NEWS: Misha Mullov-Abbado announced as BBC New Generation Artist 2017-2019

Misha Mullov-Abbado at the Sines Festival
Photo credit FMM Sines / from artist website


Bassist MISHA MULLOV-ABBADO has been announced today as a member of the next cohort of BBC New Generation artists. The BBC's announcement contains the names of the other new members and full biographies.

Misha Mullov-Abbado becomes the sixth jazz musician in this role, the previous participants were:

Gwilym Simcock 2006- 2008
Tom Arthurs 2008- 2010
Shabaka Hutchings 2010-12
Trish Clowes 2012-14
Laura Jurd 2015-2017

LINKS: Full list of BBC NGAs
Misha Mullov-Abbado artist page at Edition Records
Artist website

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REVIEW: Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet plays Alice Coltrane at the Vortex

Tony Kofi, Alina Bzhezhinska and Larry Bartley
Photo credit: Mustafa Gold


Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet
(Vortex, 28 August 2017. Review by AJ Dehany)

Increasingly regarded as a musical and spiritual visionary, for Alice Coltrane there was more to music than just great playing. She was already an accomplished professional pianist when she met John Coltrane in 1963. They married in 1965, and shared a profound bond. She is remembered for the albums she made in the decade following his death in 1967. These albums are characterized not by piano, but by an instrument less familiar in jazz, the harp, which she taught herself after John’s death. John had bought the harp intending to broaden his thinking about harmony and texture, but it would take a year to make. By the time it arrived at their home in Dix Hills, New York, John had passed away. As Alice’s spiritual impetus deepened in the shadow of that loss she moved away from standard jazz, toward more transcendental moods, reaching for truths beyond the veil of life and death.

For the late Alice Coltrane’s 80th birthday, BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up last week devoted an entire show to her life, work and influence. This year Ukrainian/Polish harp player Alina Bzhezhinska has led the field in performing Alice’s work with performances including Jazz in the Round in May and last weekend on Jazz FM’s The Blueprint with Chris Philips in the run-up to her quartet’s celebratory performance at the Vortex, a fine tribute that attracted a diverse audience.

Alina Bzhezhinska is an accomplished soloist who has previously recorded an album ranging classical, jazz and folk styles. She is technically innovative in her use of the harp’s key pedal and pinched harmonics to jolt surprises into its typically dream-like washes of notes. Her original tune Annoying Semitones is inspired by Alice and John’s deep love. It shares that enigmatic mood you also find in Ravi Coltrane and others who understand that the Coltrane influence is a feeling, more a spatial thing than a gazetteer of technical or musical innovations.

Alina’s interest in Alice Coltrane’s music is fairly recent. The young player admits that when she heard Alice Coltrane’s music a decade ago she wasn’t ready for it, but after an invitation from Shabaka Hutchings to play Alice’s tune Journey in Satchinanananda at Brilliant Corners a year ago says “I was hooked!” Shortly after this she met the redoubtable saxophonist Tony Kofi, and Larry Bartley (bass) and Joel Prime (drums) completed the synergy of this fantastic quartet. They display an endearing enjoyment of each other’s playing with an often subtle interplay and a sense of one unit rather than it being a showcase for the harp. Alina enthuses, “Every time we take this journey, every time is different— it’s amazing!”

At the Vortex, Alina begins with one of Alice Coltrane’s signature statements for solo harp, Wisdom Eye, sensitive to its subtle nuances of texture and feeling, before the group taps into Blue Nile, a reflective groove from Alice’s third album Ptah, the El Daoud, a tune and an album reflecting Alice’s growing interest in mythology. Isis and Osiris is the story of an Egyptian Queen and her lover who dies. She is devastated and wants to bring him back to life. In time, she succeeds. It is a poignant allegory for Alice’s devastation at losing John and her commitment to continuing his work as a kind of resurrection. Her first albums were all recorded in the studio they had planned together, the studio that, like the harp, John didn’t live to see.

The harp has a vitally different chordal texture to the piano, making it interesting to hear two selections from John Coltrane’s landmark album Giant Steps (released in 1960 but recorded in that year of jazz years 1959). As on that album, the group follow Syeeda’s Song Flute with the standard Naima, announced as “a special tune we don’t need to announce”. They rework the ballad into a smooth groove given a subtle bossa vibe by Alina’s vamping and Kofi on tenor. Their reading has a charmingly dainty, whisperingly delicate, sense of affection (though it is, we note with affection, a tune dedicated to another woman: Coltrane’s previous wife Juanita Naima Grubbs).

In After The Rain the harp glissandi perfectly stir the undulations of the tune. It seems to breathe in and out; you can smell the petrichor on the breeze. Closing with plucked harmonics, the tune’s sense of dewy stillness is a familiar aspect of both Coltranes’ later music. Lovely Sky Boat, taken from Alice’s anguished first album A Monastic Trio, is a beautiful blue bubble sailing close to a storm, filling up with tears as Alina’s glissandi zither up and down the strings.

Tony Kofi is fast-moving lava on Joe Henderson’s Fire. This amazing saxophonist has a rich and fulsome tone and command of Coltranesque extrapolations from deep blues to strenuous clouds of notes and circular abrasions in the upper register of the horn. He has some of that knack of making thematic permutations that somehow perfectly recall the material but strip it apart to its heart and soul at the same time. Joel Prime doesn’t splash about in his drum solo, tightly adhering to the discipline of dynamic snare control taking it down and bringing it up to huge applause. Alice’s riffy Los Caballos features Larry Bartley in a double bass solo that pleasingly echoes techniques Alina has shown us on the harp.

On Journey in Satchinanananda Alina remarkably integrates the album’s double use of the melodic and chordal harp and the tamboura, the long-necked Indian string drone instrument, into her harp playing. The sound is further enriched by Bartley and Prime’s disciplined rootedness that adds depth and texture so as to release ascensions in the upper register. Er Ra a meditative song with harp accompaniment from World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda which was released to great excitement earlier this year. Apart from her 2004 album Translinear Light any music Alice recorded since the end of the seventies until her death in 2007 only appeared on cassette tapes rather than formal releases. It’s amazing stuff but naturally obeys spiritual rather than musical concerns. Alina makes the inspired choice to substitute soprano sax for Alice’s chanting. The result is mesmerising, and, much like life, too short...

Encore The Hymn is taken from Translinear Light, which was produced by her son Ravi with Oren Coltrane on alto sax. At the Vortex, after the fire, this family affair makes a contemplative close to an evening of many moods and shades. The sounds fade away, the notes of the harp slip into silence, clouds disperse, and love remains. We live in the eternity of Alice Coltrane. Datta, dayadhvam, damyata.

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk

Alina Bzezhinska Quartet will be recording in September. Her solo harp album is available from her website

Related events coming up at the Vortex: Gilad Atzmon Plays John Coltrane - Thur 31 Aug + Fri 1 Sep LINK

SET AND BAND LISTS

FIRST SET

1. Wisdom Eye / Blue Nile (Eternity 1975/ Ptah, The El Daoud 1970)
2. Syeeda’s Song Flute (John Coltrane, Giant Steps 1960)
3. Naima (John Coltrane, Giant Steps 1960)
4. Isis and Osiris (Journey in Satchidananda 1971)
5. After the Rain (John Coltrane, Impressions 1963)

SECOND SET

1. Lovely Sky Boat (A Monastic Trio 1968)
2. Annoying Semitones (Alina Bzezhinska)
3. Er Ra (The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda 2017)
4. Los Caballos (Eternity 1975)
5. Journey in Satchidananda (Journey in Satchidananda 1971)
6. Fire (Joe Henderson, The Elements 1973)
7. The Hymn (Translinear Light 2004)

PERSONNEL

Alina Bzhezhinska (harp)
Tony Kofi (saxophones)
Larry Bartley (bass)
Joel Prime (drums)

Sound engineer: Ali Ward

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INTERVIEW: Jonny Mansfield (Crowdfunder for Elftet album with special guest Chris Potter)

Jonny Mansfield

JONNY MANSFIELD is a vibes player from Yorkshire. Still an undergraduate student at the Royal Academy of  Music, his plans for a debut album -  and even for a launch tour after he graduates - are already clearly mapped out. Sebastian found out more. With thanks to Matt Sulzmann: 

LondonJazz News: Where are you from?

Johnny Mansfield: I'm from a village called Shepley just south of Huddersfield.

LJN: Are you from a musical family?

JM:  Yes my parents are both musicians. My Mum plays the oboe and Dad the bass trombone and they teach for Kirklees and Rotherham Music Services. I have two older brothers who are both musical so I've been pretty spoilt with a huge variety of music going on around the house.

LJN: There is strong musical activity in the area....

JM: I think in Yorkshire generally there's a strong musical presence whether it's from the amazing music services, the great jazz clubs and promoters or the famous brass band scene. I was really fortunate to play in the local youth big band doing Marsden Jazz Festival once a year and taking part in trips down to Birmingham Symphony hall to play in the Music For Youth Festival. I also enjoyed my years playing in Kirklees Youth Orchestra.

LJN: You took up a place at the specialist music school Chethams at the age of (14) and spent four years there. Was there much jazz going on?

JM:  Yes, loads! Luckily for me, when I started they had a big intake of jazz students so there were many opportunities even though I was primarily studying classical percussion. I became involved in Steve Berry's mind blowing improv classes and Les Chisnall's theory classes. Richard Iles took the big band which was really fun and Iain Dixon did transcription classes but I wasn't up to them at the time. The Head of Brass, Percussion and Jazz, David Chatterton got some amazing people to come in and do classes. We had legends like Mike Walker and Gwilym Simcock come in to teach a handful of students.

LJN: What was your plan when you left school / how come you ended up on a jazz course ?

JM:  After school I was really happy to gain a place to study classical percussion at the Royal Academy of Music. Then, in the Summer between Chethams and starting at RAM I participated on the National Youth Jazz Collective and was in a group lead by Nick Smart and Jim Hart.

Throughout the course of the week I fully caught the jazz bug and moved to the dark side, and subsequently I was offered a place on the Jazz course. I haven't thought twice about it since and I still love listening to all genres of music.

LJN: What stage are you at in your undergrad studies now?

JM:  I'm just starting my fourth and final year. I'm really excited to get stuck into the Big band writing lessons with Pete Churchill. We're playing a whole set of Pete's music at London Jazz Festival with the Academy Big band on the 19th of November in the Dukes Hall at RAM.

LJN: And you have started quite a large group. Why this big?

JM:  Yes! Elftet, there's eleven of us! Before I put this band together I was mainly writing for a quartet of vibes, guitar, bass and drums but always planned on expanding it, adding trumpet, trombone and two saxes. Around the time that I put Elftet together I started to get into the music of Marius Neset, in particular the albums Birds and Pinball. He uses some strings on his recordings, not like full string sections that are used in old school vocal arrangements, but individual players and I really liked that sound. Last but not least there's Ella Hohnen-Ford who is an amazing singer and adds a whole other dimension to the music. I've later realised that most people in the band play more than one instrument, which brings a load more toys into the mix!

Jonny Mansfield and Chris Potter at Band on the Wall in April 2017
Photo credit: JP Brown

LJN: What is the highest profile gig you have done to date?

JM:  I was really fortunate to play with Chris Potter as part of the Band on the Wall/Brighter Sounds Jazz Directors project. It was a week long with intensive rehearsals followed by four dates around the North. We played a whole new set of music that Chris had especially written for an eleven piece ensemble (which included piano, guitar, vibes, electric bass, acoustic bass, drums, a string quartet and Chris). The rest of the band was equally mind blowing and I felt pretty out of my depth but it was such an amazing experience and I learnt so much from playing his music alongside him.

LJN: And as a result of that you will have Chris Potter... on this record?!

JM:  Yes! Crazy. Over the course of the week, I'd been writing a tune and increasingly started thinking about Chris soloing over this specific bit so I asked him if he was up for it and he said yes! I really can't wait to do it!

LJN: You have found some words for a vocal part - what poems did you choose and why?

JM:  I found some Mother Goose poetry for this tune called Wings that I'd written. The poem I stumbled on called Burnie Bee is about a ladybird taking off. Apparently when a lady bird lands on you, you're supposed to say the poem before blowing it off. I thought that the poem worked really well as lyrics as it enhances the music. I like that the Mother Goose poetry has a folklore aspect to it and that some of the music is heavily folk influenced, it ties it all together.


LJN: Where/ when will you record?

JM:  We're recording at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios this September.

LJN:  And a vibes player is involved in the album- but not playing??

JM:  Yes I'm so happy that my teacher Jim Hart is going to produce the album. Not only have I always been endlessly inspired by him but leaving Jim to make all the decisions will allow me to concentrate on my own playing on the album.

The Elftet at the Bulls Head


LJN:  Who else will be on the album?

JM:  Alongside Chris Potter, I'm also beyond excited to have Gareth Lockrane featuring on a track. As I said before, most of the band play more than one instrument so that track will include four flutes! I was really honoured to put some marimba onto a track on Gareth's recent big band album, so he owes me one! (Just kidding).

I'm also extremely happy that we've got Alex Bonney engineering and mixing the recording. Some of my favourite recent albums have been mixed by Alex. In particular, fellow vibes player Ralph Wyld's Subterranea album, it sounds so full!

In the band we have -

Ella Hohnen Ford - Vocals & Flute
James Davison - Trumpet and Flugel
Tom Smith - Alto,Tenor Sax and Flute
George Millard - Tenor Sax, Bass Clarinet and Flute
Rory Ingham - Trombone
Dom Ingham - Violin, Vocals
Laura Armstrong - Cello
Oliver Mason - Guitar
Jonny Mansfield - Vibraphone
Will Harris - Acoustic and Electric Bass
Boz Martin-Jones - Drums

When we get together, it's really hard to get anything done because we all get on so well and want to catch up but I think that comes through in the music so it’s not all bad.

LJN:  And you seem to be VERY organized: I heard that you already have a 2018 tour for after you graduate booked in for the band?

JM: Haha, I think it's more that I'm pretty determined to try and get this band and my music to a larger audience. I've got a handful of dates in for September 2018 and am trying to patch in the gaps at the moment. Then there's the task of applying for an Arts Council Grant. One step at a time though.

LJN:  What benefits will people get if they sign up for the Crowdfunder?

JM: There's loads of rewards on the Crowdfunder page! Ranging from a pre-order of the CD to coming to sit in on the recording session or a private duo gig with members from Elftet. There's loads so have a look at the Crowdfunder page.

LJN:  Where do they go to sign up?

- Here is a LINK TO THE CROWDFUNDER 

-  We also have a gig at the Vortex on the 7th September - (BOOKING LINK)  - we hope to see some friendly/unfamiliar faces!

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INTERVIEW: Marilyn Mazur (appearing on 14 Sep at Sounds of Denmark)

Marilyn Mazur
Photo credit: Gorm Valentin
Ahead of  SOUNDS OF DENMARK, a five-day festival, now in its second year which celebrates Denmark’s rich and multifaceted improvised music, we took the opportunity to talk to a true jazz legend, percussionist MARILYN MAZUR. She will be appearing in the Festival on 14 September with Makiko Hirabayashi. Interview by Dan Paton:

Legendary percussionist Marilyn Mazur is accustomed to playing large spaces, both with some of the most important figures in the history of jazz (Miles Davis, Jan Garbarek) and in her own role as a leader of a dizzying variety of ensembles. It seems, however, that her illustrious career still produces some surprises. ‘We just played somewhere here in Denmark actually called The Blue Planet, which is an aquarium where they have fish and sharks. They have an eating place in the middle of that where we played. This was actually a nice experience - people were listening and we were playing very acoustically. It was not the way we’re used to playing in concert halls where we have the whole space to fill. So maybe this is some preparation for Pizza Express, where we don’t take up the whole space but we’re a part of the environment, which can also be nice. I’m looking forward to it. I like change in my life - going from big places to small places and moving around - that’s interesting.’

Mazur is coming to London with pianist Makiko Hirabayashi’s trio as part of Sounds of Denmark, a five day festival, now in its second year, celebrating Denmark’s rich and multifaceted improvised music. It will be her first visit to the Pizza Express Jazz Club. ‘I’ve heard of so many Danish musicians playing there’, she says enthusiastically, ‘but I’ve never been.’

Having played with leading American and European musicians, but having lived in Denmark from the age of 6, Mazur is well placed to discuss the ways in which Denmark offers distinctive approaches to making music. Living there appears to have suited her creative temperament particularly well. ‘I’m so happy I grew up in Denmark. I think it’s a great place and I think there’s a lot of freedom here. There’s a lot of people who are allowed to develop what’s important for them on their own. I often think about how it would have been if I had grown up in New York and it would have been very different. I think there are different attitudes to music.’ She goes on to explain more about how the attitudes in Copenhagen differ from those in New York City: ‘When I grew up one could only study classical music. I found my own way - I would make little homemade poems and songs, later on it all came together in to my musical language. In America, there are more ways of studying the correct ways of doing things. They are more individualistic in Scandinavia to some degree. It might also have been because the jazz scene here wasn’t as developed - I didn’t grow up playing with other musicians - I started playing with other musicians when I was 17 - so I had a private route into music. I don’t know if that’s unique to Denmark but it’s where it happened.’

It is interesting that, in addition to the free and self directed learning methods, Mazur emphasises the individualism of Danish culture. At the risk of resorting to simplistic cliche, we tend to think of the USA as a bastion of individualism, whereas Scandinavia has been a fertile ground for social democracy and more collectivist thinking. Like many other musicians, Mazur clearly does not believe that the two are mutually exclusive. ‘They have this very developed jazz scene in America. They’ve had to fight their way in music and I think it’s tougher in general in New York. Here there is a lot of support for culture in general, allowing people to do things the way they believe in so it tends to be more special for that reason - the European music has now grown really strong in the jazz world and the two (American and European jazz) are more equal.’

No doubt coincidentally, but perhaps this also offers a sense of musical contrast or balance, Makiko Hirabayashi appears to have taken the opposite route. Spending her childhood in Japan and Hong Kong, she then went to the USA to study at Berklee, where she met her Danish husband, prompting her subsequent move to Denmark. Mazur explains the genesis of their musical relationship: ‘The first time I met her, I was leading a big band project. I was the conductor and she was the piano player. That was back in 1996. Several years passed before she asked me to play with her and slowly it developed into her trio, along with a lot of other projects. I’ve become so happy with Makiko that I have her in several of my other bands!’ Makiko Hirabayashi remembers the big band project well herself, but also emphasises her already considerable enthusiasm for Mazur’s music: ‘When I first heard Marilyn Mazur's Future Song back in the 90's, I had just moved to Copenhagen, and it sounded like music from Mars to me, something totally alien, but at the same time very inviting and magical. Later on, I had the chance to play Marilyn's music on tour with European Youth Jazz Orchestra where she was conducting the big band. So I was familiar with her music, and knew instinctively that we shared a lot in common.’ It seems that the two musicians were well placed for an enduring and fruitful working relationship from the outset.

There are two striking elements of the trio’s 2014 album Surely - one is the strong connection between the various members of the band (Mazur’s husband Klavs Hovman is the bassist). Mazur agrees: ‘We’ve become really tight together - so many years and so many concerts. We really feel we have something together, we can feel really free when we play together.’ Another stand out feature is that Mazur is a singular and prominent contributor, playing a wide range of percussion instruments and experimenting with orchestration, texture and colour throughout. Her range of bells give Moon Bells its ethereal atmosphere, whilst her kalimba informs the delightful introduction to Asunder Asunder, both sensitive and playful. ‘I don’t think as a drummer in the normal sense’, Mazur explains. ‘If I’m on a regular drum set, I’ve got a percussion approach to it. I’m not playing a lot of bass drum and snare drum patterns, I’m all over the place! I use more sounds and I like moving a lot when I’m playing.’

Mazur has always been a very physical performer. Miles Davis encouraged her to dance as part of her stage presence, and she later explains that she also used a ‘sample mat’ at that time, triggering sounds by dancing. This physicality has been a consistent thread in her career, although it also comes with a very strong melodic sense too. ‘Yes I guess that’s true’, she says. ‘I come from playing piano as a child so I think I listen to music in a different way. I’m not thinking of being a timekeeper or being the base of the music in that sense. I’m more of a reactive player - blending in at the top and at the bottom, thinking in terms of dynamics, vibrations and colours.’ Hirabayashi obviously has a deep understanding of the musicians in the trio and celebrates their individual contributions: ‘Playing with this trio feels like we are one big living organism. If we drift a little apart, Klavs is always there to bring us back. Marilyn has an incredibly rich palette in terms of sounds. She adds depth to the music with all the details and layers she can play, both on the drums, percussion and voice.’ It seems clear that this approach, with all three of the band members improvising and interacting, will continue to their next album, scheduled for release in 2018. This time, however, it will also feature an additional guest, trumpeter Jakob Buchanan.

One of the challenges of playing with such a wide ranging percussion set up is that it is not always possible to travel with all of it. This time, Mazur will bring various bells and the kalimba with her, and much of the rest will be sourced locally. She is impressively relaxed about this: ‘One of the most exciting parts of the game is “what will they bring today”? But all the sounds are exciting and, whatever I get, I somehow find it an interesting challenge to make it into a nice percussion set. I will tune it up as if it were my own.’ Many musicians feel a strong personal attachment to their own instruments, but it seems that Mazur’s extraordinary depth and range of experience means that she can essentially make any instrument hers.

Mazur’s relationship with Klavs Hovman is significant and longstanding, both personally and professionally. Fortunately, this does not seem to pose any sense of conflict or difficulty. ‘Bass and drums are actually the natural couple in jazz music’, she argues. ‘We are really close together and really understand each other, and can follow each other wherever in music. We are also married in music, which is a very important part of our lives together.’ She also explains what she calls the ‘pre-history’ of their relationship: ‘We met at a jazz course back in 1981 and we had the chance to play together. It was magic, the music flew away. For a long while we were just in to playing together and after some years, we got more and more close and we ended up a couple, and have stayed together ever since. We have a son together so now we’re a real family. Our son is almost 27 and became a music producer on his own, even though he said for his whole childhood that he would never be a musician! It’s not jazz at all - he’s in to an entirely different vibe, rap music and producing.’

Both Mazur and Hovman allow each other ample opportunity to explore their own musical concerns and priorities, enjoying the ways in which their respective musical lineages interact. ‘Klavs comes from more of a jazz background than I do. He’s played more straight kinds of jazz music - I’ve never really been into bebop or more traditional kinds of jazz. Also, on the piano, I never learned to play jazz in the traditional sense, I was very interested in doing my own homemade music, which I still am! When I started playing drums, I discovered that meant I could play with anyone! My approach to playing drums is to use the ears a lot. So when I was newly in love with Klavs, it was exciting to join his world of jazz and to communicate musically with him, and he also found it exciting to join my more experimenting kinds of music. Whilst he plays acoustic bass in Makiko’s trio, he also enjoys experimenting a lot with pedals and with soundscapes.’ 

This ‘soundscaping’ appears to be something Mazur enjoys, having worked with a number of musicians who deploy electronics or effects. ‘I like electronics and I play with a lot of musicians that use them. I think electronics are great at making soundscapes - for some of the horizontal aspects in music. A lot of what I do is more vertical. My own world is more the organic and acoustic sounds but I play for example with Jan Bang, a live sampler who can sample my acoustic sounds and throw them back at me - so I can interact with myself!’ (Bang plays with Mazur in the collective ensemble Spirit Cave).

Shamania at Bergamo Jazz festival in Italy
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Mazur


Mazur and Hirabayashi will return to London again in November, this time as part of Mazur’s all female 11 piece ensemble Shamania. This unconventional line-up deploys a drummer (Anna Lund) and two percussionists (Mazur and Lisbeth Diers), and features the excellent Lotte Anker on saxophones and dance and choreography from Tine Erica Aspaas. It promises to be a very different prospect from Hirabayashi’s trio and both concerts are rare and very welcome opportunities to see Mazur in London. (pp)

MARILYN MAZUR UK DATES

Makiko Hirabayashi Trio
September 13th - Watermill Jazz, Dorking 8.30pm (BOOKING LINK)
September 14th - Pizza Express Jazz Club, London 8.30pm (BOOKING LINK)

Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania  

November 19th - Southbank Centre, London (EFG London Jazz Festival LINK)

FULL PROGRAMME FOR THE SOUNDS OF DENMARK FESTIVAL

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PREVIEW: Nick Smart (Royal Academy of Music Autumn programme and other events)

Nick Smart


As an internationally-acclaimed trumpeter and head of Jazz at the Royal Academy, NICK SMART naturally has a busy schedule over the forthcoming months. Yet, Gail Tasker writes, even he seems excited about what's in store:


- The Academy big band have a concert on 11 October featuring Gordon Campbell, exploring the swing bands of the 1930s/40s. They are also appearing in the EFG London Jazz Festival. Pete Churchill will be leading the band at the Duke’s Hall on 19 November, including a new piece that has been especially commissioned for the occasion. The brass players from the Jazz department are also playing in a John Warren/John Surman project that involves Chris Laurence and John Marshall at King’s Place on the 12th of November. 


- On 14 October the 14th, there is a one-off collaboration with the Wellcome Trust and BBC Radio 3 “Jazz Line-Up”, with a jazz programme dedicated to the theme of ‘memory’. A faculty quartet and small group of students will be playing, including Smart, Martin France, Kit Downes, and Tom Herbert. Downes has also been commissioned to write a new piece for it.

- A new Creative Technology course is starting at the Academy, with a focus on live electronics in music-making. Smart notes: ‘The students are already exploring these areas so naturally it’s important we embrace that and provide an environment where that can flourish.’

Nick Smart conducting the Royal Academy Big Band at the Queen Elizabeth Hall


- A series of masterclasses and concerts are taking place at the Academy over the coming academic term. New combinations, such as Richie Beirach with Dave Liebman, and Michael Janisch’s Quintet (including Clarence Penn, John O’Gallagher and Jason Palmer) are making their inaugural visit. Other bands, such as Kneebody, are making a return. Smart points out: ‘It’s great to have people return. The first time they come, there’s inevitably a sense of getting to know the students and finding out what the dynamic is all about within the department. When they come back again it feels like you’re able to hit the ground running a bit more, and guests get to know the students individually, so I really like finding these ongoing relationships.’

- In terms of more personal projects, Smart is playing with Dave Holland in the upcoming Ambleside Days festival on September the 3rd, in Gareth Lockrane’s album launch on the 11th at King’s Place (he conducted the album but is in the trumpet section for the launch), as part of the big band for Mike Gibbs’ 80th Birthday tour, and is also playing at the on 30 September at National Concert Hall in Dublin with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach, as part of a new commission (“Allies”) by Irish bassist and composer Ronan Guilfoyle, written to mark Liebman and Beirach’s 70th birthdays.

LINK: Bookings for the RAM Big Band / Pete Churchill 19 Nov in the LJF

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REVIEW: Lucy Dixon at Crazy Coqs

Lucy Dixon
Photo credit: Louis Burrows


Lucy Dixon
(Crazy Coqs. 24 August 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The retro-swing thing really has turned into an almighty wave. It's ethos is - in that immortal lyric of Dorothy Fields - to "put a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,"and the crest of it is being ridden by charismatic, French-born chanteuses-turned-New-York-sensations such as Elizabeth Bougerol of the Hot Sardines, and Cyrille Aimee, who both have the support of larger labels, and are becoming widely known.

Lucy Dixon, who brought her Lulu's Back in Town set to the right London venue for it - Crazy Coqs - is also in this  stylistic domain, and certainly has that same sense of being propelled, enlivened, captivated by a strong swing beat. Her artistry in this area is at a similar level to her better known peers, and her Crazy Coqs show also drew attention to what makes her distinctive.

The rhythmic drive is omni-present: it compels her to punch out rhythms with her tap shoes (she was once in the chorus line at the Lido de Paris, and has also toured the world with Stomp), and also with brushes on a side drum, and even at one point with those same brushes on her silk dinner jacket. She beats it out on tambourines and teapots too. Everything becomes a percussion istrument. That said, she has yet to take on the defiant washboard-worn-as-breastplate sported by Bougerol...

Dixon was working with the classic manouche formation of lead guitar - Julien Cattiaux, rhythm guitar - David Gastine, and bass - Sebastien Gastine. The latter two also appear on her record. Musically things were very secure, especially when she slimmed down the band. Her version of  Don't Mean a Thing with just bass showed how well she can nail the harmonic rhythm of a tune when necessary, and her solo When I Get Low I Get High was for me the highlight of the show, and for similar reasons.

In her versions, all the songs she has chosen do indeed all come across as very strong. There was one real curiosity, a franglais song Darling je vous aime beaucoup, in which her deliberate  fluttering jejuneness a la Jane Birkin sounded so authentic, I was at one point under the delusion that it was a Dixon original. It wasn't. Words and music are from 1935 by Anna Sosenko, and Nat King Cole once recorded it, making a completely different song of it, in a satin-ish, saccharine-ish 'with-strings' version. (VIDEO).

In English and at Crazy Coqs, Dixon was being rather self-deprecating and diffident about her mission: "We're doing a bunch of old songs, " she said, and "I'm not a great talker..." I was curious that in a recent interview in French she was far more effusive about her intent. She said: "Je ne me limite pas à interpréter des chansons. J’essaie de leur insuffler une autre vie." (I don't confine myself to interpreting songs; I try to breathe different life into them.) If I have one criticism it is that Crazy Coqs room works best for performers who really work the audience, and Dixon could have directed more energy towards that.

This was an enjoyable show. Interest never flagged, and she was treated to a well-deserved rousing ovation at the end.
.
L-R: David Gastine, Sebastien Gastine, Lucy Dixon, Julien Cattiaux
Photo credit: Louis Burrows

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FEATURE/INTERVIEW: Sam Braysher - (Golden Earrings Album Launch and Tour)

Sam Braysher and Michael Kanan
Photo credit: John Rogers

A childhood fascination with marching bands set SAM BRAYSHER on his way to becoming an alto saxophonist, an Artist Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and now the first British bandleader to record for Fresh Sound New Talent, the Barcelona-based label that launched the careers of Brad Mehldau, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Feature by Rob Adams: 

“I had a toy saxophone when I was a kid and was determined that I was going to become a saxophone player from pretty early on,” says Braysher, who comes from Dereham, near Norwich and progressed to alto from early recorder lessons and then, after playing in school bands came through the same big band in Norwich that produced Kit Downes and George Crowley.

While many young players see the alto as a stepping stone to the tenor saxophone, Braysher preferred to stay with the alto.

“I liked the sound and the feel of it,” he says. “It’s not that I didn’t like the tenor. I listened to a lot of tenor players – Stan Getz and Lester Young were particular favourites – but I felt comfortable with the alto and I suppose like everybody else I loved Charlie Parker, who’s definitely a key influence along with other altoists including Lee Konitz.”

At the Guildhall he was contemporaries with musicians including the guitarists Nick Costley-White and Will Arnold-Forster (guitar), and drummer Dave Ingamells, and found the creative environment very inspiring. It certainly prepared him well – he won Chartered Surveyors’ Prize as well as becoming an Artist Fellow - for the work he now does as a freelance, playing widely across the jazz spectrum with pianist Barry Green, saxophonist Pete Hurt and fellow Guildhall graduate, trumpeter Barney Lowe’s big band. He also gigs frequently in classic jazz settings and has worked with composer John Warren and the London Jazz Orchestra.

“I like to play in different styles,” says Braysher, whose regular gigs include an authentic 1920s/1930s dance band led by Alex Mendham which has residency at the Savoy Hotel. “And I particularly enjoy the challenge of playing in a certain style but still sounding like myself rather than imitating someone from that era.”

His first recording for Fresh Sound New Talent, Golden Earrings, showcases Braysher’s interest in exploring lesser-known material from the Great American Songbook and features him in a duo with New York-based pianist Michael Kanan, who has accompanied singers including Jimmy Scott and Jane Monheit and collaborated with guitarists Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel.

“Michael’s a real authority on the Great American Songbook and likes to dig deeper into the jazz canon, which is what I like to do too, because there are so many neglected gems there,” says Braysher. “I met him on a trip to New York in 2014 and we struck up a friendship based on our shared interest in going off the beaten track for material.”

Kanan, who teaches at an annual summer school in Spain, introduced Braysher to Fresh Sound New Talent and suggested using his own rehearsal/performance space in Brooklyn, The Drawing Room, for the recording.

It features pieces by Jerome Kern, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Victor Young, Duke Ellington and Tadd Dameron, as well as one original composition, and rather than consulting existing jazz versions of tunes such as Dancing in the Dark, Braysher listened to the original ‘pop’ recordings of the songs, looked at sheet music and learned the lyrics in a bid to discover the composers’ original intentions.

“There are often stories behind these songs that we don’t necessarily get to know these days unless we go looking for them,” he says. “These can give you an insight into what lay behind the composition and suggest ways of interpreting the songs that we hadn’t thought about, and I find that fascinating.”

Golden Earrings is released on September 1 and to mark the release, Braysher and Kanan will be playing eight concerts in seven days, culminating in the official launch date at the Vortex in Dalston on 13 September.

“We’re playing four duo gigs and four with Dario Di Lecce on double bass and Steve Brown on drums,” says Braysher. “It’s quite a hectic tour but I’m really looking forward to taking the music out on the road and seeing how it develops.”

LINKS: Golden Earrings will be available from Jordi Pujol's Fresh Sound New Talent label
The launch is at the Vortex on 13 September - TOUR DATES

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REVIEW/ PHOTOS/ BAND AND SET LISTS: Prom 57 - Swing No End

The Winston Rollins Band at the Swing No End Prom
Photo : BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

Prom 57: Swing No End
(Royal Albert Hall, 27 August 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

It would have been all too easy to harbour pre-emptive misgivings before this show. The Swing No End Prom was presenting a double Big Band, it lasted over 2 1/2 hours including interval, there was a Generation Game-style conveyor belt of soloists... But no. Such fears were definitely misplaced. The programme had been very well thought through and it all made sense. It stayed convincingly and  organically close to the jazz heritage throughout. Indeed it didn't just lay trepidations to rest one by one, it did better. I found it impossible to come away from Swing No End with any other feelings than having been impressed, moved and my soul truly lifted.

Mads Mathias at the Swing No End Prom
Photo: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

It was incredibly heartening, for example, to see the two big bands with so many young players, professional musicians who are now completely secure as exponents of a whole range of jazz-related idioms. As the solo line at the opening of Sy Oliver's 1935 arrangement of My Blue Heaven for Jimmy Lunceford was passed from trumpeter Freddie Gavita to pianist Joe Webb to saxophonist Gemma Moore, the feeling that the future of this music is in very safe hands was unavoidable. And perhaps the best example of a young performer absolutely at one with the swing band idiom was Mads Mathias, a vocalist who looks unbelievably fresh-faced and trim, but is rapidly joining the lineage of the great male jazz vocalists like Johnny Hartman and Joe Williams.

Clare Teal at the Swing No End Prom
Photo: BBC/ Chris Christodoulou

These were special moments, and they were all the better for being in an overall conception which worked so well. The people who deserve huge credit for giving it a more convincing  and organic shape and ethos than some of the earlier 'Battle of the Bands' Proms must include Clare Teal. She has absolutely grown into the role of MC of the show. It seemed as if her script, born of passion and deep knowledge, and faultlessly delivered - as far as could be seen - without prompts, cues or script, made sense of the sequence and the reason for inclusion of all of the items in it. Past scripts hyped up the "battle" element. This time we were just there for the music. Phew.

Guy Barker had a major role as conductor and arranger, and there were ensemble highlights a-plenty.  The double big band version of Boyd Meets Stravinsky, written by Edwin Finckel for the Boyd Raeburn band, was extraordinary. The programme notes by Alyn Shipton are also a model of clarity.

There has been a tendency in the past in these programmes to jemmy in popular singers with very little empathy for the jazz idiom. Past reviewers of such BBC-led events on this site have expressed their feelings of pain at the amount of non-jazz melisma that was on offer. No such worries here. Jazz does indeed have more confidence and swagger these days. Vanessa Haynes has been called a 'soul diva', but her jazz sensitivities are very strong too and her They Can't Take That Away from Me, exploring the lower end of her opulent voice, was one of the highlights of the show. Also, the balance has shifted further jazz-wards thanks to the emergence of a capella quartet Accent. As a harmony group they work superbly with jazz singers like Mathias and Teal, giving this repertoire extra authenticity and flair.

Hiromi in the Mary Lou Williams section of the Swing No End Prom
Photo BBC/ Chris Christodoulou
The name of Hiromi on the programme had also been a puzzler. But she had a specific role, and that made sense too. She made a section of the concert stand out as palpably different and with a purpose,  namely to give a tribute to one of the jazz greats, Mary Lou Williams. Hiromi fitted well into her big band role, and her solo exploit - a fearless virtuoso assault on I Got Rhythm - received, and justifiably, the loudest applause of the afternoon. And there was a well-planned shift when Pee Wee Ellis came on to present just one number with a small-group, and established his authority immediately: Body and Soul in tribute to Colemn Hawkins.

Another trepidation might have been the sound in the Royal Albert Hall. I was way off to the side but the quality of what I was hearing was exemplary.

The final latin medley, culminating in Kenton's Tampico, sent a nearly-full Royal Albert Hall audience - and this reviewer - very happily away into the summer sunshine.

SET LISTS FOR PROM 57

FIRST SET

Overture - St James Infirmary (Trad/ arr. Barker)

Milenburg Joys (Jelly Roll Morton)

Stuff Like That There (Jay Livingston/Ray Evans) - soloist Clare Teal

East St Louis Toodle-Oo (Duke Ellington/Bubber Miley) - festuring Tom Rees- Roberts

Serenade in Blue (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon) - soloist Mads Mathias with Accent

Whatcha Know, Joe? (Trummy Young) - with Georgina Jackson and Accent

Singin’ the Blues (Con Conrad/J. Russel Robinson) - Beiderbecke tribute - small group

Trumpet(s) No End (Blue Skies) (Irving Berlin/Mary Lou Williams) - guest Hiromi

What’s Your Story, Morning Glory? (Mary Lou Williams/ Jack Lawrence/Paul Weston)

I Got Rhythm (George and Ira Gershwin) - solo piano feature for Hiromi

Roll ’Em (Mary Lou Williams)

They Can’t Take That Away from Me (George and Ira Gershwin) - soloist Vanessa Haynes

Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On (Eugene West/James McCaffrey/ Dave Ringle) - solists Cherise Adams-Burnett and Ben Cipolla

Apple Honey (Woody Herman)

SECOND SET

Boyd Meets Stravinsky (Edwin Finckel/Boyd Raeburn) - double big band

I Got the Sun in the Mornin’ (and the Moon at Night) (Irving Berlin) - soloist Clare Teal with Accent

Four Brothers (Jimmy Giuffre)

I Can’t Get Started (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin) - soloist Mads Mathias

Ridin’ High (Cole Porter) - featuring Alan Barnes

Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) - soloist Vanessa Haynes

My Blue Heaven (Walter Donaldson and George A. Whiting) - with Accent

Body and Soul (Johnny Green) - solo feature for Pee Wee Ellis

The St Louis Blues March (W. C. Handy)

Orange Colored Sky (Wilton DeLugg/Willie Stein)

On Revival Day (Andy Razaf)

T’Ain’t What You Do (Sy Oliver/Trummy Young)

Medley (various)

BAND LISTS

Clare Teal singer/presenter
Cherise Adams-Burnett singer
Ben Cipolla singer
Rob Green singer
Vanessa Haynes singer
Georgina Jackson singer
Mads Mathias singer
Pee Wee Ellis tenor saxophone
Hiromi piano
Accent Quartet - Jean-Baptiste Craipeau, Sam Robson, James Rose, Evan Sanders.
Robeerto Pla and Satin Singh percussion

Guy Barker Big Band (Guy Barker MD/conductor/trumpet)

Saxophones: Graeme Blevins, Alan Barnes, Karen Sharp Paul Booth, Jessamy Holder
Trumpets: Nathan Bray, Tom Rees -Roberts, Chris Storr, Georgina Jackson/Guy Barker
Trombones: Nichol Thomson, Alastair White, Harry Brown, Mark Frost
Rhythm: Al Cherry, Mike Gorman, Tim Thornton, Ed Richardson

Winston Rollins Big Band (Winston Rollins conductor/trombone)

Saxophones: Howard McGill, Alex Garnett, Rob Fowler, Chelsea Carmichael, Gemma Moore
Trumpets: Mike Lovatt, Pat White, Freddie Gavita, Annette Brown
Trombones: Barnaby Dickinson, Callum Au, Maddy Dowdeswell (text amended/ see comments), Barry Clements
Rhythm: David Archer, Joe Webb, Alec Dankworth, Shane Forbes

With thanks for the lists to Madeleine Castell and Kate Warnock of the Proms press team. 

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REVIEW: Peter Jones Under the Setting Sun album launch at Jazz Café Posk

Peter Jones - with Vasilis Xenopoulos (left, on flute) 


Peter Jones
(Jazz Café Posk, Hammersmith, August 26th 2017. Review by Andrew Cartmel)


Out of a sweltering August Saturday night and into the cool and dark of a classic Jazz Cellar — Café Posk at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. We’re here for the launch of the new album by singer (and LJN contributor) Peter Jones. Musically speaking it’s a lavish affair, featuring what will shortly be revealed as the jaw-dropping abilities of the quintet in support of Peter.

They open with Island Honey, which features a rolling tropical pulsation and the flute of Vasilis Xenopoulos floating on top, interweaving with Peter Jones’ light, tight, effortless vocals. Roger Beaujolais' ringing, cascading vibes, Davide Mantovani’s virile, reverberating bass and the pulsing cymbals of Davide Giovannini unite to support Peter as he puts the song across. On Doggerland Neil Angilley’s lyrical piano introduction, along with subliminal bass and cymbal shimmers, set the stage for Peter’s quietly potent and touching vocal, painting the colours of loss and heartache. Angilley plays skirling scales and chiming chords, like climbing a staircase that keeps slipping out from under him, in a movingly adroit and poetic piano solo.

Beaujolais and Xenopoulos return for Baby and Hog. Davide Mantovani is on electric bass now, projecting a big and sustained sound. Neil Angilley has moved to electric piano and his playing is tightly integrated with the rock-solid, stuttering thump of Davide Giovannini’s drums. Angilley is conjuring a silvery funk from the keyboards. The dancing finesse of Vasilis Xenopoulos’s flute hands off to the emphatic flight of Roger Beaujolais’ vibraphone. They are a sophisticated, high precision unit and Peter Jones’ wry, wistful vocal is the ghost that haunts this beautifully built house.

As arresting as he is on flute, Vasilis Xenopoulos primarily plays a mean sax. On 1969 his tenor is casually hip, with a gossiping virtuosity as Roger Beaujolais’ vibes evoke an exotica backdrop. Neil Angilley’s electric keyboards provide a superlative, piercing flow of melody. Peter Jones rides on the beat with relaxed, perfectly paced vocals. Every Day I Hear More Bad News sees Angilley sitting out. Xenopoulos’ tenor plays concise bebop fills and then comes to the fore like a taxi horn cutting through traffic before blossoming into full song. Davide Mantovani is back on upright bass and his playing is linked like a conjoined twin to Beaujolais’ vibes.

Remember Summer begins with Davide Giovannini’s drums showing both restraint and unstoppable power. Vasilis Xenopoulos’ flute circles delicately over them like a bird above a stampede. Neil Angilley on electric keyboards cooks up a storm. Back on tenor for Your Secrets, Xenopoulos playing is like slabs of velvet before he gives us a snatch of a Sonny Rollins calypso tribute, followed by a stream of effortlessly fluent quotations. Neil Angilley's acoustic piano is gravely eloquent, bringing us back down to earth with dancing runs. He ends the piece by reaching into the body of the piano to cheekily pluck the strings.

This was a sizzling blast-off for Peter Jones’ new album Under the Setting Sun (Howlin’ Werewolf HW003), which consists entirely of his original songs written with Trevor Lever. No singer songwriter could have asked for more effective backing than he received. The five musicians formed a seriously impressive unit — all the more so since Davide Mantovani and Roger Beaujolais had never played in Peter’s band before tonight. It was a privilege to hear them, but anyone who missed the gig can explore the songs on the CD, and should do so with alacrity.

LINKS : Peter Jones' website
CD Review - Under the Setting Sun
Interview with Peter Jones

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REVIEW: Tord Gustavsen Trio and Joe Webb Trio at the Ronnie Scott's Int Piano Trio Festival

Tord Gustavsen in 2007
Photo credit: Sheldon (Shelly) Levy / Creative Commons

Tord Gustavsen Trio and Joe Webb Trio
(Ronnie Scott's. 25 August. Late sets. Part of the 2017 Int Piano Trio Festival. Review by Gail Tasker)

Tord Gustavsen’s precise, intricate piano-playing was the crucial ingredient in the musical recipe his trio served up at Ronnie’s International Piano Trio Festival. His band, made up of Jarle Vespestad on drums and Sigurd Hole on bass, were his fellow chefs, concocting this infinitely subtle musical feast. The overall feel was quiet and reflective, but with plenty of dynamic variation as Gustavsen’s melodies morphed into percussive Monk-like improvisations. Slow chordal figures would loop and increase in intensity, until, with a nod to his band, Gustavsen would suddenly revert back to pianissimo. In tunes like The Other Plan, Gustavsen got to his feet as the groove grabbed him.

The sound engineer (David Solheim) was almost like a fourth musician. No wonder he was credited when Gustavsen introduced the band. Vespestad’s kit was decorated with countless microphones, which brought out every tonal nuance of the instrument. As soon as Vespestad started the set with a loose rhythmic pattern, the crowd fell silent as his highly amplified snare drum echoed around the room. This set-up was not abused, but fitted in naturally as Gustavsen weighed in with chordal patterns and Hole contributed bowed pedal notes on bass.

Gustavsen not only played the grand piano, but also had a collection of soft synths, pedals, and even a Roli Seaboard. This electronic combination added low, organ-like undertones in certain pieces, barely discernable unless you listened carefully. It was interesting to discover afterwards that these synths were controlled by optic sensors attached to the piano. Vespestad also used extended techniques, such as hitting his ride cymbal with his fist, creating a resonant, booming sound, as well as striking wooden beads against the cymbals and snare. Sigurd Hole was creative in using his instrument as tool of sound as opposed to just a conventional harmonic reference point. The band’s musical soundscape was compelling and surprisingly emotional, given the introspective Nordic vibe.

Taking the Late Late Show was the Joe Webb Trio, with Ed Richardson on drums and Tim Thornton on double bass. They had just come from the Royal Albert Hall and were set to return again after the gig. This busy schedule appeared to pose no problem to their music-making, which featured standards such as I’m Old-Fashioned and Night and Day performed with impressive precision and total togetherness. Clean and crisp yet nicely laid back, the trio kept kept the crowd happy well into the early hours.

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CD REVIEW: Joonas Leppänen - Alder Ego



Joonas Leppänen - Alder Ego
(AMP. AT016. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


This record from Finnish drummerJoonas Leppänen is folk-infused jazz. For the most part a quartet of trumpet, alto saxophone, bass and drums, with added accordion on a couple of tracks for extra texture, the music has a light, free feel to it. It sounds optimistic - a Nordic spring or summer, rather than dark winter.

Leppänen wrote most of the tracks, aside from Timelapse which was a group effort. There is a unity of atmosphere across the tracks so that, deliberate or not, the CD seems like a suite, with some tunes running directly into others. Some tracks appear more free and improvised, such as the short Timelapse; others a little more composed or rigid. Starfish moves from its first structured phases through a saxophone solo by Jarno Tikka into a loose, open trumpet solo by Tomi Nikku, spanning the record's moods.

There are hints of classic bebop in some of the riffs, but these are then reduced to open structures around which the soloists improvise. Some of the tunes seem to have a narrative flow, such as Homecoming, the gentle opener. Leppänen's drumming has an easy, relaxed feel, leaving lots of space.

Teemu Åkerblom's bass is similarly unhurried. Both Nikku's trumpet and Tikka's saxophone have melodic movement, touched with flecks of free improvisation.

If Alder Ego is representative of what's happening in Finnish jazz, its mix of jazz, improvisation and folk melodies seems a very interesting place to be.

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

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INTERVIEW: Oliver Weindling (forthcoming events at the Vortex)

Alice Bzhezhinska will be celebrating the Alice Coltrane 80th on Monday 28 August


OLIVER WEINDLING of the Vortex is excited about the clubs programme from the moment they re-open next Monday. Questions by Sebastian: 

London Jazz News: You are currently closed for a few days? Anything happening during the down-time?

Oliver Weindling: We have been doing some of our annual cleaning up. In particular, we have recently improved the performance space in our Downstairs (where we hold, for example, our Sunday sessions with Hannes Riepler and Saturday late nights with Bruno Heinen) -  building a proper stage, improving soundproofing and reducing the size of the bar.

LJN: And when do you reopen?

OW: We reopen on Monday 28th with Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet presents:

“INSPIRED BY ALICE COLTRANE” Alina Bzhezhinska – Harp;  Tony Kofi – Saxophones; Larry Bartley – Bass; Joel Prime – Drums/ Percussions

Alice Coltrane's 80th birthday would have been on 27th. So it's nice to be so close.

LJN: There was recently an article in allaboutjazz.com about the '15 European Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About'. How many have played at the Vortex?

OW:
Giving a platform for the musicians from all over Europe is an important feature of the Vortex programming. Of the 15 on the list, 10 have played at the Vortex. Reinier Baas (Netherlands), Kaja Draksler (Slovenia), Alexander Hawkins (of course!), Christian Lillinger (Germany), Mopo (Finland), Mette Rasmussen (Denmark), Eve Risser (France), Julian Sartorius (Switzerland), Elias Stemeseder (Austria), Stian Westerhus (Norway and a very old friend from when he was part of Loop Collective). De Beren Gieren (Belgium) will be playing in October. Some have come as part of Match and Fuse, which is sadly not happening this year, due to funding problems. Alexander will be back in September with Louis Moholo-Moholo and Elias Stemeseder will be part of Philip Gropper's Philm at the end of October.

LJN: You have some international figures coming in to the club?

OW: Seamus Blake will be playing with Norwegian drummer Anders Thorén's Bridges Band on 11 September. Seamus's last gig at the Vortex was sold out almost immediately - a true musician's musician.


Oliver Weindling (R) with Dave Holland

LJN: People  - such as you in this photo! - like to celebrate their birthdays at the Vortex, It's a month full of musicians with anniversaries and birthdays and birthdays to celebrate! Can you talk about some?

OW: Keith Tippett plays on 10 September, celebrating his own 70th birthday this year. With his wife Julie and an exciting new violinist Theo May, just 20 years old and a protégé of Keith and Julie.

A particular exciting pair of nights will be the 80th birthday gigs on Mike Gibbs on 25th and 27th. His arranging and composing is thrilling, and his energy is unabated. Great that the band consists of some of the best musicians in the UK, who know how to interpret this music. Finally, while looking at birthday celebrations, Clark Tracey brings Hexad to the club, which reminds us how important a musician Stan was (who would have been 90 this year). Stan played regularly at the club, and it was David Mossman who called him 'The Godfather of British Jazz' - with good reason. Kirk Lightsey, himself 80 this year, will be back on 17 and 18. His band includes Jean Toussaint, Austrian trombonist Paul Zauner (who just appeared with David Murray a couple of weeks ago), and two of Kirk's London favourites - Steve Watts on bass and Dave Wickins on drums.

LJN: Jean Toussaint recently played at the club, and got some rave reviews.

OW: Jean Toussaint himself just played two memorable nights with his new band including Denis Rollins, Byron Wallen, Andrew McCormack, Mark Mondesir and Alec Dankworth. Premiering mainly new music by Jean with a passing nod to his former 'employer', Art Blakey. They are going into the studio soon!

LJN: And any other UK musicians of note?

OW: The Vortex is pleased that it continues to support many of this country's greats. Henry Lowther is back with his Still Waters band (16), ready to release a new album very soon. Pete Hurt, Barry Green, Dave Green and Paul Clarvis are excellent foils for his vim and imagination. Bassist Chris Laurence makes a rare foray as band leader with Frank Ricotti, John Parricelli and Martin France (2) no doubt focussing on the scene around Kenny Wheeler, Johns Taylor and Surman, and some of the other leaders with whom he has played; and John Etheridge brings his Blue Spirits Trio back on 23. Evan Parker re-starts his monthly series at the Vortex. This month it'll be a fascinating encounter with Iain Ballamy and Tony Hymas. Louis Moholo-Moholo, playing with more energy than ever at 78, is back with his Four Blokes on 7 and 8 September - Alexander Hawkins, Jason Yarde and John Edwards are his inspired/inspiring partners.

Of the younger generation, Saxophonist Sam Braysher is launching his new album on 13th with New Yorker Michael Kanan. Sam did a trio gig a couple of months back and is certainly not overawed in company such as Michael's! Vibraphonist Jonny Mansfield brings his Elftet (7).

LJN: Some highlights for October and November?

OW: For October and November, it is very difficult to pick just a few concerts. For the London Jazz Festival the Vortex has 26 gigs over the 10 days alone (including the likes of Gilad Hekselman with Mark Turner, Pablo Held Trio from Cologne and so on). But outside that, we are fortunate that Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach will celebrate 50 years together (4) and we'll have album launches by Laginha/Argüelles/Norbakken (14) and Malija (24, 25). Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban join with Evan Parker to celebrate their new album on 19 October

LJN:
And how is David Mossman, the founder of the club?

OW: He has just turned 75 and taken the lead in redecorating Downstairs. He hasn't been too well recently, but he still comes in every weekend from Margate.

LINK: Events at The Vortex

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PREVIEW: Thursday evening jazz at Waitrose Granary Square near Kings Cross


Drummer Adam Texeira and saxophonist Joe Browne
Photo credit: Caroline Cook

The built environment of the area around King’s Cross is changing very fast. The developer Argent and locally based companies have had a mission to put on events as the neighbourhood changes, and a popular regular feature has been bassist Phil Wain, Waitrose, and Cally Arts' Thursday night Jazz Sessions at Waitrose in the new Granary Square Waitrose.

Local bassist Phil has been in touch and has sent us a list of forthcoming events. He writes, ‘We have a different trio every week which has allowed us to build up a great stable of musicians - running at about 60 musicians and maybe a dozen trio leaders who pick their own trios. It takes live jazz to an audience, many of whom would never have gone to a club to experience the music and weren’t even aware they liked jazz.'

The jazz takes place each Thursday from 6:30-9 pm.

Phil Wain normally plays one gig a month. He is looking forward to welcoming:

- Ruben Ramos from Panama on the 31st August
- Adam Teixeira trio with Alam Nathoo and Michele Tacchi on September 7th
- Joe Browne on September 14th
- Phil Wain Trio with Jansen Santana from Brazil and Joseph Costi from Venezuela on the 21st
Joseph Costi from Venezuela on the 21st
- Emiliano Caroselli on the 28th.

The new Waitrose and the canal
Photo credit: John Sturrock

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REVIEW: PROM 53 - Beneath the Underdog - Charles Mingus Revisited

Leo Pellegrino and the Metropole Orkest at  Prom 53
Photo Copyright: BBC/ Mark Allan

REVIEW: Prom 53: Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited
(Royal Albert Hall. 24 August 2017. Review by AJ Dehany)

“I feel like what Mingus created through his music and his playing is so visceral that it deserves a platform to show it off in a slightly different way.” In interview before this BBC Proms concert devoted to the music of Charles Mingus (b.1922, d.1979), conductor Jules Buckley says “We want to demonstrate that orchestral jazz programmes aren’t just Cole Porter and a happy Friday night swingalong— actually there’s some serious intent behind this music and that Charles Mingus is one of the masters of that intent.”

The Metropole Orkest is an orchestra with the feel of a big band. They can go beyond just reading the dots, with several of the payroll taking solos in the course of the evening, including Hans Vroomans on piano, Rik Mol’s trumpet and Marc Scholten’s soprano sax. The frontline soloists are Shabaka Hutchings, Christian Scott, Bart van Lier and singer Kandace Springs. The concert was slow to achieve its aims but came through and by the end had everyone whooping and stomping.

Bart van Lier and Christian Scott
Photo Copyright: BBC/ Mark Allan


The spirit of Mingus begins with the energy of gospel music. “I was born swinging and I clapped my hands as a child.” What’s unique in Mingus is he combined the energy, freedom and joyousness of gospel and blues with an equal fervor for the quite serious classical vocabulary of Stravinsky and Richard Strauss. When he heard Duke Ellington he screamed “I’d never heard gospel music like that!” and it was the Duke’s own third-stream music pushing beyond definitions of jazz or classical that informed Mingus’s music and approach throughout his life. His admiration is explicit in the tribute Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love (1974) which Kandace Springs sings tenderly to very strong orchestral writing in Laura Winkler’s arrangement.

It takes a while for the concert to get going. It feels like a decent big band jazz concert but it doesn’t feel like Mingus. The openers Boogie Stop Shuffle (1959), the ballad Celia (1957), the fast-moving O. P. (Oscar Pettiford) (1970), the intricately structured and chordally-piquant ballad 1 x Love (1957) and even Mingus’s signature melody Goodbye Porkpie Hat (1959) (in an arrangement by Vladimir Nikolov built around Peter Tiehuis’s guitar) are all decent enough. The minor blues II B. S. (1963) is a carbon copy of the more familiar Haitian Fight Song with less of its stomp and swagger, though during its march-time blasts there was a thrill to the drums explosively bouncing off the back of the hall.

Hora Decubitus (1959), a pretty swinging number, has a cheeky moment when the three soloists freely improvise against each other without other accompaniment and by then it’s getting toward that raucous Mingus prayer meeting feel that was lacking at the beginning. By Gunslinging Bird (1959) the soloists have become more animated and it starts to feel more like a Mingus workshop, albeit one given to a degree of shameless exhibitionism that would have surely had Mingus laying out one of his signature punches to the mouth. Trombone educationalist Bart van Lier roams the stage in a shiny jacket, and baritone sax player Leo Pellegrino, in a pink suit and pink coiffure, is further emboldened to hit the front of the stage with a confidently paced solo by turns measured and freely flowing that complements van Lier’s whimsically whizzy work playing directly into the audience and TV camera at the front of the stage. Those watching on BBC Four are gonna get an eyeful.

As Geoffrey Smith said in the Proms Extra conversation prior to the show “In his mature work the pieces weren’t written down, to keep that immediate oral feel of a jam session. He would cue people like a conductor, illuminating the music and illuminating the musician.” Mingus said “I always wanted to be a spontaneous composer.” He combined the improvisatory nature of jazz with the structures of composition and the harmonic depth of classical music.

Shabaka Hutchings
Photo Copyright: BBC/ Mark Allan

As with many of Mingus’s compositions that were allowed to develop through spontaneous composition, Weird Nightmare (1946) was reworked many times, also appearing as a tremendous instrumental Vassarlean (1960) and with lyrics sung tonight by Kandace Springs. On Hal Wilner’s incredible album Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus Elvis Costello gives a haunting first take performance of this accompanied by Harry Partch’s spooky cloud bowls. Stefan Behrisch’s arrangement has a similar spareness and shimmer, with chilling dissonances and mysterious work from Shabaka on bass clarinet, concluding with creepy whispering.

The civil rights anthem Fables of Faubus (1959) is a full-blown blast with cheeky rattles and screeching trumpets and surprise episodes of salsa feel. Tom Trapp’s arrangement brings the theme to life so perfectly that the solos seem like stopgaps between the big ensemble voice, though Shabaka gives a characteristic pepper-spray bass clarinet solo over a 3/8 moment. Further soloing displays the perfect kind of irreverence and originality that Mingus insisted on in his bandmembers. Shabaka takes it down to a rumble, and then a disembowelling low Eb note that makes the whole hall burr. Ensemble vocal contributions recall Mingus and his drummer Dannie Richmond on Original Faubus Fables (on Mingus Presents Mingus) with the pair back-and-forthing “Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Dannie!” “Governor Faubus!” “Why is he sick and ridiculous?” “He won’t permit integrated schools!” “Then he’s a fool!” Even without the words the pro-integrationist message of the piece was ne’er more boldly outlined than in Tom Trapp’s fabulous, Faubulous, arrangement, with its crime movie chordal writing and strenuously blasting brass.

Joni Mitchell’s 1979 album Mingus started as a collaboration but was unfinished when Mingus died. God Must Be A Boogie Man (1979) is a Mitchell original inspired by the opening of Mingus’s must-read mad-dog autobiography Beneath the Underdog. Mingus explains to his shrink that there are three Minguses: the pensive thoughtful man, a frightened animal who attacks, and a lover who retreats from his own oversensitivity. The variety and depth of his compositions speak to the complexity of the man’s character, and what a character. The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines is based on one of Mingus’s tall tales about a guy getting a lucky break at the fruit machine. On record it’s one of Jaco Pastorius’s most funky and ridiculous god-of-bass moments featuring his typically punchy brass writing. It meanders a bit without these elements, but Boogie Man is sung by Kandace Springs with sensitivity and the response vocal ably called out by the audience, who by the end are intimately involved in the proceedings.

Kandace Springs
Photo Copyright: BBC/ Mark Allan


Moanin’ (1959) was moved from second in the programme to second last. It would have livened up the early part of the concert, but as it turned out things got very lively later on, with this set-piece a show-stealing moment for Leo Pellegrino. The baritone sax intro originally played by Ronnie Cuber is hugely expanded in this arrangement by Tom Trapp into a crazy-exciting extended ‘brass house’ intro several minutes long. Over a disco rhythm, the flamboyant Leo Pellegrino added Millennial Whoops to the riff and danced like a pink-coiffured Prince in a pink suit, waving the baritone sax like a rattle. A magnetic performer and massive showoff, his kicking leg dance, waving, weightlifting, spinning and cavorting, won him a lot of love in this his Proms debut (I can’t believe it’s also only now Shabaka’s Proms debut). He’s a champ and the audience were in heaven with uproarious applause and stamping, terrific excitement in the room.

It’s legit to whoop during Better Git It In Your Soul (1959), the natural choice to end the concert with its exuberant themes and baptist prayer meeting feels. When a cameraman moves in close on the piano solo, I get the feel of a small gig in a late night club, an exciting intimacy to the confidence of Hans Vroomans’ McCoy Tyner esque joanna-swallowing and a succession of overlapping solos with Scott’s trumpet, van Lier’s trombone and Shabaka’s pepper-spray bass clarinet. It feels like the original Mingus Jazz Workshop: everyone singing out individually but together. A Mexican wave of noise erupts around the hall— ev’rybody singin’ an’ swingin’ an’ clappin’ they hands.

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk

Prom 53: Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (LINK) and will be screened tonight (Friday 25 August) at 7.30pm on BBC Four.



Jules Buckley
Photo Copyright: BBC/ Mark Allan


SET AND BAND LISTS FOR PROM 53

FIRST SET

Boogie Stop Shuffle, arr. John Clayton
Celia, arr. Outi Tarkiainen
O. P. (Oscar Pettiford), arr. Ilja Reijngoud
1 x Love, arr. Vladimir Nikolov
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, arr. Vladimir Nikolov
II B. S., arr. John Clayton
Weird Nightmare, arr. Stefan Behrisch
Gunslinging Bird, arr. Gil Goldstein

SECOND SET

Fables of Faubus, arr. Tom Trapp
Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love - arr. Laura Winkler
Hora Decubitus, arr. Joan Reinders
God Must Be a Boogie Man, arr. Vince Mendoza
The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines - arr. Tim Davies
Moanin’, arr. Tom Trapp
Better Git It in Your Soul, arr. Tom Trapp

PERFORMERS

Shabaka Hutchings bass clarinet
Bart van Lier trombone
Leo Pellegrino baritone saxophone
Christian Scott trumpet
Kandace Springs vocalist
Metropole Orkest -  Arlia de Ruiter leader
Jules Buckley conductor

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