REVIEW: Chick Corea Elektric Band at the Barbican

Chick Corea
Photo credit: Paul Wood


Chick Corea Elektric Band
(Barbican. 24 June 2017. Review by Rob Mallows)

This performance was, literally, flawless.

Twelve years after their last record, 2004’s To The Stars, and decades after their 1980s touring heyday, the reformed Chick Corea Elektric Band gave an enraptured Barbican audience a masterclass in group dynamics, of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

In perfect sync with each other and demonstrating virtuosity in spades, the Elektric Band put on a stunning two hours of the finest quality jazz fusion you are ever likely to see.

Chick Corea needs little introduction: Miles Davis, Return to Forever, band leader, 22-time Grammy winner, he’s a true jazz icon and very much first among equals in the band which bears his moniker. But equals the band are. Bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Frank Gambale, sax player Eric Marienthal and drummer Dave Weckl are each in their own right fantastic composers and band leaders, but together? Oh my goodness, they were simply… well… electric!

Dave Weckl
Photo credit: Paul Wood 


The CCEB is bound together by a shared capacity to create jaw-droppingly complex music with, apparently, little effort. Atomic-clock-accurate synchronicity, boundless creative soloing and effortless technical mastery of their respective instruments, each player seemed to be enriched by the rich soup of sounds emerging from Corea’s keyboards and emboldened to become part of a greater, unified whole. It sounds clichéd, sure, but if you were there, you’d know why such a rarified description was justified

Their collective creativity communicated itself to the Barbican audience, which I’ve never seen so animated and enraptured. Even the band tune-up got a huge cheer and hollers from fans, many of whom I could see were almost tingling with anticipation for what was to come. They left nourished and energised.

Drawing on seven albums’ worth of compositions since their 1986 debut, this ‘classic line-up’ played just seven tracks across two hours, but what seven tracks they were! Opener Charged Particles fizzed with levels of energy that can only be seen in the Large Hadron Collider, and each of the opening solos was an exhibition of musical wizardry: such complexity, such unexpected twists and turns, jaws across the hall dropped in unison.

76-year-old Corea is very much the father and spiritual leader of the band - he is around two decades older than his bandmates - but the pulsing heart of the CCEB is Patitucci and Weckl, who demonstrated their symbiotic understanding on Trance Dance; Patitucci was a portrait in studied concentration as he threw out 16th and 32nd notes like they were going out of fashion in producing some of the most fizz-pop bass soloing you’re likely to find anywhere this year. There can, arguably, be no tighter, more synchronised and propulsively exciting rhythm section than these two on form and it was evidently a pleasure for Corea, Marienthal and Gambale to pour on their fusion hot sauce, judging by their laughter and smiles on stage.

The secret to the CCEB’s sound has always been their perfect group dynamic and synchronous playing of the technically complex main themes of each track - even on the most difficult of riffs, the band was in complete unison. So technically perfect were they on a track like the Jimmy Heath-inspired CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) that if you closed your eyes, it was just like listening to the album version, so flawless were they.

This was music affixed to the jazz gold standard, so rich was the music on offer. Silver Temple - a piece written by Corea during a sojourn in Japan, which Patitucci described as ‘particularly challenging’ (but which the band went on to demonstrate wasn’t necessarily so) - opened with a Weckl drum solo. Dave Weckl is arguably the best technical drummer out there, and half of London’s drummer community seemed to be at the gig too, judging by the biggest roar of the night for this solo. The smile of sheer contentment on Patitucci’s face was obvious, like he was thinking, "Man, I get to sit in the pocket with this guy". One lucky bassist.

Set closer Got a Match - from the band’s eponymous 1986 debut album - was epic. Yes, it does justify that over-used adjective. Corea evidently drafted the blueprint for modern jazz-fusion with Got a Match; if anyone ever wants to know what fusion is all about, point them to this.

Freed from his piano stool by a Yamaha key-tar, Corea led the Barbican audience in an impromptu sing-along to ever-more complex keyboard trills before opening up the throttle with the emblematic overture from this, their greatest ‘hit’. Every solo, every bit of interplay, every time signature shift was perfect. Perfect. Watching each of the band members in turn, you could see in their faces the joy of being part of something this special, this rare.

Chick Corea has given the world of music so much. For his creation of the Elektric Band, we have one more thing to add to our list of reasons to thank him.

Chick Corea Elektric Band
L-R: Chick Corea, Eric Marienthal, John Patitucci,
Frank Gambale, Dave Weckl
Photo credit: Paul Wood

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FESTIVAL ROUND-UP : Jazzdor Berlin 2017 (Part One of Two)

The Jazzdor banner

Jazzdor Berlin Festival 2017
(Berlin, Kulturbrauerei / Kesselhaus, Berlin, 30 May – 2 June. Review, photos by Henning Bolte)

The round-up of Jazzdor Festival in Berlin goes in two parts. Part 1 deals with a new multinational supergroup confiuration and six mainly French configurations. 

Part 2 deals with the music around four striking characters: Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima, French guitarist Marc Ducret, French clarinetist Louis Sclavis and German drummer Dejan Terzic.

The annual Berlin edition of the Strasbourg Jazzdor festival presents new bi- or multinational collaborations and introduces French new and existing configurations to the Berlin audience. The festival has a fine balance of continuity and variation of participating musicians, of younger and older musicians. Some artists return in different combinations and constellations, and regularly there are new faces and configurations. This year there were 11 concerts with French, German, Swiss, Finnish and US-American musicians. In this part seven out of eleven configurations will be reviewed.

Out of Land


The 2016 Berlin edition of French festival Jazzdor started with brand-new French-German-Swiss supergroup Out of Land. It is a combination that grew gradually from a series of mutual collaborations of four musicians, starting with a collaboration of French accordionist Vincent Peirani (b.1980) and Swiss vocalist Andreas Schaerer (1976) and went on with a collaboration of Schaerer and French saxophonist Emile Parisien (1982) and the well-known duo of Peirani/Parisien. Each of these two musicians also collaborated with acclaimed German pianist Michael Wollny (1978). Coalescing into a unit of four was in the wind and finally happened. The unit came into being bottom-up on musicians' initiatives and their inaugural performances were issued as a live album by the German ACT label (REVIEWED). Peirani was the pivotal figure and Schaerer the driving force of this non-hierarchical group. It turned out that from the four strong worlds and the individual combinations these musicians brought a new world into being, a new world in terms of tinder dynamics, intensity and on the spot creation of solid musical fireworks.



Emile Parisien and Andreas Schaerer

They play each other’s compositions giving them a completely new twist which comes across as a richness of temperament, colour, temperature and drive. It was a panoply of on-the-spot accelerations, sudden surprising turns and great climaxes. Especially vocalist Andreas Schaerer showed an amazing capacity to work directly and influence pace, direction and mood. It was rousing and infectious and the music was taken to a higher level. It was not yet going too much in-depth or getting too personal, yet  each musician involved has the capacity to do so. It was a strong and convincing festival debut. From their worlds this foursome created a common world and let it shine full of bright life.

Sophia DomancichSimon Goubert; Elise Caron /Edward Perraud; Bass X3 

Two musicians is an intimate configuration, in the case of three musicians some kind of rotational equilibrium has to be achieved throughout. This edition of Jazzdor presented two duos from France and a German-French-American trio of dark tonalities.

Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert

Plainly surprising, wonderfully light-heeled and ultimately enjoyable in the best sense was the duo of pianist Sophia Domancich and percussionist Simon Goubert. They did a very special thing, full of allusions to heterogeneous sources absorbed deeply into their very own effortless flow. They have a precious conjunct sense of the role of rhythm, melody and space. Solely the view of Goubert’s drumset – even more high cymbals than his colleague Kenny Wollesen - told a lot. There is no division of the common roles as instrumentalists but both musicians contribute to rhythm, melody and space at the same extent. The duo sounded fresh, sincere and charming. As broadly oriented musicians both can look back on a rich musical life up to now. Amongst others they participated in legendary French beyond-group Magma. Their newest instalment is a wonderful group with kora player Ablaye Cissoko. Domancich and Goubert are not very well known outside France but undoubtedly have something delightful, really unique to offer to venues and festivals in the world around.

Quite different was the second duo of vocalist Elise Caron and drummer Edward Perraud. Perraud, a much in demand force in French jazz, played Jazzdor Berlin more than once, among others with German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann and together with Hasse Poulsen in legendary group Das Kapital. Caron, an outspoken border-crossing artist performed 2 years ago at Jazzdor Berlin in the group of pianist Roberto Negro. She has worked as actress in movies and as a vocalist in various genres/styles where she collaborated with a.o. John Greaves, Robert Wyatt, Henri Salvador, Michel Graillies, Fred Frith and Luc Ferrari. Caron acted in a kind of off-record manner by commenting and withdrawing in a playful way from what she was doing vocally. She took some funny ‘escapes’ and some disturbingly poetical ways to re-establish the common performance pattern. It was a quite original and challenging approach that in my perception did not work out convincingly strong enough to really get burning.

BassX3 is the child of Gebhard Ullmann, one of the busiest German and Berlin jazz musicians with a pretty broad range of musical activities and group projects. BassX3 started more than ten years ago with Ullman on bass flute and bass clarinet together with Chris Dahlgren and Peter Herbert on double bass. Bass experimenter Clayton Thomas later replaced Herbert. For this year’s Berlin Jazzdor edition French renowned double bassist Hélène Labarrière took the role of Clayton Thomas. It was a well-done entre’act following a well-known approach of spontaneously giving the skeletal compositions shape in and through the performance.

Quatuor Machaut

The music of poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) exerts a lasting strong attraction to all kind of musicians. Why is this music so longevous, re-used again and again? Quentin Biardeau, Simon Couratier, Francis Lecointe and Gabriel Lemaire not only chose Machaut as the name for their saxophone camarilla. With their saxophone quartet they did not restrict themselves to the fine-tuning of the of the sonorities of the saxophone family. By treating Machaut almost as a contemporary source, they went ‘saxophoning’ deep into his music, especially into his famous mass. Consequently they also admitted the music to stretch out and went into the adventure to fathom and probe new musical sense making as a kind of extended Machauts. Another component of the quartet’s recital was its deliberate choreographed form. It was a kind of elongation and reconfiguration of the zero-tableau of common emplacement on stage. They split up in parts spread over the hall’s space making moves away from and towards each other re-uniting at musically significant moments. They continuously formed new ground constellations in and through space for their celestial sounds. These well-executed manoeuvres increased the sensuality and expressiveness of the music substantially and made it a highly concentrated and enjoyable performance.

Quatuor Machaut


Coronado

Coronado, the quartet of guitarist Gilles Coronado was a striking and innovative affair, heavy but with a lot of light humour and understatement. Guitarist Gilles Corona was/is also part of Louis Sclavis’ Atlas Trio and Silk Quartet, saxophone explorer Matthieu Metzger already participated in the 2011 and 2015 editions of Jazzdor, drummer Frank Vaillant is a mainstay on the present scene associated with a lot of Jazzdor contributors and keyboardist Antonin Rayon is a quite prominent keyboarder connected to groups of a.o. Marc Ducret and Dominique Pifarély. In this group he spiced the music with nice heavy strange sounds from underneath (in a way that could make Jamie Saft jealous). A competent Dutch visitor commented with a bright smile: “in France rock jazz and fusion is still sold over the counter.”

Post K

Behind the cryptic name Post K are hidden the saxophonistic Dousteyssier brothers Jean and Benjamin, the latter being the prominent bass saxophone voice in Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra. Together with pianist Matthieu Naulleau, who – due to an injury - managed to play the whole set one handed, and drummer Elie Duris they quite explicit and playfully dug into old time jazz from the 20s of the last century onwards. Trumpeter Steven Bernstein started this kind of rediscovery and reshaping some twenty years ago and in the music of Henry Threadgill it is incorporated on a higher/deeper level. With verve the French foursome plunged into the heat of old treasures - far enough away from present calibrations of sound making and close enough to the pulse of our time and leading into new amenities. It is an approach worth to be followed and pursued by more young musicians.

Post K


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CD REVIEW: Miles Mosley - Uprising



Miles Mosley - Uprising
(Verve. CD Review by John L. Walters)

Miles Mosley’s song Abraham was a highlight of last year’s Love Supreme Festival, an effective change of mood within an already magnificent set by Kamasi Washington, with whom Mosley plays bass. With a catchy piano hook, forthright lyric (‘mediocrity is everywhere’) and spine-tingling organ, Abraham hinted at another huge talent working within in the collective known as the West Coast Get Down (WCGD).

Uprising confirms the promise of Abraham – it’s an album of soulful songs in the tradition of Motown, Stax and Atlantic, labels whose best black artists dominated pop music in the 1960s and early 70s. Mosley has considerable chops as a composer / arranger, but he doesn’t overplay that hand – this is a beautifully paced, well produced album whose instrumental elements are always in the service of his songs.

Mosley co-produced Uprising with his manager Barbara Sealy, who co-wrote some of the songs, and ace drummer Tony Austin. The core line-up is Mosley and Austin, keyboard players Brandon Coleman and Cameron Graves and a frontline of Kamasi Washington (tenor) and Ryan Porter (trombone). However Uprising also aims for some of the grandeur of The Epic, with additional horns, strings and a choir.

In the opening track Young Lion Mosley appears to parody the ‘saviours of black music’ plaudits routinely handed out to his crew: ‘Thank God for me / Ain’t nothin’ been funky since ’73 … Ain’t nothing wrong with a know-it-all, It ain’t my fault this world’s too small!’

With regard to the 1973 crack, there’s little in the instrumentation and recording that couldn’t have been done 40 or more years ago: it’s just that the WCGD have the skills and the conviction to make it sound fresh. Uprising contains little in the way of samples, hip-hop, EDM, rap or broken beat; there are no Indian, African or reggae rhythms (though it shares its name with Bob Marley’s final album). It is very much a product of the United States of America, and of Los Angeles in particular.

Stand-out tracks include the exultant, triumphal mid tempo soul-rock of Sky High and the Stevie Wonder-like piano ostinato of Heartbreaking Efforts of Others, which swiftly evolves into an impassioned chorus with strings, horns and an ingenious, heavily effected bass solo. Shadow of Doubt starts like an indie torch song but quickly strides into a sprightly pop strut – there’s a touch of the Beatles in the intoxicating horn section counterlines.

As with some recent albums I’ve reviewed for London Jazz, including Abuc (Roberto Fonseca) - LINK -  and Parking Lot Symphony (Trombone Shorty) - LINK - , Uprising could be classified as ‘quality pop’ as much as ‘jazz’. Yet jazz fans will find much to enjoy in its eleven tracks, in the way we enjoy work by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Sting, with whom Mosley will inevitably be compared.

Reap A Soul has a double-time chorus with hints of The Epic in its rough-hewn grandiosity, and the bonus of a remarkable arco bass solo. The gospel-infused More Than This is in two distinct halves: a soulful 6/4 opening followed by a rocking conclusion in 4/4. The track is bolstered by strings, horns, a bass solo and a chorus of: ‘You can’t take it with you when you go.’ Final track Fire has a slight Latin jump, spiky strings and an earworm chorus of ‘I’m a warrior’. Mosley knows how to write hooks and riffs that get right under your skin, and his intelligent lyrics stick in the mind, too.

UK/EUROPE DATES: Miles Mosley and the West Coast Get Down are playing London’s Jazz Cafe on 28 June, followed by Manchester on 30 June, Love Supreme Festival on 2 July and the North Sea Jazz Festival on 8 July 2017.

LINK: Miles Mosley website

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REVIEW: Diamanda Galás at the Barbican

A window to the inner soul - Diamanda Galás at the piano
at her Barbican concert
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved


Diamanda Galás
(Barbican, 16 June 2017. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Seeing American singer/ performance artist Diamanda Galás for the first time was a baptism of fire! To say that she is a powerful performer is something of an understatement. Solo at the piano, or at the mic when reciting poetry, her delivery was intense in the extreme. She pushed herself to the limits. Gave no quarter.

Galás views the song and the poem through an utterly personal looking glass. She exploits to the limit the myriad possibilities offered by word and melody and offered no concessions to the quotidien. Her selections, both self-penned and covers, from her two new albums and older material, focused on the unsettling and the portentous. She uncovers the dark side of the most innocent sounding lyrics, yet it is often the innately uncomfortable that is her favoured territory, walking the tightrope which defines the boundary between death and life.

Stretching, distorting, bending a song way beyond instant recognition she created new recipes from standard ingredients. Judicious touches of reverb added increased edge to her resounding vocals - ranging from dramatically operatic high register to out-and-out shrieks and wails, feline hisses, nasal sneers and slurs. Verging on the unrecognisable and incomprehensible, recognising no language boundaries, she cut through to the emotional core of her repertoire. No sentimental baggage allowed.

The chanson and the cabaret, the vampire and the Victorian, the blues and Schubert’s Winterreise, the delivery of Patty Waters at her most radical - these were all points of reference. The poetry of anguish, rooted in her own experience and the hubris of Greek tragedy, rubbed shoulders with her rethreading of tradition in the shape of a spine-chilling O Death (‘Death is a movin’ upon my soul’), a tortured rendition of the irresistibly titled Johnny Paycheck number, Pardon Me, I’ve Got Somebody To Kill and, at the last roll of the dice, Let My People Go. Homage was paid to her ‘friend and teacher’, the cornettist, Bobby Bradford, whose early career took in stints with Ornette Coleman. Galás also peddled a mean line in piano technique with sharp, swiftly mobile runs and rolls that complemented her untrammelled vocal onslaught.

Pared-back, synchronised shafts of lighting and a whiff of dry ice added a theatrical dimension within the spacious Barbican Hall, populated by an audience of devoted fans, drawing out three encores from this remarkable performer, who, to quote writer Christos Tsiamis [LINK], ‘intervenes to interject into the melodic line the actual sound of the raw human feeling which was only imagined by the poetry of the lyric.’ That she certainly did!

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INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW: Dave Smith (Loop Collective Frome Festival : 13-14 July)

Dave Smith
Photo credit:Frank Melfi


The LOOP COLLECTIVE last held a festival in 2013. Each member of this potently creative group of musician has gone on to do other things, but there is a clear loyalty and esprit de corps among its members, and the desire to continue to work together. Drummer DAVE SMITH has invite Loop members to the town where he now lives, Frome in Somerset, and has put together a two-night festival. He explained the background to this new festival - which he hopes will be the first of many - in an interview with Sebastian: 

LondonJazz News: Dave what's been going on musically for you in the past few years

Dave Smith: I’ve been mainly working with Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters for the past few years. It has been a massive learning curve for me and a great experience to perform and work with such a diverse and talented group of musicians. We released an album in 2014 on Nonesuch which toured up to last summer. Highlights include playing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, The Bonnaroo Festival, Austin City Limits, David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption and Red Rocks in Colorado.

I’ve also been working with Jim Hart’s Cloudmakers Trio. Since the release of Abstract Forces in 2014 on Whirlwind we have played many gigs in the UK, North America and France. The most recent project is called Cloudmakers Five with guests Hannes Riepler and Antonin-Tri Hoang (REVIEWED). We’ve had two UK tours this year with a live recording from that tour coming out early next year - as always with Jim’s music it’s complex, melodic and beautifully harmonic.

I joined Melt Yourself Down in October last year and since then have been touring around Europe and working on an album. It’s a great bunch of musicians and the music is high energy with heavy grooves, a punk attitude and it's a lot of fun to play.

Since Fofoulah’s debut release in 2014 on Glitterbeat we have played gigs around the UK and London as well as in France and Czech Republic. The music now has a more open and electronic sound with the addition of Dan Nicholls in the band and Kaw Secka developing his Wolof rap talents.



Fofoulah


LJN: When did you move from London to Frome?

DS: November 2015

LJN: What's it like? Loads of musicians living close by right ?

DS: Frome is a lovely place to live. Very friendly and community based with lots of independent shops, music and art venues, a community fridge and free Stiener school. There are lots of musicians close by including Iain Ballamy and John Law who have been in town for some years and Jason Rebello is up the road in Bath. Bristol is pretty close by too so it’s going to be great to continue making connections there. My very good friend Sam Crockatt lives in the neighbouring village of Mells and we’ve been doing quite a bit of playing together since I’ve moved down. As well as a few trio gigs we formed a band called Corner Pieces with some other ex-London musicians - vocalist Rosie Schura, guitarist Martin Kolarides and cellist Heather Truesdall plus Bristol/London based Will Harris on bass. We’ll be playing at The Rye Bakery on 12th July as part of the Frome Festival.

LJN: The last Loop Festival...I can't even remember when it was?!

DS: The Loop Collective continues to create and move forward with touring, collaborations, releases and new projects but we haven’t had a festival for some time. The last Loop festival was in 2013 at Kings Place, and since then we have had smaller one-night events in London. This will also be the first time a Loop Festival happens outside of London and I’m hoping Loop can continue to be featured in the Frome Festival in years to come!

LJN: And how long have you been planning this one?

DS: Since January this year. I found out at the end of last year that Robert would be taking a summer off touring which gave me time to concentrate my efforts into this festival which I’m really excited about.

LJN: Who is playing?

DS: - Thursday night we have a set of solo vibraphone explorations from Jim Hart, Splice - which is an electro-acoustic improv group made up of myself, Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay on bass and laptop, Alex Bonney on trumpet and laptop and Robin Fincker on sax, then we have Kit Downes & Tom Challenger with their fantastic project Vyamanikal.

- The Friday kicks of with another duo - Rills & Courses with Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay and Tom Challenger, then the Hip Hop and British 'library music’ inspired Primitive London take the stage with their Anglo-French line up and special guest Juice Aleem on vocals. This will be followed by Fofoulah vs Ruhabi - a Fofoulah set featuring some re-workings of Outhouse Ruhabi material with Robin Fincker on sax. The last part of the evening will be Dan Nicholls transforming recordings of artists playing at the festival into completely new, remixed electronic music.

LJN: Which concert are you most chuffed to be putting on?

DS: Well that’s a tricky one. I have to say I’m really looking forward to seeing, hanging, hearing and playing with this group of musicians again. It’s great that so many people from the collective could make it over and that we have found some funding to support the two nights. I’m chuffed Primitive London could make it with their rapper Juice Aleem and I’m also very much looking forward to Vyamanikal in their new format with Kit playing harmoniums.

LJN: When is it?

DS: 13th and 14th July

LJN: What is the main venue and what's it like?

The two gigs are part of the Frome Festival which runs for 10-days from 8th to 16th July encompassing a variety of arts, crafts, food and literature in established venues, pop up venues and cafes, parks and shops throughout the town. The Loop Collective will be performing in Frome’s iconic Silk Mill in their gallery event space which has a bar and an outdoor area where we’ll have a free stage. The space will be seated cafe style for the Thursday and standing club style on the Friday.

LJN: What else is coming up for you - albums??

DS: Tom Challenger has been working on a new Fofoulah album/EP which should be out later this year. He and I have had a couple of duo gigs in the past year and there’s talk of doing an album together. Melt Yourself Down have something in the pipeline and Cloudmakers Five will release their live album sometime in early 2018. I’m also looking to set up a Youtube channel featuring some GoPro footage from some of the Robert Plant gigs last summer.



Vymanikal


Loop Collective Frome Festival details -

Thursday 13th July

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger + Splice + Jim Hart
7pm doors
8pm-11pm music
£10 / £8 cons

ADVANCE BOOKINGS


Friday 14th July
Fofoulah vs Ruhabi + Primitive London + Rills & Courses + Dan Nicholls
7pm doors
8pm-midnight music
£10 / £8 cons

ADVANCE BOOKINGS

Venue: The Silk Mill, Merchants Barton, Saxonvale,  Frome BA11 1PT

LINKS: The festival on the Loop Collective website
Silk Mill Studios
Frome Fetival

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Preview/Interview: Emily Saunders The Voice Mix (The Other Palace 24 June, and Forthcoming New Album

Emily Saunders
Photo credit: Andrew Lipscombe


Jazz vocalist Emily Saunders presents her Voice Mix show this coming weekend at The Other Palace in London. In this interview with Sarah Chaplin she talks about her forthcoming album, her crowd-funder campaign and her work as a broadcaster, musician and producer.

LondonJazz News: How did your concept for ‘The Voice Mix’ show come about?

Emily Saunders: I’ve performed a number of times before at The Other Place (formerly St James Theatre), which incidentally is a great central London venue – good sound and a fantastic stage – and so this is one of a series of live shows I’ve done with invited artists I’ve met and wanted to promote in some way as part of The Voice Mix. We record the show and as well as a live set by each guest artist, I interview each of them, and then later edit it all together along with some of their pre-recorded material to create a radio show for JAZZLONDONRADIO. This one will go out some time in the autumn, and my guest artists this Saturday (24 June) are Melissa James and Marcus Joseph.

LJN: Why did you choose to feature these two artists?

ES: I’ve known Melissa’s work for a while and I really like what she does and the fact that it doesn't sit entirely within one genre of music, but cuts across several. I met Marcus up in Leicester when I did a gig there for Leicester Jazz, and I just thought what he was doing was really creative, so he’s a great person to bring along and perform with my band in London. It’s a mixture of voices and styles: jazz, blues, soul, funk, reggae, so whilst there is a strong jazz connection, it’s a format that’s open to all the other genres to come in and produce The Voice Mix.

LJN: Is it important to you not to pigeonhole music too much?

ES: Well I was initially a classical clarinettist, and in that genre your role is to be a vessel for someone else’s music to go through; you have to conform to being very much what other people want you to be, rather than as a creator and inventor of your own sound. So for me, the move to jazz wasn’t about replicating somebody else’s version of the music but about working with improvisation, and so as much as I prefer performing my own material, I love doing jazz standards too, I love that within the format of a typical jazz head, there’s so much scope to do different things with a tune.

LJN: How has your own music developed over the time since your first album Cotton Skies?

ES: I’ve always been a big fan of Latin based music - particularly the work of Airto Moreira - and I was playing a lot of his tunes, but I also had a number of compositions of my own which, when I tried them out on my band, they seemed to really like. So I played them at a gig and the audiences seemed to really like them as well, and that made me think I should record them. Cotton Skies was half a collection of songs written by some wonderful Latin composers and half my songs, and I had no idea if it would be well received as an album, but for a debut it went down really well and that was really inspiring.

LJN: Was it the same process when you recorded your second album, Outsiders, Insiders?

ES: No, it was quite different because I planned Outsiders, Insiders. I thought a lot about what I wanted it to contain, so it’s very much a concept, where it was about the inside and the outside of the music in a way – as a body of sound – it has connecting passages that became part of each tune, and it’s more philosophical so the songs are offered as a form of social commentary. I was pleased to be able to take what I’d created on Cotton Skies a step further.

LJN: You’ve just recorded your third album, can you tell us a bit about that?

ES: It’s called Broken, and it’s got a massive connection to Outsiders, Insiders but I feel that my compositional skills and my songwriting and my understanding of how to create an album has reached another level. The planning was very thorough, and I can’t wait for it to get out there! It’s going to be mixed in July and it will come out in the autumn in time for the London Jazz Festival.

LJN: Does the new album make use of the same line-up of musicians and instruments as previously?

ES: Largely yes – I’ve got such a fantastic band, and this time I’ve brought in some guitar for the recording for additional texture, but it’s pretty much fully arranged for the band and it was amazing to hear their performances and soloing on each the tracks. It’s called Broken because it reflects the fragility of society and draws from the past as well as the present musically, producing a really diverse mix of material, and in that way it’s consistent with The Voice Mix show I’m putting on and the radio shows as well. As people we’re melting pots of information and out of that comes our own voice – we absorb so many things from all around us, and that becomes our sound, whether it’s accents, philosophies, instruments, or whatever.

LJN: Why did you decide to use a crowdfunding model to finance this particular project?

ES: Absolute necessity! It costs a lot to produce an album and sales have been greatly hit by streaming. I had a steep increase in sales between my first album and my second album but since then, online streaming has had a massive impact on record sales. Even though streaming and radio play gives you exposure and it’s very immediate and obviously here to stay, the stats demonstrate that it hasn’t followed the same growth curve from the artist’s perspective, or translated into income. The PledgeMusic model has made me realise how valuable my audience is. Because without my audience it wouldn’t get played on the radio, without my audience there wouldn’t be people at gigs to buy my album, so it’s more of a journey together, and without the support of the crowd funder, the album just wouldn’t happen. It made me realise that it’s a relationship that you’re creating, so it’s been a reflective moment to really value people and their reaction to what you do. It’s similar to social media in a way: a lot of people criticise it, but it really gives artists an opportunity to connect with your audience and for them to find out more about you.

LJN: It seems that there’s more of the political aspect to your latest work - is this the case?

ES: I wouldn't call it political but I’d say my music is socially aware and socially reflective. I think I always have been, but given what’s going on right now I can’t help thinking how can we as artists not speak up and be part of the conversation about what’s important in our society? Things are too volatile at this point in time for any of us to be quiet, we all need to articulate what’s important to make sure that our society is a positive loving, connected, developing, constructive, harmonious place to be. It will only be that if we make it so; you enable the change by being part of that change, whether through music or any other medium. I write about what I see around me, as well as how I perceive other people’s experiences. Basically I think there are innate truths in all of us, and I’m very interested in representing this through music. My new album’s got a good balance of happy-go-lucky songs and also some that are more hard-hitting.

LJN: Is this going to be reflected into the album cover design?

ES: I hope so. I’ve gone for a strong graphical look for the album. The photography is done and the cover is in the process of being designed. It’s my own label so I have the freedom to do what I want with it, which is great, including the production side. It’s something I’m hoping to expand into, maybe producing music for other artists too: I love production, there’s so much you can do with recorded sound nowadays; I love the fact that you can take the raw recordings to a whole other level and for me that’s an important part of the composition process.

LJN: So are you planning to have any time off after all this?

ES: Well I’m thinking of putting my feet up a bit in August. However, writing new songs often happens in those moments when you’ve awarded yourself some time out! (pp)

Twitter: @emilysounds
Website: Emily Saunders 

Tickets for Saturday’s show available here:  The Voice Mix 24 June 
40 more days to pledge to Emily’s new album: Broken

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PREVIEW: Hong Kong Episodes, Wilton’s Music Hall (7-8 July 2017)

Hong Kong Episodes
Credit: Wandering Photography

East meets West in London from 7 to 28 July. The Hong Kong Music Series will bring 70 musicians and composers to a range of venues across the capital from Richmond Theatre to St John's Smith Square, giving a many-faceted insight into the musical diversity  of Hong Kong.

Leah Williams previews Hong Kong Episodes at Wilton's Music Hall, with talented jazz guitarist and composer Teriver Cheung:

The Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) knows what a wealth of incredibly talented musicians they have been cultivating in recent years and is making sure the rest of the world gets the opportunity to hear them. Chairman, Dr. Ying-wai Wong, says: “Hong Kong’s cultural scene has undergone rapid growth. With an increasing number of outstanding artists creating high quality works in Hong Kong in the past few decades... now is the right time to help our home-grown artists to reach out and perform on the international stage.”
 



Luckily for us, London is getting the first taste of this specially-curated programme of events with five productions, featuring over 70 musicians, composers and performers, taking place in different venues over a three-week period. With concerts ranging from Chinese music theatre and chamber opera to contemporary music and jazz, there’s much to get excited about from this special programme of music, which is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

It’s easy to see why Teriver Cheung has been chosen to represent Hong Kong’s homegrown jazz talent. His musical journey began at a young age, starting on the piano at a mere five years old, but then found its true destination when, at the age of 16, he picked up a guitar and fell in love with jazz. He made the move to the U.S. to study with Fred Hamilton on a scholarship at the University of North Texas and, after graduating, formed his first group Nobody’s Business, with which he toured internationally.




Cheung’s mellow tones and lyricism have won him many fans and he’s become an active member of the jazz scene there, performing alongside big names such as Eddie Gomez, Billy Drummond and Jeremy Monteiro. He released his first jazz album as band leader, My Nocturne, which has been well-received.

As both a guitarist and composer, Cheung has been involved in many collaborative projects and Hong Kong Episodes, being performed at Wilton’s Music Hall on 7 & 8 July, is his latest. The original music has been written by Cheung alongside renowned Hong Kong composer Fung Lam. The youngest Chinese composer to ever be commissioned by the BBC, when he was invited to write for the BBC Concert Orchestra in 2007, Lam’s compositional style has found an audience in both the West and his native Hong Kong with a unique sound that filters traditional Chinese motifs through a Western context. He favours orchestral composition on a smaller-scale, allowing for focus and restraint, and Hong Kong Episodes captures this essence. Alongside Teriver Cheung, a jazz quartet and top chamber players from the Hong Kong Contemporary Music Group will take to the stage to bring Cheung and Lam’s work to life.

This is not all though. In a multi-media concert, described by Wilton’s as “a cinematic musical journey filled with intrigue”, the audience will be transported to the vibrant city of Hong Kong through imagery, curated by architect Anthony Lai, displayed above the stage. The musical and visual landscape will lead the audience on an evocative journey throughout the many aspects - spiritual, cultural, historical and contemporary - of this fast-paced city throughout the course of one virtual day. Perhaps the closest you can get to experiencing the excitement and diversity of Hong Kong whilst sitting comfortably in your chair in London! (pp)

LINKS: Teriver Cheung
Hong Kong Music Series
Hong Kong Episodes at Wilton's Music Hall

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NEWS: Tom Barford wins 2017 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize

Tom Barford, the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner for 2017

Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon spreads the news.

Saxophonist and composer Tom Barford has been named the seventh Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner. His success was announced today by the Royal Academy of Music and Edition Records, co-promoters of the award. It is given each year for "a young artist who demonstrates excellence in both performance and composition, selected from all graduating jazz musicians at the Royal Academy".

Tom Barford joins previous winners Josh Arcoleo, Reuben Fowler, Lauren Kinsella, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Ralph Wyld and Rob Luft.

Evan Parker, one of the judges along with the Academy's head of jazz Nick Smart and Edition boss Dave Stapleton, said: "Even by the high standards set by previous winners of the Kenny Wheeler Prize, Tom is something else. He has that precious combination of strong technique and an inexhaustible flow of ideas which mark him out as a very special soloist. His writing is wonderfully intricate and demanding and yet is exuberantly listenable. We are witnessing the birth of a new star in the jazz firmament. Needless to say, our decision was unanimous."

Barford reacted to the win thus: "I am overwhelmed and delighted to have been chosen to be the recipient of the 2017 Kenny Wheeler Prize, especially considering how much Kenny’s music means to me and has affected everything I play and write today. I was lucky enough to meet Kenny Wheeler while studying on the Junior Jazz course at the Academy when, as he was Patron of the course, Kenny kindly came in to lend some words of advice to the young musicians.

"To play next to him and to hear first-hand the sheer emotiveness, power and ability to instantly connect with the listener was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had to date and is a memory that has left a lasting imprint on me as a musician."

The young saxophonist took up the instrument at the age of nine and joined the Junior Jazz Course at the Royal Academy of Music before gaining a place on the Academy's undergraduate course. He writes and plays with his own band ASTEROPE and for a quartet he co-leads, and has also played with the Barry Green Sextet and the Gareth Lockrane Big Band as well as many other groups. 

As a winner of this prize, Barford will get to make his debut album for release on Edition Records.




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CD REVIEW: Yelena Eckemoff Quintet - Blooming Tall Phlox



Yelena Eckemoff Quintet - Blooming Tall Phlox
(L&H Production L&Hcd806151-24. Review by Peter Bacon)

The Russian classical pianist, Yelena Eckemoff, now living in the U.S. and dedicating herself to jazz continues to forge a singular musical path - and a generous one, too, this being her 10th jazz release since 2010.

I have always found her approach intriguing because although she surrounds herself with jazz musicians and improvises herself, her way of structuring her music and indeed her own playing sounds much more aligned - at least to my under-educated ears - with classical composition than the Afro-American jazz conventions.

There has been increasing assuredness in this approach over those ten releases but its development is not quite so easy to articulate or illustrate because none has shared exactly the same personnel. The earlier albums were trio affairs, latterly the groups have expanded and diversified in instrumentation. Eckemoff’s choice in musicians is impeccable: Mats Vinding and Peter Erskine on her first jazz disc, Cold Sun, for example, with subsequent line-ups including, from this side of the pond, Morten Lund, Mats Eilertsen, Arild Andersen, Tore Brunborg and Jon Christensen; from the U.S. Billy Hart, Mark Turner and Joe Locke.

Last year’s Leaving Everything Behind was a deeply moving collection of pieces many of which were linked by loss - of childhood, of family, of homeland - all eloquently explored by Eckemoff with an all-American band of Mark Feldman on violin, Ben Street on double bass and Billy Hart on drums.

Blooming Tall Phlox - it’s hard to tell whether there is a joke there, whether the phlox are “bloody tall” as well as in bloom - changes the personnel again. It was recorded in 2013 in Finland with Eckemoff on piano and compositions, Verneri Pohjola on trumpet and flugehorn, Panu Savolainen on vibraphone, Antti Lötjönen on double bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums and percussion.
There are two discs, the first subtitled Summer Smells, the latter Winter Smells, and the contrast between them is subtle but discernible.

Eckemoff always brings strong stories and imagery to amplify her instrumental music by including her own poems and paintings. And again, these poems link the world around her - flowers, smells, domestic life experiences - with memories, of an old world, a previous life, so giving them history along with the currency, and a certain poignancy is thus never far beneath the surface.

Titles include Smoke From The House Chimneys In Frosty Air, Pine Needles Warmed By The Sun, Talks Over Hot Tea, Grandpa Lera’s Bookcase, Aunt Galya’s Perfume and Apples Laid Out On The Floor. The youthful Finns help the pianist/composer to realise these scenarios in sound, the music flowing in an out of the solos, the rhythms ebbing and flowing from laid back to restrained intensity. Some of it feels programmatic - the chilly tinkle of vibes and piano underneath the flugelhorn perfectly evokes smoke from chimneys and frosty air - while at other times Eckemoff is more oblique in her references.

A thoroughly absorbing couple of hours of beautifully conceived and sensitively played music. Do check this out and also Yelena Eckemoff’s back catalogue.

LINK: Yelena Eckemoff's website

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INTERVIEW: Peter Edwards (A Journey With The Giants Of Jazz, touring in July)

Peter Edwards
Photo from Peter's website


Award-winning composer/ pianist PETER EDWARDS has written a new work, Journey With The Giants of Jazz . It has already been premiered in Southampton, and the London premiere is on 8 July at the South Bank. He explained the background to Sebastian.

LondonJazz News: Peter, you are a pianist, a composer/arranger and an educator. Does the proportion of the time you spend doing each vary widely?

Peter Edwards: I guess you could call me a portfolio musician, which is the norm for most jazz musicians. I do love the variety of working on different projects. [I divide my time] 20% composition (large and small ensemble projects); 30% education (mainly private tuition and some workshops in schools); 30% as a pianist working with my own band or as a sideman; 10% arranging and co-writing; 10% musical direction.

LJN: Do you like the balance or in an ideal world which would you want to do more of?

PE: Ideally I'd love to do more composition and musical direction work. Doing two or three works for large ensemble a year would be a fantastic and would leave enough time for be to pursue my other small ensemble projects.

LJN: Let’s start with composer. You have recently had a commission with a London premiere coming on 8 July. What was the brief?

PE: The brief was to write a 15-minute composition to celebrate the legacy of six jazz greats who would have turned 100 in 2017: Ella Fitzgerald, Theolonius Monk, Tadd Dameron, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria.

LJN: Did you adapt the brief at all? Did the work change in scope along the way?

PE: Turner Sims [in Southampton], who commissioned the piece Journey With The Giants of Jazz gave me the freedom to interpret the brief. I decided to divide the piece into six episodes, one for each of the jazz greats. My approach was to find a particular characteristic or theme for each artist and compose to that. So, for example, I used the guajira rhythm that Mongo Santamaria used on his version of Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man and Dizzy Gillespie's fusion of bebop and Afro Cuban music as inspiration for his section. I also wanted to feature members of the band with a few solos.  I used a motif from a Buddy Rich solo as the starting point of a drum feature in the middle of the commission.

LJN: Did you write this work with specific players in mind? Are there some young people in the band who we all need to watch out for?

PE: I knew from the beginning that I was going to be working with the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, an ensemble I have worked with since 2009. We have an amazing pool of musicians who we work with. There are some more familiar musicians like Nathaniel Facey on alto, Byron Wallen on trumpet, Binker Golding on tenor saxophone, Harry Brown on trombone and Gary Crosby on bass. We have some fantastic new faces in the band also: Rebecca Toft on lead trumpet, Sarah Tandy on piano, Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals, Eddie Hick on drums, Rhiannon Jefferies on baritone, Rosie Turton on trombone and Noda Oreste on congas.

LJN: You have gone right through the ranks of Gary Crosby’s activity right? Is the current role of Music Director for Nu Civilisation something fixed now?

PE: Yeah that's right, I have gone through the ranks starting with being a member of Tomorrow's Warriors in 2007. I helped put together the Tomorrow's Warriors Jazz Orchestra 2009 and oversaw its transition to becoming the Nu Civilisation Orchestra and have been at the helm since. The musical director role has evolved over the years. At the beginning I played piano and directed the ensemble. Now I just direct and am enjoying it. We've got big plans for the Nu Civilisation Orchestra and I'll certainly be around to lead it.

LJN: We talked about your work as pianist. The first thing I notice is that you are working quite a lot with singers.

PE: I do ! I've been very fortunate to work with some phenomenal singers - Nicola Emmanuelle, Zara McFarlane and most recently Mica Paris.

LJN: Tell us about Nicola Eemmanuelle?

PE: I've worked with Nicola Emmanuelle since about 2008. She worked with composer George Fenton on many projects including the soundtrack to Cry Freedom. We've performed at  the Boisdale, Pizza Express Dean Street  and most recently have a residency at the Savoy Hotel in the Thames Foyer on Friday evenings. Most of the repertoire is the classic American Songbook. She's up there with the very best (VIDEO).

LJN: And Zara McFarlane?

PE: I met Zara through going to Tomorrow's Warrior's Jam Sessions. She asked me to work with her on her EP and we co-wrote it's title track, Until Tomorrow.



Since then I've been performing in her band have a few co-writes and arrangements in her catalogue of recordings . Zara is a remarkable vocalist, songwriter and bandleader and deserves all the accolades and awards that have come her way. Look out for her new album (launch 15 Nov, Rich Mix, Bethnal Green).

LJN: Mica Paris?

PE: I got the call from Guy Barker who was working on a orchestral album with Mica Paris, celebrating the music of Ella Fitzgerald. He asked me if I'd like to put together a small band to work with Mica playing some for the small band music that Ella did in the 1960s and '70s. I'm a big fan of Mica's work and so it's been a real pleasure getting to work with her. She's another great storyteller and really gets the crowd involved. The audience was on their feet for the majority of the our performance at Cheltenham festival.

LJN: And as leader… Your trio album A Matter of Instinct came out in 2016. Has the trio had to take a back seat because of all the other work?

PE: I'm really pleased that I've been able to do two studio albums and and an EP with my trio. It has been tricky to balance all my different projects. Ideally I would like every year to put together a run of dates for my trio and plan the next release. In the meantime, I think I'm trying to to integrate my trio work into some of the other projects. At the beginning of the year we released a single with the London School of Samba. It was the first time I ever arranged for samba band, and Zara McFarlane performed on it too. I'd like to put out some trio recordings in 2018. Watch this space!



LJN: Where was the premiere of A Journey With The Giants Of Jazz? How was it?

PE: It was a wonderful occasion. Turner Sims, who commissioned the piece, hosted the premiere in association with TW live. Before playing the premiere we had local school bands performing their own tributes to the jazz greats as part of the Jazz Ticket education programme. (VIDEO ABOUT JAZZTICKET HERE)

We had a great crowd at Turner Sims to see the performance. It was really well received.

LJN: Will the London version be the same as the earlier performance(s) or has the piece evolved in performance? Are there others planned?

PE: The London performance will be fairly similar to the Turner Sims performance. I think the difference will be that all the musicians will be more familiar with the material and take a few more risks.

The Schedule for the national tour is as follows:

2 July Hull Minster
8 July Southbank Centre, London 
13 July Manchester RNCM
13 October Bristol Colston Hall
14 November Brighton Dome
18 November Hull Truck Theatre

LINK: Nu Civilisation Orchestra


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CD REVIEW: Dwight Trible with Matthew Halsall - Inspirations



Dwight Trible with Matthew Halsall - Inspirations
(Gondwana Records GONDCD017. CD Review by Peter Jones)


Still pretty much an unknown quantity in the UK, veteran jazz singer Dwight Trible will surely reach a deserved wider audience with this UK-recorded album, produced by trumpeter Matthew Halsall, with backing from members of the latter’s Gondwana Orchestra.

Trible is a passionate, soulful, charismatic and socially committed artist, with a rich, resonant voice whose timbre is redolent of the black revivalist church. I first became aware of him when Jazz FM began playing tracks from his extraordinary 2006 album Living Water, on which he transformed Freddie Hubbard’s Little Sunflower into an ecstatic hymn of love, and Wayne Shorter’s Footprints into a dreamlike fable of spiritual enlightenment. On this new album, when he sings Bacharach/David’s What The World Needs Now Is Love, he transforms the happy-clappy original into something hypnotic and meditative. This is achieved partly by the incantatory style of his vocal delivery, and partly by stripping out the chord changes, making the song more modal.

The lyrical theme continues with Donnie Hathaway’s Tryin’ Times – a blues for 2017 if ever there was one – and Cole Porter’s I Love Paris, Trible’s response to the Islamist violence suffered by that city. This song is cut down both harmonically and rhythmically: the minimal chord changes, again, combined with the absence of a pulse, create a radical, thought-provoking reinterpretation.

However distressed he may feel about the state of the world, Dwight is nothing if not positive: Feelin’ Good was the highlight of his Ronnie Scott’s debut last month. Driven by a stonking Afro-Cuban groove from pianist Taz Modi, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Jon Scott, this version blows away any lingering sense of despair. The Coltrane ballad Dear Lord follows, with lyrics by Trible himself. Along with the spiritual Deep River, it pours oil on the troubled waters, with sweet, lyrical trumpet from Halsall.

Trible has deep roots in the psychedelic and avant-garde scene in LA, often referencing the music of Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders, and one of his influences is the harpist Dorothy Ashby’s 1970 album The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby. From that, Trible has taken the strange and compelling bossa nova Heaven and Hell. It was a new one on me, and sent me back to the original. Trible’s version is a sublime meditation on the afterlife, featuring yet more gorgeous Taz Modi piano.

LINK: Live review of Dwight Trible at Ronnie Scott's <

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CD REVIEW: Dave Liebman / Joe Lovano – Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane


Dave Liebman / Joe Lovano – Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane
(Resonance Records HCD-2030. CD review by Brian Marley)


John Coltrane is both a touchstone and a source of inspiration for the musicians on this recording, but it’s Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman in particular who carry his legacy forward, each in their own way. When they came together in 1998 to play a concert at the Red Sea Festival in Israel under the name Saxophone Summit, their compatibility was immediately apparent. With additional front-line member Michael Brecker (until his passing in January 2007), then Ravi Coltrane, Saxophone Summit has toured extensively and enjoyed annual residencies at NYC’s Birdland. For this recording, fellow Saxophone Summit members Phil Markowitz (piano) and Billy Hart (drums) were joined by double bassist Ron McClure.

Whereas Saxophone Summit’s repertoire concentrated mainly on late period Coltrane, augmented by new compositions that were in keeping with Trane’s freewheeling spirit, the group on Compassion tackles compositions from all periods and phases of his career. In theory, as Coltrane continued to develop his sound throughout his life, and his musical horizons expanded considerably from hard bop into modal forms and other aspects of world music, a tribute album of this kind might be expected to be rather bitty, but in practice the music flows naturally from track to track without the slightest hint of awkwardness.

The recording dates from 2007, when Liebman was asked by Robert Abel, producer of the BBC radio programme Jazz on 3, to provide a set to mark the 40th anniversary of Coltrane’s passing. As Ravi Coltrane and double bassist Cecil McBee weren’t available, the session couldn’t realistically be billed as Saxophone Summit. Actually, that turned out to be a good thing. Because expectations of a certain kind didn’t have to be met, it allowed the players greater latitude in their choice of material. Compassion shows not just what Liebman and Lovano have learned from Coltrane, but how distinctly they’ve developed as players in their own right, especially on tenor saxophone. Lovano’s playing is earthier, more bluesy, whereas Liebman’s lines are leaner and more abstract, sometimes knottily so, as the opening track, Locomotion, demonstrates. In the best hard bop fashion, phrases are traded back and forth between the horns in a collegially competitive manner.

After that, direct points of comparison are harder to make because of the changes of instrumentation and the more open form of some of the pieces. That’s particularly true of Om, which begins with a freely improvised duet on wooden recorder and Scottish flute, before Markowitz sweeps a finger over the piano strings in harplike fashion to summon the other players and usher in the theme. Markowitz’s solos here and on Locomotion are hugely inventive, as is his comping throughout the session.

It’s a well-balanced programme. The tender lyricism of Central Park West dovetails nicely with Dear Lord, which is serious and spiritual. Reverend King is darker toned, elegiac and pensive. The bluesy strut of Equinox ups the tempo and contains fine solos from Liebman on soprano sax and Lovano on tenor. Billy Hart provides an introduction to Compassion that merges clockwork with funk, interspersed with the kind of hi-hat embellishments beloved of Max Roach. This is the track on which the players stretch out the most and it becomes more of a blowing vehicle, though focus is never lost. It’s also where Lovano unleashes the aulochrome, the instrument designed by Francois Louis comprised of two soprano saxophones bound as one on which he duets with himself.

In the half century since Coltrane’s death, hundreds of tribute albums have been issued. While some are very good indeed there are few as good as Compassion.

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NEWS: Fourth wave of EFG London Jazz Festival (10-19 November) events announced

Trombone Shorty
Photo from London Jazz Festival website


Peter Bacon tries not to be overwhelmed by the plethora of added EFG LJF shows going on sale this week.

With some international jazz festivals - North Sea, Montreal and, increasingly, London - it becomes easier to list who's not appearing, such is the drive away from any specialisation and towards the all-encompassing, one-festival-fits-all model. So, who wasn't in the first three tranches of bands and players?

New Orleans' favourite son, Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue will be playing Shepherd's Bush Empire on 13 Nov; the name currently being dropped into all the coollest jazz conversations, bassist Miles Mosley, will be in the Islington Assembly Hall on 12 Nov.

John Surman and John Warren will revive The Traveller's Tale from the first London Jazz Festival for this, the capital's 25th. It will be at King's Place on 12 Nov. Singer/pianist Eliane Elias will present Samba Brazil at Cadogan Hall on 14 Nov and Dee Dee Bridgewater will be at the same venue on 16 Nov.

Pianist Fred Hersch will make a most welcome return to the festival with his trio (King's Place, 18 Nov) and will be talking about his revealing memoir Good Things Happen Slowly. There will also be a screening of the film portrait The Ballad Of Fred Hersch.

Also just released and going on sale this week: BBC Concert Orchestra: Is This Jazz? (12 Nov); Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles (14 Nov); Kneebody plus Now vs Now, Justin Kauflin Trio plus Airelle Besson & Vincent Segal (both 16 Nov); Jay Rayner: A Night of Food and Agony plus Peter Horsfall, Britten Sinfonia with Nik Bartsch (both 17 Nov); Chico & The Gypsies, A Brief History Of The Coolest Instrument In The World (it's the electric guitar, apparently), BIGYUKI plus Butcher Brown plus Rohey, Kansas Smitty's House Band, Monk Misterioso (all 18 Nov); The Monk-A-Thon (19 Nov).

LINK: EFG London Jazz Festival

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CD REVIEW: Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures - Glare of the Tiger



Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures - Glare of the Tiger
(Meta 020. CD Review by John L. Walters)

Glare of the Tiger by Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures is not a contemporary sounding album, nor is it as old-fashioned as its dreadful cover design might suggest. There is something about this collection of loose-limbed groove-based jams, sometimes urgent (Ecstaticized), at other times relaxed (Rotations), that is wonderfully liberating when set alongside more anxious, angsty bands.

Ralph M. Jones’s soprano sax wails thrillingly on Ecstaticized, leading into Graham Haynes’s exultant cornet on a tune that wheels easily between theme statements, solos and collective blowing. Drummer-leader Rudolph stirs up an edgy rhythm section that can churn like Miles’s 1970s bands when required; there are two more drummers – James Hurt and Hamid Drake – plus electric bass, the hard-working Damon Banks, guitar (Kenny Wessel) and keyboards (Alexis Marcello). Drummer Hurt also contributes electric piano, sound design and ‘smart phone synthesizer module’.

Four short (20- to 40-second) interludes help give the album a bit of structure; Interlude One, dominated by Jones’s flute is particularly beautiful. Most of the nine remaining tracks stay on one mode and groove for their duration, building a head of steam. However there isn’t always enough energy and invention to justify more than six minutes minutes or so. At nearly 14 minutes long, the 5/4 title track Glare of the Tiger is overly (and overtly) like electric Miles, and the worst offender.

Of the other tracks, Dialogics is reminiscent of early jazz and electronics experiments (İlhan Mimaroğlu, Keith Winter); Ciresque combines walking bass with space-jazz boogaloo; and Lehra channels Terry Riley. Wonderings stays noodling on a spacey two-note pivot for nine and a half long minutes before erupting into a splashy 12/8 over which Haynes solos eloquently for the final three. The playing is of a high standard throughout; at its best, this is an album that can make you smile with the sensual pleasure of good music.

LINK: Glare of the Tiger at Meta Records

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CD REVIEW: Misha Mullov-Abbado Cross-Platform Interchange



Misha Mullov-Abbado Cross-Platform Interchange
(Edition EDN1091. CD review by Jon Turney)


Here’s the difficult second album from abundantly talented Misha Mullov-Abbado. So talented in fact that it doesn’t sound as if it was difficult at all.

The bassist, who won the Royal Academy’s Kenny Wheeler prize in 2014, presents a set of distinctly hummable compositions for a core septet most of whom are fellow graduates from the Academy. His skills include the one you can’t teach - producing pleasing melodies - as well as a flair for arrangement that takes different forms on each piece.

There’s a slight sense of working through genres about the programme. The stunning opener Shanti Bell features just bass and percussion and marks the leader as one who will, perhaps, offer satisfying solo recitals one day along the lines of those Dave Holland favours us with occasionally. There follow a Latin-leaning tune, a mildly humourous tribute to everyone’s favourite animated character, Gromit’s Grand Outing, a groover, a cool swinger that delves further back with a nod toward New Orleans as it goes on. Brazilian strains and an Eastern European flavour creep in once or twice too.

The septet has a rich ensemble sound, all the more so when augmented by Yusuf Narcin on bass trombone and Rob Luft’s guitar. The three main horns, James Davison on punchy trumpet, Sam Rapley on tenor sax and Matthew Herd on alto, all make good use of their solo space and play off each other to good effect. Pianist Liam Dunachie fills out thoughtful detail on most of the arrangements and has a lengthy excursion on the longest, mood-shifting piece, Waves.

The whole set has an impressive polish and is delivered with great confidence. Any reservations? Well, some pieces have more than a touch of pastiche, and flirt with cliché, but the cute tunes mostly avoid that pitfall. Still, the overall effect is sometimes just a little too polished. For those old enough to know what I mean, I’ll say the title track calls to mind lots of Creed Taylor productions from the 1970s: that feeling of meeting someone just a little too immaculately dressed, all the crinkles ironed out of every garment.

So for me this second release still qualifies as immensely promising but ripe for further development. Live, with less sheen and maybe a bit more grit, I’m sure it’ll be a different matter, especially if you get to hear more of that hugely resonant bass playing.

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

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REVIEW: Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace - Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter

Jamie Cullum
Picture Courtesy of Edu Hawkins / @eduhawkins. All rights reserved

Nocturne Live (Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter)
(Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. 17 June 2917. Review by Alison Bentley)

It was one of the longest, hottest days of the year, and the sun was just beginning to sink over the lake in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. The three exceptional singers all seemed in their natural milieu on the huge open-air stage in the Great Court.


Corinne Bailey Rae
Picture Courtesy of Edu Hawkins / @eduhawkins. All rights reserved


Corinne Bailey Rae’s songs were never far from jazz, and her first Grammy came from her work on Herbie Hancock’s River album. Tonight, she played songs from her 2016 album The Heart Speaks in Whispers, as well as her first two albums. She and the band were just back from a US tour and sounded simultaneously tight and relaxed. Been to the Moon had a beguiling chord sequence, and Closer had a strong acid jazz feel. Both songs incorporated complex jazz chords seamlessly into the memorable melodies, the way Stevie Wonder’s songs do - there was always more to discover behind the immediately catchy hook lines.

In Breathless Rae strummed her acoustic guitar. There were no instrumental solos in the set, but some improvising behind the vocals, notably Fender Rhodes on this song. You could hear some of Billie Holiday’s crying tone in Rae’s voice, over the band’s excellent backing vocals. In Till It Happens to You, like Eva Cassidy, Rae had a way of singing powerfully, then pulling right back to a whisper - the effect was very emotive. In Green Aphrodisiac her voice was low over shakers and sliding bass, and a gentle hip hop groove. Her soulful vocal improvisations soared over the audience’s backing vocals. Bob Marley’s Is This Love was the only cover of the evening - her recording of this won a 2012 Grammy for best R&B performance. The voice was high and clear (hints of Erykah Badu) then deep and husky - the 6/8 groove brought a fragility to the song.

Rae played electric guitar on Paris Nights/New York Mornings, strumming jazz chords with a rock feel. Gospelly Hammond sounds swelled the ecstatic chorus. Stop Where You Are was a song about ‘ritualising the present moment’, with tranquil piano from Mark Walker, who swapped between keyboards and electric bass. She ended with two Grammy-nominated songs from her first album: the life-affirming Put Your Records On and the ballad Like a Star. Rae’s lyrics were always thought-provoking: in Like a Star she described love as: "Just like a song in my heart/ Just like oil on my hands," the melody lines repeating over the jazzily changing chords. It felt as though there was no barrier between voice and audience.

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Jamie Cullum won over the audience from the first moment with his sheer energy and enthusiasm. The Same Things struck up a New Orleans drum groove, Cullum beating a snare and cheering on the 12-piece be-suited horn section. It had been 14 years since Cullum last played at Blenheim Palace. "You all look just the same," he told the audience - perhaps some of the school head girls who'd been his record company’s publicity targets back then. The witty standard Comes Love saw Cullum leaping into the air, and landing on top of the grand piano - perhaps inspired by James Allsopp’s superb bari solo.

Cullum mixed into the set some arrangements of modern pop songs, such as Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music, given almost an e.s.t treatment, with a fine piano solo from Cullum. Later, he gave Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You a Robert Glasper twist, and Cullum’s version of Radiohead’s High and Dry built from delicate falsetto to a rock climax. The audience loved them and knew every word.

Other songs were more rooted in the blues. Cullum told us he kept 'coming back’ to Ray Charles, and sang Charles’ Don’t You Know with a shuffle beat and luscious horn stabs. Sinner Man drew on Nina Simone’s version, with excellent driving drums from Brad Webb. There was serious dancing to So They Say and Mixtape. He ended on an intimate What a Difference a Day Made (from his best-selling Twentysomething album) with a slight catch in his distinctive voice, gentle stride on piano and the whole audience singing along.


Gregory Porter at Blenheim
Picture Courtesy of Edu Hawkins / @eduhawkins. All rights reserved)

Gregory Porter opened with an acoustic version of Holding On, the Disclosure club hit, reminding us how his voice can put its stamp on many styles. Albert ‘Chip’ Crawford’s piano gave a McCoy Tyner feel to Porter’s song for his son, Don’t Lose Your Steam. Porter dedicated a very moving Take Me to the Alley to "the victims of the terrible fire", and the lyrics took on another layer of meaning: "Take me to the alley/ Take me to the afflicted ones..." The voice built powerfully with the piano glissandi, to a standing ovation - so early in the set! A celebratory On My Way to Harlem lifted the mood. Dreamy piano and stretched vocal phrasing pulled brilliantly against the driving, gospel-edged beat. The ballad Consequence of Love was gently funky, the vocals along with Tivon Pennicott’s sax recalling classic Hartman/Coltrane.

Along with the sweet ballads, Porter has a strong uncompromising side - who else has begun a song with "I do not agree"? Musical Genocide charted his musical beliefs: "Give me a blues song, tell the world what's wrong". He sounded very like Bill Withers, tucking Papa Was a Rolling Stone and Nature Boy into the centre of the song, singing with passion, the sax emphasising each note. There was sizzling hi-hat and stirring Hammond (Ondre J Pivec).

In Hey Laura Porter brought his gospel influences into his jazz balladry. Pennicott’s sax solo recalled Ernie Watts, with its throaty, soulful boppiness. The gospel feel continued. "There’s a spirit deep down inside longing to be free," he sang with fine bluesy Hammond, moving into the classic Wade in the Water. Then 1960 What?, about the shooting of Martin Luther King, had rimshots ringing out behind the authority and passion of Porter’s voice. In No Love Dying Porter’s intonation over the tricky intervals was perfect. You barely noticed his amazing vocal technique, looking beyond it to what he was communicating. 'He ended with Free from his Grammy-winning album Liquid Spirit, with some James Brown funkiness and a groovy bass solo (Jahmal Nichols, even incorporating Come Together), ending with a drum solo (Emanuel Harrold) whooped by the audience.

You felt these three singers’ songs were part of the soundtrack to the audience’s lives.

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