NEWS: Cleveland Watkiss and Nigel Tully receive MBE's in the 2018 New Year Honours List

Cleveland Watkiss MBE
Photo credit: Richard Kaby

A word-search for the word "jazz" in Honours Lists sometimes yields no results at all...but in the 2018 New Year Honours List there is one in the MBE's:

Cleveland Alexander WATKISS             Jazz Vocalist, Actor and Composer. For services to Music.

(Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire)

As we wrote in this review of a show at Kings Place in 2010 : "Watkiss's vocal compass and dexterity and electronic effects are a national monument." Many congratulations.

There is another jazz-related result as well: 

Ian Nigel TULLY (Nigel)               For services to Music.

(Markyate, Hertfordshire)

Nigel Tully MBE
Photo credit: Ted Rockley/ NYJO

Nigel is Executive Chair of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

As today's press release from NYJO states: "The award was made in recognition of Nigel’s long-standing commitment to music, not only through his work at NYJO, but also more than 50 years leading his band The Dark Blues, and his contributions to the Worshipful Company of Musicians, where he was Master in 2002-2003, and helped found the jazz committee of which he is still vice-chairman."

Many congratulations to two individuals who in their different ways continue to make their mark through their significant and long-term contributors to the sustainability and vibrancy of the  UK jazz scene. 



Wishful Eggheads answer
In this, the fourth and final year-end list, London Jazz News’ friends - musicians, writers and promoters - look into 2018 and share their hopes and dreams. You can add your own wishes in the comments section. Contributions compiled by Peter Bacon:

Peace and understanding FFS. (Rob Adams – journalist)

That the world’s pendulum begins to swing back in the direction of reason, generosity and clapping on the two. (Peter Bacon)

The same as last year, doubled in intensity: a wish for British, European and international jazz musicians to keep on working together - and so bring other people together. (Alison Bentley)

For Bunny Berigan to be the answer to a question on University Challenge or Eggheads, thus helping to counter the general media impression that Ella and Miles are the only jazz musicians who have ever existed. (Brian Blain)

It would be productive to approach performances in a more interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional perspective, to take embodiment, context and audience more seriously.  Henning Bolte)

I’m going to buy a saxophone and learn the intro to Baker Street. (AJ Dehany)

Meshell Ndegeocello
Photo: uncredited
May 2018 be the year for a new album by Meshell Ndegeocello. And of more time for listening and learning. (Götz Bühler, editor, Jazz thing - European Jazz Legends)

Better working conditions for everyone who is involved in music, especially artists, photographers, journalists... (Ralf Dombrowski)

An anti-Brexit campaign to strengthen ties and exchanges between British and other European musicians and promoters. As part of this, restoring the grant for the Match & Fuse Festival. (Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Birmingham and Cheltenham Jazz Festival)

I recently saw Elaine Delmar singing at Zedel, together with Robert Meadmore and pianist Jamie Safir. I’d never heard – or heard of – Elaine before, so that night was a revelation. Born in Wood Green and now in her late 70s, this veteran soulstress can truly hold her own against the Sarah Vaughans of this world. Some gems are best left hidden, but this one needs to be there for all to see. (Sebastian Fox)

I have been lucky enough to see many musicians from abroad during the last year: I hope that the fall in the value of the pound and the volatile political situation do not stop musicians from around the world feeling able to visit our shores. (Patrick Hadfield)

That the Arts Council gives funding to grass roots supporters. (Alan Hayward)

That the West Midlands promoters, notably Phil Rose (Birmingham Jazz), Neil McGowan (Jazz Cov), Jay Riley (Stratford Jazz) and Phil Woods (Jazzlines) continue their mission to put on world-class jazz in friendly, listening venues, provide good conditions/fees to bands and find new audiences. (Mary James)

We’ll be hearing a lot more from Aaron Wheeler, Todd Baker, Ida Hollis and Sophie Alloway of The Lydian Collective, a young prog-jazz outfit whose dazzling chops and extraordinary time signatures do not mask their gift for gorgeous melody. (Peter Jones)

More venues opening and more people coming out to hear live music of every kind, and more opportunities for working British live musicians on TV and radio. (Barb Jungr)

Calum Gourlay Big Band
Photo credit: Phyllis Tweed's Twitter feed
Calum Gourlay Big Band. A revelation to hear the man who never wastes a note writing for large ensemble. (Hans Koller)

That the London audience will make the most of the forthcoming rare appearance down South by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra at Ronnie Scott’s in late January 2018 – three show, three different programmes, all packed with originality and performance flair from what is surely Europe’s top big band right now. (And they’re premiering their latest project centred on Carnival Of The Animals with Japanese maestro Makoto Ozone in February for Scottish audiences.) (Mark McKergow)

The Daniel Karlsson Trio from Sweden. Four albums into their career, the band’s on top, top form. London needs to hear them and yet, astonishingly, no signs yet of promoters and venues snaffling them up. This injustice needs addressing and the jazz gods should move heaven and earth to make it happen in 2018. (Rob Mallows)

More time. Please, more time… (Steve Mead)

My wish for 2018 would be that all musicians actively and emotionally support their peers, it's such a powerful thing to give and receive. I am trying to look at my social feeds in a new way, and instead of feeling envious of what I see achieved by others, feeling grateful for being connected to these people and happy for their successes (as well as taking them with a healthy pinch of salt)… (Robin Phillips )

Would love to see the word "improvisation" as the main component of jazz used more rarely; each football match contains more improvisation than most of jazz (Michael Rüsenberg, Köln)

I have had fantastic experiences in 2017 with young people interning with LJN at the Music Base at Kings Place. Matt Sulzmann, Gigi Williams and Gail Tasker, thank you all. You have sped us up and been fun to work with. You enabled us to function at the capacity where we can do justice to the amazing and lively jazz scene that it is our privilege to write about. My wish is that either one or more of you will come back. Or that new people will try the experience of being an LJN intern. (Sebastian Scotney)  

There are already plenty of barriers that make it difficult for British musicians to get gigs in Europe and for European musicians to get gigs in the UK. Let's hope that at least the Brexit negotiations don't make things worse, and maybe we can even get the Arts recognised as a special case. Who knows – perhaps Arts Council England is already lobbying for that. (maybe!) (Peter Slavid )

I would like to single out Sara Dowling, a very fine singer (and composer for TV & film) who appeared at the 606 for London Jazz Festival in a night called Sara Goes to the Movies. Sara’s forte is unquestionably the performance of standards from the Great American Songbook, which she does with unparalleled style & timeless elegance. Captivating. (Laura G Thorne – Marketing/PR Manager, 606 Club)

Someone to create a grant-funded scheme for access to rehearsal rooms/studios for a spell - say three months? - so people trying out new formations can develop the music without being reliant just on occasional gigs. (Jon Turney)

Mike Gibbs and the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Bill Frisell, from the film Bill Frisell: A Portrait by Emma Franz.
Photo credit: Emma Franz
Mike Gibbs’s triumphant 80th birthday tour (including two ecstatic Vortex gigs) reminded us what a great, original contemporary music figure he is. My wish for 2018 is that Emma Franz’s warm and magnificently musical documentary Bill Frisell: A Portrait, in which Gibbs appears as Frisell’s teacher, friend and orchestrator, becomes an enormous success when it is released – on Blu-ray, DVD via the website, digital formats and in cinemas – within the next month. (John L Walters)

Please can Anouar Brahem bring his Blue Maqams band to the UK (Dominic Williams)

Tate Modern’s exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, drew a diverse cross-section of visitors captivated by the art, contemporary documentation and ephemera on display. London’s jazz venues bring in the very top musicians (British, American and others), who have heritage, have endured struggles, and are amazing players, yet their appeal has not, in the main, penetrated to a broader community and crossed cultural divides. That should change, surely? (Geoff Winston)


CD REVIEW: Sketch (Rob Koral, Jeremy Stacey, Laurence Cottle, Pete Saberton, Sue Hawker) - Seconds Count (Rec. 1986)

Sketch - Seconds Count
(33 Records 33JAZZ269. CD review by Mike Collins)

Back in June 1986, guitarist Rob Koral rounded up a youthful Jeremy Stacey and Laurence Cottle on drums and bass respectively, alongside the already established and influential pianist Pete Saberton to join himself and vocalist Sue Hawker in the recording studio.

The resulting LP hit the decks that year and Koral has now orchestrated a re-release on CD through 33 Records. It’s notable not just for the music, but also for being Jeremy Stacey’s first recorded outing, a very early one for Cottle, and a happy reminder of what a versatile and inventive performer Saberton was.

The session bristles with energy and bluesy swagger. There are five originals jointly penned by Koral and Hawker. Feels So Good bursts into life with a snappy riff under a brisk latin groove, alternating with surging swing. Hawker’s rich, gravelly, voice swoops and glides over the pulse. On Heroes Hawker stretches out over a slow, blues rock backing, delivering a powerful vocal. Crazy Sunday is a breezy samba and on Cool for Love the band really dig into a funky groove. Was it Something You Said is a power ballad, Hawker giving it her all. The set is rounded off with the band’s gritty take on some standards. They find just the right brew of soul, rocky blues and jazz to give Fever a twist; Fine and Mellow becomes a breezy, swinging blues.

There is plenty of fiery soloing soloing throughout to match the power and forcefulness of the vocal delivery. Pete Saberton is a joy to listen to on Feels so Good and Crazy Sunday, the latin vibe giving his rhythmic ingenuity plenty of scope, alongside glittering runs and melodic invention. Koral injects plenty of moments of thoughtfulness as well as revving things up and rocking out. It’s also easy to hear why Cottle and Stacey have been in such demand for the subsequent thirty years. They inject momentum and interest at every turn.

This is an energetic and enjoyable set. Dusting off the archives was well worth the effort.

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


REVIEW: Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra Ellington Night at Ronnie Scott's

Pete Long and the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra in 2014
Photo credit: Carl Hyde  courtesy of Ronnie Scott's

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra
(Ronnie Scott’s, 28 December 2017. Ellington Theme Night, part of a post-Xmas residency. Review by Quentin Bryar)

Let’s hear it for clarinettist and bandleader Pete Long, who produces exciting, living and entertaining jazz from a repertory orchestra and in the process sells out Ronnie Scott’s for a three-night residency in this perineum or limbo period between Christmas and the New Year.
Thursday was Ellington and Strayhorn night for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, and it was plain from the reaction to some of the leader’s patter that the club’s crowd is by no means composed only of died-in-the-wool jazz fans these days. But they were out for a good night and that’s what they got, greeting Alistair White’s wild plunger trombone on Rocking in Rhythm for example with cheers and applause.

Pete Long’s deep love of Ellington came over strongly – he advised the audience that the Masterpieces By Ellington LP was an album everyone should own, and elsewhere said that they would never hear anything better than Strayhorn’s saxophone introduction to his arrangement of Sophisticated Lady. This latter featured Jay Craig, who owned the Harry Carney baritone saxophone chair, and alto saxophonist Colin Skinner was later similarly magnificent taking the Johnny Hodges role in Prelude To a Kiss.

Hard-swinging tunes like PerdidoCottontail (featuring Duncan Hemstock on tenor), VIP Boogie and Flying Home (with a driving backbeat from Ed Richardson) made up much of the night, and guest Rico Tomasso contributed a vocal to It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing as well as excellent growl trumpet elsewhere. Satin Doll was the encore, with two choruses of Alex Garnett tenor and another tour-de-force trombone solo from Alistair White. Alex Garnett had earlier provided blistering, bluesy tenor to Sugar Plum Fairy, a seasonal treat in which his musical dance partner was the majestic Jay Craig.

Martin Wheatley was a guest on guitar to offer period flavour for the night, a fact which allowed Pete Long to present a banjo solo on stage at Ronnie’s -- almost certainly for the very first time. Martin’s virtuoso version of Whispering sadly suffered from loud but poor amplification -- from my seat anyway – but any sound problems during the evening were minor compared to the raucous fun on offer from the musicians, who looked as if they were enjoying the night as much as the audience.


Trumpets: Andy Greenwood, Tom Walsh, Rico Tomasso, James Davison
Trombones: Andy Flaxman, Callum Au, Alastair White
Saxes: Colin Skinner, Alex Garnett, Duncan Hemstock, Simon Marsh, Jay Craig
Piano: Colin Good
Bass: Steve Pearce
Guitar: Martin Wheatley
Drums: Ed Richardson

Themes for the Orchestra’s remaining nights are Count Basie on Friday 29 December and the music of John Barry on Saturday 30 December. 

LINKS: Pete Long's website
Ronnie Scott's


REVIEW: Julien Tassin Trio at Sounds Jazz Club, Brussels

Julien Tassin Trio at Sounds
L-R Julien Tassin, Nicolas Thys, Dré Pallemaerts

Julien Tassin Trio
Sounds Jazz Club, Brussels. 23 December 2017. Review by Gail Tasker )

I turned up at the Sounds Jazz Club in the Ixelles district of Brussels with barely an inkling of who was playing, or what type of music was taking place. It turned out to be a trio led by Julien Tassin on guitar, Nicolas Thys on double bass, and Dré Pallemaerts on drums. The band managed to inject life and vitality into the staid format of the conventional  jazz trio in a way that made the night memorable and completely absorbing. They played two sets of Tassin’s original compositions, of which the style can only be described as occupying the liminal space between rock, blues, punk, jazz, and electronic music. The music was raw yet atmospheric, and allowed Tassin to show the true versatility of his playing.

Jazz trios usually showcase each individual’s playing somewhat equally, and are intriguing in the level of intricate communication and symbiosis between the players. The power dynamic was quite different in Tassin’s case. For most of the pieces, the rhythm section would set up a solid, 4/4 beat with a simple bassline, acting as an accompaniment. This allowed Tassin to experiment with improvising over the chord changes, with a focus on rhythm.

The sets were extremely varied, moving between the noisy washes of punk rock sounds to more typical straight ahead jazz. Song names like Working Class and Last Call From the Factory, referencing the "post-industrial" town of Charleroi where Tassin is from, definitely set him apart as a more politically-minded musician. A highlight of the performance was a barely-recognisable blues. It began with dissonant, clashing guitar chords contrasting with rattling drum rhythms and out-of-time bass playing. This built up into a wave of anguished guitar riffs and hectic rhythm interplay. All of a sudden, the band collectively reverted to walking bass and a basic 4/4 beat with Tassin playing a simple, bluesy pattern over the top whilst looking out towards the audience with an almost euphoric smile.

There was a definite electronic element to the proceedings. Tassin had various pedals attached to his guitar, and towards the end of the set, began to use them more and more frequently with distortion, delay, and looping. The final tune was a solo performance, where at one point Tassin removed his guitar and fiddled with his pedal board, transforming from a guitarist to a DJ.

I had been looking around the venue in pleasure, noticing the impressive selection of Belgian beers and intimate yet relaxed atmosphere. Towards the end of the night however, Tassin announced that the club may be nearing its end as the owners have decided to sell it. I truly hope that the club manages to continue  - it  has been in existence for 30 years - so that bands like the Tassin trio can keep on performing there.

LINK: Sounds Jazz Club website


REVIEW: James Brady Big Band - Swing Into Christmas at Mirth, Marvel and Maud in Walthamstow

"Musicians in slightly alarming patterned jumpers"
James Brady (L) and Sam Knight (R) at Swing Into Christmas 2017
Photo credit: Trevor Lee Photography

James Brady. Swing Into Christmas Family Show.
(Mirth, Marvel and Maud, Walthamstow. 23 December 2017. Afternoon family show. Review by Naadia Sherrif)

It’s been a good year for family-aimed jazz shows and in choosing ‘Maud’ a restored 1930’s cinema in the venue that has played host to the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands, James Brady found the perfect blend of hip and nostalgia for his Christmas extravaganza.

And extravagant it was, with elves, an appearance by Santa, a charity raffle and Christmas jumpers - not to mention the huge Art Deco bar - to get the audience into the mood. There was a distinct feeling that for many people, glass in one hand, song sheet in the other, this marked the start of the holiday. Musically James Brady pulled no punches and the opening medley of Christmas classics revealed his capacity as arranger, musical director and bandleader. Sparring soprano sax and trombone forged the way to a swinging Rudolf and Jingle Bells with solos from pianist Alex Bryson and trombonist Jamie Pimenta. The later medley of Carols was a seat-of-the-pants tour of styles and feels with a soaring soprano sax solo by Tom Ridout on Silent Night and rousing vocals provided by the packed house.

"An extravaganza...with elves"
Harriet Oakley (L), Cathy Al-Ghabra (R)
Photo credit: Trevor Lee Photography
Vocalists Ray Estaire and David Guttieres embodied the style with Ray’s tender, bluesy take on The Christmas Song a stirring moment, and David’s rich Sinatra-esque sound on It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas meeting with wild applause. The surprise star though, was Harriet Oakley. An elf-narrator for most of the show she raised the roof in one of the most crowd-pleasing moments of the evening.

The band was exemplary. Stand-out moments were two beautifully arranged brass solis, but with a powerhouse trumpet section of Tom Syson and Alex Ridout coupled with trombonist Jamie Pimenta and bass trombonist John Caddick this was no surprise. Altoist Rachel Kerry provided a boppy well-crafted solo on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and tenorist Sam Knight’s playing on The Christmas Song had subtlety and weight. Baritone player Jake Burgess was raw and bluesy on ‘Zat You Santa Claus?, providing a perfect foil for Estaire’s scat.

The James Brady Big Band
Photo credit: Trevor Lee Photography

Throw in the tight swinging bass and drums of Dave Manington and Scott Chapman respectively and the backing vocals of Cathy Al-Ghabra and you have everything you need for an afternoon of big band joy and I must say it was heartwarming to see a large ensemble of fiercely concentrating musicians all in slightly alarming patterned jumpers. It took me back to the Vortex in the '90s watching the London Jazz Orchestra.

James Brady
Photo credit: Trevor Lee Photography

This was the first outing for the James Brady Big Band. It was the culmination of months of hard work and a Christmassy triumph. Hopefully there will be many more.

Naadia Sherrif is a musician. Her husband Dave Manington is a member of the James Brady Big Band.

NOTE: Video from the evening show.  Photos by Trevor Lee Photography - more images HERE



In this third of our four year-end lists, a wide range of jazz people - musicians, writers, promoters - named and proclaimed their recorded sounds of the year. You can add your own choices in the comments section. These 2017 contributions have been compiled by Peter Bacon:

Christine Tobin - Pelt (Trail Belle). Great voice with composing and arranging gifts beyond any notion of fair distribution. Guardian review. (Rob Adams – journalist)

Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan - Small Town (ECM). Recorded in a special place (the Village Vanguard) by a very special jazz guitarist and an increasingly special double bass player, this was for me the most interesting musical conversation I overheard all year. To borrow the title of the iconic Irving Penn photography book, Frisell and Morgan created whole worlds in this one small room. (Peter Bacon)

Francesco Diodati's Yellow Squeeds - Flow, Home (Auand Label). This was released in 2015, but I didn’t hear it till after their gig at this year’s Südtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige. The music was as elemental as the mountain backdrop. Italian leader Diodati’s guitar lines are extrapolated into intricate, restless compositions: dense horn harmonies and stirring solos. (Alison Bentley)

Damon Brown - Han River Tales (WePlayJazz). Recorded in Seoul with a brilliant Korean rhythm section, Scottish pianist Paul Kirby and US tenor Andrew Lautenbarch, this is Damon Brown's latest, with a beautiful blend of considered composition and arranging, and powerful blowing. (Brian Blain)

Samuel Rohrer – Range of Regularity (Arjunamusic). (Henning Bolte)

Nils Wülker - On (Warner Bros): Ever since the early ‘90s jazz musicians have spoken of (or against) the curious relationship between hip hop and bebop (or any other form of modern jazz). The German trumpeter found their common ground in a great sounding album that is also lots of fun to listen to. (Götz Bühler, editor Jazz thing (European Jazz Legends))

Jean-Michel Bernard - Plays Lalo Schifrin (Varèse Sarabande). My recording of the year because of its blend of old and new - beloved, classic music by a jazz-and-soundtrack god, reinterpreted with vigour, freshness and virtuosity by a supremely qualified young musician. The further cultural blend - Schifrin was born in Argentina and made his name in American music, while Bernard is French - only enhances the appeal of this superb CD.
(Andrew Cartmel)

Christian Sands - Reach (Mack Avenue). The pianist’s debut album as leader was classy, funky and hard swinging. With support from Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Marcus Baylor (drums), Sands paid tribute to Bud Powell and Chick Corea, whilst pointing to fresh directions for the art of the piano trio. (Jon Carvell)

Denys Baptiste - Late Trane (Edition). Picking just one in any of these categories is hard, but this seems particularly hard - there’s been so much great stuff released. I am going for one I kept returning to. In a year of Coltrane tributes, live and recorded, the incredible playing, the great writing, the energy have kept me playing this one again and again. (Mike Collins)

Penny Rimbaud - What Passing Bells (The War Poems of Wilfred Owen) (One Little Indian). (live review) In the centenary of the First World War, Rimbaud’s sober readings of Wilfred Owen, with tough-minded improvised settings from pianist Liam Noble and cellist Kate Shortt, are an unflinching wake-up call for a world that refuses to learn the lessons of history. (AJ Dehany)

Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, Larry Goldings and John Scofield - Hudson (Motéma). There are many recordings, but this is one of the best. Pitchfork review (Ralf Dombrowski)

Chris Mapp’s Gonimoblast - Live (Stoney Lane). This album, which features Arve Henriksen and Maja Ratjke, shows how effective the combination of acoustic instruments and electronics can be. (Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Birmingham and Cheltenham Jazz Festival)

LaSharVu - Honey (LaSharVu EP). Ingrained in the London soul & funk scene for so long, it’s great to see these talented ladies bring out their own material of such wonderful artistry. The production quality is exceptional and features rich instrumental textures. The tracks Lifetime Love and Perfect By Design are absolute peaches. More, please! (Sebastian Fox)

Mike Westbrook - Paris (ASC). Familar with Westbrook's work with big bands, this solo album was a revelation. He explores familiar tunes, reimagining them so they became barely recognisable, mere hints of their origin. I've played this a lot during the year, and there's always something new to hear. (Patrick Hadfield)

Morten Schantz - Godspeed (Edition Records) with Marius Neset and Anton Eger.
It started with a 64 second teaser from Edition Records. I was stopped in my tracks - the energy and joy, life flying by at a million miles an hour, you never want it to end! Then the full album surpassed these expectations. Interview (Mary James)

Joy Ellis - Life On Land (F-IRE). There were several stirring vocal albums this year - Zara McFarlane, Tina May, Carmen Lundy, Eliane Elias, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Dwight Trible all released outstanding work - but in the end singer/pianist Joy Ellis gets the nod from me for the sheer emotion, lyricism and originality of her album Life on Land. Interview (Peter Jones)

Marius Neset - Circle of Chimes (ACT). I cant stop playing it. (Barb Jungr)

John Abercrombie Quartet - Up And Coming (ECM). One of this year's big losses. (Hans Koller)

Various - Live At The Spotted Dog (Stoney Lane). The two trio tracks Extralogical Railman and The JJ I Know from John O’Gallagher (alto saxophone), Michael Janisch (double bass) and Andrew Bain (drums) on the forthcoming Live At The Spotted Dog compilation – 20 minutes of out-yet-in bluesy rootsy all-in-it-together creativity that demand a full CD sometime soon! (Mark McKergow)

Ellen Andrea Wang - Blank Out (Jazzland). This sophomore album confirmed her status as a coming force in jazz and jazz-pop-indie crossover. Building on the success of Pixel, her charming vocal intonation and simple, but rambunctious bass playing worked well with a dancier groove to create a bunch of top notch, fun and charming songs. Guardian review (Rob Mallows)

Andy Stamatakis-Brown - Cottonopolis (YouTube). Pulsating new tribute to Madchester – an mjf highlight currently available only on YouTube… (Steve Mead)

Georgia Mancio & Alan Broadbent - Songbook (Roomspin Records). A sense of musical excellence, and an hour standing still, was delivered in Songbook – a wondrous collaboration between vocalist Georgia Mancio and pianist Alan Broadbent, with bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm. When original words and music touch your soul so directly that the eyes involuntarily well up, one knows that it’s something special; and this collection of 12 beautiful songs certainly has ‘timeless classic’ at its heart. (Adrian Pallant)

Manasonics - Foley (DStream). A trio with Bernoit Delbecq, Steve Argüelles and Foleyman Nicolas Becker in an excursion into the waters between jazz and electro-acoustic music. Bandcamp link (Michael Rüsenberg, Köln)

Kit Downes - Fifty-Two New Pieces For Right Hand (Kit Downes). Necessity can be the mother of invention and unleash an unforeseeable spark of creativity. When Kit Downes was deprived of the use of his left hand he took on the daily task of writing a video-ing a piece for right hand alone. And by the end their were fifty-two of them. I interviewed him about it once he was back with the full use of both hands. Interview (Sebastian Scotney)

Miklós Lukács, Larry Grenadier, Eric Harland - Cimbalom Unlimited (BMC). The Cimbalom isn't an instrument I'd normally associate with jazz, or if at all, I'd have put it in with gypsy jazz rather than with modern jazz and improvisation, but this CD from the adventurous BMC label changed my opinion.  The astonishing virtuosity of Miklós Lukács is applied here with a quality American rhythm section to create a sound that's fresh and exciting (Peter Slavid)

Christine Tobin - Pelt (Trail Belle). Released last Christmas but I’m still listening to Pelt, a dream teaming of peerless interpreter of modern song Christine Tobin and Paul Muldoon, one of the greatest poets alive, who is also an unusually good songwriter. I reckon this is the best collaboration in this vein since Annie Ross and Christopher Logue half a century ago. Stand by for UK tour in 2018. (Jon Turney)

Danilo Perez - Panamonk (Impulse!). In Monk’s centenary year there were plenty of tributes, reissues and rediscoveries, but one album that’s given me huge listening pleasure is Danilo Perez’s 1996 tribute. Produced by the great Tommy LiPuma (who died in March), Panamonk mixes intelligent readings of tunes such as Evidence and Bright Mississippi with Perez’s Monk-inspired originals. I chanced upon the CD for £1 in a Dalston charity shop, which also makes it the Bargain of the Year. (John L Walters)

17 November 2017 - ECM streams the whole its back catalogue of nearly 2,500 albums covering 50 years of jazz and near jazz. Some we have known and loved for years, some immediate gems enticing, some with names as puzzling as a bad hand at scrabble, but all worth a listen. I’m taking it slowly – I don’t want to overindulge at Christmas. (Dominic Williams)

Camae Ayewa a.k.a. Moor Mother released two incredible LPs this year. In The Motionless Present (Vinyl Factory) from March, she utilises layered sound collage extraordinarily imaginatively. Yet, I’ll pick out her December release, Irreversible Entanglements (International Anthem/Don Giovanni), as a perfect amalgam of jazz and poetry, where Aweya’s readings of her poems are articulated brilliantly by the dynamic grouping of Keir Nueringer (saxophone), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Luke Stewart (bass) and Tcheser Holmes (drums). (Geoff Winston)


LP REVIEW: Various - 2nd Season of Newvelle (Aruán Ortiz, Kevin Hays /Lionel Loueke, John Patitucci Trio, Chris Tordini, Jon Cowherd Quartet, Rufus Reid)

Various - 2nd Season of Newvelle
(Newvelle Records. 6 LP set. Review by Geoff Winston)

Newvelle Record's second series of six limited edition, subscription-only vinyl releases (previewed here) carries the stamp of quality that made their first series so special. Delights await discovery by the discerning audiophile listener.

It's quality all the way through, as with the first series (reviewed here). The invited musicians are world class, some are high profile, amongst the most respected in the field - bassists John Patitucci and Rufus Reid and, accompanying John Cowherd, drummer Brian Blade, while others are more low-key, yet no less exceptional, with the recording, production, pressing and packaging to match.

I played a couple of sides to a musician/composer and, unprompted, he commented on the incredible audio quality nurtured by Marc Urselli at New York's East Side Sound - you don't get a bass sounding like that with digital!

The solo piano album, Cuban Nocturne, from Aruán Ortiz, follows in the footsteps of Jack de Johnette's outstanding Return (reviewed here). In the sleeve notes producer Elan Mehler describes a fascinating background to this repertoire, "a reflection on the music that saturated Aruán's childhood". Everybody to whom I've played this LP falls in love with it!

Hope from the piano-guitar duo Kevin Hays and Lionel Loueke is magical. Their meditative excursions interweave sparkly, trickling interplay with bluesy spells and latin undercurrents, utilising percussive taps and low-level vocals to add to the album's lightly carried, spiritual vein. Hays talks of "the discovery of the wealth of spiritual truth that's always there, but often gets obscured by our involvement in things of the material world".

John Patitucci's trio on Irmãos De Fé, reviewed on this site, with guitar and percussion from Yotam Silberstein and Rogério Boccato, visits the Brazilian songbook with reverential devotion, hitting an upbeat, lilting bounce in Desvairada contrasting with the dreamlike melancholy of Jobim's Olha Maria where the bowed bass is something of a metaphor for the heartstrings.

Chris Tordini's Midnight Sun album featuring vocalist Becca Stevens, with whom he has worked for over ten years, and the guitar of Greg Ruggiero, is topped and tailed with songs from Ornette Coleman, and takes in Mingus's Portrait and an unabashedly moving My Funny Valentine, with a touching back story linked to Stevens' childhood. Beautifully interlocking play from bass and guitar complement Stevens' unembellished vocal delicacy in her carefully wrought, fuss-free interpretations which throw fresh light on well-travelled paths. I was intrigued sufficiently to catch Stevens at Ronnie's recently.

Pianist Jon Cowherd's quartet on Gateway pulls in Brian Blade, a like-minded collaborator on several projects since 1988, with master guitarist Steve Cardenas and multi-talented Tony Scherr on bass to produce an album of warmth and finesse. Mehler quotes Blade on playing with Cowherd, who says: "There is always the feeling that we could go any place without having a destination." Cardenas's guitar glides and floats above the tightly meshed bass-drum partnership, articulating and complementing Cowherd's melodic initiatives, while Cowherd's three solo piano improvisations, executed with panache and sensitivity, add a natural sense of pace to the album's structure.

And, finally, the wild card in the series, Rufus Reid's Terrestrial Dance brings together the Sirius String Quartet and his trio with pianist Steve Allee and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, to bring alive his own adventures in composition. Reid cleverly insinuates the strings at just the times he needs them to flesh out a theme, primarily in neo-classical mode, as a foil to the trio's ebullient flow, and on one occasion the violin lets rip, Grappelli-style! Reid himself regrets the demise of listening. "I think most people don't do much listening to anything now. They have stuff on. They don't listen." Close listening is rewarded as Reid's mini-masterpiece exudes the warm glow that characterises the whole Newvelle series.

The forthcoming third season has been announced with a mouth-watering listing that includes albums by Bill Frisell with Skúli Sverrisson, Steve Cardenas, Andrew Zimmerman with Dave Douglas, and Lionel Loueke with Eric Harland and Reuben Rogers. (LINK)


NEWS: Five finalists announced for European Young Artists' Jazz Award Burghausen 2018

Auxane Cartigny (L) and Samuel F’hima (R) from Auxane Trio
backing Didier Lockwood (centre) recently in Paris

Fifty-six bands entered into competition for the finalist slots at the European Young Artists‘ Jazz Award Burghausen 2018 and the five finalists have just been announced.

The finalists will compete for the prizes, which consist of EUR 5,000 for the winner Euro, EUR3,000 for second place and EUR 1,000 for third place. The final round will take place on 6 March, and the winning band will also perform on the following night at the Burghausen International Jazz Week. The age limit for contestants was 30.

- OF CABBAGES AND KINGS was originaly formed in Cologne and consists of four jazz singers who met as members of BuJazzO, the German federal youth jazz orchestra: Veronika Morscher, Rebekka Ziegler, Sabeth Pérez und Laura Totenhagen perform "neo a capella".

- AUXANE TRIO from France consists of pianist Auxane Cartigny,  bassist Samuel F’hima and Tiss Rodriguez on the drums. They have emerged from CMDL, the Centre Des Musiques Didier Lockwood based near Melun in the Paris region. They were performing at the recent Paris Jazz Clubs/ Jazz sur Seine Showcase and we reviewed them HERE.

- STADTGESPRÄCHE (meaning city conversations) are an 8-piece band from Cologne who met as students at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz: trumpeter Pascal Hahn, Johanna Risse (violin), Johanna Hoppstock (violin), Pauline Buss (viola), Katharina Pannes (cello), Martin Klein (piano), Malte Viebahn (bass) und Lukas Schäfer (drums).

- ANTON MANGOLD QUARTET: Anton Mangold (saxophone), Theodor Spannagel (bass), Felix Schneider (piano) and Zhitong Xu (druns) have been in existence since 2014 when they met as students in Würzburg.

- LELÉKA are a four-piece group, all from the Berlin scene, and describe themselves as an ethno-jazz band. The musicians come from Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, and they "combine ancient Ukrainan motifs and contemporary jazz rythms" in their music. Robert Wienröder (piano), Thomas Kolarczyk (bass), Jakob Hegner (drums) und Viktoria Anton (vox).

LJN contributor Ralf Dombrowski is on the jury for the award. 




Volker Goetze Quintet
Photo credit: Alison Bentley
In the second of London Jazz News’ four year-end lists from a wide range of jazz people,  musicians, writers, promoters name their favourite live moments of the year. You can add your own nominations in the comments section. Contributions have been compiled by LJN Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon:

Theo Croker Quintet at Glasgow Jazz Festival, for bringing the jazz message right into the here and now. (Rob Adams)

Birmingham Conservatoire Ellington Orchestra - Josh Schofield soloing
Birmingham Conservatoire Ellington Orchestra (Jeremy Price, director), Birmingham Town Hall, 3 February: The kids embraced and remade the tradition handed down to them by the most sophisticated of their jazz ancestors. A thoroughly beguiling debut performance - after which we really did love them madly! Now enlivening Monday nights at their brand-spanking-new home: Eastside Jazz Club, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. (Peter Bacon)

Volker Goetze Quintet feat. Ali Boulo Santo Cissoko, Salzburg Jazz Festival. Led by New York-based German trumpeter Goetze. Tough, urban funk time signatures were fused with the delicate tracery of the kora - absolutely compelling. (Alison Bentley)

Ed Jones at Lauderdale House - with all the swagger and sound of Rollins in his prime (with Ross Stanley, Riaan Vosloo and Tim Giles) - came close to [being my] choice for Musician/Band of the Year. (Brian Blain)

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet, Jazzfestival Münster (Henning Bolte)

The moment Jacob Collier spontaneously invited guests from the audience to his show at the Mojo Club in Hamburg in May 2017 was the icing on the cake. (Götz Bühler, editor - Jazz thing - “European Jazz Legends“)

Mark Crooks Quartet Plays Johnny Mandel (The Bull’s Head, 2 September 2017). The fusion of jazz and film soundtracks provides some of the finest music of our time, and Johnny Mandel is one of the presiding geniuses of this hybrid genre. Mark Crooks’ outstanding small combo, with Crooks on reeds, Simon Thorpe on bass, Gabriel Latchin on piano and Matt Home, drums, played a marvellous, memorable gig to showcase Mandel’s music and help keep it alive. (Andrew Cartmel)

Hearing Johnny RichardsCuban Fire! played by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in collaboration with Germany’s Bundesjazzorchester and Holland’s Nationaal Jeugd Jazz Orkest was extraordinary. Performed with all the panache and richness of colour that Stan Kenton first brought to the music in 1956, the three bands demonstrated not only the suite’s canonical importance but also its contemporary relevance.  (Jon Carvell)

Ambleside Days Festival - Four nights in Zefferelli’s with dizzying permutations of the finest contemporary jazzers you could hope to see. There wasn’t a combination that didn’t create magic, but one especially still glows: a trio of Gwilym Simcock, Dave Holland and Mike Walker. Beautiful music, potent chemistry and sublime improvising. (Mike Collins)

Binker & Moses at Margate Jazz Festival (live review) - My pals and I took a road trip (an ersatz ‘bro trip’) down to the seaside to watch Binker & Moses, who were worth every epic mile of the journey. The duo are in the vanguard of younger artists pointing the way for a hard-edged new jazz with an open mind, synthesising varied and eclectic influences with a modernising outlook. (AJ Dehany)

Dominic Miller, Jazzsommer Munich, 21 July, Bayerischer Hof. He is not a typical virtuoso but one of the incredible masters of sound. And he celebrated his ideas perfectly together with percussionist Rhani Krija and bass player Nicolas Fiszman. (Ralf Dombrowski)

Article XI and Favourite Animals double bill in the Hexagon Theatre, mac, Birmingham, December 2017. Wonderful to hear two large ensembles playing inspiring music that combined composition and free improvisation. (Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Birmingham and Cheltenham Jazz Festival)

Given the abundance of riches at this year’s London Jazz Festival, there are no easy choices for this category. But the gig that made an indelible print on my mind preceded the Festival by a month: the prodigious Christian Sands playing with his superb trio at Ronnie Scott’s. Their playing took me straight to heaven. The interpretation of the ballad ‘Tenderly’ had me reduced to tears. (Sebastian Fox)

Fraser Fifield
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield
The “Playtime” sessions in Edinburgh produced many memorable gigs, but one show from October stands out: Fraser Fifield's visit with a quartet made up of regulars Mario Caribe, Tom Bancroft and Graeme Stephen. Blending jazz, improvisation and folk music, they conjured up something magical with a distinct west coast, celtic vibe. (Patrick Hadfield)

Chris Potter at Pizza Express with Ruben Rogers and Eric Harland (Alan Hayward)

A cold December night at Cafe Kino, Bristol, Ana Silvera singing so movingly I Grew Up in a House as Small as a Penny, a song she sang at the bedside of her dying mother. A heartfelt requiem with sensitive harmonium and vocals from Jasper Høiby, a gem in an evening of great beauty and warmth. (Mary James)

Trumpeter/pianist/singer Nicholas Payton played a wonderful Cork Festival gig in October, featuring material from his album Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. However for sheer atmosphere and control in the live situation, there was nothing to beat singer/flautist Melanie de Biasio at the Scala a couple of weeks earlier. (Peter Jones)

Mads Mathias and Ian Shaw at Dean Street - the winks were taller than than the Shard (Barb Jungr)

Ches Smith/Craig Taborn/Matt Maneri at the Vortex. One of those rare gigs when everything seemed simultaneously through-composed and free-improvised. Always love the Vortex. (Hans Koller)

The Tommy Smith Quartet blowing up a Coltrane-dedicated storm at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in July, back-to-basics full on virtuosity with young(ish) Pete Johnstone on piano, sweltering in wool suits on the hottest day of the year.  (Mark McKergow)

Gary Husband, solo at King’s Place, October, debuting his tribute album to John McLaughlin called A Meeting of Spirits. Playing drums. And piano. At the same time. (Yes, you read that correctly). You just couldn’t look away, it was mesmerising stuff. A musical high wire act of astonishing creativity showcasing why he has reached national treasure/genius territory. (Rob Mallows)

Paintbox Jane - Westbrook & Company. As promised, this was a brilliantly realised “celebration of Raoul Dufy’s paintings, and a meditation on the nature of Art” for piano, bass, saxophone, guitar and voices, written by Mike and Kate Westbrook.  I’m already looking forward to further performances and a recording in 2018 by these extraordinary artists. (Jane Mann)

Leïla Martial’s spellbinding, spine-tingling, other-worldly voice in duet with Valentin Ceccaldi at St Ann’s Church, Manchester.  (Steve Mead - Manchester Jazz Festival)

Joshua Redman Quartet at MJF
Photo credit: Adrian Pallant
Manchester Jazz Festival hosted 2017’s sole UK performance by US tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and his Still Dreaming quartet, with cornettist Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. Celebrating the Old and New Dreams Quartet of the 1970s and ‘80s (which featured Joshua’s father Dewey Redman), this classy, genial performance had a packed RNCM Theatre audience on the edge of their seats, throughout, in a state of reverential awe. Pure magic. (Adrian Pallant)

Punkt.Vrt.Plastik, 4 November, Berlin, Jazzfest (Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger) (Michael Rüsenberg, Köln)

George Cables: Was this really happening?  I had to pinch myself several times to make sure it was when I had the opportinity to do interviews with both George Cables and bassist Essiet Essiet and to review their performance at Upstairs at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Cables is a delightful man. The well that he pulls his inspiration and ideas from is bottomless. (Sebastian Scotney)

ICP Orchestra at Gateshead Jazz Festival: Just after the death of their founder Misha Mengelberg, and preceded by the moving film about his gradual decline into dementia, they put on an exhilarating performance, full of wit and exciting improvisation. This is one of the great European bands, led by Mengelberg's long-time collaborator Han Bennink. It was wonderful that they made two UK visits this year. (Peter Slavid)

Leïla Martial, Cafe Zedel, London Jazz Festival: The French vocalist, accompanied by Pierre Teyregeol on guitar and Eric Perez on drums. The performance was refreshingly unique: Martial was able to use her voice in unusual yet musically captivating ways, ranging in pitch, timbre, and style. A truly memorable night. (Gail Tasker)

This is a very tough call given all the great music on offer in 2017, but I’m going to go with singer/songwriter Gwyneth Herbert, appearing at the 606 Club in October. With her incandescent personality and sheer lust for life, Gwyn’s performances just transport me to another world. Her voice - a soaring, powerful instrument – combined with her sly sense of humour & whimsical songwriting are truly one of a kind.  (Laura G Thorne – Marketing/PR Manager, 606 Club)

Ambleside Days (see the link below for full numbered caption)
Photo credit: Sylwia Bialas
The inaugural Ambleside Days festival in September, for the sense of community among musicians, the warm tributes to John Taylor, and the many beautiful combinations of Dave Holland, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Joe Locke, et al. (Jon Turney)

Love Supreme at Glynde Place was terrific, as usual, but the most sublime and moving moment of 2017 was hearing Pete Churchill’s London Vocal Project perform the European Premiere of Jon Hendricks’s vocalese Miles Ahead at Kings Place. If you were lucky enough to be there on 21 May, my review for London Jazz may bring back fond memories, perhaps made more poignant by Hendricks’s death last month at the age of 96. (John L Walters)

Andy Sheppard Quartet, Kings Place, 11 September: A top band with a warm audience in a great venue is not a bad start, but it is Sheppard’s saxophone that makes the difference. The sax is the most human-sounding of instruments and Sheppard’s is the most human of saxophones, talking in articulate, warm, lyrical and intelligent tones, like a great Shakespearian actor in full flow. (Dominic Williams)

The Art Ensemble of Chicago returning to Cafe Oto in October after their acclaimed residency in February, were augmented by the string trio Hear In Now, and turned in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen at the venue. Everything gelled. The interaction between the musicians, the extended vocabularies they created, and the ability to constantly surprise made it very special - plus the bonus of a sparkling interview a couple of hours earlier. (Geoff Winston)


REPORT: Making the Changes: a powerful symposium for women in jazz

The poster for Making the Changes featured the band Interchange
Back Row L-R Brigitte Beraha, Yazz Ahmed Corrina Silvester, Helena Kay, Charlie Pyne
Front Row:Carol Jarvis, Tori Freestone, Karen Street, Issie Barratt, Shirley Smart

Making the Changes was a symposium on December 17 2017 held at the Southbank Centre, organised by ISSIE BARRATT and presented by the Centre and by the UK Women’s Jazz Collective. 70 women met to create a network, identify barriers facing them in the jazz industry, celebrate success stories and assemble working parties to move things forward. Mary James attended and reports:

“Now that I’ve seen the ridiculous gender imbalance [in jazz], I cannot unsee. I see and hear sexism on a daily basis.” So said a well-known male instrumentalist via email to Issie Barratt, the organiser of the symposium. Over 70 women met at the Southbank Centre on 17 December 2017 to discuss the issues they face in the music industry and to identify positive action that all (men and women) can contribute to as well as sharing (across the day) numerous examples of “positive action” that had succeeded in implementing change with more gender balanced outcomes.

They also heard of success stories such as the Help Musicians UK Jazz Promoters Fellowships, and ambitions of the three attending funding bodies to phase out women-only funding (such as Women Make Music) within a few years in an era of gender-balanced funding applications. Help Musicians UK intends to develop a National Mentoring Bank and have 50-50 shares on all applications and grant panels by 2021.

Statistics (assembled by Issie Barratt in 2016) were stark – of 200 jazz instrumental professorial seats at 6 of the UK’s 7 conservatoires, only 8 were held by women; fewer than 6% of jazz instrumentalists studying at conservatoires were women; and in 25 years of a major award, only 2 out of 27 recipients had been women (Fortunately, thanks to the award organisers proactively spreading their net and widening their reach the outcome of this year’s award was markedly different, as 55% (6/11) of 2017’s BAND LEADERS THAT MADE IT THROUGH TO THE FINAL ROUND were women) . One speaker spoke of the invisibility of structural privilege that supports this imbalance.

Examples of artistic and educational jazz programmes that signed up to a 50:50 gender balance and the positive outcomes include Northern Line and Jazz North Introduces. In a wide-ranging day several issues stood out:

Feeling an outsider - and the mental challenges when often the only woman in the band, or a female leader, or at a jam. Help Musicians UK recently launched Music Minds Matter to support everyone in the music industry where issues of bullying and depression are rife. This is a joined-up scheme that offers advice and support (through a 24-hour help link) and signposts the way to treatment and funding.

Being heard – blind submission (the anonymising of music presented to promoters and conservatories) is already used in the classical world, at BASCA and Jazz at the Lincoln Center. It would be interesting to see what a panel of jazz journalists would choose if they were subjected to such an experiment.

Being seen and read about – the visual under-representation of women jazz musicians in the jazz print media, and as writers and critics. To discourage stereotyping, women are encouraged to have high quality photographs and text and to insist via their contracts that this image/text is used in publicity. Women should be aware of long print deadlines and not leave publicity too late. And more women could be encouraged to write about jazz.

Raising awareness – days such as this create a community, enabling more women to work together with other female jazz musicians (musically and politically - rather than remaining the lone woman in the band or dealing with gender issues in isolation), encouraging women to apply for funding, having mixed panels at all industry events and festival promotion teams, widening the net by talking about ethnicity and diversity issues alongside gender.

Numerous working parties will be set up in the new year – Including how to help redress the gender imbalance in the conservatoires, festival and gig programming and in the media and tackling bullying/harassment (in conjunction with the MU).

UK Womens Jazz Collective on Spotify



Tommy Smith Quartet: Calum Gourlay, Tommy and Pete Johnstone at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. (Sebastiaan de Krom out of shot)
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield
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… The other three, which will be published either side of Christmas, will be 'live memories', 'recorded memories', and 'wishes for 2018’. You can add your own nominations in the comments sections. These 2017 contributions have been compiled by LJN Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon: 

Mike Stern: For Trip, great album, all the greater for its backstory. (Rob Adams – journalist)

Django Bates: For two powerful recorded contributions - leading his own Beloved Trio and as part of Anouar Brahem’s quartet - to the ECM catalogue, and for celebrating the Sgt Pepper half-century in his own fashion. (Peter Bacon)

The Infinitude Quintet at Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Photo credit: Alison Bentley
Ingrid and Christine Jensen with Ben Monder, Infinitude Quintet: Canadian sisters in jazz and in life, their compositions lean towards Kenny Wheeler, with rock and free jazz influences. In their own words: trumpeter Ingrid: “…we can find space, and craziness, and find our way in and out of it…" Saxophonist Christine: “…it’s all about people sharing their time and energy and love of the music together.” (Alison Bentley)

Chris Laurence Quartet w. Frank Ricotti, John Paricelli, Martin France: Sheer mature artistic perfection. (Brian Blain)

Alexander Hawkins: A musician creatively and persistently redefining, transforming existing music as a source, a musician doing it in a captivating and convincing way and from an urgent personal need. Among the strong, remarkable examples from the younger generation, last year I chose French pianist Eve Risser, this year Alexander Hawkins. (Henning Bolte)

Jacob Collier: I am biased, of course, as I am earning my keep as “product manager“ for Jacob's album. However, the sheer energy, the amount of talent and love of music in such a beautiful human being makes me feel even happier to do so. (Götz Bühler, editor Jazz thing - European Jazz Legends)

Leo Richardson: London-based tenor saxophonist burst onto the scene this year with The Chase - a Blue Note-inspired album that was as technically impressive as it was fun and listenable. Drawing on the legacy of Dexter Gordon and early Herbie Hancock grooves, Richardson’s quartet left a high-water mark for swing in 2017. (Jon Carvell)

London Vocal Project & Pete Churchill: In May, LVP performed Jon Hendricks’ rendering of Miles Ahead for the first time in the UK, after a New York premier in February. Every note of  Gil Evans’ score became a lyric and the ensemble performance was breathtaking. As a collective musical achievement, with MD Pete Churchill largely responsible for making it happen (with the late Jon Hendricks of course), this little accolade hardly does it justice. (Mike Collins)

SEN3: Likewise tipped for 2018 by Jazzwise editor Mike Flynn, ‘extended trio’ SEN3 brought something genuinely new in 2017 with the brave and unlikely fusion of their Grime Reworked series of gigs, bringing jazz chops to bear on classics of this dark form of electronic hiphop. This pathfinding experiment met with a predictably bewildered response, the final gig was cancelled by the venue, and they immediately became my heroes of all time. (AJ Dehany)

Christian Sands: probably one of the best piano players of today's jazz. (Ralf Dombrowski)

Yazz Ahmed: Yazz has made great leaps forward this year, bringing out her album La Saboteuse, playing a great set at Cheltenham Jazz festival and touring her Alhaan Al-Siduri to Bahrain. (Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Birmingham and Cheltenham Jazz Festival)

Chucho Valdes: At 76, still going stronger than ever. He graced us with his virtuosic playing at the Barbican in November, together with his compatriot Gonzalo Rubalcaba in a mad exposition of Cuban delights. I’ve never heard two towering pianists play together so joyfully; a perfect combination of individual expression and improvised dialogue. (Sebastian Fox)

Tommy Smith Quartet: The Quartet released an outstanding tribute to John Coltrane during the year, Embodying the Light, and played a hugely exciting concert in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Backed by Calum Gourlay, Pete Johnstone and Sebastiaan de Krom, Smith's playing is reaching new heights. Superb! (Patrick Hadfield)

Jason Yarde: This and every year. (Alan Hayward)

Stefano Amerio: The unseen musician in the room, the engineer of Artesuono Studio, Udine, Italy for beautiful sound and undoubted inspiration to all involved on the Julian Costello Quartet's Transitions and on Maciek Pysz's and Daniele di Bonaventura's Coming Home. (Mary James)

Rob Luft: A young guitarist who has contributed so much in recent years to fellow musicians’ gigs and albums finally, at the ripe old age of 23, released his own: Riser is exciting and different, and shows why he is so much in demand. (Peter Jones)

Alice Zawadzki: I think she’s fabulous (Barb Jungr)

Thelonious Monk and Mike Gibbs: two birthday boys of 2017 (combined age of 180 years), continuous inspiration. (Hans Koller)

Binker and Moses: London sax/drums duo, for both their terrific double CD Journey To The Mountain Of Forever, and their sustained creativity over a full 90 minutes of duo performance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in July. (Mark McKergow)

Rob Luft - two nominations
Publicity picture
Big Bad Wolf: Debut Pond Life was a real boxer’s uppercut of an album and the band’s Rob Luft the Mohammed Ali of jazz guitar, floating like a butterfly and stinging with his impressive soloing. (Rob Mallows)

Skeltr: For sheer energy and pace, Sam Healey and Craig Hanson’s intense new duo is gathering momentum fast. A  fairground ride for the soul. (Steve Mead)

Vein Trio: The Swiss trio brought Spring delight with their inviting, original music in The Chamber Music Effect, only to follow it in the autumn with remarkably intelligent and successful interpretations of Maurice Ravel’s output in Vein Plays Ravel (UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard guesting). I can’t recommend highly enough this longtime collaboration between pianist Michael Arbenz, bassist Thomas Lähns and drummer Florian Arbenz for such astonishing attention to detail and sheer dedication to art. (Adrian Pallant)

Jihad Darwish: For bravely reclaiming his own name despite obvious reasons many wouldn't, and in a period which I think reflects this honesty, bringing to conclusion an utterly honest, original, and impressive album of his own work, due for release in 2018. On the bandstand always digging in and asking the best of himself and most importantly encouraging it from those on stage with him. (Robin Phillips)

Petter Eldh (Michael Rüsenberg, Köln,

Dave Holland: I love the fact that Dave who lives over there is so frequently over here and is making such a big difference. I couldn't get to what sounds like his big UK gig of the year as the focal point of the Ambleside Days Festival (Mike Collins wrote it up for his own site) but I did get to the NYJC gala. A new album with Evan Parker? Bring it on! (Sebastian Scotney)

Jasper Høiby: For bass playing that lit up three great bands I heard live this year - Phronesis, Fellow Creatures, and Malija (twice). Each in their way is an absolute gem. (Jon Turney)

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: In 2016, the band whose work best anticipated the poisonous double-think and fake fake news of the new world order was Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. Now it’s nearly 2018, and the 45th president, against all common sense, is still in the White House. When it’s all over, Argue’s Real Enemies will evoke the mood of the current madness as vividly as a newspaper home page. (My review of Real Enemies from 7 Nov 2016) (John L Walters)

Burton Greene at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston (© 2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Burton Greene: I’ll spotlight the pianist who accompanied Patty Waters at a great gig at Cafe Oto. One of the best pianists I’ve heard playing live, he’s not well known here. Based in Amsterdam for many years (via Chicago and New York), his versatility, invention and sharpness bring to mind the palettes of Cecil Taylor, Monk and Keith Tippett. He just made that piano sing! His double CD recorded live in Amsterdam in 2016-17 is titled Compendium. (Geoff Winston)


INTERVIEW: Günther Huesmann (Talking about the SWR New Jazz Meeting - co-publication with Jazzthetik)

Norma Winstone, Karin Krog and Don Cherry
at the SWF Free Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 1970
Photo: SWR

Sebastian writes: 

The 50th SWR New Jazz Meeting was recently held in three cities in Southern Germany. I reviewed the third concert in Karlsruhe. I also interviewed the senior producer behind the event, Günther Huesmann. He is head of jazz at SWR, following in the illustrious footsteps of Germany's "jazz pope" Joachim-Ernst Berendt. This interview is a co-publication with Jazzthetik, where this article appears in German in the January/ February issue, published today: 

Günther Huesmann
Photo credit: SWR
Günther Huesmann - The Studio as Laboratory

As a foreign observer it is impossible to avoid comparing the jazz scene of another country with one's own. And one aspect of the German scene which fascinates me is how much of its scale, professionalism and architecture can be traced back at least in part to the energy of one seemingly omnipresent man: Joachim-Ernst Berendt. A conversation with Günther Huesmann about Berendt and one specific legacy, the SWR NEWJazz Meeting:

The final words on the back of the title page of the original edition of Das Jazzbuch from 1953 serve as a reminder of what a combative spririt Berendt was. "This book is a compendium for lovers and opponents of jazz," he wrote. This book has been continuously in the catalogue of the S. Fischer publishing house right up to the present day. With sales approaching the two million mark, it is almost certainly the highest-selling book about jazz. Günther Huesmann has been responsible for the editions of Das Jazzbuch since 1989, and since 2012 has occupied one of what was one of Berend's key roles, as the head of jazz in the Südwestrundfunk (SWR).

Sebastian Scotney: Has Joachim-Ernst Berendt infuenced German jazz in a sustainable way?

Günther Huesmann: Yes. He was the central and influential mediator in jazz in post-war Germany. He was a radio man, jazz critic, author, festival founder and director, record produer and television anchor. What marks him out is that he focused on the progressive strengths of jazz from early on. For Berendt, jazz was a socio-political force that came into its own when it came into direct contact with the concerns of the here and now.

Sebastian Scotney: You are celebrating the 50th SWR NEWJazz Meeting. Was it Berendt who started it in 1966?

Günther Huesmann: Yes, at that time it was called the Free Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden, and in 1972 Berendt changed the name of the event to SWR NEWJazz Meeting. The meeting should be open to all styles.

Sebastian ScotneyWhat was the idea behind it?

Günther Huesmann: To this day, Berendt's idea has remained the central idea of the SWR NEWJazz Meeting: to give musicians in a radio studio the opportunity to exchange ideas, detached from the constraints of business. The principle of improvisation already contains the essence of the idea of encounter, of spontaneous dialogue. We pick up on this impulse in a radio studio. Berendt understood that one can use a radio studio to do much more than just document finished pieces. The studio can be a framework for facilitating encounters in which musicians can exchange ideas spontaneously. It is a sound laboratory in which they have the chance to try things out for recordings or future concerts. Thus the idea of dialogue, which is an essential part of jazz, became the element of radio and studio work.

Sebastian Scotney: Do you have the same ethos or has it changed with the times?

Günther Huesmann: I feel obliged to the same ethos. Unfortunately, the financial circumsances of many musicians have not changed much in recent decades. Improvisers are often forced to chase after the next gig for economic reasons. The SWR NEWJazz Meeting aims to use the resources of the broadcaster to help them see cherished projects and visions to through to fruition.

Sebastian Scotney: What were some of the highlights from the past?

Günther Huesmann: In 1969 a meeting of important European and American avant-garde improvisers took place at the Free Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden. Musicians from the AACM in Chicago experimented with European free jazz musicians. That was the first time that anything like that had happened in a studio.

The 1982 Vocal Summit was certainly also a highlight, when Bobby McFerrin was still at the beginning of his career. What this vocalist created together with Jeanne Lee, Lauren Newton, Jay Clayton and Urszula Dudziak still has a spark about it. It had astonishing freshness and the joy of discovery. Both accordionist Vincent Peirani and soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien were virtually unknown in Germany at that time. A year later they both won a major music prize, the French "Victoires du Jazz".

Sebastian Scotney: SWR recorded the meetings. Has the material been published on CD or in other forms? 

Günther Huesmann: Yes, a substantial amount of it. However, the early editions of it were not normally issued on vinyl or CD. The 1982 Vocal Summit with Bobby McFerrin was released on the Moers Music label. The concert by Ingrid Laubrock Octet was released on the album Zürich Concert - SWR New Jazz Meeting and won an award in 2014. Since 2013 we have been documenting the results of the meeting on the SWR Jazzhaus label.

Sebastian Scotney: This year the programme is being performed in three towns in Baden-Württemberg. Has this always been the case?

Günther Huesmann: In the first few years the Meeting happened exclusively in the radio studio in Baden-Baden. But, quite early on, the desire emerged among the musicians to try out the work that they had been working on in the sound laboratory setting live and in front of an audience. So the results have been performed in clubs and concert halls in SWR‘s refion since 1973. And through that the SWR NEWJazz Meeting has become a cultural partner for several significant initiatives, jazz clubs and promoters in the South-West of Germany. This bears witness to a high degree of trust. And we know that we have to keep continuously building and rebuilding this confidence with inspiring and exciting programming.

LINKS: Report on the Radio Jazz Research meeting in Mannheim
Review of the 50th SWR New Jazz Meeting
The Karlsruhe concert on video