CD REVIEW: Francesco Turrisi – Northern Migrations



Francesco Turrisi – Northern Migrations
(Taquin Records / TAQCD004. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

The name of pianist Francesco Turrisi has graced many a fine recording. As well as collaborating with artists including saxophonist Dave Liebman and vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Maria Pia de Vito, he has produced a number of his own albums as leader (2014’s Grigio especially memorable) and is a mainstay of Christina Pluhar’s visionary early music ensemble L’Arpeggiata (reviewed) .

Turin-born and Dublin-based Turrisi’s debut solo piano venture is entitled Northern Migrations, reflecting a recurring theme in the life of his family, especially his own ten-year journey from the Mediterranean through to his studies at the Netherlands’ Royal Conservatory of The Hague before settling in Ireland. The pianist’s creative ability to traverse genres and cultures is his distinction, so it’s fascinating to hear this, in maybe its most transparent form, through a personal and frequently emotionally-laden collection of compositions, arrangements and improvisations.

Deep reflection is the prevailing aura as Turrisi shapes this mostly original music with songlike purity, pellucid Italian inflection, cogitative passion; and focus is required from the listener to engage with – and respond to, in their own way – such a nuanced blend of jazz, folk and classical music. Sleeve notes explain both the intended live rawness and specific piano tuning system involved in the capture of the thirteen entire takes at Ballytobin’s now-closed Castalia Hall, as well as including insightful manuscript snapshots of each.

Mi Mariposa Hermosa tenderly flits around descending bass lines, its gossamer ornamentation later finding a greater strength, whilst Passacalio’s Spanish delicacy also hints at Purcellian lament (its composer, Biagio Marini, also of the 17th century); and the melodic prettiness/wistfulness of On the Fourteenth Day also displays Turrisi’s improvisational animation. Mesmeric 11/8 title track Northern Migrations is a particular standout, its slow-burning, subtly-jarring progression sustained by accordion, and dynamically enhanced by twinkling high piano notes and the plumbed depths of octave bass. In similar vein, haunting Isole possesses an Einaudi-style lilt. The simplicity of major/minor Ostinato, suggesting soundtrack drama, is buoyed by the quietly-rasping momentum of a frame drum (such interesting timbres might perhaps have been employed further, elsewhere), and in an arrangement of traditional tune Carpinese, Turrisi’s beautiful intricacy almost mimics the sound of a kantele before hitting a heavier, rock groove.

Other discoveries include Toccata Cromatica, based on the type of chromatic harmonic sequences employed by 16th century church organists – delightfully fluid, and very much in Turrisi’s oeuvre. Volo Meglio Solo sails romantically above the clouds, its lush chords breaking into restrained jazz-tinted flamenco. Three restless Taksims seem to express, as impromptus, the album‘s migratory theme; and A Thousand Years Old carries the weight of Italian monochrome screenplay.

Described as ‘an emotional journey through space and time; a distillation of my musical and life experiences’, Northern Migrations is inwardly contemplative and may even have benefited from a little joie de vivre in places. Yet it gets to the heart of Francesco Turrisi’s pianistic integrity – a privilege to experience.

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ROUND-UP: 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival (Part 1 – Robert Lepage’s SLĀV, Rémi Jean Leblanc, Keyon Harrold)


The Heavyweights from Toronto
2018 Montreal Jazz Festival
(Various venues in Montreal. 27 and 28 June 2018. Round-up review by Sebastian Scotney – Part 1)

These are just a few impressions of my first two evenings at the 39th Montreal Jazz Festival. The post will hopefully be improved with some better pictures from the festival’s official photographers, later.

First, the vibe. Large numbers of people in the warmth of an early summer’s evening being drawn into the Quartier des Spectacles by the well-known magnet of the festival: it is such a heartening sight. Some are headed for ticketed concerts, but the majority are going without a fixed plan, to try out the free stages, to enjoy the summer hang, open-minded about what they are going to see or hear.

They pass easily through the minimal barriers and bag searches. There’s a spirit of openness and trust. After all, the festival team has been doing this for nearly forty years. And, talking of forty, since it hits minus forty degrees in the winter here … and when I hear speculation that plus forty might be reached at some point during this festival, it just serves as another reminder that summer is there to be appreciated and enjoyed.


Wednesday 27 June  

Robert Lepage’s SLĀV

There have, however, been discordant notes. The first show I saw, Robert Lepage’s SLĀV, has walked itself right into a high-profile controversy. Background: theatre director and dramaturge Lepage is one of Quebec’s leading cultural figures, even an icon. He has devised a “theatrical odyssey based on slave songs”, working with (white) French-born singer Betty Bonifassi. She has a long experience of singing slave songs, and Lepage has set her work in this repertoire in a bigger context with six women of different races, all of whom sing, and has made it into a well-prepared, -designed and -lit theatre show at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. It is a festival commission.

Prior to its opening, i.e. before anyone had seen it, it had inspired anger and provoked demonstrations on its opening night. The accusation is that the broad context which Lepage sets for his broad-sweep meditation on slavery across the continents fails to see slavery as (literally) an issue of black and white. With artists such as Thundercat coming to the festival later, it is one of those arguments which just ain’t going to go away.

On the positive side, the show had a breadth and a sweep about it, and it is a real company venture. The way all the actors ‘get’ the vision was, to me, reminiscent of Peter Brook in Paris in the 1970s. One good, local writer has covered the play well and pointed out its “cognitive dissonance” and its shortcomingsSLĀV seeks to bring empathy, above all, through the use of the music rather than drawing the audience into characters or situations or by letting the story carry the emotional weight. There are plenty of ideas being talked about, there is loads of food for thought – less for emotion. With a lot of dialogue in Quebecois and references to the Haitian community in Montreal, it is not obviously designed to travel. There are some extracts which give a flavour in the video with this news item.


Thursday 28 June


La Petite Ecole du Jazz

La Petite Ecole du Jazz

I was pleased that the first music I caught was that of a longstanding Montreal institution in action. The Petite Ecole du Jazz has daily 11am shows in the Centre Desjardins mall. It is where children – not least those in the jazz community here – get an exposure to jazz very young. It’s all about fun, is toddler-friendly and lively; and, as a message about sustainability, it is hard to beat.

Nir Felder and Rémi Jean Leblanc

Rémi Jean Leblanc’s Déductions, Zara McFarlane, Chano Dominguez

Rémi Jean Leblanc is in his early thirties and has been one of the first-call bassists in Montreal ever since he emerged from college. He plays upright bass in the Orchestre National de Jazz, for example. In this project he was completely on electric bass. He has wonderful security, solidity, judgement and purpose about his playing, even when making the lightest touch. As I hear him and listen to all the subtlety and the detail, the thought did cross my mind that the next three to four bassists I hear would not be as good. Déductions is his third album as leader (five years since the last) and he has a group with pianist Rafael Zaldivar, drummer Samuel Joly and New York guitarist Nir Felder. There is a very good new album: samples on iTunes, here.

Felder and Leblanc are busy players and it is an open question as to whether they will ever get the time to really bring these compositions and contexts into a common vision. I enjoyed their unanimity as they landed on a dime together every time, feeling the phrases and the builds in an instinctively identical way. And Zaldivar provided contrast. He uses the utterly solid foundations of Leblanc’s bass-playing and Joly’s drumming as something to rebel against and stand in opposition to.

I also caught the very end of Zara McFarlane’s set at the Casino outdoor stage with Peter Edwards, Max Luthert and Binker Golding. This band has strengthened by leaps and bounds.

Chano Dominguez and his group gave their Flamenco Sketches show at the Monument National. Dominguez is a unique bridge between flamenco, complete with dancer and singer. This is a highly individual set of connections, and the set built the contrasts between Dominguez’s tendency to florid and romantic piano-playing to full-on, sung, clapped, stamped and sung flamenco, and foot-to-the floor velocity. He has a strong band and a clear sense of mission and individual identity.

Keyon Harrold (centre) and band

Keyon Harrold

Keyon Harrold’s show at the Gesu Cultural Center was a concert for which the press allocation had been filled to bursting, but there were quite a few spare tickets to be had through normal channels, so I just bought one. Does that tell one something? That the press has picked up a buzz, and certainly that Harrold has a lot of ‘story’, and also connections – whether it be the fact that he is originally from Ferguson, Missouri, and talks eloquently about Black Lives Matter, or whether it is his role – as he explained it – as “stunt double” for Miles Davis / Don Cheadle in the film Miles Ahead. And he also credits on albums with JAY-Z, Beyoncé, 50 Cent …

In the event, it was a very strong set, taking in a wide range of both moods and influences. The Mugician album has a star-studded roster of band and guests, but this regular touring band – including Shedrick Mitchell on piano and Rhodes, Nir Felder (for the second time in the evening) on guitar and Charles Haynes on bass – is a mightily impressive unit. My gig of the festival so far.

Sebastian is in Montreal, the guest of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

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INTERVIEW: Joan Mas, director of Mas i Mas Festival (Barcelona 31 July – 31 August 2018)

Plaza Real, which will host an outdoor stage
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mas i Mas fills Barcelona with music for the whole month of the month of August. It is also combining for the first time with the Global Music Foundation's summer school for a series of concerts and other events. Sebastian spoke to festival director Joan Mas, who is also the guiding spirit behind the Jamboree Jazz Club:


LondonJazz News: Joan What is your story and how did you become director of the Mas i Mas Festival?

Joan Mas: I started when I was 18 years old as a wedding, banquet and cruise musician. At the age of 27 (1985) I opened my first business, Mas i Mas Bar, with great success. After opening other businesses I opened the music venue, La Boîte. Two years later came the Jamboree, then the Tarantos and finally the Cova do Drac. We did four performances a day, 365 days a year. Sixteen years ago we organised the first festival sponsored by San Miguel, performing in clubs and large venues such as the Liceu Theatre, the Palau de la Música and this year for the first time in the Teatro Coliseum. This year we have programmed about 70 shows in total (this includes jazz, flamenco and techno performances).

LJN: What is the best place in Barcelona for you?

JM: Obviously the Jamboree, because there is no other club next to the Ramblas, the best street in the world.

LJN: We hear that you will be using some beautiful places in Barcelona - what will happen in the Plaza Real and are there also events centered in Jamboree and Tarantos - which are in the same building?

JM: Yes, each day at 18.30h we have an outdoor stage in Plaza Real dedicated to song. The vocal students participating, in GMF Barcelona '18, along with some special surprise guests, will have an opportunity to sing to hundreds of people.

Tarantos is on top of the Jamboree. The late great trumpet player Art Farmer said that, back in the '60s, he remembered that, when he was playing downstairs in the Jamboree, between tunes you could hear the Flamenco dancers through the floor.

LJN: And Louis Armstrong once played at the Jamboree?

JM: No, Louis Armstrong didn't play at the Jamboree. Ella Fitzgerald did get on stage at the Jamboree because in 1966, the sixth anniversary of the Jamboree, she organised a concert at the Palau de la Música; Duke Ellington with Ella Fitzgerald. At the end of the Palau concert, she decided to go to the Jamboree and she sang.

LJN: And some other great ones?

JM: Yes, lots including Tete Montoliu, Bill Coleman, Kenny Drew, Chet Baker, Ponny Poindexter, Art Farmer, Lou Bennet, Stephane Grappelli, Kenny Clarke, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon. Elvin Jones, Gregory Porter, Brad Mehldau, Jerry Bergonzi, The Fringe, Mina Agossi, Freedom Jazz Quintet, Brian Auger, Jesse Davis, Dick Oats, Yarom Herman, Nasheet Waits, Christian Scott, Al Foster, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Jordi Rossy, Perico Sambeat, and many more.

LJN: What is special about the Jamboree environment?

JM: The walls are made of stone from an old convent of nuns. At the beginning of the 18th century, the current Royal Square was built on top of it. It was the first jazz club in Spain and the musicians always say that it is a magical place where they love to perform and where you can feel the history.

LJN: What kind of club is Tarantos?

JM: It is the oldest flamenco tablao that remains open in Barcelona. Great names of flamenco have performed here, among them, in 1962 Antonio Gades, Maruja Garrido and in the last period Duquende, Niña Pastori, and Diego el Cigala. Currently there are four sets per night with flamenco singing, guitar and dance.

Joan Mas
Picture supplied

LJN: This year Mas i Mas has a connection with the Global Music Foundation?

JM: Yes, the first week of the festival the Jamboree will feature seven outstanding performances by GMF artists. For several years we have been looking at the project and preparing it with Stephen Keogh and at last we are able to do it.

LJN: And you are also having events on the beach – where? Are they free entry?

JM: Yes, we have activities at the CNAB, in front of Barcelona's largest beach, with lots of charm. In the mornings there will be tai-chi, samba, singing etc. At noon students and teachers can eat in front of the sea on a wonderful terrace.

LJN: And there will be a massive samba and a choir. When and where exactly is that?

JM: On August 7, GMF will close with a choir and samba concert at the CNAB, in a magnificent venue next to the club's swimming pools and in front of the sea.

LJN: I understand that you expected to use El Grec's outdoor amphitheater but you cannot?

JM: Yes, we won a contest to manage it for three years. It is a beautiful open-air theatre with 2,100 seats and a classical Greco-Roman theatre structure. Last year was the first year we managed it and it went well. We did 15 performances during the Festival. But this year, the political party that was in charge of culture for the city has changed and now it has been cancelled.

LJN: What are your events at the Teatro Coliseo?

JM: We have six concerts: the first one is an American band, the Lucky Chops. This is followed by an English group, Incognito. Thirdly we will have Electro Deluxe, a French group. The fourth group is a Catalan group led by Andrea Motis. The fifth place, a very well-known Spanish singer, Santiago Auserón, and to close the festival we will have a Dutch singer from Suriname, Clarence Bekker, who will stage a big party with a Barcelona gospel choir of 150 singers.

LJN: What is the concert that is selling best at this time?

JM: The first is Santiago Auserón and the second is Incognito

LJN: Do you feel like presenting some of the Catalan musicians? Who in particular?

JM: We are very excited to present Andrea Motis, Joan Chamorro and Albert Bover. (pp)

LINK: Mas i Mas Festival website

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REVIEW: Billy Cobham with the Guy Barker Big Band at Ronnie Scott's

Billy Cobham
Photo Credit and © Carl Hyde

Billy Cobham with the Guy Barker Big Band
(Ronnie Scott's. 27 June 2018. Review by Frank Griffith)

This being the third of a six-night run at the fabled Soho venue and showed that the ensemble was well warmed up and in full gear.

The gig was preceded by a book launch for Brian Gruber's Six Days at Ronnie Scott's based on a similar residency Billy Cobham had done last year at the club. It included a short interview with the author and Cobham, followed by a few questions from the sold-out audience. Cobham fluently spoke of his upbringing in Panama rattling on pots and pans from the age of three as well as how his Panamanian culture continues to inform and shape his music to this day, including that of the big band. He also mentioned the seminal 1959 LP, The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess, arranged by Bill Potts featuring an arsenal of top NYC jazz musicians from Zoot Sims and Phil Woods to Art Farmer, Charlie Shavers and JJ Johnson. This served as a prime example of how the confluence of great material, arranging and players could prevail over "the sum of its parts", as it were. A landmark album to be sure. This was clearly his ethos and goal for what Cobham and the Guy Barker Big Band had in mind too.

The show featured seven Cobham compositions skillfully arranged by Barker that ran the gamut from his ealry 1970s LPs, Crosswinds and Spectrum, to current works. A rich variety and cross section of grooves, tempi and styles resulted. A "This is Your Life" of sorts as, even at 74, Cobham shows no signs of retirement or slowing down. His playing and vitality resonated and impressed with aplomb throughout.

The band included an outstanding array of soloists, including saxophoinists Sam Mayne and Tom Barford along with veteran Phil Todd. In addition to Barker's powerful and spirited solos, special plaudits to the lead work of Nottingham lad Nathan Bray. A demanding task to be sure, not least for a programme of such complexity to be sustained for a 90 minute set! The trombone solos, shared by Alastair White and Dave Williamson, were significant in their intensity, power and verve. It is often the case with big bands that trombone solos get "short shrift" in favour of saxes and trumpets but not the case here, clearly, and all the better for it. The top class rhythm section included Scots pianist Steve Hamilton, and guitarist Dave Dunsmere, both of whom more than rose to the occasion with their frequent solo excursions to boot. The solid and creative bass work of Mike Mondesir scored resoundingly throughout with him often beaming at the drummer while manning the "engine room" of this stellar rhythm team.

After explaining to  the audience that he was "now going to embark on doing what the contract required", Cobham proceeded with a five-minute solo drums introduction demonstrating a variety of dramatic cross rhythms amongst changing tonal colours. He then whittled it down with hand tapping on the snare drum in a duet with bass drum interjections. After drawing down to a quiet close a three-minute long pastoral sounding  brass chorale section ensued as  a prelude to a rompin'-stompin', full-on treatment of Cobham's 1970s hit Red Baron featuring a blistering tenor solo by Paul Booth. This then led to a bombastic finish, of course, and needless to say, the night was over – both band and audience completely poleaxed

Quality music, a great band and a stunner drummer. Let's have them back for another six-day stint in 2019, please.

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REVIEW: Freddie Gavita Quartet at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Freddie Gavita at Pizza Express Jazz Club
Photo credit: © Patrick Hadfield

Freddie Gavita Quartet. Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, 25 June 2018
(Review and pictures by Patrick Hadfield)


In the intimate venue of the Press Express Jazz Club, this felt very much like home turf for trumpeter Freddie Gavita: in the company of friends – he seemed to know half the audience – he had a certain self assurance as he moved on the stage. It wasn't a show of arrogance but an entirely justified confidence.

In part it may have been because he was in good hands with his regular band of highly accomplished musicians: pianist Tom Cawley, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, all of whom played on Gavita's debut CD, last year's Transient.

But also his writing is highly effective. Most of the tunes the band played came from Transient. Rooted firmly in neo-bop, it seemed as if the band were using the Blue Note vernacular to create a hard bop for the 21st century. Cawley in particular invoked Maiden Voyage-period Herbie Hancock, playing lots of block chords, and all three of them powered the music along, allowing Gavita the space to solo.

He's not a flashy player: hardly moving in stage (though there isn't much room to roam), he played with fluency rather than theatrics. His solos had depth to them, developing and building gently.

Tom Cawley with Freddie Gavita
Photo credit: © Patrick Hadfield

When not playing, Gavita listened intently to the other members of the band. Each of the quartet reacted with empathy to the others' solos, Gavita and Cawley smiling joyously at what others had played.

Maddren was working too hard to smile. He is a drummer who seems to get better each time I see him play (and he started off pretty good). He is a busy drummer – there's a lot going on in his playing – without being overbearing: he is both quiet and powerful. Cawley's solos showed his more contemplative side.

Amongst the tunes from Transient, they played one new piece, Uprising. Slower than most of the other numbers, it had an emotional weight: Cawley's opening solo was full of space, but every note counted. Playing a muted trumpet, Gavita's solo was powerful, building and building. The bass and drums dropped out, leaving just piano and trumpet playing together for several minutes. When the drums came back in, it was almost shocking.

They closed the evening with Spezzatura, which Gavita explained was an Italian dialect word meaning "appearing carefree and relaxed, but actually carefully planned". A piece of modern, free flowing hard bop with some lovely walking bass from Gourlay, it summed up the evening.

(The Freddie Gavita Quartet are playing Dereham Jazz Society, Norfolk on Thursday 28 June; Fleece Jazz, Colchester on Friday 29 June; JATP Jazz in Bradford on 6th July; the Watermill, Dorking on 24th July; and Cadogan Hall, London 27th July, with more gigs coming later in the year.)

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.
Calum Gourley and James Maddren with Freddie Gavita
Photo credit: © Patrick Hadfield

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CD REVIEW: Skadedyr – Musikk!


Skadedyr – Musikk! 
(Hubro CD2597. CD review by Peter Slavid)

Skadedyr are “pests”. That's a translation not a value judgement, but it's a good description of this band's attitude to some of the music conventions. With constant changes of style within each track this is a band that is almost impossible to categorise. There are elements of the Dutch bands ICP Orchestra and the late Willem Breuker Kollectief in the playfulness of it all, and there are times when you long to hear something simple or at least something stable – but then they astonish you with something that has no right to sound so good.

Unusually I'd like to quote directly from their website when they say: “In Skadedyr, we are working with improvisation clichés, unorthodox instrument combinations and alternative playing techniques for composing new music, and are exploiting the opportunities we gain from being 12 musicians. The band rehearse and perform all the music without scores, but with eyes and ears as large as saucers.”

Most of the musicians came from the outstanding Trondheim Academy and Anja Lauvdal, Luhr Dietrichson and Hans Hulbækmo may be known from the really interesting piano trio Moskus.

What you get here is a bewildering mix of Norwegian folk tunes, scratching noises, whistles and squeaks, wailing guitar and keyboard drones, ululating voice and rattling percussion – and chaotic improvisation with a delicate chilled finish – and that's just the 12-minute opening title track. The variety is astonishing. Festen starts like a piece of cabaret, segues through a parping tuba into a 1950s film score, and then via some collective improvisation sets up a sweet melody over a funky rhythm. But before that has died away the next track Portrett is all plinking strings and screeches – but only one minute long.

The CD finishes with the most straightforward track Hage om Kvelden. A delicate melody over a piano riff for the first half at least – then it gets a bit weirder with voices and a more dissonant melody.

The whole CD only runs for 38 minutes, but it crams in so much invention and variety that there's never a feeling of being short-changed.

Hans Hulbækmo – drums

Øystein Aarnes Vik – drums

Heida Mobeck – tuba
Anja Lauvdal – piano and synth

Adrian Løseth Waade – violin
Ina Sagstuen – vocals

Ida Løvli Hidle – accordion

Torstein Lavik Larsen – trumpet)
Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø – trombone

Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson – double bass

Lars Ove Fossheim – guitar

Marius Klovning – steel guitar

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on thejazz.co.uk and mixcloud.com/ukjazz

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CD REVIEW: Karen Sharp – The Sun, The Moon And You


Karen Sharp - The Sun, The Moon And You
(Trio Records TR603. CD review by Mike Collins)


Karen Sharp’s smokey-with-an-edge tenor sound announces itself over Nikki Iles’ languid piano chords on the verse of Cole Porter’s Get Out of Town. Then Sharp breezily sketches out the familiar theme over Steve Brown’s bustling drums before Iles and Dave Green on bass join in with headlong momentum, launching a straight-ahead set that bristles with energy.

There are a couple of totemic standards, All of You, Night And Day. Lesser know gems from pens of jazz greats such as Monk, Ron Carter, Tom Harrell, Danny Zeitlin nestle alongside a sprinkling of originals from Sharp and Iles. It makes for a varied set with plenty of space for expansive and thoughtful improvising. Everything gets a twist and a considered arrangement. Ron Carter’s Little Waltz is introduced by Dave Green’s bass and a sparse, tense exchange with tenor. The simple device of a piano-tenor duo on the head of Quiet Now means the gently propulsive entrance of bass and drums gives it an extra emotional charge. They ease their way into the standards with a crisp vamp or sideways feint, Sharp’s fluid delivery greeting them like old friends.

This band know each other well and are peerless musicians, so they quickly work their magic with these materials. Dave Green’s sound and feel are an easy-to-miss joy throughout, making the most direct of swinging grooves pulse with life. Nikki Iles’ accompanying is a constant delight, nudging Street, finding the perfect voicing to complement a phrase or adding colour and tension. On her own Iris, there’s a typically lyrical and shapely solo, skittering runs dancing across the pulse and sweeping lines carving melodic arcs. There’s another distilled gem on Quiet Now, all held breath and just-so phrases.

This is Karen Sharp’s band and her voice is to the fore. Some of the highlights are provided by her own writing. Terminus starts with a plaintive motif that develops and evolves, returns and is elaborated with folk tinged embellishments, the band gradually stoking the intensity until a burst of soloing can’t be contained any longer. This is a fine set, the sound of top drawer band enjoying the music and each other’s company.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogm

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PREVIEW: Jazz Leeds Festival (19-24 July 2018)


It's growing! Jazz Leeds Festival was a one-day toe in the water last year. And by 2013, the city's year-long celebration of culture, main man Steve Crocker hopes it will be a full 10-day international jazz festival to rival the best. This year it's an impressive six-dayer. Peter Bacon hears from Steve:

LondonJazz News: So why Leeds, Steve?

Steve Crocker: Leeds has always been a fantastic city for jazz. The College of Music offered Europe’s first-ever jazz course 50 years ago and produced alumni like Alan Barnes, Dave Newton and Chris Batchelor. The first woman big band leader in the UK, Ivy Benson, was born in Leeds. There are currently 24 venues here putting on regular jazz events. But so far it’s been an undiscovered city for the outside world, whereas the festivals in other northern towns and cities have thrived. Given the extraordinary amount of high quality music produced in Leeds, the musical talent in the city deserves to be much better known."

LJN: After the one-day festival last year this one must feel a lot busier?

SC: We launch the festival on 19 July in one of Leeds’ jazz cradles, Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton. The opening big band, Leeds Youth Jazz Rock Orchestra led by Brendan Duffy is made up of musicians still at school, which in itself says a great deal about the healthy state of the jazz scene here. And the festival then rolls out until the following Tuesday, like a long weekend! There are three main venues: The Wardrobe, the College of Music, and Millennium Square. We’ve over 300 musicians playing in 50 bands performing everything from traditional jazz via swing danceband music through to free-improvisation. And there will be small jazz groups busking in the city and even an “Otley Jazz Run” with street band Bassa Bassa to whet appetites for free!

And Leeds has so much social history attached to its jazz which we rarely hear about. So we’ll remember Duke Ellington’s 1958 Odeon concert, when he met The Queen and in her honour wrote the now rarely heard Queen’s Suite. Some people may remember Studio 20, the city’s top 1950s jazz club, now the Sela Bar, where top British jazz musicians like Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes would play, drink the rest of the night and go back blearily to London on the milk train! The Carriageworks is staging a special play about those days written by Leeds author Chris Nickson, along with an exhibition of many B&W photographs of the place and players by the late Leeds photographer Terry Cryer. Then our final festival concert will be a celebration of the music of Xero Slingsby, Leeds’s late, great punk-jazz sax player, featuring the Shuffledemons from Canada.

LJN: You're also looking to the so-called New Wave?

SC: We’re showcasing a number of young players who are driving up the extraordinary renewed interest in jazz not merely in London but across the country. Nubya Garcia leads the London Jazz Warriors-born group Nérija. Archipelago bring their fusion of garage-rock and avant garde, while from Leeds we have Têtes De Pois, who play jazz with added soul and Latin/Afro beats; and Morpher, a contemporary experimental jazz trio.

LINK: Jazz Leeds Festival 2018

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REVIEW: George Benson at the Royal Albert Hall

George Benson at the Royal Albert Hall
Photo credit: Paul Wood

George Benson
(Royal Albert Hall. 26 June 2018. Review by Georgina Williams)

As I took my seat in a what seemed to be a sold out Albert Hall, I noticed fairly quickly that I was outside the average age demographic of 50+. No matter. Despite not fitting within the age bracket of people who had been fans of George Benson since he released his first album in 1964, it was perhaps one of the most enjoyable concerts I have been to in a long time.

Benson swaggered on stage in a suitably suave black dinner jacket, oozing disco charm. “Not bad for 75,” the women beside me giggled, as he began with a rendition of Love Times Love complete with hip thrusts sending some in the audience into fits of  “I love you George!”.

Next we had Breezin’, perhaps Benson’s most famous instrumental track. Benson took two tasteful solos on his signature semi-hollow Ibanez reminding many that he is at heart a jazz instrumentalist.

The setlist seemed to be built around contrast. After something more subdued and with perhaps less karaoke potential, the band would raise the roof with another classic such as Turn Your Love Around which had the whole audience up on their feet and dancing. The song featured a surprisingly burning piano solo from M.D and keys player David Garfield which sent the audience into a frenzy.

The band needed no time to warm up, they were in the pocket from the beginning. It was nice to hear some of the members really stretch out on some of the groovier tunes. Even Lady Love Me (One More Time) with nostalgic Earth Wind and Fire-esque synths and a fair bit of slap bass felt tight and fresh, not at all like a tired rendition of an '80s classic.

It was also clear that this was not a “greatest hits” concert. Benson switched up the set list with two surprising songs. The first, a Wes Montgomery style cover of Norah Jones’s Don’t Know Why. This gave Benson a real chance to bring something new to his fans, despite the fact it was something they could all sing along to. Another refreshing moment was when he asked his young  percussionist Liliana de los Reynes to join him on You Are The Love Of My Life. Her powerhouse vocals somewhat blew him out the water, but Benson made it clear he was proud and supportive of his young band member.

It seemed fitting that Benson received the Jazz FM ‘Impact’ Award after The Ghetto. This piece featured generous solos for Garfield on keys, Reynes on percussion and an extended solo from Khari Parker on drums, as it really was a jazz piece. Benson was credited by Jazz FM breakfast presenter Nigel Williams with “broadening the Church that is Jazz”, which after witnessing this genre bending musician I firmly agree with. Most of the audience were more interested in getting an encore, one last chance to dance to the sounds of their youth. The only real difference was people waved phone torches instead of lighters. Benson left the audience to be played off by the band with a cheeky smile full of life for someone who is approaching their ninth decade. He’s definitely still got it.

BAND

George Benson – guitar, vocals
Stanley Banks – bass
David Garfield – MD and keyboards
Thom Hall – keyboards
Michael O'Neill – guitar
Khari Parker – drums
Liliana de los Reynes – percussion

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PODCAST: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant at the Berlin Jazz Festival 2015
Photo credit and copyright: Ralf Dombrowski


Sebastian writes : 

We sent some questions to continental broadcaster Sarah Culler to ask Cécile McLorin Salvant and this podcast is the result:





PODCAST SYNOPSIS

- Bringing the experience of having learnt instruments to the voice
- Classical music - "I have a passion for Baroque"
- CMS's teacher Monique Zanetti "spending time with the words"
- The meaning of a song: Maria Callas, Barbara, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae...
- Grammys and reflections on money the music industry and where new ideas come from

Opening music: an extract from Wives and Lovers from the album, For One To Love
Closing music: Cécile McLorin Salvant – Look At Me from the album, For One To Love
(Mack Avenue 2015)

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INTERVIEW: authors of Play: a psychological toolkit for optimal music performance



Play, issued by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), is described as “a psychological toolkit for optimal music performance”. Who is it for? Anyone who makes music. Peter Bacon found out more from its authors, sport and exercise psychologist Gregory Daubney and music teacher trainer and researcher Dr Alison Daubney. 

LondonJazz News: There are a lot of books out there helping musicians to perfect their instrumental technique, advising on their practice schedule, giving them practical exercises with notation, new repertoire, etc. Your book, Play, is different. What is its essence and what prompted you to write it?

Greg Daubney: There are a lot of really engaging and very well-written books out there encouraging musical development with enjoyment and many of these skirt around the periphery of psychology and how it can really help performers of all levels and across all genres. We felt that there was a very distinct lack of helpful, research-informed practical strategies to help musicians get the best out of themselves every time they perform. That was our reason for writing Play.

Ally Daubney: Throughout the past decade I noticed that more and more musicians were telling me about the psychological and emotional stresses they were experiencing and how hard it is for them to overcome them. It’s something that came up in conversation often at the ISM too. Consequently, we started working with the ISM Trust to develop two toolkits – one for teachers (Performance anxiety: A practical guide for music teachers) which provided music educators with immediately usable practical strategies for their pupils; and Play: A psychological toolkit for optimal music performance, which is aimed at musicians directly.

We recognise that a very common reason why musicians don’t perform at their best is due to their mental preparation for performance – including the stress they experience in their everyday lives. We set out with the aim of producing a toolkit of practical strategies to give musicians their best chance to produce their best performance every time they play. We also wanted to reintroduce musicians back to the notion of “playfulness” to reconnect with their music, hence the title Play.

LJN: Your experience stretches far beyond musical performance – tell us about that and the common characteristics which stretch across the fields you work in...

GD: I am a HCPC-registered Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist. My work is focussed on the application of psychological research to improve performance and the mental health and well-being of sportspeople and athletes. A couple of years ago I attended a mental health and well-being conference for musicians and realised there was a need for performance enhancement and mental health interventions within music and wider, the arts in general. We therefore collaborated to establish how psychological research from music, dance, drama, exercise and sport could be used to support musicians and other artists.

AD: As well as working with music teachers and musicians of all ages we’ve done a lot of work researching and evaluating music intervention programmes for mental health and wellbeing. We’ve also worked with stage performers (actors, singers, dancers and musicians) helping them to cope with the psychological demands of performance and how to consistently produce their best through enhancing their mental health and well-being. We've also worked with composers and musical directors, as they also sometimes experience psychological challenges. In conjunction with the ISM we've run many courses so that musicians can get to try out these ideas and ask questions in a small and safe environment.
Greg and Ally Daubney at the launch of Play
Supplied picture

LJN: What are some of the wrong ways to deal with performance anxiety or “stage fright”? And what are some of the right ways?

GD: The experience of performance anxiety or stage fright will vary from person to person and so there is no right or wrong way to deal with it. Instead, it is important for performers to be aware of how it is impacting them (if at all) and then put in place practical strategies to help them handle their symptoms. This should be embedded in their practice over time so that when they perform, the strategies are as well rehearsed as their technical skills. Practising mental skills at the same time as other musical skills is essential and improves the deliberateness of your practice, thereby making greater use of your time. It also promotes a higher level of performance and encourages greater confidence in your ability.

LJN: It’s not only the moment of actual public performance that you deal with, is it?

GD: Often, a musician’s experience of anxiety will be most intensive around the immediate feelings in the lead up to and during a performance. However, a holistic approach to performance preparation is needed to get the best out of yourself. Play (and our earlier publication) provide practical strategies to help handle day-of-performance symptoms, but a large focus of the toolkit is around using reflection to confront wider sources of stress that may be impacting an individual in their performance life, some of which they may not actually be presently aware of.

AD: Our motto is very much that psychological skills are not sticking plasters – they are whole skills sets that not only help you perform well as a musician but also in life in general. Our strategies are informed by research across clinical, organisational, sport and exercise, music and counselling psychology. Therefore we consider how the individual is located in their own world as being central to their optimal functioning.

LJN: Can you tell us a little bit about the idea of "X-raying your body”?

GD: This is a very useful mindfulness based exercise contained within our toolkit. Mindfulness is an eastern philosophical idea that is great for helping performers to relax through meditation type exercises, but for our purposes mindfulness provides the dual purpose of keeping performers in the present moment (not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past) and allowing them to develop skills that help them keep their attention focussed on what they need to do to perform well. That is a vital psychological difference between performers at different skill levels.

The X-ray just asks musicians to imagine their attention is an X-ray beam scanned down their whole body from top to bottom. It sounds very easy but it is in fact extremely difficult to do. This is because our attention gets dragged away to somewhere else. If you try to scan your head alone, it is likely your mind started asking you questions like “why are you doing this?” Or “isn’t this is a waste of time?” Or “shouldn’t you be doing useful instead?”. The practice here is to develop an awareness that your mind is distracting you and then coming back to continue the scan. It is very helpful to be aware of how you can control your attention as a musician because you will always get distractions when performing.

LJN: Who should use Play? And will it benefit those who don’t suffer from performance anxiety?

GD: To be clear, we wrote Play for the benefit of all musicians, across all genres, styles, traditions and skill levels. It’s a toolkit to help all performers get the best out of themselves. The sections of the toolkit allow musicians to optimise the performance levels and move them to being the best performers they can be every time they play. It really is for everyone and will help musicians right throughout their career.

AD: Absolutely, we wrote this with a positive view of performance in mind. This is not about overcoming problems, it is about making yourself perform at your best more and more often.

LJN: How do we all get a copy?

Play: A psychological toolkit for optimal music performance can be downloaded HERE. An electronic version costs £4 (for ISM members) and £5 (non-members). A hard copy can be ordered from the ISM for £8 and £10 respectively.

Our other resource (Performance anxiety: A practical guide for music teachers) focusing on practical ways music teachers can help their students handle music performance anxiety can also be downloaded for free from the ISM website HERE. A hard copy can be ordered for £10 directly from the ISM.

Without the assistance of the ISM, these publications and this practical advice would not be available to the music world, and their foresight and ingenuity in recognising this need is exceptional. (pp)

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PHOTOS: Femi Koleoso's Ezra Collective at the Church of Sound


Femi Koleoso in action at the Church of Sound
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi

Sebastian writes:

Sometimes we get great reviews... and then struggle to find pictures. In this case circumstances prevented our reviewer from attending this popular – in fact completely rammed – gig by Femi Koleoso's Ezra Collective at the Church of Sound on 22 June 2018. So here are some atmospheric pictures by Mochles Simawi:


James Mollison
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi


Joe Armon Jones
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi


Dylan Jones
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi


Cassie Kinoshi and Sheila Maurice-Grey
Photo credit and © Mochles Simawi

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NEWS: Winners of 66th DownBeat Int'l Critics' Poll announced

Vijay Iyer
Photo: ECM Records

Peter Bacon reads the long list:

Pianist Vijay Iyer, bandleader Maria Schneider, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and label boss Manfred Eicher are the thoroughly deserving headline-grabbers in this year's DownBeat International Critics' Poll.


In the results announced last night, Iyer was named Jazz Artist and the Vijay Iyer Sextet was Jazz Group. Salvant won Female Vocalist and her Dreams And Daggers album (on Mack Avenue) topped the Jazz Album list. Schneider has become something of a full-time resident in the Big Band and Arranger categories, and so it was again in 2018. Eicher was named Producer of the year and ECM was the top Record Label.
 
Other winners I was interested to see (so often this list is predictable, and understandably so because talent is more enduring than the passsing of just another year) were: Ambrose Akinmusire (Trumpet), Anat Cohen (Clarinet), Nicole Mitchell (Flute), Mary Halvorson (Guitar) and Hamid Drake (Percussion). The late Muhal Richard Abrams was honoured in the Composer category, and the late Geri Allen was named Pianist.

For the full list of winners including the always-interesting Rising Stars categories, go to DownBeat Announces Winners of the 2018 Int'l Critics Poll

And look out for a Podcast with Cécile McLorin Salvant on LondonJazz News very soon!

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CD REVIEW: Dave Manington's Riff Raff – Challenger Deep


Dave Manington’s Riff Raff - Challenger Deep
(Loop 1030. CD review by Mike Collins)


This should be an album review, but I find myself wanting to react to the song Willow Tree, a time-stands-still pot of gold at the end of a 70-minute tour de force from Dave Manington’s Riff Raff.

At the core of the tune are resonant, plucked chords from Manington’s bass, the simplest of melodies carries a melancholic lyric crafted by Brigitte Beraha and delivered by her pure-toned vocal. It's taut and full of tension from the start. Then the faintest tickle of beater on a tom from Tim Giles, and Tom Challenger finds an angular and anguished phrase with which to slide in on tenor. He unfolds a twisting, searing solo of cries and jagged melodic swoops before blending with the returning vocal. Rob Updegraff on guitar and Ivo Neame’s keyboard provide exquisitely judged washes of sound as the atmosphere thickens and swells to a climax. Manington’s composition provides an enchanting framework from which these musicians conjure magic. It’s beautiful, a little sad and uplifting all at once.

These are all now established band-leaders in their own right but the chemistry is not to be taken for granted. Elsewhere, leader and composer of all nine tunes, Dave Manington, gives them plenty to get their teeth into. Iliad is, naturally enough lengthy and episodic, sinuous bubbling written lines, giving way to improvisation and a pulsing series of darting runs and eruptions from Neame’s Rhodes.

An attention-grabbing groove or snappy, buoyant line is never far away. Dr. Octupus starts things off with a skipping feel and long attractively arranged sections. Prime Numbers’ racing pulse and short series of fractured motifs gives everyone their head and sets off an incendiary series of solos, with first Challenger then Neame building volcanic momentum. Free Spirit is another song with an easy groove and slowly building momentum.

It’s a sound this band, with Manington writing for them, have been evolving, drawing influences from everywhere, orbiting a rocky centre or gravity. And then the dust settles a bit, allowing the deceptive simplicity of Willow Tree to blossom. Riff Raff are in their prime, a copy of this album is highly recommended.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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CD REVIEW: The Mike Westbrook Concert Band – The Last Night at the Old Place



The Mike Westbrook Concert Band – The Last Night at the Old Place
(Cadillac SGCCD016. CD review by Olie Brice)

This release is both a fascinating document of a really exciting point in the history of London’s jazz scene, and a loving tribute to a true hero of that scene.  The Old Place was a venue in the basement of 39 Gerrard Street, the original site of Ronnie Scotts.  When Ronnies moved into their new venue on Frith Street in 1967, there were still 18 months left on the lease. Pete King, seemingly on the spur of the moment, handed John Jack the keys and he ran the venue 7 nights a week for the remainder of the lease.  Free from commercial pressure, the venue was a vital home for younger jazz musicians focusing on original material and free improvisation – the site of regular gigs by bands including the Blue Notes (Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo)  and Mike Westbrook’s Sextet.  Musicians playing at Ronnies around the corner would also sometimes show up and sit in – John Surman tells of jamming at the Old Place with Sonny Rollins on one memorable occasion!

This recording, as the name suggests is from the very last night at the Old Place. Mike Westbrook had put together a band combining his sextet with musicians he was working with in a group he called ‘The Other Band’.  One of the heaviest rhythm sections on the scene – Harry Miller on bass and Alan Jackson on drums, along with Westbrook on piano – combining with a horn section that included such legends as John Surman (baritone), Mike Osborne (alto) and Paul Rutherford and Malcolm Griffiths (trombones), as well as great players we’ve maybe had less opportunities to hear - Dave Holdsworth (trumpet), Bernie Living (alto) and George Kahn (tenor).

The music is wonderful – catchy, singable tunes, exciting improvising, sections of adventurous freedom and driving swing.  The material will be familiar to Westbrook fans from the album Release recorded shortly afterwards, although the live context allows for more extended improvisation and the likes of Osborne, Rutherford and Surman really stretch out.  Highlights include a gorgeous Mike Osborne solo linking Lover Man (the one non-original) and For Ever and a Day, a long Rutherford improvisation on Folk Song and some skronking Surman baritone playing on Flying Home but the whole thing is great.  The sound is excellent, despite being recorded from the audience by pianist George Smith.

John Jack went on to play several more roles in the world of creative jazz, including running the label Cadillac, which released albums by Westbrook, Mike Osborne, Joe Harriott, Stan Tracey, Frank Lowe and David Murray, among others.  He continued to be an incredibly regular face, along with his partner Shirley Thompson, at jazz, blues and improv gigs across London right up to his death in September 2017.  As a musician playing in London many decades after the Old Place shut its doors, it was wonderful getting to know him, hearing incredible stories and feeling that his presence and encouragement really contributed to a sense of being part of the lineage of this music.

This release is the first from a re-vamped Cadillac Records, now run by Mike Gavin.  The release is dedicated to John Jack’s memory, and has been lovingly put together great photos and extensive and informative notes from Richard Williams and Mike Westbrook, as well as a few lines from John Jack himself.

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CD REVIEW: Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Awase


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Awase
(ECM 673 5867. CD review by Brian Marley)

“So,” said my friend, “what kind of music is this?” Good question. Of minimalist tendencies, but a hell of a lot more funky and slinky than the stiff metronomics of Philip Glass and Steve Reich, it even sounds somewhat jazzy at times, although, apart from a section in the wistful Modul 60 which features a free-flowing, expressive alto saxophone solo from Sha (aka Stefan Haslebacher), it is hard to tell whether there is any improvisation.

Even that solo in Modul 60 could be fully composed. Nik Bärtsch builds up his compositions organically, out of simple motifs that gradually accrue layers of material until a high level of melodic and rhythmic complexity is reached. Odd bedfellows they may seem, but The Necks do something similar to Bärtsch, although, of course, their ends are achieved purely by improvisational means.

Simply put, Awase means the blending of things, and that’s a good description of how Ronin functions. It’s a tight-knit unit, collectively strong, so much so that at times I stopped noticing which instrument was doing what and just listened to the music as a thing in itself.

As well as Sha (alto sax, bass clarinet), Bärtsch (piano) is joined by drummer Kaspar Rast and new recruit, bassist Thomy Jordi. The lengthy Modul 58, with its busy, highly propulsive rhythmic underpinnings, and textural thickening and thinning as instruments drop in and out of the mix, is a tour de force. If it can be said to have a principal theme (there are several to choose from), it’s the one stated in the 11th minute, then reiterated and developed in the 15th. Constant development even when material is reiterated is a key feature of this music.

Bärtsch runs two groups in parallel, Ronin (electric instruments only) and Mobile (all acoustic), with musicians in common, but their aims are slightly different and the compositions change accordingly. For example, the version of Modul 60 on Mobile’s Continuum (ECM, 2016), fleshed out with a small string section, is identifiably the same composition as the one on Awase but with different facets revealed.

Despite Bärtsch’s immemorable titles (apart from one excellent piece by Sha, all are numbered Moduls), the compositions have tons of character. They’re atmospheric, propulsive and often dazzling displays of rigour and group interplay.

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CD REVIEW: Jeff Williams – Lifelike



Jeff Williams – Lifelike
(Whirlwind Recordings. CD review by Frank Griffith)

Brooklyn and London-resident American drummer, Jeff Williams has released Lifelike, extracting new and inspired energy from a bevy of  younger Brit and US players. It balances a post-modern jazz approach with a sensibility to roam and flow freely. The live recording, made at the Vortex in London, captures the ensemble in fine form, mixing old and new originals from Williams' pen.

American altoist, John O'Gallagher's edgy sophistication blends well with the angular boptisms of British tenor saxist, Josh Arcoleo, providing this listener with evidence of a contrasting yet well-honed partnership.

Lisbon-born trumpeter Gonçalo Marquez, offers textural scope, and warmth and breadth of improvisational range to the mix as well. In his liner notes, the leader writes: "That he (Marquez) was brave enough to jump into the fray with no rehearsal speaks volumes and his composition (Cancao do Amoladar) was a highlight." A haunting melody that veers between brassy excitement and meditative introspection stands out on the disc.

Williams has done brilliantly to bring his deep-rooted 1960s jazz heritage forwards through working with players of subsequent generations. He thereby combines a strong sense of the continuing traditon with an imperative to look forwards. It is a compelling combination.

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CD REVIEW: Mishka Adams & Beto Caletti - Puentes Invisibles



Mishka Adams & Beto Caletti - Puentes Invisibles
(Self-released. CD Review by Alison Bentley)


The bridges in this CD may be invisible (Puentes Invisibles) but they’re wonderfully clear to the ear. Love songs drawing on Argentinian and Brazilian styles are sung in four languages by Mishka Adams and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Beto Caletti, and the mood is joyful and sunny.

Several pieces are written by Argentinian Caletti. He’s worked with Brazilian singer/composer Ivan Lins, and Mil Vezes is co-written in Portuguese with Lins’ lyricist, Celso Viáfora. With its uplifting, winding melody over ever-surprising chords, it recalls some of Toninho Horta’s songs. Nuria Martinez’ flute entwines irresistibly with the vocal lines. Caletti has recorded some of these songs elsewhere; Mil Vezes is from his album Tess, while Chacarera de Maria is from his trio Los Musiqueros’ album of ‘neighbourhood romances’. It’s charming dance about the wooing of shy Maria, with a traditional Argentinian dance rhythm in 6 – with jazz harmony. A melodica provides a third voice between the seamless vocal harmonies of Caletti and Adams.

Caletti sings his En el del Cielo and Puentes Invisibles in Spanish, with harmonies and countermelodies from Adams. The first has complex chords and flattened 5ths in the melody that I look forward to every time. The second is a slow, emotive Argentinian zamba. The melancholy lift in the chords and soft voices strongly recalls the delicacy of Ivan Lins. Caletti’s La Cuerda (an Argentinian milonga) is a playful wordless melody sung with pinpoint accuracy and verve over an upbeat Latin groove. There’s a fine acoustic guitar solo and the occasional darker bass note to spice the harmony (also played by Caletti.) It brought to mind the happy anarchy of some of Hermeto Pascoal’s tunes.

Adams has written lyrics to some of Caletti’s melodies, some in English. On the opening track The Great Unknown (recorded wordlessly elsewhere as Deshoras) her voice has a lovely unforced clarity. Caletti is a superb jazz guitarist, and his solo at the end of the track fades out all too soon. The melody seems simple, but it’s pulled across the chords in such way that the more you listen, the more you notice – and are intrigued. Nothing to Fear owes a little to early Joni in the high tone and phrasing. The voice is open and vulnerable ("How does it feel? To hide and wish that somebody would come?") over multi-tracked acoustic guitar and layers of vocal harmony.

Adams is half Filipina, and her lyrics in Filipino to Caletti’s Luca’s Lullaby, bring out a different, more folk-edged timbre in her voice. It’s a soothing and deceptively simple song with just acoustic guitar and two voices. Adams’ Filipino Puso Mo opens with warm cymbal rushes – special mention for Diego Alejandro whose subtle drumming adds so much to the album. Pedro Carneiro Silva’s piano solo, with its oriental overtones, blends fascinatingly with the Latin guitar and Adams’ impassioned vocals.

Two songs are by famous composers. Argentinian singer Chacho Echennique wrote Doña Ubenza, with its daring harmonies. Adams and Caletti smooth over the traditional Indian dance rhythms into something more gentle and intimate. Adams has recorded several jazz CDs on the Candid label, including the Buarque/Lobo classic Beatriz on her Stranger on the Shore album. She negotiates the melody’s highs and lows brilliantly, while it enacts a tale of love for a trapeze artist. There’s no safety net in this version – just voice and guitar, colla voce.

Mishka Adams’ and Beto Caletti’s love for the music is palpable, bringing together Argentinian and Brazilian music with a singer-songwriter’s personal touch and superb musicianship.

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REVIEW: Evan Parker and Friends (Nikki Yeoh, Mark Sanders, John Edwards) at the Vortex

John Edwards
Photo by Patrick Hadfield


Evan Parker and Friends (Nikki Yeoh, Mark Sanders, John Edwards)
The Vortex, 21 June 2018. Review by Patrick Hadfield)


Evan Parker and Friends were rather like a force of nature: they seemed unstoppable, building up to torrents of notes, a storm of intense free, entirely improvised music.

The friends were John Edwards on bass, Mark Sanders on drums and Nikki Yeoh on piano. Whilst I've seen Edwards and Sanders many times before playing improvised music – not least in bands led by Parker – I'd never seen Yeoh in such a free setting. Which is a shame: her playing was a revelation. She played tender, sensitive passages; she plucked the piano strings and treated the piano with bells and a bow. She played loud, angry sections. She made the piano roar and thunder.

Edwards is a very physical player, seeming at times to wrestle with his bass. He beat out percussive rhythms on the bass's body. He attacked the strings with energy and bowed them gently and lovingly. Sanders too played with both vigour and sensitivity, responding to the other players, always finding a beat within the freedom of the music.

Although he was standing in the shadows, Parker's tenor saxophone was perhaps the dominant voice. Whether playing softly or loudly, he played with power and passion.

They played two sets, each straight through without a break. Before they started the second set, Parker announced "The second set will require concentration," and one should almost feel the audience recoil, because the first set had been an intense experience. "It's a complicated arrangement," he continued "structured so I don't play for a bit." And indeed he sat out several minutes, as Yeoh, Sanders and Edwards all used bows on their instruments.

As a trio, it was an astonishing start, as together they developed their themes, increasing the power in the music. Yeoh started singing long notes to accompany her piano, and her singing became a scream.

And then Parker's saxophone picked up the scream, backed by solid block piano chords. The other instruments dropped out leaving Parker soloing alone, a scream of notes uninterrupted as he gave a masterclass in circular breathing.

The other instruments came back in, slowly building on Parker's intensity. Yeoh played melodic lines, the chords growing heavier and heaving until she was pounding the keys with her elbows and fists. Edwards and Sanders were a match, a tsunami of notes pouring through the Vortex.

And then, like the tide flowing out, it quietened, leaving Yeoh gently playing some patterns on the high notes of the piano, until she too stopped, bringing a remarkable evening of music to a close.

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

Evan Parker and bassist Barry Guy will be playing as a duo at the Vortex on 12 July 2018

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CD REVIEW: Enemy – Enemy

 
Enemy – Enemy
(Edition. EDN1112. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)


Enemy is a trio featuring Kit Downes on piano, Frans Petter Eldh (bass) and James Maddren (drums). Together they seem to be trying to take the familiar form of the piano trio down some less well-trodden paths.

Eldh wrote four of the tracks and Downes six, though it's hard to tell who wrote what: the music the trio make has a unified sound and feel. What makes Enemy stand out is their approach to rhythm: Maddren creates complex, faltering, almost stammering beats. Coupled with frequent changes of tempo, it's as if some of the tunes are almost about to trip over, without doing so.

Several of the melodies have a naive, childlike character to them, which coupled with the rhythms can be almost jarring. There are also moments of softness and beauty. Brandy features the vibraphone of Lewis Wright (with whom Downes recently collaborated on the album Duets) and brings some lovely touches. The interplay between Wright and Downes, first in unison and then as each solos, provides depth.

Two slower numbers, Ruster and Fogo, give the musicians the space to explore more sensitive areas. Fogo features an extensive bass solo from Eldh, exploring the highs and lows of his instrument. Maddren is at his most fluid and swinging, deftly driving the music along.

Politix seems to sum up the album, encompassing the different aspects of the trio seen throughout the record. It is changeable, with slow, contemplative passages, livelier playful sections, a bit of swing, and darker, heavier themes.

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

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THEATRE REVIEW: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives at the Arcola Theatre

Jumoké Fashola
(known to jazz audiences as presenter of BBC Radio 3's J to Z)
and Tania Nwachukwu
Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
(Arcola Theatre, 19 June 2018. Review by Kate Delamere)


A debut novel about a polygamous husband by Nigerian poet and author Lola Shoneyin made a powerful transition to the stage in an adaptation by Rotimi Babatunde. The Elufowoju jr Ensemble production was brutally faithful to the poetry, humour and honesty of Shoneyin’s writing that had the audience laughing uproariously, then seconds later taking an emotional punch in a plot that revolved around four women, one husband and a devastating secret.

The polygamous theme was a storyline close to the author’s heart giving the play added depth and authenticity. Shoneyin’s maternal grandfather HRH Abraham Olayinka Okupe was the traditional ruler of Iperu Remo in southwestern Nigeria and had five wives. The sharpness of her perceptive storytelling littered with rich African proverbs was brought to life in this true ensemble piece in which each actor and actress brought something special to the party.

Patrice Naiambana gave a wonderful performance as head of the Nigerian household, flatulent chauvinist Baba Segi. He magnificently plundered his character’s ignorance and traditional beliefs to give us real belly-laughs as well as make us think during his narrative monologues. His formidable height and muscular physique only added to an imposing presence in his role as a controlling violent husband.

The actresses playing his four wives gave strong, sensitive performances with gifts for comedic timing – from the formidable Iya Segi who loved throwing her weight around, played by Jumoké Fashola, shy Iya Tope, played by Christina Oshunniyi, materialistic Iya Femi, played by Layo-Christina Akinlude, to beautiful university graduate Bolanle, played by Marcy Dolapo Oni, a pertinent catalyst to the denouement of the plot.

They took us on a thoroughly enjoyable roller coaster ride, expertly guiding us through farcical moments as well as magnificently conveying the unbroken spirit of women in the face of abuses of patriarchal power.

"Men are like yam, you cut them how you like," says one of Baba Segi’s wives with a toss of her spirited head at one point in the play. The united strength of women surviving against adversity was also conveyed in the powerful uplifting dance and song routines choreographed by Kemi Durosinmi. Reminiscent of a Greek chorus, there was something almost ritualistic about the old wives welcoming a new one into the fold. The fast-paced play was superbly directed by Femi Elufowoju jr, who established the first ever African national touring theatre company in Britain, tiata fahodzi, which he led from 1997 to 2010.

A directorial decision to occasionally break the fourth wall with actors directly addressing the audience as well as using the device of frozen montages failed to break our empathy with these finely drawn characters. Even seeing the actors standing next to the audience waiting for their next role didn’t break the tension and suspension of disbelief in the story. His fast scene changes with minimal props lent themselves to the intimacy of the in-the-round stage with a colourful picture of Nigerian life painted for the audience with minimalistic additions to scenes such as a cooking bowl or wrapped birthday present.

Ayan de First and Usifu Jalloh
Photo credit: Idil Sukan
His musical direction featured impressive drumming and percussion by the actors evoking the beat of a contemporary African world. Touches of brightly coloured skirts and headscarves worn by the wives were further simplistic brushstrokes that represented this world, adeptly selected by costume supervisor Shola Ajayi. The realism was complemented by the naturalism of the lighting by designer Ryan Joseph Stafford.

It wasn’t hard to see the resonance of the play’s themes about the imbalance of gender sexual politics currently reflected in the global Me Too movement spread virally in 2017 against sexual harassment and assault.

The play, first staged in 2013, was a pertinent reminder that inequality begins at home.

Baba Segi may remain stuck in a macho patriarchal past obstinately protecting his manhood and public image but hope for a new future came in the emotional climax of the play, cleansing not only the characters but also us in the audience. As the fourth wife Bolanle walked away from her husband to a new life her words strike a chord with women everywhere. "My bags are packed. I depart. Can you guess my destination? Freedom! That is my destination. Nowhere else but freedom."

Secret Lives runs until 21 July - BOOKINGS  

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