CD REVIEW: Hot 8 Brass Band - Vicennial – 20 years of the Hot 8 Brass Band



Hot 8 Brass Band - Vicennial – 20 years of the Hot 8 Brass Band
(TruThoughts TRUCD/LP318. Review by Daniel Bergsagel)

Oh, the memories. As a rookie structural engineer in 2007 one of my less glamorous tasks was to recalibrate the office's vibration instrumentation equipment.Locked away in a basement for two weeks becoming vitamin D deficient, my supervisor took pity and left me some CDs to keep me entertained. Listening to Rock With the Hot 8 on repeat just after its Tru Thoughts release shaped my musical tastes forever, and Vicennial... is a glorious celebration of 20 years of the Hot 8 – an album of nostalgia for the band as well as for me.

As with most Hot 8 songs, the album opens with the rumblings of leader Bennie Pete's sousaphone and the passionate cries and claps of his band on What's My Name (Rock with the Hot 8), full of irresistible participation. Its the song with which they carved their niche, mixing powerful brass with hip hop and funk references from P-Funk and Dr Dre. Vicennial pulls strongly from that debut album of the same name, with the first three tunes revisiting the material but with a less instrumental, more vocal approach than the originals: Get Up has a sparser arrangement leaving more time for percussion and vocals and less for close horn harmonies; Sexual Healing a short snippet of a reminder of their success, weighing in at a poppy under 3 minutes long.

With these Hot 8 hits come some new recordings too. Royal Garden Blues is a tight Dixieland classic written nearly a century ago with neat solos and a Big Easy feel, closely followed by the rare non-brass band ripple of Blaxploitation guitar at the beginning of new storming soul cover Papa was a Rolling Stone, complete with an excellent vocal performance from Frank Wricks. There's also the more restrained colliery band feel arrangement of another70s Temptations hit Just My Imagination.

Like all good retrospectives they don't only return to their debut album, there are also high energy trips to their previous release Tombstone, and an ode to home from The Life and Times Of.... Vicennial... feels as much a celebration of the band's music as of the band's resilience, having stayed together even though four band members lost their lives and one his legs. Of those missing perhaps most telling is the lasting legacy of former trombonist Joseph Williams on the band. In memoriam his grandmother sings trad classic We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City, joined by an uncle and his brother in the band, but its in his two creative contributions that he left his mark. The irresistable triumphant swagger of Williams original Rastafunk is very much the essence of the genre-hopping Hot 8, here switching into a beautifully clean brass arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s The Break of Dawn - It's Real a ground swell of soaring trumpets and groaning trombones.

Vicennial... is not a polished recording – its simple, raw and soulful and revels in its low-tech one-take authenticity. As an anniversary retrospective it certainly has one foot firmly planted in the glorious past. Yet its also a reminder of the musical landscape they, along with Youngblood brassband have helped shape and popularise the funk hip hop brass-band sound in the US and beyond, with bands like Riot Jazz, Hackney Colliery Band,Young Pilgrims and Brass Funkeys popping up over the UK in Manchester, Scotland and London.

The Hot 8 brass band are on tour in the UK until the 10th of November when they finish at their home from home London venue The Garage (Details). For those who enjoy boisterous brass band boogies you'd be fool to miss them.

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REPORT: Launch Event for Cambridge Jazz Festival + Pete Churchill/Mishka Adams Stories to Tell

The brochure with cover painting by Charlotte Cornish
Sebastian writes:

The Cambridge Jazz Festival, with nearly sixty events in eighteen venues, the first jazz festival in the city for over 45 years, was officially launched at the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane Cambridge last night. "Hopefully," says the brochure, "we might break down some of the old preconceptions and stereotypes, and present jazz in Cambridge as it truly is - a thrilling, varied and compelling art form."

The opening/ welcoming speech was given by New Hampshire born saxophonist/ composer Kevin Flanagan, who drew attention to the range of different events. The full programme is at www.cambridgejazzfestival.org.uk


Kevin Flanagan's opening speech at the launch of
the Cambridge Jazz Festival


Cambridge Modern Jazz, at the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane, with their active volunteer base are pivotal on the Cambridge scene, and have built successfully on the legacy of Joan Morrell. Last night they presented the Pete Churchill / Mishka Adams / Ben Barritt unit called Stories to Tell, with saxophonist Mark Lockheart and drummer/percussionist Adriano Adewale.

This group just gets better. Perhaps the strongest impression I had is of quite how affecting, engaging, how good a singer Mishka Adams now is. Time and again, the thought kept coming back that it was not just that everything musical and diction-wise was so completely in place, but that the emotions and ideas were coming through with astonishing clarity. She could, arguably, be bolder, brasher, sassier, but people who haven't heard her for a few years will, I confidently predict, be bowled over, by the way she can make a line swoop effortlessly upwards.

As a group they have collectively gone for a particular sound - the objective is to "frame the songs," as Pete Churchill puts it. There is no bass, which gives Adriano Adewale the chance to inject life and surprise in the lower frequencies, delightfully unimpeded. Mark Lockheart is as fluent an improviser as any saxophonist in Europe. Churchill, Barritt and Adams all harmonise as singers as a mini-choir, but this is also a context in which any one of them can step forward and carry forth a new solistic idea. And the repertoire is expanding as each of the three brings new songs to the party. Ben Barritt's song in homage to crowded London tube trains, memories of being sandwiched "between a banker's briefcase and a lawyer's armpit," as he described it, was particularly effective.

Their performance has a feel-good factor. Or, more specifically, it reminded me of a quote from Marcus Miller in a recent interview with Peter Bacon recently. Describing what all the good session he played with as a young musician starting out were capable of, he said: "I saw that the thing that all the great players had in common is that they knew how to make stuff “feel” good. Playing fast or slow, it didn’t matter. They knew how to support a song ....they made the music feel good." Any of these five great musicians is capable at any moment of suddenly adding pace, pep and pulse - and joy.


A picture from the Stories to Tell launch at the Forge
L-R: Pete Churchill, Mishka Adams, Ben Barrist
Mark Lockheart, Adriano Adewale

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NEWS: Sarah Evelyn wins Natalie Willliams' Support Slot Competition. Jacob Collier announced as guest (Shoreditch Town Hall 21 Nov)



Natalie Williams and manager Fran Hardcastle organized a competition for the support slot at Natalie's EFG London Jazz Festival gig at Shoreditch Town Hall. There were eighty-two entrants, and one outright winner. Fran Hardcastle writes:

Natalie Williams has a reputation for supporting fresh talent. For 8 years, she has used her monthly night at Ronnie Scott's, Soul Family Sundays, to showcase artists to her dedicated audience of music lovers. Although approached by several artists offering to perform as the support act at her album launch for new album, Kaleidoscope, at Shoreditch Town Hall on 21st November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival - Natalie decided to choose a support in a more unusual way....

She announced an open competition on her Facebook page, to win the opportunity to perform the support slot. Additionally, as Natalie is a strong believer that all performers should be paid for their work, she offered a £200 fee to the chosen artist. Over 80 artists applied and the competition was shared widely.

To make the competition open and fair, we enlisted some industry friends to form a judging panel to decide on a shortlist from the entrants. Tom Cawley her writing partner for most of the Where You Are album, Amy Pearce, Associate Director of Serious and Bluey Maunick of Incognito joined Natalie and myself to select the final shortlist.

Once announced, we decided to leave it to audience reaction to choose a winner, selecting the artist with the most comments, likes and shares to win. This in turn was to continue to open up the artists work to a wider audience.

There is a clear winner. With overwhelming support from friends and fans in both the UK and Norway, Sarah Evelyn Fullerton is to be the support act for her album launch. Natalie says:

"The competition has been nuts. I didn't quite expect it to snowball like this and I was blown away by all the talent. I hadn't heard of Sarah Evelyn before, but all of the judges took a real shine to her. For good reason... She has a stunning voice and very soulful music; a true artist I'd love to hear more of and I'm excited to be sharing the stage with her. The great bonus of running this competition was being exposed to such a variety of fantastic artists. Keep your eyes peeled and ears to the ground because I'm sure many of them will be guesting at Ronnie Scott's at a Soul Family Sunday night in the not too distant future."
Sarah Evelyn


Sarah Evelyn's video had over 150 shares, over 400 likes and over 200 comments. The singer recently released her eponymously titled debut EP and is a former student of Berklee College of Music, says:

"I heard about Natalie Williams' music and the competition through a friend and thought; "Well, I have nothing to lose by posting a video, and what ever happens, happens." So I did and then I woke up the other day to the best news I've heard in a long time! I couldn't believe that I was one of the 6 finalists, and the support people have showed me has been overwhelming."

"To other performers out there, I would highly recommend this process. Engaging with other musicians is one of the most pleasurable aspects of working in the music industry. To see this much talent out there has been a real joy" 

Jacob Collier will also be sharing the stage with Natalie as special guest at the launch.

LINK: Shoreditch Town Hall Bookings

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CD REVIEW: Joyce Moreno and Kenny Werner Poesia



Joyce Moreno and Kenny Werner Poesia
(Pirouet PIT3087. CD Review by Peter Jones)


Two outstanding jazz veterans of the Americas – one based in Rio, the other in New York – have come up with a simple idea: to record an album of ballads. Joyce Moreno and Kenny Werner have been friends since first meeting in 1989, and have worked together during that time on two of Joyce’s previous albums.

Poesia feels very different to the exuberance of Joyce’s last album Raiz, which was an exploration of her Brazilian musical roots. This is a collection of chamber pieces, and what work so beautifully and distinctively on it is the combination of styles - Moreno singing in the latin tradition of drama and melancholy, accompanied by Werner’s delicate, empathetic less-is-more piano.

Confusingly, Second Love Song, which they wrote together, is the opening track, and it’s one of the highlights of the album. Werner had originally penned the tune for a big band, but with Moreno’s newly-added lyrics, it sounds perfect and complete a deux.

Of course, working in a duo can also cruelly expose any vocal frailties, and here and there, for example on Jobim’s Olha Maria, Joyce sounds a little uncertain. But elsewhere it’s great to hear her take on such standards as Estate and Mad About The Boy. Werner’s piano on the former ripples and riffs, sometimes complementing and supporting the voice, sometimes providing an edgy counterpoint. He doesn’t ‘latinise’ the material, sticking instead to conventional jazz ballad stylings.

Caymmi’s Velho Piano - a new one on me - is a sweet and melodic delight; Pra Dizer Adeus (‘Just To Say Goodbye’) is a tear-jerker, darkened by Werner’s interpolated melody lines and bittersweet chords; Charlie Chaplin’s Smile (whose lyrics, by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, weren’t added until a full 18 years after the song appeared in Chaplin’s film Modern Times) is another excellent choice, perfectly in keeping with the overall mood, and the same goes for Bernstein’s Some Other Time.

Don’t expect innovation or even surprises from Poesia; it’s not that kind of album. But if you want a mellow, chilled-out listen for the early hours of the morning, this is it.

LINKS: Review - Joyce Moreno at Ronnie Scott’s, 12 January 2015
Review - Joyce Moreno in 2011

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NEWS: Shortlists Announced for British Composer Awards (Django Bates, Trish Clowes, Mike Williams)

The shortlists in twelve categories of British Composer Awards have just been announced. The three nominees in Contemporary Jazz Composition are:

As I Was Saying... by Django Bates
'SAMA' Project by Mike Williams
The Fox, The Parakeet & The Chestnut by Trish Clowes

The winners will be announced at the British Film Institute (BFI) on Wednesday 9th December.

The 2014 nominees were Django Bates, John Butcher and Julian Arguelles and the winner was Django Bates.

The full shortlists are at www.britishcomposerawards.com which also has extracts from the works. 

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NEWS: Pizza Express Jazz Club Dean Street wins London Live Music Venue of the Year

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CD REVIEW: Maciek Pysz - A Journey


Maciek Pysz - A Journey
(Dot Time Records DT9044. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)


A travelogue of refined chamber jazz, acoustic guitarist Maciek Pysz's new release A Journey meanders, eddies and dances afresh to European jazz and world/folk atmospheres.

Debut recording Insight (2013) introduced the mastery and precision of Pysz's technique. Since then, the Polish-born, self-taught guitarist/composer (now based in London) has toured regularly, building and shaping this collection of eleven originals, plus one arrangement, which reflect both his passage as a maturing musician and his impressions of cosmopolitan encounters with cultures, places and people. Joining him again are renowned colleagues Yuri Goloubev (double bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums/percussion), whilst also welcoming the evocative Mediterranean timbres of Daniele di Bonaventura's bandoneon, as well as his pianistic colour.

Across the album's 68-minute expanse, the trio and quartet pictorialisations of its track titles are truly exquisite – out of meticulously-structured compositions, Pysz (like some modern-day troubadour) summons fluent, extended acoustic and classical guitar improvisations. But whilst his fretboard dexterity might be compared to that of Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny or John McLaughlin, this is not hard-swinging, solid-grooving jazz or jazz-rock; rather, it exudes a patient delicacy – predominantly balmy, often bustling – which can become entrancing.

Sometimes this music suggests a surface simplicity which belies its intricacy, as in opener Fresh Look – a blithe, sea-breeze of a tune with regular chordal shifts, yet inviting boundless guitar, bandoneon and bass extemporisations; and Water Streets (inspired by Maciek's first visit to Venice) is full of complex, almost architectural detail as it flows to scampering bass motifs, the swell of changing time signatures and sweetly lilting melodies. Pysz clearly delights in the freedom of working with his trusted bassist and drummer, and the broadness of eight-minute I Saw You You Again brims with confidence, Goloubev's nimble pizzicato voicings so sublime, and di Bonaventura adding elegant piano expression.

Story of a Story indicates a wistful optimism; and such is the melodious warmth of Pysz's writing, there's frequently the sense of a vocal line materialising. Buoyant bandoneon and guitar synchronicity, plus the typically light accuracy of Sirkis' rhythms and fills, place Paris right at the heart of twinkling, bal-musette nightlife; and di Bonaventura's more folksy, sustained bandoneon lines in Ralph Towner's Innocente set up a landscape of mystery, with Pysz revelling in its openness. A particular stand-out is Undeniable, its pulsating sense of endless train journeying apparent as Sirkis' ticking rhythms and elaborate, percussive displays combine with the momentum of guitar and piano ostinati. Slow ballad Until Next Time aches with impending departure, di Bonaventura's wavering chords underpinning Pysz's tortured attack; and Always on the Move (presumably Maciek's signature tune!) possesses a prog edge as Goloubev seemingly interprets its darker motif as if emulating electric fretless bass.

Redolent of Einaudi, Peacefully Waiting becomes positively dreamlike as its smooth guitar is brightly enhanced by di Bonaventura's undulating, lyrical piano. And as with the debut album, Pysz co-writes one track with Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona to produce brisk Desert, which showcases the breadth of his own imaginings as well as fine, Piazzolla-tinged detail from his personnel. Finally, the reassuring mellowness of Coming Home features a pellucid guitar tone possibly inspired by that earlier Towner encounter.

Captured again with spontaneity by Stefano Amerio at Italy's famed Artesuono Studios, the crisp balance of sound and space in this recording is flawless. Throughout, it's great to witness the development of Maciek Pysz's own musical personality, whilst this album's instrumental augmentation enhances his beauteous writing/improvisation – a good indicator of a creative artist lining up many future concepts and collaborations.

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com

LINKS: 2015 Interview with Maciek Pysz
2014 Podcast interview
CD Review - Insight


A Journey will be launched on 18th November at the Forge in Camden Town NW1 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival with guest Daniele Di Bonaventura

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PHOTOS: Lee Konitz in Munich

Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt Munich.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Ralf Dombrowski heard and photographed the many moods of Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt in Munich on Tuesday 27th October, and apologises for the strange colorations: Unterfahrt had temporary lighting. Ralf writes:

Lee Konitz was at Unterfahrt on Tuesday with Jeff Denson's trio. 88 years young, he played - as he has done all his life - what he wanted, occasionally singing/humming along. Overall though, the impression he left was of astonishing freshness. On his set list were mainly tunes by Lennie Tristano, the defining influence of Konitz' youth, several relatively unknown pieces which either the saxophonist or bandleader Denson had adapted, or in cases gone back to original arrangements. An astonishing concert, nostalgic in a modern sense, and nevertheless right up to date. Jeff Denson's singing is not his core competence, he might want to think again about whether to include it.

[Original: Lee Konitz war Dienstag mit Jeff Denson und dessen Trio in der Unterfahrt zu Gast. 88 Jahre jung hat er, wie sein Leben lang, gespielt was er will, stellenweise, der Kondition geschuldet, auch ein wenig summend gesungen, insgesamt aber einen erstaunlich frischen Eindruck gemacht. Auf dem Programm stand vor allem Tristano, die Klammer zu Konitz Jugend, viele wenig bekannte Stücke in Bearbeitungen durch den Saxofonisten, den Bandleader Denson, zuweilen auch unter Rückgriff auf historische Arrangements. Ein erstaunliches Konzert, in modernem Sinne nostalgisch und gedanklich trotzdem auf der Höhe der Zeit. Nur das Singen sollte Jeff Denson lassen. Das ist nicht seine Kernkompetenz. ]

Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt Munich.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt Munich.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt Munich.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Lee Konitz at Unterfahrt Munich.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

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CD REVIEW: FitkinWall - Lost



FitkinWall - Lost
(GFR. GFCD090915. CD review by Mary James)


There is something almost human about moogs, they purr, growl and nag away at you. Their touchiness is legendary - a slight change in ambient temperature and their oscillators stop working. So they are entirely suited to a work entitled Lost, the latest work by FitkinWall, the partnership of pianist and composer Graham Fitkin and harpist Ruth Wall. Marry a moog with a harp and you have music that is ethereal, energising and often moving. The title Lost refers to feelings of isolation, loss of understanding or of faculty, and the embracing of such states. The cover art of a map shows the position of a bothy, a basic shelter from the elements, somewhere you would be glad to go if you were lost. From eerie start in Trace, you feel disoriented, "a thousand twangling instruments hum" in your ears, the insistent, relentless drive of the concert harp broken only by the briefest pauses which you imagine exist to untangle fingers and catch breath.

The work is an expanded version of a harp-only score originally written for aerial theatre company Ockham's Razor - titles such as Highwire and Fingertip provide reminders of its origins. The clarity of sound and the easy flow of the melodies disguise the often tricky time-signatures (different for each hand on the harp, with no pauses). It would be wrong to describe Fitkin's music as minimal (though some of his more classical pieces are), he makes complicated and intricate sound easy. Wire harp, concert harp and autoharp are overlaid with moog and bits of electronics. Don't ever again think of the harp as a costume-drama-medieval-manor-house kind of instrument. No! It's luminous, pastoral and urban at the same time under Wall's fingers, she pushes the instrument to its limits and Fitkin's compositions allow for a certain steeliness and discordance which makes the harp sound contemporary. Sometimes you feel you are going round in circles, just as you would if you were physically or mentally lost - the lovely melancholy melody of Bedsheets is picked up again in Highwire where Fitkin's signature pulsing rhythm perfectly capture the acrobatics of the title.

The sound is immaculate, but this is hardly surprising - it was mastered by Simon Heyworth of Tubular Bells.

Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter and artist manager. Twitter @maryleamington

Lost is released on November 6th

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REVIEW: Michel Legrand at Ronnie Scott's

Michel Legrand at Ronnie Scott's 2015
Photo credit: Benjamin Amure

Michel Legrand Trio
(Ronnie Scott’s, October 27th 2015. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


Subterranean Frith Street Blues: Ronnie Scott’s club is hot, packed, sold-out and buzzing with excitement as we await the arrival of Michel Legrand on the stage. The lights go down and the glowing red table lamps float in the darkness. The baby grand stands there, silent, gleaming and inviting. Legrand strolls up, sits down, plays a run on the keyboard and nods thoughtfully. “That's a piano,” he says, and laughter rolls across the club. We’re off and running.

Legrand sings, scatting, and his voice and the piano become a single thing. He is here with his regular London collaborators, Sebastiaan De Krom on drums and Geoff Gascoyne on bass. They are a tight, bouncy, buoyant trio, playing at a leisurely pace with plenty of space. Legrand effortlessly fills that space, toying with the time, cascading down the keys on Ray Blues, written for Ray Charles, and the first in an evening of Legrand originals. (When you write this well there isn't much need to do anyone else’s material.) His left hand plays with jaunty stride authority, his right with chiming, crystal precision. As tight as it is, the trio conducts itself with a casual sense of mischief. Legrand’s percussive highlights add accents to De Krom’s drum solo, then the piano moves to the fore again, speeding like a rabbit escaping the jaws of a fox. These three musicians are so integrated it’s like listening to a single person, playing with good humoured virtuosity.

La Valse Des Lilas, memorably rendered into English by Johnny Mercer as Once Upon a Summertime, is presented here in its original French, with Legrand’s singing starting as delicate chanson then melting into potent, abstract scat. De Krom conjures an impressionist shimmer on the cymbals that floats like a mist. Gascoyne's plump, rolling bass provides the foundation for Legrand’s tap-dancing piano. “When I have a song, I have to destroy it with some jazz,” he reflects happily. Legrand is a comedian, a trickster, an imp. “I try to do something straight for you once.”

The “something straight” proves to be You Must Believe in Spring from the film The Young Girls of Rochefort. Michel Legrand sets out the first statement of the lovely, yearning tune. Geoff Gascoyne follows, echoing the statement with dark, sturdy lines, plucking the melody from the bass. Sebastiaan De Krom jolts the room awake with a sudden change of pace and Legrand plays mouse-scampering statements on the keyboard. But this is Gascoyne’s moment. He’s the featured soloist, richly ringing and snapping out the song. De Krom ends it with a flourish of soft mallets. “Now comes a song I did for Miss Barbra Streisand called What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life. I know, it’s not easy to sing after Barbra, but…” Legrand precisely inhabits the contours of the song, delivering the lyrics and the music — his unaccompanied piano rich and resonant — with great exactitude. Then the boys come riding in on Legrand’s trills with slow, measured, relaxed-heartbeat bass and drums. The piano dances mischievously among their music.

“Now a little classical piece. It’s a fugue. Do you know what a fugue is? It’s a theme, a counter-theme, a divertimento, a return in a different key… oh, who gives a shit?” The room erupts with laughter. Legrand is running the place like an impish anarchist. He sings Dingo Lament, from a film collaboration with Miles Davis, as a scat of cryptic jollity and liquid agility. Dingo Rock, another track from the same film, opens with a solo by De Krom. He licks his finger and rubs it across the drum skin to summon up eerie atmospherics.

Legrand has a butterfly lightness of touch on the piano, yet he can sound like a whole big band. Exactly what he’s capable of on the keyboards becomes evident when he plays Watch What Happens in the manner of a series of great pianists. First, an Art Tatum interpretation, then Duke Ellington — precisely, late period Duke Ellington, in the manner of Money Jungle, somewhat atonal and flattened — then Erroll Garner raindrops falling on the keyboard, George Shearing tilting and lilting, Dave Brubeck in Time Out mode, Fats Domino's glorious boogie-woogie, played with great good humour by the band, Oscar Peterson scattering trills and frills, then Count Basie hitting three notes and we’re out. It's a wrap. Michel Legrand rises from the piano bench and takes a bow.

Behind me, someone in the ecstatic crowd shouts “Bravo maestro!” They’re not wrong.

LINKS: Book Review: Rien n'est Grave dans les Aigus (autobiography)
Live review of Michel Legrand's first appearance at Ronnie Scott's in 2011
CD Review: Legrand/Nathalie Dessay Entre Elle et Lui

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CD REVIEW: Enrico Rava Quartet with Gianluca Petrella - Wild Dance



Enrico Rava Quartet with Gianluca Petrella - Wild Dance
(ECM. 473 2228. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


It came as a surprise to realise that trumpeter Enrico Rava is well into his seventies: he plays with the spirit and passion more associated with youth. Maybe that is because he surrounds himself with more younger musicians. This, his touring quartet, augmented by his frequent collaborator Gianluca Petrella on trombone on several tracks, is described as a "transgenerational undertaking".

It clearly works, for both Rava and his proteges. It is a record with a lot of space and understatement, something Rava puts down to using a guitarist rather than a pianist to provide the harmonic foundation. Certainly Francesco Diodati leaves room for the others to play: fleeting chords hover, sustained, providing just enough structure for Rava and Petrella to solo over. Elsewhere Diodati adds depth through distortion, giving a texture to the space.

The two horn players solo with great style. At times Rava plays in a low, mournful register, at others he plays high, penetrating notes, his solos flowing from his trumpet. Petrella sometimes plays in unison with Rava, at others he is away on his own devices. They complement each other superbly.

Gabriele Evangelista's bass and the drums of Enrico Morello are key to allowing Rava and Petrella their space to roam. The bass and drums have a quiet insistence, making their presence felt not through loudness or the number of notes they play, but sure-footed subtlety. Exponents of "less is more", on the slower pieces like Wild Dance and Overboard they both make every note count, but may drop out for significant lengths of time. On the faster tunes, such as the speedy post-bop of Happy Shades, they are equally at home pushing the tune along, with no less subtlety.

Rava wrote all the music, aside from the clearly collaborative Improvisation, one of the slower pieces. Elsewhere, he has composed tunes reminiscent of various shades of Ornette Coleman, such as the slow title track or the fast riffing of Infant. Other numbers capture the feel of classic jazz ballads.

Rava has been recording for ECM for forty years. One of Europe's foremost jazz musicians, he'd be forgiven for wanting to take it easy. But if he keeps producing music of this calibre, I hope he doesn't.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

LINKS: CD Review - Rava on the Dance Floor
Live Review - Enrico Rava Tribe at the 202 Valamar Jazz Festival

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NEWS: Our EFG London Jazz Festival Preview Coverage to Date - plus Sold-Out and Selling-Fast Shows

The 'House Full' sign at Ronnie Scott's
Photo from Michllegrand.com

This is the time of year we speed up. We have so far in the past few weeks covered several aspects of the festival - here is a list of our pieces (1) . We also have from the festival organizers (2) a list of the gigs which have already sold out and (3) a list of gigs 'selling fast'.

1) LondonJazz News Preview coverage of artists performing and other aspects of the EFG London Jazz Festival

Cecile McLorin Salvant - new album

BBC Music Jazz pop-up radio

Keith Jarrett announcement

List of 50 greatest jazz artists

Maciek Pysz

Jacob Collier

London Tribes at the Forge

Madeline Bell / Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra

Ibrahim Maalouf

Pee Wee Ellis, Patches Stewart and Xantone Blacq at the Hideaway

Ice-T / Langston Hughes project

Natalie Williams CD launch



2) LIST OF SOLD-OUT SHOWS 


Jazz Voice, Barbican, 13 Nov
James Farm, Cadogan Hall, 13 Nov
Sons of Kemet, Rich Mix, 13 Nov
Gilles Peterson/Kamasi Washington, Barbican, 14 Nov
Courtney Pine & Zoe Rahman, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (Globe), 14 Nov
Cécile McLorin Salvant, Cadogan Hall, 14 Nov
Jazz for Toddlers (Kings Place 14 Nov, artsdepot 15 Nov, Rich Mix 17 Nov at 11am, Southbank 20 Nov)
Marcin Wasilewski Trio + Joachim Milder, Milton Court, 15 Nov
Kurt Elling, Cadogan Hall, 16 Nov
Steve Gadd, Ronnie’s, 16, 17 & 18 Nov
Melody Gardot, RFH, 17 Nov
Britten Sinfonia with Eddie Gomez, Milton Court, 18 Nov
A Man in a Hurry - DVD Launch, Foyles
Keith Jarrett, RFH, 20 Nov
Andy Sheppard, Kings Place, 20 Nov at 7.30pm(SECOND SHOW ADDED AT 10PM)
Jose James, Ronnie’s, 19, 20 & 21 Nov
Phronesis, Milton Court, 22 Nov
Maceo Parker, Under the Bridge, 13/14 Nov

3) SELLING FAST

Daniel Herskedal, Kings Place, 14 Nov
Alfredo Rodriguez, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (Globe), 15 Nov
Cassandra Wilson, RFH, 15 Nov
Christian Scott, Rich Mix, 16 Nov
Jazz for Toddlers, Rich Mix, 17 Nov at 1.30pm
Maria Scheider Orchestra + Liam Noble, Cadogan Hall, 17 Nov
Seckou Keita, Rich Mix, 17 Nov
Dave Holland, Wigmore Hall, 20 Nov
Average White Band & Kokomo - a soul summit, RFH, 21 Nov

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NEWS: Binker Golding and Moses Boyd win jazz MOBO Award for Dem Ones

Moses Boyd (left) and Binker Golding (right) accepting the award


At tonight's MOBO Awards the award for jazz went to saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd.


The other nominees were Julia Biel, Courtney Pine, David Lyttle and Polar Bear.

Our previous coverage of Binker and Moses includes an LP review by Andrew Cartmel of Dem Ones (Gearbox), which they made as a duo and which has led to this award.

Steve Plumb also interviewed Moses for us in 2014.

And back in 2010, we asked the late and much-missed Abram Wilson to write a preview of a Spike Lee / Mo'Better Blues show, in  which he had both Binker and Moses as trusted sidemen in his band.

Congratulations to both, and to the team at vinyl specialist Gearbox Records, for whom this is a significant validation of their niche/ centre of excellence approach.

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REVIEW: Leroy Jones Quintet at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Leroy Jones. Photo credit Paul Wood


Leroy Jones Quintet
(Pizza Express Dean Street, 25th October 2015. Third night of five. Review by Brian Blain)

The counter-revolution has well and truly broken out. After years of Arts Council and PRS bullying, with a supporting cast of journalists, broadcasters and reviewers  – me included – trying to make people respond to the original and the unlikeable, a packed house, the third in a row of five at the Pizza Express in Dean Street last Sunday, to hear the New Orleans trumpet player Leroy Jones, displayed the undying appeal of simple melodic songs, and a rhythm section – all local – that swung, with a fine grasp of dynamics, light and shade. Nor was the crowd composed of elders who were around when the first Bunk Johnson and George Lewis records were released, to spark the interest in New Orleans jazz. They were in fact typical of the 'youngish couple' set who like to go up West to be entertained, not educated. How they got to hear of Jones is a mystery, but there is a real movement of interest in swing jazz all over, and many young players are happy to be part of the action.

This wasn't the old revivalist purism. When I was squeezed into the room, Exactly Like You was in full flow, to be followed by Go Down to New Orleans, and my first reaction was to the Bireli Lagrene-like quality of the guitar playing of Dave Archer, and to the Hot Club feel of the rhythm section, chunky and square but flowing, with great bass sound and feel from Fergus Ireland and one of THE go-to guys in London right now, drummer Pedro Segundo, who I last saw at the Swanage Festival with Denis Rollins' funk-heavy Velocity Trio. It's this variety of background of the rhythm section that as much as anything kept the evening feeling so fresh, even though Jones liked to keep the old New Orleans vibe up front as much as possible, as on Shivers Blues, but when he went for a boppish Pennies from Heaven, for example, Segundo was right there with more than just a touch of period-style bass drum interjections.

Pedro Segundo . Photo credit : Paul Wood


Some Day You'll Be Sorry and Baby Won't You Please Come Home brought out lovely, warm, lyrical solos from the leader, and it was clear that we were in the presence of a vastly experienced craftsman totally at ease with his material, not trying to prove anything other than his ability to provide warm accessible musical entertainment. It was the brisk boppish blues closer which came nearest to that Armstrong-to-Clifford Brown shtick that some of us had been looking forward to, but, as ever, his front line partner, trombonist Katja Toivola, with her very traditional style did much to keep him grounded - in a good way - and in touch with the audiences around the world that derive so much enjoyment from his playing, which comes straight from his deep Louisiana roots.

LINKS: Preview of the Leroy Jones tour
Leroy Jones UK Tour website

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PREVIEW: Knoel Scott Quartet - A Knight of Harlem Jazz (100 Club, 5th November)

Knoel Scott. Photo credit: Jennifer Winkler


Alto saxophonist Knoel ‘King Tut’ Scott, originally from the Jamaica district of Queen's in New York, has been a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra since 1979. He once described the Sun Ra experience like this: "Always happiness, always joy, always appreciation and gratefulness. People everywhere are always ecstatic to experience the music of Sun Ra." (FULL INTERVIEW FROM 2011).

Since he now spends most of the year in London, he has started a quartet with London-based musicians. The group are Charlie Stacey (piano), Shane Forbes (drums) and Michele Montolli (bass), and they will be at the 100 Club in Oxford Street on November 5th).

All three have kindly given us their thoughts about the new quartet and about this forthcoming gig (thank you!!) :

Charlie Stacey: :

"Playing with Knoel means experiencing the tradition of jazz as a living truth, not a museum artefact. The musical connection we are establishing is enriched by the spirituality and emotional honesty at the core of his music. I am discovering more each time we play together, and feel as if my ears have opened since the beginning of this process of discovery."

Michele Montolli:

"Playing with such an experienced and original musician is a blessing. For many of my generation that are in love with jazz but didn't grow up in the 50's this is not just an opportunity to listen and learn that sound, but also to see how they  experienced music and shared it with the band. The fact that Knoel played with Sun Ra influences the way he rehearses with us.  There's always a fresh, improvisational approach to every tune, so that an arrangement could change right in the middle of the performance.

"I learned from Knoel that is not the perfection that makes music such a special experience, but honesty at heart and commitment to its roots and the human experience."

Shane Forbes

"I find it most inspiring and refreshing to play music that is so open and has lots of freedom for the musicians, but also doesn't lose its engagement with the audience. Knoel has a great concept for this kind of setting."

LINK: 100 CLUB BOOKINGS for 5th November

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REVIEW: Randy Newman at the Royal Festival Hall,

Randy Newman in New Orleans in 2008.
Photo credit: Masahiro Sumori/Creative Commons


Randy Newman
(Royal Festival Hall, 26th October. Review by Chris Parker)

On leaving this engaging two-hour solo concert, the urge to sing aloud the catchy chorus of its first encore was almost irresistible. Unfortunately, said urge had to be resisted, because the song in question was “Rednecks”, and its ear-worm refrain famously contains the N-word. The struggle, however, perfectly encapsulates Randy Newman’s unique artistic gift: he is able to wrap pungent, acerbic social commentary in the most innocent-sounding tunes.

Unlike many other contemporary singer-songwriters (Loudon Wainwright, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor), Newman, as he himself pointed out during one of his characteristically laconic inter-song comments, does not rely on his own emotional life for material. Instead, he casts a somewhat jaundiced eye around him and reports what he sees, filtered through a sharp, but often self-deprecating sensibility and spiced with sardonic wit. Of late, this method has resulted in an unforgivingly dispassionate portrait of Vladimir Putin, a lightning tour of the beginnings of colonialism (The Great Nations of Europe), a rueful “letter” to Karl Marx (The World isn’t Fair) and a meditation on near-death experiences (Harps and Angels) – all performed at this concert – but it is best illustrated by the many classics in Newman’s back-catalogue.

God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind) is a perfect example: an insinuatingly charming melody, lyrics that skewer the irrationality of the religious impulse, Newman’s God admitting: “I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee/From the squalor, and the filth, and the misery/How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me/That’s why I love mankind.” Another: My Life is Good, an unblinking portrait of the privileged, servant-dependent life taken for granted by his LA contemporaries. Arguably the most effective use of this method, though, is found in Sail Away, an insinuating, beguilingly lovely melody designed to charm the listener with a catalogue of the attractions of life across “the mighty ocean” – a life of slavery, of course, but presented thus: “You’ll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day … ain’t no mamba snake/Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake”.

And – possibly Newman’s most celebrated song – the aforementioned Rednecks, which he prefaced with a lengthy (for him) Parental Advisory Notice. As Tom Lehrer memorably pointed out in his satire on protest songs, purveyors of such material frequently present themselves as proponents of equality, freedom and justice, “unlike all of you squares”; Newman is too nuanced and subtle a thinker to be categorised alongside such singers. His archetypal redneck, Lester Maddox, “may be a fool but he’s our fool”, whom the “smart-ass” New York audience is wrong to laugh at; so-called racial equality has resulted in the freedom “to be put in a cage in Harlem in New York City … in Hough in Cleveland … in East St. Louis” etc. As Newman sarcastically pointed out, protest songs about race have resulted in the elimination of all racial prejudice in the US.

The voice may be croakier than ever (though his piano playing remains jazzily eloquent), and his very viability as a performer may be questioned (by himself – at one point he encouraged those present to announce his death in a somewhat bizarre call-and-response interlude), but Randy Newman is undeniably still a commanding presence on stage, his ability to captivate and engage an audience undiminished, and the standing ovation he received at the end of this concert was richly deserved.

SET LISTS (via setlist dot fm)

FIRST SET

Feels Like Home
Baltimore
It's Money That I Love
Putin
Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear
God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
Jolly Coppers on Parade
I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)
Laugh and Be Happy
You Can Leave Your Hat On
Harps and Angels
I Love to See You Smile
Birmingham
I Think It's Going to Rain Today

SECOND SET

Suzanne
Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong
My Life Is Good
The World Isn't Fair
Short People
You've Got a Friend in Me
She Chose Me
Political Science
The Great Nations of Europe
Where's My Wandering Boy Tonight?
Bad News From Home
Louisiana 1927
Dixie Flyer
It's a Jungle Out There
Sail Away

ENCORES

Rednecks
Losing You

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CD REVIEWS: Jon Irabagon: Inaction is an Action and Behind the Sky


Jon Irabagon: Inaction is an Action; Behind the Sky.
(Irrabagast records 005; 004. CD reviews by Jon Turney)


Does the world need a recording of solo sopranino sax improvisations? It’ll be a niche interest, I imagine, but it’s quite fun discovering what the highest pitched voice in the saxophone family can do in the hands of an adventurous player.

Jon Irabagon, who is appearing these days in group contexts from Dave Douglas ensembles to the irreverently fertile Mostly Other People do the Killing, does the solo thing partly, one feels, for his own benefit. That is not to imply the result is self-indulgent, that too handy label for things one doesn’t quite appreciate oneself. It is a document of him exploring the possibilities of one of his instruments There are melodic lines on Inaction is an Action, at the beginning of some – but not all – the pieces. Also skirling, banshee wails, shreiks, wheezes, expiring whispers, whining infants of as yet unidentified species, and birdsong from unearthly forests. It probably isn’t an audio artefact many listeners will return to that often, unless they are trying to work out how a particular effect is achieved, but I found it pleasantly diverting. And if you want to hear a sopranino sax sound like a bunch of bullfrogs, this is definitely the album for you.




It appears on the saxophonist’s own label simultaneously with a release in more familiar, but no less ambitious, mode. The eleven pieces on Behind the Sky feature a quartet, with the wonderfully supple rhythm section of Venezeluan-born, New York resident Luis Perdomo on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The overall theme is loss, mourned and then transcended, and by the end of this long set grief is certainly supplanted by celebration. It’s an impressively varied collection, in a straightahead style most readily labelled post-bop but often echoing jazz landmarks directly. The phenomenal Royston, who has an infallible knack of finding the right approach for each tune, makes some cuts here sound as if Art Blakey is in the driving seat, on others he roars along with the soloists like Elvin Jones in full flood. Irabagon and Nakamura match his turbulent flow, the former having at times something of the torrential exuberance of George Coleman in his pomp. Perdomo, who I’d not heard before, is a formidable presence throughout and his excursions with bass and drums would make a viable trio album by themselves.

Not a melancholic album, then: it is full of joy – although an elegiac duo for soprano sax and piano underlines the theme of life and loss. Three tracks featuring Tom Harrell gain emotional intensity from his always pungent trumpet and flugelhorn lines. The whole performance, contrasting with the more astringent explorations of Inaction emphasises how Irabagon remains satisfyingly hard to place, beyond the only category a modern player need aspire to, a man who is interesting whatever he does. Some remain unconvinced.One reviewer of this album has suggested that Irabagon the super-technician on sax lacks the ability to say anything profound, remarking that “some critics have been wooed by the superficial aspects of his style”. That’s a false dichotomy and, for me, a misjudgment of a fine recording.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

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PREVIEW: Natalie Williams (Kaleidoscope album launch, 21st November. EFG LJF)

Natalie Williams


Vocalist NATALIE WILLIAMS will launch her new album "Kaleidoscope" at Shoreditch Town Hall as partof the EFG London Jazz Festival on Saturday November 21st. The support act will be.... the shortly-to-be-announced winner of a songwriting competition that Natalie has instigated. She explained the background to Stephen Graham:

Natalie Williams is one of the UK’s most versatile new generation jazz and soul singers, and there will be a new side to her artistry on display at the London Jazz Festival this year. Launching her latest album Kaleidoscope with her band plus an eight-piece string section and guest Jacob Collier, she says: “We wanted to do something a bit special,” as she prepared to hunker down with her fellow judges, including Bluey from Incognito and pianist Tom Cawley, to choose a support act for the gig. She had put the word out online that she was offering a slot to fresh new talent, and there’s plenty to choose from: so far there have been lots of entries sent in.

With a high profile Soul Family residency at Ronnie Scott’s that, over the years, has featured a who’s who of top jazz and soul singers from Jamie Cullum to Omar, Gwyneth Herbert to Mercury-nominated Eska, plus wide touring over the last few years in the company of the Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars house band as well as extensive gigging with Incognito, Natalie also has a string of albums under her own name running over the past decade.

Kaleidoscope was co-written with her partner bassist Robin Mullarkey and Williams indicates that with the strings input it’s something of a departure. “There’s quite a lot of lush textures to it. I love strings, they always add something to what’s going on.”

It’s a “natural progression” making the album, she explains, although the songs came together not necessarily with an album in mind, the impetus was via an EP she was getting together and suddenly there proved more than enough for an album. Songs were written in different places: one was even penned in a caravan on holiday in the Lake District with Mullarkey, guitar in hand and over a few glasses of wine, she laughs!

Aside from her new songs, which include C’est la vie, Little Did We Know and  Insight – the last of these a song about what it is that people we see around us are really, truly, thinking about – there’s a version of Jeff Buckley’s classic Grace. Williams agrees the album is quite a personal affair. She’s been through a lot lately with the passing of her father. “It’s been a shock to the system. But it’s been quite therapeutic doing this.”

Williams studied jazz for four years at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and  went on to perform functions and gigs. Before that, she had grown up in Berlin, of which she says: “I was totally into listening to dad’s jazz record collection. It was always blaring out of the speakers. At school the teacher talked about doing improvisation which some of my friends were a bit scared about but I just said: ‘I think I can do that’.” She says she left Guildhall “ a little disillusioned” and wasn’t keen to fit into the more old fashioned way of jazz being taught.

And so it was soul and R&B that repositioned her eventually spinning back towards a very ‘of the now’ powerfully soulful jazz direction she now follows. And since taking up her monthly residence at Ronnie’s from the time the club was refurbished in 2006 her profile has massively increased. A MOBO nomination along the way was a big milestone as was reaching out to the Incognito fanbase and writing material for their album Surreal although she’s now left the band.

Williams says there’s an “incredible electricity” about the London Jazz Festival at which she has previously performed on the opening Jazz Voice gala night at the Barbican. Ultimately she sees jazz and soul as something that sit alongside each other happily enough. “But you have to have knowledge of both styles and be totally immersed in each to really get by.”

Natalie Williams with Strings is at the Shoreditch Town Hall on 21 November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. DETAILS
C'est la Vie is on video


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PREVIEW: Filomena Campus' Theatralia Festival (Pizza Express, Italian Cultural Inst, Italian Bookshop, Nov. 9th, 10th and 11th)

Writer Stefano Benni and Filomena Campus


Sardinian singer and theatre director Filomena Campus is about to host the third Theatralia Festival (formerly the My Jazz Islands Festival.) It brings together Italian and British jazz with theatre and features performances by renowned writers and musicians. Alison Bentley interviewed her by email.

London Jazz News: First, on Mon. 9th Nov., you’ll be singing with an all-woman band, with the unusual line up of harp, piano and bass. How did you meet, and what kind of music will you be playing?

Filomena Campus: The opening of the festival will be a brand new project with female musicians and composers called 4 Njanas with Laura Cole (piano), Tori Handsley (harp) and Ruth Goller (bass). They are all band leaders themselves. The idea started more than a year ago together with Laura Cole, after I'd seen her performing at the Vortex. We got the idea of celebrating women's art and music. We often feel under-represented as women in the worlds of jazz and art, and in this project all compositions are inspired by a female artist (such as Frida Kahlo, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gertrude Stein, Franca Rame and many more) or written by a woman composer. The name Njanas is an encounter between the gigantic sculptures called Nanas, created by painter and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, and Janas- ancient legendary female figures and fairies/witches that relate to the myth of the Sardinian Goddess-Mother.The first set of the night will be our original compositions, plus a tune written by New York-based Greek composer and musician Nana Simopoulos, and ‘Goccia’ written by Italian singer Cristina Dona' - a tune that is part of Robert Wyatt's last album 'Different Every Time’. It is also a homage to Wyatt himself, who has given his blessing to our Njanas project- something we are extremely proud of. The project is called ‘4 Njanas; because the whole Njanas ensemble is actually made of ten musicians. A flexible ensemble that will be different every time! The whole ensemble will premiere at the Vortex on Oct 29th featuring composer Nana Simopoulos on sitar/guitar and vocals and Italian drums master Ettore Fioravanti, who is also part of the legendary Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu’s Quintet.

Paolo Fresu


LJN: Also on the 9th of Nov. Paolo Fresu and British tuba-player Oren Marshall will be duetting?

FC: It will be premiere of two international stars in an unusual duo: trumpet and tuba. They played together with other musicians in the past during Paolo Fresu's festivals and events in Sardinia, and they will play their own compositions on this occasion, all enriched with some beautiful electronic atmospheres. Something I'm really looking forward to. Paolo is such a famous star in Italy and the rest of Europe- he tours around the world non-top and I hope this will be an occasion for the London jazz audience to discover his unique sound. Oren Marshall is a phenomenal musician and he's been so enthusiastic about being part of the festival.

LJN: Tues 10th Nov. is your ‘England versus Italy’ evening, bringing together texts by Italian writer Stefano Benni with music by the UK pianist Steve Lodder and bassist Dudley Philips. How did Italian poetry and British jazz come together?

FC: ‘England versus Italy’ plays ironically with the concept of a competition between the two countries It started two years ago with the first 'match': Italy vs England. Shakespeare, Beckett and the Beatles will playfully compete with Fabrizio De Andre', Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and Franca Rame... two different cultures meet through jazz and Stefano Benni's unique writing:

"God save the queen/all the poets and their dreams/ Byron, Lennon and Ozzy Osborne/ All the comedians on the scene/Prince Charles and mister Bean/The colonial empire and the rugby team/Beckett Beckham Molly Bloom/(and the yellow submarine)/God save the gracious queen."

Benni is one of the most important writers in Italy- his books have been translated into many languages. He is also an amazingly entertaining performer with an incredible sensitivity for jazz music and rhythms, so that he becomes another jazz instrument on stage with us, performing his texts in Italian and in English. There will be some new poems written for this occasion, including a totally crazy duet for myself and Cleveland Watkiss. All the music has been composed by Steve Lodder and Dudley Phillips, who have written some mesmerising compositions to Benni's words. I'm actually thinking of recording some of these compositions for our new Quartet album soon.

LJN:Wed. 11th Nov. sees a rare performance of Benni’s play ‘Misterioso: A Journey into the Silence of Thelonious Monk’, with a UK band, including Cleveland Watkiss as the voice of Monk. How does Monk’s music fit into the play?

FC: Misterioso is a theatre monologue that Stefano Benni wrote years ago about Thelonious Monk. That text is the reason why I met him- I fell in love with that monologue because it represents the perfect fusion of jazz and theatre, so important in my work. Misterioso explores in particular the mystery of the last seven years of Monk's life, when he totally isolated himself from the rest of the world and stopped playing and talking. I translated, adapted and directed Misterioso with my theatre company Theatralia at the Riverside Studios in 2009, featuring some of the best jazz musicians in the UK. We also toured in Edinburgh, England and Italy. In recent years I have received so many requests about doing Misterioso again, not only from the audience but also from the musicians themselves. That's the reason why I decided to approach this beautiful poem again, with Benni himself on stage with us, sharing Monk's voice with Cleveland Watkiss, and seeing how we all feel about doing the whole production again. The band on Nov 11th will be Robert Mitchell on piano, Jean Toussaint on sax, Orphy Robinson on vibes, Dudley Phillips on double bass and Cleveland Watkiss on vocals. Special guest Italian actress Monica Nappo Kelly (who featured in a Woody Allen film) will be performing Nellie Monk in the poem Benni has written for Monk's wife Nellie, inspired by the tune Crepuscule with Nellie. You can hear Monk's tunes such as Well You Needn't, Misterioso, Round Midnight, Epistrophy and many others, and something about his life, his music, his piano and his final silence.

The Italian Cultural Institute

LJN: The Theatralia Festival seems to be growing! What other events have you added this year?

FC: There will be three extra events at the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square, and at the Italian Bookshop. On November 4th at the Italian Cultural Institute there will be a vocal workshop (already sold out) with myself and Cleveland Watkiss, where we'll create an ensemble vocal piece inspired by Monk's music that we'll perform on Nov 6th at the Theatralia Interlude. This will be at the Italian Cultural Institute to present the third edition of the festival to the Italian and British media. It will be an evening of live music, theatre, screenings and drinks ahead of the Theatralia Jazz Festival at PizzaExpress Jazz Club. And on November 7th Mr Stefano Benni will present his new book 'Cari Mostri' (Dear Monsters) at the Italian Bookshop.


Alison Bentley is a singer and teaches singing. Her music is on Soundcloud

LINK:  Theatralia Festival website
Event Calendar at the Italian Cultural Institute

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