PREVIEW: Perico Sambeat (Pizza Express Jazz Club 4/5 Oct - also launching a new partnership with Jamboree Jazz Club Barcelona)

Drummer Stephen Keogh looks forward to two gigs with PERICO SAMBEAT. The great Catalan alto saxophonist and bandleader's  quartet will be at Pizza Express Jazz Club on 4 and 5 October. 

These gigs which will also launch an important new partnership/ exchange programme between the Pizza Express Jazz Club and the Jamboree Club in Barcelona, Stephen Keogh writes: 

Perico Sambeat is widely recognised as one of the best alto saxophonists in the world today, as one of the most important Jazz musicians to have come out of Europe, and as a charismatic and inspirational bandleader. His artistic collaborations boast a list of musicians of the very highest calibre including Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Michael Brecker, and many more. He is also frequently invited to work as the featured soloist with the main European big bands, in Germany, Finland and Belgium, for example.  So a chance to witness his authority and musicianship at close quarters in the quartet format is something special. He is a compelling player when it comes to making magic out of the long lyrical lines of a ballad (see video below) This night of inspiring music will feature new songs - and there will be some special guests appearing too...

A photo from the day the Pizza / Jamboree partnership
was agreed: L-R: Nora Jorba, Carme Saldo,
Stephen Keogh, Joan Mas, Joseph Paice

These concerts launch what promises to be an auspicious partnership between Pizza Express Jazz Club London, and Jamboree Jazz Club Barcelona, two of the leading music venues in Europe, both with a rich history spanning almost five decades of presenting the finest in Jazz. Each club boasts a programme that includes many of the greatest artists in the history of the music.

Over the course of the next twelve months, Pizza Express will present three bands from the UK at the Jamboree in Barcelona, and the Jamboree will present three groups featuring artists from Catalunya and Spain at PizzaExpress Jazz Club London.

It is thoroughly fitting that Perico Sambeat's Quartet should launch this collaboration. Originally from Valencia, the saxophonist was resident in Barcelona for several years at the beginning of his musical journey. When Joan Mas reopened the Jamboree in 1993, Sambeat played an important part in establishing the club as Spain's leading Jazz venue through his engagements at the club leading bands, and working with many of the greats of the jazz world.

Stephen Keogh's other forthcoming London gigs are: 

8 / 9 November: Pizza Express Live: Jerry Bergonzi with The Bruce Barth Trio - BOOKINGS
11 November : Charles McPherson Quartet at Ronnie Scotts  BOOKINGS


NEWS: Issie Barratt of NYJC included in BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour Top 40 Music Power List 2018

Issie Barratt (4th from right) and others from the Power List
at BBC Studios in Maida Vale
Photo from ceremony posted extensively elsewhere 

BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour announced its "Top 40 Music Power List 2018" yesterday. In the words of the BBC's statement: "These are the women demonstrating power in the industry, innovators and ground-breakers supporting and championing the work of other women or changing the industry from within – making it more equal, diverse and creative." The selection panel is listed below.

At No. 38 in the list was the National Youth Jazz Collective's Founding Artistic Director Issie Barratt. Sincerest Congratulations.

NYJC issued the following Press Release:

NYJC are delighted to announce that our Founding Artistic Director Issie Barratt has today been listed in the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List for 2018. The Woman’s Hour 2018 Power List recognises the Top 40 most successful women having an impact on the music we’re all listening to. Issie’s unique and extraordinary contribution to jazz music in the UK has seen NYJC grow from a vague idea into a flourishing reality that has shaped the musical direction of hundreds of gifted young musicians over the last 11 years.

Issie first tested the concept that became the National Youth Jazz Collective in 2007, using her expertise as Director of the first Jazz course at TrinityLaban Conservatoire to instigate a summer school for young musicians aged 14-18.

Known as one of the nation’s leading jazz composers (writing for small and large ensembles around the world) Issie has also spent the last 30 years tirelessly campaigning for jazz - founding TrinityLaban’s jazz department, the National Youth Jazz Collective, Fuzzy Moon Records and British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors’ Jazz Committee; leading the jazz strand for Sound and Music’s summer school; mentoring, arranging and composing for the South Bank’s ‘Women of the World’ Festival & Orchestra; speaking about gender issues (nationally and globally) at festivals, seminars and conferences and more recently leading her year-long pilot Jazz Promoters’ Fellowship Scheme (Funded by Help Musicians UK) and ground breaking INTERCHANGE dectet (Funded by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation) commissioning and touring new works for and by the nation’s leading women improvisers and composers.

NYJC’s Chair, Mike Gibbons declared proudly: “Issie’s deep love for the music and infinite support for fellow musicians of all ages is remarkable. She’s totally unstoppable, and we’re all extremely glad of it!”


The panel selecting the awards was BBC TV and Radio Presenter Tina Daheley (Chair), music TV producer and columnist Jasmine Dotiwala; classical music writer and novelist Jessica Duchen; Music Producers Guild producer of the Year 2018 Catherine Marks, and BRIT award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Kate Nash.

LINK: Full details of the Top 40


REVIEW: Brotherhood of Breath at the 100 Club

Dave DeVries  (left) with Claude Deppa and Chris Batchelor
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Brotherhood of Breath
(100 Club. 26 September 2018. Review by Gail Tasker)

The atmosphere was electric. The 100 Club was heaving with people whooping and whistling intermittently at the slow, heavy riffs of Steve Watts’ double bass and the bluesy high notes of the trumpets. It was only after talking to exhilarated band leader Frank Williams outside the dressing room afterwards that the behind-the-scenes lead up to the performance became clearer. It goes without saying that when you’ve got a 13-piece band with members inhabiting all corners of the globe, getting them together for one night is a hard task. Yet, Williams attests that “It’s the best music!”, and he’s right - it was worth the effort.

Frank Williams
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

The 100 Club used to be something of an “unofficial South African Embassy” to Brotherhood Of Breath. They were playing there in the ‘70s as South African ex-pats when saxophonist Frank Williams joined the likes of pianist Chris McGregor, saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. As Williams exclaimed to the audience, “It hasn’t got the acoustic of the Festival Hall, but it’s much better.” It’s perhaps for this historical reason that the general vibe of the night was heartfelt and uplifting, with a hint of nostalgia permeating the air. And despite the fact that many of the original members of the band weren’t present, it felt like they were being depped for by like-minded, equally spirited musicians.

The friendly dynamic between the band members gave an incredibly positive note to the evening. During the opening tune Mandisa, a McGregor original, trumpeters Claude Deppa and David DeVries threw out soaring, high-pitched melodic lines between horn section stabs with laughter and an air of ease that reflected the music perfectly. It felt refreshing to see Deppa shouting out orders to the band from behind and to see Williams turning around to drummer Steve Arguelles in order to set the tempo of the next piece, a welcome contrast to the standard inscrutability of a typical jazz performance.

Brotherhood of Breath
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

With the night being a reunion of sorts and an indirect tribute to the late founder Chris McGregor, the set-list comprised almost entirely of his compositions and arrangements. Elements of South African township music and afrobeat were there throughout, with the heritage of the band explicitly shining through in a Defries-led ballad dedicated to Nelson Mandela. The music felt strongly reminiscent of Loose Tubes-esque eccentricism in its raw intensity. The high level of musicianship amongst the players as well as the strong rhythmic themes throughout the sets meant that the groove was always plainly there, to the delight of the dancing members of the audience.

The highlight of the evening was Dakar towards the end of the set, which featured a playful exchange between Bobby Juritz on bassoon and Williams on tenor saxophone as well as a heavy drum solo by the inimitable Arguelles. With the knowledge that in the beginning, this band withstood the regime of apartheid in ‘60s South Africa before defeating the odds in immigrating to the UK and eventually playing alongside the likes of Evan Parker and Archie Shepp, it stands to reason that there is a raw, spiritual energy found in a live performance of Brotherhood of Breath that cannot be found elsewhere.

Steve Arguelles (centre) with Steve Watts (left)
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska


Piano: Alastair Gavin
Bass: Steve Watts
Drums: Steve Arguelles
Trumpets: Dave DeVries, Claude Deppa, Chris Batchelor
Trombones: Paul Taylor, Fyass Virji
Saxophones: Chris Biscoe, Dave Bitelli, Julian Nicholas, Robbie Juritz, Frank Williams

LINKS: Video of Mandisa from concert at South Coast Jazz January 2018 
Review of concert at South Coast Jazz January 2018


CD REVIEW: Walt Weiskopf – Walt Weiskopf European Quartet

Walt Weiskopf – Walt Weiskopf European Quartet
(Orenda Records 0054. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Augusta-born saxophonist and composer Walt Weiskopf's latest CD was recorded at the close of a two-week tour in January 2016 involving dates in Denmark, Germany and Norway. The confluence and camaraderie between three of Continental Europe's most explosive and talented rhythm section players with the accomplished Weiskopf result in an electrical storm like no other.

The seven tracks of the CD are a real meeting of minds between leader Weiskopf and pianist Carl Winther, bassist Daniel Franck, and drummer Anders Mogensen. The first-class rhythm section goads and prods Weiskopf throughout, pushing his playing to fervent heights and crests of power and emotion. No mean soloists themselves, the rhythm players establish their world-class credentials of excellence. Pianist Winther weds a modern post-bop vocabulary with a Tyneresque rhythmic drive and touch, which provides a compelling match for Weiskopf.

The leader's intense, unwavering yet pristine tonal quality reveals a serious and dogged commitment to his message and art. This is reinforced by his compositions (Gates of Madrid and See The Pyramid) which exploit melodies that linger with a plaintive cry of longing, sending the listener to an emotional zone that is both distinctive and appealing.

The quartet's readings of Mal Waldron's Soul Eyes and Cedar Walton's Bolivia achieve the ideal combination of respectfully honouring these classics while also giving them a treatment that stands out for its uniqueness.

A brilliant testimonial to the past and future of the music.

LINK: Walt Weiskopf at Orenda Records


PHOTOS: Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet at the Jazz Cafe

Joanna Duda
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Monika Jakubowska writes: 

 Their YouTube channel has had well over a million views, they are followed by thousands on social media and their album Polka, released on the Polish label Agora, went platinum. They are officially a hot Polish export and the way they connect with their audience feels completely organic. Last Friday 21 September 2018 the Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet played a very successful gig in London’s Jazz Cafe with a new, expanded version of the album: Polka Worldwide Deluxe Edition (Whirlwind Recordings).

The club was packed mostly with young people who enthusiastically watched the Quintet combining tradition and modernity, constantly transcending the borders of so-called classical jazz.

Watching the audience pulsate with Mazolewski’s music made me think of growing popularity of jazz among young generation. The new jazz scene is beautifully fertile, bursts with freshness and lacks in prejudice in its search for the ultimate truth. The Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet really does have it all.

I had better stop writing - I’m not a writer but a photographer (which I must say is a completely different creature) and instead of writing, I shall be delighted to show you what I saw:

L-R: Qba Janicki - drums, Marek Pospieszalski - tenor saxophone
Wojtek Mazolewski-double bass, Joanna Duda-piano, Oskar Török-trumpet
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska
Wojtek Mazolewski approaching the club
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Marek Pospieszalski
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Oskar Török
Photo Credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

 Qba Janicki
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet and audience
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

LINK: Polka Worldwide Deluxe Edition is on Whirlwind Recordings 


CD REVIEW: Dan Block – Block Party: A St Louis Connection

Dan Block – Block Party: A St Louis Connection
(Miles High Records. CD review by Frank Griffith)

Block Party: A St Louis Connection, the latest CD from NYC saxist/ clarinettist Dan Block, joins him up with younger brother, Rob, a St Louis-based guitarist, from a city that boasts a rich jazz saxophone legacy including the likes of David Sanborn, Oliver Lake, Marty Ehrlich and Greg Osby. After listening to this CD one will undoubtedly agree that the Brothers Block are also key contributors to the rich jazz offerings that this fabled Midwestern metropolis has spawned.

Dan's robust and fiery tenor is nicely offset by his rich and creamy-toned alto bearing the influences of "Rabbit" (Johnny Hodges) and "The King" (Benny Carter). An equally able and adept clarinettist, Block's command of the instrument is coupled with a wonderful tone and harmonic imagination. A cross between Tony Scott, Buddy DeFranco and Art Pepper (if such a concept could exist) illustrates yet another side of this multi-talented artist.

Brother Rob is a technically fluent guitarist with phrases that breathe, resulting in logically shaped solos. He "owns" his instrument as it does not "play" him like so many other "chops-heavy" players seemingly getting paid "by the note". Fellow St Louian-bred bassist, Neil Caine, is aboard along with NYC players, Tadataka Unno, piano, and Aaron Kimmel, drums, all of whom are organically plugged into the proceedings with their distinctive solo excursions and solid support.

The musical entrees are richly varied, both historically and stylistically. Lesser known but unique and brilliant gems of songdom from the likes of Ray Noble, Monk, Gigi Gryce, Ferde Grofe, Harold Arlen and Dan's own Option Click (his response to the whims of today's technology) make for a remarkable trove of material.

Meet me in St Louis indeed! I would certainly come a long way from St Louis to hear the Block Brothers anywhere that they should be playing. A gem of a recording that celebrates this city's culture and brotherhood.

Frank Griffith is an American saxophonist and arranger currently resident in Liverpool. He will be back in London on 6 October for a Bacharach evening with Lee Gibson at Crazy Coqs.


REVIEW: Gabrielle Ducomble – Across the Bridge Album Launch at Pizza Express Holborn

Gabrielle Ducomble with Nicolas Meier at the launch
Photo by audience member courtesy of Gabrielle Ducomble

Gabrielle Ducombie – Across the Bridge Album Launch
(Pizza Express Live, Holborn. 23 September 2018. Review by Kate Delamere)

Belgian-born singer Gabrielle Ducomble proved she’s more than just a powerful voice that can take on jazz greats with the launch of her album Across the Bridge.

A popular performer with two albums under her belt of Parisian-style jazz and tango and a regular at top London jazz clubs to concert halls, she’s known for performing her own unique take on iconic songs from artists such as Piaf, Piazzolla, Legrand and Nougaro.

But at London’s Pizza Express Holborn venue on Sunday night (23 September) she revealed she’s a songwriter in her own right showcasing 12 show-stopping original compositions in the style of contemporary jazz, chansons, tango and Latin rhythms that told poignant and engaging stories reflecting on nature, art and social justice.

An enigmatic performer, she was accompanied by a band of musicians that looked as if they enjoyed themselves nearly as much as the audience – and that’s saying A LOT! It was difficult to pull my eyes away from violinist Richard Jones, who got other-worldly sounds out of his instrument that I’d never heard before and doubt will ever do again. Like a pied piper, he led the audience into paroxysms of frenzy with his fevered plucking, stroking and skimming. That boy should not be allowed out on his own late at night…

And he was in good company alongside guitarist Nicolas Meier, who effortlessly pulled off tricky compositions at times with wit and panache on a 12 string, and double bassist Nick Kacal who kept up a warm undulating and compelling rhythm on his double bass that allowed for solo diva flourishes by drummer Saleem Raman.

The band's adept musical technique truly brought the images of nature in Gabrielle’s songs to life, in particular in her song Les Terrasses De Riz De Jatiluwih, that was inspired by her recent trip to Indonesia. The violin screamed as it emulated the sounds of swooping birds in distant climes, while the drums pulled us against our better judgement into an ocean’s angry surf, the bassist kept us buoyant in the swirling currents as guitarist Nick manoeuvred us back to the surface and safely back into Gabrielle’s slipstream.

Gabrielle and her band took us ‘across the bridge’ with uplifting tracks sung in English and French that included Forest Boy, a folk ballad that transported us back to the imagination of our childhood to The Time Is Now about protecting the environment, both with lyrics by Tamsin Collison. A more thought-provoking Where Is Home, was inspired by the global housing crisis and displacement of refugees, before Gabrielle helped soothe us from the horrors of the world with her tango-style Like A Bridge Across Your Heart.

Gabrielle’s petite frame belied a formidable voice that sang of the passionate cadences of love, and sparked tender moments between couples in the audience responding to the feelings behind her compositions. Indeed, many in the crowd barely took their eyes off her, so riveted were they, with some diners’ leaving their cutlery hanging mid-air as Gabrielle held us all transfixed in a moment in time where past and present melded into one.

Her voice resonated in parts of my body that I’d forgotten belonged to me, and her lyrics about childhood moments and past loves, sounded in my head long after people spilled out of the venue and back to their lives.

Gabrielle Ducomble recently said: “When I go on stage I want to make everyone feel uplifted...I’d like people to leave more peaceful and contented than when they arrived.” And Sunday night demonstrated loud and clear that she’s crossed her own bridge, from interpreting familiar repertoire to creating her own sound with poetry. And, just as importantly, she triumphantly carried the audience with her to the other side.

L-R: Nick Kacal, Richard Jones, Gabrielle Ducomble,
Saleem Raman, Nic Meier
Photo by audience member courtesy of Gabrielle Ducomble

Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

LINKS: Further Tour Dates at 

Interview feature about Across the Bridge


REVIEW: Margate Jazz Weekend 2018 - Courtney Pine, Omar Puente, Bansangu

Paul Booth and Bansangu, Margate 2018
Photo credit: Martin Goodsmith

REVIEW: Margate Jazz Weekend 2018
(Olby's Soul Cafe and other venues in Margate. 21-23 September 2018. Review by AJ Dehany)

Since its inception as the Big Sky Festival by Vortex founder David Mossman in 2005, the Margate Jazz Festival has been a labour of such love that its ambition eventually outstretched the energies of its organisers. The team nonetheless retain such vital devotion to the music that even during their supposed sabbatical they’ve managed to keep the festival ticking over. In 2017 Binker & Moses put in a memorable appearance (REVIEW), and this year an appealing programme was headlined by UK national treasure Courtney Pine.

Olby’s Soul Cafe organised the main evening concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the Margate Jazz Festival team put together a supporting ‘fringe’ programme of daytime concerts. The extended Three Plus group at the Lifeboat pub’s two sets included some superior selections: the intensity of Nick Drake’s River Man drove away the noise of the sawdusty craft beer bar, and Keith Jarrett’s 1971 slow burner The Magician In You cast a mysterious spell. The Cinque Ports bistro was energised by the sextet Mampama led by singer and guitarist Kevin Richards, bringing a danceable and emotive blend of influences from West African music and jazz. Such blendings were the hallmark of the weekend as a whole.

Friday night festival openers Bansangu are an 18-piece band jazz orchestra playing satisfying original arrangements of bandmembers’ diverse tunes. The compositions and arrangements fuse unlikely influences with confidence, from the “Afro-Peruvian rhythm” of Paul Booth’s Lover’s Thief to the “Celtic Samba” of Pipe Dream. The Thanet-based bandleader makes herding jazz cats look effortless. The band featured inspired soloing from some big talents including saxophonist Jason Yarde and drummer Rod Youngs, and the inventive and dynamic slumpet-playing (slide-trumpet) of Shanti Paul Jayasinha, with trumpeter Ryan Quigley, whose strident tone brought a lift to his cunningly inverted reworking of that famous C-major pentatonic base of Smokey Robinson’s My Girl.

Courtney Pine in 2010
Photo credit: Augustas Didžgalvis. Wikimedia/ Creative Commons

Courtney Pine‘s Saturday night headline slot returned to his 2012 House of Legends songbook devoted to Caribbean influences. “Every note we play tonight is with love and appreciation for the Caribbean,” he said, and you could really feel it. Courtney Pine is a monster improviser with an articulation, clarity and volume that makes his soprano sax playing ring with detail and passion. I’m not such a lover of the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) which is like the keytar of the jazz world and similarly liable to both ridicule and defensiveness, but it’s capable of surprising expressiveness in his hands.

Without a sweaty bump n’ grind the groove-based nature of the soca-centred music can drag a little; even Courtney stopped his musical tribute to Nelson Mandela twice, though you weren’t sure how much his “I’m not feeling it!” was feeling and how much showmanship—both of which he has in abundance. The blend of London-Caribbean influences puts the 54-year old Officer & Commander of the British Empire in perfect musical synergy with young players who are stirring up the blend at club nights like Steam Down. An extended crowd interaction concluded with a World Record Attempt of 101 jumps in the air, but simply as a player playing disregarding such entertainments he’s a colossus of energy and charisma.

Omar Puente, Margate 2018
Photo credit: Martin Goodsmith

Omar Puente’s electric violin, thick with FX, like the Ewi, can be a weird live sound. His sextet’s 2016 album Best Foot Forward combines a rhythmic base from Cuba and Brazil with an appealing Gallic gypsy melodic lyricism and concisely-formed improvisations. Puente wisely gave the spotlight to Jimmy Martinez’s dextrous improvisations on the bass guitar, with enjoyable solo spots for Jimmy Fernando Depestre on drums, Oscar Martinez on congas, and Flavio Correa on bata drums and percussion.

The low ceiling and blocky sound mix made it hard on the ear, but a friendly crowd carried the festival through to a satisfyingly euphoric conclusion. During A Night In Tunisia, played fast in a hard Latin style, the dense chord changes overtook the groovin’ looseness of the group a few times, but Dizzy Gillespie’s immortal classic brought the people out dancing, continuing into a lovely sequence of energetic Cuban classics. All the party people of Margate Jazz Weekend got to their feet and shook it together, bringing the weekend’s enthusiastic party energy from Cuba to the Caribbean into an unlikely but endearing focus in the heart of Margate.

AJ Dehany, based in London (with frequent trips to Margate), writes independently about music, art and stuff.


Bansangu: Paul Booth (MD/tenor), Gemma Moore (baritone), Ryan Quigley (trumpet), Kevin Robinson (trumpet), Shanti Paul Jayasinha (trumpet), Steve Fishwick (trumpet), Trevor Mires (trombone), , Robbie Harvey (trombone), Martin Gladdish (trombone), Richard Henry (bass trombone), Jason Yarde (sax), Jim Coles (alto), Ross Stanley (piano), Davide Mantovani (bass), Rod Youngs (drums), Ian East (sax), Guille Hill (guitar/oud)

Courtney Pine: Courtney Pine (soprano saxophone/Ewi), Robert Fordjour (drums/dube), Vidal Montgomery (bass), Cameron Pierre (guitar), Chris Cobbson (guitar), Samuel Dubois (steel pan)

Omar Puente: Omar Puente (vocal/violin), Flavio Correa (vocal/bata drums/percussion), Al MacSween (piano), Oscar Martinez (congas), Jimmy Martinez (bass), Fernando Depestre (drums)

LINK: Margate Jazz Festival website


REPORT: The Shape of Jazz to Come hosted by Dave Holland at the Vortex

Nima at the Vortex
Picture courtesy of the @arrangerspiano Twitter feed

The Shape of Jazz to Come
(Vortex Jazz Club, 24 September 2018. Report by Sebastian Maniura)

"The Energy in this room is fantastic", Dave Holland remarked to the crowd gathered for the third show put on by The Shape of Jazz to Come project. Supported by the Dave Holland and Evan Parker fund, in collaboration with the Vortex, the night is a recent addition to the club’s regular rota. Referencing Ornette Coleman's ground-breaking 1959 album of the same name, the endowment aims to shine a light on some of today’s talented young artists. 

I spoke to Dave Holland before the show about "The Shape of Jazz to come". He told me that the idea is "to give a platform to young musicians who are looking to build up their audience and to give them some exposure in London" and "to start to generate a little bit more awareness in the younger generation of the club itself."  The fund was started in February with successful fundraising shows at the Vortex featuring Holland and Parker.

The pair's support for the Vortex comes from their appreciation of the importance of venues "in London in the 60's" that allowed them to "develop and learn the music" and gave them a place to play. Holland and Parker feel that the Vortex is "an ideal venue to host this project." Although the fund is still in its early stages there is a lot going on in the next few months, from a show featuring Ms Maurice to a two day festival in December (Details and links can be found below).

Monday night’s performance featured two exciting new bands; Nima, the September Guildhall School of Music student band, fresh from their sold-out show at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and Forj, "The Shape of Jazz to come's" pick, led by drummer Jonathan Silk.

Forj's set was a wild, muscular delight. With Josh Arcoleo's powerful, raspy tenor sax tone punching through the air in his solos on tracks like Forj and Replicate. Joe Wright’s light, breathy sound balanced out the saxophone duo's ensemble moments, then opened up into wistful, running solos on numbers such as Mirrors and The Consequence. The rhythm section, consisting of Nick Jurd on bass and Jonathan Silk on drum kit, was devilishly tight. Jurd sensitively bridging the gap between percussion, harmony and melody on tunes like Mirrors and Replicate, alternating between unison sections with the saxes and sharp, angular grooves with Silk. Leading from the rear of the stage, Silk directed the band with poise, never overwhelming the saxes or bass but steering the group through the various feels, grooves and effects that they explored.  

The first set was played by Nima. Led by vocalist Luca Manning, the group explored standards, pop arrangements and Brazilian traditional songs with remarkable originality. Seth Tackaberry's lyrical yet harmonically grounded bass playing, often chordal and highly dexterous, held the group together. On tracks such as Bye, Bye BlackbirdPetite Fleur and It's been so long, he set out the harmony subtly at the same time as effortlessly creating smooth grooves with Sam Every on kit. A funky arraignment of  Come Together allowed Every and Tackaberry to stretch out with impressive fills and a tight groove.

Sharing the vocal responsibilities in the set were Manning and Irini Arabatzi.  With their impressive solo numbers, Arabatzi on Forró Brasil and Manning on Overjoyed, and intertwining harmonies on tracks like My Oh My and Come together, the standard of musicianship was clear. What stood out most about the set was the joy with which the musicians, and the crowd, interacted with the music. The support shown by the audience was lovely to see.

Dave Holland remarked in his introduction of the gig to the audience that the night was about bringing together new music and musicians as well as creating a community to support them. From what I saw and heard everything is going to plan in a spectacular fashion.

Forthcoming shows for "The Shape of Jazz to Come" project:

23rd October- Ms Maurice (Details / Bookings)
1st November- TBC

11th November- Chris Laurence Quartet

20th November- Cassie Kinoshi's Seed Ensemble 

18th December- Two day Festival 

Line ups - 24 Sep:

First set: NIMA

Irini Arabatzi – vocals
Luca Manning – vocals
Seth Tackaberry – Bass
Sam Every – Drums/BVs.

Second Set: Forj

Joe Wright – Tenor saxophone
Josh Arcoleo – Tenor saxophone
Nick Jurd – Double Bass
Jonathan Silk – Drums


FEATURE: Herts Jazz Film Festival (6-7 October 2018)

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. 

Two jazz related-films will play alongside this year’s Herts Jazz Festival in Letchworth. For this feature, Mike O’Brien, who is is the curator of the Herts Jazz Film Festival and a member of the Herts Jazz team, spoke to pianist GARETH WILLIAMS Williams about accompanying a Buster Keaton silent film masterpiece, and to director GARY BARBER about his documentary Dreams Are Free, about the much-missed BOBBY WELLINS:

- GARETH WILLIAMS, a Herts Jazz favourite will be accompanying the Buster Keaton silent film Sherlock Jr on Saturday 6 October at 10:15 am.

“I’m really enjoying the preparation for this screening” says Gareth. “You have to wonder how the original musicians played along to these films in the 20s”. Silent films were of course never silent, but always accompanied by musicians, either solo or in groups of various sizes. Their playing skills are legendary. When the “talkies” arrived at the end of the 20s, thousands of them found themselves out of a job. It was not only them who were affected. Gareth says: “My grandfather lost his livelihood. He was a singer in the Welsh language before talkies came along, and he performed light opera in London when he moved there from Wales. But once the talkies came more people chose to go to the cinema and it changed the face of entertainment, certainly in many parts of Britain.”

Gareth’s family are all still very musical. “My brother was a professional musician (he’s now a professional actor) and still does a lot of session work singing and he’s a very good arranger.” Gareth started piano at the age of 5 and became interested in jazz through his father. “He was a jazz trumpet player but not professional. He had a few jazz records around. I think it was Bix Beiderbecke’s “Singing The Blues” with its heartrending solo that really got me into jazz. Then I started listening to the Hot Five stuff with Louis.

These days his great inspiration is Bill Evans. “I’ve been getting more into the detail of Bill Evans. The intense lusciousness of his music. His harmonic skill has been unsurpassed. He basically compiled a way of approaching chords and scales in a methodical and distilled way that became the jazz ‘textbook’ for the last 60 years”

Gareth has absorbed these influences and developed a highly praised personal style. He is relishing the challenge of using his musical versatility to bring back the spirit of those early silent film accompanists with a contemporary jazz twist. “I’m really enjoying reacting to the film. Of course, I now have a clear idea of the structure and the detail of what’s coming next in the film, and there are times when gags are coming thick and fast! But the joy of playing to Buster’s creativity is having the confidence to trust your instincts and embrace the serendipity, the spur of the moment responses to what is happening on the screen.

You also have to remember it’s a conversation with the film. It’s about the film and the music working together. You need to work with Buster Keaton, know when to pull back and let him steal the show, and when to bring out those different moods, those contemplative moments amongst all the action. We’ll have some real fun in those action sequences, though!”

This is a new venture for Gareth. “I’m really enjoying working on this project and looking forward to finding out how the audience in Letchworth react. I think they’ll love this film. I watched it with my daughter the other night and we were laughing out loud!”

Bobby Wellins: a still photo from Dreams Are Free

- Dreams Are Free, Gary Barber's documentary about tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, a Herts Jazz stalwart, will be screened on Sunday 7 October at 10:15 am

Director Gary Barber has always been interested in jazz. “I’ve always listened to jazz, always liked to go to gigs - I still buy jazz vinyl now.” But he didn’t particularly set out to make films about jazz players.

“I run Brighton Film School. We teach students how to use cameras, sound, lighting, editing. I’ve always made films myself, though, whether short films, or producing and making documentaries, it’s kind of what I love doing. I did work commercially for a while, but for me I prefer to work on projects I’m passionate about. Particularly documentaries. It’s really about finding a subject that I find really engaging, that’s what motivates me.”

His route to Dreams Are Free started with another jazz player. “I met the drummer Spike Wells in Brighton when I was making another documentary, and I interviewed him in his role as a priest. When I went round to Spike’s house I saw all this memorabilia and his record collection and I was just amazed. I found out that he used to be a solicitor, then he became a priest, and he was also a jazz musician. So it was like, let’s make a film! It became a little half hour documentary.”

A film about Spike Wells was inevitably going to include his work with Bobby Wellins. “Spike mentioned how much he liked working with Bobby and so I went over to meet Wellins and did an interview. I always thought I would love to go back sometime and make a film about Bobby.”

It turned out to be quite a while before the opportunity arose. “In the meantime I worked on other documentaries and I’d done some broadcast docs as well, but I really wanted to make a film that was about someone who had a real story and was truly engaging. I’d always thought that if I could get Bobby to open up and tell me his fascinating story it would make a great documentary. It was about 12 years later that I called him up and we just carried on the conversation as if no time had elapsed.”

“My camera operator/co-producer, Paul Dutnall, and I went over to Bobby’s house with a camera and one light because we thought, let’s just do a test, see what it’s like filming in Bobby’s living room. Three hours later and Bobby was still talking!”

Wellins proved to be full of stories about his musical life but also open about the years of drug dependency. What came across above all, though, was the genuine warmth of this man.

The reception to the film has “been very positive.” Gary was particularly touched when Bobby’s daughter said to him “it’s like having dad back for an hour”. There can be no better tribute to the power of this film and its tribute to a much missed jazz great.

Tickets for each film are just £5.

LINKS: Further details + links to tickets can be found HERE
Behind the scenes rehearsal footage from Dreams Are Free can be found HERE


INTERVIEW/FEATURE: Clark Tracey (8th Herts Jazz Festival, 5-7 October)

Clark Tracey and the Festival Team in 2016
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

With just under two weeks to go until this year’s eighth Herts Jazz Festival, Clark Tracey reflected on this year’s programme, and shared a real sense of excitement and anticipation. Interview feature by Sebastian:

“It doesn't have to be one style of jazz, the criterion is quality,” says Clark Tracey. This year’s festival, at a new location, the Broadway Cinema & Theatre in Letchworth has as ever struck a balance between putting on shows with popular appeal, knowing the tastes and preferences of Herts Jazz's loyal audience, while also wanting to show an appealing cross-section of some of the best of the jazz scene in the UK, in all its variety.

As one listens to Clark Tracey, it is astonishing how vividly he conjures up the prospect of each gig. There is a sense of him relishing the creativity; all the possibilities. He brings home the excitement of what might happen. We started off by talking about the opening night, the Jazz at the Philharmonic tribute. It just came to life as he spoke about it: “We want a Friday night to be a big one and always try to get something that has a wider appeal.” It will be “a great festival feature; everyone likes a jam session,” says Tracey. And what is the format? “It’s not like a sit-down big band but a kind of stand-around big band,” quips Tracey. With three trumpeters – Mark Armstrong, George Hogg, Steve Waterman –  there will be a three-trumpet feature... there also will be some “linked-up ballads.” And then he starts to imagine it…. with a few more thoughts: It will be an “open book….no music in sight …. see what happens.”

Tracey is also excited at the coup of having lured Joey DeFrancesco’s quartet for their only UK date this year (see separate interview) but that comes at the end of a fascinating day, starting in the morning with Gareth Williams accompanying the 1924 Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr. Clark: “You'll have one of best jazz pianists in the country improvising and spontaneously reacting to what he sees on the screen.”

And the rest of the Saturday line-up has bands from all kinds of styles and crossing the generations: Herts Jazz's Patron Art Themen, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Robert Mitchell and Alan Barnes. BBC Radio 3 will also be in attendance for some of the performances. For one of the afternoon gigs Tracey has given Alan Skidmore carte blanche to invite a band, which will have Skidmore working with Paul Dunmall's Sunship Quartet who are Howard Cottle on reeds, Olie Brice – bass and Tony Bianco – drums. Tracey has fond memories of hearing bands involving Paul Dunmall at the Appleby Festival in years gone by, and admires Dunmall: “He is one of the best guys doing what he does.”

As regards the Sunday, the screening of the documentary film about Bobby Wellins, a close collaborator of Stan Tracey for decades, brought a poignant reflection: “It’s a shame we couldn’t get Bobby on at the festival more than we did. He’s one of those guys who you think is going to be around forever.”

We then mentioned Jean Toussaint, and his name sparked some vivid memories: Clark Tracey’s band was usually booked as support for the Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers when they visited Ronnie Scott’s and it was in that context, when Toussaint was the “new kid” in Blakey’s band that the two first met. “I later learnt Blakey asked for us to appear opposite him,” said Tracey. The fact that Toussaint has gone on to develop bands with younger musicians is no accident, and also strikes a chord with Clark Tracey, who has followed in Blakey's footsteps.

Seeing the Jazz Messengers at such close quarters was a hugely formative experience for Tracey. He reflected on the opportunity he had, being taken into his father’s band at the age of 17. “I have always felt I can relate to having had that opportunity and platform, knowing what the Jazz Messengers went through. "The band members’ names would be well-known throughout the world within a couple of months."

Tracey is particularly excited by his current quintet, who will not actually be performing at the Festival but there is a new CD by them about to be released entitled No Doubt. He described the quintet of saxophonist Sean Payne, trumpeter Alex Ridout, bassist James Owston and pianist Elliott Sansom as among the best bands he has ever led, and clearly looks forward to every gig with them.

A nice appreciation of the vibe of the festival came from one of its stalwarts - she has been to every one as photographer - Melody McLaren. What strikes her as the vibe of the occasion? The audience, the supporters feel intimately connected with the festival. The team has grown but it still feels like a genuine, intimate family event to which everyone is welcome." (pp)

"It still feels like a genuine, intimate family event"
Clark Tracey (with Ben Tracey) drawing the raffle winner
Photo credit: Melody McLaren


Friday 5 October

8-10.30pm A Tribute To Jazz At The Philharmonic
Pete Long – clarinet; Art Themen, Dean Masser, Simon Spillett – tenor saxophones; Sam Mayne – alto saxophone; Mark Armstrong, George Hogg, Steve Waterman – trumpets; Ian Bateman, Callum Au – trombones; Harry Sanke – guitar; Nick Dawson – piano; Steve Rose – bass; Clark Tracey – drums.

Saturday 6 October

10.15-11.00am Film (Screen 4) Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Live musical accompaniment by Gareth Williams.

11.30am-12.30pm Art Themen 'New Directions' Quartet
Art Themen – tenor/soprano saxophones; Gareth Williams – piano; Arnie Somogyi – bass; Winston Clifford – drums.

1-2pm Misha Mullov-Abbado Sextet
Matthew Herd – alto saxophone; James Davison – trumpet; Sam Rapley – tenor saxophone; Liam Dunachie – piano; Misha Mullov-Abbado – bass; Scott Chapman – drums.

2.30-3.30pm Paul Dunmall's Sunship Quartet plus special guest Alan Skidmore
Paul Dunmall, Alan Skidmore, Howard Cottle – reeds; Olie Brice – bass; Tony Bianco – drums.

4-5pm Robert Mitchell Epiphany 3
Robert Mitchell – piano; Tom Mason – bass; Saleem Raman – drums.

6.30-7.45pm Alan Barnes Octet
Alan Barnes, Robert Fowler, Karen Sharp – reeds; Bruce Adams – trumpet; Mark Nightingale – trombone; Dave Newton – piano; Simon Thorpe – bass; Clark Tracey – drums.

8.15-10.45pm Joey DeFrancesco Quartet
Joey DeFrancesco – organ/keyboards/trumpet/vocals; Troy Roberts – saxophone; Dan Wilson – guitar; Michael Ode – drums.

Sunday 7 October

10.15-11.15am FILM (Screen 4) Dreams are Free (Gary Barber, 2013)
Documentary on the life and career of Bobby Wellins

11am-12noon Herts Youth Jazz Ensemble – Bernstein & Beyond
Directed by Duncan Fraser

12.30-1.30pm Claire Martin/Dave Newton
Claire Martin – vocals; Dave Newton – piano

2-3pm Portrait of the Modern Jazz Quartet
Nat Steele – vibes; Gabriel Latchin – piano; Dario Di Lecce – bass; Steve Brown – drums

3.30-4.45pm Gareth Lockrane's Grooveyard
Gareth Lockrane – flute; Alex Garnett – tenor saxophone; Mike Outram – guitar; Ross Stanley – piano; Dave Whitford – bass; Tim Giles – drums.

5.15-6.30pm Jean Toussaint's Young Lions
Jean Toussaint – tenor saxophone; Mark Kavuma – trumpet; Ashley Henry – piano; Daniel Casimir – bass; Ben Brown – drums

8-10.30pm Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
Georgie Fame – vocals/organ; Alan Skidmore – tenor saxophone; Guy Barker – trumpet; Anthony Kerr – vibes; Tristan Powell – guitar; Alec Dankworth – bass; James Powell – drums

The Festival is being supported by Arts Council England, J Samuel Pianos and Cambridge Drums. 


Tickets can be booked online at the Broadway Theatre site or the Herts Jazz site
Telephone bookings at 01462 681088
Book in person at Broadway Cinema & Theatre, Eastcheap, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3DD


PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Leszek Możdżer (London Piano Festival, Kings Place, 5 October)

Leszek Możdżer
Photo credit Lukasz Gawronski

Pianist and composer Leszek Możdżer is one of the great revelations of the last decade in Polish jazz. His most successful album to date, Komeda, released on the ACT label in 2011 went to No.1 in Poland and achieved double platinum sales..He will be performing solo in  Friday 5 October at London’s Kings Place as part of the London Piano Festival. Interview by Tomasz Furmanek:

LondonJazz News: In your 2012 interview with LJN (link below) you shared the following reflection: "I don’t think I’ve recorded an important cd yet, my best recordings are still ahead of me". Has the important album appeared already, and if so, which one would it be?

Leszek Możdżer: I think that such an important album may be the one recorded last year with the Holland Baroque band. This is my first CD recorded in a style that I have always dreamed about and which I intuitively imagined. This album, entitled Earth Particles, it’s a first step towards music inspired by the disciplines of classical and jazz, where the goal is to achieve a high temperature of emotions while maintaining a sophisticated form. I have the impression that on this album I managed to achieve it for the first time!

LJN: You were predicting "the great come back of classical music in the charts" some time ago, and always emphasized the importance of combining classical music with other genres, especially jazz. Is Earth Particles the fulfilment of your idea on how to incorporate classical music into your work and present it to the contemporary listener?

LM: I realize that the audiences that listen to music are masses of people that are very diverse in terms of intellectual development, spiritual development, etc ... I had such a rather unwise dream that classical music would become its own form of popular music, but it probably will never get so popular because of the fact that it is simply much more refined and advanced formally and sonically, and it fully exploits the twelve-tone system, which is a twelve-unit mathematical system. Substantially, in order to fully receive messages encoded in this system, one needs to have experienced classical music ideally from the childhood.

LJN: So, for a person who has not absorbed the matter and form of classical music, the reception could be difficult or, to some extent, impossible?

LM: It can be quite complicated. It should be noted that the harmonic and melodic substance of pop songs, mainly American, are based on the pentatonic scale, which consists of only five sounds. The 12-voice system, due to the fact that it is more advanced, becomes slightly less understandable for people who have not had time to get used to it. And pop music of today has become hugely simplified in comparison to what we listened to in the 1960s and 1970s. Mathematically speaking, modern popular music has fewer components than popular music in the 60s-80s so it provides fewer operations to be processed by the mind during listening.

LJN: There are quite a few albums in your discography devoted to Chopin and his music. Is Fryderyk Chopin the most important composer for you?

LM: Chopin is important for every Pole, and he is an extremely important icon in our collective consciousness, same as Paderewski, who was one of the most important prime ministers in Polish history, and yet he was also a performing pianist. Chopin's music is very close to many Poles... I will be honest with you and say that the impetus for recording Chopin came from outside influences and if not for this, I would not have begun a project to play Chopin as jazz. I, of course, love Chopin's music no more and no less than any other pianist, but I made these records only because I received such orders from the producer.

LJN: You are valued for your sublime style of playing. There are often opinions that your music has something mystical about it, and you seem to be a quite spiritual person. Do you also see yourself that way?

LM: I am interested in everything that happens in the sphere that I only can sense. For many people it is clear that there is some mystery in the process of life, and that the matter, that is what we see, is not everything we participate in - and this of course is very interesting to me. I realize, however, that you have to be specific in a world of matter, that is, do very specific things here on planet Earth. We can talk about spirituality, with the proviso that we will never come to any significant understanding on this issue, because the higher dimensions always contact a single person only with the help of concepts that the person has already developed, and each person has a different set of concepts, other language will speak to him, words cannot be reached on matters of spiritual reality. Spiritual reality is only and exclusively an idea to each individual person. Each person who speaks about his own spirituality in their own language is right.

LJN: Can we then say, that you are a sensitive man who keeps his feet firmly on the ground, but sometimes you are able to touch some higher sphere too?

LM: Music is a promise of a better world and is an expression of some sort of reality that is beyond the material world- good music! I myself sometimes do not quite understand what is going on during my concerts, but very often I have intuitive vibes from the audience that something that could be called a spiritual event happens. But this is not a merit of mine, nor do I have any influence on it.

LJN: Is there any difference, from your point of view, between playing at a venue with a small audience or one where you have many thousand?

LM: I have the impression that the number of people that come to a concert does not determine the quality of the event. I do not know exactly what components are necessary for a good concert to take place. I must admit that the amount of people from my point of view does not matter, although I think I prefer to play in larger halls.

LJN: What are your interests or passions away from music?

LM: I am interested in the issue of consciousness itself, I try to read a lot about it, because the phenomenon of consciousness is fascinating for me and I would like to know as much as possible about it. In addition, I am fascinated by nature. Simply nature, and its contact with creation, the world of animals and plants. I am fascinated by every natural phenomenon and I must admit that I am more and more amazed by the perfection of the world around me, the number of plant and animal species, the perfection of the human body structure ... It truly fascinates me, amazes me and delights me!

LJN: You manage to continuously maintain that very important element of enthusiasm and fervour, which, at the beginning of your career on the “jass scene” in Poland, made the audiences love you! It is still there?

LM: Yes, yes! ... however, it seems to me that it is impossible to develop as an artist without reaching for spiritual practices. Show business will disappoint you, the partners will let you down, the money will turn out to be made of paper, the system will turn out to be tricky - the only thing that can be grabbed at least for a moment is the spiritual reality that allows you to preserve the zealousness of performing music, which is necessary to make people want to buy a ticket at all.

LJN: What is your spiritual reality like? How does it manifest itself? 

LM: I practice self-observation, i.e. I try to actively and consciously participate in all processes that take place in my body and in my consciousness.

LJN: So the key to learning about the world around us is self-knowledge? Looking at yourself you deepen your contact with the world?

LM: Yes. The best portal to enter into spiritual reality is simply your own body.

LJN: Going back to music. You have participated in a huge amount of musical collaborations with many outstanding musicians, but you often come back to working with Lars Danielsson. What do you value most about him?

LM: First of all, he is a musician who has a very classical approach to sound. He is interested in noble sound, and he has respect for the sound of his instrument. We are looking for beauty in the same areas because we were both brought up on classical literature, we perceive similar things as beautiful, and all that makes it easier to communicate on stage. He also has such a beautiful persona - he is a very friendly musical partner, very supportive. This is the thing that actually promotes his genius and that you want to play with him. There are many musicians to whom I will not call again, because they are busy fulfilling some plan of their own, while Lars is an extremely supportive musician on stage. This is something that I value in him the most, in addition to his incredible technique, melodiousness and control of the instrument – his kindness which actually is an aspect of his soul.

LJN: At King’s Place you will perform solo - what will you play and what kind of repertoire can we expect?

LM: I do not know! I do not know what will I play yet ...

LJN: So you'll decide the very last minute...?

LM: I have that pleasure and privilege that I can create the course of the concert spontaneously, depending on the atmosphere, what form I am in, in what mood ... It also gives me a possibility of expressing various emotions that would keep appearing… Most often, the concert organizer has enough confidence in me not to require from me a program of the show in advance -  which is the case here. I will just create the course of the concert spontaneously!

The London Piano Festival runs from 3-7 October 2018 at Kings Place. BOOKINGS
The Leszek Możdżer concert is sold out/ returns only.
LINK: 2012 Interview
Earth Particles is available from Holland Baroque


PHOTOS: New York All-Stars - Burnin’ in London album launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club (Seamus Blake, Eric Alexander, Mike LeDonne)

L-R: Mike LeDonne, Eric Alexander, Seamus Blake Erik Soderlind
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Sebastian writes: 

Monika Jakubowska caught the final high-energy night of a three-night residency on 17-19 September 2018, marking the release of Burnin’ in London by the New York All-Stars.

The band is slightly different from that on the album. Pianist Harold Mabern, originally from Memphis and bassist Darryl Hall, originally from Philadelphia, were both obliged to cancel.

The group was a two-tenor powerhouse of Eric Alexander and Seamus Blake, with the Hammond/piano of Mike Ledonne, Aldo Zunino, bass and Bernd Reiter, drums. On this third night there were also guests, Swedish guitarist Erik Soderlind and Welsh vocalist Ian Shaw.

Monika's pictures capture the concentration, the electricity, the joy of this session played before a packed house.

Seamus Blake  (foreground) and Eric Alexander
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Seamus Blake and Erik Soderlind
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Eric Alexander, Aldo Zunino
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Seamus Blake Erik Soderlind, Eric Alexander
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Mike LeDonne
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Bernd Reiter
Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska


REVIEW: Isaac Waddington at Servant Jazz Quarters

Isaac Waddington
iPhone photo by Kate Delamere

Isaac Waddington
(Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston. 12 September 2018. Review by Kate Delamere)

Isaac Waddington, former head chorister at Chichester Cathedral, hit the headlines for having the voice of an angel when he appeared as a 15-year old contestant on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015. He came 5th and was signed by Simon Cowell’s Syco label. Four years on, he continues to make waves in the music business.

He showcased his expansive singer song-writing talent at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on 12 September in the wake of the launch of his EP Borselli. Blasting out sophisticated jazz numbers in a 10-track set list, from the slow seductive To the Moon to the African beat of Mornings in Africa, with tender soulful lyrics tripping from his tongue in Fly With You, Wanted you Today and Insane.

The small venue had people standing in every available space including on staircases craning their necks to see this boy wonder. And it was easy to understand why.

Isaac’s enigmatic versatile voice straddles musical genres from jazz to pop. He confidently worked the crowd, slowing and speeding up the tempo of the audience at the hint of a change of key.

But despite a commanding presence, he never strode out too far into the spotlight on his own. He was flanked by the protection of his band; made up of an enthusiastic and playful Joe Beard on keyboard, carefree Casper Miles on bass and Matt Mason on drums who indulged in heated, galloping patterns rousing the audience. Together they played a blinder, creating an atmosphere of youth and hope that suggested an open road of positive possibilities ahead. A sense of optimism in the upbeat rhythms was communicated to the crowd by these young competent musicians who were accomplished and tight. When Isaac played Doing Wrong, it became patently obvious that this boy could never do any wrong in the audience’s eyes, despite some cheeky and witty musical flourishes that flung them out only to reel them back in moments later.

No doubt Isaac’s boyish good looks and whimsical charm will add to his appeal  and lead to a few broken hearts. His is a precocious talent. We’ll be hearing much more of him for years to come.

Isaac Waddington, Matt Mason, Casper Miles
Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

Borselli on Spotify.


BOOK REVIEW: Brian Gruber: Six Days At Ronnie Scott's – Billy Cobham On Jazz Fusion And The Act Of Creation

Brian Gruber: Six Days At Ronnie Scott's – Billy Cobham On Jazz Fusion And The Act Of Creation
(CreateSpace. 201pp. Book Review by Frank Griffith)

Brian Gruber's new book has the hallmarks of one of the greatest tomes about perhaps the most influential drummers and bandleaders of this or any other era. Gruber has captured Billy Cobham's insights, humour and straightforwardness to an extent that no one else has previously achieved. One major reason for this is Gruber's approach of interweaving the texts of one-to-one interviews with Cobham with his observations of the Billy Cobham/Guy Barker Big Band during their 2017 six-day residency at Ronnie Scott's. This allows the reader to move between the two kinds of narrative in a balanced way, avoiding the need to absorb too much of either in one go. Not unlike a radio host playing frequent tracks interspersed with interviewing a noted guest, Gruber clearly gets the balance right, keeping the reader's attention as he makes each new angle on how Billy ticks emerge into view.

Gruber's chronicling of the dialogue with him and Cobham virtually puts the reader in the nightclub, the cafe or a moving car hosting an interview. There are cameos from a plethora of jazz legends like Ron Carter, Jan Hammer, Randy Brecker and fellow drummer Bill Bruford (also an innovative figure in jazz/rock fusion). Their comments and insights convey not only their respect for Cobham but acknowledges his playing with Dr Billy Taylor, Horace Silver and Miles Davis to his bridging the transition to his trailblazing bands and recordings in the 1970s. In addition, Gruber's interviews with a younger generation of his current band-members like Steve Hamilton, Carl Orr, Mike Mondesir and arranger and bandleader, Guy Barker are inspiring as well. They not only reveal their feelings about playing under Cobham but their own journey and hopes and dreams as well.

Cobham left an indelible impression on the jazz, jazz-fusion and drum worlds when he came to wider prominence with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1971. Led by Doncaster-born guitarist John McLaughlin, with violinist Jerry Goodman and Czech-born pianist Jan Hammer, it was probably the first international jazz supergroup. Hammer playfully refers to the music as "Indian Improvisational Olympics" in his interview but despite this, no drummer had fused pinpoint jazz articulation, four-way independence with acute melodic tuning and 16th note and swing grooves in equal measure. He changed the direction of jazz percussion influencing a generation of players in the process.

One minor quibble is the rather spartan discography. It lists the titles, labels and (mostly) years of Cobham's fifty recordings, but omits any mention of the personnel or locations or dates. I realise that this information is probably available elsewhere online, but it would have been useful to be able to refer to it alongside the recollections.

Six Days provides a terrific insight into the music and life of a world-class drummer resulting in a unique and challenging document for fans of Cobham, jazz, fusion and the culture of the 60s and 70s. A must and thoroughly enjoyable read.

LINK: Gruber Media website


REVIEW: Chet Baker Live in London Vol II album launch at the Jazz Cafe

L-R: John Horler, Jim Richardson, Quentin Collins,
Leo Richardson
Photo of launch from Ubuntu Music

Chet Baker Live in London Vol. II album launch
(Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, 18 Sept 2018. Review – and Interview with Jim Richardson – by Kate Delamere)

The ghost of Chet Baker was in the room when pianist John Horler's trio from the 1980's re-formed for a last time to launch Chet Baker Live in London Volume II. The trumpeter’s haunting legacy sounded in every plaintive note that spoke of empty caresses and unrealised dreams to the mixed crowd of young and old, who were left wanting more. Horler’s light mesmeric touch flattered percussive flurries from drummer Tony Mann that were complemented by Jim Richardson’s rhythmic and scurrying melancholic melodic runs on the bass prompting whoops from the audience.

The original trio were joined by Quentin Collins on trumpet paying homage to Chet’s fierce mellow style, a-league-of-his-own Leo Richardson on saxophone and special guest Cherise Adams-Burnett whose laid-back vocals were reminiscent of Chet’s and made for a truly special night.

Cool jazz cats in the audience couldn’t help toe-tapping along to tunes such as Horace Silver's Strolling and  I Remember You, The Touch of Your Lips, For Minors Only (Jimmy Heath), Sam Rivers' Beatrice and Just Friends.

And of course, the night would not have been complete without a poignant rendition of My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers) – the song synonymous with Chet's moody singing style.

But even the encore of It Could Happen To You didn’t satisfy this baying crowd.

A fitting tribute to the man whose life was a bittersweet refrain to wasted promise that ended abruptly aged 58 on Friday 13th May, 1988 when Chet fell to his death from a hotel room in Amsterdam. His companions in death as in life - heroin and cocaine.

Tuesday’s tribute nevertheless was one that would never have happened but for Richardson having the foresight to record Chet’s performances with the trio on his Walkman recorder in 1983 when Chet played six consecutive nights at The Canteen in London.

"Poignant...moody": My Funny Valentine
with Cherise Adams-Burnett
Photo from Ubuntu Music 

Jim, 77, from North London, recalled: ‘We got a call to work with Chet and it was nerve-wracking because he had a bad history using narcotics. He upset a great deal of people being a smack user and banging it in his arm. It blighted his life. But he’d say it helped him musically to hear better even though it made a bit of a wreck out of him.

‘When we met him he didn’t look well. But he sounded well when he put that horn to his mouth. There was no drama, he was quiet and polite. He sat side on to the audience totally focused, the trumpet next to the microphone so he’d get a close sound.

‘I nervously asked Chet in between sets if he’d allow me to record our performances. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. He looked at my Walkman that I wanted to record it on and into my eyes then said ‘f*** you…!’ and pulled me into a big bear hug, which was his way of saying ‘of course!’

‘And the results on the Walkman were amazing!’

Jim attributes Chet as the reason he got into music and forged a successful global career as a bassist.

‘I fell in love with Chet when I heard him on the radio as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy. I was a big fan from then on, and loved his lyrics and melody. Chet’s Dad insulted him telling him he sung like a girl but I loved his sound. It was genderless, a soft sound, evocative.

‘When I left school and worked as a hod carrier on a building site I’d often find myself whistling some of Chet’s solos. They were beautiful. He had a melodic romantic warm style and fire in his belly. As far as music was concerned he was a big hero of mine. After listening to him I’d mess around with wire brushes and a tea chest playing along to records. Then in 1958 when I was 17 I got a double bass and turned professional five years later playing with big bands.’ And thanks to Jim’s cheeky request 35 years ago, a second selection from those performances has now been released as a two-CD set Chet Baker Live in London, lovingly restored under the supervision of Martin Hummel, Director of Ubuntu Music, and with an eloquent sleeve note by Richard Williams.

Jim said: ‘I’m so very proud to have been alongside John Horler and Tony Mann to form the rhythm section for Chet’s performances. Whatever issues Chet may have had throughout his dramatic life, he certainly came up with the goods in grand style at these shows. I think we can safely say we made Chet proud. And an old geezer a very happy man.’

And if the ghost of Chet Baker could talk, I bet he’d be saying ‘Back at ya, Jim!’

The launch at Jazz Cafe
Photo from Ubuntu Music

Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

LINKS: Chet Baker in London Vol II album at Ubuntu Music
CD Review: Chet Baker in London Vol II