What's going on in the UK on International Jazz Day?

International Jazz Day, which was instigated by UNESCO, and which has its main celebration tonight in Paris, is growing. The International Jazz Day website (go to their page for full details, timings etc) lists nineteen varying events all over the UK, up from 15 last year and 13  in 2013. The biggest ones are the Union Chapel concert in London and the Glasgow Royal Concert Halls concert:

 1) City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival
The launch of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival 2015!

2) Ribble Valley Jazz Festival 30th April to 4th May 2015
Festival will kick off with a concert featuring two UK jazz guitarists.

3) Sam Healey Quartet
Cinnamon Club will present a concert featuring saxophonist Sam Healey.

4) Jazz Day Family Music Workshop and The Mike Brown Trio
Family Music Workshop:
‘On The Edge’ Fusion Youth Orchestra provide a team of musicians for 1 hour of musical fun

5) Ambient Forces – Free Jazz in Derry :
Alan Niblock – double bass
Rachel Musson – saxophone
Roger Turner – drums/percussion

6) International Jazz Day Concert in Glasgow
Special concert to celebrate UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, featuring Brass Jaw, Fraser Fifield & Graeme Stephen and the Ken Matheson Classic Jazz Orchestra.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

7) J-Night in Hull presents Christine Tobin – I Love Elis
A concert performance dedicated to Brazilian vocalist Elís Regina.

8) Interplay Jazz Group plus special guest Claude Deppa in Leamington
Royal Pump Rooms
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV32 4AA

9) Ode to The Human Spirit 2015
SGI UK present “Ode to The Human Spirit 2015,” featuring The Human Revolution Orchestra with Robin Eubanks.
Union Chapel
London N1 2XD

10) Shez Raja ft Arun Ghosh & Monika Lidke at the 606 Club in London
606 Jazz Club
London SW10 0QD

11) One Day Concert Ticket Flash Sale
Cadogan Hall will hold a 1-day flash sale of tickets for their May 9th concert.
“1 day ticket sale: The Music Of Ray Charles & Nina Simone concert."

12) Ronnie Scott’s International Jazz Day Screening & Jam
Ronnie Scott’s proudly presents a screening of the International Jazz Day Gala Concert live from Paris.
The screening will be followed by a one-off International Jazz Day Jam led by Andy Davies & featuring Benet McLean (piano), Lorenzo Bassignani (bass) & Saleem Raman (drums). From 5.30 pm GMT

13) Eleven Flames – Nick Weldon Sextet
With Art Themen Andra Sparks Laura Jurd Nikki Iles Nick Weldon and Trevor Tomkins.
Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill

514 Commercial Road
London E1 0HY

15) International Jazz Day – Streaming at the MAP Cafe in Kentish Town
Live Streaming of the Event
Map Studio Cafe
46 Grafton Road
London NW5 3DU

16) ‘In A Different Mood: Billie Holiday at 100!’ Happy Birthday Lady Day! in Oxford
Phenomenal Woman – Billie Holiday! Born April 7, 1915! Jazzmo’thology presents its 3rd consecutive International Jazz Day – Lady Day’s songs feat.:
Carroll Thompson, vocals Jean Toussaint, sax, Kate Williams, piano, Neville Malcolm, double bass, Winston Clifford, drums + Liberty Gospel Ensemble
Edward Boyle Auditorium, Jacqueline du Pre Music Building
St. Hilda\'s College Cowley Place

17) After Dark Fonksters Celebrate International Jazz Day in Stone, Staffordshire
To celebrate International Jazz Day 2015, the Hammond Organ-led trio “After Dark Fonksters” will be performing live at Granvilles Brasserie.
Granvilles Brasserie
Granville Square
Stone, Staffordshire ST15 8AB

18) Gilmore n’ Jaz at the The Weighbridge Brewhouse in Swindon
The Weighbridge Brewhouse, Restaurant, Bar & Micro Brewery
The Weighbridge Brewhouse
Penzance Drive
Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 7JL

19) Jazz Jam in Truro
A showcase of local Cornish talent
The Wine Barrel
18 old bridge st
Truro, Cornwall Tr12ah


CD REVIEW: Eva Klesse Quartet - Xenon

Eva Klesse Quartet - Xenon
(Enja Records ENJ-9614 2, CD review by Mike Collins)

Young German drummer Eva Klesse leads her quartet through eight quietly compelling originals with subtlety and confidence on this her debut album, released on the Munich based Enja Label.

Klesse’s Cowboy (für Luc), opening the album, starts with a single repeating note from Philip Frischkorn’s piano, soon joined by a singing melody on bass and the merest sizzle of a cymbal and shuffle of brushes from the leader drummer. Intensity and energy build as first piano and then Evgeny Ring on alto elaborate the melody before fluent solos leads us back to the minimal start, an arc that becomes familiar as pieces develop with distinct episodes and contrasts, building and diffusing tension. Its not until towards the end of the breezier Frischkorn composition, Orphelia, third tune in, that Klesse switches to sticks, building an urgent flurry of rythmn to urge on Ring’s squalling alto over a mazy riff, doubled with the pianist’s left hand and bass player Robert Lucaciu.

There are plenty of elegant melodic themes, often sounding like a fragment from a romantic classical piece. The ballad Leise Wie Er is gorgeous and Frishchkorn wears his heart on his sleeve with Ein velorener Romantiker (rough translation – ‘A Lost Romantic’) which also features a solo bass section. Some pieces have more open looser shapes, many feature dialogue like episodes between two or more instruments but the thoughtful, focussed atmosphere pervades the album. Same Old Story finishes the set with another lilting melody giving way to first an atmospheric piano solo and then a fierce exchange between alto and drums and an energetic climax.

Most of the five of the eight compositions are Klesse’s and her drums colour, nudge and glue the music together rather than dominate it. The band has no fear of letting notes and chords hang and space in the music work its magic drawing the listener in. This an assured and enjoyable debut.

LINK: Review of Eva Klesse at the 2014 Berlin Jazz Festival


NEWS: Complete 2015 JazzFM Awards Nominations announced


The full list of nominations for the 2015 JazzFM Awards  to be held at Vinopolis (above) on 10th June are announced. Voting in the three public vote categories closes on May 10th  at 23:59.

Album of the Year (Public vote):

Ambrose Akinmusire (“The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint”)
D'Angelo (“Black Messiah”)
Dianne Reeves (“Beautiful Life”)
Chris Potter Underground Orchestra (“Imaginary Cities”)
Polar Bear (“In Each and Every One”)
Troyka (“Ornithophobia”)

Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote):

Loose Tubes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival,
Blue Note 75th Birthday at EFG London Jazz Festival,
Jamie Cullum at Love Supreme Jazz Festival

UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote):

GoGo Penguin,
Polar Bear,
Sons of Kemet

Breakthrough Act: 
Bill Laurance
Go Go Penguin
Peter Edwards


Alexander Hawkins
Laura Jurd
Shabaka Hutchings


Alice Zawadzki
Lauren Kinsella
Zara McFarlane

Jazz Innovation:

Henry Threadgill
Jason Moran
Theo Croker

International Jazz Artist:

Antonio Sanchez
Gregory Porter
Snarky Puppy

Blues Artist:

Dr John
Otis Taylor
Valerie June

Soul Artist: 

Jarrod Lawson
Lalah Hathaway

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Hugh Masekela

Jury:  Mike Bartlett (Chair), Chris Philips, Helen Mayhew, Amy Pearce, John Cumming, Kevin Le Gendre, Guy Barker MBE, and Jason Yarde.

The Jazz FM Awards 2015 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and is made possible with the support of Yamaha, Aberdeen Asset Management, Taylor’s Port, Mishcon De Reya, Arqiva, CityJet, Audemus Gin and Vinopolis.



CD REVIEW: Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio Symbiosis

Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio Symbiosis
(Dogwithabone Music DRV0001. CD Review by Jon Carvell)

For many UK trombonists Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co defined the sound of the early noughties. Rollins was the funkiest trombonist around, blending drum and bass, soul and funk. Having set the bar high, Rollins evolved again in 2011 founding his Velocity Trio with Ross Stanley on Hammond organ and Pedro Segundo on drums, and 2015 sees this line-up release their second album Symbiosis.

The opening track, Utopia, offers a reminder - if one were needed - of just how technically gifted Rollins is. Soaring up to the extremes of the register with ease, Rollins still commands a vibrant tone and agile style, and his complete control allows him to somehow squeeze extra feeling out of choice notes before twisting and turning to somewhere different.

The album’s title track is taut and well crafted, with the pedals of Stanley’s Hammond organ creating a syncopated contrapuntal bass line which cleverly clicks with Segundo’s pared-back playing. Before long, this initial funk is placed to one side for a series of breakneck swing solos. Stanley demonstrates incredible separation of hands and feet here, providing bass in the pedals whilst storming through the changes on the manuals. A whiff of New Orleans is in the air in Boneyard, with purring snare rolls and solos which are left to hang perilously in the gaps between choruses before being caught again by the strutting groove.

There are, however, issues with the album’s pacing as consecutive tracks Hark!, Senhora Do Almortão and Walk in Their Shoes are devoted to solo organ, an organ and drums feature and a drum solo respectively. Rollins joins for the last head of Senhora do Almortão, but given his absence for the first four minutes of the track it rather feels like an afterthought.

These structural niggles aside, there is still a great deal of fun to be had here. Rollins has always had an ear for reworking well-known songs (Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car on his 2003 disc Make Your Move for example) and this album sees a funky take on Pink Floyd’s classic Money, as well as a rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose. The latter would likely be a saccharin dud in almost anyone else’s hands, but Rollins crafts it into a thoroughly soulful gospel ballad.


CD REVIEW: Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura - In maggiore

Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura - In maggiore
(ECM. 471 0051. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield.)

Recorded in an auditorium in Lugano, this CD shows how just two people can make music that will fill any space. Paolo Fresu plays trumpet and flugelhorn and Daniele di Bonaventura plays the Argentinian bandoneon, a concertina-like instrument. Together, the music they create spans jazz, folk, even, at times, ecclesiastical music, the bandoneon sometimes sounding remarkably like a church organ.

Fresu has a clean tone, not cold but precise. His playing is occasionally reminiscent of mid-period Miles Davis in sound and phrasing - the muted trumpet on Ton Kozh brought to mind Davis' work on "Sketches of Spain", and the mood on Sketches made me think of "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud".

The are four numbers by Fresu, three by di Bonaventura, and the duo share the writing credits on one track. The other five pieces are by a several composers, including Puccini and a couple of South American composers.

One of the pieces by di Bonaventura is a solo Kyrie Eleison, a setting of a Christian prayer, which evokes holy spaces. Elsewhere, as well as a church organ, di Bonaventura makes his bandoneon sound like all manner of instruments: pianos, fiddles and horns, even a percussion section as he taps out rhythms on his otherwise silent keyboard.

The CD closes with a long note held by Fresu resonating in the hall. The venue make this feel very much like a live record. It has a very engaging sound, one I can listen to again and again: indeed, several times I have played it twice through, back to back, and not because I had to. It contains some fine music.


CD REVIEW: Chris Lightcap's Big Mouth - Epicenter

Chris Lightcap's Big Mouth - Epicenter
(CleanFeed CF315CD. CD Review by Kim Macari)

Chris Lightcap’s Big Mouth is an exciting prospect. The band is comprised completely of musicians with strong individual voices, including the guitarist/bassist/leader himself, each with their own exceedingly impressive musical lives, and yet it sounds like a band. (If I shy away from that awful term s*p*r gr**p, it is because it doesn't do them justice; to me it describes a band which isn't   greater than the sum of its parts…)

Almost 5 years on from the 2010 release, Deluxe, Epicenter has been much anticipated. The opening track, Nine South, is a characteristically propulsive tune from Lightcap. A theme which runs through the album is the interesting, close-knit writing for the two tenors which showcases the ability for these two saxophonists with huge musical personalities to blend together beautifully. The band are masters at creating interesting musical landscapes; White Horse lasting only 2 minutes and building layers of sound to form some uneasy, pensive atmosphere before launching into the Ornette-ish title track.

Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby form one of the most interesting and exciting double tenor front lines in jazz. Malaby’s huge, raw sound and Chris Cheek’s searching, beautiful lines ensure that this music can, and will, go in any direction. Craig Taborn switches between organ, piano and Wurlitzer with ease and along with Gerald Cleaver, is constantly contributing to the music, shaping and supporting. Regardless of whether it’s an open, loose tune like Arthur Avenue or the frenetic and grungy Down East, this rhythm section brings an energy which never falters. Cleaver represents that dream of a drummer which seems to be borne out of being in NYC - musical, involved and present without ever feeling busy or loud.

Epicenter is a celebration of New York City; in the musicians, the music and the inspiration for the tunes (Light was awarded a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant to produce the compositions). That central theme means that it’s an album in the true sense of the word – it’s meant to be listened to from start to finish and it’s clear that care has been taken to decide on a track listing that is cohesive.

Brimming with life and with musical empathy in abundance, Big Mouth’s Epicenter is a triumph.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW Matt Ford (Close to You - Cadogan Hall 16th May)

Matt Ford. Photo credit: John Watson / Jazzcamera.co.uk

On 16th May at Cadogan Hall, ‘Close To You: Sinatra and the Hollywood Quartet’ will present a reinvention of "Close to You", one of the great Sinatra recordings. In this feature about the project, Héloïse Werner interviewed singer Matt Ford:

LondonJazz News: What is your role in the project?

Matt Ford I'm the crooning canary. It's my job to learn the songs, and sing them nicely in tune in the style in which they were meant to be sung.

LJN: Is performing with the Close To You Ensemble any different from performing with a larger Big Band or orchestra?

MF: Every ensemble is different to the next. As a singer you're exposed whatever the size of the band or orchestra. What IS different with this ensemble is the proximity to the band, in particular the strings. We set up so they horseshoe around me. In this manner I feel really connected to them and the pulse of the music.

LJN: What sort of audience do you think the project is aimed at?

MF: When we started rehearsing this material I was convinced it would only appeal to hard-core Sinatra fans. I am not ashamed to say I was completely wrong! We've had a comprehensive range of age groups in our audiences, performed in jazz clubs and at classical festivals, and in every instance we've had such an incredible reaction. I think it appeals to the classical audiences because of the strength of our string quartet and harp players, and the influence of Ravel on Riddle's arrangements. It appeals to jazz audiences because of our swinging rhythm section and fabulous sax and trombone players. The songs themselves are such beautifully crafted stories, that they appeal to everyone.

LJN: What are your three favourite numbers of the set?

 - I love P.S. I Love You as it's one of the saddest lyrics I've ever sung. It might sound a bit weird, but it gives me the chance to act a role in order to deliver the story. Selfishly, I like that!

- Don't like Goodbyes has real heartfelt emotion in its lyrics. It was really hard to learn, and it's quite difficult to sing.

 -  A great challenge. September In The Rain (not from the Close To You album, but included in the set) is one of those fabulous Sinatra hits that you just don't hear anymore. It sits in a swinging groove when the ensemble play it, and it's become a favourite of mine.

LJN: If you were to describe the project in five words, what would they be? 

MF: Classy, quality, emotional, beautiful, musical

LJN: What else is new in your life?

MF: We're hoping to make an album of the Close To You project sometime soon.

I've been working with Clare Teal on her Celebration of Doris Day show. Clare is so easy to work with, top class, and a REAL talent.

In addition to this, West End Star and fellow John Wilson Orchestra singer Anna Jane Casey and I are working on a Hollywood duets show that we hope to tour in the near future. There are so many great duets spanning so many years, pinning down a final list is really difficult!

LINK: Tickets for Close to You at Cadogan Hall on May 16th


PREVIEW: Sensation Jazz Cruise, London May 31st

Star fusion keyboard player JEFF LORBER (above) is one of the main attractions when the Sensation Jazz Cruise - on board a luxurious replica Mississippi paddle steamer - hits London on Sunday 31st May. Departure is from Butlers Wharf Pier at 1pm, with boarding from 12:45pm

- A 3-hour Luxury River Boat Cruise
- London's Largest Floating Supper Club
- Live Music & Entertainment by: Jeff Lorber Fusion, saxophonist Sam Rucker (making his -- UK debut). the London Jazz Trio and a special appearance by Joe Leader
- Disco with DJ Dave Marley & DJ Rich Edwards
- Restaurant on board - meals and drinks not included in cruise price
Meet & Greet - Autograph Signing Sessions

BOOKINGS:    http://www.sensationjazzcruises.com/


REVIEW: Neil Cowley The Other Side of Dudley Moore

Neil Cowley, Geoff Gascoyne. Photo credit: Carl Hyde

Neil Cowley The Other Side of Dudley Moore
(Ronnie Scott's, 24th April 2015. First night of two. Review by Tina Edwards)

“Chopin. That’s what I thought music had to be”, declared Neil Cowley, referring back to his formative years as a young musician. In the show’s opening moments, the pianist painted us a picture of his childhood idol Dudley Moore; he was a rule breaker, who refused to be held back by the limitations of genre.

Beethoven’s Sonata Parody had Cowley's head bopping to the keys with his characteristically animated energy. My Blue Heaven was delivered with a suave confidence, enough to fool us into thinking that he could have dreamt the music himself if we didn’t know better.

“I love playing the piano, have you noticed?”, Cowley asked, following a stimulated performance of I’ll Remember April. He discovered the track on Errol Garner’s 1955 release Concert By The Sea – the only album that challenged his copy of The Other Side of Dudley Moore for attention in his childhood home.

Cowley continued with a sorrowful, nostalgic delivery of Waltz for Suzy exploring the extremities of the piano keyboard to brilliant effect. Sooz Blues gave Cowley a chance to demonstrate his impressively fast finger work, hinting towards the exciting drama that makes the compositions with his own self-titled trio so engaging.

Cowley is a natural storyteller. Leaping up from his stool between songs, he was keen to contextualize the narrative behind almost every piece, engaging those there for Moore’s comic legacy as much as his musical one. Cowley’s ability to guide us from an adaption of Moore’s adult-humoured lyrical back catalogue to the disarmingly emotive Six Weeks - the last song that Moore would ever listen to on his deathbed - was superb. A hearty deliverance of Goodbye-ee with backing vocals from bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan De Krom left a sweet taste in the mouth, and again did well to illustrate the emotionally varied musical journey that we were being taken on.

For encores there was a playfully sensual surprise guest vocal from Katie Melua in Let There Be Love, before Cowley bowed out on an infectious up-tempo Latin number. It allowed De Krom’s creativity to shine with various textures and a disciplined drumroll that was complimented by the rhythmic blows of his own whistle – a dazzling solo.

Fifty years on from the release of the Other Side of Dudley Moore, Cowley’s trio reminded us why the comedian should be remembered just as equally for his musicianship. With Cowley’s comic timing as impressive as his musical timing, it’s hard to imagine another pianist who would have paid better tribute to Moore.


PHOTOS: Musical Memories/ Highlights of Jazzahead 2015

Omer Klein. Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Sebastian writes: 

The music programme at Jazzahead is vast, and spread around several venues. There was a partner country programme of French acts, a German showcase, an international night Here is a tiny selection of what I saw, plus contributions from Nicky Schrire and Ralf Dombrowski ... 

Nicky Schrire particularly enjoyed the Omer Klein Trio: She writes:   "Israeli-born, Dusseldorf-based pianist Omer Klein performed a beautifully focused yet exciting showcase with bassist Haggai Cohen Milo and drummer Amir Bresler. Sharing Klein's compositions off their new album Fearless Friday (Plus Loin Music), the trio struck the perfect balance between melodic understatement and virtuosic, meter-changing panache."

An ARTE camera crew and the Orchestre National
de Jazz, Thursday of Jazzahead 2015
I went to the French Orchestre National de Jazz under the leadership of Olivier Benoit playing their prog-rock inspired suite Berlin. The individual talents on display are spectacular. Violinist Théo Ceccaldi scores for the musicality of his playing and for his theatricality. Trombonist Fidel Fourneyron is another hugely impressive player, who has a few more gears to offer than Benoit seems to let him use. The programme, which divided opinion in the hall, was being recorded for ARTE TV.

Théo Ceccaldi of the French Orchestre National de Jazz
Thursday of Jazzahead 2015

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra

Nicky Schrire enjoyed Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra. She writes: "Led by saxophonist/ clarinetist Daniel Glatzel, this 18-piece working band from Berlin covers a large range of musical styles, textures and instrumentation. Glatzel's compositions are exciting and highly imaginative, often shifting to different sections and introducing new material when least expected.  An entire set or the length of a full concert might have been excessive, but in the context of a thirty-minute showcase, this large ensemble packed a punch."

Vincent Peirani Quintet at Die Glocke

I also caught an extremely careful and poised sound-check and a tiny amount of what others told me was a very strong set from Blue Note-signed pianist German pianist Julia Kadel's trio, about whom there is quite some buzz in Germany.

Ingrid Jensen, playing in Marianne Trudel's Quintet
Jazzahead 2015, Friday

A set from Quebecois pianist Marianne Trudel featuring trumpeter Ingrid Jensen was particularly impressive. There is an implicit respect for nature, a feel for equilibrium which produces a  strongly listened=through and thought-through performance from the whole band. Simple melodic figures are cherished and passed around. She never aggresses Towards the end of the set there was more opening-out, Jensen got earthier and bluesier, Trudel more bouncy and Corea-ish. All in all very involving.

By contrast the Mexicans of Troker had much more extraversion and a love for hi-jinx which had a midnight crowd baying for more.

Troker from Guadalajara in Mexico, part of the Overseas night showcase
Jazzahead 2015, Friday

Guitarist Bálint Gyémánt with Veronika Harcsa
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. Jazzahead 2015

Ralf Dombrowski has also written us a quick summing-up of what he had heard. He writes:

"What struck me about this year was all the singing. It went in a soulful direction with Ed Motta, Fatso, Fola Dada; there was experimentation with Veronika Harcsa or Almut Kühne; we went ethnic as with the Australian Art Orchestra; and super cool Maria Rye. Veronika Harcsa had quite incredible charm, plus her enormously versatile, folk-tinged voice opened vistas into the avant-garde, but she is also a fabulous, bewitching story-teller ...All in all there was just loads going on at a very high level indeed."

Ed Motta
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. Jazzahead 2015



PHOTOS: People/ atmosphere/ events at Jazzahead in Bremen

Ulli Beckerhoff introducing the Orchestre National de Jazz
Jazzahead 2015, Thursday 

Sebastian writes: 


just grows and grows. In its ten years of existence has become a unique and pre-eminent annual magnet for the entire worldwide jazz community and industry. The achievement is mainly attributable to the team led by Ulli Beckerhoff, Peter Schulze and Sybille Kornitschky. With typical modesty Beckerhoff refused to take any of the credit,  when we interviewed him in 2011but his genial spirit and influence are everywhere. He has set a brilliant tone.

People from festivals and venues are there because all the agents are there, and vice versa. Labels are there because the agents, festivals and venues are there. And artists are there because...you get the drift. This year it moved to bigger halls. The pace of formal and informal networking is ferocious. For some people, it is the late night/ early morning hang which provides the major allure. There are also events, announcements, awards, connections, re-connections - and a major concert, club showcase programme.

Apart from the numbers of delegates, the scale and the quality of the event has had an impact on the local community, who have definitely twigged that there is a festival going on in their midst that they are very welcome to buy tickets for. The gala concert at the 1,400-seater Glocke concert hall was sold out, as were most of the showcases.

The only negatives I have found are 1) that Expo Guide, a bunch of completely shameless con artists from a district of Mexico City improbably called Morales (sic), who claim to have a trade directory, spam the entire mailing list of attendees. 2) the WiFi in the venue this year got frequently overloaded.

German Jazz Journalist of the year
L-R Ralf Dombrowski, Peter Schulze, Wolf Kampmann
Just a few of the thousands of things going on:

- The Europe Jazz Network Award for adventurous programming went to the Moers Festival and its Director Reiner Michalke.

- Our wonderful contributor Ralf Dombrowski, of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the most recent winner of the two-yearly award for jazz journalism in Germany in 2013, this year gave the "laudatio" for the 2015 winner Wolf Kampmann. The award was presented by Peter Schulze (photo above).

Panel discussion: Is my "exception culturelle" good for jazz?
L-R:John Cumming, Francesco Martinelli, Sebastian Scotney, Vincent Cotro. (Moderator Alex Dutilh out of shot)
Photo credit: Nigel Slee
- I was privileged to be invited to sit on a panel as part of the French programme, chaired with unmatchable urbanity by France-Musique radio presenter Alex Dutilh.

- Alyn Shipton chaired a meeting under the aegis of the Europe Jazz Network, planning a major publication, a comprehensive multi-author history of European jazz.

- With the magazine's publisher Christine Stephan, we also launched a new column in the German magazine Jazzthetik about the London scene which now appear regularly. (PHOTO)


CD REVIEW: Mathias Eick – Midwest

Mathias Eick – Midwest
(ECM 472 4478. CD Review by Peter Jones)

When midwesterner Pat Metheny first came to public notice in the late Seventies with his recordings for ECM, what people noticed was a certain quality of spaciousness and optimism, almost naïvité. The music was folk-influenced, full of melody, very different in tone to the urban funk route that American jazz had taken during the first part of that decade. In particular, tunes like (Cross the) Heartland and New Chautauqua seemed to catch the mood as white America shook off the humiliations of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal and got ready to elect Ronald Reagan.

This new album from Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick is imbued with a similar spirit, but it goes much further back. Midwest is explicitly intended to reflect the experiences of the million or so Norwegians who emigrated to the American Midwest in the 19th and early 20th centuries, settling in rural towns like Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon and the real-life Fargo, immortalized by the eponymous Coen Brothers film. We have also seen these landscapes in Terence Malick’s Seventies movies Badlands and Days of Heaven.

It’s the participation of folk violinist Gjermund Larsen that gives Eick’s album its distinctive quality. Its melodic ideas are cinematic in scope, evoking the vast emptiness of this part of America. Your mind conjures up images of wagons rolling slowly across the plains.

Beginning with a Lyle Mays-like ostinato piano figure from Jon Balke, the title track takes an unexpected turn halfway through, as Larsen strikes up a vigorous campfire hoedown before Balke returns to his theme, accompanied by a brief double bass solo from Mats Eilertsen. Hem, the gentle waltz which follows, refers to Eick’s Norwegian home village. There’s more ostinato piano in the majestic March, Eick here producing the sort of flute-like tone we have also heard from fellow Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Fargo is a personal favourite, very ‘ECM’ in feel, sparse and reflective in the best way.

The melancholy Dakota ends with drummer Helge Norbakken adding his signature understated percussion, described in the publicity as ‘hinting at Native American tribal pulses or perhaps bison hooves pounding the plains’. Fanciful as that may sound, listening to such evocative music can’t help but bring out comparisons like these.

The music of Midwest doesn’t grab you by the lapels, but takes its time, revealing itself slowly, and fully rewarding your close attention.


RIP Richard Wheatly, Chair of JazzFM and NYJC

JazzFM have just put out this statement:

"It is with great sadness we announce that Richard Wheatly died earlier this week, following a short illness. Richard had been an integral part of Jazz FM for many years and is responsible for shaping the brand."

Having been Managing Director of the station in its initial existence (2000-2005) Richard was the main person responsible for the re-launch of the station after buying the brand back from Guardian Media Group in June 2008. Passionate about the muusic, he raised the money to make the station work, survive and prosper as an independent station in a market populated by much larger groups. He gave us an extensive interview just after the move from National DAB in Febrary 2014

In the past year he took on another role he cherished, and to which he had started to bring his energy and enthusiasm, as Chair of the National Youth Jazz Collective. This news is as sad as it is sudden. He will be sorely missed.


NEWS: BBC Proms - Sinatra, The Story of Swing and Bernstein

The Battle of the Bands Prom 2014
Photo credit : BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
A very quick flick through the 20115 BBC Proms season prospectus, out today, booking opens May 16th yields - so far - three jazz-related events:

Fri 7th August John Wilson Orchestra Late Night Frank Sinatra

Tues 11 Aug The Story of Swing

Sat 5 Sep Bernstein Stage and Screen

LINK: REVIEW - The Battle of the Bands 2014


CD REVIEW: Alexander Hawkins Trio - Alexander Hawkins Trio

Alexander Hawkins Trio - Alexander Hawkins Trio
(Alexander Hawkins Music. AH1001. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield.)

Alexander Hawkins is a familiar performer around London, regularly playing at venues like the Vortex and Cafe Oto, in bands with such luminaries as Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker, but this is the first recording of his regular trio.

It is contemporary and exploratory whilst paying respect and gratitude those who came before. There are hints of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, even a nod to John Taylor, as well as many pianists who are further "out there".

The CD is bookended with Tom Skinner's drums, which open Sweet Duke. But the Duke Hawkins is emulating here is Ellington's venture into the avant garde, Money Jungle, his record with Max Roach and Charles Mingus in which he lay down his improvising credentials. Hawkins' trio, completed by Neil Charles on bass, make new music evoking old: definitely not a pastiche, Sweet Duke is fresh and exciting, and sets the standard for the CD.

Elsewhere the trio explore lots of musical avenues. In places the notes cascade and scatter from Hawkins' keyboard, reminiscent perhaps of Cecil Taylor; in others, there is some of the nervous jerkiness of Andrew Hill. There is a real feeling of catching the musicians in the act of improvising: recording improvised music can often seem like an oxymoron, and can sometimes be difficult to listen to, but Hawkins and his colleagues have captured the excitement of improvisation whilst making it listenable.

The closing number, Blue Notes for a Blue Note, is dedicated to Moholo, who was the drummer in the South African sextet The Blue Notes. It starts with an elegiac piano solo, before an energetic Skinner joins in, and, later, Charles on bass, changing the mood until Skinner finishes the track alone, one drummer to another.

This is a fine record, full of zest and imagination, and exciting music.

LINK: Review of CD Song Singular for solo piano from 2014 (Babel)


INTERVIEW / PREVIEW: Cyrille Aimée at Ronnie Scott’s (April 29)

Cyrille Aimée. Photo credit:Ariane Rousselier

New York-based, award-winning vocalist Cyrille Aimée performs for the first time at Ronnie Scott’s on April 29th. Nicky Schrire interviewed her:

London Jazz News: You were in London towards the end of last year for the EFG London Jazz Festival and performed to a packed room at the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room. Was that your first time performing in London?

Cyrille Aimée: It was my first time performing with my own band, but last time I was in London, I performed for the Harlem vs Hackney competition (VIDEO HERE) , which was organized by the Apollo Theatre in New York. They flew five amateur night winners to compete with five Hackney winners at the Hackney Empire, and I won! It was a lot of fun!

LJN: You've been working on the follow up album to 2014’s "It's a Good Day" (Mack Avenue). What can be expected from the next album? Is it a continuation of melding originals and standards? Does it feature the same instrumentation (notably two guitarists)?

CA: The band on It's a Good Day was created for the album. I had the idea of these guitarists together in my head, because one lives in NY and the other in France, so they basically met in the studio. The new record is with the same band but now it's a band that has played together a lot, and we have become like a family so it's a more seasoned sound. The repertoire is a mix of a lot of stuff, (like I like to do), so some covers, some standards, some originals, some French songs, and even a Dominican song! I think it is a more mature record and more peaceful in a way.

LJN: You recently launched a page on the Patreon continuous crowd funding platform. How has the experience been for you so far and are there any big goals that you hope to achieve with your Patreon presence?

CA: I've always had many ideas in my head for music videos, and without budget, they just stay in my head! I think Patreon (LINK TO PAGE) is definitely the way of the future. It's a way to build a loyal fan base who are also investing in your work. So it motivates you to give back to them, and gives you a certain budget for it. I have just started but it is a slow process because people are not yet aware of Patreon and don't fully understand the concept yet, but it is a slow and ongoing process. I hope to make beautiful music videos, like the Michael Jackson ones, where there is a story, and sometimes there is a mini-film before and after. I've also been taking acting lesson and loving it and it's given me so many ideas!

LJN: You grew up in France, but have made Brooklyn, New York your home. What are your thoughts on identity, both musical and personal.  Has being international positively impacted your artistic journey?

CA: I have never really thought about that because living in various places has always been my lifestyle. By the time I was 20 I had already moved to four continents and lived in several countries in them. I guess that is my identity and that is why my music is so varied and my repertoire is mixed. A lot of things are a part of me from growing up with the gypsies in France, to living in Dominican Republic, my mother's country, to coming the NY to study jazz!

LJN: What are you most looking forward to about being back in London and performing at the landmark venue Ronnie Scott's next week? 

CA: The one time I was at Ronnie Scott’s was during a jam session a couple years ago. I remember I was sitting in the back with a friend of mine and Wynton Marsalis got up and played the piano, then blew his trumpet on a blues. It was so beautiful and I wanted to get up there so bad but I was shy! This time I will take my revenge! Hehehehe!!!!

LINK: Cyrille Aimée's website


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Clare Foster (CD Launch 27th April at The White Swan in Limehouse)

Clare Foster

UK singer Clare Foster talked to Alison Bentley about her new English Song project "Satori", and about her studies with the legendary vocalist Judy Niemack in New York.

London Jazz News: Tell me about your jazz background.

Clare Foster: I started playing the clarinet at a fairly young age and got into jazz that way. I’ve been listening to it since the age of about 5- my Dad played it. He still doesn’t believe there’s any jazz after 1932! It was all from the very early era- Bix Beiderbecke and Bessie Smith, all these very early singers. I really wanted to sing the tunes I was playing on the clarinet. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a singer or an actress. I couldn’t get into drama school- I was 18, and I decided I’d take the music route. I thought, I’m going to go to New York for a bit, because all the musicians I’d listened to were from America.

LJN: That was when you studied with Judy Niemack. What did you learn from her?

CF: I learnt a lot because I lived with her for a short time. It was like having a view of how life is as a jazz singer. And she was very serious about scatting- she was much more of an instrumental jazz singer. So I would listen to her learning Coltrane solos at 12.30 at night. I was starting out and she’d been singing jazz for at least 20 years. She was doing all these gigs, and Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis would turn up to hear the gigs. The experience of seeing somebody work very seriously at their art was thrilling. It paved the way for what I wanted to do.

LJN: The next big thing was Amsterdam?

CF: I decided that I wanted to study more so I did the London Guildhall Jazz course. Then a friend invited me to Amsterdam. I met a drummer there who kept bringing me over to do gigs- I thought, if I’m working there I might as well go and live there.

LJN: And your CD of Wayne Shorter tunes, with your lyrics?

CF: I made an album in Holland with a mix of material from Metheny to Cedar Walton, with Jean Toussaint on sax. Then I approached this record company called Groove Records- they decided it would be better if I did a whole album of Shorter tunes. I went along with what they asked, or they wouldn’t have made the album. I got the repertoire and musicians together and I don’t even think we had a rehearsal! I got Dré Pallemaerts [drums] from Antwerp. [Pianist] Bernardo Sassetti flew in from Portugal and [bassist] Wayne Batchelor came from London. You know how it is- you just do it!

LJN: And your Brazilian band Claridade?

CF: I got into Brazilian music living in Holland- there were a lot of Brazilian and Uruguayan people living there. I got a gig every week with a Brazilian band. I went crazy for the music.

LJN: I was intrigued that you’ve now made a CD of English songs.

CF: I’ve always loved beautiful music- I absolutely adore those folk/Classical songs, and the lyrics are so gorgeous. Most of the ones I’ve chosen were originally poems. I don’t hear these- why aren’t they done? I’ve never even heard vocal versions of a few of the tracks, even Classical recordings. It’s amazing- John Ireland- I’ve done quite a few of his songs- The Vagabond, Sea Fever and Summer Schemes. There are not as many recordings as I thought there would be. He’s written so many, I’d need three lives to get through all of them! Vaughan Williams- Whither Must I Wander- a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. We’ve done a slightly McCoy Tyner version of it, though you can’t get too McCoy with a cello [Shanti Paul Jayasinha] and piano [Gabriel Keen]! Roger Quilter- he wrote these absolutely beautiful Four Songs of the Sea, of which I’ve recorded two. And Holst- Now in these fairylands.

LJN: Did you do the arrangements?

CF: I arranged one of the John Ireland Sea Songs. We kept two or three of them nearly the same [as written], but have taken the keys down. Come Away Death- we’ve more or less kept it the same but we’ve added solo sections. All the other arrangements are by Shanti Paul Jayasinha. He’s taken Vagabond and put it into 5/4, with an absolutely beautiful cello line running through it. We’ve got Brazilian guitaristKaw Regis, and we’ve made Summer Schemes into a reggae piece. Markku Rinta-Polari plays soprano on this lovely tune that I found by accident. My daughter was doing a choir concert in a church, and at the back they were selling all this old music. I picked up this thing that looked very interesting by Walter de la Mare the poet and music by V. H. Hutchinson, who I’d never heard of. We’ve given it an African vibe. It’s not a big sound on the album, but it’s a little bit bigger because we’ve been able to add percussion afterwards.

LJN: Did you study Classical singing?

CF: I had a few lessons when I first started singing, and my experience has been that people have wanted me to go the Classical way. But I’ve never wanted to go that way- it’s so very strict. I was always a bit scared about losing my freedom.

- Clare Foster- Satori CD Launch The White Swan 556 Commercial Road, London E14 7JD (Limehouse DLR) 27 April 2015 7.00 pm
- Satori is out on 33 Records - 33JAZZ249


CD REVIEW: Theo Jackson - Shoeless and the Girl

Theo Jackson - Shoeless and the Girl
(Dot Time Records DT9035. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

In these days of quick-fix, fast fame, ten-a-penny singer/songwriters, the hope remains alive in many genres that genuine craftsmanship and musicality will out. Contemporary jazz has its own fine catalogue of distinctive, treasured piano vocalists… and it would appear that another is now entering the fold. Back in 2012, Kent-born Theo Jackson was discovered by Steve Rubie, owner of London's 606 Club (where he still regularly performs) – and Jericho, a quietly confident debut release of self-penned material, ensued. What raised eyebrows then was the distinctive Englishness of a trained musician who wasn't content with churning out standards and covers to gain popularity; but rather, here was a steeped-in-jazz songwriter, pianist and singer insistent on charting his own course. And sell-out London and Cheltenham jazz festival gigs confirmed his appeal.

New release Shoeless and the Girl finds Jackson (still early on in his career but already maturing as a creative musician) inspired by characters and themes of loneliness – the storytelling is a vital ingredient. And, though frequently wistful or emotionally charged, the album also displays attractive charm and balance. Intentionally recorded more or less live in the studio, with Jackson singing at the piano, it's clear that his music is influenced by mainstream pop and soul artists. Yet this couldn't be described as anything other than a jazz record, full of memorable vocal phrasing and slick instrumental finesse from Theo and his core trio companions Huntly Gordon (double bass) and Marco Quarantotto (drums, percussion).

Little Do You Know is a case in point. Opening the album with Jackson's clear tones and warm vibrato, it's an amiable swing which bursts into life courtesy of bubbling alto sax from visitor Nathaniel Facey (of Empirical). With a whistled intro reminiscent of Billy Joel's The Stranger, and caressed by the silky lyricism of guest Leo Richardson's tenor, Moonchild's spaciality and changing tempi reveal much about the writer's penchant for conveying atmospheres; and forlorn, lumbering ballad Lonesome George – with echoes of Joe Jackson's Is She Really Going Out With Him? – is curiously based on the true story of the Galápagos Islands' famed last remaining tortoise of his sub-species (an unlikely subject but, nonetheless, beautifully told). Title track Shoeless and the Girl documents the chance meeting of two differently lost souls; a song weighing positivity against melancholy, the line "no-one's really alone" is buoyed by the fluent flugelhorn cameo of Quentin Collins.

A huge fillip to Theo Jackson's abilities as a wordsmith came in the shape of Wayne Shorter's personal approval of the singer's lyrical interpretations of two of his classic numbers (from albums Adam's Apple and Speak No Evil). Such boldness can only be admired, though the sung poetry flows organically and respectfully in a whirling rendition of Footprints; and Wild Flower delivers the delicacy of unadorned voice and sumptuously chordal piano.

Bella's Coming Home poignantly explores parental anguish/relief as they anticipate the return of their runaway daughter, communicated superbly through the troubled uneasiness of both words and music; and the homey simplicity of Love and a Shoestring eases along to a Scott Joplin-suggested piano lick and an air of very early Elton John, though with darker harmonic twists. The French lyric of late-night Peu m'Importe might feel a tad awkward (perhaps it's that beguiling 'Englishness' in Theo's delivery), though the arrangement, including Richardson's cool tenor, is irresistible. Closing track Camberwell Butterfly is something of a revelation, its Frankie Valli-style piano groove preparing the ground for a soaring, Stevie Wonder-inspired vocal – and with radio-edit accessibility and duration, it should surely find primetime airplay.

It will be interesting to track the appeal of Theo Jackson, an accomplished, original jazz musician capable of wider/crossover reach – as the final track puts it, "I will follow you, I will see you come alive". Shoeless and the Girl indicates that he could already be fixed on that path.

LINK: Theo Jackson Interview


NEWS: BBC Radio 3 Feature - 25 Years of Audio-B

Sebastian writes:

This Saturday 25th April's Jazz Line-Up has my first BBC Radio 3 feature, a 25th anniversary piece about the label Audio-B and about its founder Malcolm Creese. The piece, for which I also interviewed Tim Garland, will be 15-20 minutes in from the start of the programme, which will be available for a month on catch-up HERE.


REVIEW: Pete Cater Big Band 20th Anniversary at Cadogan Hall

Pete Cater

Pete Cater Big Band
(Cadogan Hall, 20th April 2015, Review by Sebastian Scotney)

It is salutory to be reminded quite how good Buddy Rich's top-flight 60s/70s big bands in full cry could sound, and what fine arrangements they had to play from. Opportunities to savour this music live are rare these days. The task of keeping this particular flame alive, and reminding London of the visceral power of this music seems to fall - essentially - to one exceptional, energetic, committed man, who has taken on that responsibility for two decades and who also happens to lead the band from the drum kit, Pete Cater. He said that in the round of interviews he has done in the run-up to this concert at Cadogan Hall, the question which  kept on coming up was: "How do you keep a band going for 20 years?" And the answer: "You just don't stop."

The most powerful assertion of the indefatigable power of this music comes in arranger Bill Reddie's West Side Story Suite, written for the Buddy Rich Band, as were most of the arrangements in this concert. It is a remarkably virtuosic work, with constant rhythm switchbacks, and it allows every section of the band to burn and flare. The piece does have a wonderful calm central section  (curiously omitted in this video version by the Rich band, to make way for a ten minute drum solo). Given his moment to shine, Andy Flaxman played the trombone solo on Somewhere, which requires at least the same expressive and communicative power of the one in Mahler's 3rd Symphony heart-rendingly and truly memorably.

It was also fascinating to hear Hank Levy's Whiplash played complete, uninterrupted and live.

The Pete Cater Big Band at Cadogan Hall

Other moments to savour were the solo contributions of Bob Martin on alto saxophone, whose unmistakeable powerful sound graced the Rich band of the seventies, and who is all too rarely heard in London these days, having moved to France. The trumpet solos of Craig Wild and Joe Auckland had character and power every time, but Andy Greenwood's blazing glorious excursions into the stratosphere in Jay Craig's OK with Jay was the kind of playing you tell your grandchildren about. And the finger-speed of Dave Jones on Don Menza's fast and furious Time Out was the sort of virtuosity where you demand a slo-mo video to prove it really happened.

All in all, this was an evening to celebrate the kind of known, predictable virtues of beautifully-crafted music superbly played. And to salute the determination and industriousness of Pete Cater who has been making it happen here for two decades.


1 Machine (Bill Reddie)
2 Willowcrest (Bob Florence)
3 Moments Notice
4 In a Mellow Tone (Ellington Arr Oliver Nelson)
5 Cape Verdean Blues (Horace Silver )
6 Whiplash (Hank Levy)
7 Good Bye Yesterday(Don Piestrup)
8 Round Midnight
9 Love for Sale


1 Don't Rain on My Parade
2 A Long Day's Journey
3 Time Out (Don Menza)
4 Wack Wack (Eldee Young, Red Holt/ Arr Shorty Rogers)
5 Can't Get Started
6 OK With Jay (Jay Craig)
7 West Side Story Suite (Bernstein Arr. Bill Reddie)
8 You Gotta Try (Nestico)

Saxophones Michael Coates, Bob Martin, Martin Dunsdon, Steve Main, Jay Craig
Trumpets Joe Auckland, Craig Wild, Andy Greenwood, Ken Wedrychowski
Trombones Andy Flaxman, Keith Hutton, Bruce Douglas
Piano Rob Barron
Bass Dave Jones
Drums/ Leader Pete Cater

LINKS: Pete Cater interview
World's Greatest Drummer concert in Northampton 0n 26th May


CD REVIEW: Julian Argüelles & Frankfurt Radio Big Band - Let it Be Told.

Julian Argüelles & Frankfurt Radio Big Band - Let it Be Told 
(Basho SRCD 47-2. CD review by Jon Turney)

If South African jazz grabs you at the right time, it never lets go. The electrifying effect of the township bop and free jazz blended by the Blue Notes, playing in exile in London in the 1960s and 70s, is well known. Nowadays it is usually just one, more faintly echoing, strain in a global repertoire of styles that well-schooled youngsters can draw on. But there are occasional fully-realised reminders of the power and beauty of that music: the massed ranks of the Louis Moholo-powered Dedication Orchestra reunited at last year’s London Jazz Festival; more regular dates for the pure small group sound of Adam Glasser’s Township Comets. Here, joyfully, is one more new dip into the same well.

Julian Argüelles has written big band arrangements of some of the finest pieces by members of the Blue Notes, and other Southern African composers, and they are delivered to great effect by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. It is a smoother, more well-oiled ensemble than the raggle-taggle glory of the legendary Brotherhood of Breath, but they can whip up that township groove, and the horn section harmonies sound magnificent.

The pieces are a good blend of familiar and less often revisited tunes. There are new settings of Mongezi Feza’s You Ain’t Gonna Know Me and of Dudu Pukwana’s Mra – a tune first recorded by Gwigwi Mrwebi’s band back in 1967. Those two are in the Dedication Orchestra’s book as well, but the versions here are distinct. Other tunes are by Pukwana, the Blue Notes’ bass player Johnny Dyani, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Joseph Shabatala and Abdullah Ibrahim. A single Chris McGregor composition, played in his own arrangement, completes the set.

There are terrific individual contributions. Django Bates shines on keyboards, recalling his youthful work with Dudu Pukwana’s Zila. He took something of Zila’s spirit into Loose Tubes. Here, he conjures that feel brilliantly, especially on synthesiser excursions on Makeba’s Retreat Song and on You Ain’t Gonna Know Me. Julian Argüelles’ brother Steve adds punchy percussion throughout. Julian himself, as befits a project conjuring the spirit of Pukwana, sticks to acidly fluid alto sax, while fellow altoist Hans Dieter-Sauerborn is more reminiscent of Ibrahim’s great partner Carlos Ward on The Wedding, which is reimagined with a dreamy prelude featuring bass clarinet.

Solos aside, the big band’s range lifts the whole project. The tunes are full of riffs that cry out for a full horn section, and get the treatment they deserve. And the band sound built from Argüelles’ thoughtful arrangements is rich and expressive throughout, from the hymnal intro to You Ain’t.. to the gorgeous horn chorale treatment of Ladysmith’s Amabutho. For those who know this music this is a wonderful series of reinventions; for any who don’t, a treat that is sure to inspire further exploration.

LINK: Julian Argüelles interview


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Liz Fletcher, (Tribute to Ray Charles and Nina Simone, 9th May Cadogan Hall)

Liz Fletcher

On Saturday 9th May The Jazz Repertory Company present their fifteenth concert at Cadogan Hall. Until now, their programmes have concentrated on the jazz of the 20’s through to the 50’s, but this time around they’ve moved their focus to the jazz, blues and soul of Ray Charles and Nina Simone.

Jeremy Sassoon will be bringing his 17-piece Ray Charles project to London for the first time and Liz Fletcher will be presenting a set of songs closely associated with Nina, including the big hits Feelin’ Good and I Love You Porgy alongside less well known gems such as Wild Is The Wind and Work Song. Jazz Repertory Company director Richard Pite interviewed her:

LondonJazz News: This is the first time  in your jazz singing career that you’ve performed a tribute to another singer – is that different from what you normally do?

Liz Fletcher: I suppose I’m paying tribute to many singers when performing from the Great American Song Book. Their influences are probably subliminally interwoven without me even realising it. I’ve been reviewed as sounding like Julie London, Peggy Lee, Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald which is hardly surprising as I’ve listened so much to these ladies. But doing a whole show, dedicated to one singer does feel different. Nina had a hugely powerful voice and personality – quite a challenge for an English blonde with a lighter timbre. I feel I have to be respectful to the original content and yet maintain my own identity. Nina’s musical arrangements are intrinsic to the way the songs are sung and apart from her amazing voice, why they are so recognisable. This is why I decided to stay close to the original source.

LJN:  I believe you once suddenly found yourself as the support act for Nina. She was quite a tough cookie wasn’t she?

LF: Yes, it was bonkers! In 1999, I was on tour with the world music band ‘LoopGuru’ and we were doing a big open air festival in Thessalonika, Greece . At the sound check there was a sudden panic by the crew when a big limousine pulled up by the stage. A red carpet was quickly unravelled to greet Nina who rather unsteadily made it up the steps and into her own private loo which was in the wings. We did our set and then Nina came on, but she was in a very grumpy mood and shouted at everyone. I suppose at that time of life, she had a right but it did shatter my illusion and I was way too scared of her to ask for an autograph! Still, I will always be grateful to have shared the stage with such a great lady.

LJN: I can’t think of anyone who sounds quite like Nina but you do capture her style. How did you approach her songs?

LF: Thanks. I suppose it’s about listening lots and practice. A bit like when an instrumentalist learns a famous solo note for note, bend for bend, wiggle for wiggle, if you know what I mean? I could never sound like her all the time but I hope there are a few reminders.

LJN: Tell us a little about the band you’ll be using.

LF: What a talented bunch - Christian Vaughan is my musical director and pianist and he’s transcribed Nina’s arrangements and plays them brilliantly. Julie Walkington is one of London’s top bassists and it’s lovely to have another female on board, she’s a rare breed. We’re lucky to have Nigel Price on guitar, he’s very busy and prolific with his own projects.

LJN:  Is there a particular favourite amongst the songs you’ll be singing?

LF: I adore ‘Wild is the Wind’- a beautiful ballad. After I fell in love with this song, I learned that David Bowie had seen Nina perform it and promptly learnt it and recorded the song on his album ‘Station to Station’, so I’m in good company! I also like singing ‘Work Song’ and ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ - they really swing - ‘House of the Rising Sun’ too.

LJN: Outside of your Nina show what else is happening with you and music right now?

LF: I’m doing lots of gigs with a super band called Jiving Miss Daisy run by the bassist Simon Thorpe. I’m headlining the Ealing Jazz Festival and playing at the ‘Give’ Festival with my experimental band doing dance music. And as you know, I’m a jobbing jazzer, Richard, doing whatever work comes in – as long as the phone keeps ringing, I keep singing. Oh yes, and I’ll be working on my next album to be released on my own label ‘Audioloob’ later in the year.

The Genius of Ray Charles and The High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone is at 7.30pm on Saturday May 9th at Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace London SW1 (just one minute’s walk from Sloane Square tube station). Ticket prices start at £16 –  Box Office: 020 7730 4500.


PREVIEW: Nick Weldon Sextet (Lauderdale House, 30th April)

The Nick Weldon Sextet
L-R: Art Themen, Trevor Tomkins, Nikki Iles, Nick Weldon,
Andra Sparks, Laura Jurd 

Sebastian writes: 

The photograph above tells part of the story of a fascinating gig at Lauderdale House on April 30th.

Start simultaneously at the opposite of this line-up. Trumpeter Laura Jurd (far right), and  saxophonist Art Themen (far left) are two musicians who were born a mind-stretching 50 years apart. They are collaborating here for the very first time. Different worlds, but each is apparently bowled over by the playing of the other.
At the centre, hidden by a microphone, is the instigator/composer Nick Weldon (fourth from left). This is his album project, with compositions which deal with different kinds of passion - provisional titles are A Hidden Flame and Eleven Flames - and which gets a London airing at Lauderdale House on International Jazz Day April 30th.

Nick is heavily involved with the Jazz School UK which he and vocalist Andra Sparks (second from right) run in Rushden in Northamptonshire in an old shoe factory, which also has a recording studio. So his visit back to London to air this new project is welcome.

Also in the picture is drummer/educator Trevor Tomkins (second from left) who has been with the project since the beginning, and has worked with Nick Weldon over many years.Absent from the picture is the much-missed bassist andTomkins' partner-in-rhythm Jeff Clyne, who was involved in early incarnations of this project. Nick Weldon is known on a pianist, but on this album he switches to bass, leaving the piano duties in the supremely capable hands of Nikki Iles (third from left).

What is it all about? The flame of passion is the starting point for music of varying character. One of the eleven tracks is a setting of  John Dryden's poem Hidden Flame. Another is what Nick Weldon calls a "hip-hop collage" using sound recordings of James Baldwin and Malcolm X, and is based around the passion for justice, using the fact that Thelonious Monk's tune Evidence (originaly entitled Justice)  is a contrafact of the standard Just You, Just Me (by inference "Just Us"). Another influence has been the classical composer Madeleine Dring.

And their plans? Nick Weldon will eventually release the whole  thing as an album, but before he does that, he is going to be releasing the tracks one by one. If the process of creation often has to meet deadlines, here is one which is evolving at its own pace, and with a group of fine musicians loyal and committed to it. Go with the flow, or just go.



PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Norma Winstone (Jazz with a View Series, City of London Festival, 26th June)

Norma Winstone at the 2012 London Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Melody McLaren
The duo of vocalist Norma Winstone and pianist Gwilym Simcock will be performing in the "Jazz with a View" series, part of the City of London Festival, on 26th June, at the top of Unilever House, overlooking Blackfriars Bridge. The series also has concerts by Jeremy Monteiro, Anita Wardell (Ella in London) and Arve Henriksen (LIST HERE). Sebastian spoke to her by phone and asked her about her collaboration with Gwilym Simcock: 

LondonJazz News: What's it like working with Gwilym Simcock?

Norma Winstone: It's easy because he can play anything Last time, we did a couple of tunes by Michael MacDonald. I happened to say I liked this or this song …..and there he was, playing it!

LJN: Can you remember when you first became aware of him?

NW: It was when he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music. He did a gig with one of Kenny Wheeler's bands, a 13-piece. The band already had two pianos but Kenny Wheeler really wanted to include him somehow, so there he was playing french horn.

LJN: But your paths have crossed through other things..

NW: Yes, we've crossed over with some of Kenny's things and Steve Swallow. We played together with Kenny Wheeler's big band we did a couple of tours. We would do a duet on How Deep is the Ocean before Kenny's Big Band arrangement of it

And another time Evan Parker decided that he' d like to record Gwilym - Kenny was on some of it – I sang on some tunes. It never came out as a release, but we had that experience.

LJN: And duo gigs?

NW: We've done a few duo gigs. One was a few years ago for the Deal Music Festival, which is mostly classical but they do put on one or two other things. It was at the time when Gwilym was a BBC New Generation Artist, that was how they'd heard of him, so they asked me to do something and they commissioned him to do arrangements. There was a photo exhibition by Harold Chapman who had taken photos of the beat poets was living round here in the area where I live too. So Gwilym did settings of poems by some of these beat poets.

LJN: When was the last time you did a duo, what kind of repertoire do you perform?

NW: Last October, a duo gig for the Canterbury Festival, we did all kinds of things.

There are one or two standards we normally do, like A Nightingale Sang and we'll sometimes do something of Kenny Wheeler's. We might do one or two of Steve Swallow's. I did a gig in Italy and Gwilym arranged some Steve Swallow for the trio, with Ben Davis on Cello. There's also I Can Let Go Now and Minute by Minute by Michael McDonald, perhaps. It can be anything, there's quite a lot that we can resurrect - we really do a cross-section.

I played a gig with him in a series at the Pheasantry. It was when Gwilym had broken his hand.  They got in a guitarist, Chris Montague, but quite honestly – I said it at the time - he played better with one hand than some people can with two!

LJN: Apart from this duo gig in the City of London Festival, what else is coming up for you in the UK?

NW: The next thing is the Printmakers album with a tour around that in May and June

Then there's the trio. (with Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier) The most recent album Dance Without Answer came out, the third on ECM, in January 2014, And it's quite unusual, the trio has UK dates, in August. There's Brecon and Pizza Express and there may be some others...

BOOKINGS for Norma Winstone and Gwilym Simcock in the Jazz with a View Series, City of London Festival, 26th June


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Cheltenham Jazz Festival Director Ian George (2015 Festival, April 29th - May 4th )

The Big Top in 2014
Photo source: Cheltenham Jazz Festival

"It's been quite a steep growth curve." says Ian George as he reflects on a rise in tickets sold from 9,000 in 2009 to 25,000. He has been Director of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival since 2010, but has been with the Festivals organization which runs the four Cheltenham Festivals (Classical Music, Jazz, Science and Literature) and the year-round education programm, for more than a decade. He set up a marketing function when the organization left the aegis of Cheltenham Council in 2005, and spent five years as head of marketing. In that role he had worked with previous Jazz Festival Director Tony Dudley-Evans, who is still involved with the Festival as Programming Consultant. Sebastian interviewed Ian George in advance of the 2015 Festival.

LondonJazz News: Are you local to Cheltenham?

Ian George: I grew up in Gloucestershire, and found my way back here via Southampton and New Zealand. But I've always been a festivals person. My father was working for Schweppes on a sort of gap year in New Jersey and went to Woodstock. Having been brought up with those stories, my brother and I both jumped into the festivals world as soon as we could.

LJN: In the period since you became Director in 2010, a lot has changed...

IG: One of the challenges was that when the Festival was just going on in the Town Hall and the Everyman, you could be in town and not have any sense of a festival vibe, or even that the festival was happening.

One of my thoughts was to bring it outside more so when I took over in 2010, I took the tricky decision to stop using the Everyman. We built a 600-seater in the gardens of the Town Hall. It made a statement – visually, musically - and we were able to attach a free-stage, so we were able to attract people that we weren't managing to convert to buy a ticket, and they were able to get a taste of what we were about.

And with that comes all the foodstalls and the bars and with the throng of people that brings more interest from sponsors. Since we don't get local government funding at all, we have a series of things we need to do in parallel: building the audience, finding support and balancing the books. From a business point of view that was the first step of the journey

LJN: And in 2012 you moved on from Imperial Gardens...

IG: We had two years at Imperial Gardens by the Town Hall but outgrew that kind of model, and so in 2012 we moved to a bigger park, Montpellier. We are very lucky in Cheltenham to have two beautiful Regency parks This festival, 2015, will be our fourth festival in Montpellier which is a completely stand-alone site. We build a 1300-seat big top, and then we have a 600-seater as well. When one stage is up the other one is down.

The whole site is free to enter and people can buy tickets for the seated venues, and we have a talkspace where you can have journalists or musicians talking...along with food stalls and bars.

It's quite a change in how the festival is presented - we've gone from 9,000 tickets sold in 2009 to 25,000. It's been quite a steep growth curve.

We want to make sure the quality is still there – we work closely with people like Tony Dudley-Evans.

Jamie Cullum and Tom Richards, Cheltenham 2014
Photo credit: Edu Hawkins

LJN: But it's not all outdoors, is it? 

We still use some “concrete” venues too. There's a new stunning 300 seater venue the Parabola in the grounds of Cheltenham Ladies College that we are lucky to use.

We have also gone back to the Town Hall which for certain kinds of events works really well It gives us the opportunity to have a standing venue and a late licence. One of the challenges of being in the gardens is needing to have it all wrapped up by 11pm. As you'll know, not many jazz festivals finish at eleven in the evening.

So we'll do Gilles Peterson with Gogo Penguin in there from 10 30pm to around 1 30. We had a similar show, a great show last year with 1,000 people with Gilles and Snarky Puppy. So it's been quite a journey.

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham

LJN: One of the things people have really moaned about has been sound leakage....

IG: We are very aware of that. We are constantly reviewing it. Following feedback from last year we have altered how the site is set out and what we've changed is the free-stage . It is important to have a freestage so people who aren't buying tickets can come in and enjoy the festival, but what we certainly dont want is for that to act negatively on the more delicate types of jazz, and on the ticket-buying public.

So we have moved the freestage , we've moved the location of the speakers in the Big Top, and we've also made sure in terms of programming that there are certain times when we're not programming any bands on the freestage. We've continued to invest in sound installation in the arena, which is something which has given us a couple of issues in the past.

We understand: when you're in a festival in an open setting, sound bleed is sort of accepted. However the transition to purpose-built venues - even though they are outdoors - means people are buying a ticket for that show. So it's very different from when you've paid over £100 to hear sixty bands. We are very aware of this. Hopefully this year we will have cracked that one.

The Montpellier Gardens Freestage in 2014
Photo Source: Cheltenham Jazz Festival

LJN: Personal favourites, the gig or gigs you really want to be at yourself?

IG: There are a couple:

- One I'm very excited about is to be getting Medeski Martin and Wood over. They don't play in the UK very often, getting them was paramount in my mind. Jamie Cullum - he's our ongoing Guest Director - told me it was one of the bands he'd love to play with and see at Cheltenham so I made it my mission. It's selling really well. That's on Sunday in the Big Top

- The other one is Sun Ra Arkestra on the Saturday .They're one of those bands who transcend different audiences. These guys get played on everything from Clare Teal to Gilles Peterson and Jamie Cullum

- We've got Tony Allen I really enjoyed his Film of Life album last year

- We've got Lee Konitz and Dave Douglas doing a quintet which is a kind of UK premiere

LJN: And there is something calledJazz in the Box?

IG: It's not actually a box, it's a shipping container. I'm looking at a strand for the next three years called Musical Encounters, it's all about how audiences interact with music. (You'll recall the Phronesis music in the dark, we're doing that as well on the Saturday in Parabola ) This idea is to take the extreme of an intense audience experience with just one audience member and one musician. Kit Downes has been writing some specially commissioned music, one five minute piece that he can play hundreds of different ways . So what we're looking at is people going in and sitting in the dark and having an intense musical experince . That's all for free people can go in and experience that.

LJN: By the way Luke Davidson's review of your Loose Tubes premiere in 2014, the first review of that concert to be published, has been one of our best-read pieces of the year

IG: That's good to hear - We've been nominated for a JazzFM Award for that

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival runs from April 29th - May 4th 

LINKS:  Cheltenham Jazz Festival website

Peter Slavid's interview with Tony Dudley-Evans and preview (audio)