London Jazz Festival 2012, Part Two; 16th, 17th, 18th November 2012.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Ian Mann enjoys the final three days of the festival.
DAY FIVE, FRIDAY 16th NOVEMBER
JACK DAVIES’ FLEA CIRCUS, CAFE CONSORT, ROYAL ALBERT HALL.
Earlier this year the young trumpeter and Jack Davies took the enterprising step of releasing three very different albums on his own V&V record label. More on this including reviews of all three albums can be found elsewhere in the Jazzmann’s features section.
Among these releases was “Flea Circus”, perhaps the most unusual album in the triptych, a record that featured an unusual instrumental line up of Davies (trumpet), Rob Cope (clarinets), Aidan Shepherd (accordion) and James Opstad (double bass). The record included elements of classical music and European folk sources. One could imagine Flea Circus playing in the bard and cafés of Vienna or Eastern Europe and it could be that this was the reason they were selected for the Café Consort. The café was less crowded than it had been for Georgia Mancio the previous day but Flea Circus’ music was more esoteric, even challenging so perhaps this wasn’t too much of a surprise. In any event those present (and there were still plenty of them) listened attentively and gave the quartet a generous reception.
The majority of the material was sourced from the group’s album and included the charming vignettes of “Three Miniatures”, the gently lurching “Monster”, the tender lament of “So Let Us Melt” and the whimsical “Lamp Post”.
The Flea Circus repertoire includes a setting of Mahler’s “Sehr Gesangvoll” (translated by Davies as
“Very Singingly”) from the composer’s last symphony. Introduced here by a duet for bass and accordion the piece has a hymnal quality and the purity of Davies’ tone (he studied classical trumpet at the RNCM before moving on to jazz studies in London) was remarkable.
“La Puce” (“The Flea”, presumably the origin of the band’s name) introduced a more playful side of the band with Shepherd’s solo accordion introduction paving the way for Davies’ trumpet solo which was peppered with bluesy vocalised trumpet growls and allusions to “oompah” style circus style music. Cope’s bass clarinet feature then rounded off the piece in slightly less irreverent fashion.
The second half began with the lively “Zapushalka” (translated rather improbably as“Bath Plug”), a Bulgarian folk tune that saw Davies throwing in a quote from “Flight Of The Bumblebee” .
Opstad showed his considerable soloing abilities on his plucked introduction to another folk tune, “I Never Saw A Star So Bright” which also included features for Davies on trumpet and Cope on bass clarinet.
The new tune “Nervosa” again showed the impish side of the band before they acknowledged their presence on the LJF programme by playing the jazz standard “I’m A Fool To Want You” with features for Cope on bass clarinet and Shepherd on accordion.
Bassist Opstad is also superbly adept with the bow and his rich, dark arco bass introduction set the tone for the ominous brooding of with “The Wood” with its accordion drones, trumpet slurs and
grainy bass clarinet. A free jazz interlude included trumpet growls and flutters and pecked bass clarinet. An imaginative cover of country great Hank Williams’ grimly titled “The Angel Of Death” continued the noirish mood.
The quartet concluded two relatively brief but thoroughly absorbing sets with “Tresses”, the closing cut on the album, a tune with a lush, melodic, almost anthemic quality.
The Music of Flea Circus is perhaps a little too exotic and eclectic to possess genuine mass appeal but there’s no doubting the technical prowess of these young musicians. Expect to hear a lot more from all four in the coming years, particularly the talented and highly enterprising Jack Davies.
ADRIANO ADEWALE GROUP, CLORE BALLROOM, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL.
Brazilian percussionist Adrian Adewale now plies his trade in London and has become a familiar figure on the capital’s jazz and world music scene. His 2008 album “Sementes” (“Seeds”) was a joy, an exploration of Adewale’s African roots and beyond made with a group of London based musicians drawn from almost every continent. I later saw the Sementes group give a delightful lunchtime performance at the Café Consort as part of the 2010 LJF.
For tonight’s free early evening show at the Clore Ballroom Adewale had assembled an all Brazilian band including Marcelo Andrade (reeds), Victor Vasconcelos (guitar) and Matheus Nova (bass) and a mandolin player whose name I didn’t catch ( acoustically the Clore ballroom is not the most sympathetic of venues unless you get there early and get a seat down the front).
The group began with the lovely “Domingo” (“Sunday”) from the “Sementes” album with features for mandolin, soprano sax and percussion. Adewale’s music is highly melodic, the focus isn’t all on rhythm, and only the flintiest of hearts could fail to be warmed by Adewale’s sunny, good natured music. But for all the feel good vibes there’s also a good deal of musical sophistication within the group’s arrangements plus an underlying, but never overtly emphasised political element expressed by Adewale’s ongoing investigation of his African origins and his peaceful, all inclusive pan cultural message.
With an all Brazilian band in tow there was a greater emphasis on the music of Adewale’s native land then when I’d seen him previously. The percussionist’s solo pandeiro (tambourine) and vocal introduction to a joyous samba emphasised the importance of the pandeiro in Brazilian music. Andrade, who played a major part in the success of “Sementes” demonstrated his versatility with a n airy flute solo.
Multi instrumentalist Andrade also performed on the rabeca, the Brazilian fiddle, an instrument of Moorish origin which came to the country via Portugal. The rabeca was featured heavily on the next piece which culminated with Adewale on vocals and shakers involving the audience in a series of call and response exchanges. The dreadlocked Adewale cuts a flamboyant figure and is a masterful showman possessed of an easy going charm.
Adewale has worked extensively with Italian born guitarist Antonio Forcione. The man once described as the “Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar” guested on “River Rocks” delivering a mesmerising solo above the propulsive grooves laid down by Nova and Adewale with Andrade given the unenviable task of following him on flute.
In all too brief set Adewale’s showman tendencies came to the fore once more on the closing number. His opening feature saw him treating the sounds of various percussive devices by immersing them in water and even using the water itself as a percussion instrument. Following expansive features for Nova on bass and Vasconcelos on guitar the leader climaxed the show with a stunning percussion feature deploying both hands and sticks, dreadlocks flying in a dazzling display of energy and dexterity.
The early evening commuter crowd gave the boys from Brazil a rousing reception. As we filed out into the chill London night we each took a little South American sunshine with us. “Sementes” is playing as I write and still sounds great. It’s about time Adriano got that second album out to us.
PIXEL / ROLLER TRIO/ WORLDSERVICE PROJECT,THE VORTEX.
A quick dash across the capital to one of my favourite venues which was playing host to a tantalising triple bill of dynamic young bands. The last couple of years have seen UK band WorldService Project forging links with their European counterparts under the Match & Fuse banner with bands visiting and touring each other’s countries in a kind of musical cultural exchange scheme. The success of the Match & Fuse programme was celebrated in July 2012 with a free festival at The Vortex and outside in neighbouring Gillett Square featuring a staggering eighteen bands from seven countries. In 2013 the festival will move to Oslo and in 2014 to Rome.
Tonight’s event featuring Norwegian quartet Pixel (with whom WSP have collaborated previously as part of Match & Fuse), Mercury Music Prize nominees Roller Trio and WSP themselves was an official sell out. Thanks to publicist Lee Paterson and to Dave Morecroft of WSP for arranging my tickets and to Oliver Weindling of The Vortex and the Babel record label with whom I enjoyed a lengthy pre gig conversation and acquired a copy of the new Babel release “Barbacana” (featuring James Allsopp and Kit Downes) for future review.
I’ve visited The Vortex on two or three previous occasions and the friendly welcome and unpretentious, listening atmosphere has ensured that it has become my favourite London venue. The audience is younger than the average for jazz and there always seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the music. It’s incredible that the place has been running for twenty five years at its former home in Stoke Newington and now in Gillett Square. The Vortex has been the venue for many an iconic live recording and in my opinion this cool but humble venue is a grossly underrated jewel in London’s cultural crown.
Tonight featured the Vortex as I’ve never seen it before. On my previous visits the audience has been seated cabaret style albeit with several people standing in the bar area at the rear of the club. Tonight virtually all the furniture had been removed in an attempt to bring a genuine rock ambience to the venue. In the main this worked supremely well with a young audience responding enthusiastically to the music of the three bands. It made a nice change for me to be one of the older members of the audience at what was nominally a jazz gig, it helped to give me hope for the future of jazz and experimental music and confirmed that there is an audience for sounds outside the mainstream. Tonight was a night for putting the notebook away, cracking open a beer and generally getting down to the music.
First up were the young Norwegian quartet Pixel led by bassist and vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang who writes all the group’s music. She was joined by saxophonist Harald Lassen, trumpeter Jonas Kilmark Venoy and drummer Jon Auden Baar. The group’s début album “Reminder” appears on the Cuneiform record label based in the USA. Cuneiform’s faith in the band represents ample evidence of their potential. Wang is also a member of Synkoke, a darker and harder edged Norwegian ensemble who also form part of the Match & Fuse programme and who performed at The Vortex as part of LJF the previous Friday. An account of this performance plus a review of the second Synkoke album “The Ideologist” can be found at Tim Owen’s Dalston Sound blog http://www.dalston.sound.wordpress.com
Pixel’s sax/trumpet/bass/drums line up is similar to that of the UK’s rather more experienced Get The Blessing and there are discernible similarities in the group’s music, punchy, hard hitting horn solos and the extensive use of rock rhythms. However Wang’s Bjork like voice and words set Pixel apart evidencing a greater debt to the world of indie rock. The set included the songs “I Hang” and the insistent, catchy single “Call Me”, the only item in their repertoire that Tim can’t stand. Even I have to admit that on record its repetitive studied cheeriness can soon become irritating, live it worked just fine.
Wang drives the group with her surprisingly muscular playing as drummer Baar whips up a storm. Both Lassen and Vemoy are powerful soloists but at other moments they pack a weighty combined punch. In the moments when they’re not playing the horn men pick up a tambourine and shake it, very much a rock trait, your average jazzer would simply amble off stage or stand in the wings (and back in the old days probably smoke a quick fag as well).
Pixel aren’t all sound and fury, there are moments of subtlety as well as exemplified by an absorbing duet between Vemoy and Wang and some of the gentler horn interplay. Poppier than the more uncompromising Synkoke Pixel clearly have their eye on some kind of crossover success. Sharp, punchy and well drilled they have considerable potential and I certainly enjoyed this opening set which neatly set the tone for the evening. The album “Reminder” delivers a wider dynamic and emotional range than tonight’s live show (which was probably specifically tailored to the “chairs out” format) and is well worth a listen.
It’s been an incredible twelve months for Roller Trio. This time last year I remember listing events at the Sela Bar in Leeds and other small Yorkshire venues for the young Leeds based threesome. However everything changed with the release of the band’s eponymous début album on the F-ire Presents label, a release that garnered almost unanimous critical acclaim and saw the band nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the jazz category of the MOBO awards – they lost out to indie rockers Alt J (ironically also from Leeds) and Zoe Rahman respectively.
Notwithstanding, and even bearing in mind that the “token jazz act” never wins the Mercury, the nomination itself can be a massive boost to an artist’s career as other “token jazzers” such as Polar Bear, Led Bib, Portico Quartet and Kit Downes can attest, not to mention “token folkie” Seth Lakeman who was catapulted to almost mainstream success. Besides the much publicised nominations Roller Trio have also earned an impressive reputation for the quality of their stage shows with their appearances at LSO St. Luke’s alongside their fellow Mercury nominees and at a BBC Radio 3 jazz showcase in Manchester both doing much to strengthen their rapidly burgeoning reputation.
Tonight they appeared to be the main draw with the Vortex absolutely rammed during the period that they were on stage. I’ve enjoyed and reviewed the group’s album awarding it four stars and a recommendation but even I wasn’t totally convinced that it was QUITE as good as all the accolades have suggested, I always felt that there was a case to be made for the fact that the Rollers were hitching a ride on the coat tails of those who have gone before including some of those bands (Polar Bear, Led Bib, Portico Quartet and others) listed above. However the quality of tonight’s show demanded something of a rethink. Live the Rollers display a remarkable confidence and maturity that suggests that they can build on their dizzying early success.
Individually the group are all technically gifted and have strong individual personalities. Saxophonist James Mainwaring appears squat and pugnacious, physical qualities that seem to be embodied in his bellicose sax playing, full of short, sparky phrases embellished by a soupçon of electronica. Dreadlocked guitarist Luke Wynter exudes diffident rock star school and gravitates between a textural and rhythmic role enhancing his sound with a raft of foot pedals and other effects. Down to earth drummer Luke Reddin-Williams is at the heart of the band, his powerful and rhythmically sophisticated drumming the catalyst that fires his two band mates. There’s a palpable chemistry between the three and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.
The three musicians all studied at Leeds College of Music and cite their slightly older counterparts trio VD (of whom more later) as a primary influence. Although less extreme Roller Trio still pack plenty of the kind of edge that appeals to rock audiences and their mix of jazz and rock rhythms, impassioned sax blasting and surround sound guitar soon had the heads of the packed Vortex audience nodding. The trio compose all their tunes by jamming them first and then polishing and honing the ideas before they reach the recording stage, everything originates in improvisation and the trio share writing credits.
For me this set was all about pure enjoyment, getting the head down and rolling with the flow. So no notes, no titles, not that the band announced their tunes anyway but I do fancy that I recognised “Deep Heat” “R-O-R” and the provocatively titled “Where’s My Whip” from the album alongside the piece that seems to be becoming the band’s signature tune “The Nail That Stands Up”.
In short I was highly impressed with the Roller Trio live experience. The group are currently riding the crest of a wave and their performance had a certain swagger to it. For all their youthfulness they’re good and they know they’re good. The trio will be touring extensively in 2013, catch them if you can. In the meantime there’s a strong possibility that their second album may eventually prove to be even better than the first, even if some of the mainstream media buzz may have gone by the time it eventually comes out.
Although WSP were the nominal headliners the crowd had thinned out a bit by the time the quintet hit the stage. I first discovered WSP at Brecon Jazz Festival in 2010 when they turned in a boisterous and hugely enjoyable lunchtime set quite out of keeping with the earliness of the hour.
The group’s mix of funk and Django Bates style helter skelter time signature changes was invigorating and like Roller Trio their obvious command of their instruments belied their tender years.
In leader, composer and keyboard player Dave Morecroft the group also have a real mover and shaker, the organiser behind the hugely successful Match & Fuse project. Tonight’s WSP set was just as enjoyable as their Brecon performance had been and was probably a bit closer to jazz than their predecessors with more obvious delineated solos. Morecroft even went to the trouble of announcing the tunes which differed from the other two bands who just got on with it in more obviously rock fashion.
For all this WSP’s set still bristled with the energy, volume and urgency of rock. Joining Morecroft were saxophonist Tim Ower, trombonist Raphael Clarkson, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and new drummer Liam Waugh who replaces the departed Neil Blandford. The band raced their way through the breakneck changes of pace that define tunes such as “Defrienders”, “Relentless” (the title track of their début album), “Villain Of The Airplane” and “Fire In A Pet Shop” with aplomb. The band’s sense of humour was embodied by the dedication of “Villain” to Ryanair and the animal noises, (both voice and instrument generated) that characterised the often hilariously descriptive “Fire In A Pet Shop”-shades perhaps of Hermeto Pascoal. Waugh already seems fully integrated into the band (although Morecroft later spoke of many hours of rehearsal) and another interesting point was the emergence of Clarkson as an increasingly significant soloist.
Irreverent, wildly imaginative, technically dazzling and unashamedly funky WSP deserve to be granted the same kind of mainstream media attention as Roller Trio have enjoyed lately, especially given the success of the hugely enterprising Match & Fuse project. A second album must surely be in the offing so perhaps 2013 will be their year. Thanks to Dave, Raf and Tim for taking the time to chat and for the gift of a Match & Fuse festival EP and tote bag! This reviewing lark certainly has its perks!
WSP are also tireless fundraisers. On December 11th they will host the Match & Fuse Xmas Party at the George Tavern, Shadwell, London raising money for Water Aid. For further details visit http://www.worlserviceproject.tumblr.com
DAY SIX, SATURDAY 17th NOVEMBER
MICHAEL GARRICK TRIBUTE CONCERT, PURCELL ROOM.
The loss of Michael Garrick in 2011 robbed the British jazz scene of one of its most prolific and inventive composers. Also a highly skilled pianist Garrick wrote for combinations ranging from small group to jazz orchestra and big band. He was also a founder member of the innovative jazz and poetry movement of the 1960’s and 70’s.
This afternoon an appreciative audience settled into the plush surrounds of the Purcell Room for this tribute concert organised by and featuring Michael’s musician sons Chris Garrick (violin) and Gabriel Garrick (trumpet & flugel). The ensemble also included Jim Hart (vibes), Barry Green (piano), Steve Brown (drums) and Art Themen (saxes) with bass duties shared by the veteran Dave Green and the younger Matt Ridley. This cross generational line up thus featured two members (Themen, Dave) Green) of Michael Garrick’s classic bands alongside younger players from Chris and Gabriel’s circle. The instrumentalists were augmented by singer Jacqui Dankworth, here taking on the role once filled by Norma Winstone, and by poet Jeremy Robson, another artist who had collaborated with Michael himself .
With Chris and Gabriel handling the announcements the repertoire consisted entirely of compositions by Michael Garrick (plus some words from Robson) but in the time allotted the brothers could barely scratch the surface of their father’s prodigious output. However their selection highlighted many of Michael’s best loved compositions and albums.
They began with the folk tinged “Carolling” which was notable for the intertwining lines of Chris’ violin and Gabriel’s trumpet. Next the ensemble attacked the title track of Michael’s classic “Black Marigolds” album, a modal theme inspired by the distinctive rhythms and cadences of Indian music with Themen on soprano taking the first solo followed by Gabriel on muted trumpet. Chris Garrick’s solo incorporated the distinctive (and often humorous) sound of his “split hair” trick, a technique he learned from a Hungarian gypsy violinist. Themen’s soprano and the patter of Brown’s hand drums ensured that the music sounded authentically ethnic as Hart rounded off the soloing with a typically dazzling four mallet excursion on the vibes.
Michael’s waltz “Amethyst” was then performed by a quartet of violin, vibes, bass, and drums with solos from Chris Garrick on violin, Hart on vibes and Matt Ridley at the bass.
A sextet featuring both Garrick brothers, Barry Green, Ridley, Brown and singer Jacqui Dankworth then tackled the title piece from Michael’s album “The Heart Is A Lotus” with Gabriel’s flugel horn dovetailing neatly with Dankworth’s expressive vocals.
The brothers now welcomed poet Jeremy Robson to the stage. Robson told of how he first met Michael at a performance on the South Bank and of how the pair collaborated on the now legendary series of jazz and poetry concerts. Robson then recited his poem “Cascade”, a homage to Michael, above the jazzy backing of a group including Themen on tenor sax and Dave Green on bass both of whom had been part of the movement back in the day. Other notable contributions came from Gabriel Garrick on muted trumpet and Barry Green at the piano.
Robson’s second poem, “Handle With Care” was a salacious tale concerning a pair of skimpy scarlet knickers found abandoned on a London bus and ribald speculations about whose they were and how they came to be there. Here was ample proof that the jazz and poetry movement wasn’t about being po faced and serious, the audience laughed out loud at Robson’s risqué wit on several occasions. Great fun.
Dankworth returned to movingly sing the blues ballad “Some Of These Days” sympathetically accompanied by Themen on tenor sax and with Robson’s lyrics referencing Michael’s now silent piano.
Michael’s last band was a quartet dedicated to exploring the legacy of the Modern Jazz Quartet. His “Lady Of The Aurelian Wood” was performed by an MJQ style line up of Hart, Barry Green, Ridley and Brown, the tune a spacious ballad that gave Hart, Green and Ridley the opportunity to demonstrate the lyrical side of their playing above the delicately supportive brush work of Steve Brown.
The whole ensemble, including both bassists, convened on stage for a celebratory run through of “Home Stretch Blues”, the title track of arguably Michael’s most celebrated album. Barry Green started things off and his insistent motif plus a surging bass figure fuelled solos from Hart, Chris Garrick, Gabriel Garrick on trumpet and Themen on tenor with Barry and both bassists also enjoying a moment in the spotlight. This was a rousing way to finish an engrossing show that managed to capture many aspects of Michael Garrick’s musical personality. The warmth of the audience was palpable and the ensemble was called back for an encore of “Webster’s Mood”, Michael’s tribute to the great saxophonist Ben Webster. Jacqui Dankworth delivered the lyrics but the centrepiece was Themen’s Webster-ish tenor solo with Dave Green’s wonderfully melodic bass playing also worthy of note.
Jazz “tributes” can often be an excuse for laziness on behalf of musicians but this was patently not the case here. Chris and Gabriel had clearly put a lot of time, effort and love into arranging their father’s compositions for today’s event and both they and their bandmates did Michael’s memory proud. An appreciative audience was with them every step of the way.
JAZZ LINE UP, THE CLORE BALLROOM,ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL.
Over at the Clore Ballroom at the Royal festival hall the recording of Jazz Line Up introduced by Claire Martin was in full swing. The Ballroom was unsurprisingly packed for this popular event which was broadcast on 18th November.
I arrived in time to hear Martin interviewing pianist Sam Crowe who had just performed with his group but unfortunately I didn’t get to hear any of the music. However I did hear the full set from saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes who led her Tangent quartet featuring guitarist Chris Montague, drummer James Maddren and ubiquitous bassist Ryan Trebilcock through a series of tunes from her recent album “and in the night-time she is there” (reviewed elsewhere on this site). Perhaps the best of these was the hypnotic “Atlas” propelled by Maddren’s gently insistent hip hop flavoured brushed groove and featuring telling solos from Clowes on tenor, Montague on guitar and Trebilcock on the bass. Claire Martin then talked with Clowes about the album and the pressures of succeeding as a woman and bandleader in the still largely male dominated world of jazz.
I also caught a few tunes from saxophonist and composer Larry Stabbins’ “Stonephace” group featuring recent MOBO award winner Zoe Rahman on piano, Karl Rasheed Abel on bass, Pat Illingworth on drums and Crispin “Spry” Robinson on percussion. Stabbins’ music with this group is inspired by the “spiritual” jazz of John and Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders etc. and the Bristolian saxophonist explores similar territory to that mined by Manchester’s Nat Birchall. I will be taking a look at the latest Stonephace studio album “Transcendental” in due course but meanwhile I caught the group’s version of John Coltrane’s “Africa” with Stabbins imposing on tenor sax and with Rahman in characteristically sparkling form at the piano. Stabbins’ “Yellowbrick Road”, a piece that resulted from his collaborations with Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, saw the composer moving between flute and tenor and also included a feature for Abel at the bass. I’ve no doubt that Illingworth and Robinson were to feature more extensively later and first impressions of the “Transcendental” album are very much favourable but I wasn’t finding the Clore the most sympathetic environment for serious listening so I decided to move on to;
TAKE FIVE EUROPE, THE FRONT ROOM QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
Originally started in the UK the Take Five scheme has been extended to Europe in recent years. Sourced directly from the scheme’s own website http://www.takefiveeurope.com the aim of the programme is stated to be as follows;
About Take Five: Europe
Take Five: Europe is a new version of the Take Five scheme in the UK designed for emerging jazz musicians who want to significantly develop their international careers. Participants are given the unique opportunity to take ‘time out’ to increase their profile, improve their performance skills and expand their professional networks.
Ten talented emerging artists (two per country per year – from France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the UK) take part in a specially devised programme of events, including an inspiring week-long residency where they can strengthen all aspects of their professional future. In addition to motivating creative and business sessions, the artists will take part in special showcases across European jazz festivals.
Take Five: Europe is supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union and is produced by a consortium of partners.
Introduced by Vanessa Reed of the PRS for Music Foundation today’s tentet had worked under the directorship of the great John Surman and had previously appeared at the Molde, North Sea and Jazz sous les Pommiers jazz festivals. All the musicians were under thirty five, some of them already well established, and British interest came in the form of Tom Arthurs (trumpet & Flugelhorn) and Fraser Fifield (pipes, whistles, saxophone). The other musicians were Celine Bonacina (France, baritone sax), Benjamin Flament (France, vibes), Oene Van Geel (Netherlands, viola), Bram Stadhouders (Netherlands, guitar), Ole Morten Vagan (Norway, double bass), Gard Nilssen (Norway, drums), Maciej Obara (Poland, alto sax) and Maciej Garbowski (Poland, double bass).
The programme featured original compositions from members of the ensemble with the music ranging from the freely structured to the tightly orchestrated. Fifield’s use of small pipes and whistle gave his piece “Song” a distinctive Celtic identity. Arthurs’ piece was much more freely structured and featured the unusual blend of trumpet and viola.
Bonacina’s piece “Emergence” featured a stunning solo baritone sax intro which later developed into a hulking groove that fuelled further solos from Stadhouders and Flament. Bonacina’s virtuosity on the big horn quickly endeared her to the large crowd. She has already won critical acclaim for her ACT album “Way Of Life”, released in 2010 and reviewed elsewhere on this site.
Pieces by the two Polish musicians rounded out the programme, Garbowski’s “Continuous” featured Fifield’s whistles and Nilssen’s drums while Obara’s “Tall” featured his own alto alongside Flament’s heavily treated vibes, a revival of the “electro vibes” sound of the fusion era. Sharp eyed readers may have noted that Flament and Van Geel had appeared as part of Henri Texier’s octet earlier in the week. Other members of the line up also popped up elsewhere during the festival including Arthurs in a duo with pianist Julia Hulsmann and Nilssen as a member of the bands Bushman’s Revenge and Puma.
The Take Five scheme continues to play an important role in the development of young jazz musicians, teaching practical business, management and marketing skills alongside the focus on playing and composition. The tentet’s performance today covered a range of jazz styles and genres and although occasionally a little ragged was delivered with good humour with some excellent individual and collective moments. All in all thoroughly enjoyable.
As a postscript I should add that Vanessa Reed also announced the names of the British musicians who have been selected for the eighth UK Take Five programme. They are;
•Yazz Ahmed (Trumpet/London)
•Andy Champion (Double Bass/Gateshead)
•Gwyneth Herbert (Voice/London)
•Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (Voice and Harp/Suffolk)
•Dominic Lash (Double Bass/Bristol)
•Chris Montague (Guitar/London)
•Rory Simmons (Trumpet/London)
•Paul Towndrow (Saxophones/Glasgow)
The Take Five press release states;
Take Five is a “professional development scheme for emerging creative jazz musicians which is supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation, PRS for Music Foundation, Arts Council England and the Musicians Benevolent Fund - is designed to give some of the UK’s most talented young jazz musicians the unique opportunity to take ‘time out’ to develop their craft. It provides each artist with the chance to discuss, explore and strengthen all aspects of their future careers.”
PUMA/ TRIO VD/ GUILLAUME PERRET & THE ELECTRIC EPIC, BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE
The stage at the newly refurbished Bishopsgate Institute was festooned with stacks of HiWatt, Vox and Orange amps suggesting that tonight’s show was going to be long way removed from most of the other events being held under the LJF banner. Following last night’s visit to the Vortex this was to be a further adventure in the shark infested waters where the currents of jazz, rock and improvised meet. This triple bill was an extension of the Vortex’s City Sessions series which sees Bishopsgate Institute presenting acts that are either too big, or perhaps in this case too loud, for the Vortex itself.
Tonight’s trio of bands were to prove louder and more uncompromising than the threesome at the Vortex the previous evening. This was even more emphatically a rock gig with the majority of the audience standing but for all that there was still a strong element of improvisation within the music, particularly that of the opening group Puma, a trio featuring guitarist Stian Westerhus, keyboard player Oysten Moen and drummer Gard Nilssen who had evidently followed us over from the South Bank.
I’ve seen Westerhus perform live a couple of times before, the first an incendiary performance with saxophonist James Allsopp’s group Fraud at Cheltenham Jazz Festival plus a later solo performance, also at Cheltenham. The latter was little short of astonishing as Westerhus, armed with a battery of foot pedals and other floor mounted gizmos pushed his guitar into uncharted sonic territory.
Puma’s blend of electro improvising was accompanied by a light show that made liberal use of strobe effects which made the form of Westerhus, now effecting a punk style haircut, twitch and jerk unsettlingly as he coaxed and wrenched effects from his guitar, trading electronic messages with Moen who stood at a bank of keyboards, laptop and other devices. Nilssen’s kinetic drumming gave the music momentum as Moen and Westerhus headed for deep space, the guitarist’s use of bowing techniques once more making Jimmy Page look like a mere dabbler.
Much of Puma’s music was harsh and abrasive yet there were subtler moments too as the trio members took time to listen to each other. Tim Owen, who was also covering the event for his Dalston Sound blog (http://www.dalstonsound.wordpress.com) snaffled the last Puma CD on sale at the end of the evening (they must have sold quite a few) and reports that the album “Half Nelson Courtship” (Rune Grammofon) offers greater subtlety and variety than their predominately pretty full on live show.
The group concluded their set with a veritable barrage of noise, the effect enhanced with dizzying strobe lighting as Nilssen hammered hell out of his kit, Moen pushed his synths into overdrive and Westerhus produced waves of feedback from his guitar which he battered against his amps and speakers. This was astonishingly visceral and almost downright painful for those of us who’d not thought to come provided with earplugs.
On a night of extremes the acclaimed Leeds based outfit Trio VD kept up the level of intensity with a take no prisoners set that expanded on material from their latest album release “Maze” (Naim Jazz). Chris Sharkey (guitar, FX, Korg synth), Christophe de Bezenac (alto sax, electronics) and Chris Bussey (drums, electronics) are a restlessly inventive trio who make use of voices and samples to give their music a kind of “cut up” quality clearly inspired by John Zorn’s “Naked City”.
“Maze” is full of razor sharp vignettes, this compact album is full of often blistering three to four minute bursts and is chock full of energy and ideas. Live the group stretch out to perform lengthier pieces, building on material such as “Harm” from the latest album. Sharkey’s heavily treated guitar meshes with de Bezenac’s pecked and treated alto sax to deliver almost impossibly fast unison passages driven by Bussey’s kinetic Keith Moon inspired drumming. Sometimes they coalesce to play the kind of killer riff that would appeal to a particularly intellectual breed of head banger.
Elsewhere the burst of riffage are punctuated by the snap and crackle of electricity as the three members bounce ideas off each other. It’s uncompromising, constantly unfolding, all action stuff which struck me as being more freely structured and obviously improvised than when I last saw them at Cheltenham Jazz Festival a couple of years ago. Writing for Dalston Sound Tim Owen partially disagreed, feeling that the precision of some of the group’s playing suggested that they were “ferociously well rehearsed” but I’d argue that that’s just the result of being a regular working group rather than a one off collaboration. They’re certainly a lot looser these days, more prepared to take liberties with their own material and less obviously reliant on set pieces In any event trio VD’s visceral blend of jazz and math rock remains a tantalising, occasionally frustrating, but always thrilling prospect.
GUILLAUME PERRET AND THE ELECTRIC EPIC
While both Puma and trio VD gave the impression that they were going to do what they do and didn’t give a tinker’s cuss whether the audience liked it or not French saxophonist Guillaume Perret seemed to be more obviously reaching for some kind of crossover success.
Admittedly Puma’s light show and trio VD’s leering Leeds laddishness were small concessions to the need to please an audience but Perret was more obviously show biz. He strode on to the darkened stage, the bell of his tenor sax illuminated by a bulb within and proceeded to unleash a burst of solo saxophone liberally treated and layered by an array of foot pedals. With his bright orange industrial style boots he combined the attitude of Pete Wareham with the showmanship of Gilad Atzmon.
Eventually Perret’s quartet of Jim Grandcamp (guitar), Phillippe Bussonnet (electric bass) and Yoann Serra (drums) made suitably grandiose rock style entrances and joined their leader to power their way through a selection of material from their eponymous début album released on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.
There was a certain logic in putting Perret on last in this intriguing double bill. His song based material was certainly the most accessible of the evening and often reminded me of the final edition of Pete Wareham’s Acoustic Ladyland, ironically a line up that included trio VD’s Chris Sharkey on guitar. Having said that in many ways the Electric Epic was the least satisfying band of the evening, their playing more obviously based on rock rhythms and predetermined structures. For all the attitude and crowd pleasing gestures there was a lack of genuine adventure in the music. Tim felt that their music rather fell between two stools, lacking the freedom of jazz but not quite capturing the true power of rock and in many ways I have to agree with him. Nevertheless there were many moments to enjoy with some powerhouse riffs and some incisive, cogent solos from Perret and Grandcamp but overall the impression was that of smoke and mirrors with the music not quite living up to the hype. It’s an impression confirmed by the album, which is not a bad record at all and certainly has it’s moments (the track “Circe” in particular),but nevertheless falls some way short of true greatness.
Throughout their set the Perret group were less than happy with the sound, with the bass often threatening to overwhelm everything else. Indeed it’s arguable that in the bid to appeal to a rock audience the volume was too loud and muddy all night. Maybe I’m just getting old and I’m not used to the abrasive Hiwatt/Vox/Orange sound these days but for me all three groups lost a degree of subtlety (something that can be clearly heard on their recordings) within the sonic barrage. Perhaps a third night on the bounce of “skronk”, “punk jazz”, call it what you will, was a step too far but overall I found this evening rather less satisfying than I’d hoped, a less than full hall didn’t help with the event lacking the atmosphere of both the Vortex and the Green Note. All in all only a qualified success.
DAY SEVEN, SUNDAY NOVEMBER 18th
The final day of the festival turned out to be big band day. I enjoyed the music of three exceptional big bands before my final event of LJF 2012 offered a complete contrast with quiet beauty of the music of legendary jazz guitarist Jim Hall and his trio.
GARETH LOCKRANE BIG BAND
First up was a visit to a another new venue for me, the Spice Of Life in Soho. The performance space is in the basement underneath the main pub/restaurant. It’s a compact space that apparently used to be the snooker room in a former incarnation of the place. To say that it was intimate would be an understatement, this was nearly a case of the band outnumbering the audience but in a good way as the place was pleasantly but not overwhelmingly packed.
Flautist, composer and arranger Gareth Lockrane’s star studded big band is an extension of his successful Grooveyard sextet and mines the same jazz/funk/soul interface. Today’s line up comprised of;
Phil Robson (guitar), Rob Barron (piano & keyboards), Ryan Trebilcock (acoustic and electric basses), Tristan Maillot (drums),
Trevor Mires, Adrian Fry, Tom Green, Andy Lester - trombones
Robbie Robson, Steve Fishwick, Henry Collins, Craig Wild -trumpets
Alex Garnett, Mike Chillingworth, Lucas Dodd, Josephine Davies, Bob McKay – saxes
Gareth Lockrane – flutes, conductor.
As we descended the stairs into the cellar bar the sound of the band tuning up was reminiscent of free jazz at it’s most discordant and a series of feedback shrieks and explosions conjured up memories of the previous evening at Bishopsgate Institute. However once the band began playing in earnest the sound was far more mellifluous as Lockrane led his well drilled team into a rousing rendition of his tune “Mel’s Spell”, a tribute to the great US bandleader Mel Lewis. The consistently impressive Maillot led things off from the drums with further solos coming from Lockrane on flute, Chillingworth on alto and Barron at the piano.
“Lock Up”, described by its composer as “semi blazing” kept the pot bubbling with lively solos from Lockrane on flute, Garnett on tenor and Collins on trumpet. The ballad “For M & R” then slowed things down with Dodd extensively featured on alto alongside the leader on alto flute.
“Grooverider” was as hard hitting as its title suggests driven by Barron on Hammond and Trebilcock on electric bass with a rasping trombone solo from Mires and further raunchy statements from Davies on tenor and Robson on guitar, these punctuated by a series of fiery drum breaks from Maillot.
The Herbie Hancock / Wayne Shorter inspired “Plan B” then showcased Barron on acoustic piano and Chillingworth on curved soprano. Lockrane then closed the first set with a plug for his new Grooveyard album “The Strut”. For the big band arrangement Lockrane told us that he’d instructed the band to come up with a sound approximating an unlikely collaboration between Eddie Harris and Dolly Parton! Driven by funky guitar and organ the piece included barnstorming solos from Garnett on tenor, Fishwick on screaming high register trumpet, Lockrane on piccolo and Robson on effects peppered rock style guitar. As if that wasn’t enough Maillot weighed in with a series of dynamic drum breaks. A rip-roaring way to end a thoroughly enjoyable first half.
The start of the second set saw the band maintaining the energy levels with Lockrane’s “Fist Fight At The Barn Dance”, a piece inspired by a harmonica theme written by his blues loving father. Following incisive solos by Fry on trombone and Chillingworth on curved soprano Mires and Fishwick led the band through a good humoured “hoedown section” before Barron wrapped things up at the piano.
The ballad “We Will Never Meet Again” reinstated a touch of decorum with Lockrane himself the featured soloist on alto flute.
“ I Remember the X Men” brought us back into solid grooving territory with Barron switching to Hammond as Dodd on alto, the entire trombone section and Maillot at the drums did their thing.
The appositely titled “Stutterfunk” brought an afternoon of highly enjoyable music to a close with Lockrane opening the piece on flute and engaging in a little call and response with Lester’s trombone before the leader took the first solo. Bob McKay followed on fruity baritone and we also heard raunchy tenor from Garnett and hard edged guitar from Robson plus a series of suitably dynamic drum breaks from Maillot.
Lockrane and his colleagues seemed well satisfied with their afternoon’s work and rightly so. Later in the day I met up again with young trumpeter Jack Davies who has played in the Lockrane big band and he described Gareth’s arrangements as being fun to play but technically very challenging. These were qualities that transmitted themselves to the listener, music immediate enough to make an impact but possessing the subtlety to repay close or repeated listening. An impressive start to the final day.
YARON HERMAN QUARTET, THE CLORE BALLROOM, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
With the underground in disarray due to planned engineering work we decided to walk from the Spice to the South Bank. Jez Nelson’s “Jazz In The Round” was in full swing and the programme was transmitted on 26th November. I missed sets by drummer Dave Smith’s new Afro Jazz project Fofoulah and by the acclaimed US cross genre drummer Chris “Daddy” Dave but both sounded impressive on the subsequent broadcast.
However I was pleased to catch something of the performance by Israeli born pianist Yaron Herman’s new quartet playing music mainly drawn from Herman’s latest album for the ACT label “Alter Ego” (see review elsewhere on this site).
Now based in France Herman leads an international group featuring Emile Parisien (saxes), Stephane Kerecki (double bass) and fellow Israeli Ziv Ravitz drums. Once again the Clore wasn’t the most sympathetic place to listen, arriving late I was a long way back, but the radio broadcast sounded terrific. Tune announcements were lost in the hubbub but I soon managed to attune my ears to the sound of the band itself with Parisien switching between tenor and soprano. On occasions the saxophonist would sit out as Herman played tunes from his earlier trio albums. A particular highlight was a remarkable version of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” sourced from the 2010 trio album “Follow The White Rabbit” which brought back happy memories of a superb performance by Herman’s previous trio with bassist Chris Tardelli and drummer Tommy Crane in the rather more comfortable setting of the Purcell Room at the 2010 LJF.
Nevertheless catching a something of today’s show plus the subsequent radio broadcast still represented a welcome bonus.
ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC BIG BAND, THE FRONT ROOM, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
Subtitled “Kenny Wheeler: The Lost Scores” this performance represented a prelude to the later concert by Wheeler’s Big Band within the hallowed confines of the QEH itself. In the early part of 2012 Wheeler announced that he had donated his entire archive to the RAM and this concert featured many of Wheeler’s classic pieces in rarely or never heard big band arrangements, many of the tunes having been recorded by smaller groups.
Under the baton of the Academy’s Head of Jazz Programmes, the avuncular and refreshingly down to earth Nick Smart, the young big band turned in a performance to make Wheeler himself proud.
The band lined up as follows;
Matthew Herd, Ronan Perret, Sam Rapley, Sam Miles – saxophones
Louis Dowdeswell, James Copus, Ben Rodney, Christodoulos Aspromallis, Tom Walsh – trumpets & flugelhorns
Tom Green, Owen Dawson, Alex Paxton-trombones
Sam Watts – piano
Todd Oliver-Fishmann – guitar
Flo Moore – bass
Scott Chapman – drums
Emma Smith – vocals
The set kicked off with “Tickity Boo” with the brilliant young singer Emma Smith’s wordless vocals prominent in the mix as she filled the Norma Winstone role with considerable aplomb. Forcefel instrumental solos came from Watts at the piano, Oliver-Fishmann on guitar, Rapley on tenor sax and Miles on trumpet.
Chapman’s solo drum passage acted as a link into the following “Introduction To No Particular Song”, a typically enigmatic Wheeler title, which featured Tom Green on trombone, playing his second gig of the afternoon after appearing with Gareth Lockrane’s Big Band at The Spice of Life.
“Smatter” was originally recorded by an all star quartet on the classic Wheeler album “Gnu High”. The stunning big band version brought the best out of Rodney on trumpet, Dawson on trombone and the impressive Flo Moore on double bass. Saxophonists Perrett (alto) and Herd (soprano) also featured strongly.
Wheeler’s waltz “Who Are You?” with lyrics by Norma Winstone was meant to be a major feature for singer Emma Smith. However when she stood to sing and removed the mic from its stand technical problems kicked in which rather spoilt the performance. I felt for Smith but, hardened professional as she already is, she gamely battled on and more than did herself justice. I predict big things ahead for the prodigiously talented Smith, she’d already impressed earlier in the week with her innovative and adventurous string quartet project at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. Sharing the limelight with her here was trumpeter James Copus.
If memory serves the next piece was “Kayak”, the title track of a long deleted album with Watts impressing with his solo piano intro alongside Tom Walsh who stepped seamlessly into Wheeler’s shoes with his flugel solo. Dowdeswell also contributed strongly and the piece was climaxed by Chapman at the drums.
The set concluded with the big band version the Wheeler classic “Foxy Trot” originally recorded by a quintet featuring the late Michael Brecker on the “Double, Double You” album. Here Walsh continued to emulate Wheeler’s burnished flugel sound with aplomb with Herd on baritone sax and Oliver-Fishmann on guitar also making significant contributions.
The students of the RAM never fail to impress with their technical prowess and already impressive musical maturity. There was some great playing here on some very challenging material. A very tasty hors d’oeuvre before the main Wheeler banquet in the QEH.
KENNY WHEELER BIG BAND, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
Born in Toronto in 1930 trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler moved to England in the early 1950’s and has since become an honorary Brit and one of the undisputed giants of the UK jazz scene. Wheeler’s long association with the ECM label has helped to earn him an international reputation for his imaginative and often quirky compositions and flawless playing.
I first heard Wheeler’s playing in the late 70’s when he made a couple of gorgeous cameo appearances on one time Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford’s début solo album “Feels Good To Me”. Wheeler’s sumptuous, velvety flugel sound induced me to investigate his ECM output on small group recordings such as the now classic album “Gnu High” and “Deer Wan”. I’ve kept track of him ever since and first saw him perform in a big band context in the early 90’s at the long defunct Out & In Festival at the Hawth in Crawley. This would have been around the time of the rather drily titled ECM album “Music For Large & Small Ensembles” which featured many of Wheeler’s British colleagues alongside ECM staples such as guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Peter Erskine.
I’d waited a long time to see the big band again and many of the musicians who had played on that album and at The Hawth were featured again tonight, all of them major figures on the UK jazz scene and many group leaders in their own right. It’s a tribute to the esteem in which Wheeler is held that he has so many long term collaborators but the great man also has an eye for young musical talent as the presence of Gwilym Simcock in the piano chair attested.
Here’s the full line up, how’s this for a who’s who of British jazz?:
Kenny Wheeler – flugel horn
Ray Warleigh, Duncan Lamont, Stan Sulzmann, Even Parker, Julian Arguelles – saxophones
Derek Watkins, John Barclay, Henry Lowther, Nick Smart – trumpets & flugel horns
Mark Nightingale, Gordon Campbell, Barnaby Dickenson, Dave Stewart – trombones
Gwilym Simcock – piano
Chris Lawrence- double bass
Martin France- drums
Norma Winstone – voice
Pete Churchill -conductor
The material played by the band was drawn from “The Long Waiting”, a suite written by Wheeler to celebrate his eightieth birthday. Tonight was the first time that the material had been played live in London although a recording of the suite is available on the Italian Cam Jazz label.
The band were introduced by broadcaster Geoffrey Smith of Jazz Record Requests fame, a familiar voice but this was the first time I’d seen what he actually looks like! Walking with the help of a stick a frail Wheeler had to be escorted onto the stage and he remained seated throughout leaving the excellent Pete Churchill to conduct the ensemble and handle the announcements. Wheeler’s legs might have gone but that certainly wasn’t the case with his lungs, when he played his tone was as pure and burnished as ever, as his solo on the opening “Canter N.6” made clear. It was quite astonishing that this seemingly frail seated figure could make such a big, beautiful sound. Others to shine on this opening piece were Chris Laurence who introduced the piece on the bass, Ray Warleigh in imperious form on alto, and Norma Winstone whose wordless vocals have always added a unique timbre to Wheeler’s music.
Wheeler and Laurence were also prominent on the following “Four, Five, Six” alongside former Loose Tubes alumni Julian Arguelles (baritone sax) and John Parricelli. Arguelles is the perfect team player, adaptable and versatile and an inspired soloist. Earlier in the week, this time playing tenor, he’d made a memorable contribution to a performance by French bassist and composer Henri Texier at Kings Place.
“The Long Waiting” itself offered a further opportunity for Warleigh to establish himself as one the outstanding soloists of the night, second only to Wheeler who also featured alongside trombonist Mark Nightingale. A passage for massed flugel horns was also a nice touch, a reminder of Wheeler’s unique arranging ability.
“Seven, Eight, Nine” was a major feature for Wheeler himself. The great man spent a good deal of time spearheading the ensemble, not for him the easy option of hiding in the crowd. He was also at the forefront of “Enowena”, duetting with vocalist Norma Winstone with whom he’d once worked in the chamber jazz group Azimuth. There was something of the old Azimuth magic and intimacy in their exchanges here. Later instrumental highlights came from Sulzmann on tenor, Parricelli on guitar, Simcock at the piano and Barclay on trumpet.
Another veteran, alto saxophonist Duncan Lamont, came into his own on “Comba N.3” alongside Wheeler on flugel and Simcock at the piano.
The centre piece of the suite and subsequent album is arguably the fourteen minute “Canter N.1 / Old Ballad” which was introduced here by Laurence at the bass and featured instrumental solos from Parricelli on guitar and Evan Parker on gruff sounding tenor. Simcock and Wheeler followed before the “Old Ballad” part of the segue featured the haunting voice of Norma Winstone singing her own bitter sweet lyric, a reflection on the mixed blessings of the ageing process.
It was left to the concluding “Upwards” to end the evening on a positive note with Wheeler contributing his last solo of a memorable night’s work. Yet this was about far more than just strings of solos, Wheeler’s orchestral voicing are unique and there’s a wry, sly, dry humour underpinning much of his work. Under the baton of Churchill this highly experienced band sounded great and brought out all the lushness and nuances of Wheeler’s sumptuous compositions and arrangements. As he shuffled slowly off stage one of the legends of British jazz received a genuinely emotional standing ovation. Wheeler, an undemonstrative man of few words acknowledged it with typically quiet dignity.
JIM HALL TRIO, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
My festival finished with my first live sighting of another veteran jazz legend, the American guitarist Jim Hall. A quiet giant of his instrument Hall has worked with such illustrious figures as Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer and Bill Evans and has inspired a younger generation of guitar players including Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell.
Hall’s playing has been distinguished by his innate elegance and good taste but his albums have also evidenced a spirit of quiet adventure with the guitarist frequently collaborating with younger musicians, among them both Metheny and Frisell. I’m particularly fond of “Panorama”, a live set recorded over five nights at the Village Vanguard in 1996 with Hall and his regular trio joined each night by a guest soloist, the list including Farmer, pianists Kenny Barron and Geoff Keezer, saxophonist Greg Osby and trombonist Slide Hampton. With the focus on original material it all hangs together surprisingly well forming a coherent statement that far surpasses the average “all star” jam.
Tonight Hall was joined by a superbly supportive trio in the form of drummer Anthony Pinciotti and bassist Steve La Spina. Like Wheeler ,Hall, also born in 1930, had to be helped on to the stage and it took him a while to get settled. I’d wondered at the wisdom of seeming reversal of received procedure with the big band going first and the trio second. As the trio commenced to play I feared that the evening might turn into something of a disaster as Hall, clearly unhappy, fretted and fidgeted and kept fiddling with his amp. But once he found the sound he was looking for everything slotted into place and the trio delivered a set of peerless, understated jazz, the quietness of the playing a stunning and highly effective contrast after the big, round sound of the Wheeler band.
Hall’s sound was clear, delicate and vibratoless and he received wonderful support from his two colleagues who both instinctively knew when to take up the slack and give their senior colleague a rest. Both Pinciotti and La Spina made highly musical contributions to the success of the evening. You could hear the proverbial pin drop as an appreciative audience gave their full concentration to this subtle, delightfully understated music. From the second number on, Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, Hall, who also revealed a wry sense of humour with his announcements, had the QEH crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
The veteran proved that he had lost none of his adventurous streak as he introduced the wholly improvised “Free Piece” which featured Pinciotti’s delightful use of small cymbals and La Spina’s effective and atmospheric arco bass.
“Beija Flor” saw the trio exploring the rhythms and cadences of Brazilian music with bassist La Spina featuring extensively. The bassist also made a stunning contribution to Hall’s blues “Careful”, soloing dexterously above the leader’s skeletal guitar chording. After a typically fluent and elegant Hall solo the piece was closed out by Pinciotti’s innately musical and thoroughly absorbing drum feature.
The trio’s version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” was a quiet delight introduced by Hall’s unaccompanied guitar and featuring Pinciotti’s delicately brushed drums and La Spina’s deeply lyrical bass feature.
An all too brief set concluded with Hall laying his left wing political views on the line with a few choice comments on the recent US elections. Having got that off his chest he led the trio through a charmingly playful version of Sonny Rollins’ calypso St. Thomas, a piece that has been in Hall’s repertoire for some years. I’ve got a version of it on vinyl somewhere on a live album recorded at the now defunct New York venue the Village Gate in the late 70’s by the duo of Hall and bassist Ron Carter.
On tonight’s version Hall deployed effects for the only time, coaxing a chiming steel band like sound from his instrument prior to Pinciotti’s drum closing feature.
Once again this jazz legend received a tremendous ovation but as before there was to be no encore. Physically Hall is at least as frail as Wheeler but like his counterpart his muse and creativity remain resolutely intact. After a less than promising start this set was a quiet delight with all of Hall’s trademark good taste, eloquence and elegance on display. Much credit should also be given to Pinciotti and La Spina who selflessly helped to navigate the great man through the performance and who delivered some superlative playing of their own.
LJF 2012 was a great success with all the marquee names (Rollins, Frisell, Mehldau, Garbarek) selling out. As ever the free events were very well attended revealing that there is an audience for this music even if getting them to actually part with their hard earned isn’t quite so easy. Most of the club events were also well supported and my trips to Ronnie’s, the Green Note, and The Vortex were all hugely enjoyable with real atmosphere and a genuine buzz of excitement. Only the less well attended events at Charlie Wright’s and Bishopsgate Institute failed to take off in terms of audience size and involvement. Whether this was because the venues were too remote from the festival hub or a warning sign that the recession is beginning to bite I wouldn’t like to say, hopefully not the latter. Also the Bishopsgate show was essentially a rock gig and probably outside the scope of many jazz listeners.
As ever I saw an enormous variety of music across the various jazz genres, virtually all of it good and it was great to visit some of the capital’s clubs as well as the concert halls of the South Bank. Rumours of the death of jazz still persist but LJF 2012 suggested that there’s plenty of life on the old dog yet. I’m looking forward to 2013 already.
JAZZ MANN NEWS
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
We have been advised of a number of live dates coming up for this London based blues combo led by Benjamin Bowling.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
We have received the club's weekly newsletter giving details of this week's events. Details attached.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Barbican launches Beyond Barbican with a summer of arts events outside the walls of the Barbican Centre featuring pop-up performances, commissions and collaborations across East London.
JAZZ GIGS & EVENTS
Tony-Joe BuckLash - Tony Bevan / Joe Morris / Tony Buck / Dominic Lash at The Queens Head, Monmouth.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - Thursday, May 23, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013