FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Unerhört Festival Zürich 2016


Jakob Bro, Thomas Morgan, Joey Baron


Unerhört Festival 2016 
(Zürich, Switzerland, concluding weekend, November 26-27. Review, photos, DrawNotes by Henning Bolte)

The Unerhört Festival of Zürich in Switzerland, founded in 2002, is a multi-location festival spread over ten sites in the city of Zürich. The nine days of its 15th edition with 27 concerts opened in the neighbouring community of Winterthur, to express solidarity with the Winterthur jazz concert series, which had recently lost its subsidy from the local authority. This report covers the concluding two days of the festival on Saturday, November 26, and Sunday, November 27.

Unerhört

What’s in a name? ‘Unerhört’ literally it means not previously heard, but the word has migrated into other semantic fields. The word is used as an intensifier, positively and negatively, as an indicator of either indignation or surprise: incredibly, egregious, tremendous, enormous. But it can also mean embarrassing… or ‘not listened to’.... Unerhört is the long arm of renowned Intakt label from Zürich which has operated successfully for thirty-two years, not least due to an enduring, highly recommendable subscription system which gives its community of lovers of creative music a very tangible way to show their commitment to the label.

The responsibility for the programming and organization is in hands of a committee. Newly rejuventated and re-configured, it comprises three musicians and four people from the Intakt label, assisted by an advisory team. The committee built a multi-facetted, attractive international programme around it with musicians/groups, who have something to say in the present situation of open creative music with a high proportion of new ventures. It included Icelandic group ADHA, Tim Berne, Jakob Bro, Antoine Chessex, Tobias Delius, Elena Duni, Ellery Eskelin, Steve Heather, Alex Huber, Claire Huguenin, Ethan Iverson, Lauren Kinsella, Matthias Spillmann, Skuli Sverrisson, Ohad Talmor, Mark Turner, Dan Weiss, Joe Williamson, and Colin Vallon. In some cases there are cross-connections with Intakt musicians. For example, ADHD’s saxophonist is plays on Jim Black’s new quartet album on Intakt,

The Intakt/  Unerhört team

Mala Mute, or the young drummer of Collin Vallon trio, Julian Sartorius has recorded a solo-album, Zatter on Intakt. The festival also presented a representative selection from various parts of the Swiss scene including also remarkable genre-defying vocalist newcomer Claire Huguenin, a newcomer who is mirthfully and vigorously playing her very own game – definitely worth checking out. The participating drummers might give and indication of the festival’s range: Joey Baron, Gerald Cleaver, Trygvason Eliassen, Michael Griener, Lorenz Haar, Steve Heather, lex Huber, Lucas Niggli, Tom Rainey, Julian Sartorius, Chad Taylor, Dieter Ulrich, Dan Weiss.

Chris Wiesendanger

Maybe the most surprising and delicate concert was the concert of composer/pianist Chris Wiesendanger with classical soprano voice Sonoe Kato, renowned jazz bassist Christian Weber and the Ensemble of New Music Zürich comprising Hans-Peter Frehner (flute), Manfred Spitaler (cl), Lorenz Haas (perc), Urs Bumbacher (vln), Nicola Romanò (vcl). The ensemble brought a fascinating frangible and transparent sound world into being inspired by a serious if season haikus and European poems a.o. Celan’s “Ricerar”. Wiesendanker and above all bassist Christian Weber interspersed the composed part of the pieces with ex tempore poetical particles and gestures that both illuminated the space and generated some material, visceral magic. Wiesendanger is an extraordinary voice and composer whose new album with the significant title Au clair soleil, je chante à pleine voix, recorded with bassist Ben Street and drummer Jeff Ballard, is due to be released. Besides the projection of the concerts there was lacking some deep visual that would have made it a definite treat.

The Rote Fabrik 

Saturday (night)

The night program at (defunct industrial site) Rote Fabrik in Wollishofen on the North western shore of Lake Zürich, presented four performances: the Aruan Ortiz Trio with bassist Brad Jones and drummer Chad Taylor, the piano duo of Gabriela Friedli and Claudia Ulla Binder, the sextet Mats-Up of young trumpeter Matthias Spillmann. The night concluded with the second ‘Seismogram Am Unerhört’ after midnight. After vocalist Claire Huguenin the night before the spotlight was on trumpeter Antoine Chessex.

Brooklyn pianist Aruan Ortiz (1973), originally from Santiago de Cuba, has developed into a resistant distinctive voice recently documented by the outstanding trio album Hidden Voices with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver released by the Intakt label – an album scoring highly in prominent 2016 year-end lists. For its extended fall tour Ortiz replaced Revis and Cleaver with bassist Brad Jones and drummer Chad Taylor, bringing in their own characteristics and colour.

Having seen the trio performing a few days before at Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw it was interesting to experience it in the context of the Zürich festival. The trio came in calmly with a lengthier onset, Chad Taylor on thumb piano, Ortiz employing the piano on the inside, and Brad Jones playing arco. After carefully having laid down some breathing solid groundwork for more to bloom they swept around for a while in one of those characteristic truncated Latin rhythm patterns of Ortiz, the beginning of the ‘overwriting’ and intricate layering of their music. It resembles the effect of double exposure in photography: there is a vague contour against a clear contour both ‘connected‘ by a seemingly vibrating interspace. Mirroring, zooming in and out the trio created rotating spaces such that it appeared crooked than straight again. As a counterpoint to that highly movable play the trio came up with an amazingly calm, outstretched and fine-grained surface.

Considering the differences between the two concerts and the main part and the encore in the second concert the performance of Ortiz’ trio was a manifestation of a strong generative and open approach allowing rich variations in dynamics, coloring, tempo and temperature.

Doubling the same instruments can be a very fruitful, enriching thing. Does it also go up for the piano? Yes and no – depending on the approach, the framework (for instance pre-structured/composed or real-time creation) and the way to proceed (alternating and expanding, complementing or confronting each other etc.) and accomplish something communal. Three days before the duo of Gabriela Friedli and Claudia Ulla Binder there had been already another doubling, the piano-duo of Katharina Weber and Erika Rademacher, all four musicians accomplished improvisers as well as interpreters of composed contemporary music. Should female pianists have a stronger penchant for doubling/duo’s than their male colleagues? Or should it be a Swiss speciality? It seems rather coincidental!

Friedli and Binder engaged in the exchange of a series well chosen strong improvisational gestures and configurations as known from heterogeneous duo’s. It was a commendable affair but it was lacking surprise moments due to a systematic application of special qualities of the instruments in combination.

Mats-Up: L-R: Marc Méan, Matthias Spillmann,  Reto Suhner
Mats-Up is a longstanding proven quintet lead by Matthias Spillmann (1975), one of the most distinguished Swiss trumpeters. Spillmann is an Art Farmer type of trumpeter with a clear, refined, and fully bearing sound. The performance proved that the group has gained a sonority richly exuding, floating and glowing the natural way in all kind of pieces. The group, comprising saxophonist Reto Suhner, pianist Marc Méan, bassist Raffaele Bossard and drummer Dominic Egli, all high calibre musicians of the Swiss scene, had a very own way of sculpturing sound in flowing lines and time with deep resonances of all kinds. By and then it happened so naturally and unobtrusively that you might take it for granted, might almost forget about the delicate continual process of attuning and accommodating. With great ingenuity the group draw its circles, moved in the round and went to outer regions, connecting both with each other rendering colourful music – with some Carla Bley reminiscences - cheering up the senses.


Bürgerasyl-Pfrundhaus and the view over Zürich

Sunday

Each edition of Unerhört programs a concert at the Bürgerasyl-Pfrundhaus, an old inner city retirement home. There are two other instances of this old communal church institution in Switzerland (Rapperswil, Winterthur) and one in Germany (Darmstadt). The building and its inhabitants is a great ambience. You surely have to be in time because it is always packed (no reservation possible) and the audience are in the habit of arriving early. This year they were expecting Swiss-Albanian vocalist Elena Duni accompanied by pianist Jean-Paul Brodbeck. Former editions presented a remarkable and challenging series of musicians: Oliver Lake/William Parker. Luciano Biondini, Gumpert-Sommer & Large Ensemble HS Luzern, Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman, Jürg Wickihalder/Ulrich Gumpert, George Gruntz/Erika Stucky, Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall. This extraordinary component is made possible due to a personal connection between Bürgerasyl-Pfrundhaus and the Intakt label. Rosmarie Meier is the president of Intakt Records Association and the director of Bürgerasyl-Pfrundhaus, a felicitous connection!

This year Swiss-Albanian vocalist Elena Duni, who has two successful ECM-albums with her Swiss group (Colin Vallon/Patrice Moret/Norbert Pfammater) to her name, presented a Billie Holiday program. Such an enterprise is a double-edged sword. An element of risk is removed because of the brilliance of the source, but it is a challenge to come up with a truly original version, the challenge to give it your very own voice. To the delight of the audience Duni kept it very close to the phrasings and the tone of the original version supported by a quite sophisticated piano accompaniment of Jean-Paul Brodbeck. It was a delightful performance but the tingle factor was missing.

Concluding night

The concluding night presented the trio of guitarist Jakob Bro (1978), bassist Thomas Morgan (1981) and master drummer Joey Baron (1955) as well as the Beyond trio of saxophonist Jürg Wickihalder (1973), renowned bassist Barry Guy (1947) and ubiquitous drummer Lucas Niggli (1968), also a driving force of the Intakt Records Association. It was quite a contrast between the two trios in their ways of sound making, their kind of moving energy, improvising exactness and their aesthetics. Bro’s trio gradually generated an inescapable increasing glow from within to eventually exude into floating, frothing streams….

….While Wickihalder’s trio engendered heavy turbulences to impetuously dive into and surf the beating and bursting waves of sound jumping, cutting, running, turning and gliding. Both trios ended up lush and magnificently. Bro, Morgan and Baron brought forth a rollin’ railway song vibrating under the nightly sky, a far echo of Howlin Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” whereas Wickihalder, Guy and Niggli created a wonderful festive crooked calypso as a cheerful conclusion to the festival.

Drawnote by Henning Bolte

Conclusion

Unerhört is strikingly stable in its balance of a solid steady core of musicians and its openness to including new things, new musicians, new approaches and even bringing on new people on their own staff, with projects at early stages such as collaborations with schools and the conservatory which should go firther. Maybe the lighting and components of visual arts can also be further developed to bring further appeal to the performances. For the time being Intakt maintains visionary without becoming illusionary.

Intakt will have a 12 day residency/ festival at the Vortex Club, April 16-27, 2017, . It starts with the 70th birthday celebration of bassist Barry Guy and concludes with a solo concert of drummer Pierre Favre and a concert of the primeval rock of European improvisation, saxophonist Evan Parker, with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman. Intakt had a two-week residency in 2012 at The Stone in New York.  FULL PROGRAMME


LINK: Unerhört Festival website

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LP REVIEW: 1st Season of Newvelle Box Set



1st Season of Newvelle Box Set
(Newvelle Records. 6 LP set. Review by Geoff Winston)

Newvelle Records are making available a limited box set of their complete first year subscription series of six vinyl-only albums. How to describe this series? It would be fair to say this is an accumulation of many labours of love for the music.

The first three albums have already been reviewed on London Jazz News:

- Jack DeJohnette's Return is his first ever solo piano album which magically illuminates the creative process (REVIEW).

- Noah Preminger's Some Other Time is 'a rich album in so many senses and repeated listening reveals much that goes on under the surface' (REVIEW).

Pianist Frank Kimbrough on Meantime reveals the musician's musician in the company of like-minded spirits. 'The key that unlocks this album is the way that Kimbrough guides and shapes each number … [and] lets others blossom ...'(REVIEW)

The remaining three albums in the set are in trio format, reinforcing Newvelle’s dedication and commitment to outstanding musicianship matched by audio quality and presentation.

- Don Friedman's Strength and Sanity is a great slice of straight ahead, contemporary jazz which presents the master pianist mining the riches of the Booker Little songbook in his favourite trio, with bassist Paul Palombi and drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi, to reveal the depths of his interpretative powers in what was, sadly, to be one of his very last recordings before his passing in June 2016.

- Quiet Revolution by Ben Allison is, foremost, the bassist's celebration of the great guitarist and composer Jim Hall. Guitarist Steve Cardenas's delicate solo opening lines say everything you need to know about what's going to be served up by Allison's tightly integrated trio. Ted Nash, on saxes and on clarinet, recalls the flair of Bill Smith who played with Hall on Folk Jazz and Allison solos beautifully on the well-travelled Looking Up, in the understated manner of Hall's bassists, Charlie Haden and Scott Colley.

- Argentinosaurus, pianist Leo Genovese's dynamite trio with Esperanza Spalding on bass with occasional vocals, and Jack DeJohnette on percussion, thrive on an interaction which serves up surprises that gently wrongfoot conventional expectation. The whole album buzzes with invention and enjoyment based around Genovese's compositional skills and keyboard flair. DeJohnette is ceaselessly inquisitive and his hi-hat, brushed metal and tapped toms are captured to a tee by engineer Marc Urselli - not to mention a spell on melodica - while Spalding adds her very own dynamic, pacey spice to Genovese's Latin fusion flavours.

Newvelle will be seeing in the new year with the launch of their second series featuring six more recordings: by the John Patitucci Trio, the Kevin Hays and Lionel Loueke Duo, the Jon Cowherd Quartet (with Steve Cardenas, Tony Sher and Brian Blade), the Chris Tordini Trio (wih Becca Stevens and Greg Ruggerio), Aruan Ortiz (solo piano), and the Rufus Reid Trio (with Steve Allee and Duduka Da Fonseca and the Sirius String Quartet).

LINK: Full details of the first season box set at the Newvelle Records website
Second series details

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REVIEW: Apartment House ensemble and Elaine Mitchener at Second House Holland Park (LCMF 2016)

Elaine Mitchener with Apartment House at LCMF 2016
Drawing by Geoff Winston © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Apartment House ensemble and Elaine Mitchener (LCMF 2016)
(Second House Holland Park, 15 December 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Post-minimalist composer, performer and conductor Julius Eastman (1940-1990) led a challenging and troubled artistic and personal life which ended in his early death aged 49, and tragic obscurity. Linked, often controversially, to the politics of race and gay issues, his works are now gaining fresh recognition, and a selection formed the central focus of the 2016 London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF). This review is of the first night of the festival.

Frederic Rzewski was one of Eastman's mentors whose works he often performed during the 1970s, and Rzewski's Coming Together was the opening work in the series, with the composer present.

There was something unsettling about sitting in the semi-bohemian comfort of Holland Park's Second House, one of the settings for Blow Up, Antonioni's Swinging Sixties, Herbie Hancock-scored, film parable of 1966, listening to Rzewski's tour-de-force concerning the horrific slaughter during the Attica prison riots in 1971.

Outwardly low-key, its stripped back format is that of of repeatedly returning to a short extract from the diary of Sam Melville, one of the key movers behind the uprising, who died months later from a wound sustained in the riots. It is such a minimal proposition that its success depends upon the performers investing the text with a nuanced and shaped narrative ranging from optimism - 'I am in excellent physical and emotional health' - to the questioning of it, and then to introduce the revelations of 'indifferent brutality, …',  which gave rise to the confrontations culminating in the tragic deaths of 33 inmates and 10 guards and civilians.

It was a challenge to which the accomplished vocalist Elaine Mitchener and the experimental collective, Apartment House, directed by Anton Lukoszevieze, rose with great spirit and insight, imbuing each verse with incrementally different emotional tones. Mitchener's impassioned vocal delivery captured Rzewski's overt hints of menace as Melville's words hovered in areas of ambiguity, irony and, ultimately, desperation, mirrored with acuity by Apartment House's combination of vibraphone/keyboard, flutes and piano.

The second part of the programme was taken up by Femenine, Eastman's long-form composition of over 70 minutes from 1974, which, whilst lingering on the borderline where the challenging touches the comfortably glowing, was interpreted with great sensitivity by the musicians of Apartment House.

The sound of automated, mechanical sleigh bells was insinuated in to the audience chatter which subsided with the gradual realisation that the piece was under way. Piano phrases danced lightly then with more affecting discord over the introductory passages formed of manifold structured repetitions, utilising figures that had an uncanny warmth and familiarity to them. As the layering became more complex, the electric keyboard's near-harpsichord tones added something of the flavour of Terry Riley's oeuvre to give the work a sense of temporal positioning and context in relation to the downtown New York scene with which Eastman was associated, with a gradual conscious disconnect from its easier tones giving the later sections of the composition an alarming edge.

Unfortunately, the dates of LCMF 2016 appear to have been fixed at relatively short notice (only 5-6 weeks ahead of the event, which took place on the last weekend before Christmas). Too late - for example - for this Guardian feature about Eastman from September.  Hopefully, the lead-up to LCMF 2017 will be better planned and prepared.

Performers

Apartment House:

Gavin Morrison (flute)
Emma Williams (flute)
Mira Benjamin (violin)
Anton Lukoszevieze (cello)
Mark Knoop (keyboard)
Kerry Yong (piano)
Simon Limbrick (percussion)

with Elaine Mitchener (vocalist - Rzewski)

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PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Camilla George Quartet - (New Album - Isang, Launch 11th Jan 2017)

Camilla George
Portrait by Benjamin Amure


London-based saxophonist and composer CAMILLA GEORGE, leading her own quartet with Sarah Tandy on piano, Daniel Casimir on bass and Femi Koleoso on drums, is releasing her debut album as leader, "Isang" (Ubuntu Records). She spoke to Leah Williams about the inspirations for the album, the burgeoning London jazz scene and the importance of music that makes you want to dance:

LondonJazz News: How did your love affair with the saxophone begin?

Camilla George: My grandfather was a jazz sax player in Grenada, where my dad was from, so I guess it was in my blood already but I actually had my first go on a sax when I was around eight at a neighbour’s house. All it took was being able to get that first raspy sound out for me to completely fall in love. I pestered my parents for years and, when I got to secondary school, I finally got the chance to start learning properly. I actually won a music competition that meant I got some free lessons and that’s what kicked it all off.

LJN: Sounds like you had the right stubbornness needed to really make a go of it as a musician!

CG: Yes, for sure. I knew it was something I wanted to do and it was just meant to be, I guess, but it wasn’t a direct route. With my granddad having been a professional musician, my dad had seen how tough it could be and he wasn’t keen for me to go straight into it at a young age so I actually went to Uni in Birmingham to study History. Music and the sax were always there for me though - I even managed to sit in on classes at the Birmingham Conservatoire during my time there and that’s where I met Soweto Kinch as well.

LJN: You found your way to full-time music eventually though.

CG: After I graduated, I knew it was time for me to really dedicate myself to music and so I went to study a post-grad at Trinity in London. That was where I started to really progress and come into my own, I think. I’d been involved in Tomorrow’s Warriors since a young age and I continue to do things with them today. Gary Crosby has been such a great support and influence and in 2009, whilst I was studying, I started playing with Jazz Jamaica as well and this was my first real important step into the professional music world.

LJN: You’ve also played with Nu Civilisation Orchestra and Venus Warriors - do you find that being involved in such a number of collaborations helps to inform your own music?

CG: I think so. It’s great to get different viewpoints on how to run a band and to pick up extra ideas and inspiration from a wealth of musicians. You’re always learning and I’ve learnt so much in the 18 months since the Quartet got together. When I started, I definitely didn’t know so much about running a band but having had the experience of seeing other people do it really helped me. The amount of organisation involved can easily take away from the time you have to practice and really dedicate yourself to the actual music side of things, so having the mentoring as it were from these other collaborations helped me to make sure I could find the right balance.

LJN: What was the catalyst for making that jump from playing within bands to launching your own project with the Camilla George Quartet?

CG: It was actually playing with Courtney Pine’s Venus Warriors. He was really hot on us all bringing in our own stuff to play and, at the time, I didn’t feel so confident in my own writing. He really helped me with my compositional process and opened my eyes to the importance of exploring your own work. It gave me the drive I needed to start my own project.

LJN: You wrote most of the songs on the album, the Kenny Garrett classic “Ms Baja” and the standard “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” being the only exceptions. What are your inspirations?

CG: Lots of things really. Mainly it’s a mix between my musical influences and then the other players who form the quartet. My piano player Sarah Tandy was someone I always wanted to work with; she’s such an exciting player and we share a love for Kenny Kirkland and nineties jazz. I always knew I wanted to have an African influence in there too. I grew up in Nigeria listening to a mix of Jackie McLean and Fela Kuti, which kind of sums up the broad range of styles that continue to influence me! Having the chance to work with such a great percussion section, with Femi and Daniel, meant that I had the scope to really explore African rhythms with a nod towards the calypso beats I so love playing with Jazz Jamaica and even some hints of hip hop in there as well.

LJN: You’ve dedicated one of the songs “Song for Reds” to your father. Was he a big influence in your musical journey?

CG: He was, certainly. He was the one who really got me into jazz, taking me to my first ever jazz gig. We went to see Sonny Rollins and I just loved it. Sadly, my father passed away in 2011 and it was something I definitely needed to do, have a song that really expressed my love and gratitude for everything he’d done for me and I’m really proud of that tune, it just sums him up perfectly.


LJN: Does the title “Isang” have special meaning to you?

CG: Yes, the word means “journey” in the language of the village where I grew up and it just seemed a really fitting word for the album. It captures both my own musical journey as well as that of the album, through Africa to the Caribbean and into modern jazz. I really love the track Isang on the album too - it’s a highlife tune, really fun to play and it’s the only one that we played as a trio so has a different sound to the rest.

LJN: Vocalist Zara McFarlane guests on the album on the track “Ms. Baja” - how did this come about?

CG: Zara and I have known each other a long time, both being a part of Tomorrow’s Warriors and Jazz Jamaica, and we’ve become really good friends. I actually featured on her first album, Until Tomorrow, and I’m so glad she was able to be on mine too. In my opinion, she’s simply one of the most talented singers around and I love this track with her on it. We considered adding lyrics but, in the end, the simple beauty of her voice and the melody alone was so effective that it just wasn’t needed.

LJN: Are there any other contemporaries out there that you’re enjoying at the moment?

CG: So many. There are just so many great bands on the London scene nowadays. I’m really loving Sons of Kemet, Binker & Moses, and the Ezra Collective (my drummer Femi’s band), amongst many others.

LJN: What do you think of the idea that the future of jazz is in trouble?

CG: I just don’t think it’s true. Jazz is not dead! I think the opposite in fact; there are so many young people embracing jazz and moving it forwards through fusion and innovation. Most importantly, I think, is that people are making music that you want to dance to. Not everyone will want to sit in a hall and listen to a jazz set. If jazz is to move forwards and thrive then it has to cater for the generation that wants something to get up and dance to as well and I think this new movement of jazz is providing that (pp).

L-R: Femi Koleoso, Sarah Tandy, Camilla George, Daniel Casimir


Isang will be released on 13 January 2017 on Ubuntu Records and available at all main retailers.

The album launch is on 11th January 2017 at Pizza Express Jazz Club, followed by a nationwide tour.

LINKS: Camilla George website
Pizza Express Bookings for January 11th

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CD REVIEW: Wolfgang Muthspiel - Rising Grace



Wolfgang Muthspiel - Rising Grace
(ECM 2515. CD review by Mike Collins)


Wolfgang Muthspiel’s second album for ECM may have been released late in the year, but I’ve spotted it creeping into a few ‘best of 2016’ lists. It’s not hard to see why. The Austrian guitarist has augmented his regular trio comprising himself, drummer Brian Blade and the bass of Larry Grenadier with Brad Mehldau’s piano and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Collectively, they weave quiet, magical spells through a set of ten originals, one contributed by Mehldau, the rest by Muthspiel.

London Jazz interviewed Muthspiel just as he released his first ECM album a couple of years ago and invited him to accept the title of ‘world’s quietest guitarist’. He gracefully declined the epithet (*), but this is quiet, subtle music, albeit suffused with a myriad of colours and imbued with gentle urgency throughout by his band of master collaborators.

The title track Rising Grace opens the set, a flowing piece, melody spiralling away with Akinmusire’s fluted tones doubling the piano and floating over the bubbling accompaniment. Piano, trumpet and guitar comment on each other rather than solo. Intensive Care is a painstakingly unfolded, slowly pulsing collective meditation. It’s spellbinding. Triad Song and Father and Son quicken the pace, Akinmusire sketching out the more overt and appealing melodies. Mehldau’s contribution Wolfgang’s Waltz skips along, the pianists solo inventive and expansive upping the energy again. Superonny has a filament of a rocky groove traced through it and Boogaloo a fractured moody pulse and distorting guitar. Den Wheeler, Den Kenny is Muthspiel’s nod to the late, great Canadian and the band weaves a patchwork of moods, the guitar and Akinmusire particularly drawing out emotional highs as they lead the improvisation.

This is finely wrought music with no particular musician in the foreground although they each take the lead at times . The focus and creative energies of the formidable band are always in the service of the whole sound. A delightful, beautiful album.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

(*) Muthspiel's reasoning was that there was a more deserving candidate.

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YEAR-END LISTS 2016 (4 of 4) JAZZ WISHES FOR 2017



What will 2017 bring. This is the year when jazz might want to celebrate its own 100th birthday - the anniversary of the original Livery Stable Blues recording (above) on February 26th 1917. There are other centenaries too: in quick succession, Buddy Rich (September 30th) and Thelonious Monk (October 10th). 

In this, the fourth and final year-end list, London Jazz News’ friends - musicians, writers and promoters from the UK, France, Germany and South Africa - look into 2017 and share their hopes and dreams. There is a recurring theme here from UK contributors, and it is a wish for more European collaborations. You can add your own wishes in the comments section. Contributions compiled by Peter Bacon:

A jazz touring network for Scotland. - Rob Adams

I love the exciting and risk-taking young musicians coming up through the UK scenes right now so for 2017, I wish them the enthusiasm, strength and self-belief to see through their dreams.  - Alya Al-Sultani

In South Africa, the wish can only be that the mainstream media start covering jazz properly again, rather than displacing serious arts writing in favour of lifestyle and showbiz gossip. - Gwen Ansell

That jazz musicians raise their expectations and demand a fair reward for their labours and their artistry. - Peter Bacon

A wish for British, European and international jazz musicians to keep on working together. - Alison Bentley

Ah the impossible dream: That the major funding agency for London would make sufficient funds available to present a concert series by some of the many larger ensembles across a wide range of styles with a budget for real marketing and paid rehearsal time for all the brilliant players who are normally expected to turn up and play as if they are unpaid choral singers. - Brian Blain

Despite progress in recent years, the UK jazz scene still needs more cohesion so I’m hoping the jazz fairy will provide! – John Blandford

(A bit more) honest frankness, willingness to learn and truthfulness to the music - Henning Bolte

My hope is that our increasingly isolationist approach as a country doesn’t prevent our musicians getting their music abroad, establishing essential collaborations and welcoming foreign musicians here, too. - George Crowley

We won’t be bowed, we won’t be plucked, we won’t fret, suck it up or be blown out, we are the global international and have yo’ asses surrounded. - AJ Dehany

To stay joyfully open minded, the only thing that helps against the cultural illness. - Ralf Dombrowski

"A greater British presence in European festivals"
Dan Nicholls, Lauren Kinsella. Suedtirol Jazz Festival 2015
Photo Credit Ralf Dombrowski All Rights Reserved

I would love to see a greater British presence in European Festivals. - Tony Dudley Evans

Having played a small part in finally getting Cambridge International Jazz Festival on the map I wish for continued success to secure its place as a 'must go' destination in 2017 - David Gower.

That British talent gets fully recognised - we have some remarkable and exciting musicians in our own back yard! - Patrick Hadfield

I would like London Jazz Festival to be smaller, more focused and more innovative. - Alan Hayward

We find a better way for deserving jazz artists to make a living from their exceptional talent, while their audiences continue to grow. - Martin Hummel

That there will be more venues of all sizes outside central London for live music, run by promoters with vision, funds and enthusiasm. - Mary James.

That Jacob Collier continue his extraordinary musical evolution, and in so doing helps draw a younger audience to jazz, as Jamie Cullum did - Peter Jones

Susana Santos Silva at Festival Desvio in Parede in Portugal.
Photo credit: Henning Bolte

To hear the Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva play live in France (review). - Matthieu Jouan

A peaceful, grooving, off-kilter and happy Monk centenary. - Hans Koller

Venues get serious about limiting people filming concerts on their mobile phones and iPads, so the rest of us can enjoy the live music that's right there in front of us - Rob Mallows

More melody - less noise - real music. - Keith McDowall

More space and encouragement for lesser mortals like me to bring out our instruments and get a chance to play alongside London’s wonderful professional musicians - Adam Glasser’s great Friday night South African Jazz Jams at The Vortex are leading the way, so who’s next? - Mark McKergow

That we can all concentrate much more on the music, rather than struggling to make it happen. - Steve Mead

Jamie Cullum and the Remi Harris Trio at the BBC Proms.
Photo credit BBC/Mark Allan

Jamie Cullum’s BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall this year highlighted the sell-out, cross-genre reach that vibrant, collaborative jazz is capable of, given the right channels – so my wish is for still greater media promotion and recognition of UK jazz's ever-widening scope, and of its world-class performers. - Adrian Pallant

For jazz musicians to spend as much time in schools as they do on stages and in studios. - Matt Pannell

That Alan Bates will allow access to the complete master tapes of Booker Little’s Out Front session with Eric Dolphy and Max Roach - every alternate take, every scrap of playing and conversation between takes - and so give this timeless masterpiece to the world in its fullest form. - Evan Parker

Another concert from saxophonist Emile Parisien in front of my eyes. - Bruno Pfeiffer

A considerably deepened appreciation of the jazz musician’s role and potential in wider society, beyond the jazz club - and some cross-generational music-making would be healthy. - Simon Purcell

Greater respect and coverage for grass roots UK-based Jazz from the media in general and the BBC in particular. - Steve Rubie

Michael Gibbs
Photo credit: ARD / Lutz Voigtlaender

There are firm plans to celebrate Mike Gibbs 80th birthday, with a stellar line-up...but they are at Berklee in Boston. I hope there will also be the London celebration that he deserves - Sebastian Scotney

To catch Binker & Moses’s new album due out in 2017 live - Amy Sibley-Allen.

May the current crop of wonderful young London-based musicians make the international impact their talent deserves. - Adam Sieff

We can but hope for Arts Council England to adopt a strategy for jazz rather than an approach based on who puts in the best bids. - Peter Slavid

Wider appreciation of jazz as an inspiring model of spontaneous creative co-operation, in times when that seems in short supply. - Jon Turney

Tony Kinsey (second from left) with Ray Nance,
Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes in 1959
That Tony Kinsey be recognised/honoured for his contribution to British jazz as drummer, bandleader and composer. Peter Vacher

I would like Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society to bring their era-defining multimedia extravaganza Real Enemies to Europe. - John L. Walters

In a time when live venues are under pressure (with 40% closing in London alone since 2008), let's hope that there are enough chances to hear, and let develop, a vibrant scene that exists. - Oliver Weindling



Probably impossible, but somehow bringing Cecil Taylor over here, whetted by reports of his unique, week-long season at the Whitney Museum in New York in April 2016 where he collaborated with many other artists, including Tony Oxley on the opening night. - Geoff Winston

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YEAR-END LISTS 2016 (3 of 4) RECORDED MEMORY OF THE YEAR


In this third of our four year-end lists, a wide range of jazz people: musicians, writers, promoters from the UK, France, Germany, and South Africa have named and proclaimed their recorded sounds if the year. Pianists Keith Jarrett and Elliot Galvin were each nominated twice. You can add your own choices in the comments section. These 2016 contributions have been compiled by Peter Bacon:

Mike Westbrook and the Uncommon Orchestra A Bigger Show (ASC Records): A grooving, epic circus-cum-fairground phantasmagoria of hungry mischief, prayerful beauty and heroic blowing. (review) - Rob Adams

Michael Chillingworth Scratch & Sift (Two Rivers Records): As a label boss it's risky choosing just one but I can't imagine anyone would disagree that this debut is a thing of genius. - Alya Al-Sultani

Siya Makuzeni Sextet Out of This World (Siya Makuzeni Sextet): Intelligent compositions and arrangements from singer/trombonist Makuzeni and an empathetic, skilled crew that paint a succession of parallel musical universes from African polyphony to infectious mainstream-style melodies to out-of-this-world looping abstract vocalese. - Gwen Ansell

Avishai Cohen - Into The Silence (ECM): A quietly bold and, I think, important album. (thejazzbreakfast review) - Peter Bacon

Vincent Peirani & Michael Wollny - Tandem (ACT): Two strong virtuosic musical personalities: German pianist Wollny’s gothic eeriness balanced perfectly with French accordionist Peirani’s melodic warmth. (review) - Alison Bentley

Pete Hurt Jazz Orchestra A New Start (Trio Records): Wonderful writing  from Hurt totally free from big band cliches, heavy without being dry and obtuse, realised by a band of rising players,male and female, mixed with more familiar names like Henry Lowther Noel Langley Jim Rattigan and Mick Hutton. (review) - Brian Blain

Jakob Bro - Streams (ECM): Bro’s music has the airiness and transiency of fleeting clouds but also induces perpetual subliminal burning open to slowly developing outbursts. (thejazzbreakfast review) - Henning Bolte


Sam Crockatt – Mell’s Bells (Whirlwind): Artfully distilled compositions delivered with verve by a fantastic quartet seems to have kept this in the playlist all year/ Mike Collins

Robert Stillman - Rainbow (Orindal Records): In heavy rotation all year along with Matthew Bourne’s moogmemory (The Leaf Label), both are intoxicating, beautiful, disquieting and really individual recordings. - George Crowley

Elliot Galvin Trio - Punch (Edition Records): The trio fizzes with nervous energy in a strong set ranging from the unsettling drunk glock of Mack The Knife to the baptismal whimsy and whistle of Cosy via the unforgettable double microtonal melodica lurch of Blop. (thejazzbreakfast review) - AJ Dehany

Maghreb meets Cameroon meets Munich meets jazz - one of my most inspiring interviews this years with Majid Bekkas and Biboul Darouiche, talking about what the world needs now. - Ralf Dombrowski

Lloyd Swanton Ambon (Bugle Records): This double CD presents the homage by Lloyd Swanton, the bass player with The Necks, to his uncle who died in a prisoner of war camp in Indonesia during the Second World War. - Tony Dudley-Evans

Vimala Rowe & John Etheridge - Out Of The Sky (Dyad): Sublime musicianship and sincere emotion from a brilliant shining singing star and a master of the guitar in so many settings. (review) - David Gower

Keith Jarrett - A Multitude Of Angels (ECM): I've heard  many good records this year, but among those which I think will stay with me is this. A remarkable collection. (review) - Patrick Hadfield

Matt Wilson and Jeff Lederer at Pizza Express Dean Street
Photo credit: Victor Hugo Guidini


Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family - Beginning Of A Memory (Palmetto Records): Great compositions and improvisations, and a great spirit and sense of fun (Photos and LJF gig report). - Alan Hayward

Keith Jarrett A Multitude Of Angels (ECM): Heavenly stuff from 1996 that will leave you speechless and explains why Jarrett needed to take the next two years off. (review) - Martin Hummel

Casey Golden Miniature (Scrampion Records): For its billowing baroque melodies of great elegance and loveliness, dawn-of-Midi meets Bach. (review) - Mary James.

Rune Klakegg & Scheen Jazzorkester - Fjon (Losen Records): For the sheer beauty and inventiveness of the compositions. (review) - Peter Jones

Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra - Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (Clean Feed Records): Logically, the best record because of the stunning sparklings of sounds and the strength of the intent. (citizenjazz review) - Matthieu Jouan

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus The Distance (ECM) (review) - Hans Koller

Daniel Karlsson - At the Feel Free Falafel (Brus): This Swedish keyboardist’s third album showcased a range of sounds and grooves which make for utterly compelling listening - Rob Mallows

Peter Jones - Utopia (Howlin’ Werewolf): London’s own Peter Jones’ second album is a treasure trove of first-class jazz, new lyrics to old classics, great solos from a stellar band and a punchy sound mix – a recording I first heard in January and am still humming today. (review) - Mark McKergow

Snowpoet - Snowpoet (Two Rivers Records): The latest eponymous release captures Lauren Kinsella and Chris Hyson’s vision with such moving charm and beauty. (album launch) - Steve Mead

Andre Canniere - The Darkening Blue (Whirlwind Recordings): The very first listen to this third album from trumpeter Andre Canniere, as leader – a great line-up including Tori Freestone and Brigitte Beraha, interpreting the poetry of Rilke – reminded me of original contemporary jazz's astounding ability, without warning, to coax wide-ranging, often tear-welling emotions from deep within. - Adrian Pallant

Resolution 88 - Afterglow (Splash Music): I’ve yet to find a person - and I’ve been looking - who doesn’t love this. (bandcamp) - Matt Pannell

Brad Mehldau Trio - Blues & Ballads (Nonesuch / Warner) - Bruno Pfeiffer




Elliot Galvin Trio - Punch (Edition Records) - Simon Purcell

Kate Williams Four + Three (Kwjazz): A masterful and highly musical project that sounds as good live as it does on record. (album launch) - Steve Rubie

Iiro Rantala - How Long Is Now? (ACT): Declaration of interest: I wrote the sleevenote and the press text, but getting to know it much better since release has remained a pure pleasure. - Sebastian Scotney

Laura Jurd's Dinosaur Together, As One (Edition Records): Impossible to sum up in a sentence apart from to say it’s wonderful. (review) - Amy Sibley-Allen

Maisha Welcome To A New Welcome (jazz re:freshed): It's a sensational calling card. - Adam Sieff

Piero Bittolo Bon's Bread & Fox - Big Hell On Air (Auand): Italian jazz in general has been a revelation this year and Piero Bittolo Bon, who is well respected in Italy but is almost unknown in the UK, delivered this really surprising, quirky music. - Peter Slavid




Jane Ira Bloom Early Americans. (Outline): Undersung hero of the soprano sax and brilliant composer in a superb trio set with long-time associates Bobby Previte and Mark Helias, who understand her needs perfectly. - Jon Turney

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Live In Cuba (Blue Engine): Superb music, brilliantly executed and much appreciated by the local population. - Peter Vacher

Part of the car chase scene from Miles Ahead


Miles Ahead - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia/Legacy): Miles Davis’s Back Seat Betty repurposed as blaxploitation chase music. (review) - John L. Walters

ICP Orchestra - Restless in Pieces (ICP): The Dutch band (50 years old in 2017) maintains its balance of tightness, surprise and freedom showing that the spirit of Misha Mengelberg is alive and well. - Oliver Weindling

David Bowie - Blackstar (ISO vinyl): On the turntable it never loses its visceral, emotional impact as an album of exceptional quality and production values, drawing in the talents of jazz musicians who include Ben Monder, Mark Guiliana and Donny McCaslin to anchor its sound, and sharing the writing credit with Maria Schneider on the stunning Sue (or in a Season of Crime), who said of him, 'I think he understood that jazz is a collaboration, a communication' - and I would also love to mention Jack DeJohnette's solo piano vinyl album, Return (Newvelle) (review), which is a desert island disc for me! - Geoff Winston

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YEAR-END LISTS 2016 (2 of 4) LIVE MEMORY OF THE YEAR

"Spellbinding": The German-Afghan singer Simin Tander
Photo credit and ©: John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk

"Jazz,” said Keith Jarrett, “is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple." In the second of London Jazz News’ four year-end lists from a wide range of jazz people: musicians, writers, promoters from the UK, France, Germany, and South Africa name their favourite live moments of the year. You can add your own nominations in the comments section. These 2016 contributions have been compiled by Peter Bacon:

Arild Andersen Trio, Inchyra Arts Club, Perthshire: This was the coming together of a world-class group at a peak of mutual understanding with a wonderful room that made the most natural jazz club in an unlikely location. (tour preview) - Rob Adams

Black Top, the Voicebox, Derby: - Alya Al-Sultani

Tumi Mogorosi and Project ELO, Cape Town International Jazz Festival: Gabisile Motuba singing Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child turned an American gospel classic into a blues for South Africa 2016, free textures of layered human and instrumental voices with a precise respect for musical space and silence and a walloping emotional impact that had some audience members in tears. - Gwen Ansell

Tord Gustavsen, Simin Tander, Jarle Vesperstad, CBSO Centre, Birmingham: The German-Afghan Tander is the singer Gustavsen has been waiting for all his life, and a profound new phase in his music as well as a spell-binding live performance was the result. (thejazzbreakfast review) - Peter Bacon

Christine Jensen/Nikki Iles Anglo-Canadian Group, Pizza Express Jazz Club: An all-too-rare visit to London for lyrical Canadian composer/saxophonist Jensen, collaborating beautifully with UK pianist Iles. (interview) - Alison Bentley

Art Themen New Directions Quintet, Swanage Jazz Festival: Elder statesman Themen - still sharp and original constantly producing the unexpected - whipping up an early Sunday morning crowd with drummer Winston Clifford - the UK's Roy Haines - absolutely outstanding. (review) - Brian Blain

Andrew Bain’s Embodied Hope, Cambridge Modern Jazz Club: As a promoter I’m never sure whether I should nominate a home gig, but the drummer’s project with George Colligan and Jon Irabagon was an absolute highlight. (interview) - John Blandford.



Maarja Nuut, Tallinn Music Week: Maarja Nuut evidently has strong imaginational capacities to reach deeply into magical, mystical realms and invoke those by her magnificent choice of multiple expressive means and her convincing way to let them work concomitantly through extraordinary dynamics of her multi-medial performance. (review) - Henning Bolte

Julian Arguelles with Fraankfurt Radio Big Band at Cheltenham Festival: Joyous, explosive, overwhelming celebration of South African Jazz that blew the roof of Cheltenham’s Town Hall. - Mike Collins

Sam Crockatt Quartet, Con Cellar Bar: We don’t get to see Sam as often as I’d like since he defected to the West Country; his sound and playing always bring a smile to my face, and this gig was a perfect example - beautiful music from the band, a packed audience and pin-drop listening throughout - of joy for audience and promoter alike. - George Crowley

Match + Fuse Festival, Toulouse, France: Against the backdrop of a dividing Europe, the itinerant Match & Fuse festival found a new urgency in bringing its unifying vision for three days of heavy left-field and uncategorizable sonic disturbance with The Comet Is Coming smashing it on a hard-hitting billing. (festival line-up) - AJ Dehany

Julian Lage at Unterfahrt in Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Julian Lage, Unterfahrt, Munich: One of the great guitar concerts of 2016 was Lage performing with his trio - he's probably the Abercrombie-Sco-Martino of the future. - Ralf Dombrowski

Lucia Cadotsch Speak Low, mac Hexagon Theatre, Birmingham: The contrast between Lucia Cadotsch's beautiful versions of standard tunes and the improvisations of Otis Sandjo and Peter Eldh made for a wonderful concert in an intimate space. (thejazzbreakfast review) - Tony Dudley-Evans

Ryan Quigley's 'What Doesn't Kill You' Quintet, Bruichladdich Hall, Islay Jazz Festival: Blowing a hoolie outside, blowing a hoolie inside - David Gower.

GRIT Orchestra, Edinburgh International Festival: A folk-jazz-classical megaband of over 40 musicians, two choirs, and superb arrangements that made their show one of the most memorable concerts I've been to. - Patrick Hadfield

Mette Henriette Large Ensemble, Berlin: A young musician with a unique conception, the music was sublime. - Alan Hayward

Phronesis, Cadogan Hall: There's always live magic with this trio and, on this evening, drummer Anton Eger stole the show with a blinding performance that left the room ecstatic and begging for more. (review) - Martin Hummel

The winners at the 2016 Seifert competition:
L-R: Florian Willeitner, Mateusz Smoczyński , Dominika Rusinowska,
Apel.les Carod Requesens, Mario Forte and Stephan Braun
Photo credit Paweł Mazur, Zbigniew Seifert Foundation


Stephan Braun, cello finalist, Seifert Jazz Violin Competition, Lusławice, Poland: For his graceful and lyrical bossa nova Blue In Green. (review) - Mary James

José James, Cheltenham Jazz Festival: The only jazz singer who lives in the 21st century. (review) - Peter Jones

Watchin’ with Milesdavisquintet!, Soirées Tricot, Orléans: Because of the lighting of the concert and its epileptic narration. (review) - Matthieu Jouan

Martin Speake/Bobo Stenson/Conor Chaplin/James Maddren, The Vortex: - Hans Koller

Magnus Öström at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club: A drummer who’s mild-mannered persona belied his intense, metronomic rhythms that built and built and built, entrancing the audience. - Rob Mallows

Abdullah Ibrahim solo, Barbican: The South African piano legend, now in his ninth decade, produced a tour de force of quiet power, reflective improvisation and a lifetime’s repertoire brought together in 90 minutes. (review) - Mark McKergow

Thomas de Pourquery’s Supersonic, Manchester Jazz Festival: Watching their UK debut from the side of the stage, seeing the audience revel in their energy, earthiness and surprise. (festival report) - Steve Mead

Empirical, Manchester Jazz Festival: Four cool, 'on it' guys scorching the stage (and enjoying it) with an expansive, acoustic set on a summer's evening was totally captivating, and said so much about the quality of the current UK jazz scene. (festival report) - Adrian Pallant

Steve Gadd Quartet, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club: You go along for a drum masterclass, but thanks to the incredible Michael Landau, you get a guitar masterclass thrown in for free. - Matt Pannell

QÖÖLP with violonist Théo Ceccaldi, Strasbourg: - Bruno Pfeiffer

Liane Carroll singing the bridge of Skylark in a summer school performance: A characteristically heart-wrenching moment by a singer who touches heart and soul in every situation, from the Royal Festival Hall to a workshop. - Simon Purcell

Too many, 606 Club: Putting on music seven nights a week, 51 weeks of the year, there are way too many to list here! - Steve Rubie

Steve Wilson & Bruce Barth: I'm not allowed to reveal the location, but the immediacy and joy of a duo concert in a private house in London given by Wilson (consummate alto) and Barth (piano) was unforgettable. - Sebastian Scotney

Even Sanne, InJazz, Rotterdam: I stumbled on them accidentally at the end of an evening and for me it was the best performance I’d seen during the whole festival, it really stuck with me. - Amy Sibley-Allen

The Bad Plus and Binker and Moses, Scala: (review) - Adam Sieff

Alexander Hawkins Trio with John Surman, Gateshead Jazz Festival: Spine-tingling music from different generations. (festival report) - Peter Slavid

The Impossible Gentlemen, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester: Expanded transatlantic ensemble launching a fine new CD to a full house at what is their nearest to a hometown gig. (review) - Jon Turney

Christian Brewer-Damon Brown Quintet, Pinner Parish Church: For exceeding expectations and reminding us of the value of these under-sung players. - Peter Vacher

Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Cadogan Hall,2016
Photo credit: Paul Wood


Carla Bley/Liberation Music Orchestra, London Jazz Festival: Bley’s calm leadership of the Liberation Music Orchestra was an inspiration – I’m with her. (thejazzbreakfast review) - John L. Walters

Phillipp Gropper's Philm & Dice Factory, The Vortex: Amazing and highly innovative quartets: the intricacy and focus from London, contrasting with the power and tightness of Berlin saxophonist Gropper's group (having in Elias Stemeseder a pianist who is already world class). - Oliver Weindling

Howard Riley at Pizza Express.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved


Howard Riley and Keith Tippett, Steinway Spirio Two Piano Festival at Pizza Express Jazz Club: In dazzling form, displaying a natural telepathy with their absorbing, intense meditation, defying and exploring boundaries, stretching out in a sublime improvised performance, their first together since 2003. (review) - Geoff Winston

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YEAR-END LISTS 2016 (1 of 4) MUSICIAN/BAND OF THE YEAR


Georgia Mancio (L) and Nigel Price (centre) both received multiple nominations
In their trio with Julie Walkington (R) at Love Supreme 2014
Photo credit and © Andy Sheppard / Lowlightphoto.co.uk

Welcome to the first of London Jazz News’ four annual lists, naming and proclaiming the musicians and bands who have somehow left their mark this year, with contributions from a wide range of jazz people: musicians, writers, promoters from the UK, France, Germany, and South Africa. The other three, which will be published either side of Christmas, will be 'live memories', 'recorded memories', and 'wishes for 2017'. You can add your own nominations in the comments sections. These 2016 contributions have been compiled by Peter Bacon: 

Gopi Shravan: The dep drummer in Jyotsna Srikanth’s Bangalore Dreams made the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh’s kit sing and sang Konnakol with gobsmacking musicality. - Rob Adams

Snowpoet: A band of jazz musicians redefining the possibilities of improvisation and jazz as method in music with broad appeal. (album launch review here) - Alya Al-Sultani

Mandla Mlangeni: A succession of creative projects (including collaborations with the UK’s Shabaka Hutchings) that make gorgeous music and engage intelligently with the ideas and emotions of today’s South Africa. - Gwen Ansell

Gwilym Simcock at Lichfield
Photo credit: John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk


Gwilym Simcock: A world tour and recording as part of Pat Metheny’s quartet, a third Impossible Gentlemen album and tour (album launch review here), releasing his arrangements of King Crimson for saxophone quartet, writing a suite inspired by a Welsh rainforest and a BBC Radio 3 Composer Of The Week appearance behind him in 2016 alone, as a player and composer Gwilym just keeps on searching higher and getting better - Peter Bacon

Moon Hooch: Scorching live, with techno beats on drum kit and two saxes playing speedy classical arpeggios and wild free jazz (live review here). - Alison Bentley

Ed Jones: Twice this year - at 606 with Killer Shrimp (Review here) and low-key pub gig - from someone with his 'out' image, the most imaginative and exciting evenings of song book and jazz standards I have heard in years. - Brian Blain

Georgia Mancio: For maintaining a consistently high musical quality in a variety of different environments (Review here) - John Blandford

Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: The group creates trustful togetherness based on every musician’s extraordinary individual capacities and special knack fully in service of the shaping and shining of the greater whole, stimulated and balanced by the cheerful, truthful and firm guidance of Eve Risser (Report here). - Henning Bolte

Julian Arguelles: Whether with small or big bands an exhilarating live experience and albums released in late 2015 reverberated throughout 2016. - Mike Collins

Shabaka Hutchings: It’s fantastic to see Shabaka (and with him, the powerhouse of Theon Cross) receive recognition around the globe. - George Crowley

Johnny Hunter: The hotly tipped Manchester drummer and bandleader’s diverse compositional style shone on an eclectic debut quartet album While We Still Can (Feature here) succeeded by assured concert performances at the Efpi festival and Manchester Jazz Festival. - AJ Dehany

José James. Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


José James: JJ is a great master of soulfully jazz moments - and still not known enough. - Ralf Dombrowski

Amok Amor: I love the energy and the high level of interaction in this European/American band led by Petter Eldh with Peter Evans, Wanja Slavin and Christian Lillinger. - Tony Dudley-Evans   

Phronesis: For maintaining stunningly high levels of musicianship, commitment and cohesion, apparently with sublime ease, over more than a dozen years. (A review from the inaugural Sounds of Denmark Festival here) - David Gower.

Playtime Quartet: I've seen Tom Bancroft (drums), Mario Caribe (bass), Martin Kershaw (reeds) and Graeme Stephen (guitar) every few weeks throughout the year, and they're never less than inventive and entertaining. - Patrick Hadfield

Paul Dunmall: At least four great gigs this year with Liam Noble, Clark Tracey and Hamid Drake amongst others. - Alan Hayward

Brad Mehldau: Whether it's solo, duo, or trio, this guy has more in the tank than Trump has excuses. - Martin Hummel

Georgia Mancio: For her outstanding leadership in raising funds for Calais refugees and her glorious performances (Tour preview here), especially that at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. - Mary James.

Nigel Price: Not merely the UK's finest guitarist, but with his 56-date tour, surely also The Hardest-Working Man in Jazz. (Interview here) - Peter Jones

The 2015 White Desert premiere. Photo credit: Stephanie Knibbe


Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: For the beauty of the non-written scores she makes the band play. (Review of the 2015 premiere) - Matthieu Jouan

John Abercrombie/Marc Copland: The guitar/piano duo. - Hans Koller

Bill Laurance: An artist whose compositions just get better and better with each successive album (Live review here) - Rob Mallows

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Under the artistic direction of Tommy Smith the SNJO are in a colossally rich vein of form, with CD Beauty and the Beast featuring sax legend Bill Evans, projects with Mike Stern and Mike Mainieri (Steps Ahead) and new takes on classics from Brubeck, Mingus, Parker and others – all on the back of previous projects involving  Mozart, Makoto Ozone and the much-missed Bobby Wellins. (Feature here) - Mark McKergow

Ben Cottrell: For his magnificent commissioned work New Seeing at mjf 2016 – orchestral and majestic in its force. (Premiere reviewed here) - Steve Mead

Shez Raja: British jazz's profile benefits from musicians who are charismatic, entertaining leaders as well as scintillating players – and electric funk bassist Shez Raja and his band have been supporting this year's album release, Gurutopia (Review here), with energetic, audience-winning performances, including at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival (Photo essay) and the EFG London Jazz Festival. - Adrian Pallant

Gareth Lockrane Big Band: If you wanted a fiercer experience, you'd have to move beyond music altogether and spend a couple of hours in a lion enclosure. - Matt Pannell




Fred Nardin: The French pianist - Bruno Pfeiffer

Pigfoot: Chris Batchelor’s band in its various formats, "jazzing up" jazz, opera, Burt Bacharach, any musical dogma. - Simon Purcell

Bobby Wellins: A true genius who brought pleasure to countless listeners world wide. (Tributes here) - Steve Rubie

Jensen Sisters/Mason Brothers: Sibling magic has me in its spell, and it's a  tie between the Jensen Sisters and the Mason Brothers - Sebastian Scotney (Yes, I know he cheated but he’s the boss - Year-End Lists Ed.)

Lauren Kinsella: For releasing Snowpoet’s debut album and for winning vocalist of the year at 2016’s Jazz FM Awards (Report here) - Amy Sibley-Allen.

Leonard Cohen : (a tribute from Mike Rud in Montreal) - Adam Sieff

Laura Jurd: Because she was everywhere this year and you couldn't avoid her - but who would want to! (CD review here) - Peter Slavid

Andy Sheppard: For playing so generously in so many venues (and bands) in Bristol all year, and because he's leaving town in 2017. (A review from outside Bristol) - Jon Turney

Nigel Price Organ Trio: Both for their durability and for the helter-skelter creativity evident at their gigs. (Feature here) - Peter Vacher

Christine Tobin: Pelt demonstrated her prominence as an innovator, while her moving Leonard Cohen interpretations sadly acquired new significance. (A Guardian feature from way back) - John L. Walters

Paul Dunmall/Liam Noble/John Edwards/Mark Sanders: A quartet which brings energy, joy and melody to free improvisation. - Oliver Weindling

Nérija: The all-women septet out of Tomorrow's Warriors, massively impressed and moved me with their sheer musicianship, compositional skills and arrangements, and their wonderful, warm sound on stage, also captured beautifully on their new EP. (Review here) - Geoff Winston

Bobby Wellins. Photo credit: Helena Dornellas

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CD REVIEW: Keith Jarrett - A Multitude Of Angels



Keith Jarrett - A Multitude Of Angels
(ECM 2500-03. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


A new four disc set of solo piano from Keith Jarrett is an exciting prospect. Recorded by Jarrett over four concerts in Italy in 1996 without using another engineer or producer, he writes in the sleeve notes that he believes these recordings represent the pinnacle of his solo career.

Each disc contains every note played from one concert: two sets each, together with encores where played, from Modena, Ferrara, Torino and Genova. Each set was thirty minutes or so of wholly improvised music, named on each disc as Part l and Part ll; the encores were either improvised (Encore) or standards - Danny Boy in Modena and Over The Rainbow in Genova. Torino didn't get an encore, Genova got two. There is nearly five hours of music spread across the four discs.

It is music of great intensity: there is emotion, passion, anger and humour within each set. Some sequences are strongly rhythmic, others delicate. There are hints of other musicians at times: I convinced myself I could hear repeated references to Thelonious Monk and a nod or two to Charles Mingus, as well as sections that reminded me of Sketches Of Spain. Jarrett's improvisations have a fair dose of the blues and spirituals, too.

The two sets in each disc can differ greatly, showing different aspects of Jarrett. Within each set, the mood may be mercurial, changing suddenly, though mostly there is a gradual accretion as Jarrett subtly builds the improvisation.

The music is not flawless. At times, Jarrett's nasal harmonising with the piano can sound like a whining toddler mocking the music. I found it particular distracting during Part l from Ferrara. But this is just quibbling: that set was probably my favourite from the four discs, full of imagination and rhythm.

There is of course a lot of music across the four CDs. If you're a fan of Jarrett's music, this collection is probably indispensable: it is a remarkable series of improvisations. If you're not familiar with Jarrett's solo work, this might not be the place to start - he has a large body of recordings available (the Köln Concert is many people's entry point). But if solo piano improvisation is your thing, A Multitude Of Angels contains some beautiful, emotional and intense music.

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

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