CD REVIEW: Bobby Previte - Rhapsody / Terminals Part II: In Transit

Bobby Previte - Rhapsody / Terminals Part II: In Transit
(Rare Noise Record RNR090. CD Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

We haven’t heard so much of Bobby Previte in Britain in recent years. In the 1990s he was a regular visitor with various of his ensembles, particularly through the much missed Contemporary Music Network tours, but his profile has been fairly low here since those days, apart from a short tour last year with Charlie Hunter. In the USA, however, he continues to be very active. In 2015 he was awarded the Greenfield Prize for Music which enabled him to spend time at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on the Gulf of Mexico writing music for a three-part series based on the experience of travelling. The overall title of the series is Terminals and the first part with the title Terminals Part 1: Departures consisted of five concertos written for the percussion group SO Percussion. Rhapsody is the second part and focusses on the theme of transit and migration. It is played by an amazing sextet with key players on the New York scene: vocalist Jen Shyu, guitarist Nels Cline, pianist John Medeski, harpist Zeena Parkins and also the young alto saxophonist Fabian Rucker from the thriving Austrian jazz scene.

One interesting aspect of the group is that Previte asked the musicians to concentrate on the acoustic side of their instruments, so Medeski plays acoustic piano rather than organ, Parkins plays the traditional harp rather than the electric harp, etc. Each player is featured heavily on one track, while Jen Shyu is featured on all but two tracks.

This is apparently the first time that Previte has written lyrics; they develop the themes of transit and migration very effectively, and Shyu delivers them with great conviction and a welcome clarity, but I do find the words a little awkward at times. Alto -saxophonist Rucker fits into this otherwise American ensemble with great authority playing solos that provide a strong jazz feel.

It is, however, the quality of the writing that impresses the most. Previte has always written for different kinds of ensemble from one formed to fulfil a commission for the Moscow State Circus to the high energy rock-influenced Coalition of the Willing. He has often drawn on non-jazz genres in his composition and here, taking advantage of the acoustic nature of the ensemble, he has written some very attractive melodic pieces that act as a suite of music that brings out the themes. On many of the tunes Previte makes use of repeated figures reminiscent of minimalism, but the movement in and out of the solo and duo passages adds variety. The interplay between pairs of instruments, harp v. guitar, sax v. harp etc., that occurs throughout is a particular strong feature, creating movement between the composed sections and the improvised playing.

This is a truly distinctive album that blends very effectively the writing with the individual voices of a very powerful ensemble.


NEWS: Winners of the 2018 Dankworth and Eddie Harvey Awards Announced: (Billy Marrows, Luke Bainbridge, James Brady)

Billy Marrows
Photo credit: Matt Pannell

The Musicians’ Company has announced the 2018 winners of the Dankworth Awards for Composition and the Eddie Harvey Award for Jazz Arranging:

The winner of the Dankworth Composition Award for Big Band is BILLY MARROWS for his piece Scenes from the Underground. (Video here)

The winner of the Dankworth Composition Award for Small Band is LUKE BAINBRIDGE for his piece Crossing Styx.

The winner of the Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger’s Award is JAMES BRADY for his arrangement for big band of Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life. (James Brady's website)

The press release continues:

"The three winning works will be performed at The Royal Academy of Music on Sunday 25th March at 6.30pm. The concert, directed by Pete Churchill, will be given by the RAM’s Jazz Composer’s Big Band and also feature the premieres of works written by RAM final-year students.

The awards will be presented by members of the Dankworth and Harvey families and each of the three winners will receive a cheque for £1,000. The awards are funded by The Musicians’ Company with generous assistance from The Wavendon Foundation."



CD REVIEW: Andy Nowak trio - Reset

Andy Nowak Trio - Reset
(Self-released. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

Andy Nowak and trio (ANt) follow-up 2016’s debut, Sorrow and the Phoenix, with another fine sequence of eight numbers (virtually all originals) in new album, Reset. Welcoming drummer Steve Davis into the line-up alongside double bassist Spencer Brown, the Bristol-based pianist again delivers characteristically precise single-line melodies, with the entire acoustic ensemble perhaps placing an even stronger emphasis on propulsive, repeating rhythms.

There are glints of possible creative influence here – from Safety in Numbers’ confident swagger, where lurching chordal-clustered foundations might be imagined in a dynamic big-band arrangement, through the bustling Phronesis-style bass-and-piano phrases of Fracture, to assertive Esbjörn Svensson-like melodic intervals and inflections in What a Moon Can Do (that title referencing Captain Beefheart’s gutsy ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ – Nowak a serious fan). But the pianist’s own personality shines through, as leader, imbuing each composition with a beguiling attraction. Prelude’s lilting, arpeggioed bedrock suggests J S Bach’s ‘Praeludium in C’, whilst Syrinx’s mystical, Debussyian beginnings invite leaping motifs indicating this is as much about the groove as the improv.

A subtly Latinesque preface to title track Reset – Nowak’s allusion to “the micro and macro psychological shift I believe we as a species may have to encounter in order to survive ourselves” – gives way to deliciously blithe, bass-pliant swing. A shuffling, meandering take on an old tune, Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor (composer unknown) – the pianist inspired by an interpretation from US singer/guitarist Mississippi John Hurt – is softly mesmerising. So, too, is the awakening momentum of Dawn, whose folksong hook becomes more bluesy, agile and determined as it proceeds into drum-and-cymbal-ornamented daylight.

This Kickstarted release – an important concept and connection for the composer in terms of a sense of artistic community – sees a congenial consolidation and progression which is not capricious, but steady. Yet it’s easy to envisage Andy Nowak, at some stage, unleashing his evident penchant for rhythm, even minimalism, by more widely exploring his instrument’s percussive and atmospheric capabilities. Not so much a ‘reset’, but rather a development of an engaging piano trio sound which is ripe for still greater potential.

Reset releases on 2nd March, when it will be available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp. The trio are set to tour from March to July.


CD REVIEW: Wild Card - Life Stories

Wild Card - Life Stories
(Top End Records TER0004CD. CD Review by Peter Jones)

There’s an early scene in the 1968 film The Odd Couple, in which a morose Jack Lemmon, having failed in a suicide attempt, visits the Metropole Café, a go-go bar, to watch the dancing girls. Standing in a long line across the stage is a hip band whose music was written by Neal Hefti, and that’s the band I think of when I listen to Wild Card.

It’s been nearly three years since Wild Card’s last album, Organic Riot, and in the interim the formula hasn’t changed all that much: there’s still a sparky, live feel to the tracks – perhaps because blowing is the main raison d’être of this band – and in pursuit of that goal, its leader, guitarist, songwriter and producer Clément Régert has hired some top sidepersons to play alongside permanent members Andrew Noble on Hammond B3 and Sophie Alloway on drums. Percussionist Will Fry and trumpet supremo Graeme Flowers appear throughout, alto saxophonist Jim Knight is on most tracks, and the rest feature at various times Mary Pearce on vocals, Carl Hudson on synth, Denys Baptiste on tenor, Alistair White on trombone and Adam Glasser on harmonica.

If you’ve never heard Wild Card, their approach is the diametrical opposite of navel-gazing jazz. In other words, it’s good-time music with simple riffs, upbeat grooves and blistering solos. Among his own compositions Régert has included arrangements of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall – legacies, I would guess, of a youth spent listening to Parisian jukeboxes.

Tragedy has haunted Régert’s family life in recent years, and this has provided the backdrop to some of the songs, notably Mommy Is In The Sky, sung by Mary Pearce. Yet as his many friends will testify, Clément is remarkably positive by nature, and even the tone of this tune is regretful rather than mawkish. Other notable tracks include the one that follows – the fast waltz Risky Business, featuring Adam Glasser. The album ends with Herman’s Hoedown, a ‘bonus track’ written by Andrew Noble.

The best way to enjoy Wild Card is to see them live and, as luck would have it, they are launching this album on Saturday at Café Posk.

LINKS: Jazz Cafe Posk Bookings
Recording Risky Business:


NEWS: Nominees for 2018 JazzFM Awards announced

Cecile McLorin Salvant
Photo credit: Paul Wood

The2018 JazzFM Awards nominees have just been announced. The winners will be announced and the ceremony will take place at Shoreditch Town Hall on International Jazz Day on 30th April. 

More artists to perform at the event will be announced later but it has been confirmed that Cecile McLorin Salvant will perform at the awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Jazz FM presenters Chris Philips and Jez Nelson. Musical Director at the event will be pianist Ashley Henry.

The press release states:

"The recipients of the special award categories - PPL Lifetime Achievement Award, PRS For Music Gold Award and Impact Award - will be announced ahead of the ceremony. In  previous years, these special award-winners have included Oscar-winning film director Damien Chazelle, Georgie Fame, Quincy Jones, Gregory Porter and the late Hugh Masekela."

Public voting is open now at and will close on Monday 2 April.


 Breakthrough Act of the Year

Ezra Collective
Nubya Garcia
Rob Luft

Soul Artist of the Year - Sponsored by RCS

Jordan Rakei
Leroy Hutson

UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote) - Sponsored by Cambridge Audio

Ezra Collective
Kansas Smitty’s House Band

Digital Initiative of the Year

Esperanza Spalding: Exposure
Jacob Collier: I Harm U
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club: Live Streaming

Instrumentalist of the Year - Sponsored by Grange Hotels

Evan Parker
Theon Cross
Yazz Ahmed

Blues Artist of the Year

Lucky Peterson
Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’
Robert Cray

Jazz Innovation of the Year - Sponsored by Mishcon De Reya

Carleen Anderson: Cage Street Memorial
Joe Armon-Jones and Maxwell Owin: Idiom
Shabaka Hutchings

Vocalist of the Year - Sponsored by Lateralise

Alice Zawadzki
Liane Carroll
Zara McFarlane

International Jazz Artist of the Year - Sponsored by Oris Watches

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Album of the Year (Public Vote) - Sponsored by Arqiva

Blue Note All-Stars – Our Point of View
Cécile McLorin Salvant – Dreams and Daggers
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Diaspora
Denys Baptiste – The Late Trane
Phronesis – The Behemoth
Thundercat – Drunk

Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote) - Sponsored by Rathbones

A Concert for Alice and John - Pharoah Sanders Quartet, Denys Baptiste and Alina Bzhezhinska – EFG London Jazz Festival at The Barbican

An evening with Dave Holland – Ambleside Days Festival at Zeffirellis Cinema

Jazz Re:Fest at Southbank Centre

Makaya McCraven featuring Theon Cross Trio and Jaimie Branch Fly or Die Ensemble -

CHICAGOXLONDON Day 1 at Total Refreshment Centre

Randolph Matthews – Jazz in the Round at Love Supreme Festival

Ronnie Scott’s presents Ezra Collective – EFG London Jazz Festival at Islington Assembly Hall

PPL Lifetime Achievement Award


Impact Award


PRS For Music Gold Award


NOTE: The Jazz FM Awards 2018 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and is made possible with the support of Mishcon De Reya, PPL, PRS For Music, Rathbones, Oris Watches, Grange Hotels, Lateralize, Arqiva, Yamaha, RCS, Shoreditch Town Hall, Cambridge Audio, Denbies Wine Estate, Warsteiner, Sharpstream and British Airways.


PREVIEW: Chris Bowden launches new album Unlikely Being at Stratford Jazz (28 February)

Chris Bowden
Photo credit: Garry Corbett
Alto saxophonist and composer CHRIS BOWDEN launches his new album, Unlikely Being, at Stratford Jazz Club, Stratford-upon-Avon, on Wednesday evening. Peter Bacon writes:

Chris Bowden could be said to have peaked early. His 1996 album Time Capsule, on the Soul Jazz label, captured the zeitgeist more completely than many of its contemporaries while certainly sounding like nothing else at the time: it was a compelling amalgam of meticulous exactitude and spacey randomness, sublime in places, confusing in others. And it created quite a stir.

In an extended conversation with UK Vibe’s Mike Gates a couple of years back, Chris said this of what attracted him to the music of Roland Kirk: “…quite accessible but also a little bit out-there in a way. It’s not just obvious, it’s very earthy. And a bit more ‘punk’ maybe. It’s a bit away from men in suits, a bit messier in a way and I liked that.”

It’s not a bad description of what appeals in his own music. His alto playing is hugely exciting, reflecting perhaps an amalgam of his two greatest influences, Charlie Parker and Michael Brecker, and his commitment to the music is never short of absolute.

It would be six years before a follow-up to Time Capsule would be released: Slightly Askew on the Ninja Tune label, a similarly impressive multi-layered album of sometimes immense scope and sound.

Since then, in amongst tours with the The Herbaliser and working with 4Hero and Heritage Orchestra among others, interspersed with various time-out periods while struggling with drug addiction, Chris's own gigs have tended to be in a trio with long-time fellow Birmingham associates, Ben Markland on bass and Neil Bullock on drums.

Now Chris has a new quartet: Bullock is still there on drums, but is joined by Jim Watson on piano and keyboards, and Chris Dodd on bass. Their album, Unlikely Being, with guest appearances from trumpeter Bryan Corbett and percussionist Tom Chapman, is released on Wednesday and will be launched that evening at Stratford Riverside (details below).

Expect to read a CD review of Unlikely Being on this site before too long.

LINKS: Wednesday's launch gig
UK Vibe interview


INTERVIEW: Niji Adeleye (Jazz Re:freshed, Mau Mau Bar. 1 March)

Niji Adeleye
Publicity photo

Since 2003, London based creative movement Jazz re:freshed has has been introducing new artists to the London jazz scene at its weekly gigs. This Thursday the featured headlining artist is London Jazz Pianist, NIJI ADELEYE. Interview by Candace Oxley:

London Jazz News: For people who are unfamiliar with you, tell us about yourself in a few sentences

Niji Adeleye: Well, I am a 25 year old jazz pianist from London, and I have been playing the piano for around 14 years. I have released two albums, the first entitled Better Days Ahead and the second Late Nights, Early Mornings, which are both jazz records. Oh and I also love food!

LJN: Where did your passion for music come from, and who inspires you?

NA: I come from a very musical family, so I really have to give credit to my parents, especially my Dad. My Dad plays five instruments – the piano, the drums, the accordion, the guitar and the saxophone – and my brothers and I were able to watch my Dad play with his band called the Gospel Symbols. It was made up of him, my mum (who sang), my uncle who played the trumpet and some others from the church.

He introduced my brothers and me to music through instrumentation, and we all started on the drums. I started playing the piano afterwards, and although I’ve since gone on to have other teachers and great mentors, my Dad was my first music teacher – he is my inspiration.

LJN: Is there anything you would have liked to have known about being a professional musician before you started?

NA: The balancing act of managing the highs and lows in your career. There are great high points like performing on some of the world’s largest stages with the likes of Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child), and equally very low points in your career too, like not being offered opportunities, especially ones you feel like you deserve.

That said, I’m continuing to learn how to celebrate every step and every success along the way, treating every gig like it’s my last, and to play my heart out every time.

LJN: How old were you when you first performed live and what do you enjoy about it now?

NA: I grew up playing in church, so every Sunday was considered a ‘performance’ of some sort, and I was playing the tambourine and the bongos at around age six or seven. In terms of playing the piano in front of an audience that wasn’t the church, I’d say around age 13. I joined a jazz band in my local music service, and playing with them was my introduction to jazz music. We were called Phoenix Jazz, and we performed shows in the borough.

I love the freedom that comes with performing live; it allows me to express any feeling in the moment, and have audience journey along with me. Through that, I’m able to capture the audience with a moment that will only happen on that night, as no two performances are ever exactly the same, and that’s another amazing thing. I cherish that.

LJN: Outside of creating music, what are some of your other interests?

NA: I have a very mathematical brain, and throughout my academics, I studied Maths at GSCE, Maths and Further Maths at A-level, and while pursuing my career as a professional musician, I studied Financial Economics with Econometrics. I also spent two years working in finance before taking the leap into pursuing music full time. Equally to music, Finance is still a very big passion of mine, and I’m still really interested in the mechanics around the economy, investments, business, generating profit, etc.

LJN: What do you like about Jazz re:freshed, and what kind of repertoire will you be performing?

NA: Jazz re:freshed really represents the UK artists and not just the older UK artists who are well established but those at the grassroots too, and I love that. It’s encouraging for me as I’m still emerging and breaking into the UK jazz scene, so I’ve always appreciated Adam (Moses) for showing me love, and reaching out to me to play Jazz re:freshed. It really gives me an opportunity to cement my name in the London jazz circuit.

I’ll be performing material from both my records, Better Days Ahead and Late Nights Early Mornings, but typically with Jazz re:freshed, I emphasise the improvisational side of things. My solos tend to be longer and more experimental; last time, I played Jazz re:freshed, I bought down an organ and played that live! I always look forward to playing Jazz re:freshed, and I intend to give the audience a better show than they expected!

Candace Oxley is Founding Editor of in OTHER NEWS

LINKS: Tickets for Niji’s headline show at Jazz re:freshed at the Mau Mau Bar on Thursday 1 March
Niji Adeleye on Twitter


INTERVIEW: Christian Garrick (Butterfly's Wing new album and Mar/Apr tour dates)

Studio Montage of Butterfly's Wing
Clockwise from top left:
David Gordon, Jacqui Dankworth, Chris Garrick, Ben Davis

The quartet Butterfly's Wing consists of vocalist Jacqui Dankworth, pianist David Gordon, violinist Christian Garrick and cellist Ben Davis. Christian Garrick explains the background to their new album and a short tour. Interview by Sebastian: 

LondonJazz News: Butterfly's Wing – it's now a quartet but it started as a duo?

Christian Garrick: The group is essentially all about David’s music and Jacqui’s voice with lyrics from them both, and various other sources, enhanced by the strings of Ben Davis and me.

LJN: And where does the name of the band come from?

CG: Butterfly’s Wing is the title of one of David’s lyrics from the album.

LJN: What characteristics of David Gordon as composer does it bring to the fore?

CG: David writes in such subtle degrees anyway but his mellifluous stylings are perfectly situated in BW. Somehow the soundscape here ideally suits his arc.

LJN: What kinds of topics do the songs deal with?

CG: There are songs about friendly bears, about love and new departures, about loss and leaving, as well as a trio of intriguing 'nonsense' poems… and an instrumental - or wordless - tune for good measure.

LJN: And there is a song by Charlie Wood too?

CG: Charlie contributed a wonderful catchy piece, Just A Song, which is a very nice choice for radio-play.

LJN:  Jacqui is also an actress – does she speak as well as sing?

CG: There is a little spoken stuff in The Knee, one of the three nonsense poems, in German.

LJN:  You are listed in the blurb as a neolin player. Uh?

CG: Neolin is a hybrid violin-viola developed by bonkers French luthier Bodo Vosshenrich. The neolin is just the thing for a violin player desiring to sound those plummy low viola tones without undergoing arm extension surgery.

LJN: Have you worked a lot with Ben Davis?

CG: Ben and I first played together in 1993 in Julian Joseph’s supergroup “Shape Of Things To Come”. More recently we played some concerts together in his trailblazing band Basquiat Strings.

LJN:  You recorded an album which is being released to coincide with the tour (or possibly the other way round...) When and where was it recorded?

CG: As David summarises in his liner note (below) it has been a slow-burning project to say the least – beginning recording in 2014 and releasing in 2018 – and the group’s genesis being 2001, the material certainly has had plenty of time to evolve and to mature. All resulting in an intensely satisfying and polished performance on this album. We made it at Ralph Salmin’s place, The Bunker, a fantastic wee studio in the country perfect for chamber projects such as this. I’ve done other things there, with Martin Taylor and with my own band “Spirit Of Stephane”.

LJN: And Ralph Salmins is... on the album but won't join you on tour?

CG: Ralph isn’t a member of the group. We were in the middle of recording Charlie’s piece Just A Song when a collective urge to add percussion to this particular cut led directly to the studio boss volunteering gamely! A nice turn of events but, no, the tour will be the quartet only, no percussion.

LJN: The London date is Blackheath... why there?

CG: They wanted to do it! We love the great hall there and can’t wait to hear the group in that magnificent space.

LJN: And 8 March has resonances for you... will there be cake?

CG: What a cool way to celebrate - yes hopefully - butterfly cakes of course!

LJN: What are your other main bands/ projects at the moment?

CG: Spirit Of Stephane is getting busier. Budapest Café Orchestra does about 70 shows a year and, over in Finland, we’re having a blast with Tango Alakulo.

NOTE: David Gordon's sleeve-note for Butterfly's Wing:

Many musical projects can be a bit slow-burn but in all the things I’ve been involved in, the Butterfly Wing project takes the biscuit.

Arising naturally from the work Jacqui and I were starting to do together as a duo, the group performed for the first time in 2002 at London’s South Bank Centre. Jacqui and I had both had the idea of augmenting our duo with string instruments and, in the spirit of democracy, we nominated one string-player each, not knowing they already had a shared history, having played together in pianist Julian Joseph’s supergroup some years earlier. They also happened to be the country’s leading jazz string players and a dream band was born.

For eight years after this it remained only a dream and not till our next outing in 2010 did the project start to fulfil its obvious potential. Inspired by the sound and feel of Jacqui’s unparalleled vocal delivery I found myself writing songs to her lyrics, to nonsense poetry, even to my own lyrics, and often with a multilingual strand. On this album French and German appear amongst the mostly English words, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes.

Above all, the mysterious, infinitely flexible sound of the group gives an extraordinary – perhaps unique – palette to compose for: anything from a forest of whispers to a small orchestra to grooves so deep you’d never know that a rhythm section wasn’t there. With this recording, made in the most acoustic way – essentially in one room – the dream was finally realised.


7 Mar Apex, Bury St Edmunds,
8 Mar Blackheath Concert Halls (album launch)
9 Mar  Wiltshire Music Centre Bradford-on-Avon
13 Apr Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead
14 Apr Ugland Auditorium, Stowe School, Buckingham

LINKS: Butterfly's Wing at Christian Garrick's website 


CD REVIEW: Elliot Galvin — The Influencing Machine

Elliot Galvin — The Influencing Machine
(Edition Records EDN 1103. CD review by AJ Dehany)

Elliot Galvin’s third album The Influencing Machine is a compelling synthesis of headspinning suggestions and contrariwise notions that the pianist has established as a signature style. Listening to the dexterousness and independence of his hands, his unification of highly immediate rhythmic and melodic lines along with advanced classical harmonic wigginess, the only explanation for how he does all this is that he must have two brains.

The album has a crunchy texture with driving piano and creaky prepared piano, plonking keyboard instruments, whirring tape recorders and blooping hacked toys. His previous album Punch featured an unforgettable home-made double-microtonal-melodica. He recently demonstrated his free-playing chops on an amazing duo album with Mark Sanders, and I’ve seen him reworking contemporary pop songs with chiming sonic immanence playing with Corrie Dick, who joins this tight, wickedly talented trio on drums and percussion alongside Tom McCredie on bass and guitar.

The Influencing Machine is named for Mike Jay’s book about James Tilly Matthews, a noted but undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who was confined in Bedlam in 1797. He believed he and others, including figures high up in international politics, were being manipulated by an Air Loom: “a machine that operated invisibly, from a distance and with irresistible force”.

Galvin’s hacked toys and weird wide-panned tape sounds work on us like suggestions, like electronic voice phenomena (EVP) or semi-audible ghostly voices found on tapes, whether because of spirits, or auditory pareidolia (interpreting random sounds as voices in one's own language) and apophenia (perceiving patterns in random information): whatever these phenomenon are, they have been called another kind of ‘ghost in the machine’.

Throughout history people have believed that God was influencing or speaking to them. This was the first time that anyone is recorded as believing they were being acted on by a machine. It is therefore significant as a watershed moment in disenchantment, as Jay writes: “For everyone who has since had messages beamed at them through their fillings, or their TV sets, or via high-tech surveillance, MI5, Masonic lodges or UFOs, James Tilly Matthews is Patient Zero.”

Galvin seeks to draw attention to the parallels between James Tilly Matthews’s life and times and the modern world: the overwhelming complexity of interlocking systems that structure our thoughts and actions. To him, the Influencing Machine exists, just as it did for Tilly, as inescapable webs of influence and anxiety. It’s a protest album, but an oblique one, hinting toward something else without quite knowing what. Back in 1968 Arthur Taylor asked Randy Weston if there was any protest in his music. The pianist Weston said he wanted to aim his music “toward seeking a better way of life, because we’re protesting but we don’t quite know what’s a better way of life. I think this is one of the problems. It’s not protest anymore, it’s almost like another step.”

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

LINKS: The Influencing Machine is released on Edition Records (HERE)
Two LJN writers picked Punch in their 2017 year-end recommendations
The source : Mike Jay's Novel
Writer Ken Hollings explores the phenomenon of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) in this BBC Radio 4 documentary 


PHOTOS: Sefiroth at Bridewell Theatre

Alice Zawadzki and Olesya Zdvorovetska with
Alex Roth (background)
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
Sebastian writes: 

Sefiroth is a "collective of musicians founded by brothers Nick and Alex Roth to explore and reimagine traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire with a contemporary aesthetic." They performed a set at Bridewell Theatre on 22 February 2018, and Monika Jakubowska's pictures of the  gig capture the joy and commitment of the group extremely vividly.

These pictures start with three images of the performance (in colour) , and then give hints as to some of the ways the performers prepare for the performance, and tell some of the story of how the group prepares and fits together (in black and white).

The words of the songs in Ladino dialect were sung with warmth, affection by the two vocal soloists Alice Zawadzki - also violin - and Olesya Zdvorovetska (above).

Shirley Smart
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
A constantly lively and fully committed presence in this - and any - band is cellist Shirley Smart.

Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
The band taking their curtain call show their collective belief in the project. It works on its own but could also easily be imagined as music to go with a film, or dance, or a narrative from history of some kind.

Ruth Goller
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
Musicians have different ways of readying themselves for going on stage. Monika Jakubowska caught bassist Ruth Goller having (extremely musical) fun.

Alice Zawadzki
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
Alice Zawadzki is always a performer with instantly affecting stage presence and confidence. This photo shows a moment given over to some of the careful preparation beforehand... that then allows the blessings to unfold once she is on stage.

L-R: Simon, Alex and Nick Roth
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
At the very heart of Sefiroth are the allegiance and the affection of the three brothers in the band.

LINK: Sefiroth on Bandcamp


REVIEW: Alison Rayner Quintet at Pizza Express Dean Street

Alison Rayner Quintet
Publicity photo

Alison Rayner Quintet
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 21 February 2018. Review by Charlie Anderson)

The Alison Rayner Quintet are a band with a wealth of experience and the musical chemistry that they have developed is very much evident, both on their recordings and in live performances.

They released their second album, A Magic Life, back in 2016 and started their set at Pizza Express Live with the original Musicophilia, a grooving piece from the album. With lots of forward momentum, the piece was inspired by the writings of Oliver Sacks and the music of bassist Eberhard Weber.

Alison Rayner’s strength lies in conjuring up different sound worlds as she is often inspired by locations and personal experiences. This was conveyed in tunes such as the atmospheric Swanage Bay, the Indian influenced The Trunk Call and a new piece, Croajingolong Bushwalk, inspired by her first trip to Australia.

Rayner has said that the reason for the band’s success is that each member of the band is a composer in their own right and whilst a majority of the pieces were Rayner’s originals, each set featured a piece composed by a different member. In the first set, Diane McLoughlin’s New Day was a pensive and dreamy groove with phrases exchanged between piano and saxophone before breaking out into a bright jazz waltz and some fantastically fluid soloing from Steve Lodder. In the second set, Lodder’s own composition, The OK Chorale, began as an energetic groove before transforming into a Bach-inspired mellow piano feature.

What also stood out was guitarist Deirdre Cartwright’s ability to play just about any sound imaginable, ranging from a sitar effect on The Trunk Call to a didgeridoo sound on Croajingolong Bushwalk, together with her ability to adapt to any context whether playing bebop solo lines or rock guitar riffs.

Drummer Buster Birch had blended in so well with the band he was almost unnoticeable but was given a chance to shine on the encore, Queer Bird, from the 2014 album August.

What makes Rayner’s music so enjoyable is her distinctive, powerful bass lines combined with strong melodic lines, together with arrangements that really bring out the strengths of the different members of the band.

LINKS:Alison Rayner interview with Alison Bentley from 2018

CD Review A Magic Life

Podcast interview from 2016


NEWS: Herts Jazz moves from Sundays to Tuesdays and from Welwyn to St. Albans from 3 April

The view from the stage at Maltings Arts Theatre
Photo from theatre website

NEWS: Herts Jazz Club, under the Artistic Directorship of Clark Tracey, is on the move.

The club started as Jazz at the Bell in Codicote in 1969. Subsequent venues have included The Fountain and Panshanger Golf Complex, both in Welwyn Garden City. Clark Tracey has been in charge since 2009, and Campus West in Welwyn has been the club's base for the past seven years.

It has just been announced that Herts Jazz will be moving roughly 10 miles to the
South-West to the 140-seater Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans at the beginning of April. Gigs will start at 7.30pm and finish at 10pm. Maltings Arts Theatre has been run by the company OVO since 2011.

The very last artists to perform at the old venue in Welwyn will be Allison Neale and Chris Biscoe with the well-matched sounds from their vintage Conn saxophones from the 1930s, in their alto/baritone "Two of a Mind" project (described here) on Sunday 25 March.

American saxophonist Scott Hamilton will be the first to perform in the new venue on Tuesday 3 April.

"Artists already booked for this season," says the press release, "include Claire Martin & Liane Carroll, The Stan Tracey Legacy Octet, Alan Barnes’ Sextet, Zoe Rahman, Dave O’Higgins, Freddie Gavita, Rosario di Rosa and Simon Spillett."

Clark Tracey says, “We are so pleased to be able to bring the best of British jazz to St Albans. The Maltings Arts Theatre is a brilliant space for jazz with a grand piano, capacity for 140 and a great ambience. We know that the city has been crying out for regular jazz and we hope to see many newcomers join our regulars for some great music.”

For the avoidance of confusion, this is the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans AL1 3HL. -  so if your Satnav or Google Maps has taken you to either THIS ARTS CENTRE CALLED MALTINGS or THIS ONE have gone either 100 or 320 miles in completely the wrong direction.

LINKS: Maltings Arts Theatre St Albans website 

Herts Jazz website


INTERVIEW: Stefano Battaglia (first London appearance since late1980s. Poet in the City, Kings Place, 1 March)

Stefano Battaglia
Photo credit: Roberto Cifarelli /ECM

Milanese pianist STEFANO BATTAGLIA, who has made seven albums for ECM, will be making his first appearance in London for a quarter of a century, at Kings Place on 1 March 2018, in an event promoted by Poet in the City. The Sea Opens will see him sharing the stage with Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur. Interview and translation by the London correspondent of Il Foglio William Ward:

LondonJazz News: You haven't performed in the UK for some 25 years. Any reason for this return? What are your expectations for your visit here?

Stefano Battaglia: I’m a lucky guy, I travel the world performing the music that I have composed, but I'm also aware that what I do doesn't necessarily suit the tastes of a local audience, even in such an important musical culture like the UK. I guess that over the last quarter century, there just wasn't that much interest in what I do: no worries.

Actually my only appearances in London go back some 30 years ago, when I was invited by that great drummer Tony Oxley, with whom I’d won a prize for the joint album project Explore. I was only 20 at the time, so to come back with a different life experience will be amazing, I can’t wait!

LJN: You’ve now recorded some seven album for ECM: given your rather socio-political outlook how do you reconcile your interest in some of the world’s most burning political issues with the distinctly aesthetic ethos of a label like ECM?

SB: Ever since politics has become the expression of economic interests, I am no longer interested in entering the fray, on those terms. What I’m interested in is “ethos” as a guiding principle for living, expressing the finest aspects of humanistic culture.

I’d say the same thing goes for ECM which is frequently perceived as being predicated around “aesthetic” ideas, when in fact its guiding principle is “ethos”. I don’t think there are any other record labels in the world which so explicit embrace the principle that in music there should be no distinction between ideologies, races, cultures, religions.

ECM must have the only catologue that features ancient music as well as contemporary classical; folk and traditional music; mainstream jazz and free jazz, Classical and Baroque, new music and electronic stuff, being concerned only with the idea of uncompromising beauty and artistic integrity.

I am totally signed up to this philosophical approach, of Dialogue-through-Beauty.

LJN: Can you give us some clues about what inspired you when you were making your solo album Pelagos?

SB: I often realize that as a musician, I run the risk of closing myself off into a hermetically sealed, self-indulgent magic bubble. But what of my role on this planet? I can’t just be a competent musician, I must contribute towards the survival of the planet. Sometimes it drives me nuts to observe this constantly self-referential carousel of the music industry, with its endless self indulgent “homages” to “the canon”, be that to Vivaldi or Hendrix, to Chopin or Frank Zappa, when there are people dying in civil wars, or trying to survive even the most basic subsistence level.

What is happening in the Mediterranean now is devastating. Once the open forum of peaceful cultural and lively commercial exchange, it has now been reduced to a watery grave, like in the times of Homer’s Odyssey.

LJN:  How did you meet Bejan Matur and what prompted you to collaborate with her in this performance at Kings Place on 1 March?

SB: I met Bejan at a poetry festival in the mountains of central Sardinia, and heard her recite her work in her native language (of which I don't understand a word) and I was deeply moved by the eloquence of the deep emotions she expressed so forcefully. I went to congratulate her afterwards, only to discover that she too knew my work and loves what I do – isnt that amazing?

Her being Kurdish, and being heavily involved in her people's struggle for survival and dignity, what with my own ethical principles and sense of priorities, I could not pass over the chance of an artistic collaboration like this!

LJN: Why did you think of combining certain distinct elements of Poetry and Jazz to create this unique narrative of the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean?

SB: I think that Art – the performing arts –should go back to having a more active role in public life, not just as sterile entertainment. Its memory is different from that of formal history, ours is a meta-memory. Picasso’s Guernica memorializes the devastating effects of the Nazi bombing in Spain far more effectively that any formal historical account. Improvisation is about the “hic et nunc” – the here and now! And despite all the terrible things happening within its confines, the Mediterranean offers the ideal forum for a creative dialogue between different cultural expressions and disciplines in a truly efficacious, dynamic manner.

LJN: How important are your Italian – and even your Milanese - roots in terms of inspiring your work, which has such a declared universalist nature ?

SB: Whilst Im perfectly happy to accept my Italian-ness as a simple fact it’s not a choice. True personal identity isnt a question of style or geography, but something deeper: a combination of personal desire and of a sense of “voluntas” – will or determination – in harmony with truth. The misunderstanding comes about when one thinks of Art as being just "language” – Logos, a syntactic construction. But music isn't a language, it's a meta-language. Sure there is grammar in it, but beyond that there exists in it a "mystery zone" with its own rules, which must be cherished on its own terms.

When we hear a Korean sing the Blues, or an African play the Goldberg Variations, we only hear the idiom , the language, but there isn't a deep sense of “ownership”, of profound understanding. That’s why it’s necessary for us to travel to hear other cultures’ music performed within their own cultural context, or alternatively, have those musicians travel so that we can witness their deeper cultural truths on our doorstep.

Britain is a good paradigm of this: Elizabethan theatre invented “la canzone” – the song – and it is within that metaphysical “created space” that subsequent generations have explored and developed the genre: John Dowland, William Byrd, Thomas Morley & Orlando Gibbons. I can still hear echos of that creativity five centuries later in the work of Peter Gabriel or Thom Yorke, just as the same life blood paasses through Hogarth and Reynolds and Turner, via Purcell to Genesis, through Britten to Peter Hammill and Scott Walker. This is the meaning of Identity.

LJN: After an angry and highly divisive electoral campaign Italy is on the verge of general elections (4 March). What is the outcome you most fear?

SB: It’s hard at times in Italy to distinguish nowadays between Mafia bosses and legitimate politicians, such is the degree of ambient corruption at all levels, and perhaps more worrying, the supine acceptance by the electorate of such a dangerous state of affairs. History teaches us how the conflict between mankind and the collective memory is sustained by the fact that society regualry forgets that without Culture there is no real memory of anything: the Arts are the memory of any given civilization. The Italians seem perennially condemned to forget this basic truth.

LJN: For some decades now, Italy has been the victim of a serious decline in its acknowledged position as a Cultural Superpower. It seems to lack ideas, creative energy, focus, discipline – not to mention the money – to compete with its rivals. Normally, a political/economic crisis – like the one Italy has also been facing these last 30 years or so, produces strong anti-bodies in the shape of a strong cultural response. But (perhaps with the honourbale exception of you and a few others) there has been none.

SB: I think the key word here is creativity, which is like a muscle: it needs to be exercised to work properly. I don't think we are short of ideas or creative genius, but nowadays the sort of creativity required by society is of digital invention, and no longer of music, dance or poetry. In a digital society like ours, true, profound creativity is considered “surplus to requirements”.

The matieral and sensual comforts offered by our consumer society, and the pointless distractions offered by our electronic devices are so enticing that as a society (and I don't think this is by any means exclusive to Italy), we no longer have the stimulus to be creative, or even to experience the joys and even the pains of the natural world, outside our urban constructions. Thinking that material comfort is key to individual well-being is a decadent philosophical short-circuit. Beyond the obvious geographical, literal sense of “identity” I honestly don’t feel part of this materialist society, in a broadly philosophical sense. (pp)

Stefano Battaglia Artist Page at ECM Records 


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Fini Bearman (This Is Not America, 606 Club, 28 Feb 2018)

Fini Bearman
Publicity picture supplied
The musical legacy of David Bowie stretches out across genre. Singer/composer Fini Bearman has been feeling its pull, as she tells Peter Bacon.

“Always go a little further into the water than you think you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel like your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

So said David Bowie in an interview in the 1990s and singer Fini Bearman is taking it as her credo of sorts for a trio gig she is doing next Wednesday 28 February at the 606 Club in Chelsea.
Her new project is called This Is Not America and together with Calum Gourlay on bass and Tom Cawley on piano she will be exploring the songs of Bowie.

Fini told me:

“I first started really listening to Bowie a couple of years ago, when I was completely enamoured by Life on Mars? – to me it seemed (and still does) like the perfect song; the melodic development of the verse, the gradual lift and trajectory of the melody which takes you through modulations, twists and turns, as it builds majestically to surely one of the greatest choruses of all time.

“There is not a fibre of my body that does not sigh in satisfaction when the lyric “Sailors, fighting in the dance hall” arrives… And the marrying of this delicious, melodic writing with harmony – gosh! – I could wax on for hours. This attention to detail both in music and lyrics, pervades his back catalogue: Quicksand and Changes (Hunky Dory), The Man Who Sold the World (“ “), All The Young Dudes (originally written for the rock band Mott the Hoople), Where Are We Now (The Next Day), Lazarus (Blackstar)… I could go on. That’s genius songwriting for you.”

So what does the trio hope to do with these brilliant raw materials?

“It is a challenge to reinterpret this music; on the one side making sure to keep the essence of the songs and the message present/intact, whilst on the other hand trying to shine a light on something new, or previously hidden. I chose to work with the smaller line-up of voice, bass and piano so that without a drummer I would be forced to find new ways through the songs, whilst trying to hold onto what was the essence and message of the music.

“Sharing this music with Tom Cawley and Calum Gourlay seemed right because they are both melodically sensitive players who can leave space or just s.p.e.l.l. out the time, and they share such a virtuosity that if and when the music diverges and takes a new path, everyone’s holding on.”

Who is the music aimed at - what does Fini hope will be its appeal?

“I hope that this project will appeal to both Bowie fans and perhaps also those who haven’t yet connected with his music. The nature of such an exposing line-up is that it invites listeners into the music, and with that, into the story. These songs speak both of the numinous and prosaic, soul-searching, star-gazing, the every day conversation and also the fantastical, and I think that even on the most basic level, there is an appeal to everyone.

"I suppose at the root of it, this project has rather humble aspirations – to explore and rejoice in the music of David Bowie, and connect with listeners old and new to celebrate a genius of our time."

LINK: 606 Club event
Fini Bearman's website


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Cape Town Jazz Festival, 23-24 March 2018

Enjoying the Free Community Concert in Greenmarket Square
Photo supplied by CTIJF
The 19th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival gets under way next month (23-24 March 2018). Billed as the biggest musical event in sub-Saharan Africa, the Festival is directed by BILLY DOMINGO. Peter Jones asked him about it.

London Jazz News: What are your main criteria for selecting the artists?

Billy Domingo: Along with our own talent department, the CTIJF has a panel made up of musicians, authors, journalists, producers and others involved in growing the music industry in South Africa. Together, we look at all genres of jazz – from what is current, to artists who play South African music in a style that it really stems from.

We consider what will appeal to our existing festinos as well as offering something new (for them), as well as attracting new audiences to explore the Festival and the genre.  Baseline stage, for example, tends to attract a younger audience who are our future festinos. We have also constructed a number of initiatives that speak to growing new talent.  These include the ‘espYoungLegends’ competition and the Music and Careers workshops which are aimed at high school music students.

LJN: How easy/difficult has it been to attract the upfront financing and sponsorship?

BD: We are in the fortunate position to have the full support of our parent company, a listed entity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. It is sometimes challenging, though, because every year sponsors' visions change, and marketing directives change, so we are always at the mercy of change.

Billy Domingo
Photo credit: espAfrika
Very few sponsors sign long-term contracts but we are very fortunate in that we have a unique brand so people want to partner with us, and that is because association with the CTIJF also drives proven value. In the main, we budget and strategically plan for all eventualities – we have 19 years of experience in this regard and a team of experts to safeguard the sustainability of the festival.

LJN: The pre-festival free concert is an inspired idea which should be taken up by other international jazz festivals. Do you think it gets more people into the Festival itself?

BD: We are not unique. The North Sea Jazz Festival has a concert in the city as well and we’ve adapted from concerts around the world. We have a huge political history that we recognise every year and Greenmarket Square, where we host the annual Free Community Concert, is where lots of our people were arrested during the struggle.

It gives something back to the people of the city, as a way for us to say thank you for allowing us to disrupt their trains, planes and life in general over those two festival days. It has done a lot for ticket sales, as many tourists who are unaware of the genre and artists will see them perform at the Free Concert and then be urged to buy a ticket to the main festival, if not for the same year, then for the following year. Over the past 11 years we have been sold out prior to the Free Concert, but it definitely gets word of mouth out and brings people to the main event.

LJN: What for you is the importance of the associated training and development events?

BD: This is the core of the festival – South Africa’s rich musical heritage will live on through these students – not just artists but the production and management side too.  We, as an organization, are very passionate about ensuring a sustainable and vibrant entertainment industry in South Africa – on stage as well as behind the scenes.

Nurturing rising talent at Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Picture supplied by CTIJF
The Music and Careers workshops – aimed at high school students – for example, helps music artists develop their performance craft while also training those keen on an events career.  For four Saturdays, the 75+ students get valuable training on developing their own brand, understanding what technical and hospitality riders are, how to use technology and social media to market themselves (once they know what their brand is), lighting and sound set-ups, creating music digitally, MC and presenter skills… and the list goes on. The workshops culminate in a live performance at the famous Artscape theatre where each of the bands performs two numbers.  From these performances, the music directors select what is referred to as the ‘All Star Band’.  This band then plays at the Greenmarket Square CTIJF Free community concert.

The next level would be the espYoungLegends competition (now in its third year), that invites young unsigned bands to compete for a slot to play at the main festival.  Other initiatives also include free masterclasses, which are open to the public, one on the business of music and another which is a hands-on technology masterclass.

There’s more besides – arts journalism and photojournalism courses, that ensure we are creating a raft of arts and culture journalists who can write beyond an event listing.  This also contributes to sustaining the industry, because you can be the best performer in the world, but if no one writes about you, no one will know…

LJN: How would you like to see the Festival developing in future?

BD: I would like to see it continue and extend the footprint into the inner city, as they do at Montreux and New Orleans, encompassing the whole city of Cape Town, so that not only can we benefit from this festival, but the general population as a whole can also experience the culture, as well as our visitors. So it’s about expanding our footprint, encompassing more venues, all professionally organized and curated under the banner of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

LINK: Cape Town International Jazz Festival


REVIEW: Peter Lemer Quintet Son Of Local Colour at Pizza Express

Peter Lemer (left) with John Surman, Alan Skidmore and Jon Hiseman
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2018. All Rights Reserved

Peter Lemer Quintet Son Of Local Colour
(Pizza Express, 20 February 2018; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

"We take from one another and give, willingly, unwillingly, knowingly, unknowingly." Thus did the ultra-versatile jazz pianist, Peter Lemer, articulate the psychology of musicianly interplay in the sleeve note to his quintet's album, Local Colour. Recorded in 1966 for New York's ground-breaking ESP label and produced by the legendary Eddie Kramer, who was to become a core element in Hendrix's creative team, this was the only album put out in Lemer's own name, despite a high-flying career at the heart of the British progressive jazz-rock scene and as sideman with the likes of Annette Peacock, Ginger Baker and Mike Oldfield. His earliest work was in left-field territory with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and he studied with piano luminaries, Paul Bley and Jackie Byard.

At Pizza Express he reconvened the original members of that stellar fivesome, John Surman (baritone and soprano saxes), Jon Hiseman (drums), Tony Reeves (bass) with the consummate tenor of Alan Skidmore, Surman's old sidekick from SOS, depping for the indisposed George (Nisar Ahmad) Khan.

The quintet lasted around five months including a six-week Ronnie Scott's residency, before other demands led to its dispersal, yet they proved that they have lost none of the dynamic edge displayed so challengingly on the '66 LP, which, if anything, has been honed and intensified over the intervening 52 years.

Selections from the album included, as a thank you to Lemer's mentors at the time, Carla Bley's hyperactive Inctus, and Lemer's compositions, Flowville with its softly meditative preamble, In the Out, with the harmonised saxes briefly a dead-ringer for Roland Kirk, and Carmen, a springboard for melodic extrapolation. In this powerful performance, the material sounded vital, fresh and unequivocally current, optimised by a crisp sound mix that propelled to the fore the subtleties and dynamics of each musician's contribution, auguring well for the live recording that was taking place.

John Surman on soprano sax in Peter Lemer's quintet at Pizza Express
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2018. All Rights Reserved

Reading from demanding scores, Surman and Skidmore welded an inspired, rock-solid brass section alongside the nuanced bass dialogues from Reeves, Hiseman's structurally intense percussion and Lemer's keyboard effervescence.

The first set opened with improvisation. "I dreamt about an octopus last night, so that's where we are going to start!" echoing the sleeve note that "The written leads were the maps into the unexplored, the direction being towards the open, out …" As the textures were built up there was an underlying modulation with the feel of an ECM sound world. Judicious, infectious soloing, waves of sonics through the saxes, concentrated, serial piano repetitions and a break out in to a rocking groove mapped out the Local Colour field.

With references to non-verbal communication and to proto-linguistics, Lemer's notion was that "we're tapping the veins of your brains." Spells of tough, tight synchronisation, expressive solos from Surman and Skidmore deep in to their power station delivery, Reeves' sensitively syncopated bass lines and discreet pummelling by Hiseman complemented Lemer's brightly illuminated piano flights.

Lemer's homage to Dick Heckstall-Smith, Big Dick, took its lead from Lemer's nine note figure, and with the quintet motoring at full throttle, Surman served up a stand-out soprano solo on Coltrane's Impressions. The perfectionist in Lemer insisted on four false starts at Blues for Something Funny before he deemed the pace just right for their recording.

With such a quality performance all round the question is - where has Peter Lemer been hiding all these years? He was keen that this outfit gets further airings and is looking for offers!

We have also published Paul Wood's photos of this gig HERE


REVIEW: FIRE! (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin) at Cafe OTO

Mats Gustafsson brings the same ferocity to electronics
that he brings to the baritone sax

FIRE! (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin)
(Cafe OTO. 21 February 2018. Review and phone-snaps by AJ Dehany)

Swedish baritone sax master Mats Gustafsson does not fuck about. Two thirds of the way through an intense one-hour set with his bruising power trio FIRE! he makes a short speech that mirrors the way the music works, deconstructing the platitudinous niceties of ordinary stage banter that none of us at Cafe OTO want to hear nor he to utter.

“Thank you very much, it is actually great to be back here. Fucked up. We have a new record and blah blah blah blah *commercial break* t-shirts, stickers. There’s beers at the bar, there’s malts at the bar….” He pauses, and resumes. “It’s a difficult world we’re living in *philosophical break* Shitloads of merch over there, some music over here. We played one, two, three, four pieces from The Hands, and the titles are… way too complicated for us to remember… but we know that one of them is actually named The Hands so that’s easy. We will play *bom bom bom* two more songs, maybe, let’s see, and then we’ll fuck off.”

This is music that does not care to give you the familiar crutches and reassuring elements that music crrrrritics would demand and musicians would try to tick off one item at a time. Harmonic interest, complexity, variation, melody, structure, depth, I don’t know, whatever. It has all these in varying degrees but in an integrated way that refuses to tick them off just to prove it’s good. It doesn’t give a shit if you think it’s good or not.

This is actually a hallmark of respect. They don’t care to patronise you or the music. Short bruising basslines from Johan Berthling cycle round, drilling into your brain. This is the deep core of the music around which explosions ricochet in a dark, harsh landscape, an urban punk industrial jazz sound sculpture that shimmers like petrol. Gustafsson’s table of electronic circuit breakers and pedals is deployed with ear-splitting ferocity. At Cafe OTO, the trio played one intense 60-minute set with material from The Hands, its sixth album of bruising unclassifiable music or anti-music. You don’t know whether to call these radically deconstructed assemblages compositions, pieces, jams, improvisations, workouts, bouts. Bouts is good. Mats Gustafsson’s physical engagement with the baritone sax makes you think of wrestling, seriously.

The impact of Andreas Werliin’s surprisingly dynamic playing across the kit is heightened by putting it through an echo pedal: the kick drum punches hard, the cymbals needle out of the sound. The mainstay of the group is the fierce heavyweight baritone sax playing of Mats Gustafsson, who tore through three reeds during the set. His playing has a visceral rhythmic physicality just in the thickness of the sound coming out of the horn, but it’s also intensely creative and responsive to the underregarded subtleties of the trio’s dynamic, always shifting and searching out new sources of energy and excitement.

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

Andreas Werliin, Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling

LINK: The Hands on video


The Hands
Upp o ner


NEWS: New appointments at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Dept

John O'Gallagher
Photo credit: Brian Homer
Peter Bacon writes:

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, has announced two new appointments to the full-time staff of its Jazz Department. They are John O'Gallagher and Percy Pursglove.

O'Gallagher, an alto saxophonist originally from Anaheim in California, but who has spent recent years as a prominent musician on the Brooklyn/New York scenes, initially came to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire to work on a doctorate. His presence in the city has had a galvanizing impact not just on the students on the jazz course but for fans in the city's jazz clubs and pubs.

He said: “I am very excited to be joining the jazz faculty at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and I am looking forward to working with students to help cultivate their artistic potential and individual voices.”

Trumpeter Pursglove is a son of the Midlands and alumnus of this Conservatoire, and has been a vital presence on the scene since before he graduated, not only in Birmingham but spreading out throughout the UK and Europe.

He said: “'I'm thrilled and delighted to join the jazz faculty at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. It's a world-class team of creative practitioners, educators and thinkers positioned amongst a vibrant student community. It's an honour to be a part of a continually developing jazz programme here at the Conservatoire, and a thriving Midlands jazz scene.”

Percy Pursglove
Photo credit: Graham Hardy
Head of Jazz at RBC, Jeremy Price, commented: “At long last we can go public with the news that we have recruited these two fantastic jazz musicians to full time posts at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Saxophonist John O’Gallagher and trumpet player Percy Pursglove – both well-known on the international scene as virtuosi improvisers – have accepted academic posts that include and embrace their research output, and provide a further platform for their great playing careers.

“They join myself and drummer Andrew Bain as the main contact for the students on our undergraduate and postgraduate jazz programmes, and are already making inspiring contributions to how we develop the curriculum and programme our concerts and masterclasses. This is truly an exciting team to be leading and is brimming with new ideas and passion for the music.”

John O’Gallagher joins the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as Senior Lecturer, with Percy Pursglove now employed as an undergraduate lecturer in the Jazz Department at the music college.

The expansion in the full-time teaching staff comes shortly after the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's move into its new £57 million purpose-built facilities complete with jazz club.

Not far from the RBC and Eastside Jazz Club, resides Birmingham City's Jazz Research cluster.  Led by Professors Nicholas Gebhardt and Tony Whyton, the cluster boasts 29 members, including 12 jazz researchers from across the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Birmingham School of Media, as well as nine doctoral students and leaders of the regional jazz community, and additional academic partners at Middlesex University, University of Warwick, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and University of Aveiro (Portugal).

The new appointments show a further strengthening of Birmingham’s position as a major international centre for jazz’s teaching, performance and research.

LINKS: Interview with Jeremy Price about the new season at Eastside Jazz Club

The new home of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire


CD REVIEW: The Ed Palermo Big Band – The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren

The Ed Palermo Big Band – The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren 
(Cuneiform Records, Rune 440. CD Review by Jane Mann)

Somehow, the work of the brilliant New York-based American arranger, saxophonist and guitarist Ed Palermo had passed me by until now. His previous CDs include: The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2 (2017) which celebrates British pop music, Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2009), and at least two other Frank Zappa tribute albums. He’s been an arranger or alto sax player for big names including Mel Tormé, Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett, and has had his own big band for years.

On this new CD Palermo has turned his attention to the works of composers Frank Zappa (Palermo has arranged more than 300 Zappa tunes in his time) and Todd Rundgren, two significant musicians from his teenage years. He says, “Todd Rundgren holds a very special place in my heart... A lot of people who like the music of Zappa, also like Rundgren and Steely Dan, but there are enough Steely Dan cover bands out there…”   This doesn’t stop him from quoting Steely Dan in his scores – his arrangement of Rundgren’s Broke Down and Busted includes hints of The “In” Crowd, Zappa’s Brown Shoes Don’t Make It and a great swathe of Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic. He does this sort of thing a lot. On Rundgren’s Yer Fast, not two minutes long, he squeezes in references to Zappa’s Montana and Florentine Pogen, two tunes which he deals with at greater length later on in the CD.  This is action packed stuff.

Palermo says: "Arranging is the fun part for me. Zappa used to call it “dressing up the song”. Hearing an arrangement played is the cherry on top, but the process of writing, when the ideas are flowing, that’s the main meal. Sometimes I’ll be working on a song and something about it reminds me of another song. Instead of ignoring it, my ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] tells me, 'No, put that in there.' And people talk about ADD as if it’s a bad thing!"

The Ed Palermo Big Band are an exuberant 17-piece ensemble, with splendid singing from guest vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, former singer with Frank Zappa’s bands. More excellent vocals come from guitarist Bruce McDaniel, who also produced the CD, and arranged a couple of numbers.  The ensemble playing is tight and exciting throughout and the soloists are all terrific. This includes remarkable solos from Palermo himself on guitar and alto sax.

I was unfamiliar with much of Todd Rundgren’s oeuvre, so some of the songs took me by surprise, for example, Emperor of the Highway (vocals from both Brock and McDaniel) – an unlikely homage to Gilbert and Sullivan. Despite the two disparate sources, the album feels coherent and moves seamlessly between the two composers – some tracks slide without pause from a Zappa tune to a Rundgren tune, like the huge Peaches En Regalia which morphs into Influenza, featuring an impressive violin solo from Katie Jacoby (and little snatches of Greig’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King too). Palermo has given many of the Rundgren tunes a Zappaish feel, although there are some exceptions: there is a gorgeous ballad, Hello It’s Me (from 1968) which could be a Beach Boys tune.

The arrangement of Zappa’s Absolutely Free (1968) is a gentle delight. It dispenses with the vocal line, focussing on a charming piano part from Bob Quaranta, showing how pleasingly melodic Zappa can be. By contrast, Zappa’s instrumental piece Echidna’s Arf (Of You) is presented here with what sounds like a choir, billed as the Louisiana Swindle Singers, but is in fact just multi-tracked McDaniel. The  arrangement of everyone’s favourite Zappa tune Montana is a show stopper, and Brock’s vocals are superlative. Palermo replaces the original’s Zappa guitar solo with an alto sax solo from himself. Another unexpected pleasure is an immaculate Afro-Cuban middle section which emerges during Zappa’s Florentine Pogen.  Palermo spent four years in Tito Puente’s Band, and has played with Celia Cruz and Eddie Palmieri so he knows exactly what he’s doing here.

This glorious CD is big band music for people for whom the rock and pop music of the 1960s and '70s are standards, just as the dancehall tunes of the '30s and '40s were the standards for a previous generation.

The liner notes are comedic (there is a credit for Alternative Executive Producer: Kellyanne Conway in there.) True to the spirit of Zappa, Ed Palermo balances serious music playing with humour and a lightness of touch. The music is very difficult to perform but this band seems to have no trouble at all.  Somebody please put the Ed Palermo Big Band on soon, preferably in the UK but anywhere else in Europe would do.  They would go down a storm.

The Ed Palermo Big Band:
Ed Palermo Arranger, Alto Saxophone, Guitar
Ronnie Buttacavoli Trumpet
John Bailey Trumpet
Charlie Gordon Trombone
Joe Fiedler Trombone
Matt Ingman Bass Trombone
Cliff Lyons Alto Saxophone, Clarinet
Phil Chester Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute
Ben Kono Tenor Saxophone, Flute
Bill Straub Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet
Barbara Cifelli Baritone Saxophone
Bob Quaranta Acoustic Piano
Ted Kooshian Synthesizer
Paul Adamy Bass Guitar
Ray Marchica Drums
Bruce McDaniel Guitar, Vocals
Katie Jacoby Violin
Napolean Murphy Brock Guest vocalist

Track listing:
1.The Solemn Z-Men Credo
2.Peaches En Regalia (Frank Zappa)
3.Influenza (Todd Rundgren)
4.Yer Fast (Todd Rundgren)
5.Absolutely Free (Frank Zappa)
6.Breathless (Part 1) (Todd Rundgren)
7.Big Swifty (Frank Zappa)
8.Kiddie Boy (Todd Rundgren)
9.Montana (Frank Zappa)
10.Emperor of the Highway (Todd Rundgren)
11.You Are What You Is (Frank Zappa)
12.Echidna's Arf (Of You) (Frank Zappa) [feat. The Louisiana Swindle Singers]
13.Hello It's Me (Todd Rundgren)
14.Big Swifty Coda (Frank Zappa)
15.Wailing Wall (Todd Rundgren)
16.Florentine Pogen (Frank Zappa)
17.Flamingo (Todd Rundgren)
18.Marqueson's Chicken (Frank Zappa)
19.Song of the Viking (Todd Rundgren)
20.Janet's Big Dance Number (Frank Zappa)
21.Broke Down and Busted (Todd Rundgren)
22.Breathless (Part 2) (Todd Rundgren)
23.Zoot Allures (Frank Zappa)
24.Yer Fast (Reprise) (Todd Rundgren)