REVIEW: BBC PROM 19 (David Bowie Late Night Prom)

David Bowie Late Night Prom
Photo Credit: BBC/ Mark Allen

David Bowie Late Night Prom
(Prom 19, Royal Albert Hall, 29th July 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Expectations for this event were high, with statements by artists and arrangers that promised challenging interpretations of selections from David Bowie's formidable catalogue. This was an evening which did have its occasional highlights (read on...), but otherwise felt like a succession of safe compromises, managing to elude both the raw spirit of rock and roll which imbued his live performances and the restless, inquiring mood of his recorded output.

André de Ridder, the Bowie Prom's curator and director of the highly accomplished s t a r g a z e orchestra, stated that 'we usually create new music and collaborate with experimentally minded artists', and noted Bowie's interest in Conlon Nancarrow, yet this was not evidenced in the MOR, lightweight mood that characterised much of the concert, catering for solid suburbia rather than disorientated youth who continue to look to him as inspiration.

Amanda Palmer declared at the outset that the Prom was 'not a wake … [but] … a secular celebration.' Palmer's string tribute project to Bowie, with Jherek Bischoff, was acknowledged by de Ridder as inspiration and was his first port of call when he received the Prom commission. Their scintillating live performance a few days earlier (REVIEWED) had been soaked with sweat and emotion.

Neil Hannon's guise of suited crooner failed to ignite Station to Station, stranded at the start of the concert with its light music orchestration. Conor O'Brien was equally lukewarm on Michael van der Aa's setting of The Man Who Sold The World, notwithstanding the acapella duet which rounded it off, but offered more powerful vocal character, akin to David Ackles, in This Is Not America, given a fillip by a darting cameo appearance by rapper, Elf Kid, which, sadly, had no follow-up.

Marc Almond, André de Ridder and musicians' collective s t a r g a z e
Late Night David Bowie Prom. Photo credit: BBC/ Mark Allen


The high points mentioned above included Marc Almond, in elegant black, with a hint of Marcel Marceau, shone a bright light on the poetry of Life on Mars and its vignettes of lowlife and injustice in Anna Meredith's spare arrangement. He recalled his moment of epiphany in 1972 when he saw Bowie and 'the late great guitarist Mick Ronson' on TOTP, before launching in to a spirited, lightly reggae-tinged Starman.

Jherek Bischoff and Anna Calvi. Late Night Bowie Prom
Photo credit: BBC/Mark Allen

The diminutive Anna Calvi packed an enormous vocal punch, extra fizz on guitar and a much needed touch of discord in an edgy Lady Grinning Soul, with gold suited and booted arranger Bischoff on bass guitar. With Palmer they added an eerie fourth dimension to Blackstar through a vocal call and response in its drawn out coda ('I'm a blackstar / I'm not a gangster'). As 'Spirit rose' the beams of stage lighting swung heavenwards and the RAH's organ added a power reeded drone, courtesy of James McVinnie, echoing its emotional charge. Palmer admitted this song had been an intimidating challenge - 'I think he's in my house tonight!'. And, to follow, Palmer sent chills down the spine on Heroes, with searing vocals slicing through the full orchestra.

Laura Mvula got the menace of Girl Loves Me, with its quivering yodels, to a tee, and in her duet with Paul Buchanan a hint of Blue Nile's space was massaged in to the song he had most wanted to perform, I Can't Give Everything Away. Yet, Mvula trod cautiously, perhaps constrained by Greg Saunier's tame arrangement, on Fame, and Buchanan was too soft spoken and polite in the charged Ashes to Ashes to impact the vast Albert Hall.

Surprise was supplied in the beautiful, warm pitches of countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, in a pastoral reinterpretation of Crashing in the Same Car. Bowie would have loved this. And there were curious, brief chamber vignettes - Rebel Rebel unrecognisable, but full marks for thinking out of the box.

John Cale, André de Ridder and musicians' collective s t a r g a z e
Late Night David Bowie Prom. Photo credit: Mark Allen / BBC


It was down to John Cale, in feather boa, looking every part the pantomime dame, to lend his knowing vocal delivery and authority to this musical Festschrift, adding his three piece band plus Anna Calvi to the orchestra to give Valentine's Day the real wallop that had been missing from a fair amount of what had preceded. The masterstroke was was the addition of the 12-piece House Gospel Choir to give a rich glow to his unsettlingly powerful take on Space Oddity. 'David, where are you?,' Cale called out, 'We are all space oddities.'

The final sequence was dedicated by de Ridder to 'the next generation' when Palmer brought on her ten-month old with the reassembled cast, for After All, veering dangerously close to Bowie, the Musical as Let's Dance became a singalong!

The David Bowie Late Night Prom
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved

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REVIEW: Tori Freestone Trio El Barranco Album Launch at the 606 Club

Tori Freestone at the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014
Photo credit: David McLenachan/mjf

Tori Freestone Trio.
(606 Club, 27th July 2016. El Barranco CD launch. Review by Patrick Hadfield)


On a hot, humid evening, Tori Freestone led her trio into the cool basement of the 606 Club to launch their latest CD, El Barranco (Whirlwind Recordings). The music was cool, too - not unemotional, her breathy saxophone playing creating fluid and engaging solos. She was joined by long-term collaborators Dave Manington on bass and Tim Giles on drums, who have played on both her debut CD, In The Chop House, and on the current release.

They opened with the title track from the new record, which takes it name from the Spanish name for the Masca Gorge in Tenerife. Freestone spends much of her time on the island, and the piece is about one of her favourite places there. Playing in the lower range, she produced a rich tone, with lines of sinuous notes falling from her tenor saxophone.

On Manington's tune Challenger Deep, about the deepest part of the ocean, she made her saxophone growl, exploring the depths before she took a haunting solo. Manington took an extended solo, eloquently reaching the higher register.

The highlight of the first set was The Press Gang, which was originally commissioned by the London Jazz Festival. Based on a sea shanty, the piece started with Freestone's saxophone producing a mournful tone backed by Manington's bowed, almost drone-like bass. Giles' drums sounded like distant rumbling thunder as he produced roll after roll. Moving onto a faster section, the shanty became a dance, rushing ahead, which segued straight into Identity Protection.

The second set got under way with Pottering Around, another number from the first album, dedicated to Chris Potter, before playing Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, taken as a slow ballad. Freestone's sax took on a plaintive quality, like a Scottish air on the pipes.

Another Manington piece followed, Quetzalcoatlus (the largest flying reptile, apparently!), during which the band let rip. Starting from a low rumble, they sped up for a series relatively free sections, culminating in an impressively energetic and imaginative solo by Giles.

After two more tunes from the new release, A Charmed Life and Cross Wired, Freestone lay down her saxophone and picked up a violin for the final number. Accompanied only by Manington's bowed bass, she played and sang the original shanty The Press Gang, from which she had developed her own piece. Freestone has a good voice, it was a mournful song of loss and betrayal that closed with a fast jig.

Giles was brought back on for the encore, Sam Rivers' Beatrice, a gentle number with a slight Latin feel that left the very appreciative audience feeling more upbeat as we headed back into the night.

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

The Tori Freestone Trio play at the Vortex Jazz Club on 8 September, 2016, and Jazz In The Round at the Cockpit Theatre on 26 September, and on tour elsewhere in UK throughout the autumn. DATES

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CD REVIEW: Jasper Høiby - Fellow Creatures



Jasper Høiby - Fellow Creatures
(Edition Records EDN1075. CD review by Jon Turney)


The first half-minute confirms the class you might expect from this session. As Folk Song's striking theme statement from leader Jasper Høiby’s bass gradually gives way to Mark Lockheart's sax and Laura Jurd's trumpet, and they build from a slightly mournful beginning to swirl of impassioned exchanges, this album establishes right away that it has something special.

After ten years at the heart of Phronesis, the most insistently recognisable of piano power trios, Jasper Høiby is exploring new outlets for his playing and composing. Although this is a quintet, with Will Barry on piano and Corrie Dick on drums, the music is a little looser and airier than Phronesis in full cry, but as full of the kind of delightful detail that makes you want to listen again. The 10 pieces, all by Høiby, have attractive themes, with the inexhaustible rhythmic energy of the bass often in the foreground, but never domineering. Everyone has space to deliver brilliant playing, with Lockheart - also heard on Edition's strikingly melodic 2015 trio release with Høiby and Liam Noble, Malija - conveying something of the consummate command, and the bustling urgency, of early Sonny Rollins. Barry carries off the Phronesis unison piano-and-bass thing with aplomb on several tracks, and offers fleet, rippling solos, especially on World of Contradictions. But for me it is the bass and trumpet that catch the ear most readily, most often. Both players have a sound on their instruments, Høiby rich and dark, Jurd ripe, round and ever-so-slightly sour amid sweetness, that grab the attention every moment.

The programming is nicely varied. There are some moodily reflective harmonies, perhaps reflecting some of the ecological sentiments the leader highlights in his notes. But there is nothing remotely earnest about the musical results. Song for the Bees is an unexpectedly cheerful dance. Before, the penultimate title, is a sly, skipping, pas de deux for bass and saxophone. The full quintet then return for breezy closer, Plastic Island, prefaced by some off-mike joshing that suggests everyone was having a good time in the studio.

As well they might. They have produced a recording that you'll be seeing on plenty of year's end lists, a delight from start to finish. 

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

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REVIEW: Till Brönner The Good Life album pre-release showcase at the Century Club

Trumpeter Till Brönner and guitarist Bruno Müller
Photo by Amanda Annandale


Till Brönner
(Century Club, July 29th 2016. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


“It’s so much fun to have an umlaut in your name,” says trumpeter Till Brönner, going on to introduce “the two umlauts on guitar and bass.” These are Bruno Müller and Lars Gühlcke. Along with David Haynes on drums and Roberto Di Gioia on piano they make up a tight quintet who have flown over from Berlin to play an intimate little gig to launch Brönner’s new CD. The venue is the Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, in an upstairs room with surprisingly excellent acoustics. Till Brönner cut his teeth as a soloist in Berlin’s RIAS Big Band and is now one the most successful German jazz musicians. He’s certainly a star in his home country and has a considerable international track record, having played with Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Mark Murphy, Ray Brown and Johnny Griffin over the course of his 18 CDs, many on the Verve label.

He’s now signed with Sony and his new album is a collection of standards, which feature him on vocals as well as trumpet and flugelhorn. The album was recorded in Los Angeles with (John Clayton (Bass), Jeff Hamilton (Drums) , Larry Goldings (Piano) & Anthony Wilson (Guitar), and produced by veteran, Dutch-born Ruud Jacobs.

Tonight’s opening number is also the title of the new CD The Good Life, "probably my most personal album in years," he has said. It’s a track made famous by Frank Sinatra and Till Brönner wisely decides not to try to compete as a singer on this one. Roberto Di Gioia’s rippling piano provides a ski slope for Brönner’s honeyed muted trumpet. On Sweet Lorraine Di Gioia continues to display his artful prowess with a boppish solo that throws the melody up in the air and catches it in a new configuration as it comes down. Brönner offers his first vocal, conveying the lyric with swinging rhythm and percussive emphasis. Interestingly, he sings like a drummer rather than a horn player — notably strong on pulse and timing. Switching back to the trumpet Brönner plays a big solo, bold and boisterous with a flavour of the early days of jazz highly appropriate for this song. The fact that he only sings the occasional chorus in a largely instrumental setting again recalls the heyday of the big bands, when vocalists were a small element of a large jazz combo.

On For All We Know Di Gioia plays with sweet, spare Bill Evans minimalism. David Haynes’s liquid, shimmering cymbals prepare us for the sound of Brönner’s trumpet — vast, wide, sustained notes delivered with great precision on the open horn. He plays with eloquence and taste, melancholy and virtuosic. Lars Gühlcke’s bass provides a firm, slow, thudding foundation for the building of Till Brönner’s solo. Bruno Müller offers sparse, elegant comping on the guitar before moving into the spotlight for Her Smile, a Brönner composition, playing a fast, fluent bossa guitar solo. This track is another example of the leader’s seamless alternation between trumpet and vocals and there is neat, invigorating use of sticks on the rims and cymbals by Haynes. There’s also a terrific partnership here between Müller’s school-of-Wes-Montgomery electric guitar, notes falling big and singular like fat raindrops on a tropical night, and Brönner’s soaring, slicing, rapid fire trumpet.

The evening ends on I’m Confessin’ (that I Love You), Brönner opening with breezy, sashaying muted trumpet as Müller plays cheerful, chunking guitar and Di Gioia fills the gaps with piano chords. Müller accelerates into joyful, buoyant bop and Brönner’s horn rings high, keen and clear, emerging from the tune like a spotlight through smoke. Till Brönner’s new album is being marketed as “smooth jazz”, but if this gig is anything to go by, that sells it rather short. This is fluent, expertly played jazz, as taut as it is relaxed. The real stuff.

The Good Life will be launched on September 2nd, and Brönner has a subatantial touring schedule in Germany in the autumn. 

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FESTIVAL REPORTS: 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival (Skutch Manos, Emilia Mårtensson / Barry Green, Entropi, Empirical)

Clockwise, from top left:
Arlen Connolly (Skutch Manos); Emilia Mårtensson with Barry Green;
Empirical; Dee Byrne and Andre Canniere (Entropi).
Photographs © Adrian Pallant.

Throughout this past week, Manchester Jazz Festival has continued to present a diverse programme of live jazz across its city-centre venues, celebrating its ongoing, 21-year success. Adrian Pallant highlights another four performances:


Skutch Manos (Tuesday 26 July, Hobgoblin Pavilion)

Totally riveting from the outset, this high-energy trio of Arlen Connolly (guitars), Holly Prest (beatbox, percussion) and Chris Cliff (double bass) was one of the surprise packages of the festival. Having played together as a duo on their Manchester home turf and at various festivals, Connolly and Prest introduced double bass to create the most entertaining, rhythmically exacting brew of flamenco, world music, thrash rock and jazz.

Displaying incredible fervour and apparent enjoyment in their playing, they rattled through delights such as Black Coffee and Wakey Wakey Boys and Girls (from debut release Mimosa) as well as Burning Hands of the Copper Sunflower, a heady mix of Led Zep energy and Spanish guitar rhythm. One of those fleeting moments which underlines the importance of live music, Skutch Manos’ set featured the extraordinary dexterity of Prest’s beatbox and other percussion. Had any reserves of energy been conserved by the players, the assembled afternoon audience would likely have been more than happy for this joyful hour to have been extended.

Holly Prest of Skutch Manos
Photo credit and © Adrian Pallant


Emilia Mårtensson & Barry Green (Wednesday 27 July, St Ann’s Church)

The distinctive Anglo-Swedish vocals of Emilia Mårtensson have, over the last few years, brought so much to the world of contemporary jazz, featuring on albums by the Kairos 4tet, as well as in last year’s 'mjf originals' commission, Iain Ballamy’s An Ape’s Progress. She also collaborates with trumpeter and composer Rory Simmons on his Embla and Monocled Man projects, and also has a new trio venture, Elda.

At this festival appearance, accompanied by longtime pianist and friend Barry Green, the singer’s exquisite, clear annunciations filled the beautiful, echoic spaces of St Ann’s Church, Manchester, delivering impeccable interpretations from her original duo album And So It Goes and more recent release Ana. Green’s pianistic intimacy was perfectly attuned to Mårtensson’s bewitching, sensitive delivery, shaping Jamies Doe’s lilting Harvest Moon and James Taylor’s easy-going Something in the Way She Moves with consummate poise; and in Ana (reflecting a homely conversation between Emilia and her grandmother) the vocalist expressed so meaningfully the lines, ‘Soft, at night, her hand on mine, she says, “Close your eyes before you open up your mind”.’ A magical, early afternoon performance of delicate beauty.

Barry Green and Emilia Mårtensson
Photo credit and © Adrian Pallant


Entropi (Wednesday 27 July, Central Library Performance Space)

Led by saxophonist Dee Byrne, London-based quintet Entropi brought their dynamic, often space-age brand of ‘order and chaos’ to the festival, performing blistering originals which included numbers from their superb debut album New Era. Fronted by Byrne on alto and Andre Canniere on trumpet, their powerful, shared riffs and freer jazz episodes were supported by the strong, propulsive waves of double bassist Olie Brice and drummer Matt Fisher.

Entropi clearly possess a great connectional thread, Fisher’s sparky percussion and Rebecca Nash’s solid, electric piano block chords and hyperspatial shimmers integral to the overall soundworld. In the Cold Light of Day featured haunting, wavering long notes and shrill sputterings from Canniere, alongside Byrne’s own inventive, hard-blown improvisations shooting off in all directions; and contrasting ‘space jazz’ episodes, such as Space Module, included flighty electric piano dream sequences and guttural, percussive scrapings, climbing rhythmically and melodically higher and higher. An exciting band which fuses classic hard-bop and free jazz with an imaginative, contemporary outlook.

Dee Byrne.
Photo credit and © Adrian Pallant


Empirical (Thursday 28 July, Hobgoblin Pavilion)

Suave, sharp-suited Empirical unleashed their deliciously spiky, energetic quartet creativity in the festival’s Hobgoblin Pavilion on Thursday evening, immediately encouraging their audience to give themselves a round of applause: “You are supporting live jazz.” And the reward? Across two 50-minute sets, Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Lewis Wright (vibraphone), Tom Farmer (double bass) and Shaney Forbes (drums) presented a dazzling show, revealing the treasures of their current album, Connection, in a powerful display of ‘happening jazz’.

Wright’s leaping vibes improvisations and lush, sustained harmonies in Stay the Course co-ordinated with slick alto (Facey having already immersed himself, three hours earlier, in an impassioned, almost hallucinatory Coltrane Love Supreme performance with Alex Douglas’ quartet!); and Farmer’s Card Clash snapped from jarring dissonance into elegant swing. It was fascinating to experience the sustained, oscillating vibes tranquillity of Lethe interlaced with the city’s surrounding hum of traffic and voices, its sultry mid-evening blues encouraging dry, modal alto extemporisations. And in a compelling second set, including the most entrancingly perfect live version of mystical Mind Over Mayhem and Facey’s firecracking swinger The Two-Edged Sword, Empirical lit up Manchester with incandescent flair.

Nathaniel Facey.
Photo credit and © Adrian Pallant 

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

Manchester Jazz Festival concludes this weekend, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July. Full programme at manchesterjazz.com.

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REVIEW: Ben Cottrell's New Seeing commission – world première at 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival

New Seeing – centre: Graham South (trumpet),
right: Ben Cottrell (composer/conductor)

Ben Cottrell – New Seeing
(RNCM. Manchester Jazz Festival. 27th July 2016. Report and photography by Adrian Pallant)

Taking inspiration from Stan Getz’s 1961 album Focus (suite for tenor sax and strings, with arrangements by Eddie Sauter), composer and bandleader Ben Cottrell’s world premiére of his New Seeing project was enthusiastically received by last night’s Manchester Jazz Festival audience at the RNCM. Known especially as creator and director of the award-winning Beats and Pieces Big Band, Cottrell’s long-held ambition for this work was realised through the ‘mjf originals’ series (the only open jazz commissioning scheme of its kind in the UK) which, over the festival’s 21 years, has brought to fruition as many as eighteen major new jazz projects.

This instrumental set-up, drawing together many alumni colleagues, was visually intriguing – an arc of twelve mostly standing string players (6 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos) enclosing a double rhythm section of two drummers and two bassists, plus piano, electronics and trumpet, all directed by Cottrell himself. This in itself created an openness of sound, soon apparent from the gently unfolding weave of strings emanating from distant street sounds in FM (it was suggested these are perhaps working titles at this stage) as Graham South’s soft flugel tones floated across a descending bass piano motif from Richard Jones, encouraging a reassuring, sustained swell redolent of John Tavener (and, distinct from Getz’s work, here trumpet or flugel took the central melodic role).

A lumbering dual double bass feature from Mick Bardon and Stewart Wilson introduced Banger – a vibrant, propulsive jazz expression with an interesting dynamic: pizzicato strings embellishing saturated rhythms, with close communication between drummers Finlay Panter and Johnny Hunter as they entered into a percussive maelstrom. I Feel a Lot Better Now found its origins in a simple message which Cottrell saw in a Berlin church, its themes of forgiveness arising from a note whose writer pardoned a German fighter pilot for the death of a family member during the Second World War. Pervading, spacial, Pärt-like strings combined with gentle jazz piano and arco bass lines to create a slow ebb and flow of textures before fading to restful, recorded bell peals… and silence.

Contrasting final section, Big Band Zwölf, resounded to churning arco bass and effective plucked string ostinati (curiously resembling, at times, the fullness of woodwind or brass) as it crescendoed together with muted and flutter-tongued trumpet improv, embellished by Jones' celeste. Certainly a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck celebration of evolving contemporary jazz.

At its close, there was a sense that Cottrell’s accessible and engaging work might indicate a larger, symphonic vision – perhaps the fusion of his mature through-composition and the improvisational versatility of his players possesses such a magic. Maybe this is just the beginning.


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

Manchester Jazz Festival continues, daily, until this Sunday, 31st July.

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NEWS: "56 gigs, 14 young support bands, 15 workshops." Nigel Price announces tour (Aug-Dec)

Guitarist Nigel Price


Sebastian writes:

The most dynamic, entrepreneurial and resilient of the UK's jazz musician-promoters, guitarist NIGEL PRICE has just announced the most extensive and ambitious venture that he has organized to date, a fifty-six date trio/quartet tour of the UK, involving fourteen support bands and fifteen workshops, starting in late August and concluding just before Christmas, by which point (see review of the thirtieth date of a previous tour), the band will have gelled, and cohered to a point which is now seen far to rarely in jazz.

Nigel Price's regular trio consists of Ross Stanley on Hammond Organ and Matt Home on drums, and in quartet format has a choice of either Alex Garnett or Vasilis Xenopoulos on saxophone. Nigel Price wrote on Facebook: "Steve Brown, Dean Masser and Brandon Allen are all involved. There will be other special guests too."

Nigel Price's tour acknowledges substantial support from Arts Council England 

DATES:


AUGUST

FRI 26 RONNIE SCOTT’S LATE SHOW QUARTET
SAT 27 RONNIE SCOTT’S LATE SHOW QUARTET
SUN 28 USHAW JAZZ FESTIVAL TRIO

SEPTEMBER

FRI 2ND PROGRESS THEATRE, READING QUARTET
MON 12 TAMWORTH JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT TRIO
TUE 13 CINNAMON CLUB, ALTRINCHAM + WORKSHOP QUARTET
WED 14 JAZZ BAR, EDINBURGH TRIO
THU 15 BLUE LAMP, ABERDEEN + SUPPORT TRIO
FRI 16 JAZZ CAFÉ, NEWCASTLE + SUPPORT TRIO
SAT 17 HUDDERSFIELD JAZZ CLUB + WORKSHOP TRIO
SUN 18 HERTS JAZZ FESTIVAL 2PM TRIO
TUE 20 FLEET JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT QUARTET
WED 21 STORYVILLE, MILTON KEYNES VISITOR + WORKSHOP
THU 22 SPIKE’S PLACE, BECKENHAM QUARTET
SAT 24 THE BEAR, LUTON TRIO
TUE 27 SOUTHERN JAZZ GUITAR SOCIETY, ROMSEY + WORKSHOP TRIO
THU 29 THE HIDEAWAY, STREATHAM QUARTET

OCTOBER

THU 6 FOLKESTONE JAZZ CLUB QUARTET
FRI 7 THE VERDICT, BRIGHTON QUARTET
MON 10 THE PHOENIX, EXETER QUARTET
TUE 11 ST IVES JAZZ CLUB + WORKSHOP QUARTET
WED 12 ST AUSTELL JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT QUARTET
THU 13 TEIGNMOUTH JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT QUARTET
FRI 14 LA HAVANA, CHICHESTER - VISITOR + WORKSHOP
MON 17 RONNIE SCOTT’S LATE SHOW QUINTET
WED 19 SWANSEA JAZZLAND + WORKSHOP QUARTET
THU 20 FUTURE INNS, BRISTOL QUARTET
FRI 21 KINGSHILL HOUSE, DURSLEY QUARTET
TUE 25 THE MAD HATTER, OXFORD UNI JAZZ SOCIETY + WORKSHOP TRIO
WED 26 SWING UNLIMITED, BOURNEMOUTH + WORKSHOP QUARTET
SAT 29 JAZZ CAFÉ POSK, HAMMERSMITH + SUPPORT QUARTET

NOVEMBER

TUE 1 WATERMILL, DORKING QUARTET
SUN 6 CRAMPHORN THEATRE, CHELMSFORD 12.15PM QUARTET
SUN 6 MILESTONES, LOWESTOFT QUARTET
TUE 15 NORWICH JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT TRIO
WED 16 GRIMSBY JAZZ CLUB + WORKSHOP QUARTET
THU 17 THE OLD COURTS, WIGAN + SUPPORT QUINTET
FRI 18 WAKEFIELD + SUPPORT QUARTET
SAT 19 GRANTHAM CONSERVATIVE CLUB QUARTET
SUN 20 PETERBOROUGH JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT QUARTET
THU 24 HOT NUMBERS, CAMBRIDGE JAZZ FESTIVAL + WORKSHOP TRIO
FRI 25 BILLINGSHURST ARTS CENTRE QUARTET
SAT 26 RICHMOND RACC + SUPPORT TRIO
TUE 29 YARDBIRD ARTS, WORCESTER TRIO
WED 30 PERSHORE JAZZ CLUB + SUPPORT + WORKSHOP TRIO

DECEMBER

THU 1 SPAN JAZZ, NARBETH + WORKSHOP TRIO
FRI 2 BURDALL’S YARD, BATH + WORKSHOP TRIO
SAT 3 BIRMINGHAM JAZZ + SUPPORT TRIO
SUN 4 JAZZ EAST, FELIXSTOWE VISITOR + WORKSHOP
FRI 9 THE CRYPT, CAMBERWELL QUARTET
SUN 11 PIZZA EXPRESS, MAIDSTONE TRIO
MON 12 PORTSMOUTH JAZZ SOCIETY XMAS SPECIAL QUINTET
TUE 13 MARLOW JAZZ CLUB QUARTET
THU 15 LAUDERDALE HOUSE, HIGHGATE QUINTET
TUE 20 BRECON JAZZ CLUB TRIO
WED 21 LEAM JAZZ , LEAMINGTON SPA TRIO


LINKS: Nigel Price website
Nigel Price's Facebook announcement of the tour, with more reflection and detail
Interview in Telegraph ahead of 2014 tour

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REVIEW: Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer at Courtyard Theatre

Jherek Bischoff at London's Courtyard Theatre.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All rights reserved.

Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer
(Courtyard Theatre, 26 July 2016; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)


The sweltering heat in Hoxton’s tiny Courtyard Theatre united the audience of eighty and those on stage for the London launch of Jherek Bischoff's Cistern album and a run-through with the extraordinary Amanda Palmer of their Bowie tribute ahead of their Proms appearance, accompanied by a brilliant, young string quartet.

The barriers were down right away. "I'm going to keep my coat on … to punish myself," joked Bischoff, met with a riposte from the audience, "You're not sweating, you're sparkling!" When Palmer joined him later she reflected, "I can't even keep my cool coat on. We've never played a gig this hot!" There was much else to unite them, not least, musings on the state of the world. "Brexit - suffering's always relative!" declared Palmer, and the power dynamics of her Dresden Dolls' number, Missed Me, with it's Kurt Weill flavour, were wittily recast: "I'm England, and you [Jherek] are the EU!"

But, foremost, it was the music that made the night special. Bischoff, playing a violin bass with the look of McCartney's Hofner, kicked in at an insistent pace picked up by the strings to summon up a surreal Duane Eddy meets a chamber group tone. He explained, "I'm not of the orchestral world, I'm from a rock and roll background," yet he was equally at home as conductor utilising elegant hand gestures, and his sensitive string arrangements vested authority to all they played - half a dozen haunting compositions from Cistern, their Bowie selection, including an instrumental Life on Mars, which had the feel of George Martin's strings on Eleanor Rigby, his own take on a song by the explosive Congolese outfit, Konono No 1 (reviewed), and three of Palmer's incisively visceral offerings.

Bischoff went out of his way to offer insights to the music. Cistern was inspired by his three day experience of a derelict, two-million gallon WW2 cistern in Washington State, with a 45 second reverb, the site of a 1989 Pauline Oliveros Deep Listening recording, and "changed the way I thought about music."

Each piece was relatively short with carefully deliberate structures, feeling like enticing tasters for extended compositions, and in this stripped back format had a tangible immediacy compared to the full orchestration on the album.

The Sea's Son and The Wolf related to experiences of place. The former echoed, with great poignancy, Bischoff's floating sensation on the open seas when the stars were fleetingly reflected on its perfectly smooth surface. The latter, which he described as "the creepiest thing I have ever written," came out of a winter's residency at the art foundation of Robert Wilson - who directed the staging of Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach (reviewed). Cas(s)iopeia was based on looping four Casios, which created a raw backing for the hovering pitches of the strings and, in contast, the title track's evocation of the cistern's vast internal space was given further articulation when small ringing bells were walked through the audience.

The spell was warmly broken for a communal rendition of Happy Birthday to the first violinist, and, in referendum style, all agreed to "push on through" without an intermission.

Amanda Palmer onstage at London's Courtyard Theatre.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2106. All rights reserved.


Enter Amanda Palmer, a magnetic performer who engaged instantly with her audience with respect, intelligence and humour. Which is why she and Bischoff have such a fruitful working relationship. Her compelling stage presence combines extroversion with humility. There is no side to her. She has a great voice and knows exactly when to hit the accelerator. Her songs deal with difficult subjects, the darker sides of human relationships and her staring eyes, clenched teeth and fists, and exaggerated, angular movements expressed the horrors and uncertainties of The Killing Type and The Bed Song ('Holding back those king-size tears').

She and Bischoff had the audience singing along to their beautifully arranged string quartet tributes to Bowie, counting down in Space Oddity, following every word in Ashes to Ashes and the final number, Heroes, but not before movingly performing Prince's Purple Rain, live, for the very first time, imbuing it with dignity, passion and pathos. "You guys have been the most sing-y audience in the world!" proclaimed Palmer. The perfect compliment to the spellbound house on a truly memorable evening.

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REVIEW: Hot Orange Big Band & Richard Smith at Pizza Express Jazz Club

The Hot Orange Big Band
Photo credit: Dick Williams

Hot Orange Big Band & Richard Smith
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, July 24th 2016. Review by Ben Zucker)

For their debut gig at the Pizza Express Soho club, Richard Pywell and Dave Hammer’s well-established London group Hot Orange Big Band brought an energy that the low-ceilinged venue could barely contain (the lunching audience definitely enjoyed the intensity). Augmented by several guests, the large ensemble brought its characteristic brand of high-voltage soul and jazz to a Sunday afternoon.

The band plays to its strengths — funky mid-tempo numbers that allow intricate arrangements to shine with punchy ensemble playing. Though their set at Pizza Express contained nods to swinging and balladic jazz, the straight numbers were the ones that got the crowd going, occasionally contrived but generally expertly plumbed-in originals and covers including numbers by Rufus (Rags to Rufus)and Earth, Wind, and Fire. These included several stand-out soloists including Frank Griffith bringing plenty of burning ‘out’ tension on tenor sax, Ben Donnelly with a fluid alto sax feature, and a showstopping set of drum breaks by Paul Caviaciuti.

Dave Hammer directing the band
Photo credit: Dick Williams

Much of this took place, however, alongside and behind the featured guest artist, guitarist Richard Smith. Simultaneously refined and rocking, Smith’s prowess as a jazz and contemporary player in the manner of guitarists such as George Benson is undisputed. He has a adept command of feel-good soul styles, and his sound is well-rounded and filled in the cracks of the band’s sharp horns with a few well-defined gestures. Some may deride Smith’s brand of “smooth jazz”, but in this context it was clear that the style can be as nuanced as those adored by purists. He and Hot Orange are a symbiotic match, and bring out the best in each other.

Soloing: Richard Smith (L) and Frank Griffith (R)
Photo credit: Dick Williams


LINK: Hot Orange Big Band website

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CD REVIEW: Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa – Eros

Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa – Eros
(Bonsai Music BONS160502. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)


The striking immediacy of the trumpet and flugelhorn playing of Sardinian master Paolo Fresu shows the profound influence of Miles Davis combined with Mediterranean lyricism. His list of associates include Carla Bley, Piero Umiliani, Ralph Towner, and Sheila Jordan. His latest project is a collaboration with pianist Omar Sosa. Cuban-born Sosa relocated to San Francisco and then Barcelona, and has played with the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, John Santos and Trilok Gurtu. Also on board for this CD are the Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and Egyptian-Belgian singer Natacha Atlas.

The album opens with a cover version of Massive Attack’s anthem Teardrop. It is slowed down, blissed-out and reconceived as a piece of minimalist and dismantled electronica, with Sosa using electric keyboards, samplers and effects. And Natacha Atlas sings the lyrics in Arabic. The effect is even more hypnotic than the original, and it has the keen advantage of Fresu’s clean, piercing trumpet to guide and emphasise the piece. Sensuousness features a credible replica of Tuvan throat singing and a melancholy exploration of its theme by Fresu.

Zeus’ Desires has a bouncing beat, with blossoming, rolling Fender Rhodes, set against the more angular gradient of the violins — Anton Berovski and Sonia Peana of the Quartetto Alborada. The string quartet continue to enthral on Brezza del Verano, also featuring Nico Ciricugno on viola and Piero Savatori on cello. Omar Sosa scatters notes across the piece but it’s Fresu who keeps moving it forward with his plangent, reverberant, pre-electric Miles style playing. My Soul, My Spirit features Atlas again and is like a secular call to worship, her voice being gently lowered on a cushion created by the string section. La Llamada (‘The Call’) is a slow-paced, pulsing piece shaped by Sosa’s keyboards and effects, with Fresu playing a dreamlike horn, and succinct, otherworldly interjections in the form of sighing, slanting phrases from the strings. What Is Inside / Himeros begins in the same dreamy, delicate vein, but Sosa builds a fierce, echoing pulse, with fleeting telegraph-key Morse-code taps on the keyboards, building up the feeling of electric-era Miles, not least in Fresu’s performance. In the measured, ambient landscape of Who Wu, with Sosa keeping a tic-tac suggestion of a military drum, Fresu comes and goes in a manner reminiscent of summer lightning before the thunder hits, while the sudden jagged violin is like a can opener lifting the lid on your mind. Why is notable for jovial, lyrical sawing strains on the cello by Jaques Morelenbaum.

Forsaking a conventional rhythm section, this is an unusual and curiously effective group, with a distinctive 21st Century sound that creates a uniform mood without repeating itself or losing the interest of the listener. It has a silky surface which makes for “easy” listening, but also a complexity and depth which repays attention. And, incidentally, when the CD appears to be over...it isn’t. After a minute or two of silence there is an extended “ghost track” which features some great playing.

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FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS: 2016 Edinburgh Jazz Festival

Jan Garbarek in Edinburgh.
Photo Credit: AJBlairPhotography


Edinburgh resident Patrick Hadfield writes about his personal highlights of the 2016 Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival (15th-24th July)


Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival has just finished: more than 170 concerts over ten days, with music from genres of jazz and blues from New Orleans to modern electronic improvisation, and most styles in between. I carved out my own festival of twelve concerts, still varied, from established international stars to young musicians early in their careers.

Jan Garbarek Group in Edinburgh. Photo Credit: AJBlairPhotography


The biggest star I saw was saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who played for over two hours to a full house at the Festival Theatre. He weaved a spell from the moment he started playing, fusing jazz and Norwegian folk melodies to great effect. The one niggle might have been the extended solos taken by his band members, except that the quality was so high that the adoring audience welcomed them. Garbarek's long time collaborator on piano Rainer Brüninghaus and relative newcomer to the band Yuri Daniel on bass captivated the crowd, but it was Trilok Gurtu, playing a mixture of western and eastern percussion who truly impressed. His final, extended solo was breathtaking, involving a huge range of instruments, including a bucket of water. Full of humour and musicality, it brought a smile to Garbarek's face, and the two played a duet involving a fair bit of audience participation beating out some supporting rhythms. Garbarek's playing was captivating throughout. I felt I'd be lucky to see a better gig all year.





Graeme Stephen and Calum Gourlay
photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


But just two days later I did. Another sell out show crammed into the award winning JazzBar; I've never seen it so busy. Playing music solely written by guitarist Graeme Stephen, his quartet consists of local and formerly local musicians Calum Gourlay, always impressive on bass, Stu Ritchie on drums and Phil Bancroft on saxophone. Stephen uses a variety of pedals and loops to create textures over which he and the band play, producing music of depth and emotion. The band were all excellent, but Bancroft in particular played a series of scorching solos. Ritchie's drumming had both finesse and guts. The music was at times dark, at others humorous, and sometimes both. This was an unexpected triumph, and it felt a privilege to hear musicians I see regularly pull off something both world class and original.

Phil Bancroft
photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


For the first, the jazz festival used the City Art Centre as a venue. Kitted out with a grand piano (they must have had fun getting that to the fifth floor!), it featured a range of pianists. I saw three excellent gigs there. The first was a solo performance by Enrico Zanisi. He played a range of pieces, both composed by himself and wholly improvised, that exhibited a rare sensitivity. Zanisi closed his entrancing gig with a piece from Wagner's Tannheuser; the distance from classical to jazz was never closer. Dave Milligan, another local musician, have a similarly nuanced performance, and also included extended improvisations. Some of Milligan's playing also reflected the some classical sensitivity, but his music displays aspects of the Scottish folk tradition, too. Both Zanisi and Milligan produced deeply engaging performances in which one felt one could get lost within the music.

Most impressive of the pianists, though, was Fergus McCreadie, not least because of his youth: not yet in his twenties, and still a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, McCreadie plays with a deep maturity. Leading his trio of David Bowden on drums and Stephen Henderson on bass, they played music by all three. McCreadie's playing was sometimes impressionistic and abstract, but the trio could also swing. To hear three young musicians produce such impressive music was heartening finale to a very enjoyable festival.

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

LINK: Edinburgh Jazz Festival website

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REVIEW: The Impossible Gentlemen Let’s Get Deluxe CD Launch at 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival

L-R: Steve Rodby, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Adam Nussbaum, Iain Dixon

The Impossible Gentlemen
(RNCM. Manchester Jazz Festival. 26th July 2016. Report and photographs by Adrian Pallant)

Something of a Northern homecoming for guitarist Mike Walker and pianist/keyboardist Gwilym Simcock, a great buzz of excitement preceded the album launch of The Impossible Gentlemen’s third release, Let’s Get Deluxe, at Manchester Jazz Festival last night. Looking back from the stage of the RNCM Theatre, every one of the steeply-tiered seats appeared to be filled, and a warm expression of appreciation greeted this ‘international supergroup’ as they took up their positions. Alongside US colleagues, bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Adam Nussbaum, the name of Iain Dixon has now been added, providing a seamless woodwind and synth addition to the Gents’ distinctive musical character.

The new recording is stacked with layered instrumental textures (most notably Simcock on French horn), yet their live interpretation was a triumph, as revealed in the bright, opening prog-guitar groove of title track Let’s Get Deluxe. Grungy, late-night Dog Time (which Walker explained didn’t quite cut it in his straight Salford accent, but rather pronounced “Dawwwg Tahhhm”) is already an album standout – but here, the guitarist coaxed the most wonderful howls and caterwauls from his fretboard as it melded with Simcock’s double-banked Nord organ tremolo, before erupting into a full-bodied blues rocker with contrasting, mysterious episodes.

Mike Walker
Dedicated to late, great pianist John Taylor, A Simple Goodbye is one of the most affecting tributes, and Simcock’s delicate chordal eloquence at the grand piano was matched by Walker’s oh-so-subtle string-bent cries – had a pin dropped in the hall, it would surely have been noticed; and blithe, countrified Speak to Me of Home breezed along to Walker’s picked guitar and Dixon’s folksy soprano sax improvisations, expounding on the nursery-rhyme simplicity of its original melody. A complex left-hand piano figure introduced shuffling Barber Blues (from the band’s second album), developing to feature delightful bass clarinet from Dixon and lithe bass perambulations from Rodby, with Mike Walker feeling and mouthing every nuance of his octaved extemporisations; and amidst colourful drum soloing, with a few cheeky fake endings, Nussbaum’s cymbal work was positively balletic.

Gwilym Simcock
Closing the set with an even more energised version of the new album’s Propane Jane, Simcock jabbed away funkily with his effective Fender Rhodes voicing, and those deliciously soaring electric guitar lines from Walker could happily have been soaked up into the wee small hours by this rapt audience. But with that final number announced after just over an hour, never has a concert melted away so quickly, the whole auditorium rising to its feet in genuine gratitude for the beauty they had witnessed (many later taking to social media to declare it “one of the jazz gigs of the year”). Quite rightly called back for an encore, the band’s known playfulness surfaced: as Mike Walker’s guitar became detached from its strap, he genially muttered, “What ‘ave ah dun ‘ere?”, promptly followed by Gwilym Simcock's subtle teasing in the form of a perfect rendition of the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em theme at the top of the Steinway!

A special evening to savour – and a classy album to own. The Impossible Gentlemen's tour continues at Pizza Express, Dean Street, this Sunday and Monday (31st July, 1st August).

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

LINK: Feature / Interview with Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker about the making of the album Let's Get Deluxe

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FEATURE/INTERVIEW: Guitarist Kristian Borring ( new CD from Jellymould - Silent Storm)



Danish guitarist and composer KRISTIAN BORRING has a new album (Silent Storm on the Jellymould label) with his long-standing quartet and a UK tour coming up. He spoke to Peter Bacon.

LondonJazz News: What attracted you to study and then settle in the UK, and what do you consider the major strengths of the UK jazz scene?

Kristian Borring: I chose to finish my studies in London at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama because I knew the city had a great vibe and was a “happening” place for jazz. I didn’t really know much about the British scene as a whole and more than 10 years later I am still learning the history. But the UK scene has a huge focus on original music but with a great jazz tradition to build it on. The level is super high and musicians are hungry for playing across many styles.

LJN: This is your third release to feature these same players - what are the benefits of maintaining a cohesive band?

KB: I guess like in any workspace if a group of people gets along professionally and socially it doesn’t just make life easier, it also makes it more fun, especially when you travel. I feel that we have created a trust and honesty both verbally and musically that I enjoy. Also when your band knows your catalogue of music it allows you to be a little more spontaneous on gigs.

LJN: How do you compose and where do you find your inspiration to write new music?

KB: I compose mainly on the guitar and sometimes on the piano. The process varies. I can be composing with a vague idea in mind and work at it with structure. I get a lot of my ideas from exploring rhythmic or harmonic material that I am curious about and so some of my compositions need meticulous creation with trial and error and attention to detail. Other tunes come to me more naturally when I pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano with no intention of composing. When that happens I try and drop everything and keep the flow open to let the music write itself, so to speak.

LJN: There are suggestions on this disc of some rock and fusion influences - where do these come from?

KB: I came to the guitar through blues and hard rock, like BB King, AC/DC and Van Halen. I think they all had soul and vibe in their own way. I copied bands like Nirvana and Alice In Chains. And then came Radiohead. But at the same time I was digging those more virtuosic players like Joe Satriani. That quickly bridged into an interest for fusion with the Pat Metheny Group, Brecker Brothers and Chick Corea. I was listening to bebop and really wanted to learn to play that way but I still had a lot to learn, so I guess the whole fusion genre helped me explore new ground while using my more advanced rock “chops”.

LJN: You recently paid homage to Jim Hall, but who are the other musicians from whom you feel you have learned most, or who have been most influential on your music?

KB: Oh boy, I find it very hard to single out my influences after years of learning and listening. I guess I studied Metheny and Scofield a lot when I was younger and of course Wes Montgomery. I have more Coltrane albums than any other artist. Ornette Coleman is a big inspiration too, also for composition, his work up until the ‘70s. I love the melodic development and sound of alto players Konitz and Desmond and I find 20th century composers like, Alban Berg, Stravinsky and Charles Ives very inspirational. I listen a lot to pianists for phrasing, harmony and composition, Mehldau, Herbie, Garland and Powell. Of musicians I have actually studied with in person, Dutch guitarists Jesse Van Ruller and Martijn van Iterson both had a big influence while I went to Music College in Amsterdam. I took lessons with Peter Bernstein in New York who approaches the instrument in a very natural and musical way. I have learned a lot from my peers too.

LINK: Kristian Borring's website.

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NEWS: Guitarist Rob Luft becomes sixth Kenny Wheeler Prize Winner

2016 Kenny Wheeler Prizewinner Rob Luft (foreground)
with 2014 winner Misha Mullov-Abbado
Photo Credit: Kat Pfeiffer 

The sixth winnner of the Kenny Wheeler Prize at the Royal Academy of Music is guitarist Rob Luft. The prize is given to "a musician graduating from the Royal Academy who can demonstrate excellence in both performance and composition," and the main element is the opportunity to make a recording on Edition Records.

The citation from judge Evan Parker is as follows: ‘This year’s discussions were more intense than ever. The standard of musicianship and originality of creative vision that have become the hallmark of the Kenny Wheeler Prize winners were achieved by many of the entrants so that, inevitably, other considerations came in to help us make our final choice. Rob Luft convinced us that not only was he a great improvising guitarist, but his written material, arrangements and leadership seemed to inspire the other members of his group to play their best. Our final decision was unanimous.’

His credits as sideman are already impressive. From the Press Release: "Rob is a member of Byron Wallen’s “Four Corners”, Martin Speake’s “Mafarowi” and Enzo Zirilli’s “Zirobop”. He received the Second Prize in The 2016 Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition. He also is the recipient of the 2015 Peter Whittingham Award as part of two collective ensembles – Patchwork Jazz Orchestra and jazz-rock quartet Big Bad Wolf. He appears on Liane Carroll’s latest release on Linn Records (Seaside – 2015), Brazilian singer Luna Cohen’s new album on the Catalonian independent label Temps Record (November Sky – 2016), and the debut album from Enzo Zirilli on Milanese label UR Records (Zirobop – 2015)." (end of quote)

Rob Luft first made his mark in this site in 2010 as a sixteen year-old. Frank Griffith was reviewing the NYJO 45th Anniversary gig, and wrote: "An engaging but somewhat complicated sounding piece in 21/8 time had players and audiences grasping for their slide rules in haste while 16 year old whiz guitarist Rob Luft soloed fluidly throughout the piece as if it was a 4/4 blues." (Full review)


PREVIOUS WINNERS:

2011 Josh Arcoleo
2012 Reuben Fowler
2013 Lauren Kinsella
2014 Misha Mullov-Abbado
2015 Ralph Wyld

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REVIEW: Wadada Leo Smith at Café Oto

Wadada Leo Smith at Cafe Oto, July 2016
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All rights reserved.


Wadada Leo Smith
(Café Oto, 23 July, first night of two-night residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is something of an international treasure in the creative musical firmament, linking avant-garde jazz with contemporary classical compositional practice. At 74 his wealth of experience includes early involvement with Chicago's AACM, stints with Anthony Braxton and Derek Bailey's Company, and recording for cutting edge labels such as Cuneiform, Treader and Tzadik, and, since 1979, ECM, most recently with Vijay Iyer. He has garnered numerous awards and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and is also much in demand as an inspiring educator. With his warm, generous personality he connected with the Saturday audience at Café Oto right from the start.

If Wadada can do anything he can make the trumpet speak - and it speaks volumes. For him, the trumpet is a vehicle for exploration, for getting deep in to the subterrannean heartland of jazz and for building up cast-iron bonds with the musicians he plays with and with his audiences. The urgency and immediacy of Wadada's delivery is underpinned by a deeply ingrained authority and an incisive process of imaginative distillation that finds expression in complex, layered compositions, notably his epic Ten Freedom Summers suite or, as in this Café Oto concert, flights of inspired improvisation.

Two improvised sets, two entirely different propositions, both steered and shaped with a confidence born out of Wadada's natural sixth sense.

The first was in trio format with two of the most resourceful and versatile jazz improvisers around, percussionist Mark Sanders and John Edwards on double bass. Dreadlocked, grizzle-bearded, in an elegant cream suit, Wadada's hunched figure brought a shimmering energy into play. With Sanders and Edwards his history goes back around eight years, and the duo locked straight in to a soft-textured, rapidly morphing substrate to complement the crisp, vibrant poetry of his playing. Wadada's sharp, fluorescent tones cut through the high-performance bass and drum carpet ride, with ringing mute applied to summon echoes of the directions Miles would have travelled.

After the break, the trio expanded to include a frequent collaborator with Wadada, New York-based sound artist, Hardedge and, in the spirit of his Ten Freedom Summers performances at Café Oto in 2013 (Reviewed HERE and HERE ), six string players whose cosmopolitan range brought one of many smiles to Wadada's face as he introduced them. With Kenyan-born Alison Blunt (violin) were Luiz Moretto (viola) and Marcio Mattos (cello), both Brazilians, and Paloma Carrasco, originally from Madrid, each now London-based, along with Benedict Taylor (viola) and David Leahey (as a second bass player).

Peppered with minute electronic cracks and interventions, the set had the spirit of structured, industrial anarchy, drawing on the imperative to share the initiatives within the large group organism and to work with the bursts of clear sky offered by Wadada to shape its visceral edge. His sequence of intense, one-on-one duets with each of the string players brought out fast-forward one-liners that magically added up to a rounded, organic whole. With Moretto the energy level of the duet was at high-flying bluegrass pace, a contrast to the quiet restraint of the concluding passages, stripped down to focus thoughtfully on the original trio - and he hinted, too, that he, Edwards and Sanders may well be recording together soon.

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LIVE REVIEW: Tim Garland Electric Quartet at the 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival

Tim Garland
Tim Garland Electric Quartet
(Hobgoblin Pavilion. Manchester Jazz Festival. 24th July 2016. Report and photographs by Adrian Pallant)

As the audience took to their seats for Tim Garland’s headline performance at the 2016 Manchester Jazz Festival, a growing sense of anticipation was tangible. After all, the British reedsman’s credentials speak for themselves in a career which has seen him working on countless solo and collaborative jazz projects, including notable stints with legendary artists Chick Corea and Bill Bruford. Playing broadly from recent album release ONE, Garland was joined by his colleagues in this new ‘Electric Quartet’ – Jason Rebello (piano/keyboards), Ant Law (guitars) and Asaf Sirkis (drums/percussion).

As both composer and saxophonist, Garland possesses a distinctive musical persona – yet this project, in which he judiciously also contributes electronic percussion, takes the instrumental possibilities a good deal further. His working relationships with the brilliant Rebello and Sirkis go back many years, but it was previous album Songs to the North Sky which introduced the multifarious skills of young guitarist Ant Law to establish this quartet – and how he shone across this two-hour live set.

Much of the ONE album material was intensely ‘roadworked’ prior to the album recording – so it was satisfying to marvel at the way all four members communicated and integrated to develop this original music in a live setting, as Garland visibly encouraged each band member’s solo improvisations to push increasingly higher. Following the cheery, acoustic positivity of Bright New Day, the set unfolded to reveal the saxophonist’s fusion sensibilities in Foretold, which culminated in a thunderous extended duel between Law’s electric guitar and Sirkis’ typically dynamic exploration of the kit as Garland’s electronically-clustered soprano dazzled.

Ant Law
Amongst the exactitude of rapid, through-composed riffs, this band clearly delights in the individual moments of invention, Garland quoting Spike Milligan – “A jazz musician never does the same thing once” – before entering darkly brooding The Eternal Greeting. Rhodes and sustained synth voicings in grooving Colours of Night were full of Zawinulese spirit, also demonstrating that both Rebello and Law (on electric 8-string) impressively saturate the lower resonances without need of a bassist – and the Middle Eastern inflections became further enhanced by Sirkis’ nimble, rhythmic Konnakol vocalisations.

Chick Corea’s Windows enjoyed the beautifully gruff tones of Garland’s bass clarinet (his “double misery stick”) in an interpretation which brought out the flamenco hues of Law's semi-acoustic 'Silent guitar', as well as flamboyant Latinesque piano grandeur; and old favourite Rosa Ballerina was delightfully breezy. Prog-tinged Sama’i for Peace featured fizzing, extended Rhodes improv from Rebello; Garland put in some seriously wild tenor soloing on Yes to This; and thunderous jazz/rock closer Prototype (dedicated to Bill Bruford, and with more than a hint of Earthworks) brought the house down.

Wishing we could take Garland at his word – “We could play all night, we’ve got loads of songs” – the most sublime encore, the Miles Davis/Bill Evans tune Blue in Green, confirmed why his tenor playing is so lauded; and why this versatile band can entertain on so many levels.

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

LINKS: CD REVIEW: Tim Garland – ONE
Review of One at Kings Place

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PHOTOS: 2016 Ealing Jazz Festival



The main marqee

Photographer PAUL WOOD was out in the sunshine in Walpole Park W5 for the 2016 Ealing Jazz Festival, with Roy Ayers headlining on the Saturday. All photos reproduced by permission of Paul Wood - all rights reserved. 

Headliner Roy Ayers



Gill Cook


Local sax hero Vasilis Xenopoulos

Femi Temowo who performed with the Engines Orchestra


Tony Fisher and Art Themen with Jack Honeybourne's band 
The programme

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INTERVIEW: Sarah Chaplin of JazzLondonLive - online listings guide (Update after successful crowdfunding)

Screenshot of the JazzLondonLive homepage
JazzLondonLive, the new online listings guide to London's vast and diverse jazz scene, run by SARAH CHAPLIN and MICK SEXTON, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its development in early May. The campaign was successful: 394 backers came forward, and just under £12,000 was raised. Sebastian asked Sarah to explain how they got to this point, what the current priorities are, and what happens next:

LondonJazz News: Congrats on hitting the target. Did some of the higher priced slots get taken?

Sarah Chaplin: Thanks Seb, it’s been a great experience running a crowdfunder campaign - nerve-wracking at times, but with about 10 days to go I felt confident that we’d make it, and we had a couple of jazz musicians who’d said they were prepared to step in and pledge what was needed at the end to reach the target. In the event, they still pledged and we made well over 120% of our £10,000 target including a couple of actual cheques that Mick received from people who don't like paying for things online. I was most surprised by our two highest pledges, which came completely out of the blue - one early on, a South African jazz lover from Putney who wanted nothing in the way of a reward and backed us with £500, and another was a tenor player I knew from studying at Citylit, who pledged £1000 towards the end of the campaign, for our ‘party package’ reward. Receiving those gave us such a boost, but we wouldn't have got there without the other 392 people who all backed us with smaller amounts - because that’s what it’s all about, everyone believing in the JazzLondonLive project enough to chip in what they can afford, and it all mounts up.

LJN: What is your commitment to the crowdfunders generally?

SC: We regard the crowdfunders as our most loyal supporters of JazzLondonLive, whatever they pledged. They will get special treatment: if they’re artists we will be creating their presence on the app first, if they’re venues, we have created an algorithm which pushes their listings to the top of the home page, and if they have asked for a mug or T-shirt we’re getting those printed right now, and hope they will use them or wear them with pride for years to come! At some point in the Autumn we will be holding a launch party, and the backers will be our VIP guests.

LJN: What comes next and what timetable / deadlines / key dates are you currently working to?

SC: We have had three meetings so far with our App developer, to ensure we are on the right track - it’s been a steep learning curve for Mick and me, but we are confident that we have a clear vision for a really useful resource that will appeal to its target audience. We are working towards a September launch for the app, in both its Android and Apple formats. The money raised via Kickstarter enables us to pay the developer for 6 weeks’ work, which should be sufficient to get it designed, developed, tested and published. In the meantime, we will be building up a head of steam on the marketing side, to ensure that everyone living in London and the South East who loves Jazz has heard about it, so that when it comes out, they know where to go to download a copy to their phone or tablet. We are already active on Facebook - where we have a group and an App product page - and on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, besides having attracted over 1000 followers to the beta version of the JazzLondonLive website, so the ball is already rolling.


Sarah Chaplin. Photo credit: Magda Modrzejewska


LJN: Has it been hard work? More than you expected? What has taken the most effort?

SC: At the outset, the tricky part was simply choosing the right template on Wordpress that would provide a distinctive look and feel for our listings site whilst being as straightforward and user-friendly as the printed leaflet which everyone was familiar. We opted for a lively graphical concept that conveyed the warmth and intimacy of the jazz club vibe while keeping the level of information on the gigs themselves short and snappy, so that accessing the actual information is surprisingly quick and intuitive. It’s been hard work creating something that behaves like it’s running off an efficient and up-to-date database when in actual fact it’s Mick and me making all the individual webpages up and adding the links by hand. That’s taken many hundreds of hours so far, but it’s also enabled us to test the concept with our users and obtain some feedback before we commit to a suitable approach with the App itself.

LJN: Are the venues doing what you want then to uniformly and reliably?

SC: A good few jazz venues pledged to the campaign, mainly the smaller or out-of-town ones who can already see the benefit to them in being listed on the App. We have also established contact with the major ones, and the fact that they’re following us on Twitter and retweeting occasionally indicates to us that they’re interested in what JazzLondonLive will do to help promote their programming. We have some early analytics now that show we are directing traffic to their sites and so we’re hoping it’s only a matter of time before they are ready to commit to securing a prominent spot on the App. We have almost arrived at a competitive charging formula we are happy with, which combines the capacity of the venue, the frequency of gigs and the average ticket price, which will provide excellent value for money in terms of the level of service we can provide that goes beyond a printed boxed ad. In particular, we were looking to preserve the equivalent to the free listings section that existed in the printed booklet, whereby any venue putting on free gigs will be listed free of charge, whilst the larger, more prestigious venues who are able to generate a high volume of ticket sales will pay more.

LJN: What is the basic shape of the site? / Where do you recommend newcomer browsers to start?

SC: The site is pretty simple really - you’re greeted by a friendly grid of images of around 100 individual jazzclubs, which if you scroll down you’ll notice take you from central London to outlying venues in places like Reading, Southend and Milton Keynes. Click on any of the images and you bring up this month’s listings for that club. Alternatively, click on the wide bar at the top and you bring up all of today’s gigs happening in London and the South East, and you’ll see that the banner area is in fact organised into the days of the week, so scrolling through them from left to right gives you access to the next seven days, with a couple of promotional pages in amongst them advertising a festival or an album launch. Along the top bar, as well as a search function, you have a quick way of finding jazz venues, jazz artists and all the news and reviews. There’s even a link to your site!

LJN: How do you flag up sudden gig announcements / cancellations?

SC: So far, we have put alerts onto Facebook and Twitter when there’s been a last minute change to personnel or running time, or a cancellation, as well as updating the page to reflect that change, where known. Swanage Jazz Festival had got missed from the main site pages this month, so we created a quick banner to advertise that for the organisers. We have also added any ad hoc gigs we think users will be interested in. We have even been putting in a link in bright green to any reviews of past gigs that have gone up on your site, so when people look back they will see which ones were reviewed.

LJN: Do you have plans for a print version?

SC: We are still looking into the idea of printing it. What’s more likely is that we will produce a printed poster each month for venues that would like some nice looking artwork to use to publicise their live music offer.

LJN: Where do you hope to be in 3 months? 12 months ?

SC: We hope to have launched the App come September and are looking to celebrate its successful take-up by the time the LJF comes around. A year down the line, since it’s an annual subscription based model, we would be looking to implement a serious update to the App based on feedback from a wide range of jazz fans who are regularly using it. So it will be up to what everyone else as to what that will entail. For now, we’re happy that it seems to be heading in the right direction; everyone who we’ve spoken to seems to think it’s something they will find useful and enjoy using.

LINKS: JazzLondonLive website
The JazzLondonLive Kickstarter

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