LP/DOWNLOAD REVIEW: Kansas Smitty’s House Band – Broadway 2018

Kansas Smitty’s House Band – Broadway 2018
(Kansas Smitty's.  LP/download Review by Mark McKergow)

Kansas Smitty’s House Band burst forth once again from their cellar bar headquarters in Hackney’s Broadway Market with a year-ending collection of bright, classically original jazz performed with gusto and skill.

It’s three years since the band’s debut CD appeared (REVIEWED HERE), and they have gone from strength to strength since with appearances at Ronnie Scott’s, festival shows at Cheltenham and London, and forays into Europe. Their music is proving a great success with audiences – classic-sounding jazz which turns out not to be covers and standards but original compositions. Their musicianship is outstanding here, as on previous outings, with intricate arrangements and cunning use of resources to get their (give-or-take) seven-piece outfit sounding like anything from a big band to a loco latin ensemble.

Smitty’s have been releasing an EP every three months, each bringing four new tracks into the open. This limited edition vinyl LP (just 450 copies) brings together highlights from 2018’s releases, along with a brand new track. Most of the tunes come from the pen of leader and saxophonist Giacomo Smith, with guitarist David Archer contributing two numbers and helping on a third. The music touches on a wider variety of styles than on previous releases, with more post-war elements and more stretching out for the soloists. (Their debut CD was notable for squeezing ten tracks into less than 40 minutes!) Here we have eight tracks, one of which is a monumental seven minutes in duration.

The opening Twentieth Century bows deeply in the direction of Duke Ellington, with chunky section harmonies and a super growling trumpet solo from Pete Horsfall (whose own solo debut CD Nighthawks I reviewed here earlier in the year). Bird On Money is a jumpy and boppish affair, nodding to Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and also perhaps to Charles Mingus’ tribute Bird Calls from the Mingus Ah-Um album. Here, Giacomo Smith takes things into his own hands with a smoulderingly atmospheric alto sax solo passage before some neat drum breaks featuring Will Cleasby.

David Archer’s Yewande points in a new direction with an African tinge loping along in a smoothly flowing seven-in-a-bar feel (yes, it can be done!) led by Archer’s guitar. Alec Harper takes an extended solo on tenor saxophone, building very nicely with swirling rising piano from Joe Webb. The uber-lively Beijinhos is a superb piece of latin liveliness co-written by Adrian Cox and featuring Cox’s clarinet in a fantastically neat duo with Smith. This track was recorded live and features great and well-deserved audience reaction to the reed solos. It’s like we’re in the Cuba of the 1950s waiting for Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons to jet in from Guys & Dolls.

Kansas Smitty’s House Band continue their tradition of producing literate, exciting and hugely enjoyable jazz in prodigious volume – no wonder they are the talk of the town. See them on New Year’s Eve at Ronnie Scott's, and check out the new album at the band’s Bandcamp website (link below). And if you don’t have your vinyl turntable, don’t worry – you won’t miss out. The music is available for download and streaming too.

LINK: Broadway 2018 at the Kansas Smitty's website


CD REVIEW: Nigel Waddington and the Bigger Pictures Orchestra – Beautiful City

Nigel Waddington and the Bigger Pictures Orchestra – Beautiful City
(Cala Records. CACD77029. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Beautiful City... and beautiful music. Composer and trumpeter Nigel Waddington's third CD explores and blends a wide range of idioms, grooves and emotions. His music pays a sort of homage to NYC, where Nigel was a guest conductor and composer there with the Blue Nitrous Big Band in September of 2013. Among the guest soloists with the band were the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove and sometimes Chick Corea saxophonist Steve Wilson. Nigel's 17-piece band is augmented by a full string section that swims freely throughout. Never obscuring or being obscured by the powerful arsenal of brass, reeds and rhythm at hand.

The playing and recording sound is all top-notch, delivering Waddington's vision and executing it flawlessly, yet with a blinding verve and excitement.

Highlights for me include Ian Shaw's vocal on Staying Alive. He handles this Bee Gees disco classic with aplomb. He perfectly judges the tension between the outer stud and the inner youngster while instinctively drawing on the sultry background textures to create a brilliantly charged performance envisioned by the arranger. Bravo Ian.

Vocalist Vanessa Haynes' interpretation of Burt Bacharach's (who celebrates his 90th birthday this year) Walk On By, also scores. Her ability to alter a single note creates her own bittersweet take in depicting a jilted lover's rueful tale.

Two of Nigel's refreshing and technically challenging originals complete the CD. Step Away From The Vehicle pays tribute to 1970s TV scoring by the likes of John Cavacas, Tom Scott and JJ Johnson, among so many others. As the composer writes: "I added big band, strings, harp and a long guitar feature (played by legendary studio ace Mitch Dalton) to recreate music of the sort that hooked me during my teens when watching such TV crimebusters like Kojak or Starsky and Hutch.

Finally, Carnaval de Toledo conveys the heat and mystery of this Iberian city. The competing passages of dark tension and release with sections duelling in an increasingly complex a capella interlace multiple lines against flamenco-style palmas claras. Trevor Mires' brief but passionate trombone solo at the coda leads effectively to a darkly Iberian conclusion.

Waddington's exciting and impressive ensemble and music on Beautiful City can well confirm that the state of big band music is in good hands as well as moving forward.

LINK: Beautiful City at Cala Records


INTERVIEW: Dave O'Higgins (New Album Tenors of Our Time with Max Ionata, Ross Stanley and Luca Santaniello)

Dave O'Higgins and Max Ionata at the 606 Club
with Luca Santaniello and Ross Stanley
Photo still from video
Tenors of Our Time is a new album in which two British jazz musicians, Dave O'Higgins and Ross Stanley, have teamed up with two Italians, the saxophonist Max Ionata and new York-based drummer Luca Santaniello. Dave O'Higgins tells the story of how the album came to being. And it is a story which has gone global, as not only a record label in Suzuka in central Japan, but also an influential sax site based in the US have taken up the cause. Sebastian did the interview:

LondonJazz News: The names of the two Italians playing on this album are certainly unfamiliar to me. Can you give us some background and how you got to know them?

Dave O'Higgins: I heard Luca Santaniello playing with New York sax Titan, Jerry Weldon and I loved his swing feel, dynamic and musicality immediately. We became friends and resolved to work together at the first opportunity.

Luca's full biography is here.

LJN: And how did you get to know Max Ionata?

DO'H: I was asked to put a quartet together for the 2017 Rochester Jazz Festival and Luca helped me fix the band. We started discussing the possibility of an Anglo-Italian project and a two-tenor combo with the wonderful Max Ionata seemed like a perfect plan. It was a sheer pleasure from the first note. The quartet was made up with UK virtuoso jazz organist, Ross Stanley. The session was 'live in the studio' and swinging hard: five originals by me, two by Max, a tricky blues theme by James Williams, a Dizzy Gillespie rhythm changes and an old Italian pop song!

I was already familiar with Max’s playing as I keep my ear to the ground and knew him to be one of the greatest (and most effortlessly melodic) saxophonists alive today. When Luca brokered the idea to him, Max had also done his homework and immediately said “yeah, I’d love to work with Dave O'Higgins”

His full biography is here.


LJN: Are you and Max Ionata players with a similar stylistic leaning?

DO'H: We’ve certainly checked out a lot of the same stuff, but I’d say we each bring a different, contrasting and complementary tonal and melodic approach to the table. What was incredibly easy was phrasing together – it was completely effortless. We new from the first tune things would slot into place very naturally.

LJN: Where did you record the album and how were the sessions?

DO'H: We recorded at my home studio in Brixton (JVG). It was all wrapped up in a few hours – just live in the studio, no headphones, as live. The only downside was carrying Ross Stanley's Hammond organ (weighs 200kg) up two flights of stairs and down again after... I think we recorded for about four hours with a lunch break in the middle.

LJN: Is the album title a tip of the hat to Roy Hargrove?

DO'H: Yes, very much so. Initially, it was the band name and it kind of stuck. Roy Hargrove was still alive when we made the record, so it wasn’t meant as a tribute, just as a respectful reprise of that idea – this time forging an alliance between two guys from different European countries.

LJN: You've done two tenor projects before, like one with Eric Alexander I seem to remember...

DO'H: That gave me the confidence to do anything, really. Eric is a living legend. He’s also old school New York – tough and competitive, but also respectful and generous when you earn it. I had such a blast recording two CDs with Eric and doing I think four or five European tours. He’s a great friend now. I learnt a lot from him.

Since then I have also 'locked horns' as it were with Grant Stewart and Phil Dwyer. Also top players and great guys.

LJN: What is the background to the Japanese label Albore and what led them to becoming involved?

DO'H: Max records for Albore Jazz and he kindly put me in touch with the producer, Satoshi Toyoda, who he thought might be interested. This was very generous of him, and a nice endorsement. Satoshi loved it and wanted to do it from the off.

LJN: And Steve Neff’s website has also taken up the cause of this album… what is that all about?!

DO'HSteve Neff saw the YouTube clip from the CD recording session of You’re Nicked (an original minor blues theme) and wanted to transcribe my and Max’s solos for the benefit of the international saxophone community. It was very flattering, and a nice way to reach out worldwide to saxophone nuts!

LJN: Have you been able to tour this group at all?

DO'H: We did two gigs in the UK (Grantham and London 606) when we recorded the CD, and one in Italy (Biella Jazz Club). The plan was to tour more extensively but timetables and international transportation costs have proved a problem so far… We are totally up for it if we can get three to four dates in a row to cover our initial travel costs. All enquiries to ohig@mac.com please!

LJN: Re your other projects you are touring quite a bit with Darius Brubeck, including an anniversary tour to Poland…

DO'H: Yes I play with the Darius Brubeck Quartet and we just completed a fantastic six-city tour of Poland retracing the steps of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s famous Jazz Ambassadors tour of 1958. The gigs were all recorded and we’re busy listening through to the results with a view to releasing a live CD next year.

I also play with the Brubeck's Play Brubeck (three brothers plus me – an honorary Brubeck!) and we will be doing a big US tour in 2020 to commemorate 100 yrs since Dave Brubeck was born.

LJN: And what else is coming up?

DO'HI am doing a new CD and touring project for 2019 with the great young guitarist Rob Luft. The project is called O’Higgins and Luft Play Monk and Trane. It will be released on Ubuntu Music and Rod Youngs (drums) and Scott Flanigan (organ) will make up the line-up. I have always loved the Prestige era of Coltrane recordings, both as leader and sideman (1956-58), especially Coltrane’s choices of standards. Rob has a penchant for calling Monk tunes – and it’s great to hear them played by a group with no piano (so you can’t imitate Monk!). This group will be playing swinging jazz for sure…


LINK: Tenors of Our Time at Albore Jazz
Dave O'Higgins' website


REVIEW: London Vocal Project: Jon Hendricks' Miles Ahead at Kings Place

Pete Churchill (centre) soloists and the London Vocal Project
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney
London Vocal Project – Jon Hendricks' Miles Ahead
(Kings Place, 9 December 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This was the kind of concert which consistently challenges the wisdom of that old saying about being 'impressed but not moved'. Because, in essence, I can't see how it would be possible for anyone present not to have been affected emotionally in some way, maybe even profoundly, and also regularly spellbound by the level of achievement on show in the hall. Let's start with the 'moved':

At the end of the concert, Michele Hendricks told the story of how her father had harboured a dream for almost half a century to be able to perform the entirety of Gil Evans' Miles Ahead with voices. As she did so, the memories were clearly flooding back to her, the depth of emotion in her voice was clear, and tears were starting to well up. It was a moment to contemplate what has been done, this whole  astonishing and life-affirming story. The dream becoming a reality has happened through the  immense work and dedication of Pete Churchill working with Hendricks, through the generosity of Quincy Jones, and through the deep involvement of the members of London Vocal Project. They all ensured that Hendricks himself was able to hear the work in full; literally to hear his dream come true at St. Peter's Church in New York – just a few months before he died last year at the age of 96.

Most of the performers on stage, the singers and also bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Steve Brown, had been there for that New York concert, and their engagement in this whole project is so visible when they do it. One could sense the LVP members' commitment to what they do throughout the concert, whether singing or just watching. My eye caught the faces of the singers as Anita Wardell performed the scat solos on In a Mellow Tone. Every one of them had that expression of willing her on, enjoying every moment, breathing with her through every phrase and every vocal pirouette. I don't think I've ever seen such palpable sense of support and encouragement being given to another performer on stage. And with good reason. Wardell's singing was a remarkable feat, possibly enhanced by that egging-on from the other singers. The other soloists put in great performances too. A 'role debut' by Iain Mackenzie bodes well, and Michele Hendricks, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a way of owning this mode of expression.

So that was the 'moved'. There was also the 'impressed'. In one sense the fairy-story has happened, and this was a re-living or re-telling of it. But to think of it that way would be a misunderstanding of the way performance works. Through the process of work in rehearsal and doing additional performances, one can experience how the performers dig deeper into the material, one can see their expressions as they unearth more harmony, counterpoint and complexity to revel in. Whereas in the UK premiere there was perhaps still an element of caution, this performance, with all the fiendishly complex vocal writing, and the fact that it is all done without any scores means that the performers can encourage each other, interact. It came across far more boldly and convincingly than I remember from the UK premiere. And that creates the excitement of anticipation of how it can develop further.

Another sideways thought kept coming back to me. In London, there is a section of the writers specialising in classical music who have, rather high-handedly, written of the performances of symphonies from memory which Aurora Orchestra does as a 'gimmick'. Pete Churchill has written passionately and eloquently in a FEATURE earlier this year to mark the 10th anniversary of LVP how this commitment to the music works, and the results that can be derived from it. If performing from memory is a gimmick, then, in the immortal words of Dorothy Parker, I am Marie of Roumania.

Michele Hendricks

1) It's Sand Man – Ed Lewis & Jon Hendricks (Lambert, Hendricks and Ross - from 'Sing a song of Basie') (LVP)
2) In a Mellow Tone – Duke Ellington. Vocalese scat solos by Jon Hendricks (Anita Wardell and Trio)
3) Li'l Darlin' – Neil Hefti & Jon Hendricks (Andi Hopgood, LVP)
4) Ev'rybody's Boppin' – Jon Hendricks (Michele Hendricks)
5) O Pato – Jaime Silva/Neuza Teixeira, arr. Brendan Dowse - English lyric by Jon Hendricks (LVP)
6) Love Makes the World Go Round – Bob Merrill (Iain Mackenzie)
7) The Preacher – Horace Silver, lyrics by Jon Hendricks (LVP)

SECOND SET (All lyrics by Jon Hendricks)

1) Springsville – John Carisi
2) Maids of Cadiz – Delibes
3) The Duke – Dave Brubeck
4) My Ship – Kurt Weill
5) Miles Ahead – Miles Davis/Gil Evans
6) Blues for Pablo – Gil Evans
7) New Rhumba – Ahmad Jamal
8) The Meaning of the Blues – Bobby Troup/Leah Worth
9) Lament – J.J.Johnson
10) I Don't Wanna be Kissed – Jack Eliot/Harold Spina

ENCORE: The Preacher – Horace Silver, lyrics by Jon Hendricks

LINKS: Mike Collins' review of the partial Miles Ahead at Ronnie Scott's in June 2014
Tessa Souter's report of the New York premiere in May 2017
John L Walters' review of the London premiere in May 2017


INTERVIEW: Eddie Henderson

"Music is a healing force" – Eddie Henderson
Photo credit: © Mochles Simawi

Legendary American jazz trumpeter Eddie Henderson has performed in The UK several times this year, including his two unforgettable London performances: at Pizza Express Soho at the end of April with his Quintet, and Live at Church of Sound at St James the Great, end of May, with the fantastic '60s jazz veterans The Cookers! During his long career the unquestionable master of trumpet  worked with Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Norman Connors, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Max Roach and McCoy Tyner  –  just to name a few. Tomasz Furmanek interviewed Eddie Henderson for London Jazz News.

LondonJazz News: From 1968 to the late '80s you mixed music and medicine. As a professional psychiatrist, what connects music and psychiatry?

Eddie Henderson: In the study of medicine you have to heal the illnesses and the human body, and with music it can be a similar thing, it can be very complementary… Music is a healing force. The sound of music, a clear sound, it’s a healing force for me and, I think, for everybody else… So it can be a healing art form (not all music though), and it can go head to head with the medicine, they can overlap each other. You don’t have to be a musician to be happy, but music itself can make everybody happy!

LJN: It looks like it was music that gave you more happiness than medicine?

EH: Oh, absolutely! I can’t help anybody else unless I am happy, and music is what makes me happy. It is my source of happiness. If I feel good then I can help other people.

LJN: I have just experienced an incredible performance from you and The Cookers (incl. Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, David Weiss, Victor Lewis, Donald Harrison and Danny Grisset) – what does playing with these guys mean to you, what is the particular chemistry?

EH: The chemistry of people you play with is very important. For example, when you study chemistry at school, you learn that you can’t put just any elements together, as you might cause an explosion. You have to be careful of what elements you mix together, to make a homogenous mixture. With music it’s the same.

LJN: So this particular mixture of musicians is very complementary?

EH: It’s complementary on a personal level, on a friendship level and on the musical level. You can’t have just names, it’s not about that… It’s about the chemistry. I just don’t play with anybody, it’s not about a bad or good musicians either. I have to be, and to feel, comfortable playing.

LJN: You seem to have this genius quality of being able to get exactly what you want from music and musicians.

EH: I’ve learnt this quality from observing geniuses (laughs) – I hope that some of that quality rubs off on you whenever you associate with them! So be careful who you have around you (laughs)…because it may rub off on you! You absorb what you have around you.

LJN: The secret behind the relevant and always fresh sound of your trumpet?

EH: I had learned that from listening to Miles Davis when I was very young. In 1957 he stayed at my parents’ house, he was a family friend, and in certain ways he taught me many things. It wasn’t happening on a verbal level, but by observing him and listening to his sound that stood out from the crowd and from all of the trumpet players… So I kind of emulated him, because, you know, he was an amazing trumpet player, and I didn’t want to sound anonymous. I realized the importance of having this quality… you know, all the greats, they play two bars and you know it’s Coltrane, or Nat King Cole singing, or that’s Billie Holiday!...

LJN: …the importance of having an instantly recognizable sound?

EH: Right! Now people often talk about Miles Davis as if he just dropped out of a vacuum in the sky… No! He had his influences too, like Freddie Webster, who was a huge influence on him, but that’s how the evolution of the tradition goes, by observing it, being a part of it and perpetuating it by evolving it.
"(Louis Armstrong) told me how to make a sound on his horn" – Eddie Henderson
Photo credit: © Mochles Simawi

LJN: Miles was very important to you at the beginning of your career and you often said that you admired him…

EH: Of course!

LJN: What have you learned from him and how?

EH: By observation – observation and listening! That’s the most important thing – listening! Not just talking to him – mostly because he didn’t talk to you (laughs)… he wouldn’t talk like a “normal” person would… no! Listening to his approach to music and listening to his sound. He wouldn’t just sit down with you and say “do this or do that”… No. It didn’t happen that way.

LJN: Magical. Your family was in the centre of the coolest musical crowd – and for you, all this seemed very normal?

EH: Oh, absolutely. All these people – Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne… and many more… yeah, they were just friends of my parents. I remember sitting with them on the sofa in our living room… (laughs).

LJN: And you had your first trumpet lesson when you were nine with… Louis Armstrong!

EH: Because my mother new him and she took me to see him!

LJN: How do you remember that?

EH: How could I ever forget?! That’s the first time I ever blew a trumpet; he told me how to make a sound on his horn. I didn’t know who he was. You know, just a friend of my mother... I had no idea! I was just a child!

LJN: One more memory about someone else, please…  Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, you played with them for a while…

EH: Art Blakey and his influence was invaluable in my development,  because his band was like an institution, he would always bring younger musicians up and hone them to the craft of the art form of jazz, and ideally if you stayed there at least two years, hopefully five years at most…  And Billy Harper was with Art Blakey, George Cables… all the people… Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter… McCoy Tyner, he played with Art Blakey too. All these notables of jazz came through that invaluable institution…

LJN: Like an academy…

EH: Oh exactly! Postgraduates! It was an invaluable experience. Unfortunately there are no more institutions like that nowadays.

LJN: As a teenager you studied trumpet at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. What did you take from studying classical music?

EH: I wanted to go to the conservatory more or less to learn to play the trumpet technically. I had an excellent teacher, he was the number one trumpet player in the San Francisco Symphony, and I started performing with San Francisco Conservatory Symphony Orchestra – my teacher would play the first chair and I played the second chair. That was my only experience playing with the symphony orchestra, but it was wonderful! It allowed me to play an instrument and then I met Miles Davis and started learning from him!

Tomasz Furmanek, Mochles Simawi and LJN would like to thank Natsuko Henderson for her assistance in facilitating this interview. 


PREVIEW / TRIPLE INTERVIEW: The Shape of Jazz to Come Mini-Festival, (Vortex 18-19 December)

Orphy Robinson
Publicity photo

The Shape of Jazz to Come is a two-day mini-festival taking place at the Vortex Jazz Club on 18-19 December. A high quality billing includes Meg Morley Trio, the final ever live appearance of Yana (Corey Mwamba, Dave Kane and Joshua Blakemore) and the debut of Orphy Robinson’s ‘Dub All Vision/Double Vision.’ 

This comes at a particularly emotional time for the jazz community and fans of the Vortex following the passing of the club’s founder David Mossman. AJ Dehany asked Meg Morley, Corey Mwamba and Orphy Robinson about their plans for this special festival and how it points the way for the future of the music.

Meg Morley Trio
Pubicity Photo


LJN: I really like the trio album Can’t Get Started with Richard Sadler and Emiliano Caroselli, which you debuted at the Vortex back in February. Returning after ten months, how do you and the group feel about these compositions and how have they developed in that time?

MM: Thanks, I'm glad you like it. The tunes are somewhat varied in style so we enjoy playing them, but I think the development has been about our interaction rather than the tunes themselves. After the Vortex launch we had the opportunity to not only perform the album music, but to work on other projects – for example, a British Film Institute commission for a silent film DVD release - where we discovered more about each other's playing and how we respond to each other.

LJN: You’ll be presenting new music from your upcoming second album release in 2019—have we heard any of this music before, what can we expect, and has it been recorded yet?

MM: It hasn't been recorded as the tunes are currently being written, but you will hear a couple on the 18th. The debut album is still fairly new so we want to play it more but I want to keep writing and moving on so the 2019 album will probably be a continuation of the first in terms of telling stories and exploring styles, yet on a slightly bigger scale: perhaps more cohesive and expansive through the development of ideas and sections; use of space etc.

LJN: There are some eclectic influences going into the group, from your interest in composing and improvising music for dance and silent film, and Emiliano Caroselli’s experience with pop, rock and Cuban music—how do you bring these together through jazz?

MM: I don't consciously try to bring them together – it just happens as I write what I like. However I do consciously try to bring some varied, and hopefully unexpected, styles and rhythms into our charts – and I think it's the combination of my individual writing, our different backgrounds, our collective interpretation of the charts and also our interplay which make it interesting.

LJN: And what do you foresee when you think about that challenging, audacious phrase, "the shape of jazz to come"?

MM: I think the phrase is fantastic (as is the Coleman album – even though there's no piano!) and expresses current creative music better than the term 'jazz' itself does. 'Jazz' will always be categorised by many as a style (e.g. 'swing', 'free' or a certain harmonic language etc) and then it's institutionalised, but for me it's a philosophy that represents the freedom of individuals to have a voice through improvised music – no matter what the style. Perhaps 'the shape of jazz to come' forever represents the present moment breaking away from such categorisations...

Meg Morley Trio performs on Day 1 on December 18 BOOKINGS

Yana. L-R: Joshua Blackmore, Dave Kane, Corey Mwamba


LJN: The Vortex was the first place where you played in London as Yana with bassist Dave Kane and drummer Joshua Blackmore ten years ago. As you’re moving away from live performance after March this could be something of a special show?

CM: Very much so for us -- from memory it was only our second gig (our first gig was in Stratford-upon-Avon). We didn't have a name then. As a group, we've always been a "live" band, and the change in my circumstances means we won't be doing that any more (although we will still be recording). So it will be the last chance for those in the London area to see us play. Which I think is special!

LJN: You’ve called it “open, living music”—what characterises this that we can look out for and how do you and the group achieve this? How easy or hard is it to stick to the maxim of the album title “don’t overthink it”?

CM: I think there is a sense of movement, of energy, and joy from when we three play. I couldn't say where it is from. Partly it is about choosing the right people -- and Dave and Joshua are brothers to me -- and partly it is about paying attention within that moment. It isn't something I've ever worried about with them.

LJN: I gather there are improvised and composed elements and we’re often unsure which is which—how do you move between these with the group and how does this flexibility affect or structure or direct what we see and hear?

CM: At the beginning there were composed elements. But we dropped them very quickly, and in fact the majority of our work is totally improvised, or at least spontaneously configured. We are told that it sounds like we've worked things out, but we really haven't. I sometimes have the feeling we each have prepared things that we each make, but we never communicate to each other until the moment of making music.

LJN: And what do you foresee when you think about that challenging, audacious phrase, "the shape of jazz to come"?

CM: I quite like the idea of jazz+ as a shape -- a whole dimension that constantly folds outwards and inwards. As static as some people would like to make it, it is dark, never fixed, ultimately unknowable, and irresistible.

YANA perform on Day 1 on 18 December BOOKINGS



LJN: Could you tell me about ‘Dub All Vision/Double Vision’ that you’re going to be presenting at the Vortex as a five-piece?

OR: A grouping of 4 musicians in this instance. 2 Bass Players, A piano/ keys player, Tuned percussion, Digital & Acoustic instruments. In other instances there will be two drummers and two tuned percussionists.

LJN: I heard you quote what what James Brown said to Earth Wind and Fire’s Maurice White as they were coming off stage: “That’s great fellas. Your music looked after the people’s minds, now I’ll go take care of their feet”—is this in the nature of a ‘double vision’ that hints toward an ambition to do both?

OR: The Idea behind “Dub all vision/Double Vision” two sides to every story & groove. Double vision/Dub All Vision is based in some instances on ideas & Sketches written before the concert and sent to some of the musicians, who will play them and then the other musicians who have not been sent the ideas & Sketches previously will react with improvisation in the moment. Through manipulation of digital Fx/equipment mixing as in Dub Music.

LJN: The form ‘Dub’ derives from studio techniques—how do you go about presenting these in a live context, and what’s the relationship between acoustic and electronic elements in this music?

OR: By using digital Fx, apps and techniques that are used to manipulate live Notes, Tones, Voices, Sounds & Frequencies the acoustic world of sound.

LJN: And what do you foresee when you think about that challenging, audacious phrase, "the shape of jazz to come"?

OR: I see youth meeting experience, I think of new ideas meeting seasoned musings. Creating soundscapes for a new day.

Orphy Robinson performs on Day 2 on 19 December http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/event/the-shape-of-jazz-to-come-day-2-orphy-robinson-presents-dub-all-vision/

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

Day 1 - Meg Morley Trio / Yana - MORE DETAILS

Day 2 - Orphy Robinson presents ‘Dub All Vision/Double Vision’ MORE DETAILS


PREVIEW: Têtes de Pois, Waldo’s Gift, Binker Golding + Elliot Galvin (Walthamstow Jazz Festival,16 Feb 2019)

In a duo with Elliot Galvin: Binker Golding
Publicity photo
One feature which stands out from the programme of next February's inaugural Walthamstow Jazz Festival on Saturday 16 February at Walthamstow’s Assembly Hall is the prevalence of new bands and new collaborations from different parts of the UK. For this preview feature, writer Gail Tasker has focused on three, for each of whom the festival will coincide with the release of their debut EP/album early next year:

Têtes de Pois

This young band from Leeds is rife with catchy horn lines and driving chord progressions. The textural combination of Jasmine Whalley’s baritone saxophone and Harry Fowler’s tenor makes for happy listening, whilst Ben Haskin’s tuneful guitar interludes get the tunes flowing with an easy grace. Style-wise, the band offer a true smorgasbord of hip hop harmonies, afrobeat rhythms, and a thought-provoking compositional approach that is sure to go far in 2019. According to Fowler, influences include “Shabaka and the Ancestors, Melt Yourself Down”, and even “some of the bands that will be at the festival on the day”. After querying an album release via email, the band stated that they’ll be releasing their EP two weeks before the festival and will be bringing down vinyl!

Waldo’s Gift

This guitar-drums-bass outfit originates from Bristol and has seemingly absorbed the city’s taste for electronica and heavy beats. There’s something in their sound that reminds me of Strobes, the stylistic mash-up of math rock and jazz. The band describe their influences expansively as stemming from “the sum total of our experiences as individuals expressed collectively through sound in its rawest form”. Aided by a variety of pedals, Alun Elliott-Williams’s fingers fly across the guitar, producing fast-paced hypnotising melodic lines in rhythmic counterpoint to Harry Stoneham on bass and James Vine on drums. The band’s ability to meld and fuse 'math' rhythms and angular melodies together with a propulsive, functional harmony makes them an engaging listen. 2019 will see them release their debut EP, Improvisations, recorded at The Gallimaufry in Bristol, the birthplace of the band as well as the venue that they’ve played at weekly for the past two years.

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin

This is a somewhat blind recommendation as I’ve yet to see this duo play live and was unable to find an audio trace of them online. However, the combination of saxophonist Binker Golding and pianist Elliot Galvin is guaranteed to be awe-inspiring. Every time I’ve seen Binker perform, his playing is phenomenal, powerful, and Coltrane-esque in his seemingly unlimited stream of ideas when improvising. Galvin’s playing is also constantly experimental, as seen from his Elliot Galvin Trio releases and his work with Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur; methodical yet humorous.

Their first meeting was at the Cambridge Jazz Festival in 2017, when Galvin guested with Binker and Moses, and the duo also appeared, once, at Kansas Smitty's. According to Galvin, they plan to release an album next year called Ex Nihilo via London-based label Byrd Out, featuring free improvisations recorded live at The Vortex. And when asked to describe the style of playing, Galvin’s words seem inviting enough: “high energy and spontaneous”.

Publicity photo by J.Matyka
As the above shows, the festival is an excellent opportunity to hear up-and-coming bands from all over the UK, all in one place. Additional acts to watch out for include Snazzback (Bristol), Vels Trio, Run Logan Run (Bristol), Cykada, Dulahli (Leeds) and Emma-Jean Thackray. With London jazz seeming to have made a come-back amongst mainstream listeners and the media, it’s refreshing to be able to experience so many artists from outside the bubble.

It’s also a chance to hear UK jazz legends, such as Evan Parker playing with bassist John Edwards  and John Russell on guitar. The trio have an album out called Walthamstow Moon (‘61 revisited), inspired by John Coltrane’s performance in Walthamstow with Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Reggie Workman, also out on Byrd Out Records.

A further legendary headliner is Ginger Baker with his Jazz Confusion, a quartet line-up featuring the great Pee Wee Ellis. All in all, the festival provides a unique line-up. See you there. (pp)

LINK: Walthamstow Jazz Festival


PREVIEW: Alan Barnes’ A Jazz Christmas Carol at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (13 Dec 2018)

Alan Barnes getting into character for A Jazz Christmas Carol
Publicity picture
Peter Bacon finds two good reasons not to say “Bah, humbug”:

Some festive events have ripsnorter written all over them, and the pairing in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Eastside Jazz Club on Thursday evening of saxophonist Alan Barnes’ jazz take on the Charles Dickens Christmas classic with Duke Ellington’s big band adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s similarly seasonal Nutcracker suite promises a perfect mix of class, charm and wit with a dollop of dodgy Christmas jumper action in there for good measure.

A Jazz Christmas Carol is a new suite of pieces, touring for the first time this year, in which the Barnes Octet takes on the Dickensian roles in between brief readings from the novel.

According to the publicity: “A gruff baritone sax plays Scrooge, his lost love Belle is a lyrical alto, his clerk Bob Cratchit a cheery clarinet and Marley’s Ghost walks in the person of a swinging trombone. Just as Scrooge’s ghosts take him on a tour of his life, so the movements of this suite seemed each to have a benevolent presiding ghost, celebrating the spirit of jazz greats past and present.”

The Octet fully deserves to have the adjective “all-star” preceding it: with Alan Barnes (alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet) are Bruce Adams (trumpet), Mark Nightingale (trombone), Robert Fowler (saxophones and clarinet), Karen Sharp (saxophones and clarinet), David Newton (piano), Simon Thorpe (bass) and Clark Tracey (drums).

Conservatoires often favour the arty and new over the mainstream and the tradition, so it is gratifying to see the Birmingham academic establishment’s bespoke jazz club open to a broad stylistic programme.

The Barnes Christmas Carol sounds like it’ll be great fun, but for me it certainly doesn’t overshadow the delight of hearing Duke Ellington’s hugely stylish adaptation of The Nutcracker performed by a bunch of kids – kids, it should swiftly be added, who rise marvellously to the challenge. The RBC Ellington Orchestra’s director, Jeremy Price, seems to have found the knack of conjuring in these young musical minds that distinctive Ellingtonian essence: not only does the band have the classic Ellington sound, it swings like the blazes, too.

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Ellington Orchestra plays The Nutcracker at 6.30pm on Thursday 13 December 2018. The Alan Barnes Octet presents A Jazz Christmas Carol at 7.45pm.
Tickets for the Eastside Jazz Club to see and hear both are £23.

LINK: Booking via Royal Birmingham Conservatoire website


REVIEW: Tony Kofi's Portrait of Cannonball with Deelee Dubé at Lauderdale House

Tony Kofi and Byron Wallen
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Tony Kofi's Portrait of Cannonball
(Lauderdale House, Highgate. 6 December 2018. Review by Brian Blain)

Although I thought that alto giant Tony Kofi's Portrait of Cannonball was a great opener at this year's Swanage Festival in July, a few gigs down the line to polish things up plus a packed house, of all ages, in a smaller intimate space came together to create that magic bond between band and audience. It was an absolute blast, one of the most exciting gigs of the year, surely?

The structure of the show helps of course – nothing like intelligent, well-delivered words to connect, with pianist Alex Webb and Kofi himself giving short narratives on stages in Adderley's career and the wide range of great players he worked with, from Coltrane to Zawinul. Miles Davis was one, and his gift (most unusual) of Nardis inspired beautiful, restrained and melodic invention from the magnificent Byron Wallen (tpt), in complete contrast to his earlier contributions to Gigi Gryce's Minority and Cannon's own Things are Getting Better which threatened to crack the ceiling, if not actually raise the roof.

Like Wallen, Tony Kofi is a big, big player, someone who has worked in much further 'out' areas, such as the World Saxophone Quartet, alongside the late Hamiet Bluett, and that freer experience seems to have created a much more passionate voice, which even encouraged some ferocious circular breathing on, I think, Sam Jones's Del Sasser. Throughout, it was wonderful to hear these slightly free elements brought to bear on Cannonball's world of swing and melodic lines. You got the feeling that he was getting massive enjoyment from the whole thing and that this is more than just a 'project to get gigs'.

None of this would work without a really good rhythm section and Alex Webb, drummer  Alfonso Vitale – a quiet storm – and especially bassist Andy Cleyndert, the root of the grooves and the still vibing veteran of a million dates with the cream of the UK's modern mainstream players, was it, a brilliant all-round package. But for me, there was just one more thrill – an encounter with an almost unknown new talent.

Deelee Dubé, with Tony Kofi (foreground)
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

After the storm of Del Sasser, halfway through the first set, Tony introduced the band's 'special guest', Deelee Dubé, informing us that she was the first English singer to have won the International Sarah Vaughan Prize, judged by a panel of heavyweights including Christian McBride. Easing her way in to a Jobim song, Once I Loved, she slotted in perfectly with the two frontline horns, and though clearly just a tad nervous she revealed a voice of depth and range which navigated a not particularly easy tune with conviction and style.

But it was in the second set, when she went for the Nancy Wilson classic Never Will I Marry that sparks began to fly. This a song that was always previously a vehicle for the likes of Garland and Streisand until Wilson got to grips with it and showed the world what a jazz singer could do with it. At Lauderdale, Dubé was not overshadowed by anyone in this illustrious company, and by the final Work Song she was really flying, along with the whole team It was a marvellous surprise and a real lift to be in on the discovery of a brilliant new voice surrounded by jazz riches of the highest kind.

Brian Blain is a member of the programming team at Lauderdale House

LINK: Interview with Deeelee Dubé from November 2018


A MEMORY: David Mossman by Stan Sulzmann

The 'old' Vortex in Stoke Newington
Photo from vortexjazz.co.uk
Stan Sulzmann writes:

I first played at the original Vortex well over 30 years ago on quiet mid-week nights in a trio with Jeff Clyne and Phil Lee. So I met Dave Mossman (1942-2018), instantly likeable, and full of enthusiasm and life, who ran the club along with Irving Kindersley. Irving left shortly after. I was one of many fortunate musicians to have crossed David's path. The Vortex room had a great sound and what was lacking in audience numbers was more than made up for by Dave's generous hospitality – fed and watered and a few extra drinks to take home in your bag! Wouldn’t be unusual to walk in and see Dave with his tool-kit changing the space, opening up a pillar blocking view, carrying out the maintenance and then rushing to the bar, serving drinks and food and answering the endless phone calls (no mobs in those days). Dave did absolutely everything with enthusiasm, positivity and grace. It was a great place to feel welcome and play whatever we wanted, facilitated by someone who genuinely loved the music.

Some time later David asked if I could run a regular 'house band' spot with John Parricelli, Steve Watts and Martin France featuring 'special guests'. I jumped at the opportunity and we enjoyed several years of wonderful evenings with guests from John Taylor and Stan Tracey to Tim Garland and John Etheridge, Jason Yarde, Brian Kellock, Julian Arguelles to Marc Copland, Evan Parker, Norma Winstone.... I looked forward to those evenings so much and we all have fond memories. Audiences went up and down, and money was sometimes tight but David was always unfazed – just looking forward to the next night.

One particularly memorable occasion I had invited Paolo Fresu, the great Sardinian trumpet player. I had met him in Germany and he was very well established throughout Europe but unknown here in the UK. A shoestring budget and Paolo came with his partner and stayed at my home to make it work. I was praying for a good audience for him and the club! As was usual at the Vortex David had great friends and supporters, so an Italian writer Lara Bellini offered to help. She had access to an 'Italians in London' mailing list.

I walked in the club and said to Dave “how is it?”

"You’ll never believe it,” he said.

Oh no! I thought, no bookings...

Dave beamed: "We could have sold out for three nights!" There were queues outside round the corner. The place was bursting and Dave was sweating away at the bar but we were in hysterics because everybody apart from the band and Dave were speaking Italian. Apart from Paolo, when I announced "John Parricelli" they went crazy! We ended up with the audience spilling onto the stage and young women draped across the piano smoking, everyone clapping the backbeat on an encore blues!

David's face was a picture! It could only happen at the Vortex!

Having now seen quite a few lovely tributes I will leave it to those better able to put in words what we all feel about David and what he represents as a human being and supporter of our music. Reading some of those tributes it reminds me of all the generations that have passed through the Vortex and will continue to do so. Long may it last and David be remembered for instigating these golden opportunities for us all and his invaluable contribution to life.

LINK: Oliver Weindling's Tribute


REVIEW: Forward Festival 2018 at Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn, NY

Forward Festival 2018
L-R: Matthew Putman, Hillard Greene, Federico Ughi
Patrick Holmes, Daniel Carter
Photo credit: Tobias Wilner

Forward Festival 2018
(Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn, 6 and 7 December. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

There are wires everywhere, and everyone seems to know everyone else's name. This a visual manifestation of electronic music at Forward Festival 2018: a New York musical community's two-night annual get together; and an opportunity to bring electronics to a level-pegging in the realms of improvisation and avant-jazz over eight short sets.

The opening group was this mission personified, with Federico Ughi and Jeff Snyder (who spoke in advance of the festival HERE), joined on stage by Cenk Ergün. Electronic musicians outweighed traditional musicians two to one, which leads for an unusual compositional dynamic and an unusual listening experience. Ughi sat centre stage, and through a range of rhythms and contributions provided a central improvisational anchor. He controlled the phases and moods through his play, but also through the selection of tools: developing from mallets, sticks, brushes, and back through the range.

As the percussion built, jumped, and crackled there's a visual connection maintained between sound and action, which was interestingly obscured with Snyder and Ergün. Set up on opposite sides of the stage they presented as two ends of the history of electronics: modern day computer wizardry concealed behind a shining macbook and some neat arrays of knobs with Ergün casually sitting like he would in a cafe; and an alchemist's nest of wires being diligently reconfigured into two enormous stuffed flight cases, with Snyder stooped over thoughtfully applying new order to the visual chaos by adding and adjusting cables, and tweaking knobs. Together the sounds melded into a pulsating beast.

Any impression of a barrier between a sound and its production, of a musician's application and the audible expression, were shattered by saxophonist Rachel Musson. Her solo moment was a tour de force in using the tenor as a sound platform, noises and notes getting a level pegging. It's also one of the rawest things I've ever seen. Wearing ones heart on one's sleeve doesn't cover it, it felt like reading someone's personal diary.

Musson was followed by a 577 records mainstay, a group bringing label founders Ughi and Daniel Carter together with long-time bass collaborator William Parker and Mary Anne Driscoll at the piano. In a fashion, this was a quartet of individuals exploring their own paths, but together being much more than the sum. Parker is the beating heart of the group, and he and Ughi fed off each other while Carter tenderly tested out a mind-boggling area of trumpet mutes and varying scales of saxophone (over the two days he casually played six different instruments). Musson retook the stage and led Carter into a beautiful dual tenor arrangement.

Listening Group are an antidote to noise and playing abandon, and although had twice as many people on stage, made half the noise. With a remit to, well, listen, this was a sensitive affair, but a rare opportunity to bring out sounds which often go unheard: the clack of a saxophone's keys, and a delicate bassoon as the de facto ensemble lead. The instrumentation is unusual (strings, electronics, woodwind, percussion) and the outcome of the concerted experiment was a mystical undulating sound experience.

Donald Sturge Anthony McKenzie II
Photo credit: Tobias Wilner

Friday had a more raucous soundscape, and opened with the diametric opposite to the listening group, with a stripped back drums and guitar setup making enough noise for a small army. Donald Sturge Anthony McKenzie II is a new power source that you could run most of South Brooklyn's grid off. There are toms everywhere, and a terrifying snap and spring to the constantly changing high energy beats, so much so that bits of the drum kit were flying off and giving up as he went. He played with abandon, looking most taxed when keeping a restrained beat for the accompanying guitar slides.

The energy continued into Telepathia Liquida and New York United, the last ensembles, and current big hitters. A rolling back line for Carter's soprano and Patrick Holmes' clarinet to plaintively pick over. Moments of angst built up with Hilliard Greene's furious bowed bass, and were released by New York United's more dazed electronics from Tobias Wilner.

The overlying feeling was that Carter and Ughi could do this for hours, days (and indeed Ughi had been at the heart of the majority of the groups over the hours and days). They seem so comfortable playing, the room could be empty and they'd still carry on, content. It's playing amongst friends. Throughout the festival the concept of stopping between musical thoughts to receive a round of applause was alien, and aside from the occasional pause the breaks were really only when a group had finished its set after half an hour of draining effort.

Forward Festival is a variety show, but with an underlying desire to improvise and experiment. It ends up as a showcase of contrasts: attentive listeners, and big sounds purveyors; future electronics and raw human acoustics; spontaneous displays and carefully structured frameworks. It's imbued with a sense of exploration, of looking forward.


REVIEW: Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - The Count & The Duke at Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Photo Credit: Patrick Hadfield
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – The Count & The Duke
(Usher Hall, Edinburgh. 6 December 2018. Review by Patrick Hadfield)

The programme promised a big evening of music: Duke Ellington's Black, Brown & Beige followed by Count Basie's The Atomic Mr Basie. The SNJO delivered, and then some.

Black, Brown & Beige filled most of the first half. Ellington's first masterwork was premiered in 1943 at Carnegie Hall. It didn't go down well: it was panned by the critics and dropped from the repertoire after three performances. It wasn't recorded in full at the time, although excerpts were issued in 1944 and Ellington reworked the first movement, with added words (sung powerfully by Mahalia Jackson), which was issued as Black, Brown & Beige in 1958. Segments subsequently found their way into Ellington's three Sacred Concerts.

It was the 1943 original version that the SNJO played. Rarely heard, it must have been quite a coup simply to get the charts. As with the Carnegie Hall premiere, they started with Black and Tan Fantasy, not part of Black, Brown & Beige. Brian Kellock took to the stage first, sitting at the piano and flexing his fingers over the keys, improvising until he settled into the tune, as he was joined by the rhythm section of Calum Gourlay on bass, Kevin Mackenzie on guitar and Alyn Cosker, drums. Then, starting with the reeds, the different sections of the orchestra took to the stage, playing the theme, until the full 18-piece band got up a full head of steam, setting the tone for the evening.

Tommy Smith, the band's director, then introduced Black, Brown & Beige and its three movements, setting the context and explaining some of its history, and reading Ellington's description of what he was trying to achieve – a depiction of the life of African-Americans, the suffering wrought by slavery, the solace of faith.

From the thunderous drum beats at the opening of Work Song and the fanfare of horns blasting out the main riff, it was clear the band had nailed it. Work Song was full of passion and power, though not without nuance. Come Sunday, the second segment of Black, is slower, and was played with depth and subtlety, without the vocals Ellington added to subsequent versions.

Anoushka Nanguy and Calum Gourlay
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield
The second movement, Brown, featured Anoushka Nanguy on vocals for its third section, Blues Theme Mauve. Her full voice conveyed the depth of emotion in Ellington's lyrics ("the blues ain't nothin' but a cold grey day..."). The last movement, Beige, was more upbeat and lively, representing life in Harlem and, with Sugar Hill Penthouse, Ellington's own neighbourhood, before the Finale repeated themes from the whole piece.

The SNJO were superb. It would be easy for Black, Brown & Beige to have come across as a museum piece – an interesting, rare curio. The whole orchestra brought it to life. It was a tour de force, full of energy in both the ensemble sections and the solos.

Had Black, Brown & Beige been the only music played, it would have been an excellent evening: the audience wouldn't have felt short-changed. But instead of heading out into the night, we were treated to the second half, The Atomic Mr Basie in full. Unlike the original Black, Brown & Beige, The Atomic Mr Basie is much more familiar, a masterpiece of lively swing from 1958, with tunes and arrangements by Neal Hefti.

As befits a performance of an album which famously features the mushroom cloud on its cover, the SNJO were explosive, blasting off with Basie and Hefti's Kid from Red Bank. After the tightly orchestrated Ellington, it seemed like the orchestra was given more freedom by Basie, and they made the most of it. They roared.

Driven by the tight rhythm section – not least Kevin Mackenzie on guitar, whose choppy chords laid the foundations for the tunes just as Freddie Green did for Basie – the orchestra proved they can swing like the best. Brian Kellock, sitting in the Count's chair, was suitably understated, just nudging the tune here and there.

They played the album through to its final tune, Lil' Darlin', without introducing the tracks. As each came along, it was like being greeted by an old friend: you could feel the audience smiling as they recognised each theme.

The soloists were excellent, particularly Martin Kershaw and Paul Towndrow on alto, and the fiery trumpet of Tom McNiven; Tommy Smith himself took some bold, muscular choruses. But more than that, it was the SNJO as an ensemble that shone.

It was a tremendous evening during which the SNJO brought two more pieces to their ever-growing repertoire. As they left, the audience were bubbling with enthusiasm. I'm still buzzing!

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

Reeds: Martin Kershaw, Paul Towndrow, Tommy Smith, Konrad Wiszniewski, Bill Fleming
Trumpets: Jim Davison, Sean Gibbs, Tom MacNiven, Lorne Cowieson
Trombones: Chris Greive, Liam Shortall, Kieran McLeod, Michael Owers
Piano: Brian Kellock
Drums: Alyn Cosker
Bass: Calum Gourlay
Guitar: Kevin Mackenzie
Guest vocalist: Anoushka Nanguy


NEWS: The 2019 (61st) Jazz Grammy nominations

Still Dreaming – L-R: Brian Blade, Ron Miles,
Scott Colley, Joshua Redman
Publicity Photo by Jon Brown

Sebastian writes 

The 2019 Grammys will be awarded on 10 February 2019. Here are the nominations. First, the five jazz categories, and then some jazz-related nominations in other categories:



Regina Carter
John Daversa
Fred Hersch
Brad Mehldau
Miguel Zenón


My Mood Is You – Freddy Cole
The Questions – Kurt Elling
The Subject Tonight Is Love – Kate McGarry With Keith Ganz & Gary Versace
If You Really Want – Raul Midón With The Metropole Orkest Conducted By Vince Mendoza
The Window – Cécile McLorin Salvant


Diamond Cut – Tia Fuller
Live In Europe – Fred Hersch Trio
Seymour Reads The Constitution! – Brad Mehldau Trio
Still Dreaming – Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade
Emanon – The Wayne Shorter Quartet


All About That Basie – The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart
American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom – John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists
Presence – Orrin Evans And The Captain Black Big Band
All Can Work – John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
Barefoot Dances And Other Visions – Jim McNeely & The Frankfurt Radio Big Band


Heart Of Brazil – Eddie Daniels
Back To The Sunset – Dafnis Prieto Big Band
West Side Story Reimagined – Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band
Cinque – Elio Villafranca
Yo Soy La Tradición – Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet


20. Best Urban Contemporary Album
Chris Dave And The Drumhedz
Meshell Ndegeocello

21. Best R&B Album
Lalah Hathaway

51. Best Folk Album
Punch Brothers

62. Best Instrumental Composition
Terence Blanchard

64. Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
Vince Mendoza (for Gregory Porter)

LINK: Full list of Grammy Nominations in the Jazz Categories


NEWS: Jazz Resumes at the Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town

Will Arnold-Forster writes:

The weekly Monday night gig at The Oxford Tavern in Kentish Town that George Crowley ran so fantastically for years is making a return under new stewardship. George did a great job of running this stalwart of the London jazz scene and we're keen to make a success of the relaunch...

It's all come together very quickly, but we are VERY much looking forward to two fantastic nights of music on both Monday 10 and Monday 17 December.

We will certainly be back in Jan (probably from the 14th) and plan on it being a weekly night from that date onwards (slightly staggered start due to Christmas, etc).

The Oxford
Photo from Google Streetview

The Oxford Tavern is at 256 Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2AA

10 December Line-Up:
Sam Braysher – alto saxophone
Will Arnold-Forster – guitar
Conor Chaplin – double bass
Steve Brown – drums

Doors@8pm, music from 8:30.  £8/£5 concessions on the door

LINK: Jazz at The Oxford on Facebook


TRIBUTE: David Mossman (1942-2018) by Oliver Weindling

David Mossman
Photo courtesy of Vortex Jazz Club

"He was a man who just got on with things." DAVID MOSSMAN founded the Vortex Jazz Club in Stoke Newington in 1988. He passed away on Saturday night 8 December 2018. Oliver Weindling, who has done much in his own right to continue and to build on David Mossman's work in the club's current premises in Gillett Square, remembers and pays tribute to a figure who made a unique contribution to London's jazz scene:

I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon where the London Jazz Orchestra is about to do its monthly performance, as it has done for the past 28 years, to be followed tonight by a benefit for the club of South African music run by Jason Yarde and Adam Glasser. It makes today seem extra special to the memory of David Mossman who has died of cancer last night, but it's actually just another regular day at the club he founded.

It's hard to pin down not just how much David Mossman helped the jazz scene in London by starting the Vortex in 1988. I doubt if that would even have been on his mind when he opened the doors in Stoke Newington Church Street. He just started putting on jazz as a way to make the cafe and art gallery work in an area known more for IRA bomb factories than what it is today. It's not even that he understood so much about jazz when he started, but, as with so many things about him, he did it because of having a great 'gut feel', a love of music that reflects riskiness, and the patience to see the fruits of the hard work out later.

So, after a few years, we had a man who developed a full and broad understanding of the best about this music. It wasn't about booking big names. And that's why perhaps so many musicians got their first chances during his time running the club. But his generosity, as shown in his trusting of the musicians and their music, extended as far as his audience, whom he always welcomed with a smile. So here we had a true East Ender (from Bromley-By-Bow), who for the first 45 years of his life had been a black cab driver and committed mountaineer. I myself think that this love of taking risks in Snowdonia is what made him able to appreciate what jazz musicians give when they take the stage. It was a balance between musical quality and keeping going throughout. He was probably able to benefit that the club started at almost the same time that the Jazz Cafe moved from its original location in nearby Newington Green to Camden, so that there was a gap for these musicians who needed somewhere to help develop their skill on a regular basis.

But he was always eminently practical. He did work on the acoustics of both the original Vortex and also the new venue in Dalston. He kept the music to the fore, learning about the music through listening every night, giving him a taste that ran through all styles up to and including Evan Parker and the free improv scene. When I asked him what were his favourite gigs, he explained that it was usually when a musician would ask him if he could play with someone whom he had never played with before. "And did these gigs make money?", I asked. And his immediate reply was "Sometimes"! At one stage, he had actually been planning to close up shop and move to the ill-fated Ocean in Hackney (now the Picture House). Many of us - musicians and fans alike - discouraged him and it was at that time that I myself became part of the team that helped move the club to Dalston (after an ill-fated attempt to buy the old building). So it became a life-changer for me too, in that from then on, it pretty well determined where I would be most nights!

He himself at that point, with his partner (latterly wife) Lesley moved to start a cafe in Margate. This was in 2003 well before it became the town that it is today. But again it was an intuitive sense of risk and adventure that brought him there. And immediately one of the first things that he did there? Start a jazz festival and put on gigs in his cafe. But even then he still came up to the Vortex every weekend and more, helping out at the door, going down to the Turkish supermarket to stock up for his Margate cafe, meeting his musician friends and giving his advice.

He was a man who just got on with things. So he never went with a begging bowl to organisations like the Arts Council, as he had a hatred of form filling and bureaucracy, but always worked out how to survive. For him it was about being able to earn enough to enjoy company of great music, musicians and to share with the fans.

David never received any of those awards that exist nowadays. In fact, for him perhaps one of the proudest moments was when Evan Parker presented him with an album with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton, called Music for David Mossman (Intakt). For all the recordings that had been made in the club, this was the first (and sadly only) one that recognised David's role fully.

I hope that the way the Vortex exists today allows us to keep much of that respect for the music and musicians that he had, and that the club can continue to move and evolve without forgetting those principles of putting great music and musicians first, with an optimism about the long term.

LINK: Tribute from Margate Jazz Festival - David Mossman was the driving force behind it from 2005 to 2013


INTERVIEW: Yolanda Ingley II (new album Woman Got To Cry out now)

Yolanda Ingley II
Publicity picture
Singer/songwriter Yolanda Ingley II lives in Melbourne Australia. She grew up in the UK, living in London in the 1970s; she still visits regularly with her music and life partner saxophonist Steve Dagg. She spoke to fellow singer/songwriter Jeanie Barton.

Yolanda Ingley II found commercial and critical success with her first album of original songs This Dangerous Age released in 2016. Her second album of originals Woman Got To Cry is out now on vinyl via Only Blues Music and to stream/download from iTunes et al. It was recorded direct to analogue tape at Half Mile Harvest Studio and produced by Sam Teskey of The Teskey Brothers.

Jeanie Barton: You’re really making waves in Australia with your new songs enthused with jazz, soul, blues, folk and gospel. How does this success feel?

Yolanda Ingley II: Of course I have been very pleasantly surprised. I had a big break from music bringing up my children but have been working pretty hard these last ten years, first singing jazz again but then more recently writing my own material and performing it. At first I wasn't sure what I was expecting or wanting but when I made This Dangerous Age, I knew it was a good album with great musicians, and I knew the songs were strong as I'd been getting good feedback, so in a way I wasn't that surprised that people liked it.

JB: What do you think it is about your music that is speaking to so many people of all ages?

YI: I think people are hungry for songs that have some lyrical content. Not just "silly love songs" so to speak. I try to write from the heart so love is always there but also talk about our real concerns. And I think memories play a big part... and I suppose if there are any "themes" in my music they are ones about the world impacting on our personal lives, the struggle between our outer and inner worlds and maybe something too about the ambiguities that exist in our relationships. Real people relate to those things. That's why Cohen was so popular and Dylan. In turn the music seems to evoke strong feelings in people. I get a lot of people coming up to me at gigs saying how moved they were. That's a good thing.

JB: You have spent many years in the UK and I understand you started to sing on the London jazz circuit, how did that scene give you the foundation for what you now do?

YI: It was a huge buzz to play with some of the people I met through the London Jazz scene; particularly Downstairs at The Kings Head in Crouch End on Sunday afternoons. I lacked experience on the stage so to speak, so started out quite tentatively but I knew a lot of songs and had a good ear for them. I was thrilled to be able to sing with such stalwarts of the London jazz scene as drummer Laurie Morgan and double bassist Coleridge Goode and to get feedback that was positive and encouraging from everyone there. I knew they'd played with some of the best singers from jazz’s hey day so their encouragement meant a great deal. I met so many people, great musicians who I began to do my own gigs with, including a four-week run at Jazz After Dark in Soho.

JB: What inspired you to write?

YI: I knew the songs I was singing (basically the entire Billie Holiday Songbook), all the great standards of jazz, had been sung by the greatest singers of all time and I felt if I was going to keep singing those songs I better be able to do something bloody good – something better – but that's almost an impossibility; you are singing songs that have definitive versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, etc. I didn't think I could ever write a song in that vein (in a way those songs of yesteryear are pure nostalgia and you can't write songs like that now) – they are not really relevant to today's world – so I began with some of my poems. I'd always enjoyed writing poetry. That was the key to unlock the door and find my own voice. The words had immediacy, the songs were about current ideas and I knew no-one else had sung my songs so I didn't have to feel I was competing against any other version. The version was mine. I own the definitive version.

JB: You’re playing guitar too now, how does playing an instrument as well as singing in the band change the dynamic?

YI: Playing guitar has helped me to ground the sounds with their own style. I'm no guitarist really but I can set up a base for the song to flow over. I don't write complex chord structures and I leave a lot of space in the music which gives the musicians in the band plenty of room to move and improvise. Plus I love sitting in the band and playing guitar. I never felt comfortable out the front with the microphone. I like being embedded in the band. But that might change again one day.

JB: What do you hope to do next – I understand you are planning a UK tour also?

YI: At the moment I'm busy here in Melbourne promoting my new album Woman Got To Cry and doing as much as I can to extend my base. I will be doing a tour of some other Australian States early next year and then hopefully will be in the UK in the middle of the year to do some dates and push the album to a wider audience in the UK.

Jeanie Barton is a jazz singer and songwriter. https://jeaniebarton.com

LINK: Yolanda Ingley II on Soundcloud