PHOTOS / REPORT: Barry Harris at the Watermill Dorking

Barry Harris
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

Prior to a four-night stint at the Pizza Express in Soho,and some teaching, Detroit piano legend Barry Harris played at the Watermill in Dorking on 27 June 2017. Report by Graham Thomas:

At 87, Barry Harris looks a bit frail now and walked with some difficulty to the piano at the Watermill, Dorking. But once seated, he played beautifully, concentrating on ballads and mid-tempo tunes, with a clear tone and rich harmonies. He played several tunes by pianists: Ruby My Dear (Monk), She (George Shearing), Lotus Blossom (Strayhorn), I'll Keep Loving You (Bud Powell). He resurrected an old Rudy Vallee tune called Deep Night which sounded great in his hands. He ended with a slow ballad which he called One Step at a Time, it was only after a while that it became clear it was really Giant Steps. Barry said 'All the young kids nowadays play that tune too fast!'.

Dave Green
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz

His trio consisted of Dave Green (bass) and Steve Brown (drums) who provided superb support and had to keep very alert indeed: he admitted afterwards he only played two of the tunes he'd agreed with them beforehand. Barry made some pointed comments on age and the aches and pains it brings:  'Come and see me again, but don't wait too long!'

Receiving the applause
L-R: Barry Harris, Dave Green, Steve Brown
Photo credit: Brian O'Connor / Images of Jazz


REVIEW: Youn Sun Nah on the opening night of the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival

Receiving a standing ovation: L-R: Jamie Saft
Youn Sun Nah , Lindsey Horner, Clifton Hyde, Dan Rieser
Youn Sun Nah 
(Monument National Ludger-Duvernay, Montreal. 28 June 2017. Opening night of  the Montreal Int Jazz Festival.  Review by Sebastian Scotney)

There are, of course, all kinds of bigger, glitzier events that could have been used to usher in the start of a monster jazz festival like Montreal's.  Indeed, many huge concerts are still to happen in the next ten days, but this opening concert of the 2017 festival at the Monument National set the right tone in many ways.

Youn Sun Nah was performing at the festival for the third time, and appeared sincerely emotional as she remembered the much smaller room where she had made her festival debut, and from which she has moved onwards and upwards to last night's concert at the 800-seater Salle Ludger-Duvernay, opened in 1893, a gem of a venue.

That progression to bigger halls mirrors her growth not just in renown, particularly in France, but also in her increasing heft and communicative power as a performer. In her spoken introductions she is always, endearingly, the ingénue, but her voice and presence are those of the seasoned, self-aware artist. It also reflects well on the programming team taking the longer view with artists. Last night's set had an astonishing variety to it, with a great band of versatile musicians delighting in visiting several stylistic domains. For Youn Sun Nah, the capacity to dig deeper into American repertoire like Lou Reed's Teach the Gifted Children   or - even more bold and sassy - Jockey Full Of Bourbon by Tom Waits (not on the album) does seem to have given her a promising new direction.

Her new album She Moves On (ACT), recorded at Sear Sound near Hell's Kitchen in New York, is such a balanced and integrated piece of work, it was fascinating to see how this band (with a different bassist and guitarist and minus the string quartet which appears on just one track) would adapt to the live context. One point where they really excelled was in the extended free introduction to Fairport Convention's A Sailor's Life. Sometimes, with an American band as fundamentally tight as this, complete freedom and the ditching of all pulses and bar-lines can seem like a self-indulgence. Here it was a very strong moment; it seemed to draw the audience in to the narrative.

Jamie Saft played piano and Rhodes from the start, but kept the delight of his Hammond playing in reserve until nearly the end of the set. It was great playing, and well worth waiting for. Dan Rieser was flawless, and bassist Lindsey Horner derived a surprisingly full and rich sound out of a travelling "peanut" bass. Mississippi- raised Clifton Hyde on guitar (replacing Marc Ribot on the album) is an astonishingly versatile player.

The audience absolutely loved the show, and showed it, which allowed Youn Sun Nah to tease with a cat-and-mouse game involving 'last' songs. The audience was up on its feet after the first 'last' song and them again after the next 'last' song'. It then was left to Clinton Hyde and Youn Sun Nah to give the audience their last, quiet goodnight, a gentle song by Paul (Stookey) of Peter Paul and Mary entitled No Other Name. It  was the perfect closer, and bodes well for the bolder and brasher things to come, as Montreal celebrates 375 years and (locals are telling me the upstart nation's birthday is FAR less important...) Canada celebrates 150 years of existence.

LINK : Youn Sun Nah Tour Dates


TRIBUTE: The Legacy of Geri Allen, by Liam Noble

Geri Allen
Photo from the artist's EPK

Geri Allen, who died on Tuesday, is remembered by fellow pianist and composer Liam Noble.

I started here.  Open On All Sides In The Middle. When you put a CD on, I don’t know if you all remember this, you have a few seconds to go and sit down and prepare yourself. 

I jumped before I even made it to the chair. 

This music is as good as its word; it starts “in the middle”, and chops and changes at will, one insanely catchy groove after another, layers of angular melody, constantly changing pace. It’s like jumping in the sea, there is no preparation, it is just there. Above all, it doesn’t wear its cleverness on its sleeve. Of course, it is clever, but to conceal that, to spare the listener the gory details of its construction, that takes a whole lot more cleverness than just cleverness. There is no more important quality in music.

Records like Twylight and Maroons fiz with this energy too. I struggle to find a word to describe it, and settle on African. To a guy who grew up in Bromley, Africa is a magical, far off continent, it’s almost mythical, beyond my grasp… but the music seems to be right here. It seems to consist not of notes but of living things, regrouping and reforming in constantly changing configurations.  

When I heard Geri Allen’s Twylight for the first time, I saw a big open field of possibilities, ways of using Western harmonies with African rhythmic systems. Her’s was a very generous influence; it didn’t say “look what I did”, it said “I found this, now you look, there’s more”.

Two other musicians that share that quality with her, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, formed a trio with her that made us all re-examine what a piano trio could do, what playing jazz repertoire really meant. Their version of Charlie Parker’s Segment is not on YouTube; go and buy it. Listen to the holes they find in that tune, the way she appears almost absent-minded in her improvising, the past and the future revolving in her silk-spun lines. She often plays straight out of the mainstream jazz tradition too, but the turn of phrase is unmistakable, the lightness of touch and the singing weight in her right hand.
I never met her, excepting a mumbled “thanks for the music” at Ronnie’s one night. She was very gracious, especially as a nearby couple, seemingly overtaken by the sensuousness and libidinous rhythms of the evening and unaware of the presence of a legend in their midst, seemed to be actually copulating on their table. Who could blame them?  

On another occasion, I demanded my money back at the Jazz Café after finding out she wasn’t on the gig as advertised. There was a dep, he was a good player, fast fingers and everything, but Geri Allen is Geri Allen. No one else does what she does.


REVIEW: Alya Al-Sultani’s Collective X — debut performance at Out-Spoken at the Roundhouse Studio Theatre

Generation X
Photo credit: Cleveland Watkiss

Alya Al-Sultani’s Collective X
(Out-Spoken — Roundhouse Sackler Studio Theatre. 27 June 2017. Review by AJ Dehany)

“This is the sexiest venue I’ve ever read at,” says poet Mona Arshi, performing at the Out-Spoken night of music and spoken word. As a professional theatre setup the Sackler Studio at the Roundhouse is sexy in a candlelit dinner sense, removed from the sweaty basements we usually cram into to hear people talk about their pain in rhyme.

Sex and pain, they’re the big ones. Mona Arshi’s poems Hummingbird and Taster, from her first book Small Hands, hum with ripe sexual jouissance. A new poem about her late brother documents the darker side of life: death. Four years ago she got the phone call we all dread, from the coroner while she was on a train.

Ben Norris, hosting the evening, reads from a long poem The Liquid U about his grandmother’s dementia and decline, remembering and even celebrating those black comic moments of joy and forgetting. It’s not a maudlin evening, in spite of the rain outside and world gone mad, but this edition of Out-Spoken as ever commits to a deep journey. Jolade Olusanya, taking a night out from film-making confesses he’s learned that as a writer “pain is my thing”, explaining that his is a philosophy encapsulated by Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet: “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

Pain is also real, though the pain of others is hard to imagine. If I cut my finger on a £20 note it’s definitely more painful than you getting knocked off Westminster Bridge by a Routemaster. But when the bandages come off, that’s when poets and musicians come in. To mangle Auden a bit, we must understand one another or die.

These themes converge in the darkest way in Banaz a song written for Banaz Mahmod, an Iraqi Kurdish woman who was raped, tortured and murdered by her own family in an ‘honour killing’ in 2007 in London. Alya Al-Sultani wrote this haunting piece, “to pay tribute to one of my sisters who is victim to a sexually moralising patriarchy… As an Iraqi woman who can raise my voice I’m going to raise my voice to her.”

It’s one of five hard-hitting, well-crafted, intently delivered songs by the singer, composer and producer for her new venture Collective X. Their debut at Out-Spoken is driven by the junkyard stomp of Mark Sanders on drums and Jay Darwish on bass, with skronky keyboard inventions from Clemens C. Poetzsch and Pat Thomas (of uncategorisable noise-groove machine Albert Newton) and the outside tenor sax of Robert Menzel.

Alya Al-Sultani conducts the group with authority, her rich voice uniquely steeped in British-Iraqi inflections and influences from soulful pop to hard reggae. Contributions from voice artist Cleveland Watkiss and poet Joshua Idehen add to the vital sense of a discussion happening. The songs range from 'Tinder shitfuckery’ and the fetishisation of the black body to “taking a moment” to find our love and understanding of each other.

Alya Al-Sultani wrote the material for the forthcoming album in the 24 hours following last year’s EU referendum, as a response to the rise of racism and the seeming loss of our collective reason. The album includes cover art of President Trump being bound and gagged by Alya herself. Hold that thought.

Out-Spoken  (website) returns on 19 July at the 100 Club.

Collective X’s album Love And Protest comes out in autumn.


CD REVIEW: Mark Springer - circa Rip Rig & Panic

Mark Springer - circa Rip Rig & Panic
(Exit – Review by Peter Slavid)

I have to start this review by saying that this CD was not at all what I was expecting when I started listening.

In July 1983 at the much-missed Bracknell Jazz Festival, the headline act on Friday was a strange band called Rip Rig and Panic (named after the Roland Kirk album). They appeared that night with trumpeter Don Cherry (as well as his daughter Neneh) and that went some way to giving them jazz respectability. In truth the band was something weird and wonderful from well outside the conventional jazz world, and definitely upset many jazz fans with their experimental sounds and influences from punk, classical, reggae and pop.

I have a vivid memory of that performance which remains on my “best ever” list, and I also remember being upset when I learned shortly afterwards that the band had broken up after only three years. At the core of the band was Sean Oliver (bass), Mark Springer (piano, sax, vocals), Gareth Sager (guitar, sax, keyboards, vocals) and Bruce Smith (drums, percussion) with Smith's partner Neneh Cherry, trumpeter Dave DeFries, saxophonist Flash and others joining from time to time.

This new album, described as their fourth, is made up of unreleased material from the RRAP-era with the emphasis on the era. It's been curated by Mark Springer and features his compositions from that period. Since 1983 Springer has continued composing in several different styles, including opera and string quartets.

Ignoring all that history, what can we make of this album. Is it just a bit of nostalgia or does it stand up to 2017 inspection? What becomes fairly clear, notwithstanding the title, is that this is really a Mark Springer piano album, with only occasional interventions from the rest of the band. The confusion is compounded because the Press Release describes it as being from Springer/RRAP, whereas the CD, slightly more accurately, says Springer featuring Sean Oliver, Flash and Nico.

To be honest there's not much of RRAP here. There's no hint of the old punk mentality and no trace at all of the afro-beat tunes. There are just a couple of tracks with some free improv and one strange track from Velvet Underground singer Nico (is there any other type?). As a pianist Springer is heavily influenced by classical music, and can descend into cinematic, symphonic romantic ballads too such as Sakura. On Threevolution he does let rip with some real improvisation. These piano interludes were always a part of the RR&P programme, but they were interjections in a very different context.

So I think that fans of RRAP will be disappointed with this CD, which should really be called “Mark Springer circa 1983”. Fans of Springer's more recent compositions will probably enjoy hearing the links back to his origins.

The ethos of RRAP as described back in 1983 was “all about enjoying yourself and not taking the whole thing too damn seriously” this CD seems to take the opposite approach with some tracks included for almost academic reasons. Springer's sleeve notes are extensive with a lot of detail about his composing and recording process and clearly carry strong emotional links back to that era. Unfortunately there are too few musical links for my taste.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at


NEWS: RIP Geri Allen (1957-2017)

Geri Allen
Photo from the artist's website

The death of pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen at the age of 60, in Philadelphia, was announced last night. She had been suffering from cancer.

Writing on the WBGO public radio website last night, David Adler announced: "Geri Allen, a widely influential jazz pianist, composer and educator who defied classification while steadfastly affirming her roots in the hard-bop tradition of her native Detroit, died on Tuesday in Philadelphia. She was 60, and lived for the last four years in Pittsburgh."

In the New York Times, Giovanni Russonello wrote: "Perhaps more than any other pianist, Ms. Allen’s style — harmonically refracted and rhythmically complex, but laden with inertia — formed a bridge between jazz’s halcyon midcentury period and its stylistically diffuse present. She accomplished this by holding some things constant: a farsighted approach to the piano, which she used to both guide and goad her bandmates; an ability to fit into a range of scenarios without warping her own sound; and a belief that jazz ought to maintain contact with its kindred art forms across the African-American tradition."

Allen, born in Pontiac, Michigan, educated in Detroit, Washington DC and Pittsburgh, moved to New York, studied with Kenny Barron, and in the mid-1980s became a charter member of M-Base movement. Her debut album was 1984's The Printmakers.

She worked with Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, and many others, and became the first woman, and youngest person, to win the Danish Jazzpar Prize.
Quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Oliver Ragsdale Jr., president of the Carr Center in Detroit, described Allen, the centre's first artistic director, as “warm, intellectual, someone you could talk to and smile with".
“A way of thinking about Geri is as a renaissance woman... She spanned generations with her music. She was a role model to many.”

In April 2017 she appeared in an all-star trio in Boston with Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington, and was due to appear in Europe this summer as part of The McCoy Tyner Project. She was Director of the Jazz Studies Deparment at the University of Pittsburgh.

A tribute to Geri Allen from fellow pianist Liam Noble is currently in preparation and will appear on LondonJazz News in due course.

LINK: New York Times announcement

The Legacy of Geri Allen by Liam Noble


THEATRE REVIEW: Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill with Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday
Photo credit : Marc Brenner
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Wyndham's Theatre. Preview on 24 June 2017. Theatre Review by Tamsin Collison)

Early in 1959, a drunk and incoherent Billie Holiday performed a handful of songs to an audience of seven patrons in a shabby Philadelphia bar, slugging booze from a 'water' glass throughout her set, before staggering off into the night. Four months later she was dead, destroyed by hard living, drink and drug abuse. She was 44 years old.

Laine Robertson's smash-hit Broadway show Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill makes this shambolic gig the hook for exploring one of the truly great jazz tragedies. Rather than presenting a linear A-Z biography, his script meanders through Holiday's addled mind, each number she sings triggering a particular memory, gag or grievance. The result is a stark portrait of a disintegrating life.

Audra McDonald's tour de force Broadway performance won her a record-breaking 6th Tony Award and she absolutely deserves every plaudit going for so completely inhabiting this legendary character. From the moment she opens her mouth and that unmistakable voice winds out, Lady Day is in the house. McDonald’s mercurial Holiday – by turns engaging, sassy, angry, witty, vicious and terrifying - becomes increasingly incapable as the evening wears on and the 'water' glass empties repeatedly. The decline is unbearable to watch, but impossible to look away from.

McDonald is supported by a cracking band - Sheldon Becton (MD/piano), Frankie Tontoh (drums) and Neville Malcolm (bass). Not only do they play up a storm, but they also convey the fear and embarrassment of being trapped onstage with an imploding star. Becton, in particular, plays Holiday’s accompanist Jimmy with a painful combination of respect, concern and increasing panic.

The costume, hair and makeup designers place Lady Day before our eyes – white gardenias and all – while Christopher Oram’s set cleverly transforms a plush West End auditorium into a dilapidated jazz club, creating the atmosphere of small-time failure there must have been at that original car-crash of a gig.

And then there is the music. Not only do McDonald and the band perform Holiday’s material brilliantly, but the songs are so cleverly worked into the script that many carry resonances beyond their surface meanings. (Crazy He Calls Me, God Bless the Child, Don’t Explain etc). By the time her devastating signature number Strange Fruit stops the show, the audience is applauding McDonald, Holiday and Abel Meerpol’s brutal lyric in equal measure.

Whether you’re a lover of theatre, or a jazz fan, or both, I wholeheartedly recommend catching this award-winnning show. What’s more, it comes in at a civilised 75’00” (no interval) so you will even have time to find a bar in which to sit and recover afterwards. Then again, it might just put you off drink for life...

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill continues at Wyndham's Theatre until 2 September



NEWS: Jazz winners and losers in Arts Council National Portfolio for 2018-22

On the day that Arts Council England announces its National Portfolio of organisations for regular funding over the next four years, Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon picks through the spreadsheet so you don't have to.

There are a couple of clear winners in the announcement of National Portfolio organisations favoured by government funds for the next four years, and no obvious losers, while for most of the jazz world in England and Wales, things are set to carry on pretty much as before.

Out front with a 66% hike in its yearly grant is Manchester Jazz Festival. For 2018-22 it will receive £150.5k pa. Today's press release from the festival includes this response: "The funding uplift will help to ensure that mjf’s live music offer is enjoyed by all and will support mjf with its continued focus on identifying new talent and finding new audiences through collaborations, digital media, and presenting music in fresh and unexpected ways."

Coming in second with a 37% increase is Jazz re:freshed - it will receive £130.7k pa.

The National Youth Jazz Collective looks, at first glance, to be at the back of the field with a 48% drop in yearly funding, down to £64.4k, but this is explained as a "technical reduction" as there is a realignment of how much of the organisation's government support comes from the Arts Council pot and how much from a Department of Education grant. The assumption seems to be there is no overall change.

All the other specific jazz and jazz-related organisations which have been part of ACE's National Portfolio scheme will receive unchanged grants in cash terms for 2018-22.

They are as follows:

Brownswood Music Ltd/ Gilles Peterson - £89k pa.
Cheltenham Festivals (NB, this is for four festivals, one of which is jazz) - £213.5k pa.
East Midlands Jazz - £77.4k pa.
Jazz North - £190k pa.
J-Night - £68.7k pa.
National Youth Jazz Orchestra - £125k pa.
OTO Projects - £74.9k pa.
Performances Birmingham Ltd (Jazzlines) - £80.4k pa.
Serious Events Ltd - £452k pa.
Tomorrow’s Warriors Ltd - £208.7k pa.

Elsewhere, with some jazz connections, there are increases or new additions to the Portfolio, as follows:

Capsule Events Ltd - producers of the Supersonic Festival and Home Of Metal - is a new portfolio organisation with 175k per year.

Inner City Music Ltd (Band On The Wall) has received a 90% increase to £180k per year.

NTS Live the radio station which was founded in 2011, and has worked with Sun Ra Arkestra  and Christian Scott is a new portfolio organisation with £69.2k pa.

Octopus Collective Ltd is up 75% to £70k pa.

Small Green Shoots is up 41% to £120k pa.

Most of the large arts centres and theatres which programme some jazz received unchanged funding grants for the next four years or very slight reductions.

And, finally, the eye-watering increase award goes to Manchester International Festival. Their funding leaps up by 1123% to over £9 million pa.

LINK: The full ACE National Portfolio 2018-22


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

Kalle Kalima at Jazzdor Berlin 2017 

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

Our round-up of Jazzdor Festival in Berlin is in two parts. Part One dealt with a new multinational supergroup confiuration and six mainly French configurations (LINK). This part 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. Respectively: a Finn from Berlin teaching in Switzerland; a Parisian from Paris teaching in Denmark; a Lyonnais from Paris whose groups function as launchpads for strong upcoming talent. a Serb born in Bosnia, grown up in Germany and teaching in Switzerland. 

Kalle Kalima (b. 1973)

Guitarist Kalle Kalima’s world is a world full of inimitable dry, shrewd twists with a humorous knack making use of a broad range of the electric guitar. He seems to have inexhaustible resources of ideas at his disposal to transform stuff which are known into things which are both pleasant and strange. (review of his recent Western&Country album High Noon ).

Kalima is not so much operating in macro perspective triggering those wide panoramic views like his colleague Bill Frisell. It is the sum of his twists and turns on micro level that make his mildly ‘beefhearted’ music charming and provocative. He has been part of the Berlin scene for quite a while and acting in eleven groups he is one of the most prominent guitar voices inn Germany at the moment.

Kalima, fond of classic cinema, has made a couple of albums inspired by movies of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Luis Bunuel and Finn noire like Kaurismäki, Niskanen and the inspector Palmu films of the 60s. At the core of these films is a characteristic melange of sad and funny sentiments. It is a refreshing kind of inventive anachronism at work here nourished by Kalima’s Finnish heritage and childhood memories intertwined with deeper Berlin moods and sentiments. “This town was also the reason how this Fenno-German group came together in the first place. There is a certain roughness in Berlin that goes along with the dark Finnish pictures”, as Kalima puts it himself (more over the way of inspiration you can find here  ). The Klima Kalima trio with the two famous Berlin Olivers, bassist Oliver Potratz and drummer Oliver Steidle, started more than 12 years ago and up to now made four albums: Helsinki on my mind, Chasing Yellow, Lorn and the already mentioned album Finn Noir.

Klima Kalima teamed up with French trombonist Yves Robert. Yves Robert is the strongest wild card of Philippe Ochem, the inventor and artistic director of the Jazzdor concept. Robert is a joker that literally always works when you bring him in at the right places. In the case of Finn Noir it revealed as a great match. Robert’s strong and shiny contribution was not only filling up or filling in. It counterbalanced and intensified the Klima Kalima made sound. The guitar-trombone combination offers a lot of strong possibilities. Within this special Klima Kalima world it revealed as a great combination carrying the music to a higher level.

Marc Ducret

Marc Ducret (b. 1957)

Marc Ducret is an uncompromising sharp-edged guitarist of clear musical visions. His music is a sophisticated scattering of a diversity of musical elements radically stripped to its very essences. His guitar functions amongst others as flamethrower, shredder and magnetiser. Piloted from a higher level/plan a vigorous force is emanating from it. With its high dynamics it causes (controlled) chain reactions providing cohesion, coherence and unity. Contraction and expansion, scant and rich, restricted and unrestricted, fast forward and lingering, are the poles between which the music unfolds and fuses. One of the strongest bases of his music is Ducret’s trio with eminent bassist Bruno Chevillon and magnificent drummer Eric Echampard. Métatonal is an expansion of this guitar trio by an equal number of strong horn players namely trumpeter Fabrice Martinez (Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic), Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser and stunningly energetic saxophonist Christophe Monniot. The debut album of Ducret’s guitar trio + 3 dates already back to two years ago but the music is of high urgency and right in time now.

Ducret appeared to be in bright mood and the group in top condition. He connected to his musician and the audience in a highly decisive, outgoing and inviting way that did not miss its effect on the music. Clear highpoints of the festival’s highlight were the pieces “Inflammable” and 64. In 1964 Bob Dylan’s album The Times They Are A-Changin was released. Ducret’s “64” included a 53 years after Date echo of it and of “Wigwam”, Bob Dylan’s only instrumental piece dating from 1970 (Ducret was seven respectively 13 years old then).

Whereas the music was already recorded live in 2014 the Berlin concert was a fully matured, sharp edged version where everything fell into place and the group outgrew itself. It revealed as a killer band, a sledgehammer thing that made the blood run faster, aroused all spirits and left deep memory traces. It was clearly something you experience every once in a while.

Louis Sclavis
Photo Credit © Mathieu Schoenahl

Louis Sclavis (1953)

Louis Sclavis has become a central towering figure of jazz in France. He has achieved this stable position by a clear but constantly changing focus/theme of his music and consequently by an adequate (re)combination of musicians for the realization and development of each focus/theme. More than other musicians he went for the themes and as a consequence there has been a constant and quick change of personnel of his line-ups through the years. By working with varying combinations of differing temperaments, ages and instruments he secured the clear (rhapsodic) character and the openness of his music ( review  ). It also helped to escape its fossilization and to prevent losing ground and getting lost in abstraction. Sclavis is a musician that draws deep furrows and digs deep thereby shaping the music in real time. He is far enough away from beaten tracks and close enough to the inculcating. Distilled traces of theme related music styles always resonate in the music in a clear but not superficial or obvious way.

Drawnote by Henning Bolte

His groups seem to function as a kind of geyser (or cadre factory) for strong upcoming French talent. Besides the two long time companions violinist Dominique Pifarély and pianist Benjamin Moussay the Loin dans les terres quintet comprises two profiled and worthy musicians of the younger generation, drummer Christophe Lavergne and bassist Sarah Murcia. Drawing deep furrows takes time and for listeners the group sometimes might have escaped in the depth of the field. Happily they re-appeared more forceful leading the music into still richer emanations and stronger reach.

Quatuor IXI & Dejan Terzix Melanoia
Photo Credit © Mathieu Schoenahl

Dejan Terzic (1970)

The world of German drummer Dejan Terzic is a world of a special use of Balkan rhythms, characterized by overlapping rhythmic cycles rotating around each other. The music is passing through contrasting or more continuously shifting modes and states of motion. There are straightforward propelling parts/pieces but also lingering ones, engorging parts/pieces as well as slowly crumbling ones. It is a varied and layered world of perpetual motion given shape by Terzic’s Melanoia group (comprising pianist Achim Kaufman, guitarist Ronny Graupe and saxophonist Hayden Chisholm) and his Axiom group - see the LJN review of his last year appearance at Jazzdor with his Axiom quartet comprising reedman Chris Speed, pianist Bojan Z and bassist Matt Penman (reviewed) , documented also on the group’s recent CamJazz album Prometheus.

A daring next step is the inclusion of a string section fully engaging in that world and thus able to handle the complex time signatures and to deeply debouch into the groove. Teaming up with French string quartet Quatuor IXI comprising first class jazz musicians Théo Ceccaldi, Régis Huby, Guillaume Roy and Ashushi Sakaï was an apt and obvious choice then. It is a good example of the expansive continuity of the collaborations initiated by the festival. It is a collaboration also documented on a just released excellent album Red on noted Hungarian BMC label.

It’s a fascinating world of instruments and musicians with a beautiful record out. In the concert concluding the festival much of it came together. There were bright and colourful moments and decent contrast and interlocking of parts. The strings were operating on the cutting edge and Berlin saxophonist Christian Weidner, last minute subbing for Hayden Chisholm, brought in a full value new voice to it. The subtleties and the sophistication of the transitions were sometimes lacking a bit. It revealed that this kind of large ensemble work is a slowly growing organism also for these musicians.

The atmosphere during Marc Ducret's performance
Photo credit: Patrick Lambin


The Jazzdor program reveals how jazz music is created and performed in and through a network of connections between (groups of) musicians. It resembles very much the functioning of nerve systems with its knots, synapses connections and strengthening firing activity. Jazzdor is doing more than just setting up some nice momentary transnational connection between musicians. Mostly it goes with a wider perspective: in branching steps and by stimulating the firing activity analogous to the evolvement and strengthening of connections in nerve systems. This way nerve system can also interconnect (and feed into each other). Good choices – based on familiarity with and deeper insight in networks - are essential to achieve that. Jazzdor has contributed to this – in coordination with other cultural activities - to a considerable extent. In making it the core of a festival Jazzdor is still giving direction to the field as a well working model. Interest and engagement have to be mutual, substantial and continuous in order to really set something in motion.

(*) DrawNotes are made synchronous with the performance as a mnemonic tool


CD REVIEW: Nautilus – Nautiloid Quest

Nautilus – Nautiloid Quest
(Agogo Records AR091 – LP/CD/digital review by Mark McKergow)

Japanese drum-led piano trio Nautilus make their overseas debut with this engaging compilation of their beats first, hook second, solo third brand of jazz – a kind of modern ‘rare groove’, very easy to enjoy and annoyingly hummable.

Formed in 2014 by drummer Toshiyuki Sasaki, Nautilus take their name (and a good deal of inspiration) from the Bob Janes track of the same name, originally released on CTI Records in 1974. A filler track on the album One, this sparse grooving ever-changing recording was rediscovered decades later by hip-hop and sampling acts, and the original Nautilus has now been sampled nearly 300 times. Interestingly, there is no one moment from the track that people use – sections from across the track have been used by different artists, including A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC and Soul II Soul.

The group Nautilus keep a simple trio format based on keyboard (often Rhodes piano), bass and drums, augmented from time to time with guest vocalists. The collection features 12 numbers compiled from their first two Japan-released CDs plus 45s and B-sides, and shows off the group’s sound and talent to advantage. The band begin by emphasising their jazzy credentials with an instrumental cover of the Roy Ayers classic We Live In Brooklyn Baby, the juicy bass guitar of Shigeki Umezawa sharing lead duties. The band throw in some interesting tempo jumps, speeding up and slowing down towards the end in what sounds like a fully played (rather than edited) performance.
Several of the trio numbers are based on ear-worm hook lines which drill their way into your brain, persisting as the chords and changes progress below. I.G.V is one such tune, with effective keyboard soloing from classically-trained Daisuke Takeuchi who also provides synth sweeps and added textures. The Theme of Nautilus dances along with plenty of good tension-and-release moments, tight grooves making way for more relaxed and expansive sections which certainly keeps the interest going. Atlantis is all shimmery Rhodes over a jumping beat from Sasaki, building into more and more sweeping drum-led chorus phrases.

Three of the tracks feature guest female vocalists, and this adds to the variety. Mizuki Kamata adds a close up breathy exposed vocal to Tom’s Diner, a bit ‘Astrid Gilberto meets the big beat’. Kei Owada adds indie insouciance to Lady Day and John Coltrane, riding Sasaki’s rhythmic shifts effectively, while Sara Yoshida heads for power ballad territory on Good Enough. All three of these songs have great potential.

Because it’s the 21st century, all of this music can be previewed on the Agogo Records website – check it out. And yes, the band do offer their take on Bob Janes’ original Nautilus composition too. I’d love to see them over in Europe for some shows. Domo arigato, Nautilus!

LINK : The album on Agogo Records


REVIEW: Talinka CD launch at Cafe Posk

Tali Atzmon

Talinka CD launch
(Cafe Posk, 24 June 2017. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Having reviewed Talinka’s debut album earlier this month (LINK), I was keen to see how their beautifully orchestrated recording would translate into a live performance. In the warm friendly setting of Jazz Cafe Posk, the quartet, led by vocalist Tali Atzmon, convened to produce an evening of exquisite music, making a strong case for combining elements as diverse as seventeenth century baroque and South American tango into the jazz idiom. The start seemed tentative – perhaps because the PA was a little off in the first couple of numbers – but they soon gelled, resulting in affecting renditions of their album material such as Tali Atzmon’s mesmerising song Losing Vision and Invitation, a Polish standard by Bronisław Kaper, as well as a lovely Brazilian number - not included on the album.

The second set was even more assured, opening with bassist Yaron Stavi and early music specialist Jenny Bliss Bennett playing one of the flamboyant Mystery Sonatas for violin by Biber. A couple of tunes later, guest pianist Frank Harrison and Gilad Atzmon on soprano saxophone also did a duo turn, playing a very free interpretation of the haunting tango Oblivion by Astor Piazzola.

It has to be said that on this occasion, however amazing Gilad’s musicality (he also played bass clarinet, guitar and accordion), it was Bliss Bennett who stole the show, with her pitch-perfect, superb projection whether on viola da gamba, violin or flute. Tali Atzmon’s vocal range and unaffected grace was equally engaging, and she demonstrated an incredible emotional range too, from deep melancholia on In My Solitude and You Don’t Know What Love Is, to flirtatious cheekiness on Whatever Lola Wants. The set ended with the Kurt Weill-esque Every Now and Then, to rapturous applause. To judge by the reaction, this unusual band, with its fearless use of light and shade, looks set to subtly expand the horizons of the jazz world.


REVIEW: Kraftwerk 3D at the Royal Albert Hall

Kraftwerk at the Royal Albert Hall
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Kraftwerk 3D
(Royal Albert Hall, 23 June 2017. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

It’s easy to forget that Kraftwerk have been doing their thing since 1970, when Ralf Hutter, the group’s only remaining original member, and Florian Schneider founded their Kling Klang studio in the industrial heartland of Düsseldorf. They’d met a couple of years earlier while studying classical music and taking improvisation courses at the Düsseldorf Conservatory, and playing in a precursor of Kraftwerk with drummer Paul Lovens, who was to become one of the most respected drummers in jazz improvisation. Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz have been with Kraftwerk for over 25 years and in 2012 Falk Grieffenhagen became their fourth on-stage performer with responsibility for their live video side.

From very early on Hutter and colleagues pioneered the use of both off-the-shelf electronics with customisations, drafting in mathematicians/programmers and engineers to help achieve their vision, and over the years this has increased in technical complexity, as they steered themselves away from outwardly conventional instrumentation.

Since 2009 Kraftwerk have employed 3D projection technology for the films which have become an integral element of their live performances, including this, the final night of their 2017 UK tour at the Royal Albert Hall. All audience members were given a package containing special 3D glasses, designed to synch the left and right eye with the the two images projected on to the screen behind the performers to create the 3D illusion.

Whether this actually counts as a totally 'immersive experience’, as described in the build up, is a moot point, given that we were listening while watching a film on a 2D screen; nonetheless, in conjunction with the music, the film added an extra dimension to an absorbing two-hour journey through many of their best-known compositions. Even from where I was situated, in the upper gallery of the Albert Hall, the performance came across with a high degree of immediacy.

The mainstays of their repertoire were taken from their eight key albums, all released between 1970 and 1981, with additional tracks from material released at later dates.

Onstage the four performers, kitted out in signature grid-patterned black body suits, were lined up in in a row behind their legendary workstations, on which are situated a plethora of controls and small screens which link to the visual display behind them, and to each other. What can be difficult to grasp is that the pioneering ‘automated’ sound that Kraftwerk have perfected is very much a hands-on, live performance - in some ways as complex and demanding as that of a string quartet in terms of co-ordination, rapport and virtuosity, including spells of subtle micro-improvisation.

Kraftwerk at the Royal Albert Hall
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved

Whilst it was the strength of the melodies and their on-stage interpretation that carried the day, the quirkily ambitious visuals, in a range of computer styles added distinctly to the experience.

Computer World, with variant tracks from The Mix and The Catalogue, and Man Machine were the most visited sources with dynamic graphics for each selected number. Visual clues abounded and elicited instant audience recognition. Computer-style graphics, often with a knowingly retro and humorous feel, played a dominant visual role, from the dazzling, fluid wall of numerals opening the show to the cheesy, cut-out spaceship landing at the Albert Hall to close Spacelab! A full, retro-style animation of Autobahn, relating to the original album cover had an engaging, tongue-in-cheek quality to it, while Tour de France combined fascinating vintage cycling film with elegantly grafted blocks of colour that flowed with its visual twists and turns.

And looking ahead - maybe when they hit their 50th anniversary in 2020 it will be a 360 degree surround sound and visual experience! There’s a challenge!


REVIEW: Let It Be Told: Julian Argüelles & Birmingham Conservatoire students at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham

Julian Argüelles with the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra
Photo credit: Brian Homer

Julian Argüelles and Birmingham Conservatoire students: Let It Be Told
(CBSO Centre, Birmingham,  22 June 2017. Review and pictures by Brian Homer)

First a disclaimer – I love the South African jazz that Julian Argüelles featured on his award-winning CD Let It Be Told (review) so this piece is not dispassionate! As well as being based on the wonderful music of Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Abdullah Ibrahim, Johnny Dyani and others, Let It Be Told features the very lovely arrangements that Julian did for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

I missed out on hearing Let It Be Told at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival through illness (reviewed here), so I was not going to let this opportunity escape. That said, Julian’s music is about more than just the South African connection so before we got to the Let It Be Told music, the first set was made up of two different smaller bands of Julian with conservatoire students playing his tunes.

Although it was Birmingham Conservatoire's jazz course leavers’ concert, the students also included first, second and third years, and indeed one student - trombonist Sam Shelton - who has yet to start his studies at the Conservatoire. Catch'em young, as they say in football...

The first ensemble, a quintet, played Peace For D (with hints of South African influence), Nitty Gritty and Phaedrus, while the septet that followed played Asturias, A Lifelong Moment and Iron Pyrites. Asturias is a reference to Julian being half-Spanish, Lifelong... a personal commission and Iron Pyrites is based on Fools Gold by The Stone Roses with every last drop of their tune being ironically deleted.

The playing throughout the first set was uniformly good and it was impressive the way that Julian led, supported and interacted with the students with a light but firm touch. His soloing was perfectly judged throughout.

Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra
Photo credit: Brian Homer

And so to the South African musical gold , this time with the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra. All but Mandisa by Chris McGregor were on the Let It Be Told record. And the students did the music proud One distinguished fellow audience member said he thought the band sounded as good as the fully professional Frankfurt band had done at Cheltenham, which is quite remarkable, considering that the CBSO Centre is a more intimate venue. To my ears this was a superb set doing full justice to its South African roots.

I have vivid memories of seeing the first version of the Brotherhood of Breath in London in the late 1960s and early '70s and Arguelles and the BCJO kicked off with a great version of Mra Khali by Dudu Pukwana which featured brilliantly on the first BoB record in 1971.

Given the very high standard of the playing from Julian and all the students it seems a bit churlish to pick out particular players – a bit like football (again) this was a true team performance. But across the pieces Christos Stylianedes and Frank Heather (trumpets), Charlie Bates (piano) Sam Wright (reeds), Nick Brown (tenor), Josh Tagg (trombone), Sam Ingvorsen (bass), Dan Kemshell (guitar) and Xhosa Cole (baritone sax) all soloed strongly – Xhosa took on the exposing bass clarinet solo part in the introduction to Abdullah Ibrahim’s The Wedding very impressively. And in the South African set the double drum combination of Gwilym Jones and Charlie Johnson really worked and gave a kicking underpinning to the set.

The other tracks off Let It Be Told were Johnny Dyani’s Mama Marimba, Dudu’s Diamond Express, McGregor’s Amasi and the traditional Amabutho (little played for its difficulty, according to Julian) which was beautifully played by an octet drawn from the big band. They finished with a very lively version of Come Again by Dudu to cap off a truly engaging gig. And how great it is to see young UK players being exposed to the SA jazz connection.

Julian Lloyd-Webber presenting an Honorary Fellowship toJulian Argüelles
Photo credit: Brian Homer 
The whole evening, as well as featuring leaving students, was a kind of portrait of Julian’s highly successful career in jazz, from his beginnings in Staffordshire and the West Midlands to his current professorship in Graz, Austria and his high standing in the jazz world, so it was fitting that it was preceded by the awarding of an Honorary Fellowship of Birmingham Conservatoire to recognise his career and his support of the Conservatoire. The Fellowship was bestowed by Birmingham Conservatoire Principal, Julian Lloyd-Webber.

Full Line-Ups:

Quintet: Julian Argüelles - saxophone, Christos Stylianedes - trumpet, Charlie Bates - piano, James Owston - bass, Noah Stone - drums.

Septet: Julian Argüelles - saxophone, Frank Heather - trumpet, Sam Wright - reeds, Josh Tagg - trombone, Tom Harris - piano, Aram Bahmaie - bass, Jonathan Silk - drums.

Big band: Julian Argüelles - saxophone, Gareth Howell, Christos Stylianedes, Alex Stride, Frank Heather - trumpets, Josh Tagg, Toby Carr, Sam Shelton - trombones, Ashley Naylor - bass trombone, Josh Schofield, Sam Wright - alto saxes, Nick Brown, Dan Spirrett - tenor saxes, Xhosa Cole - baritone saxophone, bass clarinet,  Dan Kemshell guitar, Charlie Bates - piano, Sam Ingvorsen - bass, Charlie Johnson, Gwilym Jones - drums.


FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: 2017 Ipswich Jazz Festival

Vimala Rowe at St Peter’s
Photo copyright John Watson/

Ipswich Jazz Festival
(Various venues in Ipswich, Suffolk. 23-25 June 2017. Review and pictures by John Watson)

“Let’s see you all dancing! I can see you wiggling in your chairs!” Trumpeter Claude Deppa, born in South Africa and long resident in the UK, succeeded in his plea. Most of the audience at the opening concert of the weekend’s Ipswich Jazz Festival duly got up and bopped to the Township beat of Deppa with saxophonist Clare Hirst’s band in the town’s Manor Ballroom.

What a joyful, vibrant opening show - music with a wild edge from Deppa, Hirst, pianist Andrea Vicari, bass guitarist Dorian Lockett and drummer Brian Abrahams. And the encore, with Abrahams singing the South African Homecoming theme (Ti-du-me-la) most strongly evoked the Township spirit, with all the audience joining in the chorus.

Clare Hirst and Claude Deppa at the Manor Ballroom, Ipswich
Photo copyright John Watson/

Much splendid music followed throughout the weekend, with singer Vimala Rowe in such magnificent form that many in the audience were heard asking: “Why have I not heard her before - where on earth has she been?” (The answer is: Thailand, for nine years).

Rowe absolutely wowed the audience at the arts centre St Peter’s By The Waterfront in a concert with guitarist John Etheridge, saxophonist Art Themen and the Chris Ingham Trio.

The structure of the show - mixing trio numbers, duets, quartets and solo pieces - was somewhat episodic, with performers wandering on and off stage throughout the two sets. I would liked to have heard more from all the players together, but there were many highlights: Themen’s passionate expressiveness and surprising harmonic twists, Etheridge’s sensitive solo feature in Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, and the Ingham trio’s snappy performances of Dudley Moore compositions, driven impressively by bassist Arnie Somogyi and drummer George Double.

Art Themen at St Peter’s
Photo copyright John Watson/

But Rowe’s duets with Etheridge, featuring songs from their acclaimed new album, and her magnificently swinging performances of standards with the whole ensemble, were completely captivating. This was music from the heart, delivered with immaculate technique.

As well as the shows by established stars, the Ipswich festival programme also featured some fine regional bands in pub gigs: saxophonist Frank Weatherley, playing his own atmospheric and engagingly mysterious compositions with bassist Jose Canha and drummer Elmer van der Hoek at the Spread Eagle; lively latin band Cinqenta led by trumpeter Ian Buzer at Isaacs on the Quay; and the Parker-Virley Quartet in standard songs at Briarbank Brewery.

This second festival also had strong educational content: Deppa and the Hirst band led a workshop for Suffolk Music Education Hub (whose South Suffolk Youth Jazz Ensemble played support at the Etheridge-Rowe-Themen show), and there were workshops on drumming, bass playing, music photography, Lindy Hop dancing, and ensemble playing.

The festival - co-ordinated by Neil Bateman with a team of volunteers - wrapped up on Sunday with a show at the New Wolsey Theatre, featuring the solid swing of the Back To Basie big band, led by trumpeter Paul Lacey and featuring singer Jacqui Hicks. Some outstanding soloists made it a very special gig: among them saxophonist Alex Garnett, trombonist Ian Bateman and powerhouse drummer Stephen Ruston.

John Watson led the music photography workshop at the festival.

LINK: Ipswich Jazz Festival


PREVIEW: The Royal Bopsters at Pizza Express Jazz Club (3 July 2017)

The Royal Bopsters
Official publicity picture

The queens and kings of jazz vocal harmony are coming to town. Peter Bacon previews.

Torchbearers for the honourable art of jazz vocalese, The Royal Bopsters - Amy London, Holli Ross, Pete McGuiness and Dylan Pramuk - begin a brief European tour with a night at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London, next Monday, 3 July, before they fly on to Austria.

The quartet is multi-generational and comprisess some of the finest singers working in New York, with CVs that also include academic posts, lyric-writing and producing of Grammy-nominee stature. Their 2016 album, The Royal Bopsters Project, featured the group with guests Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, Mark Murphy, Bob Dorough and Sheila Jordan, and was very well received by the critics. (REVIEW)

Allen Morrison, writing in Downbeat, said: "Extraordinary... The Royal Bopsters Project vividly makes the case for a revival of the art of vocalese."

For their London date they are accompanied by Nikki Iles on piano, Mark Hodgson and bass and Rod Youngs on drums.


PODCAST INTERVIEW: Dwight Trible (new album Inspirations )

Dwight Trible
Photo credit: Ron Groeper

Singer DWIGHT TRIBLE, born in Cincinnati but resident in Los Angeles, has been working below the radar for years, during which time he has sung with Oscar Brown Jr., Pharoah Sanders (in whose quartet he is the featured singer), Charles Lloyd, Kamasi Washington and many others. Trible’s approach to jazz is rooted in both the spiritual and the psychedelic; in his improvisations and reinterpretations of the music of John Coltrane, he is constantly aiming for transcendence. And with his new album Inspirations gaining him new admirers, he has found another fruitful collaborator in the shape of Matthew Halsall. Peter Jones interviewed Dwight Trible following his debut at Ronnie Scott’s in May. Audio production by Harry Jones


Opening music extract: Footprints

0 : 40 How familiar is Dwight Trible with Paul Robeson ?

1: 33 Music extract : Deep River

2: 20 The background to What the World Needs Now is Love

3: 07 Music extract: What the World Needs Now Is Love

5: 20 The link-up with Matthew Halsall and how it happened

And the recording sessions. The chemistry? A shared melodic sense

9: 03 Music extract : Feeling Good

LINK: Album Review: Inspirations


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


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, 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