CD REVIEW: Lee Konitz - Frescalalto


Lee Konitz - Frescalalto
(Impulse! CD review by Peter Bacon)

Now, what do we make of this? It’s a new Lee Konitz album. He’ll be turning 90 later this year.
Some reviewers have responded favourably - John Fordham gave it three stars in his Guardian review; other listeners - friends of mine - have dismissed it as an album too far in what has been a fairly illustrious and certainly very long career.

The opener, Stella By Starlight, features an innovative way to introduce the band: first the alto of Konitz, unaccompanied, taking his characteristic ruminating wander, circling the tune without quite stating it, then, like the first of a relay team, handing over to a solo Kenny Barron on piano, then a solo Peter Washington on bass, then a solo Kenny Washington on drums. It’s a piano-less trio before the whole quartet finally comes together to finish.

I’ve never been able to resist the “dry as a Martini” simile when it comes to the Konitz tone, but I fear now the comparison might be better made with a water biscuit - the risk of bits flaking off is ever-present. And the caveat has to be repeated: he’s nearly 90!

The programme follows the customary format of the altoist’s latter - and not so latter - years with  songbook classics like Stella... and Darn That Dream, bebop standards like Invitation and Cherokee, and Konitz originals like Thingin’.

There is the rather disconcerting experience of hearing Konitz sing Darn That Dream before taking up the alto. It’s a mix of “dah-di-dahing” and singing the lyrics, the scatting making the same oblique approach towards the melody as his playing.

I’m quite a fan of the non-singing singers - Burt Bacharach does a marvellously urbane Hasbrook Heights and Charlie Haden’s Wayfaring Stranger is a poignant joy, for example -   but Konitz stretches beyond even my indulgence.

It feels really lazy, which is not a word that befits even an 89-year-old Konitz. And his alto playing is still never lazy: the maximum that a man his age can muster, which means pared to the minimum; melodically still seeking - and often finding - a new way around the familiar verses and chroruses; rhythmically shrewd even if dynamically diminished.

You’ll be tiring by now of my references to Lee Konitz’s age, but I’m afraid that’s the only way to listen to Frescalalto. Yeah, sure, it’s a fabulous piano trio album by three musicians at the height of their jazz powers, and we get generous doses of them. But there is also this other old guy in there and the concessions continually have to be made.

Lee Konitz once shared his opinion on retiring. His fellows who had done so spent their time sitting watching sport on TV, drinking beer and quickly dying; he wasn’t going gently into that good night - I paraphrase. But it reminds me that his main reason for releasing this album is because this is what he does: he plays music. And while he’s able to put mouthpiece to lips and fingers to keys he’ll carry on doing just that.

LINKS: 2010 Interview with Lee Konitz
CD Review: Lee Konitz Live in London

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NEWS: Empirical Pop-Up Lounge goes nationwide (Great Western Arcade, Birmingham, 25-29 April)

Empirical. L-R: Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey, Lewis Wright, Shane Forbes
Peter Bacon writes: 

Jazz quartet Empirical took its music to the people in Feburary last year with their Pop-Up Lounge at Old Street Station in London. Now they are repeating the exercise in other cities, starting with Birmingham. Empirical will be taking over an empty shop in Great Western Arcade, in the Colmore business district of Birmingham from Tuesday 25 to Saturday 29 April.

Workers on their way to work, taking a lunchtime break or on their way home, shoppers, commuters from the nearby Snow Hill Station, pensioners wanting a break from big city bustle - all can take advantage of the Empirical musical offering - and it's all free.

Here's their promotional video from last year's Pop-Up Lounge:



There will be daily lunchtime and evening commuter sets, evening performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and even if you have to be at work by 8.30am, there's still a mid-week chance to hear the band - they have one session planned for 8am.

LINKS: Great Western Arcade website and programme details

Empirical website

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NEWS: More names announced for London Jazz Festival, Love Supreme and Serious Space

Kamasi Washington has been added to the 2017 Love Supreme line-up.
Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon has his interest aroused by some Festival revelations.

Festivals favour the slow reveal these days. Why give it to us all at once when they can seduce us in stages? The veils are lifted a little lower this week at EFG London Jazz Festival, celebrating its 25th birthday all around the capital. Love Supreme (Glynde Place, East Sussex) and Serious Space (Shoreditch, London).

EFG London Jazz Festival (10-19 November)

EFG LJF has announced its second wave of concerts which go on sale in the next few days. They include trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's New York Quartet (their second album, December Avenue, is just out on ECM and it sounds gorgeous) on 10 November; two generations of Cuban piano mastery in Chucho Valdez & Gonzalo Rubalcaba (11 Nov); the Andy Sheppard Quartet (11 Nov); the mandolin/piano pairing of Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau (12 Nov); Snarky Puppy's British pianist Bill Laurance (16 Nov); French bassist Henri Texier leading his Hope Quartet (17 Nov); lively big band Beats & Pieces (17 Nov); and the exuberant Italian pianist Stefano Bollani's Napoli Trio (18 Nov).

These events, as well as flamenco from Taksim Trio plus Dorantes, and Sinatra as sung by Ben L'Oncle Soul, join those already selling well, which include Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller, Phronesis with Engines Orchestra, and an Abdullah Ibrahim/Hugh Masekela double bill.

Aerial view of Love Supreme Festival


 Love Supreme (Glynde Place, East Sussex, 30 June - 2 July)
Earlier than all that and further south, Love Supreme announces this morning that the saxophone sensation of the last couple of years, Kamasi Washington, will be playing on Sunday 2 July. Also new to the festival's line-up are Corinne Bailey Rae, the acid jazz collective D'Influence, and soul singer Mica Paris singing songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.

They join a wide-ranging programme with highlights including Herbie Hancock, the Michael Wolny Trio, Shabaka & The Ancestors, Becca Stevens, Gregory Porter, George Benson, Christian Scott, the Robert Glasper Experiment and Laura Mvula.

Maarja Nuut is at Serious Space.
Serious Space (Shoreditch, London, 15-20 May)

The new festival on the block and the least coy, having revealed, seemingly, its full line-up, is Serious Space which focuses on emerging artists and happens at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. The 2017 programme goes like this: Portuguese/Angolan double band Throes + The Shine (Monday 15 May); Estonian singer/fiddler Maarja Nuut (16 May); rising star soul-man Adam Naas (17 May); former M.I.A. drummer turned electronic solo performer Madame Gandhi (18 May); and South African rapper-plus Spoek Mathambo (20 May).

Serious Space's big show-stopper is Future Bubblers, a night of new talent presented by Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Music. Friday 19 May's homegrown performers are Three Body Trio, Revenu and Elsa Hewitt, with a DJ set from Congi.

LINKS:
EFG London Jazz Festival
Love Supreme Festival
Serious Space Festival 

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NEWS: Forge Venue in Camden to close on 31st March

Brazilian star Céu acknowledging applause at the Forge in April 2016 (REVIEW)
Photo credit: Victor Guidini

Sad news today about a popular and highly adaptable venue, The Forge in Delancey Street, off Camden High Street in NW1. It will close its doors after tomorrow night's show on Friday 31st March with Oreste Noda (Sambroso)'s popular Cuban jam 'Conjunto Sambroso' (BOOKINGS). The Forge is a great space and will be sorely missed:

Here is the full text of today's press release:

After eight years, The Forge in Camden is to close at the end of this week, with the final event taking place on Friday 31st March.

The award-winning, purpose-built music & arts venue hosted a musically and culturally diverse programme of events which has included artists such as Songhoy Blues, Bear’s Den, O.M.D., Glen Matlock, La Bombo de Tiempo, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Dame Felicity Lott, Russell Howard, John Hegley, Louis de Bernieres and a wealth of others.

Co-founder Adam Caird said: “The directors of The Forge have decided to close the venue from 1st April 2017. Running a music venue in these times is exceptionally tough and we have reached a point where it is time to close the doors and move on to new challenges.

“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved over eight wonderful years and our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has contributed to and enjoyed this unique venue. We always strove to be as diverse, inclusive and welcoming as we could and we hope that these values have touched as many people as possible and will continue to do so.”

All current ticket-holders will receive full refunds for cancelled events by the end of this week.

For more information, interviews, etc., please contact:

Jeff Davy, Marketing Manager: jeffdavy@forgevenue.org (until Friday 31st March)

Adam Caird, Director: adamcaird@forgevenue.org

For anyone interested in acquiring the venue, please contact:

Rob Meadows, Davis Coffer Lyons: 020 7299 0700

PRESS RELEASE ENDS


LINKS: Our first review from the venue was in November 2009, Geoff Winston reviewing Empirical
We have covered the venue with over 60 pieces
The most-read was a 2014 preview/ interview with Gareth Lockrane remembering Bheki Mseleku

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CD REVIEW: Jean John - The Port of Life



Jean John - The Port of Life
ZKP RTV Ljubljana – RTVS 114441. CD review by Adrian Pallant)


Slovenia to New York… a personal narrative of immigration and acculturation. Drummer, composer and bandleader Jean John’s ambitious work The Port of Life – dedicated to all the immigrants of this world – fulfils his belief that music should always tell a story and create an experience.

Born Žan Tetičkovič, in Ptuj in Slovenia, Jean John relocated to the United States in 2010 to further his artistic ambitions, and desired to communicate “the whirl of emotions in trying to find and establish the existence in a new culture”. He was inspired by numerous visits to Ellis Island (famously New York Harbour’s largest immigration station, between 1892 and 1954), and the information he garnered there, specifically relating to his Slovenian ancestry, enabled him to assimilate both the emotional response and compositional direction for his first studio recording. Seeing the island as “an ultimate landing point with no return, a place where new life and dreams could either come true or forever vanish”, the project title became obvious.

The composer selected several musicians, including sparkling pianist Marko Črnčec (Churnchetz) and dextrous London-based vocalist Alba Nacinovich, plus the Janus Atelier String Quartet, to realise this expansive production which is inspired by the worlds of jazz and classical music. At its heart is the six-part, 65-minute Acculturation Suite, segued by mainly solo instrumentals; and importantly, John bookends this with the hustling rhythmicality of Dusk and warm reassurance of Dawn – pieces which, he explains, contrastingly reflect the multiculturalism of big cities and the perfection/singularity of nature and his homeland.

Port of Life’s textural richness is arresting – from John's heavy Farewell to his parents, where animated strings-and-horn arrangements evolve to convey a passage of both apprehension and forward-looking fervour, to Euphoria which ripples with syncopated jazz excitement, characterised by Tomaž Gajšt’s trumpet and flugelhorn improvisations, and ornamented with Žiga Murko’s electronics. The individual Transitions (including an audio excerpt of typically sound reasoning and empathy – on immigration – from former US President, Barack Obama) offer a change of dynamic from the busyness of the work’s main movements, with dispirited Collapse – defined as “a stage in which all my hopes and dreams break down” – suggested by the heightening intensity of the full ensemble and Alba Nacinovich’s shrill wordless vocals.

Amongst the lively and full arrangements are (unsurprisingly, given the subject) moments of self-doubt and longing. Alienation, in particular, portrays a melancholy beauty through ruminative piano figures and shared violin-and-vocal expressions, but then snaps into a tenacious determination to succeed through vibrant, purposeful orchestration (John rarely showcases himself at the kit, though is clearly a driving force). Adjustment finds the writer integrating himself into big-city life, the bass-and-piano-riffed, unison-disco-strings groove creating great spotlights for tenor saxophonist Lenart Krečič and electric guitarist Jani Moder; whilst twelve-minute A New Beginning dusts off any remnants of uncertainty through varietal instrumental episodes which convey arrival and acceptance, concluded by John’s percussive climax to his emotive, well-crafted soundtrack.

Created over a period of six years and sumptuously packaged – its large hardback covers designed by Marko Damiš revealing supporting, descriptive pages of poetry and original photography by Andrej Lamut – The Port of Life feels very special. One full listen, and then numerous repeat visits, confirm that it truly is.

The official US album release concert is on 16th June 2017 at the National Sawdust venue, Brooklyn, New York.

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

LINK: EPK

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LP REVIEW: The Tubby Hayes Quintet - Modes and Blues



The Tubby Hayes Quintet Modes and Blues
(Gearbox RSGB 1013. LP Review by Peter Jones)


Les Tomkins, now aged 86, was an early chronicler of the London modern jazz scene, both as a writer for Crescendo magazine, and as an unofficial recorder of live gigs at the original Ronnie Scott’s club, amongst others. He would perch with his Ferrograph Mark II on the wooden stairs that led down to the basement at 39 Gerrard Street and, with the proprietor’s blessing, record appearances by all sorts of people, including visiting American jazz artists. But he also captured for posterity some iconic British artists, none of whom was more iconic than be-bop pioneer Tubby Hayes, who enjoyed an extraordinary two-and-a-half year weekly residency at Scott’s that finally ended in August 1964, when the members of his Quintet went their separate ways.

This new Gearbox LP features a recording made by Tomkins on 8th February, 1964. That night, the Hayes Quintet were playing opposite recent US arrival Mark Murphy, who was appearing with the Stan Tracey Trio.

The album consists of a single track that runs over both sides – Modes and Blues. It reminds us that for London in the first half of the Sixties, the soundtrack was not pop but jazz: Sonny Rollins’s music for the Michael Caine film Alfie, two years later, is in a similar vein – loose and discursive, fresh as paint, and full of hip, quirky melody.

Almost the whole of the first side consists of an epic Tubby Hayes tenor solo –an uncommon approach in those days, just as it is now. The tune starts with Freddy Logan’s quiet, ruminative bass solo (reminiscent of the start of So What), then in comes Tubbs on flute, with quiet piano chords from Terry Shannon, joined by Jimmy Deuchar’s trumpet, and punctuated by Allan Ganley’s hi-hat. After this lyrical opening statement, Hayes switches to tenor, and we’re off into uptempo swing. The structure of the piece is modal, à la Coltrane’s Impressions, and it continues over to side two, where Deuchar plays another extended solo, followed by solos from Shannon and Logan. Hayes and Deuchar trade fours to finish, and Ganley finally gets to show off his chops for a few bars.

Bearing in mind the circumstances in which it was captured, the quality of the recording is surprisingly good. The sound level of Shannon’s piano is the only drawback, since it was clearly located furthest from the microphone. Gearbox are to be congratulated for reminding us of the quality of Tubby Hayes’s music, particularly in a quintet that was then at its peak. Anyone wishing to know more is advised to read Simon Spillett’s definitive biography The Long Shadow of The Little Giant (Equinox, 2015).

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CD REVIEW: Colin Steele - Even In The Darkest Places



Colin Steele - Even In The Darkest Places
(Gadgemo Records. GAD002CD. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)



You might expect a record called Even In The Darkest Places to be - well, dark. Far from it. Even though trumpeter Colin Steele has clearly gone through some difficult times in the nine years since his last record, this CD is full of light and optimism.

Steele's trials - a catastrophic loss of embouchure - since that last record have been well documented. Unable to play for a long while, he is vocal in his thanks for those who supported him as he worked to regain his "chops" - the track There Are Angels is dedicated to them, and Robin Song is named for the fan who helped finance this recording.

Steele has been gigging again for a couple years with this band, an international quintet of Celts: saxophonist Michael Buckley is from Ireland, Stu Ritchie on drums is now based in France, and bassist Calum Gourlay world from London, leaving only Steele and long term collaborator Dave Milligan in their native Scotland.

Milligan, who arranged Steele's tunes for the band, a task he has taken on for all Steele's albums, is a hugely underrated musician: one of the many pleasures of this record is the opportunity to hear Steele and Milligan together again. Being in each other's company seems to bring out the musical best in them.

In common with his earlier recordings, the music itself is firmly rooted in Scotland: this is jazz from the Celtic fringes, with a folk-influenced lilt. Looking For Nessie and Independence Song are inspired directly by Steele's experiences; the former has at its centre an engaging solo from Gourlay, as well as an energetic solo from Buckley's tenor. Independence Song sounds as if built on traditional melodies, and reflects the optimism Steele felt during the debate around the Scottish independence in 2014. It is an uplifting, hopeful tune which features a long emotionally rich solo from Milligan.

Two other pieces, Suite for Theo and Down to the Wire, grew out of a commission for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Big Band a few years ago. Steele's solo on Suite for Theo feels like a mature statement, dispensing with the fireworks of youth. Down to the Wire is also structured as a suite, its three sections interlocking to form a whole. Buckley's soprano has the air of the pipes in the first section whilst Steele's solo in the middle part has a slow building emotional intensity that is simultaneously optimistic and heartrending. The closing section has a fast solo from Milligan with exemplary, swinging support from Gourlay and Ritchie - Gourlay's speed-walking bass is insistent without being domineering.

This record marks a very welcome return for Steele. His playing seems more mature (as well it might with almost nine years between recordings), but still exciting despite being toned down a bit, and his writing is compelling.

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

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CD REVIEW: Shake Stew - The Golden Fang



Shake Stew - The Golden Fang
(Traumton Records 4639: Review by Peter Slavid)

Austrian jazz has never had a particularly high profile in the UK despite a number of talented musicians dating back to Joe Zawinul. What's more its capital city Vienna boasts one of Europe's great jazz clubs in Porgy and Bess, and there is also a fine jazz festival at Saalfelden. Both of those institutions have been key to the development of the newly created band Shake Stew. The band was brought together, and most of the CD was recorded, either at or on the day before their opening concert for the 2016 festival, and they have since played a series of dates at the club, including one coming up in April with a guest appearance from Shabaka Hutchings.

The band is led by young bass player and composer Lukas Kranzelbinder who is clearly something of a prodigy. At 28 he has already premiered his Spanish jazz opera, run a couple of unusual sounding festivals, and toured Japan and Mexico.

Shake Stew is an unusual line-up with three excellent front-line instrumentalists, Clemens Salesny on alto sax, Johannes Schleiermacher on tenor and Mario Rom on Trumpet (and all three also play flute). That's backed by a strong double rhythm section with two basses - Lukas Kranzelbinder and Manuel Mayr and two drummers Niki Dolp and Herbert Pirker.

Describing the music isn't easy since the tracks are all very different. With that rhythm section you would expect, and get, some heavy funky beats, but then the music will segue into gospel followed by some fierce free improvisation. And the next track might well sound cinematic. There's a bit of poetry that I could have coped without – but it only adds to the delightful unpredictability of the whole thing.

So at various times you can expect to hear conventional solos and free collective improvisations; lyrical and melodic tunes; bent notes and broken rhythms; conventional jazz, eastern melodies, gospel and funk.

The title track, Beware of the Golden Fang is as good an example as any, but only in the sense that it's different to most of the other tracks and from one section to another. Woodblock percussion and bass start off. Next add the drums to get a funky rhythm before a conventional soul riff comes in. A retro melody pops in briefly and the riff returns until everything stops suddenly for a slow flute solo over the bass – then joined by another flute, speeding up, and suddenly it's funky again. Then the percussion pushes under the 1950s style movie tune with everyone take short squawking solo bursts.
And it's all done with a lot of wit and verve.

Of course there is that solid double rhythm section that underpins everything, but there isn't a coherent style here, and that's part of the attraction. Instead there's variety, fun and pace. Bands with two drummers are always visually interesting and this is one I would definitely like to see live. It's one of the most exciting new bands I have come across for a while so lets get them over to the UK please!

Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz

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REVIEW: Mike Westbrook - The Westbrook Blake at Kings Place

Mike Westbrook and Phil Minton in 2008
Photo credit: Andy Newcombe (Creative Commons)


Mike Westbrook - The Westbrook Blake: settings of the poetry of William Blake
(Kings Place, London. 17th March 2017. Review by Jane Mann)


Mike Westbrook’s settings of William Blake’s powerful poetry were originally commissioned in 1971 for the National Theatre production of Adrian Mitchell’s Tyger. The Westbrook Blake, also known as Glad Day, has been performed many times since, in London, throughout Europe, in New York and Australia. In a review of a 2014 performance of this work, Richard Williams wrote: “Westbrook has been working on this material for many years, and it is among his several masterpieces….. he came out of the jazz ferment of the 1960s and found his way to a music in which he can employ everything he has learnt while making profound use of his indigenous heritage.”

The performers, at a packed Kings Place Hall One, were Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton, voice, and a quartet: Chris Biscoe saxophones, Billy Thompson violin and Steve Berry double bass, with Mike Westbrook himself at the piano. Behind them were the 36 strong London College of Music Chorus, with regular Westbrook performers Martine Waltier and Billy Bottle as guest members. As in many previous performances, the choir was conducted by Paul Ayres.

The piece began with an evocation of the clamour of Blake’s London streets, a hubbub created by all the voices and instruments on stage. Out of this emerges London Song (…In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear….), movingly sung by Kate Westbrook. Next Let The Slave, (Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field….) introduced by Billy Thompson’s haunting violin, then Phil Minton’s commanding unaccompanied solo voice. There is a huge emotional swell as the piano and chorus join him. By the time Mike Westbrook rises from the piano to recite The Price of Experience (What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song?...) the audience are clearly so moved that some of them are openly weeping. The piano and choir take up the theme and Billy Thompson provides an astonishingly passionate solo giving the audience their first chance to applaud and release some of the tension. This is an extraordinary musical experience.

After this outpouring of emotion, we are soothed by a gentle piano introduction to Lullaby, (Sweet dreams form a shade, O'er my lovely infants head) tenderly sung by both vocalists, with delicate and subtle soprano sax from Chris Biscoe. This was followed by the harrowing Holy Thursday. A brilliant extended piano introduction leads into an expressive and chilling vocal from Kate Westbrook (…Babes should never hunger there, Nor poverty the mind appall…) and some powerful and intricate playing from the quartet in the ensuing musical chaos.

Blake’s two best known poems The Tyger (Tiger, Tiger burning bright..) and its counterpart The Lamb (Little lamb, who made thee…) came next. Blake originally set both these poems to music – music now lost. Steve Berry begins with a rhythmic tigerish bass solo, joined by Billy Bottle on vibraslap. The choir sing first one poem and then the other, and then both melodies gracefully woven together.

A Poison Tree is a dark tango from Kate Westbrook with Billy Thompson’s Piazzolla (or is it Stravinsky?) -tinged violin, dancing across the stage as he plays, thrilling the audience.

The strange cautionary tale of Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell, is presented almost as a blues, with Phil Minton taking the lead, the choir providing a backing chorus to his extraordinary voice. The intensity of his delivery, and its emphatic Southern Baptist preacher phrasing (…Long John Brown had the Devil in his gut..) is terrifying.

Steve Berry’s soulful bass solo opens The Human Abstract. The other musicians come in one by one, with marvellously plangent piano throughout, and heartfelt and affecting singing from Kate Westbrook.

Optimism returns when Phil Minton starts singing The Fields, that most London of Blake’s poems (The fields from Islington to Marybone, To Primrose Hill and St. John's Wood….) with huge hymn like chords from the piano. When the choir and the other instrumentalists join in and the music swells, we are in some sort of magnificent Blakean temple. The final song I See Thy Form (..bright as fire..) has a gospel-like chorus from the choir, and the musicians give their all. Phil Minton, at his most Welsh tenor, sings with clarity and passion ensuring we hear every one of these extraordinary words. The audience rose in a long and loud standing ovation.

REVIEWS OF THE WESTBROOK BLAKE:
St Giles-in-the-Fields in 2014 by Chris Parker 
Bath Festival in 2015 by Jon Turney

The next performance of The Westbrook Blake is on Friday 19th May 2017 at the Bury St Edmunds Festival.

RECORDINGS: 

Glad Day Live (2008) available as a DVD and CD package
The Westbrook Blake: Bright As Fire (1980) available on CD and digital download CD quality FLAC & mp3 

 (STORE)

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PODCAST INTERVIEW: Freddie Gavita (album Transient. CD launch 19 April Ronnie Scott's Upstairs)

Freddie Gavita.
Photo credit Carl Hyde


This LondonJazz News podcast features trumpeter / composer / bandleader FREDDIE GAVITA talking about "Transient," his debut album in his own name, with Tom Cawley, Calum Gourlay and James Maddren. Interview by Sebastian. Audio production by Harry Jones:






PODCAST SYNOPSIS

0:00 OPENING MUSIC - Sprezzatura

0:18 Transient / reason for the album title / Curtis Schwartz Studio / recorded in a day

1: 39 MUSIC: Strimming the Ham

Reason for this  title /  the other band members

5: 49 MUSIC Yearning

Growing up playing music in Norwich / Dave Amiss / others in Norwich: Sam Crockatt Dave Smith Mason Brothers Pat White / the "culture of competition....set me up to be versatile.”

11:24 MUSIC: Pull  Your Socks Up

Touring in February 2018 / other bands that FG plays in - Ronnie Scott's Quintet, Fletch's Brew....

15:17  MUSIC: Turneround

LINKS: Freddie Gavita's website
Album launch bookings - Ronnie Scott;s Upstairs Weds 19 April

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REPORT: The 2017 Dankworth and Eddie Harvey Awards at Milton Court

L-R: Emily Dankworth, Tom Green (Eddie Harvey Award Winner),
Jacqui Dankworth
Photo credit: Kat Pfeiffer

The Dankworth and Eddie Harvey Awards 2017 Concert
(Milton Court, 23rd March 2017. Report and photos by Kat Pfeiffer)

It is ten years since the Dankworth prize was started by Art Mead, named after jazz composer and saxophonist Sir John Dankworth (1927-2010). He was originally approached with the idea of naming the award The John Dankworth Prize, but he apparently responded 'Don't call it the John Dankworth Prize, call it The Dankworth Prize, because you will get several Dankworths for the price of one'. It was a story he enjoyed telling, and which lives on: his daughter Jacqui told it on the Award night at the stage of the Guildhall Music School, preceding the announcement of the 2017 winners by his granddaughter Emily.

Emily (L) and Jacqui Dankworth at the ceremony
Photo credit: Kat Pfeiffer

The ceremony at Guildhall School's Milton Court was paired up with two-yearly Eddie Harvey Prize for Jazz Arrangement. The judges of the Dankworths were Nikki Iles, Bob Mintzer and Frank Griffith. Prizes were awarded in two categories:

Small Ensemble

Runner-up: Mathew Sulzmann for Castle View
Winner: Matt Anderson for Jig Jag Jug

Big Band

Runner-up: James Brady for Hermeto's Hideaway
Winner: Jacky Naylor for Bilbao

The first music part of the Gala concert consisted of all the prize-winning compositions, amazingly performed by the exceptional Guildhall School Orchestra under direction of the charismatic conductor Scott Stroman.

The winner of the Eddie Harvey Prize for jazz arranging was announced after the interval. Harvey played trombone in the John Dankworth's band, wrote music for him, was his friend and worked together on many occasions.The prize recognizes arrangements of works written years ago, but also can be an originally written work.

L-R: Sam Gardner,  Matt Anderson, Jason Yarde, Matt Roberts

The judges Pete Hurt, Kate Williams, Mark Armstrong and Jason Yarde awarded the prize to trombonist Tom Green for an arrangement of his own composition Badger Cam. A performance of this piece was followed by the iconic Kenny Wheeler's beautiful suite Windmill Tilter, based on the adventures of Don Quixote.

Wheeler wrote Windmill Tilter for the John Dankworth Orchestra over a half a century ago. Dankworth commissioned it from him during a hiatus when he couldn't play. Windmill Tilter has earned its place as a crucial work in the history of the big band arrangement.

Scott Stroman's introduction gave a good account of how the original Dankworth Orchestra instrumental line-up differed from the traditional big band format. The groups of instruments have their contrasts brought out, and are allowed to play individually, sometimes antiphonally and contrapuntally, and sometimes letting them to play together  – all to add colour to the sound. The Guildhall Jazz Orchestra had been distributed on the stage to reflect these differences.

 
Saxophonist Rachel Kerry
Photo credit: Melody McLaren


The legendary, British jazz musician, trumpeter Henry Lowther took part in the original recording of the Windmill Tilter – which also included Dave Holland, John McLaughlin and Michael Gibbs (LINE-UP)

Henry Lowther in Windmill Tilter
Photo credit: Kat Pfeiffer


On the award night last week, according to Scott Stroman, Lowther had brought his diary from 1968 and opened up the pages for March, showing that historic note: "recording with John Dankworth Orchestra". For this listener it was a great privilege to have seen and heard him play with the Guildhall Jazz Band on the Dankworth Award evening.

Congratulations and every success to all the amazing and super-talented winners and runners-up!



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CD REVIEW: Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita - Transparent Water


Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita - Transparent Water
(World Village WVF479125. CD review by Peter Bacon)

The Cuban pianist Omar Sosa is a born collaborator and his taste in musical partners ranges far and wide. In the past he has worked most effectively with American folk/blues singer/banjo player Tim Eriksen and Italian jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu; here he is co-leader with the Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita who is now resident in this country.

Transparent Water is full of clear, bubbling, flowing and tumbling sounds as befits its title. The two players interlace their not dissimilar instruments into a gentle ebb and flow, luxuriating in the subtle timbral variations they can get.

Those timbres are further enhanced with added electronic washes behind them and a variety of additional percussion sounds from all around the world, mainly made by Venezuelan Gustavo Ovalles but also from the Chinese sheng and bawu of Wu Tong, for example. In addition Keita sings on some tracks.

The resulting music is both serenely atmospheric, able to function as a background soundtrack to the listener’s life, yet also worthy of more active engagement with its adventurous improvisational twists and turns, and constant reinventions. It has an air of devotion, filled with a quiet and often quite restrained joy.

The potential downside of this kind of “world music fusion” is that it can sound like a mixture made for the sake of it, and a mess as a result. But the shared vision of Sosa and Keita overcomes any such risks - they may be eclectic in their influences but they are true to their own musical characters and what they want to achieve.

It’s a beautiful album from start to finish.

LINK: CD Review from 2016 -  Paolo Fresu and Omar Sosa - Eros

Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita will be touring in November 2017. Dates confirmed are at the EFG London Jazz Festival (Milton Court Nov 19) and RWCMD Cardiff (Nov 14)

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PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Patricia Barber (Watermill and Pizza Dean Street - Apr 11-13)

Patricia Barber. Photo credit: Valerie Booth

Chicago-based composer/songwriter,  jazz singer/pianist PATRICIA BARBER is making a rare visit to the UK in April, with three gigs to round off a European tour, appearing with her trio at the Watermill in Dorking and Pizza Dean Street. Interview by Kathryn Shackleton:

LondonJazz NewsWhat is your earliest musical memory?

Patricia Barber: My father Floyd Barber was playing the saxophone (he was an alto saxophone player who had his own band in Chicago in 1929 and also played as a sub for Glenn Miller) and I wanted to "feel" the music, so he let me put my hand inside the bell while he played.  Pretty amazing.  

LJN: Which events and people have influenced you in your musical career?

PB: There are many moments, but one artist who had an enormous influence on me is Shirley Horn. I traded sets with her 3 nights in a row at the North Sea Jazz Festival.  I sat out in the audience to listen to her instead of staying backstage. Her self-restraint was the key to her success.  The audience would let out a collective sigh if/when she bent a note.  It was a lesson I never forgot.  She was a master of control. 

LJN: How do you practise?

PB: I practise every day. Sometimes I play jazz, sometimes I play classical music and of course sometimes I combine that with composition and/or arranging.  I try to get in Bach's Well Tempered Clavier every day.  It is a bit of a physical and mental hardship to go on the road where I can't have the privacy I need to practice this music (which I don't play well enough to let anybody hear). 

LJN: You can fill theatres and festivals with thousands of people. What keeps you playing your regular Monday night gig at the Green Mill Club in Chicago?

PB: It is a laboratory for my composition and attendant arranging. I need to perform in front of an audience to understand what works and what doesn't.  I listen to their laughter, applause, or lack thereof and make adjustments.  It is also one of the hippest jazz clubs in the world so on many levels it is a pleasure to play at the Green Mill.  Dave, the owner, has been wonderful to me as well as the staff.  Performance can be nerve-wracking for me so it is nice to have a place to call 'home.'  Also, there is so much to be learned playing very crowded large venues but also playing smaller clubs on slow nights.  Risk-taking is often done on nights when the club is slow for one reason or another (like a snowstorm, for instance).  This risk-taking is the thing you really want to hear as an audience member and this is where I as the musician find revelation -- in this extreme risk-taking. 

LJN: Many musicians are able to take their instruments with them to gigs, but you must meet many different pianos for one-night concerts all over the world. How do you approach a new instrument and get the best out of it?

PB: We have a contract-rider that asks for a certain brand and type of piano and tuning schedule.  It is rare I run into a very bad piano these days.  I did recently in Toronto, though, and it was one of the most painful performances I have ever had to give. 

LJN: If you could put together your dream band of musicians from any era, who would be in the band?

PB: I'd love to play with some of the legends on bass and drums, of course.  So many to name.  Philly Joe Jones, Victor Lewis, Jack De Johnette, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, John Patitucci, Terri Lyne Carrington who I run into a lot but cannot afford to hire.

 LJN : Which book, exhibition, music or other art form has made an impression on you recently?

PB: Recently, and for a couple of years now, Gabriel Fauré - both his composition for piano and his songs. Debussy and Ravel songs (harmony),  the movie Moonlight,  the book Euphoria by Lily King. The poem Making Peace by Denise Levertov - I cannot read it enough.  



LJN: What are your musical plans for the future?

PB: I will publish a book of my artsongs.  These are the songs that can be sung (and are being and have been sung) by classical singers as well as jazz singers.  I am in the process of writing piano accompaniment for the classical singers and their pianists.   And I would simply like to carry on.  

Kathryn Shackleton is programmer at the Watermill

LINKS: 5-star review from 2015 Montreal Jazz Festival
Patricia Barber website
The most recent release is Monday Night Live At The Green Mill Volume 3 (digital only)

Patricia Barber will be appearing with her trio at:

Watermill Jazz, Dorking on 11th April (BOOKINGS
Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean St., London on 12th and 13th April (BOOKINGS)

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NEWS: PRS for Music Foundation report of UK artists' success at #SXSW in Austin Texas



A press release today from the PRS for Music Foundation highights the success of the UK's South by Southwest showcase:

Thirty-seven artists, the highest number yet, were supported by the International Showcase Fund to perform at SXSW, thanks to new funding partners and a joint commitment to supporting a particularly diverse line-up of UK artists to perform at this global meeting point for the industry.

British Underground and Jazz re:freshed hosted a stage takeover at SXSW featuring Gogo Penguin and Sarathy Korwar, both supported through the International Showcase Fund. The founding partner of the International Showcase Fund is Arts Council England, and they connected up Jazz Refreshed with ISF partners British Underground who have a longstanding history of showcasing artists outside the mainstream at SXSW. Web and radio platform Jazz Standard came on board as partners, with additional support from the team at SXSW.

The thirty-seven artists were:

Alice Jemima, Anna Meredith, Buggsy, Chain Of Flowers, Charlie Cunningham, Dan Bettridge, Dave, Doe, Dream Wife, Fifi Rong, Fizzy Blood, Flamingods, Frisco (Boy Better Know), GoGo Penguin, Happy Meals, L.A. Salami, Let’s Eat Grandma, Logan Sama, Meilyr Jones, Muncie Girls, PAWS, Pinact, The Pooches, Rude Kid, Safone, Sam Gellaitry, Sarathy Korwar, shame, She Drew The Gun, Spinning Coin, Sundara Karma, SuperGlu, Sweat, The Japanese House, The Sandinistas, The Spook School, WOMPS.

The PRS For Music Foundation press release highlights the following results of the showcase:

- A quarter of the New York Times ‘Notable Artists’ list are UK acts supported by PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund amongst other tip lists

- Artists already reporting discussions about new deals which reflect positive in-roads with industry.

- 89% of International Showcase Fund acts between 2011-16 returned from showcasing with tangible business outcomes

New York Times “Notable Acts” at SXSW

- Anna Meredith
- GoGo Penguin
- Let’s Eat Grandma

ARTICLE

 NPR (National Public Radio) covered

- GoGo Penguin
- Let’s Eat Grandma
- Anna Meredith
- L.A. Salami
- She Drew the Gun
- Dream Wife



Austin Chronicle’s “Must See International Acts” 

- Buggsy
- Let’s Eat Grandma
- Japanese House

LINK

QUOTES FROM THE PRESS RELEASE

Vanessa Reed CEO of PRS Foundation: 
“It’s fantastic to see our talented British artists making a real splash in the US at SXSW, taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase in this important territory for business development. We’re proud to have been able to support so many artists this year through our International Showcase Fund which is backed by Department of International Trade, Arts Council England, PPL, British Underground, Musicians Union, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales and Pledge Music. This year’s acts have demonstrated that even in the world’s largest and most popular showcase event, distinctive UK music cuts through, confirming the talent and originality of our songwriters and composers. I look forward to following the next chapter of their international development.”

Charlie Cunningham: 
“The International Showcase Fund support meant I was able to play my first US gigs at SXSW, which seemed to go down really well. My managers are already having follow up conversations with people who saw me play in Austin and I'm looking forward to hopefully returning to America later this year.”

Dream Wife:
 “Austin was a dream from the moment we landed til we said our goodbyes at the airport with sea shell necklaces around our necks. We had gotten a few new freckles, played quite a lot of crazy shows, made a lot of new friends, the most amazing memories, and we left with very warm hearts. In total we played 9 shows spanning over 5 days. The venues each had their own character and southern vibe to it. We had some of the most fun and sweaty shows we've ever played!! We loved the crowds in Austin and enjoyed the madness of the festival where a show was happening on every corner. This was our first trip to the USA as a band and we are forever thankful to the International Showcase funding for making this wild ride happen. We can't wait to go back!”

LINK: Impact Report of Showcase funding 2013-2016

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PHOTOS: Logan Richardson's Shift at Unterfahrt in Munich

Tony Tixier and Logan Richardson at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Ralf Dombrowski heard and photographed Logan Richardson's Quartet "Shift" at Unterfahrt in Munich on Friday 24th March. He writes - original German below (*) : 

A saxophonist such as Logan Richardson with his quartet demonstrate that the Kamasi Washington phenomenon is not just a one-off or an exception, but rather the expression of a whole musical generation. At the Unterfahrt in Munich, his band Shift were playing music with long intensity builds, and also extended forays into several stylistic directions. It was funky in the post-bop idiom, but could take in both the free and the contemplative as well. This was a combination which managed to be both demanding of the listener - and also fun.


Drummer Ryan Lee. Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Bassist Joe Sanders at Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


L-R: Joe Sanders, Tony Tixier, Ryan Lee, Logan Richardson.
Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Logan Richardson. Unterfahrt Munich
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

(*) Ein Saxofonist wie Logan Richardson und sein Quartett zeigen, dass das Phänomen Kamasi Washington nicht nur ein Phänomen, sondern bereits Ausdruck einer Musikgeneration ist. In der Münchner Unterfahrt jedenfalls dokumentierten Shift eine Musik der langen Steigerungen und ausgedehnten Exkurse in viele Stilrichtungen, funky und postboppend, frei und verinnerlicht. Eine zugleich herausfordernde und unterhaltsame Mischung.

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CD REVIEW: Eivind Opsvik – Overseas V



Eivind Opsvik – Overseas V
(Loyal Label. CD review by Henning Bolte)


This CD is the fifth opus of Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas quintet, a well-established Brooklyn unit of the Norwegian-born bassist comprising hot guitarrero and banjo picker Brandon Seabrook, exquisite pianist Jacob Sacks, magnificent tenorist Tony Malaby and drum magician Kenny Wollesen. It is a troupe that can jump in and chase it both straight and zig zagging in ritmo grandioso, and Opsvik is a bit more than the proverbial anchor. He is a master of the ostinato and forces invoked by imperturbable repetition. His Overseas quintet normally plays a game of uncovering and hiding, up and down, slow and fast, outburst and focus. Its music might at moments enter into heartfelt enchanting melodies and a few moments later the rough and brittle side might appear with unpredictable shifts and transitions – all great dialectics and dynamics.

On this album it’s a matter of chasing along the fun to run and vice versa route. It has resulted in the most amusing, light-hearted album that crossed my ears so far this year. It’s all great pleasure with a lot of smiles. It starts with I’m Up This Step derailing grandioso at the end. Hold Everything is a moonlight pogo with all monsters gathering. The Extraterrestrial Tantrum is what it says. It’s conjuring up what never really will appear. It’s a “Telstar’ derivate with a great Oberheim drum machine. In Brraps the horses are totally free to run. It’s a kind of jazz that nearly everybody should get. Cozy Little Nightmare is a kind of bop dub, solid and firm but contorted too and all on a carpet grown with thistles. The First Challenge On The Road seems to be that it seems endless. So the group indulge in a rubato variant of some traits of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. Shoppers And Pickpockets is a minimalistic wavy affair with great breaks. IZO revives Kool & The Gang’s Celebration riff climbing its own rocks – and oh this drummer here! The finishing Katmania Duskmann, an older piece, is a nice raw outro interspersed with Brötzonia and traversed by Seabrook’s fantastico shaggy ragged guitar work. Why did I think of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at some moments and of The Lounge Lizards at others? Resemblances are of course, as always, purely coincidental.

The album came out on the unsung Loyal Label, a Brooklyn based musicians’ label, now in its 10th year. It has a lot to offer including a covers/packages with a basic colour and a unique clear-cut and handsome graphic design.

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REVIEW: Mark Holub, Liran Donan, Tom Herbert, Chris Batchelor at the Vortex

Liran Donin in 2013
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


Mark Holub, Liran Donan, Tom Herbert, Chris Batchelor
Vortex, 22nd March 2017. Review by AJ Dehany)

There’s something particularly earth-shattering and primal about duelling basses: the driving, grinding, earthy experience of digging into dirt and finding treasure. With two bass-players and Led Bib bandleader Mark Holub on drums, this quartet’s debut was always going to be a groove fest. Liran Donin is the shoulder-popping neck-thwacking double-stopping badass bass-man from Led Beb, and Tom Herbert is the fulsome fearsome engine of Polar Bear. It’s an inspired pairing of bass-players, and an inspired pairing of rhythm section and lead player in trumpeter Chris Batchelor.

Batchelor lends a composer’s ear and a lot of bop to the open playing. He’s so melodic, they’re so driving. It leaves a certain onus on Batchelor, who responds with a warmly lyrical approach and a diverse selection of horns: trumpet, specialised cornets, and a horn of seven horns that looks like the eponymous throne from Game of Thrones: a beast of seven pipes attached to a man. We know the set has reached serious business when he whips it off the piano half an hour in. It blasts like a car horn.

It’s pleasing to find Chris Batchelor extemporising melodic motifs that are taken up by the other players. He settles on a good one, and Tom Herbert echoes it. There’s that great feeling when you perceive players ‘feeling each other up’ and we’re part of it, vicariously. Pervy, nerdy fun for musos, though maybe less appealing to those who prefer their music pre-prepared and ready to eat. We, however.. don’t we like to see ‘em cookin’.

Throughout the two wholly improvised sets there sounds like there must be some pre-prepared material, at least from the trumpeter. That’s the thing about free music: it’s improvised at the source, but composed in the ear and recomposed in the memory. Holub just says their rehearsal had wholly consisted of working out bass frequencies. These guys are serious groove-meisters, so it’s a bit more like a really good jam session than ‘free playing’ as we would recognize it in terms of what Stewart Lee calls “players trying to play non-idiomatically in what is now an established idiom.”

Writing about free playing isn’t like the cliché ‘dancing about architecture’. It’s more like architecture about dancing: finding the structural form among the baggy content. We do this intuitively as listeners, forming patterns and applying our own structures and references which are the basis of the sensibility we use to apprehend what Kevin LeGendre calls “the island of meaning in the ocean of music”.

It’s funny how the shape of a ‘free’ 40-minute improv still retains something of the form of a shorter structured piece - a song. The inevitable drum solo is never earlier than three quarters of the way in. This is somehow necessary. A conceptual purist would start a clock, say go, play notes at random and, when 40 minutes has elapsed, simply stop the music. Thankfully this never happens.

If ‘free’ playing can suggest the form and schedule of composed material it is especially gratifying when you can get more free of that. This is what happens in your second set: warmed up, freer. Here’s a thing about jazz generally. By the second set you’re tired, but you’re energised - it’s almost always better, but no-one knows how - it’s a mystery.

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PREVIEW: Hitting the High Notes - BBC R3 Documentary on jazz, heroin, and the story of the 'Narcotic Farm (Sunday Mar 26, 6 45pm)

Jam session by patients at the Narcotic Farm
© 1951, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection
reproduced by permission of BBC Radio 3 Publicity


BBC Radio 3 are flagging up a radio documentary this Sunday featuring interviews with Benny Golson, Hal Galper, Jerry Tolson (University of Louisville), Gary Falk (Falk Recording Studio in Louisville and a member of the band Indigo) and Professor Colin Drummond (Professor of Addiction Psychiatry at Kings College London).

In the 45-minute progamme, Dr Sally Marlow, Public Engagement Fellow at King’s College London and a specialist in addiction and mental health, explores the links between jazz and heroin addiction and tells the story of the 'Narcotic Farm' in Lexington Kentucky.

DETAILS: Sunday Feature: Hitting The High Notes
18:45-19:30 BBC Radio 3 - PROGRAMME WEBSITE

FULL TEXT OF PRESS RELEASE

The story of jazz in the post-war era is one of revolution and rebellion, as musicians like Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie re-invented the genre, giving birth to bebop. But alongside the music, something else emerged in this period: a mini-epidemic of heroin use among jazz musicians which broke out in the mid-1940s, as the drug became more freely available in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

In their attempt to understand and tackle the rising problem of drug addiction and the moral panic that ensued, the US Government targeted and arrested many jazz musicians. But instead of sending them to conventional prisons, many ended up at a Kentucky institution known as the Narcotic Farm. Part prison, part hospital, it was the first attempt anywhere in the world to simultaneously treat addiction as a health problem, whilst studying the science behind it. Though it practiced an enlightened approach to therapy, it also carried out what today would be considered highly unethical experiments on patients, which even included re-addicting them in order to study the symptoms of withdrawal.

The roll-call of jazz musicians who spent time at Lexington is astonishing: Sonny Rollins, Elvin Jones, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, Sonny Stitt, Bennie Green, Jackie MacLean, Red Rodney… the list goes on. Rather than viewing Jazz as part of the problem, the doctors and researches instead chose to look at it as a potentially therapeutic activity. Musicians were given instruments and rooms where they could play for up to six hours a day. As a result, bands formed – jazz super groups – who performed regularly in the prison’s auditorium. The shows became so famous that one band was invited onto the Johnny Carson Show on US TV.

In this programme, Dr Sally Marlow, an addiction researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, examines the relationship between heroin and jazz in the post-war period and explores its impact on creativity, therapy and addiction science both then and now. She hears from musicians of that period, travels to Lexington and discovers that a recording of a ‘Narco’ concert, made by a member of staff in the late 1960s, has survived.

END OF RELEASE


LINKS: Documentary film and book about Narcotic Farm
Dr Sally Marlow

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INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Tara Minton – The Tides of Love (Album Launch April 6th Elgar Room RAH)

Photo Credit: Antonella Raimondo


Australian harpist and vocalist TARA MINTON travelled halfway around the world to become established on the British music scene and is now due to release her solo album, ‘The Tides of Love’. Adrian Pallant talked with Tara ahead of her launch concert at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room on 6th April.

LondonJazz News: Based in London since 2011, you’re originally from Melbourne. Can you describe your musical beginnings and how your relocation came about?

Tara Minton: I was born into a non-musical family, but begged to have piano lessons until I was big enough to sit on the stool at the age of seven. After seeing a Marx Brothers movie on tv when I was ten, I made a little harp out of a lunchbox and went around playing it until my parents realised I was serious. I played and was trained in classical harp, as well as being an amateur jazz pianist. But after I heard and watched videos of the amazing French jazz harpist Jakez Francois (who is also a director of Camac Harps), I emailed him, asking if he would listen out for my song ‘Play With Me’ on a local radio station. That resulted in me having lunch with my hero and telling him of my dreams to move to London. He agreed Europe is a much better place for me to create my music and offered to help me. That was where my relationship with Camac began. Five weeks later, I flew to London, got settled and then I drove to Paris to collect the same Big Blue harp that Jakez plays – certainly a case of ‘right place, right time’.

LJN: You’re as much at home performing Fauré and Puccini as jazz – but your new album seamlessly blends jazz, folk, country and soul with a distinctive and expressive singer/songwriter approach. What led you in this direction, and what creative opportunities does it provide you with?

TM: I love Etta James, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald – and I love words. So I decided I would learn from jazz musicians, taking my harp to pester musos in Melbourne and sitting with bass players, guitarists, drummers, saxophonists. For example, I learnt how to incorporate guitarists’ percussive damping on the strings – and because a harp’s strings are closer together than a piano’s, the range is much greater, so those lovely, open guitar voicings such as big fourths that you can’t manage across piano keys can be achieved on the harp. It takes the place of a piano in a trio, and is a kind of cross between piano and guitar – though you do have to ‘unplay’ everything you play (to stop it sounding) – and pianos aren’t able to shift into whole-tone scale mode, either.

LJN: You also belong to a high-energy gypsy jazz band, Harp Bazaar – but your original music for The Tides of Love seems personal, often emotive, and with an emphasis on lyrical, observational storytelling. What inspires you in your writing?

TM: I have an acting degree, and feel that all art is about telling a story. Whatever the medium, that’s the most important thing. It all began when my grandfather played classical records to me and would make ups stories to go along with the music. In Dvorak’s Humoresques, he would say, “Can you see the autumn leaf dancing in the wind?” – almost like Fantasia, but with his own tales. I try to compose music that supports the dramatic narrative as much as it can. It can be therapeutic, too, and works for both grief and joy. I have so much feeling that it’s almost overwhelming, but every time I play one of my songs on stage, I revisit the place I was in when I wrote it and a little more of the feeling is released – and with the happier songs, I can go back and think, ‘Ah, wasn’t that good?”

LJN: You have said on your blog that music is magic, and that everyone is transformed by it in some way or other. You’re a busy musician on the London scene – how do you witness that transformation when you perform?

TM: A lot of people, at gigs, come up to me and say how much a song meant to them, and then tell me really personal stories. So even though my songs can be very specific – about certain people and certain things – we all kinda have the same experiences; and because I’m being open and honest, it seems to allow other people are able to express that, too. The most amazing experience I ever had was in Palanga on the Baltic Sea in Lithuania. I played a concert and the audience were very generous; they really came with me. Afterwards, a woman said, “Please join me for dinner, I want to talk to you about one of the songs” (‘You Never Kill A Good Woman’). We ended up having an in depth conversation about gender politics. She explained how in Belarus, women are often highly educated, but the culture places more value on how attractive they are to men rather than who they are. Obviously I believe women and everyone’s value is inherent, so we really got stuck in – which was super interesting, coming from such different cultures. At the end of the night she said, “I have an eight-year old daughter, and I’m going to raise her to believe she can be happy with or without the love of a man”. I thought, “How cool is that?” A song – just a song – started this long conversation, and we‘re still friends. Speaking personally, I am transformed when I play with great musicians.

LJN: So tell me about a couple of the songs on the album, and what they mean to you.

TM: Clementines in the Morning Sun tells the story of a crazy night out, after going through a rough patch. The following morning, I woke up on a boat, surrounded by interesting artistic folk, and thought, “These are my people! I feel much better about life.” As it turned out, a few of us in the group had just recently ended relationships – so we sat around, eating clementines and talking about how life should be sweet… like clementines in the morning sun. When I left Australia, six years ago, my boyfriend didn’t want to move to London – but we’re still really good friends, so that’s what Tower of London is about. And the final track, On My Way To You, is a lovely story. It was written for my husband, who I met over here just a couple of weeks before I was due to play a five-week series of concerts in Australia. I bumped into an ex back home, and my friend had said to him, “Tara’s got this lovely Kiwi man – you’ve missed the boat!” Later, my husband’s response was, “He never missed the boat, Tara… you were on your way to me the whole time.”

Photo Credit: Andy Porter
LJN: You’re active in promoting the harp at festivals and workshops – including Sydney, Geneva, Rotterdam and Poland, as well as Birmingham and Cardiff in the UK. Do you sense a great spirit and enthusiasm for the harp’s musical diversity?

TM: Yes, I do. A lot of people are very excited about the harp. There are some amazing players, such as Park Stickney (for me and everyone, the harp has limits – but for Park, it doesn’t), and Edmar Castenada, the Colombian harpist who has played with Chick Corea, Marcus Miller and Herbie Hancock, is setting the world on fire right now. My mission is to get the instrument and its capabilities out of the ‘harp bubble’ and into the wider world of music.

LJN: ‘The Tides of Love’ is released on 6th April, and is to be launched at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall. Will all your musicians on the album be playing?

TM: Usually I tour with the trio – Ed Babar (bass) and Tom Early (drums) – but for the launch, we wanted to recreate the album line-up as best we could. So everyone, except for the string quartet, will be there. Violinist Duncan Menzies and guitarist Filippo Dall’Asta are members of Harp Bazaar, and Tim Boniface on horns has been a musical mentor of mine for the past six years in London. Percussionist Lilia Iontcheva turned up at the studio while John Merriman, my producer, was mixing the album and declared, “It needs me!” (we’ve since become very good friends), so she will be playing. The stunning Serena Braida is singing backing vocals and Phil Merriman on keys is just a genius – I can’t believe he’s playing with me! We’ll perform all the songs from the album, along with a couple of new tunes and some standards to showcase the incredible musicians in the ensemble… and there’ll be a few surprises, too.

LJN: How does it feel, as an expression of your music, now that the album is finally going out into the world?

TM: I’m very happy with how it represents my music – it owes in incredible amount to the wonderful team of musicians and the crew at Crown Lane Studios who worked with me. I grew up and lived by the ocean my entire life, so it was important that this theme continued throughout the album. Everyone took the idea and really brought it to life in their playing. There are flowing lines, with breathing and instrumental lines which suggests waves, seagulls, a whale; and the final track returns to earlier musical references, almost as if you’re standing on the same sand, looking at the same ocean, but something’s changed. (pp)

LINK: Tara Minton's website

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NEWS: Programme announced for Made in UK at Rochester #XRIJF Showcase



The line-up for the Made in UK Showcase at the Christ Church venue at thei year's Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (June 23 – July 1 2017) is announced.

Following the untimely death of Made in UK's founder-instigator and director John Ellson, this tenth year's programme has been put in place by Sue Edwards. As the press release says: "It remains the largest presentation of British Jazz outside the UK and several of the bands will also be performing on the Canadian festival circuit this year."

Sue Edwards says: "Since the very sad loss of Made in the UK founder/director John Ellson last year, it has been an honour to carry on this important collaboration with the XRIJF, one that gives British jazz musicians the unique opportunity to perform in the USA and on the Canadian jazz Festival circuit. We look forward to celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Made in the UK series this year and dedicate it to the memory of our dear friend and colleague."

LINE-UP/ CALENDAR

June 23 Gwilym Simcock

June 24 Neil Cowley Trio

June 25 Elliot Galvin Trio

June 26 Laura Jurd - Dinosaur

June 27 Dave O'Higgins - Atlantic Bridge Quartet

June 28 Polly Gibbons Quartet

June 29 Phronesis

June 30 Binker & Moses

July 01 Tessa Souter Quartet

There will also be a tribute to John Ellson on the last day of the festival

LINKS: Made in the UK
Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Tribute to John Ellson by Rob Adams

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PREVIEW: Monthly Jazz Vespers @ Christ Church Highbury N5 (March 26th, 6.30pm)


Rachel Maby
Photo Credit : City Academy

New singers and congregation members are very welcome this Sunday 26th March at 6.30pm, when Christ Church Highbury will host an intimate evening of jazz and soul music at the monthly Jazz Vespers service. Leading the musical worship will be the newly established Christ Church jazz choir, directed by its Music Director, Rachel Maby. Joining them will be Liam Dunachie on piano, Greg Gottlieb on bass and Scott Chapman on drums. Rachel Maby writes:

Christ Church Highbury’s monthly Jazz Vespers service is now in its second year, having been founded by jazz trombonist and Guildhall School of Music and Drama jazz professor, Scott Stroman. Jazz Vespers is a music lead service where Christians and non-Christians are welcome alike. The service allows time to reflect and appreciate spiritual and secular musical works in an informal worship setting.

This month’s service falls on Mother’s Day and the Christ Church Jazz choir will be performing my new arrangements of ‘Mother’s Eyes’ jazz standard, ‘No one knows me like the piano’ by Sampha and Adam Morris’ arrangement of ‘Mother’s Child’ by Gregory Porter. These songs will be interspersed with congregation hymns and fellowship songs.

Christ Church Jazz Vespers has seen many well-known London jazz musicians perform, such as Norma Winstone and Pete Churchill. It’s also a great platform for young up-and-coming jazz artists to take part and play; the church has previously hosted the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Big Band and Jazz Choir.

Christ Church Jazz Vespers falls on the last Sunday of each month and offers the opportunity for members of the congregation and local community to come and sing with the jazz choir, to help lead the musical worship in the hymn and fellowship songs. We meet at 5pm on the day to rehearse with the band before the service. If you would be interested in taking part, just message me via my website: www.rachelmaby.com/contact

Christ Church is situated in the heart of Highbury and is a 5min walk from Highbury and Islington station and on the direct route of 19, 4 and 236 buses. The church address is 155 Highbury Grove, London, N5 1SA.

All are most welcome.


Scott Stroman directing Jazz Vespers at Christ Church Highbury

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