NEWS: Tommy Smith to host Glasgow jazz summer school (July)

Photo credit: Gildas Bocle, courtesy of

Rob Adams writes:

Saxophonist Tommy Smith is hosting a 5-day summer school for young jazz musicians at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow from July 24th to 28th.

The school aims to benefit musicians between the ages of 12 and 17 who are beginning to develop their skills in spontaneous composition and jazz improvisation and wish to take their playing to the next level.

A hugely experienced musician who has his own youth orchestra as well as directing the internationally acclaimed Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and touring the world with Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen’s ECM recording trio, Smith heads the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course and will lead a team of internationally renowned educators, recording artists and performers in delivering the summer school programme.

“It’s an intensive programme designed to inspire young musicians,” says Smith. “The focus will be on group performance, while offering specific instrumental guidance on key elements of improvisation and performance, and we welcome all instruments.”

Participants will receive master classes on their chosen instruments, jazz theory classes, and recording experience and as well as the all-star tutors giving concerts, at the end of the week all the participants will take part in a public group performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The school runs from 10am to 5pm each day and the fee is £240. Prospective students should also inquire about the availability of bursaries.

LINK: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Summer School

Professor Tommy Smith's page at the RCS


CD REVIEW: Linus + Økland / Van Heertum – Felt Like Old Folk

Linus + Økland / Van Heertum – Felt Like Old Folk
(Smeraldina-Rima. CD review by Henning Bolte)

Linus is the Flemish duo of guitarist Ruben Machtelinckx and reedist Thomas Jillings, Felt Like Old Folk is their third album. On their last album the duo teamed up with Norwegian musician Øvind Skarbø and Belgian guitarist Fredrik Leroux. This time it is Belgian tuba player Niels van Heertum and well-known Norwegian fiddler Nils Økland. Machtelinckx plays acoustic baritone guitar and banjo here, van Heertum the euphonium (tenor tuba) and Økland hardanger fiddle, the bowed Norwegian folk instrument with resonating strings (and its varied tunings).

How does this combination of instrument make sense, work and sound? Three of the instruments, the fiddle, the tuba and reeds can produce long expanding tones with rich multiphonics. As a plugged instrument the baritone guitar is fully wrapped in the sound of the other instruments and corresponding well with the register of the tenor tuba. It is a conscious choice evidently to exploit the rich and expansive tonal field - ‘felt’ in Norwegian and ‘veld’ in Flemish (written differently but pronounced almost identically) - their respective instruments open up. It is the tonal field melodies emerge from, circulate and fade into. The foursome works on this matter from different angles, in various ways. To give an indication the four pieces could be re-named as Out Of The Dust, Buried, Spiraling and Droning Out.

Take as a reference point nature sounds, murmuring, the swish of the air, the whispers of the wind or take the sound of the spheres. In the whizzing of both you can discern different melodic traits that might shift, turn into a clear shape, and then dissolve and fade into the whizzing again. In a certain way the musicians here do something analogous, making use of the special possibilities of their instruments. The resonant strings of the hardanger fiddle makes its sound broader and shimmering and at the same full of spectacular transitions, ambiguity and noticeable merging.

In the beginning phase of the long first piece, (17:30 minutes) melodic contours emerge slowly and subsequently threaten to fall apart. Contour is resurrected from diverging and converging sound particles within a free improvisation in a second phase. That appears a solid enough basis for a clear and stable folk melody to emerge. In the concluding phase the melodic element becomes something of a slowly executed rock-riff. The piece also has a remarkable strong vocal-like quality.

The second piece is a bit the reverse. The melodic contour is buried under a lot of noisy and distorting elements. Machtelinckx plays banjo here and Jilling’s playing is of the Trygve Seim bended type of articulation. Contrary to Seim, Jilling’s playing is not purifying but much more raw. The third piece is hymn-like and has something of a sunrise or sunset. It slowly gets shape and is spiraling then. Gil Evans was a master if this kind of thrilling and delightful stasis. The last piece is a longer descending piece (9:57). It starts with a strummed dark chord on the baritone guitar repeated over and again for quite a while. It has a drone-like effect but as in the pieces before the main line is recursively renewing itself in the long run again and again by slight harmonic shifting. It is thus growing into an seemingly endless soulful whole.

The music and its approach clearly differ from standard minimal music as well as standard ambient music. It also differs from the secondhand minimalism which is en vogue at the moment among young groups in jazz. There are more musicians and guitarists working in that same vein as Machtelinckx at the moment. Machtelinckx has already made a strong mark with Linus as well as his quartet with fellow guitarist Hilmar Jensson, reedist Joachim Badenhorst and bassist Nathan Wouters. With Felt Like Old Folk he convincingly deepens and consolidates his approach.


FEATURE: Drummer Jeff Williams - (New Album Outlier - quartet tour dates continue)

Jeff Williams
Photo Credit: Alex Bonney

Jeff Williams writes:

My latest Whirlwind Recordings CD, Outlier, came out on 11 March and I’m thrilled that the UK based group I’ve had for some time finally has a studio recording. The album features seven of my original compositions, with amazing playing from Phil Robson, Josh Arcoleo, Kit Downes and Sam Lasserson. The music covers a lot of ground, from pieces I wrote in the ‘70s and ‘80s that are getting their first hearing, to brand new material, some of it played for the first time on this date.

We just completed a tour following its release. While Phil Robson recently moved to New York (and has been touring the UK with his trio this month), American alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, from my US band, has relocated to Birmingham and joined us for these live dates. John and I have a long association and he knows my music well. Plus I love being able to put some of my favourite musicians together from different continents and watch them interact.

While the album has no overarching theme, the title track is a response to migration and its profound effect of uprooting entire populations, even on the lives of those remaining stationary. Outlier is also a term bestowed to me in 1973 by someone with an uncanny ability to see into my future. Other tracks convey tales of assumption, the paranormal, mistaken identity, relationship and loss, reverence and dedication, playfulness and humour. I hope what really comes through is the joy we have playing together and in making this music.

I broke my left shoulder and upper arm in early November and recovery is on-going. It has been a blessing to have the opportunity to play with my band this month, just what I needed!

My heartfelt thanks to all at Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Seven Jazz in Leeds, Sheffield Jazz and Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit, London. Audiences have been wonderful. It amazes me how tirelessly these people work to present jazz in this country.

LINKS: Video clip from Leeds:
CD  review of Outlier

Next performance: 

Jeff Williams Quartet with John O'Gallagher, Kit Downes, Sam Lasserson 


CD REVIEW: Tonbruket - Forevergreens

Tonbruket - Forevergreens
(ACT 9814-2. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

The fourth record from Swedish band Tonbruket feels like a disappointment. Knowingly eclectic, it has a range of influences. The genre-busting music came from a period in which three members of the band, bassist Dan Berglund, keyboard player Martin Hederos and guitarist Johan Lindström, worked on a play at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm whilst drummer Andreas Werliin spent time on other projects.

But at points Forevergreens seems to lack passion and drive, with a few tracks sounding sluggish compared to the hybrid vitality of their earlier records. Some tunes take many twists and turns, as if the band have so many ideas that they have to move onto the next before really developing the first. For instance, First Flight of a Newbird has three major changes of direction in under five minutes. Passage Europa has barely got going before it is finished.

There are elements of 1960s prog in the mix, with a nod to Pink Floyd circa Echoes, as well as some more rock influences, too. There're classical and folk elements too. Indeed, jazz seems to be the least part of Forevergreens. The effect of all these genres clamouring for attention can be quite jarring – going from the pastoral froson to the hard edged Linton is a shock.

Individually, there are several notable tunes. Sindakus builds slowly, featuring the ethereal vocals of Ane Brun who also contributes the short spoken word Intro. The much rockier Tarentella and Linton top up the energy reserves; Music for the Sun King is a gentle bucolic tune which highlights Lindström's guitar. The closing Polka Oblivion is very evocative as the rhythm becomes increasingly intense. But overall the whole seems less than the sum, the result feels like an unsatisfactory pick-and-mix rather than an unexpected juxtaposition of sounds.There is a lot in Forevergreens, maybe too much as it chops and changes. Whilst this might reflect the music's theatrical conception, it left me wishing for more development within the music.

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


VIDEO and PHOTOS : Brendan Reilly Life of Reilly album launch at Century Club

Sebastian writes:

California-born singer Brendan Reilly described himself as "a frustrated soprano" as he launched his debut album Life of Reilly at Century Club in Shaftesbury Avenue on Thirsday before Easter. In every other respect he conveyed happiness, the band of Dado Pasqualini and Al Cherry were on great from, and the launch was well-attended and well-supported by other singers and instrumentalists, Tom Cawley, Gwyneth Herbert and Natalie Williams all performed guest turns. Melisma-averse jazz folk look away now.

Brendan Reilly and Natalie Williams
Photo credit Julian Fontenell

The audience at the launch
Photo credit/ copyright: JamyLee/AkaraTheMusic

Tom Cawley guesting on Melodica

Brendan Reilly and Gwyneth Herbert,
Photo credit: Julian Fontenell

Life of Reilly will be released on 29 April - iTunes page 

LINK: Brendan Reilly website


FEATURE: Brandon Allen on Gene Ammons (new project, recording about to happen)

Brandon Allen. Photo credit: Carl Hyde

Saxophonist BRANDON ALLEN is originally from Perth, Australia, and is now a major presence on the London scene. is a tough, no-nonsense tenor player who hosts the Late Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s and leads the Brandon Allen Sextet. He is the founder and director of the Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival. He has recently been touring throughout the UK, Europe and the Far East with The Kyle Eastwood Band.

He has a fascination with the work of GENE AMMONS, and is embarking on a new project which is currently at a relatively early stage, and full of possibilities. It could lead to an album and/or touring. Sebastian found out more:

LondonJazz News: For readers who don't know Gene Ammons can we have a few facts. 

Brandon Allen: 

- Eugene "Jug" Ammons (April 14, 1925 – July 23, 1974), also known as "The Boss", was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was the son of boogie woogie pianist Albert Ammons.

- Born in Chicago, Gene's first break came while still in high school with the King Kolax Band. Shortly after he was recruited to join Billy Eckstine, playing alongside the likes of Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon.

- He went on to replace Stan Getz in Woody Herman's 2nd Herd and shortly after formed a group with the alto and tenor saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Together they made some seminal albums. He also enjoyed a strong musical collaboration with Dexter Gordon.

- 1950s were a prolific period for Ammons and produced some acclaimed recordings such as "The Happy Blues" (1955). Musicians who played in his groups, apart from Stitt, included Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Jackie Mclean, Duke Jordan and Kenny Burrell.

- His later career was interrupted by two prison sentences for narcotics possession, the first from 1958 to 1960, the second from 1962 to 1969. He recorded as a leader for Mercury(1947–1949), Aristocrat (1948–1950), Chess(1950–1951), Prestige (1950–1952), Decca (1952), and United (1952–1953). 

- For the rest of his career, he was affiliated with Prestige. After his release from prison in 1969, having served a seven-year sentence at Joliet penitentiary, he signed the largest contract ever offered at that time by Prestige's Bob Weinstock.

- While adept at the technical aspects of bebop, Ammons more than Lester Young, Ben Webster or Charlie Parker, stayed in touch with the commercial blues and R&B of his day and was one of the founders of the soul jazz movement of the mid-1960s.

- He died in Chicago in 1974, at the age of just 49, from cancer.

LJN: So let's move on to your own interest in Gene Ammons. Does it  go back a long way?

BA: Yes, absolutely. The first jazz CD I ever bought was Uptight by Gene Ammons.
I think it comprised of two albums, sort of a compilation. I always just heard it as an album.

LJN: And what was it that held your attention?

BA: I was immediately taken with his sound, feel and language. The tunes are a combination of very common standards and some lesser known songs. The arrangements aren't complicated but are delivered with absolute authority and taste. I played along with this record a lot and learnt most of the solos. I still have the original copy and I still regularly listen to it, and still love it!

LJN:  And you kept going and got to know other albums too?

BA: I continued to build up my collection of Gene Ammons records as well as other jazz artists as I got hooked on jazz. Another great record is Blue Gene (Prestige). It's an amazingly moody but deeply swinging record that features great playing from Pepper Adams, Idrees Sulieman, Mal Waldron and of course Gene Ammons. In my book it's one of the best classic jazz albums, period.

And then "The Boss is back" was an album I bought about a year or so after "Uptight" and it features more of the funkier side of Gene's playing, recorded shortly after his release from a long prison sentence - including Son of a Preacher Man (above). The version of the record I bought included tracks from another album made on the same series of sessions, called “Brother Jug!”

There are some great grooves on there and his sound is rich but now raw, tougher and it seems that he has discarded any extra language that is no longer needed. His playing is so direct and fuelled with true passion and the blues.

There is good use made of the Hammond organ and congas too.

LJN:  And there are some two-tenor quintet albums that have inspired you...

BA: "The Chase" (with Dexter Gordon) and "Boss Tenors in Orbit" (with Sonny Stitt) are great albums. I love the sound of two tenors especially when Gene plays with these guys.

They really egg each other on but at the same time there is such maturity and musicality in the way that they respond to each other in their interactions. They even swap personalities it seems at certain points in the music.

Gene's early combo recordings are fantastic. His sound and style is clearly influenced by Lester Young but he has also absorbed the most crucial innovations of Charlie Parker. There are some wonderful septet/octet arrangements that I’d love to recreate at some point.

His solos were also featured on a number of early R&B sides, I first became aware of them through hearing them at the St Moritz club in Soho. I’ve been trying to get hold of more of them ever since. Simple bluesy phrases played with a great sound and feel.

LJN: So what;s the plan...? 

BA: Gene Ammons has been such a huge influence on my playing, especially my sound,  I had the idea to put together a project interpreting Gene Ammons’ music about two years ago. I found myself just wanting to play certain tunes from his recordings and slowly I put together a list of tunes to try.

I haven’t changed much about the arrangements from the recordings but have let natural changes happen and I try to play in the spirit of Gene Ammons rather than endeavouring to sound like him.

The set works as a chronological salute to his career, starting with the early swing/R&B, covering the bop/hardbop period and ending with some of the funky soul jazz material. It's a fun gig for me to do. There’s a lot you can do with the tunes because most of them are quite simple!

We'll be recording some of the material in April with no pressure attached to the session. If it comes out well we'll see what happens then. I’m just excited to document the music and I hope to arrange some touring at some point.

Band lineup:

Brandon Allen
(tenor saxophone)
Ross Stanley (piano and Hammond organ)
Arnie Somogyi (acoustic and electric basses)
Matt Home (drums)


CD REVIEW: Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus – The Distance

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus – The Distance
(ECM. CD review by Henning Bolte)

To produce and record a 72-minute opus with an ensemble of 19 hand-picked musicians would be a dream for some musicians, and for others a nightmare. It seems that bassist Michael Formanek, originally from Baltimore belongs to the first category, the dream faction.

He even managed to get it recorded for a prestigious label -  which also derives benefit from the enterprise, in that it accrues to its artist list a couple of the highest profile musicians of the present New York/Brooklyn scene. The label which started life as Edition of Contemporary Music has previous form here, having pursued this route before during its illustrious 40-years history. The first one was its fourth release, Marion Brown’s legendary album Afternoon Of A Georgian Faun, recorded with a high-calibre ensemble of ten musicians in 1970. Time and circumstances have changed considerably since then. Whereas Brown’s album had the character of move to pastures new, Formanek’s album, by contrast,  is a dense recapitulation, not so much a single uni-directional leap as a necessary retracing of one of the many paths the bassist has trodden. It can be considered as an attempt to integrate his diverse musical experiences, collaborations and influences on a higher level by means of a large ensemble.

When a solid and potent musician as Michael Formanek gathers a large ensemble of top-notch musicians like this from the New York/Brooklyn scene the expectations are high and the risk of failure is low. The big question then arises: what is the real achievement in between that high and that low?

As the naming of the ensemble already indicates Formanek brings a massive sound  to our ears, It os not massive in the sense of high-decibel electronic roar, but in terms of the palette of sound colours coming out of an impressive armada of wind instruments augmented by two percussion instruments, piano, electric guitar, plus Formanek’s double bass. The wind section comprises four trombones including contrabass trombone, four trumpets and five saxophones alternating with flute and clarinet, and contrabassist Mark Helias conducts the ensemble. It may be the trombone-heaviest album that the ECM label has ever released.

To unlock the kind of rupturing and flow of the musical movements here, the engorging and piling up of crescendos, its fraying margins, its asymptotic backings needs a special strategy. To unleash its eruptive moments, its collisions and peristaltic jerks it needs a special attack and a highly alert collection of musicians which evidently is given her especially concerning the interaction of the pre- structured and the freely shaped parts.

Formanek’s magnum opus consists of the title piece and the five parts of the Exoskeleton opus divided into nine subparts. Remarkably Formanek uses a notably strong image from biology to frame this extended piece. He imagines its unfolding as an inward journey, as a permeation of the carapace to reach out thereby for the viscera and get in touch with essential vital functions. It is the reversal of phylogeny, the evolution of a species/special feature of an organism. Transposed to music, this means working backwards and inwards through the fossilization of styles. It hints to Formanek’s way to gain access to the inner core and energy of musical sediments in order to recycle it vividly. It can be inferred from the titling of the parts of Exoskeleton: Impenetrable – Beneath The Shell - @heart – Echoe – Without Regrets – Shucking While Jiving – A Reptile Dysfunction – Metamorphic. This sequence also reveals it as a gradual process.

From Formanek’s systematics a greater number of remarkable highlights emerge. Part III (Beneath the Shell) has beguiling woodwinds in deep as well as high register. Even a walking bass surfaces here from a remote place. Chris Speed dives into the shades of sepia coloured Ellingtonia and Kirk Knuffke, on cornet, soaks it even irresistibly deeper into a lively living past and Ben Gerstein’s trombone climbs up from extreme depths in the concluding subpart, @heart.

Part IV Echoes and Part V Without Regrets are highly impressive with their balancing of elements and counter-elements in the vamp. Especially outstanding are the contribution of guitarist Mary Halvorson in Part V (Without Regrets) as well as the contribution of pianist Kris Davis in Part VII (Reptile Dysfunction) followed by an amazing clarinet contribution of Oscar Noriega. The concluding section of the piece Part VIII (Metamorphic), with its frenetic Schlussgesang apotheosis also delights with an unusual interplay of Formanek’s bass and Dave Ballou’s trumpet. The listing could easily be continued...but you'd do better to listen for yourself!


REPORT: Christian Brewer/Jim Mullen Band at the Woodman N6; Chris Laurence Quartet at Karamel N22

This Thursday Mar 31st at Karamel, The Great Wee Band
L-R: Henry Lowther, Jim Mullen, Dave Green, Stu Butterfield
Photo credit: Trio Records

Brian Blain took in two gigs in the same area of North London on the same night. Here is the report of a Thursday crawl through Haringey:

Last Thursday, the night before Easter, London's Borough of Haringey felt like the 'jazz corner of the world' and dashing fom one gig to another at opposite ends of the borough was the nearest I will probably get to that old 52nd St. experience. First, to The Woodman, right next to Highgate Tube Stn., where one of Shaun Hargreaves' Funky Thursday gigs was absolutely packed out with that elusive younger audience to hear the Christian Brewer/Jim Mullen Band. Most of them couldn't have been around when anthems by the likes of George Duke, Grover Washington, Stanley Clarke,and the daddy of them all, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, first hit our ears and moved our feet. Clearly this much derided bag can still pack a punch, with a whole new crowd who may have been weaned on their mum and dads' totemic vinyls. None of this would have worked without Brewer's dynamic enthusiasm and though Mullen has longsince moved into pastures new his beaming face suggested that even he can be turned on by yet another jazz bag labelled nostalgia. And why not?

From there to the other end of the borough, Wood Green, and one of drummer Stu Butterfield's regular Thursday nights at the attractive Karamel Club restaurant where every table was full and a line the length of the bar, to hear the Chris Laurence Quartet, four musicians-bassist Laurence, Frank Ricotti (vibes) John Parricelli (gtr) Martin France (drums) - of the highest possible class. Here were tunes, by the likes of old colleagues like Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, John Surman and a couple by Parricelli himself, based on gorgeous melody and realised with time and subtle swing by masters, a superb mix of elegance and balls which is quite rare.

How fortunate to have heard two wonderfully contrasting styles of music in one evening in this most unfashionable London borough. Jim Mullen is at the Karamel on Thursday, in yet another bag, with another master, trumpeter Henry Lowther, in the marvellously unpretentious Great Wee Band.


The Woodman is at 414 Archway Road , Highgate, N6 5UA. A guide to their six-nights-a-week music offering is HERE

Karamel is at 4 Coburg Rd, London N22 6UJ. WEBSITE


REVIEW: Kenny Barron Trio at Ronnie Scott's (and another Barron in the house ...)

Kenny Barrron. Photo credit: Benjamin Amure

Kenny Barron Trio
(Ronnie Scott's, 28th March 2016. First night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Kenny Barron's regular trio with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa (their association goes back 20 years) and drummer Johnathan Blake (ten years) has finally made a CD, thanks to the initiative of the head of Impulse Records, Jean-Philippe Allard. The presence, the accessibility of that document of their work sets one thinking...

One implication is that the 72-year old Philadelphia born pianist is currently getting the opportunity to explain and reflect on what he does. "I don't think of myself necessarily as an innovator,"he said in a recent interview (*) "But what I have contributed to jazz is keeping a commitment to the honesty of the music. I never do anything too slick and I play what I feel. I believe in having fun." Most of those traits (read on...) were on display last night, the first of two at Ronnie Scott's and part of an extensive series of European dates.

Another train of thought, when one has listened to the album a few times, is to appreciate even more that Kenny Barron trio gigs - in contrast to the record that, to state the obvious, is unchanging  -  are never remotely the same. Yes, the master craftsmanship derived from five and a half decades spent professionally at the keyboard is always there, but the vibe is different each time.  At one, in 2011 (REVIEW) I remember, it took quite a while - the other two writers covering the gig that night had already left - for him to dig really deep and discover something very special. At another, in 2014. and with a different drummer (REVIEW) the sense of complete enjoyment was there from the very first touch of the keys, and never went away.

Last night was different again. This was one where - for some reason, who knows - he seemed to be searching for the quiet, for the half-light, for the introvert in himself.  The endings were mostly quiet disappearances. Magic Dance felt like it was being taken slightly more quietly and a notch down in tempo compared to the record. The standard he played was Softly as in a Morning Sunrise (geddit?) . One musician I spoke to afterwards was wondering if something was wrong. For some punters with short attention spans, the quietness was a tough challenge. The absolute highlight -  for me at least - was the Charlie Haden tune Nightfall, which felt like one continuous unfolding journey, a beautifully shaped arc of melody. Every touch of the keys seemed balanced, contained, uncluttered, focussed. Just lovely.

An aside, and by way of contrast. I realised long afterwards that there was more than one  pianist called Barron in the house last night, who also has a new CD as leader. Rob Barron was getting ready to play the late set. His about-to-be-self-released debut album as leader communicates a deep sense of enjoyment, precisely the fun that Kenny describes, and wasn't quite getting to last night. I hope he gave his namesake Kenny a copy of his album too!

Bud Like+
Nightfall (Haden)+

Softly as in a Morning Sunrise (Romberg)
Fragile (Sting)
Magic Dance+
Cook's Bay+
Encore (?) Fast "Rhythm Changes"

 All tunes by Kenny Barron except as stated.  Tunes from the CD The Book of Intuition,  on Impulse Records (LINK) marked with +

LINK: The Urban Music Scene interview with Kenny Barron


FEATURE: Greg Cordez (New album Paper Crane, also appearing at Manchester Jazz Festival)

Greg Cordez. Photo credit: Martin Tompkins

Greg Cordez is heading into the studio later this year to record the follow-up to his well received debut "Paper Crane." (link to review below) The UK-born, New Zealand-raised bassist has had periods of his life playing experimental rock in New York, blue grass in North Carolina, and is now resident in Bristol. He talked to Stephen Graham about his move from bass guitar to double bass, his love of the music of Charlie Haden, the rule of “three takes and no edits.”

Greg Cordez has a spring in his step. A few nights earlier the bassist was playing at the Bristol Jazz Festival with the John Zorn-loving Sefrial. In that band Get the Blessing and Michelson Morley saxophonist Jake McMurchie who also appeared last year on Cordez’s debut Paper Crane is also one of the members of Sophie Stockham’s band, and Cordez, like McMurchie, is very much part of a collaborative group of jazz players currently lighting up the Bristol scene stocked full of fellow like-minded Millennials.

There’s been a lot of change in Cordez’s musical life. Mainly a bass guitarist earlier in his career he wandered to America in his twenties, a very long way from growing up in New Zealand. He’s from Christchurch on the South Island and lived there from the age of 3 until he was 17. These days he teaches at BIMM (the British and Irish Institute of Modern Music) in Bristol and has switched to double bass as he had developed his interest in jazz inspired primarily by Charlie Haden. It was the Haden 2004 album Nightfall, a duo affair with John Taylor, that inspired his interest most and Cordez by a process of some serendipity also plays with the late JT’s son singer-songwriter Alex Taylor. “John Taylor was incredible,” Cordez enthuses with evident sincerity.

Now 38, Cordez looks back on his life in New Zealand with new eyes following the devastating 2011 earthquake that hit his hometown and changed everything for him about how he had hitherto regarded his life in New Zealand. “Moving away didn’t seem so significant until the earthquake.” With a wanderlust as a young man he had moved far from home years before. “I lived in New York without a work permit pre 9/11, but 9/11 changed everything and you couldn’t slip in and out post 9/11.” It wasn’t just in New York that he found himself working during his time in America. He played in North Carolina, far from Gotham, in very different circumstances working with old American bluegrass, a very different scene to the one he encountered while hopping back to New York where he was into experimental rock and bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the “wonky Brooklyn” dubstep and hip-hop street bass sound. “In North Carolina the folk scene taught me so much,” he says. “When I later heard Charlie Haden something clicked and Haden had that Americana background too.”

As a bass guitarist Cordez stuck with what he calls an “Old” Fender Precision bass and still has a couple of P-basses and uses valve amps. He’s increasingly drawn to electronics and feels closer to them now as they help him to be more compositional, the technology now more intuitive than in the past.

Another Get the Blessing connection, trumpeter Pete Judge, who has his own band Eyebrow on the side, encouraged Cordez to approach the New York label Ninety and Nine records and he debuted for them with Paper Crane a long distilled collaboration that he had carefully put together with Get the Blessing saxophonist McMurchie, trumpeter Nick Malcolm, pianist Jim Blomfield and drummer Mark Whitlam, the last of these names a fellow member with McMurchie of electro-ambient minimalist mavericks Michelson Morley whose second album Strange Courage is due later this spring.

“With this first record,” Cordez says, he had to “step away from it after a while.” He had to find what people thought of his sounds and had to let it go to land on new ears. He had three labels in mind and plumped for Ninety and Nine. “The label are good communicators and they were a great label to go with.”

Making a change from a session player earlier in his career, gigging around, and moving towards becoming more of a jazz player and leader also involved him transitioning by studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff where tutors there included such luminaries as Food’s Iain Ballamy and Ballamy’s fellow Quercus playing-partner pianist Huw Warren. As a student with a lot of professional experience under his belt, and as a former “ear player”, Cordez didn’t connect in more formal academic circumstances at all with writing bebop heads much, no matter how hard he tried. But his tutors were open-minded to this and didn’t find it necessarily an issue. The process though developed his love of baritone saxophone legend Gerry Mulligan and he did an arrangement of Johnny Carisi’s ‘Israel’ (synonymous with Mulligan, Miles and Birth of the Cool) that meant something to him in his journey ever more deeply into jazz honing his craft.

And that journey found a new home station in terms of jazz listening reaching an interchange by listening to Reid Anderson of piano trio The Bad Plus and he transcribed material from their records as part of this process. One tune, The Silence is the Question (from These Are The Vistas) appealed especially. When Cordez then came to writing for his own album the tunes Camilla Rose and Ron Free came first in the process.

Cordez likes melody and this comes across on his New Melodic debut that traverses territory a bass-led band such as Phronesis have developed to the nth degree using different musical syntax in a trio format but moves into clear, secular psalm-like territory of his own informed even more than Phronesis by prog and electronica while keeping a strong grip on strongly defined cadences and letting emotion bleed through.

Demonstrations of technical ability and odd time signatures, playing the changes like an exercise isn’t of interest for Cordez as an artist and a listener. Reid Anderson showed him a new way forward on The Bad Plus records and Cordez has a lot of time too like so many on the Bristol scene for Jim Barr, the Portishead and Get the Blessing Bristol scene bass don. “He’s really helpful. I’m blown away by his presence and what I like is his solid decision-making. He threads the needle of a song and he tends to deeply understand how it works. His sound is incredible. One note against the need for five is enough. Jim never overplays.”

Greg is modest about his own upright bass-playing not that he really needs to be if you listen to his ringing tone on Paper Crane and he says it’s not enough yet to carry a trio format as talk turns to the impact of piano trios such as the groundbreaking Neil Cowley trio. He is wary of dipping into this big canon of work but won’t rule anything out. Maybe in 20 years’ time he might tackle that beast! Quizzed about the love/hate relationship between bassists and drummers he says without missing a beat “I love drummers!” He works with Mark Whitlam who is in Michelson Morley and Cordez has a lot of time too for the music of Wayne Shorter quartet drummer Brian Blade who he says simply “plays melody on the kit.” His other favourite drummers are Dave King of The Bad Plus and Joey Baron. “I go nuts for Joey Baron and I saw him in Perugia in Italy with Jakob Bro and Thomas Morgan. It’s so orchestral a sound.”

Cordez says the Bristol Composers Collective of which he has been an intrinsic part helped develop Michelson Morley and Kevin Figes’ octet and hopes that all the busy principals in the set-up can meet together once or twice a year. Even if the Collective is currently on hiatus “nobody’s called time on it.”

Coming up for Cordez there’s an appearance at the Manchester Jazz Festival this summer but he doesn’t plan to gig too much, preferring bursts of activity as he’s too active teaching. Yet plans are afoot to go into the studio this summer to start on the second album. Saxophonist Sam Crockatt will be joining him live in his band (in place of McMurchie) in Manchester and on the planned album.

Paper Crane he says had a rule of “three takes for each song and no edits”. The only edit was in the intro to Brown Bear, the noise effects generated from Jake McMurchie’s pedal board, Cordez says. Next time around it should prove to be different as the bassist is interested in exploring some post-production work and will produce again himself.

LINKS: Greg Cordez website
CD Review of Paper Crane


FESTIVAL REPORT: Bergamo Jazz Festival 2016

Festival Highlight: Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes
L-R: Alexander Hawkins, Shabaka Hutchings,  John Edwards, Jason Yarde,  Louis Moholo-Moholo
Photo Credit: Gianfranco Rota

Bergamo Jazz Festival 2016
(March 17-20 2016, Various venues in Bergamo, Italy. Festival report by Andy Hamilton)

Bergamo, not far from Milan in Lombardy, is blessed by some fine venues, providing an ideal setting for the first-rate programme created by festival director Dave Douglas. The opening gig at the Teatro Sociale in the Old Town featured the group Franco D'Andrea Traditions Today. Italian pianist Franco D'Andrea has been fascinated by early jazz from his beginnings, and regards the formation of the Louis Armstrong "Hot Five" – trumpet, clarinet, trombone, banjo, piano and drums – as "magical". "It still has a lot to offer to the jazz music of our times", he comments. His trio with Daniele D'Agaro (clarinet) and Mauro Ottolini (trombone), he says, "contains the essence of the sound", with clarinet representing reeds, and trombone representing brass – plus piano in a variety of roles. The result is a compelling postmodern ensemble.

Trombonist Ottolini was a colourful musical presence, deploying a collection of mutes. The trio was supplemented by hyperactive drummer Han Bennink, not looking or acting his 73 years – though as Peter Brotzmann once said rather ambivalently, with Han he knew what was going to happen next, and it was the unexpected. No doubting his time feel though, and Bennink remains one of the finest of European drummers – even here, just on snare drum, which he sometimes muffled with a towel, or with his heel. Caravan was idiomatically interpreted as jive misterioso, and director Dave Douglas joined the quartet for I Found A New Baby.

Franco D'Andrea Traditions Today feat. Han Bennink
Photo Credit: Gianfranco Rota

Subsequent festival main events were at the historic Teatro Donizetti, in similar "teatro all-italiano" style though larger. First of these was the Joe Lovano Quartet. Lovano was born in Cleveland in 1952, to a Sicilian father. His set was very Coltrane-ish, featuring probably the best band I've heard him lead – Lawrence Fields on piano, Peter Slavov on bass and Lamy Estrefi on drums. On This Day, Bird's Eye View and Our Daily Bread were originals, then Dave Douglas joined Lovano for the latter's compositions Full Sun and Full Moon.

Joe Lovano: Photo Credit: Gianfranco Rota

Clarinettist Anat Cohen appeared with her Quartet: Gadi Lehavy (piano), Tal Mashiach (double bass) and Daniel Freedman (percussion). Born in Tel Aviv, Cohen comes from a jazz family – her brothers are trumpeter Avishai and saxophonist Yuval Cohen. The quartet opened with Milton Nascimento's Lilia. There were then two originals by the leader, Ima – Hebrew for "mother" – and In The Spirit of Baden, a dedication to guitarist Baden Powell, not the Boy Scout founder. The audience loved it, but I found this set was one to listen to and not watch. The quartet are fine technicians, but seemed to feel too pleased with themselves – the leader in particular would play a phrase and then smile beatifically. The visual problem was a symptom of a deeper one, and I was reminded of the anecdote about someone passing Stan Getz's dressing room and hearing him practising – then stopping, and saying to himself, "The wonderful sound of Stan Getz...".

The immensely enjoyable main set by the Kenny Barron Trio might perhaps have done with a little more of Cohen's chutzpah. (But then there's no pleasing a critic…) It featured Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums, and coincided with the release of the trio's Book of Intuition on Impulse, featuring much of the same material. This was a real delight, reminding us that Barron is one of the most important of contemporary jazz pianists.

Mark Guiliana. Photo Credit: Gianfranco Rota

The standout event in the smaller Auditorium of Piazza della Libertà was by the Mark Guiliana Quartet featuring Jason Rigby (tenor sax), Fabian Almazan (piano) and Chris Morrissey (double bass). Guiliana has collaborated with Brad Mehldau, David Bowie on Blackstar, and Dave Douglas; his recent album Family First showcases some intelligent, attractive compositions, some of which we heard. The burly tenor of Rigby stands out in the group, and the band ring the changes in terms of pace, mood, and instrumentation such as duets within the group. The first number was rock-inflected, followed by a composition in additive rhythm; the subsequent ballad was full of space and dramatic gestures. This was sophisticated postbop, with involving original compositions.

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee featured Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet), Brian Drye (trombone), Michel Godard (tuba) and Billy Martin (drums). Martin is known from post funk-jazz trio Medeski Martin and Wood, while Bernstein is leader of Sex Mob. The three brass instruments and drums created what the leader describes as "ragtime funk", and this was a fun show, engaging if not musically profound.

But other performances paled in comparison with the festival highlight, and final gig: Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes featuring Jason Yarde (soprano, alto and bass sax), Shabaka Hutchings (tenor sax), Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (double bass). Born in 1940 in Cape Town, Louis Moholo-Moholo was and remains an icon of South African jazz – forced into exile in the era of apartheid, he moved to London with colleagues Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani, Mongezi Feza and Dudu Pukwana. They formed the legendary band of the 60s, subject of the Five Blokes' tribute composition For the Blue Notes.

Moholo-Moholo hit the ground running, and hardly let up – offering a balance of inside and outside, free jazz and groove, ecstatic and gentler moments. The mix of compositions focused on the anthemic or hymn-like, including the Dudu Pukwana composition B, My Dear. Their amazing set made one proud to be British, and I'm not totally joking here – there must be few audiences outside this country who'd anticipate ecstatic jazz of this order by four Britons and one South African exile. There was a Brotherhood of Breath-intensity to this performance, with an incandescent power that made you rub your eyes in disbelief that it was only five blokes producing it. True burning free jazz.

LINK: Bergamo Jazz Festival website


PREVIEW FEATURE: Bournemouth Jazz Festival (April 22nd-24th)

Local headliners:  Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion.
This year’s second Bournemouth Jazz Festival will take place from April 22-24. Sebastian spoke to the director and the driving force behind the festival, Gerry Clarke.

The Bournemouth Jazz Festival, says Gerry Clarke is "a jazz weekend by the sea" The festival has as its objective to present talent from the local jazz scene alongside national names.

"We're particularly excited to be presenting an eclectic mix of the finest jazz, both young and old and from around the world. Jacqui Dankworth and Yazz Ahmed are popular with the younger generation whilst jazz maestros like Jean Toussaint and Andy Sheppard with the Ginger Baker Jazz Experience will appeal to the older enthusiasts. Our World Jazz Jamboree event will showcase jazz talent from around the world, with international names like Indian clarinettist Arun Ghosh topping the bill"

Arun Ghosh. Photo credit: William Ellis

The festival will have a combination of ticketed events - all indoors -  and free events. There is a very strong sense of the festival as a showcase for the best of the local scene. There will be free event on the main town square Bournemouth, with a purpose-built jazz free-stage, outlets for food and drink. There are also concerts by local youth bands and educational events. "We want to make the festival available all over the town, in the main square, the sea front and the shopping arcades."

The first festival was held last year in June, "very much a prototype," says Clarke, and the move to earlier in the year has enabled the festival to fit in better with the other summer offerings the town presents, and - for the first time - to use Bournemouth Pavilion (picture below). “It’s art deco, from the 1930s” says Clarke “and it’s a great place to host some of the jazz events.”

Bournemouth Pavilion

It has a capacity of 450. “It used to be the finest and the largest tea room in the world.” Other venues include the Royal Bath Hotel and the Norfolk Hotel where the World Jazz Jamboree is being held. “We have invited people with European, African and Asian heritage to join us.”

Gerry Clarke has had an interesting and varied career, which has seen him moving from work as an agronomist with NGOs, to a role as a film-maker involved in the production of documentaries. He lived for a number of years in the South of France before returning to the UK and settling in the Bournemouth area some eight years ago.

What led him to want to put on a jazz festival in Bournemouth? His years in the French Riviera and visits to festival such as Nice and Jazz a Juan left him with a strong sense of the vibe and the legacy which a good jazz festival can create in a community, so he was determined to give it a try. "My experience of the South of France taught me how popular it was as a destination for jazz fans. I wanted to do something similar on the English Riviera. And I knew that with the local musicians we have here, they would make the festival special."



Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion - Canvas - 8:00 pm

Swing Unlimited Big Band - Royal Bath Hotel - 8:00 pm


Jean Toussaint and the Herbs and Roots Young Lions - Royal Bath Hotel - 12:30 pm

The Veronique Joly Trio - Norfolk Royale Hotel - 12:30 pm

Tina May with Not Just Sax - Royal Bath Hotel - 2:30 pm

Yazz Ahmed and The Ahmed Family Hafla Band - Royal Bath Hotel - 4:30 pm

Andy Urquhart and The Sound of Bluenote - Royal Bath Hotel - 7:00 pm

The Arun Ghosh Sextet - Norfolk Royale Hotel - 7:00 pm

The Girl’s Only Jazz Orchestra with Tina May - The Print Room - 8:00 pm

Revolution Club - Canvas - 8:30 pm

Musique A Trois - Norfolk Royale Hotel - 9:00 pm

The Ginger Baker Experience with Gene Calderazzo and Andy Sheppard - Royal Bath Hotel - 9:30 pm


The Ian Ellis Quartet - Royal Bath Hotel - 12:30 pm

Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood - Royal Bath Hotel - 2:30 pm

Theo Travis’s Double Talk - Royal Bath Hotel - 4:45 pm

Schools Jazz Awards Ceremony - The Pavilion Ballroom - 7:00 pm

The complete free-stage prgramme will be announced on March 31st

WEBSITE: Bournemouth Jazz Festival


PREVIEW: John Turville writes about Solstice (Pizza Express Dean St. 29th Mar. and album for autumn release Alimentation )

At the Solstice recording session.
Seated L-R: Tori Freestone, Brigitte Beraha
Standing: Curtis Schwartz, John Turville,
Jez Franks, Dave Manington, George Hart

Solstice is a new project based around members of the E17 group. Pianist JOHN TURVILLE explains the background and looks forward to their gig this Tuesday 29th March: 

As jazz musicians, it’s not always easy to define what makes a band work.

But the more experience I have performing and recording, the more I see it’s as much about personalities and shared influences as getting the next superstar involved in your project.

One of the projects I’ve been most proud of working with recently is ‘Solstice’ – a collaboration between some of my favourite players and friends, with a great front line of Brigitte Beraha, Tori Freestone and Jez Franks.

Musically, it’s hard to define – somewhere between the French pianist Pierre de Bethmann’s group, Hermeto Pascoal and a kind of downtown New York sound, but it’s one that keeps evolving as we play and rehearse. It’s kind of part band, part dinner club – we’re all into cooking (and food in general!) so it’s very much about the social thing as well as the music. I think this comes across – although everyone contributes their own, very individual compositions (ingredients if you will), there is a wonderful feeling of group synergy with a seamless flow between composed and improvised sections. We’ve also gone to town on the food titles – the album itself is called Alimentation, and the individual tracks all have wacky food titles –  Avocado Deficit, Mourning Porridge and The Ultimate Big Cheese  (sound clip below) for a start!

We just finished mixing it at Curtis Schwartz’s studio down in Sussex, and he calls it ‘delicious’. See what you think – here’s an exclusive soundcloud preview from the session:

- SOUNDS: The Ultimate Big Cheese - on Soundcloud

If you like what you hear, we’re at Pizza Express this Tuesday 29th March – come and check out what should be a really special gig.

o - o - o - o - o

- Alimentation will be released in Autumn 2016

- Solstice website 


Tori Freestone - Saxes/flutes
Jez Franks - guitars
Brigitte Beraha- voice
John Turville -piano
Dave Manington – double bass
George Hart - Drums


REPORT: 2016 Bedford Jazz Festival

John Horler snd Alec Dankworth at the 2016 Bedford Jazz Festival
Photo credit: © Peter M Butler/Jazz&Jazz

Frank Griffith, whose quintet appeared at this year's Bedford Jazz Festival (March 19th-20th) reports on this event, now in its second year, which is growing in scale:

The second Annual Bedford Jazz Festival featured a bevy of UK and international jazz figures carefully packed into a madcap two-day event. It was based largely at the Quarry Theatre in the town centre, a purpose built venue on the grounds of Bedford School, which was opened in May 2015.

Among the highlights included saxist, Karen Sharp's quartet with adoptive Bedfordian Nikki Iles, piano, Dave Green, bass and Steve Brown, drums. Their set was an eclectic mix of standards, jazz and Brazillian selections, including Victor Feldman's Falling in Love (recorded by Stan Getz, among many others). The set was climaxed by a blistering romp through Ray Noble's Cherokee.

Guest USA trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's Quartet was the headline act on Saturday night. His first set consisted largely of lengthy original pieces composed of open ended improvisations over somewhat complicated sounding rhythmical permutations that kept this listener guessing and possibly never reaching any kind of resolution or reconciliation until the piece finally wound down to a close.

The repertoire in the second set offered the listener a few more handholds, including Ambrose's poignant treatment of I Fall In Love Too Easily which could have been a tribute to Miles Davis who recorded it in 1964. Akinmusire is a magnificently original voice on trumpet with a masterful command of the instrument without ever resorting to any brassy or shrill histrionics. A major voice in the music and Bedford was lucky to be treated to what he had on offer.

A young and frisky 7-piece ensemble, Kansas Smitty's House Band, kicked off the second day with a sprightly programme of New Orleans and swing era style originals. Altoist and spokesman, Giacomo Smith (who hails from Saratoga Springs, NY) dazzled the audience with his burning and flawlessy executed lines on bassist, Ferg Ireland's opus entitled Anita (cat, not woman) Trumpeter, Pete Horsfall's understated but eloquently delivered vocal on a torchsong ballad scored highly as well.

Another trumpeter, Chris Batchelor's  four-piece Pigfoot followed in a similar vein. This group included pianist, Liam Noble, percussionist Paul Clarvis (replete in brightly coloured jim jams) and baritone saxist James Alsopp depping in the bass role for tuba player, Oren Marshall. The quirky quartet titilated the Beds audience with their "irreverentions" of everything from Fat's Waller's Jitterbug Waltz to Elvis' Jailhouse Rock all the way to Richard Strauss's Salome! Zany Mania abounded.

The festival was roundly climaxed at the spacious Bedford Corn Exchange with a healthy crowd to boot. Another Bedfordian, internationally recognised composer/lyricist, choir leader and pianist, Pete Churchill, led the London Vocal Project on several numbers. His lush arrangement of Lionel Hampton's Midnight Sun showcased guest vocalist Jacqui Dankworth in a solo role to great effect. Jacqui's quintet then followed with Just You, Just Me a theme which featured several duets between her and husband, singer/pianist and arranger, and Memphian, Charlie Wood. The saxophone solos of Ben Castle were so refreshing, adding so much and lets not forget the boys in the "engine room" bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer, James Maddren.

"Rachel and Friends", feat. Rachel Hickey, part of the
programme of free events at the Bedford Arms
Photo credit: © Peter M Butler/Jazz&Jazz

Hats off to festival's director, Bedfordian trumpeter, Tom Syson, and his hearty eight-person organizing team of Bedford locals working countless hours in producing what was a very impressive festival.

LINKS: Peter M Butler's videos of the festival on his Jazz&Jazz site
Interview with Tom Syson previewing the festival


CD REVIEW: Mette Henriette – Mette Henriette

Mette Henriette – Mette Henriette
(ECM. CD review by Henning Bolte)

Mette Henriette is the short form of Mette Henriette Marte Datter Rølvåg. The first name of her one-armed Sami grandmother Henriette takes a prominent place because the young Norwegian saxophonist has such a close bond with her.

The double album contains music with a trio entitled “o“ and music with a star- studded tentet entitled "Ø“. It is a fine example of a remarkable thrust of a developing young musician, a musician that appears to hold the thread firmly in hand – as pictured by Dutch star photographer Anton Corbijn in the liner photos. The music of the album is heterogeneous and diverse but at the same time possesses a clear unity and uniqueness. It is nourished and branded by Mette Henriette’s playing in free improvisation contexts and her parallel activity as a contemporary music composer.

Such is her range of style and expression, some listeners may doubt their own ears. For example when quiet sounds pass into acute and overdriven ones all of a sudden, when grooving jazz rhythms emerge from ethereal strings or when violent outbursts carry gentle melodic substrates. For Mette Henriette everything from utmost fragility to sharply shooting directness is a natural consequence of her artistic choices and the work’s internal logic. Mette Henriette is from a new generation of musicians that perceives stylistic modes of all kinds without fear, and likewise applies them as apt and effective forms to express themselves, to the extent that it is not so surprising to hear traces of Arvo Pärt as well as those of Evan Parker.

Striking characteristics of the music are the brevity of the pieces, the drifting of its sound and the merging of heterogeneous sound modalities and approaches of playing. The elliptical brevity of the pieces makes the music especially potent. Mette Henriette brings into full action the entire range of today’s saxophone sound from muted gliding to screeching multiphonics.

The trio part is characterized by minimal tonal gestures, tonal hatchings and shadings and transitional moments equaling sparkling water drops just before falling. The tentet part has correspondingly powerful dynamics. By way of its alternating opposites effectively strong walls of sound arise. Mette Henriette is a strong versatile voice to watch out for, right now and in the future.

Mette Henriette will perform at the upcoming Jazzahead! in Bremen with her trio, Johan Lindvall (p) and Katrine Schiøtt (cello) as part of the European Jazz Meeting. (LINK)


CD REVIEW: Nicola Conte presents Stefania Dipierro Natural

Nicola Conte presents Stefania Dipierro Natural
(Far Out Recordings FARO 188CD. CD Review by Peter Jones)

As the rain sloshes down and leaves have yet to appear on the trees, now is as good a time as any to bask in the sounds of Summer. Fortunately for us, Nicola Conte never fails to provide the soundtrack to that elusive season, whatever the time of year. And here he is again, with a Brazilian-inflected collection of tunes, this time featuring the breathy voice of Stefania Dipierro.

Conte has an unerring gift for choosing the right singer: he’s previously collaborated with the likes of Kimberley Sanders, José James and more recently Zara McFarlane. And he and Dipierro have form, having worked together on the Jet Sounds album back in 2000. Here, as previously, she is in complete command of the material, and possesses one of those gorgeous voices that seem to be whispering in your ear.

Conte and Dipierro are backed by an all-star studio crew, including Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet, Gaetano Partipilo on alto, Pietro Lussu and Mirko Signorile on keys, Luca Alemanno on bass, and a host of drummers and percussionists.

Stand-out tracks include Within You And I (I’m sure we can overlook the grammar) - a typically languid, minimalist piece that shimmers in the heat, with a chiming guitar and gentle but insistent bass riff. I would also single out some other masterful exercise in restraint: Jobim’s Caminhos Cruzados, Toquinho and Ben’s Que Maravilha, and Caetano Veloso’s incantatory Joia, the latter following the original in being accompanied only by percussion and single-note guitar drone. These tracks remind us of another of Conte’s great gifts: he is a superb producer who never overburdens the material with needlessly complex arrangements. The vibe is enough.

There’s not much else to say about a thoroughly enjoyable album that has no need to strive for effect but settles into a lush, feel-good groove and stays there.


PREVIEW: Ian Shaw The Theory of Joy album launch (7th Apr, Nell's Jazz and Blues Bar, W14)

Ian Shaw. Photo credit: Gerhard Richter

After some earlier showcases and features, the launch of Ian Shaw’s excellent new CD The Theory of Joy is finally here, (writes Mark McKergow, who also introduces the new venue where it will take place).

This 12-track recording (or 15 if you get the option extra double vinyl) shows Ian’s vocal talent to the full. Foregoing his usual solo self-accompaniment, this outing sees the splendid trio of Barry Green (piano), Mick Hutton (double bass) and Dave Ohm (drums) taking care of the instrumental elements, leaving the leader free to focus on singing.

If the CD is anything to go by, we are in for a treat. The Theory of Joy brings together a very interesting mix of material, which is fashioned into a coherent set by the musicianship of all concerned. Expect to find Bowie next to Bart, Joni Mitchell juxtaposed with Clive Gregson, all performed with impeccable jazz style and touch.

The CD also features Shaw originals including the moving My Brother, which has turned into a radio regular and has an accompanying video linking the song to Ian’s work with refugees in Calais, and a new arrangement of Somewhere Towards Love (chosen by both Julian Clary and Molly Parkin for their respective Desert Islands Discs).


The gig takes place at Nell’s Jazz & Blues Bar, a new venue to us. It’s a very short walk from West Kensington tube station and close to the big Tesco on West Cromwell Road. Nell’s is open every evening and has an ambitious music programme in the coming months – probably more blues than jazz on balance, and with plenty to catch the attention of anyone interested in top-line music.

Having entertained the revived Soft Machine Legacy on Friday 1st April,, they are offering the powerful blues singer Kyla Brox launching her new album Throw Away Your Blues on 15 April, with rock/blues guitarist Bernie Marsden the following night. A string of gigs follows stretching to the horizon, including Mud Morganfield (the son of Muddy Waters and an outstanding blues performer himself) on 3 May and even Van Morrison on 15 June. Check out the website listing below for the full programme.

Nell’s Jazz & Blues Bar is at 3 North End Crescent, West Kensington, London W14 8TG. The launch is on Thursday 7th April 2016

LINKS: The Theory of Joy CD review
video of Ian Shaw’s My Brother


CD REVIEW: Greg Cordez Paper Crane

Greg Cordez Paper Crane
(Ninety and Nine Records. NNCD022. review by Jon Turney)

Greg Cordez has been one of the go-to bassists in Bristol over the last few years, and has enrolled four of the city’s best players in his quintet for this rather lovely album. He’s a fine player, too, but it’s the writing – all 10 tracks are his – that comes through most strongly here. There’s one unaccompanied bass intro, when the depth of his sound reverberates, but hardly any bass soloing as such. The leader’s reticence – which some, like Gary Giddins, think becoming for bass players – allows the others to shine. Nick Malcolm’s astringent lyricism on trumpet and Jake McMurchie’s rich, spirited tenor sax impress throughout, as does Mark Whitlam’s thoughtfully varied drumming. But for me pianist Jim Blomfield responds even more brilliantly to these pieces. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play better. There’s a crystalline clarity to his sound when he is laying out the themes and a string of solos, some reflective, some tumultuous, that provide a succession of standout moments.

Cordez’s writing is most often gently song-like, although the longest track, 8.23 (the time it takes light to reach Earth from the Sun) takes a more upbeat, rock-inflected path and Schrodinger vs Cat does likewise with some scrunchy electronics and free blowing for good measure. Several of the other tunes have an attractively melancholic undertow, including one titled after the unsung drummer Ron Free (yes, it’s a real name) and the closing 1000 Paper Cranes. That title references origami, as does the CD’s cleverly folded sleeve, reflecting the care and attention to detail that characterises the whole set. There’s nothing thrown together here – memorable as the results of that can be in the right session. This is considered music-making, illuminated when the band play live by the stories Cordez tells about the inspiration for each piece. But the story-telling in the playing is sufficient to itself on the recording, one which contains pieces that reveal themselves to be pleasantly insinuating when you realise at the end you’d quite like to listen to them all again right away.

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


NEWS: Participants for Made in UK Programme at XRIJF Rochester Jazz Festival (NY state/ US) Announced

Lleuewen Steffan, Photo credit: Steph Carioù

The artists who will perfrom at this year's Made in UK Prograame (*) at the XRIJF Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival in upstate NY, USA, which takes place from June 24 - July 2nd have just been anounced. Many of the groups will also go on to perform on the Canadian jazz festival circuit.
All performances take place at Christ Church in Rochester.

Friday June 24th - LORNA REID
Saturday June 25th - PHIL ROBSON TRIO
Monday June 27th - GWYNETH HERBERT
Tuesday June 28th - CHRISTINE TOBIN
Wednesday June 29th - MAMMAL HANDS
Thursday June 30th - LLEUWEN STEFFAN
Saturday July 2nd - OLI ROCKBERGER

(*) Made in the UK programme us produced by ESIP with support from Creative Scotland, Welsh Arts International & PRSF)



PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Zhenya Strigalev and Never Group (Album release 1 Apr, Ronnie Scott's 3 Apr)

Zhenya Strigalev. Photo credit: Kelly Campbell

London-based Russian saxophonist ZHENYA STRIGALEV has a new band. Their album "Never Group" (Whirlwind Recordings) will be issued on April 1st and the UK launch is at Ronnie Scott’s on April 3rd. In this interview with  Alison Bentley he talked about his saxophone inspirations, about working with Eric Harland, Larry Grenadier and Tim Lefebvre, and how jazz saved him from being sent to Siberia:

London Jazz News: You studied piano as a child- did you study classical music?

Zhenya Strigalev: At the beginning I played some études, some classical pieces.

LJN: How did you get into jazz?

ZS: My father liked jazz. I started listening to it when staying with him. Dixieland, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges. I even listened to Kenny Ball and his version of Midnight in Moscow!

LJN: You studied at St Petersburg Music Academy- was that jazz?

ZS: That was mostly jazz oriented- sax was my primary instrument. I was there for a year and a half.

LJN: Then you did your National Service in the Russian Army. Did jazz really save you from being posted to Siberia?

ZS: Yes, because I was playing in jams at a jazz club at that time. When it was time to go into the army, the guy who ran the jazz club said, ‘You should serve your time in the army band. You can even go to study in College at the same time.’ He talked to people in the army band. They were also trying to do jazz, so I was a useful person there. You have to be there sometimes at 7 or 8 in the morning. The life is organised and you have to build your practice around that. I was still playing concerts while in the army. I guess the positive side was that it was disciplined.

LJN: Why did you decide to come and study in the UK?

ZS: I needed more information and there were not many musicians coming to play in St Petersburg; not many interesting concerts. At the beginning, like many people, I tried to go to America but I didn’t get a visa. And maybe it was for the best. The Royal Academy offered me a place and a full scholarship. [He graduated in 2007.]

LJN: Then you set up the jazz club at Charlie Wright’s International Bar in London. Was that around the same time?

ZS: It was a bit later because when I came here, I noticed straight away that although there were a lot of musicians and good concerts happening, the late scene wasn’t what I expected. It took about two years, trying to find a place, and finally I found Charlie Wright’s where we started these late night jams. It went very well and as you can see, now there are quite a few places which have late sets. The idea was to invite international musicians to Charlie Wright’s who don’t usually come to England.

LJN: So you went to New York yourself in 2010. Is that where you met all the guys?

ZS: I did an album here with a quartet of UK musicians which I liked very much. Then I wanted to do another album with the foreign musicians, because that reflected my work at Charlie Wrights. These musicians I met there.

LJN: Eric Harland and Larry Grenadier ?

ZS: They all played at Charlie Wright’s. But then obviously, I wanted to go to New York and see how the scene is there, and to see the same musicians in their own environment. I went to some jam sessions, so it happened organically.

LJN: Who are your favourite sax players?

ZS: Sonny Rollins is one of my heroes. Charlie Parker, Wayne Shorter, Art Pepper…I also like Gerry Mulligan with Chet Baker or Art Farmer. Coltrane- I transcribed a lot of Coltrane. Michael Brecker- he’s obviously unique and has his own style.

LJN: Ornette Coleman?

ZS: I like Coleman. There are some people you admire but you don’t study them. I spent time studying earlier people who I think are relevant to him.

LJN: Sometimes your writing makes me think of Ornette Coleman?

ZS: Yes, that’s a possibility because I like some of his compositions. Sonny Rollins recorded with Ornette Coleman’s rhythm section.

LJN: Moving on to your new album and your new band- why is it called the Never Group?

ZS:  It’s a combination of people who I don’t feel will ever become a group together [laughs]. We’ll never play a gig altogether- I guess that’s one of the meanings. Nowadays it’s very difficult to keep the same band for long. I don’t see many people who tour and record with the same band, like, say the Modern Jazz Quartet, or even like Duke Ellington’s band- how many years did they have the same people? People are not available or there’s not enough money in jazz. Also, I like to add new elements. It’s a kind of process; we go along the road though life and we meet different people, and then we invite them into our group. So it’s never the same group- it’s always changing.

LJN: Do you write for the particular musicians that you’ve chosen? And does the music change depending on who’s playing?

ZS: I often write for the musicians I know I’ll be playing with. For example, I know that on my previous album Robin Goodie, for some tunes I had in mind a double bass player like Larry Grenadier. That helped me to resolve, to finish some tunes. Sometimes while listening to concerts or recordings, I think that some of my tunes could work well with a specific musician. After the first album that I did with Eric [Harland] and the team, which is Smiling Organizm Vol. 1, I was thinking about doing something just with Eric and Tim Lefebvre. So with some of the tunes on the new album, I was thinking specifically about how they would sound together.

LJN: The new album sounds more groove-based than the previous one.

ZS: That was the idea, to show a little bit more of Tim Lefebvre’s bass style, because he has a unique sense of groove and using pedals. He plays with more groove-type rock bands than Eric Harland does. So that was the idea, to go more into this area. Robin Goodie is more Eric’s area, I guess. Here the idea was to go more into a groove thing and develop that.

LJN: And you brought electronic composition and effects in. How did you meet Bruno Liberda?

ZS: Last year once or twice a month, I was doing some sessions in a trio. We were playing in a small electronic club in Vienna. And after I recorded this album [Never Group] with Tim and Eric in Berlin, I was editing the album. We recorded a lot of music, so I was cutting stuff and listening to how Tim Lefebvre was using his pedals, which reminded me of some of the electronic music. Then the person who was running that club in Vienna mentioned that he knew this electronic musician who teaches in Vienna Conservatory. So he introduced me to Bruno Liberda. He does lots of interesting things as well as writing electronic operas and classical pieces. I sent Bruno some tracks from the album, and what he did I liked very much. So I included it.

LJN: You got Alex Bonney to edit it.

ZS:  We were editing with him and I thought it would be nice to add some trumpet. And I knew that Alex played trumpet, so it was fun.

LJN: You have lots of interesting ideas about music, for example: ‘I like to be free but to use the right language.’ Do you think music is like a language?

ZS: The right language within the music. The music is one thing, and then there are a few languages. People sometimes jam too freely on something that they don’t know anything about!

LJN: You said you wanted this new music to be chordless, to expand your own musical language.

ZS: You can expand it in different ways. Maybe I’ll do my next album with two pianos to expand my musical language- the same goal! I like to be chordless, so you can really appreciate the rhythm section- bass and drums. When there’s more people, you may not able to hear every note the bass drums are playing, and how they communicate with each other. Eric and Tim are great musicians and they never played together before my projects at all. The idea was to show how amazing they are. As for me, I just concentrate on improvisation and communication - go wherever you want to go.

Zhenya Strigalev and Linley Marthe
Photo credit: Josep Manel Jarabo Carbonell

LJN: It’s going to be Linley Marthe on bass for your tour and at Ronnie’s?

ZS: Yes, I met him at Charlie Wright’s too. I think I first heard him in Moscow with Joe Zawinul. Linley Marthe is totally amazing and he lives in Paris. He’ll be playing bass guitar and keyboard at the same time. I don’t know how he does it.

LJN: It bought out a funkier side in Eric Harland?

ZS: That’s the uniqueness of Eric because he really can do everything- swing, Dixieland and then go into funk. That’s why I like playing with him so much because he can switch styles immediately.

LJN: For your Ronnie’s gig you have guitarist Federico Dannemann too.

ZS: I think he’s amazing- I want people to know him better. I met him at the Royal Academy, and I noticed his broad knowledge of different styles. He really knows about Django Reinhardt, gypsy jazz, all the early music, rock, bebop, plus he knows all the different styles of Latin music. That’s good for my project- because he knows a lot of styles, he can switch any moment to different things. I’m really looking forward to it!

ALBUM LAUNCH: Ronnie Scott’s , Sunday 3rd April 2016
Zhenya Strigalev's Never Group!

Zhenya Strigalev – sax
Linley Marthe – bass
Eric Harland – drums
Federico Dannemann – guitar


​New CD: Never Group by Zhenya Strigalev

Release date: Friday 1 April 2016 Whirlwind Recordings – WR4685 (LINK)

Zhenya Strigalev - alto saxophone
Tim Lefebvre - electric bass
Eric Harland - drums
with guests:
Bruno Liberda - electronics
Matt Penman - double bass
John Escreet - keyboards
Alex Bonney - trumpet
Charles Armstrong – voice

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