PHOTOS: Liane Carroll with tne Guildhall Jazz Singers and Guildhall Jazz Band at Milton Court

This piece has now been superseded by a REVIEW including the pictures.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Percy Pursglove (Stoney Lane Records night, Kings Place, March 4th)

Percy Pursglove (flugelhorn and bass)
Canary Wharf Festival 2014
Photo permission pending. Credit: KM's Live Music

On Friday (4 March) Birmingham’s Stoney Lane Records presents a double bill of the Hans Koller Quartet and the Far Reaching Dreams Trio at Kings Place. One man will be in both bands but on different instruments. PERCY PURSGLOVE told Peter Bacon about two different kinds of pain…

London Jazz News: Your "Far Reaching Dreams of Mortal Souls" was a large work for a large group of instrumentalists and singers. What is the connection between that music and that of the Far Reaching Dreams Trio? Is the music the same?

Percy Pursglove: Yes, this is essentially a distillation of the choral project. As much as I'd like to take my choir everywhere with me, it turns out that it's not financially viable at the moment!

The new trio with Ivo Neame (subbed by my dear friend and source of constant inspiration Hans Koller at the Kings Place concert) and Paul Clarvis plays a reduction of some of the Far Reaching Dreams of Mortal Souls music and some of Ivo's compositions. Clarvis brings a uniqueness of interpretation like no other. I try not only to avoid writing parts for Paul, but also even suggesting grooves/feels because what he improvises will be much stronger than I could write!

Ivo (or Hans) has the tough job of playing the role of both choir and pianist in the trio. The reduction of ensemble gives the music more air without the denser chamber ensemble orchestration. And, quite simply It's so nice to have the chance to play the melodies from the project again, even without the full choral team.

LJN: Tell us a bit about the ideas behind "Far Reaching Dreams"…, both big and small.

PP: In 2014 I was honoured to have been chosen as a Jerwood Foundation/Jazzlines Fellow. The programme offers a financial buffer to give artists some time away from other commitments to focus on a particular project. However, I saw it as an opportunity to save up the cash and stage a large scale project. If not then, when else would I have the chance? The project emerged as a nine-movement work for choir and chamber ensemble of musicians from contemporary classical and jazz disciplines.

It is dedicated to a handful remarkable people who in my opinion have made a real and lasting contribution to mankind. I chose Jeanne d'Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Aung San Sui Kyi, Galileo Galilei, Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzai and Charles Darwin.

LJN: On the night you’ll be playing trumpet in your trio and bass in Hans Koller’s band - is it easy to switch from one to the other? Are there changes - mentally or otherwise - you need to make between the instruments?

PP: Actually I'll switch between instruments in the trio also. The change of instrument makes a substantial sonic shift in a small group which would otherwise be entirely lacking of bottom end. I hate to be thought of as the guy just trying to show off… My intentions are pure and musically driven!

I guess that when moving between instruments there is a slight mental shift, certainly in terms of thinking in a transposed key between the Bb trumpet and concert pitch bass, but there are inevitable physical and technical differences between the instruments: one hurts your face, while the other hurts your fingers!

This may sound a little like I'm moaning… I really do cherish the opportunity to play two instruments of such a varying nature and access the music from different dimensions. I'm very fortunate indeed.

Stoney Lane Records presents: The Hans Koller Quartet (featuring John O’Gallagher) + Percy Pursglove’s Far Reaching Dreams Trio at Kings Place Hall Two on Friday 4 March at 8pm.


 Stoney Lane Records website


REVIEW: Alexander Hawkins - Carte Blanche at Bimhuis Amsterdam

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble at the Bimhuis
Photo Credit Henning Bolte

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble
(Bimhuis, Amsterdam, 27th February 2016, review by Henning Bolte)

After the Amsterdam Bimhuis Carte Blanche of drummer Hamid Drake in January (link to review below),   it was now the turn of excellent young British pianist Alexander Hawkins. He made an appearance with his six-piece ensemble comprised of Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet), Dylan Bates (violin), Neil Charles (bass), Otto Fischer (guitar) and Tom Skinner (drums). The most challenging part was the choice he made for meeting musicians from the Amsterdam scene. He opted for combination of musicians from different cultural backgrounds: a young female musician from Buenos Aires, a young male musician from São Paulo, a young musician with a Norwegian-Belgian background and a Dutch born musician. Four local musicians, reedists Ada Rave and Yedo Gibson, cellist Harald Austbø and French-horn player Morris Kliphuis joined and fused into the sextet.

Schleifen, Schatten, Schtimmen … In the first set Hawkin’s sextet excelled in exquisite dynamics, surprising turns and mysterious transitions, not self-evident contrasts and islands of rare beauty. The game the ensemble played emerged from (hidden) cells, and took them through different thresholds of unfolding – undulating and gliding, full of Schleifen und Schatten (loops and shadows), unravelling threads and Helmut Lachenmann-like tonalities on the edge.

Alexander Hawkins at the Bimhuis
Photo credit Henning Bolte

At no single moment did it feel forced, collaged or cut-up. It was this sextet’s very own intriguing game played. Things were kept open in a wondrous way where you could for example hear a Mahler rural military march with a reggae undercurrent. It was kept open, was clearly articulated and never subsided into vagueness. The ensemble played its game at confident alertness. A special mention goes to the unflagging brilliance of violinist Dylan Bates.

For the second set - together with the Amsterdam musicians - the challenge was to trigger and incorporate these musicians’ special colours and strengths. Hawkins adopted a concept that put all musicians on equal ground within a stream and structure alternatively expanding and contracting, shrinking while flooding with diverse energies. It opened free spaces for the Amsterdam musicians almost by itself such that they could gave shape with their very own voice and approach to sound. It became embedded so well that it was clearly noticeable without ever sounding or feeling as “look me soloing”. Walking around, observing, occasionally cueing or adjusting musicians’ lead sheets he employed his very own way and synthesized approach of conducting. It did not fell into any of the well-known, (over)used patterns of open improvisation. It worked wonderfully in both senses, both directions: the creation of a strong common thing and giving space to the expression of manifold individual voices.

Dylan Bates with members of the Alexander Hawkins Ensemble at the Bimhuis
Photo credit Henning Bolte

A very special element built in by Hawkins was the charming use of musicians’ Sprechstimme. Some of the musicians recited poetry overlapping each other in the overall structure and musical flow.  And: there was no fade out as usual, ah! The emerging great groove broke off abruptly, and precisely timed and co-ordinated.

LINK: Review - Hamid Drake's Carte Blanche


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Howard Riley and Keith Tippett (Duo. Pizza Express Soho, 9th Mar, Steinway Spirio Festival)

Keith Tippett at Café Oto. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All rights reserved.

The Steinway Festival at Pizza Express Soho has brought improvising jazz pianists HOWARD RILEY and KEITH TIPPETT to play a rare concert together - this is in fact the very first time since 2003.

Geoff Winston talked to Riley and Tippett separately about their concert, and the background to it. Their mutual respect goes back to when they first crossed paths in London in the late 60s. This is a condensed and interwoven version of the two conversations.

LondonJazz News: How did the Steinway Festival concert come about?

Howard Riley: It came out of the blue. We'd been talking about playing in public [again]. It was offered to me as a gig and I said, 'Well, I'd like to do it with Keith.'

Keith Tippett: Pizza Express rang Howard, who doesn't work so much in this country. It was Howard's suggestion, and then they rang me.

LJN: How do you get a duo to take place?

Tippett: Our work has been intermittent but sustained. A lot of factors come in to this - you need a venue and you need two complementary pianos … so [because of the expense] you're limited to festivals and places like the South Bank. Working at the Pizza Express, which is a club, is wonderful. I did one there two or three years ago with Stan Tracey, so it's wonderful to do one with Howard.

LJN: What will the concert format be?

Tippett: Suddenly we've got a gig, it's marvellous, and usually what we do, we'll both perform a solo set, interval, and then perform together.

Riley: It'll also be nice to play solo for each other. We usually do that if we're in a concert for a whole evening, as opposed to doing a festival spot. It also enables people to hear you as an individual pianist. When people hear us play solo they think, how does that fit together as a duo? I'm not even sure how it does. The only thing I know is that it does!

Howard Riley at the Vortex in 2008
Photo credit: Smkphotos / Creative Commons

LJN: How did you first work together?

Riley: The very first main gig that Keith did [6 January 1969] was at the 100 Club on a Monday night. Monday night was modern and new jazz. The Jazz Centre Society put on The Keith Tippett Sextet. It was opposite the Howard Riley Trio. I immediately saw this was a great pianist.

Tippett: [In the early 70s in London] Howard was more associated with the [London] Musicians' Collective and I was more associated with people from The Brotherhood [of Breath], but we used to genuinely enjoy each other's playing. I started doing duets with Stan Tracey in the 70s and it was Howard who approached me in the early 80s saying, 'How about doing a duet?' and I said, 'Of course,' and we found it really worked well.

Riley: That was our first gig together, 1981 at Goldsmiths College. It obviously worked. We just sat down and played. We've always done that with that duo. We just sit down and play together. That's one of the nicest things about it. One of the intriguing things about it, as well. Then in the 80s we worked spasmodically because with a piano duo there are lots of problems in terms of getting it on the road. You've got to have two decent pianos for a start.

Tippett: If we were two saxophone players we might have played together more - but two piano players - hardly ever. It's a special thing.

LJN: [To Keith Tippett] What is it about Howard's approach that resonates with you?

Tippett: That's too difficult to answer, but what I would like to say about Howard's playing is that he is so individual. You can tell it's Howard within a couple of bars, and you can't say that about too many piano players.

LJN: [To Howard Riley]What is it that is special about working with Keith?

Riley: Keith and I have had different duos over the years. I had a duo with Jaki Byard, playing standards and improvising. He was such a great pianist. That duo was very different from the one with Keith, where we just sit down and, literally, improvise. It's not planned. We don't discuss it. It just happens. It's a sort of spiritual thing, almost. It's very free in the real sense of the word, and we always enjoy playing together. [Keith] is very open to musical ideas, that's important, in that situation where you're thrown back on your own resources. We have a vocabulary that happens to come from playing with each other, from listening hard and years of experience of playing with different people … and it does work very well. You've got to trust each other and just get down there and play. It's always worked when we start playing. There's always slight anxiety when playing, but not with me and Keith.

LJN: Is there some sort of tacit agreement on what routes to take?

Tippett: No, it's spontaneous composition. No pillow talk.

Riley: There's no set compositions [but] in terms of listening, the thing is a giant composition, really. It comes out as a composition, but it isn't, it's just improvised.

LJN: When listening to the duo recordings, they seem to have an architectural sense and scale to them.

Riley: The thing to remember is that Keith and I are both composers. As you have said, there's an architecture to it which comes from the composing point of view. I think that's the secret, if any, of what we do together.


Howard Riley and Keith Tippett have recorded three duo piano concerts.

- In 1981, the first ever duo, was live at Goldsmiths College and released as First Encounter, one of the 3 LPs in Riley's Facets set.

- In Focus (cover image above) was a 1984 Greenwich Festival concert at Woolwich Tramshed, and The Bern Concert was in front of a studio audience for Swiss Radio in 1993. 'Probably the best of the lot.' (Riley); 'The one that sticks out in my mind.' (Tippett.)

- In 2002 they performed a piano trio with John Tilbury, put out on the CD, Another Part of the Story, by Emanem, and in 2003 two shorter solos and a duo were recorded on the Pianoforte tour and included on its CD by Slam Productions.

Howard Riley and Keith Tippett duo concert at Pizza Express Soho, 9 March, in the Steinway Festival 2016. BOOKINGS

LINK: Full programme for Steinway Spirio Two Piano Festival



Bill Bruford

Michael Rüsenberg writes (*):

Bill Bruford, at 66, Drummer extraordinaire, has been working for 4 1/2 years since his retirement from playing in public on a doctoral dissertation. It is done, and has been awarded a Ph.D by the University of Surrey in Guildford."I know, I know: and to a drummer, too," he says.

His retreat into academic life has evidently made certain demands on him. He has written in a letter to supporters and friends: "I´m thrilled to be back in the land of the living."

His doctoral dissertaion is due to appear as a published book within the next year.

(*) Michael Rüsenberg's original and slightly longer German text appeared on his website

LINK: Announcement on the University of Surrey website


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW : Jef Neve (Kings Place Hall Two, March 10th)

Jef Neve in 2014. Photo credit: Jerroen Willens

Jef Neve is about to make a rare solo appearance in London. He explained the background to Sebastian:

Pianist Jef Neve, in his late thirties, takes on a punishing touring schedule and keeps a number of projects on the go. Since October 2014 he has performed sixty times in his home country, Belgium, and has toured in Japan, Canada, Hungary Germany, France, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Kenya. He is also active as a film composer, and is about to start working on the music score for a Dutch TV series. He works in a trio, and with larger units.

A major focus, however, is his work as solo pianist. The solo album, One, issued in 2014, and recorded partly at Abbey Road and partly at a studio called La Chapelle in Malmedy, close to Belgium's border with Germany, has proved highly successful. At Kings Place on 10th March he will present material from One, together with some newer material.

Solo piano has been a major focus particularly in the past 3-4 years. “I'd played now and again since beginning of career, but really started to enjoy it from 2012 onwards. I consider myself more of a composer than a pianist, and I wanted to have more freedom. Playing in a band sometimes I had to limit myself. So I was happy ro explore. I started to play solo concerts, and to enjoy them”

Does he play tunes or does he merge them? “In general I dont link tracks, because I want to tell the audience where the inspiration for each one comes from, so no, I don't link them up...but I think the tracks become longer every time. Sometimes I can go for up to 15 minutes .”

The most popular track on the album in terms of radio play has been Solitude (video above). Neve is finding inspiration from other media than sound and music. This track has its origins in a composition commission from the contemporary dance company based at the Theater aan de Stroom in Antwerp's Linkeroever. Choreographer Michael Lazic had a ready-made story. Neve explains. “It's the story of a father and a son. The father shows the sone movements, the first steps in his life. Then the dance evolves and the son invents own movements, and challenges the wisdom and authority of the father. It ends in a symmetrical dance.” As an accessible piece of music, it has taken on a life of its own : “It's one of most accessible tracks. People have told me emotional stories after hearing it,” says Neve.

Another of the tunes which has emotional resonance for Neve, and which has to some extent defined the whole solo piano endeavour is the cover of Joni Mitchell A Case of You. Neve remembers starting recording the solo album and it was this track with which he suddenly found an authentiicity in his playing. “The story for me is that I was insecure . There is nowhere to hide when youre playing.” Something hadn't felt right in the first session of the recording. The producer remarked to him at the break: “It sounds like you are trying to show off, it doesn;t sound right. Just take a break just play the song that really means something to you.” Back at the piano, Neve felt tears welling up, all kind of poignant memories seemed to come to the surface. He recorded A Case of you, desperately trying to ensure that the sound of his sobbing didn't get onto the recording. It was the first successful take to find its way the album.

Jef Neve solo is at Kings Place Hall Two on Thursday March 10th at 8pm. BOOKINGS

LINKS: Jef Neve website
Review of Jef Neve in London (2011)


REVIEW: Abdullah Ibrahim Solo at the Barbican

Abdullah Ibrahim in 2011. Phphp credit: Michael Hoefner/ Creative Commons

Abdullah Ibrahim
(Barbican, Saturday 27 February 2016. Review by Mark McKergow)

Veteran South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim’s solo performance at the Barbican showed a livelier, more energetic touch than we’ve seen recently as he explored a stream of melodies with exquisite touch and passion.

Now in his ninth decade, Ibrahim has surely earned the right to do it his way – which when playing solo means totally acoustic, him and a piano, and letting the music do the talking. After a moment of confusion when a stage technician received a round of applause that was surely intended for someone else, Ibrahim walked slowly onto the stage in his customary baggy cotton clothes, settled at the piano and embarked on a journey through his own musical heritage and history.

This is not like any other concert experience. As there is no amplification at all, the music is quieter then we are used to and so one needs to ‘get one’s ear in’ at the start. The music flows from one tune to another, linking passages of improvisation with the hypnotic patterns and harmonies of Ibrahim’s compositions. The overall tone is gentle, but Ibrahim showed greater power and chromatic exploration than at his previous solo shows in the UK. The bass in particular is key, underpinning everything with left hand chords – Ibrahim must use the bottom octave of the keyboard more than anyone else around.

The music is utterly distinctive, meditative, with almost healing powers of tension and resolution. Tonight Ibrahim showed his jazz connections to Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. Ellington once told the young Ibrahim that "You're blessed because you come from the source", and the musical connections Ibrahim makes between African and jazz traditions are compelling and convincing. This performance was considerably livelier than the disappointing (for me) Royal Festival Hall performance of 2014 with his latest rather-too-tidy Ekaya band and trio.

Ibrahim played for 90 minutes in two stretches, the first hour unbroken, then a final half hour. He showed a total mastery of dynamics – while his compositions are often based on simple repeating phrases, he never played the same phrase twice; there were always subtle stretches of time, volume, attack, sustain – this was a masterclass of understated brilliance, turning every moment into an exploration rather than a statement. What did he play? It hardly seemed to matter, but The Mountain, District Six, The Wedding and pieces from his 2008 Senzo album all made appearances. And when he hit the final major chord the entire evening seemed to resolve – that was it, he knew it and we knew it too.

After this sustained period of attention and meditation, the applause started steadily at first, then rose to a crescendo as people gathered themselves together and embraced what we’d all experienced. No encore, no words, much beaming and gesturing.

While many of the audience remained rapt at all this wonder, the presence of the crowd was unusually distracting. At Glyndebourne there are prominent signs saying:

Latecomers are not admitted into the auditorium but will be able to follow the opera via a live relay. If a suitable pause occurs, patrons will be shown to their seats, although this might not be until the interval.

The Barbican could be well advised to institute a similar policy. Frankly there was no ‘suitable pause’ in the first hour of Ibrahim’s performance, and yet a stream of latecomers (some as much as three quarters of an hour late) paced the aisles with light streaming from their phones. The quiet and continuous nature of the music also meant that consumptive coughers played an unwelcome role – Strepsils to be handed out at the door?


TRIBUTE: Remembering John Chilton (1932-2016)

John Chilton

Ann Cotterell, who was the publisher of the autobiography of JOHN CHILTON, remembers the trumpeter, leader of the Feetwarmers, and prize-winning jazz writer who died at the age of 83, on 25th February.

Readers of this website may recognise John Chilton as an important author of jazz biographies including books about Louis Armstrong, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, Roy Eldridge, Louis Jordan, Billie Holiday, Bob Crosby (brother of Bing), Coleman Hawkins, Sidney Bechet and more. His research was meticulous, as evidenced in the two editions of his Who’s Who in British Jazz, an indispensable guide to musicians, especially in pre-internet days. He was also a songwriter, arranger and composer.

For many jazz lovers, John Chilton was for over 30 years best known for his association with George Melly, leading the band which accompanied Melly, touring the world, appearing on numerous occasions on television and dominating the Christmas schedule at Ronnie Scott’s. Before this, he had been in Bruce Turner’s Jump Band, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Mike Daniels and Alex Welsh bands, and he led his own Swing Kings, accompanying visiting American stars including Buck Clayton, Bill Coleman and Ben Webster.

At the end of 2002 he decided to give up the relentless schedule of touring with Melly and to ‘only work where the London red buses go’. From then on he planned to focus entirely on writing and to work locally, playing in pub residencies with his old friend and musical collaborator, clarinettist Wally Fawkes. His autobiography, Hot Jazz, Warm Feet, published in 2007, shows that there was even more to John Chilton than the well-known attributes of bandleader, musician and writer. He gives a fascinating account of his early life in working-class London – his father was a tap-dancer and music hall comedian – and he describes his experiences as an evacuee and in National Service. His accounts of the people he had known are warm and escapades are recounted with a gentle humour that probably contributed to the success of his long career with George Melly.

Finally, he and his late wife Teresa will be remembered for the Bloomsbury Bookshop in Great Ormond Street, specialising in jazz, which they founded in the 1960s, and they continued to live in Bloomsbury for the remainder of their lives. It is hard to imagine how he packed so much into his life but, in spite of all his touring and time away from home, his family was important and he is survived by his three children, Jenny, Martin and Barney, and grandchildren.

LINKS: John Chilton’s autobiography, Hot Jazz, Warm Feet 
More from the Telegraph on John Chilton’s life and the awards conferred on him
Telegraph obituary

Brian Priestley's Independent Obituary
Peter Vacher's Guardian obituary


CD REVIEW: Michel Benita & Ethics - River Silver

Michel Benita & Ethics - River Silver
(ECM. 475 9393. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

This delicate record from bass player Michel Benita and his international quintet is an exquisite example of "less is more". Understated and intricately balanced, it is nevertheless full of ideas and emotion. The quieter it gets, the more it has to say. Quiet can be exciting.

This is perhaps seen clearest on the contribution of Philippe Garcia's percussion. His playing has a gentle quality, a very light touch that is sometimes barely audible. But every note counts; he doesn't need to be demonstrative to make his playing have an impact.

Featuring Mieko Miyazaki's koto - a harp-like instrument - and Eivind Aarset's guitar, there is a lot of texture in the music. The koto often takes the role of a rhythm guitar, allowing Aarset to add layers of structure beneath. The melodic content comes largely from the lyrical, soulful flugelhorn of Matthieu Michel - and from Benita himself.

The music crosses the borders of several genes - jazz, folk, and world musics. Yeavering, by Kathryn Tickell, is based on a Northumbriam folk tune; Lykken, which translates as "happiness", was written by Norwegian composer Eyvind Alnæs. Miyazaki contributes Hacihi Gatsu, an intricate duet between koto and bass.

Benita wrote the other six tunes, but is definitely an ensemble record. He takes a long solo in the introduction to Lykken, developing into a channel for Michel's ethereal flugelhorn.

The band create impressionistic soundscapes full of space. Evocative and fluid, the music flows gently on.

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

LINK: Live review/ photos of Michel Benita & Ethics from Jan 2016


NEWS: Shortlists for JazzFM Awards Announced - three public vote categories now open

Winners - and others -  at the 2015 Awards Photo credit: JazzFM

Here is the full list of the Nominees for the 2016 Awards, announced this morning 24th February:

Breakthrough Act of the Year

Binker & Moses (LP REVIEW)
Jacob Collier

International Jazz Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Yamaha)

Kamasi Washington
Marcus Miller
Maria Schneider

Blues Artist of the Year

Alabama Shakes
Buddy Guy (Book review)
Gary Clark Jnr

Soul Artist of the Year

Jill Scott
Leon Bridges
Lizz Wright

Instrumentalist of the Year (Sponsored by Arqiva)

Mark Lockheart
Theon Cross
Zoe Rahman

Vocalist of the Year

Lauren Kinsella (INTERVIEW)
Liane Carroll (INTERVIEW)

Jazz Innovation of the Year (Sponsored by Mishcon de Reya)

Black Top
Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah
David Virelles

Digital Initiative of the Year (Sponsored by 7digital)

Jacob Collier (REVIEW)
Tin Men and the Telephone

Album of the Year (Public Vote now open)

Christian Scott ‘Stretch Music’
Hiatus Kiayote ‘Choose Your Weapon’
Kamasi Washington ‘The Epic’(REVIEW)
Maria Schneider ‘The Thompson Fields’ (REVIEW)
Charenee Wade ‘Offering’
Snarky Puppy ‘Sylva’(REVIEW)

UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote now open - Sponsored by Grange Hotels)

Binker & Moses
Matthew Halsall (INTERVIEW)
Sons of Kemet (CD REVIEW)

Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote now open)

Ice-T and Ron McCurdy – The Langston Hughes Project at the Barbican (INTERVIEW)
Maria Schneider at Symphony Hall Birmingham (Review of London Concert)
Taylor McFerrin at Rio Club Glasgow

Lifetime Achievement
(Sponsored by PPL)

To be announced in due course

SPONSORS/ ORGANIZERS: The Jazz FM Awards 2016 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and is made possible with the support of Grange Hotels, Mishcon de Reya, PPL, Yamaha, Arqiva, 7digital, and Denbies Wine Estate.


CD REVIEW: Jon Balke - Warp

Jon Balke - Warp
(ECM. 476 6047. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Norwegian pianist Jon Balke has produced a curious record of strange beauty. The mood is gentle, but sometimes quite sparse - or even bleak. The sixteen tracks, varying in length from under one minute to over five, blend together to form a unified piece.

This continuity is emphasised by ECM not listing the track names on the back of the CD, only on fold-out inlay card; it wasn't until I uploaded the CD after several listenings that I realised the tracks were titled.

The titles themselves sometimes belie their contents. Heliolatry is dark and brooding, with low, ominous chords. Bolide is anything but explosive, a gentle piece of impressionistic improvisation that wouldn't be out of place in the classical repertoire.

That subtle feeling of space is common to many of the tracks. Balke has incorporated found sounds and voices, chattering quietly in the background, playing in a playground or, in the case of Kantor, singing. The result can be rather lovely. Kantor also uses treated sounds to produce an organ-like ringing in the background, which also appears on This Is The Movie, together with a guitar out perhaps the plucked strings of the piano.

Sometimes it sounds as if the piano has been prepared, with objects placed on the strings; sometimes as if the piano has been treated in post production, to create a specific sound. These treatments don't distract but combine to form a deep sound scape.

The effect is intriguing and at times abstract. Some of the pieces feel like sketches, others are more complete, but together build into an integrated whole.

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


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Emma Smith (Puppini Sisters on Tour

The Puppini Sisters (Marcella Puppini, Kate Mullins and Emma Smith) have been in existence for eight years and have a new, fifth, album ‘The Highlife’ out on March 11th and will be touring the UK starting on 3rd March and culminating with a final gig at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Thursday May 18th. The third and newest sister is well known in the UK jazz community, EMMA SMITH. Sebastian interviewed her:

LondonJazz News: How / when did you get into the Puppini Sisters in the first place ?

Emma Smith: I joined the Pupps in October 2012, at the very beginning of my last year at the Royal Academy of Music. It was a godsend! Joining the band definitely staved of the inevitable feeling of 'what the hell is my life post-college'... I got to tour the world singing in harmony whilst wearing impossibly camp outfits. What more could I have asked for?!

LJN: What do you enjoy about working with the Puppinis ?

ES: We are a very close unit. And we laugh, laugh, laugh together. It's so unusual for a group of women who essential occupy the same territory in a band to legitimately get along!

LJN: And what is the story of the recording ? How does the process of doing the arrangements work / is it collaborative? Do arrangments stay the same?  

ES: We keep all the writing in-house (ie. Just us ladies) and then workshop them with our fabulous band in intensive rehearsals. The charts inevitably change a little but it's pretty negligible. The Puppini Sisters have been doing this long enough that they know what's going to work and what's not.

LJN: Is there a story behind the album?

ES: The only 'story' I can think of is that this album has been the first that the Puppini Sisters has done without a major record label!! This is album no. 5 (although it's my first album), and we have fully rocked out and done what the hell we want to do! We've upped the musical stakes and really done it properly, it's a very complete album. 'High Life' is basically the soundtrack to a dream of a Puppini Sister... Or maybe the musical equivalent to the madness that occurs in our dressing room; Pom poms, corsets, wine, politics, boys, and lots and lots of lipstick's ...!

LJN: Any particularly memorable experiences gigs ?

ES: There was this one time in Germany when I found a golf buggy and got so over excited I actually drove it on stage. Or the time when Kate did a full dance routine with a broken leg and a silly-small corset on. There have been so many fabulous gigs with orchestras across the world, playing 4 nights at the blue note in Tokyo, featuring with Michael Buble at the o2 in front of 23k people was rather memorable. Yes it's been a trip!

LJN: And there's a big tour coming?

ES: We're about to embark on a huge uk tour, (see link for details), Come and join us! And straight off the back of that we're headed to Singapore and then the west coast of America. It's such a dull life!

LJN: What else are you currently up to?

ES: I'm currently immersed in a bunch of projects, one involving a lot of pop writing, recording an album with a well known film composer and becoming a radio presenter ...

LJN: Radio presenter'?

ES: Oh whoops! I gave that away to soon! Yes, I am going to be the new face of radio (haha I couldn't help myself). There's a new jazz show coming to BBC Radio 3 and I'll be a part of it. I'm not sure how much I can give away but please watch this space for more info!


3rd March Sage 2, Gateshead
4th March Lowther Pavilion, Lytham
5th March The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff
7th March City Varieties, Leeds
8th March Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
9th March The Waterside Theatre, Sale, Manchester
11th March Albert Halls, Stirling
12th March Stockton Arc, Stockton-on-Tees
14th March The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
15th March Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick
16th March The Stables, Milton Keynes
18th March Concorde Club, Southampton
19th March Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
20th March Komedia, Bath
21st March Orchard Theatre, Dartford
18th MAY O2 Empire, Shepherds Bush, London


REPORT/ PHOTOS: Christy Doran, Erika Stucky, Fredy Studer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma at BMW Welt in Munich

Fredy Studer, Christy Doran, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Erika Stucky
Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Christy Doran, Erika Stucky, Fredy Studer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma 
(BMW Welt Awards, Munich, 20th February 2016. Report and photos by Ralf Dombrowski)

This year the competitive rounds of the BMW Welt Jazz Award is being held under the rubric "Inspired by Legends." This was the fourth concert in the annual series of six.

Fredy Studer. Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

This concert did blow the audience out of the comfort of its seats, as Christy Doran, Erika Stucky, Fredy Studer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma paid their respects to Jimi Hendrix in an increasingly trance-like set.

Christy Doran. Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

 There was something of the absurd in the location: a rock'n'Roll matinee in the design temple of a car manufacturer, played by musicians who were completely tired out frm their schedule. They had rolled out of the buss and stepped straight onto the stage. As they performed anthemic numbers like "Purple Haze," number by number the atmosphere became ome of creative hysteria, and this seemed to make them play with more authenticity and passion than they would have in the more familiar surroundings of a club.

Erika Stucky, Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Stucky seemed to enjoy letting these songs crumble, and then spreading out and re-combining them with an anarchic experimental zeal. The band was of a mind to run with her acts of chutzpah, and to get carried away too.

After the encore Tacuma declared that he had never experienced a mood quite like this. It was a wonderful concert, something which had to be experienced.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Ralf Dombrowski's original German text:

Es war das vierte Konzert einer Reihe von sechs, die in diesem Jahr unter dem Motto "Inspired by Legends" die Wettbewerbsrunde des BWM Welt Jazz Award bilden. Und es blies das Publikum förmlich von den Sitzen, denn Christy Doran, Erika Stucky, Fredy Studer und Jamaaladeen Tacuma verbeugten sich kraftvoll und über die Konzertlänge hinweg zunehmend trancehaft vor Jimi Hendrix. Die Absurdität der Situation - Rock'n'Roll zur Matinee im Design-Tempel eines Auto-Konzern, vorgetragen von übermüdeten Musikern, die vom Tourbus direkt auf die Bühne hoppten, um Hymnen wie "Purple Haze" anzustimmen - kippte Stück für Stück in eine Atmosphäre kreativer Hysterie, die die vier wahrscheinlich noch besser spielen ließ als in angestammter Umgebung eines Clubs. Stucky jedenfalls ließ die Songs bröckeln, zerlegte und kombinierte sie neu mit anarchischer Lust am Experiment, die Band folgte ihr mit Chuzpe und derart entrückt, dass Tacuma nach der Zugabe ins Mikrophon meinte, so eine Stimmung habe er selten erlebt. Ein grandioses Konzert, ein Erlebnis!


FEATURE/PREVIEW: Sing, Sing, Sing and John Hammond. (Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, Mar 12th, Cadogan Hall)

The Jazz Repertory Company performing the
Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert

The Jazz Repertory Company returns to Cadogan Hall on Saturday March 12th with one of its most popular shows – Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Goodman finished his Carnegie Hall concert with a twelve minute version of perhaps the most popular tune of the swing era  "Sing, Sing, Sing." 

Richard Pite looks at the history of "Sing Sing Sing" and its enduring and irresistible appeal:

You might have seen the new Guinness ad that’s currently running – it’s a one minute celebration of the record producer, talent scout and champion of jazz, John Hammond. It’s the second in a series that Guinness is running called “Made For More.” This new ad, featuring a handsome actor playing the less than handsome Hammond, is a beautifully shot monochrome period piece with newspaper headlines, black and white musicians and black and white dancers,  all encapsulating in a very brief moment the great achievements of a remarkable lifetime. Hammond was later responsible for signing Bob Dylan to Columbia Records and gave Bruce Springsteen his first recording contract.

And what is the soundtrack to the ad? Well, once again, it’s that old favourite Sing, Sing, Sing – that wild piece of minor key riffing, wailing trumpets, ululating clarinet and jungle drums that almost eighty years after Goodman recorded it still crops up everywhere.

The piece is a good choice for a tribute to Hammond (who was Benny Goodman’s brother-in-law) as he played the main role in making the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert the first time black and white jazz musicians had ever shared a concert stage together. It was Hammond that introduced the pianist Teddy Wilson to Goodman and he also arranged that the star players of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestras would appear alongside Goodman’s Orchestra.

Sing Sing Sing certainly does a great job as a movie soundtrack not only because it perfectly captures that brief moment when jazz became the most popular music of its day but because it also appeals to ears raised on rock music – the music doesn’t conjure up rows of middle aged chaps straining the buttons of their tuxedos and peering down at their music stands in bi-focals that say, In The Mood or Jersey Bounce does. Sing Sing Sing is all about sex, sweat and frenzy. If Uncle Monty attempted to dance to it at a wedding the ambulance would probably have to be hailed well before the cowbell brings the band in for the final shout chorus.

Sing Sing Sing was written by Louis Prima, best known today for singing I Wanna Be Like You in Disney’s The Jungle Book. The song was turned into an instrumental feature by Goodman a year later in 1937, taking up both sides of a 78 it was the first extended drum solo on record. Before then drum solos had been short breaks – a drummer would be lucky if he got eight bars to show off his chops, there were just too many other interesting things to cram into the three and a bit minutes that a 78 rpm side allowed you.

Gene Krupa was the right man to carry off this extended drum feature. A wildly extrovert player with movie-star good looks, he had a way of making moves sitting at his kit that were visually as exciting as the sounds he was making. Krupa needled Goodman because he commanded most of the attention on stage – Goodman, of course, played like a dream but he looked like a college professor and besides the speedy movement of his fingers and the occasional glint of a spotlight on his specs there was precious little visually to grab a young bobby-soxer – that’s where Krupa came in (and not long after the ’38 Carnegie Hall gig that’s why Krupa went out).

So here’s a quick tour through YouTube to pick out a few of the many times Sing Sing Sing and numerous sound-a-likes have been in the movies.

Let’s start with Benny’s band in 1938 in Hollywood Hotel taking the tune for a short spin for a couple of minutes.

Here it is in the 1993 movie Swing Kids - a movie about teenagers in Nazi Germany secretly meeting up to dance to it – how the hell those jungle drums didn’t wake up the snoozing fräuleins next door who would have shopped them to the Gestapo, goodness knows. However a salutary reminder that shortly after it was recorded you could have been executed for listening to it.

Woody Allen has the record for using it the most in his films, three times now – Manhattan Murder Mystery, New York Stories and here in Deconstructing Harry – Sing Sing Sing goes to hell.

The insatiable demand for Sing Sing Sing sound-alikes led to me getting two separate movie sessions in two days – the first one was for one of the numerous Harry Potter films and then the next day for a delightful movie called Me and Orson Welles. The more photogenic Zac Efron provided the Krupa licks on camera.

Here’s a trio of spoofs -

1)  John Williams in Spielberg’s 1941

2) Cameron Diaz dances to something resembling it in The Mask

3)  Michael Buble funks it up on the Spiderman theme

By now those damn drums are probably driving you to distraction so let’s quit whilst there’s still a chance you might want to come and see it live and as it would have sounded in 1938 – March 12th Cadogan Hall SW1 - see you there.

Richard Pite is Director of the Jazz Repertory Company

This is the fourth time the show, featuring Pete Long in the role of Benny Goodman, has been staged at the venue and the last three times have all been sell-outs.  Pete Long’s 13 piece band (The Goodmen) includes Enrico Tomasso and Georgina Jackson on trumpets, Gordon Campbell on trombone,  Australian  tenor saxophonist Duncan Hemstock, with Richard Pite himself in the role of Goodman’s drummer Gene Krupa. Also featured are Anthony Kerr on vibes and the Chicago chanteuse Joan Viskant.



REVIEW: Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh at Cafe Oto

Heather Leigh and Peter Brötzmann at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved

Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh
(Cafe Oto, 20 February 2016; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

There is an intriguing dynamic in the way Peter Brötzmann, renegade reedsman and free jazz beacon, and Heather Leigh, non-conformist pedal steel guitarist and songwriter, improvise together. Their 90 minute set at Cafe Oto was remarkable for the flux of the structures that defined the emerging musical forms and for the intuitive daring with which both musicians imprinted their presence on the dialogue.

Brötzmann is a well-established favourite at Cafe Oto, having appeared in many guises ranging from his iconic Tentet to smaller groupings with some of the most challenging and inventive players on the circuit. Leigh, now based in Glasgow, has roots in Texas and the mining territory of West Virginia, and in January launched her solo album, I Abused Animal, on Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ label, at the same venue.

Brötzmann's initial tárogató blast was countered by a precious, lingering delivery from Leigh which gradually dissembled to the influx of insistent riffs and figures, brought on by either musician; part of the mystery of the performance was in keeping track of the source of each chapter's repetitive underpinnings and the constant swapping of initiatives that defined their route.

Leigh induced a swirling mix of the raw, bleak territory of Ry Cooder's Paris Texas, and the granular, gravelly side of Sonic Youth, that collided with Brötzmann's machine gun attack - a harsh but beautiful desperation expressed through the pleading, near vocal phrasing on any of his arsenal of favoured instruments - tárogató, metal soprano clarinet, lustrous tenor and bass clarinet. Asked recently about his instrumentation, he replied, giving a disarmingly direct explanation: 'I work well with functional equipment. They will develop their own beauty.'

Handbrake turns abounded. Refusing to be second guessed Brötzmann delivered breathtakingly impolite interventions, slashing the arteries just when the conversation seemed to have wound to a standstill. Not to be outdone, Leigh was equally capable of raising the stakes, drifting in and over the roughshod reeds with an amplified, resonating wash of tingling, echoing metallics.

But that's not to say it was only one-way Caliban and Aerial; Brötzmann extended his vocabulary, to push himself and his instruments to the extremes and then flipped to a spot of the serene phrasing associated with Coleman Hawkins. Leigh's shimmering chimes hung in the air and then devolved into unforgiving Hendrix-inspired distortion and feedback. This was invention and expression sprinkled with a transcendent intensity.

Peter Brötzmann on bass clarinet
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved


PREVIEW: moogmemory (Matthew Bourne - Tour Dates March 4th - April 23rd)

 - moogmemory is a forthcoming album for  The Leaf Label , recorded entirely on a Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog (LAMM) - a standard Moog Memorymoog that has been specially modified by engineer Rudi Linhard

- moogmemory will also take the form of a live, audio-visual show from March-April 2016, in which  pianist/ keyboard player Matthew Bourne will be collaborating with filmmaker and graphic artist Michael England. Matthew Bourne explains the background:

Moogmemory album cover

I've known Michael England for many years, and we've always wanted to work together. Now, finally, we've got round to producing what is hopefully the first of a many projects together. As the album came into being during August-November of 2014, I reflected on just how important the journey of this particular instrument was: where it had come from, and the people involved in its life seemed to speak out and have a strange, uncanny resonance.

Moogmemory live project in the making. Picture credit: Matthew Bourne

I'd bought the instrument from keyboardist extraordinaire Phil James in 2007 - who had owned it from new, and was a treasured part of his collection. I remember going to pick it up from him - and met a passionate musician, who knew the instrument inside out, and put it through its paces... I'll always remember Phil's reaction when I came to put it in the back of the car: it had been an integral part of his music making for twenty-five years...

Moogmemory live project in the making. Picture credit: Matthew Bourne

Fast forward nearly ten years, and with numerous visits to the repair shop, and one huge upgrade from Rudi later, and we have an instrument that has travelled some considerable distance, and been lovingly cared for by those that have nurtured its brilliance.

It is this human story around the instrument that has interested Michael and I, and has governed our rationale for the project as a whole, choosing to focus on very specific set of narrative criteria. The film and graphic elements will reflect place (from locations as a varied as Montauk, NY, to my home in Airedale, and drone camera filming on the Yorkshire moors), and people - including my communications and correspondences with Rudi, and a visit to Phil James's studio in Huddersfield just a few weeks ago, capturing the reunion with his instrument on film.

Still from Moogmemory live project

 Similar to the approach for Songs from a Lost Piano (2009), I find myself fascinated by the memories of various instruments. Even though this is an electronic instrument, I remember the words Rudi once told me: "Don't forget - she's an old gal!", meaning that, although the LAMM functions every bit as well as its more modern counterparts, she's a living, breathing entity - a character, with a life, and with memories, and stories to tell. And in that last statement lies an important subtext: it's not me who makes the music. I'm just someone who flicks the power switch, depresses a handful of keys, and listens carefully to what she has to say...

Hopefully Michael and I can do her justice in bringing some of these memories to life through the mediums of sound and vision.

Still from Moogmemory live project



4 - BRISTOL - Colston Hall
5 - LONDON - BFI Southbank
6 - MANCHESTER - Islington Mill
17 - BRIGHTON - Komedia
18 - SOUTHAMPTON - Turner Sims


23 - GLASGOW - Outskirts Festival at Platform

LINK: moogmemory is available to pre-order via Bandcamp


BOOK REVIEW: Alan Harper - Waiting for Buddy Guy

Alan Harper - Waiting for Buddy Guy
(University of Illinois Press, 200pp., £14.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)

It’s all too easy to forget, in these days of instant access to even the most esoteric styles of music, that pre-Internet British blues fans such as Alan Harper had to go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their cravings for the form. Specialist record shops, such as Dobell’s in London, were the only source of albums by the likes of Sleepy John Estes and Blind Willie McTell; blues aficionados sought each other out and shared rare recordings (à la, most famously, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards); the live article could be experienced only via somewhat unsatisfying ‘blues package’ tours featuring an assortment of players who frequently seemed disengaged. (I attended one such concert in the 1970s, primarily to see the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin, only to see him storm off the stage in the first few minutes, never to return, having received an electric shock from his amplifier during his opening number.)

Consequently, Harper decided that the best way of immersing himself in his chosen music was to travel to its most accessible US source, which – in the late 1970s and early 1980s – was Chicago. Waiting for Buddy Guy chronicles several such trips, and thus provides a valuable record of a transitional period in the music’s history, when traditional (acoustic) musicians (in whom interest had been sparked by the US folk movement spearheaded by the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie) were gradually being obscured by the guitar-centred electric music made popular by the British Blues Boom, exported to the US in the 1960s. (Those interested in the politics/sociocultural history of this period, and its still controversial flashpoint at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, should get hold of Elijah Wald’s fascinating recent study, Dylan Goes Electric).

Harper’s book, packed with interviews with clubowners, musicians and magazine editors, and illuminated throughout by his own thoughtful and sensitive reactions to the many gigs he attends all over the city, is as enlightening as it is racy, as much an unblinking (and often engagingly self-deprecating) eyewitness account, full of telling detail, as an intriguing social history, dealing with such burning issues as authenticity, racial politics, music-industry practices, the difficulties of making a living as a blues player in an increasingly rock-dominated world etc. etc. From Sugar Blue to Willie Dixon, from Son Seals to Sunnyland Slim – the whole vibrant Chicago blues scene is captured here in a book which is both immediately accessible and constructed with scrupulous care.


CD REVIEW: Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence

Avishai Cohen - Into the Silence.
(ECM 475 9435. CD review by Jon Turney)

Trumpeter Avishai Cohen has been establishing a solid reputation as a player to watch out for, live and on CD, most recently with his trio Triveni – who mix his own tunes with well-chosen standards by masters from Ellington to Ornette Coleman. His devotion to both those predecessors tells you a bit about his range.

He also caught a lot of ears on Mark Turner’s first quartet release for ECM last year. Now comes his own debut for the label as leader, and a satisfyingly substantial one it is. The music features a core quartet, with Triveni’s peerless drummer Nasheet Waits, Eric Revis on bass, and French-resident Israeli pianist Yonathan Avishai, who the trumpeter has known since both were youngsters in Tel Aviv. Bill McHenry’s tenor sax fills out the sound on a few tracks.

All the pieces, effectively a suite, were composed by Cohen in the months after his father’s death in 2014. Hence the reflective mood, and a nice ambiguity in that title. Does Into the Silence refer to the move from life to death, or to sounds pitched into the silence that follows it? Perhaps both. The slow opener, Life and Death, does sound like a threnody. But the two long pieces that follow, while never exactly upbeat, cover a full spectrum of emotions. Dream like a child refers to his father’s hope he might be a musician himself. It was an aspiration his three children – Avishai, clarinet player Anat and saxophonist Yuval – realised instead, and the piece expresses celebration as well as regret. Into the Silence is more of a lament, and there is plenty of harmonic and rhythmic turmoil before silence eventually falls.

It is a small surprise to find Cohen offering an album that fits so squarely with what is usually identified as the ECM aesthetic after the more unbuttoned approach of Triveni, but it is entirely appropriate for this material. The set is, needless to say, beautifully recorded, the detail of the drums in particular sounding exquisite. The individual contributions all serve the material, with the pianist, especially, offering superbly atmospheric elaborations of Cohen’s melodies. The composer’s trumpet is a model of heartfelt expression throughout. One finely controlled moment can stand for many. As the last phrases of the penultimate piece, Behind the Broken Glass, approach, Cohen, his trumpet’s clear tones leading the mourners again, suddenly thins and softens his timbre for the closing few notes, as a eulogist might who can only just get the words out. Simple, fleeting, and deeply affecting. The final cut is a brief solo piano reprise of Life and Death that repeats in miniature the accomplishment of the whole set – being sober but not solemn, often plangent but always affirmative.

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


BOOK REVIEW: 30-Second Jazz, Edited by Dave Gelly

30-Second Jazz, Edited by Dave Gelly (Ivy Press, ISBN 978-178240-309-8). Book review by Peter Jones.

These days, we are told, you can cook a three-course meal, lose a stone in weight or get a rich, all-over tan in less than half an hour. Now, if this new slimline volume is to be believed, you can learn all about jazz in roughly the same amount of time. 30-Second Jazz contains ‘50 crucial concepts, styles and performers, each explained in half a minute’, i.e. a total of 25 minutes. It makes you wonder why you wasted all those years trying to get your head around tritone substitutions and upper structures and modal interchanges.

The concepts are broken down into sub-sections, each handled by a different writer – The Shape of Jazz (including where people play it, how they learn it and the different kinds of bands), written by Brian Priestley; The Styles of Jazz (i.e. the genres), written by Chris Parker; the instruments involved (Priestley); the vocal aspects (Gelly); some Classic Jazz Albums (Charles Alexander); the importance of Blues (Tony Russell); and – given that the convoluted history of jazz takes enough explaining on its own - a quick look at what’s going on nowadays (Kevin LeGendre).

But that’s not all. Each ‘concept’ is broken down into the main text of a couple of hundred words, plus a sidebar containing a capsule definition (‘3-second riff’), and a slightly expanded one (‘3-minute improvisation’). This is a laudable attempt to break an art-form down into bite-sized pieces that anyone can grasp. At times the strain begins to show: I’m not sure I’d be any the wiser on the subject of bebop, here described as ‘a virtuosic, nervily frenetic, often fiercely joyous sound emphasizing artistic individuality and originality, in the process rendering the music more hospitable to polyrhythms and harmonic adventurousness’.

The book is beautifully designed by Ginny Zeal and handsomely illustrated by Steve Rawlings. It’s not going to replace detailed general introductions like John Fordham’s magisterial Jazz, and it doesn’t begin to tackle theory – it just isn’t that sort of book. However, being explicitly intended for non-aficionados, it could be the perfect coffee-table gift for your Auntie Muriel who’s been told you spend a lot of evenings out, either listening to or playing jazz, but has no clue what you’re really up to ... unless by chance she was a fan of Roy Castle or George Chisholm when they were in the Black and White Minstrel Show.


CD REVIEW: Vitor Pereira Quintet – New World

Vitor Pereira Quintet - New World
(F-IRE Presents F-IRECD84. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

It's a pretty safe bet, heading-up a band with alto saxophonist Chris Williams and tenorist George Crowley, that creative sparks will fly. And sure enough, on Portuguese electric guitarist Vitor Pereira’s second quintet album, New World, the firmament is ablaze with deliciously unpredictable moves and blistering artistry.

Resident in London since 2004, Pereira formed this quintet in 2009, completing the line-up with double bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Dave Hamblett. The guitarist’s nine original compositions here are delivered with panache; and whilst there exists through-composition and structure, he allows Williams and Crowley acres of freedom in which to push their improvisatory expression to extremes, as well as stepping into the spotlight himself.

The album title stems from the influence of socio-economic themes on Pereira’s writing: “Societies are polarised, climate is changing, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is reaching record levels and our world is in a desperate need of a new one.” So his music is frequently irascible and edgy, near to boiling point, as evidenced in Empire of Lies, a sinister episode shaped by dark guitar/bass riffs and duelling saxes, with Crowley’s gruff tenor ingenuity especially effective; and sneery, anguished Gangsters Undercover (“written with the political class in mind”) is threaded with furtive guitar tension, satisfyingly full horn writing, and shot through with bags more of that anarchic though fluid solo sax dissonance.

Yet, amongst this musically potent angst, the band’s ability to portray optimistic clarity of thought is equally impressive, Under the Pillow offering lyrical sax vibrato, sustained guitar clusters and lissome double bass soloing; and Bohm’s Hologram (after the US physicist’s theory on the universe) glides spacially to Pereira’s mysterious chordal direction and Hamblett’s forthright impetus, as Crowley and Williams intertwine, also turning in strikingly spectral extemporisations. It’s very much these fluctuations and uncertainties in direction which keep the set so alluring.

Pereira’s solo guitar lines, added to tenor/alto and combined with Hamblett’s fast-shuffling pace, reveal a snappy rock energy in Simple Disguise, Di Biase’s constantly bubbling bass later exchanged for an almost radiophonic weightlessness in his arco harmonics. The saxophonists are a joy to listen to, with so many tricks and timbres up their sleeves – here, Williams’ alto begins to adopt chromatic Israeli inflections; and Crowley’s typically fearless tenor blowing, colliding with alto in atmospheric echoes, hits the spot on the title track. To close, Surfing Mini Waves bristles defiantly, its strong, memorable melodic hooks imaginable as a cult retro TV theme – and thoroughly engaging.

At nigh on 70 minutes, some jazz albums might lose their way – but New World brims with vigour, imagination and staying power.

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


CD REVIEW: Peter Jones – Utopia

Peter Jones – Utopia
(Howlin’ Werewolf HW002, CD review by Mark McKergow)

London-based vocalist and lyricist Peter Jones’s second venture in the recording studio produces a fine collection of swinging jazz with great solos, some nice surprises and a superb sound.

Let’s start with the surprises. Jones has added his own lyrics to some classic instrumental jazz tunes, with good results. Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar is rendered even more atmospheric than the 1971 original, with Jones’s smooth baritone paving the way for a snappy double time guitar solo from Nigel Price. Henry Lowther, one of the most undersung of our trumpeters, then hits the mark squarely before Neil Angilley takes a lolloping turn on Fender Rhodes. One of the absolute pleasures of this collection is that with musicians of this calibre lurking in the background and waiting to spring out, every track is an adventure.

Pinging piano strings make a mysterious introduction to Love Theme from Chinatown. Jones’s lyrics to this instrumental ballad from the Jack Nicholson/Faye Dunaway movie add another dimension to a great melody and surely pave the way for us to hear it more often. Taking the pace to the other end of the spectrum, John Coltrane’s Impressions forms the basis for an urgent song about being on the run, before the soloists jump at the chance to show their mettle. Misha Mullov-Abbado’s double bass gives great underpinning here before getting his own solo spot. The fact that these original lyrics sit so well against the other songs is testament to Jones’ jazz sensibilities and skill.

The more established songs don’t disappoint either. Donald Fagen’s Maxine is given an uptempo swinging treatment with Davide Giovannini’s drum introduction setting the pace before Jones’ vocal and another particularly sparkling piano solo from Angilley. There are several ballads on the album, which seem to me to show off Jones’ voice particularly well. Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most really ups the melancholy, with delicate acoustic guitar work from Nigel Price. Jones is also prepared to take on Sinatra, with a lovely extended reading of It Was A Very Good Year. There’s A Lull In My Life has space for Lowther’s trumpet to stretch out with magnificent results.

The sound recording is really top-class throughout – the band just seemed to leap out of the speakers on my very modest setup, so engineer Derek Nash can be very pleased with his work. Taken all in all, this is a great collection and a marvellous exhibition of the kind of talent we are lucky enough to have on our doorsteps here in London.


CD REVIEW: Bernd Reiter Quintet feat. Eric Alexander Workout at Bird’s Eye

Bernd Reiter Quintet feat. Eric Alexander Workout at Bird’s Eye
(Steeplechase SCCD33123). CD Review by Peter Jones

A defiant clatter of snare drum introduces this joyously retro live set from young Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter. Aided by the doyen of New York mainstream tenor saxophone, Illinois-born Eric Alexander, Reiter and his band swing through the kind of collection that might have been cut by Dexter Gordon when he too was on the Danish Steeplechase label in the mid-Seventies. And everyone’s wearing suits on the cover, natch.

Not that Alexander possesses the instantly identifiable Gordon tone (he uses vibrato only sparingly), but he does have that effortless authority and melodic style. The sleek Helmut Kagerer on guitar also has his ears fixed on the jazz of the Seventies mainstream – in his case, Grant Green springs to mind, but also – of course – the immortal Wes Montgomery. And pianist Olivier Hutman takes on the Kenny Drew/Wynton Kelly role with terrific panache.

One of the many enjoyable things about the album is the length of the tracks. Reiter’s cavalier disregard for the likelihood of radio play makes a nice change – there are only six tracks, none of them clocking in at under 8½ minutes. So everyone gets to stretch out and blow.

As the album’s title suggests, several tunes are taken from Hank Mobley’s catalogue: the title track and Uh Huh (from his 1962 Workout album) plus Getting’ and Jettin’ (from Another Workout, recorded in 1961 but not released until 1985). The other three tracks are an unrecognizable I Want To Hold Your Hand, Jimmy Van Heusen’s All The Way and Tadd Dameron’s Super Jet.

The whole enterprise is suffused with energy and warmth. In fact there’s nothing not to like here, apart from a bit of intrusive snare rattle triggered by Viktor Nyberg’s double bass – tough to avoid on a live recording. The musicians are all at the top of their game and locked in together in a way that only develops after a good spell on the road. Kids – if you want to know how to swing, listen to this. Oldies - listening to Workout is like sinking into a hot bath at the end of a tough working day.


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Barb Jungr/ Laurence Hobgood. CD Shelter From The Storm and UK Tour Dates 16 Mar-5 Apr

BARB JUNGR has a new CD out with the pianist Laurence Hobgood, who worked for nearly two decades in a Grammy-winning partnership with Kurt Elling, and is about to do tour dates and a Pizza Dean Street residency with Hobgood. Sebastian found out more:

It's all happening for singer Barb Jungr. Tomorrow, February 19th a new album Shelter From The Storm, with the Laurence Hobgood is released on Linn. It has new arrangements of contemporary songs. An hour-long show, recorded last autumn at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center in Old Saybrook , Connecticut, (extract above) goes out on nationwide PBS TV in the US. She is touring in the UK with Laurence Hobgood, and there is already talk of another album.

Her activity and touring in the US has expanded significantly. As well as residencies in New Yok, she has performed in Indianapolis, Cleveland, St Louis, LA, San Francisco and New Jersey, and will shortly be in Palm Springs and Washington DC – even if some Americans do still struggle with her first name mysteriously not being....“Bob.”

Barb Jungr explained to me how her partnership with Hobgood started with the idea of wanting to make a recording in the US “I thought it would be really nice to do something over there. There is a slight Vibe thing that is different. It's not about quality, it's about vibe. I wondered what would happen . Wondered if it would generate something new in me. That;s what you're always after, because otherwise you just carry on doing what you do.”

Jungr suggested the idea to her US manager, who came up with the idea of Laurence Hobgood. The pianist saw Jungr's Dylan show Hard Rain (the show incidentally received a stunning review in the New York Times ). “He loved it” ..Hobgood's first positive reaction on hearing the show was to remark how impeccable Jungr's tuning is. .They then started to working on a programme together in January 2015, From the moment they started, she says, “he just started throwing songs, ideas, stuff at the table . I thought he's got a completely fresh approach and that's really interesting”

After those meetings, she noticed a change in her singing and so did others: “People said: 'your singing, Has sometthing happened? Because your singing is completely different... 'It's exactly what I had wanted.”

And how does she sum up Laurence Hobgood? "He's easy to work with, easy to write with. Wonderful player – so are the people I work with here – but he's got that fast - FAST thing... .you kind of get blown away because it can be so idiotically virtuosic. And he is such a smart lovely person “

LINKS: Shelter from the Storm is on Linn Records 
The sesssion from The Kate
Barb Jungr's next UK show is at the Orange Tree in Richmond on Weds 24th Feb, her Nina Simone show with Simon Wallace and Davide Mantovani
Review: Barb Jungr at Crazy Coqs from 2013


16/03/2016 Newbury Corn Exchange
17/03/2016 Bury St Edmunds Apex
18/03/2016 St George's Hall Liverpool
19/03/2016 Maidstone Pizza
21 to 24/03/2016 (Four nights)  Pizza Express Dean Street
05/04/2016 Portsmouth Live Lounge
07/04/2016 Core at Corby