PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Ben Cottrell (Efpi Festival/Jazz at Kings Place June 25th)

Beats & Pieces Big Band. Photo credit: Emile Holba


The independent record label and umbrella organisation for a new generation of musicians Efpi is presenting a triple bill at Kings Place on June 25th: Let Spin, the Johnny Hunter Quartet, and headlined by flagship big band Beats & Pieces. The band’s leader BEN COTTRELL spoke to Peter Bacon.


LondonJazz News: Do you think there is a specific ethos about Efpi that sets it apart from other “collective” groups of musicians? Has it changed down the years?

Ben Cottrell: I imagine that the Efpi story is pretty similar to the story of many of those other collectives in other cities. Seven years on from when Efpi was established by myself, saxophonist Sam Andreae and guitarist Anton Hunter, that initial group of musicians is no longer as clearly defined by us all living a few streets away from each other in Manchester. Now the focus is more on releasing and promoting music through the label.

The character of the label roster always reflected our own musical tastes – from day one the only label aesthetic was just music that the three of us thought was cool, regardless of any genre considerations. This gig at Kings Place is the first time Efpi has put together a festival of sorts, focusing on the label’s three most recent releases – including of course Johnny Hunter Quartet’s debut full-length album that they will launch at the festival.

LJN: You’ve been running Beats & Pieces for a while now. Does it get any easier to maintain a big band and get it on the road?

BC: Not at all! It’s only really still do-able because all the musicians are so committed to the band and each other that they’ll go really far out of their way to make things happen. And now that we’re looking to play outside of the UK more we’re also competing for gigs with European big bands that receive regular and heavy state funding, have full time admin staff, access to additional export funding to take advantage of international opportunities, etc. So it’s hard but we’ve become pretty resourceful over the years, and we’re always trying to improve the way we work to make ourselves more efficient.

LJN: Are there bands which inspired you to start Beats &Pieces?

BC: I guess I was inspired to start making music of my own by hearing Acoustic Ladyland and checking out other related bands like Polar Bear, and realising for the first time that it was completely valid to be influenced by punk rock, electronica or whatever as well as by the jazz canon. Around the same time in the RNCM big band we played some charts by Maria Schneider and Colin Towns that had similarly diverse influences, and that made me think about the idea of approaching a big band in a different way just as Acoustic Ladyland had approached a traditional saxophone-led quartet in a different way.

Also (and perhaps crucially) the RNCM had a big band composition prize worth £100 that didn’t have any entries the previous year, so I thought I’d write a piece as I really could’ve done with the £100 at the time. Unfortunately there was one other entry that year, and I came second of two… We still play that piece in our live set today though so it worked out OK in the end, although I’ve probably still not earned £100 out of it.

LJN: How do you think the band’s music has developed since it started? Where do you see it going in the future?

BC: I think that our second album All In is a development from our first (Big Ideas) in terms of my composing and arranging, maybe as a result of other bits of orchestral arranging work I’ve done for artists in a wide variety of genres. I think the arrangements on All In are more intricate and precise, which the band initially weren’t so impressed with especially when I asked them to learn everything from memory! We recently did five gigs in a row on tour in Europe and by the end of that I thought the band sounded the best it has ever sounded. We’ve already been rehearsing new tunes since the end of last year thanks to the generous support of the PRS for Music Foundation, and I’m really looking forward to recording later this year for album three.(pp)

Also appearing at Kings Place on June 25th: Let Spin

LINE-UP

Director: Ben Cottrell
Saxes: Anthony Brown, Oliver Dover, Riley Stone-Lonergan
Trumpets: Graham South, Nick Walter, Owen Bryce
TRombones: Richard Foote, Tim Cox, Rich McVeigh
Rhythm: Richard Jones, Anton Hunter, Stewart Wilson, Finlay Panter

LINK: BOOKINGS for Beats & Pieces + Johnny Hunter Quartet + Let Spin, including the launch of the Johnny Hunter Quartet’s debut album While We Still Can - at Kings Place on Saturday, June 25.

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INTERVIEW / PREVIEW:Kate Williams - Four Plus Three (New CD - Launch at 606 Club 8th June, and touring)

Kate Williams
Pianist and composer KATE WILLIAMS is an artist keen to explore a wide variety of ensemble contexts. Her previous album, "Atlas and Vulcana" featured music for trio, quartet and septet. New project "Four Plus Three" finds her working with the Guastalla string quartet, exploring new textures on a varied repertoire incorporating originals, standards and jazz compositions. Dan Paton interviewed her: 

LondonJazz News: How did "Four Plus Three" come about?

Kate Williams: I had an idea with William Goodchild, a conductor friend of mine, to do a programme of music for trio and orchestra that would involve the music of Ravel, Debussy and Bill Evans. We called that project Bill Evans and the Impressionists. We did two concerts - one with an orchestra at the Bristol Jazz Festival and then we repeated the same programme with the Guildhall Orchestra at the Guildhall festival. The orchestra was lead by a brilliant violinist, John Garner, who had a string quartet with Marie Schreer, Miguel Rodriguez and Sergio Serra. I thought it would be great to do something on a smaller scale than the Evans project, at least in part because that is not something you can perform around the country with any frequency. I got to thinking about the piano trio as the ultimate self-contained unit in jazz, and the string quartet as a possible equivalent in the classical world. The idea of fusing those two units, with elements of them playing together, and moments where they are separate, really appealed to me.

LJN: Is there anything that drew you specifically to the sound world of strings?

KW: I did play the cello as a child - not to a high standard, but enough to develop a love of string playing. I’m sure this must have fed in to what I am doing now in some way. Working with strings feels very much like coming home for me - it feels very comfortable. I don’t mean that in a complacent way - what I mean is that it’s a very comfortable place in which to learn. I now think this is only the beginning of exploring this area, in terms of what you can do texturally.

LJN: Textures and dynamics certainly seem to be strong qualities in this recording, particularly on "Eleven Tonal" and "Storm Before Calm." There is a great dynamic range too.

KW: I’m really glad about that, and it shows that I have the right musicians involved.

LJN: In which case, perhaps we can talk a little about the other musicians in your trio. What qualities do they bring to the project?

KW: Oli Hayhurst has been part of my quintet and quartet and is the musician I’ve been working with the longest. I like the sound of piano doubling bass on a melodic line, and because Oli is so dexterous and versatile as a player, I know I can write anything and he can play it.

LJN: He also has such an authoritative sound, doesn’t he?

KW: Yes, he has great attack and his sound can be really warm too.

LJN: What about (drummer) David Ingamells?

KW: For the dynamics to work here, you need the right drummer of course, and David can be incredibly subtle or really powerful as the music demands. For the quieter moments with strings, he can keep a high level of energy at a really quiet dynamic but when everyone’s playing together he can really go for it and generate a huge sound from the kit.

LJN: You have mentioned that you wanted to achieve an ‘integrated approach’ when combining the piano trio and the string quartet. Can you elaborate a bit on what that might mean?

KW: I guess I mean that the roles are pretty equal. What I didn’t want, nice though it may have sounded, was a piano trio with some vague string harmonies accompanying it. Sometimes they might do the whole melody, or in the case of the B Minor Waltz (one of two Bill Evans compositions included on the album), they do the whole piece without any piano or drums. On Twilight’s Last Blink (the album’s concluding track), they have the main tune and the piano has a solo in the middle.

LJN: Do any of the musicians in the string quartet have a background in improvisation?

KW: Yes, John Garner does, and when we play live, he does feature as an improvising soloist on one piece. He is a very versatile musician and eclectic in his tastes. He doesn’t actually improvise on the record but, for the next one, who knows what might transpire? On the track Seven Across, there’s a string accompaniment to a piano solo. For part of it, because I didn’t want anything specific, I left it up to them. I wanted a wash of texture within a particular tonality, so I told them to choose a note and hold it, before moving to another note, but not necessarily at the same time as everyone else.

LJN: How did you choose the repertoire, beyond your original compositions? Is "Love For Sale" there because Bill Evans had played it with Miles Davis?

KW: Actually, no, that wasn’t intended as a Bill Evans connection. It came about more through me exploring other music in this area. There aren’t many albums of jazz trios with string quartet but there’s a great one with Hank Jones and the Meridian Quartet (1990, LRC). While I was writing for this project, I listened to that album a lot and it gave me the idea that Love For Sale could work really well with a counter melody in the bass and the piano, with the main melody high in the strings, binding it all together. In terms of the other choices, I thought Kenny Kirkland’s Chance would be an unusual one to do because he sadly recorded relatively little music under his own name, and it’s a great tune that isn't played that much.

LJN: LJN: What about the original compositions - did you have a concept bringing them together?

KW: I had bits of a concept. For example, I wrote Twilight’s Last Blink incredibly quickly because I knew it was going to be the closing track of the album. Once I knew that, it basically wrote itself. The first piece I wrote specifically for the line-up was Seven Across, I don’t know why. I do prefer writing for specific people - it can make the composition process much easier because I have their sound in my head. There is a connection between Eleven Tonal and the Bill Evans project in that the middle and end sections were originally written as an introduction to Evans’ Twelve Tone tune. The drum feature was originally with woodwind, it was a bit bizarre! Big Shoes is actually based on a standard (Lullaby Of The Leaves), although you wouldn’t necessarily know this from the melody. I was thinking in terms of Tristano-esque melodies that could be harmonised in more dissonant ways.

LJN: What is next for this project? Do you foresee more activity in the future?

KW: Yes, definitely. We’re now doing a five date mini tour with support from Arts Council England. It’s really good to know that they still have money available and will support jazz. Maybe we don’t just have to play in jazz venues - we could play anywhere. It’s hard to develop projects in the longer term of course because it requires a lot of commitment but this really feels like just the beginning.(pp)

Kate Williams’ Four Plus Three is supported by the Ambache Trust (for raising the profile of women in music) and is released on 8th June. The trio and string quartet also play four more dates around the country:

TOUR DATES
Tuesday 7th June - Watermill Jazz, Dorking 8.30pm

Wednesday 8th June - ALBUM LAUNCH 606 Club, London 8.30pm

Friday 10th June - Leicester Jazzhouse, 8pm

Saturday 23rd July - TW12 Jazz Festival, Normansfield Theatre, Teddington 8pm

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REVIEW: Laraaji - Day of Radiance residency at Cafe Oto




Laraaji at Cafe Oto, May 2016
Drawing by Geooff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved


Laraaji - Day of Radiance
(Day one of a two-day residency at Cafe Oto, 24th May 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


The backstory to this event started in 1980, when Day of Radiance by Laraaji was recorded as the third of the four outstanding albums which comprise Brian Eno's Ambient Series. Eno had stumbled across the musician, who originally hailed from Philadelphia, busking in Washington Square Park in New York and left a note for him asking if he'd be interested in making a record with him. The recording's intensely ethereal qualities were achieved on its three Dances on the LP's A side by the concentrated application of mallets to a dulcimer, giving a high-pitched, flowing metallic sound, and, on the two Meditations on side B, a floating, spiritual feel, using amplified zither.

Laraaji opened his two-day residency at Cafe Oto by revisiting Day of Radiance. Refreshingly, this was not the standard re-enaction of a well-known album, but in effect a new piece. In an intensely absorbing set, Laraaji expanded on the album's original concept to create a lush, layered sound world that used the original album as its starting point.

Laraaji's first port of call at Cafe Oto, after an extended tuning session, was a percussion piece played on a suspended metal gong using mallets, from lollypop size to large soft-covered beaters, assisted by electronic sampling and amplification, to explore its natural sound washes and waves. With a brief spell of vocal sampling and the whirling of a lasso d'amore above his head, he paused to slowly, smilingly survey the audience before embarking on the main piece.

This live version of Day of Radiance was based around his use of two amplified zithers, one tuned higher than the other, with the judicious use of electronic devices to trigger subtle, incremental layerings and deviations from the zither's raw sound. In a constant process of gathering up the sound layers, allowing them to recede and then rebuild, Laraaji plucked and gently hammered the fields of strings before him, evoking celestial atmospheres, adding chimes and dark, echoing drips to draw in the audience on a meditative journey that ended with a tiny, metallic, ringing chime.

A true, practiced craftsman, the all-enveloping sound was as much based on Laraaji's ability to precisely control every aspect of its mellifluous flow, as upon his expansive vision, and being able to witness this at close quarters added to the understanding of the underlying complexity of its part-improvised performance.

'Thank you so much - happy eternity to you,' was Laraaji's grinning sign-off, before he encored with a few steps in to his world of 'seriously playful laughter' with its word games and therapeutic audience engagement.

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REVIEW: Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins at the Vortex

Alex Hawkins and Evan Parker at the Vortex
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved


Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins
(Vortex, 26th May 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The strength of the duo of Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins lies in their rapport. There may be nearly forty years in age between them, but they read each other so well. At the Vortex there was no deference shown or allowances made on either part, and no let-up in the energy and invention that both brought to the stage.

Ostensibly regrouping at the Vortex to promote their Leaps in Leicester CD, recorded for the adventurous Portugese jazz label, Clean Feed in spring 2015 at Leicester University's Embrace Arts (now renamed the Attenborough Arts Centre), no effort was spared in their closely steered dialogue over two substantial sets.

With Hawkins setting down a marker, running fingers over the piano wires, tapping faintly on its body, mixing chordal chimes with damped down restraint, Parker's tough-toned tenor was tempered with a rolling, soft edge that floated and flew.

Parker mapped out chunks of phrasing and rhythmic consistency which served as touchstones. No matter how far they strayed these always drew them back on course. Hawkins summoned abstract flights with the spirit of a hyper-accelerated Poulenc which Parker drew alongside with agile flair, and some way through the first set their combined momentum took on an epic scale. While the saxophonist let his deep jazz roots flavour the odd sequence, Hawkins, by contrast, almost found a tune in a syncopated sequence that timed out with dense, dusty chords.

Hawkins' quietly breaking introduction to their second session had the feel of Messiaen solo piano, yet it was not long before dizzy runs kicked in, countered by stop-off points where the pianist's single note repetitions mimicked Parker's pitch. In the spirit of Cecil Taylor, Hawkins took on the challenge of the pianistic equivalent of Parker's 'controlled circular exhalation' (the term he prefers to 'circular breathing') spiked with rapid fire runs and changes of pace, to which Parker added his very particular gravitas leavened with an inspired, light touch to square the circle.

Evan Parker - tenor sax
Alexander Hawkins - piano

LINK: Leaps in Leicester on Cleanfeed

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INTERVIEW: Jacqui Hicks (New CD with Simon Carter, Phil Mulford and 'Frosty' Beedle - The Boaters Project)



A new CD entitled "The Boaters Project," (Frith and Dean Records) with JACQUI HICKS (vocals), SIMON CARTER (piano/keyboards), PHIL MULFORD (bass) and 'FROSTY' BEEDLE (drums) has just been released. Sebastian asked Jacqui Hicks by email to explain more of the background to the new release:  

LondonJazz News: The CD is called "The Boaters Project." So I assume it is a celebration of the long-running Sunday night gig in Kingston ....?

Jacqui Hicks: Absolutely. The Boaters Inn is a pub right on the river in Kingston that's had a regular Sunday evening jazz gig since 1990. A lot of familiar faces play down there and it's always well supported.

LJN: ...which you have been participating in for quite a few years...

JH: You could say that I've been involved since it's inception. I'm the longest serving vocalist but, I'm glad to say, there are a few more of us now. The band on the album is the regular line up for our particular gigs there but every week there's something different and always of a high standard.

LJN: And the whole gig was started more than two decades ago by Simon Carter. For people who won't know the name, Simon is quite a special musician who has played for some amazing people right?

JH: Yes, Simon started it while he was a student at Kingston Uni and also a member of NYJO, which is where we first met. While keeping it going he's toured the world with Jamiroquai, Craig David, Anastasia to name a few and, as a consequence, had people like Beverly Knight and Rick Astley pop down to Boaters for a bit of a singsong! Branford Marsalis came down on one occasion too but that's a different story!

LJN: And Frosty Beedle and Phil Mulford also have something of the total professional / hidden national treasure thing about them too?

JH: They're both well known in the music business but not necessarily on the jazz scene.

I first knew Phil as part of NYJO, although he soon moved on to join Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia and he's been busy on the session scene ever since, playing with the likes of Lewis Taylor and Lionel Ritchie.

Frosty was the original drummer with a band called The Cutting Crew who had several hits in the late 80's. He's also a founder member of the prog rock band Lifesigns but his 'day job' is being the backbone of the West End show Mamma Mia.

LJN: And I gather that Phil has done quite a bit to put this CD together?

JH: We've been toying with the idea of recording the set live at Boaters for several years, as the atmosphere at the gigs is always infectious, but logistically it's a nightmare. Then the drummer Ralph Salmins offered us his wonderful studio so Phil took the bull by the horns as they say. It's turned into a very different beast from our original idea of a live album but it's something we're all very proud of.

Musically it's been a four way contribution but the overall production is all thanks to Phil.

LJN: And the guests?

JH: All the guests have a connection with Boaters in some form or another.

Sax player Paul 'Shilts' Weimar played Boaters many times before moving to LA for 10 years and making a name on the smooth jazz scene over there. He also played in a band with Phil called System X and worked with The Brand New Heavies along with my partner Pat Hartley. Ironically Simon and I performed Knocks Me Off My Feet (a song on the album) at his wedding ceremony!

Guitarist Malcolm MacFarlane and I have known each other since before time began! We were at Leeds College of Music together, he was an amazing musician even back then. We toured with Shakatak for a while and he and Phil formed The Mulford MacFarlane Group after working together in Paraphernalia. Both Simon and I were involved with their second album Bright Lights, Big City.

Brent Carter was the vocalist with Tower Of Power for many years and is now a member of the Average White Band alongside sax man Freddy V. Simon and Phil often works with Fred when he's over from the States, so when the AWB came to play Ronnie's for the week they all came down to our Boaters gig on their night off and it turned into one big jam session. A great night. It was lovely that they both agreed to add their magic to our project.

Pete Eckford and Phil go back a long way and have done some great work together over the years, so he was an obvious choice for the percussion extras, simple as that.

LJN: And BTW who is "Liam Mulford - Rhythm Guitar" ?

JH: Liam is Phil's youngest son.

LJN: And rather than covers there is some cunning/ unexpected arranging craftsmanship here. Who in particular deserve the credits for some of those?

JH: Some of the arrangements have developed over the years but others were done for the album. We all contributed and hopefully you can't see the join! Although the album is very funky we still approach the songs like jazz standards - pick a tune, pick a key, pick a groove and see what happens. It means that there's plenty of room for creativity and self expression. You have to be a little more organised in the studio than on gigs, otherwise each song could last 10/12 minutes, but it's still very much the jazz approach.

LJN: And there is quite a bit of studio magic in your contribution too isn't there? The voices of those backing singers must sound, er, familiar to you?

JH: Ha ha! It's what I do. My backing vocals were probably the catalyst for turning it into more of a production. We've been playing How Sweet it Is as a gospel 3 for a while so it was an obvious choice for the album but when I heard it back it was screaming out for a 'gospel choir'. I rang the guys to see what they thought and they told me to go for it. The whole thing grew from there. I love singing backing vocals, creating colour and harmony. All good music is about tension and release and backing vocals can be a real contributing factor to it. I've written for vocal harmony groups in the past and the possibilities can be endless. I suppose that growing up playing tenor sax in big bands has helped me appreciate how interesting the inner parts can be, it's where all the meat is and can be quite challenging but really good fun to sing.



LJN: For listeners unfamiliar with your work, tell us more about you.... you cover the range from Basie bands to Shakatak?

JH: Gosh, where do I start. I studied classical clarinet from the age of 7 and started playing sax at 9. At 18 I enrolled on the 3 year jazz course at Leeds as a sax player and didn't begin singing until I was in my middle year there. I then went on to the 1 year post grad jazz course at the Guildhall, still as a sax player but by then the singing was beginning to take over.

I grew up playing in various ensemble line ups but big bands were always a favourite. The discipline of playing in a section and being part of a team can be very rewarding so when Paul Lacey asked me to sing with his Back To Basie Orchestra it was like going back to my roots. I've been making regular appearances with them for over 10 years now and it's always a joy. Shakatak were part of the soundtrack of my youth. They've been together now for 36 years, constantly touring and recording and I've been lucky enough to be involved with them for the last 23. It's the only regular gig I do where I still play sax, as well as sing, which is quite daunting as Dick Morrisey was their original sax player!

LJN: Might it it fair to say that the "soul" Jacqui we hear on this CD is less familiar on CD than the "jazz" Jacqui as on your other records eg with John Critchinson?

JH: It's true that my last couple of albums (With A Song In My Heart and A Child Is Born) were far more straight ahead and featured British jazz royalty including John Critchinson, Dave Green and Bobby Wellins but I've never considered myself a purist. I love the old standards from Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, the Gershwins etc but those albums also include songs from Lennon & McCartney, James Taylor and Eric Clapton. There's a huge umbrella covering 'jazz' and different people have their own interpretation as to what it is.

Jazz musicians can make anything sound jazzy if they so wish. Let's face it a lot of the jazz singers repertoire was written for Broadway shows and was never meant to be jazzed up! My main priority is a great song, particularly one with a bridge, and a great groove. It doesn't have to swing to be jazz and likewise not all swing music can be regarded as jazz.

I've always been funky at Boaters as Simon asked me to 'come down and sing some Stevie' from the very first time I went there. Stevie Wonder is one of the few who can unite any musician with a discerning ear. He's my ultimate, my all time favourite but he's not jazz, he's just a genius! Hence there are two of his songs on the album. (And yes, I have my tickets for the 10th July!)

LJN: You have a great reputation as teacher, I know that eg Emma Smith feels she was helped immensely in the early stages by you. Is it gratifying to see students like her (and others?) go on and make their names / careers?

JH: I don't do a lot of teaching but I really enjoy what I do. I'm lucky enough to be part of the jazz faculty at The Purcell School and every student is very musically gifted but can have different needs, which makes it interesting for me and less formulaic. Most of them are classical virtuosos, both vocal and instrumental, who have no idea of how to swing or phrase but I can speak to them on a musical level and we can soon get stuck into quite complex stuff. Then there are others like Emma and current Young Jazz Musician of the year Alex Ridout, who need no introduction to jazz so we can hit the ground running. I had one student who came to the school as a first study classical pianist and by the time I'd finished with her she was offered a place singing jazz at Berklee - 'gratifying' doesn't really cover it!

LJN: Do you happen to know if Boaters have other recording plans - eg the classic Boaters quartet with Simon, Mornington Lockett, Laurence Cottle and Ian Thomas?

JH: We need to break even on this one first! So far it's been very well received, so here's hoping!

LINK The CD is available from www.theboatersproject.com

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REVIEW: Damon Brown and Ed Jones - Killer Shrimp at the 606 Club

Ed Jones and Damon Brown

Damon Brown and Ed Jones - Killer Shrimp 
(606 Club, 26th May 2016. Review by Brian Blain)

A welcome appearance at the 606 last Thursday of Killer Shrimp, after a break of some six or seven years, the band lead by the devastatingly empathetic trumpet/tenor pairing of Damon Brown and Ed Jones (although Brown now favours a hybrid kind of 'long cornet' instrument) with a new rhythm section of Worshipful Company award-winner bassist Adam King and Chris Draper on drums, fast gaining recognition for his work with Tim Thornton and as frequent rhythmic foundation on the Late Shows at Ronnie Scott's.

Both the leaders have a nice gift for writing attractive melodic themes, and two of them, Brown's My Deposit and Jones's Marielyst, from their first album, Sincerely Whatever, allowed them to get through an undersandable touch of ring-rustiness, to get to that state of tight but loose playing which is the hallmark off musicians who truly understand each other. Damon revealed a glimpse of his vocal chops on Walking On- he should do more of this; plenty of trumpet players have gone before him with great success - and then unveiled a new one Han River Tales, an almost delicate theme with a mild Asian flavour, inspired by his current residence in Seoul, South Korea. Brown's burnished sound, in that Freddy Hubbard/Lee Morgan bag, allied to a rare gift for sustained melodic invention was jazz perfection, as was Jones's combination of loose limbed muscularity with just enough edge from post-Coltrane thinking without overpowering an impression I picked up from one of those Parker blues lines of an old favourite, the great Wardell Gray.

And so we were hearing a truly hip and heavy band and yet in the first set Damon was not afraid to go back before the Second World War with his reading of THE iconic trumpet feature, I Can't Get Started, made famous by Bunny Berigan, while in the second set Ed delved into the same era for a not too reverential, but in the tradition nevertheless, treatment of Coleman Hawkins's classic version of Body and Soul. As Harold Macmillan might have observed, "....it's roots dear boy, roots." Meanwhile the wonderful rhythm section thrived on all the grooves and feels that came up like two session supremos. I was particularly taken with Draper's way with world patterns so that nothing was obviously Cuban, Brazilian or African but a subtle amalgamation of several, which put me in mind of Johnathan Blake's man of the match contribution to last November's Maria Schneider concert: the ability to power a band without seeming to break sweat to do so. So subtle. Which wouldn't be possible without relying on Adam King's wonderful bass playing to do the heavy lifting-a drummer's dream. With a few breaks this could become one hell of a band when Damon returns from Korea in September to enrol for a Master's Degree at Trinity - a band that not only can be firmly in the present but suggests much of the history of the music as well.

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CD REVIEW: Trio Red - Lucid Dreamers



Trio Red - Lucid Dreamers
(Interrupto Music. IM005. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


This is the second album by Trio Red, a collaboration between drummer Tom Bancroft, pianist Tom Cawley and bassist Per Zanussi. Their first, First Hello to Last Goodbye, felt much as its name suggested: a document of a meeting. Lucid Dreamers is more, a record of a band, developing and growing together.

Several of the tracks sound as if they are wholly improvised, a musical conversation which continues through the album. Others are written by Bancroft, and there are three covers. The first, Lift Off, by Thomas Chapin, is reminiscent of 1960s post bop by Ornette Coleman or Jackie McLean: fast and slightly of kilter, Cawley takes the lead as if we're speeding down a hill. Charles Mingus' Jump Monk is more familiar bop. Bancroft proves he is as at home driving a swinging beat as he is at providing impressionistic percussion for the improvised pieces. The most intriguing cover, though, is a short mash up of (I think) 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover and Love Is Here To Stay, which Trio Red have called 50 Ways Our Love Is Here To Stay Porgy. The result is a lovely ballad which I wish lasted longer than its two minutes.

The five improvised pieces similarly leave one wanting more. The first two, Hint of Wood and Howdy Doody, follow each other closely. The first has an insistent beat over which Zanussi and Cawley solo whilst Bancroft inserts rhythmic patterns. Cawley adds to the rhythm by plucking his piano's strings in between the chords behind Zanussi's bass. Howdy Doody is more open and reflective, as if the band are finding their way through the notes. Mr McFats Puts On His Socks is another number which feels like the band are exploring their ideas. The two Bancroft compositions bookend the album. The opener, Saturday Afternoon (With Sophie), is a lively, naive-sounding tune with a slight reggae-inflection. It has the innocence of a nursery rhyme or playground chant, full of humour with a touch of naughtiness. It has the potential to be irritatingly catchy!

Lucid Dreamers closes the CD. Originally written for a larger ensemble, it is all together more serious in nature. In three sections, it has a quiet intensity that leads to a chaotic crescendo in the middle, resolving into an optimistic, emotional climax in the final part. Cawley takes a powerful solo over Zanussi's Bach-like bass line leading to the end of this varied CD.

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

LINK: Interrupto Records website

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PREVIEW: : Jazz Repertory Company presents Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller at Carnegie Hall 1939 (Cadogan Hall Saturday, 18th June)

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Bandleader PETE LONG, and RICHARD PITE of the Jazz Repertory Company talked about their evening of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller at Carnegie Hall 1939 at Cadogan Hall on Saturday June 18th to Peter Vacher.


No Mystic Meg reincarnations, no Ouija board séances could summon up these past heroes of white swing. Let’s face it, BG and Glenn won’t be able to make it on the 18th but we have the next best thing – the magisterial Pete Long and his 14-piece orchestra now re-imagined for the day as the Goodman-Miller Tribute Orchestra. Their role? To re-create the minute-by-minute programme played by these titans on a memorable New York night in October 1939.

Curated and presented by the Jazz Repertory Company, as ever concerned for authenticity, this is a celebration of an historic encounter between two giants of popular music, then at the peak of their fame, both ensembles driven by a musical perfectionist, with star sidemen occupying each and every chair. If Goodman, the sometime King of Swing, had the pick of the jazzmen of those days, Miller knew how to drill his more workmanlike orchestra into a streamlined musical entity which, with the aid of skilled arrangers, produced a body of work that still resonates today. Think of the Glenn Miller estate’s clever husbanding of his legacy through their orchestral franchises which enable successive generations to marvel at the likes of ‘In The Mood’ and Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Concentrating on the present day, we can safely claim that Pete has the pick of the best musicians around as he transforms Cadogan Hall’s lofty expanse into a packed yet always stately Carnegie Hall. Harking back, America and New York in particular, were not yet at war and knew only one thing: whatever problems might be looming in those heady days, swing was the music of the moment. If Goodman had already arrived then Miller was seen as up-and-coming, already a million-seller in his own right. As was the habit in those far-off times, what better way to establish status than to have a battle of the bands?

Let’s get the setting right - the America Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers decided to celebrate its 25th Anniversary by hiring Carnegie Hall for a week-long series of concerts, with the October 6 date devoted to our two challengers [plus Fred Waring’s society band and Paul Whiteman’s mighty orchestra, for added gravitas]. Goodman had already breached the Hall’s stuffy indifference to jazz the year before; Miller was newer to this game. We know the ever-competitive Goodman entered first, all guns blazing, every man striving, before Miller countered, parading his panoply of hits.

The JRC’s re-creation of this fascinating night’s music was debuted at the London Jazz Festival in 2014 and proved to be a SRO attraction, filling the Cadogan Hall to the brim. Expect something of the same this time; after all, where else will you hear diligent application to the principles of big band bravura with star turns from the soloists and ensemble playing of umbilically-connected precision? More to the point, you’ll experience all the vicarious pleasures of great creativity deployed to killer effect and doubtless feel an upsurge of swing fever.

If Goodman thought he’d won the day back there in October 1939 with an over-the-top version of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ with Lionel Hampton on drums, he was caught out as Miller came back with ‘Bugle Call Rag’, this like a master class in crowd-pleasing swing intensity. All of this will be replicated on the 18th under Pete Long’s benign leadership. What’s more, trumpeter Enrico Tomasso will be the band’s special guest as he recalls two numbers from Louis Armstrong’s appearance earlier in the ASCAP series. There’ll even be a selection of Count Basie pieces, these taken from the band’s celebrated Spirituals to Swing concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

When it comes to the Goodman sextet numbers, Anthony Kerr will be featured on vibes and Dave Chamberlain, always a stalwart at JRC events, will don the mantle of Charlie Christian, the first great exponent of the electric guitar with head-man Richard Pite on drums. Chris Dean [who knows a thing or two about band-leading] will be playing in Long’s trombone section while taking his chance to emulate the Miller vocalist Ray Eberle with ‘Stairway to the Stars’. Look out too, for sterling work from the trumpeters Ryan Quigley, George Hogg and Georgina Jackson, each a playing powerhouse, and Sammy Mayne, Robert Fowler and Dean Masser starring in the saxophone section.

So, veritably, something for everyone and more to the point, a peerless opportunity to cheer on your favourites. Is it to be Goodman or Miller who wins the day? You’d best be there to find out. You know it makes sense. (pp)

LINK: 18th June Cadogan Hall Bookings

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CD REVIEW: Misha Tsiganov - Spring Feelings



Misha Tsiganov - Spring Feelings
(Criss Cross Jazz 1384. Review by Eric Ford)

Devotees of the warm, confident and rhythmically-strident playing associated with the Blue Note catalogue of the fifties and sixties, but who would like to hear that kind of material metrically and harmonically updated, but without losing any of its warmth, should look/listen no further than pianist Misha Tsiganov's Spring Feelings and its precursor, Artistry Of The Standard.

Whilst some of Tsiganov's arrangements must be intimidating to play - especially his version of ''Yes Or No'' and the opening ''You And The Night And The Music'' - they're scintillating to hear. A languid and stretched-out ''Infant Eyes'' and a playfully-complex The Night Has A Thousand Eyes round out the standards ; the remaining five tunes are Tsiganov's own. Alex Sipiagin describes Tsiganov as ''bright and positive'' and that description works equally well for his compositions.

To do this material justice, Tsiganov has re-assembled the same top-notch cast as on the previous cd but with Austrian uber-bassist Hans Glawischnig (familiar from his prodigious output with New York's leading names in contemporary Latin Jazz) replacing Boris Kozlov. Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin ( of the Mingus Big Band, Michael Brecker's Quindectet etc ), unassuming tenor titan Seamus Blake and drummer Donald Edwards are their customarily exceptional selves. Tsiganov too has that blend of technique, taste and imagination which makes his albums exciting, surprising and rewarding to listen to.

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CD REVIEW: Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain


Kenneth Dahl Knudsen - We'll Meet In The Rain
(Two Rivers Records TRR 008. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

There is something profoundly enriching about Danish double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen’s new orchestral jazz release. Full of vibrant jazz episodes as well as restrained, emotional tension, this is original, often filmic music which indubitably wears its heart on its sleeve.

Having already worked with artists such as John Scofield, Aaron Parks and Gilad Hekselman, Knudsen explains he harboured a strong desire to share his own compositions which are inspired by unspecified encounters with people and their personal stories, as well as the expansive, natural landscapes of his homeland. In fact, the bassist’s analogy is that we often meet people through other people, “like the drops of rain running down a window; meeting new drops; splitting into new groups; forming beautiful patterns.” Hence the album title, We’ll Meet In The Rain.

To realise his ambition, he gathered together nineteen musicians from across Europe (essentially a mid-sized big band congruously fused with string quartet and wordless vocalist); and this collaboration has resulted in an engaging, hour-plus journey. The notable variety of the arrangements draws the attention more and more as they become familiar and, rather than constantly taking the spotlight, Knudsen generally integrates his own playing into these accessible, luminous arcs of sound directed by conductor Malte Schiller.

Like much of his music, opener Light Unfolds awakens to feature a memorable, horn-clustered theme, made all the more attractive by Marie Séférian’s flexible vocalisations; and rich improvisation is invited from both trumpet and tenor sax. Perhaps it’s Knudsen’s detailing which defines his broad imaginings so distinctively – the dynamic ebb and flow of ideas, the clarity of his bass lines, the unexpected sectional turnings; but his touch is certainly masterful. Krig og Kaerlighed possesses a highly-charged earnestness – easily soundtrack material; and the swirling flute and plucked rhythms of Dapo, gyrating with crisp, animated big band textures, combine to produce fizzing, solo-enhanced grooving (and the snap into fast piano swing is delectable).

The Camera Man is tender, Séférian’s affecting, plaintive vocal drifting above choral simplicity, brass band-style arrangements, strings and piano, before building to closing-title, cinemascopic breadth; and centrepiece A Merry Song (at over ten minutes’ duration) has a similar impact, Séférian again creating beautifully inflected vocal colour, plus an enchantingly lyrical violin oasis amidst the orchestral solidity. Mettelody features the most achingly emotive high double bass melody from Knudsen over string quartet and piano, conjuring images of gossamer morning mists, whilst electric bass-propelled Victoria’s World positively bustles to its relentless tempo and fabulously spirited horn syncopation.

Title track We’ll Meet In The Rain – a folksy lament with a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, and subtly reminiscent of both Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel – proceeds winsomely with sensitive violin and trombone soloing; and end-piece Tucked In is quietly triumphant, again with such absorbing, shifting orchestration.

With its ethos of providing a platform for artists to release brave, unrestricted new music, Alya Marquardt's Two Rivers Records is proving itself in these early stages to be a consistent source of surprises. This album is a particularly rewarding one.

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

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CD REVIEW: Andreas Loven – District Six



Andreas Loven – District Six
(Losen Records LOS 152-2. Review by Sebastian Scotney)


Jazz music has a tendency to be fleeting and ephemeral, but District Six, a new album from a quartet led by pianist Andreas Loven, is music captured in a happy moment which is now completely, and perhaps regrettably, gone for ever. A few weeks after having recorded the album last August in Cape Town, where he had lived for several years, the pianist moved back permanently to his native Norway.

As Leah Williams found out in her interview with Loven (LINK BELOW), he combines a Norwegian heritage and aesthetic, notably a huge inspiration from Tord Gustavsen, with a deep absorption of the South African heritage, and the Cape Town vibe, through having lived there, and become a part of the community of musicians.

The title of the CD, District Six marked an important anniversary, an ever-present dark moment in the collective memory of the Mother City. Fifty years ago this February, the Apartheid regime designated the district of Cape Town a Whites-only area, and forced 60,000 people to re-settle.

A review by the doyenne of South African jazz writing Gwen Ansell was drawn to what is perhaps the emotional heart of the album, the track African Piano. She describes in her review a special moment near the end of that track, where saxophonist Buddy Wells plays:

“In a spine-chilling moment at the end, Wells’s saxophone harmonics reach back far beyond that history, to the overtone singing of the Xhosa-speaking peoples and the bow music of the Khoi and San.”

For those of us without that heritage and background, there is simply a uniquely expressive use of the saxophone to be savoured and enjoyed. I don’t think I have ever heard the harmonic series on the saxophone being used as a means to such gentle expression. Indeed one of the most remarkable things about the album is how well the recording has caught Wells’ unique, and uniquely appealing tenor saxophone sound. He is a Cape Town-based musician is in his mid-forties, and really has a tone like no other player, and at the sensual level for the listener, just living in and loving his sound and vocabulary is enough to keep me very happy. He has an emotional range too, from calm to very excitable and angry, and can switch mood vividly, quickly, mercurially.

The album reveals Loven’s compositional talent in the Cape Town idiom. Fans of Abdullah Ibrahim, or of more recent pianists like Kyle Shepherd, will be completely on home territory. Another track Inside District Six, which happens to be Track 6, has that kind of riding grooving syncopation which Capetonians call goema (they are distictly reluctant to define it accurately/ musically). Drummer Clement Benny is given delightful free rein in several places, notably in the final open section of a tune called The Boiler. Bassist Romy Brauteseth anchors the Cape grooves of Loven’s compositions with authority, and even reinforces one of her bass lines, by doing what comes naturally to Capetonians - singing it.

A delightful and absorbing album which grows in stature with repeated listens.

LINKS: Losen Records website
Gwen Ansell’s review
Leah Williams’ interview with Andreas Loven

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LP REVIEW: Jack DeJohnette, solo piano - 'Return'



LP review: Jack DeJohnette, solo piano - Return
(Newvelle Records, vinyl only: NV002LP. LP review by Geoff Winston)

Jack DeJohnette's first-ever solo piano album, Return, is a beautiful record in every sense, and, in DeJohnette's words, 'one of the best musical endeavours I've ever done.'

Inspired by the approach from evangelising vinyl perfectionists, Newvelle Records a new composition opens each side of the LP. One is dedicated to Erik Satie, setting a tranquil, thoughtful mood, and the other, Dervish Trance, takes its cue from the whirling dances of Sufi dervishes. With seven pieces from DeJohnette's songbook revisited in a deeply illuminating manner, and one from Milton Nascimento to put the seal on the sequence, the listening experience is a pure delight.

DeJohnette is known foremost as the lynchpin drummer with jazz luminaries including Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis and Bill Evans and is ECM's longest established artist, yet he started out as a pianist. This was the starting point for Newvelle's co-founder, pianist Elan Mehler, whose formative live jazz experience was the Gateway Trio of DeJohnette, Dave Holland and John Abercrombie, including a piano sequence from the drummer.

Return is the label's second release, available only as one of their subscription package of six releases over a year, and is a connoisseur venture through and through. From the consistency of their elegantly designed, oversize gatefold sleeves with a curated monochrome cover photo from the legendary Bernard Plossu's portfolio and a poem selected for the inner sleeve from Pulitzer Prize-winner, Tracey K Smith, the tone is set. And when the clear vinyl LP hits the turntable, the result is stunning.

'One of the things that I love about vinyl is that it slows you down,' says Mehler, and what comes through overridingly on DeJohnette's playing is the slow power of his compositions and the rare privilege of a revealing insight into the musician's creative meanderings, uniquely captured as he plays.

As co-founder, Jean-Christophe Morisseau explains, 'We want to achieve the best at every level of the chain. The artist, the studio, the engineer, the mastering, the pressing.' Newvelle's recording is in the expert hands of Marc Urselli at East Side Studios in Manhattan where, he explains, 'I use mostly vintage and some tube microphones, all analogue and some tube pre-amps … the sound is never converted to digital within the mixing console.'

The pressings are made at top pressing plant, MPO, about 200km west of Newvelle's Paris base - and with the bar set impeccably high with Newvelle's first release, Frank Kimbrough's Meantime, mastered by Scott Hull in New York, DeJohnette's is the perfect follow-on.

Recorded on a nine foot Fazioli grand which Herbie Hancock and Geri Allen raved about to Dejohnette, the sound is extraordinary. As his lyrical peregrinations of rediscovery unwrap hidden layers from well-travelled pieces such as Lydia, lovingly dedicated to his wife, and Silver Hollow, celebrating his home in upstate New York, there is an extra depth and warmth to the sound quality that surpasses even the expectation that vinyl brings with it.

As Mehler puts it, 'The Fazioli flashes clarity in parts of the register that are uncharted on most pianos.' And sound engineer, Urselli, working with every nuance in DeJohnette's playing, maintains lingering decays to bring out the feeling of being in the presence of the most intimate and personal of solo recitals.

This really is a very special record, a desert island disc.

LINK: Newvelle Records

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PREVIEW: Pete Hurt - A New Start (Trio Records, Album Launch at Spice of Life, Weds 1st June)

Pete Hurt. Photo credit: Trio Records


Sebastian writes:

Some artists make albums in profusion, and make a lot of noise about them. This, by contrast, is a genuine rarity by one of the most unassuming figures in British jazz. Saxophonist Pete Hurt was born in Nottingham. 

In the late seventies he was in the band of composer Graham Collier in the 1970s, and later a member of George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra, the Andy Sheppard big band and bands led by Carla Bley. Pete Hurt was one of the closest colleagues of the late genius Pete Saberton, and has been a regular writing member of the London Jazz Orchestra through most of its existence.

Hurt last produced an album of large ensemble music in 1984: Lost For Words on the Spotlite label, with Ray Warleigh, Chris Biscoe, Pete Saberton and Henry Lowther in the band.

Norma Winstone sums up "Pete Hurt's arrangements are beautiful and sensitive and really pay attention to the meaning of a song."




The band on the album crosses generations, and is an amalgam of some of the top big band and studio players in the UK:The album is dedicated to the memory of Pete Saberton and Eddie Harvey

Saxes: Tori Freestone, Martin Hathaway, Josephine Davies, Mick Foster
French Horn: Jim Rattigan
Trumpets: Noel Langley, Robbie Robson, Henry Lowther
Trombones: Nick Mills, Owen Dawson, Richard Henry
Tuba: Dave Powell
Piano: Kate Williams
Guitar: Nick Costley-White
Bass: Andy Cleyndert
Drums: Jon Scott
Conducting and solo Tenor Sax Solo: Pete Hurt

LINKS: SAMPLES FROM THE ALBUM
Spice of Life Bookings

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FEATURE: Off The Cuff (new venue in Herne Hill)

Sign for the Heads Up Jazz Jam


A new venue in Herne Hill SE24 has caught the eyes, ears and affections of Stephen Graham. He writes about OFF THE CUFF:

There's a real buzz about Herne Hill spot Off the Cuff. The music venue featuring two spaces housed in what was an old timber yard close to the thundering railway lines has Kamasi Washington playing in July (9th - he is also appearing  on that day at the Sunfall Festival in Brockwell Park) and is fast building a grass roots following with a Monday night jam and regular musician friendly nights across genres.

Chloe Edwards and Tony Porter


Run by Geordie music fan Tony Porter, and booked by Chloe Edwards (pictured) Off the Cuff under the arches set back from Herne Hill's popular Railton Road, has good sightlines and an easy intimacy, the free entry Monday jazz jam, which has been running for a couple of years, exuding a welcoming vibe to punters and musicians alike. Up and coming singer Becky Handley, a Polly Gibbons in the making, one of the new talents you'll hear, is a regular guest with the house band. One to discover south of the river.

LINK: www.offthecuffbar.com
ADDRESS: Arch 645, 301-303 Railton Rd, Herne Hill SE24 0JN
PHONE: 07853 476235

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BOOK REVIEW: Andrew Cartmel - The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax




Andrew Cartmel - The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax
(Titan Books, 477pp., £7.99. Book Review by Chris Parker)


From Lesley Thomson’s cleaner sleuth Stella Darnell to Brian Eastman’s gardening detective Rosemary Boxer and Elizabeth Peters’s Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, the specialist, amateur investigator has provided a rich seam in crime fiction ever since G. K. Chesterton first set Father Brown loose against the criminal underworld in 1910.

Andrew Cartmel will be familiar to visitors to this site, courtesy of his erudite reviews of vinyl releases, and to the wider world via his involvement with TV classics such as Midsomer Murders and Doctor Who (for which he was a script editor), so his charity-shop-haunting, record-fair-regular vinyl obsessive with an encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz is a natural and welcome addition to the genre’s pantheon.

As early as page three, indeed, we are deep in a discussion of deep grooves and flat-edge pressings, triggered by a Gil Mellé Blue Note featuring Max Roach, Red Mitchell and George Wallington, and the plot itself centres on our intrepid and resourceful hero’s increasingly fraught and dangerous search for a series of albums released by an obscure (fictional) Californian label at the height of the West Coast jazz boom. It also involves a highly entertaining cast of supporting characters ranging from a feisty mystery woman and an obnoxious DJ to a dope-growing sound-reproduction technician and an accident-prone stoner with a grape addiction – not to mention a pair of utterly convincing cats which effortlessly steal every scene in which they appear.

Of course the success of such novels depends on the degree of naturalness with which the specialised knowledge of its protagonist is deployed in the service of the plot, and here Cartmel scores heavily, weaving his obsession with the minutiae of vinyl fetishism uncontrivedly into a racy account of amateur derring-do opposed to corporate ruthlessness. In short, this is a sharp, amusing and compulsively readable detective yarn packed with witty asides dealing with everyone from Sun Ra to Elvis Presley, as enjoyably accessible to the jazz obsessive as it is to the general reader.

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Alison Eales (Guide for Glasgow Jazz Festival Walking Tours, June 24-6)

The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

For the fist time, Glasgow International Jazz Festival 2016 will have a jazz heritage walking tour. The guide will be ALISON EALES. Sebastian interviewed her:

LondonJazz News: This sounds an interesting idea. Tell us about your background and about what has persuaded you to organise a walking tour during the Glasgow Jazz Festival

Alison Eales: I’m now in the final stages of my PhD, which is a critical history of Glasgow Jazz Festival focusing on the relationship between the Festival and the city.

Last summer, Glasgow Music City Tours was launched, and Jill Rodger – the Director of Glasgow Jazz Festival – recommended me to them as a potential guide. As the name suggests, the company offers guided walking tours celebrating Glasgow's rich musical heritage and culture. The tours are led by a team of lively and knowledgeable guides, and the company is now developing bespoke tours alongside its regular Friday and Saturday outings. Having run successful tours for Celtic Connections, they approached me about writing and delivering a walking tour as part of Glasgow Jazz Festival.

The Festival started in 1987 and is still going, making it Glasgow's longest-running annual cultural event – so the theme of the tour, naturally, is '30 Years of Glasgow Jazz Festival.'

LJN: Where will you be taking people?

AE: The tour starts at the Scottish Music Centre, who are very kindly opening up at the weekend to accommodate us. We’ll kick off there with a bit of background, and hopefully have some archive materials for people to browse before heading down Candleriggs and King Street. The star venue will be the Old Fruitmarket, which Glasgow Jazz Festival has championed ever since first using it in 1993.

LJN: With all the brownstones, Glasgow is New York in disguise, right?

AE: Actually, there are some parallels between Manhattan and the Merchant City area of Glasgow where the Festival takes place. Manhattan was rezoned so that artists could live and work in its old industrial loft spaces; the Merchant City’s old wholesale markets, like the Old Fruitmarket, are now home to performance spaces, arts organisations, and places to eat and drink. We’re still waiting for a Merchant City equivalent to Ornette Coleman’s ‘Friends and Neighbours’ though!

The Old Fruitmarket has also been compared to Bourbon Street, with its beautiful ironwork and cobbles. It's a great little hub for the Festival, and has a fantastic acoustic for all kinds of music.

LJN: Who are the interesting characters who stand out?

AE: We have some great stories about Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, George Melly, Jimmy Smith, Frank Sinatra, George Benson and Slim Gaillard.

LJN: Any chance of a spoiler - just one good story?

AE: I will just say this: I was amazed at how many stories involve Jill having had to take people clothes-shopping.

LJN: There's a rumour it rains in Glasgow. Are there places to shelter?

AE: We’ll never be too far from shelter, and we hope that the Festival weekend offers us some nice weather - but waterproofs are recommended, as are comfy shoes!

LJN: Do the walkers end up with a nice cup of tea? Or what? George Benson singing "Kisses in the Moonlight" in Kelvingrove Park?

AE: We're still finalising the route, but we're going to try to include some live music, and end the tour somewhere where people can indulge in a cheeky dram if they would like to!

Alison Eales


LINK: Virtual Tour of the Old Fruitmarket

Glasgow Music City Tours have organized these walking tours in partnership with Glasgow Jazz Festival. The tours will take place each afternoon from Friday 24th June to Sunday 26th June. BOOKINGS at the Glasgow Jazz Festival website.

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PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Philippe Ochem (Jazzdor Berlin 2016 - May 31- June 3)




The tenth Jazzdor Berlin Festival will run from May 31st-June 3rd. Its eclectic line-ups have included Maggie Nicols in 2013 (above). Philippe Ochem, director of Jazzdor, spoke to Alison Bentley about the line-up for the forthcoming Festival in Berlin  and the origins of  Jazzdor in Strasbourg: 

London Jazz News: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Jazzdor. What special events have you organised?

Philippe Ochem: As usual, we’ll premiere some new projects, especially German-French ones. First of all we have [drummer] Dejan Terzic’s new band, Axiom: it’s with [US saxophonist] Chris Speed, pianist Bojan Z and [New Zealand-born US bassist] Matt Penman. The French and German musicians are originally from the eastern part of Europe: Bojan lives near Paris and Dejan has lived in Berlin for a long time. This project was created especially for the Festival. There’s also the duo featuring Joachim Kühn and Émile Parisien. We’ve been working together with Émile and Joachim for a long while- I’ve known Joachim for more than thirty years. We’ve worked with Émile every year for the last four to five years. We put on the premiere of his new quintet, so now we have the opportunity to present this duo with Joachim for the first time.

LJN: Do you choose all the bands?

PO: Yes.

LJN:  And you’re a musician yourself?

PO: Yes, even though I’ve stopped playing for the last two or three years. I was a professional musician for more than twenty-five years.

LJN: Do you think that affects your choice of bands and musicians?

PO: I’m sure yes, because it’s something different if you are a musician and a festival and concert organiser.

LJN: What do you look for when you choose the musicians?

PO: For me, the main thing is for them to play for the first time to the audience in Berlin- young musicians from the French scene. Then every year I try to put some musicians together, some French, some German. I try to be open-minded. Sometimes I’m able to book some totally improvised music but also a different kind of aesthetic. It doesn’t matter whether the musicians play written or improvised music. For me the most important thing is to try to present to the audience a special reflection of what jazz is today. You can see a lot of young musicians coming from France, Germany, the US, from everywhere in Europe, who are now playing together.

LJN: Are you planning to take Jazzdor to more cities as well as Strabourg and Berlin?

PO: No, I don’t think so. We have two festivals, [Strasbourg and Berlin] and a concert series during the year, in Strasbourg and the area around.

LJN: To talk about the Berlin Festival. This year you have some very long-established bands like Bernard Struber- his band has been together since 1988?

PO: His composition La Symphony Déjouée is something special. We were commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Strasbourg. We got some money from the city and the Ministry of Culture, so we’re working for the Bernard Struber Jazztett, which means we are doing business for him: we’re scouting for concerts; we try to commission him to write new music – we’ve done this job for two years now. Bernard Struber lives in Strasbourg. Some of his musicians still live in Strasbourg, such as Michael Alizon, and Raymond Halbeisen, but all the others live in Paris. And for the first time since last October the newcomer is Svetlana Kochanas the singer.

LJN:  [French violinist] Dominique Pifarély has a long-standing band too- and he’s just recorded a new CD for ECM. Will he be playing some of that music?

PO: It’ll be the German premiere of this quartet, and the official CD launch. I don’t know if [ECM boss] Manfred Eicher will come to Berlin, but it’ll be a special evening.

LJN: And you also have some young bands- [multi-reeds player] Sylvain Rifflet’s band Mechanics and the Ceccaldi brothers, and qÖÖlp.

PO: That’s the third German-French project we have in our programme It’s a strange name- I don’t know exactly what it means! The aim was to put together these two young French brothers Theo Ceccaldi [violin] and Valentin Ceccaldi [cello] with those fantastic musicians from Berlin, Ronny Graupe on guitar and Christian Lillinger on drums- he’s well-known now in Europe. And, by the way, we will do this premiere in Berlin and then again in Strasbourg in November.

LJN: Christian is a very dynamic drummer and the Ceccaldi brothers sometimes make me think of Erik Satie. It’s a really interesting combination.

PO: Yes, that’s right. It also shows something about these young musicians, because they’re very well-trained in a classical way, but also in new music and improvised music. Theo Ceccaldi and Roberto Negro are also playing as a duo. They created a fantastic work based on Ligeti’s Quartets. It’s a mix of improvised and composed music. They’ve really worked on Ligeti’s music and reduced the Quartet for a duo: violin and piano. It’s really exciting.

LJN: And there’s world music- Naïssam Jalal and Electric Vocuhila, for example.

PO: Naïssam Jalal- her parents were born in Syria. She’s from Paris but she has a strong connection with her home country. She’s also a real jazz flute-player, very talented, and I like her band very much because all the musicians are from different countries: they’re German, French and Tunisian, so it’s a really nice mix. It’s a kind of post-Coltrane conception of music, and at the same time, into world music: really jazz, but also really ethnic.

Regarding Electric Vocuhila, it’s not easy to say in a few words but it’s a kind of ethno-jazz, Afrobeat too- they’re very energetic, and it’s a great band. And for the first time because of our tenth anniversary we’ll organise a dance floor, for Le Bal des Faux Frères.

LJN: Un Poco Loco seem to have the strongest connection with American jazz.

PO: Yes, because they play standards, but it’s really interesting to listen to it in detail. The general form is more or less classic jazz but inside it’s more complex. You can find some details in the writing which are really more from now.

LJN: And there’s a link with Jimmy Guiffre’s trio style?

PO: Yes, it’s not far from this kind of aesthetic.

LJN: What gave you the idea to begin the Jazzdor Festival?

PO: The funny thing is- it was not my idea! It was about 11 years ago, I had a phone call from Le Bureau d’Export de la Musique Française in Berlin. In those days it was Patrice Hourbette. He called me because I was supposed to be a kind of specialist regarding German-French cooperation in music, because of organising things in Strasbourg and Germany. He said, ‘Hey, Philippe, what do you think about organising a new festival in Berlin?’ I said, ‘Patrice, just wait for a day or two for me to think about it,’ because we had no money. We had to build something new from nothing. And so finally, we found a small amount of money at the beginning to make it possible. We had great support from the Bureau d’Export, and our first partner was SACEM- the alter-ego of the PRS in Britain. We got the support of the City of Strasbourg and the Ministry of Culture, and step by step we found the money to make it real.

LJN: What does ‘Jazzdor’ mean?

PO: The first edition of the Festival was in a small club, a Café-Concert called L’Ange d’Or, the Golden Angel. That’s why they called the Festival ‘Jazzdor’. But now that’s forgotten and everybody knows what kind of jazz it is. The main thing is for the Festival to be a platform for young French jazz, and for promoting French-German jazz projects, which is really important for us. It’s also a platform for music professionals, which means every evening we have 70-80 people there: musicians, booking agents, label managers, festival directors. We invite them into our network from France and Germany and sometimes from the UK, Holland, Denmark and some Eastern European countries too.

FULL 2016 JAZZDOR BERLIN PROGRAMME

May 31st

20:00 to 21:00 DEJAN TERZIC "AXIOM" WITH CHRIS SPEED, BOJAN Z AND MATT PENMAN
21:00 to 22:00 BERNARD STRUBER JAZZTETT "LA SYMPHONY DÉJOUÉÉ"

June 1st

20:00 to 21:00 JOACHIM KÜHN & EMILE PARISIEN – PREMIERE
21:00 to 22:00.DOMINIQUE PIFARELY QUARTET
22:00 to 23:00 SYLVAIN RIFFLET "MECHANICS"

June 2nd

20:00 to 21:00 NAÎSSAM JALAL & RHYTHMS OF RESISTANCE
21:00 to 22:00 THEO CECCALDI / VALENTIN CECCALDI / RONNY GRAUPE / CHRISTIAN LILLINGER "qÖÖlp"
22:00 to 23:15 ELECTRIC VOCUHILA

June 3rd

20:00 to 21:00 ROBERTO NEGRO & THÉO CECCALDI "DANSE DE SALON"
21:00 to 22:00 UN POCO LOCO
22:00 to 23:30 LE BAL DES FAUX FRÈRES feat. MARC DUCRET

LINK: Youtube Playlist for Jazzdor Berlin 2016

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FEATURE/ INTERVIEW/EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Empirical



These are busy and successful times for EMPIRICAL - Nathaniel Facey, Lewis Wright, Tom Farmer and Shaney Forbes. They have just done a successful pop-up jazz lounge at Old Street underground station - the video above tells the story. They won Best Ensemble at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Sebastian asked bassist Tom Farmer to explain more:

LondonJazz News: Tom congratulations on the award - it looks like you have had a great year - does it feel that way in the band?

Tom Farmer: Thank you, it’s always good to have the music recognised by official institutions! Over the years I’ve grown a bit cynical toward awards and competition in music, but if it helps Jazz reach a wider audience then great.

That’s been the focus of the past year for Empirical. We have a bit of a mission to reach and develop our audience. We’ve found that the model of album release and UK tour is becoming saturated, spreading the potential audience quite thinly amongst many competing artists and musicians. So this year we’ve tried to start some projects that move outside of the usual routines – much like our musical endeavours!

LJN: What have been the highlights?

TF: For me the highlight has been creating a bit of a 'team Empirical', and developing relationships in the wider scene. There’s a sense of achievement in coming up with an artistic idea, and working with talented people to make it happen. In particular we’ve been working with an old friend of the band, and between her and me, and the band, we are self-managing and self-producing everything, including the Pop-up Idea. We’ve got a new US record label involved – Cuneiform, which is cool, a very different way of working than we are used to – much more artist driven, which suits our goals.

LJN: How did the pop up idea get going?

TF: In Febuary 2015 we did 6 nights at Foyle’s Bookshop in the marvellous auditorium they have now. We wanted to connect with our audience in a profound way and use the experience to create our 5th studio album, Connection, which we recorded the week after. The experience was great – in terms of the music developing, the audience engagement and making long lasting relationships. So we thought, let’s do it again…except bigger, better and more ambitious!

Our reasoning was on two levels. Artistically the repeat performances develop the music – much in the way that our heroes would have had multiple sets a night in the 60’s. An also a focus on audience building that doesn’t rely on clubs and festivals.

Our friend Claudia, who has been a long supporter of the band, offered to help us put our idea into a strategy, which eventually involved applying to the Art’s Council (our first time), and finding an amazing space. After the ACE said yes, we realised we actually had to deliver the project! So two months of hard work ensued, involving shop fitting and countless meetings with potential partners…not to mention shedding with the band and getting the music together.

LJN: What was the biggest surprise greatest joy of doing the popup?

TF: We knew the music would be on fire by the end – we played 18 sets in a week – but the best part was engaging with people who had never heard us, or in some cases had never heard jazz music! It was hugely encouraging to see people connecting with this music who had never do so before- proof the concept works and that there is an bigger audience out there.

LJN: Tom you are also busy with other projects what are the main ones / anything big coming up?

TF: 

- One of the great things about being a bass player is you it allows one to be various! This year I’ve been playing with Anoushka Shankar, touring to promote her new album. She wanted an improvising bass player who could also piano and Launchpad so it’s a very different challenge for me.

- I’m also involved with Joe Stilgoe’s new show Song’s on Film the Sequel, which involves a lot of singing and acting! It’s great fun, heading to Australia next month and Edinburgh in August!

- I’ve been working with a great singer, Atila, and have produced his recent album – a tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio called 'King for a Day' – check him out, he’s been around a while and I consider him to be one of the best old school jazz singers we have.

- The Big Screen Trio are recording again – that’s with Dave Newton and Matt Skelton, playing some of my arrangements in a new self-produced album coming out on Linn (we hope!).

- And also continuing my work in other people’s projects – I’ve been touring with Sarah McKenzie – a singer pianist from Australia, Rick Simpson has a new album coming out ‘Klammer’, I’m playing with Marco Marconi, Ant Law and all my favourite cats!

LJN: What plans does Empirical have now e.g. new pop up lounges?

TF: The short answer is we are exploring more funding opportunities! We will hopefully have some concrete plans and big announcements shortly, including a project to celebrate 10 years of the band (I KNOW!!!) in 2017, another pop-up in London and also starting to develop them around the UK – Brighton is looking likely, and a collaborative curation project with Kings Place! Watch this space.

LINK: Empirical website

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REVIEW: Branford Marsalis solo at Bath Abbey (2016 Bath International Music Festival)

Branford Mardalis in 2011
Photo credit: Darlene Susco / Creative Commons
Branford Marsalis solo
(Bath Abbey, Bath International Music Festival, May 21st 2016. Review by Jon Turney) 

Bath Abbey, with its expanses of stained glass and astonishing fan vaulting high above, invites a particular kind of performance. It's not the ornateness, but the atmosphere - it's one of those spaces that offers a larger kind of silence. That, and the fat echo, suits Branford Marsalis'intentions well. He has long had an affinity with slow tempos, and sought a focus on melody. His solo performances, on his customary tenor and soprano and, unusually for him, alto saxophone, give free rein to both impulses.

They were woven into a programme of classical pieces played more or less straight, all pure tone and clear articulation, jazz standards, and one-off improvisations. It was intimate - unamplified, the saxophone sound accompanied only by the light clacking of keys and the occasional audible breath - and intense, but in a curiously relaxed way. In this space, Marsalis used lots of pauses at the end of a phrase to savour the echo, which allowed both performer and listener to prepare for the next one. Not subtle but, moment to moment, reliably effective.

There were no announcements -  a rueful "sorry"after a single fluffed note was the only word to the audience - but over two sets we heard a great range of music. There were classical pieces on soprano sax, an Ellingtonian ballad on tenor, some Bach (I think), a bebop-tinged tenor improvisation that leant toward Sonny Rollins, and new improvisations on each of Marsalis' other horns. The most arresting of those began with long tones on alto, moved into more urgent mood, with flurries of notes ascending into the far reaches of the Abbey, and came to an emphatic conclusion with some controlled foghorn blasts. 

Marsalis’ achievement, aside from keeping us all rivetted with solo horn playing for 90 minutes or so, lay in blending idioms as they suited the moment - from those pure tones to a full range of jazz vocabulary and effects, finishing with some good old-fashioned gutbucket tenor blues. There was a jazzy encore, too. I won't name it, in case he chooses the same tune again in London tomorrow, but it was, let's say, appropriate for the space.

Branford Marsalis plays solo in London at Union Chapel on Monday May 23rd and on Tuesday in Norwich Cathedral.

LINKS: Podcast interview with Branford Marsalis from 2013
Review of Branford Marsalis Quartet at the 2014 London Jazz Festival

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REVIEW: Nik Bärtsch & Sha Duo plus OY at Rich Mix

Nik Bärtsch and Sha

Nik Bärtsch & Sha Duo plus OY 
(Rich Mix, Bethnal Green. 20th May. Serious Space Festival. Review by Liam Izod)

The penultimate night of the Serious Space festival offered a duo double header, with the zen funk of Nik Bärtsch & Sha counterpointed by the surreal electronica of OY. Both acts orbited around jazz as it is traditionally understood, taking a rapt Rich Mix crowd on rewarding explorations into the genre’s borderlands.

Nik Bärtsch possesses that much coveted musical commodity – a sound that is uniquely his own. His compositions have the intricacy and mystery of a perpetual motion machine, with mesmeric grooves underpinned by ever-evolving metres. The pieces have been honed over decades of experimentation, and a near-telepathic tightness exists between Bärtsch and bass clarinettist Sha as a result.

The duo format lends a new intimacy to compositions originally intended for the larger Ronin outfit. Breath alone has never felt so dramatic. Sha conjures hisses and growls from his instrument, engaging in entirely percussive passages in duet with Bärtsch’s prepared piano. This is music as a philosophical statement, but Bärtsch never forgets his most revelatory tenet - that art-music can be funky. The audience hang on every subtle shift throughout a series of ten minute plus ‘moduls’. As the groovy minimalism of Modul 35 concludes the set, the crowd are clear converts to Bärtsch’s ritualistic rhythms.

Art-electronica duo OY share a shamanistic quality with Nik Bärtsch, though their approach is considerably more madcap. Arriving on stage dressed as if they had come straight from the set of surrealist comedy The Mighty Boosh, OY delivered a captivating performance pitched somewhere between preaching and performance art.

A preview from their forthcoming album ‘Space Diaspora’ reveals irresistibly wonky grooves that front-woman Joy Frempong bounces off, delivering satirical sermons about a tongue-in-cheek utopia in a far galaxy. Drummer Lleluja-Ha lends the symphony of samples an organic element; his outlandish costume no impediment to endlessly inventive drum patterns.

Although contrasting in approach, the evening’s two acts share an experimental spirit, and yet they never forget the need to entertain and to engage an audience. Both serve as ideal ambassadors for the Serious Space festival’s mission to break down the boundaries surrounding jazz and other great music outside the mainstream, opening it up to new audiences.

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