YEAR-END LISTS (1) Jazz Moments to Treasure from 2015



Brian Kellock, Tommy Smith
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor/ Imags of Jazz 

This is the first of our four end-year lists for 2015. It consists of writers' best moments in live gigs this past year. We hope people will send in more, or add them in the comments.


Brian Kellock and Tommy Smith at the Ilminster Arts Centre, Ilminster, Somerset. July 2015.

A delightful surprise. Set in the relaxing atmosphere of the Ilminster Arts Centre, a converted church, Brian and Tommy played a straightforward couple of sets comprising of mainly the Great American Songbook. Lovely melodies, memorable tunes, good soloing and presentation. Two consummate artists at ease with each other. Great stuff! (Brian O'Connor)


OXYD at the Manchester Jazz Festival

This was  first of two moments, both of them French - a dirty, noisy, sweaty night at the Manchester Jazz Festival down in the cellar of Matt & Phred’s club. (REVIEW)The band OXYD led by Alexander Herer from the Onze Heures Onze Collective blew away the mostly young crowd with some ferocious free improvisation built on top of clever imaginative arrangements. Individual excellence, but this was a really tight ensemble delivering some of the most exciting music I heard all year.   (Peter Slavid)


Surnatural Orchestra. Photo Credit Jerome Tisserand
Courtesy of Cheltenham Festivals

Surnatural Orchestra at Cheltenham (1)

Cheltenham Festival’s Parabola Arts Centre always provide something original. While the big names fill up the huge venues, the Parabola presents a more intimate space and the programming can afford to take more risks. 2015’s treat came from the Surnatural Orchestra (REVIEW). Very theatrical choreographed movement – a real performance. The music is nicely anarchic too, shades of Loose Tubes, Carla Bley and others – and a fine set of soloists. (Peter Slavid)

Surnatural Orchestra at Cheltenham
Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk


Surnatural Orchestra at Cheltenham (2)

They playing a wonderful set that presented great innovative music in a totally accessible approach that included choreographed movement of the musicians back and forth on the stage. It received an immediate standing ovation. (Tony Dudley-Evans)

Theremin player at the White Desert premiere
Photo Credit: Stephanie Knibbe

Eve Risser's White Desert premiere in La Courneuve

That moment when the cultured, classic, schooled French flute sound of Sylvaine Hélary gave way to theremin sounds played by an eight year-old, symbolising the power of nature was just one of many successful moments in Eve Risser's hugely ambitious and superbly played score. (REVIEW)(Sebastian Scotney)



Loose Tubes at 2015 Herts Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Melody McLaren


Loose Tubes at the opening night of Herts Jazz Festival

The performance by Loose Tubes, whose reunion band - which featured the extraordinary Japanese percussionist Akiko Horii as a last-minute guest - opened Herts Jazz Festival 2015, was far more than just a night of nostalgia to see musicians who have gone on to have an extraordinary mix of individual careers since their heyday in the 1980s. Led by the irrepressible Ashley Slater, it was obvious from the opening notes that, 25 years on, they can still conjure up the electrifying energy and unique harmonic blends that made them a force of nature and earned them a place in British jazz history.

Norma Winstone in Brecon Cathedral...

....singing Nick Drake's "Time of No Goodbye". Performed so soon after the death of John Taylor and delivered to devastating effect, there was no mistaking who she was thinking of. We felt the loss at a very deep level, beyond tears.(Mary James)


Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker

Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker at Manchester Jazz Festival

Amidst the typically vibrant, eclectic, summer atmospheres of Manchester Jazz Festival, a duo set by pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker at the quiet oasis of St Ann’s Church created an unforgettable focus of rapport, conviviality and astounding musicianship. (REVIEW) Playing to a rapt audience, and every moment shining like gold, it was their moving improvisations on the opening chorus of J S Bach’s Matthew Passion – Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen – which became especially transcendent. Displaying sublime reverence for and faithfulness to the original, this was unquestionably the most exquisite, in-the-moment chamber jazz which transported me to another place. (Adrian Pallant)


Marius Neset's quintet at the Lantern in Bristol.

The addition of Jim Hart on vibes adds a new dimension to an already mesmerising band, and Neset's composing goes from strength to strength, not to mention his jaw-dropping saxophone playng. They pack a simply astonishing amount of music into one concert. (Jon Turney)


Annette Peacock at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Cafe Oto

Cafe Oto had three of my gigs of the year in as many weeks - rare appearances, unique concerts.

- The Necks with Evan Parker (REVIEW)- in scintillating improvisational dialogue, mixing the power of Coltrane's Ascension with the magic of Prospero's isle
- Pianist Fred Van Hove's layers of flowing expression perfectly balanced by Roger Turner's adroit, rapid response percussion (REVIEW)
-  The spellbinding Annette Peacock, songwriter and vocalist at the keyboards, audience in an arc around her, with elusive, tangentially jazzy, touching songs of love, pain and honesty in one of the most mesmerising solo sets I've seen - ever! (REVIEW) (Geoff Winston)


Donny McCaslin, Maria Schneider Orchestra at Unterfahrt
Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski

The Maria Schneider Orchestra playing in Symphony Hall in Birmingham 
I had waited so long. It was all I had hoped for, and more. (Peter Bacon)

Maria Schneider running a workshop with her own Jazz Orchestra and the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra in Birmingham Town Hall in November. Maria’s presence in the workshop was totally mesmerising and she brought out some excellent playing from the student jazz orchestra. The two bands were arranged in a large circle with one member of Maria’s Jazz Orchestra sitting next to a student giving advice and hints about the music in between Maria’s conducting. Very memorable. (Tony Dudley-Evans)


Matthew Bourne Suedtirol Jazz Festival 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski All Rights Reserved

Matthew Bourne at Suedtirol Jazz Festival

Matthew Bourne’s piano-playing matched the room perfectly. (REVIEW) Some notes were meditative and as austere as the large white room in Bolzano’s Museion Art Gallery (Suedtirol Jazz Festival) Some pieces were as stormy and scary as the high mountains looming through the huge window behind the piano. Ligeti, John Taylor and Bill Evans all seemed present in his music. He humanised everything with his humour: he used the rhythm of the squeaky piano stool as part of one of his improvisations. ‘It is an art gallery, after all!’ he said. (Alison Bentley)


Maja Ratkje playing with Chris Mapp’s Gominoblast band at The Crossing Birmingham

This performance was the culimination of Chris’ Jerwood Jazzlines Fellowship. The piece was totally improvised and built up to a wonderful climax featuring the electronics and vocals of Maja.(Tony Dudley-Evans)

Pat Metheny (foreground) with Eberhard Weber (background, on video). Theaterhaus Stuttgart Jan 2015
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved


The Eberhard Weber Grand Jubilee Concert in Stutgart

Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny (with a major premiere), Gary Burton, Michael Gibbs all on one bill. One of those occasions you have to pinch yourself in case it was all a dream. The evidence that it wasn't has already come out on an ECM CD, and will appear on a SWR/Naxos DVD too. (REVIEW) (Sebastian Scotney)


Norma Winstone and Dave Holland at the Kenny Wheeler evocation (2015 EFG LJF)

There was a moment during the concert "Kenny Wheeler - An Evocation" (REVIEW by Mike Collins) that has stayed with me. The second half of the evening opened with bassist Dave Holland in duet with singer Norma Winstone. Holland took a slow bass solo. The bass had a warmth to it, resonating around the hall. It was a beautiful sound. With just bass, it felt as if it was Holland's personal tribute to Kenny Wheeler. (Patrick Hadfield)

Jean Toussaint in Swanage/ Brandon Allen in Highgate/ Georgie Fame at Ronnie Scott's

-  Jean Toussaint's Art Blakey set at the Swanage Festival, with Byron Wallen, Shane Forbes and Andrew McCormack (REVIEW)
-  Brandon Allen Sextet at Highgate jazz/soul Fest on August Bank Holiday: Brandon,Nigel Hitchcock Mark Nightingale Sam Burgess Tim Lapthorn Ian Thomas with a varied programme from standards to George Russell and Mingus.(Review by Mark McKergow)
- Georgie Fame and Guy Barker Big Band at Ronnie Scott's November: still the main man when it comes to singing a real JAZZ repertoire. (REVIEW) (Brian Blain)

Amok Amor’s at mac Birmingham

Their concert featured Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger, Peter Evans and Wanja Slavin playing in the Hexagon Theatre . This was music of high intensity and energy that moved in and out of written material and improvisation. (Tony Dudley-Evans)

5 comments:

  1. My top gigs out of the many I attended were (In second place) the double bill at The Spice Of Life with The Elliott Galvin Trio and the Laura Jurd Quartet. Top of my list was The Matt Ridley Quartet at The Central Bar of The RFH. (Please see my review of this one at www.jazzviews.net

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  2. Laura Jurd is a wonderful musician - I hope to see her play more in Scotland!

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  3. I'm disappointed that the Christmas special last Thursday at the Clocktower in Croydon didn't make the cut...

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    1. Nigel, there are four of these year-end lists, and I will be very surprised indeed if your name doesn't crop up in one of the others... (Sebastian)

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  4. The reunion of Perfect Houseplants at the Vortex was stupendous - what a joyous band they are. And now a veritable supergroup. I heard some of the others in the list above elsewhere and would concur, and they are described more eloquently than I could: e.g. Eve Risser (Moers), Kaja Draksler (Vortex), Amok Amor (Vortex), Elliot Galvin & Laura Jurd (passim)

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