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Saturday at Brecon Jazz Festival, 07/08/2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saturday at Brecon Jazz Festival, 07/08/2010

I saw a wide variety of music today encompassing a broad spectrum from blues to neo- classical and all manner of jazz reference points in between.

Photograph of Charlie Musselwhite courtesy of Tim Dickeson

Saturday at Brecon Jazz Festival, 07/08/2010

I set the background for this year’s festival in our Friday coverage so with a mammoth six gigs to enjoy on the Saturday I’ll get straight on with the music.

ROBERT CASTELLI BOOM QUARTET

An 11.00 AM start at the Theatr, probably the earliest I’ve ever got to Brecon, to see this group nominally led by drummer Robert Castelli, an American drummer of Italian extraction now resident in Austria. The original Boom Quartet is Castelli’s Austrian combo consisting of saxophone, guitar, bass and drums. Their eponymous album dating back to 2007 features an all original programme written by members of the band.

The British version of the quartet was a hastily put together affair even though Castelli had played with all the members of the group before at some time or other. I was particularly keen to see guitarist Nicolas Meier whose albums have been covered extensively on this site, particularly the excellent “Journey”. Meier’s distinctive guitar sound was one of the major plus points of this performance as was the saxophone playing of the always excellent Dave O’Higgins. Having seen O’Higgins extensively only the weekend before at the new Titley Jazz Festival it was fascinating to watch him ply his trade in a totally different, more contemporary setting. Todays set proved what an adaptable and versatile player he is. Completing the group was Australian born, British based electric bass specialist Patrick Bettison, a regular contributor to Meier’s groups and also a mean harmonica player, although we didn’t witness that side of his talent here.

The material played today comprised of original material by both Meier and Castelli plus a couple of outside items from Duke Ellington and Chick Corea. The Austrian version of the Boom Quartet leans towards funk and fusion and there were strong elements of this here tempered by the jazz sensibilities of O’Higgins and with a new “world music” aspect coming courtesy of Meier.

There was certainly plenty of funk in evidence on the opener, a piece entitled “Triad” from the pen of Meier with a conventional jazz structure that incorporated solos from Meier on rock influenced electric guitar, Bettison on funky electric bass plus a series of drum breaks from Castelli.

From the “Boom Quartet” album came Castelli’s “The Cat’s Meow”, a slinky neo ballad featuring smoky tenor sax, purring electric bass and Meier’s electric guitar which saw extensive use of the tremolo arm. In another conventionally structured piece there was another drum feature for Castelli.

It had all been enjoyable enough but pretty much a case of so far, so predictable. It was only when Meier picked up his distinctive electro-acoustic Godin guitar that things really took off.  The unique sound he gets on the instrument is a huge factor in the success of his own records and his use of it transformed the music here. Meier’s “Turqoise” was the highlight of the set thus far opening with a lengthy passage of delicately picked solo guitar and followed by delightful duets with both O’Higgins and Bettison. There were solos too from O’Higgins as the whole band came in, and from Castelli, although any drummer undertaking a solo today was on a bit of a hiding to nothing following Omar Hakim’s virtuoso display the previous evening. Nevertheless this was solid enough, and enjoyable in its own right.

Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” was largely a ballad feature for O’Higgins tender and soulful tenor sax but also included another distinctive contribution from Meier’s Godin guitar.

Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba” brought a Latin feel to the proceedings. One of many attractive and melodic Corea compositions the Boom Quartet version included solos from Meier on Godin, O’Higgins on tenor and Bettison at the bass.

One of the features of Meier’s own albums is the Middle Eastern influence on his music arising from his friendship with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and his marriage to his Turkish born wife, Songul. His tune “Esmeralda” brought these influences to bear, a slightly ragged but nonetheless enjoyable version including solos from himself on Godin and Bettison on electric bass.

To close the quartet played Castelli’s “African Dance”, the opening track on the Boom Quartet album. This infectious piece clearly bore the influence of township jive and brought an enjoyable set to a rousing and good natured finale with solos from O’Higgins on tenor and the composer at the drums.

This early morning gig was thoroughly enjoyable and made for an invigorating start to the day. Castelli was kind enough to give me a copy of his album afterwards and I’ll be taking a more detailed look at that in due course.

However this was almost Meier’s gig as much as Castelli’s. The music moved to another level once he took up the Godin and of course it’s always a pleasure to see Dave O’ Higgins play. Good stuff.

ELIN LARSSON GROUP

One of the beauties of Brecon is how it can sometimes throw up delightful and totally unexpected surprises. This year it was the Elin Larsson Group, a quintet of young Swedish musicians, none of whom I’d heard of previously. With the Scandinavian jazz scene in such rude health I thought they looked interesting and decided to take a punt. I was glad I did as saxophonist Larsson and her band delivered a set full of intriguing compositions and expert musicianship.

Joining the young leader were trombonist Kristian Persson, guitarist Henrik Hallberg, double bassist Niklas Wennstrom and drummer Johan Kack. This is the line up that recorded the album “Live And Alive” at Stockholm’s famous Jazzclub Fasching, a venue that incidentally also hosts contemporary British bands such as Polar Bear and the Kit Downes Trio.

In a programme comprised entirely of Larsson originals the quintet played a selection of pieces from the album (recorded in 2009) plus a number of newer pieces. They opened with “Waiting In Vain”, also the first cut on the album, immediately grabbing the attention with the stunning opening interplay between Persson’s trombone and Larsson’s soprano. Other highlights included Larsson’s mercurial soprano solo above Hallberg’s shadowy guitar chording and the dramatic duet between trombone and drums. These youngsters can certainly play and they deployed their technique in a series of engaging and adventurous compositions. This was only their second UK gig following a festival appearance earlier in the week at Edinburgh but they were clearly brimming with confidence with Larsson an assured interlocutor with excellent English.

“Dark Skies” was a more atmospheric item, a reflection of Nordic melancholy with Larsson switching to tenor. This was more about mood and texture with brooding tenor, spidery guitar and gloomily resonant solo bass on a feature for Wennstrom. However in a composition of widely varying dynamics the storm suggested in the title erupted in a climactic squall from the two horns before the tune concluded with a mournfully peaceful coda.

“The Secret” saw Larsson remain on tenor for another richly textured, multi- hued composition introduced by solo bass and featuring a solo from Persson, making use of the mute on his trombone.  He was followed by the thoughtful, undemonstrative Hallberg on guitar and finally Larsson on tenor sax. 

Introduced by Wennstrom’s double bass the new tune “Liner Board” included features for Persson and Larsson. The saxophonist is an inventive and sometimes powerful player. She can blow the hell out of a saxophone if she really puts her mind to it but the quality of her writing ensures that there is plenty of room for subtlety too.

There was plenty of subtlety evident in “Moment In The Sun” which opened with an exquisite three way dialogue between guitar, soprano sax and trombone before opening out with solos coming from Hallberg on guitar and Persson on trombone, probably his best of the set.

“Falling Into Pieces” was another example of the melancholic side of Larsson’s musical personality, a kind of minor key march with brooding tenor sax floating above Kack’s snare drum tattoo. Once again the interplay between tenor and trombone was outstanding, as was the intensity of Larsson’s playing as the tune gathered momentum and really took flight.

The set closed on an upbeat note with the groove heavy “Mornington” which commemorated a less than successful group engagement at one of Stockholm’s most expensive hotels. The ELG were just too loud and confrontational for the well heeled crowd and a hotel management that was looking for something rather closer to smooth jazz. No such problems in Brecon where a discerning jazz audience responded enthusiastically to ELG’s spiky but always entertaining music. “Mornington” included solos from Persson on trombone and Hallberg on guitar, the axeman mixing choppy rock and blues influenced chording with jazzier single note lines. Finally came Larsson, blowing lusty tenor above Wennstrom’s big, fat bass grooves.

ELG have been together for five years and although, in true jazz fashion, the members are also involved in a host of other projects, this is nonetheless a regular working group and it shows. There is a real musical chemistry between the five musicians and an assuredness that comes from sustained and regular gigging. The interaction between Larsson and Persson is exceptional and the flexible and intelligent rhythm team accompany them with aplomb. Expect to hear a lot more from these talented young Scandinavians as they reach out towards the international stage.

PHRONESIS

The Scandinavian theme continued as I crossed town to see Phronesis at a packed Roland Stage at Christ’s College. There has been quite a buzz about Phronesis recently with their new “Alive” album garnering rave reviews in both the broadsheets and the specialist jazz press.

Phronesis are led by double bassist Jasper Hoiby a Copenhagen born musician and composer now based in London. The group’s regular line up also features English pianist Ivo Neame and Swedish drummer Anton Eger. Hoiby and Neame also form part of the Kairos 4tet who appear in our Friday festival coverage but Phronesis is a different beast again, dominated by Hoiby’s gregarious personality and hooky, groove orientated tunes. Not that Phronesis are lacking in intellectual rigour or improvisational gristle. In concert they love to spin out Hoiby’s themes and play with a joie de vivre that embraces musical risk taking. This is a band having serious musical fun.

I’ve been something of a champion of Phronesis ever since their first album “Organic Warfare” (reviewed elsewhere on this site) came out in 2007. Their second album “Green Delay” was the first to feature Neame( who replaced original pianist Magnus Hjorth) and was a more sophisticated affair but at the same time maintained Phronesis’ trademark urgency and accessibility, qualities that have frequently attracted comparisons with E.S.T.

“Alive” was recorded earlier this year at a performance at The Forge Arts Venue in London’s Camden Town and featured American drummer Mark Guiliana deputising brilliantly for the unavailable Anton Eger. I saw Phronesis, still with Guiliana, only a couple of days later when they produced a fine performance at The Edge Arts Centre in Much Wenlock. Today was therefore my first sighting of Eger who proved to be just as talented as his illustrious dep and something more of a showman. Crop haired, he bristled with attitude and was clearly fully attuned to the Phronesis spirit of musical daring. 

The acclaim Phronesis have attracted ensured that this gig was a total sell out and the tented venue was almost unbearably hot and stuffy. The band were quite clearly feeling the heat too but this didn’t prevent them turning in a superb performance, probably the best of the day.

Phronesis played virtually all the tunes that are featured on their new live album. All composed by Hoiby the material comprised of pieces sourced from both of the band’s studio albums plus the more recent composition “Eight Hours”.

They began with “Blue Inspiration” from “Green Delay”, the current version of the tune, like all the others in the set, greatly expanded from the studio incarnation. Hoiby, Neame and Eger clearly relish stretching out on their chosen material and the often groove orientated approach is a marked contrast from Kairos’ lyricism. Hoiby’s muscular bass playing and Eger’s frequently explosive drumming kept things bubbling here but the fireworks were tempered by moments of contemplative, almost free, playing. Phronesis is a band capable of considerable subtlety and for what is essentially a piano trio they embrace a wide dynamic range, deploying many of the methods used by E.S.T. yet managing to sound completely different to them.

“French” from “Organic Warfare” was less harmonically complex and was grounded by Hoiby’s sturdy yet flexible bass work. This is an intensely rhythmic band and the leader provided the anchor for some delightfully detailed drumming from Eger, his agile stick work utilising all facets of his kit.

The new tune “Eight Hours” demonstrated a more lyrical side of the band with beautiful solos from Hoiby and Neame and some delightfully understated brush work from Eger.

By way of contrast “Abraham’s New Gift” , the opening track on “Green Delay” was a real show stopper. Introduced by Hoiby’s massive bass hook the number grooved irresistibly and packed one hell of a punch. Neame soloed in dazzling fashion, spurred on by Eger’s whiplash snare shots. The drummer himself then featured with a fiery solo that had the crowd baying for more. If he’d seen Omar Hakim the night before he certainly wasn’t intimidated.

“Happy Notes” from “Green Delay” was introduced by a lengthy passage of solo piano from the excellent Neame who continued to sparkle as the rest of the trio kicked in. The tune maintained a good equilibrium between the trio’s two approaches, neatly blending lyricism with exuberance.

Also from “Green Delay”, “Love Song” is one of the outstanding cuts on both that album and the new live recording. Introduced by Hoiby’s unaccompanied bass and taking it’s cue from Neame’s piano leitmotif the tune provided another great example of Phronesis at their best. Eger’s sticks danced around the rims of his kit, Hoiby delivered the latest in a series of big toned, phenomenally dexterous bass solos and Neame continued to excel as usual, soloing expansively above some decidedly odd meter grooves.

“Untitled”, a tune that appears in two forms on the group’s début “Organic Warfare” closed the show here with the trio extemporising on one of Hoiby’s most memorable melodies.

I had enjoyed the group’s performance at Much Wenlock but this show even better. Facing a sell out festival crowd there was no doubt that the trio were “up for it” and despite the intense heat and humidity they really raised their game with Hoiby’s excitable, humorous announcing style also helping to get the audience on their side. I’m told that the queues for the signing session afterwards were immense and that the group sold over a hundred albums, a sure fire measure of just how successfully they’d captured the crowd.

I’m delighted for them. They’re genuinely nice guys and incredible musicians. The Phronesis phenomenon looks to have plenty of mileage in it as the group sets it’s sights on Europe, and maybe even America.

CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to speak to Jasper and the guys after the Phronesis gig. I walked briskly to the Market Hall to see something completely different, Brecon is all about variety after all. 

This was US blues veteran Charlie Musselwhite who I remember seeing at the same venue at the 1994 festival. On that occasion Musselwhite had the late night party slot and the hall was a sea of dancers, including myself. Now at 5.00 in the afternoon the atmosphere was a little more sedate and the dancers less numerous but Musselwhite’s music was just as good as I remembered. Seated at the back of the hall due to my comparatively late arrival I was very grateful for the video screens which gave me a good overview of the musical detail for writing purposes and which increased my involvement as a pure music fan.

Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1944 Musselwhite was brought up in Memphis, Tennessee, later moving north to Chicago where he earned the nickname “Memphis Charlie”. Musselwhite is one of the great white American bluesmen, his accomplished harmonica playing and authoritative singing earning him the full respect of his black peers. He was recently inducted in to the Blues Hall of Fame, an honour that is well deserved and hard earned. Born of poor white Southern farming stock Charlie Musselwhite has paid his dues and his singing has a real “lived in” quality, relaxed and confident but steeped in the real meaning of the blues.

In a world of seemingly a million blues bands Musselwhite’s outfit is the real deal. Superficially it’s a simple form of music but Musselwhite and his colleagues are so obviously far ahead of the average bar band that it’s just not true. Bassist Mike Phillips and drummer June Core produce grooves that are right in the pocket and in guitarist Matt Stubbs Musselwhite has a right hand man of enormous talent. A band leader in his own right Stubbs’ cogent, fiery solos were a major highlight of the Musselwhite group’s performance. 

Following last year’s successful collaboration between the main festival and the Fringe featuring folk/rock artist Seth Lakeman this was a similar venture and once again the organisers were rewarded with a large and enthusiastic audience. Musselwhite and his troops certainly didn’t disappoint as they cantered through a set of blues classics with Musselwhite’s assured stage presence quickly captivating the crowd. Stubbs’ frequently dazzling solos were greeted with the kind of audience applause normally reserved for jazz instrumentalists and the stellar, grooving rhythm team also enjoyed a couple of features each.

The group ran through a whole range of blues stylings from the blues boogie of Walter Jacobs’ “It Ain’t Right” to the slow blues of “Just A Feeling” and all points in between. There was the blues shuffle of “Long Legged Woman” and a paean to Highway 61 presumably written long before Bob Dylan revisited it. Stubbs contributed an effective modern original in the classic blues vein “As The Crow Flies”, taking the instrumental honours with his own guitar solo.

An obvious crowd favourite was the band’s version of “Shake Your Money Maker” presented here as “Roll Your Money Maker” . Musselwhite’s earthy version was, I suspect, closer to the spirit of the original and very probably the original title as well.

Best of all though was “Stranger In A Strange land”, a Musselwhite original that was written when he first moved to Chicago and which appeared on his début CD many (delta) moons ago. “It’s still a pretty good tune”, said Charlie and he wasn’t kidding. The song had an eerie quality reminiscent of the best work of the legendary Howlin’ Wolf and the urgency of Musselwhite’s vocal suggested that he still remembers those times vividly. His harp solo was probably his best of the night. He’s still a formidable instrumentalist but with the passing of the years he seemed happy to leave the bulk of the soloing to Stubbs.  His brief but cogent harmonica features and accomplished self accompaniment proved that he can still play when he wants to.

Nonetheless the craggy Musselwhite is an assured and charismatic front-man and a true blues legend. This was as a good a blues performance as I’ve seen for quite some time. He was accorded a rare encore, an old harp instrumental that Musselwhite couldn’t remember the title of. “It’s still a pretty good tune”, he said again.

THE BRECON PROJECT PROJECT WITH ERIK TRUFFAZ AND SURA SUSSO

I always like to support Welsh musicians when I make my annual pilgrimage to Brecon. With long term Stroller favourites such as Wonderbrass and Mike Harries’ Root Doctors now sidelined to the Fringe programme this year’s principal local offering was the Brecon Project, a commission from Brecon Jazz featuring leading players from the Cardiff jazz scene alongside guest performers French trumpeter Erik Truffaz and Gambian kora player Sura Susso.

The Welsh contingent mainly comprised of musicians associated with the jazz course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and comprised of double bassist Paul Gardiner, saxophonist and flautist Lee Goodall and drummer Mark O’Connor. They were augmented by the twin violins of Simon Thorne and Sianed Jones (who also sang) plus the piano and accordion of the experienced and versatile Huw Warren.

This unusual octet had been work-shopping all week and this was only the second time this music had been heard in public, thus making the event almost a unique occasion. Truffaz, who is no stranger to this type of project as his recent triple album “Rendez-Vous” shows, was appearing elsewhere at the festival over the course of the weekend in the company of drummer Philippe Garcia and human beatboxer Sly Johnson.

The material for the octet set was largely through composed and sometimes suffered from the air of stiffness and formality that sometimes surrounds this type of project. Nevertheless there was still much to enjoy with this unusual combination of instruments producing some intriguing textures and arrangements. This was a concert of great moments rather than a satisfyingly homogenised performance.

It was Truffaz, playing an electronically hooked trumpet, who took the first solo playing above Warren’s sparse piano chording and O’ Connor’s sympathetic drumming and sometimes adding a dash of echo to his trumpet sound. Further solos came from Gardiner at the bass, Warren, also making use of the piano’s innards, and Goodall on alto who had switched from the flute he had utilised in the tune’s introductory stages.

Announcements were handled, in both Cyrmraeg and Saisneg by Sianed Jones who had also contributed wordless singing to the first piece. For the folk influenced “Two Dragons Fighting” she sang in the Welsh language with solos coming from Warren on accordion and Goodall on flute. The piece also heralded the first contribution from Susso on the kora, his playing an African variant on the strains of the Welsh harp.

The third piece opened with a duet between Truffaz on trumpet and Jones on vocals, the singer exploring the kind of territory occupied by the likes of Julie Tippetts (who was also appearing at the festival in a duet with pianist husband Keith) and Maggie Nichols. With Truffaz deploying looping effects the octet flirted with the avant garde before settling into a rousing passage of almost big band swing featuring the wordless vocals of Sianed Jones. At times this reminded me of the collaborations between Michael Garrick’s medium size ensembles and singer Norma Winstone.  In a sprawling, kaleidoscopic piece we then heard from the twin violins of Jones and Thorne with Goodall tying up the proceedings by soloing on alto.

The highlight of the performance came on the next number which opened with an exquisite duet between Susso’s kora and Gardiner’s double bass. Gradually layers were added as Goodall’s flute, Jones’ voice and Thorne’s violin joined the dialogue before fading away again to allow Susso a lengthy and long awaited kora feature. Susso complemented his timeless melodies with percussive effects that utilised the body of his instrument. His frequently beautiful solo drew roars of approval from the Theatr Brycheiniog crowd.

A shout of “one two three four” introduced the next piece as the octet combined folk melodies and almost rock rhythms to keep the momentum going. The final piece featured the group’s two illustrious guests with Susso introducing the piece beautifully on kora accompanied by the pizzicato violins of Thorne and Jones. Truffaz featured on muted Milesian trumpet and we also heard from Warren on piano, Goodall on flute and Jones on wordless vocals.

The Brecon Project offered some distinctive and highly original music, a little stiff at times, but never less than interesting. Susso’s intimate dialogues with Gardiner’s bass and with the violins were probably the best moments and there were several other delightful cameos. It would be nice if this unusual grouping could meet together again and perhaps get something out on CD. Sadly this project will probably just be a one off which is a shame as I’m sure they have a great deal to offer. The group had also presented this programme at the National Eisteddfod the previous day, an indication of the Welshness at the heart of this music but also symbolic of the way Wales, and these musicians in particular, opens itself up to the rest of the world.

GWILYM SIMCOCK TRIO

The acclaimed pianist Gwilym Simcock is also of Welsh lineage and his trio performance at The Cathedral marked the end of my jazz going Saturday. Simcock was playing with the line up that appears on his latest album “Blues Vignette”, a superlative double set that includes performances for solo piano, cello and piano and jazz piano trio.

Simcock’s trio colleagues are the classically trained Russian double bassist Yuri Golubev and the brilliant young drummer James Maddren. Golubev was for 12 years principal bass with the Moscow Soloists, one of the world’s most acclaimed chamber ensembles and is something of an arco bass specialist. Maddren is in great demand and is one of those musicians who appears to be in half a dozen bands at once. Earlier in the day he had played in the same venue as part of pianist Kit Downes’ trio.

I saw Simcock and his colleagues give a superb performance at Much Wenlock’s Edge Art Centre in February and more recently saw him as part of a very different line up when he played the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea in the company of guitarist Mike Walker and visiting American jazz royalty Steve Swallow ( bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Both performances are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The “Blues Vignette” trio features the gentler, more lyrical side of Simcock’s jazz work. There’s a strong classical element to what he does in this context, and there are some who dismiss his music as “chamber jazz”. But Simcock is a genuine improviser too, as his work with Walker, Swallow and Nussbaum demonstrates. But he also brings that element to the trio , this performance was subtly different to the one given in Much Wenlock.

Introduced by The Dean sporting his cowboy hat Simcock and his colleagues kicked off the proceedings with “Longing To Be”, the lengthiest piece of the trio half of “Blues Vignette”. Simcock began on solo piano exhibiting a remarkable lightness of touch which he carried over into his more obviously “jazz” solos. The Cathedral’s acoustics were particularly suited to the rounded,  sometimes melancholy sound of Golubev’s arco bass. He really is a remarkable player with the bow, demonstrating superb tone and fluency. His pizzicato playing is excellent too, but was slightly marred tonight by an occasional “booming” which was never quite fully addressed. Golubev soloed in both modes here and there was also a feature for Maddren’s delicate hand drumming. 

The as yet unrecorded “New In Town” and “Spring Step”, which Simcock initially wrote for saxophonist Stan Sulzmann’s Neon trio, were segued together and featured solos from Golubev on pizzicato bass and Simcock with a particularly lengthy excursion which saw him reaching into the piano’s innards to dampen the strings. He built up a fair head of steam and the momentum carried over into Maddren’s closing drum feature which saw him playing with considerable ferocity. His whiplash snare shots sounded almost indecently loud for a church.

Sound and fury isn’t Maddren’s usual forte. He’s the most receptive and sympathetic of drummers and his often delicate playing is full of delightful nuance and detail. He demonstrated this on the following “Blues Vignette” itself, a piece that combined Simcock’s chamber approach with passages of more forceful hooks and grooves. Golubev’s bowed solos were particularly effective here, contrasting well with the more uptempo sections which saw him switching to pizzicato.

The set here was very similar to the performance Simcock gave in Much Wenlock in that many of the same tunes were featured. However there was no interval this time round and in general Simcock tailored the music to suit the surroundings. This was more of a “chamber” performance and in general the soloing was less expansive and exuberant than before. “Plainsong”, another tune yet to be recorded was characterised by a typically crystalline solo piano introduction from Simcock and a typically dexterous pizzicato solo from Golubev.

Solo piano also introduced George Gershwin “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, one of a handful of standards that appears on the “Blues Vignette” album. Simcock’s imaginative arrangement was climaxed by another Maddren drum feature.

The trio closed the show on a high note with “A Typical Affair”, the opening track from Simcock’s previous album “Perception”. This hook laden, Latin influenced groover certainly lifted the energy levels and included exuberant features from all the members of the trio.

In retrospect I probably preferred the the more unrestrained Much Wenlock show to this but Simcock and his two colleagues still gave us much to enjoy. Simcock is an enormous talent and the albums “Perception” and “Blues Vignette”, both released on the enterprising Basho record label, are highly recommended. It can only be a matter of time before he records again as the leader of a trio and the results should be well worth hearing.

In the meantime the quartet with Walker, Swallow and Nussbaum have been into the studio and the results should be issued on Basho in 2011, hopefully with a further UK tour to tie in with the release of the album.

FESTIVAL OVERVIEW

I was impressed with this year’s Brecon Jazz Festival. Thanks to it’s increasingly adventurous programming policy (credit again to Sarah Dennehy and Elaine Madden), I saw a wide variety of music today encompassing a broad spectrum from blues to neo classical and all manner of jazz reference points in between. There were regular working groups, one off projects and loosely put together aggregations. A fascinating mix. Every event was well organised and ran to time, the stewarding was courteous and the sound- and visuals where appropriate- was generally good throughout.

I came back again on the Sunday as a punter. I didn’t feel that the programme was as strong on the Sunday as on previous days but I still enjoyed sets from Matthew Halsall, Keith and Julie Tippett(s). Olivia Moore and Dave Newton, four very different performances that again offered a rich variety of musical styles.

I’m looking forward to next year already.

Ian’s star ratings

Robert Castelli Boom Quartet 3.5 stars

Elin Larsson Group 4 Stars

Phronesis 4 Stars

Charlie Musselwhite 4 Stars

Brecon Project 3 stars

Gwilym Simcock 3.5 Stars

Overall 4 Stars      
 


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