PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Maciek Pysz - (Quartet UK tour March 2017)

Photo Credit: Krystian Data

Polish-born, London-based guitarist MACIEK PYSZ is one busy man. With simultaneous involvement in no fewer than five musical outfits, including his own trio and two of his own different quartets, he is as productive as he is talented. He has an album coming out in the spring with fellow guitarist GIANLUCA CORONA and an imminent tour with his new “drumless” quartet. Interview by Leah Williams:

LondonJazz News: You're a completely self-taught guitarist. What was it that inspired you to get started?

Maciek Pysz: I started at the age of 10 and it was mainly because my cousin started taking lessons and I wanted to try and learn an instrument as well. As soon as I picked it up, it was instant love. It was the sound of it, the wood, the fact that it's so portable and I was fascinated with the possibilities of being able to express emotions which are beyond words through playing the guitar. There is something magical about it!

LJN: Do you find that learning by yourself has helped or hindered you when it comes to developing your technique and style?

MP:It's hard to comment as I never went to a music school but my impression is that people from music schools often sound kind of the same - although that's not true for everyone, of course. For sure, I felt free to experiment and explore and there wasn't anyone telling me I shouldn't do this or that.

LJN: You cite musical inspirations as coming from a wide range of styles - such as Tango, Flamenco, Latin, Jazz, Brazilian and Classical music - but which one do you most predominantly listen to or relate to?

MP:It's hard for me to speak about styles as for me music is music. I would say that I lean mainly towards instrumental music, often guitar music naturally! Lots of things I listen to could be categorised as jazz but again I am not the one who decides what goes on which shelf. My favourite way of playing and sound is what you can hear on most albums by the German record label ECM. So I would say my favourite style is the ECM style! There are so many from this label I could name but, for example, some of my favourites are classic ones like Keith Jarrett My Song or Ralph Towner Solstice and, from more recent ones, Wolfgang Muthspiel Driftwood, Marcin Wasilewski Trio Faithful, and Zsofia Boros Local Objects. Really, the list just goes on!

LJN: You grew up in Poland but moved to London in 2003 - how do you feel this move has informed or influenced your music?

MP:I think that any experience enriches our lives and it comes out in the music. Moving to a new country has definitely been a path of growth for me. The many experiences I have had while living in London have all shaped my personality, especially as I moved here at quite a young age.

LJN: You seem to have played at a fair few festivals over the years all around the world. Which is your favourite one?

MP:I recently played at a great festival in Poland, called Palm Jazz Festival. I also remember very well playing at Ceuta Jazz Festival but my favourite place to perform is always the South of France. I’ve really enjoyed playing at La Colle sur Loup Jazz Festival over the years. These festivals all have amazing atmospheres which makes it such a pleasure to play there and all the musicians I had the chance to play with have been very inspiring. It’s always great to share the stage with top class musicians.

LJN: Where does your strong connection to France come from?

MP:I lived in Paris for a year and since 2012 I regularly spend a couple of months a year in the South of France. I think it's the culture. I love their food, fashion, architecture and the way of life. I feel very European and I find myself feeling at home in France as it's much more similar to where I come from than the UK. I also love the weather in the South of France. Most importantly, I love their music and way of playing. Most of my favourite guitarists are French. They have their own way of playing music and jazz which I strongly relate to.

LJN: You play with a lot of different musical outfits, your own trio and now quartet in addition to the Julian Costello quartet and as part of the duo with Gianluca Corona, do you find this variety helps to inform and develop your music?

MP:Definitely! I love working in various music situations. I used to mainly play with my own band but having all these other projects has brought new ideas and inspiration to my own music. I really enjoy being part of a project rather than just the leader.

LJN: You actually have a new album coming out shortly with Gianluca Corona, I believe?

MP:Yes, I met Gianluca in London in 2012 and we had an instant connection. We discovered we both love the music of Al Di Meola, Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin and many other great players who are not really in the strict jazz tradition. The album will be called "London Stories", it's out on 21st April on 33 Jazz Records. It's just an honest album, two friends playing the music they love together. There is no glossy production, we just sat and played as we would at home or at a gig. Just two guitars, two guys.

LJN: Tell us about your new project - the drumless quartet. What inspired you to start this and what are your plans for the future with this set-up?

MP: It actually started as a trio with me on guitar, John Turville on piano and Adam Spiers on cello, which then expanded to include Yuri Goloubev on double bass. I often found that, although working with great drummers, the presence of the drums makes the whole dynamic of the music go to a level which doesn't necessarily serve my music very well. I started to look for more space and a different sound and this line-up definitely allows me to experiment with more of a classical sound with four instruments that can play the melody and various lines. There is a lot of passion and energy in the music. I hope to take people on an unforgettable musical journey. It's going to be very exciting!

To see the full dates of Maciek’s UK tour with his new quartet see below:
Maciek Pysz's website


NEWS: The Jazz Podcast (UK jazz musician interviews) launches Friday Feb 3rd

Rob Cope of The Jazz Podcast

A new series of podcasts featuring UK jazz musicians is launched this Friday February 3rd at midday. 

The first two episodes will be released then:  interviews with bassist Loz Garratt, from Jamie Cullum's band, and a pivotal figure in British jazz Stan Sulzmann. Thereafter a new edition of The Jazz Podcast is set to become available every Friday at midday and the initial list of subsequent interviewees is:

Kit Downes
Steve Berry
Femi Temowo
Dave Green
James Maddren
Trish Clowes
Tom Cawley
Mike Walker
Laura Jurd

The instigators of the podcast/ interviewers are ROB COPE and DAN FARRANT. The podcasts will be available on iTunes and Stitcher. Rob Cope tells us: "Each show is around an hour. The format is a two minute introduction to each episode, some news and then straight to the interview with that weeks guest which is about 95% of the episode."

They have also produced a short introductory video

(LondonJazz News has produced over 100 jazz podcasts and they are all on our Bandcamp site. The latest is with Barry Green)

LINKS: The Jazz Podcast Facebook page
The Jazz Podcast website


ROUND-UP REVIEW: South Coast Jazz Festival 2017

Emily Dankworth and Phil Robson in AlecDankworth's
Spanish Accents. SCJF 2017. Photo credit: Lisa Wormsley

South Coast Jazz Festival 2017
(The Verdict, Brighton and Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham, Sussex. 16th - 29th January 2017. Round-up review by Charlie Anderson)

The South Coast Jazz Festival, now in its third year, continues to expand and it now covers a wide range of jazz styles which encompasses the thriving Sussex jazz scene. Beginning with Dave Drake’s trio at Brighton’s acclaimed jazz venue The Verdict, one half of Empirical joined forces with young pianist Drake to launch the two week festival, bursting with energy and enthusiasm (REVIEWED HERE).

Terry Seabrook's Triversion. SCJF 2017. Photo credit Lisa Wormsley

Terry Seabrook’s Triversion provided the danceable jazz-rock fusion with Andy Williams’ electric guitar accompanying Seabrook’s rocking organ, ably accompanied by Javier Ferrero on drums with special guest Tristan Banks on percussion.

Brighton Jazz School’s Education Forum gave insights into the different directions that jazz education can take, with a discussion on practical-based learning over theory-based approaches. Geoff Simkins reflected on his decades-long career as a self-taught musician who learnt his jazz pedagogy from following the example set by Lennie Tristano. Chichester College’s Julian Nicholas, a co-director of the festival, discussed society’s perceptions of jazz as well as the problems of convincing parents that it is a viable vocation. Fellow festival director Claire Martin also gave an engaging talk on the practical skills required to be a bandleader, something also covered in more detail in her in-depth ‘Tools of the Trade’ workshop with Elaine Crouch the following week. A student showcase at the end of the conference highlighted the results of jazz education with performances by students from Brighton Jazz School, Chichester College, Chichester University and Geoff Simkins’ jazz course.

Olie Brice, Rachel Musson and Mark Sanders provided inspiration for those wanting to hear jazz improvisation of a more explorative, freer nature, together with the monthly Safehouse session at The Verdict, in association with the Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival.

Nigel Thomas Quartet with Paul Booth promoted Thomas’ latest album Hidden, although the highlight of the concert was the beautiful title track from Nigel’s previous album, Yoichi. That said, the entire evening demonstrated his increasing capability to produce music with real emotional resonance.

The Sunday Roast Jam Session was a chance for musicians (and festival directors) to have a blow and let off some steam after putting in a lot of hard work, together with fantastic food provided by The Verdict’s head chef John Easterby. Later in the day, superb Danish vocalist Sara Oschlag and trombonist Mark Bassey performed music from the album A Day In Copenhagen by Dexter Gordon and Slide Hampton as well as arrangements made famous by Cecile McLorin Salvant.

The South Coast Jazz Festival has consistently promoted jazz photography with past exhibitions by Brian O’Connor and the late David Redfern. This year featured an exhibition at The Verdict by official festival photographer Lisa Wormsley as well as an exhibition of photos by Chinese photographer and promoter Rachel Zhang at the Ropetackle Arts Centre. A panel discussion at The Verdict, hosted by Lisa Wormsley, also covered images chosen by photographers Lynne Shields, Sara Oschlag, Neil Garrett and Greg Heath.

Eddie Myer 5tet, SCJF 2017. Photo credit Lisa Wormsley

The Tuesday night performance by bassist Eddie Myer’s 5tet featured some storming solos from former NYJO saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan in a gig full of originals by Myer as well as tunes by the late Ian Price. Pianist Mark Edwards, who had performed with Nigel Thomas’ quartet was on fine form and a clearly delighted Eddie Myer looked as if all his musical dreams had come true.

The friendly and intimate nature of the festival continued when concerts moved to the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham-by-sea, with the foyer area providing a perfect space for socialising whilst DJs Neil Godwin and Kevin Le Gendre provided the music. A series of double-bills in the seated concert hall began with the latin-fusion band J-Sonics performing upbeat tunes such as Berimbau, Partido Alto and Mas Que Nada which got the crowd dancing whilst Alec Dankworth’s Spanish Accents were more low-key, drawing the audience in with a varied set of tunes inspired by flamenco rhythms, such as Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba.

On the following night, Zoe Rahman’s solo piano concert was both hypnotic and mesmerising, and was a masterclass in extended techniques. It was a thoroughly absorbing performance of pieces from her 2016 album Dreamland, including a beautiful rendition of Ellington’s A Single Petal Of A Rose, her own interpretation of These Foolish Things and her distinctive original Red Squirrel. By contrast, the upbeat funk of Dennis Rollins’ new ensemble Funky Funk got the crowd dancing, as well as being a platform for some jazzy extemporisations from Rollins and saxophonist James Morton, guitarist Tony Remy and keyboardist Martin Longhawn.

Nigel Price. SCJF 2017. Photo credit Lisa Wormsley

At the beginning of the festival, guitarist Jim Mullen was in hospital so Festival organisers improvised ‘Jim Jars’ for jazz fans to donate money towards what is likely to be a lengthy recovery period. Guitarist Nigel Price kindly stood in for Jim and performed a beautiful version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, as well as his own interpretation of standards such as Jobim's Triste and Wes Montgomery's Four On Six. One of the best features of the Ropetackle concerts was the contrasting double bills and Sarah Jane Morris was certainly unique, giving intensely emotional renditions of popular tunes as well as originals that were deeply personal and moving, ably accompanied by guitarists Tim Cansfield and the ubiquitous Tony Remy.

The final day saw Terry Pack’s large ensemble Trees perform at lunchtime before the main concert of Ray Gelato’s Giants, who provided two sets of entertaining and energetic music in the style of Louis Jordan, with festival directors Claire Martin and Julian Nicholas joining the band on stage for the rousing finale.

The concerts at The Verdict proved that local musicians could put on sell-out shows that offered engaging, original music, whilst the Ropetackle concerts showed that a diverse range of jazz styles in a mixed programme could offer both intellectual fulfilment and danceable entertainment. Well done to festival directors Claire Martin and Julian Nicholas for putting on a bigger and better festival and bringing together all of the varied elements of the local and national jazz scene.

Charlie Anderson is the editor of Sussex Jazz Magazine

LINK: South Coast Jazz Festival website


CD REVIEW: Camilla George Quartet - Isang

Camilla George Quartet - Isang
(Ubuntu Music UBU0004. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

One of saxophonist, composer and teacher Camilla George’s abiding recollections of music college (Trinity Laban, to be precise) is how she learnt to swing – and her straight-ahead, straight-to-the-heart debut quartet album Isang certainly offers a rich, lilting fusion of African and Western grooves, reflecting her coastal Nigerian roots.

Having studied with saxophone luminaries such as a Jean Toussaint, Tony Kofi and Julian Siegel – and achieving the Archer scholarship for outstanding performance – Camilla George has worked with Tomorrow’s Warriors and the Nu Civilisation Orchestra since 2004, as well as several years already with Jazz Jamaica. But, as she explains, “It wasn't until I joined Courtney Pine’s Venus Warriors, and we played our debut gig at The Hideaway, that I felt ready to lead my own band. That project inspired me and gave me the confidence I needed to branch out on my own.” With colleagues Sarah Tandy (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass) and Femi Koleoso (drums), plus a guest appearance from vocalist Zara McFarlane, George complements her own, elegant writing with two arrangements – and fronted by warm, lyrical alto, it’s an album of delight.

The title (pronounced ‘E-sang’) is an Efik/Ibibio word for ‘journey’, which the MOBO-nominated saxophonist applies to her own artistic pathways and influences, taking in highlife, afrobeat, calypso and hip-hop. Throughout these eight tracks, George’s frequently memorable melodies dissolve organically into assured, flowing improvisation; and the opening number, celebrating West African spirit Mami Wata, swings with an affable exuberance. Based on ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’, with a fun, carnival nod to Alan Price, Lunacity’s calypso shuffle is pleasantly easy-going; and though it never pushes hard, there is something especially attractive about the leader’s considered delivery. Indeed, in mellower numbers such as Song for the Reds, dedicated to her father (“aka The original jazzer!”), she uncannily echoes the lush tones of Paul Desmond (here, melding effectively with Sarah Tandy’s delicately-poised, New Orleansian stride piano); and in Isang, Daniel Casimir’s infectious bass dance couples with unsnared, tricksy beats to reinforce the Nigerian connection – a spirited and open trio performance, based on a simple melodic hook, to roll away the clouds.

Kenny Garrett’s gentle bossa, Ms Baja, relaxes to Zara McFarlane’s wordless vocals which effortlessly meld with George’s lines, whilst Dreams of Eket’s pervading, floating softness reveals even more of the saxophonist’s personality through beautifully-shaped phrases and colourful tonal expression (leaving one pondering how luxuriant an occasional transition to tenor might sound). Jazz standard The Night Has a Thousand Eyes finds a buoyant, promenading groove a gear below John Coltrane’s interpretations, whilst end piece Mami Wata Returns/Usoro offers an enticing, alternative glimpse of this band as electric bass and Rhodes combine with Femi Koleoso’s super-crackling percussion – the perfect platform from which George might soar even higher in a live setting.

From a player already established on the scene, this solo debut really catches the attention… and promises much for the future.


22 February The Lescar, Sheffield
23 February Matt & Phred’s, Manchester
25 February Zefferelli’s, Ambleside
26 February 7ARTS, Leeds
27 February Kenilworth Jazz Club
28 February North Wales Jazz, The British Legion, Wrexham
1 March Dempsey’s, Cardiff

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

LINK: PREVIEW / INTERVIEW: Camilla George Quartet - (New album - Isang, Launch 11th January 2017)


REVIEW: Jazz in New York Part Two – Swing to Bebop at Cadogan Hall

Jazz in New York Part Two – Swing to Bebop

Jazz in New York Part Two – Swing to Bebop
( Cadogan Hall, 28th January 2017. Review by Peter Vacher)

The Jazz Repertory Company’s mission statement might be best defined as the recreation of music from the rich heritage of jazz with as much reflection of its stylistic nuances as is appropriate. This plus a certain degree of light-touch levity, always a given whenever Pete Long is at the helm as he was here in the latest of the JRC’s highly popular Cadogan Hall-based themed concerts.

With 2017 the centenary year for jazz on record and with the breathless pace of this music’s development, there’s no lack of entry points to choose from when devising a programme like this. Thus this second celebration of Jazz in New York moved us from swing to bop, taking in Cotton Club Ellington from the early 1930s and bounding forward to Dizzy Gillespie’s big band a decade or so later, via a selection of small group swingers.

With vocalist Heather Simmons giving It Don’t Mean A Thing a lusty kick-start, Ian Bateman’s plunger-muted trombone adding grit, the Ellington sequence then took wing with Braggin’ in Brass, a kind of 1930s test-piece, intricate playing by trumpets and trombones pulled off with aplomb. The same attention to detail marked the later series of Ducal themes invariably badged as those of the Blanton-Webster period, with young bassist Laurence Ungless tackling the Blanton lines, effectively if under-miked, and the trumpets tearing into everything.

Significantly, they continued to do this with apparent zest and commendable surety in the concert’s second half, this entirely devoted to Gillespie’s small groups and his demanding big band canon. And who better to play the Dizzy part than Mark Armstrong, with Long laying his clarinet aside and concentrating on some seriously fervent alto? In sum the second half was an Armstrong bop-fest, every number calling for virtuoso trumpet action from Armstrong, taking a night off from his NYJO job, his facial hue deepening as he aimed for – and hit - every rib-shaking high-note. Along the way, other bandsmen had excelled in brief Goodman, Shaw, Kirby and Raymond Scott combo tributes: nothing startling here, although Scott’s Powerhouse was a zippy surprise.

It says much for the musicianship of Long’s crew and his other star soloists, trumpeter Enrico Tomasso [peerless as Cootie Williams], Bateman, the plunger king, Jay Craig, serious on baritone, and Aussie tenorist Duncan Hemstock that their replications eschewed parody or pastiche. And that’s not to overlook the vivacious dancers, Richard Pucci and Colet Castaño, or the expert percussionists Satin Singh and Dave Pattman added for Dizzy’s Latin numbers. Numerous and clearly purposeful, this cheery collective set out to take the music off the page and give it renewed life. As Long said, “If this [music] doesn’t turn you on, you haven’t got a switch!” Quite.

Link: Preview of this concert


REVIEW: Emulsion Festival at mac, Birmingham

The Emulsion Sinfonietta - full lists of personnel and works played below

Emulsion Festival
(mac, Birmingham, 27 January 2017. Review by Peter Bacon and Tony Dudley-Evans)

Trish Clowes, with the help of Tom Harrison, held the fifth incarnation of her Emulsion Festival in Birmingham. The name encapsulates the idea of combining different styles of music in to a cohesive whole which nevertheless maintains the integrity of those different elements. Reviewers Peter Bacon and Tony Dudley-Evans attempt to honour that spirit with their own reflective emulsion.

Peter Bacon: Does something that happens over one evening, albeit with a late-afternoon discussion session, really deserve the label “festival”? I was cynical before I went along on Friday but the fairly strict timetable - hour-long sets in the theatre with musical duos and trios playing in the foyer - did provide those festival elements of the indigestion-inducing snatched snack and a non-stop hubbub. The mac did feel akin to Shakespeare’s isle in "The Tempest": “full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight”. Are you happy with the word festival?

Tony Dudley-Evans: I wasn’t able to attend in the afternoon, but on arrival at 7pm I was impressed with the fact of music being heard round various corners of mac. I particularly liked singer Georgia Denham with bass player Sam Ingvorsen near the entrance to the theatre. So I am satisfied that the day merits the title of “festival”. I believe that the overarching theme of links between contemporary jazz and contemporary classical music also justifies the word.

PB: The flagship of Emulsion is surely the Emulsion Sinfonietta and the commissioned compositions and other works arranged for it, so although it formed the festival finale let’s start there. Did you feel there was a cohesive feel and sound about the band? And what about the range of the compositions? Did you have a favourite?

TDE: I really enjoyed the hour and the variety and range of the short commissions. I think the number of commissions and the fact of their being written by some composers with a jazz background and some with a classical background made for interesting contrasts.

Percy Purglove’s piece, He, Whose Dreams Will Never Unfold had a very likeable edgy brassy feel led by Percy on the trumpet and reinforced by Hans Koller’s presence on euphonium, and veered towards a jazz feel with an excellent solo from Iain Ballamy.

Hans Koller’s piece Happy Mountain also featured a solo from Ballamy and had a feel of Gil Evans’ writing for large ensembles. On the other hand, Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian featuring vocals by Trish Clowes was much more structured. Joe Cutler’s piece Karembeu’s Guide to the Complete Defensive Midfielder, which was premiered at Emulsion IV, at the Cheltenham Music Festival last year, had the constant rapid movement from one musical idea to another that strikes me as characteristic of much contemporary classical music writing, but rather less so of contemporary jazz writing.

I did have a favourite: Trish Clowes’ Tap Dance (For Baby Dodds). This clearly drew, as Trish described in her introduction, on early jazz styles and featured a brilliant solo by drummer James Maddren drawing on Baby Dodds’ style.

So there were interesting differences between the various compositions, but there was nonetheless much in common in the textures and harmonies of the pieces. Moreover it was great to hear use of the sounds of the saxophone, the archetypical jazz instrument, in the more classically oriented writing.

PB: I agree, I thought the Sinfonietta’s programme was of a consistently high standard, and were all works I’d love to hear again. "Tap Dance" was also one of my favourites. It sounds lovely on the My Iris album (just released on Basho Records) but really benefited here from the expanded instrumentation. I also loved Iain Ballamy’s short but really moving "Chantries". He had explained at the discussion event chaired by Fiona Talkington which had opened the festival how the piece (it first appeared on his late ‘90s album "Acme") took its title from the Pilgrims’ Way, which runs from Winchester to Canterbury, passing through Iain’s home town of Guildford along the way. He also said the music he liked generally had one thing in common: it was “devotional” music. “It’s worshipful of something rather than egotistical about the performer,” he expanded. That made full sense listening the simple but compelling "Chantries."

The bands that played sets beforehand were emulsions of sorts as well, though with the different musical influences much more embedded within the distinct jazz styles of the Hans Koller Quartet and Trish Clowes’ My Iris quartet.

I was fascinated with the way the two Schoenberg pieces and one by Webern, all arranged by alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, moved so naturally into the three originals from pianist Hans Koller which completed the band’s set. They felt very much “of a piece” which says as much for O’Gallagher’s ability to bring out the jazz in the Second Viennese School composers as it does for Koller’s way of incorporating harmonies and melodic twists and turns that are not so commonly found in jazz. What did you think of Trish Clowes’ My Iris?

TDE: I thought this was a very strong set. This was very much a jazz set with its standard instruments of saxophones, piano/keys, guitar and drums, but, interestingly, no double bass, in the quartet. The set focused on attractive, slightly quirky tunes with the jazz format of head – solos – head and Trish’s saxophone solos outstanding with a strong narrative thread in each one.

The feel of the music, however, was very different from a straight-ahead jazz set with textures and harmonies similar to those of contemporary classical music, and in this sense the set fitted well with the concept and philosophy of the Emulsion Festival. My lasting impression, however, was that the set had the looseness and confidence to take risks that arises from the organic development of the music over a series of consecutive dates, which is very much a feature and a strength of the jazz approach.

Performing at Emulsion V were: Trish Clowes, saxophones; Chris Montague, guitar; Ross Stanley, piano and Hammond organ; James Maddren, drums; Hans Koller, piano and euphonium; John O’Gallagher, saxophone; Percy Pursglove, double bass and trumpet; Jeff Williams, drums; Joe Wright, saxophone and electronics; Calum Gourlay, double bass; Rachael Lander, cello; Anna Olsson, violin; Melinda Maxwell, oboe and cor anglais; Max Welford, clarinets; Iain Ballamy, saxophone; various duos and trios of students from Birmingham Conservatoire.

The Emulsion Sinfonietta played: Beamish by Chris Montague; The Woodcarver by Anna Olsson; Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian; Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds) by Trish Clowes; Tapeworm by Bobbie Gardner; Karembeu’s Guide To The Complete Defensive Midfielder by Joe Cutler; He, Whose Dreams Will Never Unfold by Percy Pursglove; Happy Mountain by Hans Koller; and Chantries by Iain Ballamy.

Trish Clowes' preview of the event


INTERVIEW: Avishai Cohen (with BBC Concert Orchestra - Only 2017 UK performance - Barbican. Thurs 9th Feb.)

Bassist Avishai Cohen. Photo credit: Youri Lenquette

Bassist AVISHAI COHEN will be presenting his only UK concert of 2017, "An Evening with Avishai Cohen" at the Barbican on Thursday Feb 9th, with his trio and the BBC Concert Orchestra. The evening will be in memory of JOHN ELLSON. LondonJazz News Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon interviewed Avishai Cohen, and found out more about the concert:

LondonJazz News: You were born in Israel, you have lived in various parts of the U.S., your family roots take in Spain, Greece and Poland - what effect has this multi-geographic and multicultural sense of the world had within the development of your character and your music?

Avishai Cohen: Israel has always been influenced by a great mix of culture; Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Spanish, Eastern European Nations and also the descendants of Jewish people from many other different places. These influences exist in the music, language and in the good food, and everyone absorbs these things in different ways which allows for a lot of creativity.

LJN: You began as a pianist and could have continued purely on that instrument - what drew you to the double bass?

AC: At the age of 9 I started messing around with the piano. I was inspired by Jaco Pastorius when I first heard his music, and I picked up the electric bass at age 14, it was later on that I started learning the double bass. I was always was going to move to the acoustic upright bass I guess, but I came to it late at around the age of 20. I guess then I found the confidence to take on the challenge and embrace this unique instrument with a great teacher in Israel .The Bass has been my closest musical partner ever since. I explored and developed my own way of playing and performing with it over the years, it's a big part of my message as a leader, it's a blessing!

LJN: Do you think the developments in microphone technology have helped double bassists to a more prominent role in modern music?

AC: These days it’s important to have a good sound engineer with you in live shows

LJN: Have you always sung? Was there a lot of singing in your house when you were growing up? And what does the voice add to your music?

AC: I can say that I have been formed as a musician from my mother’s influence, I remember my mother singing at home, she sings beautifully. My mother is a Sephardic descendent and speaks Ladino, and so was influenced by the culture’s music. Her voice and the way she sings is exactly like me. I have inherited everything from my mother.

Singing is one of the most difficult and scary things I do, it's like going to the street with no clothes on. You are naked in front of everybody's judgement, but it is such an intimate reflection of your heart, in the sense that a lot of people can get close to you. Singing for me came later, I was already established as a musician, which made it even harder because I had so much criticism of myself, which is the main problem in life: your own criticism of yourself. It's about accepting yourself or not. And I had to work on it pretty hard to get to the place where you are comfortable, but still today I don't consider myself to be a singer. Singing is another element which is extremely important in life and in my music but it is just another element, but I have to say that now I feel much more connected with the singing and much more comfortable.

LJN: Your Barbican concert is dedicated to the memory of manager and concert producer John Ellson who died in October. The saxophonist John Harle said in tribute that Ellson “believed completely in the freedom of musicians to express themselves”. How did you meet John Ellson and do you have some particular memories of him you could share? 

AC: I met Mr John Ellson (Elsi) around 1999 in Argentina. I can't think of anyone else I’ve met in this business that was so generous, real and purely good like John. I will miss him dearly, especially his wonderful sense of humor and many stories and anecdotes that he shared with me.

LJN: In "An Evening With Avishai Cohen", you bring together your solo and trio work, and incorporate it within an orchestra, and you bring together the Hebrew and Ladino songs plus the jazz. Does it feel like a summation of your career to date? 

AC: This project features my dynamic trio with the integration of symphony orchestra which give another dimension to my music. The result is an exhilarating musical experience. It can be intimate but also high impact, bringing these two big worlds of classical and jazz together.

LJN: And, musically, where do you want to go from here? Are there any more mountains to climb?

AC: By the end of the year I will be releasing a new album on Sony Masterworks, the new project is called “Avishai Cohen’s Jazz Free” the name coming from the fact that this fantastic group of musicians are not known as ‘jazz musicians’. They are Yael Shapira on acoustic and electric cello, Elyasaf Bishari on oud, and bass/ electric guitar, Itamar Doari with percussion and the three of them also perform vocals with myself. We also have Jonatan Daskal on keyboards and Tal Kohavi on drums. It’s going to be a more groovy sound. I am also working with French film directors to have my music featuring in their next film which will come out at the end of this year, or beginning of next year, so many interesting projects I am working on.

LJN: Thank you again for taking the time to reply and all best wishes for your upcoming concerts,(pp)

LINK: Bookings / details Barbican 9th February concert


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: James Maddren at 30 (Feature from 2007)

James Maddren. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Sebastian writes: 

A very happy 30th Birthday today, to one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in Europe, JAMES  MADDREN. As one drummer put it to me, "his playing is melodic, he has extraordinary control of his sound and how it can be gradated. What he always communicates is enjoyment. he has that look of not being preoccupied music, but completely focused on how to make music out of something whether its familiar or unfamiliar."

James's regular bands include Nikki Iles' Printmakers and Trish Clowes' band, and the Bastian Stein Quartet in Germany. He was part of the Kit Downes Trio which received a Mercury Prize nomination. He is now a Professor at Guildhall School.

This feature was written in 2007, when it was originally published in a slightly different form in the Christs Hospital school magazine The Blue:

JAMES MADDREN (written in 2007)

James Maddren is a jazz drummer aged 20. He is a student in his third year of the jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music. But he is already popping up everywhere on London's young professional jazz scene. Maddren is literally rushed off his feet. And the first signs are emerging that the buzz in the jazz world about his playing could before very long reach much further.

The Royal Academy's jazz course takes a few, normally only five very able students each year, and it has a very high pedigree. It has already produced one genuine international rising star in 26-year old pianist Gwilym Simcock, who graduated in 2004. Each year some very good players emerge. As world-renowned American vibraphone player Joe Locke said recently to an audience after fronting a young trio in concert at the Royal Academy : " I've got to tell you: these guys aren't just students. They are great musicians who I would expect to be sharing a stand with for the rest of our lives."

But whereas the budding classical soloists in music colleges mainly lead a solitary life of intense individual practice, jazz musicians build far more of their craft by interacting with other musicians. The culture is essentially collaborative. What really matters to these emerging jazz musicians is the strength of the scene around them, the quality of the musicians whom they - in a well-worn jazz pun - lock horns with every day. For Maddren this all works very well at RAM:

"There are so many great guys, and we're all playing with amazing musicians and getting great gigs," he says.

Maddren's demeanour in conversation is quiet, unassuming. The mere mention of the name of another musician whom he respects triggers an instant, animated and unfailingly generous response from Maddren - almost before he's even heard the name:

Jim Hart? The most encouraging musician ever. So inspirational.

Phil Donkin? Phil has been massive for me, he's been so helpful.

Mark Turner? He's just ridiculous.

Oliver Weindling, a major figure on the British jazz scene, the main backer of the Vortex jazz club and the producer of over 70 records by jazz artists praises exactly these qualities in Maddren's musicianship :

" He's open, he's completely responsive to other musicians, he's very subtle and his reactions are lightning-quick."

How did it all start? Maddren grew up in the Sussex boarding school Christ's Hospital where his father, a good amateur 'cellist was head of chemistry. His mother is a music teacher.

Christ's Hospital is a public school with a difference : it continues its unique charitable mission dating back to the 16th century to educate the poor. It still has a uniform of a long dark blue coat which dates back to that period. It is a community surrounded by the Sussex Weald where music – above all the military band and the chapel choir, but much else besides- are an integral and visible part of school life.

To grow up at Christ's hospital is to know, to feel the sound of the side drums echoing round and round tall brick buildings. The drummers march at the front of the band. Maddren tells it simply: "When I was little I saw the marching band and I just wanted to be in it." He was given an Early Learning Centre drum at 2 years old, and duly played it marching round the kitchen table to the sound of his parents' CD of the school band.

A couple of years later a teenage drummer in the school band showed him how to hold the sticks properly. "I was doing it all myself. I learnt by ear," he remembers. Soon after entering the school as a pupil aged 11, the dream of getting into the band was achieved, but that was just another start.

A lot of other music goes on at and around Christ's Hospital , and Maddren had plenty of opportunities as a schoolboy. The first exposure to jazz came at this time, through older schoolmates, and through tutors visiting the school such as Alex L'Estrange and Mornington Lockett.

A breakthrough came at 14 when Christ's Hospital's head of music Bruce Grindlay set up the contact for Maddren to enter the junior version of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra , NYJO2. Here the inspiring mentor was to be the hugely talented Jim Hart, then the drummer with the main NYJO and now a ubiquitous player on the London music scene on both drums and vibraphone. " I wanted to sound like that, "says Maddren.

He took weekly lessons in London with Hart, which helped him to prepare for and to be successful in the entry audition for RAM.

Maddren plucks out a few decisive moments since then, such as getting the call at the end of his first year at the Academy for a regular weekly gig and jam session with high-energy Russian-born alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev at Charlie Wright's Bar.

And then, a memorable call from bassist Phil Donkin during the summer vacation at the end of his first year at the Academy:

" I was a young inexperienced drummer. I don't know what Phil saw in me. He's one of the best bass players in the country. He plays with amazing people." The call was to play in a new group at the Oxford which later became the working band Metal Monkey.

The past year has been very busy, and some of the contexts in which Maddren has appeared have marked an uptick. Such as the call which came in spring 2007 to play quartet dates with saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and US pianist Marc Copland, and finding his childhood jazz icon Kenny Wheeler sitting in the audience. Since then he has been successfully deputizing for his RAM teacher Martin France in Gwilym Simcock's high-profile trio. Yes, things really are starting to happen.

What about the uncertainty of the jazz musician's life? Isn't he put off by hearing older drummers complain of the problems of dropping off the drum-kit and parking, the hassle of the congestion charge? A shrug. The need often to work not for a fee but for a door-split? That's life. And what about the stony-hearted promoter whom you ring on the day of a gig and who tells you without emotion : "No mate, you weren't confirmed"? It happens.

You can sense an innate capacity to rise, to respond, to deal with things as they come, both on and off the bandstand. Ask Maddren about, say, possible longer term projects such as leading his own group, or maybe following the footsteps of former Charlie Wright colleague John Escreet to New York. And what comes back from Maddren is that sense that where he is right now is exactly where he wants to be:

"At the moment I'm loving it. I'm so busy. I'm just playing."

At the time of this piece James Maddren had played on just one publicly available jazz CD, "Mango Tango" by the Andrea Vicari Quintet (33JAZZ163)

LINK: Interview with James Maddren about his first project as leader in 2015


REVIEW: Chris Ingham Quartet - The Music of Dudley Moore at Pizza Express Dean Street

Chris Ingham Quartet - The Music of Dudley Moore
(Pizza Express Dean Street 22nd January 2017. Review by A J Dehany)

Jazz pianist, classical organist, violinist, singer, beloved and endearing comic performer, a star of stage and TV in the ‘60s and a Hollywood movie star from the ‘70s, possessing a preternatural personal charm and two excellent legs… Dudley Moore was not only blessed with all these varied talents and attributes, but also a singular talent as a composer. Dame Gillian Lynne said of Dudley “It was tragic when he gave up composing to become a star.”

Not only a tragedy but also a piffling shame, the Dagenham-born lad’s poor life choices are amply addressed by pianist Chris Ingham's interpretations of his compositions on the album Dudley and on tour throughout the UK over the coming year. His indulgent stories and loving anecdotes are rich fare for those like me obsessed with British comedy of the 1960s, but the music really holds its own, and the band expand the sound beyond the Dudley’s primarily trio-based format, enriching them with Paul Higgs’s horns and young Harry Green on saxes. They focus on jazz rather than those comedy classics like Beethoven’s Colonel Bogey that stole the show at Beyond the Fringe.

Some tunes might be more or less familiar. The frolicsome theme to “Not Only… But also… alerts us to the remarkable fact that it brought a cooking trio slap bang in the middle of primetime British TV. Opener Duddley Dell has since 1976 been the theme to Radio Four’s Quote Unquote. It’s also the b-side to Dudley’s debut 1961 single Strictly for the birds, on which they substitute horns for the distractingly comic sound of Dudley’s admittedly fulsome falsetto, revealing an effervescent melody with a West Coast feel.

Amalgam deftly cycles round some edgy chord changes with a busy Brazilian feel reminiscent of Luiz Eça. It’s taken from the 1969 album The Dudley Moore Trio which has never been released on CD. The music is all Dudley originals but, says Ingham, “very, very difficult - more difficult than we altogether were prepared to get into!” More difficult to find than listen to, it would do no harm to Dudley’s “jazz credibility” to rerelease this album.

The group dips more liberally into Dudley’s filmography. “30 is a dangerous age” from the “super soundtrack to a dodgy film” takes a breezily playful theme and subsumes it into heavier more portentous material as if turning thirty were the most horrible thing! Bedazzled is a comic movie masterpiece with a beguiling soundtrack to boot. Yet as good as their spin through the sinuous melody of Bedazzled is it’s impossible not to hear Peter Cook drolly intoning “You fill me with inertia.”

It’s a reminder of the immortal comic chemistry of Pete and Dud, and the importance of that relationship in Dudley’s life. As he grew up, with emotionally restrained parents, childhood illnesses, a club foot and a shorter than average height, Dudley felt unloved and unlovable. It’s hard not to hear Love me! from Bedazzled as Dudley’s personal theme song. He himself said “I wanted love, but I wasn’t able to ask for it. Jazz was a passing way of making my feelings available to whoever might pick up on it. It became nostalgia for the love I wanted as a kid.”

The roots of his comedic gifts, and the key to his warmly human appeal (especially beside Peter Cook’s acerbity) are in childhood pain. Comedy and film stardom brought him some of the love he craved, but distracted him from his real love. “I think Dudley is only really alive at the piano,” concluded Rena Fruchter. Piano playing, said Leslie Bricusse, was the thing that “made Dudley tall”. Rena Fruchter was holding Dudley’s hand when he died, and she reported his final words were, "I can hear the music all around me."

Melancholy pervades Dudley’s compositions, and gems like Sad one for George and My Blue Heaven gleam poignantly. Waltz for Suzy is just as lovely while working in a seamless blend of both Dudley’s classical and jazz influences. Sad one for George reflects Dudley’s interest in the luminous harmonic piano conceptions of Bill Evans.

Comedy and melancholy go together like Pete and Dud. Yielding us a sigh and wishing us a fond goodbye, the group play us out with the double act's signature tune Goodbyeee which is as affecting as ever: "Goodbye! Goodbye! We're leaving you, skiddly-dye! Goodbye! We wish you all goodbye! Fa-ta ta-ta, fa-ta ta-ta!" - Goodbyee!

LINK: Chris Ingham Tour Dates


PHOTOS: Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart at Unterfahrt in Munich

Larry Goldings
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Ralf Dombrowski was at the Unterfahrt club listening to, and photographing the Larry Goldings Trio. He writes (*): 

Yesterday night in the Unterfahrt, three of the greats playing swing/bop, Totally relaxed, they arrived with a load of standards plus a bit of blues in their luggage.. What a pleasure to have the chance to listen to a trio with such supreme ways of communicating...

Bill Stewart
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Peter Bernstein
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

(*) Original German: ‘Gestern in der Unterfahrt, drei modern swingboppende Koryphäen, sehr entspannt, mit vielen Standards und etwas Blues im Gepäck ... was für ein Vergnügen, einem derart souverän kommunizierenden Trio zuhören zu können ...'


NEWS: Lauren Kinsella wins Jazz Composition Award, Arts Foundation 2017 Awards

Lauren Kinsella with the award. Photo credit: David Myers

Mary James writes:

Lauren Kinsella has won the £10,000 Jazz Composition Fellowship in the annual Arts Foundation Awards 2017. Tori Freestone, Chris Montague and Percy Pursglove were the runners up each receiving awards of £1,000 from Guest of Honour Will Self at the annual Awards at Conway Hall, London on Wednesday 25th January. In the opening address Will Self stressed that the awards were important because they enabled artists to avoid commodification which “eats away at the soul”.

Kinsella said “I am absolutely humbled to receive such an award and to be shortlisted with such amazing artists” and dedicated the award to her father, who is seriously ill. She said the award will give her time to work on a new project of which details will be announced in the coming months.

The award is part of a three year partnership between the PRS for Music Foundation and the Arts Foundation. Previous recipients of the Jazz Composition Award include Ingrid Laubrock in 2006 and Tommy Smith in 1995.

The runners-up

Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter and artist manager. Twitter @maryleamington

Lauren performs with Swiss vocalist Sarah Buechi's String and Bones quartet at The Intakt Festival at the Vortex in April. (DETAILS). The quartet consists of Buechi, Kinsella, Hannah Marshall on cello and John Edwards on bass, and features Buechi's new compositions . They also perform in Shoreditch Church on April 19 in a double bill with pianist Veryan Weston. Kinsella is currently recording the second Snowpoet album.


NEWS: BBC Radio 3 announces commissions for Trish Clowes and Julian Joseph, and programme for #IWD2017

Julian Joseph at Kings Place in 2016

ALAN DAVEY, controller of BBC Radio 3 gave a speech today at the Association of British Orchestras announcing various new appointments and commissions, and the full programme for the station for Internaional Womens Day, 8th March 2017. The following consists of quotes from an outline of his speech made available to us by the BBC:

- JULIAN JOSEPH has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Concert Orchestra for a contemporary Oratorio in Autumn 2018 at Southbank Centre. The cast will be diverse and the story is based on Tristan and Isolde. It’s a huge commission. (Review of an earlier 2013 version)

-The BBC Concert Orchestra and Radio 3 are also commissioning jazz artist, composer, former New Generation Artist and festival director, TRISH CLOWES to create a piece for a family concert later in the year.

- The BBC has commissioned a setting to music by Kate Whitley of Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 UN speech.

- DOBRINKA TABAKOVA will be joining the BBC Concert Orchestra as Composer in Residence this year.

BBC Radio 3 International Women’s Day Schedule (8th March 2017)


Music composed by women

0630 BREAKFAST presented by Clemency Burton-Hill, curated by Alissa Firsova

0900 ESSENTIAL CLASSICS presented by Sarah Walker, curated by Sally Beamish

1200 COMPOSER OF THE WEEK presented by Donald MacLeod

Exploring the music composed by, performed by and written for women in sixteenth-century Ferrara – the place most encouraging to female musicianship before the 20th century

1300 RADIO 3 LUNCHTIME CONCERT presented by Kate Molleson

Live from the Royal College of Music – a recital of music by women

1400 AFTERNOON ON 3 presented by Katie Derham, curated by Tansy Davies

Specially –recorded performances of music by women from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs, and the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists


From Truro Cathedral - the first live broadcast on BBC Radio 3 of the cathedral’s recently formed girl Choristers. Including world premiere performances of newly commissioned pieces by Sasha Johnson Manning and Dobrinka Tabakova

1630 IN TUNE presented by Sean Rafferty, curated by Errollyn Wallen

Featuring the Inspire Young Composers project for International Women’s Day, led by composer Hannah Kendall

1830 COMPOSER OF THE WEEK (repeat of programme from earlier in the day)

1930 RADIO 3 IN CONCERT presented by Sara Mohr-Pietsch

An ‘Open Ear’ concert recorded in the round at St John-at-Hackney, with performers spaced around the floor, and audience on three sides. Sara Mohr-Pietsch hosts informally, interviewing performers and composers.

Avant-garde ensemble Plus Minus will perform a large-scale piece by Joanna Bailie, and two ‘action’ pieces by German composer Carola Bauckholt, one of which is scored for four performers making rhythmic sounds while wearing parkas.

Also on the bill, pianist Xenia Pestova will play birdsong-inspired music by Arlene Sierra, and a selection of miniatures for amplified toy piano. Virtuoso violinist Aisha Orazbayeva will improvise spontaneously with spoken-word artist Tim Etchells, and there’s also a set of immersive surround-sound electronic music by sound artist and composer Kaffe Matthews.

2130 International Women’s Day commission by Kate Whitley – Speak Out

World premiere of a work specially commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for International Women’s Day by Kate Whitley, setting the text of the 2013 UN speech by Malala Yousafzai about the right of every girl to education, performed earlier in the evening at Hoddinott Hall by the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales and Youth Choir of the Year Cor y Cwm, under Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang. Plus interviews with Kate Whitley and performers.

2200 FREE THINKING: FORGOTTEN WOMEN presented by Anne McElvoy

Anne McElvoy and guests discuss important women forgotten from history, including the scientist Margaret Cavendish, poet Lady Mary Wroth, and interior designer Charlotte Robinson, and investigate why women are left out of some accounts.


Author and broadcaster Sarah Churchwell describes the spell that female film stars of the 1930's and 40's have over her. From Barbara Stanwyck, the ‘tough broad', to a vision of modernity who is all 'satin' and 'chrome'. The author moves on to consider the original 'blonde bombshell', Jean Harlow.

2300 LATE JUNCTION presented by Fiona Talkington, curated by Annette Peacock and Kerry Andrew

Fiona Talkington presents adventurous music by female musicians and composers with the help of two guest selectors. Annette Peacock joins Fiona in the studio and Kerry Andrew shares her Late Junction Mixtape, a 25 minute unbroken mix of music by ‘Vocal Women’.


PHOTOS: Dave King Trio at Unterfahrt

Dave King Trio at Unterfahrt
Dave King (foreground) with Bill Carrothers and Billy Peterson
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Ralf Dombrowski from Munich has just heard and photographed the Dave King Trio at the Unterfahrt, on the second night of an eight-date European tour (DATES). He writes (original German below *): 

The new season takes off - yesterday, very beautiful, elegant, multi-hued, willful/headstrong and mischievous - the Dave King Trio with Bill Carrothers and Billy Peterson at the Unterfahrt club.

Billy Peterson
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Dave King at Unterfahrt
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Bill Carrothers at Unterhahrt
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
(*) Die Saison geht wieder los – gestern, sehr schön, elegant, vielfarbig, verschmitzt, eigensinnig - Dave King mit Bill Carrothers und Billy Peterson in der Unterfahrt .


CD REVIEW: Andrew Woodhead - Pocket Piano Improvisations

Andrew Woodhead - Pocket Piano Improvisations
(Available on Bandcamp, CD review by Peter Bacon)

Birmingham-based pianist Andrew Woodhead is a hugely versatile player and composer. A winner of the Dankworth Prize for his writing, he is a particularly empathetic accompanist for singers - as his trio with Holly Thomas and Lluis Mather shows - and is an eloquent and thoughtful improviser in various bands. He is also the driving force behind a session of improv and experimental music called Fizzle, which happens at The Lamp Tavern in Digbeth, Birmingham, every second Tuesday evening.

This, his first solo recording, has most in common with his Anglo-Scandinavian trio ELDA (not to be confused with Emilia Mårtensson's ELDA Trio), but is even more abstract. Armed with a tiny keyboard and a few twiddly knobs (technical term), he explores improvised sounds with, it seems, often as little reference to musical conventions of key, chord progression, melody and harmony as he can manage.

Sure, there is a point in Fuzz where, having played with two notes overlaid with distortion, and then moved into long-held tones of quickly oscillating noise, some snatches of melody creep in but it’s only brief. Phase has a percussive quality and builds into a complex groove pattern before slowing to a crawl. But it’s when it feels like there is not much happening that the album is often most effective. Day Jar explores a few notes and keeps the sound fairly stable, turning into a kind of revelation of a thought process and a gradual development of an emotional state, adding increasing melodic elements as it progresses. At Qt stretches tones and underlying oscillations out to meditational effect, while Snowing has distinct church organ references.

An adventurous and intriguing set of music from a quietly talented musician.

Pocket Piano Improvisations is available via Andrew’s website which is here.


INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Fini Bearman (Kings Place, Thursday 2nd February)

Fini Bearman
Vocalist and composer FINI BEARMAN launched new album ‘Burn the Boat’ (Two Rivers Records) in October. She and her top young London band will be performing material from the album at Kings Place on 2nd February, with other UK dates thereafter (list below). Interview by Sebastian: 

LondonJazz News: Who’s in the band?

Fini Bearman: I will be joined by Matt Robinson on piano and keyboards, Nick Costley-White on guitar, Conor Chaplin on bass and Dave Hamblett on drums. We’ve been performing together for the past few years so working together is playful and intuitive, and they bring a lot of creativity to the music. This gig at Kings Place is the first in a line of (albeit sporadic!) UK tour dates we have lined up this Spring, and it’s great to come back and perform at this venue. It’s one of those places you play and you think “I could get used to this” – great sound, space, vibe, etc.

LJN: What’s the music?

FB: The music is all original material I have written over the past few years and features songs from the new album ‘Burn the Boat’ which came out on Two Rivers Records last Autumn. Here’s the EPK of the album...

LJN: Any particular events, either personal or world scale,  that the songs are about?

FB: Most of the songs are about personal experiences and stories I’ve heard. As a songwriter I’m most inspired by events that move me and/or those around me. Sometimes I write about hypothetical scenarios, but it’s the aftermath of those real situations which usually leads me to the piano and motivates me to write something.

LJN: Everybody seems to have a break-up song these days…

FB: Yes, and I think that’s ok! When I first began writing songs I would set poetry, and my own lyrics tended to be more impressionistic and abstract. I think that allowed a certain amount of emotional distance from the music which was probably easier than confronting what I was actually reacting strongly to at the time. I do still work with poetry, but I often feel compelled to write about those things intrinsically connected to the human condition and how we experience life. These things are relatable to everyone. Everyone has their own experiences of love and loss... and for me, that’s my role as a songwriter and as a storyteller.

LJN: You've been doing Raph Clarkson’s band…

FB: Yes, we recorded an album last Easter and it’s coming out this Spring on Babel Records. I love working with Raph – he’s a very positive, creative force and his music draws on improvisation, grooves, poetry, the British Jazz canon. It’s all wrought by his own personal experiences which I think make the music very real and relatable. My role in the band is a great challenge (and a treat!) – sometimes completely free-improvising and then other times singing intricate, rhythmic passages or interpreting poetry.

LJN: Do you like the cold?

FB: Yes and no. Yes, because early morning light in the depths of Winter is like nothing else and I love wrapping up on crisp Winter days. Also, the heat in the summer just annoys me – too much sweat and I never get the clothing right. But then again… long, drawling summer evenings that stretch on, long into the night – that’s really rather nice.


FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY The Red Lion (Birmingham Jazz)

MONDAY 17 APRIL Soundhouse, Edinburgh

THURSDAY 20 APRIL The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen

TUESDAY 25 APRIL The Spotted Dog, Birmingham

THURSDAY 4 MAY Cambridge Jazz (the Hidden Rooms)

LINKS: Kings Place details / bookings
Review of album launch October 2016


REVIEW: David Gordon Trio at the 606 Club

David Gordon

David Gordon Trio
(606 Club, 18th January 2017. Review by Brian Blain)

A really good turnout on a dismal January night last week at the 606 to hear one of our most brilliant pianists, David Gordon with bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Paul Cavaciuti presenting Gordon's frequently witty tribute to the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin on the centenary of his death in 1915, "Alexander Scriabin's Ragtime Band", in a programme not only steeped in the music of early jazz and Ragtime, but also in the elegant, traditional rhythms of the South American continent, danzon, choro and tango.

It wasn't all Scriabin however. A piece inspired by Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, Brandy For Four, despite the appeal of the old Master to musicians of the thirties and forties to 'swing' more than any other clasical writer, rapidly morphed into a jazz samba feel that really flew, whipping up excitement all round the room: wonderful.

Every now and again Gordon produced lines on a melodica, a small wind keyboard instrument that suggests the French love of accordion and tango,(he had just returned from a big Tango Festival in Finland) but on Nuances a wacky bip bip bop novelty number all three launched into their vocal roles with a huge sense of enjoyment and sheer fun that broke up the reflective mood of various Etudes beautifully.

David Gordon's piano technique is absolutely outstanding - he has another highly respected life as harpsichord and piano soloist- but it was the sheer togetherness of the Trio that was just as important,displaying a grasp of dynamics and tempo changes such as one rarely encounters on jazz gigs.

The way Dankworth would 'walk' on the more direct numbers or converse with Gordon's piano lines on the more reflective etudes, with Cavaciuti matching every variation in sound level and time change exhilarating and thoughtful, was music making of a truly high level. Festival organisers both classical and jazz should be grabbing these guys with both hands.

LINKS: Interview with David Gordon
Review at the 606 from 205


CD REVIEW: John Abercrombie Quartet - Up And Coming

John Abercrombie Quartet - Up And Coming
(ECM 572 3377. CD review by Peter Bacon)

The first notes we hear are slow, thoughtful and delicately placed, guitarist John Abercrombie and pianist Marc Copland in a careful dance with each other. The cymbal decoration from drummer Joey Baron is similarly light and spacious, the notes from double bassist Drew Gress serving simply as low markers along the path. The tune is called Joy and it is just that.

As with this band’s first album, 39 Steps (ECM 374 2710 - REVIEWED) Copland gets two compositions and there is a standard (Miles’s Nardis this time), but most of the writing is the leader’s, and if you liked that album you will probably like this one even more. The continuum is one of a deepening and so less tangible interaction between four master musicians and with the music. Abercrombie has said: “…we like to play the form but keep it a bit open, do something with it. There’s an elastic quality to this band’s playing, nothing is ever too on-the-nose – and that’s the way I’ve always liked things.” Flipside and the title track offer a quicker dance, and in the latter I thought I could hear some Kenny Wheeler influence both in Copland’s melodic line and in the general attitude to the music - yep, “never too on-the-nose” sums it up.

Those who like Abercrombie’s wider emotional range on his albums of 20 years ago might find his more recent work a little too consistently mellow. To my ears the range might be restricted but the subtlety within these more constrained boundaries more than compensates.

Abercrombie says: “I play less fast than I used to, less ‘technical’… My playing is also more to the point, with melodic lines clearer. The softer attack suits this music, which has a more meditative quality at times. I’ve been doing this long enough that I just follow my muse, do what feels right.”

There is a compelling groove on Copland’s Silver Circle which illustrates just how funky this band can still get while still maintaining the meditative aspects to the music. Their mutual support systems are second to none. Catchy tune too.

For those who don’t know the band, Nardis is a fine place to start. It shows both the band’s way of working and how loose they can get without in any way losing the plot. As an album Up And Coming is an understated gem with a subtle glow that shines deep.

LINK: Interview with John Abercrombie from 2015


REVIEW: Joanna Eden – Embraceable Ella at Fleet Jazz

Joanna Eden. Photo courtesy of
Aldershot, Fleet and Farnham Camera Club (AFFCC ).

Joanna Eden – Embraceable Ella
(Fleet Jazz, Harlington Centre, Fleet, 17 January 2017, by Vic Cracknell)

This was a fitting tribute to singer Ella Fitzgerald whose 100th birthday falls on April 25th this year,  with vocalist Joanna Eden putting her own vocal stamp on many Ella classics. Joanna launched her “labour of love” show at the London Jazz Festival last year. She describes Ella as “a nice warm hug of a singer” and her own performance had the same natural warmth and intensity. The evening kicked off in style with Get Happy followed by A-Tisket A-Tasket, Ella’s first hit from 1938, and originally a nursery rhyme. Classics from the Great American Songbook came thick and fast including Rodgers and Hart’s Manhattan, Gershwin’s S’Wonderful, Sweet Georgia Brown, Let’s Do It, Midnight Sun, and British composer Ray Noble’s The Very Thought Of You. There were some light moments in Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off and a Brazilian touch on Jobim’s Desafinado.

Superb accompaniment came from Chris Ingham on piano, Marianne Windham on bass, George Double on drums and Steve Waterman on trumpet. The arrangements were interesting and swinging, and each musician got a chance to shine. They inventively turned Moonlight In Vermont, known to be a song about the cold weather, into a sunny bossa nova.

Joanna provided interesting and humorous anecdotes between songs including one about how Cole Porter wrote the song Miss Otis Regrets as a result of overhearing a waiter in a restaurant. Overall what was pleasing was this was not a tribute-act copy of Ella Fitzgerald, it was an individual interpretation which also allowed Joanna to effortlessly scat when she so wished, as on the closing number, Mack the Knife.

The full house clamoured for an encore to which Joanna fittingly responded with the enduring Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye accompanied by just piano. Well done to Fleet Jazz for putting on the sort of show one might otherwise have to travel to the heart of London to find.


REVIEW: Dave Drake Trio at The Verdict, Brighton (2017 South Coast Jazz Festival)

 "Positive, upbeat." Dave Drake. Photo credit: Lisa Wormsley
Dave Drake Trio
(The Verdict, Brighton 16th January 2017. Opening night of the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival. Review by Charlie Anderson)

Pianist Dave Drake, currently studying at the New School of Music in New York, recently returned to his home town of Brighton to record his debut album and to perform on the opening night of the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival with one half of Empirical: bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes.

Cafe owner John Easterby and Verdict proprietor Andy Lavender were early supporters of Dave Drake when he was a teenager so The Verdict in Brighton was the perfect venue to open the 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival.

The opening tune, Ocean Song, was the first of many original compositions of the evening. A beautiful melodic waltz highlighting the intense interplay and sensitive playing of the trio, it was swiftly followed by Devotion, a beguine-inspired march, dedicated to his mum, who was in the audience.

Monk’s Mood began with a solo piano introduction that was true to the unique genius of Thelonious Monk and illustrated a thorough understanding of Monk’s melodic and harmonic complexities. whilst bassist Tom Farmer, a sensitive accompanist, also displayed his abilities as a fluent and intelligent soloist.

The bright and quirky Daisaku was a suitable vehicle for Drake’s positive, upbeat personality and piano style, and was followed by a unique solo piano introduction to an uptempo version of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low, highlighting the advanced comping skills of Farmer and Forbes.

Many of Drake’s original compositions highlight an advanced understanding of melody and harmony, and this was particularly true of The Shining Rose, whilst the piece The Bond offered up a repeated ostinato pattern on the piano which gave drummer Shaney Forbes the chance to solo over the top of it.

After the interval, Drake began with another original, dedicated to the city of Bucharest followed by The Will That Says Hold On which was inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem If. After a spirited reading of the poem, it began with another beautiful solo piano introduction, followed by a clear and distinct left-hand bass cleverly combined with chords and melody to take the listener on a rollercoaster ride of contrasting textures and dynamics.

The Garden of Eden illustrated Dave Drake’s deep appreciation of the history of jazz piano, which will surely increase further during his studies in New York, combined with his love of ragtime and early jazz piano. The same can also be said of his interest in world music, shown in his piece Eagle Eyes, dedicated to Senegalese master drummer Doudou N’diaye Rose.

Dedicating the penultimate number of the evening to the Black Lives Matter movement, the tune Guns In The Hands of Men featured an intro inspired by the 1963 Coltrane composition Alabama and continued in a similar vein with lyrical beauty and emotional intensity.

The final tune, Hold Your Heart, revealed flashes of Oscar Petersonesque brilliance and was a perfect finale to an evening filled with energy, enthusiasm and interplay.

Charlie Anderson is the editor of Sussex Jazz Magazine / Lisa Wormsley is currently exhibiting a selection of photos at The Verdict cafe as part of the South Coast Jazz Festival.

The 2017 South Coast Jazz Festival continues until Sunday 29th January.