NEWS: Guy Barker MBE

Guy Barker


Congratulations to trumpeter, composer, conductor, the indefatigable, admirable Guy Barker, whose  MBE for services to Jazz in the 2015 New Years Honours has just been announced. He won the BASCA Gold badge in 2013, is currently in his second year as an Associate Composer of the BBC Concert Orchestra, and is also an Honorary Vice-President of NYJO.

LINK: Tu vuo fa l'Americano from The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

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CD REVIEW: Terje Isungset and Arve Henriksen - World of Glass



Terje Isungset and Arve Henriksen - World of Glass
(All Ice Records 1409. CD Review by Peter Jones)


Somewhere out there, if there are aliens – intelligent, friendly ones – they probably make music like this. And if you can imagine the aliens working in collaboration with some equally intelligent species from our own planet, such as whales, you may begin to get a feel for World of Glass, by Norwegian minimalists Terje Isungset and Arve Henriksen.

Saxophones, trumpets, pianos, drums, 2-5-1 sequences and even conventional melodies are all distinctly lacking on this album. As the title suggests, glass is the key component: all the instruments used were made from glass by students from the Estonian Academy of Arts. The album was largely recorded in front of a live audience in Tallinn.

The project was Isungset’s idea, but the better known half of the duo is Arve Henriksen, whose delicate and intensely moving music on the 2004 album Chiaroscuro brought him to the attention of many in the UK. A trumpeter and vocalist, Henriksen has worked with numerous avant-garde and modernist musicians from Scandinavia, including minimalist trailblazer and fellow Norwegian Terje Rypdal. He has collaborated with David Sylvian, Laurie Anderson and Gavin Bryars, and is currently one third of a trio called Supersilent. He visited London in 2012 and again in 2014 with the vocal group Trio Mediaeval.

World of Glass conjures a weirdly beautiful soundscape, cool and flutey, with crunching broken glass sometimes used for percussion, and occasional deep bongs emanating from bowl-like objects. The music seems so meditative and unstructured that it’s hard to tell where one piece ends and another begins, but in fact there is structure of a sort, as anyone will know who has been lucky enough to witness an Arve Henriksen performance.

There is no point in getting into some arid debate about whether or not it’s actually jazz: it is certainly improvised. And it is certainly lovely to listen to. That’s all we really need to know.

LINK: Madli-Liis Parts' video of World of Glass / Tallinn 2011

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CD REVIEW: Mists- Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra- Arranged by Jack Cooper



Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra- Arranged by Jack Cooper
(Planet Arts 101420. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra? Hmmm,..it certainly sounds an interesting idea,.... The big bands of Ellington, Kenton, Herman and Thornhill all visited the themes of Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Rimsky-Korsakov. In addition, Gil Evans adapted everything from DeFalla, Rodrigo to Gershwin for Miles, as well as Oliver Nelson arranging an entire LP of Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf for organist, Jimmy Smith and big band - of all things. Nothing new in principle, but arranger and bandleader Jack Cooper's treatments of Charles Ives art songs are unique in this canon as they convert so well to instrumental vehicles for improvisation and cohesive ensemble fare.

From the time that he was a child in California, listening to his mother, a pianist accompanying singers performing Ives vocal works, Jack Cooper , now in his early fifties, has been fascinated by this repertoire. He went on to performing Ives at music school. He then studied with the legendary arranger, Manny Albam in NYC who was very encouraging in Jack's pursuit of the Ives jazz orchestra project.

Recorded by a A-List NYC band which includes many stalwarts of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra like saxists, Billy Drewes, trumpeters, Nick Marchione and Scott Wendholt, trombonists, John Mosca, Doug Purviance and Luis Bonilla who also produced the date. Cooper has effectively woven these early 20th Century Ivesian themes in very contemporary sounding excursions of creativity. Top solos abound from the likes of Billy Drewes and Ivan Renta on saxophone, trumpeter Jim Seeley, pianist, Randy Ingram as well as veteran VJO lead trombonist, John Mosca.

Arnold Schoenberg wrote the following in a note discovered posthumously: "There is a man living in this country- a composer. He has solved the problem of how to preserve one's self and to learn- his name is Ives"

I would also add that there is another man, who grew up just a few miles to the east of where Schoenberg made his home in California, who continues to learn and solve the unanswered question and his name is Cooper. Well done, Jack, as "Mists" will attest.

LINKS: www.PlanetArts.org
Jack Cooper / Ives Facebook Page

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LONDONJAZZ NEWS MOST-READS OF 2014

Loose Tubes, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk . All Rights Reserved

Here, in alphabetical order, are our six most-read pieces of 2014

 - BATTLE OF THE BANDS AT THE 2014 PROMS

Our review of the Prom with complete set lists and personnel lists.

CD REVIEW: L'ARPEGGIATA

Alison Bentley's CD review of Purcell improvisations from April is a surprising entry. Wolfgang Muthspiel, whom we interviewed later in the year, and Gianluigi Trovesi were guests on the CD.

REVIEW: JEFF BECK AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL

Geoff Winston's live review, as ever with a great drawing

RIP JACK MASSARIK

The death from cancer of the Evening Standard writer was announced in July

NEWS:JAZZ SERVICES

This was our piece from July with the news that the Arts Council had withdrawn Jazz Services' National Portfolio status.

REVIEW: LOOSE TUBES AT CHELTENHAM

Luke Davidson's review of the first Loose Tubes gig in 19 years was the first out; he filed it within a couple of hours of the last chord.

o - o - o - o - o

UPDATE: After this list went up, we had a request to flag up some more well-read pieces from this year, during which a total of 983 pieces. Here are the next dozen, in reverse order of posting:

- YEAR-END LISTS (2 of 4): MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35) One of our four year-end lists by a range of contributors

Order for the Memorial Service for Kenny Wheeler
Part of the build-up for an event celebrating an irreplaceable genius

- RIP Brian Lemon (1937-2014)
The pianist had been ubiquitous in his day, able tro traverse a range of styles with ease

- Ashley Slater (ex-Loose Tubes, Freak Power, Big Carla Bley Band) on X-Factor
Suddenly everyone was talking about Ashley...

- NEWS: Launch of new Jamie Cullum jazz album Interlude announced today
And a great album it is too...

- The Jazz Services Touring Support Scheme - Kit Downes writes
The musician's voice. ALWAYS worth hearing

- Review Hiromi: The Trio Project at Cadogan Hall
Rob Mallows reviewed the first of her three nights / great photo by Roger Thomas

- Review: Yoko Ono Residency at Cafe Oto  (March)
Geoff Winston reviewing, and capturing the essence of Yoko Ono in a fine drawing

- CD Review: Brad Mehldau, Mark Guiliana: Mehliana- Taming the Dragon
Alison Bentley's second review to appear on this page

- NEWS: BBC Young Jazz Musician Finalists Announced
This was a very well thought-through venture. We also had a fabulous write-up from Carlos Lopez-Real

- CD Review: Chet Baker - Italian Movies
Reviewer Nic Pillai taking the opportunity to say Arrividerci to Chet, again

- Podcast Interview - Elliot Galvin. (Album launch of Dreamland at the Forge, 30th January)
This interview was done just as Elliot Galvin was about to go on stage and do battle for Trinity Laban's Gold Medal, and to win it.

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INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Harold Mabern (Ronnie Scott's January 21st 2015)



HAROLD MABERN, the legendary pianist born in Memphis in 1936, makes a rare appearance in London, on January 21st at Ronnie Scott's, with his regular trio. Above he plays his own classic tune Edward Lee (Lee Morgan's first and middle names), from the 2003 album "Don't Know Why" . It has many of the hallmarks of his very individual style of playing. 

Sebastian Scotney interviewed him by telephone just before Christmas. Harold Mabern spoke with clarity and astonisingly sharp recall about some of the key phases in his career:

London Jazz News: Who's in the trio you're bringing to London?

Harold Mabern: I'm not bringing them, it's the drummer Joe Farnsworth's Trio, he's bringing me (laughs) and John Webber. I've been playing with these two men for the last 20 years off and on.

LJN: One biography says you were you a drummer before you were a pianist. Is that right?

HM: Not a drummer like in jazz I was playing drums in a marching band . That was in high school. I wanted to play an instrument so I switched to trumpet and I couldn't get a sound, so I switched baritone horn, all that was all when I was in High School

LJN: So how old were you when you started the piano?

HM: I was fifteen-and -a-half nearly sixteen years old. I'm a self-taught piano player, I didn't take music.

LJN: Your touch on the piano is like no one else's.

HM: That's because I listened to the right people, I listened Phineas Newborn Jr. and Ahmad Jamal, plus perhaps God-given talent. If I have a touch.... I appreciate the compliment but I never think about it like that . I just play the best way I can whenever I play

LJN: And you knew Ahmad Jamal, right? 

HM: When I moved to Chicago in 1954, that's when I met Mr Jamal.

LJN: And he's a generous man? 

HM: Yes he's very generous, very kind, but he doesnt go out and pick up anybody. You've got to earn his respect, his attention. I'm still trying to do that, earn attention through my music He and Phineas Newborn are my two favourite piano players of all time.

LJN: And you worked with Wes Montgomery?

HM: We started working in 1964 and I worked with him up until the time he passed away which was in 1968

LJN: When you look back, was that something special?

HM: Yes it was special, because he heard something that he liked in my playing. You've got a lot of piano players in New York City. That was a compliment to me, for me. Plus it was very challenging to play with him, he didn't read music, he would play songs in any key, and I would have to try to match what he was doing.

LJN: And there are some amazing singers you've worked with..Betty Carter Johhny Hartman.... 

HM: .... Dakota Staton, Gloria Williams Etta James, Ernestine Anderson Joe Williams. I was blessesd to be have played with all those wonderful singers . You have to learn how to be a great jazz pianist, you have play in many different styles. It was all at Birdland, it was with John Cltrane and people.

LJN: Harry Edison was someone who brought you on?

HM: I got the gig with Harry Edison the very first night in New York City, November 21st 1959. . I saw Cannonball Adderley in front of Birdland and he asked me if I wanted a gig. I said “sure” and hhe took me downstairs. The place was packed, nothing but piano players there. Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly Sonny Clark. Tommy Flanagan was playing with Harry Sweet Edison but he was getting ready to leave. Cannonball introduced me to Harry Sweets Edison and he asked me if I wanted to sit in. He didn't even ask me what I knew, he just called a tune. The song was “Getting to be a habit with you.” I sat in and I played it. I fumbled around the first time. Second time he hired me on the spot. That was my first night in New York City.

LJN: Do you ever go back and listen to your records?

HM: Very rarely. You hear so much when you're recording. Then you get the test pressing just before the record comes out. So by the time the record comes out you've heard it. You're ready to move on and do something else. Because you realise you could have done better, so you're ready to do the next one because you're re trying to redeem yourself. I listen to bits and pieces. I've got ten records right now that I've been on and not listened to. I guess it's like that with most musicians.



LJN: For people who don't know your playing what should they listen to, or what records are important to you?

HM: I would say the record I did with Hubert Laws and Lee Morgan with Buster Williams and Idris Muhammad called Greasy Kid Stuff.

And the first record I did, I did it with George Coleman A Few Miles to Memphis with Bill Lee and Walter Perkins those two are very important to me.

There are other records that are important to me as well. The records I did with Eric Alexander , I enjoyed those records.

One of my real favourites is the The Gigolo with Lee Morgan because that's the only time I got to record with Wayne Shorter

And Straight Street (1989) with Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette

But I mainly when I'm at home I'm listening to other things: contemporary pop, R & B. Stevie Wonder, Shania Twain, country and western music singer. She's blessed to have a beautiful voice. And Sinatra - when I moved to Chicago being around Spike Lee's father Bill Leewe used to listen to a lot to Frank Sinatra. I like to listen to orchestrations with singers.

LJN: How is it in the trio? You and Joe Farnsworth are both such positive rhythmic players...

HM: I love it because Joe Farnsworth is probably the best drummer playing jazz. I love those guys we have a great rapport He was one of my students at William Patterson College even though I didn't teach him in the ensembles, but he was there - with Eric Alexander. He's on top of his game. He understands the whole philosophy of the drums because he studied with two great teachers, Art Taylor and Alan Dawson. Alan Dawson taught everyone Tony Williams, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jeff Tain Watts – all those great drummers studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee . I don't have to rehearse with those guys. I just play and they know what to do.

LJN: And you have a good fan base in Japan?

HM: I went for eight days back in September, with a drummer who had worked with Hank Jones for two years, Lee Pearson and a bassist who's studied at Julliard, Russell Hall. Everywhere we went it was a sell-out.

LJN: And when were you last in London

HM: The last time was about 2 ½ yrs ago with Vincent Herring, Eric Alexander and Joris Dudli, we played one night at Ronnie Scott's.

LJN: And do you have particular memories of London?

HM: I remember it was cold and rainy and damp! Other than that it was an enjoyable trip

LJN: Thank you for your time, and we look forward to January 21st 

TICKETS

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NEWS: Cafe Society Swing a success in New York

The New York cast of Cafe Society, Dec 14
Back row (L-R): Alex Webb, Joe Boga, Bill Todd
Middle row (L-R) Charenee Wade, Allan Harris, Cyrille Aimée, Mimi Jones, Brent White
Front row (L-R) Evan Pappas, Camille Thurman, Luciana Padmore.

"The live energy of the show is what makes it so revitalizing"...."oustanding music". Alex Webb's show Cafe Society Swing is currently playing at the 59E59 Theaters in New York, with Evan Pappas as Barney Josephson and vocalist Cyrille Aimee. It is attracting good reviews, particularly for the music and notably in the New York Times, and Stageandcinema.com
LINKS: The show was premiered at the 2011 London Jazz Festival. Alex Webb previewed its 2012 performances in Kilburn, which we also REVIEWED. We interviewed Gareth Snook, the actor playing Barney Josephson in the June 2013 performances.

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REVIEW: ICP Orchestra at the Vortex

ICP Orchestra at the Vortex, December 2014
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


ICP Orchestra
(Vortex, 20 December 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

With an outfit billed as 'legendary' you usually know what you're going to get, but with Amsterdam's ICP Orchestra, happily, you never do. At the Vortex, a one night stand on their short European tour, the nine-piece band made sure there wasn't the slightest hope of second-guessing them. With their lightning changes of style and pace, their leaps from tightly scored section work to free-wheeling improvisation, the nine band members routed razor-sharp messages back and forth, kept each other on the tips of their toes for two scintillating sets, and had a great deal of fun in the process.

Bassist Ernst Glerum, MC for the night, reflected on the difference between this visit and the historic five-night residency at the Vortex almost two years ago (reviewed HERE as part of Evan Parker's Might I Suggest Festival)  when the co-founder of this pivotal Dutch co-operative, Misha Mengelberg, memorably made what would be his last touring appearances. 'He stays at home, we play his music!' Maintaining the link back to the ICP's roots was the substantial presence of Han Bennink, his sidekick from the start back in the 60s, motoring in his inimitable, yet utterly focussed style from behind the drum kit.

Structured anarchy of the highest order was the name of the game. Romping through some of Mengelberg's complex, unpredictable compositions, seriously putting themselves to the test, they exuded the wildly independent, yet disciplined spirit with which he imbued everything he put his mind to.

They dipped in to Mengelberg's eight K Stukke, including an homage to Dudu Pukwana from his time in Amsterdam, Kwela P'kwana, in rich, Mingus mode. They stopped off at Liège's Gare Guillemins, hit township rhythms, pausing to remember the early touring travels in vans with Johnny Dyani, Trevor Watts, Evan Parker and John Stevens, and evoked the Ellington brass section with Michael Moore on a breathtakingly evocative Johnny Hodges roll in their lush arrangement of Solitude - swiftly followed by Mengelberg's irreverent dedication to Cecil Taylor, The Laughing Dwarf, with a roaring, jumping sax solo by Toby Delius.

The ICP's latest compositions completed the mix, drawing on repertoire featured on their new CD, East of the Sun, which, incidentally, captures perfectly the subtle spirit of their live interactions.

The individual inputs and small groupings were matchless and magical. Violinist Mary Oliver, cellist Tristan Honsinger and Glerum briefly regrouped as an unconventional, near-classical string trio, and Oliver broke out to employ conduction techniques, with clarinets and saxes on instant response to her facial expressions and lively arm and finger signals. Ab Baars and Thomas Heberer shone with masterly assurance and trombonist Wolter Wierbos and drummer Bennink each briefly put the Vortex building's structural column to good use, to wittily extend their range of instrumental timbres.

After a Weill-ish encore featuring Delius and Moore, both switching to clarinets, and Wierbos's wacky, tangential trombone solo, the final words fell to a grinning Han Bennink - 'Merry Christmas!'

Arguably the final major gig of the London year, and a contender for 'best of', the ICP Orchestra showed that they have not only kept its anarcho-improv swing spirit well and truly on track, they have built on it and given it an irrepressible and irresistible momentum on which Mengelberg would undoubtedly stamp his smiling, mischievous approval.

Michael Moore - clarinet, alto sax
Ab Baars - clarinet, tenor sax
Tobias Delius - clarinet, tenor sax
Wolter Wierbos - trombone
Thomas Heberer - cornet
Mary Oliver - violin, viola, vocals
Tristan Honsinger - cello, vocals
Ernst Glerum - bass, announcements
Han Bennink - drums, vocals

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RIP Buddy DeFranco (1923-2014)



One of the great and most influential exponents of the clarinet in jazz, Buddy DeFranco, died in Panama City in Florida on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, at the age of 91. He made great recordings with Art Tatum, Sonny Clark and Oscar Peterson, ran the Glenn Miller band from 1966-1974, won twenty Downbeat awards, was enrolled as an NEA Jazz Master in 2006.

LINKS:  Howard Reich's report in the Chicago Tribune.
Official website
John Fordham's Guardian obituary

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NEWS: John Gripton presents his last gig at JAGZ in Ascot

L-R: John Gripton, Dave Barry, Jacqui Hicks, Dave Green, John Critchinson, Art Themen
Photo credit: Carol Green
John Gripton's two decades of presenting jazz at JAGZ by the station at Ascot  - the name is based on his initials - and in animating and encouraging the local scene, came to an end on December 21st 2014 at lunchtime with the final edition there of the John Critchinson Christmas Party. The band, with John Gripton, were captured in the photo above.

The venue is now under new ownership, but the jazz scene in the Thames Valley does not stand still: the gigs promoted by Marianne Windham at both Guildford Jazz and Fleet Jazz keep the flame alive, as do Nigel Dacombe and Steve Wellings with gigs in Reading, plus a gig a month at South Hill Park in Bracknell. Any more?

Nevertheless, John Gripton, who is moving to Lymington, has made a huge contribution to the scene with the club, and also with the JAGZ label which issued a much-praised recording of a date at the club by local resident, drummer Allan Ganley (1931-2008), in 2001. The gig on the last Sunday before Christmas had traditionally been Allan Ganley's, but was passed on to John Critchinson after he passed away. He played his last ever gig at JAGZ with Jacqui Hicks, John Critchinson and Dave Green.The links go on.... Allan Ganley's widow was there for the final celebration of the club last Sunday.

LINK: An article recommending JAGZ from 2004
Our preview of the JAGZ Christmas gigs in 2009

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LP REVIEW: Krzysztof Komeda – Rare Jazz and Film Music Volume One



Krzysztof Komeda – Rare Jazz and Film Music Volume One
(Adventure In Sound AIS002. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)


Arriving serendipitously hot on the heels of the Jazz in Polish Cinema CD Set (reviewed here), this very welcome vinyl compilation focuses on the work of Krzysztof Komeda, the charismatic medic-turned-musician who defied Stalin’s ban on jazz in 1950s Poland. It’s the second release from Adventure in Sound, a new label which — at the risk of some synecdochic confusion — features a very pretty label and is the brainchild of Jonny Trunk, perhaps the UK’s leading specialist in reviving lost music of all genres.

This is a ‘split’ LP with side one featuring music used in the soundtrack of Roman Polanski’s breakthrough feature film Knife in the Water (1962), while side 2 consists of trio recordings (and one quartet track) from Komeda’s appearances at the ‘Jamboree’ jazz festivals in Warsaw. This pressing boasts clean transfers and superb, wide-screen sound.

Typish Jazz is breezy hard bop with Bernt Rosengren’s warm and wide open tenor sax leading the way, bouncing on the solid, strutting strum of Roman Dylag’s bass. There’s a sense of smoothly headlong forward motion, dancing across waves like a fast moving boat, which is highly appropriate to the subject matter of Polanski’s film. The Swedish Rosengren is a strong, dominating and highly musical player who would go on to work with George Russell and Don Cherry. Here he wraps things up with a rich, ornate flourish from his tenor.

The jaunty nautical feel continues with Crazy Girl which conjures visions of the original cover of Miles Ahead, the one from the period when Columbia thought they could get away with sticking a picture of a white chick on a sailboat on a Miles Davis album. On Ballad for Bernt the deck still seems to be shifting and see-sawing, in almost drunken motion with the exquisite, lazy lilting of the eponymous Rosengren’s tenor. By contrast, it’s all business for Cherry which has a bustling, urban, nocturnal mood. Roman Dylag’s bass is here at its most headlong and potent, propelling the combo.

Taking over on bass, Jacek Ostaszewski from the Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet is the thumping heartbeat of Roman II, a careening piece in which Komeda maintains a relentless pulse with his left hand while extending a wild excursion with his right. Then it’s back to the left hand as he rolls out thundering chords which are echoed by and expounded into a sharp, chiselling, incisive solo from Michal Urbaniak, another Trzaskowski veteran, replacing Rosengren on tenor. (For more on the music of Andrzej Trzaskowski see the aforementioned Jazz in Polish Cinema set.) Tomasz Stanko responds with a distant, ecstatic cry on trumpet and then moves in close to provide his own version of the theme before unfurling into a solo which goes every way at once.

The trio (and quartet) side of the record provides the opportunity for a closer inspection of Komeda’s music in a stripped down setting and playing on some standards. Stella By Starlight features an elastic stretching of time and succeeds as beautiful chamber jazz. The received wisdom is that Komeda’s importance is as a composer and he’s not to be so highly regarded as a player. This point of view is hard to sustain while listening to Moja Ballada which reveals the considered beauty of his Bill Evans style piano. On another standard, Get Out of Town, Adam Skorupka plays bass with a facility which suggests he might well be a disciple of Jimmy Blanton, and demonstrates how the instrument can be subtly expressive as well as propulsive, almost vocalising the theme — as does Komeda’s insistent, jostling piano. Andrzej Zielinski’s use of brushes on the drums are also a highlight. Komeda rolls us towards silence with his final dark and melancholy chords. It’s definitely time to get out of town.

The recent spate of Krzysztof Komeda releases only add further poignancy to the fact of his early death, revealing as they do the extent of his talent. Rare Jazz and Film Music Volume One is a particularly welcome entry, providing a chance to get to grips with his music on vinyl — and in an edition of only 500 copies, so anyone interested should act quickly. It’s with excitement and anticipation that Komeda enthusiasts will read the fine print in the title of this collection — Volume One… Roll on Volume Two.

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CD REVIEW: Pablo Held - The Trio Meets John Scofield

Pablo Held - The Trio Meets John Scofield
(Pirouet Records PIT3078. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)


This concert led by German pianist Pablo Held was part of the “Rising Stars” series co-ordinated by the European Concert Hall Organisation. Held was given the opportunity to invite a guest, and the American guitarist John Scofield (who had never heard of the young piano player before) agreed to participate on the recommendation of his trusted drummer Bill Stewart. The performance took place at the Kölner Philharmonie in January 2014. After the tentative beginning of Held’s composition Cameo, it quickly becomes obvious that this gig has more substance than an impromptu “festival set”. Held says, “You could have expected that such a famous player would be taking a look at the notes for the first time at the rehearsal” but Scofield was enthusiastic about playing with the trio and “had already intensively worked on our pieces”. The principals show real understanding and compatibility, and sparks fly during their opening solos.

Reciprocating Scofield’s preparation and attention to detail, the young trio does well with the guitarist’s sometimes tricky music. Held explains that Scofield “continually sent us letters with notes for pieces of his that we wanted to play”. The gentleness of Kubrick segues with a bass riff into the harsher line of Camp Out, which – coincidentally or not – has a head that recalls the old novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)”. In the middle of this lengthy piece, a bowed section by bassist Robert Landfermann leads to a daring, exploratory episode with Held and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel that is completely unexpected. Scofield’s assertion that “They’ve developed a very free approach, and as a unit they can intuitively move quickly to different musical areas” is clearly demonstrated here.

Imaginary Time is a typical Scofield melody, and Held says of its creator, “his playing is so alive. Every note sounds different”. None of the members of the German trio was born when Scofield first came to prominence in the late 70s, yet they sound confident and inspired in the company of greatness.

Some of the material on the CD is not instantly attractive, and there are minor misfires during Nocturne and the closer, Joni Mitchell’s Marcie. But it is the kind of music that gains appeal through familiarity, and one hopes that the reunion that Held and Scofield wish for will come to fruition in the near future.

LINKS : Kit Downes writes about Pablo Held - from 2013

Interview with Pablo Held from 2011 on the day he was awarded the WDR Prize for Improvisation

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PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: London A Cappella Festival, 28-31 Jan, 2015 / Evan Sanders of Accent



London A Cappella Festival, 28-31 January, 2015. Preview by Peter Jones

2015 marks the sixth year of the annual London A Cappella Festival, run by Ikon Arts, an artists’ management company specializing in singers. And not just any old singers, but professional vocal groups like The Swingles (as the Swingle Singers are now known). The Festival was started for the benefit of unaccompanied singers who had no other obvious platform. The inaugural event attracted people from all over the UK, but now audiences come from all over the world, including a previously obscure grouping known as ‘the a cappella community’, for whom it is an opportunity to network with like-minded souls.

Accent

Although close harmony singing at its best can hardly avoid jazz-type chordal structures and progressions, there is only one act this year that takes an out-and-out jazz approach, and that is a young international six-piece combo called Accent.

The group models itself on the legendary Take 6, whose eponymous 1988 debut album was so startlingly accomplished and, well, different, that it won two Grammys. You could accuse Accent of simply copping Take 6’s bag – until you realize how young they all are. It would be like blaming the Beach Boys for taking their cue from The Four Freshmen. So you forgive them, because 27 years have passed, and they weren’t even born when Take 6 burst on to the scene.

The extraordinary thing about Accent is not so much that they come from five different countries, but that the London gigs will mark only the second time they have ever met in person. Modern technology is what has made it possible to call Accent a band at all: Danny Fong and Andrew Kesler from Canada, James Rose from England, Simon Åkesson from Sweden, Jean-Baptiste Craipeau from France and Evan Sanders from the USA got it together online.

Peter Jones interviewed Evan Sanders of Accent by phone

How did Accent became a YouTube phenomenon?

It all started on the strength of the individual members’ YouTube channels. Jean-Baptiste in particular was very adept at multi-tracking his voice. Danny also was doing a similar thing, multi-tracking barbershop stuff. What happened then was that Take 6 fans started following us individually, and meanwhile we were following each other, got talking through YouTube and social media, and gradually coalesced into what we are today.

What can audiences expect from your London gigs?

Well, we’re six guys from five different countries, and we only met and performed together for the first time in June 2014, in Sweden. Our excitement just to actually be together creates so much energy that the audience will definitely pick up on that. But in terms of the tunes we’ll be playing, there’s already some new stuff since we played in June, and that means more of our own arrangements of existing material.

I gather the members of Accent are all separately involved in music full-time.

Yes, that’s true – five of us are professionally engaged in composing, performing, arranging or engineering. In fact, I’m the only one you could describe as a normal working stiff, since I have an ordinary office job – although I also perform a lot in my spare time.

How do you rehearse and record at the moment - by conference call?

No, the technology isn’t quite there to allow that yet. There’s a latency problem, the satellite delay, that makes it impossible to time the music accurately. So instead we work independently a lot beforehand, and rehearse immediately before the gig. Fortunately we all read music very well, so once the parts are written out we can sing the piece. Some members of the band can remember their parts by rote, but in the end it’s pretty much all written out.

Why do you think there’s so little vocal harmony in jazz? Once you take into account Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and latterly Take 6 and New York Voices, the cupboard is relatively bare.

Well that’s a very good question – I don’t really know. Having said that, there is an academic vocal jazz tradition here in the US that I suppose provides a grounding in this kind of singing.

What would happen if Accent became as big as Take 6? Wouldn’t it be a logistical nightmare?

It’s something we’ve only just started to think about. The first time we decided to get together in person, it was like a joke. But then we realized it was going way better than we ever dreamed possible. So now we’re actually having to consider the possibility of being physically together more often. We could probably handle doing six to ten gigs a year, but more than that, and we’d probably have to be together all the time.

*Accent are appearing at Kings Place, King’s Cross, London, on Friday 30th January, and before that at the Spice of Life, Soho, on Wednesday 28th.

*The London A Cappella Festival runs from 28th to 31st January at Cadogan Hall and Kings Place. It includes vocal workshops for both adults and children, with ‘LACF Kids’ on the afternoon of the final day. 

*For adults, there are workshops on everything from harmony singing to creating instrument sounds using only your mouth. 

*The Festival closes with a concert by The Swingles.

  LINK: Full London A Cappella Festival line-up

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LP REVIEW: Miles Davis – Miles Smiles



Miles Davis – Miles Smiles
(Music On Vinyl/Columbia MOVLP1071. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)


Recorded over two days in late October 1966, in Columbia’s New York studios, this reissued album charts the progress of what is regarded as Miles Davis’s second great quintet. The first one — featuring Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers and a certain John Coltrane — roamed the earth from about 1955 to 1958. The new model quintet lasted a year longer, 1964-68, and moved through considerably more modernist terrain.

Orbits bring Miles Davis on stage, so tart and sharp that Herbie Hancock’s exploratory piano sounds positively mellow by comparison. Miles can be heard growling encouragement in the background as Hancock solos. The trumpet erects a jagged scaffold which is swiftly clad by the rhythm section until Wayne Shorter’s tenor creates a cloud of sound. Miles is double tracked at the end, playing us out with the help of his doppelganger.

On Circle Miles’ intro is much more conventional and elegiac, a recollection of past triumphs with the likes of Gil Evans. The soft pulse and stutter of brushes on the drums from Tony Williams provides the canvas for his colours. Herbie Hancock neatly supports Davis, mortar between the bricks until Wayne Shorter’s tenor sax lifts the lid off and reveals a treasure box full of beauty in this piece. Williams moves on to cymbals, softly dashing punctuation, and the quintet as a whole project the feeling of a group wonderfully in harmony and settled in together. It’s hard to believe this only their second album. Hancock takes the high ground on piano, Ron Carter on bass at his back, softly supported by Williams. Following the delicate splendour of Hancock’s solo, Miles Davis’s trumpet is high pitched and crystal clear. The restraint and minimalism — and beauty — here suggests haiku. It’s a mood rather agreeably exploded by the harsh rasping of Miles checking in with producer Teo Macero, asking in his murdered voice “How did it sound Teo?”, like the intrusion of a yokai demon.

Dolores sees Carter and Williams effortlessly maintaining a searing, breathless pace with Hancock soloing on top in scales tied in a Möbius knot. Miles and his henchman Shorter sing repeated fragments of a barebones melody as Williams breaks surface on the drums. Extraordinary as it seems, Freedom Jazz Dance raises the stakes with what feels like an increase in pace from the rhythm section, though that could be an illusion, like the slow-down lines painted at a road junction, caused by an undoubted increase in complexity of the patterns played. Miles is exultant, in his element, using chords from Hancock as the launch pad for his clipped, cryptic utterances. Shorter is richer, rounder, smoothing out the troubled ripples of the musical surface. Carter and Hancock form a tight double act in one corner while Williams builds a tower of rapid percussion in the other. Then Davis and Shorter roll onto the scene, like behemoths occupying a barren Dali landscape, and show us what a double act really is.

Ginger Bread Boy begins in a manner which is only mildly modernist and its echoes of Dizzy and Monk are so accessible that they make hard-edged bebop sound as comfortable and chummy as Dixieland. A telling index of how far the music had come in a few short years. Carter’s wide open bass speaks volumes. Davis of the demon voice is back again and has the final word: “Theo, play that. Theo, Theo, Theo… play that.”

But it wasn’t just Theo who would be playing back this 1960s milestone, again and again. This is music which roots excitement deep in your solar plexus. It’s a magnificent snapshot of one of Miles Davis’s greatest bands reaching there peak, and is very well served by a high quality vinyl release by Music on Vinyl.

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CD REVIEW: Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian - Hamburg ‘72



Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden / Paul Motian - Hamburg ‘72
(ECM 470 4256. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)


Pianist Keith Jarrett found fame early in life, initially with Charles Lloyd in the mid-60s. When this concert was taped at the NDR Funkhaus in Hamburg on 14th June 1972, his trio with bass player Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian had existed for six years, recorded three albums for Atlantic Records, and was already at a creative peak. Jarrett was still only 27 years old.

After a hint of “When You Wish upon a Star” during a lyrical, unaccompanied opening, the piano coalesces with splashing cymbals and Rainbow (which is credited to Jarrett’s then-wife, Margot) becomes a lightly swinging and relatively mainstream affair. Haden is only briefly heard, and – until Jarrett’s luminous eruptions at the end of the piece – we only get a taste of the riches in store.

The next four selections are by Jarrett. Everything That Lives Laments is notable partly because – in addition to piano - Jarrett plays (frequently over-blown) flute, and Motian shakes bells and chimes. Haden is highlighted before retreating into a group improvisation that is clearly more than a random free-for-all; these men know each other well and really communicate. The tune ends tenderly, with Jarrett back on piano and Motian at the drums.

Piece for Ornette bursts with energy and evokes Coleman’s urgent, piano-less style. Jarrett uses soprano saxophone with a raw, vocalised timbre. Chattering, shrieking and stuttering with wayward abandon, his dialogue with a highly-charged Motian builds in intensity and becomes a thrilling, passionate exchange. Eventually, Haden steps between them, as if he’s engaging calmness and reason to break up a screaming row. After this, it’s hard to imagine that Jarrett – in little over a decade – would be leading a very different trio with a repertoire concentrating on old jazz standards.

Take Me Back is reminiscent of Jarrett’s stunning ECM début (the solo “Facing You”) that came a few months before this concert. A simple, rising piano figure gradually develops into a gospelly, rocking section that is so emotive and life-affirming that you may well jump up from your sofa and yell “oh yeah” at the speakers. Then – several wonderful minutes later - the melody is stated, and you realise that you’ve just been listening to the introduction! This is quintessential Jarrett, and Motian’s unusually hard-hitting approach is absolutely right for this music.

Haden’s solo on the rhapsodic and relatively diffuse Life, Dance is barely over when Song for Che begins, and familiar drones and double-stops mingle with allusions to his country roots. Jarrett moves from soprano sax to the piano for a climax that is distinguished by dramatic, hymnal cadences, and Haden ends his iconic composition to an accompaniment of fluttery percussion. The audience goes mad; if they were fortunate enough to get more, we don’t hear it.

Hamburg ’72 is so good that words are barely sufficient to convey its impact. It contains some of the most exciting jazz you will ever experience, and there is no question about it being one of the records of the year.

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LP REVIEW: Basso Valdambrini Quintet – Fonit H602-H603



Basso Valdambrini Quintet – Fonit H602-H603
(Rearward RW154LP. Double LP. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


The small groups co-led by tenor sax player Gianni Basso and trumpeter Oscar Valdambrini were the most celebrated jazz units to emerge from Italy in the late 1950's and early 60's. First rising to prominence in Milan, under the name The Italian Sextet, Basso actually came from Asti (where they make such damn fine wine) while Valdambrini was born in Turin. They played the San Remo and Lyon jazz festivals and distinguished themselves in Armando Trovajoli’s big band before reverting to their own quintet. Working in a West Coast and hard bop idiom they held a long term residence in Milan which was successful enough to attract Verve Records in the USA, who issued a Basso-Valdambrini album in their International Series in 1959. The following year Basso and Valdambrini released a classic album Walking in the Night on RCA Italy. In 1962, operating as a sextet, they won a contest as ‘The Best Modern Jazz in Italy’ and toured the USA and recorded another RCA album under this banner. All these excellent albums went out of print and became collectors items. But in recent years they have resurfaced, first as Japanese reissues, and then in their native Italy.

While the back catalogue of Basso-Valdambrini’s most famous titles is now in pretty healthy shape, the Rearward/Schema label (based, appropriately enough, in Milan) has pulled off a real coup by unearthing some extremely rare library recordings by the Quintet. Library music, often performed by top musicians, is an anonymous genre designed to be used, uncredited, by TV and radio programs who don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of commissioning bespoke compositions. The recordings here were first released as two vinyl albums on the Milanese Fonit Cetra label, with generic covers and the inscrutable designations H602 and H603. Their subtitles are more enlightening: Stile: Pop-Jazz and Stile: Californiano (the ‘pop jazz’ is actually closer to a soul jazz feel). Recorded in 1970, these sessions are reportedly the last performances of the Basso-Valdambrini Quintet. They are certainly the rarest.

What is most striking about this music is the spirit with which Basso and Valdambrini and their rhythm section approach the project. These anonymous recordings — never, as far as they knew, destined to be linked with their names — are performed with as much conviction as anything they ever did. In fact, they play their hearts out. Plinius is reminiscent of Oliver Nelson’s classic The Blues and the Abstract Truth in the horn arrangements and the general balance of the instruments; it’s a tight knit blues vehicle with a driving, rolling beat. Subtle and deceptively complex drum patterns come courtesy of Lionello Bionda while Basso’s sax offers a taut commentary with Valdambrini shadowing him like a Siamese twin.

Maglione (‘Sweater’) also evokes Nelson’s masterwork, with gorgeous hard edged tenor which hands over to Valambrini’s virile trumpet and skirling scales on the piano from Ettore Righello. The abrupt, instant ending is audacious and breathtaking. Invertime pays homage to vintage Miles Davis in Valdambrini’s trumpet approach while on the free jazz outing El Gato (‘The Cat’), Basso conjures the spirit of Coltrane.

In the Stile: Californiano sessions, Gold Mine has a jaunty but laidback Jazz at the Lighthouse atmosphere, a mood which continues with Glaucus in its Chet Baker feel and E’ Molto Facile (‘And Very Easy’). Pick Up provides a bright barrage of trumpet, skipping piano and a Dizzy Gillespie rhythmic riffing. On The Jolly Basso’s tenor is darkly emphatic, with a lovely burnished, glowing tone. Ettore Righello contributes agile, methodical, story-telling piano cushioned by Giorgio Azzolini’s bass until unison sax and trumpet take over, waving the banner of the melody.

Behind this less than alluring title lies an exciting reissue for fans of Italian jazz. What were once impossibly rare and expensive records are available again in a fine sounding double vinyl set which comes complete with a free CD.

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YEAR-END LISTS (4 of 4): JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015

Sam Leak. Photo Credit: Barbara Bartz

Two sorts of wishes. First, writers pick musicians whom they want to hear more of. Second there are some more general wishes relating to the scene: 


WOULD LIKE TO HEAR MORE OF IN 2015

Callum Au’s recent big band album Something’s Coming combined rich arrangements of Bernstein with great original compositions. Also with an acclaimed quintet to his name, 2015 should be a great year for Callum. (Jon Carvell)

Theo Croker's Dvrk Funk.  The young American trumpeter and his quintet with  Irwin Hall (alto), Kassa Overall (dr), Eric Wheeler (b) and Michael King (p) delivered a tremendous set accompanying the brilliant Dee Dee Bridgewater at Jazz on 3's live EFG London Jazz Festival broadcast at Ronnie's could not fail to impress. More!
(Geoff Winston)

Barry Green. He recorded not one but two trio albums on a trip to New York earlier in 2014 (one with Chris Cheek and Gerald Cleaver, the other with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey). Fingers crossed 2015 brings the release of the albums and some live performances.
(Mike Collins)

Horse Orchestra are a young Danish band, whose CD I heard for the first time last month, and have an irreverent and slightly anarchic approach to some of the great jazz tunes. (Peter Slavid)

Pianists Frank Harrison and John Turville, who have performed individually with Gilad Atzmon’s and Tommaso Starace’s ensembles, combined their musical talents in a delightful 23 March 2014 two-piano concert during the Pizza Express Steinway Festival.  It would be great to hear more from them – and other piano duos – in 2015.
(Melody McLaren)

Sam Leak is developing a voice as one of the UK’s fine creative jazz pianists – both of his ‘Aquarium’ quartet albums are treasures. The recent debut performance of his progression into big band writing was hailed enthusiastically, and it now feels important that this new suite is recorded and released.
(Adrian Pallant)

James Brandon Lewis..A 32-year old American saxophonist ...he's most definitely got it.
(Adam Sieff)

Perfect Houseplants (an oft promised return) would be first equal with a gig by Steve Buckley back playing live.
(Oliver Weindling)

Andy Milne played piano for many years with M-Base saxophonist Steve Coleman. Milne’s own band is Dapp Theory. Their new CD Forward in All Directions wraps M-Base nerviness and urban poetry in lyrical gentleness. Some UK gigs would be a treat!
(Alison Bentley)

More from Max Luthert, the bassist with Partikel, who released his solo album this year.
(Rob Mallows)

Bucket list: to see clarinettist Perry Robinson, bass player Richard Davis, trumpeter/saxist Ira Sullivan and piano/vibes player Karl Berger during 2015.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Martin Speake and Douglas Finch. I'd like to hear more from this newly-established saxophone and piano duo who create free improvisations live and on CD. Each work is a breathtaking journey, drawing on classical and jazz influences with awesome craftmanship.
(Clare Simmonds)

Helen Sung. The pianist's first album for Concord, Anthem For A New Day was an astonishing calling card for her sheer range of expression. The first impression is one of the velocity of her ideas and fingers, but there's a lot more. I'll be first in the queue for her next album, or, ideally, London gig.
(Sebastian Scotney)

Tom Waits: This report of him performing live whets the appetite to hear him in London!
(Geoff Winston)

Ping Machine (in "Paris" - below)


JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015

Charge more! 

Musicians who give away streamed music or CDs for next to nothing aren't helping our case for jazz music to be valued. Perhaps they could consider streaming only one track, not the whole album, and charging a bit more for their music?
(Mary James)

Communicating.... The inclusion in jazz education the idea that music should try to communicate with an audience other than fellow musicians. (Donald Helme)

Edinburgh. My wish for the next year... that Edinburgh's Playtime, a musician-run regular club night that put local musicians on in a variety of line ups and provides space for experimentation and improvisation continues to be able to provide so much entertainment. Oh, and a new midsize venue for Edinburgh would be good!
(Patrick Hadfield)

Infrastructure
-  That the Jazz Promoters' Network can begin to mature into an effective lobbying, and tour organising, presence.
-  That Arts Council England raise jazz funding to match other minority art music like, I don't know, opera...
(Jon Turney)

Jump Jiving, Swing Dancing and All That
There's a buzz about bands in the UK like  Kansas Smittys, Basin Street Brawlers, Dixie Ticklers, the Brass Funky's from Cambridge, and Man Overboard Swing. It's growing. They play music which establishes a connection directly with the feet (and the hips) of a young audience. More please. (Sebastian Scotney)

Paris. Bring it closer.Twenty years since the birth of the Eurostar made it easier to get to Paris then to Cardiff, I'd love to see further cross-pollination across the channel from the likes of Akalé Wubé, Ping Machine (above) and Surnatural Orchestra (Dan Bergsagel).

Venue. I wish that central London had a venue like Brussels’ Music Village: international musicians, modest admission price, 100 seats, appreciative audience, dining optional.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Women Instrumentalists. Only 6% women instrumentalists at the London Jazz Festival (excluding ensembles led by singers). This is not a judgement on the LJF, but on the state of the scene. My wish for 2015 is seeing female desires, expectations and views inform our music; hearing the other half of the story - More on this important issue on my blog, HERE
(Lara Bellini)


OUR FOUR 2014 YEAR -END LISTS

LIST 1 THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

LIST 2 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)

LIST 3 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014

LIST 4: JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015

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YEAR-END LISTS (3 of 4) JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014

'Renaissance Man' Clark Tracey's Quintet (personnel below) at
Herts Jazz Festival September 2014. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Our writers' selection of established artists (over 35 - for artists under 35 see our other list) who have made a mark in 2014:


Julian Arguelles. Not having seen him for play for maybe ten years, I have seen Julian Arguelles play in five gigs this year, in various combinations. His quartet gig in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival is one of my highlights of the year, and his playing all round has been superb. (Patrick Hadfield)

Pete Churchill (three people wrote)

- I witnessed Pete Churchill's work with children and young people. It was so unashamedly positive and hopeful, I thought it was so needed at a time when we push cynicism on people from such a young age. He is a musician who demonstrates exactly what jazz educators should be like.
(Ayesha Pike)

-  Over the past year Pete has been helping Jon Hendricks to realise a project stalled for 30 years, adapting Gil Evan's band charts from Miles Ahead and travelling to New York to draw lyrics out of Hendricks and to create a vocal version of this classic album, to be performed by us in the London Vocal Project.
(Dominic Stichbury)

- Pete has inspired and aided countless young jazz musicians, both in institutions but also by example. His latest project will truly put Britain on the map as a driving force in the world of Jazz.
(Chloe Potter)

Chick Corea. The 3 CD recording of Chick Corea’s outstanding trio (Brian Blade/Christian McBride) made during their world tour 2012/13.One of the best “live” recordings I have ever come across -Trilogy
(Donald Helme)

Jamie Cullum. As musician he's put out a fascinating jazz album, Interlude. As an advocate for strength and depth of the UK scene he is the most effective we have, and by a mile. Having just passed 35 he's definitely the youngest on this list.
(Sebastian Scotney)

Rachelle Ferrell. I was worried she'd have lost some of her range or power but it was all there and emotionally she held such a deep connection with the audience at Ronnie's. It'll stay in my memory for a long, long time.
(Fran Hardcastle)

Tim Garland. Redoubtable British reedsman Tim Garland confirmed his ever-increasing prowess as performer and composer, writing for both quintet (great personnel) and the Royal Northern Sinfonia strings in his excellent 2CD ‘Songs to the North Sky’. Also an important figure in the realisation of Phil Meadows’ recent Engines Orchestra debut release.
(Adrian Pallant)

Hans Hassler, the German classical, folk and jazz accordionist whose latest album “Hassler” has been playing here since the day it arrived.
(Peter Slavid)




Noel Langley has been on the scene as a trumpeter for a quarter of a century, but this year he emerged from session work and sterling big band duty with his CD Edentide. It is a surprising, refreshing mixture of different styles that coalesce into a magnificent whole; a great recording.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

John McLaughlin, who in his seventies is still showing breaking the boundaries of what the guitar can do on albums like March's The Boston Record 
(Rob Mallows)

Simon Purcell. His career as an educator has been parallel to one as a performer, and he has finally released an album, Red Circle, under his own name. Not so much a ‘First timer as an ‘About timer’. Other notable About Timers in 2014 were Alison Rayner, Jake McMurchie and Noel Langley.
(Mike Collins)

Quercus (Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy, June Tabor) as a collective who have built upon their 2013 self-titled ECM release. Just beautiful and understated music.
(Nicky Schrire)

Paul Rogers. I've gone for a bass player. Paul Rogers' 7 string acoustic bass playing, especially with Whahay, just pips John Edwards, Barry Guy and Chris Laurence.
(Oliver Weindling)

Ben Sidran....two excellent new records in a row - ever improving with age.
(Adam Sieff)

Alison Rayner. When you’ve been a highly respected, busy bassist since the 1970s, what do you do next? Now in her 60s, Alison Rayner has just released her first CD (Alison Rayner Quintet, courtesy of a Jazz Services Recording Subsidy) and is nearing the end of a 16-date tour: from funky Guest Stars-style grooves to more introspective compositions.
(Alison Bentley)

Keith Tippett. The pianist never fails to amaze, technically, imaginatively and conceptually - whether galvanising and steering his young octet through 'The Nine Dances of Partick O'Gonogon', or in non-verbal duet with Julie Tippetts , or razor-sharp with Peter Brötzmann and Steve Noble (as BNT) , riding three-horseman-like into the unpredictable (all seen at Cafe Oto) - he is always a joy to witness.
(Geoff Winston)

Clark Tracey, Renaissance Man. After a challenging year ending with his father, British piano legend Stan Tracey, passing away in December 2013, drummer Clark Tracey launched an impressive comeback, releasing the debut CD of the current Clark Tracey Quintet, with Harry Bolt (piano); Chris Maddock (sax), Henry Armburg Jennings (trumpet), Dan Casimir (bass)- picture above- and launching a new jazz series at Hemel Hempstead’s Cellar Club, while continuing to lead Herts Jazz Club, and Festival.
(Melody McLaren)

Mark Turner. The saxophonist released his first album as leader for 13 years in 2014. Lathe of Heaven was certainly worth the wait: Turner created a virtuosic, personal and moving record, a master-class in melody and control.
(Jon Carvell)

Jason Yarde. He impressed in many different contexts this year: with Andrew McCormack, Township Comets, The Dedication Orchestra, Denys Baptiste's Let Freedom Ring, on record with Louis Moholo. His contributions are always apt and incisive, and often raise things to another level. (Jon Turney)



OUR FOUR 2014 YEAR -END LISTS

LIST 1 THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

LIST 2 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)

LIST 3 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014

LIST 4: JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015

Read More...

YEAR-END LISTS (2 of 4): MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)

Alice Zawadzki (with Pete Lee at the piano)
Photo Credit Melody McLaren

This is our list of younger musicians who have made a mark (on us) in 2014:

Leo Appleyard. Until a month ago, I hadn't heard of the guitarist . I missed his gig at LJF - it sold out before I thought to grab a ticket - but his CD Pembroke Road was an impressive debut. I hope to catch him next year!
(Patrick Hadfield) 

Moses Boyd....A wonderful drummer and still only 23.
(Adam Sieff)

George Crowley.   The sax player, through promoting regular gigs in smaller pubs like the Oxford and the Con Cellar Bar, is keeping London's scene fresh and lively.
(Rob Mallows)

Aaron Diehl. 29 year old pianist Aaron Diehl, at ease across many genres, reflecting his immersion in the traditions of jazz piano from Tatum to John Lewis and beyond.
(Donald Helme)

Marko Churnchetz (Črnčec) New York-based Slovenian pianist/keyboardist Marko Churnchetz created a programme of highly-charged jazz fusion pyrotechnics in his 2014 quartet album, ‘Devotion’, duelling pitch-bent synths with saxophonist Mark Shim’s midi controller wizardry. An exceptional, lightning-fast jazz pianist, Churnchetz’s next release is keenly anticipated.
(Adrian Pallant)

Elliot Galvin’s debut album, Dreamland arrived with a clatter to critical acclaim and was quickly followed by the award of Young European Jazz Artist to his trio.
(Mike Collins)

Tigran Hamasyan. The pianist's next release Mockroot is his Nonesuch Records label debut (expected early 2015) and the staggered territory release of his previous album "Shadow Theater" somewhat cut into its momentum. So he's slightly under the radar but his upcoming releases and activities should warrant deserved buzz and attention.
(Nicky Schrire)

Laura Jurd. Drawing by Geoff Winston.
All rights reserved


Laura Jurd, With Huw V Williams 'Hon' quintet at The Salisbury, the trumpeter hugely impressed with her range and depth and the way she confidently paid indirect homage to illustrious antecedents - Chet Baker, Miles, Kenny Wheeler and Wadada - without compromising her own voice and spontaneity. Blending rough, smooth and lyrical with beautiful tones, her assuredness added a special ingredient to the mix.
(Geoff Winston)

Phil Meadows reached new heights in 2014 with the release of Lifecycles – his vibrant all-encompassing project for full orchestra. As a soloist, composer and educator, Meadows is leading the way for the next generation.
(Jon Carvell)

Dan Messore - a hugely talented synthesist of contemporary guitar styles, with an keenly awaited second CD on the way for his band Indigo Kid. Their set at Bristol's festival was terrifically good, tantalisingly short.
(Jon Turney)

Dan Nicholls. This year North London's Loop collective has continued to push the musical agenda, with Dan Nicholls in particular fulfilling his potential. Whether playing sampled kalimba compositions on Jez Nelson's show, or as part of the riotous Brass Mask or deep grooving Strobes, Nicholls' name on a bill is starting to become synonymous with fresh boundary-pushing music.
(Dan Bergsagel)

Vincent Peirani. Jazz accordion? Vincent Peirani has revolutionized its repertoire, mixing Classical influences with swing and free jazz. He tours constantly all over the world, and has won major jazz prizes in his native France. Here’s a wish for him to gig in the UK.
(Alison Bentley)

Cath Roberts/Dee Byrne for their music - but also for the LUME programme of exciting new music gigs.
(Peter Slavid)

Tom Skinner and Tim Giles. Two amazing drummers in this country who are so established that we forget their relative youth:
(Oliver Weindling)


Lewis Wright. The vibes player (and drummer) attracted attention with Empirical a few years ago, and is now making his mark as a wonderful soloist. He was in devastating form during a late show at Ronnie Scott’s led by Marco Panascia.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Alice Zawadzki, A Genuine Original Vocalist, violinist and composer launched her debut CD, China Lane in June 2014, to enthusiastic reviews.  Described as “beautiful, uncategorisable – a real force to be reckoned with” (Jamie Cullum), Alice is a fascinating character and one to watch in 2015. (Melody McLaren)



OUR FOUR 2014 YEAR -END LISTS

LIST 1 THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

LIST 2 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)

LIST 3 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014

LIST 4: JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015

Read More...

YEAR-END LISTS (1 of 4) THE JAZZ MOMENTS TO TREASURE OF 2014

Pete Churchill directing the band at the Kenny Wheeler Memorial Sevice
Photo Credit: Yazz Ahmed

There is  an astonishing range here of the favourite moments of 2014. Please add more in the comments. Here are ours in alphabetical order: 

Cyrille Aimee's London debut as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. A sold-out Elgar Room and an incredibly high level of musicianship from her and her band.
(Nicky Schrire)

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society in Gent, Belgium on his very brief European trip still stands out months later. His Brooklyn Babylon suite was an hour of brilliantly detailed musical tale-telling - inspired writing; superb orchestral performance. Come back soon!
(Jon Turney)

Beats & Pieces Big Band at Millennium Hall Sheffield. A cold, wet night. A sell-out concert to a noticeably younger audience. What could go wrong? Well, absolutely nothing! Ben Cottrell has honed his award-winning ensemble into something special - a range of moods and textures, the mix of old and new original material, great soloists and a 'bone' section that would have Mahler purring!
(Jeremy Agnew)

Norwegians Annlaug Børsheim (Hardanger fiddle and guitar) and Rannveig Djønne (melodeons) playing folk music in a stunning location: 1000 feet above Bergen on Mount Fløyen.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

The Brooklyn Based Jazz Band (sextet led by percussionist Eric Frazier, with pianist Anthony Wonsey, vocalists and a poet) performing at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn.
(Andy Boeckstaens)

Billy Cobham's 70th birthday Q and A at Ronnie's. After a hilarious interview with Guy Barker during which Billy talked candidly about playing with Miles, Herbie and McLaughlin, he got behind the kit to demonstrate some trademark grooves and killer concepts. For once, the cliche 'a humbling experience' was justified!
(Matt Phillips)

Two celebrations of the music of John Coltrane.
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra had Courtney Pine and Tommy Smith sharing saxophone duties. Hearing 'Tranes music powered by a forceful big band for nearly three hours was exhilarating.
- Paul Dunmall Quartet played music from Coltrane's "Sun Ship". Powerful and astounding.
(Patrick Hadfield)

Calum Gourlay and Friends at The Jazz House. A sign of the (independent music production) times:  Packed-to-the-rafters Golders Green Jazz House hosted an intimate live CD recording session featuring bassist Calum Gourlay in solo and duos with friends Michael Chillingworth (alto), Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (harp), James Maddren (drums).  A CD on Two Rivers Records due in July 2015. 
(Melody McLaren)

Fire! Orchestra at The Laundry was truly mindblowing! The mainly Scandinavian 28-piece, marshalled, guided and inspired by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, flipped from blasts of group and individual improvisation to ultra-tightly arranged scores.  They made an overwhelming impact. (Geoff Winston)

Juliet Kelly. The UK singer has a new CD on its way (Spellbound Stories). Her gig at Oxford’s Spin Jazz Club in October was part of an Arts Council-funded tour, to air her newly-written songs based on her favourite novels. Her lustrous deep voice and her impeccable jazz phrasing were combined with warmth and humour.
(Alison Bentley)

Charles Lloyd at the Barbican. A twitch of Charles Lloyd’s leg and the slap of a brush on the snare signalled an acceleration of the groove and Lloyd-ian bluesy growls and whispers deepened the spell the newly endowed NEA Jazz master had cast on the Barbican. A magical end to a mindblowing London Jazz Festival.
(Mike Collins)

Loose Tubes, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk . All Rights Reserved


The Loose Tubes reunion at Cheltenham. The first few bars were spine-chilling. (Our review posted on the day, by Luke Davidson)
(Peter Slavid)

Loose Tubes’ 30th anniversary celebrations at Ronnie Scott’s were a triumph. The quality, joy and sheer inventiveness of the group remains infectious, and you can hear the show again on Jazz on 3 (29 December 2014). Listen out for Steve Berry’s beautiful new tune Smoke and Daffodils.(Jon Carvell)

Rene Marie's  July Pizza Express live performance with the Bruce Barth Trio was even more spectacular. My favourite: spine-tingling a cappella rendition of Make Someone Happy.
(Melody McLaren)

Marius Neset at Brecon Jazz Festival. Serene, delicate, howling, powerful vibrations resounding around the Cathedral. Marius gasping for breath like an athlete, transformed from human to angel. A friend said "I never saw John Coltrane, but it doesn't matter now because I have seen Marius Neset
(Mary James)

Phronesis at Union Chapel. A diverse audience packing out the ever atmospheric Union Chapel where Phronesis approached a semi-religious experience. It was also a reassuring reminder of the depth and breadth of small independent venues programming jazz, particularly in the fertile stretch of North London following the overground tracks between Kentish Town, Camden, Highbury Corner and Dalston. (Dan Bergsagel)

Sun Ra. 2014 marked 100 years since his birth. Well that was his earth birth, which he didn't recognise. You know the way it goes. The highlight of my Jazz year was working with Somethin' Else producer Joby Waldman to get The Arkestra under the direction of 90 year old Marshall Allen in to the studio to record an exclusive session for Jazz On 3. After a twelve hour day most of the band and production staff headed off for some well earned rest. But Marshall, he just wanted to stay and talk about music. The session will be released by Gearbox in 2015. The legend continues.
(Jez Nelson)

Kalle Kalima, Andreas Schaerer, Lucas Niggli performing the Saslonch Suite
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

The Saslonch Suite at the South Tirol Festival. Dramatic! On a ridge at 2300m and also up the mountain at 2800 metres, accompanying slack-lining and freestyle climbing on a rock face going up a further 1000 metres. Made all the more dramatic by the wind, and by unpredictable weather.
(Oliver Weindling)

Snarky Puppy midnight gig at Ronnie Scott's on the Monday of the London Jazz Festival - such a great vibe from the group and exemplary playing - they are really tearing things up and their move into the limelight has been well deserved.
(Rob Mallows)

Soft Machine Legacy. Seeing/meeting those iconic 1970s jazz/rock pioneers of my youth – John Etheridge, John Marshall and Roy Babbington (Soft Machine Legacy) – at Manchester Jazz Festival was a totally captivating hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment, and felt a huge privilege. In their sixties/seventies, they’ve still ‘got it’!
(Adrian Pallant)

The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. Incredible atmosphere, excellent wine and food, and seamless organisation.
(Donald Helme)

The Kenny Wheeler Memorial. Nick Smart and Pete Churchill wanted, demanded, and got a burning urgency from the band they were directing. The occasion absolutely required and deserved that. The speeches were full of emotion, especially John Taylor's. A day to be overwhelmed by the incalculable scale of the legacy that Kenny Wheeler has left  in every ear and soul.
(Sebastian Scotney)

An unknown alto sax player on the beach in Menorca as the the sun was going down.
(Adam Sieff)

OUR FOUR 2014 YEAR -END LISTS

LIST 1 THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

LIST 2 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014 (UNDER 35)

LIST 3 JAZZ MUSICIANS OF 2014

LIST 4: JAZZ WISHES FOR 2015


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CD REVIEW: Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzaskowski – Jazz in Polish Cinema



Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzaskowski – Jazz in Polish Cinema
(Jazz On Film. JOF002. 4 CD set. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


Jazz On Film, the label which recently provided us with the French New Wave boxed set, has come storming back with a new release which definitively revives a whole forgotten genre of European jazz. Subtitled Out of the Underground 1958–1967, it is an invaluable document and a considerable work of musical archaeology.

During the Cold War, largely obscured by the ‘iron curtain’, jazz was thriving in Poland despite the disapproval of the communist authorities (it was banned until the mid 1950s). Probably its most significant exponent was Krzysztof Komeda, born Krzysztof Trzcinski — he changed his name to dodge official censure. Komeda was a physician (ear, nose and throat specialist) turned pianist and composer. His quintet album Astigmatic is a recognised classic and Komeda would be a household name in jazz today if he hadn’t died tragically young, of a head injury sustained from a fall while walking (drunkenly) in the Hollywood hills. He’d moved to Los Angeles to write soundtracks for the films of his friend Roman Polanski; they’d recently collaborated on Rosemary’s Baby. Releases of Komeda’s jazz and film music have been at once sporadic, chaotic and prolific (dozens of Polish CDs were issued, apparently by a shady operator, only nominally under the auspices of Komeda’s widow) but this collection represents a coherent and definitive cornerstone. And unlike many other issues, its sound quality is excellent.

Komeda’s collaborator, the trumpeter Tomasz Stańko is probably the best known Polish jazz musician of today, and he has helped to keep Komeda’s music alive. Both Komeda and Stańko are amply represented on the four CDs in this handsome boxed set, but the exhaustive and fascinating selections go far beyond that. Jazz On Film has also done us the service of unearthing scores from forgotten movies composed by Andrzej Trzaskowski and introducing us to another prodigiously gifted trumpeter, Wieslaw Eyssymont.

Innocent Sorcerers was a film about Bohemian youth in Warsaw — sort of Polish beatniks — directed by Andrzej Wajda in 1960. Its central character, a doctor moonlighting as a jazz musician, is actually based on Komeda. (Komeda — The Innocent Sorcerer was the title of a 2010 tribute album to Komeda by the Adam Pieronczyk Quintet which consisted entirely of Komeda compositions including the classic Crazy Girl.) The film music from Innocent Sorcerers has been impressively retrieved from the original master tapes and features Stańko on trumpet and Komeda on piano. On the main title theme, Stańko’s playing has distinct and emphatic echoes of Miles Davis. The score is also notable for evocative vibraphone work by either Józef Gawrych or Jerzy Milian and lovely alto from Stanislaw Kalwinski. Slawa Przybylska, a noted Polish singer, provides conventional vocals. I stress the ‘conventional’ because Komeda later demonstrated a striking talent for spooky, crooning lullaby voices on Rosemary’s Baby. But here — very intriguingly — similar techniques are employed by Andrzej Trzaskowski on his music for Night Train, specifically the haunting Title Theme (Vocal) and Title Theme (Vocal II) — movie soundtracks are pragmatic creations and not noted for their evocative titles. Eerie wordless vocals by Wanda Warska explore the theme, accompanied by softly padding drums (Andrzej Dabrowski) and bass (Roman Dylag) . Another version of the theme makes memorable use of Gawrych’s skeletal vibes which contrast chimingly with Dylag’s fat bass. Warska also provides an impressive scat excursion and sings some English vocals on a valuable alternative take deriving from a rare 10 inch disc, which wasn’t part of the soundtrack. Night Train was directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in 1959 and Trzaskowski’s themes are based on the Artie Shaw composition Moon Ray. (Warska’s English song from the 10 inch is Moon Ray with its original lyrics by Arthur Quenzer and Nat Madison; Helen Forrest sang it in 1939.)

Knife in the Water, directed by Polanski in 1962, is Komeda’s most famous jazz-based score, and deservedly so because the themes are gorgeous, especially the rhapsodic Ballad for Bernt and the lovely lilting Crazy Girl which is assembled of short melodic phrases that give ample scope for outstanding tenor sax work by the Swedish virtuoso Bernt Rosengren. Opening Tomorrow is a far less well known film from 1962, directed by Janusz Morgentstern. On Opening Tomorrow – Title Theme Komeda’s music has a nursery rhyme simplicity before the soulful room-filling saxophone of Jan Wróblewski swells, tender and majestic and lyrical. Opening Tomorrow IV displays an intriguing hybrid trumpet style, boppish figures played with a trad jazz sound by Wieslaw Eyssymont. As indicated earlier, Eyssymont is one of the heroes of this collection and a significant discovery, or rediscovery. The vocal version of the main title theme sounds like a Polish version of Two Sleepy People, with Wróblewski’s sax and Kalina Jedrusik’s vocal intertwining in a duet. On the Love Theme Eyssymont plays a towering, fabulous trumpet introduction forcefully reminiscent of Uan Rasey on Chinatown (oddly enough, a Polanski film, but one which wouldn’t be scored by Komeda, and lying twelve years in the future). Jan Wróblewski follows up with a silky tenor strain which fades all too soon. On Opening Theme there is a comedy muted trumpet which emphatically confirms the impressive diversity and range of Eyssymont’s playing.

The Accident was a short film directed by Edward Etler in 1963. The opening track Kraksa I features Wróblewski again, distinguishing himself on stark and tender solo tenor in a piece which prefigures Komeda’s music on Astigmatic. The music for The Accident evidences a new sound from Komeda, more brash, raucous and harsh with an aggressive modernist edge. The blaring and galloping of Wróblewski’s tenor and Stańko’s trumpet on Kraksa II are designed to echo car horns and the crash which are the subject matter of the film. Kraksa III features highly effective doubling of human voice with horns and Kraksa V (see earlier note about film music titles) has a great sax solo with Jan Wróblewski sculpting forms in the empty air before the piano (Komeda) and bass (Dylag) come in. On these tracks Zbigniew Namyslowski emerges as another luminary of this collection, with his magnificent playing on alto sax. On Kraksa VI he works in close tandem with Wróblewski, then peels off for a beautiful, airy, meditative alto solo with great comping from Komeda. Namyslowski finishes with an amazing sustained note.

Jazz Camping — an inadvertently funny title now — was a 1959 short directed by Boguslaw Ribczynski which commemorated a brief series of festivals which took place in the Polish mountains. The film was scored by Andrzej Trzaskowski and Kalatówki ’59 employs splendid doubling of voices with instruments which parallels Komeda’s later work on The Accident, though in this case the vocals have a Swingle Singers approach. Jazz Camping is performed by the Jazz Believers, Trzaskowski’s band, and is marked out by Parker-ish sax from Wojciech Karolak on alto and Jan Wroblewski on tenor; Wroblewski also provides ghostly clarinet.

Walkover was a 1965 film by Jerzy Skolimowski with music by Trzaskowski. Synopsis Suite has rapid fire ticking cymbals from Adam Jedrzejowski and dreamy soprano sax from Janusz Muniak but Tomasz Stańko is the hero of the day. Walkover is notable for Zbigniew Namyslowski’s clipped, pugnacious alto. Le Départ was another Skolimowski film, this time from 1967, with music by Komeda — one of his last scores. There are musical reinforcements now from further afield. Chaque Heure est un Départ is tumbling and tumultuous with Gato Barbieri on tenor, instantly recognisable in the fray. We are also treated to Don Cherry’s long skirling, spooling trumpet lines and polished, chattering commentary from Jacques Pelzer on flute. Le Defile has a wild, out-there sound with a jagged jauntiness and flashes of a Sunday church mood thanks to Eddy Louiss on organ and sawing strains by Jean Francois Jenny-Clark on bass. Eddy Louiss’s organ also provides pulsing suspense backgrounds for the piano on Marc and Michel. The vocal version of the main title theme features the voice of Christiane Legrand and calls to mind her brother Michel’s songs for Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Christiane performed in both those films, and was also a founder member of the Swingle Singers.

This is an immensely rich collection, exhuming scores which were thought lost, and achieving amazing sound quality for music which was recorded a half a century ago. Painstaking efforts and research have gone into achieving the restoration and preservation of these vital musical documents, and Jazz On Film deserve a medal. The four CDs in this set are accompanied by a fat 80 page booklet by Selwyn Harris which is beautifully designed and dense with information. Special mention must also be made of Peter Beckmann, the remastering engineer, who has done a marvellous job of restoring diverse and often damaged source material, including that scratchy 10-inch vinyl disc of Wanda Warska singing Moon Ray. Without question, Jazz in Polish Cinema is the perfect introduction to Polish jazz and a treasure trove of great music.

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