphabetical order:

o  -  o  -  o  -  o

Aaron Goldberg at Pizza Express Dean Street

Just after midnight on Thursday, at a packed Pizza Express where staff struggled to contain fans who were desperate to get in, pianist Aaron Goldberg constructed a mesmerising set of (mainly) original music alongside bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Eric Harland. 100 minutes of sheer bliss; and it was free! (Andy Boeckstaens)

Adam Glasser's South African Jazz Night ay Ivy House Community Pub, Nunhead

Packed to the rafters with listeners and drinkers soaking in the atmosphere, Adam Glasser's brand of South African jazz was one of the few authentically South African Festival tributes. Vocalist Pinise Saul brought vibrancy to the music while Gareth Lockrane and Jason Yarde provided horn fills. Bassist Steve Watts and drummer Ian Thomas did a terrific job as the backbone of the ensemble. (Nicky Schrire)

Amina Figarova Sextet at the 606

The range of this transatlantic group's expression, and of Figarova's writing, from New York hustle-bustle to a beautifully placed, as yet unrecorded ballad entitled Blue Whisper, was stunning. This is in every sense a headlining rather than a support band. Jeroen Vierdag is perectly in-tune go-for-it bassist, drummer Jason Brown a real creative energizer, Bart Platteau a go-to flautist.    (Sebastian Scotney)

Buck Clayton Legacy Band Celebrate Duke Ellington’s small bands at Pizza Express

A cracking gig and a masterclass in swing from bassist Alyn Shipton and Matthias Seuffert’s co-led super-group (video above), with sublime arrangements by Alan Barnes and Tony Faulkner. Highlights included trumpeter Ian Smith’s heart stopping break chorus on Johnny Hodges’ ‘Globetrotter’ and Alan Barnes at his best channelling the sinewy spirit of Hodges on ‘Three and six’. Ten out of ten for frontline ensemble work. Honourable mentions for Robert Fowler's baritone and Martin Litton at his most Ducal. (Al Ryan)

Chaos Orchestra at the Spice of Life

The sound of a big band in a small space always sends shivers up the spine.  The Chaos Orchestra – directed by Laura Jurd – is a fine modern band with an exciting spiky sound and an exuberant group of young musicians and composers who clearly had a lot of fun – always a good sign! (Peter Slavid)

Charlotte Glasson Band in the Clore Ballroom at the RFH

Multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson had the audience - kids, passers-by, jaded punters - clapping in 6/4 time, whistling choruses and generally partying as the joyful spirit of Roland Kirk filled the Clore Ballroom for a short but breakneck set (“Five minutes left, so time for two tunes. I still have a couple of instruments to play”) Great to see that ever-versatile guitarist Chris Spedding and bassist Mick Hutton having such fun. Certainly as good as I recall of Kirk on my first visit to Ronnies, back in 1974. (Geoff Noble)

Clare Teal - The Divas & Me at Pizza Express

A hugely entertaining evening with the perennially classy Clare Teal. Skillfully channeling Ella, Peggy, Dinah and more, a superb master class in crafting a show which showcased drummer Ben Reynolds, bassist Simon Little and pianist/arranger Grant Windsor beautifully. (Nicky Schrire)

Cyrille Aimée  at  the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall

Cyrille Aimée and her stellar quartet enthralled with repertoire ranging from Duke Ellington to Michael Jackson. An intense musicality, exceptional ability to improvise and a modern repertoire set Aimée apart from her peers. Guitarists Michael Valeanu, Adrien Moignard, bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera were technically virtuosic and musically electrifying. (Nicky Schrire)

Dan Tepfer's Goldberg Variations/Variations at the Wigmore Hall

An extreme jazz gig where the first applause came after 80+ minutes of music, indeed after 25 seconds of silence after the last piano chord. An evening where there are strong shadows on the walls: Glenn Gould for the Goldbergs, Keith Jarrett for the journeys into abstraction (and the singing). But maybe the real unpressured Dan Tepfer only came through in the encore, an original. (Sebastian Scotney)

Gareth Lockrane, Alex Garnett, Steve Fishwick, Barnaby Dickenson, James Allsopp
The Forge. Photo credit: Sarah Caplin

Gareth Lockrane's Grooveyard and Bheki Mseleku set at The Forge Camden Town

After an enticing first set of Grooveyard originals down at The Forge (image above), Gareth Lockrane added more faces to his usual line-up to perform a set of epic tunes by Bheki Mseleku, South Africa’s finest jazzman. We heard vibrant versions of Timelessness and Angola as well as unrecorded Bheki tunes that Lockrane has lovingly brought back to life with compelling and heartfelt new arrangements. (Sarah Chaplin)

Zeena Parkins, harpist (ctre) and massed ranks of Henry Cow and others.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All rights reserved.

Henry Cow / Lindsay Cooper Celebration at the Barbican

This was a delightful concert - engaging, intriguing and enjoyable. A dozen of Lindsay Cooper's (1951-2013) key collaborators, including the core members of Henry Cow, reconvened to pay their respects in the best way they knew how, by performing a range of her complex scores and improvising with gusto when cued; in effect, a chamber ensemble with attitude and energy. Including, thirty years on, a first live performance of News from Babel, they earned a standing ovation from an audience impressed and charmed by their dedication, invention and ability to deliver with such freshness. (Geoff Winston)

A packed house for the Jarek Smietana Tribute

Jarek Smietana Tribute at Cafe Posk 

 It was clear from the interview that I did with Yaron Stavi, that this was going to be a poignant occasion not just for him, but also for friends, family, musicians, and for London's Polish community. Everyone was receptive to the band's every note. John Etheridge and the late guitarist's daughter Alicja Smietana played with emotion and brought tears to some members of the audience. This was a gig not just played and listened to, but lived through, and completely uplifting (Hayley Redmond)

Jazz Rant at Club Inégales

What happens if you put a group of jazz academics on a platform in a lovely club and invite them to have a rant? Well mostly they promote their books and slag each other off – but its great fun to watch!  More next year please – but less professors and more musicians. (Peter Slavid)

John Stevens Celebration (1)

Many of the late drummer John Stevens’ colleagues reconvened on Saturday at the Purcell Room. The music ranged from the modern/mainstream of his last quartet (with Byron Wallen, Ed Jones and Gary Crosby) to the more exploratory (Nigel Coombes). The filmed anecdotes from friends, and the backdrop of Stevens’ art, were extremely moving. (Andy Boeckstaens)

John Stevens Celebration (2)

Alex Hawkins slipping quietly onto the piano stool in the middle of the John Stevens tributes in the Front Room on Sat 22 and unfolding a rivetting 15-minute solo extemporisation, now Ellingtonian, now Monkish, that brought back memories of Abdullah Ibrahim in his prime.(Jon Turney)

Laura Jurd's Human Spirit at the Barbican

Laura Jurd's superb Human Spirit closing the Chaos Collective's afternoon at the Barbican on the festival's final day, with Lauren Kinsella and Chris Batchelor on coruscating form and the marvellous vibrations of Mick Foster's bass saxophone. Their tour in January should be really something. (Jon Turney)

Liane Carroll at St James's Studio

Down-to-earth humour, deep emotion in the songs, bursts of surreal humour, and John Etheridge as luxury guest. Liane Carroll always takes an audience to places they wouldn't be expecting. Her last album explored her quieter ballad-ish side. The next one, due in May, will find her a little older. And a little wilder. (Hayley Redmond)

Nathaniel Facey at Barbican Cinema 1

Nathaniel Facey played Freddie Redd’s music for The Connection prior to a screening of the restored 1962 classic directed by Shirley Clarke. Redd’s score provides uplifting counterpoint to Jack Gelber’s shrewd, downbeat portrayal of druggy hipsterdom. Facey’s quartet, including Italian bassist Dario de Lecce, treated the tunes with spirited respect. (John L Walters)

Phil Meadows at Kings Place

I just heard some of their small-group set. The musicians in Phil Meadows' band are some of the most original talents we have - Laura Jurd on trumpet, Conor Chaplin on bass, Elliot Galvin on piano . In this context, and with Meadows' angular and busy compositions they egg each other on to out-achieve. Life-affirming to see them in action  (Sebastian Scotney)

Sean Noonan at The Crypt in Camberwell

Drummer/composer Sean Noonan(top image), an intense Brooklynite dressed like a boxer in singlet and shorts, plays drums, tells tales (tall and otherwise) and plays complex, beguiling highly rhythmic music with amplified Polish string quartet A Gambler’s Hand. Surprising, subtle … slightly bonkers. They complete their European tour in Oxford, Liverpool and Kirbymoorside. (John L Walters)

Snarky Puppy at Ronnie Scott's

On Monday, Snarky Puppy shook off the jetlag and brought their funky brew to bear on a devoted bunch of night owls with a surprise late show at Ronnies. This mini set gave a taster of their Roundhouse gig the following night, and - as Geoff Winston attests in his review - their speciality is a Œchunky, roller-coaster of a groove¹ full of razor-sharp articulation from the horn section and spaced-out guitar solos. (Sarah Chaplin)

Tom White Septet with eponymous leader in white shirt (right)

Tom Green and Tom White Septets at Spice of Life

Two Toms, two colours, two trombonists, two septets. Both bring a youthful energy, and based their compositions on personal experiences. Paul Pace as host brought joviality. This was a gig about friendship and collaboration, played in front of an audience with a wide age-range. I'll be producing a podcast recording of interviews and of part of this fun gig. (Hayley Redmond)

The Vortex Programme

We had 16 concerts over the 10 days, with nearly 30 different groups playing. Here are a few of my own individual memorable highlights:

- Christian Lillinger's drumming for Hyperactive Kid, Starlight (which can be heard on Jazz on 3 tonight) and Kronecker on the festival's last night.

- Lafayette Gilchrist morphing from rhapsodic Gershwinian improvisation to train boogie-woogie with Paul Dunmall as the train whistle and Mark Sanders' shuffle

-Three dramatic and euphoric drum solos from Mark Mondesir, depping with Partisans

- The loft party atmosphere generated by Tiny Beast late night on Saturday, more than helped by Gina Southgate's live painting.

- The general enthusiasm of the musicians who helped organise some of our concerts (e.g. Kit Downes' work on inviting two Berlin bands, John Russell for Mopomoso (from his sick bed), Dan Nicholls and Tom Challenger for Loop Collective's Rec London, Scott Stroman for London Jazz Orchestra and Simon Roth for Pop-Up Circus (Oliver Weindling)

 Way Out West / Tim Whitehead - Cafe Posk

Way Out West celebrated their tenth birthday by starting a monthly residency in Hammersmith's Cafe Posk. Billed as "WOW Large Ensemble", I expected a big band; what we got was a string of bands from a trio to a twelve piece, comprising some of London's best performers. Stand outs in the first half were Kate Williams on piano, young bassist Flo Moore, and Emily Saunders' vocals. The second half was given over to saxophonist Tim Whitehead's new exciting and inventive suite inspired by Turner's paintings of the Thames, with Whitehead and pianist Jonathan Gee on top form. (Patrick Hadfield)


REVIEW: Regina Carter plus Yazz Ahmed (2014 EFG LJF)

Regina Carter

Regina Carter plus Yazz Ahmed
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 22 November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)

Jazz violin star Regina Carter convened a suitably instrumented acoustic band to perform the songs from her latest release, Southern Comfort (reviewed here)  in which she delves into the songs of her grandparents' time in Alabama. Backed by Marvin Sewell on electric and acoustic guitars, Chris Lightcap on upright bass, Will Holshouser on accordion and the irrepressibly good-humoured drumming of Alvester Garnett, this was jazz meets Americana done to perfection.

The set was built from the very simple materials aired on the CD, some of them sampled in their most elemental form using field recordings played from Carter's iPhone (as explained in our interview earlier this year). The simplicity is affecting, although just occasionally overwhelmed by long solos from guitar and accordion that these songs didn't really call for. No such problem with Carter's solos, though, which invariably tell a story that grips you to the end.

Her superb violin sound, captured beautifully on the recording, came across even more penetratingly in the QEH - a shift of venue after ticket sales made it clear the Purcell Room would be too small. And although her cohorts are all fine musicians, it was Carter who held the attention for 90 minutes plus.

The gig added well-judged variety to the Southern Comfort songlist. The leader doubled a vocal line on Richard Bona's Mandingo Street, and brought her Festival commission, Pound for Pound, while Garnett's post-Katrina piece, New for New Orleans, was a more modern emotional maelstrom.

The folksier melodies linger, though. As Carter said, the way the music of the Appalachians wove together Scottish and Irish elements with West African and other strains is another reminder that all musics are connected. Her 21st century take on the same blend certainly connected with London in the most enjoyable way.

Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed's opening set, confined to half an hour, seemed over almost as soon as she and her band got warmed up. That didn't leave much of an impression of her interestingly layered music except that she composes somewhat Eastern melodies, George Crowley sounds great on bass clarinet, and Martin France on drums and Dudley Philips on bass work beautifully together. If the festival organisers want to support new talent they perhaps they need to allow them a bit more breathing space than this.

LINK: Review: Yazz Ahmed's Family Hafla


NEWS: Winners Announced in the 28th British Jazz Awards

Alec Dankworth. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Big Bear Music in Birmingham have announced the results of the 28th edition of the longest-standing jazz awards in the UK. The final round has been determined by a public vote, in which the public was not restricted to the shortlisted artists from the awards' nominator panel. Indeed, there are a number of artists who have made it into the final listings who were not shortlisted (SHORTLISTS HERE). There is no sponsor so there is not expected to be an awards bash. Congratulations to all listed below - winners are in capital letters:


2. Enrico Tomasso
3. Bruce Adams
4. Steve Fishwick
5. Freddie Gavita


2. Pete King
3. Alan Barnes
4. Derek Nash
5. Sam Mayne


2. Martin Taylor
3. Nigel Price
4. Dominic Ashworth
5. Remi Harris


2. Alan Barnes [Baritone Sax]
3. Chris Garrick [Violin]
4. Amy Roberts [Flute]
5. Gareth Lockrane [Flute]


2. Dennis Rollins
3. Roy Williams
4. Ian Bateman
5. Mark Bassey


2. Simon Spillett
3. Art Themen
4. Robert Fowler
5. Alex Garnett


2. Dave Green
3. Len Skeat
4. Andrew Cleyndert
5. Al Swainger


2. Tina May
3. Claire Martin
4. Anita Wardell
5. Lauren Kinsella


2. Pete Long
3. Julian Stringle
4. Mark Crooks
5. Shabaka Hutchings


2. Zoe Rahman
3. Nikki Iles
4. Gareth Williams
5. Reuben James


2. Seb Rochford
3. Bobby Worth
4. Ralph Salmins
5. Clark Tracey


2. Remi Harris
3. Laura Jurd
4. Alan Benzie
5. Ben Holder


3. Back To Basie
4. Beats & Pieces


2. GoGo Penguin
3. Brassjaw
4. Tipitina
5. Polar Bear


2. Linn Records – Claire Martin- Say It Isn't So
3. Hep Records – Tina May – Divas
4. Gondwana Records – GoGo Penguin - v2.0
5. Jazizit Records – Derek Nash / Funkerdeen


2. Fresh Sound Records – The Jazz Makers & The Jazz Five
3. Lake Records – Chris Barber - 1959-60
4. Fresh Sound Records – Joe Harriott Quintet - Southern Horizons / Free Form / Abstract
5. Polygram Records – Joe Harriott Double Quintet, "Indo-Jazz Suite"


REVIEW: Kneebody at Ronnie Scott's (EFG London Jazz Festival)


(Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. 22nd November 2014. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Last night, Kneebody performed in the UK for the first time. The band was formed 13 years ago in Santa Monica California, so the question must be: why has the UK audience been kept from experiencing this incredible band for quite so long?

Kneebody absolutely rocked Ronnie Scott’s last, playing to an audience of which only 20 percent had actually heard of the band. Drum Battle started off the gig, immediately capturing the room and launching into an eclectic drum groove with an extended horn head. Saxophonist and composer of this tune, Ben Wendel, offered up an exciting and gung-ho solo, leading seamlessly back into the melody. Reminiscent of a Michael Brecker a cappella introduction, Wendel’s solo sax intro on Still Play displayed his incredible fluency on the instrument alongside his beautiful tone and dynamic circular breathing skills. Wendel blew awe-inspiring solos all night, maintaing an energy that never seemed to lapse.

Adam Benjamin on Rhodes impressed the whole gig with his ability to non-intrusively add colour and interest to every tune. Using effects to distort and contort the classic Rhodes sound, he contributed three tunes and pulled out linear harmonic gems throughout the night.

Influenced by his home town of Denver, Colorado, trumpeter Shane Endsley’s tune Cha Cha showed off the layers within Kneebody and how everything stems from a drum and bass groove. Nate Wood is such a solid yet fluid drummer who is a master of odd time signatures and provides the perfect platform for Kneebody’s cross-rhythms and melodic complexities. Both Endsley and Wendel used effects throughout the night which gave the music a whole new dimension with etherial sounds and booming echoes. Endsley’s angular and thematically developmental solos throughout the night were a joy to listen to.

The whole band seemed to be constantly engaged with the music whether it was trumpet backings doubled in fourths behind a Rhodes solo, or Wendel playing a ride cymbal pattern over a drum groove. The band have a great sense of time, in a way that nothing ever seems too long, boring or drawn out. Everything has its place and they are masters of keeping energy and engagement at a maximum.

Bassist Kaveh Rastegar, provided just one quirky and inventive solo on the night and says of the band: “Personally, I think calling Kneebody “jazz” or “electric jazz” is fantastic because then we can move on from that hang up and play our music — and alter expectations of what ‘jazz’ is.”.

Kneebody is a shapeshifter of a band, able to intuitively chop and change with the utmost freedom whilst maintaing deep grooves, complex melodies and roaring solos. Whether it’s the secret musical cues that they have honed from 13 years of playing together or because they are a band who’s musical and non-musical personalities are stuck together like glue, they are a huge force to be reckoned with.  Come back soon!


REVIEW: Roy Hargrove Quintet at Ronnie Scott's (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Roy Hargrove Quintet
(Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. 22nd November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Michael Underwood)

Roy Hargrove’s smart-suited quintet took to the stage at Ronnie Scotts to deliver an extremely enjoyable and witty performance, full of quality, finesse and humour, executed by five musicians at the top of their game.The band has an impressive intuitiveness, all are sensitive to Hargrove’s every move.

Saxophonist Justin Robinson delivered highly energetic and harmonically intriguing solos full of cleverly manipulated bop language, his relentless energy perhaps sometimes too much  in contrast to Hargrove’s more laid back approach.

Impressive pianist Sullivan Fortner always seemed to be on hand to offer a breath of fresh air after burning sax solos. Early in the set on a latin tune, his intricate contrapuntal lines combined perfectly with his ability to create thoughtful, intriguing and relatable solos. Later in the set a version of Strasbourg St Denis opened out into an unaccompanied piano solo where Fortner went to town, veering away from the tune with complex ideas. A bluesy shuffle number then further demonstrated his amazing stylistic flexibility and range.

Bassist Ameen Saleem shone in two ballad-like tunes, when his reflective soloing had a great use of space, and exceptional placement of notes.

Elegant brushwork from drummer Quincy Phillips gave Hargrove the opportunity to blo w a quirky solo whilst retaining a sense of continuity. Considering the detailed and engaging ballad work that the band had set up, I found Robinson’s solo to be slightly overpowering, blowing the bands excellent dynamic control out of the water.

A highlight of the gig was Hargrove taking to the mic to sing the jazz standard, Never Let Me Go, with a remarkably beautiful tone. A real storyteller, Hargrove’s rendition was perfectly complemented by the band. This tune segued into a rock groove on top of which a comically crafted version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy was played. What a nice surprise!

All in all, this gig had something for everyone. Moving effortlessly from style to style and groove to groove, there is an exciting freshness about this group, moving forward whilst playing music harking back to bygone decades.


REVIEW: Ibrahim Maalouf at the QEH (2014 EFG London Jazz Festival)

Ibrahim Maaalouf. EFG London Jazz Festival 2014
Photo Credit: John L Walters

Ibrahim Maalouf
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, 19th November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by John L Walters)

Paris-based Lebanon-born Ibrahim Maalouf is a flamboyant trumpeter-bandleader in a tradition that includes Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval and Lester Bowie. Classically trained, he has a formidable technique, and he plays a quarter-tone trumpet with an extra valve that enables him to play between the notes of the chromatic scale. He’s an accomplished composer whose music draws on Arabic pop music, jazz-funk, heavy rock and subtle, Miles-influenced jazz – his acoustic quintet album Wind (which features saxophonist Mark Turner) was one of the best releases of 2013.

His current eight-strong band focuses on the more bombastic Illusions (2013), which includes three additional trumpeters (one of whom also switches to binioù, a Breton bagpipe, for the encore). Maalouf is an accomplished composer, with a gift for catchy riffs and tunes that stick in the brain, and Illusions is a more varied and nuanced work than its live realisation might indicate.

Wednesday’s gig for the London Jazz Festival was more World Music show – albeit with jazz chops – than jazz concert. Maalouf’s musicians play as if they are in a stadium, or a festival, reaching out as if to the furthest corner of a tent-filled field. I understand why they do this, but there are times when Maalouf’s tunes deserve more light and shade. In among excellent tunes such as Conspiracy Generation, Busy and True Sorry we are treated to extended, hard rock guitar solos and a drum solo that overstays its welcome.

Fortunately Maalouf’s own improvisations always hit the spot, and there were plenty of moments of joyful music-making: engaging solos, catchy melodies, virtuosic cadenzas, including a terrific trumpet-drums duet with Stéphane Galland.

Maalouf also creates a warm rapport with the enthusiastic crowd. He asks whether we know Beirut (from his 2011 album Diagnostic). When half of us raise our hands he demands good-humouredly that we all sing its lengthy, serpentine melody a cappella. At another moment he coaxes some tuneful whistling from the stalls.

There’s plenty of showbiz business, but there’s a lot of good music, too. Maalouf has quickly become one of the most convincing and entertaining exponents of world jazz on the scene – he’s on an unstoppable career ascent, and it would be great to hear more of him in London. However to hear Maalouf’s distinctive and original take on the jazz tradition, turn down the lights, close your eyes and listen to Wind.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Allison Neale's I Wished on the Moon CD launch (606 Club, Weds 26th Nov)

Allison Neale

Alto saxophonist Allison Neale will launch her third album "I wished on the Moon" (Trio Records) at the 606 Club this Wednesday 26th November. Sebastian interviewed her by email:

LondonJazz News: You are known as a "West Coast" saxophonist, and although you live in London, you were actually born on the West Coast of the US. What's the story ?

Allison Neale: Yes I was born in Seattle, Washington but came to the UK when I was very young after my father an aeronautics engineer, left the Boeing Aircraft company.

LJN: Was music always a big part of your life ?

AN: My father was a huge jazz fan although not a musician himself, and I grew up listening to all his records. He was into many of the players from the West Coast, including Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and also many great guitarists like Joe Pass and Jim Hall and of course Wes Montgomery. I was lucky enough to hear so many great artists from a young age.

LJN: This is your third album, who joined you on the first two?

AN: I feel very honoured to have recorded with the most wonderful guitarist Dave Cliff who appeared on my first album Melody Express and then again on Blue Concept with trumpeter Gary Kavanagh, who played with the great pianist Barry Harris.

LJN: What influenced the choices of tunes on this album ?

AN: The standard tunes we're chosen purely because I love improvising on them. I have always felt strongly about playing on the standards as they are the main vehicle of expression for improvisers like myself. The other tunes are compositions written or recorded by Art Pepper with the addition of vibraphone to create a different feel as a unison frontline.

LJN: You did it “as live” with no repairs?

AN: I wanted the album to be a true reflection of how we sound as a band. This was mainly how the great players recorded and I feel it is something you should be able to do as a jazz musician. I wanted to create 50's feel, so we recorded straight onto tape the old fashioned way. It gives a warmer sound to the whole session.

LJN: Are you honouring the alto players that have influenced you?

AN: Yes it's a tribute to the great West Coast altoists that have influenced my playing style..Art Pepper mainly and also Lee Konitz, Bud Shank and Paul Desmond.

LJN: Who are the other players and what do they bring?

AN: The band includes Leon Greening on piano, Julian Bury on bass, Steve Brown on drums and Nathaniel Steele on vibraphone. These musicians are dedicated to bebop as an art form and we have been friends and colleagues for so many years. I can't think of anything better than to play with musicians who really swing and inspire me so much as they all do.

LJN: Where can people hear get to hear you, and where can they get the album?

AN: In the first place at our launch gig for the album at the 606 club this Wednesday, and you can find me on the jazz circuit in London and around the UK. Details can be found on allisonneale.com . The album is on sale from the Trio Records website