The Jazz Mann | FragmentsKevin MacKenzieThe Steve Fishwick / Alex Garnett QuartetThe Roger Beaujolais Italian TrioDuncan Eagles QuintetTheon CrossBenjamin CroftPatchwork Jazz OrchestraJohn TurvilleTony Kofi SextetAdam Glasser QuartetRymdenHuw Warren TrioBinker Golding and Elliot GalvinBryan Corbett / Tom Hill QuartetVarious ArtistsOrjan Hulten OrionNick MalcolmKathrine Windfeld Big BandGilad Atzmon & The Orient House EnsembleWandering MonsterMark LockheartELDA featuring Kari Eskild HavenstromLaura ColeKevin LawlorHelena Kay’s KIM TrioRob ClearfieldTord Gustavsen TrioSarah GillespieAndy HagueChet BakerJean Toussaint SextetSwing Style QuartetMalijaSteve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant StewartVarious ArtistsMetamorphicVitor Pereira QuintetJosephine DaviesAnt Law QuintetDevin GrayFrançois Bourassa QuartetRoz HardingDave Jones QuartetThe Matt Wates SextetFlying MachinesDakhla BrassWalter Smith III & Matthew Stevens QuintetNew York All-StarsItamar BorochovFabledAlan Barnes / Remi Harris / Tom MooreBen Crosland QuintetLorraine BakerBorderlessGraeme Wilson QuartetSara ColmanElftetLiran Donin’s 1000 BoatsCamilla GeorgeTristanJohn MetcalfeGabrielle DucombleGet The BlessingTom BarfordAlina BzhezhinskaSugarworkPhronesisSara DowlingEnemyNigel Price QuartetJam ExperimentBansangu OrchestraNick Costley-WhiteSlowly Rolling CameraJohn BaileyNik Bartsch’s RoninDave Manington’s Riff RaffJulian ArguellesJure PuklStefanos Tsourelis TrioThe Reading Dusseldorf Jazz EnsembleBeats & Pieces Big BandFloating Circles QuartetOnyx BrassOrjan Hulten TrioNightports with Matthew BourneJeff WilliamsDavid Ferris Septet featuring Maria ValiAlyn CoskerGethin Liddington’s GoodkatzRoller TrioMark KavumaSloth RacketFrank Harrison and Brigitte BerahaMatt Anderson QuartetThe Dissolute SocietyJuan Galiardo TrioEd Jones QuartetFervour - FragmentsThe Ballad of Future JoeMarshian Time SlipBarba LungaDuncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019.Fyah10 Reasons To…The Adventures of Mr PottercakesHead FirstTony Kofi Sextet “A Portrait of Cannonball” at Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 22/02/2019.Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019.Reflections & OdysseysHuw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019.Ex NihiloBryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019.To Be Here NowMinusgraderReal Isn’t RealLatencyGilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, ‘Spirit of Trane’, Progress Theatre, Reading, 18/01/2019.Wandering MonsterDays On EarthShiny/ThingsEnoughLast Days of SummerMoon PalaceWherever You’re Starting FromThe Other SideWishbonesComing of AgeLive in London Volume IIJean Toussaint Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 14/12/2018.Swing Style Quartet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/12/2018.Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 23/11/2018EFG London Jazz Festival, Friday 16th November 2018.The Two FridasVitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.In the Corners of CloudsLife I KnowDirigo Rataplan llFrançois Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018.SupermoodDave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018.Matt Wates Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 19/10/2018.New LifeMurmurIn CommonBurnin’ In LondonBlue NightsShort StoriesAlan Barnes/ Remi Harris/Tom Moore, Yardbird Arts, Victory Hall, Clows Top, Worcestershire 16/10/18.Ben Crosland Quintet, ‘The Ray Davies Songbook’ at The Hive, Shrewsbury, 13 /10/ 2018.EdenBorderless, Leominster Community Centre, Leominster, Herefordshire, 09/10/2018.AbsconditWhat We’re Made OfElftet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 28/09/2018.8 SongsThe People Could FlyTristan, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/09/2018.AbsenceAcross The BridgeBristopiaBloomerInspirationSugarworkWe Are AllTwo Sides Of SaraEnemyNigel Price Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/09/2018.Jam Experiment, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 31/08/2018.Bansangu OrchestraDetour AheadJuniperOneiric SoundsAwaseChallenger DeepTonadasDoubtlessStefanos Tsourelis Trio, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/07/2018.The Reading Dusseldorf Jazz Ensemble, Reading Fringe Festival Main Stage, 25/07/2018.TenEleven Yesterdays AgoOnyx NoirLive At Bas, 14 October 2017Nightports w/Matthew BourneLifelikeAlphabetsK P FGethin Liddington’s Goodkatz, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 01/07/2018.New DevicesKavumaA Glorious MonsterThe Way HomeRamblingSoldiering OnJuan Galiardo Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/06/2018.Ed Jones Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre ,Shrewsbury, 09/06/2018.Taking Flight | Review | The Jazz Mann

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REVIEW

Fragments - Fragments Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An absorbing and compelling listening experience. The trio’s music offers much in terms of light and shade with plenty of variation in terms of mood and dynamics.

Fragments

“Fragments”

Northern Contemporary nc003)

Fragments is a new trio featuring three leading improvising musicians from the North of England, pianist Adam Fairhall, double bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter.

All three are busy, in demand musicians who have appeared on the Jazzmann web pages fairly frequently thanks to their involvement in other projects.

Manchester based Fairhall has worked as a sideman in bands led by trumpeter Matthew Halsall and saxophonist Nat Birchall as well as pursuing a productive solo career. Fairhall’s recordings under his own name include “Second Hand Blues” and the excellent “The Imaginary Delta” (2012), both collaborations with the electronics artist Paul J. Rogers. “The Imaginary Delta” also included contributions from a wider ensemble of Manchester and London jazz musicians. My review of that exceptional recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/adam-fairhall-the-imaginary-delta/

In recent years Fairhall has become increasingly immersed in fully improvised music in a variety of different contexts including the groups Ant Traditions (with guitarist Dave Birchall), The Markov Chain (with bassist Tim Fairhall and drummer Paul Hession) and Spirit Farm (with Corey Mwamba on vibes and percussion, Christophe de Bezenac on sax, Dave Kane on bass, Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter at the drums). Meanwhile The Revival Room features him playing organ alongside Johnny Hunter and saxophonist Mark Hanslip.

Fairhall has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history and jazz piano styles and is skilled at updating these elements into a contemporary context, as evidenced “The Imaginary Delta2” and by his solo piano album “Friendly Ghosts” (Efpi Records, 2017).

He has also become fascinated by arcane keyboard instruments and regularly incorporates the sounds of toy pianos, Indian harmoniums and other mechanical keyboard instruments into his work,  often subjecting them to prepared piano techniques.

Fairhall and Johnny Hunter are regular collaborators and the Manchester based drummer also leads his own quartet. Hunter has also been a contributor to bands led by his guitarist brother Anton and he is a regular fixture in groups led by the London based saxophonist, composer and improviser Cath Roberts, among them Sloth Racket, Word of Moth and Favourite Animals.

Hunter has also worked with Nat Birchall and with the experimental quartet Mercury, led by saxophonist Tom Thorp. A busy musician who works all over the North of England and beyond he has also recorded with bands led by pianist Misha Gray,  saxophonists Martin Archer and Pete Lyons and with the bands Marley Chingus, Blind Monk Trio, Engine Room Favourites, Beck Hunters and ska/dub outfit Skamel.

Leeds based Seth Bennett has performed with the bands Word of Moth, Sloth Racket and Favourite Animals, all led by saxophonist Cath Roberts, and also with Metamorphic, led by pianist and composer Laura Cole. With Cole he also runs the eighteen piece Bennett-Cole Orchestra and the pair also collaborate in a trio with drummer Peter Fairclough.

Bennett’s other current projects include Nut Club, a trio with drummer John Arnesen and saxophonist Ollie Dover.  Meanwhile 7 Hertz teams him with Helen Baines (clarinets) and Yvonna Magda (violin) and he is also part of a further trio featuring  violist Aby Vulliamy and trombonist George Murray.

Bennett is also a member of Mathilde, a project combining improvised music and dance.

The paths of Fairhall, Hunter and Bennett are closely linked and the Fragments trio was first instigated as a ‘workshop band’ by Hunter, the common denominator,  in 2013. At first glance the group appears to be a conventional piano trio but from the outset the threesome have adopted an innovative and distinctive approach to composition and improvisation.

Before analysing the music itself it’s probably best to explain something about the trio’s methods of music making. The press release accompanying this album describes their approach thus;
“Rather than incorporating improvisation into composed frameworks the trio start by improvising freely, and then may, at any point, begin playing a ‘fragment’, one of a series of pre-composed musical material. The choice of ‘fragment’ and the way that it is integrated into the improvisation and what happens to the ‘fragment’ after it is played are all open to the spontaneity of the moment. Each ‘fragment’ is designed to inform a different sound space and is both substantial enough to give the players something to ‘chew on’ and flexible enough to allow many possible interpretations. They are also varied in idiom, ensuring a constantly changing listening experience. The trio are in dialogue with each other, with the composed ‘fragments’, and with the piano trio format’s illustrious past”.

It’s a method of working not entirely to dissimilar to that of Cath Roberts’ group Sloth Racket and its larger cousin Favourite Animals. Hunter and Bennett work with both bands and the musicians improvise freely around Roberts’ compositional ‘sketches’, these often scored graphically, often coalescing around a powerful written riff.

The album “Fragments” was recorded in March 2017 by engineer Michael Ward and was later mixed by Ward and Bennett. Packaged in a DIY style cardboard sleeve it also features artwork by Sheffield based artist Marion Rout.

It features two lengthy pieces, each lasting over half an hour, and a shorter nine and a half minute ‘coda’. The titles are purely functional and reference the year of the album’s recording.

As Adrian Pallant’s review for London Jazz News observed this is not an album for the faint hearted with the opening “2017i” setting the benchmark in terms of challenging intensity. Fairhall swarms all over the keyboard, ably supported by Hunter’s skittering drums and Bennett’s powerfully plucked bass. Comparisons with Cecil Taylor are inevitable while Pallant also detects elements of Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk and even Duke Ellington.
It’s not all conducted at 100 mph, there are moments of quieter reflection too, some of these dark in terms of mood, which involve Hunter’s use of small percussive devices. This is music that ebbs and flows with passages of tumbling intensity juxtaposed with episodes of gentle lyricism or of brooding solemnity. The techniques of the players are never in doubt, with Bennett’s bass sometimes assuming the lead, and the strength of their rapport is almost uncanny - one can almost hear them thinking. This music may be far from easy listening but the music of Fragments takes the listener on absorbing journey that offers up fresh surprises around every bend. Bennett takes up the bow for a grainy dialogue with Hunter’s drums as the music extends into the realms of extended technique with Fairhall working ‘under the lid’.
In this context the composed elements, the ‘fragments’ that give the trio its name, aren’t always obvious, helping to give the music the seamless organic flow and spontaneous narrative arc that characterises the best improv.

“2017ii” is generally less frenetic than its predecessor with a greater emphasis on atmosphere and extended technique. It commences with a brief dialogue between pizzicato bass and drums with Fairhall subsequently joining the discussion, the trio discourse generally more measured than in episode one but still sometimes embracing a bustling, scurrying urgency as rapidly darting piano motifs are supported by busy bass and drums. Bennett, whose arco work has always impressed in Roberts’ bands, again flourishes the bow to good effect as Fairhall coaxes ethereal twinkling sounds from the very upper limits of the piano’s register and Hunter rustles furtively behind the kit, acting as a kind of avant garde colourist. Later the exchanges get more vigorous, gnarled and knotty, before becoming more lyrical and atmospheric once again. Some of these passages are genuinely beautiful and wouldn’t sound out of place on an ECM recording, these perhaps representing the written ‘fragments’. There’s then an extended passage of imaginative solo drumming from Hunter prior to an intense collective crescendo featuring piano and vigorously bowed bass that briefly threatens to conclude the piece. Instead resolution is achieved via a chillingly beautiful passage featuring the chime of Fairhall’s piano and the sounds of Bennett’s deeply resonant bowed bass, these augmented by Hunter’s percussive embellishments. Clocking in at nearly thirty four minutes the piece represents another absorbing and compelling musical journey that embraces a variety of moods and dynamics, with the composed ‘fragments’ arguably more readily evident.

“2017iii” maintains the reflective mood almost throughout, commencing with the sounds of glacial piano, cymbal scrapes and sparse but resonant pizzicato bass. Despite its relative brevity the piece evolves slowly and organically as the trio place the emphasis on retaining a single mood or atmosphere throughout. Bennett’s plucked bass, with its deep, woody tone is prominent as Hunter provides the subtlest of percussion shadings, again in a colourist’s role. Bennett also makes effective and atmospheric use of the bow as Fairhall plays a relatively low key role, playing melodically and keeping things simple.

Although it clearly won’t be for everybody “Fragments” makes for an absorbing and compelling listening experience. The trio’s music offers much in terms of light and shade with plenty of variation in terms of mood and dynamics within the two longer pieces. Yes, it’s intense at times, but it’s an intensity that goes beyond mere bluster, and there are moments of genuine beauty too. The standard of musicianship is excellent throughout in a genuinely democratic trio performance that never gets boring. Although it ultimately sounds very different Necks fans may care to check out Fragment’s style of long piece piano trio improvisation.

 

Fragments

Fragments

Friday, March 22, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Fragments

An absorbing and compelling listening experience. The trio’s music offers much in terms of light and shade with plenty of variation in terms of mood and dynamics.

Fragments

“Fragments”

Northern Contemporary nc003)

Fragments is a new trio featuring three leading improvising musicians from the North of England, pianist Adam Fairhall, double bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter.

All three are busy, in demand musicians who have appeared on the Jazzmann web pages fairly frequently thanks to their involvement in other projects.

Manchester based Fairhall has worked as a sideman in bands led by trumpeter Matthew Halsall and saxophonist Nat Birchall as well as pursuing a productive solo career. Fairhall’s recordings under his own name include “Second Hand Blues” and the excellent “The Imaginary Delta” (2012), both collaborations with the electronics artist Paul J. Rogers. “The Imaginary Delta” also included contributions from a wider ensemble of Manchester and London jazz musicians. My review of that exceptional recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/adam-fairhall-the-imaginary-delta/

In recent years Fairhall has become increasingly immersed in fully improvised music in a variety of different contexts including the groups Ant Traditions (with guitarist Dave Birchall), The Markov Chain (with bassist Tim Fairhall and drummer Paul Hession) and Spirit Farm (with Corey Mwamba on vibes and percussion, Christophe de Bezenac on sax, Dave Kane on bass, Anton Hunter on guitar and Johnny Hunter at the drums). Meanwhile The Revival Room features him playing organ alongside Johnny Hunter and saxophonist Mark Hanslip.

Fairhall has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history and jazz piano styles and is skilled at updating these elements into a contemporary context, as evidenced “The Imaginary Delta2” and by his solo piano album “Friendly Ghosts” (Efpi Records, 2017).

He has also become fascinated by arcane keyboard instruments and regularly incorporates the sounds of toy pianos, Indian harmoniums and other mechanical keyboard instruments into his work,  often subjecting them to prepared piano techniques.

Fairhall and Johnny Hunter are regular collaborators and the Manchester based drummer also leads his own quartet. Hunter has also been a contributor to bands led by his guitarist brother Anton and he is a regular fixture in groups led by the London based saxophonist, composer and improviser Cath Roberts, among them Sloth Racket, Word of Moth and Favourite Animals.

Hunter has also worked with Nat Birchall and with the experimental quartet Mercury, led by saxophonist Tom Thorp. A busy musician who works all over the North of England and beyond he has also recorded with bands led by pianist Misha Gray,  saxophonists Martin Archer and Pete Lyons and with the bands Marley Chingus, Blind Monk Trio, Engine Room Favourites, Beck Hunters and ska/dub outfit Skamel.

Leeds based Seth Bennett has performed with the bands Word of Moth, Sloth Racket and Favourite Animals, all led by saxophonist Cath Roberts, and also with Metamorphic, led by pianist and composer Laura Cole. With Cole he also runs the eighteen piece Bennett-Cole Orchestra and the pair also collaborate in a trio with drummer Peter Fairclough.

Bennett’s other current projects include Nut Club, a trio with drummer John Arnesen and saxophonist Ollie Dover.  Meanwhile 7 Hertz teams him with Helen Baines (clarinets) and Yvonna Magda (violin) and he is also part of a further trio featuring  violist Aby Vulliamy and trombonist George Murray.

Bennett is also a member of Mathilde, a project combining improvised music and dance.

The paths of Fairhall, Hunter and Bennett are closely linked and the Fragments trio was first instigated as a ‘workshop band’ by Hunter, the common denominator,  in 2013. At first glance the group appears to be a conventional piano trio but from the outset the threesome have adopted an innovative and distinctive approach to composition and improvisation.

Before analysing the music itself it’s probably best to explain something about the trio’s methods of music making. The press release accompanying this album describes their approach thus;
“Rather than incorporating improvisation into composed frameworks the trio start by improvising freely, and then may, at any point, begin playing a ‘fragment’, one of a series of pre-composed musical material. The choice of ‘fragment’ and the way that it is integrated into the improvisation and what happens to the ‘fragment’ after it is played are all open to the spontaneity of the moment. Each ‘fragment’ is designed to inform a different sound space and is both substantial enough to give the players something to ‘chew on’ and flexible enough to allow many possible interpretations. They are also varied in idiom, ensuring a constantly changing listening experience. The trio are in dialogue with each other, with the composed ‘fragments’, and with the piano trio format’s illustrious past”.

It’s a method of working not entirely to dissimilar to that of Cath Roberts’ group Sloth Racket and its larger cousin Favourite Animals. Hunter and Bennett work with both bands and the musicians improvise freely around Roberts’ compositional ‘sketches’, these often scored graphically, often coalescing around a powerful written riff.

The album “Fragments” was recorded in March 2017 by engineer Michael Ward and was later mixed by Ward and Bennett. Packaged in a DIY style cardboard sleeve it also features artwork by Sheffield based artist Marion Rout.

It features two lengthy pieces, each lasting over half an hour, and a shorter nine and a half minute ‘coda’. The titles are purely functional and reference the year of the album’s recording.

As Adrian Pallant’s review for London Jazz News observed this is not an album for the faint hearted with the opening “2017i” setting the benchmark in terms of challenging intensity. Fairhall swarms all over the keyboard, ably supported by Hunter’s skittering drums and Bennett’s powerfully plucked bass. Comparisons with Cecil Taylor are inevitable while Pallant also detects elements of Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk and even Duke Ellington.
It’s not all conducted at 100 mph, there are moments of quieter reflection too, some of these dark in terms of mood, which involve Hunter’s use of small percussive devices. This is music that ebbs and flows with passages of tumbling intensity juxtaposed with episodes of gentle lyricism or of brooding solemnity. The techniques of the players are never in doubt, with Bennett’s bass sometimes assuming the lead, and the strength of their rapport is almost uncanny - one can almost hear them thinking. This music may be far from easy listening but the music of Fragments takes the listener on absorbing journey that offers up fresh surprises around every bend. Bennett takes up the bow for a grainy dialogue with Hunter’s drums as the music extends into the realms of extended technique with Fairhall working ‘under the lid’.
In this context the composed elements, the ‘fragments’ that give the trio its name, aren’t always obvious, helping to give the music the seamless organic flow and spontaneous narrative arc that characterises the best improv.

“2017ii” is generally less frenetic than its predecessor with a greater emphasis on atmosphere and extended technique. It commences with a brief dialogue between pizzicato bass and drums with Fairhall subsequently joining the discussion, the trio discourse generally more measured than in episode one but still sometimes embracing a bustling, scurrying urgency as rapidly darting piano motifs are supported by busy bass and drums. Bennett, whose arco work has always impressed in Roberts’ bands, again flourishes the bow to good effect as Fairhall coaxes ethereal twinkling sounds from the very upper limits of the piano’s register and Hunter rustles furtively behind the kit, acting as a kind of avant garde colourist. Later the exchanges get more vigorous, gnarled and knotty, before becoming more lyrical and atmospheric once again. Some of these passages are genuinely beautiful and wouldn’t sound out of place on an ECM recording, these perhaps representing the written ‘fragments’. There’s then an extended passage of imaginative solo drumming from Hunter prior to an intense collective crescendo featuring piano and vigorously bowed bass that briefly threatens to conclude the piece. Instead resolution is achieved via a chillingly beautiful passage featuring the chime of Fairhall’s piano and the sounds of Bennett’s deeply resonant bowed bass, these augmented by Hunter’s percussive embellishments. Clocking in at nearly thirty four minutes the piece represents another absorbing and compelling musical journey that embraces a variety of moods and dynamics, with the composed ‘fragments’ arguably more readily evident.

“2017iii” maintains the reflective mood almost throughout, commencing with the sounds of glacial piano, cymbal scrapes and sparse but resonant pizzicato bass. Despite its relative brevity the piece evolves slowly and organically as the trio place the emphasis on retaining a single mood or atmosphere throughout. Bennett’s plucked bass, with its deep, woody tone is prominent as Hunter provides the subtlest of percussion shadings, again in a colourist’s role. Bennett also makes effective and atmospheric use of the bow as Fairhall plays a relatively low key role, playing melodically and keeping things simple.

Although it clearly won’t be for everybody “Fragments” makes for an absorbing and compelling listening experience. The trio’s music offers much in terms of light and shade with plenty of variation in terms of mood and dynamics within the two longer pieces. Yes, it’s intense at times, but it’s an intensity that goes beyond mere bluster, and there are moments of genuine beauty too. The standard of musicianship is excellent throughout in a genuinely democratic trio performance that never gets boring. Although it ultimately sounds very different Necks fans may care to check out Fragment’s style of long piece piano trio improvisation.

 

Kevin MacKenzie - The Ballad of Future Joe Rating: 3-5 out of 5 A well balanced mix serves the musicians well, capturing their finely honed rapport and bringing out the full details and nuances of the playing .Guitar fans will find much to enjoy here.

Kevin MacKenzie

“The Ballad of Future Joe”

(Laundry Room Music LDRY06CD)

Guitarist, composer and educator Kevin MacKenzie has been a stalwart of the Scottish jazz scene for a number of years as both leader and sideman. A former member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra he was also the recipient of a Creative Scotland Award in 2001, the prize money helping to finance the recording of the acclaimed album “Another New Horizon”, which featured his nine piece ensemble Vital Signs, an amalgam of leading Scottish jazz and folk musicians.

MacKenzie has also recorded in trio and quartet formats and as a duo with pianist Steve Hamilton. A musician with an international reputation his albums have featured contributions from such jazz heavyweights as saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Julian Arguelles and drummer Martin France.

Full details of MacKenzie’s discography and of his current projects can be found at his website http://www.kevinmackenzie.co.uk

MacKenzie’s latest album release finds him in the company of two other leading figures on the Scottish jazz scene, Brazilian born bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Alyn Cosker, both also composers and bandleaders in their own right.

The programme consists of nine MacKenzie originals, many of them inspired by his young family, plus a genuinely innovative arrangement of Django Reinhardt’s much covered “Nuages”

Opening track “The Mouse Commute” was written in honour of a small rodent who took up residence in MacKenzie’s car and thus accompanied him, unseen, on numerous trips to the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow where the guitarist has a teaching post. Musically the piece demonstrates the excellent rapport between these three bastions of Scottish jazz. The leader’s guitar is vaguely reminiscent of the late John Abercrombie as MacKenzie probes gently, his furtive scurrying runs evoking the mouse of the title. Cosker’s playing is finely detailed, becoming busier and more forceful and energetic as the piece progresses, culminating in something of a feature for this dynamic drummer. Caribe is a rock throughout, exhibiting a powerful tone and great dexterity as he negotiates the complexities of MacKenzie’s composition with its 5/4 time signature.

The title track is named for a class mate of MacKenzie’s four year old son, Finlay. It’s a genuine ballad with the kind of lilting melody that Pat Metheny would be proud of. MacKenzie’s cleanly picked lines impart a sense of yearning and spaciousness and he’s accompanied by Caribe’s melodic double bass and Cosker’s subtle drum work, deploying a combination of brushes and sticks. Caribe impresses with his first extended solo of the set, skilfully accompanied by Cosker.

“Snood Dude” is dedicated to young Finlay, who has a particular fondness for the article of apparel in question. The tune ups the pace once more with Caribe’s rapid bass grooves and Cosker’s crisply energetic drumming fuelling MacKenzie’s slippery guitar melody lines. There’s an energy and joyousness about the piece that recalls the more upbeat offerings on Metheny’s “Bright Size Life”.
There’s also a vigorously plucked double bass solo from the impressive Caribe that really gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his virtuosity on the instrument.

Also inspired by Finlay the title “The Waiter” refers to the boy’s confusion between the words ‘wait’ and ‘weight’. Introduced by Cosker at the drums the piece acts as the vehicle for an absorbing three way conversation between these musical friends with MacKenzie’s gently rambling guitar solo underpinned by Caribe’s deep bass lines and Cosker’s distinctive, constantly evolving drumming. Space is left for another impressive bass excursion from Caribe.

“The Mighty Flo” is dedicated to MacKenzie’s young daughter Flora and includes traces of folk like melodies within the jazz framework as the trio stretch out at length in a consistently absorbing dialogue that embraces extended solos from both MacKenzie and Caribe plus something of a feature from the consistently impressive Cosker.

As its title suggests “Caribe’s Cachaca Capers” is a playful piece dedicated to the trio’s bassist and his fondness for the Brazilian spirit Cachaca. Vibrant Brazilian and Latin rhythms help to fuel MacKenzie’s allusion filled solo and there’s another stunning performance behind the kit from Cosker.

MacKenzie’s elegant waltz time arrangement of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” casts the old favourite in a new light in a sensitive, but rigorous, trio performance.

“If A Tree Falls” references MacKenzie’s dislike of social media. Cosker’s shuffling drum grooves allied to Caribe’s muscular bass lines move the piece on at a fair old clip as MacKenzie’s guitar dances lithely above the propulsive rhythmic backdrop. Caribe also features with a powerfully plucked bass solo.

“Blues Shoes” pretty much does what it says on the tin, it’s a blues that allows for much spirited trio interplay with fiery individual solos from all three protagonists.

Finally we hear “Sisyphus”, with MacKenzie declaring the title to be “a metaphor for trying to sustain a long term career as a musician”. It’s one of the album’s most impressive pieces, a slow burner that gradually grows in intensity, brooding and simmering atmospherically before finally coming to the boil. MacKenzie’s solo bursts free of the body of the song with a striking emphasis in a blend of jazz chops with rock inspired dynamics. Having reached a peak the piece resolves itself with a richly evocative closing section that sees Caribe making effective use of the bow.

“The Ballad of Future Joe” represents an impressive offering from MacKenzie and his colleagues. Engineer Gus Satirist’s well balanced mix serves the musicians well, capturing their finely honed rapport and bringing out the full details and nuances of the playing. MacKenzie’s tone is warm and conversational almost throughout, his sound pure and clean and unencumbered by the use of effects. His chemistry with Cosker is exceptional, with Caribe often playing an anchoring role as MacKenzie and the drummer bounce ideas off each other. Cosker is a busy drummer with a superb technique which he utilises to the full, but without ever imposing too much. Meanwhile Caribe makes the most of his own soloing opportunities.

As a writer MacKenzie gives his colleagues a wealth of interesting material to work with and his colleagues respond well with some excellent playing throughout. Guitar fans, and particularly Pat Metheny’s many followers, will find much to enjoy here – I was reminded of Metheny’s landmark début, “Bright Size Life”, on more than one occasion.

On the evidence of this recording one imagines that this trio would also represent an impressive and exciting live act. Let’s hope that 2019 offers them some suitable gigging opportunities to demonstrate this.

The Ballad of Future Joe

Kevin MacKenzie

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

The Ballad of Future Joe

A well balanced mix serves the musicians well, capturing their finely honed rapport and bringing out the full details and nuances of the playing .Guitar fans will find much to enjoy here.

Kevin MacKenzie

“The Ballad of Future Joe”

(Laundry Room Music LDRY06CD)

Guitarist, composer and educator Kevin MacKenzie has been a stalwart of the Scottish jazz scene for a number of years as both leader and sideman. A former member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra he was also the recipient of a Creative Scotland Award in 2001, the prize money helping to finance the recording of the acclaimed album “Another New Horizon”, which featured his nine piece ensemble Vital Signs, an amalgam of leading Scottish jazz and folk musicians.

MacKenzie has also recorded in trio and quartet formats and as a duo with pianist Steve Hamilton. A musician with an international reputation his albums have featured contributions from such jazz heavyweights as saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Julian Arguelles and drummer Martin France.

Full details of MacKenzie’s discography and of his current projects can be found at his website http://www.kevinmackenzie.co.uk

MacKenzie’s latest album release finds him in the company of two other leading figures on the Scottish jazz scene, Brazilian born bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Alyn Cosker, both also composers and bandleaders in their own right.

The programme consists of nine MacKenzie originals, many of them inspired by his young family, plus a genuinely innovative arrangement of Django Reinhardt’s much covered “Nuages”

Opening track “The Mouse Commute” was written in honour of a small rodent who took up residence in MacKenzie’s car and thus accompanied him, unseen, on numerous trips to the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow where the guitarist has a teaching post. Musically the piece demonstrates the excellent rapport between these three bastions of Scottish jazz. The leader’s guitar is vaguely reminiscent of the late John Abercrombie as MacKenzie probes gently, his furtive scurrying runs evoking the mouse of the title. Cosker’s playing is finely detailed, becoming busier and more forceful and energetic as the piece progresses, culminating in something of a feature for this dynamic drummer. Caribe is a rock throughout, exhibiting a powerful tone and great dexterity as he negotiates the complexities of MacKenzie’s composition with its 5/4 time signature.

The title track is named for a class mate of MacKenzie’s four year old son, Finlay. It’s a genuine ballad with the kind of lilting melody that Pat Metheny would be proud of. MacKenzie’s cleanly picked lines impart a sense of yearning and spaciousness and he’s accompanied by Caribe’s melodic double bass and Cosker’s subtle drum work, deploying a combination of brushes and sticks. Caribe impresses with his first extended solo of the set, skilfully accompanied by Cosker.

“Snood Dude” is dedicated to young Finlay, who has a particular fondness for the article of apparel in question. The tune ups the pace once more with Caribe’s rapid bass grooves and Cosker’s crisply energetic drumming fuelling MacKenzie’s slippery guitar melody lines. There’s an energy and joyousness about the piece that recalls the more upbeat offerings on Metheny’s “Bright Size Life”.
There’s also a vigorously plucked double bass solo from the impressive Caribe that really gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his virtuosity on the instrument.

Also inspired by Finlay the title “The Waiter” refers to the boy’s confusion between the words ‘wait’ and ‘weight’. Introduced by Cosker at the drums the piece acts as the vehicle for an absorbing three way conversation between these musical friends with MacKenzie’s gently rambling guitar solo underpinned by Caribe’s deep bass lines and Cosker’s distinctive, constantly evolving drumming. Space is left for another impressive bass excursion from Caribe.

“The Mighty Flo” is dedicated to MacKenzie’s young daughter Flora and includes traces of folk like melodies within the jazz framework as the trio stretch out at length in a consistently absorbing dialogue that embraces extended solos from both MacKenzie and Caribe plus something of a feature from the consistently impressive Cosker.

As its title suggests “Caribe’s Cachaca Capers” is a playful piece dedicated to the trio’s bassist and his fondness for the Brazilian spirit Cachaca. Vibrant Brazilian and Latin rhythms help to fuel MacKenzie’s allusion filled solo and there’s another stunning performance behind the kit from Cosker.

MacKenzie’s elegant waltz time arrangement of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” casts the old favourite in a new light in a sensitive, but rigorous, trio performance.

“If A Tree Falls” references MacKenzie’s dislike of social media. Cosker’s shuffling drum grooves allied to Caribe’s muscular bass lines move the piece on at a fair old clip as MacKenzie’s guitar dances lithely above the propulsive rhythmic backdrop. Caribe also features with a powerfully plucked bass solo.

“Blues Shoes” pretty much does what it says on the tin, it’s a blues that allows for much spirited trio interplay with fiery individual solos from all three protagonists.

Finally we hear “Sisyphus”, with MacKenzie declaring the title to be “a metaphor for trying to sustain a long term career as a musician”. It’s one of the album’s most impressive pieces, a slow burner that gradually grows in intensity, brooding and simmering atmospherically before finally coming to the boil. MacKenzie’s solo bursts free of the body of the song with a striking emphasis in a blend of jazz chops with rock inspired dynamics. Having reached a peak the piece resolves itself with a richly evocative closing section that sees Caribe making effective use of the bow.

“The Ballad of Future Joe” represents an impressive offering from MacKenzie and his colleagues. Engineer Gus Satirist’s well balanced mix serves the musicians well, capturing their finely honed rapport and bringing out the full details and nuances of the playing. MacKenzie’s tone is warm and conversational almost throughout, his sound pure and clean and unencumbered by the use of effects. His chemistry with Cosker is exceptional, with Caribe often playing an anchoring role as MacKenzie and the drummer bounce ideas off each other. Cosker is a busy drummer with a superb technique which he utilises to the full, but without ever imposing too much. Meanwhile Caribe makes the most of his own soloing opportunities.

As a writer MacKenzie gives his colleagues a wealth of interesting material to work with and his colleagues respond well with some excellent playing throughout. Guitar fans, and particularly Pat Metheny’s many followers, will find much to enjoy here – I was reminded of Metheny’s landmark début, “Bright Size Life”, on more than one occasion.

On the evidence of this recording one imagines that this trio would also represent an impressive and exciting live act. Let’s hope that 2019 offers them some suitable gigging opportunities to demonstrate this.

The Steve Fishwick / Alex Garnett Quartet - Marshian Time Slip Rating: 3-5 out of 5 The album adds a contemporary edge and sheen to the traditional hard bop virtues and the playing is excellent throughout from these four hugely accomplished ‘keepers of the flame’.

The Steve Fishwick / Alex Garnett Quartet

“Marshian Time Slip”

(Hard Bop Records HBR33011)

I’ve always thought of the sharp suited Manchester born, London based trumpeter Steve Fishwick as the keeper of the hard bop flame in Britain, having seen him perform a number of gigs in this style in a variety of permutations. The most recent of these was a quintet performance in the foyer of Cadogan Hall as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival when the trumpeter paid tribute to the music of both Cedar Walton and Duke Jordan in the company of Dave O’ Higgins ( tenor sax), Rob Barron (piano), Dario De Lecce (double bass) and Matt Fishwick (drums). My account of that performance can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-six-wednesday-21st-november-2018/

It’s perhaps appropriate that Fishwick’s latest recording should be on the aptly named boutique label Hard Bop Records, founded by saxophonist Osian Roberts and based in Caerphilly, South Wales. “Marshian Time Slip” is a quartet date which teams Steve with co-leader Alex Garnett, here specialising on alto sax, together with the American born Michael Karn on double bass and Steve’s twin brother, Matt Fishwick at the drums. The album appears on heavy duty vinyl in a limited edition run of five hundred and as a digital download from the Hard Bop Records website http://www.hardboprecords.com

The album title represents a joint dedication to the late saxophonist Warne Marsh (1927-87) and the sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (1928-82) and the programme consists of four originals from Steve Fishwick and a further four from Alex Garnett, all of them written in a broadly hard bop vein.

The genesis of the project dares back fifteen years to a time when the Fishwick brothers lived in a flat in the Maida Vale area of London, their neighbour just so happening to be Garnett.

 “It was inadvertently influenced by the chord-less quartet of Ernie Henry (alto sax) and Kenny Dorham (trumpet) and by Sonny Rollins and more broadly the bebop/hard bop genre as we didn’t have a piano available in the rehearsal room,” explains Fishwick. “There was a process of Alex and I writing separately and coming together and rehearsing/work-shopping the material.. The project was shelved after a while with a view to coming back to it at some point, although we didn’t envision quite how much time would pass!”

The music on “Marshian Time Slip” was recorded at London’s Konk Studios (famously founded by The Kinks) on November 24th 2016 with Josh Green engineering and Alex Garnett and Steve Fishwick producing. The sound is excellent throughout.

As it happens just five days before I had been witness to a performance by the quartet at the Elgin pub in Ladbroke Grove, a show that came under the banner of the 2016 EFG London Festival. Circumstances conspired to ensure that I could only stay for the first set but I enjoyed my sneak preview of the “Marshian Time Slip” album and once again my account of the performance appears as part of my wider Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-nine-saturday-19th-november-2016/

The album commences with the Steve Fishwick piece “The Wrath of Karn”, which its composer describes as “a long form altered blues in dedication to our bassist Michael Karn and featuring our drummer Matt Fishwick”. Also drawing on the influence of 1960s modal jazz this is a spirited and energetic opener that features Steve and Alex Garnett exchanging fiery solos above the vibrant rhythms laid down by Karn and Matt Fishwick. As befits the title of the piece the tune also includes something of a feature for Karn, plus the promised solo and drum breaks from Matt Fishwick, who circumnavigates his kit with a boisterous enthusiasm.

Also by Steve Fishwick is the title track, written in the style of Marsh and pianist Lennie Tristano and based, in the words of its composer, on “a truncated ‘All The Things You Are’, there are three bars missing”. The three missing bars form the “time slip” of the title. Essentially it’s a ‘contrafact’, but an interesting one, with Steve Fishwick, on trumpet, and Garnett on alto, combining to state the theme above Matt Fishwick’s brushed drum groove. Subsequently the co-leaders diverge to deliver their own solos, Garnett going first and probing incisively on alto. It’s interesting to hear him on the smaller horn rather than his usual tenor, but his playing loses nothing in terms of power and fluency. Steve Fishwick then solos, also displaying a keen intelligence and an impressive technique. Karn, a propulsive presence throughout, then solos on the bass, underpinned by Matt’s brushes.

Garnett’s first contribution with the pen is the wistfully nostalgic “52nd Street Dream”, a ballad dedicated to the memory of Ronnie Scott and his opening of the UK’s first dedicated modern jazz club at 39, Gerrard Street, London in 1959. Scott’s vision had been inspired by a visit to 52nd Street in Manhattan and the inclusion of this piece is particularly apposite sixty years after the founding of that great British institution that is Ronnie’s. Garnett himself appears regularly in the house band at the current Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street, Soho, his rapier like wit between numbers often reminiscent of that of Ronnie himself.
Musically the piece features Steve and Alex again combining effectively above brushed grooves before delivering their individual statements, Alex again going first. Karn also features with a typically dexterous bass solo and he also acts as a grounding presence throughout.

Also from Garnett comes “Kaftan”, the title a nod to its composers Middle Eastern heritage with the sleeve note declaring “the desert winds blow hot and cold, they carry a message from the young to the old”. There’s a hint of Eastern exotica within a bluesy, hard bop framework that incorporates robust but fluent solos from Garnett on alto and Steve Fishwick on trumpet, the pair supported by Karn’s bass pulse and Matt Fishwick’s clipped drum grooves. In this chordless quartet Karn again features strongly as a soloist and there’s also something of a feature for Matt Fishwick with an engaging series of drum breaks. Indeed the absence of a piano is never noticeable.

Side Two – even in these days of the vinyl renaissance it still seems strange to be typing that – kicks off with Garnett’s “Rio De Ron”, literally “River of Rum”, which its composer describes as;
“A toast to Guyana’s mighty Demerara river and the joy that can be distilled from it”.
Garnett’s hymn of praise to his favourite tipple combines subtle Latin flavourings with hard bop virtues to create a relaxed, celebratory atmosphere that facilitates excellent solos from Karn, Steve Fishwick and Garnett. Bassist Karn goes first and delivers what is arguably his best solo of the set, an extended excursion that showcases his dexterity and melodic flair, these qualities allied to his innate sense of time and groove. The horn men are just as fine with Garnett’s alto snaking in suitably sinuous, riparian fashion.

The sound of Karn’s unaccompanied bass introduces Steve Fishwick’s ballad “Primitis”, a tune inspired by his son’s toy bear. Steve‘s muted trumpet sound here is reminiscent of ‘Kind of Blue’ era Miles Davis and the music has something of the quality of that celebrated recording about it. At a little over eight minutes in duration this is the lengthiest track on the album with the music unfolding slowly and organically. Nothing is rushed and Steve’s gently brooding solo has a Miles like melancholy about it, while Garnett’s more incisive alto evokes memories of Cannonball Adderley’s contribution to that record. Bassist Karn is also featured briefly at the close.

Also by Steve Fishwick is “The Creep”, a title about which its composer remarks; “about a person we’ve all met, or may even have been on occasion”. Musically the piece is inspired by trumpeter Kenny Dorham and pianist Horace Silver and the tune has a bluesy quality about it, towed along by Karn’s languid bass groove and Matt Fishwick’s subtly propulsive drumming. Karn again features as a soloist, still relishing in the freedom afforded by the piano-less format. Steve Fishwick and Alex Garnett exchange lucid, inventive solos, before coalescing effectively on a restatement of the theme.

The album concludes with Garnett’s “Lickeroo” with its composer declaring; “The ‘lickeroo’ is a Noble bird that thrives upon a riff and a whiff of a Suite Indian love song”. Keen eyed readers, particularly cryptic crossword enthusiasts, may have deduced that this is another contrafact, this time based on “the metrically compressed chord changes to the old warhorse ‘Cherokee’,”- which was written, of course, by Ray Noble. Garnett continues  “A burst of a KoKo-esque line in the outro honours the irrepressible ‘Yardbird’’.”  Charlie Parker, in other words
This homage to the glories of the bebop era races along at a suitably frenetic pace with Steve and Alex negotiating the fast moving twists and turns of the piece with considerable aplomb, a feat matched by the similarly sure footed rhythm team. Steve and Alex both dazzle with their eloquent solos, the latter again a revelation on alto. Karn and Matt Fishwick also enjoy cameos as Garnett takes liberties with Noble’s tune, adding layers of complexity in highly entertaining fashion.

“Marshian Time Slip” more than delivers on the promise of that Elgin performance. The album adds a contemporary edge and sheen to the traditional hard bop virtues and the playing is excellent throughout from these four hugely accomplished ‘keepers of the flame’.

Both Steve Fishwick and Garnett prove themselves to be able composers in the bebop and hard bop idioms and both impress hugely as fluent, eloquent and sometimes fiery soloists. In this piano-less format Karn and Matt Fishwick are also given plenty to do and the pair respond with skill and conviction, providing flexible and intelligent support to the two horn front line as well as relishing their own soloing opportunities.

It could be argued that it’s all a little derivative but there are many listeners out there who will love this quartet’s updating of the hard bop message. Garnett and the Fishwicks are musicians with large and loyal followings and the quartet’s current tour (remaining dates below) is sure to be well supported. Indeed a live performance is probably where the abilities of these four excellent musicians can be best enjoyed and appreciated. Catch them at;

18 March – Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London - Late Late Show
(+ special guest on piano)
19 March – Herts Jazz at The Maltings, St Albans
20 March – Kansas Smitty’s, London (official record launch party)
21 March – Birmingham East Side Jazz Club
22 March – Leeds College of Music (masterclass) & Wakefield Jazz Club
23 March – The Bear, Luton

Further details at;

Steve Fishwick:
http://www.stevefishwickjazz.com


Alex Garnett
http://www.alexgarnettsax.com


Album available from http://www.hardboprecords.com and at gigs.

 

Marshian Time Slip

The Steve Fishwick / Alex Garnett Quartet

Monday, March 18, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Marshian Time Slip

The album adds a contemporary edge and sheen to the traditional hard bop virtues and the playing is excellent throughout from these four hugely accomplished ‘keepers of the flame’.

The Steve Fishwick / Alex Garnett Quartet

“Marshian Time Slip”

(Hard Bop Records HBR33011)

I’ve always thought of the sharp suited Manchester born, London based trumpeter Steve Fishwick as the keeper of the hard bop flame in Britain, having seen him perform a number of gigs in this style in a variety of permutations. The most recent of these was a quintet performance in the foyer of Cadogan Hall as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival when the trumpeter paid tribute to the music of both Cedar Walton and Duke Jordan in the company of Dave O’ Higgins ( tenor sax), Rob Barron (piano), Dario De Lecce (double bass) and Matt Fishwick (drums). My account of that performance can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-six-wednesday-21st-november-2018/

It’s perhaps appropriate that Fishwick’s latest recording should be on the aptly named boutique label Hard Bop Records, founded by saxophonist Osian Roberts and based in Caerphilly, South Wales. “Marshian Time Slip” is a quartet date which teams Steve with co-leader Alex Garnett, here specialising on alto sax, together with the American born Michael Karn on double bass and Steve’s twin brother, Matt Fishwick at the drums. The album appears on heavy duty vinyl in a limited edition run of five hundred and as a digital download from the Hard Bop Records website http://www.hardboprecords.com

The album title represents a joint dedication to the late saxophonist Warne Marsh (1927-87) and the sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (1928-82) and the programme consists of four originals from Steve Fishwick and a further four from Alex Garnett, all of them written in a broadly hard bop vein.

The genesis of the project dares back fifteen years to a time when the Fishwick brothers lived in a flat in the Maida Vale area of London, their neighbour just so happening to be Garnett.

 “It was inadvertently influenced by the chord-less quartet of Ernie Henry (alto sax) and Kenny Dorham (trumpet) and by Sonny Rollins and more broadly the bebop/hard bop genre as we didn’t have a piano available in the rehearsal room,” explains Fishwick. “There was a process of Alex and I writing separately and coming together and rehearsing/work-shopping the material.. The project was shelved after a while with a view to coming back to it at some point, although we didn’t envision quite how much time would pass!”

The music on “Marshian Time Slip” was recorded at London’s Konk Studios (famously founded by The Kinks) on November 24th 2016 with Josh Green engineering and Alex Garnett and Steve Fishwick producing. The sound is excellent throughout.

As it happens just five days before I had been witness to a performance by the quartet at the Elgin pub in Ladbroke Grove, a show that came under the banner of the 2016 EFG London Festival. Circumstances conspired to ensure that I could only stay for the first set but I enjoyed my sneak preview of the “Marshian Time Slip” album and once again my account of the performance appears as part of my wider Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-nine-saturday-19th-november-2016/

The album commences with the Steve Fishwick piece “The Wrath of Karn”, which its composer describes as “a long form altered blues in dedication to our bassist Michael Karn and featuring our drummer Matt Fishwick”. Also drawing on the influence of 1960s modal jazz this is a spirited and energetic opener that features Steve and Alex Garnett exchanging fiery solos above the vibrant rhythms laid down by Karn and Matt Fishwick. As befits the title of the piece the tune also includes something of a feature for Karn, plus the promised solo and drum breaks from Matt Fishwick, who circumnavigates his kit with a boisterous enthusiasm.

Also by Steve Fishwick is the title track, written in the style of Marsh and pianist Lennie Tristano and based, in the words of its composer, on “a truncated ‘All The Things You Are’, there are three bars missing”. The three missing bars form the “time slip” of the title. Essentially it’s a ‘contrafact’, but an interesting one, with Steve Fishwick, on trumpet, and Garnett on alto, combining to state the theme above Matt Fishwick’s brushed drum groove. Subsequently the co-leaders diverge to deliver their own solos, Garnett going first and probing incisively on alto. It’s interesting to hear him on the smaller horn rather than his usual tenor, but his playing loses nothing in terms of power and fluency. Steve Fishwick then solos, also displaying a keen intelligence and an impressive technique. Karn, a propulsive presence throughout, then solos on the bass, underpinned by Matt’s brushes.

Garnett’s first contribution with the pen is the wistfully nostalgic “52nd Street Dream”, a ballad dedicated to the memory of Ronnie Scott and his opening of the UK’s first dedicated modern jazz club at 39, Gerrard Street, London in 1959. Scott’s vision had been inspired by a visit to 52nd Street in Manhattan and the inclusion of this piece is particularly apposite sixty years after the founding of that great British institution that is Ronnie’s. Garnett himself appears regularly in the house band at the current Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street, Soho, his rapier like wit between numbers often reminiscent of that of Ronnie himself.
Musically the piece features Steve and Alex again combining effectively above brushed grooves before delivering their individual statements, Alex again going first. Karn also features with a typically dexterous bass solo and he also acts as a grounding presence throughout.

Also from Garnett comes “Kaftan”, the title a nod to its composers Middle Eastern heritage with the sleeve note declaring “the desert winds blow hot and cold, they carry a message from the young to the old”. There’s a hint of Eastern exotica within a bluesy, hard bop framework that incorporates robust but fluent solos from Garnett on alto and Steve Fishwick on trumpet, the pair supported by Karn’s bass pulse and Matt Fishwick’s clipped drum grooves. In this chordless quartet Karn again features strongly as a soloist and there’s also something of a feature for Matt Fishwick with an engaging series of drum breaks. Indeed the absence of a piano is never noticeable.

Side Two – even in these days of the vinyl renaissance it still seems strange to be typing that – kicks off with Garnett’s “Rio De Ron”, literally “River of Rum”, which its composer describes as;
“A toast to Guyana’s mighty Demerara river and the joy that can be distilled from it”.
Garnett’s hymn of praise to his favourite tipple combines subtle Latin flavourings with hard bop virtues to create a relaxed, celebratory atmosphere that facilitates excellent solos from Karn, Steve Fishwick and Garnett. Bassist Karn goes first and delivers what is arguably his best solo of the set, an extended excursion that showcases his dexterity and melodic flair, these qualities allied to his innate sense of time and groove. The horn men are just as fine with Garnett’s alto snaking in suitably sinuous, riparian fashion.

The sound of Karn’s unaccompanied bass introduces Steve Fishwick’s ballad “Primitis”, a tune inspired by his son’s toy bear. Steve‘s muted trumpet sound here is reminiscent of ‘Kind of Blue’ era Miles Davis and the music has something of the quality of that celebrated recording about it. At a little over eight minutes in duration this is the lengthiest track on the album with the music unfolding slowly and organically. Nothing is rushed and Steve’s gently brooding solo has a Miles like melancholy about it, while Garnett’s more incisive alto evokes memories of Cannonball Adderley’s contribution to that record. Bassist Karn is also featured briefly at the close.

Also by Steve Fishwick is “The Creep”, a title about which its composer remarks; “about a person we’ve all met, or may even have been on occasion”. Musically the piece is inspired by trumpeter Kenny Dorham and pianist Horace Silver and the tune has a bluesy quality about it, towed along by Karn’s languid bass groove and Matt Fishwick’s subtly propulsive drumming. Karn again features as a soloist, still relishing in the freedom afforded by the piano-less format. Steve Fishwick and Alex Garnett exchange lucid, inventive solos, before coalescing effectively on a restatement of the theme.

The album concludes with Garnett’s “Lickeroo” with its composer declaring; “The ‘lickeroo’ is a Noble bird that thrives upon a riff and a whiff of a Suite Indian love song”. Keen eyed readers, particularly cryptic crossword enthusiasts, may have deduced that this is another contrafact, this time based on “the metrically compressed chord changes to the old warhorse ‘Cherokee’,”- which was written, of course, by Ray Noble. Garnett continues  “A burst of a KoKo-esque line in the outro honours the irrepressible ‘Yardbird’’.”  Charlie Parker, in other words
This homage to the glories of the bebop era races along at a suitably frenetic pace with Steve and Alex negotiating the fast moving twists and turns of the piece with considerable aplomb, a feat matched by the similarly sure footed rhythm team. Steve and Alex both dazzle with their eloquent solos, the latter again a revelation on alto. Karn and Matt Fishwick also enjoy cameos as Garnett takes liberties with Noble’s tune, adding layers of complexity in highly entertaining fashion.

“Marshian Time Slip” more than delivers on the promise of that Elgin performance. The album adds a contemporary edge and sheen to the traditional hard bop virtues and the playing is excellent throughout from these four hugely accomplished ‘keepers of the flame’.

Both Steve Fishwick and Garnett prove themselves to be able composers in the bebop and hard bop idioms and both impress hugely as fluent, eloquent and sometimes fiery soloists. In this piano-less format Karn and Matt Fishwick are also given plenty to do and the pair respond with skill and conviction, providing flexible and intelligent support to the two horn front line as well as relishing their own soloing opportunities.

It could be argued that it’s all a little derivative but there are many listeners out there who will love this quartet’s updating of the hard bop message. Garnett and the Fishwicks are musicians with large and loyal followings and the quartet’s current tour (remaining dates below) is sure to be well supported. Indeed a live performance is probably where the abilities of these four excellent musicians can be best enjoyed and appreciated. Catch them at;

18 March – Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London - Late Late Show
(+ special guest on piano)
19 March – Herts Jazz at The Maltings, St Albans
20 March – Kansas Smitty’s, London (official record launch party)
21 March – Birmingham East Side Jazz Club
22 March – Leeds College of Music (masterclass) & Wakefield Jazz Club
23 March – The Bear, Luton

Further details at;

Steve Fishwick:
http://www.stevefishwickjazz.com


Alex Garnett
http://www.alexgarnettsax.com


Album available from http://www.hardboprecords.com and at gigs.

 

The Roger Beaujolais Italian Trio - Barba Lunga Rating: 3-5 out of 5 The trio makes for a cohesive, well balanced and interactive unit that delivers some well integrated ensemble playing alongside the brilliance of the individual solos.

The Roger Beaujolais Italian Trio

“Barba Lunga”

(Stay Tuned Records ST011)

Vibraphonist and composer Roger Beaujolais has appeared frequently on the Jazzmann web pages as both leader and sideman. A professional musician for over thirty years he is a spectacular vibes soloist and a highly popular figure on the UK jazz scene, loved by fellow musicians and audiences alike. 

A late comer to both the vibraphone and the professional jazz ranks Beaujolais has more than made up for lost time. He took up the instrument at twenty four and turned professional at thirty working first with the Chevalier Brothers and Ray Gelato during the 1980’s before becoming part of the 1990’s Acid Jazz movement. Beaujolais’ albums for the Acid Jazz label with The Beaujolais Band and Vibraphonic brought him a degree of commercial success including a US hit with Vibraphonic’s “Can’t Get Enough”.

Beaujolais has also enjoyed a successful session career appearing on pop and rock albums by artists as diverse as Duffy, Rumer, Robert Plant, Roni Size, Guy Chambers, Omara Portuondo, Alexander O’Neal, Morrissey, Paul Weller, Alison Limerick, Kirsty MacColl, Graham Coxon, Tony Allen, Ed Motta, Neneh Cherry, Shola Ama, Colin Vearncombe and Fairground Attraction. It’s a wide ranging and very impressive list.

As a jazz sideman he has worked with pianist Tim Richards’ Great Spirit group, Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra, saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Tommaso Starace, bassist Davide Mantovani and pianist/vocalist Wendy Kirkland. Indeed I first became aware of his playing during his tenure with Richards’ much missed Great Spirit nonet.

Since 1999 Beaujolais has placed a greater emphasis on straight ahead jazz in an acoustic setting, establishing his own Stay Tuned label to document his output.  He has since released a number of albums in either a quartet or quintet format  beginning with 1999’s “Old Times” and progressing through “I’ll See You Tonight” (2003), “Sentimental” (2005) “Blue Reflections” (2007), “Mind The Gap” (2013) and “Sunset” (2017). The most recent three of these have all been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

“Barba Lunga” represents the twentieth album of Beaujolais’ solo career and finds him in a pared down trio format in the company of the Italian musicians Giacomo Dominici (acoustic and electric bass) and Alessandro Pivi (drums). As his work with Starace and Mantovani has suggested Beaujolais has strong connections with Italy and he has has been a frequent visitor to Rimini for more than a decade, during which time he has established a strong musical relationship with Dominici and Pivi.

Since I last saw him perform Beaujolais has sprouted an impressive grey beard that makes him look a little like Robert Wyatt. I’d have thought it would get in the way when he is soloing on the vibes but nevertheless the new album is named for it - “Barba Lunga”, meaning “Long Beard”.

As on “Mind The Gap” and “Sunset” the focus is again very much on Beaujolais’ original writing. The album’s two covers are a remarkable arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix classic “The Wind Cries Mary” and an adaptation of the Stan Freeman/Jack Lawrence tune “Faith”.

The vibes trio is a fairly uncommon line up,  although the contemporary Cloudmakers Trio of vibraphonist Jim Hart,  bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith comes to mind, and it was also the format often favoured by the late, great US vibes man Walt Dickerson (1931-2008).

Nevertheless Beaujolais seems to relish the freedom afforded by the exposed setting and the rapport he has established over a ten year period with his two Italian colleagues is immediately apparent.  Pivi’s drums kick start the opening “Granita for Anita” and his dialogue with the leader’s vibes is consistently absorbing as they negotiate the boppish twists and turns of the piece as Dominici plays an anchoring role on electric bass, his buoyant grooves also helping to drive the music forward. Having seen Beaujolais performing live in a variety of contexts on a number of occasions I know that he’s a fluent and often fiery soloist with a prodigious four mallet technique. He positively dazzles on the opening solo here and he’s followed by Dominici, finally cutting loose on the bass. It all makes for an energetic and exhilarating start.

Next we hear the title track, “Barba Lunga”, which initially adopts a slightly less frenetic approach as Beaujolais’ vibes lead the way accompanied by Dominici’s languid but springy electric bass groove and Pivi’s colourful and brightly detailed drumming. The leader takes the first solo, engineering a sudden kick into a more rapid swing groove mid tune as his mallets positively dance across the bars. Dominici’s melodic electric bass feature slows the tempo once more and there’s also a carefully constructed, subtly nuanced drum solo from the excellent Pivi.

Beaujolais, arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” becomes an effective jazz vehicle with Dominici’s acoustic bass playing the melody as Beaujolais’ shimmering vibes and Pivi’s brushed drums offer discrete support.

“Faith”, written by Stan Freeman and Jack Lawrence was made famous by Art Blakey and Beaujolais and his friends treat it to a bustling bebop style arrangement that is positively joyous in its execution. Beaujolais sparkles with an energetic solo above a shuffling bass and drum groove. Dominici, on acoustic bass also enjoys an extended solo and there are a series of rapid fire drum breaks from Pivi.

The playful mood continues on the marvellously titled Beaujolais original “Mr Non PC”, another fast paced offering that places a contemporary slant on traditional bebop virtues with its numerous changes of pace. Here the trio are at their most tight knit and interactive, negotiating the tune’s complexities like a single organism. Nevertheless there is still room for moments of individual brilliance with Beaujolais and Dominici both contributing solos while Pivi turns in a receptive but highly colourful performance behind the kit.

“Are We There Yet” is ushered in by a passage of unaccompanied bass, subsequently joined by the shimmer of vibes and cymbals. It subsequently shades off into a languid, Latin tinged groove with the leader’s vibes floating serenely above a carpet of drums and acoustic bass. Dominici adds a characteristically melodic solo on acoustic bass.

“Benign Tonight” offers more contemporary bop virtues as Beaujolais solos in virtuoso fashion above a backdrop of Dominici’s rapid bass walk and Pivi’s crisp drum grooves. The drummer also enjoys an extended feature, as does Dominici at the bass.

“Lost For Words” is less frenetic, beginning with the shimmer of solo vibes and with Pivi alternating between brushes and sticks. A genuine ballad it features liquid, melodic electric bass from Dominici, who also accompanies Beaujolais as Pivi temporarily drops out. But the drummer later returns for a series of engaging exchanges with the leader’s vibes.

The pace picks up again for the playful romp that is “Peccable” with Beaujolais’ vibes percolating above a taut bass and drum groove on a piece that again includes some inspired exchanges between the members of the trio, with all three also featuring as soloists.

“On The Other Hand” slows things down once more with Dominici’s languorous electric bass initially taking the melody and expounding upon it before he hands over to Beaujolais. The bassist returns for a second bite of the cherry following the leader’s vibes solo. Meanwhile Pivi adds another well structured solo at the kit, his playing colourful and richly nuanced and imbued with subtle melodic flourishes.

The album concludes with the breezy and sparky “Enough Rope”, which is introduced by Pivi at the drums and includes solos from Dominici on acoustic bass and Beaujolais at the vibes plus a series of crisp and dynamic drum breaks from Pivi.

The Beaujolais Italian Trio is less radical in its approach than Cloudmakers and the music to be heard on “Barba Lunga” is largely rooted in conventional jazz and bebop virtues. The rapport between the three musicians is consistently impressive and the trio makes for a cohesive, well balanced and interactive unit that delivers some well integrated ensemble playing alongside the brilliance of the individual solos. This is a highly democratic trio and each member is afforded plenty of solo space and given the chance to shine individually.

Beaujolais wouldn’t claim to be a radical and there are few real surprises here but like the rest of his recent output it’s a highly accomplished album that offers much for the listener to enjoy. Let’s hope that he’s able to bring the members of his very impressive Italian trio over to the UK to play some live dates at some point in the future.

Barba Lunga

The Roger Beaujolais Italian Trio

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Barba Lunga

The trio makes for a cohesive, well balanced and interactive unit that delivers some well integrated ensemble playing alongside the brilliance of the individual solos.

The Roger Beaujolais Italian Trio

“Barba Lunga”

(Stay Tuned Records ST011)

Vibraphonist and composer Roger Beaujolais has appeared frequently on the Jazzmann web pages as both leader and sideman. A professional musician for over thirty years he is a spectacular vibes soloist and a highly popular figure on the UK jazz scene, loved by fellow musicians and audiences alike. 

A late comer to both the vibraphone and the professional jazz ranks Beaujolais has more than made up for lost time. He took up the instrument at twenty four and turned professional at thirty working first with the Chevalier Brothers and Ray Gelato during the 1980’s before becoming part of the 1990’s Acid Jazz movement. Beaujolais’ albums for the Acid Jazz label with The Beaujolais Band and Vibraphonic brought him a degree of commercial success including a US hit with Vibraphonic’s “Can’t Get Enough”.

Beaujolais has also enjoyed a successful session career appearing on pop and rock albums by artists as diverse as Duffy, Rumer, Robert Plant, Roni Size, Guy Chambers, Omara Portuondo, Alexander O’Neal, Morrissey, Paul Weller, Alison Limerick, Kirsty MacColl, Graham Coxon, Tony Allen, Ed Motta, Neneh Cherry, Shola Ama, Colin Vearncombe and Fairground Attraction. It’s a wide ranging and very impressive list.

As a jazz sideman he has worked with pianist Tim Richards’ Great Spirit group, Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra, saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Tommaso Starace, bassist Davide Mantovani and pianist/vocalist Wendy Kirkland. Indeed I first became aware of his playing during his tenure with Richards’ much missed Great Spirit nonet.

Since 1999 Beaujolais has placed a greater emphasis on straight ahead jazz in an acoustic setting, establishing his own Stay Tuned label to document his output.  He has since released a number of albums in either a quartet or quintet format  beginning with 1999’s “Old Times” and progressing through “I’ll See You Tonight” (2003), “Sentimental” (2005) “Blue Reflections” (2007), “Mind The Gap” (2013) and “Sunset” (2017). The most recent three of these have all been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

“Barba Lunga” represents the twentieth album of Beaujolais’ solo career and finds him in a pared down trio format in the company of the Italian musicians Giacomo Dominici (acoustic and electric bass) and Alessandro Pivi (drums). As his work with Starace and Mantovani has suggested Beaujolais has strong connections with Italy and he has has been a frequent visitor to Rimini for more than a decade, during which time he has established a strong musical relationship with Dominici and Pivi.

Since I last saw him perform Beaujolais has sprouted an impressive grey beard that makes him look a little like Robert Wyatt. I’d have thought it would get in the way when he is soloing on the vibes but nevertheless the new album is named for it - “Barba Lunga”, meaning “Long Beard”.

As on “Mind The Gap” and “Sunset” the focus is again very much on Beaujolais’ original writing. The album’s two covers are a remarkable arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix classic “The Wind Cries Mary” and an adaptation of the Stan Freeman/Jack Lawrence tune “Faith”.

The vibes trio is a fairly uncommon line up,  although the contemporary Cloudmakers Trio of vibraphonist Jim Hart,  bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith comes to mind, and it was also the format often favoured by the late, great US vibes man Walt Dickerson (1931-2008).

Nevertheless Beaujolais seems to relish the freedom afforded by the exposed setting and the rapport he has established over a ten year period with his two Italian colleagues is immediately apparent.  Pivi’s drums kick start the opening “Granita for Anita” and his dialogue with the leader’s vibes is consistently absorbing as they negotiate the boppish twists and turns of the piece as Dominici plays an anchoring role on electric bass, his buoyant grooves also helping to drive the music forward. Having seen Beaujolais performing live in a variety of contexts on a number of occasions I know that he’s a fluent and often fiery soloist with a prodigious four mallet technique. He positively dazzles on the opening solo here and he’s followed by Dominici, finally cutting loose on the bass. It all makes for an energetic and exhilarating start.

Next we hear the title track, “Barba Lunga”, which initially adopts a slightly less frenetic approach as Beaujolais’ vibes lead the way accompanied by Dominici’s languid but springy electric bass groove and Pivi’s colourful and brightly detailed drumming. The leader takes the first solo, engineering a sudden kick into a more rapid swing groove mid tune as his mallets positively dance across the bars. Dominici’s melodic electric bass feature slows the tempo once more and there’s also a carefully constructed, subtly nuanced drum solo from the excellent Pivi.

Beaujolais, arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” becomes an effective jazz vehicle with Dominici’s acoustic bass playing the melody as Beaujolais’ shimmering vibes and Pivi’s brushed drums offer discrete support.

“Faith”, written by Stan Freeman and Jack Lawrence was made famous by Art Blakey and Beaujolais and his friends treat it to a bustling bebop style arrangement that is positively joyous in its execution. Beaujolais sparkles with an energetic solo above a shuffling bass and drum groove. Dominici, on acoustic bass also enjoys an extended solo and there are a series of rapid fire drum breaks from Pivi.

The playful mood continues on the marvellously titled Beaujolais original “Mr Non PC”, another fast paced offering that places a contemporary slant on traditional bebop virtues with its numerous changes of pace. Here the trio are at their most tight knit and interactive, negotiating the tune’s complexities like a single organism. Nevertheless there is still room for moments of individual brilliance with Beaujolais and Dominici both contributing solos while Pivi turns in a receptive but highly colourful performance behind the kit.

“Are We There Yet” is ushered in by a passage of unaccompanied bass, subsequently joined by the shimmer of vibes and cymbals. It subsequently shades off into a languid, Latin tinged groove with the leader’s vibes floating serenely above a carpet of drums and acoustic bass. Dominici adds a characteristically melodic solo on acoustic bass.

“Benign Tonight” offers more contemporary bop virtues as Beaujolais solos in virtuoso fashion above a backdrop of Dominici’s rapid bass walk and Pivi’s crisp drum grooves. The drummer also enjoys an extended feature, as does Dominici at the bass.

“Lost For Words” is less frenetic, beginning with the shimmer of solo vibes and with Pivi alternating between brushes and sticks. A genuine ballad it features liquid, melodic electric bass from Dominici, who also accompanies Beaujolais as Pivi temporarily drops out. But the drummer later returns for a series of engaging exchanges with the leader’s vibes.

The pace picks up again for the playful romp that is “Peccable” with Beaujolais’ vibes percolating above a taut bass and drum groove on a piece that again includes some inspired exchanges between the members of the trio, with all three also featuring as soloists.

“On The Other Hand” slows things down once more with Dominici’s languorous electric bass initially taking the melody and expounding upon it before he hands over to Beaujolais. The bassist returns for a second bite of the cherry following the leader’s vibes solo. Meanwhile Pivi adds another well structured solo at the kit, his playing colourful and richly nuanced and imbued with subtle melodic flourishes.

The album concludes with the breezy and sparky “Enough Rope”, which is introduced by Pivi at the drums and includes solos from Dominici on acoustic bass and Beaujolais at the vibes plus a series of crisp and dynamic drum breaks from Pivi.

The Beaujolais Italian Trio is less radical in its approach than Cloudmakers and the music to be heard on “Barba Lunga” is largely rooted in conventional jazz and bebop virtues. The rapport between the three musicians is consistently impressive and the trio makes for a cohesive, well balanced and interactive unit that delivers some well integrated ensemble playing alongside the brilliance of the individual solos. This is a highly democratic trio and each member is afforded plenty of solo space and given the chance to shine individually.

Beaujolais wouldn’t claim to be a radical and there are few real surprises here but like the rest of his recent output it’s a highly accomplished album that offers much for the listener to enjoy. Let’s hope that he’s able to bring the members of his very impressive Italian trio over to the UK to play some live dates at some point in the future.

Duncan Eagles Quintet - Duncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 "Adventurous but accessible new music". Ian Mann enjoys a performance by the new quintet led by saxophonist & composer Duncan Eagles and takes a look at their recently released début album "Citizen".

Duncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019.

Duncan Eagles – tenor & soprano saxophones, David Preston – guitar, Matt Robinson – piano, Max Luthert – double bass, Dave Hamblett - drums

The Jazzmann has always felt a sense of personal pride with regard to his early recognition of the talent and potential of the London based saxophonist and composer Duncan Eagles.

Eagles first came to prominence as the leader and chief writer of the trio Partikel which teamed him with the talents of double bassist Max Luthert and drummer/percussionist Eric Ford. The group’s eponymous 2010 début was favourably reviewed on the Jazzmann for its “refreshing, innately tuneful and highly distinctive take on the art of the saxophone trio”.

That first Partikel album made quite an impression on the UK jazz scene as a whole and Partikel consolidated their success with 2012’s more democratic follow up, the aptly named “Cohesion”.

Each Partikel album has represented a clear artistic progression and in 2015 the group took a giant leap forward with their third offering “String Theory”  which took the radical step of augmenting the now familiar Partikel sound with the additional instrumental voices of a string quartet led by the extraordinary Benet McLean, a musician better known as a jazz pianist and vocalist.

“String Theory” was a triumph, with a live performance of Partikel plus a string quartet of McLean, second violinist David Le Page, violist Richard Jones and cellist Kate Gould  at the Arena Theatre being described on the Jazzmann as “a superb fusion of jazz, classical and electronic elements, the three components combining to create something organic, homogeneous and totally unique”.

For economic reasons Partikel also played several “String Theory” shows as a quartet with the core trio augmented by McLean’s violin only. These proved to be just as absorbing as the full septet performances, taking on a life of their own with the flamboyant McLean relishing the extra freedom this format provided as he shared the soloing with Eagles.

McLean’s sudden departure from the ranks found Partikel adapting once more with the addition of guitarist Ant Law for 2017’s “Counteraction”, an album that also included contributions from guest musicians including Anna Cooper (baritone sax, flute) and electronic sound artist Sisi Lu.

Away from Partikel Eagles has also co-led a quintet alongside trumpeter Mark Perry, a group that also featured Luthert, and which released the album “Road Ahead” in 2013. He has also worked as a sideman on recordings by electric bass specialist Cae Marle Garcia and drummer Ollie Howell as well as appearing on Luthert’s 2014 solo album “Orbital”. He has also recorded with his brother, the alto saxophonist Samuel Eagles and his group SPIRIT, appearing on the 2017 album “Ask Seek Knock”.

Duncan Eagles’ latest project involves the quintet that the saxophonist brought to The Hive for this Shrewsbury Jazz Network gig. February 2019 saw the release of “Citizen”, the first recording to be issued under his own name. The album appears on the American label Ropeadope, presumably with the intention of giving Eagles greater international exposure.

The saxophonist says of this latest release;
“I feel now that I’m starting to get a much stronger idea of what I’m looking for compositionally. The tunes I wrote for this album are much more specific. Rather then take this music to Partikel I thought about the musicians I know who I felt would interpret the music the way I hear it in my head, and this is what has lead to my forming this new group. It feels like the right time to be putting this music out as my own.”

The musicians of whom Eagles speaks are guitarist David Preston, pianist Matt Robinson, drummer Dave Hamblett and Partikel bassist Max Luthert. “Citizen” features eight new original compositions by Eagles and in general the music is more through composed and densely written than that of Partikel. However for all the complexity Eagles has retained his ear for a good tune and the new recording includes several memorable melodies.

Having previously visited The Hive with Partikel the affable Eagles is a popular figure with Shrewsbury jazz audiences and there was a good turn out for this adventurous but accessible new music. With the full album personnel in attendance it was inevitable that the majority of the material played tonight would be sourced from the new album, but Eagles also threw a few surprises into the mix, including a single standard to help keep the audience sweet.

With Eagles specialising on tenor almost throughout the evening began with the album track “Shimmer” which commenced with a circling solo sax motif, shadowed by Preston’s suitably shimmering guitar textures and Hamblett’s mallet rumbles. As Hamblett and Luthert established a groove a typically arresting Eagles melody emerged, one that alluded to both folk and classical influences and which formed the basis for a thoughtful and fluent guitar solo from the impressive Preston. With Robinson’s keyboard holding things together we also heard from Eagles on tenor, who took the opportunity to stretch out more expansively. The performance also included something of a feature from Hamblett, one of the country’s most in demand young drummers, who has worked with pianist Ivo Neame among others, and is also a band leader in his own right.

Inspired by a visit to Thailand and Cambodia “Shimmer” had previously been played by Partikel, as was the following “Lanterns”, a piece that appeared on the “Counteraction” album. Tonight the piece was given an atmospheric and evocative arrangement with Preston again making subtle use of his various FX pedals as Hamblett moved between mallets, brushes and sticks in response to the leader’s constantly evolving tenor solo.

The first cover of the evening was “The Path Is Narrow”, written by the American saxophonist, composer and band leader Walt Weiskopf, who has recently been wowing British audiences as part of the Steely Dan touring band. Weiskopf’s tune introduced a more conventional jazz feel to the proceedings with Eagles and Preston doubling up on the melody line before the group members embarked on their individual solos, this time accompanied by an orthodox swing groove. Eagles was the first to go followed by Robinson with his first solo of the night at his Nord Stage keyboard. Preston’s fluid and inventive guitar solo than introduced a rock influence to the proceedings, a reminder of his work with the trio Preston, Glasgow, Lowe, featuring Kevin Glasgow on six string electric bass and Laurie Lowe at the drums.

It was back to the “Citizen” album repertoire for “Conquistador”, which was introduced by the deep sonorities of Luthert’s double bass. Eagles then joined him on tenor for a moody dialogue that evolved into a piece that the composer described as a “rubato ballad”. Mallet rumbles, cymbal shimmers and shadowy guitar FX all added to the atmosphere with Hamblett deploying a colourist’s role as Eagles soloed thoughtfully, probing gently before embracing something more dramatic and dynamic on this highly evocative piece.

The as yet unrecorded “92 Days” began in the piano trio format and adopted a more conventional feel with Robinson taking the first solo. The piece subsequently segued into the album track “Folk Song” which saw Eagles soloing powerfully and expansively on tenor, spurred on by Hamblett’s dynamic drumming. Hamblett and Robinson, both of whom featured prominently here, also work together in the exciting fusion-esque quartet Flying Machines, led by guitarist and composer Alex Munk.

A lengthy first set closed with the title track of the “Citizen” album which was introduced by the brief interplay of tenor, guitar and piano before Luthert established the groove that was to prove the foundation of the piece.
“Citizen has quite a dense and complex structure both rhythmically and harmonically but with a melody that moves from being a free and hopeful message to something that is darker and more part of the structure.” Eagles has explained. “When performing and improvising on this song, and throughout the album, I’m looking forward to creating something that is hopeful and optimistic within a challenging and dense framework”.
Tonight those melodies positively danced with Hamblett’s drums helping to propel solos from Eagles and Preston, the later conjuring ringing peals of notes from his guitar.

The first piece of the second half was unannounced, but by a process of elimination must have been “Taxco” from the new album. Here Eagles’ tenor playing was at its most Coltrane-esque as he shared the solos with Robinson at the piano and Preston on guitar and with Hamblett also featuring towards the close.

Robinson’s unaccompanied piano ushered in the loosely structured intro to a second “rubato ballad”, this one titled “Midnight Mass” a piece that paid homage to Eagles’ childhood Christmas memories. Appropriately it was ultimately something of a showcase for the composer’s richly emotive tenor playing.

Eagles moved to soprano for the only time to perform “Riad”, apiece inspired by a recent visit to that most evocative of cities, Marrakesh.
“One of the most striking things about that place is the peace of the riads, town houses built around a courtyard or garden, in the carnage of the souks” Eagles explains. “I used this as the basis of the tune, an intense melody builds and builds to a sudden drop of calm that comes from nowhere, and then before you realise it you are back out into the carnage again”.
Tonight’s rendition was certainly suitably labyrinthine with dazzling solos from Eagles on soprano and Robinson at the piano, arguably his best of the night.

The otherwise all original music of this second set was punctuated by Eagles’ arrangement of the standard “My One And Only Love” which saw him moving back to tenor and duetting with Luthert’s bass on the intro. With Hamblett deploying brushes throughout the leader shared the solos with Preston’s Frisell like guitar.

Returning to the new album “Cascade” was introduced by a powerful drum salvo from Hamblett, his subsequent Latin inflected grooves providing the launch pad for intense and powerful solos from Eagles and Robinson, both soloists visibly sparking off the drummer. The music took on a decidedly anthemic quality as the momentum gathered, coming full circle to close with a feature from the drummer.

This was scheduled to be the last number of the set but such was the positive reaction of the Shrewsbury audience to this powerful new music - with several of them getting to their feet - that the quintet were persuaded to play a “quick” encore. In this case “quick” turned out to refer to velocity rather than length as the band stretched out on the as yet unrecorded “Round Table”, a tune originally written for Partikel. Rooted in the virtues of bebop, but with Robert Glasper also acknowledged as an influence, this was a fast paced piece that included features for Eagles, Robinson, Preston and Hamblett with Preston delivering perhaps his strongest solo of the night, packed with agile, slippery single note lines and sophisticated chording.

Early reviews of “Citizen” have been overwhelmingly positive with Eagles’ playing compared to that of Chris Potter and the late Michael Brecker and it wouldn’t be inappropriate to add the names of Seamus Blake and Donny McCaslin to that list too.

Tonight’s performance was an excellent one all round with all of the members of the quintet acquitting themselves well. It was the first time I’d witnessed Preston playing live and I was very impressed with his contribution to the success of the performance. I’ve seen the others many times and was expecting nothing less than excellence from them.

The “Citizen” album is highly recommended.

Meanwhile the Duncan Eagles Quintet is still on tour with further dates as listed below;

12 March - Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club - opening for Ulf Wakenius and Martin Taylor
13 March - The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
14 March - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
15 March - The Blue Arrow, Glasgow
22 March - Royal Festival Hall Foyer, London
29 March - The Verdict, Brighton 

More information at http://www.duncaneagles.com

Duncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019.

Duncan Eagles Quintet

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Duncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019.

"Adventurous but accessible new music". Ian Mann enjoys a performance by the new quintet led by saxophonist & composer Duncan Eagles and takes a look at their recently released début album "Citizen".

Duncan Eagles Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/03/2019.

Duncan Eagles – tenor & soprano saxophones, David Preston – guitar, Matt Robinson – piano, Max Luthert – double bass, Dave Hamblett - drums

The Jazzmann has always felt a sense of personal pride with regard to his early recognition of the talent and potential of the London based saxophonist and composer Duncan Eagles.

Eagles first came to prominence as the leader and chief writer of the trio Partikel which teamed him with the talents of double bassist Max Luthert and drummer/percussionist Eric Ford. The group’s eponymous 2010 début was favourably reviewed on the Jazzmann for its “refreshing, innately tuneful and highly distinctive take on the art of the saxophone trio”.

That first Partikel album made quite an impression on the UK jazz scene as a whole and Partikel consolidated their success with 2012’s more democratic follow up, the aptly named “Cohesion”.

Each Partikel album has represented a clear artistic progression and in 2015 the group took a giant leap forward with their third offering “String Theory”  which took the radical step of augmenting the now familiar Partikel sound with the additional instrumental voices of a string quartet led by the extraordinary Benet McLean, a musician better known as a jazz pianist and vocalist.

“String Theory” was a triumph, with a live performance of Partikel plus a string quartet of McLean, second violinist David Le Page, violist Richard Jones and cellist Kate Gould  at the Arena Theatre being described on the Jazzmann as “a superb fusion of jazz, classical and electronic elements, the three components combining to create something organic, homogeneous and totally unique”.

For economic reasons Partikel also played several “String Theory” shows as a quartet with the core trio augmented by McLean’s violin only. These proved to be just as absorbing as the full septet performances, taking on a life of their own with the flamboyant McLean relishing the extra freedom this format provided as he shared the soloing with Eagles.

McLean’s sudden departure from the ranks found Partikel adapting once more with the addition of guitarist Ant Law for 2017’s “Counteraction”, an album that also included contributions from guest musicians including Anna Cooper (baritone sax, flute) and electronic sound artist Sisi Lu.

Away from Partikel Eagles has also co-led a quintet alongside trumpeter Mark Perry, a group that also featured Luthert, and which released the album “Road Ahead” in 2013. He has also worked as a sideman on recordings by electric bass specialist Cae Marle Garcia and drummer Ollie Howell as well as appearing on Luthert’s 2014 solo album “Orbital”. He has also recorded with his brother, the alto saxophonist Samuel Eagles and his group SPIRIT, appearing on the 2017 album “Ask Seek Knock”.

Duncan Eagles’ latest project involves the quintet that the saxophonist brought to The Hive for this Shrewsbury Jazz Network gig. February 2019 saw the release of “Citizen”, the first recording to be issued under his own name. The album appears on the American label Ropeadope, presumably with the intention of giving Eagles greater international exposure.

The saxophonist says of this latest release;
“I feel now that I’m starting to get a much stronger idea of what I’m looking for compositionally. The tunes I wrote for this album are much more specific. Rather then take this music to Partikel I thought about the musicians I know who I felt would interpret the music the way I hear it in my head, and this is what has lead to my forming this new group. It feels like the right time to be putting this music out as my own.”

The musicians of whom Eagles speaks are guitarist David Preston, pianist Matt Robinson, drummer Dave Hamblett and Partikel bassist Max Luthert. “Citizen” features eight new original compositions by Eagles and in general the music is more through composed and densely written than that of Partikel. However for all the complexity Eagles has retained his ear for a good tune and the new recording includes several memorable melodies.

Having previously visited The Hive with Partikel the affable Eagles is a popular figure with Shrewsbury jazz audiences and there was a good turn out for this adventurous but accessible new music. With the full album personnel in attendance it was inevitable that the majority of the material played tonight would be sourced from the new album, but Eagles also threw a few surprises into the mix, including a single standard to help keep the audience sweet.

With Eagles specialising on tenor almost throughout the evening began with the album track “Shimmer” which commenced with a circling solo sax motif, shadowed by Preston’s suitably shimmering guitar textures and Hamblett’s mallet rumbles. As Hamblett and Luthert established a groove a typically arresting Eagles melody emerged, one that alluded to both folk and classical influences and which formed the basis for a thoughtful and fluent guitar solo from the impressive Preston. With Robinson’s keyboard holding things together we also heard from Eagles on tenor, who took the opportunity to stretch out more expansively. The performance also included something of a feature from Hamblett, one of the country’s most in demand young drummers, who has worked with pianist Ivo Neame among others, and is also a band leader in his own right.

Inspired by a visit to Thailand and Cambodia “Shimmer” had previously been played by Partikel, as was the following “Lanterns”, a piece that appeared on the “Counteraction” album. Tonight the piece was given an atmospheric and evocative arrangement with Preston again making subtle use of his various FX pedals as Hamblett moved between mallets, brushes and sticks in response to the leader’s constantly evolving tenor solo.

The first cover of the evening was “The Path Is Narrow”, written by the American saxophonist, composer and band leader Walt Weiskopf, who has recently been wowing British audiences as part of the Steely Dan touring band. Weiskopf’s tune introduced a more conventional jazz feel to the proceedings with Eagles and Preston doubling up on the melody line before the group members embarked on their individual solos, this time accompanied by an orthodox swing groove. Eagles was the first to go followed by Robinson with his first solo of the night at his Nord Stage keyboard. Preston’s fluid and inventive guitar solo than introduced a rock influence to the proceedings, a reminder of his work with the trio Preston, Glasgow, Lowe, featuring Kevin Glasgow on six string electric bass and Laurie Lowe at the drums.

It was back to the “Citizen” album repertoire for “Conquistador”, which was introduced by the deep sonorities of Luthert’s double bass. Eagles then joined him on tenor for a moody dialogue that evolved into a piece that the composer described as a “rubato ballad”. Mallet rumbles, cymbal shimmers and shadowy guitar FX all added to the atmosphere with Hamblett deploying a colourist’s role as Eagles soloed thoughtfully, probing gently before embracing something more dramatic and dynamic on this highly evocative piece.

The as yet unrecorded “92 Days” began in the piano trio format and adopted a more conventional feel with Robinson taking the first solo. The piece subsequently segued into the album track “Folk Song” which saw Eagles soloing powerfully and expansively on tenor, spurred on by Hamblett’s dynamic drumming. Hamblett and Robinson, both of whom featured prominently here, also work together in the exciting fusion-esque quartet Flying Machines, led by guitarist and composer Alex Munk.

A lengthy first set closed with the title track of the “Citizen” album which was introduced by the brief interplay of tenor, guitar and piano before Luthert established the groove that was to prove the foundation of the piece.
“Citizen has quite a dense and complex structure both rhythmically and harmonically but with a melody that moves from being a free and hopeful message to something that is darker and more part of the structure.” Eagles has explained. “When performing and improvising on this song, and throughout the album, I’m looking forward to creating something that is hopeful and optimistic within a challenging and dense framework”.
Tonight those melodies positively danced with Hamblett’s drums helping to propel solos from Eagles and Preston, the later conjuring ringing peals of notes from his guitar.

The first piece of the second half was unannounced, but by a process of elimination must have been “Taxco” from the new album. Here Eagles’ tenor playing was at its most Coltrane-esque as he shared the solos with Robinson at the piano and Preston on guitar and with Hamblett also featuring towards the close.

Robinson’s unaccompanied piano ushered in the loosely structured intro to a second “rubato ballad”, this one titled “Midnight Mass” a piece that paid homage to Eagles’ childhood Christmas memories. Appropriately it was ultimately something of a showcase for the composer’s richly emotive tenor playing.

Eagles moved to soprano for the only time to perform “Riad”, apiece inspired by a recent visit to that most evocative of cities, Marrakesh.
“One of the most striking things about that place is the peace of the riads, town houses built around a courtyard or garden, in the carnage of the souks” Eagles explains. “I used this as the basis of the tune, an intense melody builds and builds to a sudden drop of calm that comes from nowhere, and then before you realise it you are back out into the carnage again”.
Tonight’s rendition was certainly suitably labyrinthine with dazzling solos from Eagles on soprano and Robinson at the piano, arguably his best of the night.

The otherwise all original music of this second set was punctuated by Eagles’ arrangement of the standard “My One And Only Love” which saw him moving back to tenor and duetting with Luthert’s bass on the intro. With Hamblett deploying brushes throughout the leader shared the solos with Preston’s Frisell like guitar.

Returning to the new album “Cascade” was introduced by a powerful drum salvo from Hamblett, his subsequent Latin inflected grooves providing the launch pad for intense and powerful solos from Eagles and Robinson, both soloists visibly sparking off the drummer. The music took on a decidedly anthemic quality as the momentum gathered, coming full circle to close with a feature from the drummer.

This was scheduled to be the last number of the set but such was the positive reaction of the Shrewsbury audience to this powerful new music - with several of them getting to their feet - that the quintet were persuaded to play a “quick” encore. In this case “quick” turned out to refer to velocity rather than length as the band stretched out on the as yet unrecorded “Round Table”, a tune originally written for Partikel. Rooted in the virtues of bebop, but with Robert Glasper also acknowledged as an influence, this was a fast paced piece that included features for Eagles, Robinson, Preston and Hamblett with Preston delivering perhaps his strongest solo of the night, packed with agile, slippery single note lines and sophisticated chording.

Early reviews of “Citizen” have been overwhelmingly positive with Eagles’ playing compared to that of Chris Potter and the late Michael Brecker and it wouldn’t be inappropriate to add the names of Seamus Blake and Donny McCaslin to that list too.

Tonight’s performance was an excellent one all round with all of the members of the quintet acquitting themselves well. It was the first time I’d witnessed Preston playing live and I was very impressed with his contribution to the success of the performance. I’ve seen the others many times and was expecting nothing less than excellence from them.

The “Citizen” album is highly recommended.

Meanwhile the Duncan Eagles Quintet is still on tour with further dates as listed below;

12 March - Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club - opening for Ulf Wakenius and Martin Taylor
13 March - The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
14 March - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
15 March - The Blue Arrow, Glasgow
22 March - Royal Festival Hall Foyer, London
29 March - The Verdict, Brighton 

More information at http://www.duncaneagles.com

Theon Cross - Fyah Rating: 4 out of 5 A consistently exciting, and undeniably impressive, album that combines an edgy, urban, contemporary urgency with supreme musicality.

Theon Cross

“Fyah”

(Gearbox Records GB1550CD)

Tuba player Theon Cross is probably best known to British jazz audiences as a member of Sons Of Kemet, the Mercury nominated quartet led by multi-reed player and composer Shabaka Hutchings. He’s also been part of Brass Mask, the New Orleans inspired ensemble led by saxophonist and composer Tom Challenger and of Seed Ensemble, the ten piece band led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi.

Cross also leads his own bands and is one of a larger group of London based jazz musicians who have been creating waves on the UK music scene through their participation on the much feted “We Out Here” compilation, released by DJ/producer Gilles Peterson on his Brownswood Recordings label.

Featuring tracks by Cross (“Brockley”) and Hutchings “We Out Here” also includes pieces by drummer Moses Boyd, saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboard player Joe Armon Jones and the groups Maisha, Ezra Collective, Triforce and Kokoroko. There has been a real buzz about the musicians in this circle with many individuals and bands enjoying healthy record sales, high profile gigs and mainstream media interest in a manner rarely seen since the ‘jazz boom’ of the late 1980s (Loose Tubes, Jazz Warriors etc.). Indeed there’s a certain continuity here with many of this current crop of exciting new musicians having come through the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme spearheaded by bassist and educator Gary Crosby.

The success of the “We Out Here” project has led to the musicians in its orbit collaborating with their counterparts from Chicago, notably drummer and composer Makaya McCraven, on the ChicagoXLondon Mixtape album “Where We Come From” released on the Chicago based International Anthem label. Cross, Garcia and Armon Jones all feature prominently amongst other musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Others with whom Cross has worked include multi-reed player Courtney Pine, American soul artist Jon Batiste and the rappers Kano and Pharoahe Monch. He is also a member of South London’s increasingly influential Steam Down musicians collective, based at the Albany Theatre in Deptford.

Cross released his first recording as a leader in 2015. “Aspirations” was a five track EP featuring the trio of Cross on tuba, Garcia on tenor sax and bass clarinet and Boyd at the drums. The EP was well received and earned Cross nominations for Best Instrumentalist in the Jazz FM Awards of 2016 and 2018 and Best Newcomer in the 2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

For “Fyah” Cross retains the same nucleus with Boyd at the drum kit throughout and with Garcia specialising on tenor sax on six of the album’s eight tracks. For his first full length album Cross also enlists the services of a number of like minded guests with Steam Down founder Wayne Francis (aka Ahnanse) taking over on tenor for a couple of tracks with Artie Zaitz adding electric guitar. Tim Doyle, from the band Maisha, provides percussion on one piece while Theon’s brother, Nathaniel Cross, adds trombone to another.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the music on “Fyah” is highly rhythmic, similar in spirit to that of Sons of Kemet as it mixes elements of jazz, hip hop, grime and electronica with other aspects of African and Caribbean music from Afrobeat to reggae.

The aptly titled “Activate” gets the album off to an exciting and energetic start as Cross’  rumbling tuba bass lines lock in with Boyd’s crisp drum grooves as Garcia’s tenor dances lithely around them, agile, but full blooded and incisive. Cross is scarcely any less nimble on the mighty tuba as he duets with Boyd’s vibrant and highly contemporary rhythms on this Carnival inspired opener.

“Offerings” opens with the sampled sounds of party chatter which forms the backdrop to the deep, loping grooves created by Cross and Boyd as Garcia weaves sinuous sax melodies around them. There’s a Kemet like atmosphere of Afro-Futurism about the music with Cross skilfully manipulating his sound via the subtle use of electronics.

“Radiation” boasts a beguiling stop-start groove underpinned by the leader’s virtuoso tuba bass lines. If Cross was a footballer he’d attract the plaudit “wonderful skills for a big man”, for such is the inventiveness and agility with which he plays the so-called “lugubrious” or “cumbersome” tuba. Boyd deliberately keeps things simple here, all the better for Cross to demonstrate his abilities as he combines with Garcia’s melodic sax motifs. This core trio of Cross, Boyd and Moses is a highly effective unit capable of building a juggernaut like momentum capable of taking jazz back to the dance floor.

“Letting Go” features more tuba pyrotechnics from Cross, but often it’s his work in a rhythmic context that impresses as much as his playing as a soloist. Again his low register rumble combines well with Garcia’s wispy tenor sax melodies and Boyd’s implacable grooves as the piece gradually gathers momentum, before fading once more to close with the sound of Garcia’s unaccompanied sax.

The group is expanded to a quintet for “Candace Of Meroe” with Francis, Zaitz and Doyle added to the line up as Garcia sits out. Boyd’s drums and Doyle’s percussion unite to create a percolating groove enhanced by Zaitz’s chicken scratch guitar and Cross’ extraordinary vocalised tuba lines, sounding almost like an electric bass. There’s a more overtly African influence about this joyously celebratory piece. Francis adds a powerful and incisive tenor solo, followed by Cross on the tuba.

The core trio bring an edgy, restless energy to the grime inspired “Panda City” with its rumbling tuba, taut drumming and earthy tenor augmented by synthesised sounds and beats.

“CIYA” sees the group expanded again with Cross and Boyd joined by Francis, Zaitz and Nathaniel Cross on a Theon composition arranged by Ahnanse and Nathaniel. This slinkily seductive piece has more of a conventional soul jazz feel about it with Francis adopting a softer sound on tenor and combining effectively with Nathaniel’s trombone. Solos come from Francis on tenor, Nathaniel on rounded, warm sounding trombone, Zaitz on subtly distorted guitar and Theon on tuba.

The album concludes with the suitably incendiary “LDN’s Burning” with the core trio in rumbustious form. Cross’ rollicking tuba lines combine with Boyd’s boisterous drum grooves as Garcia delivers captivating sax melody lines that again draw on Kemet style Afro-Futurism. The closing section features an extraordinary dialogue between the leader’s tuba and Boyd’s drums.

“Fyah” is a consistently exciting, and undeniably impressive album, that combines an edgy, urban, contemporary urgency with supreme musicality. The interplay between the core trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia is exceptional throughout with all of the guest performers also making telling contributions. It’s easy to see why there has been such a buzz about this circle of London raised musicians and anybody who has enjoyed Cross’s contribution to the music of Sons of Kemet will find much to satisfy them here. One suspects that the trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia also represent a hugely exciting live act. Catch them if you can.

Fyah

Theon Cross

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Fyah

A consistently exciting, and undeniably impressive, album that combines an edgy, urban, contemporary urgency with supreme musicality.

Theon Cross

“Fyah”

(Gearbox Records GB1550CD)

Tuba player Theon Cross is probably best known to British jazz audiences as a member of Sons Of Kemet, the Mercury nominated quartet led by multi-reed player and composer Shabaka Hutchings. He’s also been part of Brass Mask, the New Orleans inspired ensemble led by saxophonist and composer Tom Challenger and of Seed Ensemble, the ten piece band led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi.

Cross also leads his own bands and is one of a larger group of London based jazz musicians who have been creating waves on the UK music scene through their participation on the much feted “We Out Here” compilation, released by DJ/producer Gilles Peterson on his Brownswood Recordings label.

Featuring tracks by Cross (“Brockley”) and Hutchings “We Out Here” also includes pieces by drummer Moses Boyd, saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboard player Joe Armon Jones and the groups Maisha, Ezra Collective, Triforce and Kokoroko. There has been a real buzz about the musicians in this circle with many individuals and bands enjoying healthy record sales, high profile gigs and mainstream media interest in a manner rarely seen since the ‘jazz boom’ of the late 1980s (Loose Tubes, Jazz Warriors etc.). Indeed there’s a certain continuity here with many of this current crop of exciting new musicians having come through the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme spearheaded by bassist and educator Gary Crosby.

The success of the “We Out Here” project has led to the musicians in its orbit collaborating with their counterparts from Chicago, notably drummer and composer Makaya McCraven, on the ChicagoXLondon Mixtape album “Where We Come From” released on the Chicago based International Anthem label. Cross, Garcia and Armon Jones all feature prominently amongst other musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Others with whom Cross has worked include multi-reed player Courtney Pine, American soul artist Jon Batiste and the rappers Kano and Pharoahe Monch. He is also a member of South London’s increasingly influential Steam Down musicians collective, based at the Albany Theatre in Deptford.

Cross released his first recording as a leader in 2015. “Aspirations” was a five track EP featuring the trio of Cross on tuba, Garcia on tenor sax and bass clarinet and Boyd at the drums. The EP was well received and earned Cross nominations for Best Instrumentalist in the Jazz FM Awards of 2016 and 2018 and Best Newcomer in the 2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

For “Fyah” Cross retains the same nucleus with Boyd at the drum kit throughout and with Garcia specialising on tenor sax on six of the album’s eight tracks. For his first full length album Cross also enlists the services of a number of like minded guests with Steam Down founder Wayne Francis (aka Ahnanse) taking over on tenor for a couple of tracks with Artie Zaitz adding electric guitar. Tim Doyle, from the band Maisha, provides percussion on one piece while Theon’s brother, Nathaniel Cross, adds trombone to another.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the music on “Fyah” is highly rhythmic, similar in spirit to that of Sons of Kemet as it mixes elements of jazz, hip hop, grime and electronica with other aspects of African and Caribbean music from Afrobeat to reggae.

The aptly titled “Activate” gets the album off to an exciting and energetic start as Cross’  rumbling tuba bass lines lock in with Boyd’s crisp drum grooves as Garcia’s tenor dances lithely around them, agile, but full blooded and incisive. Cross is scarcely any less nimble on the mighty tuba as he duets with Boyd’s vibrant and highly contemporary rhythms on this Carnival inspired opener.

“Offerings” opens with the sampled sounds of party chatter which forms the backdrop to the deep, loping grooves created by Cross and Boyd as Garcia weaves sinuous sax melodies around them. There’s a Kemet like atmosphere of Afro-Futurism about the music with Cross skilfully manipulating his sound via the subtle use of electronics.

“Radiation” boasts a beguiling stop-start groove underpinned by the leader’s virtuoso tuba bass lines. If Cross was a footballer he’d attract the plaudit “wonderful skills for a big man”, for such is the inventiveness and agility with which he plays the so-called “lugubrious” or “cumbersome” tuba. Boyd deliberately keeps things simple here, all the better for Cross to demonstrate his abilities as he combines with Garcia’s melodic sax motifs. This core trio of Cross, Boyd and Moses is a highly effective unit capable of building a juggernaut like momentum capable of taking jazz back to the dance floor.

“Letting Go” features more tuba pyrotechnics from Cross, but often it’s his work in a rhythmic context that impresses as much as his playing as a soloist. Again his low register rumble combines well with Garcia’s wispy tenor sax melodies and Boyd’s implacable grooves as the piece gradually gathers momentum, before fading once more to close with the sound of Garcia’s unaccompanied sax.

The group is expanded to a quintet for “Candace Of Meroe” with Francis, Zaitz and Doyle added to the line up as Garcia sits out. Boyd’s drums and Doyle’s percussion unite to create a percolating groove enhanced by Zaitz’s chicken scratch guitar and Cross’ extraordinary vocalised tuba lines, sounding almost like an electric bass. There’s a more overtly African influence about this joyously celebratory piece. Francis adds a powerful and incisive tenor solo, followed by Cross on the tuba.

The core trio bring an edgy, restless energy to the grime inspired “Panda City” with its rumbling tuba, taut drumming and earthy tenor augmented by synthesised sounds and beats.

“CIYA” sees the group expanded again with Cross and Boyd joined by Francis, Zaitz and Nathaniel Cross on a Theon composition arranged by Ahnanse and Nathaniel. This slinkily seductive piece has more of a conventional soul jazz feel about it with Francis adopting a softer sound on tenor and combining effectively with Nathaniel’s trombone. Solos come from Francis on tenor, Nathaniel on rounded, warm sounding trombone, Zaitz on subtly distorted guitar and Theon on tuba.

The album concludes with the suitably incendiary “LDN’s Burning” with the core trio in rumbustious form. Cross’ rollicking tuba lines combine with Boyd’s boisterous drum grooves as Garcia delivers captivating sax melody lines that again draw on Kemet style Afro-Futurism. The closing section features an extraordinary dialogue between the leader’s tuba and Boyd’s drums.

“Fyah” is a consistently exciting, and undeniably impressive album, that combines an edgy, urban, contemporary urgency with supreme musicality. The interplay between the core trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia is exceptional throughout with all of the guest performers also making telling contributions. It’s easy to see why there has been such a buzz about this circle of London raised musicians and anybody who has enjoyed Cross’s contribution to the music of Sons of Kemet will find much to satisfy them here. One suspects that the trio of Cross, Boyd and Garcia also represent a hugely exciting live act. Catch them if you can.

Benjamin Croft - 10 Reasons To… Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive solo début from Croft. It’s a very personal album that is obviously a labour of love and which embraces a broad and eclectic range of musical and other influences.

Benjamin Croft

“10 Reasons To ...”

(33Jazz Records 33JAZZ275)

Keyboard player Benjamin Croft began playing piano and trumpet at the age of seven and later studied at Leeds College of Music. Since graduating he has enjoyed a varied musical career working on cruise ships, on TV talent shows and in West End Theatres. He lived in the US for a while and has toured internationally with acts as varied as The Temptations, The Platters, Belinda Carlisle and Lesley Garrett. As a jazz performer he has worked regularly at leading London jazz clubs such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Pheasantry and the Pizza Express in Dean Street and is currently working with saxophonist Andrew McKay’s quartet.

Written over the course of a two year period “10 Reasons To…” is Croft’s début solo recording and pays homage to his artistic heroes over the course of a wide ranging album that embraces elements of jazz, rock and classical music in addition to literature, theatre and cinema. Several of the pieces are dedications to individuals, but I’ll come to these in more detail as I address the twelve individual tracks.

Among others Croft acknowledges the musical influences of Weather Report, Rick Wakeman, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Dizzy Gillespie, which may give the listener an idea of what to expect. Croft’s brand of jazz comes with a substantial and unapologetic side order of prog rock with the leader primarily playing electric keyboards.

Croft takes up the story;
“The sounds and styles on this album reflect the slow processing of all that has captured my imagination since I was a child. I didn’t want this to be a typical acoustic jazz sounding album as my ideas tend to be more orchestral. Instead I wanted the sounds to be a combination of keyboard instruments and I have always had a love of 70s and 80s analogue synths.  For example the Mini Moog, Prophet 5 and Mellotron all feature on various tracks”.

Croft is joined by the band Triple Echo featuring Benet McLean on violin and Andy Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn. Bass duties are split between Henry Thomas (mainly electric) and Mario Castronari (acoustic) while Tristan Maillot and Saleem Rahman share the drum chair.

The album also features two spoken word cameos from the late actor Peter Miles (1928-2018) and represent his final work. In the 1970s Miles played several roles in episodes of Doctor Who, the series that first inspired Croft’s love of the synthesiser.

“10 Reasons To…” was recorded at sessions in December 2017 and January 2018 at various studios in London and Leeds. The synths were recorded by Andy Whitmore at Greystoke Studios which houses one of the UK’s largest collections of vintage synths. Meanwhile the acoustic Steinway was recorded at Livingston Studio in London with the great Sonny Johns engineering. The album was mixed and mastered at AIR Studios by the veteran engineer Ray Staff. “Ray is a living legend” comments Croft, “and was the chief mastering engineer at Trident Studios during the 70s. His work can be heard on many of the albums that have influenced me over the years”. The overall album was produced by Henry Thomas with Croft assisting.

Turning now to the music itself which commences with the atmospheric, scene setting “100 Years At Sea Introduction”, which features the rounded, RP sounds of Miles declaiming Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The City in the Sea” above a backdrop of appropriate musical sounds generated by the quartet of Croft, McLean, Thomas and Maillot as they approximate the noises of rushing winds, crashing waves, the tolling of a ship’s bell etc. The use of Poe’s words and the overall feel of the piece suggest that my personal prog rock heroes, Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator, may have been an influence on Croft too.

Next up we have “100 Years At Sea” itself with Croft specialising on Rhodes and with McLean’s violin melody lines reminiscent of those that might have been played on a synth or guitar back in the day. At times I’m reminded of some more of my prog heroes, Canterbury style bands such as National Health and Gilgamesh with Croft in the Alan Gowen role. Both McLean and Croft solo to good effect with Thomas on electric bass and Maillot at the drums providing flexible, intelligent support.

The brief but exhilarating “One Million Years At Sea” then features Croft erupting on Mini Moog, Prophet 5 and Roland Juno 60 in a thrilling dialogue with Maillot’s thunderous drums, the piece resolving itself with a softer coda as it manages to cram a hell of a lot of information into its one and a half minute duration.

“Bad Reputations” mixes acoustic and electric keyboards with Croft soloing on synthesiser alongside McLean’s violin, the mood of the piece ranging from the soft and reflective to the positively bouncy, with drums and fretless bass rounding out the mix.

Croft dedicates “T.T.E. (Time, Talent and Electricity)” to the late Keith Emerson, the title apparently sourced from a quote by John Peel who once criticised Emerson, Lake & Palmer as being “a waste of time, talent and electricity”. I have to admit that I’m with Peel, I always found E.L.P.  far too overblown and bombastic, a condition that also came to infect Yes and Genesis as they became increasingly successful. I always had more time for VDGG, the Canterbury bands, Gentle Giant and King Crimson.
Croft’s piece doesn’t actually sound anything like E.L.P, instead it’s a heartfelt lament featuring Croft on acoustic piano and soloing lyrically alongside Castronari’s melodic double bass and Davies’  soaring Kenny Wheeler like flugelhorn. Saleem Raman provides sensitive and intelligent support from the kit, moving up and down the gears according to the music’s demands.

“The Sycophant” is more obviously ‘proggy’ with Croft soloing on Rhodes and Mini Moog alongside McLean’s violin. Also an accomplished pianist and vocalist McLean first demonstrated his abilities as a violin soloist when guesting with saxophonist Duncan Eagles’ band Partikel. He continues to impress here, drawing on the influence of the likes of Jean Luc Ponty. Both soloists benefit from the buoyant grooves generated by Maillot at the kit and Thomas on electric bass.

“The Whispering Knight” (great title) sees the return of the ‘acoustic’ quartet of Davies, Castronari and Raman, albeit with Croft himself specialising on Rhodes. Davies delivers an impressively agile and fluent trumpet solo. He’s followed by the leader on Rhodes and there’s also something of a feature for the excellent Raman on this agreeably breezy and swinging piece.

Croft dedicates “No Oil For Sale Here” to the memory of Gustav Mahler and features himself on acoustic and electric pianos, plus Mellotron. It’s a stately piece that benefits from the presence of another sumptuous flugel solo by Davies.  Despite the classical allusions Croft delivers his own solo on Rhodes as Castronari and Raman offer characteristically excellent support.

“The Legend of Bray” is dedicated to to the memory of actor Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015) and is suitably atmospheric, vaguely unsettling, and ultimately rather beautiful. McLean’s violin takes the lead with Croft featuring on acoustic piano and Juno 60. The leader solos on the Steinway, supported by Thomas’ languid fretless bass and Maillot’s sympathetic brushed accompaniment.

The brief “Inside Immortality” is a second dialogue between Croft on a battery of keyboards and Maillot at the drums. The running time is approximately the same as its companion piece earlier on, but the mood is more restrained, atmospheric and impressionistic.

“See You in Another Lifetime” finds Croft, Thomas and Raman in trio mode with the leader again playing a veritable arsenal of keyboards. Playing both acoustically and electrically Croft conjures a wide variety of colours and textures from his various instruments, soloing effectively on (I think) Mini-Moog. Could the title be a nod to the trail blazing Lifetime band founded by the late great drummer Tony Williams (1945-97)?

The final track, “For Future Past” is dedicated to the memory of that great guitar pioneer Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017). With the leader on Steinway and Rhodes the piece brings together Davies, Thomas and Rahman with the trumpeter again making a fine contribution as he shares the solos with the leader’s Rhodes. Miles returns to read Dylan Thomas’ poem “And Death Shall Have no Dominion”, helping to give this final piece a genuinely epic feel, both the title and the use of spoken words now suggesting the influence of the Moody Blues.

“10 Reasons To…” represents an impressive solo début from Croft. It’s a very personal album that is obviously a labour of love and which embraces a broad and eclectic range of musical and other influences.

On the first listening I’ll admit to finding it a little underwhelming and ‘dated’ with its use of now arcane keyboard instruments, but subsequent hearings allowed me to appreciate more fully the quality of both the writing and the playing, plus the ability of those 70s and 80s synths to produce genuinely interesting sounds.

Yes, it’s unapologetically influenced by prog and fusion and therefore may not appeal to hardcore jazz listeners with a built in pathological hatred of all such things but it’s still an undeniably impressive piece of work that actually embraces a wide variety of musical styles.

Croft himself is at the heart of the music but all the instrumentalists make telling contributions with fellow soloists McLean and Davies inevitably making the biggest impressions. The various rhythm players all excel too while the late Miles’ voice adds drama and gravitas. The engineering and production is also first class, bringing out all the nuances of the writing and playing.

Ultimately “10 Reasons To…” can be recommended to most open minded listeners, although die hard jazz purists and avowed prog rock nay-sayers might choose to keep away.

10 Reasons To…

Benjamin Croft

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

10 Reasons To…

An impressive solo début from Croft. It’s a very personal album that is obviously a labour of love and which embraces a broad and eclectic range of musical and other influences.

Benjamin Croft

“10 Reasons To ...”

(33Jazz Records 33JAZZ275)

Keyboard player Benjamin Croft began playing piano and trumpet at the age of seven and later studied at Leeds College of Music. Since graduating he has enjoyed a varied musical career working on cruise ships, on TV talent shows and in West End Theatres. He lived in the US for a while and has toured internationally with acts as varied as The Temptations, The Platters, Belinda Carlisle and Lesley Garrett. As a jazz performer he has worked regularly at leading London jazz clubs such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Pheasantry and the Pizza Express in Dean Street and is currently working with saxophonist Andrew McKay’s quartet.

Written over the course of a two year period “10 Reasons To…” is Croft’s début solo recording and pays homage to his artistic heroes over the course of a wide ranging album that embraces elements of jazz, rock and classical music in addition to literature, theatre and cinema. Several of the pieces are dedications to individuals, but I’ll come to these in more detail as I address the twelve individual tracks.

Among others Croft acknowledges the musical influences of Weather Report, Rick Wakeman, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Dizzy Gillespie, which may give the listener an idea of what to expect. Croft’s brand of jazz comes with a substantial and unapologetic side order of prog rock with the leader primarily playing electric keyboards.

Croft takes up the story;
“The sounds and styles on this album reflect the slow processing of all that has captured my imagination since I was a child. I didn’t want this to be a typical acoustic jazz sounding album as my ideas tend to be more orchestral. Instead I wanted the sounds to be a combination of keyboard instruments and I have always had a love of 70s and 80s analogue synths.  For example the Mini Moog, Prophet 5 and Mellotron all feature on various tracks”.

Croft is joined by the band Triple Echo featuring Benet McLean on violin and Andy Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn. Bass duties are split between Henry Thomas (mainly electric) and Mario Castronari (acoustic) while Tristan Maillot and Saleem Rahman share the drum chair.

The album also features two spoken word cameos from the late actor Peter Miles (1928-2018) and represent his final work. In the 1970s Miles played several roles in episodes of Doctor Who, the series that first inspired Croft’s love of the synthesiser.

“10 Reasons To…” was recorded at sessions in December 2017 and January 2018 at various studios in London and Leeds. The synths were recorded by Andy Whitmore at Greystoke Studios which houses one of the UK’s largest collections of vintage synths. Meanwhile the acoustic Steinway was recorded at Livingston Studio in London with the great Sonny Johns engineering. The album was mixed and mastered at AIR Studios by the veteran engineer Ray Staff. “Ray is a living legend” comments Croft, “and was the chief mastering engineer at Trident Studios during the 70s. His work can be heard on many of the albums that have influenced me over the years”. The overall album was produced by Henry Thomas with Croft assisting.

Turning now to the music itself which commences with the atmospheric, scene setting “100 Years At Sea Introduction”, which features the rounded, RP sounds of Miles declaiming Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The City in the Sea” above a backdrop of appropriate musical sounds generated by the quartet of Croft, McLean, Thomas and Maillot as they approximate the noises of rushing winds, crashing waves, the tolling of a ship’s bell etc. The use of Poe’s words and the overall feel of the piece suggest that my personal prog rock heroes, Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator, may have been an influence on Croft too.

Next up we have “100 Years At Sea” itself with Croft specialising on Rhodes and with McLean’s violin melody lines reminiscent of those that might have been played on a synth or guitar back in the day. At times I’m reminded of some more of my prog heroes, Canterbury style bands such as National Health and Gilgamesh with Croft in the Alan Gowen role. Both McLean and Croft solo to good effect with Thomas on electric bass and Maillot at the drums providing flexible, intelligent support.

The brief but exhilarating “One Million Years At Sea” then features Croft erupting on Mini Moog, Prophet 5 and Roland Juno 60 in a thrilling dialogue with Maillot’s thunderous drums, the piece resolving itself with a softer coda as it manages to cram a hell of a lot of information into its one and a half minute duration.

“Bad Reputations” mixes acoustic and electric keyboards with Croft soloing on synthesiser alongside McLean’s violin, the mood of the piece ranging from the soft and reflective to the positively bouncy, with drums and fretless bass rounding out the mix.

Croft dedicates “T.T.E. (Time, Talent and Electricity)” to the late Keith Emerson, the title apparently sourced from a quote by John Peel who once criticised Emerson, Lake & Palmer as being “a waste of time, talent and electricity”. I have to admit that I’m with Peel, I always found E.L.P.  far too overblown and bombastic, a condition that also came to infect Yes and Genesis as they became increasingly successful. I always had more time for VDGG, the Canterbury bands, Gentle Giant and King Crimson.
Croft’s piece doesn’t actually sound anything like E.L.P, instead it’s a heartfelt lament featuring Croft on acoustic piano and soloing lyrically alongside Castronari’s melodic double bass and Davies’  soaring Kenny Wheeler like flugelhorn. Saleem Raman provides sensitive and intelligent support from the kit, moving up and down the gears according to the music’s demands.

“The Sycophant” is more obviously ‘proggy’ with Croft soloing on Rhodes and Mini Moog alongside McLean’s violin. Also an accomplished pianist and vocalist McLean first demonstrated his abilities as a violin soloist when guesting with saxophonist Duncan Eagles’ band Partikel. He continues to impress here, drawing on the influence of the likes of Jean Luc Ponty. Both soloists benefit from the buoyant grooves generated by Maillot at the kit and Thomas on electric bass.

“The Whispering Knight” (great title) sees the return of the ‘acoustic’ quartet of Davies, Castronari and Raman, albeit with Croft himself specialising on Rhodes. Davies delivers an impressively agile and fluent trumpet solo. He’s followed by the leader on Rhodes and there’s also something of a feature for the excellent Raman on this agreeably breezy and swinging piece.

Croft dedicates “No Oil For Sale Here” to the memory of Gustav Mahler and features himself on acoustic and electric pianos, plus Mellotron. It’s a stately piece that benefits from the presence of another sumptuous flugel solo by Davies.  Despite the classical allusions Croft delivers his own solo on Rhodes as Castronari and Raman offer characteristically excellent support.

“The Legend of Bray” is dedicated to to the memory of actor Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015) and is suitably atmospheric, vaguely unsettling, and ultimately rather beautiful. McLean’s violin takes the lead with Croft featuring on acoustic piano and Juno 60. The leader solos on the Steinway, supported by Thomas’ languid fretless bass and Maillot’s sympathetic brushed accompaniment.

The brief “Inside Immortality” is a second dialogue between Croft on a battery of keyboards and Maillot at the drums. The running time is approximately the same as its companion piece earlier on, but the mood is more restrained, atmospheric and impressionistic.

“See You in Another Lifetime” finds Croft, Thomas and Raman in trio mode with the leader again playing a veritable arsenal of keyboards. Playing both acoustically and electrically Croft conjures a wide variety of colours and textures from his various instruments, soloing effectively on (I think) Mini-Moog. Could the title be a nod to the trail blazing Lifetime band founded by the late great drummer Tony Williams (1945-97)?

The final track, “For Future Past” is dedicated to the memory of that great guitar pioneer Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017). With the leader on Steinway and Rhodes the piece brings together Davies, Thomas and Rahman with the trumpeter again making a fine contribution as he shares the solos with the leader’s Rhodes. Miles returns to read Dylan Thomas’ poem “And Death Shall Have no Dominion”, helping to give this final piece a genuinely epic feel, both the title and the use of spoken words now suggesting the influence of the Moody Blues.

“10 Reasons To…” represents an impressive solo début from Croft. It’s a very personal album that is obviously a labour of love and which embraces a broad and eclectic range of musical and other influences.

On the first listening I’ll admit to finding it a little underwhelming and ‘dated’ with its use of now arcane keyboard instruments, but subsequent hearings allowed me to appreciate more fully the quality of both the writing and the playing, plus the ability of those 70s and 80s synths to produce genuinely interesting sounds.

Yes, it’s unapologetically influenced by prog and fusion and therefore may not appeal to hardcore jazz listeners with a built in pathological hatred of all such things but it’s still an undeniably impressive piece of work that actually embraces a wide variety of musical styles.

Croft himself is at the heart of the music but all the instrumentalists make telling contributions with fellow soloists McLean and Davies inevitably making the biggest impressions. The various rhythm players all excel too while the late Miles’ voice adds drama and gravitas. The engineering and production is also first class, bringing out all the nuances of the writing and playing.

Ultimately “10 Reasons To…” can be recommended to most open minded listeners, although die hard jazz purists and avowed prog rock nay-sayers might choose to keep away.

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra - The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes Rating: 4-5 out of 5 An exceptional début from this highly talented collective and one that should put them firmly on the musical map, establishing the PJO as a force to be reckoned with

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes”

(Spark Records SPARK007)

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” is the long awaited début album from the young London based contemporary big band Patchwork Jazz Orchestra.

The band features many of the capital’s leading young jazz musicians but has no designated leader, with several of its members contributing compositions to the PJO repertoire.

Many, but by no means all, of the PJO members studied at the Royal Academy of Music and worked with that institution’s Big Band, an aggregation that also proved to be the basis for the acclaimed Troykestra, the big band that augmented the Troyka trio of Kit Downes (keyboards), Chris Montague (guitar) and Joshua Blackmore (drums.) Troykestra’s live album, recorded at the 2013 Cheltenham Jazz Festival is reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/live-at-the-2013-cheltenham-jazz-festival/

The PJO name was adopted in 2014 and in 2015 the ensemble won the annual Peter Whittingham Award, which helped to finance this début recording. The band then ran their own “Patchwork Nights” at various venues around London, notably The Others in Stoke Newington.

I first encountered their music at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival when PJO played an excellent Sunday lunchtime show at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea, a performance reviewed as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-three-sunday-13th-november-2016/

The personnel was essentially the same as that featured on this recording and the majority of the compositions to be heard here also featured at “The Six”.

For “The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra lines up as follows;

James Davison, Adam Chatterton – trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet

James Copus, Tom Dennis – trumpet, flugelhorn

Kieran McLeod, Tom Green, Jamie Pimenta – trombones

Yusuf Narcin – bass trombone

Matthew Herd – soprano & alto saxes

Sam Glaser – alto sax

Alex Hitchcock, Sam Miles – tenor saxes

Tom Smith – baritone sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet

Liam Dunachie – piano, Hammond organ

Rob Luft – electric guitar

Misha Mullov-Abbado – acoustic & electric bass

Scott Chapman – drums

Due to their youthfulness and their focus on original compositions sourced from within the band’s ranks it’s tempting to compare PJO with Loose Tubes, and indeed one suspects that some of PJO’s members may have even have been taught by former Tubes such as Mark Lockheart and Chris Batchelor. However the music is less wilfully idiosyncratic than Loose Tubes (after all, there’s only one Django Bates) and although the PJO’s brightly coloured “Patchwork” shirts give them a strong visual identity they can’t quite match the inspired zaniness and eccentricity of the Tubes in their 80s heyday.

Of PJO’s approach to the big band format trombonist and Spark! Record label owner Tom Green comments;
“Many of us grew up listening to and playing big band music, but opportunities to perform new material are few and far between. Patchwork Jazz Orchestra was born from a desire of a number of us to write and play new music in a regular group and the band has since evolved an identity of its own, both collaborative and totally diverse in musical styles. All eight tracks on the album have different stories and influences behind them and are the musical vision of seven different composers, but all share the same excitement and joy we get out of communal music making”.

The album’s notes give brief insights into the inspiration behind each individual composition, beginning with the title track, written by the ensemble’s keyboard Liam Dunachie, who talks of his piece representing “the antics of a bumbling Englishman who accidentally stumbles across a Caribbean festival”.
It’s an appropriately episodic and multi-faceted composition that moves through several distinct phases, the orchestration often reminiscent of that of Loose Tubes. Solos come from Herd on plaintive, lyrical alto and Luft on fluid, coolly elegant guitar before Chapman’s drums lead us into the final ‘Caribbean festival’ section with its rousing horn charts, vibrant rhythms and a tenor sax feature from Hitchcock. It all makes for an excellent, attention grabbing start.

Drummer Scott Chapman’s “Barcarole” is described as “a response to the folk songs traditionally sung by Venetian gondoliers”. Another compelling piece of contemporary big band writing the composition combines colourful textures with rich horn voicings, the first solo coming from Copus on flugel, whose playing combines a poignant expressiveness with an impressive improvisational fluency. Rising star Luft features again as his guitar takes brief, soaring flight, his solo followed by Miles’ slow burning exploration on tenor. A gentle ensemble coda then features the sounds of flugel and bass clarinet.

Green’s “Badger Cam” represents “a voyeuristic insight into the nocturnal activities of not-so-fluffy woodland creatures”. This is a rumbustious piece that mixes traditional big band sounds and rock rhythms with solos coming from Luft on guitar and Smith on baritone sax with Dunachie featuring on Hammond. The prominence of Luft’s guitar in many of PJO’s arrangements suggests the influence of composer and bandleader Mike Gibbs, who frequently wrote for ensembles featuring guitarists, among them John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Philip Catherine.

Written by Davison and arranged by the composer and Mullov-Abbado “The Boy Roy” is a truly collaborative effort. Described as “a dirty funeral march inspired by a large stuffed tiger who found the path to righteousness after an aggressive drug addiction” it’s a New Orleans inspired piece that boasts a veritable string of soloists. Mullov-Abbado, a composer and bandleader himself, starts things off with an unaccompanied acoustic bass feature which leads us straight to the Crescent City and that promised gut-bucket funeral dirge, from which emerge the solos, led by Pimenta and Marcin on delightfully filthy sounding trombones, while Smith’s baritone ensures that things remain deep within the lower register. By way of contrast Chatterton’s trumpet and Glaser’s alto then emerge from the gutter to reach for the stars.

Mullov-Abbado’s own “Hi Wriggly!” tells “the story of a young worm who experiences a psychotic episode after a long evening of mayhem”. The piece is introduced by the mournful sound of Davison’s lone trumpet but subsequently gains momentum, again delighting in the sound of low sonorities and the dialogue between Davison’s trumpet and Narcin’s bass trombone. There’s an appropriate air of quirkiness about an arrangement that also includes some superlative ensemble playing.

Herd’s “The Complete Short Stories” is “a homage to the tales of Raymond Carver who illuminated the darkness in the everyday”. Despite some rousing ensemble passages the mood of the piece is essentially melancholy and includes solos from McLeod on subtly vocalised trombone and the composer on softly incisive, oboe like soprano.

Chapman is the only composer to feature twice, his “Mind Palace” being “an ode to the cognitive labyrinths of Sherlock Holmes”. A freely structured intro is superseded by Mullov-Abbado’s electric bass groove, with Chapman himself locking in to help to fuel a typically colourful big band arrangement with rousing solos coming from Green on trombone and Hitchcock on tenor. The majority of the band drop out for Dunachie’s rollicking solo which sees the PJO briefly become a piano trio, but with no loss of overall momentum. Chapman himself features at the kit before a barnstorming collective finale.

The album closes with McLeod’s “Vixen” (“the tale of an inquisitive fox, occasionally in peril”), which emerges from the gentle, classically inspired horn chorales via a piano and guitar dialogue into a vaguely unsettling arrangement that evokes the nocturnal world of the tune’s protagonist. Luft’s skilful deployment of his various FX does much to set the noirish atmosphere as he features as a soloist alongside Dennis on trumpet and Hitchcock on tenor. The brass evokes the sound of hunting horns and that ‘occasional peril’ in a typically intriguing, multi-faceted composition and arrangement.

The album even boasts a ‘secret track’, a brief snippet of studio fooling around that comes half a minute or so after the conclusion of “Vixen”.

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” more than delivers on the promise of that 606 performance from 2016. “This is music that very much deserves to be documented on disc” I remarked at the time and it’s certainly been worth the wait. I enjoyed hearing this album almost as much as I did seeing the live show and praise should go to engineer John Prestage of the famous AIR Studios for a mix that brings out all the vitality richness, colour and nuance of these supremely inventive compositions and arrangements. The playing is superb throughout and the writing intelligent, quirky and imaginative with plenty of variety in terms of style and dynamics.

The album has been well received by other commentators and the comparisons with Ellington and Mingus are thoroughly deserved, particularly in the case of the latter.

Despite its wilfully whimsical title “The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” represents an exceptional début from this highly talented collective and should certainly put them firmly on the musical map, establishing the PJO as a force to be reckoned with, even if the near mainstream exposure that Loose Tubes enjoyed back in the day seems unlikely.

The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra

Monday, March 04, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes

An exceptional début from this highly talented collective and one that should put them firmly on the musical map, establishing the PJO as a force to be reckoned with

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes”

(Spark Records SPARK007)

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” is the long awaited début album from the young London based contemporary big band Patchwork Jazz Orchestra.

The band features many of the capital’s leading young jazz musicians but has no designated leader, with several of its members contributing compositions to the PJO repertoire.

Many, but by no means all, of the PJO members studied at the Royal Academy of Music and worked with that institution’s Big Band, an aggregation that also proved to be the basis for the acclaimed Troykestra, the big band that augmented the Troyka trio of Kit Downes (keyboards), Chris Montague (guitar) and Joshua Blackmore (drums.) Troykestra’s live album, recorded at the 2013 Cheltenham Jazz Festival is reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/live-at-the-2013-cheltenham-jazz-festival/

The PJO name was adopted in 2014 and in 2015 the ensemble won the annual Peter Whittingham Award, which helped to finance this début recording. The band then ran their own “Patchwork Nights” at various venues around London, notably The Others in Stoke Newington.

I first encountered their music at the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival when PJO played an excellent Sunday lunchtime show at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea, a performance reviewed as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-three-sunday-13th-november-2016/

The personnel was essentially the same as that featured on this recording and the majority of the compositions to be heard here also featured at “The Six”.

For “The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra lines up as follows;

James Davison, Adam Chatterton – trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet

James Copus, Tom Dennis – trumpet, flugelhorn

Kieran McLeod, Tom Green, Jamie Pimenta – trombones

Yusuf Narcin – bass trombone

Matthew Herd – soprano & alto saxes

Sam Glaser – alto sax

Alex Hitchcock, Sam Miles – tenor saxes

Tom Smith – baritone sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet

Liam Dunachie – piano, Hammond organ

Rob Luft – electric guitar

Misha Mullov-Abbado – acoustic & electric bass

Scott Chapman – drums

Due to their youthfulness and their focus on original compositions sourced from within the band’s ranks it’s tempting to compare PJO with Loose Tubes, and indeed one suspects that some of PJO’s members may have even have been taught by former Tubes such as Mark Lockheart and Chris Batchelor. However the music is less wilfully idiosyncratic than Loose Tubes (after all, there’s only one Django Bates) and although the PJO’s brightly coloured “Patchwork” shirts give them a strong visual identity they can’t quite match the inspired zaniness and eccentricity of the Tubes in their 80s heyday.

Of PJO’s approach to the big band format trombonist and Spark! Record label owner Tom Green comments;
“Many of us grew up listening to and playing big band music, but opportunities to perform new material are few and far between. Patchwork Jazz Orchestra was born from a desire of a number of us to write and play new music in a regular group and the band has since evolved an identity of its own, both collaborative and totally diverse in musical styles. All eight tracks on the album have different stories and influences behind them and are the musical vision of seven different composers, but all share the same excitement and joy we get out of communal music making”.

The album’s notes give brief insights into the inspiration behind each individual composition, beginning with the title track, written by the ensemble’s keyboard Liam Dunachie, who talks of his piece representing “the antics of a bumbling Englishman who accidentally stumbles across a Caribbean festival”.
It’s an appropriately episodic and multi-faceted composition that moves through several distinct phases, the orchestration often reminiscent of that of Loose Tubes. Solos come from Herd on plaintive, lyrical alto and Luft on fluid, coolly elegant guitar before Chapman’s drums lead us into the final ‘Caribbean festival’ section with its rousing horn charts, vibrant rhythms and a tenor sax feature from Hitchcock. It all makes for an excellent, attention grabbing start.

Drummer Scott Chapman’s “Barcarole” is described as “a response to the folk songs traditionally sung by Venetian gondoliers”. Another compelling piece of contemporary big band writing the composition combines colourful textures with rich horn voicings, the first solo coming from Copus on flugel, whose playing combines a poignant expressiveness with an impressive improvisational fluency. Rising star Luft features again as his guitar takes brief, soaring flight, his solo followed by Miles’ slow burning exploration on tenor. A gentle ensemble coda then features the sounds of flugel and bass clarinet.

Green’s “Badger Cam” represents “a voyeuristic insight into the nocturnal activities of not-so-fluffy woodland creatures”. This is a rumbustious piece that mixes traditional big band sounds and rock rhythms with solos coming from Luft on guitar and Smith on baritone sax with Dunachie featuring on Hammond. The prominence of Luft’s guitar in many of PJO’s arrangements suggests the influence of composer and bandleader Mike Gibbs, who frequently wrote for ensembles featuring guitarists, among them John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Philip Catherine.

Written by Davison and arranged by the composer and Mullov-Abbado “The Boy Roy” is a truly collaborative effort. Described as “a dirty funeral march inspired by a large stuffed tiger who found the path to righteousness after an aggressive drug addiction” it’s a New Orleans inspired piece that boasts a veritable string of soloists. Mullov-Abbado, a composer and bandleader himself, starts things off with an unaccompanied acoustic bass feature which leads us straight to the Crescent City and that promised gut-bucket funeral dirge, from which emerge the solos, led by Pimenta and Marcin on delightfully filthy sounding trombones, while Smith’s baritone ensures that things remain deep within the lower register. By way of contrast Chatterton’s trumpet and Glaser’s alto then emerge from the gutter to reach for the stars.

Mullov-Abbado’s own “Hi Wriggly!” tells “the story of a young worm who experiences a psychotic episode after a long evening of mayhem”. The piece is introduced by the mournful sound of Davison’s lone trumpet but subsequently gains momentum, again delighting in the sound of low sonorities and the dialogue between Davison’s trumpet and Narcin’s bass trombone. There’s an appropriate air of quirkiness about an arrangement that also includes some superlative ensemble playing.

Herd’s “The Complete Short Stories” is “a homage to the tales of Raymond Carver who illuminated the darkness in the everyday”. Despite some rousing ensemble passages the mood of the piece is essentially melancholy and includes solos from McLeod on subtly vocalised trombone and the composer on softly incisive, oboe like soprano.

Chapman is the only composer to feature twice, his “Mind Palace” being “an ode to the cognitive labyrinths of Sherlock Holmes”. A freely structured intro is superseded by Mullov-Abbado’s electric bass groove, with Chapman himself locking in to help to fuel a typically colourful big band arrangement with rousing solos coming from Green on trombone and Hitchcock on tenor. The majority of the band drop out for Dunachie’s rollicking solo which sees the PJO briefly become a piano trio, but with no loss of overall momentum. Chapman himself features at the kit before a barnstorming collective finale.

The album closes with McLeod’s “Vixen” (“the tale of an inquisitive fox, occasionally in peril”), which emerges from the gentle, classically inspired horn chorales via a piano and guitar dialogue into a vaguely unsettling arrangement that evokes the nocturnal world of the tune’s protagonist. Luft’s skilful deployment of his various FX does much to set the noirish atmosphere as he features as a soloist alongside Dennis on trumpet and Hitchcock on tenor. The brass evokes the sound of hunting horns and that ‘occasional peril’ in a typically intriguing, multi-faceted composition and arrangement.

The album even boasts a ‘secret track’, a brief snippet of studio fooling around that comes half a minute or so after the conclusion of “Vixen”.

“The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” more than delivers on the promise of that 606 performance from 2016. “This is music that very much deserves to be documented on disc” I remarked at the time and it’s certainly been worth the wait. I enjoyed hearing this album almost as much as I did seeing the live show and praise should go to engineer John Prestage of the famous AIR Studios for a mix that brings out all the vitality richness, colour and nuance of these supremely inventive compositions and arrangements. The playing is superb throughout and the writing intelligent, quirky and imaginative with plenty of variety in terms of style and dynamics.

The album has been well received by other commentators and the comparisons with Ellington and Mingus are thoroughly deserved, particularly in the case of the latter.

Despite its wilfully whimsical title “The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes” represents an exceptional début from this highly talented collective and should certainly put them firmly on the musical map, establishing the PJO as a force to be reckoned with, even if the near mainstream exposure that Loose Tubes enjoyed back in the day seems unlikely.

John Turville - Head First Rating: 4 out of 5 The writing by Turville and others is richly varied, embracing a variety of jazz styles and borrowing judiciously from other musical genres. The playing, from an all star cast is excellent throughout.

John Turville

“Head First”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4734)

Pianist and composer John Turville is among the great unsung heroes of the British jazz scene. Also an acclaimed educator he is equally proficient on acoustic piano and electric keyboards and has been a prolific sideman in a variety of jazz contexts. Among those with whom he has recorded are bassists Ben Bastin, Matt Ridley and Yuriy Galkin, saxophonists Tim Garland, Frank Griffith, Alex Merritt, Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, guitarist Ant Law and vocalists Brigitte Beraha, Sarah Gillespie and Sylwia Bialas. He has also been part of the co-operative sextet Solstice.

As a leader Turville has released two excellent albums in the conventional piano trio format. “Midas” (2010) and “Conception (2012) both appeared on the F-ire Presents imprint and both featured Turville alongside the rhythm team of Chris Hill (bass) and Ben Reynolds (drums). Both albums are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann as is a 2010 live performance by the trio at The Hive in Shrewsbury.

Turville has also recorded in a duo format with Solstice vocalist and lyricist Brigitte Beraha, the pair releasing the intimate and often beautiful album “Red Skies” in 2013. Again this recording is reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, as is a captivating live performance by the pair at The Hive in 2016, when they were joined by guest saxophonist George Crowley,  the latter filling the role played on the album by the late, great Bobby Wellins.

For his latest outing as a leader Turville has rung the changes and expanded his group to a quintet. His new rhythm team features the experienced bassist Dave Whitford and the UK’s most in demand contemporary jazz drummer, James Maddren. The peerless Julian Arguelles appears on tenor and soprano saxophones and the quintet is completed by trumpeter Robbie Robson, perhaps the least known of the five. Nevertheless Turville and the trumpeter go back a long way, Turville having played exclusively on Fender Rhodes on the eponymous 2010 album by Robson’s Miles Davis inspired quartet Dog Soup.

The title “Head First” is an oblique nod to one of Turville’s piano heroes, the great American pianist and composer Fred Hirsch. But the album also pays homage to some of Turville’s other key inspirations, notably the late, great British pianist and composer John Taylor (1942 - 2015),  Turville’s mentor, and to whom the album is dedicated.

The genesis of the quintet stems from the Jazz Piano Summit concert of 2015, which paid tribute to Taylor and his musical legacy. It was there that Turville presented his own Taylor tribute “ A Perfect Foil”, which involved a collaboration with Arguelles, thus sowing the seed for this quintet project.
“ A Perfect Foil” graces the new recording alongside seven other Turville originals. Arguelles contributes his own composition “A Month In Tunisia” while outside material comes from fellow pianist/composers Diego Schissi, Toninho Horta and Michel Petrucciani.

Besides the influence of the musicians mentioned above Turville has also cited Bill Evans as a major source of inspiration in addition to classical composers such as John Ireland, Federico Mompou, Franz Liszt and the French Romantics. The music on “Head First” also draws inspiration from folk and world music with many of Turville’s compositions being inspired by places and experiences. Not everything is played by the full quintet, examples of duo, trio and quartet performances occur throughout the album.

The album commences with the attention grabbing “Fall Out”, which was originally written by Turville for a quartet but was subsequently arranged for big band. Thanks to the horn fanfares of Robson and Arguelles the quintet version of the tune still possesses an impressively big sound with the two horn men dovetailing neatly before embarking on their individual solos. Robson goes first, combining warmth with brassiness in a manner that has been compared to the late Kenny Wheeler. Next we hear from Turville himself who solos with his usual expansive fluency, with Arguelles subsequently displaying similar qualities on tenor. The rhythm section is busy and inventive throughout as Whitford and Maddren keep things moving and there is also something of a feature for the drummer.

“Almagro Nights” finds Turville returning to the trio format on a piece inspired by his love of Argentinian music - Turville’s discography includes recordings by the London Tango Orchestra and El Ultimo Tango. However the debt isn’t made too obvious as Turville stretches out imaginatively above Whitford’s grounding double bass and Maddren’s brisk, and consistently inventive, drumming.

“Seahorses” was inspired by a sea trip off the coast of Seahouses in Northumberland, doubtless to see the wonderful wildlife of the Farne Islands. It’s a suitably stormy piece, a concentrated burst of improvisation featuring squalling horns, turbulent piano and roiling rhythms, that eventually resolves itself as Turville and his colleagues finally navigate their way back to shore.

“Interval Music” represents ‘the calm after the storm’ and is an elegant lyrical piano and soprano sax duet that hints at both folk and classical music forms while recalling Arguelles’ celebrated duo with the late John Taylor.

It’s therefore perhaps appropriate that “A Perfect Foil”, Turville’s tribute to Taylor follows. There’s something of Taylor’s style in the writing and with Arguelles remaining on soprano I’m reminded of Taylor’s quartet with Arguelles, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Martin France that recorded the Kurt Vonnegut inspired album “Requiem For A Dreamer”, released in 2011. There’s an airy, breezy lyricism here in the gently darting solos of Turville and Arguelles, the latter really taking flight on the straight horn, his swooping arabesques underscored by another exceptional drumming performance from Maddren that sees him moving from brushes to sticks.

The title track, Turville’s tip of the hat to Fred Hirsch, sees a return to the trio format and finds Whitford coming to the fore with a virtuoso double bass solo of great dexterity and resonance. Turville himself positively sparkles as he stretches out above, and in dialogue with, Maddren’s jaunty samba inspired rhythms.

“Ennerdale” is inspired by the landscape of Lake District and espouses a pastoral sound featuring the warmly rounded tones of Robson’s trumpet and Turville’s own piano lyricism, his solo including a quote from Taylor’s composition “Ambleside”, another piece inspired by the beauty of this part of the world. Robson also features as a soloist, as does Arguelles who is gently incisive on tenor.

“Cancion 4” by the Buenos Aires born pianist, composer and bandleader Diego Schissi is performed as a piano and trumpet duet, the melancholy majesty of Robson’s playing again evoking comparisons with that of Kenny Wheeler. Turville again displays a flowing lyricism at the piano, on what is a beautiful duo performance from start to finish.

By way of contrast the mood is one of relaxed joyousness on a trio performance of Brazilian pianist Toninho Horta’s composition “Francisca” which features Turville’s lightness of touch at the piano allied to Maddren’s brightly detailed drumming. Whitford also impresses with another supremely dexterous bass solo.

Arguelles’  bustling “A Month In Tunisia” emerges from a freely structured intro to embrace something of the quirkiness that has become something of an Arguelles trademark over the years. Maddren’s exotic rhythms underpin an uncharacteristically percussive piano solo from Turville and joyously fluent flights of fancy from both Robson and Arguelles.

“Cyclic Chorale” is the last of Turville’s originals, a trio piece loosely inspired by Liszt and featuring the tightly focussed interplay of Turville, Whitford and Maddren, the mood varying from the tentative to the intense.

The album concludes with a swinging quintet arrangement of Michel Petrucciani’s “Beautiful But Why”, introduced by the two horns working in unison but with the first solo going to the powerfully plucked bass of Whitford. This is followed by a concise but eloquent statement from Arguelles on tenor, followed by slightly longer solos from Turville and Robson who both impress with their urgency and cogency. Maddren and Whitford also feature strongly in a lively series of group exchanges prior to a surprising freely structured outro.

It’s been a long wait for this latest album under Turville’s own name but on this evidence it has been well worth it. The writing by Turville and others is richly varied, embracing a variety of jazz styles and borrowing judiciously from other musical genres. The playing, from an all star ensemble is excellent throughout and the devolution of the quintet into smaller units at certain junctures along the way also works well.

The album was recorded at Artesuono Studio in Italy by engineer Stefano Amerio and the sound is excellent throughout. Turville clearly regards Artesuono as something of a musical and spiritual home and comments;
“As a leader there comes increased artistic freedom, so I love thinking on my feet and experimenting. Over two days of recording my band was in total alignment with the vibe and energy that I was looking for”.

The quintet is currently on tour in the UK with the remaining dates as follows;

1 March - The Fleece, Colchester
2 March - Workshop, Royal Academy of Music, London
4 March - Wells Cathedral, Cedars Hall
5 March - St Ives Jazz Club (Great Western Hotel)
6 March - Workshop and Concert, Purcell School, Bushey
7 March - Nottingham Jazzsteps, Bonington Theatre, Arnold
8 March - Workshop, Leeds College of Music
8 March - Sheffield Jazz, Crookes Social Club
9 March - The Verdict, Brighton

For further information please visit;
http://www.johnturville.com

Head First

John Turville

Friday, March 01, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Head First

The writing by Turville and others is richly varied, embracing a variety of jazz styles and borrowing judiciously from other musical genres. The playing, from an all star cast is excellent throughout.

John Turville

“Head First”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4734)

Pianist and composer John Turville is among the great unsung heroes of the British jazz scene. Also an acclaimed educator he is equally proficient on acoustic piano and electric keyboards and has been a prolific sideman in a variety of jazz contexts. Among those with whom he has recorded are bassists Ben Bastin, Matt Ridley and Yuriy Galkin, saxophonists Tim Garland, Frank Griffith, Alex Merritt, Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, guitarist Ant Law and vocalists Brigitte Beraha, Sarah Gillespie and Sylwia Bialas. He has also been part of the co-operative sextet Solstice.

As a leader Turville has released two excellent albums in the conventional piano trio format. “Midas” (2010) and “Conception (2012) both appeared on the F-ire Presents imprint and both featured Turville alongside the rhythm team of Chris Hill (bass) and Ben Reynolds (drums). Both albums are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann as is a 2010 live performance by the trio at The Hive in Shrewsbury.

Turville has also recorded in a duo format with Solstice vocalist and lyricist Brigitte Beraha, the pair releasing the intimate and often beautiful album “Red Skies” in 2013. Again this recording is reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, as is a captivating live performance by the pair at The Hive in 2016, when they were joined by guest saxophonist George Crowley,  the latter filling the role played on the album by the late, great Bobby Wellins.

For his latest outing as a leader Turville has rung the changes and expanded his group to a quintet. His new rhythm team features the experienced bassist Dave Whitford and the UK’s most in demand contemporary jazz drummer, James Maddren. The peerless Julian Arguelles appears on tenor and soprano saxophones and the quintet is completed by trumpeter Robbie Robson, perhaps the least known of the five. Nevertheless Turville and the trumpeter go back a long way, Turville having played exclusively on Fender Rhodes on the eponymous 2010 album by Robson’s Miles Davis inspired quartet Dog Soup.

The title “Head First” is an oblique nod to one of Turville’s piano heroes, the great American pianist and composer Fred Hirsch. But the album also pays homage to some of Turville’s other key inspirations, notably the late, great British pianist and composer John Taylor (1942 - 2015),  Turville’s mentor, and to whom the album is dedicated.

The genesis of the quintet stems from the Jazz Piano Summit concert of 2015, which paid tribute to Taylor and his musical legacy. It was there that Turville presented his own Taylor tribute “ A Perfect Foil”, which involved a collaboration with Arguelles, thus sowing the seed for this quintet project.
“ A Perfect Foil” graces the new recording alongside seven other Turville originals. Arguelles contributes his own composition “A Month In Tunisia” while outside material comes from fellow pianist/composers Diego Schissi, Toninho Horta and Michel Petrucciani.

Besides the influence of the musicians mentioned above Turville has also cited Bill Evans as a major source of inspiration in addition to classical composers such as John Ireland, Federico Mompou, Franz Liszt and the French Romantics. The music on “Head First” also draws inspiration from folk and world music with many of Turville’s compositions being inspired by places and experiences. Not everything is played by the full quintet, examples of duo, trio and quartet performances occur throughout the album.

The album commences with the attention grabbing “Fall Out”, which was originally written by Turville for a quartet but was subsequently arranged for big band. Thanks to the horn fanfares of Robson and Arguelles the quintet version of the tune still possesses an impressively big sound with the two horn men dovetailing neatly before embarking on their individual solos. Robson goes first, combining warmth with brassiness in a manner that has been compared to the late Kenny Wheeler. Next we hear from Turville himself who solos with his usual expansive fluency, with Arguelles subsequently displaying similar qualities on tenor. The rhythm section is busy and inventive throughout as Whitford and Maddren keep things moving and there is also something of a feature for the drummer.

“Almagro Nights” finds Turville returning to the trio format on a piece inspired by his love of Argentinian music - Turville’s discography includes recordings by the London Tango Orchestra and El Ultimo Tango. However the debt isn’t made too obvious as Turville stretches out imaginatively above Whitford’s grounding double bass and Maddren’s brisk, and consistently inventive, drumming.

“Seahorses” was inspired by a sea trip off the coast of Seahouses in Northumberland, doubtless to see the wonderful wildlife of the Farne Islands. It’s a suitably stormy piece, a concentrated burst of improvisation featuring squalling horns, turbulent piano and roiling rhythms, that eventually resolves itself as Turville and his colleagues finally navigate their way back to shore.

“Interval Music” represents ‘the calm after the storm’ and is an elegant lyrical piano and soprano sax duet that hints at both folk and classical music forms while recalling Arguelles’ celebrated duo with the late John Taylor.

It’s therefore perhaps appropriate that “A Perfect Foil”, Turville’s tribute to Taylor follows. There’s something of Taylor’s style in the writing and with Arguelles remaining on soprano I’m reminded of Taylor’s quartet with Arguelles, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Martin France that recorded the Kurt Vonnegut inspired album “Requiem For A Dreamer”, released in 2011. There’s an airy, breezy lyricism here in the gently darting solos of Turville and Arguelles, the latter really taking flight on the straight horn, his swooping arabesques underscored by another exceptional drumming performance from Maddren that sees him moving from brushes to sticks.

The title track, Turville’s tip of the hat to Fred Hirsch, sees a return to the trio format and finds Whitford coming to the fore with a virtuoso double bass solo of great dexterity and resonance. Turville himself positively sparkles as he stretches out above, and in dialogue with, Maddren’s jaunty samba inspired rhythms.

“Ennerdale” is inspired by the landscape of Lake District and espouses a pastoral sound featuring the warmly rounded tones of Robson’s trumpet and Turville’s own piano lyricism, his solo including a quote from Taylor’s composition “Ambleside”, another piece inspired by the beauty of this part of the world. Robson also features as a soloist, as does Arguelles who is gently incisive on tenor.

“Cancion 4” by the Buenos Aires born pianist, composer and bandleader Diego Schissi is performed as a piano and trumpet duet, the melancholy majesty of Robson’s playing again evoking comparisons with that of Kenny Wheeler. Turville again displays a flowing lyricism at the piano, on what is a beautiful duo performance from start to finish.

By way of contrast the mood is one of relaxed joyousness on a trio performance of Brazilian pianist Toninho Horta’s composition “Francisca” which features Turville’s lightness of touch at the piano allied to Maddren’s brightly detailed drumming. Whitford also impresses with another supremely dexterous bass solo.

Arguelles’  bustling “A Month In Tunisia” emerges from a freely structured intro to embrace something of the quirkiness that has become something of an Arguelles trademark over the years. Maddren’s exotic rhythms underpin an uncharacteristically percussive piano solo from Turville and joyously fluent flights of fancy from both Robson and Arguelles.

“Cyclic Chorale” is the last of Turville’s originals, a trio piece loosely inspired by Liszt and featuring the tightly focussed interplay of Turville, Whitford and Maddren, the mood varying from the tentative to the intense.

The album concludes with a swinging quintet arrangement of Michel Petrucciani’s “Beautiful But Why”, introduced by the two horns working in unison but with the first solo going to the powerfully plucked bass of Whitford. This is followed by a concise but eloquent statement from Arguelles on tenor, followed by slightly longer solos from Turville and Robson who both impress with their urgency and cogency. Maddren and Whitford also feature strongly in a lively series of group exchanges prior to a surprising freely structured outro.

It’s been a long wait for this latest album under Turville’s own name but on this evidence it has been well worth it. The writing by Turville and others is richly varied, embracing a variety of jazz styles and borrowing judiciously from other musical genres. The playing, from an all star ensemble is excellent throughout and the devolution of the quintet into smaller units at certain junctures along the way also works well.

The album was recorded at Artesuono Studio in Italy by engineer Stefano Amerio and the sound is excellent throughout. Turville clearly regards Artesuono as something of a musical and spiritual home and comments;
“As a leader there comes increased artistic freedom, so I love thinking on my feet and experimenting. Over two days of recording my band was in total alignment with the vibe and energy that I was looking for”.

The quintet is currently on tour in the UK with the remaining dates as follows;

1 March - The Fleece, Colchester
2 March - Workshop, Royal Academy of Music, London
4 March - Wells Cathedral, Cedars Hall
5 March - St Ives Jazz Club (Great Western Hotel)
6 March - Workshop and Concert, Purcell School, Bushey
7 March - Nottingham Jazzsteps, Bonington Theatre, Arnold
8 March - Workshop, Leeds College of Music
8 March - Sheffield Jazz, Crookes Social Club
9 March - The Verdict, Brighton

For further information please visit;
http://www.johnturville.com

Tony Kofi Sextet - Tony Kofi Sextet “A Portrait of Cannonball” at Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 22/02/2019. Rating: 4-5 out of 5 "A Portrait of Cannonball was a blast!" Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys this exploration of Cannonball Adderley's music by an all star sextet led by saxophonist Tony Kofi. Photo by Zoë White

A Portrait of Cannonball
 
Progress Theatre,  Reading, Berkshire, Friday 22 February 2019
 
Tony Kofi alto saxophone, Byron Wallen trumpet, Alex Webb piano, Andy Cleyndert bass, Alfonso Vitale drums, Deelee Dubé guest vocalist.
 
Julian Edwin Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida on 15 September 1928. His voracious appetite earned him the sobriquet ‘Cannibal’. That it later evolved into the much more acceptable ‘Cannonball’ proved an absolute gift for the copywriters who devised his early album titles. What could be better than ‘Cannonball’s Sharpshooters’ for an attention-grabbing banner? ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ perhaps? Cannonball’s début album for the Savoy label in 1955 announced his arrival on the New York jazz scene as a player of immense vitality and invention. He made people sit up and listen, but above all, to use Tony Kofi’s words from his beautifully poetic introduction to ‘A Portrait of Cannonball’, he made them smile.
 
It was the warmth of Cannonball’s humanity that endeared him to millions of fans across the world, and which instantly communicated itself with the Progress audience. Alex Webb lit the fuse to ignite ‘Bohemia After Dark’, and with sparks flying between the rhythm section and the tight front-line of Tony Kofi and Byron Wallen, it was clear that this promised to be an evening to remember.
 
Like Cannonball, Tony Kofi and Byron Wallen are absolute masters of the blues, as they clearly demonstrated on ‘Thing Are Getting Better’. A beautifully paced mid-tempo number, firmly anchored by Andy Cleyndert’s rich-toned bass lines and the sensitive pulse of Alfonso Vitale’s drumming, it allowed everyone to relax and really stretch out with their solos
 
‘Nardis’ explored darker territory. Wallen’s growling, ‘stepping-on-eggshells’ trumpet, the pure tone of Kofi’s alto and Alex Webb’s Spanish tinged piano combined to fully express the brooding qualities of the Miles Davis composition.
 
Alex Webb’s excellent narration linked each number within the wider context of Cannonball’s burgeoning career. We soon arrived at 1960 and ‘Del Sasser’, an earthy Sam Jones original from ‘Them Dirty Blues’, Cannonball’s landmark album for Riverside records. If the pots had been simmering up to this moment in the evening, Andy Cleyndert’s magnificent bass solo brought them fully to boiling point!
 
Rapturous applause greeted the arrival of guest vocalist Deelee Dubé, to evoke Cannonball’s 1961 collaboration with Nancy Wilson, a great singer who sadly died in December 2018. Ms Dubé, the first British recipient of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Award, has a voice of the purest gold. She lit up the stage as she launched into ‘Happy Talk’, with Kofi and Wallen busily ‘chattering’ away in their own musical conversation by way of accompaniment. ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote, revealed the full depth, range, crystal-clear diction and swing of Ms Dube’s beautiful voice. Absolute magic!
 
British born Victor Feldman, a brilliantly rounded musician who achieved that rare distinction of ‘making it’ in the States, contributed ‘Azule Serape’ (Blue Shawl) to Cannonball’s ‘At the Lighthouse’ album of 1961. Its open-spaced, Latin-tinged swing provided the perfect launchpad for a dazzling drum solo from Alfonso Vitale and brought an exhilarating first set to a close.

The elegant piano lines of Alex Webb set the second half in motion with Duke Pearson’s ‘Jeanine’, a dreamy, beautifully melodic number, whose precision and logic opened up endless possibilities for improvisation. On the other hand, ‘Sack O’ Woe’, another classic from ‘At the Lighthouse’, and taken a little faster than the original recording, presented the rhythm section at its most soulful and the front-line of Kofi and Wallen at their most exuberant. What fantastically expressive players they are!
 
Deelee Dubé’s return to the stage not only brought thunderous applause, but truly affirmed her place as a ‘brilliant new voice’ on the UK jazz scene. She negotiated the tricky rhythms of Frank Loesser’s ‘Will I Marry’ with absolute aplomb, captured the tender emotions of ‘The Masquerade is Over’ to perfection, aided by Byron Wallen’s wonderfully expressive obligato trumpet, both muted and open, and delivered ‘Big City’ as a show-stopping belter with the support of the band in full cry. Great!
 
‘Walk Tall’, a Joe Zawinul number from the 1967 album ’74 Miles Away’ and also the title of Cannonball’s biography, brought us into the final phase of his career which came to a much-too-early close with his death age 46 on 8 August 1975. It also provided a fitting background to the remarkable achievements, listed by Tony Kofi, which form Cannonball’s enduring legacy – a legacy which extends way beyond music to the heart of African-American identity through his support for Civil Rights and education projects.
 
After the gentle Latin breeze of ‘Saudade’, Deelee Dubé returned to the stage for the grand finale – what else but ‘Work Song’. If anything defines Cannonball, it’s this number from the pen of cornet-playing-brother Nat – earthy, blues-soaked and overflowing with the power of the human spirit!
 
To borrow a phrase from another commentator, ‘A Portrait of Cannonball was a blast!’ and in the words of one Progress regular, ‘It was the best gig that I’ve seen at Progress.’ I don’t think anyone could argue with either judgement.
 
Thanks are due to Hickie’s Music Store of Friar Street, Reading for the hire of an excellent piano and as ever to the Progress house team for their hospitality and the excellent quality of sound and lighting.

Tony Kofi Sextet “A Portrait of Cannonball” at Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 22/02/2019.

Tony Kofi Sextet

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

4-5 out of 5

Tony Kofi Sextet “A Portrait of Cannonball” at Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 22/02/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

"A Portrait of Cannonball was a blast!" Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys this exploration of Cannonball Adderley's music by an all star sextet led by saxophonist Tony Kofi. Photo by Zoë White

A Portrait of Cannonball
 
Progress Theatre,  Reading, Berkshire, Friday 22 February 2019
 
Tony Kofi alto saxophone, Byron Wallen trumpet, Alex Webb piano, Andy Cleyndert bass, Alfonso Vitale drums, Deelee Dubé guest vocalist.
 
Julian Edwin Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida on 15 September 1928. His voracious appetite earned him the sobriquet ‘Cannibal’. That it later evolved into the much more acceptable ‘Cannonball’ proved an absolute gift for the copywriters who devised his early album titles. What could be better than ‘Cannonball’s Sharpshooters’ for an attention-grabbing banner? ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ perhaps? Cannonball’s début album for the Savoy label in 1955 announced his arrival on the New York jazz scene as a player of immense vitality and invention. He made people sit up and listen, but above all, to use Tony Kofi’s words from his beautifully poetic introduction to ‘A Portrait of Cannonball’, he made them smile.
 
It was the warmth of Cannonball’s humanity that endeared him to millions of fans across the world, and which instantly communicated itself with the Progress audience. Alex Webb lit the fuse to ignite ‘Bohemia After Dark’, and with sparks flying between the rhythm section and the tight front-line of Tony Kofi and Byron Wallen, it was clear that this promised to be an evening to remember.
 
Like Cannonball, Tony Kofi and Byron Wallen are absolute masters of the blues, as they clearly demonstrated on ‘Thing Are Getting Better’. A beautifully paced mid-tempo number, firmly anchored by Andy Cleyndert’s rich-toned bass lines and the sensitive pulse of Alfonso Vitale’s drumming, it allowed everyone to relax and really stretch out with their solos
 
‘Nardis’ explored darker territory. Wallen’s growling, ‘stepping-on-eggshells’ trumpet, the pure tone of Kofi’s alto and Alex Webb’s Spanish tinged piano combined to fully express the brooding qualities of the Miles Davis composition.
 
Alex Webb’s excellent narration linked each number within the wider context of Cannonball’s burgeoning career. We soon arrived at 1960 and ‘Del Sasser’, an earthy Sam Jones original from ‘Them Dirty Blues’, Cannonball’s landmark album for Riverside records. If the pots had been simmering up to this moment in the evening, Andy Cleyndert’s magnificent bass solo brought them fully to boiling point!
 
Rapturous applause greeted the arrival of guest vocalist Deelee Dubé, to evoke Cannonball’s 1961 collaboration with Nancy Wilson, a great singer who sadly died in December 2018. Ms Dubé, the first British recipient of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Award, has a voice of the purest gold. She lit up the stage as she launched into ‘Happy Talk’, with Kofi and Wallen busily ‘chattering’ away in their own musical conversation by way of accompaniment. ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote, revealed the full depth, range, crystal-clear diction and swing of Ms Dube’s beautiful voice. Absolute magic!
 
British born Victor Feldman, a brilliantly rounded musician who achieved that rare distinction of ‘making it’ in the States, contributed ‘Azule Serape’ (Blue Shawl) to Cannonball’s ‘At the Lighthouse’ album of 1961. Its open-spaced, Latin-tinged swing provided the perfect launchpad for a dazzling drum solo from Alfonso Vitale and brought an exhilarating first set to a close.

The elegant piano lines of Alex Webb set the second half in motion with Duke Pearson’s ‘Jeanine’, a dreamy, beautifully melodic number, whose precision and logic opened up endless possibilities for improvisation. On the other hand, ‘Sack O’ Woe’, another classic from ‘At the Lighthouse’, and taken a little faster than the original recording, presented the rhythm section at its most soulful and the front-line of Kofi and Wallen at their most exuberant. What fantastically expressive players they are!
 
Deelee Dubé’s return to the stage not only brought thunderous applause, but truly affirmed her place as a ‘brilliant new voice’ on the UK jazz scene. She negotiated the tricky rhythms of Frank Loesser’s ‘Will I Marry’ with absolute aplomb, captured the tender emotions of ‘The Masquerade is Over’ to perfection, aided by Byron Wallen’s wonderfully expressive obligato trumpet, both muted and open, and delivered ‘Big City’ as a show-stopping belter with the support of the band in full cry. Great!
 
‘Walk Tall’, a Joe Zawinul number from the 1967 album ’74 Miles Away’ and also the title of Cannonball’s biography, brought us into the final phase of his career which came to a much-too-early close with his death age 46 on 8 August 1975. It also provided a fitting background to the remarkable achievements, listed by Tony Kofi, which form Cannonball’s enduring legacy – a legacy which extends way beyond music to the heart of African-American identity through his support for Civil Rights and education projects.
 
After the gentle Latin breeze of ‘Saudade’, Deelee Dubé returned to the stage for the grand finale – what else but ‘Work Song’. If anything defines Cannonball, it’s this number from the pen of cornet-playing-brother Nat – earthy, blues-soaked and overflowing with the power of the human spirit!
 
To borrow a phrase from another commentator, ‘A Portrait of Cannonball was a blast!’ and in the words of one Progress regular, ‘It was the best gig that I’ve seen at Progress.’ I don’t think anyone could argue with either judgement.
 
Thanks are due to Hickie’s Music Store of Friar Street, Reading for the hire of an excellent piano and as ever to the Progress house team for their hospitality and the excellent quality of sound and lighting.

Adam Glasser Quartet - Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 The distinctive instrumental configuration allied to the high standard of the playing ensured that this was a cut above the usual ‘visiting soloist plus local rhythm section’ club gig,

Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019.

The long awaited visit to Black Mountain Jazz by the jazz harmonica player and pianist Adam Glasser was a huge success and got the club’s 2019 programme off to a great start after January’s event, featuring the Bristol based band Radio Banska was cancelled due to illness.

South African born, London based Glasser is the UK’s leading exponent of jazz harmonica and has enjoyed a long and varied musical career performing across a variety of genres including both jazz and rock and including substantial theatre and film soundtrack work.  Starting out on piano he worked with the late South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and was the musical director for the veteran South African vocal group the Manhattan Brothers. As a harmonica player he has been heard on albums by the guitarists Dominic Miller and Carl Orr, Brazilian vocalist Zizi Possi and the trio Wild Card, led by guitarist Clement Regert.

As a leader Glasser has released two albums featuring his harmonica and keyboard playing, 2010’s “Free At Last” and 2012’s “”Mzansi”. Unfortunately both appear to have been deleted with Glasser having no copies of either available at gigs. Nevertheless both recordings won prizes at the South African Music Awards (SAMA), that country’s equivalent of the Grammys.

My first sighting of Glasser’s playing was at the 2014 Brecon Jazz Festival when he appeared as part of the Stroller programme, co-leading the group Township Comets alongside Loose Tubes trumpeter Chris Batchelor. On that occasion the band also included saxophonist Jason Yarde, trombonist Harry Brown, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Frank Tontoh plus guest guitarist Chris Montague, who fitted in seamlessly. The band’s vocalist and front woman, the late Pinise Saul, was unfortunately absent due to illness but the Comets still turned in a high energy and hugely enjoyable set despite performing on an outdoor stage in atrocious weather conditions.

In August 2018 Glasser returned to Brecon Jazz Festival to deliver two more highly successful performances. On the Friday evening he co-led a stellar ensemble in the rather more comfortable surroundings of the Guildhall that paid tribute to the memory and music of the late trumpeter Hugh Masekela and to South African jazz in general. The line up included trumpeter Byron Wallen, saxophonist Josephine Davies, guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Daisy George and drummer Corrie Dick.

The following day Glasser’s regular quartet of Luft, George and Dick played in the ballroom at the Wellington Hotel in a show titled “Toots Thielemans and Beyond”. If anything this was even better with Glasser’s virtuoso harmonica playing given greater rein and with rising star Luft also impressing with a series of dazzling guitar solos.

The quality of the two Brecon performances last summer helped to ensure a healthy audience turn out at the Melville Centre with the Abergavenny crowd supplemented by a small contingent from Brecon including Brecon Jazz Club organisers Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon.

Glasser’s accompanists for the evening had been selected by Mike Skilton of Black Mountain Jazz who had arranged for Bristol based organist John Paul Gard to bring along a trio featuring guitarist Adam Hopkins and drummer Billy Weir. The Gloucester based Hopkins was a new name to me but I was already aware of the talents of Weir, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire, who had previously visited BMJ as a member of the trio Ferris, Lee, Weir alongside organist David Ferris and guitarist Ben Lee, both also Birmingham alumni. Now based in Bristol Weir has also performed as part of pianist and composer John Law’s Re-Creations quartet.

Also an accomplished pianist Gard is something of an audience favourite in Wales and the West C Country and has appeared on several occasions at both Abergavenny and Brecon, both on Festival and club dates. He usually appears leading an organ trio and his annual Christmas gig in this format at the Queens Head in Monmouth has become something of a seasonal institution. He is due to return to BMJ in May 2019 as part of the trio accompanying vocalist and songwriter Becki Biggins.

Incredibly Glasser had never met Gard, Hopkins and Weir before this evening but the newly formed quartet was incredibly together from the word go “we’ve never played together before, but we speak the same language”  Glasser explained.

Inevitably the programme was tilted in favour of jazz standards but nevertheless Glasser managed to bring his musical personality to the proceedings and to give much of the music an unmistakable South African feel.

The quartet eased themselves in gently with the standard “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” with Glasser demonstrating a remarkable facility on the chromatic harmonica as he took the first solo, followed by left handed guitarist Hopkins. Gard plays a two manual Viscount Legend organ and supplements his sound with a Nord pedal board. His nifty footwork was much in evidence here as his pedal generated bass lines complemented the solos of both Glasser and Hopkins. Eventually Gard was let off the leash, his solo followed by a series of drum breaks from Weir as the members of the band all took the opportunity to introduce themselves to an attentive and supportive audience.

Glasser also had an electric piano on stage, facing Gard’s set up, and he turned to this now for “Stay Cool”, a tune by the South African musician Tete Mbambisa which brought a real feel of the Townships to Abergavenny. Gard took the first solo on organ, adding a dash of American gospel music to an already heady and infectious mix. Glasser himself then moved to the chromatic harmonica for his own solo.

Glasser is something of an evangelist for the chromatic harmonica, an instrument capable of playing in multiple keys and with a range equivalent to that of a flute. Its use in jazz was pioneered by the Belgian multi-instrumentalist Toots Thielemans, who undertook solos that would normally be played on trumpet or saxophone, effectively turning it into a convincing vehicle for jazz soloing, although its use still remains rare. Designed by an engineer at the Hohner company the instrument has no screws and can be easily assembled and disassembled for cleaning and maintenance.

Glasser demonstrated his remarkable fluency on the instrument as the quartet tackled the Dizzy Gillespie composed bebop standard “A Night In Tunisia” in an innovative arrangement that also included features for Hopkins, Gard and Weir, with the drummer contributing the first of several neatly constructed full length solos.

The leader may not have had any CDs for sale but for £20 he was offering aspiring musicians the opportunity to purchase a Melody Star harmonica, a smaller, less complex version of the chromatic with a future Skype lesson from the master as part of the deal. Higher in pitch the Melody Star is also a convincing jazz instrument as Glasser demonstrated on a delightful version of “My Romance” which emerged out of a dialogue between himself and guitarist Hopkins. With Weir offering tasteful brushed support we also enjoyed solos from Gard on gospel tinged organ and
Hopkins with a typically elegant contribution.

Written by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard I’m used to hearing “Little Sunflower” played on that instrument, notably by Birmingham based trumpeter Bryan Corbett. But Hubbard’s delightful melody was equally effective in the hands of Glasser who soloed effectively on the chromatic harmonica above the infectious soul/jazz grooves generated by his colleagues. We also enjoyed a solo from Gard at the organ as Glasser doubled on both piano and shakers.

The first set concluded with a stunning rendition of Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Anthropology” with Glasser displaying an astonishing agility on the chromatic harmonica as he tackled Parker’s slippery melody lines, Gard matching him with his nimble footwork on the pedals. Further solos came from Hopkins on guitar and Gard on organ, the pair spurred on by Weir’s crisp and propulsive drumming. Weir then enjoyed a series of brisk drum breaks before being given the nod by Glasser to launch into a full blown solo, thus bringing a hugely enjoyable first half to an energetic close.

Having already paid homage to his South African roots Glasser now acknowledged the influence of Thielemans with a version of Toots’ tune “Bluesette”, a piece that he had also performed at Brecon. Along the way Glasser informed us that the multi-talented Thielemans had once been George Shearing’s guitarist!  Glasser began with a passage of unaccompanied chromatic harmonica with later solos coming from Hopkins and Gard. Unfortunately technical problems with Glasser’s harmonica/mic set up detracted from the performance.

The difficulties were resolved for the quartet’s intriguing arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” with Glasser soloing on harmonica but again doubling up on piano and shakers to accompany Hopkins’ quote laden solo. A particularly intriguing aspect was Weir’s colourful drum feature, his percussive explorations underpinned by Gard’s extraordinary pedal bass lines.

We returned to South Africa for one of Glasser’s favourite tunes,” Zandile”  by Victor Ndlazilwane, saxophonist of the South African jazz group The Jazz Ministers. The Ministers played the famous Newport Jazz Festival in the US in the 1970s, helping to bring South African jazz and the political struggles associated with it to the attention of American audiences. With Weir laying down an insistent Township groove Glasser soloed on both piano and harmonica, his features punctuated by a solo from guitarist Hopkins.

Hopkins was also to feature prominently on the classic Wes Montgomery composition “Four On Six”, sharing the solos with Glasser and Gard and getting a nod of approval from the leader, who told the guitarist that Montgomery himself would have been impressed by him.

Glasser’s arrangement of “How Deep Is The Ocean” was included on his award winning “Mzansi” album, a recording that mixed jazz standards with South African Township tunes. The chromatic harmonica proved to be an effective vehicle for a sensitive ballad interpretation of Irving Berlin’s tune, even though those earlier technical difficulties temporarily resurfaced again. Further solos came from Gard and Hopkins prior to a solo harmonica cadenza at the close.

Another well known standard, Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned”, was given a distinctive South African twist, the groove fuelling solos from Glasser on both piano and harmonica, Hopkins on guitar and Gard on organ.

This was scheduled to be the final number of the evening but such was the enthusiasm of the crowd that BMJ’s Debs Hancock had little difficulty in persuading the band to stay on stage for an encore. In effect we got two for the price of one with Glasser switching to the smaller Melody Star for a quick romp through Miles Davis’ “Milestones”.This piece designed to showcase the qualities of the smaller harmonica and acted as a kind of commercial for Glasser’s instrument plus lesson package.
He then switched to the chromatic as the quartet segued into a similarly joyous rendition of Daniel Flores’ “Tequila”, with Weir’s cowbell heavy Latin grooves fuelling fiery solos from Glasser, Hopkins and Gard and with Weir also enjoying a final series of drum breaks.

This had been an excellent performance from a one off quartet that gelled very effectively right from the beginning. Glasser is not only a virtuoso soloist but is also an excellent communicator who was able to convey his obvious enthusiasm for the music to bandmates and audience alike.

Despite the similarity of their timbres the combination of organ and mouth organ (I bet Adam hates hearing the harmonica called that) actually worked very well with Glasser and Gard never getting in each other’s way. Gard also impressed as a soloist, as he always does, and as an accompanist too, his distinctive pedal bass lines and keyboard comping adding greatly to the success of the music. Hopkins and Weir also impressed with their contributions, both as soloists and as all round team players.

Glasser had delivered on the promise shown by his two Brecon shows and the distinctive instrumental configuration allied to the high standard of the playing ensured that this was a cut above the usual ‘visiting soloist plus local rhythm section’ club gig, the occasional technical glitch notwithstanding.

Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019.

Adam Glasser Quartet

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019.
Photography: Photograph of Adam Glasser sourced from the Black Mountian Jazz website http://www.blackmountainjazz.co.uk

The distinctive instrumental configuration allied to the high standard of the playing ensured that this was a cut above the usual ‘visiting soloist plus local rhythm section’ club gig,

Adam Glasser Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/02/2019.

The long awaited visit to Black Mountain Jazz by the jazz harmonica player and pianist Adam Glasser was a huge success and got the club’s 2019 programme off to a great start after January’s event, featuring the Bristol based band Radio Banska was cancelled due to illness.

South African born, London based Glasser is the UK’s leading exponent of jazz harmonica and has enjoyed a long and varied musical career performing across a variety of genres including both jazz and rock and including substantial theatre and film soundtrack work.  Starting out on piano he worked with the late South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and was the musical director for the veteran South African vocal group the Manhattan Brothers. As a harmonica player he has been heard on albums by the guitarists Dominic Miller and Carl Orr, Brazilian vocalist Zizi Possi and the trio Wild Card, led by guitarist Clement Regert.

As a leader Glasser has released two albums featuring his harmonica and keyboard playing, 2010’s “Free At Last” and 2012’s “”Mzansi”. Unfortunately both appear to have been deleted with Glasser having no copies of either available at gigs. Nevertheless both recordings won prizes at the South African Music Awards (SAMA), that country’s equivalent of the Grammys.

My first sighting of Glasser’s playing was at the 2014 Brecon Jazz Festival when he appeared as part of the Stroller programme, co-leading the group Township Comets alongside Loose Tubes trumpeter Chris Batchelor. On that occasion the band also included saxophonist Jason Yarde, trombonist Harry Brown, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Frank Tontoh plus guest guitarist Chris Montague, who fitted in seamlessly. The band’s vocalist and front woman, the late Pinise Saul, was unfortunately absent due to illness but the Comets still turned in a high energy and hugely enjoyable set despite performing on an outdoor stage in atrocious weather conditions.

In August 2018 Glasser returned to Brecon Jazz Festival to deliver two more highly successful performances. On the Friday evening he co-led a stellar ensemble in the rather more comfortable surroundings of the Guildhall that paid tribute to the memory and music of the late trumpeter Hugh Masekela and to South African jazz in general. The line up included trumpeter Byron Wallen, saxophonist Josephine Davies, guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Daisy George and drummer Corrie Dick.

The following day Glasser’s regular quartet of Luft, George and Dick played in the ballroom at the Wellington Hotel in a show titled “Toots Thielemans and Beyond”. If anything this was even better with Glasser’s virtuoso harmonica playing given greater rein and with rising star Luft also impressing with a series of dazzling guitar solos.

The quality of the two Brecon performances last summer helped to ensure a healthy audience turn out at the Melville Centre with the Abergavenny crowd supplemented by a small contingent from Brecon including Brecon Jazz Club organisers Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon.

Glasser’s accompanists for the evening had been selected by Mike Skilton of Black Mountain Jazz who had arranged for Bristol based organist John Paul Gard to bring along a trio featuring guitarist Adam Hopkins and drummer Billy Weir. The Gloucester based Hopkins was a new name to me but I was already aware of the talents of Weir, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire, who had previously visited BMJ as a member of the trio Ferris, Lee, Weir alongside organist David Ferris and guitarist Ben Lee, both also Birmingham alumni. Now based in Bristol Weir has also performed as part of pianist and composer John Law’s Re-Creations quartet.

Also an accomplished pianist Gard is something of an audience favourite in Wales and the West C Country and has appeared on several occasions at both Abergavenny and Brecon, both on Festival and club dates. He usually appears leading an organ trio and his annual Christmas gig in this format at the Queens Head in Monmouth has become something of a seasonal institution. He is due to return to BMJ in May 2019 as part of the trio accompanying vocalist and songwriter Becki Biggins.

Incredibly Glasser had never met Gard, Hopkins and Weir before this evening but the newly formed quartet was incredibly together from the word go “we’ve never played together before, but we speak the same language”  Glasser explained.

Inevitably the programme was tilted in favour of jazz standards but nevertheless Glasser managed to bring his musical personality to the proceedings and to give much of the music an unmistakable South African feel.

The quartet eased themselves in gently with the standard “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” with Glasser demonstrating a remarkable facility on the chromatic harmonica as he took the first solo, followed by left handed guitarist Hopkins. Gard plays a two manual Viscount Legend organ and supplements his sound with a Nord pedal board. His nifty footwork was much in evidence here as his pedal generated bass lines complemented the solos of both Glasser and Hopkins. Eventually Gard was let off the leash, his solo followed by a series of drum breaks from Weir as the members of the band all took the opportunity to introduce themselves to an attentive and supportive audience.

Glasser also had an electric piano on stage, facing Gard’s set up, and he turned to this now for “Stay Cool”, a tune by the South African musician Tete Mbambisa which brought a real feel of the Townships to Abergavenny. Gard took the first solo on organ, adding a dash of American gospel music to an already heady and infectious mix. Glasser himself then moved to the chromatic harmonica for his own solo.

Glasser is something of an evangelist for the chromatic harmonica, an instrument capable of playing in multiple keys and with a range equivalent to that of a flute. Its use in jazz was pioneered by the Belgian multi-instrumentalist Toots Thielemans, who undertook solos that would normally be played on trumpet or saxophone, effectively turning it into a convincing vehicle for jazz soloing, although its use still remains rare. Designed by an engineer at the Hohner company the instrument has no screws and can be easily assembled and disassembled for cleaning and maintenance.

Glasser demonstrated his remarkable fluency on the instrument as the quartet tackled the Dizzy Gillespie composed bebop standard “A Night In Tunisia” in an innovative arrangement that also included features for Hopkins, Gard and Weir, with the drummer contributing the first of several neatly constructed full length solos.

The leader may not have had any CDs for sale but for £20 he was offering aspiring musicians the opportunity to purchase a Melody Star harmonica, a smaller, less complex version of the chromatic with a future Skype lesson from the master as part of the deal. Higher in pitch the Melody Star is also a convincing jazz instrument as Glasser demonstrated on a delightful version of “My Romance” which emerged out of a dialogue between himself and guitarist Hopkins. With Weir offering tasteful brushed support we also enjoyed solos from Gard on gospel tinged organ and
Hopkins with a typically elegant contribution.

Written by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard I’m used to hearing “Little Sunflower” played on that instrument, notably by Birmingham based trumpeter Bryan Corbett. But Hubbard’s delightful melody was equally effective in the hands of Glasser who soloed effectively on the chromatic harmonica above the infectious soul/jazz grooves generated by his colleagues. We also enjoyed a solo from Gard at the organ as Glasser doubled on both piano and shakers.

The first set concluded with a stunning rendition of Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Anthropology” with Glasser displaying an astonishing agility on the chromatic harmonica as he tackled Parker’s slippery melody lines, Gard matching him with his nimble footwork on the pedals. Further solos came from Hopkins on guitar and Gard on organ, the pair spurred on by Weir’s crisp and propulsive drumming. Weir then enjoyed a series of brisk drum breaks before being given the nod by Glasser to launch into a full blown solo, thus bringing a hugely enjoyable first half to an energetic close.

Having already paid homage to his South African roots Glasser now acknowledged the influence of Thielemans with a version of Toots’ tune “Bluesette”, a piece that he had also performed at Brecon. Along the way Glasser informed us that the multi-talented Thielemans had once been George Shearing’s guitarist!  Glasser began with a passage of unaccompanied chromatic harmonica with later solos coming from Hopkins and Gard. Unfortunately technical problems with Glasser’s harmonica/mic set up detracted from the performance.

The difficulties were resolved for the quartet’s intriguing arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” with Glasser soloing on harmonica but again doubling up on piano and shakers to accompany Hopkins’ quote laden solo. A particularly intriguing aspect was Weir’s colourful drum feature, his percussive explorations underpinned by Gard’s extraordinary pedal bass lines.

We returned to South Africa for one of Glasser’s favourite tunes,” Zandile”  by Victor Ndlazilwane, saxophonist of the South African jazz group The Jazz Ministers. The Ministers played the famous Newport Jazz Festival in the US in the 1970s, helping to bring South African jazz and the political struggles associated with it to the attention of American audiences. With Weir laying down an insistent Township groove Glasser soloed on both piano and harmonica, his features punctuated by a solo from guitarist Hopkins.

Hopkins was also to feature prominently on the classic Wes Montgomery composition “Four On Six”, sharing the solos with Glasser and Gard and getting a nod of approval from the leader, who told the guitarist that Montgomery himself would have been impressed by him.

Glasser’s arrangement of “How Deep Is The Ocean” was included on his award winning “Mzansi” album, a recording that mixed jazz standards with South African Township tunes. The chromatic harmonica proved to be an effective vehicle for a sensitive ballad interpretation of Irving Berlin’s tune, even though those earlier technical difficulties temporarily resurfaced again. Further solos came from Gard and Hopkins prior to a solo harmonica cadenza at the close.

Another well known standard, Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned”, was given a distinctive South African twist, the groove fuelling solos from Glasser on both piano and harmonica, Hopkins on guitar and Gard on organ.

This was scheduled to be the final number of the evening but such was the enthusiasm of the crowd that BMJ’s Debs Hancock had little difficulty in persuading the band to stay on stage for an encore. In effect we got two for the price of one with Glasser switching to the smaller Melody Star for a quick romp through Miles Davis’ “Milestones”.This piece designed to showcase the qualities of the smaller harmonica and acted as a kind of commercial for Glasser’s instrument plus lesson package.
He then switched to the chromatic as the quartet segued into a similarly joyous rendition of Daniel Flores’ “Tequila”, with Weir’s cowbell heavy Latin grooves fuelling fiery solos from Glasser, Hopkins and Gard and with Weir also enjoying a final series of drum breaks.

This had been an excellent performance from a one off quartet that gelled very effectively right from the beginning. Glasser is not only a virtuoso soloist but is also an excellent communicator who was able to convey his obvious enthusiasm for the music to bandmates and audience alike.

Despite the similarity of their timbres the combination of organ and mouth organ (I bet Adam hates hearing the harmonica called that) actually worked very well with Glasser and Gard never getting in each other’s way. Gard also impressed as a soloist, as he always does, and as an accompanist too, his distinctive pedal bass lines and keyboard comping adding greatly to the success of the music. Hopkins and Weir also impressed with their contributions, both as soloists and as all round team players.

Glasser had delivered on the promise shown by his two Brecon shows and the distinctive instrumental configuration allied to the high standard of the playing ensured that this was a cut above the usual ‘visiting soloist plus local rhythm section’ club gig, the occasional technical glitch notwithstanding.

Rymden - Reflections & Odysseys Rating: 4 out of 5 A strong début showing from Rymden. This is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.

Rymden

“Reflections & Odysseys”

(Jazzland Records No. 29,  Bar Code 377 920 6)

Rymden is the new Scandinavian ‘supergroup’ featuring the Norwegian pianist,  keyboard player and composer Bugge Wesseltoft in a co-operative trio with the Swedish musicians Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Ostrom (drums).

Berglund and Ostrom are best known to jazz audiences as the long serving rhythm section of e.s.t., the ground breaking trio led by their compatriot, the great pianist and composer Esbjorn Svensson.
Formed in 1993 and signed to the German label ACT e.s.t. became the biggest jazz act in Europe, achieving near pop star status in many countries. They made substantial inroads in the UK, US and Australia too and were still exhibiting signs of artistic progress when Svensson was tragically killed in a scuba diving accident in 2008 aged just forty four.

Both Berglund and Ostrom remained with ACT following the tragedy and both subsequently recorded their own groups for the label, Ostrom working under his own name and Berglund leading the co-operative quartet Tonbruket. Both achieved considerable critical and commercial success.

Meanwhile Wesseltoft is celebrated for his 1990s/2000s ‘New Conception of Jazz” ensemble which fused jazz with the dance beats and DJ culture of the time. Also an accomplished acoustic player Wesseltoft has recorded solo piano albums for ACT and has collaborated with many of Norway’s leading jazz musicians including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. He has also recorded several albums as co-leader with the experimental vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen. Wesseltoft is the founder of the Jazzland and OK World record labels and is one of most influential figures in contemporary Norwegian music.

Rymden take their band name from the Swedish word for ‘space’ but the initial idea for the trio came from Wesseltoft, who had often been on the same festival bills as e.s.t.
Wesseltoft and Berglund subsequently worked together in Trialogue, a project that also featured the Berlin based electronic musician Henrik Schwarz.

Following Svensson’s death both Berglund and Ostrom made a point of avoiding the piano trio format and also elected to spend time apart from each other, in a professional sense at least. It’s only after a ten year interim that they felt able to re-unite as a rhythm team and to do so in what is ostensibly the piano trio format.

But Rymden is very different to e.s.t. in that it places a greater emphasis on electronic keyboards and rock rhythms, a reflection of the new trio’s shared prog rock past that embraces Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Rush plus jazzier offshoots such as Billy Cobham, and particularly Weather Report. Not that e.s.t were strangers to electronics, those influences also fed into their music, particularly with Berglund’s heavily distorted arco bass solos, which became something of a group trademark.

The influence of Weather Report and of fusion era Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are detectable in Rymden’s sound but the trio have also cited the influence of more contemporary acts such as Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and the Swedish math metal band Meshuggah plus numerous other contemporary metal and hip hop acts.

The Rymden trio introduced itself to the UK jazz audience with a well received set at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, which included the bulk of the material to be heard on this eponymous début album. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-seven-thursday-22nd-november-2018/

Rymden are due to return to the UK and will appear at the Jazz Arena on May 4th 2019 as part of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Please visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz for further details.

Turning now to the album which sees the three musicians dividing the writing credits between themselves but with the largest proportion of the compositions coming from the pen of project instigator Wesseltoft.

However we commence with the jointly improvised atmospherics of “Rymden – Reflections”, which is credited to the group as a whole and segues into Wesseltoft’s “Rymden – The Odyssey”, effectively making this opening double salvo the title track.
“Reflections” mixes fragile, glacial acoustic piano with the electronic sounds of deep space, seguing into “The Odyssey” as Wesseltoft establishes a melodic/rhythmic motif which is given weight by the addition of Ostrom’s drums. With lift off achieved a powerful groove is established, one that goes through several permutations as the music gathers momentum, Wesseltoft moves seamlessly between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing on acoustic piano but also weaving rich sonic tapestries and textures on synthesiser and Rhodes. At the QEH he was surrounded by a bank of keyboards, effortlessly and instinctively gravitating between the various instruments.

By his own admission Wesseltoft’s compositions tend to be simple affairs, but based around strong ideas that the trio can collectively develop. “I don’t really compose as much as I make firm guidelines”,  he explains, “I might have a very simple theme or riff or combination of these, so it’s the group as a unit that brings energy and life to it to make the best possible version. My goal was never to write a composition with more than one page”.

Credited to Berglund “The Peacemaker” is a short (thirty eight seconds), but beguiling passage of unaccompanied bass that introduces the same composer’s “Pitter Patter”. This is a playful, slyly funky piece underpinned by Berglund’s muscular bass figures and Ostrom’s skittering drum grooves. The pair remain a great rhythm team and they complement Wesseltoft’s lively work on electric piano, his plating variously recalling Corea, Hancock, Zawinul and even Stevie Wonder. There’s also a powerful but highly dexterous solo from Berglund at the bass.

In contrast to Wesseltoft’s writing Ostrom’s pieces tend to be very much through composed, an approach that he perfected with his own bands. The drummer also has a special way with a title and it was he who gave the name to most of Svensson’s compositions for e.s.t.
The drummer’s first contribution with the pen is “The Lugubrious Youth Of Lucky Luke”, a ballad featuring Wesseltoft acoustic piano and with a richly melodic solo from Berglund on double bass. The composer’s own contribution is understated, consisting of atmospheric mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers on a piece that recalls e.s.t at their most reflective.

Wesseltoft’s “The Celestial Dog” was written in honour of the canine cosmonaut Laika and commences with the gentle militarism of Ostrom’s drums.  The sparse but beguiling melody is reminiscent of e.s.t. at their most accessible while Berglund’s rich but eerie bowed bass adds a suitably otherworldly quality to a tune whose title suggests that it be seen as a companion piece to e.s.t’s “From Gagarin’s Point Of View”. Subsequently the trio develop the composition into something more dramatic and dynamic before eventually fading away and coming full circle.

Ostrom’s balladic “Bergen”, a fully composed piece, combines jazz harmony with beguiling folk like melodies and includes features for Wesseltoft on acoustic piano and Berglund on double bass, the latter playing both with and without the bow, his arco playing again sometimes evoking memories of e.s.t. . The focus on melody and the use of uncredited wordless vocals also recalls the music of Pat Metheny, with whom Berglund and Ostrom once worked, the three paying tribute to Svensson on Ostrom’s 2011 solo début “Thread Of Life”.

Also credited to the drummer is “Rak – The Abyss”, the carefully constructed and highly atmospheric solo percussion introduction to Wesseltoft’s “Rak”, a piece named after a region of Sweden. “Rak” was one of the highlights of Rymden’s London appearance with its powerful riffing and judicious use of rock rhythms. Wesseltoft moves between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing effectively on Rhodes as those “Bitches Brew” and Weather Report influences come to the fore. There are more impressionistic episodes too, very much in keeping with the group’s space theme.

The brief “Orbiting” represents Wesseltoft’s ‘solo’ feature, although Berglund’s bowed bass is in there too, and represents a prelude to the closing “Homegrown”. Written by the pianist this charming ballad is one of his prettiest tunes and contains a delightfully melodic pizzicato bass solo from Berglund, who also makes subtle and atmospheric use of the bow. An intentionally simple arrangement places the focus on melody with Ostrom supplying sympathetic and understated drum accompaniment. It’s a piece that has been compared to e.s.t at their most lyrical but the hymn like quality of the tune and the sparseness of the arrangement also reminds me of the Tord Gustavsen Trio.

“Reflections & Odysseys” confirms the promise of that London show and establishes a distinctive group sound that combines elements of jazz, rock, folk and classical music. The differing writing styles of the three protagonists make for effective contrasts and the music makes effective use of light and shade and skilfully combines acoustic and electric sounds.

“Reflections & Odysseys” represents a strong début showing from Rymden and this looks like a project with ‘legs’. The album has been well received by the jazz press and the new trio is proving to be popular with audiences too. Wesseltoft doesn’t attempt to emulate Svensson but instead brings his own musical personality to the project in a way that suggests that this is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.
Rymden’s journey into space looks set to continue.

Reflections & Odysseys

Rymden

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Reflections & Odysseys

A strong début showing from Rymden. This is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.

Rymden

“Reflections & Odysseys”

(Jazzland Records No. 29,  Bar Code 377 920 6)

Rymden is the new Scandinavian ‘supergroup’ featuring the Norwegian pianist,  keyboard player and composer Bugge Wesseltoft in a co-operative trio with the Swedish musicians Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Ostrom (drums).

Berglund and Ostrom are best known to jazz audiences as the long serving rhythm section of e.s.t., the ground breaking trio led by their compatriot, the great pianist and composer Esbjorn Svensson.
Formed in 1993 and signed to the German label ACT e.s.t. became the biggest jazz act in Europe, achieving near pop star status in many countries. They made substantial inroads in the UK, US and Australia too and were still exhibiting signs of artistic progress when Svensson was tragically killed in a scuba diving accident in 2008 aged just forty four.

Both Berglund and Ostrom remained with ACT following the tragedy and both subsequently recorded their own groups for the label, Ostrom working under his own name and Berglund leading the co-operative quartet Tonbruket. Both achieved considerable critical and commercial success.

Meanwhile Wesseltoft is celebrated for his 1990s/2000s ‘New Conception of Jazz” ensemble which fused jazz with the dance beats and DJ culture of the time. Also an accomplished acoustic player Wesseltoft has recorded solo piano albums for ACT and has collaborated with many of Norway’s leading jazz musicians including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. He has also recorded several albums as co-leader with the experimental vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen. Wesseltoft is the founder of the Jazzland and OK World record labels and is one of most influential figures in contemporary Norwegian music.

Rymden take their band name from the Swedish word for ‘space’ but the initial idea for the trio came from Wesseltoft, who had often been on the same festival bills as e.s.t.
Wesseltoft and Berglund subsequently worked together in Trialogue, a project that also featured the Berlin based electronic musician Henrik Schwarz.

Following Svensson’s death both Berglund and Ostrom made a point of avoiding the piano trio format and also elected to spend time apart from each other, in a professional sense at least. It’s only after a ten year interim that they felt able to re-unite as a rhythm team and to do so in what is ostensibly the piano trio format.

But Rymden is very different to e.s.t. in that it places a greater emphasis on electronic keyboards and rock rhythms, a reflection of the new trio’s shared prog rock past that embraces Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Rush plus jazzier offshoots such as Billy Cobham, and particularly Weather Report. Not that e.s.t were strangers to electronics, those influences also fed into their music, particularly with Berglund’s heavily distorted arco bass solos, which became something of a group trademark.

The influence of Weather Report and of fusion era Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are detectable in Rymden’s sound but the trio have also cited the influence of more contemporary acts such as Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and the Swedish math metal band Meshuggah plus numerous other contemporary metal and hip hop acts.

The Rymden trio introduced itself to the UK jazz audience with a well received set at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, which included the bulk of the material to be heard on this eponymous début album. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-seven-thursday-22nd-november-2018/

Rymden are due to return to the UK and will appear at the Jazz Arena on May 4th 2019 as part of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Please visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz for further details.

Turning now to the album which sees the three musicians dividing the writing credits between themselves but with the largest proportion of the compositions coming from the pen of project instigator Wesseltoft.

However we commence with the jointly improvised atmospherics of “Rymden – Reflections”, which is credited to the group as a whole and segues into Wesseltoft’s “Rymden – The Odyssey”, effectively making this opening double salvo the title track.
“Reflections” mixes fragile, glacial acoustic piano with the electronic sounds of deep space, seguing into “The Odyssey” as Wesseltoft establishes a melodic/rhythmic motif which is given weight by the addition of Ostrom’s drums. With lift off achieved a powerful groove is established, one that goes through several permutations as the music gathers momentum, Wesseltoft moves seamlessly between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing on acoustic piano but also weaving rich sonic tapestries and textures on synthesiser and Rhodes. At the QEH he was surrounded by a bank of keyboards, effortlessly and instinctively gravitating between the various instruments.

By his own admission Wesseltoft’s compositions tend to be simple affairs, but based around strong ideas that the trio can collectively develop. “I don’t really compose as much as I make firm guidelines”,  he explains, “I might have a very simple theme or riff or combination of these, so it’s the group as a unit that brings energy and life to it to make the best possible version. My goal was never to write a composition with more than one page”.

Credited to Berglund “The Peacemaker” is a short (thirty eight seconds), but beguiling passage of unaccompanied bass that introduces the same composer’s “Pitter Patter”. This is a playful, slyly funky piece underpinned by Berglund’s muscular bass figures and Ostrom’s skittering drum grooves. The pair remain a great rhythm team and they complement Wesseltoft’s lively work on electric piano, his plating variously recalling Corea, Hancock, Zawinul and even Stevie Wonder. There’s also a powerful but highly dexterous solo from Berglund at the bass.

In contrast to Wesseltoft’s writing Ostrom’s pieces tend to be very much through composed, an approach that he perfected with his own bands. The drummer also has a special way with a title and it was he who gave the name to most of Svensson’s compositions for e.s.t.
The drummer’s first contribution with the pen is “The Lugubrious Youth Of Lucky Luke”, a ballad featuring Wesseltoft acoustic piano and with a richly melodic solo from Berglund on double bass. The composer’s own contribution is understated, consisting of atmospheric mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers on a piece that recalls e.s.t at their most reflective.

Wesseltoft’s “The Celestial Dog” was written in honour of the canine cosmonaut Laika and commences with the gentle militarism of Ostrom’s drums.  The sparse but beguiling melody is reminiscent of e.s.t. at their most accessible while Berglund’s rich but eerie bowed bass adds a suitably otherworldly quality to a tune whose title suggests that it be seen as a companion piece to e.s.t’s “From Gagarin’s Point Of View”. Subsequently the trio develop the composition into something more dramatic and dynamic before eventually fading away and coming full circle.

Ostrom’s balladic “Bergen”, a fully composed piece, combines jazz harmony with beguiling folk like melodies and includes features for Wesseltoft on acoustic piano and Berglund on double bass, the latter playing both with and without the bow, his arco playing again sometimes evoking memories of e.s.t. . The focus on melody and the use of uncredited wordless vocals also recalls the music of Pat Metheny, with whom Berglund and Ostrom once worked, the three paying tribute to Svensson on Ostrom’s 2011 solo début “Thread Of Life”.

Also credited to the drummer is “Rak – The Abyss”, the carefully constructed and highly atmospheric solo percussion introduction to Wesseltoft’s “Rak”, a piece named after a region of Sweden. “Rak” was one of the highlights of Rymden’s London appearance with its powerful riffing and judicious use of rock rhythms. Wesseltoft moves between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing effectively on Rhodes as those “Bitches Brew” and Weather Report influences come to the fore. There are more impressionistic episodes too, very much in keeping with the group’s space theme.

The brief “Orbiting” represents Wesseltoft’s ‘solo’ feature, although Berglund’s bowed bass is in there too, and represents a prelude to the closing “Homegrown”. Written by the pianist this charming ballad is one of his prettiest tunes and contains a delightfully melodic pizzicato bass solo from Berglund, who also makes subtle and atmospheric use of the bow. An intentionally simple arrangement places the focus on melody with Ostrom supplying sympathetic and understated drum accompaniment. It’s a piece that has been compared to e.s.t at their most lyrical but the hymn like quality of the tune and the sparseness of the arrangement also reminds me of the Tord Gustavsen Trio.

“Reflections & Odysseys” confirms the promise of that London show and establishes a distinctive group sound that combines elements of jazz, rock, folk and classical music. The differing writing styles of the three protagonists make for effective contrasts and the music makes effective use of light and shade and skilfully combines acoustic and electric sounds.

“Reflections & Odysseys” represents a strong début showing from Rymden and this looks like a project with ‘legs’. The album has been well received by the jazz press and the new trio is proving to be popular with audiences too. Wesseltoft doesn’t attempt to emulate Svensson but instead brings his own musical personality to the project in a way that suggests that this is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.
Rymden’s journey into space looks set to continue.

Huw Warren Trio - Huw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An excellent performance from three highly talented musicians. The release of the forthcoming album “Everything In Between” will be very keenly anticipated.

Huw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019.

Brecon Jazz Club’s February event brought something of a Welsh ‘supergroup’ to The Muse.

North Wales based pianist and composer Huw Warren is a musician with an international reputation who is currently touring in support of his forthcoming trio album “Everything In Between” which is due to be released on the Italian Cam Jazz record label, the imprint that was once the ‘home’ of the late, great pianist and composer John Taylor.

The new album will feature the trio of Huw Warren, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Zoot Warren, Huw’s son.  However for tonight’s performance Brecon Jazz Club had invited double bassist Paula Gardiner to join Huw and Zoot. Based in Cardiff Gardiner is the Head of Jazz at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff (RWCMD).

Gardiner is an old friend of Brecon Jazz and first performed at the town’s famous jazz festival in 1986. She subsequently led her own groups releasing the albums “Tales of Inclination” (1995), “Six” (1999) and “Hot Lament” (2008). She was also a member of pianist Dave Stapleton’s Quintet (DSQ) and appeared on that group’s first two albums “When Life Was In Black And White” and “The House Always Wins”. In recent years Gardiner has placed a greater emphasis on her role as an educator and tonight was the first time that I had seen her playing live for some considerable time.

I first became aware of Huw Warren’s playing and composing during the 1990s through the collaborative quartet Perfect Houseplants which also featured bassist Dudley Phillips, saxophonist Mark Lockheart and drummer Martin France, my interest in the band first piqued by the inclusion of former Loose Tubes Lockheart and France. I still love the Houseplants’ unique fusion of jazz, folk, classical and various ethnic musics and even now the quartet still play the occasional re-union concert.

I’ve also followed Huw’s solo career which has yielded several pleasingly eclectic albums including “A Barrel Organ Far From Home” (1997) and “Hundreds Of Things A Boy Can Make” (2003), both of which built upon the quirkiness of the Houseplants sound.

Warren, also a skilled accordionist and cellist, is a serial collaborator who has a particular affinity for working with vocalists, among them Maria Pia De Vito, Christine Tobin and the folk diva June Tabor for whom he acted as pianist and musical director on several of the singer’s solo albums. Warren and Tabor plus saxophonist Iain Ballamy now perform under the collective name Quercus and have recorded two acclaimed folk/jazz albums for the prestigious ECM record label.

Like Gardiner Warren is something of a Brecon favourite having played at the Festival on many occasions, the highlights including collaborations with American drummer Jim Black and with Italian clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi, in addition to numerous sideman appearances. He has also led his own groups including Quercus and in 2014 a quartet paying homage to Dylan Thomas via Warren’s yet to be recorded jazz suite “Do Not Go Gentle”.

In 2009 Warren released “Hermeto +” (Basho Records), an album that paid tribute to the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, a musician who has had a particularly strong influence on Warren and other British musicians, including other members of Perfect Houseplants and Loose Tubes. Recorded with France at the drums and the Austrian musician Peter Herbert on double bass “Hermeto +” featured a near 50/50 split between arrangements of Pascoal compositions and Warren originals inspired by the great man. The album attracted considerable acclaim and much of the material formed part of the repertoire of Warren’s Trio Brasil featuring Huw, Dudley Phillips and Zoot, sometimes augmented by guest saxophonist Iain Ballamy, which has gigged widely in the UK ever since, including an excellent performance at the 2016 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in nearby Abergavenny.

The forthcoming album “Something In Between”, due for release on March 15th 2019, will represent the long awaited follow up to “Hermeto +” and will again feature a mix of Pascoal compositions and Warren originals. The personnel this time round will be the ongoing Trio Brasil of Huw, Phillips and Zoot and the repertoire from the new album formed the basis of tonight’s two sets.

With no grand piano available Huw performed on a Yamaha electric keyboard with the sound set to acoustic piano. With Gardiner on double bass and Zoot behind the kit the trio kicked off with the Warren original “Mouli Baby” which commenced with a freely structured intro featuring Zoot’s use of mallets and bare hands before a folk like melody emerged on a piece that exhibited a distinct influence from West African music. This was music that was simultaneously complex and joyous, characteristics that also distinguish Pascoal’s music, and the piece included impressive opening solos from Huw and Gardiner as Zoot provided astute rhythmic colour and propulsion.

Next we heard a segue of Pascoal tunes. Huw has been influenced by Brazilian music in general, but by Pascoal in particular. But anybody expecting a relaxing evening of gentle Jobim style samba and bossa was in for a shock. Pascoal’s music is more complex, rhythmic and vibrant and his richly colourful compositions bring their own rewards, even if they do make the listener work a little bit harder. Huw describes it as “serous fun”, a quality he tries to bring to all his music making.

“O Farol que nos guia” began with a passage of unaccompanied piano that developed into a sumptuously flowing melody tenderly embellished by Zoot’s exquisite cymbal work as he delicately shadowed his father’s playing. Gardiner flourished her bow as she provided the link into the more vibrant and energetic second half of the segue, “Papo Furado”, meaning “Jive Talking” which was distinguished by a dazzling piano solo from Huw and a neatly constructed solo drum feature from Zoot. Without Ballamy in the band the young drummer was given more room to shine and I was hugely impressed by his contribution throughout the evening as he coaxed a wide range of sounds and colours from his kit and responded instinctively to his colleagues, always seeming to play the right beat or accent.

Huw’s original “First Love, Last Rites” was inspired by an Ian McEwan collection of short stories and was a delightful ballad introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano. Huw’s lyricism at the keyboard was matched by Gardiner’s melodic double bass solo while Zoot again displayed a deft and subtle cymbal touch.

“Endless Stars”, by the esteemed American pianist and composer Fred Hersch, doubtless another one of Huw’s musical heroes, followed a similar trajectory; another beautiful tune introduced by a passage of solo piano and again finding room for a bass solo from the excellent Gardiner.

The first set concluded with the trio picking up the pace again for a spirited romp through Pascoal’s “Chorino pra Ele”. Huw informed us that a ‘chorino’ was originally a 19th century dance incorporating classical harmonies and Brazilian rhythms. Tonight’s arrangement also threw an allusion to John Coltrane’s classic jazz composition “Giant Steps” into the mix.

Set two began with an unaccompanied passage from Zoot at the drums, subsequently joined by Gardiner’s bass as the rhythm team introduced “Sambari”, written by the Brazilian singer and songwriter Joyce. Their dialogue eventually led to an expansive piano solo from Huw and later a bass solo from Gardiner on a piece that seemed to epitomise the Brazilian spirit.

Next we heard the title track from the new album, the tune name “Everything In Between” chosen as an indicator of Huw’s highly catholic musical tastes - “from opera to death metal and everything in between”. The music itself was appropriately wide ranging, beginning with the delicate intro for piano and brushed cymbals through folk inspired Houseplants like cadences to full on Pascoal inspired passages featuring the ebullient, highly percussive piano soloing of the leader as Gardiner and Zoot responded with an energetic aplomb.

Both band and audience seemed somewhat drained after this so Huw announced the only standard of the evening, a delightful ballad arrangement of the Jerome Kern song “The Folks That Live On The Hill”. Amazingly Huw had only been introduced to the song fairly recently when playing a gig with that doyenne of British jazz vocalists, the great Norma Winstone - “it’s got a middle six instead of a middle eight”, he went on to inform us. With Zoot providing sympathetically brushed accompaniment we were treated to some of Huw’s most lyrical playing, albeit becoming more expansive as the piece progressed. Gardiner’s bass solo combined a rich melodicism with a deep resonance, with the bow again appearing briefly at the close of the song.

As the trio upped the energy levels once more we were introduced to the music of two more Brazilian composers in a closing segue. First we heard Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro”  (translation “Parrot”) and then Pixinguinha’s “Un a Zero”, the latter a celebration of a famous Brazilian football victory over neighbours and fierce rivals Uruguay. Zoot introduced the proceedings at the drums before the addition of bass and piano acted as the spark for a playful solo from Huw.
A brief passage of unaccompanied piano formed the link into the Pixinguinha tune, a suitably joyous piece that included a vibrant and totally absorbing dialogue between Huw and Zoot, the pair trading ideas in a thrilling series of exchanges. Gardiner merely sat back cradling her bass, as mesmerised as the rest of us.

After a few words from Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall the trio played us out with Pascoal’s “Frevo em Maceo”, effectively an encore which was introduced by Gardiner at the bass, her opening melodic theme statement evolving into a full on solo prior to further features from Huw and Zoot plus a reprise of that earlier drum and piano dialogue. The full trio then came back together again for an astonishingly virtuosic high speed finish.

This was an excellent performance from three highly talented musicians. I was already familiar with the skills of Huw Warren and Paula Gardiner but this was only the second time that I’d seen Zoot Warren perform. A product of National Youth Jazz Wales and the Guildhall School of Music in London I was greatly impressed with his maturity behind the kit, his playing colourful, imaginative and delicately nuanced and never resorting to the obvious rhythms. I’ve heard little of him outside his father’s groups but his appearance on the forthcoming Cam Jazz album is richly deserved and should spread the word of his talent further afield.

My thanks to Huw Warren for speaking with me after the gig and providing me with a set list, otherwise I’d have struggled with all those Portuguese tune titles.

This was a performance that has set the bar high for the rest of the 2019 club programme at Brecon Jazz Club.

Meanwhile the release of “Everything In Between” will be very keenly anticipated.

Huw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019.

Huw Warren Trio

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Huw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019.

An excellent performance from three highly talented musicians. The release of the forthcoming album “Everything In Between” will be very keenly anticipated.

Huw Warren Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 12/02/2019.

Brecon Jazz Club’s February event brought something of a Welsh ‘supergroup’ to The Muse.

North Wales based pianist and composer Huw Warren is a musician with an international reputation who is currently touring in support of his forthcoming trio album “Everything In Between” which is due to be released on the Italian Cam Jazz record label, the imprint that was once the ‘home’ of the late, great pianist and composer John Taylor.

The new album will feature the trio of Huw Warren, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Zoot Warren, Huw’s son.  However for tonight’s performance Brecon Jazz Club had invited double bassist Paula Gardiner to join Huw and Zoot. Based in Cardiff Gardiner is the Head of Jazz at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff (RWCMD).

Gardiner is an old friend of Brecon Jazz and first performed at the town’s famous jazz festival in 1986. She subsequently led her own groups releasing the albums “Tales of Inclination” (1995), “Six” (1999) and “Hot Lament” (2008). She was also a member of pianist Dave Stapleton’s Quintet (DSQ) and appeared on that group’s first two albums “When Life Was In Black And White” and “The House Always Wins”. In recent years Gardiner has placed a greater emphasis on her role as an educator and tonight was the first time that I had seen her playing live for some considerable time.

I first became aware of Huw Warren’s playing and composing during the 1990s through the collaborative quartet Perfect Houseplants which also featured bassist Dudley Phillips, saxophonist Mark Lockheart and drummer Martin France, my interest in the band first piqued by the inclusion of former Loose Tubes Lockheart and France. I still love the Houseplants’ unique fusion of jazz, folk, classical and various ethnic musics and even now the quartet still play the occasional re-union concert.

I’ve also followed Huw’s solo career which has yielded several pleasingly eclectic albums including “A Barrel Organ Far From Home” (1997) and “Hundreds Of Things A Boy Can Make” (2003), both of which built upon the quirkiness of the Houseplants sound.

Warren, also a skilled accordionist and cellist, is a serial collaborator who has a particular affinity for working with vocalists, among them Maria Pia De Vito, Christine Tobin and the folk diva June Tabor for whom he acted as pianist and musical director on several of the singer’s solo albums. Warren and Tabor plus saxophonist Iain Ballamy now perform under the collective name Quercus and have recorded two acclaimed folk/jazz albums for the prestigious ECM record label.

Like Gardiner Warren is something of a Brecon favourite having played at the Festival on many occasions, the highlights including collaborations with American drummer Jim Black and with Italian clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi, in addition to numerous sideman appearances. He has also led his own groups including Quercus and in 2014 a quartet paying homage to Dylan Thomas via Warren’s yet to be recorded jazz suite “Do Not Go Gentle”.

In 2009 Warren released “Hermeto +” (Basho Records), an album that paid tribute to the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, a musician who has had a particularly strong influence on Warren and other British musicians, including other members of Perfect Houseplants and Loose Tubes. Recorded with France at the drums and the Austrian musician Peter Herbert on double bass “Hermeto +” featured a near 50/50 split between arrangements of Pascoal compositions and Warren originals inspired by the great man. The album attracted considerable acclaim and much of the material formed part of the repertoire of Warren’s Trio Brasil featuring Huw, Dudley Phillips and Zoot, sometimes augmented by guest saxophonist Iain Ballamy, which has gigged widely in the UK ever since, including an excellent performance at the 2016 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in nearby Abergavenny.

The forthcoming album “Something In Between”, due for release on March 15th 2019, will represent the long awaited follow up to “Hermeto +” and will again feature a mix of Pascoal compositions and Warren originals. The personnel this time round will be the ongoing Trio Brasil of Huw, Phillips and Zoot and the repertoire from the new album formed the basis of tonight’s two sets.

With no grand piano available Huw performed on a Yamaha electric keyboard with the sound set to acoustic piano. With Gardiner on double bass and Zoot behind the kit the trio kicked off with the Warren original “Mouli Baby” which commenced with a freely structured intro featuring Zoot’s use of mallets and bare hands before a folk like melody emerged on a piece that exhibited a distinct influence from West African music. This was music that was simultaneously complex and joyous, characteristics that also distinguish Pascoal’s music, and the piece included impressive opening solos from Huw and Gardiner as Zoot provided astute rhythmic colour and propulsion.

Next we heard a segue of Pascoal tunes. Huw has been influenced by Brazilian music in general, but by Pascoal in particular. But anybody expecting a relaxing evening of gentle Jobim style samba and bossa was in for a shock. Pascoal’s music is more complex, rhythmic and vibrant and his richly colourful compositions bring their own rewards, even if they do make the listener work a little bit harder. Huw describes it as “serous fun”, a quality he tries to bring to all his music making.

“O Farol que nos guia” began with a passage of unaccompanied piano that developed into a sumptuously flowing melody tenderly embellished by Zoot’s exquisite cymbal work as he delicately shadowed his father’s playing. Gardiner flourished her bow as she provided the link into the more vibrant and energetic second half of the segue, “Papo Furado”, meaning “Jive Talking” which was distinguished by a dazzling piano solo from Huw and a neatly constructed solo drum feature from Zoot. Without Ballamy in the band the young drummer was given more room to shine and I was hugely impressed by his contribution throughout the evening as he coaxed a wide range of sounds and colours from his kit and responded instinctively to his colleagues, always seeming to play the right beat or accent.

Huw’s original “First Love, Last Rites” was inspired by an Ian McEwan collection of short stories and was a delightful ballad introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano. Huw’s lyricism at the keyboard was matched by Gardiner’s melodic double bass solo while Zoot again displayed a deft and subtle cymbal touch.

“Endless Stars”, by the esteemed American pianist and composer Fred Hersch, doubtless another one of Huw’s musical heroes, followed a similar trajectory; another beautiful tune introduced by a passage of solo piano and again finding room for a bass solo from the excellent Gardiner.

The first set concluded with the trio picking up the pace again for a spirited romp through Pascoal’s “Chorino pra Ele”. Huw informed us that a ‘chorino’ was originally a 19th century dance incorporating classical harmonies and Brazilian rhythms. Tonight’s arrangement also threw an allusion to John Coltrane’s classic jazz composition “Giant Steps” into the mix.

Set two began with an unaccompanied passage from Zoot at the drums, subsequently joined by Gardiner’s bass as the rhythm team introduced “Sambari”, written by the Brazilian singer and songwriter Joyce. Their dialogue eventually led to an expansive piano solo from Huw and later a bass solo from Gardiner on a piece that seemed to epitomise the Brazilian spirit.

Next we heard the title track from the new album, the tune name “Everything In Between” chosen as an indicator of Huw’s highly catholic musical tastes - “from opera to death metal and everything in between”. The music itself was appropriately wide ranging, beginning with the delicate intro for piano and brushed cymbals through folk inspired Houseplants like cadences to full on Pascoal inspired passages featuring the ebullient, highly percussive piano soloing of the leader as Gardiner and Zoot responded with an energetic aplomb.

Both band and audience seemed somewhat drained after this so Huw announced the only standard of the evening, a delightful ballad arrangement of the Jerome Kern song “The Folks That Live On The Hill”. Amazingly Huw had only been introduced to the song fairly recently when playing a gig with that doyenne of British jazz vocalists, the great Norma Winstone - “it’s got a middle six instead of a middle eight”, he went on to inform us. With Zoot providing sympathetically brushed accompaniment we were treated to some of Huw’s most lyrical playing, albeit becoming more expansive as the piece progressed. Gardiner’s bass solo combined a rich melodicism with a deep resonance, with the bow again appearing briefly at the close of the song.

As the trio upped the energy levels once more we were introduced to the music of two more Brazilian composers in a closing segue. First we heard Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro”  (translation “Parrot”) and then Pixinguinha’s “Un a Zero”, the latter a celebration of a famous Brazilian football victory over neighbours and fierce rivals Uruguay. Zoot introduced the proceedings at the drums before the addition of bass and piano acted as the spark for a playful solo from Huw.
A brief passage of unaccompanied piano formed the link into the Pixinguinha tune, a suitably joyous piece that included a vibrant and totally absorbing dialogue between Huw and Zoot, the pair trading ideas in a thrilling series of exchanges. Gardiner merely sat back cradling her bass, as mesmerised as the rest of us.

After a few words from Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall the trio played us out with Pascoal’s “Frevo em Maceo”, effectively an encore which was introduced by Gardiner at the bass, her opening melodic theme statement evolving into a full on solo prior to further features from Huw and Zoot plus a reprise of that earlier drum and piano dialogue. The full trio then came back together again for an astonishingly virtuosic high speed finish.

This was an excellent performance from three highly talented musicians. I was already familiar with the skills of Huw Warren and Paula Gardiner but this was only the second time that I’d seen Zoot Warren perform. A product of National Youth Jazz Wales and the Guildhall School of Music in London I was greatly impressed with his maturity behind the kit, his playing colourful, imaginative and delicately nuanced and never resorting to the obvious rhythms. I’ve heard little of him outside his father’s groups but his appearance on the forthcoming Cam Jazz album is richly deserved and should spread the word of his talent further afield.

My thanks to Huw Warren for speaking with me after the gig and providing me with a set list, otherwise I’d have struggled with all those Portuguese tune titles.

This was a performance that has set the bar high for the rest of the 2019 club programme at Brecon Jazz Club.

Meanwhile the release of “Everything In Between” will be very keenly anticipated.

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin - Ex Nihilo Rating: 4 out of 5 This is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’. There’s a youthful vitality and a natural rapport between them, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future.

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin

“Ex Nihilo”

(Byrd Out Records BYR015)

I’m indebted to Stephen Vitkovitch, head of the boutique Byrd Out record label and curator of the forthcoming Walthamstow Jazz Festival, for sending me a review copy of this vinyl only release by saxophonist Binker Golding and pianist Elliot Galvin, two of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene.

Golding is best known for his duo with drummer Moses Boyd. As Binker & Moses the pair have attracted a great deal of critical acclaim for their dynamic live shows and for their albums “Dem Ones”,  the double set “Journey To The Mountain of Forever” and “Alive In The East?”. Both “Journey” and “Alive” feature contributions from other musicians and Golding is the kind of player who likes to spread his net as wide as possible, collaborating with a wide range of musicians and reaching out to new audiences.

Others with whom Golding has worked include vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden.

Golding also leads his own quartet featuring pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones and is due to release his first album with this line up later in 2019.

Meanwhile Elliot Galvin has released three albums as the leader of his own trio featuring bassist Tom McCredie and first Simon Roth and then Corrie Dick at the drums. “Dreamland” appeared in 2014 followed by “Punch” (2016) and “The Influencing Machine (2018).

Galvin is also well known for his long association with Laura Jurd, appearing on the trumpeter’s solo recordings and also with her Mercury nominated Dinosaur quartet,  also featuring Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Corrie Dick at the drums.

Others with whom Galvin has worked include saxophonist Phil Meadows, bassist Huw V Williams and guitarist Dan Messore.

Golding and Galvin are two of the most adventurous young musicians on the UK jazz scene and in recent years both have increasingly been drawn towards the art of free improvisation. That doyen of free improvisers Evan Parker was a guest on “Alive In The East?”, pointing towards a new avenue for Golding to explore. Meanwhile Galvin has worked in a duo with the experienced free jazz drummer/percussionist Mark Sanders with whom he recorded the album “Weather” for the Babel record label in 2017.

“Ex Nihilo” (meaning “Out of Nothing”) is a live recording documented at the famous Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on 11th April 2018 at a performance co-ordinated by Vitkovitch. Golding is credited with tenor and soprano saxophones and Galvin with piano, but of course the range of sounds generated by the pair stretches the sonic possibilities of their respective instruments to the absolute limits.

The track titles are also all in Latin. I’m no scholar so I’m indebted to Sammy Styne’s review on the Free Jazz Blog http://www.freejazzblog.org for providing the appropriate translations.

Side A commences with “Aeturnum Vale”,  apparently meaning “Goodbye Forever”. Galvin has acquired a reputation as something of a musical maverick, frequently being compared to the young Django Bates. He’s a musician with an impish sense of humour and in performances with his trio frequently deploys children’s toys and other gizmos to augment his sound. He’s not credited with any of those here but much of his work is done ‘under the lid’, deploying prepared piano techniques and all other sorts of mischief. Strings are plucked, hit and scraped as he accompanies Golding’s Evan Parker influenced sax ruminations, the tenor sliding up and down the scales, whinnying, worrying and badgering. There’s a real vivacity, irreverence and energy about the duo’s exchanges here,  even in its quieter moments this is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’.


‘2ram Quod Es, Eros Quod Sum” (I was what you are, you will be what I am) is more atmospheric with Golding demonstrating circular breathing techniques on what sounds like soprano sax. His high register flutterings are accompanied by another remarkable performance from Galvin as he produces another set of extraordinary sounds from the piano’s innards, ranging from the gently ethereal to the percussive and dissonant.

 ’”Ad Usum Proprium” (For Your Own Use) features a circling melodic sax motif from Golding which is embellished by Golding’s keyboard commentary, generally using conventional piano sounds but sometimes making effective use of dampened strings. Golding’s defiantly unvarying repeating sax motif never falters in an astonishing display of discipline and technique.

Flipping the disc “Adaequatio Intellectus et Rei” (Correspondence of Mind and Reality) is a brief, but spirited, improvised conversation featuring garrulous tenor sax phrases answered by mercurial keyboard runs, with some typically inventive interior work thrown in for good measure.

“Aliquid Stat Pro Aliquot” (Something Stands for Something Else is a lengthier improvised excursion that commences with the buzzy sound of Golding’s sax allied to Galvin’s Keith Tippett like interior scrabblings. Gradually the piece gains an identity of its own, Golding’s playing is needling and intense but this is both matched and countered by Galvin’s piano, which draws on the influence of minimalism with its recurring melodic motifs but also introduces darker textural and rhythmic elements. It’s a remarkable performance with both musicians totally on the same wavelength and pushing each other to new heights.

Finally we hear “Non Plus Ultra” (Peak of Perfection) which builds from Golding’s unaccompanied tenor sax introduction, subsequently superseded by Galvin’s thoughtful, lyrical piano lyricism. There’s a quietness and spaciousness about the music that we haven’t encountered previously, which somehow continues despite the edgy needling of Golding’s tenor. With Galvin resisting the temptation to reach under the lid this represents the most ‘conventional’ piece on the record but it’s still a remarkable, and often, beautiful dialogue that is as valuable as anything else on this excellent recording.

I’ll readily admit to being a little wary of free improv recordings, the visceral thrill of live performance can sometimes pall in the home listening environment. But these two exceptional young musicians have made a free jazz record that absorbs the listener throughout, their musical dialogues are genuinely conversations of equals and they have created a thoroughly compelling sound-world with the prodigiously talented Galvin treating the piano as an ‘entire instrument’. His use of the instrument’s interior is always innately musical, there’s no sense that his use of extended technique is merely being deployed for the sake of novelty or showmanship.

On this evidence the partnership of Golding and Galvin is one that appears to have legs. There’s a youthful vitality and natural rapport between these audacious young musicians, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future. Let’s hope that they can find time within their busy schedules for further duo concerts to promote this excellent recording.

Ex Nihilo

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Ex Nihilo

This is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’. There’s a youthful vitality and a natural rapport between them, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future.

Binker Golding and Elliot Galvin

“Ex Nihilo”

(Byrd Out Records BYR015)

I’m indebted to Stephen Vitkovitch, head of the boutique Byrd Out record label and curator of the forthcoming Walthamstow Jazz Festival, for sending me a review copy of this vinyl only release by saxophonist Binker Golding and pianist Elliot Galvin, two of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene.

Golding is best known for his duo with drummer Moses Boyd. As Binker & Moses the pair have attracted a great deal of critical acclaim for their dynamic live shows and for their albums “Dem Ones”,  the double set “Journey To The Mountain of Forever” and “Alive In The East?”. Both “Journey” and “Alive” feature contributions from other musicians and Golding is the kind of player who likes to spread his net as wide as possible, collaborating with a wide range of musicians and reaching out to new audiences.

Others with whom Golding has worked include vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden.

Golding also leads his own quartet featuring pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones and is due to release his first album with this line up later in 2019.

Meanwhile Elliot Galvin has released three albums as the leader of his own trio featuring bassist Tom McCredie and first Simon Roth and then Corrie Dick at the drums. “Dreamland” appeared in 2014 followed by “Punch” (2016) and “The Influencing Machine (2018).

Galvin is also well known for his long association with Laura Jurd, appearing on the trumpeter’s solo recordings and also with her Mercury nominated Dinosaur quartet,  also featuring Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Corrie Dick at the drums.

Others with whom Galvin has worked include saxophonist Phil Meadows, bassist Huw V Williams and guitarist Dan Messore.

Golding and Galvin are two of the most adventurous young musicians on the UK jazz scene and in recent years both have increasingly been drawn towards the art of free improvisation. That doyen of free improvisers Evan Parker was a guest on “Alive In The East?”, pointing towards a new avenue for Golding to explore. Meanwhile Galvin has worked in a duo with the experienced free jazz drummer/percussionist Mark Sanders with whom he recorded the album “Weather” for the Babel record label in 2017.

“Ex Nihilo” (meaning “Out of Nothing”) is a live recording documented at the famous Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on 11th April 2018 at a performance co-ordinated by Vitkovitch. Golding is credited with tenor and soprano saxophones and Galvin with piano, but of course the range of sounds generated by the pair stretches the sonic possibilities of their respective instruments to the absolute limits.

The track titles are also all in Latin. I’m no scholar so I’m indebted to Sammy Styne’s review on the Free Jazz Blog http://www.freejazzblog.org for providing the appropriate translations.

Side A commences with “Aeturnum Vale”,  apparently meaning “Goodbye Forever”. Galvin has acquired a reputation as something of a musical maverick, frequently being compared to the young Django Bates. He’s a musician with an impish sense of humour and in performances with his trio frequently deploys children’s toys and other gizmos to augment his sound. He’s not credited with any of those here but much of his work is done ‘under the lid’, deploying prepared piano techniques and all other sorts of mischief. Strings are plucked, hit and scraped as he accompanies Golding’s Evan Parker influenced sax ruminations, the tenor sliding up and down the scales, whinnying, worrying and badgering. There’s a real vivacity, irreverence and energy about the duo’s exchanges here,  even in its quieter moments this is the sound of two daring young musicians having ‘serious fun’.


‘2ram Quod Es, Eros Quod Sum” (I was what you are, you will be what I am) is more atmospheric with Golding demonstrating circular breathing techniques on what sounds like soprano sax. His high register flutterings are accompanied by another remarkable performance from Galvin as he produces another set of extraordinary sounds from the piano’s innards, ranging from the gently ethereal to the percussive and dissonant.

 ’”Ad Usum Proprium” (For Your Own Use) features a circling melodic sax motif from Golding which is embellished by Golding’s keyboard commentary, generally using conventional piano sounds but sometimes making effective use of dampened strings. Golding’s defiantly unvarying repeating sax motif never falters in an astonishing display of discipline and technique.

Flipping the disc “Adaequatio Intellectus et Rei” (Correspondence of Mind and Reality) is a brief, but spirited, improvised conversation featuring garrulous tenor sax phrases answered by mercurial keyboard runs, with some typically inventive interior work thrown in for good measure.

“Aliquid Stat Pro Aliquot” (Something Stands for Something Else is a lengthier improvised excursion that commences with the buzzy sound of Golding’s sax allied to Galvin’s Keith Tippett like interior scrabblings. Gradually the piece gains an identity of its own, Golding’s playing is needling and intense but this is both matched and countered by Galvin’s piano, which draws on the influence of minimalism with its recurring melodic motifs but also introduces darker textural and rhythmic elements. It’s a remarkable performance with both musicians totally on the same wavelength and pushing each other to new heights.

Finally we hear “Non Plus Ultra” (Peak of Perfection) which builds from Golding’s unaccompanied tenor sax introduction, subsequently superseded by Galvin’s thoughtful, lyrical piano lyricism. There’s a quietness and spaciousness about the music that we haven’t encountered previously, which somehow continues despite the edgy needling of Golding’s tenor. With Galvin resisting the temptation to reach under the lid this represents the most ‘conventional’ piece on the record but it’s still a remarkable, and often, beautiful dialogue that is as valuable as anything else on this excellent recording.

I’ll readily admit to being a little wary of free improv recordings, the visceral thrill of live performance can sometimes pall in the home listening environment. But these two exceptional young musicians have made a free jazz record that absorbs the listener throughout, their musical dialogues are genuinely conversations of equals and they have created a thoroughly compelling sound-world with the prodigiously talented Galvin treating the piano as an ‘entire instrument’. His use of the instrument’s interior is always innately musical, there’s no sense that his use of extended technique is merely being deployed for the sake of novelty or showmanship.

On this evidence the partnership of Golding and Galvin is one that appears to have legs. There’s a youthful vitality and natural rapport between these audacious young musicians, but an admirable maturity too, that promises well for the future. Let’s hope that they can find time within their busy schedules for further duo concerts to promote this excellent recording.

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet - Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 A highly skilled and interactive quartet that helped to bring the music of Freddie Hubbard to life in a series of colourful interpretations of some of the trumpeter’s most enduring compositions.

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’
The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019.

For Shrewsbury Jazz Network the start of 2019 has been heralded by a clarion call of trumpets.

SJN’s January event featured Total Vibration, a quartet incorporating the twin trumpet front line of Chris Batchelor and Laura Jurd teamed with the stellar rhythm partnership of bassist Tom Herbert and drummer Corrie Dick.

Unfortunately I was unable to cover that performance as I was attending a memorial event in my native Leominster celebrating the life of the late Dave Witherstone, who died suddenly in late 2018. Liverpool born Dave was a talented saxophonist who played with various local jazz and soul bands and was once the proprietor, together with his wife Sue, of the Blue Note Café Bar in Leominster, the intimate venue named after the famous record label, that brought top quality live jazz to Leominster in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Blue Note regularly featured leading musicians from the Birmingham jazz scene of the time, among them trumpeters Bryan Corbett and Ray Butcher and saxophonists Andy Hamilton, Luke Shingler,  Andy Gale and Papa Saxa (from hit-makers The Beat). Others to appear there included pianist Levi French,  vocalists Roy Forbes and Esther Miller and bassists Tom Hill and Ben Hazelton.

Corbett, himself a Herefordshire lad, was a particular favourite with Leominster audiences and played the Blue Note many times in his formative years, often in a duo setting with pianist Levi French. I witnessed many of these performances and have been a huge admirer of Corbett’s playing ever since.

Although never a particularly prolific composer Corbett has recorded fairly frequently, beginning in 1999 with “Funk in the Deep Freeze”. In 2000 “Simply Blue”, the title track a Corbett original honouring the Leominster Blue Note, was the first of a number of live albums in the classic trumpet/ piano/bass/drums quartet format, the latest, the double set “Message of Iridescence” being released in 2015. “Corbenova” (2003) and “Pressure Valve” (2006)  found the trumpeter experimenting with electronics and ‘nu-jazz’. By way of contrast he has also recorded two intimate acoustic duo sets with pianists Levi French and Chris Dodd. Corbett has also been a busy presence on the session scene, frequently performing as part of the touring bands of rock and pop acts, among them US3, McFly and Tony Christie.

The co-leader of tonight’s quartet was the bassist and occasional vocalist Tom Hill, an expatriate American who has been based in Droitwich, Worcestershire for many years, a great stalwart of the Birmingham music scene and a huge favourite with Midlands jazz audiences. Something of a ‘character’ the versatile Hill is also an actor and voice-over artist, familiar to TV viewers as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Kellogg’s Frosties adverts! Under the professional name of Tom Clarke-Hill he has also lent his voice to other advertisements, Hollywood animation movies and numerous computer games.

As a musician Hill is a superlative bass player who leads his own bands and is also the first call bassist for visiting soloists such as saxophonists Peter King, Brandon Allen and Sam Crockatt among others. His own groups include the Straitjackets and the marvellously named ZZ Bop plus a blues trio that places a greater emphasis on his vocal abilities. Hill is a supremely versatile musician and all round entertainer.

Tonight’s line up brought together elements of both Corbett and Hill’s regular groups. At the keyboard was Corbett’s regular pianist from his own quartet, the excellent Al Gurr. Meanwhile drummer Nick Millward has been a regular member of Hill’s various groups as well as working with musicians of the calibre of pianist Dave Newton and saxophonist Amy Roberts.

Corbett’s trumpet hero has always been the late, great Freddie Hubbard (1938 -2008) and sometime back he and Hill put together a programme titled “Ready for Freddie”, taken from the name of one of the trumpeter’s Blue Note label albums, which toured the UK’s jazz clubs to considerable audience acclaim. For this SJN performance it was decided to revive the project and over the course of two sets a typically large and receptive audience was able to enjoy a host of fine material either written by, or associated with, Hubbard. I haven’t listened to Freddie in a long time and it was good to be reminded of just what a fine composer he was, his tunes bright, memorable and hooky, and perfect vehicles for the kind of inventive and imaginative jazz improvisation that the Corbett/Hill quartet brought to them.

The quartet opened with Hubbard’s Latin flavoured “Gibraltar”, which commenced with a fiery unaccompanied burst from Corbett’s trumpet, which was answered by Millward’s drums. Hill then established the bass groove around which the body of the tune was based. Corbett took the first solo, his playing combining power and stridency with an admirable litheness and fluency. The trumpeter spent a number of years off the scene due to illness and tonight was the first time that I’d seen him perform in a very long time. To theses ears his playing is now better than ever, demonstrating an impressive maturity and here rendered all the more remarkable by being entirely acoustic and un-miked. Gurr followed at his Roland keyboard, favouring the type of ‘Rhodes’ electric piano sound that Hubbard’s bands featured on the trumpeter’s numerous albums for producer Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the 1970s. Gurr proved to be a highly imaginative and inventive keyboard soloist and his contribution throughout the evening was consistently impressive.
The next to shine was Hill with a solo that combined a huge, meaty bass tone with an admirable dexterity. There was also something of a drum feature for Millward in the tune’s closing stages.

Hubbard had a knack of writing complex, but catchy and memorable, melodic hooks, a characteristic that distinguished both “Gibraltar” and the following “Red Clay”. The latter was the title track of a 1970 album for CTI and has since become one of Hubbard’s most famous compositions. After another fan-faring intro Hill again set up the bass motif that was to frame Corbett’s rendition of the famous melody. Typically fiery and inventive solos followed from Corbett on trumpet, Gurr on keyboard and Hill at the bass, the latter, ever the joker, tossing a quote from “Sunny” into the mix, amusing both his bandmates and the audience alike. This was followed by another bout of dynamic trumpet soloing from Corbett.

Corbett moved to flugelhorn for the ballad “The Summer Knows”, written by the recently deceased Michel Legrand and recorded by Hubbard for CTI in the 70s. Although a fiery hard bop soloist Corbett is also a sensitive interpreter of ballads, his emotive reading of “My Funny Valentine” was always a stand out at those long ago Blue Note, Leominster performances. Tonight his lucid, velvety flugel soloing was given sympathetic support by sparse piano chording, languid double bass and delicately brushed drums, with Gurr also soloing with considerable lyricism at the keyboard.

Corbett remained on flugel for the rest of the first set. “Sky Dive”, the title track of another Hubbard CTI album, was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied double bass by Hill, joined by keys and drums prior to Corbett’s theme statement and subsequent solo. The good natured interplay between Hill on bass and Gurr on keyboards was a particular feature of the evening, as evidenced by a typically inventive Gurr piano solo to which Hill responded with some equally imaginative bass counter melodies as Millward anchored the proceedings. Following Corbett’s flugel solo the pair renewed their dialogue prior to a closing drum feature from Millward.

The first set concluded with what is arguably Hubbard’s most famous composition, the jazz waltz “Up Jumped Spring”, with Corbett’s graceful theme statement and solo on flugel followed by an expansive outing from Gurr at the keyboard. The co-leaders then enjoyed an intimate flugel and bass dialogue before keys and drums returned as the piece resolved itself.

This had been an excellent first half which was very well received by a typically knowledgeable Shrewsbury audience.

Set two commenced with “The Intrepid Fox”, another composition from Hubbard’s classic “Red Clay” album. Again Hill’s bass groove set the pace, his propulsive playing fuelling a blazing solo from Corbett, now back on trumpet. Gurr and Hill himself also featured as soloists on this spirited, attention grabbing set opener.

For most of the evening Hill handled the announcements with his characteristic quick wit, only passing the vocal mic to Corbett if the trumpeter wished to introduce a tune that held a particular significance for him. The next piece wasn’t announced at all as the band launched straight into it, Hill beginning the tune at the bass, his melodic hook cum groove prompting Corbett into a powerful, blues inflected trumpet solo over an insistent urban groove. Gurr’s keyboard solo included a subtly funky dialogue with Millward’s drums on a tune that Hill subsequently informed us was “Povo”, another piece from Hubbard’s “Sky Dive” album.

Corbett briefly switched back to flugel for the ballad “It Never Entered My Mind” which found Gurr favouring an acoustic piano sound for his solo and saw Hill giving a brief demonstration of his vocal abilities with a brief rendition of the song’s lyrics.

Corbett announced “Wheel Within A Wheel”, a tune written by the great alto saxophonist Bobby Watson for the 1980s edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in which he and Hubbard both played. This proved to be one of the stand out performances of the night, opening in piano trio mode but with Corbett taking the first solo on trumpet. Gurr followed at the keyboard, injecting a Coltrane inspired quote from “My Favourite Things” into his solo. Following features for Hill and Millward Corbett undertook another blazing solo before concluding the piece with a solo trumpet cadenza.
An aside – I recall seeing Watson twice at Brecon Jazz Festival back in the day. On his first appearance he fronted a British trio led by pianist Robin Aspland at an outdoor gig as part of the Stroller programme. This was such a brilliant performance that he was invited back the following year to lead his own band on the concert programme at Theatr Brycheniog. These were both terrific shows and I’ve been something of a fan ever since.

“First Light”, the title track of the Hubbard’s 1971 album for CTI, was introduced by Gurr at the keyboard, the pianist establishing the groove that later propelled solos from Corbett on trumpet and Gurr, himself, again favouring an acoustic piano sound.

Finally we heard Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage”, the title track of the pianist’s 1965 album for Blue Note Records, a recording that featured Hubbard as part of an all star quintet that also included saxophonist George Coleman, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. This modern day standard saw Gurr take the first solo at the keyboard, followed by Hill on melodic double bass and Corbett at the trumpet, with a feature for Millward also incorporated into the arrangement.

Tonight was Corbett’s first performance at The Hive for nine years and it represented something of a triumphant return. Together with a highly skilled and interactive quartet he helped to bring the music of Freddie Hubbard to life in a series of colourful interpretations of some of the trumpeter’s most enduring compositions. It was a performance that placed a high premium on improvisation, although the band members were reading their charts off i-pads – I wonder what Freddie would have made of that!

There was some great playing all round from a very well balanced quartet that not only encouraged the listener to check out the back catalogues of Corbett and Hill but also to dive deep into the Hubbard archive, particularly his oft maligned 70s output for CTI, obviously Corbett’s favourite period. As tonight showed Hubbard was still writing some great tunes during those years, even if his treatment of them didn’t always sit well with the music critics of the time. “Red Clay” is generally accepted as something of a high watermark but tonight’s performance suggested that a re-appraisal of the rest of Hubbard’s CTI catalogue is well overdue.

The highly skilled and vivacious playing allied to the good natured presentation of tonight’s material was a cut above the usual jazz ‘tribute’ set and earns the quartet a four star rating as a result.

It was good to speak to Bryan afterwards for the first time in many years. He tells me that he is also involved in putting together a 1959 themed show that will honour the numerous landmark jazz albums of that year – Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”, Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out”, Charles Mingus’ “Ah Um” Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come” etc. This is something that should also be well worth checking out if it comes to your area.

Finally we both remembered Dave Witherstone, one suspects that he would have loved tonight’s performance from Bryan, Tom and the quartet.

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019.

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet

Monday, February 11, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019.
Photography: Photograph of Bryan Corbett sourced from the Shrewsbury Jazz Network website http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk

A highly skilled and interactive quartet that helped to bring the music of Freddie Hubbard to life in a series of colourful interpretations of some of the trumpeter’s most enduring compositions.

Bryan Corbett / Tom Hill Quartet ‘Ready for Freddie’
The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/02/2019.

For Shrewsbury Jazz Network the start of 2019 has been heralded by a clarion call of trumpets.

SJN’s January event featured Total Vibration, a quartet incorporating the twin trumpet front line of Chris Batchelor and Laura Jurd teamed with the stellar rhythm partnership of bassist Tom Herbert and drummer Corrie Dick.

Unfortunately I was unable to cover that performance as I was attending a memorial event in my native Leominster celebrating the life of the late Dave Witherstone, who died suddenly in late 2018. Liverpool born Dave was a talented saxophonist who played with various local jazz and soul bands and was once the proprietor, together with his wife Sue, of the Blue Note Café Bar in Leominster, the intimate venue named after the famous record label, that brought top quality live jazz to Leominster in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Blue Note regularly featured leading musicians from the Birmingham jazz scene of the time, among them trumpeters Bryan Corbett and Ray Butcher and saxophonists Andy Hamilton, Luke Shingler,  Andy Gale and Papa Saxa (from hit-makers The Beat). Others to appear there included pianist Levi French,  vocalists Roy Forbes and Esther Miller and bassists Tom Hill and Ben Hazelton.

Corbett, himself a Herefordshire lad, was a particular favourite with Leominster audiences and played the Blue Note many times in his formative years, often in a duo setting with pianist Levi French. I witnessed many of these performances and have been a huge admirer of Corbett’s playing ever since.

Although never a particularly prolific composer Corbett has recorded fairly frequently, beginning in 1999 with “Funk in the Deep Freeze”. In 2000 “Simply Blue”, the title track a Corbett original honouring the Leominster Blue Note, was the first of a number of live albums in the classic trumpet/ piano/bass/drums quartet format, the latest, the double set “Message of Iridescence” being released in 2015. “Corbenova” (2003) and “Pressure Valve” (2006)  found the trumpeter experimenting with electronics and ‘nu-jazz’. By way of contrast he has also recorded two intimate acoustic duo sets with pianists Levi French and Chris Dodd. Corbett has also been a busy presence on the session scene, frequently performing as part of the touring bands of rock and pop acts, among them US3, McFly and Tony Christie.

The co-leader of tonight’s quartet was the bassist and occasional vocalist Tom Hill, an expatriate American who has been based in Droitwich, Worcestershire for many years, a great stalwart of the Birmingham music scene and a huge favourite with Midlands jazz audiences. Something of a ‘character’ the versatile Hill is also an actor and voice-over artist, familiar to TV viewers as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Kellogg’s Frosties adverts! Under the professional name of Tom Clarke-Hill he has also lent his voice to other advertisements, Hollywood animation movies and numerous computer games.

As a musician Hill is a superlative bass player who leads his own bands and is also the first call bassist for visiting soloists such as saxophonists Peter King, Brandon Allen and Sam Crockatt among others. His own groups include the Straitjackets and the marvellously named ZZ Bop plus a blues trio that places a greater emphasis on his vocal abilities. Hill is a supremely versatile musician and all round entertainer.

Tonight’s line up brought together elements of both Corbett and Hill’s regular groups. At the keyboard was Corbett’s regular pianist from his own quartet, the excellent Al Gurr. Meanwhile drummer Nick Millward has been a regular member of Hill’s various groups as well as working with musicians of the calibre of pianist Dave Newton and saxophonist Amy Roberts.

Corbett’s trumpet hero has always been the late, great Freddie Hubbard (1938 -2008) and sometime back he and Hill put together a programme titled “Ready for Freddie”, taken from the name of one of the trumpeter’s Blue Note label albums, which toured the UK’s jazz clubs to considerable audience acclaim. For this SJN performance it was decided to revive the project and over the course of two sets a typically large and receptive audience was able to enjoy a host of fine material either written by, or associated with, Hubbard. I haven’t listened to Freddie in a long time and it was good to be reminded of just what a fine composer he was, his tunes bright, memorable and hooky, and perfect vehicles for the kind of inventive and imaginative jazz improvisation that the Corbett/Hill quartet brought to them.

The quartet opened with Hubbard’s Latin flavoured “Gibraltar”, which commenced with a fiery unaccompanied burst from Corbett’s trumpet, which was answered by Millward’s drums. Hill then established the bass groove around which the body of the tune was based. Corbett took the first solo, his playing combining power and stridency with an admirable litheness and fluency. The trumpeter spent a number of years off the scene due to illness and tonight was the first time that I’d seen him perform in a very long time. To theses ears his playing is now better than ever, demonstrating an impressive maturity and here rendered all the more remarkable by being entirely acoustic and un-miked. Gurr followed at his Roland keyboard, favouring the type of ‘Rhodes’ electric piano sound that Hubbard’s bands featured on the trumpeter’s numerous albums for producer Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the 1970s. Gurr proved to be a highly imaginative and inventive keyboard soloist and his contribution throughout the evening was consistently impressive.
The next to shine was Hill with a solo that combined a huge, meaty bass tone with an admirable dexterity. There was also something of a drum feature for Millward in the tune’s closing stages.

Hubbard had a knack of writing complex, but catchy and memorable, melodic hooks, a characteristic that distinguished both “Gibraltar” and the following “Red Clay”. The latter was the title track of a 1970 album for CTI and has since become one of Hubbard’s most famous compositions. After another fan-faring intro Hill again set up the bass motif that was to frame Corbett’s rendition of the famous melody. Typically fiery and inventive solos followed from Corbett on trumpet, Gurr on keyboard and Hill at the bass, the latter, ever the joker, tossing a quote from “Sunny” into the mix, amusing both his bandmates and the audience alike. This was followed by another bout of dynamic trumpet soloing from Corbett.

Corbett moved to flugelhorn for the ballad “The Summer Knows”, written by the recently deceased Michel Legrand and recorded by Hubbard for CTI in the 70s. Although a fiery hard bop soloist Corbett is also a sensitive interpreter of ballads, his emotive reading of “My Funny Valentine” was always a stand out at those long ago Blue Note, Leominster performances. Tonight his lucid, velvety flugel soloing was given sympathetic support by sparse piano chording, languid double bass and delicately brushed drums, with Gurr also soloing with considerable lyricism at the keyboard.

Corbett remained on flugel for the rest of the first set. “Sky Dive”, the title track of another Hubbard CTI album, was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied double bass by Hill, joined by keys and drums prior to Corbett’s theme statement and subsequent solo. The good natured interplay between Hill on bass and Gurr on keyboards was a particular feature of the evening, as evidenced by a typically inventive Gurr piano solo to which Hill responded with some equally imaginative bass counter melodies as Millward anchored the proceedings. Following Corbett’s flugel solo the pair renewed their dialogue prior to a closing drum feature from Millward.

The first set concluded with what is arguably Hubbard’s most famous composition, the jazz waltz “Up Jumped Spring”, with Corbett’s graceful theme statement and solo on flugel followed by an expansive outing from Gurr at the keyboard. The co-leaders then enjoyed an intimate flugel and bass dialogue before keys and drums returned as the piece resolved itself.

This had been an excellent first half which was very well received by a typically knowledgeable Shrewsbury audience.

Set two commenced with “The Intrepid Fox”, another composition from Hubbard’s classic “Red Clay” album. Again Hill’s bass groove set the pace, his propulsive playing fuelling a blazing solo from Corbett, now back on trumpet. Gurr and Hill himself also featured as soloists on this spirited, attention grabbing set opener.

For most of the evening Hill handled the announcements with his characteristic quick wit, only passing the vocal mic to Corbett if the trumpeter wished to introduce a tune that held a particular significance for him. The next piece wasn’t announced at all as the band launched straight into it, Hill beginning the tune at the bass, his melodic hook cum groove prompting Corbett into a powerful, blues inflected trumpet solo over an insistent urban groove. Gurr’s keyboard solo included a subtly funky dialogue with Millward’s drums on a tune that Hill subsequently informed us was “Povo”, another piece from Hubbard’s “Sky Dive” album.

Corbett briefly switched back to flugel for the ballad “It Never Entered My Mind” which found Gurr favouring an acoustic piano sound for his solo and saw Hill giving a brief demonstration of his vocal abilities with a brief rendition of the song’s lyrics.

Corbett announced “Wheel Within A Wheel”, a tune written by the great alto saxophonist Bobby Watson for the 1980s edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in which he and Hubbard both played. This proved to be one of the stand out performances of the night, opening in piano trio mode but with Corbett taking the first solo on trumpet. Gurr followed at the keyboard, injecting a Coltrane inspired quote from “My Favourite Things” into his solo. Following features for Hill and Millward Corbett undertook another blazing solo before concluding the piece with a solo trumpet cadenza.
An aside – I recall seeing Watson twice at Brecon Jazz Festival back in the day. On his first appearance he fronted a British trio led by pianist Robin Aspland at an outdoor gig as part of the Stroller programme. This was such a brilliant performance that he was invited back the following year to lead his own band on the concert programme at Theatr Brycheniog. These were both terrific shows and I’ve been something of a fan ever since.

“First Light”, the title track of the Hubbard’s 1971 album for CTI, was introduced by Gurr at the keyboard, the pianist establishing the groove that later propelled solos from Corbett on trumpet and Gurr, himself, again favouring an acoustic piano sound.

Finally we heard Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage”, the title track of the pianist’s 1965 album for Blue Note Records, a recording that featured Hubbard as part of an all star quintet that also included saxophonist George Coleman, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. This modern day standard saw Gurr take the first solo at the keyboard, followed by Hill on melodic double bass and Corbett at the trumpet, with a feature for Millward also incorporated into the arrangement.

Tonight was Corbett’s first performance at The Hive for nine years and it represented something of a triumphant return. Together with a highly skilled and interactive quartet he helped to bring the music of Freddie Hubbard to life in a series of colourful interpretations of some of the trumpeter’s most enduring compositions. It was a performance that placed a high premium on improvisation, although the band members were reading their charts off i-pads – I wonder what Freddie would have made of that!

There was some great playing all round from a very well balanced quartet that not only encouraged the listener to check out the back catalogues of Corbett and Hill but also to dive deep into the Hubbard archive, particularly his oft maligned 70s output for CTI, obviously Corbett’s favourite period. As tonight showed Hubbard was still writing some great tunes during those years, even if his treatment of them didn’t always sit well with the music critics of the time. “Red Clay” is generally accepted as something of a high watermark but tonight’s performance suggested that a re-appraisal of the rest of Hubbard’s CTI catalogue is well overdue.

The highly skilled and vivacious playing allied to the good natured presentation of tonight’s material was a cut above the usual jazz ‘tribute’ set and earns the quartet a four star rating as a result.

It was good to speak to Bryan afterwards for the first time in many years. He tells me that he is also involved in putting together a 1959 themed show that will honour the numerous landmark jazz albums of that year – Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”, Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out”, Charles Mingus’ “Ah Um” Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come” etc. This is something that should also be well worth checking out if it comes to your area.

Finally we both remembered Dave Witherstone, one suspects that he would have loved tonight’s performance from Bryan, Tom and the quartet.

Various Artists - To Be Here Now Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys this compilation album celebrating the vibrant jazz and improvised music scene in Leeds - after acquiring the record in Cardiff!

Various Artists

“To Be Here Now”


Yesterday evening (Thursday,7th February 2019) I travelled to Cardiff to attend the monthly Hackensack event at Café Jazz.

Organised by students at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Hackensack takes place on Thursday evenings and presents a double bill of ‘modern jazz’, the programme often featuring bands formed of current students or recent graduates from the RWCMD. It also hosts touring bands from other regions of the UK with last night’s event featuring the Leeds based quintet Wandering Monster, led by double bassist and composer Sam Quintana.

I recently gave a very positive review to Wandering Monster’s eponymous début album for the emerging Ubuntu label and was particularly keen to see the group performing their music live. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the quintet delivered a powerful and admirably tight performance with the line up featuring two changes from the album personnel. Quintana and regular group members Calvin Travers (guitar) and Aleks Podraza were joined by Jack Chandler (alto sax) and Ali Wells (drums) who replaced Ben Powling and Tom Higham respectively.

Support came from RWCMD graduate Josh Heaton, the tenor saxophonist leading his Mouth of Words quintet featuring Rachel Head (alto sax), Kumar Chopra (guitar), Matheus Prado (electric bass) and Zach Breskal (drums). Mouth of Words blend jazz and poetry in highly contemporary fashion, the poetry being Heaton’s own, the words being spoken rather than sung and offering a kind of kitchen sink surrealism, deftly mixing humour with pathos.

I decided not to undertake a full review of tonight’s performances having written at length about both quintets only fairly recently. Instead I paid by money at the door and settled back to enjoy two sets of excellent modern jazz from two very talented young bands.

My review of Wandering Monster’s excellent début album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/S=afec9217182414db6883bb1a57abffe9f8670cc6/reviews/review/wandering-monster-wandering-monster/

Meanwhile my account of a performance by Mouth of Words as part of an RWCMD showcase event at Brecon Jazz Club in July 2018 can be found here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/new-generation-jazz-showcase-wales-brecon-jazz-club-the-muse-arts-centre-br/

During the course of the evening I spoke to both Josh Heaton and Sam Quintana and I’m grateful to Sam for providing me with a review copy of the vinyl album “To Be Here Now” which has been issued to “pay respect to the thriving scene flourishing in and enveloping Leeds right now”.

First released on October 1st 2018 “To Be Here Now” (the title a cheeky Oasis pun) is the brainchild of Wandering Monster’s regular saxophonist Ben Powling and venue owner Jack Simpson. The raison d’etre behind the album is perhaps best epitomised by the press release Powling forwarded to me at the time;

“The late, great John Peel OBE once said that there were more bands living and working in the LS6 area of Leeds than anywhere else in the country, and the same feels true today.  To Be Here Now is an attempt to document, preserve and celebrate some of the jazz and improvised music currently being recorded and performed within the Leeds scene.

This jazz compilation was imagined, programmed and compiled by saxophonist Ben Powling and venue owner Jack Simpson at Jack’s café and venue Hyde Park Book Club. Despite being relatively new, Hyde Park Book Club has already established itself as a thriving hub for new and improvised music in the city and many of the bands who feature on To Be Here Now, have gigged, rehearsed and even started out at Hyde Park Book Club.

To Be Here Now was recorded across a few days, in late 2017 and early 2018, by Will Jackson of Soundworks (a multi-platinum selling production studio) at Jack Simpson’s other venue, Eiger Studios. Will has over 20 years’ experience of recording and working with national artists and brought his expertise to creating a compilation which showcases established groups (who have received regional and national recognition) but also newcomers, for which To Be Here Now was their first time recording in a studio. What remains constant is the maturity and tenacity of the music and its performers.”

The vinyl edition of “To Be Here Now” features three tracks to each side from six different bands these being Jasmine, Skwid Ink, Wandering Monster, Ayana, Tip Toe and Ancient Infinity Orchestra. As is the nature of the jazz scene there is much sharing of personnel with several of the musicians cropping up in more than one band in the kind of healthy cross-fertilisation that is part of the DNA of jazz and improvised music.

Side A commences with “Cold Sweat” by the quintet Jasmine, led by alto saxophonist and composer Jasmine Whalley. The band also features Ben Haskins (guitar), George MacDonald (keyboards), Owen Burns (electric bass) and George Hall (drums). It’s the pure, incisive tone of the leader’s alto that we hear first in conjunction with MacDonald’s piano. Following the intro an insistent, hip-hop inspired groove is established courtesy of keys, bass and drums, this underpinning Whalley’s soaring alto sax melody lines. The music moves up and down the gears allowing for a degree of dynamic variation with Whalley and Haskins the featured soloists, the pair also combining effectively. The piece concludes as it began with the sound of Whalley’s unaccompanied alto sax.

Next up are the band Skwid Ink led by Fergus Quill on electric bass and featuring MacDonald and Hall plus guitarist Will Lakin. Quill’s tune “Chang Soi” commences with the sound of his own liquid electric bass above a chattering backdrop of sequenced keyboards. It’s a quirky, playful, and highly inventive piece that combines elements of jazz, avant rock and electronica in intriguing fashion with Hall laying down the grooves as Quill, Lakin and MacDonald produce an impressive range of sounds from bass, guitar and keyboards as the music progresses. It’s a richly imaginative performance that should also be capable of appealing to adventurous rock listeners.

Wandering Monster are represented by the Quintana composition “Green Room”, a track that didn’t make it on to the group’s début album – hence it represents a bit of a bonus to be able to hear it here. In this edition of the band Quintana is joined by Travers and Higham with Powling on tenor sax and Jamil Sheriff on keyboards. The piece begins with the sound of Powling’s unaccompanied tenor, his soulful blowing ushering in a cerebrally funky groove that fuels powerful solos from Powling on tenor,  Sheriff on electric piano and Travers on guitar. It’s more of a funky,  hard grooving, blowing piece than some of the more obviously structured compositions on the album and this different feel may explain its omission there and inclusion here.

Flipping the record Side B commences with “Prophecy”, a composition written by bass guitarist Sam Dutton-Taylor and performed by the ensemble Ayana, which also includes Tom Sharp on trumpet, Jack Chandler on baritone sax, Powling on tenor, Jess Mollie on vibraphone, Matthew Aplin on keyboards, Travers on guitar and Brendan Bache on drums and percussion.
With an expanded line up the ensemble is correspondingly bigger, and most impressively so, with the metallic clank of Mollie’s vibes cutting through the unison horn lines. The leader’s bass and Aplin’s electric keyboards provide an underlying funkiness and the impressive Powling, who has also worked with the London based WorldService Project, again solos powerfully and at length.

The group Tip Toe introduces four musicians that we haven’t heard from thus far, singer Alice Higgins, guitarist/vocalist Conall Mulvenna, trumpeter Will Blackstone and double bassist Angus Milne.  “How Will I Know” was written by Mulvenna but it’s Higgins who takes the lead vocal on this breezy slice of jazz and Latin inflected soul pop. There’s some uncredited percussion (claves, etc.) alongside the guitar and double bass while trumpeter Blackstone contributes an elegantly melodic solo.

The final group, Ancient Infinity Orchestra, introduces another clutch of new names these being;
Andy French (tenor sax), Joel Stedman (flute), Joseph Love (drums), Giorgos Kravvaritis and James Milligan (percussion), Ozzy Moysey (n’goni) and Elliot Roffe (double bass).
Credited to the whole band “Siluvaipuram”  commences with the sound of the n’goni, the West African “hunter’s guitar” that is probably best known to jazz audiences through its association with the late great Don Cherry. There’s a genuinely African feel about this piece with its interlocking percussive rhythms underpinning the snaking, insidiously seductive melodies of saxophonist French and flautist Stedman.

The broad range of musical styles presented is a good representation of the diversity and vitality of the music scene in Leeds. It’s a scene that is prepared to embrace many musical influences and one which, like that of Edinburgh, is small enough to encourage frequent genre hopping. Like Cardiff Leeds has a thriving music college and many of the musicians that can be heard on “To Be Here Now” have studied there. The playing and singing is therefore of a remarkably high standard throughout with the students and graduates contributing massively to the success and vibrancy of the increasingly influential Leeds scene.

Congratulations to Ben Powling and Jack Simpson for putting this excellent compilation album together. It’s a true celebration of Leeds and its music. Maybe somebody could do something similar for Cardiff.

The only disappointment is that Powling’s own Mansion of Snakes outfit isn’t represented. I’d have liked to have hrard something from them.

The digital version of “To Be Here Now” is available via Bandcamp at;
https://hpbc.bandcamp.com/album/to-be-here-now

The vinyl can be purchased at gigs involving the bands and musicians that play on it, including the current Wandering Monster tour, the final date of which is;
Saturday 9 February - Refu-jazz festival, Leeds
Get your copy there!

To Be Here Now

Various Artists

Friday, February 08, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

To Be Here Now

Ian Mann enjoys this compilation album celebrating the vibrant jazz and improvised music scene in Leeds - after acquiring the record in Cardiff!

Various Artists

“To Be Here Now”


Yesterday evening (Thursday,7th February 2019) I travelled to Cardiff to attend the monthly Hackensack event at Café Jazz.

Organised by students at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Hackensack takes place on Thursday evenings and presents a double bill of ‘modern jazz’, the programme often featuring bands formed of current students or recent graduates from the RWCMD. It also hosts touring bands from other regions of the UK with last night’s event featuring the Leeds based quintet Wandering Monster, led by double bassist and composer Sam Quintana.

I recently gave a very positive review to Wandering Monster’s eponymous début album for the emerging Ubuntu label and was particularly keen to see the group performing their music live. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the quintet delivered a powerful and admirably tight performance with the line up featuring two changes from the album personnel. Quintana and regular group members Calvin Travers (guitar) and Aleks Podraza were joined by Jack Chandler (alto sax) and Ali Wells (drums) who replaced Ben Powling and Tom Higham respectively.

Support came from RWCMD graduate Josh Heaton, the tenor saxophonist leading his Mouth of Words quintet featuring Rachel Head (alto sax), Kumar Chopra (guitar), Matheus Prado (electric bass) and Zach Breskal (drums). Mouth of Words blend jazz and poetry in highly contemporary fashion, the poetry being Heaton’s own, the words being spoken rather than sung and offering a kind of kitchen sink surrealism, deftly mixing humour with pathos.

I decided not to undertake a full review of tonight’s performances having written at length about both quintets only fairly recently. Instead I paid by money at the door and settled back to enjoy two sets of excellent modern jazz from two very talented young bands.

My review of Wandering Monster’s excellent début album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/S=afec9217182414db6883bb1a57abffe9f8670cc6/reviews/review/wandering-monster-wandering-monster/

Meanwhile my account of a performance by Mouth of Words as part of an RWCMD showcase event at Brecon Jazz Club in July 2018 can be found here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/new-generation-jazz-showcase-wales-brecon-jazz-club-the-muse-arts-centre-br/

During the course of the evening I spoke to both Josh Heaton and Sam Quintana and I’m grateful to Sam for providing me with a review copy of the vinyl album “To Be Here Now” which has been issued to “pay respect to the thriving scene flourishing in and enveloping Leeds right now”.

First released on October 1st 2018 “To Be Here Now” (the title a cheeky Oasis pun) is the brainchild of Wandering Monster’s regular saxophonist Ben Powling and venue owner Jack Simpson. The raison d’etre behind the album is perhaps best epitomised by the press release Powling forwarded to me at the time;

“The late, great John Peel OBE once said that there were more bands living and working in the LS6 area of Leeds than anywhere else in the country, and the same feels true today.  To Be Here Now is an attempt to document, preserve and celebrate some of the jazz and improvised music currently being recorded and performed within the Leeds scene.

This jazz compilation was imagined, programmed and compiled by saxophonist Ben Powling and venue owner Jack Simpson at Jack’s café and venue Hyde Park Book Club. Despite being relatively new, Hyde Park Book Club has already established itself as a thriving hub for new and improvised music in the city and many of the bands who feature on To Be Here Now, have gigged, rehearsed and even started out at Hyde Park Book Club.

To Be Here Now was recorded across a few days, in late 2017 and early 2018, by Will Jackson of Soundworks (a multi-platinum selling production studio) at Jack Simpson’s other venue, Eiger Studios. Will has over 20 years’ experience of recording and working with national artists and brought his expertise to creating a compilation which showcases established groups (who have received regional and national recognition) but also newcomers, for which To Be Here Now was their first time recording in a studio. What remains constant is the maturity and tenacity of the music and its performers.”

The vinyl edition of “To Be Here Now” features three tracks to each side from six different bands these being Jasmine, Skwid Ink, Wandering Monster, Ayana, Tip Toe and Ancient Infinity Orchestra. As is the nature of the jazz scene there is much sharing of personnel with several of the musicians cropping up in more than one band in the kind of healthy cross-fertilisation that is part of the DNA of jazz and improvised music.

Side A commences with “Cold Sweat” by the quintet Jasmine, led by alto saxophonist and composer Jasmine Whalley. The band also features Ben Haskins (guitar), George MacDonald (keyboards), Owen Burns (electric bass) and George Hall (drums). It’s the pure, incisive tone of the leader’s alto that we hear first in conjunction with MacDonald’s piano. Following the intro an insistent, hip-hop inspired groove is established courtesy of keys, bass and drums, this underpinning Whalley’s soaring alto sax melody lines. The music moves up and down the gears allowing for a degree of dynamic variation with Whalley and Haskins the featured soloists, the pair also combining effectively. The piece concludes as it began with the sound of Whalley’s unaccompanied alto sax.

Next up are the band Skwid Ink led by Fergus Quill on electric bass and featuring MacDonald and Hall plus guitarist Will Lakin. Quill’s tune “Chang Soi” commences with the sound of his own liquid electric bass above a chattering backdrop of sequenced keyboards. It’s a quirky, playful, and highly inventive piece that combines elements of jazz, avant rock and electronica in intriguing fashion with Hall laying down the grooves as Quill, Lakin and MacDonald produce an impressive range of sounds from bass, guitar and keyboards as the music progresses. It’s a richly imaginative performance that should also be capable of appealing to adventurous rock listeners.

Wandering Monster are represented by the Quintana composition “Green Room”, a track that didn’t make it on to the group’s début album – hence it represents a bit of a bonus to be able to hear it here. In this edition of the band Quintana is joined by Travers and Higham with Powling on tenor sax and Jamil Sheriff on keyboards. The piece begins with the sound of Powling’s unaccompanied tenor, his soulful blowing ushering in a cerebrally funky groove that fuels powerful solos from Powling on tenor,  Sheriff on electric piano and Travers on guitar. It’s more of a funky,  hard grooving, blowing piece than some of the more obviously structured compositions on the album and this different feel may explain its omission there and inclusion here.

Flipping the record Side B commences with “Prophecy”, a composition written by bass guitarist Sam Dutton-Taylor and performed by the ensemble Ayana, which also includes Tom Sharp on trumpet, Jack Chandler on baritone sax, Powling on tenor, Jess Mollie on vibraphone, Matthew Aplin on keyboards, Travers on guitar and Brendan Bache on drums and percussion.
With an expanded line up the ensemble is correspondingly bigger, and most impressively so, with the metallic clank of Mollie’s vibes cutting through the unison horn lines. The leader’s bass and Aplin’s electric keyboards provide an underlying funkiness and the impressive Powling, who has also worked with the London based WorldService Project, again solos powerfully and at length.

The group Tip Toe introduces four musicians that we haven’t heard from thus far, singer Alice Higgins, guitarist/vocalist Conall Mulvenna, trumpeter Will Blackstone and double bassist Angus Milne.  “How Will I Know” was written by Mulvenna but it’s Higgins who takes the lead vocal on this breezy slice of jazz and Latin inflected soul pop. There’s some uncredited percussion (claves, etc.) alongside the guitar and double bass while trumpeter Blackstone contributes an elegantly melodic solo.

The final group, Ancient Infinity Orchestra, introduces another clutch of new names these being;
Andy French (tenor sax), Joel Stedman (flute), Joseph Love (drums), Giorgos Kravvaritis and James Milligan (percussion), Ozzy Moysey (n’goni) and Elliot Roffe (double bass).
Credited to the whole band “Siluvaipuram”  commences with the sound of the n’goni, the West African “hunter’s guitar” that is probably best known to jazz audiences through its association with the late great Don Cherry. There’s a genuinely African feel about this piece with its interlocking percussive rhythms underpinning the snaking, insidiously seductive melodies of saxophonist French and flautist Stedman.

The broad range of musical styles presented is a good representation of the diversity and vitality of the music scene in Leeds. It’s a scene that is prepared to embrace many musical influences and one which, like that of Edinburgh, is small enough to encourage frequent genre hopping. Like Cardiff Leeds has a thriving music college and many of the musicians that can be heard on “To Be Here Now” have studied there. The playing and singing is therefore of a remarkably high standard throughout with the students and graduates contributing massively to the success and vibrancy of the increasingly influential Leeds scene.

Congratulations to Ben Powling and Jack Simpson for putting this excellent compilation album together. It’s a true celebration of Leeds and its music. Maybe somebody could do something similar for Cardiff.

The only disappointment is that Powling’s own Mansion of Snakes outfit isn’t represented. I’d have liked to have hrard something from them.

The digital version of “To Be Here Now” is available via Bandcamp at;
https://hpbc.bandcamp.com/album/to-be-here-now

The vinyl can be purchased at gigs involving the bands and musicians that play on it, including the current Wandering Monster tour, the final date of which is;
Saturday 9 February - Refu-jazz festival, Leeds
Get your copy there!

Orjan Hulten Orion - Minusgrader Rating: 4 out of 5 With its blend of European and American influences “Minusgrader” is arguably Orion’s most mainstream album to date and as such is more than capable of reaching out to a broad constituency.

Orjan Hulten Orion

“Minusgrader”

(Artogrush Records OCD-012)


“Minusgrader” is the fourth album release by the group Orion, a quartet led by the Swedish saxophonist and composer Orjan Hulten.

 Hulten first came to my attention as part of a quartet led by the Greek born guitarist and composer Tassos Spiliotopoulos. Spiliotopoulos spent several years living in London, becoming a popular and significant presence on the UK jazz circuit, before moving to Stockholm in 2013. The guitarist wasted little time in immersing himself in the Swedish jazz scene and in 2016 released the superb album “In the North” with his “Swedish Band”, a quartet featuring Hulten, bassist Palle Sollinger and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist. This was Spiliotopoulos’ third album as a leader and his most accomplished recording to date.

Hulten played a big part in that record’s success and was part of the band that Spiliotopoulos brought to the UK for a short tour later in 2016. Having already been impressed by the album I was further delighted by the quartet’s performance at the Queens Head in Monmouth, one of the best gigs that I have ever seen at that venue. The band featured Spiliotopoulos, Hulten, new bassist Filip Augustson and the guitarist’s old friend and sometime boss Asaf Sirkis at the drums.

The success of that tour, and the good impression that Hulten made on it, led to the Swede returning to the UK in 2017 leading his own quartet Orion, featuring Augustson, drummer Peter Danemo and keyboard player Adam Forkelid. This unit have released a series of excellent albums including “Radio In My Head” (2010), “Mr Nobody” (2013) and “Faltrapport” (2016), all on the Swedish Artogrush imprint.

Orion places the emphasis on Hulten’s abilities as a composer.  The group’s pieces tend to have a strong narrative arc and although much of the material is through composed ample space is still left for individual and collective improvisation with Hulten commenting;
“The mission with Orion is to be able to write music without limits and perform together with musicians that have the same goal. The challenge is to compose, but not compose too much, to leave a lot of space for the band to explore and contribute to with our personalities.”

“Minusgrader” introduces a new version of Orion with Hulten, Augustson and Danemo joined by pianist Torbjorn Gulz who replaces Adam Forkelid, who had appeared on the band’s first three albums. Gulz’s arrival also heralds a more democratic version of the band with compositional duties now being distributed more evenly around the members of the group. With one or two exceptions the focus previously had very much been on Hulten’s own writing.

“Minusgrader”, meaning “minus degrees” or “freezing weather”, takes its title from a poem by the great Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer (1931 – 2015). A piano player himself Transtromer’s work has inspired many Scandinavian musicians, notably the Norwegian saxophonist and composer Jan Garbarek on his 1985 album release “It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice” (ECM Records).

Despite the input of four individual composers Orion has a distinctive group sound that features strong melodic themes, sometimes influenced by Scandinavian folk music,  combined with classically inspired harmonies and a jazz centred command of improvisation drawn from the American jazz tradition.  Orion’s music is sometimes complex but is always evocative, with each piece giving a sense of telling a story.

A case in point is the Transtromer inspired title track which opens the album. Written by Hulten himself the piece begins with the delicate sound of Gulz’s unaccompanied piano, the music unfolding slowly and deliberately, with a strong sense of drama, atmosphere and narrative. Hulten’s tenor playing combines beguiling melody with an austere lyricism, superficially Garbarek like in feel but ultimately very different in execution. Danemo impresses as a colourist with some neatly detailed drum and cymbal work but plays more forcefully in the second phase of the piece with its doomy arco bass and heavy grooves.

Gulz’s “October in May” is generally lighter in mood with Hulten’s soprano dancing lithely, and probing subtly, around the samba inspired rhythms. The composer solos expansively on piano, demonstrating an admirable lightness of touch allied to an improviser’s inventiveness. Augustson’s melodic pizzicato bass is also heard to good effect on a charming, highly dexterous solo.

Drummer Danemo takes the composer credit for the beautiful ballad “Unless it’s You”, which commences with a delightful dialogue between Hulten’s tenor and Gulz’s piano. The saxophonist’s playing on this piece has been compared to that of Stan Getz and his solo combines a warm tone with great fluency and a certain improvisational rigour. Gulz also impresses with a flowingly lyrical piano solo while Danemo deploys both brushes and sticks to turn in a finely nuanced performance behind the kit.

Presumably Augustson’s “One for Britten” id dedicated to Benjamin of that ilk but the music is more akin to that of bebop, but filtered through a very modern prism. With its scuffling phrases and stop start rhythms its an intriguing item that forms the vehicle for an expansive tenor sax solo from Hulten over rapid bass and busy drums. Augustson and Danemo also underpin Gulz’s wryly inventive pianistics.

Hulten’s own “Adore You”  initially finds the group in ballad mode once more with the composer’s tenor at its most tender. The leader then stretches out with a gently probing solo, as does Gulz with a richly inventive piano solo. We also hear from Augustson at the bass, a virtuoso pizzicato solo accompanied by Gulz’s inventive piano chording and the chatter of Danemo’s brushes. On the album’s lengthiest track Hulten returns for a closing theme statement that is both vibrant and celebratory.

The saxophonist is also the composer of “Blues I manegan”, a steadily swinging piece that gives both the tenor toting leader and the resourceful pianist Gulz the opportunity to stretch out at length.

Danemo’s “1961, Echoes” is also inspired by the American jazz tradition with its allusions to the music of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Once again Hulten and Gulz get to solo expansively on tenor sax and piano respectively.

Augustson’s unaccompanied bass introduces Gulz’s “Heading East”, a charming showcase for Hulten’s breezily fluent tenor.  That bass also underpins the composer’s gently inventive piano solo.

Finally we hear Augustson’s buoyant “Do it anyway”, another vehicle for Hulten’s effortlessly fluid tenor sax improvising and Gulz’s similar inventiveness at the piano.

With its blend of European and American influences “Minusgrader” is arguably Orion’s most mainstream album to date and as such is more than capable of reaching out to a broad constituency.  Reviews for “Faltrapport” suggested that the group is “world class” and there’s nothing here to contradict that. Hulten is a wonderfully fluent and inventive improviser on both tenor and soprano saxophones and he’s supported here by a well balanced band of superb musicians who all make telling contributions to the success of the music with pianist Gulz sounding as if he’s always been there. 

Let’s hope that Hulten will be able to bring the current edition of Orion back to the UK sometime in 2019.

 

 

 

 

Minusgrader

Orjan Hulten Orion

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Minusgrader

With its blend of European and American influences “Minusgrader” is arguably Orion’s most mainstream album to date and as such is more than capable of reaching out to a broad constituency.

Orjan Hulten Orion

“Minusgrader”

(Artogrush Records OCD-012)


“Minusgrader” is the fourth album release by the group Orion, a quartet led by the Swedish saxophonist and composer Orjan Hulten.

 Hulten first came to my attention as part of a quartet led by the Greek born guitarist and composer Tassos Spiliotopoulos. Spiliotopoulos spent several years living in London, becoming a popular and significant presence on the UK jazz circuit, before moving to Stockholm in 2013. The guitarist wasted little time in immersing himself in the Swedish jazz scene and in 2016 released the superb album “In the North” with his “Swedish Band”, a quartet featuring Hulten, bassist Palle Sollinger and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist. This was Spiliotopoulos’ third album as a leader and his most accomplished recording to date.

Hulten played a big part in that record’s success and was part of the band that Spiliotopoulos brought to the UK for a short tour later in 2016. Having already been impressed by the album I was further delighted by the quartet’s performance at the Queens Head in Monmouth, one of the best gigs that I have ever seen at that venue. The band featured Spiliotopoulos, Hulten, new bassist Filip Augustson and the guitarist’s old friend and sometime boss Asaf Sirkis at the drums.

The success of that tour, and the good impression that Hulten made on it, led to the Swede returning to the UK in 2017 leading his own quartet Orion, featuring Augustson, drummer Peter Danemo and keyboard player Adam Forkelid. This unit have released a series of excellent albums including “Radio In My Head” (2010), “Mr Nobody” (2013) and “Faltrapport” (2016), all on the Swedish Artogrush imprint.

Orion places the emphasis on Hulten’s abilities as a composer.  The group’s pieces tend to have a strong narrative arc and although much of the material is through composed ample space is still left for individual and collective improvisation with Hulten commenting;
“The mission with Orion is to be able to write music without limits and perform together with musicians that have the same goal. The challenge is to compose, but not compose too much, to leave a lot of space for the band to explore and contribute to with our personalities.”

“Minusgrader” introduces a new version of Orion with Hulten, Augustson and Danemo joined by pianist Torbjorn Gulz who replaces Adam Forkelid, who had appeared on the band’s first three albums. Gulz’s arrival also heralds a more democratic version of the band with compositional duties now being distributed more evenly around the members of the group. With one or two exceptions the focus previously had very much been on Hulten’s own writing.

“Minusgrader”, meaning “minus degrees” or “freezing weather”, takes its title from a poem by the great Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer (1931 – 2015). A piano player himself Transtromer’s work has inspired many Scandinavian musicians, notably the Norwegian saxophonist and composer Jan Garbarek on his 1985 album release “It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice” (ECM Records).

Despite the input of four individual composers Orion has a distinctive group sound that features strong melodic themes, sometimes influenced by Scandinavian folk music,  combined with classically inspired harmonies and a jazz centred command of improvisation drawn from the American jazz tradition.  Orion’s music is sometimes complex but is always evocative, with each piece giving a sense of telling a story.

A case in point is the Transtromer inspired title track which opens the album. Written by Hulten himself the piece begins with the delicate sound of Gulz’s unaccompanied piano, the music unfolding slowly and deliberately, with a strong sense of drama, atmosphere and narrative. Hulten’s tenor playing combines beguiling melody with an austere lyricism, superficially Garbarek like in feel but ultimately very different in execution. Danemo impresses as a colourist with some neatly detailed drum and cymbal work but plays more forcefully in the second phase of the piece with its doomy arco bass and heavy grooves.

Gulz’s “October in May” is generally lighter in mood with Hulten’s soprano dancing lithely, and probing subtly, around the samba inspired rhythms. The composer solos expansively on piano, demonstrating an admirable lightness of touch allied to an improviser’s inventiveness. Augustson’s melodic pizzicato bass is also heard to good effect on a charming, highly dexterous solo.

Drummer Danemo takes the composer credit for the beautiful ballad “Unless it’s You”, which commences with a delightful dialogue between Hulten’s tenor and Gulz’s piano. The saxophonist’s playing on this piece has been compared to that of Stan Getz and his solo combines a warm tone with great fluency and a certain improvisational rigour. Gulz also impresses with a flowingly lyrical piano solo while Danemo deploys both brushes and sticks to turn in a finely nuanced performance behind the kit.

Presumably Augustson’s “One for Britten” id dedicated to Benjamin of that ilk but the music is more akin to that of bebop, but filtered through a very modern prism. With its scuffling phrases and stop start rhythms its an intriguing item that forms the vehicle for an expansive tenor sax solo from Hulten over rapid bass and busy drums. Augustson and Danemo also underpin Gulz’s wryly inventive pianistics.

Hulten’s own “Adore You”  initially finds the group in ballad mode once more with the composer’s tenor at its most tender. The leader then stretches out with a gently probing solo, as does Gulz with a richly inventive piano solo. We also hear from Augustson at the bass, a virtuoso pizzicato solo accompanied by Gulz’s inventive piano chording and the chatter of Danemo’s brushes. On the album’s lengthiest track Hulten returns for a closing theme statement that is both vibrant and celebratory.

The saxophonist is also the composer of “Blues I manegan”, a steadily swinging piece that gives both the tenor toting leader and the resourceful pianist Gulz the opportunity to stretch out at length.

Danemo’s “1961, Echoes” is also inspired by the American jazz tradition with its allusions to the music of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Once again Hulten and Gulz get to solo expansively on tenor sax and piano respectively.

Augustson’s unaccompanied bass introduces Gulz’s “Heading East”, a charming showcase for Hulten’s breezily fluent tenor.  That bass also underpins the composer’s gently inventive piano solo.

Finally we hear Augustson’s buoyant “Do it anyway”, another vehicle for Hulten’s effortlessly fluid tenor sax improvising and Gulz’s similar inventiveness at the piano.

With its blend of European and American influences “Minusgrader” is arguably Orion’s most mainstream album to date and as such is more than capable of reaching out to a broad constituency.  Reviews for “Faltrapport” suggested that the group is “world class” and there’s nothing here to contradict that. Hulten is a wonderfully fluent and inventive improviser on both tenor and soprano saxophones and he’s supported here by a well balanced band of superb musicians who all make telling contributions to the success of the music with pianist Gulz sounding as if he’s always been there. 

Let’s hope that Hulten will be able to bring the current edition of Orion back to the UK sometime in 2019.

 

 

 

 

Nick Malcolm - Real Isn’t Real Rating: 4-5 out of 5 With the help of an exceptional quartet and four distinguished, but very different, guest vocalists Malcolm has created a work of linked pieces that cohere into a totally convincing whole.

Nick Malcolm

“Real Isn’t Real”

(Green Eyes Records GE002)

“Real Isn’t Real” is the third album release as a leader by the Bristol based trumpeter, composer and improviser Nick Malcolm. It follows “Glimmers”, released in 2012 on FMR Records and the excellent “Beyond These Voices” (2014), which appeared on Malcolm’s own Green Eyes label.

Malcolm’s first two albums were made in the quartet format and featured some of the UK’s leading improvising musicians in the shapes of Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Olie Brice (double bass) and Mark Whitlam (drums). Shortly after the release of “Beyond These Voices” Whitlam was replaced on a permanent basis by Ric Yarborough, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Both these album demonstrated Malcolm’s mastery of the hinterland where composed and improvised music intersect, skilfully combining adventurousness with accessibility.

“Real Isn’t Real” is centred around the core quartet of Malcolm, Hawkins, Brice and Yarborough but on the trumpeter’s most ambitious release to date the instrumentalists are joined by an illustrious roll call of guest female vocalists.

The album is a semi-conceptual affair with five “Spiral” instrumental pieces interspersed by four songs specifically written by Malcolm to “highlight the particular vocal and musical qualities of each of the featured vocalists”. The singers that Malcolm has selected for this recording are Emily Wright, Marie Lister, Josienne Clarke and Lauren Kinsella, four very different vocalists whose styles reflect Malcolm’s own eclecticism and versatility. The trumpeter’s CV includes work with numerous jazz and free improv ensembles to the Bristol Afrobeat Collective and folk singer Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band.

“Real Isn’t Real” is structured rather like a suite, with the “Spiral” instrumental pieces seguing into the songs. It’s an approach that works well, the album as a whole cohering convincingly despite the contrasting styles of the various guest vocalists and the sometimes uncompromising approach adopted by the instrumentalists.

As befits the diverse nature of the project Malcolm and the rest of the quartet have expanded their own instrumental palettes. The leader is also heard on keyboards and vocals, Hawkins adds Rhodes, Hammond and Pump Organ to his keyboard armoury while Brice is fleetingly heard on electric sitar, probably my first sighting of such a beast since Denny Dias’ solo on Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”!. Yarborough contributes some significant post production while guest Will Harris adds electric bass to the song “Silent Grace”.

The album commences with the first of the “Spiral” pieces. Each of these has been given a subtitle so we start with “Spiral 1 – Assemble” which introduces a quintet sound that will be familiar to listeners of Malcolm’s previous album “Beyond These Voices”. Brice’s muscular but melodic bass lines and Yarborough’s busy but understated drum and cymbal patterns underpin Malcolm’s fluent trumpet soloing, his sound sometimes reminiscent of one of his mentors, the great American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Hawkins, one of the UK’s best and most distinctive piano improvisers maintains a low profile early on, his chording sparse and comparatively simple, but he clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch out later in the tune, his solo packed with unusual chords and arpeggios in a classically informed 21st century updating of Thelonious Monk. The soft growl of Malcolm’s trumpet then returns to the fray and the piece segues into;

“Floating Earth” which features the coolly elegant vocals of Emily Wright as she sings Malcolm’s words. Malcolm and Wright have previously worked together in the group Moonlight Saving Time”, co-led by Wright and bassist Will Harris. Wright’s pure, ethereal singing on this piece is reminiscent of her work with her own band, a group that blends jazz and folk influences with poetry and imaginative arrangements of pop and rock songs. The song’s fragile mood reflects its title and the solos here come from Brice on melodic double bass and Hawkins, at his most lyrical, on piano.

It’s the sound of Brice’s unaccompanied double bass that introduces “Spiral II – Encircle”, his deeply resonant sound subsequently accompanied by Hawkins’ piano chording and the bustle of Yarborough’s drums and cymbals. The piece gathers momentum, while simultaneously becoming more freely structured, as it progresses, before suddenly mutating into;

“Silent Grace”, featuring the voice of Bristol based soul and hip-hop vocalist Marie Lister. She and Malcolm have previously worked together in the afrobeat outfit No Go Stop. Lister has also toured widely with the nu soul outfit The Duval Project and with the soul artist Pete Josef. Here Lister sings powerfully and soulfully on a soul, funk and r’n’b flavoured song that represents an unexpected, but highly effective, diversion for Malcolm, one that features Harris on electric bass and Hawkins doubling on electric keyboards. It’s a piece that has invited comparisons with the music of the group Panacea, led by keyboard player and composer Robert Mitchell.

“Silent Grace” merges seamlessly into “Spiral III – Ascend” with Malcolm’s opening trumpet statement at first sounding like an instrumental break in the previous song. Hawkins’ piano steers the music into more obviously jazz territory with an expansive solo that positively sparkles, for all its avant garde flourishes. There’s an also an absorbing dialogue between Hawkins and Malcolm as Brice and Hawkins provide flexible, apposite support. There’s then a powerful reprise of “Silent Grace” featuring Lister’s impassioned vocal and Yarborough’s heavy grooves as Malcolm’s mercurial trumpet weaves and squiggles around the gaps.

“Grass Remembers” features the voice of Josienne Clarke, one of the UK’s leading young folk singers. Clarke works in a duo with guitarist Ben Walker and Malcolm guested on the pair’s 2014 album “Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour”. Clarke returns the compliment by lending her pure, sweet, folk voice to Malcolm’s atmospheric setting of the words of W.B. Yeats. Clarke’s vocals are underscored by the moody drone of Hawkins’ pump organ.

Brice’s double bass introduces “Spiral IV – Blues”, the instrumental piece that is most obviously linked to its accompanying song. Clarke provides a brief spoken reprise of “Grass Remembers” at the beginning of the piece before handing over to Brice and Yarborough. Malcolm’s melancholy trumpet then picks up the melody from “Grass Remembers”, subtly mutating the theme during his sombre meditations, the mood more “Kind of Blue” than THE Blues. The introduction of Hawkins, who also eventually solos, steers the music deeper into avant garde jazz territory, the piece moving further and further away from its folk sources as it progresses, but still intrinsically linked. Hawkins’ increasingly frenetic Cecil Taylor / Myra Melford like piano solo is abruptly truncated as we jump into;

“Real Isn’t Real”, the title track co-written by Malcolm and vocalist Lauren Kinsella. One of the most adventurous young vocalists around the Dublin born Kinsella has previously worked with Malcolm as part of a freely improvising trio also featuring cellist Hannah Marshall. As well as pursuing solo projects Kinsella has also been part of the bands Thought Fox, Blue-Eyed Hawk and Snowpoet. Given Kinsella’s credentials it’s perhaps not too surprising to find that this piece features the most audacious vocalising of the set. Kinsella combines a folk like purity of tone with a willingness to experiment in terms of time, space, meter and extended vocal techniques. She is heard here unaccompanied (presumably singing her own words) and in a series of largely wordless improvised exchanges with Malcolm and Hawkins.

These segue into the closing “Spiral V - Dissolve”, co-credited to Malcolm and Yarborough, which emerges out of Hawkins’ repeated piano motif to incorporate something of a feature for the latter, albeit with the drums well back in the mix. Yarborough has a long established interest in electronic music, working as a producer under the name 3dYwK and his input is very much evident here in the multi-tracking of Kinsella’s vocals allied to other production techniques. The wispy, ethereal nature of the music befits its title as the piece dissolves - “into silence” - but not without a defiant reprise of the earlier “Silent Grace”. The closing stages of this Spiral piece represent something of a sound collage, and Yarborough’s ‘production’ and co-composer credit is well earned.

“Real Isn’t Real” is an intriguing piece of work that seems to have divided critical opinion with some commentators citing a lack of cohesion and continuity. I don’t see it like that at all. Instead I’m impressed by the way in which Malcolm draws the disparate elements together to create what, for me, is a thoroughly convincing and compelling narrative. Composition blends seamlessly with improvisation, a process that Malcolm has already been exploring instrumentally on his previous two albums. But on this more ambitious project he has brought every aspect of his musical persona to the table, jazz, improv, folk, funk, soul, r’n’b and electronica, plus a love of poetry, literature and the human voice. With the help of an exceptional quartet and four distinguished, but very different guest vocalists he has created a work of linked pieces that cohere into a totally convincing whole. The way in which he brings the various styles together with elements from one piece informing another remind me of the way in which novelist David Mitchell knits different story lines together in books like “Ghostwritten” and “Cloud Atlas”. To appreciate its full worth “Real Isn’t Real” is an album that is probably best considered as a stand alone work and one that is best listened to in a single sitting.

Given the nature of the project it’s unlikely that Malcolm will take the album on the road in its entirety, although the essentially instrumental “Spiral” pieces are likely to form part of subsequent live appearances.

Instead he has formed a new quartet called jade (the lower case lettering is Malcolm’s) which will be touring in the UK during February, March and April 2019. The new group will feature Malcolm and Yarborough together with Will Harris on bass and Jake McMurchie, of Get The Blessing fame, on saxophone.

It’s an intriguing proposition, catch jade if you can at;


Weds 27 Feb
8.30pm
Cardiff - The Flute and Tankard, 4 Windsor Place, CF10 3BX http://thefluteandtankard.com/

Sun 3 March
8.30pm
Bristol - Café Kino, Stokes Croft, BS1 3RU 
http://www.cafekino.coop

Tues 5 March
8.00pm
Cambridge - Listen! at St Barnabas, Mill Road, CB1 2BD https://www.listencambridge.com/

Thurs 7 March
8.30pm
Newcastle - The Globe, 11 Railway Street, NE4 7AD
http://jazznortheast.com

Fri 8 March 
8.00pm
Derby - Derby Jazz at Deda Studio Theatre Chapel St DE1 3GU
https://www.derby-jazz.co.uk/gigs.php

Sat 20 April
8.30 pm
London -The Vortex, Gillett Square N16 8AZ
http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk

For more information on “Real Isn’t Real” and jade please visit http://www.nickmalcolm.co.uk

Real Isn’t Real

Nick Malcolm

Friday, February 01, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Real Isn’t Real

With the help of an exceptional quartet and four distinguished, but very different, guest vocalists Malcolm has created a work of linked pieces that cohere into a totally convincing whole.

Nick Malcolm

“Real Isn’t Real”

(Green Eyes Records GE002)

“Real Isn’t Real” is the third album release as a leader by the Bristol based trumpeter, composer and improviser Nick Malcolm. It follows “Glimmers”, released in 2012 on FMR Records and the excellent “Beyond These Voices” (2014), which appeared on Malcolm’s own Green Eyes label.

Malcolm’s first two albums were made in the quartet format and featured some of the UK’s leading improvising musicians in the shapes of Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Olie Brice (double bass) and Mark Whitlam (drums). Shortly after the release of “Beyond These Voices” Whitlam was replaced on a permanent basis by Ric Yarborough, a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Both these album demonstrated Malcolm’s mastery of the hinterland where composed and improvised music intersect, skilfully combining adventurousness with accessibility.

“Real Isn’t Real” is centred around the core quartet of Malcolm, Hawkins, Brice and Yarborough but on the trumpeter’s most ambitious release to date the instrumentalists are joined by an illustrious roll call of guest female vocalists.

The album is a semi-conceptual affair with five “Spiral” instrumental pieces interspersed by four songs specifically written by Malcolm to “highlight the particular vocal and musical qualities of each of the featured vocalists”. The singers that Malcolm has selected for this recording are Emily Wright, Marie Lister, Josienne Clarke and Lauren Kinsella, four very different vocalists whose styles reflect Malcolm’s own eclecticism and versatility. The trumpeter’s CV includes work with numerous jazz and free improv ensembles to the Bristol Afrobeat Collective and folk singer Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band.

“Real Isn’t Real” is structured rather like a suite, with the “Spiral” instrumental pieces seguing into the songs. It’s an approach that works well, the album as a whole cohering convincingly despite the contrasting styles of the various guest vocalists and the sometimes uncompromising approach adopted by the instrumentalists.

As befits the diverse nature of the project Malcolm and the rest of the quartet have expanded their own instrumental palettes. The leader is also heard on keyboards and vocals, Hawkins adds Rhodes, Hammond and Pump Organ to his keyboard armoury while Brice is fleetingly heard on electric sitar, probably my first sighting of such a beast since Denny Dias’ solo on Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”!. Yarborough contributes some significant post production while guest Will Harris adds electric bass to the song “Silent Grace”.

The album commences with the first of the “Spiral” pieces. Each of these has been given a subtitle so we start with “Spiral 1 – Assemble” which introduces a quintet sound that will be familiar to listeners of Malcolm’s previous album “Beyond These Voices”. Brice’s muscular but melodic bass lines and Yarborough’s busy but understated drum and cymbal patterns underpin Malcolm’s fluent trumpet soloing, his sound sometimes reminiscent of one of his mentors, the great American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Hawkins, one of the UK’s best and most distinctive piano improvisers maintains a low profile early on, his chording sparse and comparatively simple, but he clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch out later in the tune, his solo packed with unusual chords and arpeggios in a classically informed 21st century updating of Thelonious Monk. The soft growl of Malcolm’s trumpet then returns to the fray and the piece segues into;

“Floating Earth” which features the coolly elegant vocals of Emily Wright as she sings Malcolm’s words. Malcolm and Wright have previously worked together in the group Moonlight Saving Time”, co-led by Wright and bassist Will Harris. Wright’s pure, ethereal singing on this piece is reminiscent of her work with her own band, a group that blends jazz and folk influences with poetry and imaginative arrangements of pop and rock songs. The song’s fragile mood reflects its title and the solos here come from Brice on melodic double bass and Hawkins, at his most lyrical, on piano.

It’s the sound of Brice’s unaccompanied double bass that introduces “Spiral II – Encircle”, his deeply resonant sound subsequently accompanied by Hawkins’ piano chording and the bustle of Yarborough’s drums and cymbals. The piece gathers momentum, while simultaneously becoming more freely structured, as it progresses, before suddenly mutating into;

“Silent Grace”, featuring the voice of Bristol based soul and hip-hop vocalist Marie Lister. She and Malcolm have previously worked together in the afrobeat outfit No Go Stop. Lister has also toured widely with the nu soul outfit The Duval Project and with the soul artist Pete Josef. Here Lister sings powerfully and soulfully on a soul, funk and r’n’b flavoured song that represents an unexpected, but highly effective, diversion for Malcolm, one that features Harris on electric bass and Hawkins doubling on electric keyboards. It’s a piece that has invited comparisons with the music of the group Panacea, led by keyboard player and composer Robert Mitchell.

“Silent Grace” merges seamlessly into “Spiral III – Ascend” with Malcolm’s opening trumpet statement at first sounding like an instrumental break in the previous song. Hawkins’ piano steers the music into more obviously jazz territory with an expansive solo that positively sparkles, for all its avant garde flourishes. There’s an also an absorbing dialogue between Hawkins and Malcolm as Brice and Hawkins provide flexible, apposite support. There’s then a powerful reprise of “Silent Grace” featuring Lister’s impassioned vocal and Yarborough’s heavy grooves as Malcolm’s mercurial trumpet weaves and squiggles around the gaps.

“Grass Remembers” features the voice of Josienne Clarke, one of the UK’s leading young folk singers. Clarke works in a duo with guitarist Ben Walker and Malcolm guested on the pair’s 2014 album “Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour”. Clarke returns the compliment by lending her pure, sweet, folk voice to Malcolm’s atmospheric setting of the words of W.B. Yeats. Clarke’s vocals are underscored by the moody drone of Hawkins’ pump organ.

Brice’s double bass introduces “Spiral IV – Blues”, the instrumental piece that is most obviously linked to its accompanying song. Clarke provides a brief spoken reprise of “Grass Remembers” at the beginning of the piece before handing over to Brice and Yarborough. Malcolm’s melancholy trumpet then picks up the melody from “Grass Remembers”, subtly mutating the theme during his sombre meditations, the mood more “Kind of Blue” than THE Blues. The introduction of Hawkins, who also eventually solos, steers the music deeper into avant garde jazz territory, the piece moving further and further away from its folk sources as it progresses, but still intrinsically linked. Hawkins’ increasingly frenetic Cecil Taylor / Myra Melford like piano solo is abruptly truncated as we jump into;

“Real Isn’t Real”, the title track co-written by Malcolm and vocalist Lauren Kinsella. One of the most adventurous young vocalists around the Dublin born Kinsella has previously worked with Malcolm as part of a freely improvising trio also featuring cellist Hannah Marshall. As well as pursuing solo projects Kinsella has also been part of the bands Thought Fox, Blue-Eyed Hawk and Snowpoet. Given Kinsella’s credentials it’s perhaps not too surprising to find that this piece features the most audacious vocalising of the set. Kinsella combines a folk like purity of tone with a willingness to experiment in terms of time, space, meter and extended vocal techniques. She is heard here unaccompanied (presumably singing her own words) and in a series of largely wordless improvised exchanges with Malcolm and Hawkins.

These segue into the closing “Spiral V - Dissolve”, co-credited to Malcolm and Yarborough, which emerges out of Hawkins’ repeated piano motif to incorporate something of a feature for the latter, albeit with the drums well back in the mix. Yarborough has a long established interest in electronic music, working as a producer under the name 3dYwK and his input is very much evident here in the multi-tracking of Kinsella’s vocals allied to other production techniques. The wispy, ethereal nature of the music befits its title as the piece dissolves - “into silence” - but not without a defiant reprise of the earlier “Silent Grace”. The closing stages of this Spiral piece represent something of a sound collage, and Yarborough’s ‘production’ and co-composer credit is well earned.

“Real Isn’t Real” is an intriguing piece of work that seems to have divided critical opinion with some commentators citing a lack of cohesion and continuity. I don’t see it like that at all. Instead I’m impressed by the way in which Malcolm draws the disparate elements together to create what, for me, is a thoroughly convincing and compelling narrative. Composition blends seamlessly with improvisation, a process that Malcolm has already been exploring instrumentally on his previous two albums. But on this more ambitious project he has brought every aspect of his musical persona to the table, jazz, improv, folk, funk, soul, r’n’b and electronica, plus a love of poetry, literature and the human voice. With the help of an exceptional quartet and four distinguished, but very different guest vocalists he has created a work of linked pieces that cohere into a totally convincing whole. The way in which he brings the various styles together with elements from one piece informing another remind me of the way in which novelist David Mitchell knits different story lines together in books like “Ghostwritten” and “Cloud Atlas”. To appreciate its full worth “Real Isn’t Real” is an album that is probably best considered as a stand alone work and one that is best listened to in a single sitting.

Given the nature of the project it’s unlikely that Malcolm will take the album on the road in its entirety, although the essentially instrumental “Spiral” pieces are likely to form part of subsequent live appearances.

Instead he has formed a new quartet called jade (the lower case lettering is Malcolm’s) which will be touring in the UK during February, March and April 2019. The new group will feature Malcolm and Yarborough together with Will Harris on bass and Jake McMurchie, of Get The Blessing fame, on saxophone.

It’s an intriguing proposition, catch jade if you can at;


Weds 27 Feb
8.30pm
Cardiff - The Flute and Tankard, 4 Windsor Place, CF10 3BX http://thefluteandtankard.com/

Sun 3 March
8.30pm
Bristol - Café Kino, Stokes Croft, BS1 3RU 
http://www.cafekino.coop

Tues 5 March
8.00pm
Cambridge - Listen! at St Barnabas, Mill Road, CB1 2BD https://www.listencambridge.com/

Thurs 7 March
8.30pm
Newcastle - The Globe, 11 Railway Street, NE4 7AD
http://jazznortheast.com

Fri 8 March 
8.00pm
Derby - Derby Jazz at Deda Studio Theatre Chapel St DE1 3GU
https://www.derby-jazz.co.uk/gigs.php

Sat 20 April
8.30 pm
London -The Vortex, Gillett Square N16 8AZ
http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk

For more information on “Real Isn’t Real” and jade please visit http://www.nickmalcolm.co.uk

Kathrine Windfeld Big Band - Latency Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements, allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing.

Kathrine Windfeld Big Band

“Latency”

(Stunt Records STUCD 17062)

Kathrine Windfeld is a Danish pianist and composer who leads a largely Scandinavian big band featuring musicians from various countries with shores on the Baltic Sea.

Born in 1984 Windfeld studied at the Department of Musicology in Copenhagen and at the Swedish jazz school Fridhems Folkhogskola. She was part of the progressive jazz quintet Gespenst before establishing her own ongoing sextet in 2011.

Windfeld subsequently studied at the Malmo Music Academy in Sweden where she established a quartet plus her first big band. In 2014 she moved back to Copenhagen where she set up the current KWBB and in 2015 she recorded her début big band album “Aircraft”.

The famous Danish bassist Niels Lan Doky offered the KWBB a residency at his Copenhagen jazz club and the band continued to hone their sound while playing with illustrious visiting guest musicians such as guitarists Mike Stern and Gilad Hekselman, saxophonist Seamus Blake and the UK’s own Gerard Presencer (trumpet).

The KWBB’s second album “Latency” was recorded in Copenhagen in 2017 and features a programme of eight Windfeld original compositions, two of them co-writes with one Mads Sandberg. On line information about Sandberg is hard to find, so Windfeld’s collaborator remains something of a figure of mystery.

Nevertheless, the new album has been critically acclaimed and has enjoyed greater international exposure than its predecessor. In 2018 the band toured successfully in Germany and the UK, including a successful performance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London.

The album line up features;

Kathrine Windfeld – Piano, Director, Composer, Arranger (DK)

Andre Bak (DK), Rolf Thofte Sorensen (DK), Magnus Oseth (NO) - Trumpets & Flugels

Goran Abelli (SE), Mikkel Aargard (DK), Anders Larson (SE) – Trombones

Jakob Lundbak (DK) – Alto & Soprano Sax

Jakub Wiecek (PL) – Alto Sax

Roald Elm Larsen (DK), Ida Karlsson (SE) – Tenor Saxes

Toke Reines (DK) -  Baritone Sax

Viktor Sandstrom (SE) - Guitar

Johannes Vaht (SE) – Bass

Henrik Holst (DK) – Drums

Windfeld favours a contemporary large ensemble sound incorporating elements of both jazz and rock, with the work of Mike Gibbs arguably representing a suitable comparison or reference point.

The rock influence is made apparent right from the start and the rousing opener “Rude Machine” with Sandstrom taking the first solo on turbo charged electric guitar. However it’s not all sound and fury, Windfeld demonstrates an excellent command of contrast and dynamics throughout the album and “Rude Machine” itself reveals compositional subtleties that belie its title. Further solos here come from Lundbak on fluent but incisive alto and Aagard on warmly rounded trombone.

The following “Elak” is more reflective with Windfeld’s own piano featuring more prominently in the arrangement. The horn voicings here are rich and warm but still inherently colourful, with the first solo being taken by Sorensen, who displays a Kenny Wheeler like eloquence on flugel horn.
He’s followed by Vaht on melodic and dexterous double bass.

The title track ups the energy levels once more with some punchy ensemble playing that takes old style big band and virtues places them in a thoroughly contemporary setting. Larsen’s tenor solo blends a big sound with an admirable fluency while in a neat compositional twist it’s actually the sound of Sandstrom’s electric guitar that calms things down again as he enters into a gently atmospheric dialogue with the leader’s piano.

“Leaving Portland” is a true ballad, introduced by Windfeld’s lyrical piano and featuring a lush horn arrangement that evokes appropriate images of yearning and nostalgia. It also acts as a feature for the melancholic but beautiful trumpet playing of Oseth.

The leader’s piano also ushers in “Roadmovie”, her rippling arpeggios joined by Vaht’s bass as the piece slowly gathers momentum. Sandstrom’s guitar subsequently takes on the underpinning role as the horns state the theme, this move also freeing up Windfeld for her first true solo of the set, a suitably flowing and expansive excursion at the piano. Lindbak follows on sinuously elegant soprano sax before a series of sumptuous ensemble passages, steered by the horns, lead to the final destination.

“Wasp” is the first of two joint compositions written by Windfeld and Mads Sandberg. A freely structured intro featuring the sounds of buzzy reeds and brass approximates the sound of a wasp’s nest before the music takes off on a swinging, rumba like groove with the sound of Reines’ baritone sax briefly attaining prominence in the arrangement. A more impressionistic passage follows featuring the tenor sax of soloist Karlsson who probes deeply against an edgy, unsettling backdrop that flirts with free jazz elements, with Karlsson deploying tongue slapping techniques towards the end of the solo. This is followed by a powerful, rock influenced passage before the sound of Vaht’ s bass leads to a jazzier conclusion. This is an unsettling but impressive piece that packs a lot of information into its five minutes forty seconds.

By way of contrast the gentle “December Elegy” is full of the kind of cool beauty that its title suggests. A lush and elegant score incorporates features for Oseth on velvet toned flugel and Windfeld’s own piano lyricism. The flexible Hansen, a driving force elsewhere, delivers suitably sympathetic brushed support.

The concluding “Double Fleisch”, another co-write by Windfeld and Sandberg, closes the album on an upbeat note. It’s a rumbustious piece that combines avant garde flourishes with a Mingus like energy and sense of subversion. The horn arrangements are boisterous and garrulous with trombonist Abelli the featured soloist. Sandberg’s involvement in the writing process certainly brings a different dimension to the pieces he is involved with, generally a harsher, more aggressive band sound and a willingness to experiment with free jazz and avant garde elements.

“Latency” is an impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing. The compositions explore a variety of styles, colours, textures and dynamics with Sandberg’s offerings adding a welcome touch of darkness and adventure to an already intriguing sonic palette.

Windfeld impresses in her various roles as pianist, composer, arranger and band-leader and it is to be hoped that she will bring the band back to UK shores sometime in 2019. On the evidence of this recording this is one of the best contemporary large ensembles around,

Latency

Kathrine Windfeld Big Band

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Latency

An impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements, allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing.

Kathrine Windfeld Big Band

“Latency”

(Stunt Records STUCD 17062)

Kathrine Windfeld is a Danish pianist and composer who leads a largely Scandinavian big band featuring musicians from various countries with shores on the Baltic Sea.

Born in 1984 Windfeld studied at the Department of Musicology in Copenhagen and at the Swedish jazz school Fridhems Folkhogskola. She was part of the progressive jazz quintet Gespenst before establishing her own ongoing sextet in 2011.

Windfeld subsequently studied at the Malmo Music Academy in Sweden where she established a quartet plus her first big band. In 2014 she moved back to Copenhagen where she set up the current KWBB and in 2015 she recorded her début big band album “Aircraft”.

The famous Danish bassist Niels Lan Doky offered the KWBB a residency at his Copenhagen jazz club and the band continued to hone their sound while playing with illustrious visiting guest musicians such as guitarists Mike Stern and Gilad Hekselman, saxophonist Seamus Blake and the UK’s own Gerard Presencer (trumpet).

The KWBB’s second album “Latency” was recorded in Copenhagen in 2017 and features a programme of eight Windfeld original compositions, two of them co-writes with one Mads Sandberg. On line information about Sandberg is hard to find, so Windfeld’s collaborator remains something of a figure of mystery.

Nevertheless, the new album has been critically acclaimed and has enjoyed greater international exposure than its predecessor. In 2018 the band toured successfully in Germany and the UK, including a successful performance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London.

The album line up features;

Kathrine Windfeld – Piano, Director, Composer, Arranger (DK)

Andre Bak (DK), Rolf Thofte Sorensen (DK), Magnus Oseth (NO) - Trumpets & Flugels

Goran Abelli (SE), Mikkel Aargard (DK), Anders Larson (SE) – Trombones

Jakob Lundbak (DK) – Alto & Soprano Sax

Jakub Wiecek (PL) – Alto Sax

Roald Elm Larsen (DK), Ida Karlsson (SE) – Tenor Saxes

Toke Reines (DK) -  Baritone Sax

Viktor Sandstrom (SE) - Guitar

Johannes Vaht (SE) – Bass

Henrik Holst (DK) – Drums

Windfeld favours a contemporary large ensemble sound incorporating elements of both jazz and rock, with the work of Mike Gibbs arguably representing a suitable comparison or reference point.

The rock influence is made apparent right from the start and the rousing opener “Rude Machine” with Sandstrom taking the first solo on turbo charged electric guitar. However it’s not all sound and fury, Windfeld demonstrates an excellent command of contrast and dynamics throughout the album and “Rude Machine” itself reveals compositional subtleties that belie its title. Further solos here come from Lundbak on fluent but incisive alto and Aagard on warmly rounded trombone.

The following “Elak” is more reflective with Windfeld’s own piano featuring more prominently in the arrangement. The horn voicings here are rich and warm but still inherently colourful, with the first solo being taken by Sorensen, who displays a Kenny Wheeler like eloquence on flugel horn.
He’s followed by Vaht on melodic and dexterous double bass.

The title track ups the energy levels once more with some punchy ensemble playing that takes old style big band and virtues places them in a thoroughly contemporary setting. Larsen’s tenor solo blends a big sound with an admirable fluency while in a neat compositional twist it’s actually the sound of Sandstrom’s electric guitar that calms things down again as he enters into a gently atmospheric dialogue with the leader’s piano.

“Leaving Portland” is a true ballad, introduced by Windfeld’s lyrical piano and featuring a lush horn arrangement that evokes appropriate images of yearning and nostalgia. It also acts as a feature for the melancholic but beautiful trumpet playing of Oseth.

The leader’s piano also ushers in “Roadmovie”, her rippling arpeggios joined by Vaht’s bass as the piece slowly gathers momentum. Sandstrom’s guitar subsequently takes on the underpinning role as the horns state the theme, this move also freeing up Windfeld for her first true solo of the set, a suitably flowing and expansive excursion at the piano. Lindbak follows on sinuously elegant soprano sax before a series of sumptuous ensemble passages, steered by the horns, lead to the final destination.

“Wasp” is the first of two joint compositions written by Windfeld and Mads Sandberg. A freely structured intro featuring the sounds of buzzy reeds and brass approximates the sound of a wasp’s nest before the music takes off on a swinging, rumba like groove with the sound of Reines’ baritone sax briefly attaining prominence in the arrangement. A more impressionistic passage follows featuring the tenor sax of soloist Karlsson who probes deeply against an edgy, unsettling backdrop that flirts with free jazz elements, with Karlsson deploying tongue slapping techniques towards the end of the solo. This is followed by a powerful, rock influenced passage before the sound of Vaht’ s bass leads to a jazzier conclusion. This is an unsettling but impressive piece that packs a lot of information into its five minutes forty seconds.

By way of contrast the gentle “December Elegy” is full of the kind of cool beauty that its title suggests. A lush and elegant score incorporates features for Oseth on velvet toned flugel and Windfeld’s own piano lyricism. The flexible Hansen, a driving force elsewhere, delivers suitably sympathetic brushed support.

The concluding “Double Fleisch”, another co-write by Windfeld and Sandberg, closes the album on an upbeat note. It’s a rumbustious piece that combines avant garde flourishes with a Mingus like energy and sense of subversion. The horn arrangements are boisterous and garrulous with trombonist Abelli the featured soloist. Sandberg’s involvement in the writing process certainly brings a different dimension to the pieces he is involved with, generally a harsher, more aggressive band sound and a willingness to experiment with free jazz and avant garde elements.

“Latency” is an impressive piece of work that features a series of multi-faceted compositions and arrangements allied to some excellent ensemble playing and exceptional soloing. The compositions explore a variety of styles, colours, textures and dynamics with Sandberg’s offerings adding a welcome touch of darkness and adventure to an already intriguing sonic palette.

Windfeld impresses in her various roles as pianist, composer, arranger and band-leader and it is to be hoped that she will bring the band back to UK shores sometime in 2019. On the evidence of this recording this is one of the best contemporary large ensembles around,

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble - Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, ‘Spirit of Trane’, Progress Theatre, Reading, 18/01/2019. Rating: 4-5 out of 5 "A wonderful evocation of the spirit and enduring legacy of John Coltrane". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys being challenged by the music of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble.

Jazz at Progress
 
Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire.
 
Friday 18 January
 
Gilad Atzmon, soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, Ross Stanley, piano, Yaron Stavi bass, Enzo Zirilli drums
 
 
Their ears assailed by what seemed like an obsessive twenty-three-minute solo outing of ‘My Favourite Things’ on a strange high-pitched serpent-like instrument, the soprano saxophone, large chunks of the audience voted with their feet and beat a hasty retreat from the Gaumont State Kilburn on the opening night of John Coltrane’s first, and only, visit to Britain on 11th November 1961.

 ‘WHAT HAPPENED!’ screamed the Melody Maker headline. It left the paper’s Bob Dawbarn, ‘baffled, bothered and bewildered’. The critical debate continued unabated in the jazz press with Benny Green, saxophonist, writer, broadcaster and general know-all, who incidentally didn’t attend the concert (or any that followed in Birmingham, Glasgow or Newcastle for that matter) adding his two-penny-worth by declaring that ‘Coltrane threatens to upset the entire jazz conception’. And thus, John Coltrane added his name to those of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, judged respectively to be ‘too loud’ and ‘too exotic’ when they first played on these shores; in Coltrane’s case he was ‘too loud’, ‘too exotic’ and ‘too long’.
 
With this occasion in mind, ‘Are you ready to be challenged?’ seemed a fair question for Gilad Atzmon to ask in his inimitable and uncompromising manner as he set the scene for a two-hour concert inspired by the ‘Spirit of Trane’; have we Brits become more attuned to the sound and emotional impact of John Coltrane over the passage of nearly sixty years?
 
‘Yes!’ came the resounding response from the sell-out Progress audience, in perhaps the nearest experience we shall ever have of listening ‘live’ to John Coltrane. True, there were no marathon solos, or any of the ugly, grating sounds from the latter days of Coltrane’s much-too-short career, and he did break us in gently with the beautiful ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ from the 1962 collaboration with Duke Ellington, and the Latin breeze of ‘Invitation’, but come ‘Moment’s Notice’ he hit the ground running and it was as much as we could do from then on to keep up.
 
It wasn’t so much the ferocious tempo that was so impressive, but rather the sheer momentum of Atzmon’s playing. Fuelled by Enzo Zirilli’s drums, the rock-steady bass of Yaron Stavi and Ross Stanley’s timely contributions at the keyboard, the notes flowed from Gilad’s tenor in a torrent so characteristic of Coltrane and which prompted the writer Ira Gitler to coin the phrase ‘sheets of sound’; each as hard-edged as steel and filled with a haunting melancholy. And yet, however complex the improvisation became it never lost touch with the original theme, suggesting that Coltrane was actually a far greater ‘tunesmith’ than he was ever credited for.
 
The sublime ballad ‘Say It Is’, in which bassist Yaron Stavi demonstrated that the art of playing a melodic walking bass solo is still alive and well, provided a welcome breathing space before the band launched into another maelstrom of sound. And Gilad set yet another challenge, or maybe he was simply playing mesmerizing tricks with our aural senses. What was he playing? ‘Scarborough Fair’? ‘My Favourite Things’? Ross Stanley kindly resolved the conundrum in a brief interval chat and confirmed that ‘it was both!’ No matter, the effect was enthralling!
 
‘Big Nick’, a catchy dedication to ‘Big’ Nick Nicholas, the tenor saxophonist alongside whom Coltrane sat in the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and another title from the Ellington collaboration, brought the first set to a light-hearted conclusion.
 
The second set opened with ‘Impressions’ and ‘Naima’, the name of Coltrane’s then wife, and each bore the imprint of his fascination for Far Eastern philosophy and mysticism. Gilad switched from soprano to alto for ‘Giant Steps’ with the assurance that he would take the tune at a more leisurely waltz time than the breakneck speed of Coltrane’s original recording. He failed … and matched the original in every detail in a breathtaking display of virtuosity.
 
‘What’s New’ brought another change of instrument. Gilad switched to his tenor, a beautiful product of English craftsmanship as he explained, made in 1926. Coincidence or what? 1926 was the year of John Coltrane’s birth. It provided the perfect vehicle for Bob Haggart’s tender ballad, a tune more often associated with trumpet players than saxophonists.
 
I would guess that Gilad’s original composition ‘The Burning Bush’ is open to many interpretations, but for me it stood as a series of lamentations, expressing a sense of near-despair, etched even more deeply by his use of vocal cries to separate each section and Enzo Zirilli’s emotionally charged drum solo and percussive effects. Listening to it was an extraordinarily moving experience.
 
What better way to round off the evening than ‘Mr. P.C.’; not a description of Gilad Atzmon, but a dedication to bassist Paul Chambers, Coltrane’s colleague in the Miles Davis Quintet and countless other recordings including the monumental ‘Giant Steps’. Nat Hentoff was of course writing about John Coltrane in his sleeve notes to the album. However, his closing sentence could equally apply to Gilad Atzmon; 
‘He asks so much of himself that he can thereby bring a great deal to the listener who is also willing to try relatively unexplored territory with him.’
 
All praise to Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble and to everyone at the Progress Theatre for hosting a truly memorable event; a wonderful evocation of the spirit and enduring legacy of John Coltrane.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, ‘Spirit of Trane’, Progress Theatre, Reading, 18/01/2019.

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

4-5 out of 5

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, ‘Spirit of Trane’, Progress Theatre, Reading, 18/01/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Colin Swain

"A wonderful evocation of the spirit and enduring legacy of John Coltrane". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys being challenged by the music of Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble.

Jazz at Progress
 
Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire.
 
Friday 18 January
 
Gilad Atzmon, soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, Ross Stanley, piano, Yaron Stavi bass, Enzo Zirilli drums
 
 
Their ears assailed by what seemed like an obsessive twenty-three-minute solo outing of ‘My Favourite Things’ on a strange high-pitched serpent-like instrument, the soprano saxophone, large chunks of the audience voted with their feet and beat a hasty retreat from the Gaumont State Kilburn on the opening night of John Coltrane’s first, and only, visit to Britain on 11th November 1961.

 ‘WHAT HAPPENED!’ screamed the Melody Maker headline. It left the paper’s Bob Dawbarn, ‘baffled, bothered and bewildered’. The critical debate continued unabated in the jazz press with Benny Green, saxophonist, writer, broadcaster and general know-all, who incidentally didn’t attend the concert (or any that followed in Birmingham, Glasgow or Newcastle for that matter) adding his two-penny-worth by declaring that ‘Coltrane threatens to upset the entire jazz conception’. And thus, John Coltrane added his name to those of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, judged respectively to be ‘too loud’ and ‘too exotic’ when they first played on these shores; in Coltrane’s case he was ‘too loud’, ‘too exotic’ and ‘too long’.
 
With this occasion in mind, ‘Are you ready to be challenged?’ seemed a fair question for Gilad Atzmon to ask in his inimitable and uncompromising manner as he set the scene for a two-hour concert inspired by the ‘Spirit of Trane’; have we Brits become more attuned to the sound and emotional impact of John Coltrane over the passage of nearly sixty years?
 
‘Yes!’ came the resounding response from the sell-out Progress audience, in perhaps the nearest experience we shall ever have of listening ‘live’ to John Coltrane. True, there were no marathon solos, or any of the ugly, grating sounds from the latter days of Coltrane’s much-too-short career, and he did break us in gently with the beautiful ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ from the 1962 collaboration with Duke Ellington, and the Latin breeze of ‘Invitation’, but come ‘Moment’s Notice’ he hit the ground running and it was as much as we could do from then on to keep up.
 
It wasn’t so much the ferocious tempo that was so impressive, but rather the sheer momentum of Atzmon’s playing. Fuelled by Enzo Zirilli’s drums, the rock-steady bass of Yaron Stavi and Ross Stanley’s timely contributions at the keyboard, the notes flowed from Gilad’s tenor in a torrent so characteristic of Coltrane and which prompted the writer Ira Gitler to coin the phrase ‘sheets of sound’; each as hard-edged as steel and filled with a haunting melancholy. And yet, however complex the improvisation became it never lost touch with the original theme, suggesting that Coltrane was actually a far greater ‘tunesmith’ than he was ever credited for.
 
The sublime ballad ‘Say It Is’, in which bassist Yaron Stavi demonstrated that the art of playing a melodic walking bass solo is still alive and well, provided a welcome breathing space before the band launched into another maelstrom of sound. And Gilad set yet another challenge, or maybe he was simply playing mesmerizing tricks with our aural senses. What was he playing? ‘Scarborough Fair’? ‘My Favourite Things’? Ross Stanley kindly resolved the conundrum in a brief interval chat and confirmed that ‘it was both!’ No matter, the effect was enthralling!
 
‘Big Nick’, a catchy dedication to ‘Big’ Nick Nicholas, the tenor saxophonist alongside whom Coltrane sat in the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and another title from the Ellington collaboration, brought the first set to a light-hearted conclusion.
 
The second set opened with ‘Impressions’ and ‘Naima’, the name of Coltrane’s then wife, and each bore the imprint of his fascination for Far Eastern philosophy and mysticism. Gilad switched from soprano to alto for ‘Giant Steps’ with the assurance that he would take the tune at a more leisurely waltz time than the breakneck speed of Coltrane’s original recording. He failed … and matched the original in every detail in a breathtaking display of virtuosity.
 
‘What’s New’ brought another change of instrument. Gilad switched to his tenor, a beautiful product of English craftsmanship as he explained, made in 1926. Coincidence or what? 1926 was the year of John Coltrane’s birth. It provided the perfect vehicle for Bob Haggart’s tender ballad, a tune more often associated with trumpet players than saxophonists.
 
I would guess that Gilad’s original composition ‘The Burning Bush’ is open to many interpretations, but for me it stood as a series of lamentations, expressing a sense of near-despair, etched even more deeply by his use of vocal cries to separate each section and Enzo Zirilli’s emotionally charged drum solo and percussive effects. Listening to it was an extraordinarily moving experience.
 
What better way to round off the evening than ‘Mr. P.C.’; not a description of Gilad Atzmon, but a dedication to bassist Paul Chambers, Coltrane’s colleague in the Miles Davis Quintet and countless other recordings including the monumental ‘Giant Steps’. Nat Hentoff was of course writing about John Coltrane in his sleeve notes to the album. However, his closing sentence could equally apply to Gilad Atzmon; 
‘He asks so much of himself that he can thereby bring a great deal to the listener who is also willing to try relatively unexplored territory with him.’
 
All praise to Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble and to everyone at the Progress Theatre for hosting a truly memorable event; a wonderful evocation of the spirit and enduring legacy of John Coltrane.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 

Wandering Monster - Wandering Monster Rating: 4 out of 5 Wandering Monster can be justifiably proud of this excellent début. Leader Sam Quintana's writing is mature and evocative, and the standard of musicianship is remarkably high throughout.

Wandering Monster

“Wandering Monster”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0023)

Wandering Monster is a young, new quintet led by the Leeds based bassist and composer Sam Quintana.

The band’s eponymous début album features the leader on double bass together with Ben Powling on saxophones, Calvin Travers on guitar, Aleks Podrraza on piano, Rhodes and organ and Tom Higham at the drums.

The group has already established a strong following in the North of England and are currently touring nationally in support of their first album. They were the winners of the 2016/17 Jazz North Introduces Award and have supported such acts as saxophonist Seamus Blake and the bands Trio HLK and Mammal Hands.

Saxophonist Powling has also played with WorldService Project as well as fronting his own groups, including the twelve piece afrobeat / cosmic jazz ensemble Mansion of Snakes, plus more conventional jazz trios and quartets.

Wandering Monster’s music combines the harmonic, rhythmic and improvisational qualities of jazz with the influences of contemporary rock and metal as Quintana explains;
“My early musical influences saw me playing bass guitar in rock and metal bands. In my late teens I developed a love for jazz, which intensified when I moved to Leeds and started studying the double bass. The musicians that inspired me to start writing for a group were those who blend the jazz and rock genres, the likes of Dave Holland, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Tigran Hamasyan being at the top of my list of influences.”

Quintana still plays electric bass with the instrumental power trio Robots As Menace (which also features Podraza and Higham), with saxophonist Emma Johnson’s band Gravy Boat, and with the four piece pop-rock combo led by Travers. By way of contrast he also plays stand up bass with the Newcastle based bluegrass outfit The Often Herd.

Wandering Monster’s début features six fairly lengthy Quintana originals, all of them lasting between six and nine minutes, reflecting the “inner monsters that we can all possess at some point in our lives”.

From Quintana’s remarks, plus the choice of band name, one might anticipate that Wandering Monster’s music might be akin to the ‘punk jazz’ pioneered by bands such as Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib and, indeed, WorldService Project; but in the main it’s more measured than that; and it certainly isn’t ‘fusion’ in the 70s/80s jazz-rock sense either.

Instead Quintana’s pieces are unmistakably jazz compositions, often episodic in nature and possessed of a strong narrative arc. The influence of other genres, such as rock and metal, allied to the group’s youthful enthusiasm, helps to give the music a pleasing energy and a very contemporary edge. That said I’m very impressed by the maturity of Quintana’s writing, and of the band’s playing, on this highly satisfying début.

Album opener, the Latin tinged “Samsara”, is anchored by the leader’s big toned, resonant bass and Higham’s flexible drumming as Podraza’s piano shapes the flow of the track, sometimes pounding and percussive, at others darting and lyrical. Powling’s tenor weaves its way in and out of the piece and he also solos authoritatively, probing incisively as the rest of the band kick up a storm behind him. Travers’ guitar is mainly used as a textural device, subtly shadowing the piano and saxophone. Quintana describes the piece as “a journey of re-invention that sees the initial motif re-appear under a different guise after a passage of intense collective improvisation”. It all makes for an attention grabbing and satisfying start.

“The Rush Begins” ups the energy levels even further, one of two pieces designed to highlight the band’s “raucous side” as they “explore themes of anxiety, anger and frustration”. Podraza doubles on electric keyboards on the urgent intro, with its mercurial melody lines and nervy, staccato stop-start passages. There’s an edgy urgency about the music that fuels powerful solos from Powling on tenor and Podraza on acoustic piano, the latter dazzling with his expansiveness and fluency.

As befits its title “Sweetheart” is one of three pieces that “are gentler and more reflective, delving into themes of grief, loss and nostalgia”. The mood is more subdued but there is still much for the listener to enjoy, including Powling’s slow burning tenor solo and Travers’ first extended feature on guitar, his warmly liquid playing is effortlessly fluent and highly effective. Although quieter than the opening two tracks the piece is hardly devoid of energy and its closing stages include an understated, and highly musical drum feature from the consistently excellent Higham, who plays with great flexibility and maturity throughout the album.

“Emoke” explores similar themes and is, if anything, even more reflective, a true jazz ballad. It opens with a gently brooding dialogue between tenor sax and acoustic piano before opening out as the rest of the band come in. Travers features again with a coolly elegant guitar solo, shades of Rosenwinkel, perhaps. Powling is again at his smouldering best on tenor with Higham providing succinct, subtly energetic drum commentary as the saxophonist’s solo gathers an anthemic momentum.

The leader’s bass introduces “Tuco” and his complex but insistent motif helps to fuel one of the quintet’s more ‘raucous’ pieces. Quintana’s bass underpins the dark textures of the increasingly urgent ensemble passages before reverting to a walking figure for Podraza’s acoustic piano solo.
Powling eventually takes over, digging in increasingly forcefully on Coltrane inspired tenor as Travers’ clangorous guitar texturing darkens the waters further.

“Happy Place” closes the album on an elegiac note with its gentle ensemble melodies. Quintana himself shines with a double bass solo that combines deep sonority with great dexterity and a strong melodic sense. His playing is underscored by the gentle swell of Podraza’s Hammond, the latter helping to give the whole piece a subtle Gospel feel. As Powling’s tenor soars skywards in the tune’s closing section there’s a genuinely valedictory air about the proceedings.

Wandering Monster can be justifiably proud of this excellent début. Quintana’s writing is mature and evocative and these multi-faceted pieces reveal that he has much to say as a contemporary jazz composer. He’s also a highly accomplished bassist and the standard of musicianship from all five players is remarkably high throughout. I think I’m correct in believing that they are all graduates of the Jazz Course at Leeds College of Music. As is the nature of the jazz musician I’m sure that all are involved in numerous other projects and these are five names to be looked out for whatever musical context they might be found in.

As Wandering Monster they excel individually and collectively with Quintana taking the lion’s share of the praise for providing them with such excellent material to work with. Credit is also due to the production and engineering team of Barkley McKay, Tom Orrell and Tim Thomas for a pinpoint production that brings out all the colours and nuances of Quintana’s writing and ensures that each musician is heard at his best.

On the evidence of this album Wandering Monster will be well worth capturing in the live environment and the group can be caught at the remaining venues on their current tour as listed below;


Friday 25 January - The Be-Bop Club, Bristol
Monday 4 February - Kenilworth Jazz Club
Wednesday 6 February - The Gallimaufry, Bristol
Thursday 7 February - Café Jazz, Cardiff
Saturday 9 February - Refu-jazz festival, Leeds

Further information at;
Wandering Monster: https://www.samquintana.co.uk/wandering-monster

Wandering Monster

Wandering Monster

Friday, January 25, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Wandering Monster

Wandering Monster can be justifiably proud of this excellent début. Leader Sam Quintana's writing is mature and evocative, and the standard of musicianship is remarkably high throughout.

Wandering Monster

“Wandering Monster”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0023)

Wandering Monster is a young, new quintet led by the Leeds based bassist and composer Sam Quintana.

The band’s eponymous début album features the leader on double bass together with Ben Powling on saxophones, Calvin Travers on guitar, Aleks Podrraza on piano, Rhodes and organ and Tom Higham at the drums.

The group has already established a strong following in the North of England and are currently touring nationally in support of their first album. They were the winners of the 2016/17 Jazz North Introduces Award and have supported such acts as saxophonist Seamus Blake and the bands Trio HLK and Mammal Hands.

Saxophonist Powling has also played with WorldService Project as well as fronting his own groups, including the twelve piece afrobeat / cosmic jazz ensemble Mansion of Snakes, plus more conventional jazz trios and quartets.

Wandering Monster’s music combines the harmonic, rhythmic and improvisational qualities of jazz with the influences of contemporary rock and metal as Quintana explains;
“My early musical influences saw me playing bass guitar in rock and metal bands. In my late teens I developed a love for jazz, which intensified when I moved to Leeds and started studying the double bass. The musicians that inspired me to start writing for a group were those who blend the jazz and rock genres, the likes of Dave Holland, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Tigran Hamasyan being at the top of my list of influences.”

Quintana still plays electric bass with the instrumental power trio Robots As Menace (which also features Podraza and Higham), with saxophonist Emma Johnson’s band Gravy Boat, and with the four piece pop-rock combo led by Travers. By way of contrast he also plays stand up bass with the Newcastle based bluegrass outfit The Often Herd.

Wandering Monster’s début features six fairly lengthy Quintana originals, all of them lasting between six and nine minutes, reflecting the “inner monsters that we can all possess at some point in our lives”.

From Quintana’s remarks, plus the choice of band name, one might anticipate that Wandering Monster’s music might be akin to the ‘punk jazz’ pioneered by bands such as Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib and, indeed, WorldService Project; but in the main it’s more measured than that; and it certainly isn’t ‘fusion’ in the 70s/80s jazz-rock sense either.

Instead Quintana’s pieces are unmistakably jazz compositions, often episodic in nature and possessed of a strong narrative arc. The influence of other genres, such as rock and metal, allied to the group’s youthful enthusiasm, helps to give the music a pleasing energy and a very contemporary edge. That said I’m very impressed by the maturity of Quintana’s writing, and of the band’s playing, on this highly satisfying début.

Album opener, the Latin tinged “Samsara”, is anchored by the leader’s big toned, resonant bass and Higham’s flexible drumming as Podraza’s piano shapes the flow of the track, sometimes pounding and percussive, at others darting and lyrical. Powling’s tenor weaves its way in and out of the piece and he also solos authoritatively, probing incisively as the rest of the band kick up a storm behind him. Travers’ guitar is mainly used as a textural device, subtly shadowing the piano and saxophone. Quintana describes the piece as “a journey of re-invention that sees the initial motif re-appear under a different guise after a passage of intense collective improvisation”. It all makes for an attention grabbing and satisfying start.

“The Rush Begins” ups the energy levels even further, one of two pieces designed to highlight the band’s “raucous side” as they “explore themes of anxiety, anger and frustration”. Podraza doubles on electric keyboards on the urgent intro, with its mercurial melody lines and nervy, staccato stop-start passages. There’s an edgy urgency about the music that fuels powerful solos from Powling on tenor and Podraza on acoustic piano, the latter dazzling with his expansiveness and fluency.

As befits its title “Sweetheart” is one of three pieces that “are gentler and more reflective, delving into themes of grief, loss and nostalgia”. The mood is more subdued but there is still much for the listener to enjoy, including Powling’s slow burning tenor solo and Travers’ first extended feature on guitar, his warmly liquid playing is effortlessly fluent and highly effective. Although quieter than the opening two tracks the piece is hardly devoid of energy and its closing stages include an understated, and highly musical drum feature from the consistently excellent Higham, who plays with great flexibility and maturity throughout the album.

“Emoke” explores similar themes and is, if anything, even more reflective, a true jazz ballad. It opens with a gently brooding dialogue between tenor sax and acoustic piano before opening out as the rest of the band come in. Travers features again with a coolly elegant guitar solo, shades of Rosenwinkel, perhaps. Powling is again at his smouldering best on tenor with Higham providing succinct, subtly energetic drum commentary as the saxophonist’s solo gathers an anthemic momentum.

The leader’s bass introduces “Tuco” and his complex but insistent motif helps to fuel one of the quintet’s more ‘raucous’ pieces. Quintana’s bass underpins the dark textures of the increasingly urgent ensemble passages before reverting to a walking figure for Podraza’s acoustic piano solo.
Powling eventually takes over, digging in increasingly forcefully on Coltrane inspired tenor as Travers’ clangorous guitar texturing darkens the waters further.

“Happy Place” closes the album on an elegiac note with its gentle ensemble melodies. Quintana himself shines with a double bass solo that combines deep sonority with great dexterity and a strong melodic sense. His playing is underscored by the gentle swell of Podraza’s Hammond, the latter helping to give the whole piece a subtle Gospel feel. As Powling’s tenor soars skywards in the tune’s closing section there’s a genuinely valedictory air about the proceedings.

Wandering Monster can be justifiably proud of this excellent début. Quintana’s writing is mature and evocative and these multi-faceted pieces reveal that he has much to say as a contemporary jazz composer. He’s also a highly accomplished bassist and the standard of musicianship from all five players is remarkably high throughout. I think I’m correct in believing that they are all graduates of the Jazz Course at Leeds College of Music. As is the nature of the jazz musician I’m sure that all are involved in numerous other projects and these are five names to be looked out for whatever musical context they might be found in.

As Wandering Monster they excel individually and collectively with Quintana taking the lion’s share of the praise for providing them with such excellent material to work with. Credit is also due to the production and engineering team of Barkley McKay, Tom Orrell and Tim Thomas for a pinpoint production that brings out all the colours and nuances of Quintana’s writing and ensures that each musician is heard at his best.

On the evidence of this album Wandering Monster will be well worth capturing in the live environment and the group can be caught at the remaining venues on their current tour as listed below;


Friday 25 January - The Be-Bop Club, Bristol
Monday 4 February - Kenilworth Jazz Club
Wednesday 6 February - The Gallimaufry, Bristol
Thursday 7 February - Café Jazz, Cardiff
Saturday 9 February - Refu-jazz festival, Leeds

Further information at;
Wandering Monster: https://www.samquintana.co.uk/wandering-monster

Mark Lockheart - Days On Earth Rating: 4 out of 5 His most ambitious project yet and an obvious labour of love, “Days On Earth” is shaping up to be a triumph for Lockheart.

Mark Lockheart

“Days On Earth”

(Edition Records EDN 1120)

Saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart first came to prominence in the late 1980s as a member of the anarchic, but brilliant, Loose Tubes. Since those heady, far off days he has made the transition from ‘young Turk’ to comparative ‘elder statesman’, enjoying a distinguished musical career along the way.

Since the initial demise of Loose Tubes in the early 1990s (Lockheart rejoined the band for the 2014 reunion gigs) the saxophonist worked with Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice, played in a duo with former Tubes guitarist John Parricelli and formed the collaborative Perfect Houseplants quartet with pianist Huw Warren, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Martin France. A much loved institution in their own right the Houseplants merged jazz, folk and classical influences and released a series of acclaimed albums between 1993 – 2000. They, too, have played reunion shows in recent years.

In 2003 Lockheart became a member of drummer and composer Sebastian Rochford’s ground breaking Polar Bear group, appearing on all six of the band’s albums.

At the same time he was conducting a parallel solo career, initially with the twelve piece Scratch Band with whom he released the albums “Through Rose Coloured Glasses” (1998) and “Imaginary Dances” (2002).  “Moving Air” (2005) and the excellent “In Deep” (2009) were small group recordings, both of which have been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Currently Lockheart is a member of the collaborative drummer-less trio Malija alongside bassist Jasper Hoiby and pianist Liam Noble, this group having released two albums to date, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017).

Lockheart has also worked extensively as a sideman and session musician, across a variety of genres including jazz, folk, pop and rock. He and Warren worked closely with the folk singer June Tabor for many years and Lockheart’s pop and rock credits include work with Radiohead, Stereolab, Prefab Sprout, Jah Wobble, The High Llamas and more.

As his work with Scratch Band suggested Lockheart has always relished working with larger ensembles and the album “Days Like These” (2010) saw his compositions performed by Germany’s acclaimed NDR Big Band. Meanwhile “Ellington In Anticipation” featured radical new arrangements of the Duke’s work for a hand picked septet.

“Days On Earth” represents Lockheart’s most ambitious project to date and is a seven movement suite written for a core jazz sextet plus a thirty piece orchestra conducted by John Ashton Thomas.

The core group mainly features musicians with whom Lockheart has enjoyed long associations and includes John Parricelli on guitar, Liam Noble on piano and the Polar Bear rhythm section of Tom Herbert (bass) and Sebastian Rochford (drums). Lockheart specialises on tenor sax throughout while on alto is rising star Alice Leggett. Lockheart is an acclaimed jazz educator and Leggett, a graduate of the Trinity Laban College of Music in London, where Lockheart teaches,  is one of his former students.

The orchestra is conducted by Lockheart’s old college friend John Ashton Thomas, a Hollywood film conductor and orchestrator. It includes a number of leading British jazz musicians alongside respected classical performers and lines up as follows;

Violins – Jackie Shave (leader), Warren Zielinski, Rita Manning, Tom Pigott-Smith, Magnus Johnston, Marije Johnston, Katherine Shave, Patrick Kiernan, Shlomy Dobrinsky, Tom Crehan, Ruth Ehrlich, William Hillman, Matthew Ward

Violas – Bruce White, Oli Langford, Clare Finnimore, Paul Cassidy, Ruth Gibson

Cellos – Caroline Dearnley, Jonathan Tunnell, Jacqueline Thomas, David Daniels

Harp – Helen Tunstall

Clarinet – Nick Rodwell

Clarinet / Bass Clarinet – James Allsopp

Flutes – Anna Noakes, Rowland Sutherland

French Horns – Jim Rattigan, Laurence Davies

Trumpets – Pat White, Toby Street, Laura Jurd

Trombone – Alistair White

Bass Trombone – Andy Wood

Classical players are frequently teamed with their jazz counterparts, e.g. Noakes and Sutherland on flutes and Rodwell and Allsopp on clarinets.

The album was recorded in December 2017 at Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios in London. However the seeds of the project had been sown more than twelve months earlier when Lockheart, plus the members of the sextet and the orchestral players of the Trinity Laban ‘Shapeshifters’ ensemble premièred a new work then titled “Brave World” at the Clore Ballroom in the Southbank Centre as part of the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. Here are my observations of the occasion;
“I was impressed by Lockheart’s writing and playing and the way in which he merged the various jazz and classical elements. Given the setting in which it was performed I found the whole suite very enjoyable but surely a major work of this magnitude and gravitas should have been premièred in a concert hall and not a foyer. This was music that deserved better”.

The “Brave World” title lives on as the name of the second movement of Lockheart’s suite. Meanwhile the new title “Days On Earth” is a reflection of Lockheart’s time on the planet and he views the work as “a musical observation of the human condition”, one which combines personal experiences with social and political commentary. In the album’s liner notes Lockheart comments;
“Music is intrinsically connected to life, love, joy, frustration, acceptance and peace, and all these feelings are here in this music for me”.

As the mix of classical and jazz players within the orchestra suggests Lockheart’s range of influences is broad and includes composers and arrangers such as Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Nelson Riddle, Raymond Scott, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Burt Bacharach, John Adams, Don Ellis, John Zorn and Clare Fischer. Lockheart has worked extensively with the contemporary classical composer Mark Anthony Turnage, who represents a significant inspiration, as does Lockheart’s work with Rochford and Polar Bear.

The title of each movement is followed by a sub title in parenthesis that references a specific human trait or tendency. The album commences with “A View From Above (openness)” which establishes the ensemble sound with lush orchestration combining with the subtle rhythms of the jazz sextet. The music is rich in terms of colour and texture with Allsopp’s bass clarinet a significant presence in the arrangement. The designated soloist here is Lockheart himself on fluent tenor, but as the ensuing pieces reveal the album is far more than a concerto for tenor saxophone with jazz sextet and orchestra.

“Brave World (our fragile world)” offers a musical comment on the state of the environment as lush strings combine with deep sonorities, with double bassist Tom Herbert emerging as the featured soloist.

The piece segues into “This Much I Know Is True (adoration)” which draws on the legacy and influence of Lockheart’s former group Polar Bear.  The music is centred around Herbert’s recurring bass motif as Lockheart and Leggett combine in an echo of Polar Bear’s vaunted twin tenor front line (Lockheart and Pete Wareham). Lockheart takes the first solo here, stretching out expansively on tenor, his forthright sound on the instrument cushioned by underpinning strings and woodwind. Parricelli, an integral presence throughout the album, also impresses with a fluid and tasteful electric guitar solo.

“Party Animal (innate tendencies)” introduces a funkier, Latin-esque element to the proceedings. Lockheart has long been an admirer of the string and brass sounds on old Motown records and there’s something of that here, and again on the following track “Believers”. “Party Animal” also has something of a film soundtrack or cop show theme feel about it and the roll call of soloists is also expanded with cameos from Sutherland on flute, Jurd on trumpet, Leggett on alto, Lockheart and tenor and Noble at the piano. However it’s not all big band style hedonism, there are more intimate and reflective moments too.

“Believers (fundamentalism)” once bore the title “Brave World” and tackles the thorny subject of political and religious extremism and those who fail to question their beliefs. Parricelli’s guitar work takes on a harder edge here as he provides an extended solo. Indeed the arrangement itself is darker than that of “Party Animal” with Rochford’s implacable, militaristic drum grooves providing an unstoppable momentum. Leggett impresses on incisive alto as she takes the second main solo.

After the sound and fury of “Believers” the following piece, “Triana (acceptance)” pours oil on troubled waters, acting as a soothing balm. Nevertheless this is still music of substance, subtly and successfully synthesising jazz and classical components as the keening clarity of Jackie Shave’s violin combines with the warm sound of Lockheart’s tenor and the lyricism of Noble’s piano in a beautiful pastoral style arrangement.

The closing “Long Way Gone (reconciliation)” is “inspired by Ishmael Beah’s harrowing but inspiring book about a child soldier in Sierra Leone”. The music here references the lilting kora melodies of West African music with Rochford’s drums and percussion bringing an authentically African feel to the proceedings, together with Tunstall’s harp which approximates the sound of the kora. The orchestration is rich and stirring and there are cameos, and sometimes more substantial solos, from Herbert, Noble, Lockheart, Rodwell and Jackie Shave. Noble’s flowing piano solo is particularly expansive as is Lockheart’s uplifting excursion on tenor.

An obvious labour of love “Days On Earth” has been well received by the critical fraternity and is shaping up to be a triumph for Lockheart. The promise of that 2016 Clore Ballroom performance has been captured on disc and it is appropriate that the album should be released on Edition Records, a label that embraces both the jazz and classical traditions and with whom Lockheart has enjoyed a long and productive association.

The leader impresses with his composing and arranging, particularly as this is the first time he has written for strings. I’ll admit that there were occasions when I found the strings a little too cloying but in the main Lockheart is to be congratulated on the successful blending of the classical element with his many other musical influences. The well balanced, hand picked jazz sextet, mainly comprised of long term associates, is superb throughout and there is some sublime playing from all the individual musicians, not least Lockheart himself.

“Days On Earth” embraces a wide range of musical styles and Lockheart and the production team, headed by Steve Baker, are also to be congratulated on an excellent mix that convincingly brings the many components together to create a coherent and convincing whole.

“Days On Earth” was officially premièred at Milton Court Concert Hall, London on January 9th 2019 and the album released on January 18th. It is hoped that further concert performances of the work will take place around the UK later in 2019.

http://www.marklockheart.co.uk

 

Days On Earth

Mark Lockheart

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Days On Earth

His most ambitious project yet and an obvious labour of love, “Days On Earth” is shaping up to be a triumph for Lockheart.

Mark Lockheart

“Days On Earth”

(Edition Records EDN 1120)

Saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart first came to prominence in the late 1980s as a member of the anarchic, but brilliant, Loose Tubes. Since those heady, far off days he has made the transition from ‘young Turk’ to comparative ‘elder statesman’, enjoying a distinguished musical career along the way.

Since the initial demise of Loose Tubes in the early 1990s (Lockheart rejoined the band for the 2014 reunion gigs) the saxophonist worked with Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice, played in a duo with former Tubes guitarist John Parricelli and formed the collaborative Perfect Houseplants quartet with pianist Huw Warren, bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Martin France. A much loved institution in their own right the Houseplants merged jazz, folk and classical influences and released a series of acclaimed albums between 1993 – 2000. They, too, have played reunion shows in recent years.

In 2003 Lockheart became a member of drummer and composer Sebastian Rochford’s ground breaking Polar Bear group, appearing on all six of the band’s albums.

At the same time he was conducting a parallel solo career, initially with the twelve piece Scratch Band with whom he released the albums “Through Rose Coloured Glasses” (1998) and “Imaginary Dances” (2002).  “Moving Air” (2005) and the excellent “In Deep” (2009) were small group recordings, both of which have been reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Currently Lockheart is a member of the collaborative drummer-less trio Malija alongside bassist Jasper Hoiby and pianist Liam Noble, this group having released two albums to date, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017).

Lockheart has also worked extensively as a sideman and session musician, across a variety of genres including jazz, folk, pop and rock. He and Warren worked closely with the folk singer June Tabor for many years and Lockheart’s pop and rock credits include work with Radiohead, Stereolab, Prefab Sprout, Jah Wobble, The High Llamas and more.

As his work with Scratch Band suggested Lockheart has always relished working with larger ensembles and the album “Days Like These” (2010) saw his compositions performed by Germany’s acclaimed NDR Big Band. Meanwhile “Ellington In Anticipation” featured radical new arrangements of the Duke’s work for a hand picked septet.

“Days On Earth” represents Lockheart’s most ambitious project to date and is a seven movement suite written for a core jazz sextet plus a thirty piece orchestra conducted by John Ashton Thomas.

The core group mainly features musicians with whom Lockheart has enjoyed long associations and includes John Parricelli on guitar, Liam Noble on piano and the Polar Bear rhythm section of Tom Herbert (bass) and Sebastian Rochford (drums). Lockheart specialises on tenor sax throughout while on alto is rising star Alice Leggett. Lockheart is an acclaimed jazz educator and Leggett, a graduate of the Trinity Laban College of Music in London, where Lockheart teaches,  is one of his former students.

The orchestra is conducted by Lockheart’s old college friend John Ashton Thomas, a Hollywood film conductor and orchestrator. It includes a number of leading British jazz musicians alongside respected classical performers and lines up as follows;

Violins – Jackie Shave (leader), Warren Zielinski, Rita Manning, Tom Pigott-Smith, Magnus Johnston, Marije Johnston, Katherine Shave, Patrick Kiernan, Shlomy Dobrinsky, Tom Crehan, Ruth Ehrlich, William Hillman, Matthew Ward

Violas – Bruce White, Oli Langford, Clare Finnimore, Paul Cassidy, Ruth Gibson

Cellos – Caroline Dearnley, Jonathan Tunnell, Jacqueline Thomas, David Daniels

Harp – Helen Tunstall

Clarinet – Nick Rodwell

Clarinet / Bass Clarinet – James Allsopp

Flutes – Anna Noakes, Rowland Sutherland

French Horns – Jim Rattigan, Laurence Davies

Trumpets – Pat White, Toby Street, Laura Jurd

Trombone – Alistair White

Bass Trombone – Andy Wood

Classical players are frequently teamed with their jazz counterparts, e.g. Noakes and Sutherland on flutes and Rodwell and Allsopp on clarinets.

The album was recorded in December 2017 at Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios in London. However the seeds of the project had been sown more than twelve months earlier when Lockheart, plus the members of the sextet and the orchestral players of the Trinity Laban ‘Shapeshifters’ ensemble premièred a new work then titled “Brave World” at the Clore Ballroom in the Southbank Centre as part of the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival. Here are my observations of the occasion;
“I was impressed by Lockheart’s writing and playing and the way in which he merged the various jazz and classical elements. Given the setting in which it was performed I found the whole suite very enjoyable but surely a major work of this magnitude and gravitas should have been premièred in a concert hall and not a foyer. This was music that deserved better”.

The “Brave World” title lives on as the name of the second movement of Lockheart’s suite. Meanwhile the new title “Days On Earth” is a reflection of Lockheart’s time on the planet and he views the work as “a musical observation of the human condition”, one which combines personal experiences with social and political commentary. In the album’s liner notes Lockheart comments;
“Music is intrinsically connected to life, love, joy, frustration, acceptance and peace, and all these feelings are here in this music for me”.

As the mix of classical and jazz players within the orchestra suggests Lockheart’s range of influences is broad and includes composers and arrangers such as Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Nelson Riddle, Raymond Scott, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Burt Bacharach, John Adams, Don Ellis, John Zorn and Clare Fischer. Lockheart has worked extensively with the contemporary classical composer Mark Anthony Turnage, who represents a significant inspiration, as does Lockheart’s work with Rochford and Polar Bear.

The title of each movement is followed by a sub title in parenthesis that references a specific human trait or tendency. The album commences with “A View From Above (openness)” which establishes the ensemble sound with lush orchestration combining with the subtle rhythms of the jazz sextet. The music is rich in terms of colour and texture with Allsopp’s bass clarinet a significant presence in the arrangement. The designated soloist here is Lockheart himself on fluent tenor, but as the ensuing pieces reveal the album is far more than a concerto for tenor saxophone with jazz sextet and orchestra.

“Brave World (our fragile world)” offers a musical comment on the state of the environment as lush strings combine with deep sonorities, with double bassist Tom Herbert emerging as the featured soloist.

The piece segues into “This Much I Know Is True (adoration)” which draws on the legacy and influence of Lockheart’s former group Polar Bear.  The music is centred around Herbert’s recurring bass motif as Lockheart and Leggett combine in an echo of Polar Bear’s vaunted twin tenor front line (Lockheart and Pete Wareham). Lockheart takes the first solo here, stretching out expansively on tenor, his forthright sound on the instrument cushioned by underpinning strings and woodwind. Parricelli, an integral presence throughout the album, also impresses with a fluid and tasteful electric guitar solo.

“Party Animal (innate tendencies)” introduces a funkier, Latin-esque element to the proceedings. Lockheart has long been an admirer of the string and brass sounds on old Motown records and there’s something of that here, and again on the following track “Believers”. “Party Animal” also has something of a film soundtrack or cop show theme feel about it and the roll call of soloists is also expanded with cameos from Sutherland on flute, Jurd on trumpet, Leggett on alto, Lockheart and tenor and Noble at the piano. However it’s not all big band style hedonism, there are more intimate and reflective moments too.

“Believers (fundamentalism)” once bore the title “Brave World” and tackles the thorny subject of political and religious extremism and those who fail to question their beliefs. Parricelli’s guitar work takes on a harder edge here as he provides an extended solo. Indeed the arrangement itself is darker than that of “Party Animal” with Rochford’s implacable, militaristic drum grooves providing an unstoppable momentum. Leggett impresses on incisive alto as she takes the second main solo.

After the sound and fury of “Believers” the following piece, “Triana (acceptance)” pours oil on troubled waters, acting as a soothing balm. Nevertheless this is still music of substance, subtly and successfully synthesising jazz and classical components as the keening clarity of Jackie Shave’s violin combines with the warm sound of Lockheart’s tenor and the lyricism of Noble’s piano in a beautiful pastoral style arrangement.

The closing “Long Way Gone (reconciliation)” is “inspired by Ishmael Beah’s harrowing but inspiring book about a child soldier in Sierra Leone”. The music here references the lilting kora melodies of West African music with Rochford’s drums and percussion bringing an authentically African feel to the proceedings, together with Tunstall’s harp which approximates the sound of the kora. The orchestration is rich and stirring and there are cameos, and sometimes more substantial solos, from Herbert, Noble, Lockheart, Rodwell and Jackie Shave. Noble’s flowing piano solo is particularly expansive as is Lockheart’s uplifting excursion on tenor.

An obvious labour of love “Days On Earth” has been well received by the critical fraternity and is shaping up to be a triumph for Lockheart. The promise of that 2016 Clore Ballroom performance has been captured on disc and it is appropriate that the album should be released on Edition Records, a label that embraces both the jazz and classical traditions and with whom Lockheart has enjoyed a long and productive association.

The leader impresses with his composing and arranging, particularly as this is the first time he has written for strings. I’ll admit that there were occasions when I found the strings a little too cloying but in the main Lockheart is to be congratulated on the successful blending of the classical element with his many other musical influences. The well balanced, hand picked jazz sextet, mainly comprised of long term associates, is superb throughout and there is some sublime playing from all the individual musicians, not least Lockheart himself.

“Days On Earth” embraces a wide range of musical styles and Lockheart and the production team, headed by Steve Baker, are also to be congratulated on an excellent mix that convincingly brings the many components together to create a coherent and convincing whole.

“Days On Earth” was officially premièred at Milton Court Concert Hall, London on January 9th 2019 and the album released on January 18th. It is hoped that further concert performances of the work will take place around the UK later in 2019.

http://www.marklockheart.co.uk

 

ELDA featuring Kari Eskild Havenstrom - Shiny/Things Rating: 3 out of 5 An album that demonstrates great promise, despite its flaws.

ELDA featuring Kari Eskild Havenstrom

“Shiny/Things”

(Andrew Woodhead Music)

ELDA is an international collaboration featuring the duo Birmingham based musicians Andrew Woodhead (keyboards, pocket piano, electronics) and Aaron Diaz (trumpet, electronics) together with the Norwegian musician Kari Eskild Havenstrom (vocals, pocket piano, electronics).

Woodhead is a graduate of the Jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire and is a significant presence on the city’s music scene as both a musician and as an organiser. Besides ELDA Woodhead is also a member of the trio Snapdragon featuring vocalist Holly Thomas and reeds player Lluis Mather. I’ve also heard his playing in the very different groups of vocalist Anthony Marsden and saxophonist Claude Pietersen (the Zwolfton quintet). Other musicians with whom he has collaborated include trombonist Richard Foote, bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders.  Woodhead also organises the regular Fizzle free improvisation sessions held at The Lamp Tavern Digbeth, a series of events that attracts leading improvisers from Birmingham, London and beyond.

Diaz is also a Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus and has fronted his own Frank Zappa inspired septet Moon Unit. He currently leads the jazz/folk quartet Drawlight. Diaz has also been a key member of Sid Peacock’s Surge Orchestra and of the anarchic Birmingham based jazz/folk/world/punk crossover outfit The Destroyers. Currently he is also part of the twelve piece jazz/folk crossover ensemble Propellor and of the contemporary folk group Fair Rain (previously The Old Dance School). Diaz has also worked with the Midlands based brass ensembles Young Pilgrims and Bostin’ Brass. He also has strong connections with Manchester and has worked with drummer Johnny Hunter’s quartet and with the band Glowrogues.

ELDA takes its name from a Swedish word meaning to “electrify” or “set alight” and a version of the band has been around since at least 2011, the year that I saw Diaz, bassist Chris Mapp and drummer Mike Hurley perform under the name at Birmingham’s much missed Harmonic Festival. Later the same day Diaz collaborated with the Food duo of saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Thomas Stronen, a highly prestigious guest appearance for the trumpeter.

Diaz spent time living in Sweden, this sojourn leading to an abiding interest in Scandinavian and other folk musics. However electronics have also been an important part of the trumpeter’s music making, with musicians such as Arve Henriksen and the Food duo representing significant influences.

In more recent years ELDA has featured the duo of Diaz and Woodhead with the pair being joined for this album by Havenstrom. It’s a partnership that has its roots in the annual ‘Trondheim Jazz Exchange’ which sees the jazz students at Trondheim Conservatoire twinned with their Birmingham counterparts to create international collaborations, the results being premièred at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. The British students then travel to Norway to perform at equivalent festivals there.

The Trondheim Jazz Exchange concerts at Cheltenham typically feature three ensembles,  each usually consisting of two British and two Norwegian musicians. In 2013 pianist Woodhead was teamed in a group with vocalist Havenstrom and the pair have since forged a creative partnership, culminating in this recording. Havenstrom’s other credits include work with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and with the Norwegian tuba player, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Kristoffer Lo.

“Shiny/Things” was recorded at engineer Luke Morrish Thomas’ studio in Birmingham in May 2016 with Woodhead commenting;
“This recording sees the trio exploring the boundaries between the worlds of jazz, improv, electronica and folk, as well as the ever changing relationship between composition and free improvisation”.

The album consists of nine short pieces, some written, others presumably wholly improvised. The trio’s sound is unmistakably ‘Scandinavian’, the mood ranging from the melancholic to the gently ethereal. With no recognised rhythm section the focus is very much on colour and texture with Havenstrom deploying her voice as an instrument and largely singing wordlessly.

Opening track “Vignette 1” establishes the mood with the drone of Havenstrom’s wordless vocal accompanied by the eerie, spacey sounds generated by Woodhead and Diaz, some of the timbres reminiscent reminiscent of those of Tibetan singing bowls or glass harmonica.

“Carre” features more conventional keyboard and trumpet sounds and sounds more ‘written’ than the opener. Havenstrom sings sweetly and wordlessly above Woodhead’s minimalist style keyboard figures and Diaz’s melodic trumpet,

“Vignette II” explores similar territory to the opener, albeit with more conventional keyboard and trumpet sounds, some of these heavily distorted.

I’m not certain what the date in “Mai (4/5/54)” alludes to, other than the fact that it’s far too early to be the birth date of any of these three!  The music itself sounds largely written, with wordless voice, electric keyboard sounds and unadorned, comparatively straight ahead trumpet. The interplay between the three protagonists is melodic and tightly controlled and the resultant music is almost conventionally pretty.

“Vignette III” is more experimental with Havenstrom treating the sound of her voice to take it into the kind of areas occupied by the likes of Julie Tippetts and Sidsel Endresen, the latter almost certainly an influence on the young vocalist, I would surmise.

“Shiny”, effectively the first of two title tracks, is a song with an English lyric, coolly delivered by Havenstrom against a backdrop of looped electronica. It’s a highly effective piece of avant pop, with ELDA here reminiscent of that other Anglo-Norwegian electro-jazz/vocal ensemble Eyes of a Blue Dog, the trio featuring trumpeter Rory Simmons, vocalist Elisabeth Nygard Pearson and drummer/sound artist Terje Evensen. Another possible influence, I’d hazard.

“Threes” continues the ethereal mood, initially in an instrumental context with Diaz’s long looped trumpet lines floating above spacey keyboard textures and electronica. Havenstrom adds wordless vocals to the album’s lengthiest track, with the piece taking a more anthemic turn in its closing stages as Havenstrom’s voice soars in the manner of Norma Winstone.

“Solos” acts first as a vocal showcase for the versatile Havenstrom who brings the influence of Norwegian folk music to an impressive performance featuring her pure, clear wordless voice underpinned by the subtle drone of electronica.  At times the music enters into the realm of the Sami joik, this further embellished by remarkable electronic manipulations.
Next it’s the turn of Diaz’s heavily treated trumpet, with the influence of Henriksen and Supersilent coming to the fore.
Finally Woodhead conjures a range of unsettling colours and textures from his various keyboards in a manner similar to his 2016 solo album “Pocket Piano Improvisations”.

The album concludes with “Things”, the companion piece to “Shiny”, and another song with an English lyric. “You always cling to shiny things” sings Havenstrom, sounding a little like Bjork as Woodhead’s keyboards shimmer gently and Diaz blows long, melancholic, flugel like trumpet lines.

As an album “Shiny/Things” is uneven, but it does offer much to enjoy, particularly in the second half of the album.

The first five tracks, the three improvised “Vignettes” and two composed pieces “Carre” and “Mai” are much of a muchness with little variation in terms of mood and dynamics. In the absence of a conventional rhythm section the music can sound a little bloodless at times. It’s interesting enough, but a little directionless, and one is tempted to observe that there are other acts who play this kind of thing rather more convincingly.

For me things start to pick up with “Shiny”, a highly effective electro ballad, while the following “Things” possesses a stronger narrative arc than the earlier wordless pieces.

I’m also impressed by the individual features on “Solos” which sees Havenstrom taking the chance to demonstrate the full range of her often extraordinary voice in an authentically dramatic setting. Diaz and Woodhead are similarly impressive as they allow themselves free rein on their respective instruments.

“Things” is another haunting and beautiful song and a very effective way to close an album that demonstrates great promise, despite its earlier flaws.

Notwithstanding my reservations this is still a group that I’d like to take the opportunity of seeing in live performance. That opportunity may come in March 2019 when ELDA undertake a short UK tour with dates as below;


ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Sheffield (TBC)
Thursday, March 7, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM


MAR
12
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Birmingham
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Lamp Tavern Birmingham UK


MAR
13
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - London
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
8:00 PM 9:00 PM
The Vortex Jazz Club


MAR
14
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Manchester (TBC)
Thursday, March 14, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Noise Upstairs Manchester


Further information at http://www.andrewwoodheadmusic.com

Shiny/Things

ELDA featuring Kari Eskild Havenstrom

Monday, January 21, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3 out of 5

Shiny/Things

An album that demonstrates great promise, despite its flaws.

ELDA featuring Kari Eskild Havenstrom

“Shiny/Things”

(Andrew Woodhead Music)

ELDA is an international collaboration featuring the duo Birmingham based musicians Andrew Woodhead (keyboards, pocket piano, electronics) and Aaron Diaz (trumpet, electronics) together with the Norwegian musician Kari Eskild Havenstrom (vocals, pocket piano, electronics).

Woodhead is a graduate of the Jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire and is a significant presence on the city’s music scene as both a musician and as an organiser. Besides ELDA Woodhead is also a member of the trio Snapdragon featuring vocalist Holly Thomas and reeds player Lluis Mather. I’ve also heard his playing in the very different groups of vocalist Anthony Marsden and saxophonist Claude Pietersen (the Zwolfton quintet). Other musicians with whom he has collaborated include trombonist Richard Foote, bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders.  Woodhead also organises the regular Fizzle free improvisation sessions held at The Lamp Tavern Digbeth, a series of events that attracts leading improvisers from Birmingham, London and beyond.

Diaz is also a Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus and has fronted his own Frank Zappa inspired septet Moon Unit. He currently leads the jazz/folk quartet Drawlight. Diaz has also been a key member of Sid Peacock’s Surge Orchestra and of the anarchic Birmingham based jazz/folk/world/punk crossover outfit The Destroyers. Currently he is also part of the twelve piece jazz/folk crossover ensemble Propellor and of the contemporary folk group Fair Rain (previously The Old Dance School). Diaz has also worked with the Midlands based brass ensembles Young Pilgrims and Bostin’ Brass. He also has strong connections with Manchester and has worked with drummer Johnny Hunter’s quartet and with the band Glowrogues.

ELDA takes its name from a Swedish word meaning to “electrify” or “set alight” and a version of the band has been around since at least 2011, the year that I saw Diaz, bassist Chris Mapp and drummer Mike Hurley perform under the name at Birmingham’s much missed Harmonic Festival. Later the same day Diaz collaborated with the Food duo of saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Thomas Stronen, a highly prestigious guest appearance for the trumpeter.

Diaz spent time living in Sweden, this sojourn leading to an abiding interest in Scandinavian and other folk musics. However electronics have also been an important part of the trumpeter’s music making, with musicians such as Arve Henriksen and the Food duo representing significant influences.

In more recent years ELDA has featured the duo of Diaz and Woodhead with the pair being joined for this album by Havenstrom. It’s a partnership that has its roots in the annual ‘Trondheim Jazz Exchange’ which sees the jazz students at Trondheim Conservatoire twinned with their Birmingham counterparts to create international collaborations, the results being premièred at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. The British students then travel to Norway to perform at equivalent festivals there.

The Trondheim Jazz Exchange concerts at Cheltenham typically feature three ensembles,  each usually consisting of two British and two Norwegian musicians. In 2013 pianist Woodhead was teamed in a group with vocalist Havenstrom and the pair have since forged a creative partnership, culminating in this recording. Havenstrom’s other credits include work with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and with the Norwegian tuba player, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Kristoffer Lo.

“Shiny/Things” was recorded at engineer Luke Morrish Thomas’ studio in Birmingham in May 2016 with Woodhead commenting;
“This recording sees the trio exploring the boundaries between the worlds of jazz, improv, electronica and folk, as well as the ever changing relationship between composition and free improvisation”.

The album consists of nine short pieces, some written, others presumably wholly improvised. The trio’s sound is unmistakably ‘Scandinavian’, the mood ranging from the melancholic to the gently ethereal. With no recognised rhythm section the focus is very much on colour and texture with Havenstrom deploying her voice as an instrument and largely singing wordlessly.

Opening track “Vignette 1” establishes the mood with the drone of Havenstrom’s wordless vocal accompanied by the eerie, spacey sounds generated by Woodhead and Diaz, some of the timbres reminiscent reminiscent of those of Tibetan singing bowls or glass harmonica.

“Carre” features more conventional keyboard and trumpet sounds and sounds more ‘written’ than the opener. Havenstrom sings sweetly and wordlessly above Woodhead’s minimalist style keyboard figures and Diaz’s melodic trumpet,

“Vignette II” explores similar territory to the opener, albeit with more conventional keyboard and trumpet sounds, some of these heavily distorted.

I’m not certain what the date in “Mai (4/5/54)” alludes to, other than the fact that it’s far too early to be the birth date of any of these three!  The music itself sounds largely written, with wordless voice, electric keyboard sounds and unadorned, comparatively straight ahead trumpet. The interplay between the three protagonists is melodic and tightly controlled and the resultant music is almost conventionally pretty.

“Vignette III” is more experimental with Havenstrom treating the sound of her voice to take it into the kind of areas occupied by the likes of Julie Tippetts and Sidsel Endresen, the latter almost certainly an influence on the young vocalist, I would surmise.

“Shiny”, effectively the first of two title tracks, is a song with an English lyric, coolly delivered by Havenstrom against a backdrop of looped electronica. It’s a highly effective piece of avant pop, with ELDA here reminiscent of that other Anglo-Norwegian electro-jazz/vocal ensemble Eyes of a Blue Dog, the trio featuring trumpeter Rory Simmons, vocalist Elisabeth Nygard Pearson and drummer/sound artist Terje Evensen. Another possible influence, I’d hazard.

“Threes” continues the ethereal mood, initially in an instrumental context with Diaz’s long looped trumpet lines floating above spacey keyboard textures and electronica. Havenstrom adds wordless vocals to the album’s lengthiest track, with the piece taking a more anthemic turn in its closing stages as Havenstrom’s voice soars in the manner of Norma Winstone.

“Solos” acts first as a vocal showcase for the versatile Havenstrom who brings the influence of Norwegian folk music to an impressive performance featuring her pure, clear wordless voice underpinned by the subtle drone of electronica.  At times the music enters into the realm of the Sami joik, this further embellished by remarkable electronic manipulations.
Next it’s the turn of Diaz’s heavily treated trumpet, with the influence of Henriksen and Supersilent coming to the fore.
Finally Woodhead conjures a range of unsettling colours and textures from his various keyboards in a manner similar to his 2016 solo album “Pocket Piano Improvisations”.

The album concludes with “Things”, the companion piece to “Shiny”, and another song with an English lyric. “You always cling to shiny things” sings Havenstrom, sounding a little like Bjork as Woodhead’s keyboards shimmer gently and Diaz blows long, melancholic, flugel like trumpet lines.

As an album “Shiny/Things” is uneven, but it does offer much to enjoy, particularly in the second half of the album.

The first five tracks, the three improvised “Vignettes” and two composed pieces “Carre” and “Mai” are much of a muchness with little variation in terms of mood and dynamics. In the absence of a conventional rhythm section the music can sound a little bloodless at times. It’s interesting enough, but a little directionless, and one is tempted to observe that there are other acts who play this kind of thing rather more convincingly.

For me things start to pick up with “Shiny”, a highly effective electro ballad, while the following “Things” possesses a stronger narrative arc than the earlier wordless pieces.

I’m also impressed by the individual features on “Solos” which sees Havenstrom taking the chance to demonstrate the full range of her often extraordinary voice in an authentically dramatic setting. Diaz and Woodhead are similarly impressive as they allow themselves free rein on their respective instruments.

“Things” is another haunting and beautiful song and a very effective way to close an album that demonstrates great promise, despite its earlier flaws.

Notwithstanding my reservations this is still a group that I’d like to take the opportunity of seeing in live performance. That opportunity may come in March 2019 when ELDA undertake a short UK tour with dates as below;


ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Sheffield (TBC)
Thursday, March 7, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM


MAR
12
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Birmingham
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Lamp Tavern Birmingham UK


MAR
13
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - London
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
8:00 PM 9:00 PM
The Vortex Jazz Club


MAR
14
ELDA ft. Kari Eskild Havenstrøm - Manchester (TBC)
Thursday, March 14, 2019
7:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Noise Upstairs Manchester


Further information at http://www.andrewwoodheadmusic.com

Laura Cole - Enough Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Cole rises to the challenge of the solo piano recording with great aplomb. Her work compares well with more famous exponents of the format.

Laura Cole

“Enough”

(Discus Music – Discus 71CD)

In November 2018 I reviewed the double album “The Two Fridas”, the third album release by the group Metamorphic, led by Leeds based pianist and composer Laura Cole.

My review of “The Two Fridas” can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/the-two-fridas/

Reviews of the two previous Metamorphic releases “The Rock Between” (2011) and “Coalescence”  (2013) can also be read elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

Cole regards “The Two Fridas” and this second double set, the solo piano work, “Enough” as companion pieces. She has written;
“The context for both albums was an intensely difficult time in my personal life. Both albums are an attempt to express intimate emotions and thoughts through the creative and recording process; they aim to tell a story”.

Released a few months after “The Two Fridas” Cole’s solo piano release was recorded over the course of two days in November 2017 at the Steinway Recording Centre in Lincolnshire.

The work is divided into two clearly delineated halves. Disc One, subtitled “This is Water” mostly comprises of pieces by other UK based contemporary jazz composers commissioned by, and arranged by, Cole.

Its companion, subtitled “As Warm As The Sun” consists of compositions and improvisations by Cole herself. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, who also contributes a composition to the first disc.

“This is Water” commences with a piece by saxophonist Jason Yarde titled “Unisome (Unisin, Unison, Unisone, Unisum)!”. Percussive and rhythmically playful it makes for an intriguing and enjoyable opener.

Another saxophonist, Chris Williams, wrote “Shapes and Sizes”, a piece initially performed by the powerful ‘punk jazz’ quintet Led Bib, of which the composer is a member – he’s also part of Cole’s own Metamorphic group. It’s nothing less than astonishing to hear Cole transform this composition into a lyrical and sensitive solo piano performance, albeit with the occasional pocket of turbulence along the way.

“Subside” was co-written by vocalist Julie Tippetts and multi-instrumentalist and Discus label founder Martin Archer. It’s another lyrical performance, sombre even, at times, with Cole making effective use of space, a characteristic that distinguishes the album as a whole.

“Nardis / Solar / I like to sound like a rainforest / I thank you god” effectively combines the writing of Miles Davis, Ruth Goller and Sarah Jewell into a cohesive, brilliantly recognised and executed whole.

Trumpeter Kim Macari’s “Default Settings” is more akin to a free jazz performance with Cole working ‘under the lid’ and adding Tippetts inspired vocal tics and whisperings.

“Alsten”, written by Cole’s Metamorphic colleague, bassist Seth Bennett, is more straightforward with its pastoral mood and gently rippling arpeggios. It’s undeniably beautiful.

Fellow pianist Alex Wilson’s “Rendezvous” combines a similar lyrical beauty with more forceful, rhythmic and percussive interludes. This segues into “Quantum”, a rather more sombre, and sometimes knotty, meditation written by another pianist, Robert Mitchell, himself an acknowledged master of the solo piano format.

Corey Mwamba’s contribution as a composer is the fifteen minute suite “forgotten letters; Bereft; Tears; bright grey”. This commences in starkly minimal fashion, but with each phrase carrying a whole weight of meaning. The sections that I presume signify “Bereft” and “Tears” sound suitably dolorous with their minor chords and low end rumblings, but along the way there are also glimpses of lyricism and beauty. 

The first disc concludes with “Meditations / Fade (Over)”, a collaborative work by Yarde and pianist Nikki Iles which continues the mood of melancholic, but beautiful, introspection.

With regard to “As Warm As The Sun” Cole’s liner notes provide illuminating insights into the inspirations behind some of the individual pieces.

The two opening pieces “Crossing…” and “Crossing” are both improvisational responses to Walt Shaw’s mixed media artwork “Crossing” which appears on the album’s front cover (pictured).

“Crossing…” develops from the starkest of openings, that sense of space that distinguished the first disc now made even more apparent in the heavily nuanced single note phrases that seem to hang in the air. Even when Cole becomes slightly more expansive there’s still a palpable sense of an unnamed vastness and a threatening mood of unease that continues into the companion piece “Crossing”.

“Extinguish” was written for Cole’s daughter Martha, who suggested the word on which the composition was to be based. Although less sparse than the two “Crossing” pieces there’s still a brooding spaciousness about the music with Cole making effective use of the sustain pedal.

“907 / Room With A View” is a reflectively lyrical solo piano piece while the following “Sorrow, and a beautiful blue butterfly” finds Cole reading her own poem with no piano in earshot. The poem possesses its own beauty, but it does interrupt the flow of the album – I accept that others may see it as punctuation. In any event it’s unfortunate that Cole’s words are not reproduced on the album packaging, which would help to enhance the listening experience, or, alternatively, make the work public without interrupting the flow of the music.

“As Warm As The Sun” is dedicated to producer Corey Mwamba and combines warmth and lyricism with spikier episodes that perhaps allude to Mwamba’s avant garde and free jazz leanings.

The companion pieces “Enough…” and “Enough” were written for the sculptor Anne Truitt whose journal “Daybook” encouraged Cole to undertake an inspiring artistic retreat to the Lyth Arts Centre in Wick, Scotland. Cole used her Scottish residency as preparation for the recording of this album, and it was clearly time well spent. Musically the economy and spaciousness of the playing on these pieces is perhaps a reflection of the lonely beauty of Cole’s Caithness retreat. But once again there are angrier, more dramatic moments, perhaps intended to reflect the harshness and changeability of the Scottish climate and landscape.

At a little under nine minutes in duration “The Sphinx” is the lengthiest performance on this second disc. It unfolds slowly and organically, Cole is a musician who never sounds rushed or hurried and who always makes effective use of the spaces between the notes. Her playing is never about mere technique, she is more concerned with making an emotional effect, or in her own words, “telling a story”.

These qualities are also readily apparent in the following “Outgoing Vessels”, a captivating pianistic voyage that covers an impressive stylistic, emotional and dynamic range over the course of its six and a quarter minutes.

“Garden…” and “Garden” are improvised responses to another Walt Shaw mixed media painting, “Garden”, which adorns the album’s back cover. If the holy grail of jazz is for the composed and the improvised to be indistinguishable then Cole finds it here with these performances, somehow managing to sound both structured and spontaneous.

The album concludes with “For Sam”, a piece dedicated to the Steinway at Lyth Arts Centre, which Cole christened ‘Sam’. “We shared some special moments!” she exclaims. The music is suitably warm hearted with a tender, flowing melody and a wilful sense of simplicity throughout. There’s a sense of peace and reconciliation about the music, making this piece the perfect album closer.

Like its counterpart “The Two Fridas” “Enough” is clearly another labour of love for Cole and again is a very personal recording. Following her preparations at Lyth Cole rises to the challenge of the solo piano recording with great aplomb. Her playing is superb throughout, exploring the sonic capabilities of the instrument but without ever becoming ‘showy’ or ‘flashy’. Her carefully sustained moods serve the music well, both the written and the improvised, and much of the music is very beautiful, if a little sombre at times. Mwamba is to be congratulated on the superb recorded sound which captures the nuances of Cole’s playing with warmth and clarity.

Some listeners may regard a double album of solo piano as something of an indulgence, and arguably the spoken word track is, but there’s no musical flab on this absorbing and compelling recording with no track being allowed to outstay its welcome. Cole plays with skill and economy and her work compares well with more famous exponents of the format (Jarrett, Corea etc.).
Fans of contemporary solo jazz piano would do well to check out this tightly focussed offering from Laura Cole.

 

Enough

Laura Cole

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Enough

Cole rises to the challenge of the solo piano recording with great aplomb. Her work compares well with more famous exponents of the format.

Laura Cole

“Enough”

(Discus Music – Discus 71CD)

In November 2018 I reviewed the double album “The Two Fridas”, the third album release by the group Metamorphic, led by Leeds based pianist and composer Laura Cole.

My review of “The Two Fridas” can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/the-two-fridas/

Reviews of the two previous Metamorphic releases “The Rock Between” (2011) and “Coalescence”  (2013) can also be read elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

Cole regards “The Two Fridas” and this second double set, the solo piano work, “Enough” as companion pieces. She has written;
“The context for both albums was an intensely difficult time in my personal life. Both albums are an attempt to express intimate emotions and thoughts through the creative and recording process; they aim to tell a story”.

Released a few months after “The Two Fridas” Cole’s solo piano release was recorded over the course of two days in November 2017 at the Steinway Recording Centre in Lincolnshire.

The work is divided into two clearly delineated halves. Disc One, subtitled “This is Water” mostly comprises of pieces by other UK based contemporary jazz composers commissioned by, and arranged by, Cole.

Its companion, subtitled “As Warm As The Sun” consists of compositions and improvisations by Cole herself. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, who also contributes a composition to the first disc.

“This is Water” commences with a piece by saxophonist Jason Yarde titled “Unisome (Unisin, Unison, Unisone, Unisum)!”. Percussive and rhythmically playful it makes for an intriguing and enjoyable opener.

Another saxophonist, Chris Williams, wrote “Shapes and Sizes”, a piece initially performed by the powerful ‘punk jazz’ quintet Led Bib, of which the composer is a member – he’s also part of Cole’s own Metamorphic group. It’s nothing less than astonishing to hear Cole transform this composition into a lyrical and sensitive solo piano performance, albeit with the occasional pocket of turbulence along the way.

“Subside” was co-written by vocalist Julie Tippetts and multi-instrumentalist and Discus label founder Martin Archer. It’s another lyrical performance, sombre even, at times, with Cole making effective use of space, a characteristic that distinguishes the album as a whole.

“Nardis / Solar / I like to sound like a rainforest / I thank you god” effectively combines the writing of Miles Davis, Ruth Goller and Sarah Jewell into a cohesive, brilliantly recognised and executed whole.

Trumpeter Kim Macari’s “Default Settings” is more akin to a free jazz performance with Cole working ‘under the lid’ and adding Tippetts inspired vocal tics and whisperings.

“Alsten”, written by Cole’s Metamorphic colleague, bassist Seth Bennett, is more straightforward with its pastoral mood and gently rippling arpeggios. It’s undeniably beautiful.

Fellow pianist Alex Wilson’s “Rendezvous” combines a similar lyrical beauty with more forceful, rhythmic and percussive interludes. This segues into “Quantum”, a rather more sombre, and sometimes knotty, meditation written by another pianist, Robert Mitchell, himself an acknowledged master of the solo piano format.

Corey Mwamba’s contribution as a composer is the fifteen minute suite “forgotten letters; Bereft; Tears; bright grey”. This commences in starkly minimal fashion, but with each phrase carrying a whole weight of meaning. The sections that I presume signify “Bereft” and “Tears” sound suitably dolorous with their minor chords and low end rumblings, but along the way there are also glimpses of lyricism and beauty. 

The first disc concludes with “Meditations / Fade (Over)”, a collaborative work by Yarde and pianist Nikki Iles which continues the mood of melancholic, but beautiful, introspection.

With regard to “As Warm As The Sun” Cole’s liner notes provide illuminating insights into the inspirations behind some of the individual pieces.

The two opening pieces “Crossing…” and “Crossing” are both improvisational responses to Walt Shaw’s mixed media artwork “Crossing” which appears on the album’s front cover (pictured).

“Crossing…” develops from the starkest of openings, that sense of space that distinguished the first disc now made even more apparent in the heavily nuanced single note phrases that seem to hang in the air. Even when Cole becomes slightly more expansive there’s still a palpable sense of an unnamed vastness and a threatening mood of unease that continues into the companion piece “Crossing”.

“Extinguish” was written for Cole’s daughter Martha, who suggested the word on which the composition was to be based. Although less sparse than the two “Crossing” pieces there’s still a brooding spaciousness about the music with Cole making effective use of the sustain pedal.

“907 / Room With A View” is a reflectively lyrical solo piano piece while the following “Sorrow, and a beautiful blue butterfly” finds Cole reading her own poem with no piano in earshot. The poem possesses its own beauty, but it does interrupt the flow of the album – I accept that others may see it as punctuation. In any event it’s unfortunate that Cole’s words are not reproduced on the album packaging, which would help to enhance the listening experience, or, alternatively, make the work public without interrupting the flow of the music.

“As Warm As The Sun” is dedicated to producer Corey Mwamba and combines warmth and lyricism with spikier episodes that perhaps allude to Mwamba’s avant garde and free jazz leanings.

The companion pieces “Enough…” and “Enough” were written for the sculptor Anne Truitt whose journal “Daybook” encouraged Cole to undertake an inspiring artistic retreat to the Lyth Arts Centre in Wick, Scotland. Cole used her Scottish residency as preparation for the recording of this album, and it was clearly time well spent. Musically the economy and spaciousness of the playing on these pieces is perhaps a reflection of the lonely beauty of Cole’s Caithness retreat. But once again there are angrier, more dramatic moments, perhaps intended to reflect the harshness and changeability of the Scottish climate and landscape.

At a little under nine minutes in duration “The Sphinx” is the lengthiest performance on this second disc. It unfolds slowly and organically, Cole is a musician who never sounds rushed or hurried and who always makes effective use of the spaces between the notes. Her playing is never about mere technique, she is more concerned with making an emotional effect, or in her own words, “telling a story”.

These qualities are also readily apparent in the following “Outgoing Vessels”, a captivating pianistic voyage that covers an impressive stylistic, emotional and dynamic range over the course of its six and a quarter minutes.

“Garden…” and “Garden” are improvised responses to another Walt Shaw mixed media painting, “Garden”, which adorns the album’s back cover. If the holy grail of jazz is for the composed and the improvised to be indistinguishable then Cole finds it here with these performances, somehow managing to sound both structured and spontaneous.

The album concludes with “For Sam”, a piece dedicated to the Steinway at Lyth Arts Centre, which Cole christened ‘Sam’. “We shared some special moments!” she exclaims. The music is suitably warm hearted with a tender, flowing melody and a wilful sense of simplicity throughout. There’s a sense of peace and reconciliation about the music, making this piece the perfect album closer.

Like its counterpart “The Two Fridas” “Enough” is clearly another labour of love for Cole and again is a very personal recording. Following her preparations at Lyth Cole rises to the challenge of the solo piano recording with great aplomb. Her playing is superb throughout, exploring the sonic capabilities of the instrument but without ever becoming ‘showy’ or ‘flashy’. Her carefully sustained moods serve the music well, both the written and the improvised, and much of the music is very beautiful, if a little sombre at times. Mwamba is to be congratulated on the superb recorded sound which captures the nuances of Cole’s playing with warmth and clarity.

Some listeners may regard a double album of solo piano as something of an indulgence, and arguably the spoken word track is, but there’s no musical flab on this absorbing and compelling recording with no track being allowed to outstay its welcome. Cole plays with skill and economy and her work compares well with more famous exponents of the format (Jarrett, Corea etc.).
Fans of contemporary solo jazz piano would do well to check out this tightly focussed offering from Laura Cole.

 

Kevin Lawlor - Last Days of Summer Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

Kevin Lawlor

“Last Days of Summer”

(Kevin Lawlor Music)

This self released recording represents the third album from the Wexford based drummer, composer, arranger and educator Kevin Lawlor.

Lawlor studied jazz in Dublin, Salzburg and New York before returning home to take up the post of Director of Jazz at County Wexford School of Music where he is also the resident drum tutor. He also helps to curate the jazz programme at Wexford Arts Centre.

In addition to his role as an educator Lawlor is also a busy performer who leads his own groups as well as collaborating with visiting international jazz musicians. One of his most fruitful alliances has been with the Welsh pianist and composer Dave Jones and it was Lawlor’s appearance on Jones’ excellent 2012 album “Resonance” that first brought his playing to my attention. Jones subsequently returned the compliment by guesting on Lawlor’s impressive leadership début “Exodus” (2013). The pair continue to perform together and Lawlor’s drumming can also be heard on Jones’ quartet recording “Live At AMG”, released in 2014.

Lawlor has played with many of Ireland’s leading jazz performers as well as musicians from Canada and Finland. He has also worked with other musicians from the UK and in February 2019 will undertake a short tour of Ireland as part of a trio led by British guitarist Chris Montague.


Both “Exodus” and Lawlor’s second album release from 2015, simply titled “Eight” after the number of tracks thereon, are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.  Both recordings highlight Lawlor’s considerable skills as a composer and arranger and “Last Days of Summer” continues the process by putting a greater emphasis on long form composition. The programme includes four new Lawlor originals plus an arrangement of the song “One Last Time”, written by Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk and an international hit for pop singer Ariana Grande. It’s an interesting choice, to say the least.

The quintet that Lawlor has assembled to perform this material is comprised of young Irish musicians hailing from Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Pat Molitor plays piano, keyboards and synthesiser, Adam Nolan plays tenor saxophone, Colm Lyndsay is on guitar and the group is completed by bassist Jack-Rufus Kelly.

As Lawlor explains the album features “three long form compositions with sections for improvisation as opposed to more traditional, self contained structures typical to jazz”.

Colour and texture are therefore important, as evidenced by the opening “Toucan Lullaby” with its combination of electric and acoustic instruments, with Molitor playing electric piano and other keyboards, helping to broaden the sound as Nolan solos fluently and expansively on tenor. The piece is divided into clearly delineated sections, the second of which is more sombre and impressionistic and includes a richly atmospheric solo from Lyndsay on guitar. The piece then gains momentum once more with the leader’s neatly energetic drumming featuring in the closing passages.

The title track initially embraces a more conventional jazz feel with Nolan’s melodic tenor stating the opening theme. Molitor moves to acoustic piano for a flowing solo supported by Lawlor’s crisp cymbal work. The music then takes a harder edged, almost funky turn as Nolan digs in on tenor with Lyndsay’s guitar also playing a prominent part in the arrangement. Lawlor’s drums are then featured once more in a rousing closing passage.

“Rise Of The Right Wing” commences with a freely structured dialogue between Nolan’s tenor and the leader’s drums. Out of this a minor key theme emerges featuring tenor, acoustic piano and shadowy guitar. As befits the title the ensuing ‘march’ section sounds positively threatening, an insistent, pounding piano motif underscoring doomy sax and guitar textures. The sinister mood continues through solos by Nolan on tenor and Lyndsay on heavily distorted, rock influenced guitar, with Lawlor’s drums continuing to perform a highly martial function. Even Molitor’s acoustic piano solo fails to lighten the listener’s unease as the piece continues to project an air of impending doom.
Effectively this is a protest song without words and suggests a new, more overtly political dimension to Lawlor’s writing.

This is continued on the following “AK 47” which introduces itself via Lyndsay’s siren like guitar atmospherics and Kelly’s accompanying electric bass groove. There’s a gritty, urban feel about the music here, which is almost funky at times. Lyndsay takes the first solo, his playing continuing to demonstrate a strong rock influence as he’s shadowed by Molitor’s whistling synth. Kelly’s bass groove continues to underpin Nolan’s gutsy tenor solo, this also underscored by swirling synth textures and choppy guitar chording. Lawlor, crisp, brisk and busy behind the kit remains a driving force throughout and features prominently in the tune’s closing stages.

Following the dystopian muscularity of the previous two pieces Lawlor’s arrangement of the Ariana Grande tune “One Last Time” comes as something of a relief. I may be reading too much into this but it’s tempting to view these three tracks as being thematically linked with “Rise Of The Right Wing” and “AK 47” corresponding to the violence of the Manchester Arena bombing and other global atrocities, while the choice of the Grande song is an expression of the hope and humanity generated by the singer’s subsequent “One Love Manchester” charity event at the city’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground.
Certainly the mood is lighter and more celebratory here in a convincing jazz arrangement of what was originally an EDM pop song. There’s a breezy, almost Brazilian feel to the piece which includes lithe solos from Lyndsay on guitar,  Nolan on tenor , Molitor on electric piano and Kelly on electric bass as Lawlor pushes things forward subtly but energetically. Fittingly the leader also enjoys a feature of his own prior to a final collective theme statement.

Recorded by engineer Ollie Dempsey in the Jerome Hynes space at the National Opera House in Wexford during June 2018 “Last Days of Summer” represents a worthy addition to the Lawlor canon.

It’s also substantially different to his previous recordings with the original compositions encompassing both a classically inspired sense of form and a powerful, rock influenced sense of dynamics. Nevertheless it remains unquestionably a jazz record, albeit one that embraces a broader range of influences than before. Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

I was also impressed by the skill and intelligence of the leader’s young colleagues, who all solo effectively while bringing a youthful zest vitality to the work. All four are undoubtedly names to look out for in the future.

“Last Days of Summer” is a limited edition CD that can be purchased directly from Lawlor’s website http://www.kevinlawlor.com, and presumably at gigs.

Once the 100 numbered copies have been sold the album will become available on selected streaming services.

Last Days of Summer

Kevin Lawlor

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Last Days of Summer

Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

Kevin Lawlor

“Last Days of Summer”

(Kevin Lawlor Music)

This self released recording represents the third album from the Wexford based drummer, composer, arranger and educator Kevin Lawlor.

Lawlor studied jazz in Dublin, Salzburg and New York before returning home to take up the post of Director of Jazz at County Wexford School of Music where he is also the resident drum tutor. He also helps to curate the jazz programme at Wexford Arts Centre.

In addition to his role as an educator Lawlor is also a busy performer who leads his own groups as well as collaborating with visiting international jazz musicians. One of his most fruitful alliances has been with the Welsh pianist and composer Dave Jones and it was Lawlor’s appearance on Jones’ excellent 2012 album “Resonance” that first brought his playing to my attention. Jones subsequently returned the compliment by guesting on Lawlor’s impressive leadership début “Exodus” (2013). The pair continue to perform together and Lawlor’s drumming can also be heard on Jones’ quartet recording “Live At AMG”, released in 2014.

Lawlor has played with many of Ireland’s leading jazz performers as well as musicians from Canada and Finland. He has also worked with other musicians from the UK and in February 2019 will undertake a short tour of Ireland as part of a trio led by British guitarist Chris Montague.


Both “Exodus” and Lawlor’s second album release from 2015, simply titled “Eight” after the number of tracks thereon, are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.  Both recordings highlight Lawlor’s considerable skills as a composer and arranger and “Last Days of Summer” continues the process by putting a greater emphasis on long form composition. The programme includes four new Lawlor originals plus an arrangement of the song “One Last Time”, written by Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk and an international hit for pop singer Ariana Grande. It’s an interesting choice, to say the least.

The quintet that Lawlor has assembled to perform this material is comprised of young Irish musicians hailing from Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Pat Molitor plays piano, keyboards and synthesiser, Adam Nolan plays tenor saxophone, Colm Lyndsay is on guitar and the group is completed by bassist Jack-Rufus Kelly.

As Lawlor explains the album features “three long form compositions with sections for improvisation as opposed to more traditional, self contained structures typical to jazz”.

Colour and texture are therefore important, as evidenced by the opening “Toucan Lullaby” with its combination of electric and acoustic instruments, with Molitor playing electric piano and other keyboards, helping to broaden the sound as Nolan solos fluently and expansively on tenor. The piece is divided into clearly delineated sections, the second of which is more sombre and impressionistic and includes a richly atmospheric solo from Lyndsay on guitar. The piece then gains momentum once more with the leader’s neatly energetic drumming featuring in the closing passages.

The title track initially embraces a more conventional jazz feel with Nolan’s melodic tenor stating the opening theme. Molitor moves to acoustic piano for a flowing solo supported by Lawlor’s crisp cymbal work. The music then takes a harder edged, almost funky turn as Nolan digs in on tenor with Lyndsay’s guitar also playing a prominent part in the arrangement. Lawlor’s drums are then featured once more in a rousing closing passage.

“Rise Of The Right Wing” commences with a freely structured dialogue between Nolan’s tenor and the leader’s drums. Out of this a minor key theme emerges featuring tenor, acoustic piano and shadowy guitar. As befits the title the ensuing ‘march’ section sounds positively threatening, an insistent, pounding piano motif underscoring doomy sax and guitar textures. The sinister mood continues through solos by Nolan on tenor and Lyndsay on heavily distorted, rock influenced guitar, with Lawlor’s drums continuing to perform a highly martial function. Even Molitor’s acoustic piano solo fails to lighten the listener’s unease as the piece continues to project an air of impending doom.
Effectively this is a protest song without words and suggests a new, more overtly political dimension to Lawlor’s writing.

This is continued on the following “AK 47” which introduces itself via Lyndsay’s siren like guitar atmospherics and Kelly’s accompanying electric bass groove. There’s a gritty, urban feel about the music here, which is almost funky at times. Lyndsay takes the first solo, his playing continuing to demonstrate a strong rock influence as he’s shadowed by Molitor’s whistling synth. Kelly’s bass groove continues to underpin Nolan’s gutsy tenor solo, this also underscored by swirling synth textures and choppy guitar chording. Lawlor, crisp, brisk and busy behind the kit remains a driving force throughout and features prominently in the tune’s closing stages.

Following the dystopian muscularity of the previous two pieces Lawlor’s arrangement of the Ariana Grande tune “One Last Time” comes as something of a relief. I may be reading too much into this but it’s tempting to view these three tracks as being thematically linked with “Rise Of The Right Wing” and “AK 47” corresponding to the violence of the Manchester Arena bombing and other global atrocities, while the choice of the Grande song is an expression of the hope and humanity generated by the singer’s subsequent “One Love Manchester” charity event at the city’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground.
Certainly the mood is lighter and more celebratory here in a convincing jazz arrangement of what was originally an EDM pop song. There’s a breezy, almost Brazilian feel to the piece which includes lithe solos from Lyndsay on guitar,  Nolan on tenor , Molitor on electric piano and Kelly on electric bass as Lawlor pushes things forward subtly but energetically. Fittingly the leader also enjoys a feature of his own prior to a final collective theme statement.

Recorded by engineer Ollie Dempsey in the Jerome Hynes space at the National Opera House in Wexford during June 2018 “Last Days of Summer” represents a worthy addition to the Lawlor canon.

It’s also substantially different to his previous recordings with the original compositions encompassing both a classically inspired sense of form and a powerful, rock influenced sense of dynamics. Nevertheless it remains unquestionably a jazz record, albeit one that embraces a broader range of influences than before. Lawlor is an intelligent and versatile drummer and composer whose work deserves greater public recognition.

I was also impressed by the skill and intelligence of the leader’s young colleagues, who all solo effectively while bringing a youthful zest vitality to the work. All four are undoubtedly names to look out for in the future.

“Last Days of Summer” is a limited edition CD that can be purchased directly from Lawlor’s website http://www.kevinlawlor.com, and presumably at gigs.

Once the 100 numbered copies have been sold the album will become available on selected streaming services.

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio - Moon Palace Rating: 4 out of 5 It represents a bold move to choose the challenging format of the saxophone trio for a first recording, but Kay carries it off with considerable aplomb.

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio

“Moon Palace”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0018)

“Moon Palace” is the début album release by the young Perth born, London based saxophonist and composer Helena Kay.

Kay studied at London’s Guildhall School of Music, graduating in 2016. A frequent award winner she was voted Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year in 2015 and in 2017 was the winner of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award. The latter, awarded by Help Musicians UK, helped to finance this début and the Whittingham Award, instigated in 1990, has also provided the launch pad for other successful jazz careers, including those of saxophonist Phil Meadows and bands such as Led Bib, Empirical. WorldService Project and Roller Trio.

Kay is a versatile musician who plays both alto and tenor saxophones plus clarinet. My only live sighting of her was as part of Issie Barratt’s all female Interchange dectet at the 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival when she played alto and clarinet. She has also worked with large ensembles such as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (including their collaborations with guest soloists vibraphonist Joe Locke and bassist Arild Andersen) and with the big bands led by bassist Calum Gourlay, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and saxophonists Tommy Smith, Stan Sulzmann and Paul Towndrow.

Others with whom she has collaborated include pianists Barry Green and Pete Johnstone, guitarist Nick Costley-White and vocalist Ben Cox.

Kay’s KIM Trio finds her specialising on tenor saxophone as she leads a group featuring drummer David Ingamells and bassist Ferg Ireland. Ingamells is a fellow Guildhall alumnus and introduced Kay to Ireland. The saxophonist says of her colleagues; “I love Dave’s swinging and playful playing, particularly in a trio setting. Ferg is a virtuoso on the bass, every time I play with him he pushes me to play better. Dave and Ferg make a great team.”

Initially inspired by the saxophone trios of Sonny Rollins the KIM Trio has also been influenced by more contemporary musicians such as the Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana and the organ led trio of Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart. Although not stated I’d surmise that trios led by Kay’s fellow saxophonists on the UK scene such as Duncan Eagles’ Partikel and Josephine Davies’ Satori may also have influenced her thinking.

The KIM trio’s repertoire includes pieces by composers such as Rollins and Antonio Carlos Jobim but “Moon Palace” puts the emphasis firmly on Kay’s original writing. Five of the seven tracks are written by the young saxophonist with the two outside items coming from the pens of Charlie Parker and Hoagy Carmichael.

Kay’s liner notes offer brief insights into the inspirations behind the individual tunes. Opener “L & D” is named after “two lovely cockerpoos I sometimes look after, Lilly and Dennis”. The piece finds the leader stretching out on tenor above the flexible, rolling grooves generated by Ireland and Ingamells. The Rollins influence is discernible but Kay also brings plenty of herself to the music and retains a strong melodic focus at all times. The performance includes an impressive solo from the impressive Ireland, an effective blend of power and great dexterity. There’s also an extended feature for the busy Ingamells, an increasingly in demand drummer on the UK scene. His crisp cymbal work is a distinctive element throughout this energetic, boppish opening piece.

“Felijao”, a Portuguese word meaning “beans”, takes its title from the twin inspirations of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Kay’s recent conversion to a vegetarian diet. This is a gently brooding, more reflective piece that demonstrates Kay’s ability to play convincingly at slower tempos. Her interplay with Ireland’s languidly resonant bass is particularly impressive, their dialogue underscored by Ingamells’ economic and sensitive brush work. Again there’s another extended solo from the bassist, one that offers evidence of his strong melodic sense. Ingamells picks up his sticks as the tune gathers momentum and Kay stretches out once more. There’s a hint of the sounds of Brazil in the melody, but this is still very much a contemporary jazz performance.

Given the name of this trio the decision to cover Charlie Parker’s “Kim” represents a particularly apposite choice. However as far as I can ascertain the KIM Trio wasn’t named for Parker’s tune, but because its original bassist was Misha Mullov-Abbado. Parker’s tune was written for his then young daughter and the piece gives Kay the opportunity to flex her bop chops on a vigorous rendition powered by Ingamells’ military style drumming. Kay names Parker as one of her favourite saxophonists and it’s interesting to hear her tackle this bop classic on remarkably agile tenor. Ingamells is whip smart behind the kit and his dialogue with the leader is particularly engrossing.

“Strawberry Terrace” is named after Kay’s old street in the London district of Muswell Hill and finds the saxophonist improvising around an attractive melody and a rolling groove centred on Ingamells’ toms. Ireland adds a typically dexterous double bass solo.

Another tune named after an address is “Perry Street”, a composition honouring the street in Greenwich Village in which Kay stayed during her first ever visit to New York City. “I heard a lot of music while I was there; it’s an incredibly inspiring place to be” the saxophonist explains. She continues; “I love the Larry Goldings / Peter Bernstein / Bill Stewart Trio, some of the tunes they play encapsulate a gritty, American sound, and I wanted to capture that attitude in my own tune”.
Musically the piece is a blues paced by the slow swagger of Ireland’s bass walk and featuring teasing stop/go episodes. Kay’s tenor is smoky and bluesy giving the tune an authentic after hours feel. Ireland also features with an articulate double bass solo on a piece that also has something of a Charles Mingus atmosphere about it. 

The title track is named after the novel “Moon Palace” by the author Paul Auster, one of Kay’s favourite writers. It begins with a nod to the ‘spiritual jazz’ style of John Coltrane but subsequently explores further afield with Kay maintaining a strong melodic focus and duetting delightfully with Ireland mid-tune. The bassist then enjoys his own feature, this taking the form of an equally absorbing dialogue with Ingamells.

The album concludes with Kay’s beautifully controlled and moderated solo rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”. It’s an astonishingly mature and fluent performance that is totally convincing and captivating. Kay’s performance was inspired by Nat King Cole’s version of the song, which had also been a favourite of her grandfather.

“Moon Palace” represents an impressive début offering from Kay, and a brave one too. It represents a bold move to choose the challenging format of the saxophone trio for a first recording, but Kay carries it off with considerable aplomb. She proves herself to be a fluent improviser and a capable composer who places the emphasis on melody, but not at the expense of improvisational content. There’s no sense of grandstanding but her playing is excellent throughout and her rapport with Ireland and Ingamells sounds natural and well balanced. All three musicians impress individually but they also impress as a strikingly mature and accomplished unit. Despite the apparent sparseness of the instrumentation this is an album that reveals more with each subsequent listening.

“Moon Palace” has attracted considerable critical approval and is a very good album, but one suspects that there may be even better things to come from Helena Kay’s KIM Trio.

Moon Palace

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio

Monday, January 14, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Moon Palace

It represents a bold move to choose the challenging format of the saxophone trio for a first recording, but Kay carries it off with considerable aplomb.

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio

“Moon Palace”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0018)

“Moon Palace” is the début album release by the young Perth born, London based saxophonist and composer Helena Kay.

Kay studied at London’s Guildhall School of Music, graduating in 2016. A frequent award winner she was voted Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year in 2015 and in 2017 was the winner of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award. The latter, awarded by Help Musicians UK, helped to finance this début and the Whittingham Award, instigated in 1990, has also provided the launch pad for other successful jazz careers, including those of saxophonist Phil Meadows and bands such as Led Bib, Empirical. WorldService Project and Roller Trio.

Kay is a versatile musician who plays both alto and tenor saxophones plus clarinet. My only live sighting of her was as part of Issie Barratt’s all female Interchange dectet at the 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival when she played alto and clarinet. She has also worked with large ensembles such as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (including their collaborations with guest soloists vibraphonist Joe Locke and bassist Arild Andersen) and with the big bands led by bassist Calum Gourlay, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and saxophonists Tommy Smith, Stan Sulzmann and Paul Towndrow.

Others with whom she has collaborated include pianists Barry Green and Pete Johnstone, guitarist Nick Costley-White and vocalist Ben Cox.

Kay’s KIM Trio finds her specialising on tenor saxophone as she leads a group featuring drummer David Ingamells and bassist Ferg Ireland. Ingamells is a fellow Guildhall alumnus and introduced Kay to Ireland. The saxophonist says of her colleagues; “I love Dave’s swinging and playful playing, particularly in a trio setting. Ferg is a virtuoso on the bass, every time I play with him he pushes me to play better. Dave and Ferg make a great team.”

Initially inspired by the saxophone trios of Sonny Rollins the KIM Trio has also been influenced by more contemporary musicians such as the Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana and the organ led trio of Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart. Although not stated I’d surmise that trios led by Kay’s fellow saxophonists on the UK scene such as Duncan Eagles’ Partikel and Josephine Davies’ Satori may also have influenced her thinking.

The KIM trio’s repertoire includes pieces by composers such as Rollins and Antonio Carlos Jobim but “Moon Palace” puts the emphasis firmly on Kay’s original writing. Five of the seven tracks are written by the young saxophonist with the two outside items coming from the pens of Charlie Parker and Hoagy Carmichael.

Kay’s liner notes offer brief insights into the inspirations behind the individual tunes. Opener “L & D” is named after “two lovely cockerpoos I sometimes look after, Lilly and Dennis”. The piece finds the leader stretching out on tenor above the flexible, rolling grooves generated by Ireland and Ingamells. The Rollins influence is discernible but Kay also brings plenty of herself to the music and retains a strong melodic focus at all times. The performance includes an impressive solo from the impressive Ireland, an effective blend of power and great dexterity. There’s also an extended feature for the busy Ingamells, an increasingly in demand drummer on the UK scene. His crisp cymbal work is a distinctive element throughout this energetic, boppish opening piece.

“Felijao”, a Portuguese word meaning “beans”, takes its title from the twin inspirations of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Kay’s recent conversion to a vegetarian diet. This is a gently brooding, more reflective piece that demonstrates Kay’s ability to play convincingly at slower tempos. Her interplay with Ireland’s languidly resonant bass is particularly impressive, their dialogue underscored by Ingamells’ economic and sensitive brush work. Again there’s another extended solo from the bassist, one that offers evidence of his strong melodic sense. Ingamells picks up his sticks as the tune gathers momentum and Kay stretches out once more. There’s a hint of the sounds of Brazil in the melody, but this is still very much a contemporary jazz performance.

Given the name of this trio the decision to cover Charlie Parker’s “Kim” represents a particularly apposite choice. However as far as I can ascertain the KIM Trio wasn’t named for Parker’s tune, but because its original bassist was Misha Mullov-Abbado. Parker’s tune was written for his then young daughter and the piece gives Kay the opportunity to flex her bop chops on a vigorous rendition powered by Ingamells’ military style drumming. Kay names Parker as one of her favourite saxophonists and it’s interesting to hear her tackle this bop classic on remarkably agile tenor. Ingamells is whip smart behind the kit and his dialogue with the leader is particularly engrossing.

“Strawberry Terrace” is named after Kay’s old street in the London district of Muswell Hill and finds the saxophonist improvising around an attractive melody and a rolling groove centred on Ingamells’ toms. Ireland adds a typically dexterous double bass solo.

Another tune named after an address is “Perry Street”, a composition honouring the street in Greenwich Village in which Kay stayed during her first ever visit to New York City. “I heard a lot of music while I was there; it’s an incredibly inspiring place to be” the saxophonist explains. She continues; “I love the Larry Goldings / Peter Bernstein / Bill Stewart Trio, some of the tunes they play encapsulate a gritty, American sound, and I wanted to capture that attitude in my own tune”.
Musically the piece is a blues paced by the slow swagger of Ireland’s bass walk and featuring teasing stop/go episodes. Kay’s tenor is smoky and bluesy giving the tune an authentic after hours feel. Ireland also features with an articulate double bass solo on a piece that also has something of a Charles Mingus atmosphere about it. 

The title track is named after the novel “Moon Palace” by the author Paul Auster, one of Kay’s favourite writers. It begins with a nod to the ‘spiritual jazz’ style of John Coltrane but subsequently explores further afield with Kay maintaining a strong melodic focus and duetting delightfully with Ireland mid-tune. The bassist then enjoys his own feature, this taking the form of an equally absorbing dialogue with Ingamells.

The album concludes with Kay’s beautifully controlled and moderated solo rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”. It’s an astonishingly mature and fluent performance that is totally convincing and captivating. Kay’s performance was inspired by Nat King Cole’s version of the song, which had also been a favourite of her grandfather.

“Moon Palace” represents an impressive début offering from Kay, and a brave one too. It represents a bold move to choose the challenging format of the saxophone trio for a first recording, but Kay carries it off with considerable aplomb. She proves herself to be a fluent improviser and a capable composer who places the emphasis on melody, but not at the expense of improvisational content. There’s no sense of grandstanding but her playing is excellent throughout and her rapport with Ireland and Ingamells sounds natural and well balanced. All three musicians impress individually but they also impress as a strikingly mature and accomplished unit. Despite the apparent sparseness of the instrumentation this is an album that reveals more with each subsequent listening.

“Moon Palace” has attracted considerable critical approval and is a very good album, but one suspects that there may be even better things to come from Helena Kay’s KIM Trio.

Rob Clearfield - Wherever You’re Starting From Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An intriguing album that reveals Clearfield to be an intelligent musician with a superior piano technique. This is an album that combines rigour and beauty to considerable effect.

Rob Clearfield

“Wherever You’re Starting From”

(Woolgathering Records WR 004)

Rob Clearfield is a pianist, composer and improviser from Chicago. I first heard his playing on the recently released album “Blue Nights” by the Israeli born, New York based trumpeter Itamar Borochov. My review of that recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/itamar-borochov-blue-nights/


In November 2018 Borochov brought his quartet, including Clearfield, to London for a memorable performance at the Pizza Express venue in Holborn as part of that year’s EFG London Festival. The event confirmed the promise shown by the “Blue Lights” recording and turned out to be one of the most compelling performances of the entire Festival, a true Festival highlight. My account of this show can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-five-tuesday-20th-november-2018/

After the performance I was privileged to meet with Borochov, Clearfield and drummer Jay Sawyer and I’m grateful to Rob for providing me with a review copy of this, his latest album.

“Wherever You’re Starting From” is a solo piano recording that was first released in early 2018. It follows two entirely improvised albums in the same format, 2009’s “A Thousand Words” and the following years concert recording simply titled “2/26/10”.

Clearfield has also recorded in the classic piano trio format, 2016’s “Islands” sees him leading bassist Curt Bley and drummer Quin Kirchner. Prior to this he had led a quintet featuring saxophonist Scott Burns, guitarist John Kregor, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and drummer Eric Montzka, this line up releasing “The Long and Short of It” in 2013.

Clearfield was born into a musical family and began learning the piano aged five, abandoning the instrument for the guitar (which he still plays) during his teen years, before returning to the piano, and associated electric keyboards as an adult, professional musician.

Clearfield is a highly versatile musician with a broad range of influences who has performed in a variety of musical genres. He began his professional career accompanying guitarist Fareed Haque and he has subsequently played with many of Chicago’s leading jazz musicians, among them trumpeters Marquis Hill and Russ Johnson, bassist Matt Ulery, saxophonists Greg Ward and Adam Larson, vocalists Bethany Hamilton and Grazyna Auguscik, guitarist Dan Bruce and rising star drummer Makaya McCraven.

Between 2004 and 2011 he led the progressive rock band Information Superhighway and he has also worked extensively with another prog rock outfit, District 97. The latter were noted for their collaborations with prog luminaries such as the late, great bassist and vocalist John Wetton (Family, King Crimson, UK, Roxy Music, Asia).

Clearfield’s versatility has led to him working with artists as diverse as the soul combo Hood Smoke and the folk/rock band Outertown as well as composing music for theatre and film and also for the church, the latter a reflection of his childhood background and ongoing faith.

 

As his credits suggest Clearfield’s range of influences is impressively broad, encompassing jazz, blues, gospel, classical and prog with Brahms, Radiohead and contemporary jazz artists such as Marilyn Crispell, Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Kneebody all mentioned as sources of inspiration. He has also cited the inspiration of other art forms, notably film and directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Besides his recordings as a solo pianist or small group leader Clearfield has also worked extensively as a sideman and his total discography embraces over thirty recordings across a variety of musical genres.

“Wherever You’re Starting From” appears on Matt Ulery’s label Woolgathering Records. It differs from Clearfield’s previous solo piano recordings by virtue of its inclusion of written material, including versions of Brahms’ “Intermezzo No. 2 in Bb Minor. Op.117” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. The remaining ten tracks are credited to Clearfield, but once again the pieces are largely improvised.

The album was recorded by engineer Blaise Barton at Chicago’s Joy Ride Studio at two separate sessions in September 2016 and February 2017. Clearfield declares himself as adopting a “compositional approach to improvisation” saying “my hope is that some of the music sounds through composed, some sounds like simple songs, and all of it sounds spontaneous”.

It’s a method that has been strongly influenced by Makaya McCraven, whose own 2015 album “In The Moment” was constructed from excerpts of improvised live performances. The focus here was on the beauty of individual moments or segments within the whole, a process of distillation and refinement.

It’s an approach that has also served Clearfield well with the pianist developing an acute understanding of the elements of a performance that work. Thus the album is as much about the art of editing as it is about improvisation and performance. In some respects it represents an updating of the methods that producer Teo Macero pioneered in his work with Miles Davis.

“If a beginning or an end is slow to arrive, but a fully formed spontaneous idea is captured in the middle, it’s a success” Clearfield says of these performances, some of which start with a fade in or end with a fade out, highlighting short pieces that once formed part of lengthier improvised performances.

The album commences with “Prologue”, its rippling arpeggios and sophisticated counterpoint emphasising Clearfield’s classically honed technique and the influence of composers such as Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Debussy.

The immersive “Starchild” is lengthier, and explores a wider dynamic and emotional range and exhibits more of a jazz influence. Bill Evans is an obvious reference point but I’m also reminded of Keith Jarrett’s ECM début “Facing You”, which featured shorter pieces such as this, rather than the side long improvisational epics of his later recordings.

Johannes Brahms’ “Intermezzo No. 2 in Bb Minor. Op.117” is delivered straight, with little or no improvisation, in a faithful reading that honours Clearfield’s classical roots.

The brief “What Was Your Name Again?” is more vigorous, exuberant and outgoing, with Clearfield dazzling with his bravura technique.

The title track is even shorter; at a little over a minute and a half it’s a brief, lyrical, gently questing miniature.

“Minor” and “Major” follow each other, two contrasting but thematically linked pieces. The first maintains the wistfully melancholic mood established by the title track before shading off into more troubled, turbulent waters. “Major” re-introduces an element of optimism in a charmingly melodic performance.

Clearfield puts his own classically informed stamp on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, cleverly disguising the theme while still bringing a quiet, but thoroughly compelling, intensity to the piece.

“The End” doesn’t actually signal the conclusion of the album but represents a brief, if melancholic,  Romantic interlude; another example of the perfect miniature within the bigger picture.

“Blues in C” is implied rather than overt as Clearfield toys with his numerous influences, all the while demonstrating his phenomenal technique.

The lyrical and reflective “Alice” best illustrates the ‘simple songs’ of which Clearfield has spoken, with the emphasis placed on the yearning melody.

The album concludes with “Epilogue”, a variation on the tune that opens the recording and which, although not radically different in performance, helps to bookend the album neatly. 

“Wherever You’re Starting From” is an intriguing album that reveals Clearfield to be an intelligent musician with a superior piano technique. Despite the focus on improvisation the music is almost classical in feel, which may dissuade some jazz listeners, but it should be remembered that this album only represents one aspect of Clearfield’s multi-faceted musical persona. It’s satisfying to see him taking such a focussed approach and distilling his thoughts so effectively. This is an album that combines rigour and beauty to considerable effect.

Wherever You’re Starting From

Rob Clearfield

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Wherever You’re Starting From

An intriguing album that reveals Clearfield to be an intelligent musician with a superior piano technique. This is an album that combines rigour and beauty to considerable effect.

Rob Clearfield

“Wherever You’re Starting From”

(Woolgathering Records WR 004)

Rob Clearfield is a pianist, composer and improviser from Chicago. I first heard his playing on the recently released album “Blue Nights” by the Israeli born, New York based trumpeter Itamar Borochov. My review of that recording can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/itamar-borochov-blue-nights/


In November 2018 Borochov brought his quartet, including Clearfield, to London for a memorable performance at the Pizza Express venue in Holborn as part of that year’s EFG London Festival. The event confirmed the promise shown by the “Blue Lights” recording and turned out to be one of the most compelling performances of the entire Festival, a true Festival highlight. My account of this show can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-five-tuesday-20th-november-2018/

After the performance I was privileged to meet with Borochov, Clearfield and drummer Jay Sawyer and I’m grateful to Rob for providing me with a review copy of this, his latest album.

“Wherever You’re Starting From” is a solo piano recording that was first released in early 2018. It follows two entirely improvised albums in the same format, 2009’s “A Thousand Words” and the following years concert recording simply titled “2/26/10”.

Clearfield has also recorded in the classic piano trio format, 2016’s “Islands” sees him leading bassist Curt Bley and drummer Quin Kirchner. Prior to this he had led a quintet featuring saxophonist Scott Burns, guitarist John Kregor, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and drummer Eric Montzka, this line up releasing “The Long and Short of It” in 2013.

Clearfield was born into a musical family and began learning the piano aged five, abandoning the instrument for the guitar (which he still plays) during his teen years, before returning to the piano, and associated electric keyboards as an adult, professional musician.

Clearfield is a highly versatile musician with a broad range of influences who has performed in a variety of musical genres. He began his professional career accompanying guitarist Fareed Haque and he has subsequently played with many of Chicago’s leading jazz musicians, among them trumpeters Marquis Hill and Russ Johnson, bassist Matt Ulery, saxophonists Greg Ward and Adam Larson, vocalists Bethany Hamilton and Grazyna Auguscik, guitarist Dan Bruce and rising star drummer Makaya McCraven.

Between 2004 and 2011 he led the progressive rock band Information Superhighway and he has also worked extensively with another prog rock outfit, District 97. The latter were noted for their collaborations with prog luminaries such as the late, great bassist and vocalist John Wetton (Family, King Crimson, UK, Roxy Music, Asia).

Clearfield’s versatility has led to him working with artists as diverse as the soul combo Hood Smoke and the folk/rock band Outertown as well as composing music for theatre and film and also for the church, the latter a reflection of his childhood background and ongoing faith.

 

As his credits suggest Clearfield’s range of influences is impressively broad, encompassing jazz, blues, gospel, classical and prog with Brahms, Radiohead and contemporary jazz artists such as Marilyn Crispell, Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Kneebody all mentioned as sources of inspiration. He has also cited the inspiration of other art forms, notably film and directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Besides his recordings as a solo pianist or small group leader Clearfield has also worked extensively as a sideman and his total discography embraces over thirty recordings across a variety of musical genres.

“Wherever You’re Starting From” appears on Matt Ulery’s label Woolgathering Records. It differs from Clearfield’s previous solo piano recordings by virtue of its inclusion of written material, including versions of Brahms’ “Intermezzo No. 2 in Bb Minor. Op.117” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. The remaining ten tracks are credited to Clearfield, but once again the pieces are largely improvised.

The album was recorded by engineer Blaise Barton at Chicago’s Joy Ride Studio at two separate sessions in September 2016 and February 2017. Clearfield declares himself as adopting a “compositional approach to improvisation” saying “my hope is that some of the music sounds through composed, some sounds like simple songs, and all of it sounds spontaneous”.

It’s a method that has been strongly influenced by Makaya McCraven, whose own 2015 album “In The Moment” was constructed from excerpts of improvised live performances. The focus here was on the beauty of individual moments or segments within the whole, a process of distillation and refinement.

It’s an approach that has also served Clearfield well with the pianist developing an acute understanding of the elements of a performance that work. Thus the album is as much about the art of editing as it is about improvisation and performance. In some respects it represents an updating of the methods that producer Teo Macero pioneered in his work with Miles Davis.

“If a beginning or an end is slow to arrive, but a fully formed spontaneous idea is captured in the middle, it’s a success” Clearfield says of these performances, some of which start with a fade in or end with a fade out, highlighting short pieces that once formed part of lengthier improvised performances.

The album commences with “Prologue”, its rippling arpeggios and sophisticated counterpoint emphasising Clearfield’s classically honed technique and the influence of composers such as Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Debussy.

The immersive “Starchild” is lengthier, and explores a wider dynamic and emotional range and exhibits more of a jazz influence. Bill Evans is an obvious reference point but I’m also reminded of Keith Jarrett’s ECM début “Facing You”, which featured shorter pieces such as this, rather than the side long improvisational epics of his later recordings.

Johannes Brahms’ “Intermezzo No. 2 in Bb Minor. Op.117” is delivered straight, with little or no improvisation, in a faithful reading that honours Clearfield’s classical roots.

The brief “What Was Your Name Again?” is more vigorous, exuberant and outgoing, with Clearfield dazzling with his bravura technique.

The title track is even shorter; at a little over a minute and a half it’s a brief, lyrical, gently questing miniature.

“Minor” and “Major” follow each other, two contrasting but thematically linked pieces. The first maintains the wistfully melancholic mood established by the title track before shading off into more troubled, turbulent waters. “Major” re-introduces an element of optimism in a charmingly melodic performance.

Clearfield puts his own classically informed stamp on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, cleverly disguising the theme while still bringing a quiet, but thoroughly compelling, intensity to the piece.

“The End” doesn’t actually signal the conclusion of the album but represents a brief, if melancholic,  Romantic interlude; another example of the perfect miniature within the bigger picture.

“Blues in C” is implied rather than overt as Clearfield toys with his numerous influences, all the while demonstrating his phenomenal technique.

The lyrical and reflective “Alice” best illustrates the ‘simple songs’ of which Clearfield has spoken, with the emphasis placed on the yearning melody.

The album concludes with “Epilogue”, a variation on the tune that opens the recording and which, although not radically different in performance, helps to bookend the album neatly. 

“Wherever You’re Starting From” is an intriguing album that reveals Clearfield to be an intelligent musician with a superior piano technique. Despite the focus on improvisation the music is almost classical in feel, which may dissuade some jazz listeners, but it should be remembered that this album only represents one aspect of Clearfield’s multi-faceted musical persona. It’s satisfying to see him taking such a focussed approach and distilling his thoughts so effectively. This is an album that combines rigour and beauty to considerable effect.

Tord Gustavsen Trio - The Other Side Rating: 4 out of 5 Gustavsen’s admirers will welcome this return to the trio format on an album that sees the pianist continuing to hone his very personal artistic vision and subtly developing a signature sound.

Tord Gustavsen Trio

“The Other Side”

(ECM Records, ECM 2608,  Bar Code 675 1618)

“The Other Side” is the eighth album for the prestigious ECM label by the Norwegian pianist and composer Tord Gustavsen. It marks a return to the classic piano format in which Gustavsen first announced himself to the world as a bandleader with 2003’s widely acclaimed label début “Changing Places”.

Gustavsen, drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Harald Johnsen had first worked together accompanying the Norwegian vocalist and songwriter Silje Nergaard, but it was “Changing Places” that established the trio as a hugely successful international jazz act in their own right.

Gustavsen’s unique brand of “Nordic gospel music” earned him almost pop star status in his native country and an eager international jazz following, something consolidated by two hugely successful follow up albums “The Ground” (2004) and “Changing Places” (2007).  “The Ground” even topped the Norwegian pop charts.

in 2009 Gustavsen expanded the group to an “Ensemble” as Mats Eilertsen replaced Johnsen on the double bass and Tore Brunborg joined on tenor and soprano saxophones. The resultant album “Restored, Returned” also featured the vocals of Kristin Asbjornsen on settings of the poetry of W.H. Auden. Johnsen’s departure had been occasioned by ill health and the bassist died of a heart attack at the tragically early age of forty one in 2011.

Gustavsen’s regular working group now became a quartet featuring himself, Vespestad, Eilertsen and Brunborg and this unit released the all instrumental albums “The Well”(2012) and “Extended Circle” (2014).

Gustavsen has stated that he regards the three trio recordings and the three essentially quartet albums as separate, thematically linked trilogies. He then pursued another direction as he and Vespestad were joined by the Afghan/German vocalist Simin Tander for 2016’s “What was said”, a beautiful album that was still very much a Tord Gustavsen record but which featured the human voice more fully than ever before whilst simultaneously introducing a soupçon of discreet and tasteful electronica.

Gustavsen has toured widely in the UK and I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform live on several occasions with both the original piano trio and the subsequent quartet and also with the Vespestad and Tander trio. I’ve also been fortunate enough to talk with him and with the various group members, all pleasant, unassuming but hugely talented musicians.

On the ECM website Gustavsen has explains his decision to return to the piano trio format thus;
“After Harald was forced to leave I didn’t want to just continue the trio with another bassist, Then the quartet I had with Jarle, saxophonist Tore Brunborg and bassist Mats Eilertsen felt so strong that it demanded its own cycles of recording and touring. After that, we did like to explore new songs with electronics and vocals. But following all this, it seemed like the time to bring the piano back as the lead voice. This new version of the trio feels in line with the initial group, even as it exists on another wavelength – it would have to, as it somehow includes all that came in between those first records and now.”

Gustavsen is the son of a Lutheran minister and his music has always been rooted in the church. His distinctive musical style seemed to arrive fully formed on “Changing Places”. Many of his pieces were written in the minor keys endemic to the church music of his childhood but the brooding, solemn, Nordic characteristics of his sound were leavened by gospel and blues elements with their origins in the American South and beyond. There were rolling gospel vamps, Keith Jarrett style country blues and elements of township jazz that recalled Abdullah Ibrahim’s early work. It all made for a highly personalised style that proved to be remarkably accessible to a large number of listeners across Europe and beyond, making Gustavsen one of ECM’s most popular artists. His music has always been calm and unhurried and has always had a tangible air of spirituality about it that has transcended the trio and quartet formats that he has worked in over the last decade or so. His music is particularly effective at making use of space and is perfectly suited to ECM aesthetic and the label’s emphasis on a pristine recorded sound, a quality insisted upon by producer and label founder Manfred Eicher. Gustavsen’s output for the label has found him gradually honing his craft with each album representing a subtle artistic progression while remaining true to the core Gustavsen sound that was so distinctively established on his début.

“The Other Side” finds Gustavsen and Vespestad working alongside ‘new’ bassist Sigurd Hole. The album marks Hole’s recording début with the Gustavsen trio but he has working with the pianist since 2015 after replacing Eilertsen in the quartet.  A bandleader in his own right Hole brings an additional folk influence to the trio which is perfectly suited to a programme that includes a number of traditional Norwegian hymn and folk tunes alongside the Gustavsen originals, plus the pianist’s arrangements of three compositions by J.S. Bach.

Gustavsen explains the reasoning behind the titling of the new album as follows;
“The title of The Other Side reflects multiple ideas, it also refers to the trio as being another side of music-making from the quartet and vocal explorations of recent years. Then there is also this idea in the title of the way the trio plays as being the other side of virtuosity, a kind of paradoxical virtuosity where you don’t play all the notes you can but merely the notes that are really needed,. It’s about subordinating your ego to the flow of the music – and that takes a kind of ‘radical listening’ – listen more than you play. That’s a passion the three of us share.”

The trio’s approach is exemplified by the gospel tinged opener “The Tunnel”,  originally written by Gustavsen for to be played alongside spoken word performances at a literary festival in northern Norway. The piece was subsequently developed by the trio and the recorded version features Hole’s quietly virtuoso bass soloing alongside Gustavsen’s ‘less is more’ approach at the piano and Vespestad’s typically sympathetic and carefully detailed drumming.

It’s Hole’s unaccompanied double bass that introduces Gustavsen’s arrangement of “Kirken, den er et gammelt hus”, a chorale by the 19th century Norwegian composer and organist Ludvig Mathias Lindeman. Gustavsen adds a subtle element of electronica before moving to the piano to transform the mood of the piece from the impressionistic to the gently celebratory. “We’re interpreting the church music that I grew up with in an abstract way,” the pianist explains.

“Re-melt”, with its mesmeric melodic motifs and deep grooves was written as a “divergent response” to the chorales of Bach and Lindeman and has a compelling, low key intensity. There’s a real sense of Gustavsen and his colleagues fully immersing themselves in the music.

Although credited to Gustavsen the broodingly atmospheric “Duality” was largely improvised in the studio and features a haunting dialogue between the leader’s piano and Hole’s bass, first bowed then plucked, this subtly underpinned by Vespestad’s understated mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. It’s arguably the most freely structured piece that Gustavsen has ever recorded.

Gustavsen’s dramatic arrangement of the traditional Norwegian hymn tune “Ingen vinner frem til den evige ro” sustains the mood and again features Hole’s highly effective arco playing.

The Gustavsen original “Taste And See” also features Hole both with and without the bow and deploys one of the composer’s most affecting melodies, obviously new but also somehow timeless, at various times reminiscent of a hymn, a folk tune or even a pop song. It’s an understated but beautiful duo performance, with Vespestad undetectable.

Nevertheless it’s the drummer who introduces Gustavsen’s arrangement of Bach’s “Schlafes Bruder”.and Vespestad remains a strong presence throughout. Jacques Loussier may remain the best known jazz interpreter of Bach but Gustavsen adopts a fundamentally different, more overtly spiritual approach, as he puts his own, unmistakably Nordic, stamp on Bach’s music, That said this arrangement also includes a strong element of American gospel, perhaps inspired by label mate Keith Jarrett.

The next piece combines Bach’s “Jesu, meine Freude” with the traditional hymn tune “Jesus, det eneste”, building from the leader’s delicate solo piano introduction to embrace a gently simmering intensity featuring the intricate, but carefully balanced, interplay of the trio.

Gustavsen’s title track features one of his most attractive melodies and is the perfect embodiment of that phrase “Nordic Gospel Music” with its gently rolling gospel inspired melodies allied to a brooding Nordic lyricism. Like the closing “Curves” it was originally written for the quartet.

Gustavsen’s arrangement of the hymn “O Traurigkeit” represents the final dip into the Bach repertoire.,  It is given an adventurous reading that toys with the structure of the piece. Gustavsen’s intense, low end piano rumblings are complemented by grainy arco bass and Vespestad’s uncharacteristically busy drum and cymbal work.

Gustavsen’s “Left Over Lullaby No. 4” is another piece written as a “divergent response” to the chorale arrangements. At a little under two and a half minutes in duration its the shortest track on the album, a brief but captivating solo piano performance.

The closing “Curves” has been widely praised for capturing the group in microcosm with its beautiful melodies allied to understated, subtly virtuosic playing where every gesture is made to count. Hole impresses with a pizzicato bass solo, Gustavsen’s touch is gorgeously light and lyrical and Vespestad drums with great sensitivity, his brushes softly caressing the skins of his minimal drum kit.

In many ways these descriptions of the individual tracks that make up this album are superfluous. Gustavsen’s many fans across the globe will already know what this album will sound like, as will those detractors who denounce his work as bland and bloodless.

Gustavsen’s admirers will welcome this return to the trio format on an album that sees the pianist continuing to hone his very personal artistic vision, subtly developing a signature sound that was established very early on. It’s a process that drummer Bill Bruford has described as “polishing the diamond” and on this evidence Gustavsen’s gemstone continues to shine very brightly indeed.

Vespestad and Hole both make enormous contributions to the success of the album with Gustavsen saying of the new bassist;
“Sigurd also has a natural way of injecting modal Norwegian folk melodies into the music that makes the group’s connection to these roots stronger, The old Norwegian lullabies and dance forms find their way in now almost without us thinking about it.”

The trio is touring in Germany and Austria during January 2019. For details please visit;
https://www.ecmrecords.com/artists/1435047213/tord-gustavsen

The Other Side

Tord Gustavsen Trio

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

The Other Side

Gustavsen’s admirers will welcome this return to the trio format on an album that sees the pianist continuing to hone his very personal artistic vision and subtly developing a signature sound.

Tord Gustavsen Trio

“The Other Side”

(ECM Records, ECM 2608,  Bar Code 675 1618)

“The Other Side” is the eighth album for the prestigious ECM label by the Norwegian pianist and composer Tord Gustavsen. It marks a return to the classic piano format in which Gustavsen first announced himself to the world as a bandleader with 2003’s widely acclaimed label début “Changing Places”.

Gustavsen, drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Harald Johnsen had first worked together accompanying the Norwegian vocalist and songwriter Silje Nergaard, but it was “Changing Places” that established the trio as a hugely successful international jazz act in their own right.

Gustavsen’s unique brand of “Nordic gospel music” earned him almost pop star status in his native country and an eager international jazz following, something consolidated by two hugely successful follow up albums “The Ground” (2004) and “Changing Places” (2007).  “The Ground” even topped the Norwegian pop charts.

in 2009 Gustavsen expanded the group to an “Ensemble” as Mats Eilertsen replaced Johnsen on the double bass and Tore Brunborg joined on tenor and soprano saxophones. The resultant album “Restored, Returned” also featured the vocals of Kristin Asbjornsen on settings of the poetry of W.H. Auden. Johnsen’s departure had been occasioned by ill health and the bassist died of a heart attack at the tragically early age of forty one in 2011.

Gustavsen’s regular working group now became a quartet featuring himself, Vespestad, Eilertsen and Brunborg and this unit released the all instrumental albums “The Well”(2012) and “Extended Circle” (2014).

Gustavsen has stated that he regards the three trio recordings and the three essentially quartet albums as separate, thematically linked trilogies. He then pursued another direction as he and Vespestad were joined by the Afghan/German vocalist Simin Tander for 2016’s “What was said”, a beautiful album that was still very much a Tord Gustavsen record but which featured the human voice more fully than ever before whilst simultaneously introducing a soupçon of discreet and tasteful electronica.

Gustavsen has toured widely in the UK and I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform live on several occasions with both the original piano trio and the subsequent quartet and also with the Vespestad and Tander trio. I’ve also been fortunate enough to talk with him and with the various group members, all pleasant, unassuming but hugely talented musicians.

On the ECM website Gustavsen has explains his decision to return to the piano trio format thus;
“After Harald was forced to leave I didn’t want to just continue the trio with another bassist, Then the quartet I had with Jarle, saxophonist Tore Brunborg and bassist Mats Eilertsen felt so strong that it demanded its own cycles of recording and touring. After that, we did like to explore new songs with electronics and vocals. But following all this, it seemed like the time to bring the piano back as the lead voice. This new version of the trio feels in line with the initial group, even as it exists on another wavelength – it would have to, as it somehow includes all that came in between those first records and now.”

Gustavsen is the son of a Lutheran minister and his music has always been rooted in the church. His distinctive musical style seemed to arrive fully formed on “Changing Places”. Many of his pieces were written in the minor keys endemic to the church music of his childhood but the brooding, solemn, Nordic characteristics of his sound were leavened by gospel and blues elements with their origins in the American South and beyond. There were rolling gospel vamps, Keith Jarrett style country blues and elements of township jazz that recalled Abdullah Ibrahim’s early work. It all made for a highly personalised style that proved to be remarkably accessible to a large number of listeners across Europe and beyond, making Gustavsen one of ECM’s most popular artists. His music has always been calm and unhurried and has always had a tangible air of spirituality about it that has transcended the trio and quartet formats that he has worked in over the last decade or so. His music is particularly effective at making use of space and is perfectly suited to ECM aesthetic and the label’s emphasis on a pristine recorded sound, a quality insisted upon by producer and label founder Manfred Eicher. Gustavsen’s output for the label has found him gradually honing his craft with each album representing a subtle artistic progression while remaining true to the core Gustavsen sound that was so distinctively established on his début.

“The Other Side” finds Gustavsen and Vespestad working alongside ‘new’ bassist Sigurd Hole. The album marks Hole’s recording début with the Gustavsen trio but he has working with the pianist since 2015 after replacing Eilertsen in the quartet.  A bandleader in his own right Hole brings an additional folk influence to the trio which is perfectly suited to a programme that includes a number of traditional Norwegian hymn and folk tunes alongside the Gustavsen originals, plus the pianist’s arrangements of three compositions by J.S. Bach.

Gustavsen explains the reasoning behind the titling of the new album as follows;
“The title of The Other Side reflects multiple ideas, it also refers to the trio as being another side of music-making from the quartet and vocal explorations of recent years. Then there is also this idea in the title of the way the trio plays as being the other side of virtuosity, a kind of paradoxical virtuosity where you don’t play all the notes you can but merely the notes that are really needed,. It’s about subordinating your ego to the flow of the music – and that takes a kind of ‘radical listening’ – listen more than you play. That’s a passion the three of us share.”

The trio’s approach is exemplified by the gospel tinged opener “The Tunnel”,  originally written by Gustavsen for to be played alongside spoken word performances at a literary festival in northern Norway. The piece was subsequently developed by the trio and the recorded version features Hole’s quietly virtuoso bass soloing alongside Gustavsen’s ‘less is more’ approach at the piano and Vespestad’s typically sympathetic and carefully detailed drumming.

It’s Hole’s unaccompanied double bass that introduces Gustavsen’s arrangement of “Kirken, den er et gammelt hus”, a chorale by the 19th century Norwegian composer and organist Ludvig Mathias Lindeman. Gustavsen adds a subtle element of electronica before moving to the piano to transform the mood of the piece from the impressionistic to the gently celebratory. “We’re interpreting the church music that I grew up with in an abstract way,” the pianist explains.

“Re-melt”, with its mesmeric melodic motifs and deep grooves was written as a “divergent response” to the chorales of Bach and Lindeman and has a compelling, low key intensity. There’s a real sense of Gustavsen and his colleagues fully immersing themselves in the music.

Although credited to Gustavsen the broodingly atmospheric “Duality” was largely improvised in the studio and features a haunting dialogue between the leader’s piano and Hole’s bass, first bowed then plucked, this subtly underpinned by Vespestad’s understated mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. It’s arguably the most freely structured piece that Gustavsen has ever recorded.

Gustavsen’s dramatic arrangement of the traditional Norwegian hymn tune “Ingen vinner frem til den evige ro” sustains the mood and again features Hole’s highly effective arco playing.

The Gustavsen original “Taste And See” also features Hole both with and without the bow and deploys one of the composer’s most affecting melodies, obviously new but also somehow timeless, at various times reminiscent of a hymn, a folk tune or even a pop song. It’s an understated but beautiful duo performance, with Vespestad undetectable.

Nevertheless it’s the drummer who introduces Gustavsen’s arrangement of Bach’s “Schlafes Bruder”.and Vespestad remains a strong presence throughout. Jacques Loussier may remain the best known jazz interpreter of Bach but Gustavsen adopts a fundamentally different, more overtly spiritual approach, as he puts his own, unmistakably Nordic, stamp on Bach’s music, That said this arrangement also includes a strong element of American gospel, perhaps inspired by label mate Keith Jarrett.

The next piece combines Bach’s “Jesu, meine Freude” with the traditional hymn tune “Jesus, det eneste”, building from the leader’s delicate solo piano introduction to embrace a gently simmering intensity featuring the intricate, but carefully balanced, interplay of the trio.

Gustavsen’s title track features one of his most attractive melodies and is the perfect embodiment of that phrase “Nordic Gospel Music” with its gently rolling gospel inspired melodies allied to a brooding Nordic lyricism. Like the closing “Curves” it was originally written for the quartet.

Gustavsen’s arrangement of the hymn “O Traurigkeit” represents the final dip into the Bach repertoire.,  It is given an adventurous reading that toys with the structure of the piece. Gustavsen’s intense, low end piano rumblings are complemented by grainy arco bass and Vespestad’s uncharacteristically busy drum and cymbal work.

Gustavsen’s “Left Over Lullaby No. 4” is another piece written as a “divergent response” to the chorale arrangements. At a little under two and a half minutes in duration its the shortest track on the album, a brief but captivating solo piano performance.

The closing “Curves” has been widely praised for capturing the group in microcosm with its beautiful melodies allied to understated, subtly virtuosic playing where every gesture is made to count. Hole impresses with a pizzicato bass solo, Gustavsen’s touch is gorgeously light and lyrical and Vespestad drums with great sensitivity, his brushes softly caressing the skins of his minimal drum kit.

In many ways these descriptions of the individual tracks that make up this album are superfluous. Gustavsen’s many fans across the globe will already know what this album will sound like, as will those detractors who denounce his work as bland and bloodless.

Gustavsen’s admirers will welcome this return to the trio format on an album that sees the pianist continuing to hone his very personal artistic vision, subtly developing a signature sound that was established very early on. It’s a process that drummer Bill Bruford has described as “polishing the diamond” and on this evidence Gustavsen’s gemstone continues to shine very brightly indeed.

Vespestad and Hole both make enormous contributions to the success of the album with Gustavsen saying of the new bassist;
“Sigurd also has a natural way of injecting modal Norwegian folk melodies into the music that makes the group’s connection to these roots stronger, The old Norwegian lullabies and dance forms find their way in now almost without us thinking about it.”

The trio is touring in Germany and Austria during January 2019. For details please visit;
https://www.ecmrecords.com/artists/1435047213/tord-gustavsen

Sarah Gillespie - Wishbones Rating: 4-5 out of 5 The quality of her song writing remains high, the songs again combining the personal with the political in intelligent, poetic and evocative fashion. An excellent addition to the Gillespie canon.

Sarah Gillespie

“Wishbones”

(Pastiche Records)

“Wishbones” is the fourth full length recording from the Anglo-American singer, guitarist and songwriter Sarah Gillespie.

Gillespie initially burst onto the scene in 2009 with her remarkable début album “Stalking Juliet”, which featured the playing, arrangements and production of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon. The album attracted considerable critical acclaim for its intelligent, literate and highly evocative songwriting, qualities that were enhanced by the excellence of the playing from Atzmon and other jazz luminaries, among them bassist Ben Bastin, drummer Asaf Sirkis and pianist John Turville.

At first it was tempting to think of Gillespie as merely Atzmon’s protégée but the follow up, “In The Current Climate” (2011), saw the singer asserting herself more and making a greater instrumental contribution on an album that featured sparser arrangements, but without sacrificing anything in terms of musical and emotional impact.

Although taking something of a back seat on “Current Climate” Atzmon played a prominent role on the semi-conceptual four track EP “The War On Trevor” (2012), Gillespie’s most overtly political work to date.

In the summer of 2012 Gillespie and her regular bandmates Ben Bastin (bass) and Enzo Zirilli (drums) appeared at Brecon Jazz Festival alongside pianist Kit Downes. The gig was promoted by the Black Mountain Jazz Club from nearby Abergavenny, where Gillespie had performed previously to great acclaim. With Atzmon unavailable due to teaching commitments BMJ’s Mike Skilton suggested Downes as a replacement. The Festival gig was a triumph and Gillespie played further shows with Downes that summer,  the pair establishing a fruitful working relationship. Following the release of “Wishbones” Mike is justifiably proud of his role in bringing them together.

Gillespie’s third full length album, 2013’s “Glory Days” featured both Atzmon and Downes, alongside Bastin and Zirilli. Atzmon again played multiple instruments and acted as producer while Downes guested, adding a couple of barnstorming piano solos.

Gillespie then took some time out from music to start a family, only fully returning to the scene in 2018 with new album “Wishbones”. Not that she’d been entirely out of commission during the interim, having published a poetry collection, “Queen Ithaca Blues” and having toured an as yet unrecorded project paying homage to the music of blues singer Bessie Smith. She also released the digital only mini-album “Roundhouse Bounty”.

“Wishbones” represents a brave new world for Gillespie as she unveils a brand new band led by Downes on piano and organ and with a core quartet featuring Ruth Goller on bass and James Maddren at the drums. There are also substantial contributions from Chris Montague on electric guitar, Laura Jurd on trumpet and Emma Devine on backing vocals. Downes also acts as arranger and producer, effectively taking over the role previously filled by Atzmon.

However long term Gillespie fans, such as myself, should have nothing to fear. The qualities that have made Gillespie’s music so distinctive are still here in abundance, particularly the lyrics which continue to tread a fine (and highly convincing) line between the political and the personal. It’s an album that’s very much informed by the spirit of the times with Gillespie’s liner notes stating;
“This album contains tales of people hunting for home, people who cross mountain ranges and oceans desperate for respite, people who rise from the dead to reclaim their land, people who stand perfectly still but feel lost. This album is also about finding home for the first time and kissing it on the lips”.

It’s a moot point whether Gillespie should be regarded as a jazz singer. She’s always worked with jazz performers and as such has become part of the jazz circuit but her songwriting is informed by figures as diverse as Bessie Smith, Cole Porter, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits with the Beat Generation poets also cited as a significant influence. Indeed Gillespie is something of a polymath, she also has a parallel career as an accomplished modern painter and hold degrees in Literature and Philosophy & Politics. These are all qualities that inform her work, and she has the vocal and instrumental chops to make all these sources cohere into a thoroughly convincing whole – with the help of an absolutely terrific band, of course.

Album opener “Russian Interference” incorporates typically evocative lyrical imagery, depicting the typical human proclivity of blaming a single outside force for all of life’s misfortunes. Gillespie’s acoustic guitar plays a significant part in the arrangement alongside piano, bass and drums, but it’s Montague’s brief, but stinging electric guitar solo that steals the instrumental honours.

“Coup D’Etat” is a swaggering romp full of daring lyrical wordplay and featuring some raucous New Orleans style trumpet from Jurd,  this juxtaposed with another powerful, rock influenced guitar solo from Montague. Meanwhile Gillespie sings with great bravado and demonstrates her talent for creating memorable, rousing choruses amidst the verbal dexterity.

“Seasick”, lowers the temperature, a simple but evocative acoustic ballad featuring the leader’s acoustic guitar and voice, Devine’s rich vocal harmonies and Downes’ lustrous piano. It’s a love song, of sorts, as is the following “You Win”, which again demonstrates Gillespie’s ability to craft a memorable chorus. Elsewhere her lyrical imagery is dark, poetic, evocative and slyly humorous with Downes on surging, gospel tinged Hammond and Montague on soaring electric guitar providing the instrumental highlights, the pair urged on by Maddren’s dynamic drumming.
Incidentally Gillespie and Devine recently performed an entirely acoustic version of this song on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and it was still equally effective.

Jurd’s trumpet features on the atmospheric introduction to “The Ballad Of Standing Rock”. In an interview for London Jazz News Gillespie described the subject matter of the song thus;
 “It’s a story song. It’s about a guy in long-term unemployment travelling to the Indian reservation of Standing Rock in North Dakota to get a job as a construction engineer. He is confronted by thousands of protesters and discovers that the Dakota Access Pipeline he’s hoping to help build will slash through ancient sacred Indian land. The guy crashes out drunk in his motel and wakes up in the night 200 years ago with Indians ruling their own land and herds of stampeding buffalo outside his motel window.”
And what a story she tells, her sympathies firmly with the Native Americans whose land is being usurped. The lyrical imagery is rich, evocative, poetic, and, where appropriate, convincingly hallucinatory. Meanwhile the music covers a wide dynamic range, brilliantly echoing and mirroring Gillespie’s words. Montague’s slide guitar adds an authentic slice of Americana, Jurd’s trumpet growls angrily, combining venomously with Montague’s increasingly distorted guitar. Like all good stories it has a beginning, a middle and an end with the final section featuring Devine’s anthemic harmonies and Downes’ rollicking piano in conjunction with Jurd’s soaring trumpet. Downes even adds a little Hammond prior to Gillespie’s gentle acoustic coda. This is truly epic stuff, the combination of words, voices and instruments richly evocative and totally effective.

Title track “Wishbones” is another twisted love song with its lyrical undercurrent of domestic violence and another memorable chorus. There’s more scabrous guitar from Montague, who makes every one of his solos count throughout the album. Downes doubles on piano and organ, briefly soloing on the latter.

The only non-original song on the album is an effective cover of the traditional American folk song “Moonshiner” in a suitably rootsy arrangement featuring Gillespie’s acoustic finger picking and Montague’s evocative slide guitar. It’s an unsentimental version of a song whose author remains unknown - “I wish I could go back in time and shake their hand”, remarks Gillespie.

Part of the reason for Gillespie’s five year semi withdrawal from the scene was the birth of her now three year old daughter, the subject of the song “Susannah Threw A Helicopter”. The lyrics are compiled from Susannah’s nursery school reports and present a convincing picture of childhood. Gillespie doesn’t shy away from how vicious children can be towards one another, there is theft, violence and territorialism in these tales, reflections of the adult world these children will grow into. But there’s a genuine maternal tenderness in Gillespie’s writing too, it’s not as bleak a song as Richard Thompson’s “End Of The Rainbow” or Peter Hammill’s “Wilhelmina”, although Hammill did at least offer some semblance of hope. That said most songs written about children are pretty sentimental and cringe worthy -  with her balance of realism and tenderness, laced with a sly humour, Gillespie avoids falling into that particular trap.

From the deeply personal Gillespie now gravitates to two linked, overtly political pieces to conclude the album. “The Last Of The Good Time Charlies” is a rollicking lampoon of the ‘Little Englander Brexiteer’ with its images of a lost “imperial nostalgia” - street parties, red telephone boxes, etc. Jurd’s brassy trumpet plays a substantial part in the intentionally bombastic arrangement.

The album concludes with “The Theft Of Marco Munoz”, a Honduran immigrant who hanged himself in a Texan jail after the US border patrol forcibly separated him from his family. “ Marco is the dark-skinned immigrant in the imagination of Charlie” says Gillespie, explaining the link between the two songs. Here, as if to highlight the contrast between Marco and Charlie the arrangement is deliberately sparse, just acoustic guitars and voices with Gillespie’s singing augmented by the evocative harmonies of Devine.


It’s been a long time coming but “Wishbones” is an excellent addition to the Gillespie canon. The quality of her song writing remains high, the songs again combining the personal with the political in intelligent, poetic and evocative fashion. It’s also good to hear her in the company of an excellent new band, this one masterminded by Kit Downes who excels in his role of arranger and producer as well as contributing some fine playing. Goller and Maddren combine to form a highly effective and supportive rhythm section while the cameos from Montague and Jurd add vibrant and iridescent splashes of colour, sometimes threatening to steal the show. Gillespie plays well, sings with great assurance and seems to have lost nothing of her creative spark.


The reviews for “Wishbones” have been overwhelmingly positive and Gillespie remains an artist with the potential to appeal to a wider following than the specialist jazz audience. Fans of the songwriters she admires such as Dylan, Waits, Mitchell and Leonard Cohen would do well to check her out. I’ve already converted my brother in law Mick, an avowed jazz hater but an avid Dylan-ologist to the Gillespie cause.

Gillespie will be touring the album in 2019. Please visit http://www.sarahgillespie.com for details of events.

Wishbones

Sarah Gillespie

Friday, January 04, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Wishbones

The quality of her song writing remains high, the songs again combining the personal with the political in intelligent, poetic and evocative fashion. An excellent addition to the Gillespie canon.

Sarah Gillespie

“Wishbones”

(Pastiche Records)

“Wishbones” is the fourth full length recording from the Anglo-American singer, guitarist and songwriter Sarah Gillespie.

Gillespie initially burst onto the scene in 2009 with her remarkable début album “Stalking Juliet”, which featured the playing, arrangements and production of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon. The album attracted considerable critical acclaim for its intelligent, literate and highly evocative songwriting, qualities that were enhanced by the excellence of the playing from Atzmon and other jazz luminaries, among them bassist Ben Bastin, drummer Asaf Sirkis and pianist John Turville.

At first it was tempting to think of Gillespie as merely Atzmon’s protégée but the follow up, “In The Current Climate” (2011), saw the singer asserting herself more and making a greater instrumental contribution on an album that featured sparser arrangements, but without sacrificing anything in terms of musical and emotional impact.

Although taking something of a back seat on “Current Climate” Atzmon played a prominent role on the semi-conceptual four track EP “The War On Trevor” (2012), Gillespie’s most overtly political work to date.

In the summer of 2012 Gillespie and her regular bandmates Ben Bastin (bass) and Enzo Zirilli (drums) appeared at Brecon Jazz Festival alongside pianist Kit Downes. The gig was promoted by the Black Mountain Jazz Club from nearby Abergavenny, where Gillespie had performed previously to great acclaim. With Atzmon unavailable due to teaching commitments BMJ’s Mike Skilton suggested Downes as a replacement. The Festival gig was a triumph and Gillespie played further shows with Downes that summer,  the pair establishing a fruitful working relationship. Following the release of “Wishbones” Mike is justifiably proud of his role in bringing them together.

Gillespie’s third full length album, 2013’s “Glory Days” featured both Atzmon and Downes, alongside Bastin and Zirilli. Atzmon again played multiple instruments and acted as producer while Downes guested, adding a couple of barnstorming piano solos.

Gillespie then took some time out from music to start a family, only fully returning to the scene in 2018 with new album “Wishbones”. Not that she’d been entirely out of commission during the interim, having published a poetry collection, “Queen Ithaca Blues” and having toured an as yet unrecorded project paying homage to the music of blues singer Bessie Smith. She also released the digital only mini-album “Roundhouse Bounty”.

“Wishbones” represents a brave new world for Gillespie as she unveils a brand new band led by Downes on piano and organ and with a core quartet featuring Ruth Goller on bass and James Maddren at the drums. There are also substantial contributions from Chris Montague on electric guitar, Laura Jurd on trumpet and Emma Devine on backing vocals. Downes also acts as arranger and producer, effectively taking over the role previously filled by Atzmon.

However long term Gillespie fans, such as myself, should have nothing to fear. The qualities that have made Gillespie’s music so distinctive are still here in abundance, particularly the lyrics which continue to tread a fine (and highly convincing) line between the political and the personal. It’s an album that’s very much informed by the spirit of the times with Gillespie’s liner notes stating;
“This album contains tales of people hunting for home, people who cross mountain ranges and oceans desperate for respite, people who rise from the dead to reclaim their land, people who stand perfectly still but feel lost. This album is also about finding home for the first time and kissing it on the lips”.

It’s a moot point whether Gillespie should be regarded as a jazz singer. She’s always worked with jazz performers and as such has become part of the jazz circuit but her songwriting is informed by figures as diverse as Bessie Smith, Cole Porter, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits with the Beat Generation poets also cited as a significant influence. Indeed Gillespie is something of a polymath, she also has a parallel career as an accomplished modern painter and hold degrees in Literature and Philosophy & Politics. These are all qualities that inform her work, and she has the vocal and instrumental chops to make all these sources cohere into a thoroughly convincing whole – with the help of an absolutely terrific band, of course.

Album opener “Russian Interference” incorporates typically evocative lyrical imagery, depicting the typical human proclivity of blaming a single outside force for all of life’s misfortunes. Gillespie’s acoustic guitar plays a significant part in the arrangement alongside piano, bass and drums, but it’s Montague’s brief, but stinging electric guitar solo that steals the instrumental honours.

“Coup D’Etat” is a swaggering romp full of daring lyrical wordplay and featuring some raucous New Orleans style trumpet from Jurd,  this juxtaposed with another powerful, rock influenced guitar solo from Montague. Meanwhile Gillespie sings with great bravado and demonstrates her talent for creating memorable, rousing choruses amidst the verbal dexterity.

“Seasick”, lowers the temperature, a simple but evocative acoustic ballad featuring the leader’s acoustic guitar and voice, Devine’s rich vocal harmonies and Downes’ lustrous piano. It’s a love song, of sorts, as is the following “You Win”, which again demonstrates Gillespie’s ability to craft a memorable chorus. Elsewhere her lyrical imagery is dark, poetic, evocative and slyly humorous with Downes on surging, gospel tinged Hammond and Montague on soaring electric guitar providing the instrumental highlights, the pair urged on by Maddren’s dynamic drumming.
Incidentally Gillespie and Devine recently performed an entirely acoustic version of this song on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and it was still equally effective.

Jurd’s trumpet features on the atmospheric introduction to “The Ballad Of Standing Rock”. In an interview for London Jazz News Gillespie described the subject matter of the song thus;
 “It’s a story song. It’s about a guy in long-term unemployment travelling to the Indian reservation of Standing Rock in North Dakota to get a job as a construction engineer. He is confronted by thousands of protesters and discovers that the Dakota Access Pipeline he’s hoping to help build will slash through ancient sacred Indian land. The guy crashes out drunk in his motel and wakes up in the night 200 years ago with Indians ruling their own land and herds of stampeding buffalo outside his motel window.”
And what a story she tells, her sympathies firmly with the Native Americans whose land is being usurped. The lyrical imagery is rich, evocative, poetic, and, where appropriate, convincingly hallucinatory. Meanwhile the music covers a wide dynamic range, brilliantly echoing and mirroring Gillespie’s words. Montague’s slide guitar adds an authentic slice of Americana, Jurd’s trumpet growls angrily, combining venomously with Montague’s increasingly distorted guitar. Like all good stories it has a beginning, a middle and an end with the final section featuring Devine’s anthemic harmonies and Downes’ rollicking piano in conjunction with Jurd’s soaring trumpet. Downes even adds a little Hammond prior to Gillespie’s gentle acoustic coda. This is truly epic stuff, the combination of words, voices and instruments richly evocative and totally effective.

Title track “Wishbones” is another twisted love song with its lyrical undercurrent of domestic violence and another memorable chorus. There’s more scabrous guitar from Montague, who makes every one of his solos count throughout the album. Downes doubles on piano and organ, briefly soloing on the latter.

The only non-original song on the album is an effective cover of the traditional American folk song “Moonshiner” in a suitably rootsy arrangement featuring Gillespie’s acoustic finger picking and Montague’s evocative slide guitar. It’s an unsentimental version of a song whose author remains unknown - “I wish I could go back in time and shake their hand”, remarks Gillespie.

Part of the reason for Gillespie’s five year semi withdrawal from the scene was the birth of her now three year old daughter, the subject of the song “Susannah Threw A Helicopter”. The lyrics are compiled from Susannah’s nursery school reports and present a convincing picture of childhood. Gillespie doesn’t shy away from how vicious children can be towards one another, there is theft, violence and territorialism in these tales, reflections of the adult world these children will grow into. But there’s a genuine maternal tenderness in Gillespie’s writing too, it’s not as bleak a song as Richard Thompson’s “End Of The Rainbow” or Peter Hammill’s “Wilhelmina”, although Hammill did at least offer some semblance of hope. That said most songs written about children are pretty sentimental and cringe worthy -  with her balance of realism and tenderness, laced with a sly humour, Gillespie avoids falling into that particular trap.

From the deeply personal Gillespie now gravitates to two linked, overtly political pieces to conclude the album. “The Last Of The Good Time Charlies” is a rollicking lampoon of the ‘Little Englander Brexiteer’ with its images of a lost “imperial nostalgia” - street parties, red telephone boxes, etc. Jurd’s brassy trumpet plays a substantial part in the intentionally bombastic arrangement.

The album concludes with “The Theft Of Marco Munoz”, a Honduran immigrant who hanged himself in a Texan jail after the US border patrol forcibly separated him from his family. “ Marco is the dark-skinned immigrant in the imagination of Charlie” says Gillespie, explaining the link between the two songs. Here, as if to highlight the contrast between Marco and Charlie the arrangement is deliberately sparse, just acoustic guitars and voices with Gillespie’s singing augmented by the evocative harmonies of Devine.


It’s been a long time coming but “Wishbones” is an excellent addition to the Gillespie canon. The quality of her song writing remains high, the songs again combining the personal with the political in intelligent, poetic and evocative fashion. It’s also good to hear her in the company of an excellent new band, this one masterminded by Kit Downes who excels in his role of arranger and producer as well as contributing some fine playing. Goller and Maddren combine to form a highly effective and supportive rhythm section while the cameos from Montague and Jurd add vibrant and iridescent splashes of colour, sometimes threatening to steal the show. Gillespie plays well, sings with great assurance and seems to have lost nothing of her creative spark.


The reviews for “Wishbones” have been overwhelmingly positive and Gillespie remains an artist with the potential to appeal to a wider following than the specialist jazz audience. Fans of the songwriters she admires such as Dylan, Waits, Mitchell and Leonard Cohen would do well to check her out. I’ve already converted my brother in law Mick, an avowed jazz hater but an avid Dylan-ologist to the Gillespie cause.

Gillespie will be touring the album in 2019. Please visit http://www.sarahgillespie.com for details of events.

Andy Hague - Coming of Age Rating: 4 out of 5 The long wait for Hague’s new album has been well worth it. The writing this time around is both more personal and more wide ranging, and the playing from all five musicians excellent.

Andy Hague

“Coming of Age”

(Ooh-Err Records, Ooh-Err 007)

Andy Hague is one of the stalwarts of the Bristol jazz scene in his various roles as multi-instrumentalist, composer, promoter and educator.

He’s probably best known as a talented trumpeter and “Coming of Age” represents his fifth album as a leader in this capacity and is the long awaited follow up to 2012’s Horace Silver inspired “Cross My Palm”, a recording that also paid homage to some of Hague’s trumpet heroes, among them Kenny Dorham, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Douglas.

Hague has worked with saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and trombonist Fred Wesley in the Back To Jazz Big Band and with the big band led by American trumpeter Bobby Shew. As a session musician he has worked with one of Bristol’s biggest musical exports, legendary “trip hop” exponents Portishead, as well as working on TV, theatre and film productions.

Hague is an also an accomplished and increasingly in demand drummer. He was worked in this capacity with small groups led by pianists John Law and Dave Jones.

He is the organiser of the weekly Friday night sessions at Bristol’s long running Be-Bop Jazz Club, currently domiciled at The Bear on the city’s Hotwell Road.

Hague is also an acclaimed educator, leading the well established Bristol Jazz Workshop programme, running a community big band and acting as a tutor on a variety of jazz summer schools and residential weekends. He also acts as an external examiner for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Turning now to Hague’s new album, which like its predecessor, features his long running quintet, a unit that includes some of Bristol’s finest jazz musicians, players with national reputations. Ben Waghorn returns on tenor sax alongside pianist Jim Blomfield and drummer Mark Whitlam. The only change is in the double bass department where Chris Jones takes over from Will Harris. “Cross My Palm” also featured guest appearances from vocalist Brigitte Beraha and Get The Blessing saxophonist Jake McMurchie but this new recording is exclusively the work of the core quintet.

As his credentials suggest Hague’s music is rooted in bebop and hard bop and he has a particular fondness for the ‘Blue Note’ sound. In many ways “Coming of Age” can be seen as a continuation of “Cross My Palm” but there’s an even greater focus on Hague’s writing in this collection of ten new original compositions. Once again Hague’s informative liner notes offer welcome insights into the inspirations behind the individual tunes.

The album commences with “The Displaced”, a tune “built on a rhythmic displacement figure for the bass and drums” but with a title that also references the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis. Musically the piece is a vibrant and colourful updating of the hard bop tradition with Hague and Waghorn delivering fluent but powerful solos on trumpet and tenor respectively. Blomfield, a prolific sideman and a bandleader in his own right, also dazzles with a typically inventive solo.

Following the unbridled energy of the opener “In The Bleak Mid-Autumn” slows things down and represents an effective contrast. Hague describes the piece as “a slow ¾ tune with some quite stark chords, which hopefully conveys an impression of a cold autumn day with bare tress and leaves on the ground”. Indeed there’s a sombre quality about the music, the brooding elegance of the piece enhanced by lyrical and reflective solos from Blomfield and Hague with Waghorn stretching out more forcefully. The leader’s own playing has something of a Kenny Wheeler quality about it, which represents praise indeed.

As on “Cross My Palm” Hague tips his hat to the music of previous jazz eras. “Stepping Down” is described as “an up-tempo swing tune which arose through trying to use John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ harmony to link keys which are minor thirds apart”. Although the debt to Coltrane is readily apparent the music still possesses an agreeable vibrancy and energy with Waghorn tearing into his tenor solo with an obvious relish. Likewise Hague, who is fleet, agile and fluent on trumpet. The leader’s strident solo is followed by an expansive and impressive offering from Blomfield. There’s also a drum feature for the versatile Whitlam.

The title track was actually written for Hague’s son’s eighteenth birthday. The composer describes it as “a kind of anthemic rock ballad” with “the sax and trumpet parts written in the style of a boy/girl vocal duet that you might hear in a big Broadway show number”. With its strong horn melodies and insistent grooves the piece has a suitably uplifting quality and finds room for eloquent solo statements from Hague on trumpet, Jones on melodic double bass, Blomfield at the piano and finally Waghorn on barnstorming tenor.

The title of “Great Minds” came about at a summer school when Hague and saxophonist Ed Jones discovered that each had written a tune based around the same chord sequence but entirely independently of each other. Hague’s piece develops out of Blomfield’s opening piano figure and has something of a Latin-esque feel about it, a quality enhanced by Whitlam’s colourful drumming. Solos come from Hague on trumpet and the consistently impressive Waghorn on tenor, plus the ever inventive Blomfield at the piano. There’s also an extended feature for Whitlam in the tune’s closing stages.

“Abraham” was written as far back as 2003 and honours the occasion when Hague jammed with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra following their appearance at Bristol’s Colston Hall. Swinging and bluesy the piece begins with sound of the leader’s unaccompanied trumpet and also features expansive solos from Waghorn, Blomfield and Jones.

“Loopy” is a more contemporary sounding piece written in ¾ and divided into three sections which are a major third apart, thus giving it a cyclic, perpetual motion feel. Ballad like in mood it features some of the quintet’s most lyrical playing with Hague soloing on velvety flugel horn and exchanging phrases with Waghorn’s more muscular tenor. The saxophonist also features as a soloist, as does Blomfield with a passage of limpid piano supported by Jones’ anchoring bass and Whitlam’s delightfully detailed cymbal work.

The quintet usually include a standard or two in their live performances. However as Hague remarks “the logistics of sorting out the royalties to include one on the CD eluded me”. Instead Hague contented himself with writing a ‘contrafact’ - “here is a bebop tune written on the changes of a favourite standard” he explains.
“ICU” develops out of Jones’ opening bass figure and subsequent dialogue with Whitlam’s drums. Hague deploys a cup mute to give the music an old fashioned, New Orleans type feel, a sound not often heard in contemporary small group jazz. Propelled by Jones’ bass groove the trumpeter takes the first solo and he’s followed by Waghorn’s old school style tenor. Blomfield positively dances around the keyboard, his solo leading into a series of thrilling exchanges between Hague (now un-muted) and Waghorn.

Of “Sing It Loud” Hague comments; “this tune has a very simple chant-like melody over some shifting harmony”. There’s a suitably incantatory feel to the music, a quality enhanced by Waghorn’s powerful, Coltrane inspired soloing. The saxophonist is followed by Hague on trumpet and Blomfield at the piano, both of whom also add substantial flesh to the bones of the composition.

The album closes with “Conflict Resolution” which Hague describes as “another rock anthem piece”. He continues; “after a certain amount of turmoil it resolves itself gently with some long notes in the horns over gently arpeggiated piano chords”. Appropriately it’s Blomfield’s piano that opens the piece, joined by Jones’ deeply resonant bass with Waghorn and Hague combining to state the melodic, anthemic theme. There’s an almost hymnal quality about the piece which includes solos from Hague on flugel and Waghorn on tenor, the pair also combining effectively. Blomfield’s solo is initially thoughtful and lyrical, gradually building in intensity before the piece eventually resolves itself in the manner that Hague describes.

It’s been more than six years since the release of “Cross My Palm” but on this evidence the long wait for Hague’s new album has been well worth it. The writing this time around is both more personal and more wide ranging and the playing from all five musicians excellent. Praise is again due to the production team of Hague and engineer Andrew Lawson at Fieldgate Studio for a pinpoint mix that ensures that each musician is heard with total clarity. Factor in Kate Hague’s beautiful cover photograph of the Albanian coast and you have a very classy package.

It is intended that the quintet will be touring the music from “Coming of Age” during 2019 with dates throughout the UK. Make sure you catch up with them when they’re in your area.

“Coming of Age” is available for streaming and download from Spotify, itunes and Amazon and physical copies from Bandcamp or direct from http://www.andyhague.co.uk

Coming of Age

Andy Hague

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Coming of Age

The long wait for Hague’s new album has been well worth it. The writing this time around is both more personal and more wide ranging, and the playing from all five musicians excellent.

Andy Hague

“Coming of Age”

(Ooh-Err Records, Ooh-Err 007)

Andy Hague is one of the stalwarts of the Bristol jazz scene in his various roles as multi-instrumentalist, composer, promoter and educator.

He’s probably best known as a talented trumpeter and “Coming of Age” represents his fifth album as a leader in this capacity and is the long awaited follow up to 2012’s Horace Silver inspired “Cross My Palm”, a recording that also paid homage to some of Hague’s trumpet heroes, among them Kenny Dorham, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Douglas.

Hague has worked with saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and trombonist Fred Wesley in the Back To Jazz Big Band and with the big band led by American trumpeter Bobby Shew. As a session musician he has worked with one of Bristol’s biggest musical exports, legendary “trip hop” exponents Portishead, as well as working on TV, theatre and film productions.

Hague is an also an accomplished and increasingly in demand drummer. He was worked in this capacity with small groups led by pianists John Law and Dave Jones.

He is the organiser of the weekly Friday night sessions at Bristol’s long running Be-Bop Jazz Club, currently domiciled at The Bear on the city’s Hotwell Road.

Hague is also an acclaimed educator, leading the well established Bristol Jazz Workshop programme, running a community big band and acting as a tutor on a variety of jazz summer schools and residential weekends. He also acts as an external examiner for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Turning now to Hague’s new album, which like its predecessor, features his long running quintet, a unit that includes some of Bristol’s finest jazz musicians, players with national reputations. Ben Waghorn returns on tenor sax alongside pianist Jim Blomfield and drummer Mark Whitlam. The only change is in the double bass department where Chris Jones takes over from Will Harris. “Cross My Palm” also featured guest appearances from vocalist Brigitte Beraha and Get The Blessing saxophonist Jake McMurchie but this new recording is exclusively the work of the core quintet.

As his credentials suggest Hague’s music is rooted in bebop and hard bop and he has a particular fondness for the ‘Blue Note’ sound. In many ways “Coming of Age” can be seen as a continuation of “Cross My Palm” but there’s an even greater focus on Hague’s writing in this collection of ten new original compositions. Once again Hague’s informative liner notes offer welcome insights into the inspirations behind the individual tunes.

The album commences with “The Displaced”, a tune “built on a rhythmic displacement figure for the bass and drums” but with a title that also references the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis. Musically the piece is a vibrant and colourful updating of the hard bop tradition with Hague and Waghorn delivering fluent but powerful solos on trumpet and tenor respectively. Blomfield, a prolific sideman and a bandleader in his own right, also dazzles with a typically inventive solo.

Following the unbridled energy of the opener “In The Bleak Mid-Autumn” slows things down and represents an effective contrast. Hague describes the piece as “a slow ¾ tune with some quite stark chords, which hopefully conveys an impression of a cold autumn day with bare tress and leaves on the ground”. Indeed there’s a sombre quality about the music, the brooding elegance of the piece enhanced by lyrical and reflective solos from Blomfield and Hague with Waghorn stretching out more forcefully. The leader’s own playing has something of a Kenny Wheeler quality about it, which represents praise indeed.

As on “Cross My Palm” Hague tips his hat to the music of previous jazz eras. “Stepping Down” is described as “an up-tempo swing tune which arose through trying to use John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ harmony to link keys which are minor thirds apart”. Although the debt to Coltrane is readily apparent the music still possesses an agreeable vibrancy and energy with Waghorn tearing into his tenor solo with an obvious relish. Likewise Hague, who is fleet, agile and fluent on trumpet. The leader’s strident solo is followed by an expansive and impressive offering from Blomfield. There’s also a drum feature for the versatile Whitlam.

The title track was actually written for Hague’s son’s eighteenth birthday. The composer describes it as “a kind of anthemic rock ballad” with “the sax and trumpet parts written in the style of a boy/girl vocal duet that you might hear in a big Broadway show number”. With its strong horn melodies and insistent grooves the piece has a suitably uplifting quality and finds room for eloquent solo statements from Hague on trumpet, Jones on melodic double bass, Blomfield at the piano and finally Waghorn on barnstorming tenor.

The title of “Great Minds” came about at a summer school when Hague and saxophonist Ed Jones discovered that each had written a tune based around the same chord sequence but entirely independently of each other. Hague’s piece develops out of Blomfield’s opening piano figure and has something of a Latin-esque feel about it, a quality enhanced by Whitlam’s colourful drumming. Solos come from Hague on trumpet and the consistently impressive Waghorn on tenor, plus the ever inventive Blomfield at the piano. There’s also an extended feature for Whitlam in the tune’s closing stages.

“Abraham” was written as far back as 2003 and honours the occasion when Hague jammed with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra following their appearance at Bristol’s Colston Hall. Swinging and bluesy the piece begins with sound of the leader’s unaccompanied trumpet and also features expansive solos from Waghorn, Blomfield and Jones.

“Loopy” is a more contemporary sounding piece written in ¾ and divided into three sections which are a major third apart, thus giving it a cyclic, perpetual motion feel. Ballad like in mood it features some of the quintet’s most lyrical playing with Hague soloing on velvety flugel horn and exchanging phrases with Waghorn’s more muscular tenor. The saxophonist also features as a soloist, as does Blomfield with a passage of limpid piano supported by Jones’ anchoring bass and Whitlam’s delightfully detailed cymbal work.

The quintet usually include a standard or two in their live performances. However as Hague remarks “the logistics of sorting out the royalties to include one on the CD eluded me”. Instead Hague contented himself with writing a ‘contrafact’ - “here is a bebop tune written on the changes of a favourite standard” he explains.
“ICU” develops out of Jones’ opening bass figure and subsequent dialogue with Whitlam’s drums. Hague deploys a cup mute to give the music an old fashioned, New Orleans type feel, a sound not often heard in contemporary small group jazz. Propelled by Jones’ bass groove the trumpeter takes the first solo and he’s followed by Waghorn’s old school style tenor. Blomfield positively dances around the keyboard, his solo leading into a series of thrilling exchanges between Hague (now un-muted) and Waghorn.

Of “Sing It Loud” Hague comments; “this tune has a very simple chant-like melody over some shifting harmony”. There’s a suitably incantatory feel to the music, a quality enhanced by Waghorn’s powerful, Coltrane inspired soloing. The saxophonist is followed by Hague on trumpet and Blomfield at the piano, both of whom also add substantial flesh to the bones of the composition.

The album closes with “Conflict Resolution” which Hague describes as “another rock anthem piece”. He continues; “after a certain amount of turmoil it resolves itself gently with some long notes in the horns over gently arpeggiated piano chords”. Appropriately it’s Blomfield’s piano that opens the piece, joined by Jones’ deeply resonant bass with Waghorn and Hague combining to state the melodic, anthemic theme. There’s an almost hymnal quality about the piece which includes solos from Hague on flugel and Waghorn on tenor, the pair also combining effectively. Blomfield’s solo is initially thoughtful and lyrical, gradually building in intensity before the piece eventually resolves itself in the manner that Hague describes.

It’s been more than six years since the release of “Cross My Palm” but on this evidence the long wait for Hague’s new album has been well worth it. The writing this time around is both more personal and more wide ranging and the playing from all five musicians excellent. Praise is again due to the production team of Hague and engineer Andrew Lawson at Fieldgate Studio for a pinpoint mix that ensures that each musician is heard with total clarity. Factor in Kate Hague’s beautiful cover photograph of the Albanian coast and you have a very classy package.

It is intended that the quintet will be touring the music from “Coming of Age” during 2019 with dates throughout the UK. Make sure you catch up with them when they’re in your area.

“Coming of Age” is available for streaming and download from Spotify, itunes and Amazon and physical copies from Bandcamp or direct from http://www.andyhague.co.uk

Chet Baker - Live in London Volume II Rating: 4 out of 5 These performances still sound fresh and exciting more than thirty years on and are a welcome addition to Baker’s voluminous recorded legacy.

Chet Baker

“Live In London Volume II”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0014)

One of the most celebrated archive recordings of 2017 was “Live in London”, a double set featuring the music of the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker (1929-88).

Released on the then fledgeling Ubuntu Music record label the recording represented the highlights from a six night residency that Baker played at the now defunct Canteen jazz venue in Covent Garden between 28th March and 2nd April 1983. He was joined by an excellent British trio led by pianist John Horler and featuring Jim Richardson on double bass and Tony Mann at the drums.

It was Richardson who had the good sense to record the quartet’s performances on a Sony TCS 300 cassette recorder, initially for his own private use. Over the years the bassist has shared the results with others who had been in the audience during what was generally agreed to have been a superb residency and many encouraged him to make the music commercially available.

This eventually came about more than thirty years after the event when Richardson met Martin Hummel late one night in Ronnie Scott’s. An American long resident in London Hummel had recently launched his Ubuntu Music imprint describing it as “an incubator label” dedicated to “helping artists bring their music to audiences”. In the main this has been the work of young, emerging British artists such as saxophonist Camilla George or the group Flying Machines but Hummel felt that the Baker recordings fell within his label’s remit and the original “Live in London” album was among Ubuntu’s earliest releases and did much to put the new label on the map. Co-founded by Hummel and trumpeter Quentin Collins Ubuntu is emerging as a major British jazz independent alongside the likes of Edition and Whirlwind.

Hummel’s liner notes reference the technical challenges encountered in bringing the quality of Richardson’s essentially home recordings up to commercial standard. This task was brilliantly undertaken by engineer Claudio Passavanti of Sunlightsquare Studios in London with Richardson acting as producer.
The sound quality on both of the “Live in London” recordings is remarkably good and both albums have been released with the blessing of the Chet Baker Estate.

Baker is often regarded as a tragic figure, a long term heroin addict who had had to re-learn his instrument following severe facial injuries suffered in a drug related beating. In his later years he was a frequent visitor to Europe, playing with pick up bands at venues right across the continent, his fees directly supporting his drug habit. 

However it is generally agreed that the Baker who visited the Canteen in 1983 was at the peak of his form at a comparatively late stage in his career. He performs with a remarkable fluency and assurance and was given terrific support by a highly capable and empathic British trio, with both Richardson and Mann having previously worked with the trumpeter in 1979.

Recalling the Canteen sessions Richardson says;
“While he was not in the best physical shape, Chet’s playing was commensurate with his reputation as a great jazz artist – passion, tenderness and downright aggressive swing, it’s all there in the music. I have a huge quantity of Chet Baker recordings, but what we have here is the best, in my opinion”.

In the notes for the first “Live In London” album Horler commented  “he seemed together, not distracted, we even had a rehearsal”.

 Tony Mann remembers Baker looking both unwell and unkempt and remaining seated throughout the performances but crucially “he was content and played like an angel”.  Mann also adds “he didn’t tell us what to play, for example whether he wanted sticks or brushes. There was a trust in our competence and our experience as musicians”.

The format of this second Canteen recording is the same as that of the original “Live in London” album with Baker and his colleagues again stretching out at length over the course of ten jazz and bebop standards. Baker was never a prolific composer and none of his own tunes feature here.

The album commences with the quartet’s version of “Strollin’”, written by the prolific pianist and composer Horace Silver. Baker states the theme with an assured fluency before embarking on the opening solo. Sebastian Scotney of London Jazz News, who was actually lucky enough to have been at The Canteen when this music was recorded recalls; “I remember being surprised by how assertive Baker’s playing was, how fluent and strong the melodic lines were”. There’s plenty of evidence to support that comment here. As on the earlier release the soloing order is generally Baker / Horler /Richardson/ Mann and the pianist comes up with a colourful and richly imaginative statement here. He’s followed by the warm tones of Richardson, who demonstrates a strong melodic sensibility and great dexterity at the bass.

The first “Live in London” release featured a superb version of pianist/composer Richie Beirach’s Latin-esque ballad “Leaving”, arguable the best performance of the entire set. Baker evidently had an affinity for Beirach’s writing and the pianist’s “Broken Wing” is another affecting ballad performance that again features some of Baker’s best and most emotive playing. Horler matches him with a solo that impresses with its flowing inventiveness. Initially inspired by Bill Evans the underrated Horler has long been one of the UK’s best mainstream piano soloists. Richardson also makes another memorable contribution from the bass and Mann drums with great sensitivity and acumen throughout.

Baker is also well known for his distinctive vocalising, his fragile but richly emotive voice seemingly a reflection of the vulnerability stemming from his drug dependency. The jazz standard “My Ideal” features a vocal that sounds even more bruised and plaintive than on the three vocal pieces heard on “Volume 1 “. The singing is despatched fairly early on but Baker follows this with a soft, breathy trumpet solo that embodies very similar qualities. Horler embraces a similar lyricism with his piano solo, while also adding a pleasing degree of colour and detail. Richardson’s bass solo is deep toned and warmly melodic and presages a gently haunting vocal reprise from Baker.

Another widely covered standard, “Stella by Starlight”, raises the tempo and features some of Baker’s most animated soloing to date. Richardson and Mann provide a crisp and easy swing which also fuels a sparkling solo from Horler. The piece also includes features for Richardson and Mann, the latter enjoying a brisk, but colourful, series of drum breaks.

Unaccompanied trumpet introduces the quartet’s take on “Down”, composed by Baker’s contemporary, Miles Davis. The two trumpeters were allegedly rivals but Baker clearly had a healthy respect for Davis’ work and his blues inflected solo here combines a slow burning intensity with a still considerable technical facility. Horler’s solo is relaxed but swinging. The consistently excellent Richardson weighs in with another thoroughly engaging bass feature and there’s a series of extended exchanges between Mann, Horler and Baker, with the drummer really rattling the tubs.

The second disc commences with a take on Herbie Hancock’s modern day standard “Dolphin Dance”. Baker is at his most imperious with a supremely fluent theme statement and opening solo.
Horler, too solos with an expansive fluency, as does Richardson at the bass, before Baker takes over once more.

Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” is presented in a languid ballad arrangement that features some of Baker’s most tender and emotive playing. He’s given wonderfully sympathetic support by the trio with Horler at his most flowingly lyrical on his own solo. Richardson’s richly melodic bass feature is a further highlight.

“Play the intro, John”, drawls Baker at the start of “When I fall In Love”. This is the cue for Baker’s second vocal number, his rendition of the familiar lyrics world weary but still inescapably bruised, fragile and vulnerable. His subsequent trumpet solo possesses a quiet majesty while the subsequent features for Horler and Richardson combine great lyricism with an effortless fluency. Mann is a gently supportive presence throughout while Baker again reprises his opening vocal.

There’s an understated joyousness about Baker’s playing on “Dear Old Stockholm”, a quality that’s also reflected in the solos of Horler and Richardson, with the pianist in particularly ebullient form.

The closing “Just Friends” begins and ends with a brief vocal, but it’s the agility of Baker’s bop inspired trumpet soloing that really catches the ear on one of the album’s more energetic offerings. Horler is similarly irrepressible as he stretches out thrillingly at the piano. Appropriately there are also features for bass and drums, as the contributions of both Richardson and Mann to the success of these quartet performances should never be underestimated.

Inevitably the arrival of “Chet Baker Live In London Vol. 2” can’t quite have the seismic impact of its predecessor but anybody who enjoyed the first recording will also get a great deal of enjoyment from this second offering. Once again there’s a genuine chemistry between Baker and his British colleagues with Horler, Richardson and Mann combining to bring the best out of their leader while also acquitting themselves superbly in the process, with the pianist and bassist both contributing a series of brilliant solos.

The cleaning up of the original cassette tape recordings has obviously been a labour of love and we will have to wait and see whether a third volume will eventually emerge. There’s no repeat items on the first two releases but presumably there must have been tunes that were played multiple times during the residency so it must depend on how much fresh material is left in the vaults.

Nevertheless Jim Richardson, Martin Hummel and Claudio Passavanti are to be congratulated for bringing this richly rewarding music to the world. These performances still sound fresh and exciting more than thirty years on and are a welcome addition to Baker’s voluminous recorded legacy.

 

Live in London Volume II

Chet Baker

Monday, December 31, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Live in London Volume II

These performances still sound fresh and exciting more than thirty years on and are a welcome addition to Baker’s voluminous recorded legacy.

Chet Baker

“Live In London Volume II”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0014)

One of the most celebrated archive recordings of 2017 was “Live in London”, a double set featuring the music of the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker (1929-88).

Released on the then fledgeling Ubuntu Music record label the recording represented the highlights from a six night residency that Baker played at the now defunct Canteen jazz venue in Covent Garden between 28th March and 2nd April 1983. He was joined by an excellent British trio led by pianist John Horler and featuring Jim Richardson on double bass and Tony Mann at the drums.

It was Richardson who had the good sense to record the quartet’s performances on a Sony TCS 300 cassette recorder, initially for his own private use. Over the years the bassist has shared the results with others who had been in the audience during what was generally agreed to have been a superb residency and many encouraged him to make the music commercially available.

This eventually came about more than thirty years after the event when Richardson met Martin Hummel late one night in Ronnie Scott’s. An American long resident in London Hummel had recently launched his Ubuntu Music imprint describing it as “an incubator label” dedicated to “helping artists bring their music to audiences”. In the main this has been the work of young, emerging British artists such as saxophonist Camilla George or the group Flying Machines but Hummel felt that the Baker recordings fell within his label’s remit and the original “Live in London” album was among Ubuntu’s earliest releases and did much to put the new label on the map. Co-founded by Hummel and trumpeter Quentin Collins Ubuntu is emerging as a major British jazz independent alongside the likes of Edition and Whirlwind.

Hummel’s liner notes reference the technical challenges encountered in bringing the quality of Richardson’s essentially home recordings up to commercial standard. This task was brilliantly undertaken by engineer Claudio Passavanti of Sunlightsquare Studios in London with Richardson acting as producer.
The sound quality on both of the “Live in London” recordings is remarkably good and both albums have been released with the blessing of the Chet Baker Estate.

Baker is often regarded as a tragic figure, a long term heroin addict who had had to re-learn his instrument following severe facial injuries suffered in a drug related beating. In his later years he was a frequent visitor to Europe, playing with pick up bands at venues right across the continent, his fees directly supporting his drug habit. 

However it is generally agreed that the Baker who visited the Canteen in 1983 was at the peak of his form at a comparatively late stage in his career. He performs with a remarkable fluency and assurance and was given terrific support by a highly capable and empathic British trio, with both Richardson and Mann having previously worked with the trumpeter in 1979.

Recalling the Canteen sessions Richardson says;
“While he was not in the best physical shape, Chet’s playing was commensurate with his reputation as a great jazz artist – passion, tenderness and downright aggressive swing, it’s all there in the music. I have a huge quantity of Chet Baker recordings, but what we have here is the best, in my opinion”.

In the notes for the first “Live In London” album Horler commented  “he seemed together, not distracted, we even had a rehearsal”.

 Tony Mann remembers Baker looking both unwell and unkempt and remaining seated throughout the performances but crucially “he was content and played like an angel”.  Mann also adds “he didn’t tell us what to play, for example whether he wanted sticks or brushes. There was a trust in our competence and our experience as musicians”.

The format of this second Canteen recording is the same as that of the original “Live in London” album with Baker and his colleagues again stretching out at length over the course of ten jazz and bebop standards. Baker was never a prolific composer and none of his own tunes feature here.

The album commences with the quartet’s version of “Strollin’”, written by the prolific pianist and composer Horace Silver. Baker states the theme with an assured fluency before embarking on the opening solo. Sebastian Scotney of London Jazz News, who was actually lucky enough to have been at The Canteen when this music was recorded recalls; “I remember being surprised by how assertive Baker’s playing was, how fluent and strong the melodic lines were”. There’s plenty of evidence to support that comment here. As on the earlier release the soloing order is generally Baker / Horler /Richardson/ Mann and the pianist comes up with a colourful and richly imaginative statement here. He’s followed by the warm tones of Richardson, who demonstrates a strong melodic sensibility and great dexterity at the bass.

The first “Live in London” release featured a superb version of pianist/composer Richie Beirach’s Latin-esque ballad “Leaving”, arguable the best performance of the entire set. Baker evidently had an affinity for Beirach’s writing and the pianist’s “Broken Wing” is another affecting ballad performance that again features some of Baker’s best and most emotive playing. Horler matches him with a solo that impresses with its flowing inventiveness. Initially inspired by Bill Evans the underrated Horler has long been one of the UK’s best mainstream piano soloists. Richardson also makes another memorable contribution from the bass and Mann drums with great sensitivity and acumen throughout.

Baker is also well known for his distinctive vocalising, his fragile but richly emotive voice seemingly a reflection of the vulnerability stemming from his drug dependency. The jazz standard “My Ideal” features a vocal that sounds even more bruised and plaintive than on the three vocal pieces heard on “Volume 1 “. The singing is despatched fairly early on but Baker follows this with a soft, breathy trumpet solo that embodies very similar qualities. Horler embraces a similar lyricism with his piano solo, while also adding a pleasing degree of colour and detail. Richardson’s bass solo is deep toned and warmly melodic and presages a gently haunting vocal reprise from Baker.

Another widely covered standard, “Stella by Starlight”, raises the tempo and features some of Baker’s most animated soloing to date. Richardson and Mann provide a crisp and easy swing which also fuels a sparkling solo from Horler. The piece also includes features for Richardson and Mann, the latter enjoying a brisk, but colourful, series of drum breaks.

Unaccompanied trumpet introduces the quartet’s take on “Down”, composed by Baker’s contemporary, Miles Davis. The two trumpeters were allegedly rivals but Baker clearly had a healthy respect for Davis’ work and his blues inflected solo here combines a slow burning intensity with a still considerable technical facility. Horler’s solo is relaxed but swinging. The consistently excellent Richardson weighs in with another thoroughly engaging bass feature and there’s a series of extended exchanges between Mann, Horler and Baker, with the drummer really rattling the tubs.

The second disc commences with a take on Herbie Hancock’s modern day standard “Dolphin Dance”. Baker is at his most imperious with a supremely fluent theme statement and opening solo.
Horler, too solos with an expansive fluency, as does Richardson at the bass, before Baker takes over once more.

Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” is presented in a languid ballad arrangement that features some of Baker’s most tender and emotive playing. He’s given wonderfully sympathetic support by the trio with Horler at his most flowingly lyrical on his own solo. Richardson’s richly melodic bass feature is a further highlight.

“Play the intro, John”, drawls Baker at the start of “When I fall In Love”. This is the cue for Baker’s second vocal number, his rendition of the familiar lyrics world weary but still inescapably bruised, fragile and vulnerable. His subsequent trumpet solo possesses a quiet majesty while the subsequent features for Horler and Richardson combine great lyricism with an effortless fluency. Mann is a gently supportive presence throughout while Baker again reprises his opening vocal.

There’s an understated joyousness about Baker’s playing on “Dear Old Stockholm”, a quality that’s also reflected in the solos of Horler and Richardson, with the pianist in particularly ebullient form.

The closing “Just Friends” begins and ends with a brief vocal, but it’s the agility of Baker’s bop inspired trumpet soloing that really catches the ear on one of the album’s more energetic offerings. Horler is similarly irrepressible as he stretches out thrillingly at the piano. Appropriately there are also features for bass and drums, as the contributions of both Richardson and Mann to the success of these quartet performances should never be underestimated.

Inevitably the arrival of “Chet Baker Live In London Vol. 2” can’t quite have the seismic impact of its predecessor but anybody who enjoyed the first recording will also get a great deal of enjoyment from this second offering. Once again there’s a genuine chemistry between Baker and his British colleagues with Horler, Richardson and Mann combining to bring the best out of their leader while also acquitting themselves superbly in the process, with the pianist and bassist both contributing a series of brilliant solos.

The cleaning up of the original cassette tape recordings has obviously been a labour of love and we will have to wait and see whether a third volume will eventually emerge. There’s no repeat items on the first two releases but presumably there must have been tunes that were played multiple times during the residency so it must depend on how much fresh material is left in the vaults.

Nevertheless Jim Richardson, Martin Hummel and Claudio Passavanti are to be congratulated for bringing this richly rewarding music to the world. These performances still sound fresh and exciting more than thirty years on and are a welcome addition to Baker’s voluminous recorded legacy.

 

Jean Toussaint Sextet - Jean Toussaint Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 14/12/2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 "A memorable evening!" Guest contributor Clive Downs enjoys the music of tenor saxophonist and composer Jean Toussaint and his sextet on the last date of their "Brother Raymond" tour.  

Jean Toussaint Sextet
Jazz at Progress
The Progress Theatre, Reading. Friday 14 December 2018


Full line-up:
Jean Toussaint, tenor saxophone, composer, leader
Byron Wallen, trumpet, composer, percussion
Tom Dunnett, trombone
Daniel Casimir, double bass, composer
Andrew McCormack, piano
Shane Forbes, drums

 
Just when you thought you could escape Brexit for a few hours at a jazz concert, an ex-Jazz Messenger reminds you with a composition prompted by it! Yes, it was Jean Toussaint, promising to warm up the capacity Progress audience on a freezing night, as the Sextet kicked off what was billed as the last stop on their UK (plus brief diversion to Paris) “Brother Raymond Tour”.
 
With the last concert of the year in Jazz at Progress’ varied 2018 - 2019 season, what had been planned as a quintet, evolved to a sextet with the late addition of Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Tom Dunnett on trombone.

Promoting his album, the “Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet: Brother Raymond”, the now London resident, former Jazz Messenger, presented a programme of original compositions (an encore one exception), mainly drawn from the CD.
 
Jazz musicians like giving their compositions cryptic titles (sometimes derived from foreign languages); Mr Toussaint explained “Amabo” was dedicated to Barack Obama, (spelt backwards). Fortuitously, he discovered this means ‘I shall love’ in Latin. Indeed the opener, starting with contrapuntal lines from the horns, had a strong latin (-american) feel. New York based Andrew McCormack provided a percussive piano solo.
 
The first of the evening’s compositions from other band members, “Gate Keeper”,again with latin rhythms,  by a late change to the line-up, composer and trumpeter Byron Wallen, was built on a simple two note repeated rhythmic figure.
 
Shane Forbes (2009 winner of The Musicians Company Young Musician Award) was in the spotlight for a drum feature at the start of the following number, second of the evening from the Album, “Doc”, composed by Jean Toussaint, and dedicated to the band leader’s cousin.
 
Hoping to assuage any referendum-induced negativity, Jean Toussaint introduced his next composition, “Major Changes”; based solely on major chords, this was a bright, up-tempo piece with a calypso pulse.
 
Opening the second set on a slow ballad, “Milena”, Jean Toussaint noted the number was dedicated to his girlfriend, the inspiration for much of his music. As with all the original material in the concert, the piece had a carefully planned structure with ensemble passages, solos with rhythm section, or horn accompaniment, and interludes.
 
Next we heard the CD title track, “Brother Raymond”, a medium-tempo composition with rich voicings from the front line. As well as instrumental ensembles, the horn players sang a wordless vocal riff over a bass and drum duet.
 
Another Birmingham Conservatoire graduate (and 2016 Young Jazz Musician Award winner), bassist Daniel Casimir wrote the beautiful “The Missing of Sleep” for his daughter, born four weeks previously. A deceptively simple figure in triple time, repeated first by tenor and bass, lead into a minor theme with Eastern sounding harmonies and rhythm. Muted trumpet and trombone lent further colour to the arrangement.
 
Last number in the main programme, “Mingus Fingus”, a tribute to the celebrated bass player, is not Charlie Mingus’ own (“Pre-Bird”) composition, but a further selection from “Brother Raymond”.
 
An encore started with a drum solo, leading into the familiar drum intro to Benny Golson’s “Blues March”, recalling Jean Toussaint’s earlier career with the band that made the tune famous. A great ending to a memorable evening!
  
With appreciation, and seasonal wishes, for the Progress, and the Jazz in Reading team.
 
Clive Downs
 
 

Jean Toussaint Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 14/12/2018.

Jean Toussaint Sextet

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Jean Toussaint Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 14/12/2018.
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

"A memorable evening!" Guest contributor Clive Downs enjoys the music of tenor saxophonist and composer Jean Toussaint and his sextet on the last date of their "Brother Raymond" tour.  

Jean Toussaint Sextet
Jazz at Progress
The Progress Theatre, Reading. Friday 14 December 2018


Full line-up:
Jean Toussaint, tenor saxophone, composer, leader
Byron Wallen, trumpet, composer, percussion
Tom Dunnett, trombone
Daniel Casimir, double bass, composer
Andrew McCormack, piano
Shane Forbes, drums

 
Just when you thought you could escape Brexit for a few hours at a jazz concert, an ex-Jazz Messenger reminds you with a composition prompted by it! Yes, it was Jean Toussaint, promising to warm up the capacity Progress audience on a freezing night, as the Sextet kicked off what was billed as the last stop on their UK (plus brief diversion to Paris) “Brother Raymond Tour”.
 
With the last concert of the year in Jazz at Progress’ varied 2018 - 2019 season, what had been planned as a quintet, evolved to a sextet with the late addition of Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Tom Dunnett on trombone.

Promoting his album, the “Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet: Brother Raymond”, the now London resident, former Jazz Messenger, presented a programme of original compositions (an encore one exception), mainly drawn from the CD.
 
Jazz musicians like giving their compositions cryptic titles (sometimes derived from foreign languages); Mr Toussaint explained “Amabo” was dedicated to Barack Obama, (spelt backwards). Fortuitously, he discovered this means ‘I shall love’ in Latin. Indeed the opener, starting with contrapuntal lines from the horns, had a strong latin (-american) feel. New York based Andrew McCormack provided a percussive piano solo.
 
The first of the evening’s compositions from other band members, “Gate Keeper”,again with latin rhythms,  by a late change to the line-up, composer and trumpeter Byron Wallen, was built on a simple two note repeated rhythmic figure.
 
Shane Forbes (2009 winner of The Musicians Company Young Musician Award) was in the spotlight for a drum feature at the start of the following number, second of the evening from the Album, “Doc”, composed by Jean Toussaint, and dedicated to the band leader’s cousin.
 
Hoping to assuage any referendum-induced negativity, Jean Toussaint introduced his next composition, “Major Changes”; based solely on major chords, this was a bright, up-tempo piece with a calypso pulse.
 
Opening the second set on a slow ballad, “Milena”, Jean Toussaint noted the number was dedicated to his girlfriend, the inspiration for much of his music. As with all the original material in the concert, the piece had a carefully planned structure with ensemble passages, solos with rhythm section, or horn accompaniment, and interludes.
 
Next we heard the CD title track, “Brother Raymond”, a medium-tempo composition with rich voicings from the front line. As well as instrumental ensembles, the horn players sang a wordless vocal riff over a bass and drum duet.
 
Another Birmingham Conservatoire graduate (and 2016 Young Jazz Musician Award winner), bassist Daniel Casimir wrote the beautiful “The Missing of Sleep” for his daughter, born four weeks previously. A deceptively simple figure in triple time, repeated first by tenor and bass, lead into a minor theme with Eastern sounding harmonies and rhythm. Muted trumpet and trombone lent further colour to the arrangement.
 
Last number in the main programme, “Mingus Fingus”, a tribute to the celebrated bass player, is not Charlie Mingus’ own (“Pre-Bird”) composition, but a further selection from “Brother Raymond”.
 
An encore started with a drum solo, leading into the familiar drum intro to Benny Golson’s “Blues March”, recalling Jean Toussaint’s earlier career with the band that made the tune famous. A great ending to a memorable evening!
  
With appreciation, and seasonal wishes, for the Progress, and the Jazz in Reading team.
 
Clive Downs
 
 

Swing Style Quartet - Swing Style Quartet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/12/2018. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 A good natured performance from four excellent local musicians who delivered their chosen material with skill, wit and charm, all impressing with the quality of their soloing.

SWING STYLE QUARTET, BRECON JAZZ CLUB, THE MUSE ARTS CENTRE, BRECON, 11/12/2018.

The final Brecon Jazz Club event of 2018 took place in a very festive looking Muse and featured a quartet of well known and popular musicians from the South Wales jazz scene.

Dubbing themselves the Swing Style Quartet this was a one off aggregation featuring musicians who had all worked with one another before, but never in this particular configuration.

The quartet was fronted by violinist Heulwen Thomas who, at the suggestion of Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall, recruited guitarist Mike Frost, pianist Gareth Hall and bassist Donnie Joe Sweeney to form something of a regional ‘supergroup’.

A great friend of Brecon Jazz Festival Thomas has previously fronted the ensembles Five Go Swing and Hot Club Gallois and is currently a member of Sweeney’s American Swing group, which features the US born Sweeney on guitar and vocals.

Hall also plays in the American Swing band and is a prolific sideman on the South Wales jazz scene who has played with vocalist Debs Hancock, trumpeter Ben Thomas and saxophonists Martha Skilton, Tamasin Reardon and Andrew Fawcett among many others.

Besides leading his American Swing group Sweeney is also an in demand double bass player who has worked with trumpeter Gethin Liddington, trombonist Gareth Roberts and saxophonists Tamasin Reardon and Glen Manby, again among many others.

I had seen Thomas, Hall and Sweeney perform individually and collectively on several previous occasions. Frost was less familiar to me, a Cardiff based guitarist who has collaborated with Thomas and Brecon Jazz’s Lynne Gornall in the staging of the regular Hot Club Swing nights at Cardiff’s Café Jazz. Thomas and Frost play regularly at these events which feature guest performers and which take place on Sunday evenings between 6.30 pm and 9.00 pm.

Tonight’s programme was standards based with Hot Club style items from the gypsy jazz repertoire interspersed with jazz and swing standards plus the occasional dash of samba and Latin. With Thomas and Sweeney contributing the occasional vocal number it was lively, swinging and very varied, not overly demanding on the listener but nevertheless a real tonic, and just the right sort of relaxed, light hearted gig for the run up to Christmas.

The quartet commenced in Hot Club style with “I’ve Found A New Baby” with solos coming from Thomas, Frost, and the supremely versatile pianist Hall who was playing an electric piano.

“Nature Boy” was given an innovative Latin twist with Hall stating the opening theme and taking the first solo. He was followed by Thomas, Frost and Sweeney.

“Minor Swing” represented a return to the Hot Club style with Frost and Hall featuring strongly. The piano is an instrument rarely heard in gypsy jazz due to its lack of portability but Hall found a way of integrating it successfully into the numerous Django Reinhardt compositions that we heard this evening.

The performance was introduced by Thomas with a vivacious and very Welsh sense of humour. She described the quartet’s forays away from the Reinhardt repertoire as “global journeys”. The first of these was announced only as “Brazil” and brought a little South American exoticism to the proceedings with Frost, Thomas and Hall featuring as soloists.

A fast paced “Swing 48” marked a return to the Reinhardt repertoire with Frost impressing with his rapidly picked solo on acoustic guitar as he shared the limelight with Hall. Frost is primarily a bebop inspired jazz guitarist who plays gypsy jazz only occasionally. Nevertheless he rose admirably to the challenge and names British guitarists Remi Harris and Nigel Price, both regular and popular visitors to Brecon Jazz, as contemporary musical inspirations.

“Exactly Like You” featured Thomas’ vocals, which were perfectly serviceable and brought a welcome element of variation to the quartet sound. She also featured as an instrumental soloist, her Grappelli inspired violin playing featuring alongside features for Frost on guitar and Hall on piano.

A lively “Lime House Blues” raised the energy levels once more, played at break neck pace in the classic Django Reinhardt style. Thomas stated the theme on violin and also featured as a soloist, together with Frost and Hall.

Also composed by Reinhardt a lovely version of “Nuages” illustrated a more sensitive side of his writing. Frost’s beautiful unaccompanied guitar introduction set the scene while the solos of Thomas and Hall found both musicians at their most lyrical.

A jaunty “Honeysuckle Rose” featured Frost and Hall and a lengthy first set concluded with Sweeney singing Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” with instrumental solos coming from Frost, Thomas and Hall.

Further memories of Donnie Joe’s American Swing band were evoked when Sweeney kicked off the second half alone, deploying the body of his bass as percussion and singing the masterful lyric of Cole Porter’s “Night And Day”. Subsequent instrumental solos came from Thomas, Frost and Hall, plus Sweeney himself on double bass.

“Coquette” steered the music back into Hot Club territory with the focus returning to Thomas and Frost, while a second South American excursion was undertaken with an arrangement of Jobim’s “One Note Samba” with solos from Thomas, Frost and Hall.

Frost’s unaccompanied guitar introduced “Django’ Tiger” which subsequently gathered pace and bite with further solos from Thomas, Hal and, Sweeney, plus Frost once more.

“Caravan”, written by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol was delivered in an arrangement that helped to give the music a dark, exotic edge. Frost’s guitar solo took on an oud like quality as he shared the spotlight with Thomas and Hall.

Thomas shone on “Shine”, opening and closing the piece either side of solos from Hall and Frost.

“Bossa Dorado”, another Hot Club favourite, featured solos from Frost, Thomas and Hall and the shorter second set concluded with another gypsy jazz staple, “Putting On The Ritz” with Thomas stating the theme and sharing the solos with Frost and Hall, with the latter’s pianistic syncopations a particularly striking feature of the performance.

This had been a good natured performance from four excellent local musicians who delivered their chosen material with skill, wit and charm, all impressing with the quality of their soloing. The performance was made more impressive by the fact that the absence of a drum kit was never noticed, and certainly not mentioned, as Frost, Hall and Sweeney divided up the rhythmic functions superbly.

There may not have been anything particularly profound here but it was still an evening of hugely enjoyable, swinging jazz that covered a surprising variety of musical bases. The audience loved it and the event represented the conclusion of a very successful 2018 for Brecon Jazz which has seen a series of well attended club events at The Muse throughout the year plus the highly successful Brecon Jazz Festival which took place at several venues around the town in August. Performers have included local heroes, London based touring bands and even a number of international musicians. Here’s to a similarly successful 2019.

Swing Style Quartet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/12/2018.

Swing Style Quartet

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Swing Style Quartet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/12/2018.

A good natured performance from four excellent local musicians who delivered their chosen material with skill, wit and charm, all impressing with the quality of their soloing.

SWING STYLE QUARTET, BRECON JAZZ CLUB, THE MUSE ARTS CENTRE, BRECON, 11/12/2018.

The final Brecon Jazz Club event of 2018 took place in a very festive looking Muse and featured a quartet of well known and popular musicians from the South Wales jazz scene.

Dubbing themselves the Swing Style Quartet this was a one off aggregation featuring musicians who had all worked with one another before, but never in this particular configuration.

The quartet was fronted by violinist Heulwen Thomas who, at the suggestion of Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall, recruited guitarist Mike Frost, pianist Gareth Hall and bassist Donnie Joe Sweeney to form something of a regional ‘supergroup’.

A great friend of Brecon Jazz Festival Thomas has previously fronted the ensembles Five Go Swing and Hot Club Gallois and is currently a member of Sweeney’s American Swing group, which features the US born Sweeney on guitar and vocals.

Hall also plays in the American Swing band and is a prolific sideman on the South Wales jazz scene who has played with vocalist Debs Hancock, trumpeter Ben Thomas and saxophonists Martha Skilton, Tamasin Reardon and Andrew Fawcett among many others.

Besides leading his American Swing group Sweeney is also an in demand double bass player who has worked with trumpeter Gethin Liddington, trombonist Gareth Roberts and saxophonists Tamasin Reardon and Glen Manby, again among many others.

I had seen Thomas, Hall and Sweeney perform individually and collectively on several previous occasions. Frost was less familiar to me, a Cardiff based guitarist who has collaborated with Thomas and Brecon Jazz’s Lynne Gornall in the staging of the regular Hot Club Swing nights at Cardiff’s Café Jazz. Thomas and Frost play regularly at these events which feature guest performers and which take place on Sunday evenings between 6.30 pm and 9.00 pm.

Tonight’s programme was standards based with Hot Club style items from the gypsy jazz repertoire interspersed with jazz and swing standards plus the occasional dash of samba and Latin. With Thomas and Sweeney contributing the occasional vocal number it was lively, swinging and very varied, not overly demanding on the listener but nevertheless a real tonic, and just the right sort of relaxed, light hearted gig for the run up to Christmas.

The quartet commenced in Hot Club style with “I’ve Found A New Baby” with solos coming from Thomas, Frost, and the supremely versatile pianist Hall who was playing an electric piano.

“Nature Boy” was given an innovative Latin twist with Hall stating the opening theme and taking the first solo. He was followed by Thomas, Frost and Sweeney.

“Minor Swing” represented a return to the Hot Club style with Frost and Hall featuring strongly. The piano is an instrument rarely heard in gypsy jazz due to its lack of portability but Hall found a way of integrating it successfully into the numerous Django Reinhardt compositions that we heard this evening.

The performance was introduced by Thomas with a vivacious and very Welsh sense of humour. She described the quartet’s forays away from the Reinhardt repertoire as “global journeys”. The first of these was announced only as “Brazil” and brought a little South American exoticism to the proceedings with Frost, Thomas and Hall featuring as soloists.

A fast paced “Swing 48” marked a return to the Reinhardt repertoire with Frost impressing with his rapidly picked solo on acoustic guitar as he shared the limelight with Hall. Frost is primarily a bebop inspired jazz guitarist who plays gypsy jazz only occasionally. Nevertheless he rose admirably to the challenge and names British guitarists Remi Harris and Nigel Price, both regular and popular visitors to Brecon Jazz, as contemporary musical inspirations.

“Exactly Like You” featured Thomas’ vocals, which were perfectly serviceable and brought a welcome element of variation to the quartet sound. She also featured as an instrumental soloist, her Grappelli inspired violin playing featuring alongside features for Frost on guitar and Hall on piano.

A lively “Lime House Blues” raised the energy levels once more, played at break neck pace in the classic Django Reinhardt style. Thomas stated the theme on violin and also featured as a soloist, together with Frost and Hall.

Also composed by Reinhardt a lovely version of “Nuages” illustrated a more sensitive side of his writing. Frost’s beautiful unaccompanied guitar introduction set the scene while the solos of Thomas and Hall found both musicians at their most lyrical.

A jaunty “Honeysuckle Rose” featured Frost and Hall and a lengthy first set concluded with Sweeney singing Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” with instrumental solos coming from Frost, Thomas and Hall.

Further memories of Donnie Joe’s American Swing band were evoked when Sweeney kicked off the second half alone, deploying the body of his bass as percussion and singing the masterful lyric of Cole Porter’s “Night And Day”. Subsequent instrumental solos came from Thomas, Frost and Hall, plus Sweeney himself on double bass.

“Coquette” steered the music back into Hot Club territory with the focus returning to Thomas and Frost, while a second South American excursion was undertaken with an arrangement of Jobim’s “One Note Samba” with solos from Thomas, Frost and Hall.

Frost’s unaccompanied guitar introduced “Django’ Tiger” which subsequently gathered pace and bite with further solos from Thomas, Hal and, Sweeney, plus Frost once more.

“Caravan”, written by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol was delivered in an arrangement that helped to give the music a dark, exotic edge. Frost’s guitar solo took on an oud like quality as he shared the spotlight with Thomas and Hall.

Thomas shone on “Shine”, opening and closing the piece either side of solos from Hall and Frost.

“Bossa Dorado”, another Hot Club favourite, featured solos from Frost, Thomas and Hall and the shorter second set concluded with another gypsy jazz staple, “Putting On The Ritz” with Thomas stating the theme and sharing the solos with Frost and Hall, with the latter’s pianistic syncopations a particularly striking feature of the performance.

This had been a good natured performance from four excellent local musicians who delivered their chosen material with skill, wit and charm, all impressing with the quality of their soloing. The performance was made more impressive by the fact that the absence of a drum kit was never noticed, and certainly not mentioned, as Frost, Hall and Sweeney divided up the rhythmic functions superbly.

There may not have been anything particularly profound here but it was still an evening of hugely enjoyable, swinging jazz that covered a surprising variety of musical bases. The audience loved it and the event represented the conclusion of a very successful 2018 for Brecon Jazz which has seen a series of well attended club events at The Muse throughout the year plus the highly successful Brecon Jazz Festival which took place at several venues around the town in August. Performers have included local heroes, London based touring bands and even a number of international musicians. Here’s to a similarly successful 2019.

Malija - Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one". Ian Mann on Malija's new direction.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.


It is highly unusual for Shrewsbury Jazz Network to present a gig in December, but this year constituted a very special exception. The organisation was celebrating its twenty first anniversary of presenting jazz in the town and the reception area at The Hive was deployed to exhibit a display of fascinating archive material including old gig posters and flyers. Congratulations to SJN on reaching this milestone. As for myself I’m a comparative newcomer, having only been covering events at The Hive on a regular basis since January 2010 when I reviewed the performance of pianist John Turville and his trio.

For tonight’s special anniversary gig SJN hosted the jazz ‘supergroup’ Malija featuring the talents of Mark Lockheart (tenor & soprano saxes), Liam Noble (keyboards) and Jasper Hoiby (double bass). . The band name is one of those conflated group monikers, sourced from the first two letters of the given names of the three performers, it could just as well have been Jamali or Lijama.

But in many ways it’s appropriate that it’s Lockheart’s letters that come first for it was on his 2009 quintet album “In Deep” (Edition Records) that these three musicians first played together, quickly establishing a rapport that eventually led to the formation of this smaller unit. 

As Malija the trio have released two albums for Edition Records, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017). Both albums were wholly acoustic, with Noble playing grand piano, and presented a robust blend of ‘chamber jazz’ with the three group members sharing the writing credits around but also bringing a strong improvisational element to the music in a series of fiercely interactive trio performances.

In April 2016 I witnessed a live performance by the trio at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, a gig that featured much excellent playing but which suffered as an ‘event’ due to a disappointingly small audience turnout and a consequent lack of atmosphere.

This wasn’t to be an issue this evening. Audience numbers at The Hive have been excellent throughout 2018 and a loyal and attentive crowd got behind Malija from the start to create the kind of supportive aura that was lacking at Wolverhampton.

The crowd reaction was particularly gratifying as this was a very different Malija to the one I had been expecting. The two albums plus the Wolverhampton show had been entirely acoustic but tonight found the trio taking a radically different approach to their music.

I’d sensed that something was different before the musicians even took to the stage. The performance area was strewn with electronic equipment, each musician had an array of foot pedals and Noble’s set up featured two electric keyboards plus a lap top. As Lockheart later explained the trio had become bored with playing their tunes with the original acoustic arrangements and had decided to shake things up a bit and do something different with their material, most of which was sourced tonight from the “Instinct” album.

Introduced by Lockheart’s unaccompanied tenor sax the opening segue of Lockheart’s “Kindred Spirit” and Noble’s “TV Shoes” saw the trio adding unfamiliar elements such as the live looping of Hoiby’s bowed bass drones and the sounds of Noble’s processed electric keyboards. Lockheart’s tenor remained the humanising voice within all of this as he soloed above the cerebrally funky grooves created by the combination of Noble’s keyboards and Hoiby’s vigorous pizzicato bass.

Noble’s “Moonstairs” was also given a radically different treatment to the recorded version with Hoiby’s looped wah wah bass and arco drones underscoring Lockheart’s piercing soprano sax.
The saxophonist subsequently switched to tenor on an atmospheric piece that successfully attempted to evoke the image of someone tentatively climbing a set of moonlit stairs.

The next piece was unannounced but commenced with the sound of looped arco bass allied to Noble’s keyboards and Lockheart’s tenor, the saxophonist stating the folk like theme with the melody doubled by Noble’s keyboards. Lockheart subsequently switched to soprano while Noble’s looped and layered keyboard textures suggested the influence of minimalism.

The first set concluded with another unannounced piece featuring the combination of soprano sax underscored by looped grooves and layered textures courtesy of Noble’s keys and Hoiby’s bass, the latter deploying both arco and pizzicato techniques. As the textures became darker Lockheart again moved to tenor as an intriguing first half came to a close.

What we had witnessed might not have been what many members of the audience were expecting to hear but they still gave a very favourable reaction to this new look, experimental Malija.

The second set commenced with Lockheart’s “Sanctuary”, a beautiful piece with a particularly memorable tenor sax melody, accompanied here by Hoiby both with and without the bow and with both the bassist and Noble making subtle but effective use of the effects at their disposal.

Also by Lockheart “Elegantly Posh” began with an engaging dialogue between the leader’s tenor sax and Noble’s Korg keyboard, on which he adopted a classic electric piano sound. Propelled by Hoiby’s plucked bass and with subsequent solos for both tenor and keyboard this was one of the most straightforward items of the evening.

“Let’s make something up” announced Hoiby, embodying the group’s improvisational impulses. His arco bass introduction was carefully looped and layered to produce a textured backdrop above which he soloed pizzicato. It reminded me of Eberhard Weber’s early experiments with this technique, particularly when Lockheart’s soprano sax was added to the equation, evoking memories of the late, great Charlie Mariano in Weber’s group, Colours.

Lockheart continued on soprano for the next, unannounced, piece, his playing evoking folk music elements, particularly the sounds of the Middle East, and exploring elements of wilful dissonance.

Finally we heard Noble’s “Panda Feathers”, a piece that in its recorded version commences with a lengthy stretch of unaccompanied acoustic piano. Tonight it was totally transformed as Noble delivered a solo passage on his Novation 615C Mk.II electric keyboard, plus all its switches, pedals and gizmos, the pianist now transformed into a mad scientist figure (complete with odd socks) as he conjured a mind boggling array of sounds from his set up. Grinning to himself and uttering the occasional laugh of approval Noble was clearly loving every minute of it. Bowed bass and tenor sax completed the equation and by this time any doubters had definitely been won over.

An excellent reception from the audience saw the trio return to deliver an encore, their signature tune “Malija” from their first album with Lockheart delivering an echoed, but otherwise fairly straight ahead solo on tenor, this followed by a bass and keyboards dialogue with Hoiby and Noble again deploying their various electronic devices.

Hoiby later told me that This had been only the second gig that the trio had played in this format, so the new look Malija is very definitely a work in progress. We had been privileged to witness a group experimenting in public, and I for one found the results fascinating. There have been times when I’ve found the acoustic version of the trio to be a little bloodless, so overall I quite welcome this new direction.

Noble and Hoiby were like a couple of kids at Christmas with their new toys and one senses that the
inspiration for this change of direction came from the bassist who is currently experimenting with electronica in his new trio Planet B, a collaboration with saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and drummer Mark Michel.

Malija are still refining their new direction and still getting to grips with the new technology – Noble’s keyboards threatened to break down completely at one point – but both he and Hoiby seemed to be relishing the new challenge. Lockheart seemed less certain, using looping and echo only very sparingly. One sensed that he might not be totally convinced by the apparent change in direction. It will be fascinating to see whether Malija continue to pursue this path in the future, especially if they record a third album. 

Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.

Malija

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.
Photography: Photograph of Liam Noble of Malija by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network

"Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one". Ian Mann on Malija's new direction.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.


It is highly unusual for Shrewsbury Jazz Network to present a gig in December, but this year constituted a very special exception. The organisation was celebrating its twenty first anniversary of presenting jazz in the town and the reception area at The Hive was deployed to exhibit a display of fascinating archive material including old gig posters and flyers. Congratulations to SJN on reaching this milestone. As for myself I’m a comparative newcomer, having only been covering events at The Hive on a regular basis since January 2010 when I reviewed the performance of pianist John Turville and his trio.

For tonight’s special anniversary gig SJN hosted the jazz ‘supergroup’ Malija featuring the talents of Mark Lockheart (tenor & soprano saxes), Liam Noble (keyboards) and Jasper Hoiby (double bass). . The band name is one of those conflated group monikers, sourced from the first two letters of the given names of the three performers, it could just as well have been Jamali or Lijama.

But in many ways it’s appropriate that it’s Lockheart’s letters that come first for it was on his 2009 quintet album “In Deep” (Edition Records) that these three musicians first played together, quickly establishing a rapport that eventually led to the formation of this smaller unit. 

As Malija the trio have released two albums for Edition Records, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017). Both albums were wholly acoustic, with Noble playing grand piano, and presented a robust blend of ‘chamber jazz’ with the three group members sharing the writing credits around but also bringing a strong improvisational element to the music in a series of fiercely interactive trio performances.

In April 2016 I witnessed a live performance by the trio at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, a gig that featured much excellent playing but which suffered as an ‘event’ due to a disappointingly small audience turnout and a consequent lack of atmosphere.

This wasn’t to be an issue this evening. Audience numbers at The Hive have been excellent throughout 2018 and a loyal and attentive crowd got behind Malija from the start to create the kind of supportive aura that was lacking at Wolverhampton.

The crowd reaction was particularly gratifying as this was a very different Malija to the one I had been expecting. The two albums plus the Wolverhampton show had been entirely acoustic but tonight found the trio taking a radically different approach to their music.

I’d sensed that something was different before the musicians even took to the stage. The performance area was strewn with electronic equipment, each musician had an array of foot pedals and Noble’s set up featured two electric keyboards plus a lap top. As Lockheart later explained the trio had become bored with playing their tunes with the original acoustic arrangements and had decided to shake things up a bit and do something different with their material, most of which was sourced tonight from the “Instinct” album.

Introduced by Lockheart’s unaccompanied tenor sax the opening segue of Lockheart’s “Kindred Spirit” and Noble’s “TV Shoes” saw the trio adding unfamiliar elements such as the live looping of Hoiby’s bowed bass drones and the sounds of Noble’s processed electric keyboards. Lockheart’s tenor remained the humanising voice within all of this as he soloed above the cerebrally funky grooves created by the combination of Noble’s keyboards and Hoiby’s vigorous pizzicato bass.

Noble’s “Moonstairs” was also given a radically different treatment to the recorded version with Hoiby’s looped wah wah bass and arco drones underscoring Lockheart’s piercing soprano sax.
The saxophonist subsequently switched to tenor on an atmospheric piece that successfully attempted to evoke the image of someone tentatively climbing a set of moonlit stairs.

The next piece was unannounced but commenced with the sound of looped arco bass allied to Noble’s keyboards and Lockheart’s tenor, the saxophonist stating the folk like theme with the melody doubled by Noble’s keyboards. Lockheart subsequently switched to soprano while Noble’s looped and layered keyboard textures suggested the influence of minimalism.

The first set concluded with another unannounced piece featuring the combination of soprano sax underscored by looped grooves and layered textures courtesy of Noble’s keys and Hoiby’s bass, the latter deploying both arco and pizzicato techniques. As the textures became darker Lockheart again moved to tenor as an intriguing first half came to a close.

What we had witnessed might not have been what many members of the audience were expecting to hear but they still gave a very favourable reaction to this new look, experimental Malija.

The second set commenced with Lockheart’s “Sanctuary”, a beautiful piece with a particularly memorable tenor sax melody, accompanied here by Hoiby both with and without the bow and with both the bassist and Noble making subtle but effective use of the effects at their disposal.

Also by Lockheart “Elegantly Posh” began with an engaging dialogue between the leader’s tenor sax and Noble’s Korg keyboard, on which he adopted a classic electric piano sound. Propelled by Hoiby’s plucked bass and with subsequent solos for both tenor and keyboard this was one of the most straightforward items of the evening.

“Let’s make something up” announced Hoiby, embodying the group’s improvisational impulses. His arco bass introduction was carefully looped and layered to produce a textured backdrop above which he soloed pizzicato. It reminded me of Eberhard Weber’s early experiments with this technique, particularly when Lockheart’s soprano sax was added to the equation, evoking memories of the late, great Charlie Mariano in Weber’s group, Colours.

Lockheart continued on soprano for the next, unannounced, piece, his playing evoking folk music elements, particularly the sounds of the Middle East, and exploring elements of wilful dissonance.

Finally we heard Noble’s “Panda Feathers”, a piece that in its recorded version commences with a lengthy stretch of unaccompanied acoustic piano. Tonight it was totally transformed as Noble delivered a solo passage on his Novation 615C Mk.II electric keyboard, plus all its switches, pedals and gizmos, the pianist now transformed into a mad scientist figure (complete with odd socks) as he conjured a mind boggling array of sounds from his set up. Grinning to himself and uttering the occasional laugh of approval Noble was clearly loving every minute of it. Bowed bass and tenor sax completed the equation and by this time any doubters had definitely been won over.

An excellent reception from the audience saw the trio return to deliver an encore, their signature tune “Malija” from their first album with Lockheart delivering an echoed, but otherwise fairly straight ahead solo on tenor, this followed by a bass and keyboards dialogue with Hoiby and Noble again deploying their various electronic devices.

Hoiby later told me that This had been only the second gig that the trio had played in this format, so the new look Malija is very definitely a work in progress. We had been privileged to witness a group experimenting in public, and I for one found the results fascinating. There have been times when I’ve found the acoustic version of the trio to be a little bloodless, so overall I quite welcome this new direction.

Noble and Hoiby were like a couple of kids at Christmas with their new toys and one senses that the
inspiration for this change of direction came from the bassist who is currently experimenting with electronica in his new trio Planet B, a collaboration with saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and drummer Mark Michel.

Malija are still refining their new direction and still getting to grips with the new technology – Noble’s keyboards threatened to break down completely at one point – but both he and Hoiby seemed to be relishing the new challenge. Lockheart seemed less certain, using looping and echo only very sparingly. One sensed that he might not be totally convinced by the apparent change in direction. It will be fascinating to see whether Malija continue to pursue this path in the future, especially if they record a third album. 

Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one.

Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart - Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 23/11/2018 Rating: 4 out of 5 "The programme bore the hallmark of classic bebop; frenetic, fast-paced, virtuosic and with a competitive edge that kept everyone on their toes", writes guest contributor Trevor Bannister.

The Steve Fishwick Quintet
 
Progress Theatre, Friday 23 November 2018
 
Steve Fishwick trumpet, Grant Stewart tenor saxophone, John Pearce piano, Jeremy Brown bass, Matt Fishwick drums.
  
Jazz in Reading scored a mighty coup in securing the appearance on Friday 23 November of New York based tenor saxophone stylist Grant Stewart for his only UK gig outside London and ahead of performances at the BopFest Jazz Festival. Blessed with a huge sound and a slightly laid-back approach reminiscent of his idol Dexter Gordon, Stewart stamped his mark on proceedings from the outset, with front-line partner Steve Fishwick providing a perfect foil with his lightning fast trumpet. The programme bore the hallmark of classic bebop; frenetic, fast-paced, virtuosic and with a competitive edge that kept everyone on their toes - a powerful reminder of the ‘new’ music that took shape in the after-hours sessions of 1940s’ New York, its potent force, enduring influence and a celebration of the creative genius of those who created it.
 
‘Dance of The Infidels’, an evocative and in these turbulent modern times slightly non-PC title, penned by the brilliant though severely troubled pianist Bud Powell in 1949, established the musical formula for the evening. The brief theme played in unison by the front-line provided the starting blocks for a string of freely improvised solos, resolved by a series of ‘round robin’ exchanges of varying length to bring the performance to a close.
 
Sounds simple? Don’t be deceived, this is music to challenge the most technically gifted of musicians who would stumble at the first hurdle without a rhythm section of world class quality. John Pearce’s elegant touch at the keyboard combined seamlessly with Jeremy Brown’s beautiful bass lines to keep the music safely on course, while Matt Fishwick’s mercurial drumming, an object lesson in bebop percussion, not only anticipated the route chosen by the principal soloists, but regularly pointed them towards new areas of exploration. Even Steve Fishwick, the epitome of poise and confidence, was moved to express his relief at the conclusion of John Coltrane’s ‘Straight Street’. ‘That was hard,’ he commented.
 
‘Autumn in New York’, a ballad feature for the tenor saxophone of special guest Grant Stewart brought a change of pace.  With the sensitive support of the rhythm he perfectly captured the bitter-sweet sentiments of Vernon Duke’s composition from 1934. I especially loved the way he stretched the notes to hold every drop of emotion and the gorgeous cadenza which brought the tune to a close.
 
‘Woody n’ You’, was written for bandleader Woody Herman by Dizzy Gillespie in 1942. Though never used by Woody it became a jazz standard nevertheless and in the hands of Messrs. Fishwick and Company it’s not difficult to understand why; its appealing Afro-Cuban rhythms provided a launching platform for some dazzling solos.
 
The beboppers’ modus operandi of reworking established popular standards by grafting an exotic title and a new, usually much more complex melody, on the original chords served the dual purpose of breathing fresh life into ageing musical war-horses and more importantly, generating a useful source of revenue from royalties. In this way ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ gave birth to ‘Sweet Clifford’ under the guiding hand of trumpet master Clifford Brown, a number which brought the first set to a truly thunderous climax with a breathtaking drum solo from Matt Fishwick.
 
Tadd Dameron’s ‘The Scene Is Clean’, memorably recorded by Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins in 1956, opened the second set. Steve Fishwick and Grant Stewart wove their way around Matt’s atmospheric drum patterns before settling down to a gentle swinger at mid-tempo in which John Pearce’s elegant piano solo was one of many highlights.
 
‘Little Willie Leaps’ came to life at a 1948 session for Savoy records, which for contractual reasons nominated Miles Davis as leader of what was in reality the Charlie Parker Quintet. Davis provided the four titles, while Parker himself played tenor rather than his familiar alto sax.  Unlike the brooding melancholy of so much of Miles’ work, this number is full of joyous expression which set the band into full flight.
 
Steve Fishwick took centre stage for Victor Young’s timeless classic ‘Stella by Starlight’. A reflective ballad beloved of trumpet and saxophone players alike, Steve demonstrated his remarkable powers of invention and technical assurance aided by the subtle support of his colleagues – the haunting tone of Grant Stewart’s tenor, John Pearce’s ‘moonlight’ touch on the keyboard, Jeremy Brown’s perfectly placed bass notes and Matt Fishwick’s gentle brushwork.
 
A great evening drew to a close with a bow to the time-honoured jazz tradition of ‘sitting-in’. A whispered aside from Grant to Steve resulted in an invitation to tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts, who ‘just happened’ to be seated in the audience and who ‘just happened’ to have his instrument at hand, to join the band. In a mixture of surprise on his part and the delight of the capacity audience, Osian duly appeared stage-left to contribute an excellent solo to ‘Bouncin’ with Bud’. He remained on stage for an ‘all hands to the deck’ tear-up on ‘Tea for Two’, which closed with another explosive drum work-out by Matt Fishwick.
 
One notable feature of the gig which could easily have been overlooked and left unreported, was that no amplification and only one microphone, used only for announcements, were in use throughout the evening. In other words, the wonderful quality of the sound, especially the full, rounded tone of Grant Stewart’s saxophone emanated solely from the instruments themselves and the natural acoustic of the Progress auditorium.
 
We hope that Grant enjoyed his visit to Reading ahead of a full weekend of appearances at the BopFest Jazz Festival and before flying home to the States for a gig in Kansas. As one might say, ‘Reading today. Tomorrow the world!’
 
As ever, our thanks to everyone at Progress for providing such warm hospitality and for ensuring that every aspect of the evening ran smoothly.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 
 
 

Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 23/11/2018

Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Steve Fishwick Quintet featuring Grant Stewart, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 23/11/2018
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

"The programme bore the hallmark of classic bebop; frenetic, fast-paced, virtuosic and with a competitive edge that kept everyone on their toes", writes guest contributor Trevor Bannister.

The Steve Fishwick Quintet
 
Progress Theatre, Friday 23 November 2018
 
Steve Fishwick trumpet, Grant Stewart tenor saxophone, John Pearce piano, Jeremy Brown bass, Matt Fishwick drums.
  
Jazz in Reading scored a mighty coup in securing the appearance on Friday 23 November of New York based tenor saxophone stylist Grant Stewart for his only UK gig outside London and ahead of performances at the BopFest Jazz Festival. Blessed with a huge sound and a slightly laid-back approach reminiscent of his idol Dexter Gordon, Stewart stamped his mark on proceedings from the outset, with front-line partner Steve Fishwick providing a perfect foil with his lightning fast trumpet. The programme bore the hallmark of classic bebop; frenetic, fast-paced, virtuosic and with a competitive edge that kept everyone on their toes - a powerful reminder of the ‘new’ music that took shape in the after-hours sessions of 1940s’ New York, its potent force, enduring influence and a celebration of the creative genius of those who created it.
 
‘Dance of The Infidels’, an evocative and in these turbulent modern times slightly non-PC title, penned by the brilliant though severely troubled pianist Bud Powell in 1949, established the musical formula for the evening. The brief theme played in unison by the front-line provided the starting blocks for a string of freely improvised solos, resolved by a series of ‘round robin’ exchanges of varying length to bring the performance to a close.
 
Sounds simple? Don’t be deceived, this is music to challenge the most technically gifted of musicians who would stumble at the first hurdle without a rhythm section of world class quality. John Pearce’s elegant touch at the keyboard combined seamlessly with Jeremy Brown’s beautiful bass lines to keep the music safely on course, while Matt Fishwick’s mercurial drumming, an object lesson in bebop percussion, not only anticipated the route chosen by the principal soloists, but regularly pointed them towards new areas of exploration. Even Steve Fishwick, the epitome of poise and confidence, was moved to express his relief at the conclusion of John Coltrane’s ‘Straight Street’. ‘That was hard,’ he commented.
 
‘Autumn in New York’, a ballad feature for the tenor saxophone of special guest Grant Stewart brought a change of pace.  With the sensitive support of the rhythm he perfectly captured the bitter-sweet sentiments of Vernon Duke’s composition from 1934. I especially loved the way he stretched the notes to hold every drop of emotion and the gorgeous cadenza which brought the tune to a close.
 
‘Woody n’ You’, was written for bandleader Woody Herman by Dizzy Gillespie in 1942. Though never used by Woody it became a jazz standard nevertheless and in the hands of Messrs. Fishwick and Company it’s not difficult to understand why; its appealing Afro-Cuban rhythms provided a launching platform for some dazzling solos.
 
The beboppers’ modus operandi of reworking established popular standards by grafting an exotic title and a new, usually much more complex melody, on the original chords served the dual purpose of breathing fresh life into ageing musical war-horses and more importantly, generating a useful source of revenue from royalties. In this way ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ gave birth to ‘Sweet Clifford’ under the guiding hand of trumpet master Clifford Brown, a number which brought the first set to a truly thunderous climax with a breathtaking drum solo from Matt Fishwick.
 
Tadd Dameron’s ‘The Scene Is Clean’, memorably recorded by Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins in 1956, opened the second set. Steve Fishwick and Grant Stewart wove their way around Matt’s atmospheric drum patterns before settling down to a gentle swinger at mid-tempo in which John Pearce’s elegant piano solo was one of many highlights.
 
‘Little Willie Leaps’ came to life at a 1948 session for Savoy records, which for contractual reasons nominated Miles Davis as leader of what was in reality the Charlie Parker Quintet. Davis provided the four titles, while Parker himself played tenor rather than his familiar alto sax.  Unlike the brooding melancholy of so much of Miles’ work, this number is full of joyous expression which set the band into full flight.
 
Steve Fishwick took centre stage for Victor Young’s timeless classic ‘Stella by Starlight’. A reflective ballad beloved of trumpet and saxophone players alike, Steve demonstrated his remarkable powers of invention and technical assurance aided by the subtle support of his colleagues – the haunting tone of Grant Stewart’s tenor, John Pearce’s ‘moonlight’ touch on the keyboard, Jeremy Brown’s perfectly placed bass notes and Matt Fishwick’s gentle brushwork.
 
A great evening drew to a close with a bow to the time-honoured jazz tradition of ‘sitting-in’. A whispered aside from Grant to Steve resulted in an invitation to tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts, who ‘just happened’ to be seated in the audience and who ‘just happened’ to have his instrument at hand, to join the band. In a mixture of surprise on his part and the delight of the capacity audience, Osian duly appeared stage-left to contribute an excellent solo to ‘Bouncin’ with Bud’. He remained on stage for an ‘all hands to the deck’ tear-up on ‘Tea for Two’, which closed with another explosive drum work-out by Matt Fishwick.
 
One notable feature of the gig which could easily have been overlooked and left unreported, was that no amplification and only one microphone, used only for announcements, were in use throughout the evening. In other words, the wonderful quality of the sound, especially the full, rounded tone of Grant Stewart’s saxophone emanated solely from the instruments themselves and the natural acoustic of the Progress auditorium.
 
We hope that Grant enjoyed his visit to Reading ahead of a full weekend of appearances at the BopFest Jazz Festival and before flying home to the States for a gig in Kansas. As one might say, ‘Reading today. Tomorrow the world!’
 
As ever, our thanks to everyone at Progress for providing such warm hospitality and for ensuring that every aspect of the evening ran smoothly.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 
 
 

Various Artists - EFG London Jazz Festival, Friday 16th November 2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys the first day of the Festival and performances by Kinetika Bloco and Dave Douglas' Uplift sextet.

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2018

Day One, Friday 16th November 2018

I have just returned from immersing myself in music for ten days at the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival. During my time in the capital I witnessed many memorable musical performances, all of which will be reviewed on this site.

But before I get down to business some ‘thank yous’. First to our long suffering hosts Paul and Richard, who for several years now have generously provided us with accommodation for the duration of the Festival. I couldn’t even begin to contemplate covering EFG LJF without their help. Thanks guys, your kindness is greatly appreciated.

Thanks also to Sally Reeves of Serious for sorting out my ticketing requirements with her customary courtesy and efficiency.

I’m also grateful to those individual club owners and publicists that I approached directly. I’ll mention their names later in conjunction with the appropriate reviews.

Thanks to photographer Tim Dickeson for allowing me to use his images to illustrate my articles and to all my friends in the jazz community that I met along the way.

KINETICA BLOCO, CLORE BALLROOM, SOUTHBANK CENTRE

The first music that I heard at the 2018 EFG LJF came from Kinetika Bloco, a London based performance group featuring young musicians and dancers. Formed in 2000 by the late Mat Fox the project is community based and the emphasis is on musical education and performance. Bloco runs regular summer schools and many of the rising stars of British jazz have passed through their ranks, with several staying on as ‘Bloco Leaders’, among them trumpeters Sheila Maurice-Grey and Mark Kavuma. Other Bloco Leaders include experienced jazz educators such as trumpeter Claude Deppa, trombonist Andy Grappy and percussionist Sam Agard.

Today’s performance was billed as “First In Line” in honour of the New Orleans marching band tradition and commenced with a group of musicians emerging from the bowels of the Southbank Centre and parading around the venue playing “Down By The Riverside”, this quickly followed by “Caravan”. Led by Maurice-Grey, of Nerija fame, the ensemble included two trumpets, two trombones, one alto sax, two tenors, tuba and parade and snare drums. Having circumnavigated the room they took to the stage where they were joined by throngs of other musicians, many of them very young, filing in from other parts of the venue to create a giant New Orleans style band, all of them clad in colourful marching uniforms. There must have been around fifty musicians crammed onto the Clore Ballroom stage!

With all the members of Bloco now on stage the performance continued. The group’s message is one of unity and their music reached out to explore other elements of the African diaspora including the sounds of Cuba, the township style jazz of South Africa and contemporary funk and hip hop. The Bloco membership also included singers and dancers and the show was vibrant, energetic and colourful with some of the dazzling dance moves more akin to gymnastics. A narration explained something of the reasons behind the musical globe trotting and helped to spread the Bloco message but in the hubbub of the Clore the words were difficult to follow. Meanwhile the presence of a brightly coloured, ever twirling umbrella reminded us that this was a performance that remained deeply rooted in the music of New Orleans.

I didn’t witness the entire Bloco show as we headed off for something to eat at one of the nearby restaurants prior to the main concert event in the Queen Elizabeth Hall featuring Dave Douglas’ new Uplift project. Nevertheless I enjoyed what I heard, and indeed saw.

Bloco enjoy registered charity status and their educational and outreach work represents an important strand of the cultural life of an increasingly diverse London. As performers they have appeared at numerous jazz festivals and performed at Notting Hill Carnival, the London Marathon and at the 2012 Olympics. They even performed for the late Nelson Mandela, who described them as “charming”.

Others were charmed today as this colourful, energetic, good natured performance got the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival off to a vibrant start. Well done to all at Kinetika Bloco, keep up the good work.

DAVE DOUGLAS ‘UPLIFT’, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL

New York based trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas has been at the forefront of the US jazz scene for the last twenty five years. A fiercely independent musician he established his own Greenleaf label in 2005 which now acts as the sole outlet for his music as well as providing a platform for other, similarly inclined, artists.

During the course of a prolific career Douglas has released over forty albums as a leader and has worked with all of the leading musicians on the contemporary New York jazz scene. Never a musician to dwell in one place for too long his projects have been consistently interesting and innovative and have incorporated elements of folk and classical music alongside various jazz styles.

The Uplift project began as a ‘subscription series’ with Douglas releasing one track per month throughout 2018 via his website. The twelve pieces have now been consolidated as a single CD, “Uplift”, on the Greenleaf label.

Douglas describes the music to be heard on “Uplift” as “twelve pieces for positive action” with the album liner notes stating;


“ All hands on deck. It’s imperative that all of us, together, work for positive change in this challenging moment. 2018 is a crucial year in the history of equality and democracy in our country and around the globe. It’s easy to be demoralized by the blizzard of news. UPLIFT began as a reminder - to myself - to stay positive, stay active, and stay engaged. I hope this message reaches others through this music. Each monthly release will be devoted to a major issue of concern for this world and its people: voting rights, racial equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, welcoming immigrants, wealth equality, diplomacy, science and education, humanities and culture, sensible gun laws, love of our environment and our culture, love for each other. Peace. 

Thankfully, I’m not the only one engaged in this sort of outreach. Indeed, I hope that every artist, every individual, uses their work to shout out about positive change and activism during this year and beyond. This is my small contribution: to draw attention to the good people and organizations doing so much heavy lifting on these issues. 

The players in this ensemble were chosen for their brilliance as improvisers, but also for their attention to community. Each of these musicians is devoted to playing a role in the music within the music, to being part of a social structure in creating a whole music. I’m grateful to each of them for lending their ears and their profound intuition for music. 

Add your voice. Engage in your local community and in local sources of information and news. I will be making personal contributions to all of the organizations mentioned each month. I hope you will, too. Call your representatives. Run for office. Speak up. All hands on deck.”

Some of the proceeds from the sales of “Uplift” will be donated by Douglas to a variety of left leaning US charities.

The personnel on the “Uplift” album features Joe Lovano (reeds), Mary Halvorson and Julian Lage (guitars) Bill Laswell (electric bass) and Ian Chang (drums, electronics).

The line up that Douglas brought to London to play this music was hardly any less stellar with Douglas, Halvorson and Laswell joined by Jon Irabagon on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Rafiq Bhatia on guitar and Ches Smith on drums and percussion.

The programme was sourced entirely from the “Uplift”  recording and although not every track was represented the group presented the music in approximately the album running order, beginning with the opening cut “The Power Of The Vote”. Introduced by Smith at the drums the piece had something of an electric era Miles Davis feel about it and included a compelling guitar solo from the ever distinctive Halvorson, afforded more space here than with the excellent Illegal Crowns quartet at the Vortex at the 2017 EFG LJF. Stretched out well beyond the parameters of the album recording the piece also included a series of fiery exchanges between the leader’s trumpet and Irabagon’s tenor, the latter then stretching out with a tumultuous solo of his own. Bhatia’s solo introduced a rock influenced sense of heaviness as he and Halvorson traded contrasting phrases, their fiery six string dialogue fuelled by the thunderous rhythms generated by Laswell and Smith. Mixing elements of jazz and avant rock this was an attention grabbing start, a real ‘call to arms’.

“Lift All Boats” was to prove less frenetic as Douglas’ muted trumpet shared whispered exchanges with Irabagon’s bass clarinet as Smith added subtle cymbal shimmers and percussion shadings. The drummer confined himself to brushes as Irabagon and Halvorson now entered into dialogue, only picking the sticks again to provide the hypnotic rhythms behind the leader’s muted trumpet solo.

This wasn’t obviously ‘political’ music despite the urgency of the opening piece. Overt political commentary only surfaced when Douglas picked up the mic to explain something of the concept behind the “Uplift” project and lambasting Donald Trump in the process, to a predictable chorus of cheers. I’ve yet to meet a musician who is either pro-Trump or pro-Brexit, and don’t expect to do so any time soon.

Back to the music and “Truly The Sun” with its bass and drum introduction and features for bass clarinet and muted trumpet in a scaled down group with the two guitarists sitting out.

“Love Is A Battle” incorporated suitably martial drumming allied to the leader’s stentorian trumpeting and Irabagon’s powerful tenor sax soloing.

Halvorson’s guitar picking introduced “Shine Like The Dawn”, dovetailing effectively with Douglas’ muted trumpet, Bhatia’s guitar soundscaping and Smith’s almost subliminal mallet rumbles. Despite being one of the quietest moments of the set this was also one of the most effective, the valedictory tone a reminder that Armistice Day had fallen just a few days earlier.

“Every Town” was announced by the sound of Irabagon’s unaccompanied tenor sax, the solo intro longer and more forceful than Lovano’s recorded version and with Irabagon deploying slap tongue techniques and multiphonics. He was subsequently joined in duet by the leader’s trumpet and subsequently by the shadings of the twin guitarists. As the music gathered momentum it became less atmospheric and more anthemic in tone, thanks to a rousing theme statement from the two horns and a soaring guitar solo from Bhatia. Uplifting, indeed.

Introduced by the two guitars and featuring muted trumpet and bass clarinet “Trail Of Dreams” had something of a ‘chamber jazz’ feel about it with Halvorson the featured soloist, shadowed by Bhatia’s subtle FX and Smith’s discrete percussive commentary.

“Sharing A Small Planet” saw the group returning to the brasher sound of the opener and “Love Is A Battle” with Laswell’s electric bass rumble and Smith’s dynamic drumming establishing a celebratory, hard driving groove that fuelled declamatory solos from Douglas’ stentorian trumpet and Irabagon’s muscular tenor sax. Bhatia again demonstrated his rock chops with a powerful guitar solo and the piece was crowned by a volcanic, virtuoso drum solo from the impressive Smith that elicited the loudest cheer of the night.

Summoned back for a deserved encore the sextet delivered “The Garden” with its odd meter grooves, textured guitars and Miles-ian feel prompting an absorbing trumpet/bass clarinet dialogue underscored by Laswell’s liquid electric bass lines. Douglas’ last solo of the night featured some of his most strident trumpeting while Bhatia’s guitar solo incorporated keyboard like sounds and hinted at the influence of minimalism.

This was an enjoyable and thought provoking concert that featured some excellent playing from all the musicians concerned. The use of two guitars was particularly unusual and the contrast in styles of Halvorson and Bhatia was highly effective and distinctive. Afterwards I treated myself to a copy of the “Uplift” CD, which sounds thoroughly convincing in the home listening environment.

The performance was introduced by Soweto Kinch and was recorded by the BBC for Radio 3’s Jazz Now programme. The concert was broadcast on Monday 19th November but at the time of writing can still be heard on BBC iPlayer.

All in all an excellent start to the 2018 EFG LJF, my only complaint being that the air conditioning was full on in the QEH and the room was bloody freezing, which did reduce my appreciation of the music somewhat. This and the fact that the hall wasn’t entirely full did place a bit of a damper on the atmosphere. I was to visit the QEH three more times during the Festival and happily this mistake wasn’t made again. I’m sure comments must have been made by others at the time, so thanks for listening.

EFG London Jazz Festival, Friday 16th November 2018.

Various Artists

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

EFG London Jazz Festival, Friday 16th November 2018.

Ian Mann enjoys the first day of the Festival and performances by Kinetika Bloco and Dave Douglas' Uplift sextet.

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2018

Day One, Friday 16th November 2018

I have just returned from immersing myself in music for ten days at the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival. During my time in the capital I witnessed many memorable musical performances, all of which will be reviewed on this site.

But before I get down to business some ‘thank yous’. First to our long suffering hosts Paul and Richard, who for several years now have generously provided us with accommodation for the duration of the Festival. I couldn’t even begin to contemplate covering EFG LJF without their help. Thanks guys, your kindness is greatly appreciated.

Thanks also to Sally Reeves of Serious for sorting out my ticketing requirements with her customary courtesy and efficiency.

I’m also grateful to those individual club owners and publicists that I approached directly. I’ll mention their names later in conjunction with the appropriate reviews.

Thanks to photographer Tim Dickeson for allowing me to use his images to illustrate my articles and to all my friends in the jazz community that I met along the way.

KINETICA BLOCO, CLORE BALLROOM, SOUTHBANK CENTRE

The first music that I heard at the 2018 EFG LJF came from Kinetika Bloco, a London based performance group featuring young musicians and dancers. Formed in 2000 by the late Mat Fox the project is community based and the emphasis is on musical education and performance. Bloco runs regular summer schools and many of the rising stars of British jazz have passed through their ranks, with several staying on as ‘Bloco Leaders’, among them trumpeters Sheila Maurice-Grey and Mark Kavuma. Other Bloco Leaders include experienced jazz educators such as trumpeter Claude Deppa, trombonist Andy Grappy and percussionist Sam Agard.

Today’s performance was billed as “First In Line” in honour of the New Orleans marching band tradition and commenced with a group of musicians emerging from the bowels of the Southbank Centre and parading around the venue playing “Down By The Riverside”, this quickly followed by “Caravan”. Led by Maurice-Grey, of Nerija fame, the ensemble included two trumpets, two trombones, one alto sax, two tenors, tuba and parade and snare drums. Having circumnavigated the room they took to the stage where they were joined by throngs of other musicians, many of them very young, filing in from other parts of the venue to create a giant New Orleans style band, all of them clad in colourful marching uniforms. There must have been around fifty musicians crammed onto the Clore Ballroom stage!

With all the members of Bloco now on stage the performance continued. The group’s message is one of unity and their music reached out to explore other elements of the African diaspora including the sounds of Cuba, the township style jazz of South Africa and contemporary funk and hip hop. The Bloco membership also included singers and dancers and the show was vibrant, energetic and colourful with some of the dazzling dance moves more akin to gymnastics. A narration explained something of the reasons behind the musical globe trotting and helped to spread the Bloco message but in the hubbub of the Clore the words were difficult to follow. Meanwhile the presence of a brightly coloured, ever twirling umbrella reminded us that this was a performance that remained deeply rooted in the music of New Orleans.

I didn’t witness the entire Bloco show as we headed off for something to eat at one of the nearby restaurants prior to the main concert event in the Queen Elizabeth Hall featuring Dave Douglas’ new Uplift project. Nevertheless I enjoyed what I heard, and indeed saw.

Bloco enjoy registered charity status and their educational and outreach work represents an important strand of the cultural life of an increasingly diverse London. As performers they have appeared at numerous jazz festivals and performed at Notting Hill Carnival, the London Marathon and at the 2012 Olympics. They even performed for the late Nelson Mandela, who described them as “charming”.

Others were charmed today as this colourful, energetic, good natured performance got the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival off to a vibrant start. Well done to all at Kinetika Bloco, keep up the good work.

DAVE DOUGLAS ‘UPLIFT’, QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL

New York based trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas has been at the forefront of the US jazz scene for the last twenty five years. A fiercely independent musician he established his own Greenleaf label in 2005 which now acts as the sole outlet for his music as well as providing a platform for other, similarly inclined, artists.

During the course of a prolific career Douglas has released over forty albums as a leader and has worked with all of the leading musicians on the contemporary New York jazz scene. Never a musician to dwell in one place for too long his projects have been consistently interesting and innovative and have incorporated elements of folk and classical music alongside various jazz styles.

The Uplift project began as a ‘subscription series’ with Douglas releasing one track per month throughout 2018 via his website. The twelve pieces have now been consolidated as a single CD, “Uplift”, on the Greenleaf label.

Douglas describes the music to be heard on “Uplift” as “twelve pieces for positive action” with the album liner notes stating;


“ All hands on deck. It’s imperative that all of us, together, work for positive change in this challenging moment. 2018 is a crucial year in the history of equality and democracy in our country and around the globe. It’s easy to be demoralized by the blizzard of news. UPLIFT began as a reminder - to myself - to stay positive, stay active, and stay engaged. I hope this message reaches others through this music. Each monthly release will be devoted to a major issue of concern for this world and its people: voting rights, racial equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, welcoming immigrants, wealth equality, diplomacy, science and education, humanities and culture, sensible gun laws, love of our environment and our culture, love for each other. Peace. 

Thankfully, I’m not the only one engaged in this sort of outreach. Indeed, I hope that every artist, every individual, uses their work to shout out about positive change and activism during this year and beyond. This is my small contribution: to draw attention to the good people and organizations doing so much heavy lifting on these issues. 

The players in this ensemble were chosen for their brilliance as improvisers, but also for their attention to community. Each of these musicians is devoted to playing a role in the music within the music, to being part of a social structure in creating a whole music. I’m grateful to each of them for lending their ears and their profound intuition for music. 

Add your voice. Engage in your local community and in local sources of information and news. I will be making personal contributions to all of the organizations mentioned each month. I hope you will, too. Call your representatives. Run for office. Speak up. All hands on deck.”

Some of the proceeds from the sales of “Uplift” will be donated by Douglas to a variety of left leaning US charities.

The personnel on the “Uplift” album features Joe Lovano (reeds), Mary Halvorson and Julian Lage (guitars) Bill Laswell (electric bass) and Ian Chang (drums, electronics).

The line up that Douglas brought to London to play this music was hardly any less stellar with Douglas, Halvorson and Laswell joined by Jon Irabagon on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Rafiq Bhatia on guitar and Ches Smith on drums and percussion.

The programme was sourced entirely from the “Uplift”  recording and although not every track was represented the group presented the music in approximately the album running order, beginning with the opening cut “The Power Of The Vote”. Introduced by Smith at the drums the piece had something of an electric era Miles Davis feel about it and included a compelling guitar solo from the ever distinctive Halvorson, afforded more space here than with the excellent Illegal Crowns quartet at the Vortex at the 2017 EFG LJF. Stretched out well beyond the parameters of the album recording the piece also included a series of fiery exchanges between the leader’s trumpet and Irabagon’s tenor, the latter then stretching out with a tumultuous solo of his own. Bhatia’s solo introduced a rock influenced sense of heaviness as he and Halvorson traded contrasting phrases, their fiery six string dialogue fuelled by the thunderous rhythms generated by Laswell and Smith. Mixing elements of jazz and avant rock this was an attention grabbing start, a real ‘call to arms’.

“Lift All Boats” was to prove less frenetic as Douglas’ muted trumpet shared whispered exchanges with Irabagon’s bass clarinet as Smith added subtle cymbal shimmers and percussion shadings. The drummer confined himself to brushes as Irabagon and Halvorson now entered into dialogue, only picking the sticks again to provide the hypnotic rhythms behind the leader’s muted trumpet solo.

This wasn’t obviously ‘political’ music despite the urgency of the opening piece. Overt political commentary only surfaced when Douglas picked up the mic to explain something of the concept behind the “Uplift” project and lambasting Donald Trump in the process, to a predictable chorus of cheers. I’ve yet to meet a musician who is either pro-Trump or pro-Brexit, and don’t expect to do so any time soon.

Back to the music and “Truly The Sun” with its bass and drum introduction and features for bass clarinet and muted trumpet in a scaled down group with the two guitarists sitting out.

“Love Is A Battle” incorporated suitably martial drumming allied to the leader’s stentorian trumpeting and Irabagon’s powerful tenor sax soloing.

Halvorson’s guitar picking introduced “Shine Like The Dawn”, dovetailing effectively with Douglas’ muted trumpet, Bhatia’s guitar soundscaping and Smith’s almost subliminal mallet rumbles. Despite being one of the quietest moments of the set this was also one of the most effective, the valedictory tone a reminder that Armistice Day had fallen just a few days earlier.

“Every Town” was announced by the sound of Irabagon’s unaccompanied tenor sax, the solo intro longer and more forceful than Lovano’s recorded version and with Irabagon deploying slap tongue techniques and multiphonics. He was subsequently joined in duet by the leader’s trumpet and subsequently by the shadings of the twin guitarists. As the music gathered momentum it became less atmospheric and more anthemic in tone, thanks to a rousing theme statement from the two horns and a soaring guitar solo from Bhatia. Uplifting, indeed.

Introduced by the two guitars and featuring muted trumpet and bass clarinet “Trail Of Dreams” had something of a ‘chamber jazz’ feel about it with Halvorson the featured soloist, shadowed by Bhatia’s subtle FX and Smith’s discrete percussive commentary.

“Sharing A Small Planet” saw the group returning to the brasher sound of the opener and “Love Is A Battle” with Laswell’s electric bass rumble and Smith’s dynamic drumming establishing a celebratory, hard driving groove that fuelled declamatory solos from Douglas’ stentorian trumpet and Irabagon’s muscular tenor sax. Bhatia again demonstrated his rock chops with a powerful guitar solo and the piece was crowned by a volcanic, virtuoso drum solo from the impressive Smith that elicited the loudest cheer of the night.

Summoned back for a deserved encore the sextet delivered “The Garden” with its odd meter grooves, textured guitars and Miles-ian feel prompting an absorbing trumpet/bass clarinet dialogue underscored by Laswell’s liquid electric bass lines. Douglas’ last solo of the night featured some of his most strident trumpeting while Bhatia’s guitar solo incorporated keyboard like sounds and hinted at the influence of minimalism.

This was an enjoyable and thought provoking concert that featured some excellent playing from all the musicians concerned. The use of two guitars was particularly unusual and the contrast in styles of Halvorson and Bhatia was highly effective and distinctive. Afterwards I treated myself to a copy of the “Uplift” CD, which sounds thoroughly convincing in the home listening environment.

The performance was introduced by Soweto Kinch and was recorded by the BBC for Radio 3’s Jazz Now programme. The concert was broadcast on Monday 19th November but at the time of writing can still be heard on BBC iPlayer.

All in all an excellent start to the 2018 EFG LJF, my only complaint being that the air conditioning was full on in the QEH and the room was bloody freezing, which did reduce my appreciation of the music somewhat. This and the fact that the hall wasn’t entirely full did place a bit of a damper on the atmosphere. I was to visit the QEH three more times during the Festival and happily this mistake wasn’t made again. I’m sure comments must have been made by others at the time, so thanks for listening.

Metamorphic - The Two Fridas Rating: 3-5 out of 5 In the current overall musical climate it’s good to hear artists making heartfelt personal statements and taking musical and creative risks.

Metamorphic

“The Two Fridas”

(Discus Music DISCUS 65CD)

You have to hand it to the pianist and composer Laura Cole, she’s not a musician who does things by halves. 2018 has been a big year for Cole with the release on the Discus record label of two, yes, two, double albums.

The first of these to appear was “The Two Fridas”, featuring Cole’s long running group Metamorphic. This was quickly followed by “Enough”, a collection of solo piano performances naturally credited to Laura Cole.

I intend to take a separate look at the solo piano recording so will turn first to “The Two Fridas”, a recording in part inspired by the work of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. During a childhood illness (specifically polio) the young Kahlo invented an imaginary friend or alter-ego she kept with her for the rest of her life, this ‘Other Frida’ eventually inspiring the famous painting “The Two Fridas”.

The album artwork features images inspired by the Kahlo painting, the new works coming from the celebrated ‘jazz painter’ Gina Southgate (‘Fridas for Laura on the front cover) and from Gonzalo Fuentes (‘Ride on a pig, then die and go’ back cover).

“The Two Fridas” is the third recording by the Metamorphic group and follows the single albums “The Rock Between” (2011) and “Coalescence”  (2013). Both of these albums attracted considerable critical acclaim, and both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

For this latest recording Metamoprhic has, ahem, metamorphosed in an octet with Cole on piano and Rhodes joined by long standing members Kerry Andrew (vocals), Chris Williams (alto sax) and John Martin (tenor & soprano sax). The new look Metamorphic also features Ollie Dover on bass clarinet, Johnny Hunter on drums and twin bassists Seth Bennett (acoustic) and Ruth Goller (acoustic and electric).

Cole’s writing has always been intensely personal and she describes both this album and the companion solo piano work as “an attempt to express intimate emotions and thoughts through the creative and recording process, they aim to tell a story”. Both double albums also reflect Cole’s interest in “symmetry and the double sidedness of things, maybe as a Gemini”.

On both the “Two Fridas” and “Enough” recordings each composition or improvisation is dedicated to a specific person. The first disc, “Frida 1”, commences with “Cellular”, dedicated to saxophonist Jason Yarde and originally written as a large ensemble piece for the band Cole co-led with Seth Bennett, the Bennett-Cole Orchestra, which appeared briefly on “Coalescence”.
Cole says of the piece;
“There are four simple musical cells to the composition. What interests me is how, as a band, we move between these cells; the relationship and transition between between improvisation and written music”.
The music itself commences with what sounds like collective improvisation, the slur of reeds, the rustle of drums and percussion and the grainy sound of bowed basses. Out of this a more obviously written passage emerges with Andrew’s wordless vocals an integral part of the ensemble sound, but that spirit of improvisation still remains close to the fore. Hunter eventually strikes up a propulsive drum groove as the piece enters its next phase, with the horns and Andrew’s voice carrying the melody, as well as sheering off into improvisational jousting. The piece ends as it began with a final brief bout of almost free playing.

“Deer Medicine”, dedicated to Ellen Scrimgeour, was inspired by dream imagery, the deer in Cole’s dream indicating a new spirit of gentleness. Scrimgeour gave Cole a text explaining the significance of this, and those words form the basis of Andrew’s improvised vocal. The powerful ensemble playing is punctuated by an atmospheric piano / bass duet mid tune, this leading to a dramatic closing section featuring increasingly dynamic ensemble passages allied to the elemental power of Andrew’s wordless vocals.

“Charcole 1”, dedicated to Cole’s family, is the first of three wholly improvised pieces and was inspired by a trio gig that Cole witnessed in Brussels featuring guitar, duduk, percussion and electronics. Metamorphic’s improvisation inevitably sounds very different but retains something of that trio’s spirit. There is a pre-composed element, the evocative words written by Cole and whispered, sung and spoken by her, in conjunction Andrew. The sombre, poetic quality of the words is reflected in the scratchy, grainy improvisations of the musicians with eerie bowed bass, the furtive rustle of percussion, the piping of the reeds.

“The Mountains, The Sea / The Island” is a two part, ten minute epic that draws its inspiration from John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island” quote. The leader’s piano engages in dialogue with Hunter’s percussion on the dramatically atmospheric opening passage. Cole’s piano then leads the next section in trio mode, with wordless vocals and reeds gradually added to the arrangement as the piece slowly gathers momentum, Dover’s bass clarinet is a distinctive component here. Layers are added until Hunter establishes an off kilter funk groove that forms the basis for a thrilling series of saxophone exchanges featuring Martin and Williams. The piece ends as it began with Cole at the piano.

The title of “Dark Thundering Moon” came from Cole’s then eight year old daughter, Martha, who was writing the screenplay for an imaginary film. Cole asked if she could write the music for the film, and dedicates the recorded work to Martha. The music is as atmospheric and evocative as the title, beginning with what sounds like a freely improvised passage featuring the deep sonorities of bass clarinet and bowed double bass. From this emerges a brief written section featuring piano and wordless vocals, followed by a more dynamic ensemble passage featuring Andrew’s singing of Cole’s lyrics, the words including those of the track title. Cole takes an extended piano solo, her first thus far, and demonstrates considerable fluency and inventiveness. Hitherto she’s largely been content to be a member of an ensemble where dense writing meets free improvisation and conventional jazz soloing is something of a rarity. It’s back to the ensemble and Andrew’s adventurous but emotive vocalising in a rousing section that includes some dynamic drumming from the excellent Johnny Hunter. The composition then resolves itself peacefully around the sound of the leader’s piano.

“Frida 1” ends with Cole’s ingenious “Little Woman, Lonely Wing”, a splicing together of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, conceived after Cole envisioned an imaginary meeting between the pair.  It represents one of Cole’s numerous “hybrid” pieces where she splices the music of two different composers together, linking them with compositional ideas of her own. This piece first appeared as a full band performance on “Coalescence” but is here revisited in the piano trio format featuring just piano, bass and drums. In this sense it’s one of the most ‘conventional’ performances on the album but it’s still a fascinating listening experience that casts the music of Coleman and Hendrix in a new light and offers further evidence of Cole’s considerable pianistic abilities (the piece is dedicated to fellow pianist Alex Wilson). Hunter and the bassist (presumably Bennett, both arco and pizzicato techniques are deployed) also impress as they offer empathic support in a highly interactive trio performance.

“Frida II” commences with the brief group improvisation “26,302”. The piece is dedicated to the late Bob Hesketh, a long standing friend of the Cole family who was a crossword compiler for The Times. Number 26,302 was the final crossword that he compiled for the paper and the words that are spoken and sung derived from his clues, so he gets a writing credit of sorts. The music consists of clues spoken by a range of female and male voices, the speakers being Andrew, Cole, Goller, Dover and Williams. The music features both plucked and bowed double bass, presumably Goller and Bennett working in tandem.

“Senken” is dedicated to Corey Mwamba, the Derby based vibraphonist who acts as producer on Cole’s solo piano album “Enough”. “Senken” is about cuts” declares Cole, “musically, metaphorically and actually, and how we, as musicians deal with this”. It commences with the pure sounds of Andrew’s wordless voice, this soon joined by double bass and a choir of reeds. The addition of drums gives the music urgency and heft and spurs Andrew into a more abstract and aggressive style of vocalising that is extremely effective. A second, more animated horn chorale, leads into a powerful closing section braying horns,  Goller on electric and powerful, rock influenced drum grooves. There’s even time for a more impressionistic coda of voice and Rhodes on a piece that crams a lot of information into its four minutes forty seconds duration.

“Digging For Memories” is this disc’s epic, a seventeen minute suite inspired by the harrowing experience of Cole’s visit to Auschwitz. The title is a quote from the German Jewish writer Walter Benjamin who fled from Occupied France intending to escape to the US but became trapped at the border in Northern Spain, eventually taking his own life. Cole’s composition is dedicated to the philosopher and author Georges Didi-Huberman who also visited Auschwitz and similarly struggled to find an appropriate artistic response. Cole’s composition is a powerful piece of work featuring some rousing ensemble playing, initially led by Andrew’s strident wordless vocal but also featuring strong contributions from Cole, the reeds and drummer Hunter. A relative calm after the opening storm features an impressive pizzicato double bass solo. The piece also includes a spoken word section as Cole’s poem “The Phoenix”, with its images of fire, ash and rebirth is convincingly delivered by Andrew. The music that follows this is suitably atmospheric and reflective with unsettling saxophone multiphonics. The closing section is ushered in by a double bass motif, the mood of the piece subtly altering as the music gathers momentum, becoming positively anthemic as Andrew’s voice soars and the twin saxes take flight.

“Charcole II” represents a second setting of Cole’s poem and was recorded immediately after the first version. Cole decided that both takes were worthy of a place on the finished recording. The mood and many of the musical elements remain the same. Cole dedicates the performance to the saxophonist Tony Kofi.

The title track draws on some unique sources of inspiration. At the time of its release Cole sent a copy of “Coalescence” to the great Robert Wyatt. Wyatt was suitably impressed and forwarded a postcard to Cole offering words of support and encouragement. The visual image on this card was of the Kahlo painting “The Two Fridas”. Inspired jointly by Wyatt’s words, the poetry of Sylvia Plath and by Kahlo herself Cole wrote the poem that forms part of this piece, her words imparted by Andrew, accompanied by bowed bass and delicately nuanced drums and percussion. Cole references the fact that Kahlo produced so many self portraits with the line “I am the person I know best; it will be better in the knowing”  appearing in the lyrics and on the album packaging. It’s a good quote but its unfortunate that not all of Cole’s words are reproduced within the package, the full text would certainly add much to the listener’s appreciation and enjoyment of the music. Initially the music is reflective and introspective but the mood changes in the later stages of the piece as Williams and Martin go head to head as the mood and momentum of the composition changes, their playing perhaps a reflection of the underlying theme of duality.  The piece resolves itself with a return to the spoken word and a reprise of Cole’s poem and is dedicated to Wyatt.

The closing “Truth” is the only non-Cole original on the recording. It was written by drummer, composer and educator Pete Fairclough, a hugely influential figure on the jazz scene in the North of England. Cole was once one of Fairclough’s students but has since played professionally with him. Her arrangement of Fairclough’s piece is dedicated to its composer, and is clearly a homage to a truly inspirational figure. Soft reeds and gently brushed drums help to give the piece a pastoral air. It’s uncannily beautiful and represents a delightfully peaceful conclusion to an often turbulent album.

“The Two Fridas” is arguably Cole’s most ambitious and personal recording to date. More than with most jazz musicians one feels that for Cole the creative process is a very necessary source of catharsis. Thus her sound-world is very much her own with musical, literary and other influences coming together. It’s sometimes a demanding listen, and for this reason her music will only suit so many people’s ears.

Personally I applaud her originality, individuality and ambition, although even I have to admit to finding it a difficult listen at times. That said its best moments are highly rewarding and in the current overall musical climate it’s good to hear artists making heartfelt personal statements and taking musical and creative risks.

The Two Fridas

Metamorphic

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

The Two Fridas

In the current overall musical climate it’s good to hear artists making heartfelt personal statements and taking musical and creative risks.

Metamorphic

“The Two Fridas”

(Discus Music DISCUS 65CD)

You have to hand it to the pianist and composer Laura Cole, she’s not a musician who does things by halves. 2018 has been a big year for Cole with the release on the Discus record label of two, yes, two, double albums.

The first of these to appear was “The Two Fridas”, featuring Cole’s long running group Metamorphic. This was quickly followed by “Enough”, a collection of solo piano performances naturally credited to Laura Cole.

I intend to take a separate look at the solo piano recording so will turn first to “The Two Fridas”, a recording in part inspired by the work of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. During a childhood illness (specifically polio) the young Kahlo invented an imaginary friend or alter-ego she kept with her for the rest of her life, this ‘Other Frida’ eventually inspiring the famous painting “The Two Fridas”.

The album artwork features images inspired by the Kahlo painting, the new works coming from the celebrated ‘jazz painter’ Gina Southgate (‘Fridas for Laura on the front cover) and from Gonzalo Fuentes (‘Ride on a pig, then die and go’ back cover).

“The Two Fridas” is the third recording by the Metamorphic group and follows the single albums “The Rock Between” (2011) and “Coalescence”  (2013). Both of these albums attracted considerable critical acclaim, and both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

For this latest recording Metamoprhic has, ahem, metamorphosed in an octet with Cole on piano and Rhodes joined by long standing members Kerry Andrew (vocals), Chris Williams (alto sax) and John Martin (tenor & soprano sax). The new look Metamorphic also features Ollie Dover on bass clarinet, Johnny Hunter on drums and twin bassists Seth Bennett (acoustic) and Ruth Goller (acoustic and electric).

Cole’s writing has always been intensely personal and she describes both this album and the companion solo piano work as “an attempt to express intimate emotions and thoughts through the creative and recording process, they aim to tell a story”. Both double albums also reflect Cole’s interest in “symmetry and the double sidedness of things, maybe as a Gemini”.

On both the “Two Fridas” and “Enough” recordings each composition or improvisation is dedicated to a specific person. The first disc, “Frida 1”, commences with “Cellular”, dedicated to saxophonist Jason Yarde and originally written as a large ensemble piece for the band Cole co-led with Seth Bennett, the Bennett-Cole Orchestra, which appeared briefly on “Coalescence”.
Cole says of the piece;
“There are four simple musical cells to the composition. What interests me is how, as a band, we move between these cells; the relationship and transition between between improvisation and written music”.
The music itself commences with what sounds like collective improvisation, the slur of reeds, the rustle of drums and percussion and the grainy sound of bowed basses. Out of this a more obviously written passage emerges with Andrew’s wordless vocals an integral part of the ensemble sound, but that spirit of improvisation still remains close to the fore. Hunter eventually strikes up a propulsive drum groove as the piece enters its next phase, with the horns and Andrew’s voice carrying the melody, as well as sheering off into improvisational jousting. The piece ends as it began with a final brief bout of almost free playing.

“Deer Medicine”, dedicated to Ellen Scrimgeour, was inspired by dream imagery, the deer in Cole’s dream indicating a new spirit of gentleness. Scrimgeour gave Cole a text explaining the significance of this, and those words form the basis of Andrew’s improvised vocal. The powerful ensemble playing is punctuated by an atmospheric piano / bass duet mid tune, this leading to a dramatic closing section featuring increasingly dynamic ensemble passages allied to the elemental power of Andrew’s wordless vocals.

“Charcole 1”, dedicated to Cole’s family, is the first of three wholly improvised pieces and was inspired by a trio gig that Cole witnessed in Brussels featuring guitar, duduk, percussion and electronics. Metamorphic’s improvisation inevitably sounds very different but retains something of that trio’s spirit. There is a pre-composed element, the evocative words written by Cole and whispered, sung and spoken by her, in conjunction Andrew. The sombre, poetic quality of the words is reflected in the scratchy, grainy improvisations of the musicians with eerie bowed bass, the furtive rustle of percussion, the piping of the reeds.

“The Mountains, The Sea / The Island” is a two part, ten minute epic that draws its inspiration from John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island” quote. The leader’s piano engages in dialogue with Hunter’s percussion on the dramatically atmospheric opening passage. Cole’s piano then leads the next section in trio mode, with wordless vocals and reeds gradually added to the arrangement as the piece slowly gathers momentum, Dover’s bass clarinet is a distinctive component here. Layers are added until Hunter establishes an off kilter funk groove that forms the basis for a thrilling series of saxophone exchanges featuring Martin and Williams. The piece ends as it began with Cole at the piano.

The title of “Dark Thundering Moon” came from Cole’s then eight year old daughter, Martha, who was writing the screenplay for an imaginary film. Cole asked if she could write the music for the film, and dedicates the recorded work to Martha. The music is as atmospheric and evocative as the title, beginning with what sounds like a freely improvised passage featuring the deep sonorities of bass clarinet and bowed double bass. From this emerges a brief written section featuring piano and wordless vocals, followed by a more dynamic ensemble passage featuring Andrew’s singing of Cole’s lyrics, the words including those of the track title. Cole takes an extended piano solo, her first thus far, and demonstrates considerable fluency and inventiveness. Hitherto she’s largely been content to be a member of an ensemble where dense writing meets free improvisation and conventional jazz soloing is something of a rarity. It’s back to the ensemble and Andrew’s adventurous but emotive vocalising in a rousing section that includes some dynamic drumming from the excellent Johnny Hunter. The composition then resolves itself peacefully around the sound of the leader’s piano.

“Frida 1” ends with Cole’s ingenious “Little Woman, Lonely Wing”, a splicing together of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, conceived after Cole envisioned an imaginary meeting between the pair.  It represents one of Cole’s numerous “hybrid” pieces where she splices the music of two different composers together, linking them with compositional ideas of her own. This piece first appeared as a full band performance on “Coalescence” but is here revisited in the piano trio format featuring just piano, bass and drums. In this sense it’s one of the most ‘conventional’ performances on the album but it’s still a fascinating listening experience that casts the music of Coleman and Hendrix in a new light and offers further evidence of Cole’s considerable pianistic abilities (the piece is dedicated to fellow pianist Alex Wilson). Hunter and the bassist (presumably Bennett, both arco and pizzicato techniques are deployed) also impress as they offer empathic support in a highly interactive trio performance.

“Frida II” commences with the brief group improvisation “26,302”. The piece is dedicated to the late Bob Hesketh, a long standing friend of the Cole family who was a crossword compiler for The Times. Number 26,302 was the final crossword that he compiled for the paper and the words that are spoken and sung derived from his clues, so he gets a writing credit of sorts. The music consists of clues spoken by a range of female and male voices, the speakers being Andrew, Cole, Goller, Dover and Williams. The music features both plucked and bowed double bass, presumably Goller and Bennett working in tandem.

“Senken” is dedicated to Corey Mwamba, the Derby based vibraphonist who acts as producer on Cole’s solo piano album “Enough”. “Senken” is about cuts” declares Cole, “musically, metaphorically and actually, and how we, as musicians deal with this”. It commences with the pure sounds of Andrew’s wordless voice, this soon joined by double bass and a choir of reeds. The addition of drums gives the music urgency and heft and spurs Andrew into a more abstract and aggressive style of vocalising that is extremely effective. A second, more animated horn chorale, leads into a powerful closing section braying horns,  Goller on electric and powerful, rock influenced drum grooves. There’s even time for a more impressionistic coda of voice and Rhodes on a piece that crams a lot of information into its four minutes forty seconds duration.

“Digging For Memories” is this disc’s epic, a seventeen minute suite inspired by the harrowing experience of Cole’s visit to Auschwitz. The title is a quote from the German Jewish writer Walter Benjamin who fled from Occupied France intending to escape to the US but became trapped at the border in Northern Spain, eventually taking his own life. Cole’s composition is dedicated to the philosopher and author Georges Didi-Huberman who also visited Auschwitz and similarly struggled to find an appropriate artistic response. Cole’s composition is a powerful piece of work featuring some rousing ensemble playing, initially led by Andrew’s strident wordless vocal but also featuring strong contributions from Cole, the reeds and drummer Hunter. A relative calm after the opening storm features an impressive pizzicato double bass solo. The piece also includes a spoken word section as Cole’s poem “The Phoenix”, with its images of fire, ash and rebirth is convincingly delivered by Andrew. The music that follows this is suitably atmospheric and reflective with unsettling saxophone multiphonics. The closing section is ushered in by a double bass motif, the mood of the piece subtly altering as the music gathers momentum, becoming positively anthemic as Andrew’s voice soars and the twin saxes take flight.

“Charcole II” represents a second setting of Cole’s poem and was recorded immediately after the first version. Cole decided that both takes were worthy of a place on the finished recording. The mood and many of the musical elements remain the same. Cole dedicates the performance to the saxophonist Tony Kofi.

The title track draws on some unique sources of inspiration. At the time of its release Cole sent a copy of “Coalescence” to the great Robert Wyatt. Wyatt was suitably impressed and forwarded a postcard to Cole offering words of support and encouragement. The visual image on this card was of the Kahlo painting “The Two Fridas”. Inspired jointly by Wyatt’s words, the poetry of Sylvia Plath and by Kahlo herself Cole wrote the poem that forms part of this piece, her words imparted by Andrew, accompanied by bowed bass and delicately nuanced drums and percussion. Cole references the fact that Kahlo produced so many self portraits with the line “I am the person I know best; it will be better in the knowing”  appearing in the lyrics and on the album packaging. It’s a good quote but its unfortunate that not all of Cole’s words are reproduced within the package, the full text would certainly add much to the listener’s appreciation and enjoyment of the music. Initially the music is reflective and introspective but the mood changes in the later stages of the piece as Williams and Martin go head to head as the mood and momentum of the composition changes, their playing perhaps a reflection of the underlying theme of duality.  The piece resolves itself with a return to the spoken word and a reprise of Cole’s poem and is dedicated to Wyatt.

The closing “Truth” is the only non-Cole original on the recording. It was written by drummer, composer and educator Pete Fairclough, a hugely influential figure on the jazz scene in the North of England. Cole was once one of Fairclough’s students but has since played professionally with him. Her arrangement of Fairclough’s piece is dedicated to its composer, and is clearly a homage to a truly inspirational figure. Soft reeds and gently brushed drums help to give the piece a pastoral air. It’s uncannily beautiful and represents a delightfully peaceful conclusion to an often turbulent album.

“The Two Fridas” is arguably Cole’s most ambitious and personal recording to date. More than with most jazz musicians one feels that for Cole the creative process is a very necessary source of catharsis. Thus her sound-world is very much her own with musical, literary and other influences coming together. It’s sometimes a demanding listen, and for this reason her music will only suit so many people’s ears.

Personally I applaud her originality, individuality and ambition, although even I have to admit to finding it a difficult listen at times. That said its best moments are highly rewarding and in the current overall musical climate it’s good to hear artists making heartfelt personal statements and taking musical and creative risks.

Vitor Pereira Quintet - Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue and with an attentive and appreciative audience.

Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.

For their November event Shrewsbury Jazz Network hosted the Portuguese born, London based guitarist and composer Vitor Pereira and his highly accomplished quintet.

A native of Porto Pereira studied classical guitar in his homeland, graduating in 2003, but a growing fascination for jazz found him seeking private tuition from such guitar luminaries as Pat Metheny, Gilad Hekselman and Jonathan Kreisberg, plus pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Matt Penman.

Pereira moved to England in 2004 to study on the Jazz course at Middlesex University where his tutors included guitarist Mike Outram, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Hall, trumpeter Chris Batchelor and pianist Nikki Iles. He has since remained in the UK, gradually establishing himself as a significant presence on the British jazz scene. Among those with whom he has worked are saxophonists Binker Golding and Josh Arcoleo, trumpeter Andre Canniere and drummer Asaf Sirkis.

Pereira has released three albums as a leader, all of them in the same instrumental format of guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, double bass and drums. A constant presence in all of Pereira’s groups has been alto saxophonist Chris Williams, a fellow Middlesex alumnus who is probably best known to UK jazz audiences as a member of the mighty Led Bib.

Pereira made his recording début in 2012 with “Doors”, an impressive offering on the F-ire Presents label that saw Pereira and Williams joined by James Allsopp on tenor sax, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Eddie Hick at the drums.

2016’s equally impressive “New World”, which also appeared on the F-ire Presents imprint, featured a new line up with George Crowley on tenor, Andrea Di Biase on bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums. The standard of both the writing and the playing remained high as Pereira and his colleagues delivered another high quality recording.

Around the time of the release of “New World” I reviewed a performance by a quintet featuring Pereira, Williams and Trebilcock plus tenor saxophonist Alam Nathoo and Canadian born drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira at a Birmingham Jazz event at the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter. My account of that performance, plus a look at the then new album can be viewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/vitor-pereira-quintet-birmingham-jazz-the-red-lion-uab-jewellery-quarter-bi/

Fast forward to 2018 and Pereira is back with a self released new album “Somewhere in the Middle” featuring a line up including Williams, Nathoo and Teixeira with new recruit Mick Coady handling bass duties. It was this line up that Pereira brought to The Hive for the third night of a nine date tour partly financed by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

“Somewhere In The Middle” features eight new original compositions from Pereira and the quintet performed the entire repertoire tonight, albeit in a different running order to the album. The album title is intended to embody the space where “the audience meet the musicians in a symbiotic middle plane of mutual stimulation”.

It may sound a rather lofty concept but essentially this is what happened with a receptive Shrewsbury audience responding well to the quintet’s sometimes challenging music. It was a gig that rewarded SJN’s adventurous booking policy with an audience of over eighty forming part of near full house. Both band and audience were delighted with the turnout, fifty would have represented a break-even figure, so this was a real win-win situation with the positive audience reaction spurring the quintet on as they delivered some excellent playing. Vitor was
pleased with the level of CD sales too, with the audience taking advantage of some very generous deals, especially with regard to the earlier material.

Pereira’s influences as a composer include jazz pianist Vijay Iyer but he also draws inspiration from the folk music of his native Portugal, plus the world of rock, including such bands as Queens Of The Stone Age.  The guitarist describes his writing as including both “head-banging guitar riffs” and “the complexity of contrapuntal interweaving melodic lines”. In truth we probably heard more of the latter tonight, but for all its harmonic and rhythmic sophistication this was music that remained eminently accessible thanks to some tight, highly accomplished ensemble playing allied to fluent and adventurous soloing, all this fuelled by the supple but propulsive grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira, who combined effectively throughout.

Plenty of that ‘contrapuntal interweaving’ could be heard on the opening tune, “Alternative Facts”, the title presumably a comment on the current predilection for ‘fake news’. The tersely dovetailing saxophone lines of Williams and Nathoo combined with the leader’s sophisticated chording to create a lattice of sound that floated above the sturdy grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira. This densely written, but consistently absorbing, piece saw the lead shifting between alto, tenor and guitar but with no single musician breaking out to deliver an orthodox jazz solo. There was to be more of that later on in the set as the quintet, doubtless encouraged by the audience reaction, began to open up more. What was immediately apparent was just how tight this unit was, particularly with regard to the written passages, this was a proper ‘working band’.

On “Refreshments” Williams and Nathoo tended to operate in tandem, often doubling up on the melody lines, rather than deploying contrapuntal techniques. Perieira’s writing remained intricate, but his tricky melodic themes also provided the jumping off point for (relatively) conventional jazz soloing with Williams going first on incisive alto. Pereira’s subsequent dialogue with bassist Coady provided an effective contrast before the leader stretched out with a more expansive guitar solo, favouring a clean, distortion free sound that demonstrated a high level of fretboard agility and musical sophistication.

“Anima” may have been inspired by the writings of the psychologist Carl Jung but it saw the quintet building up an impressive head of steam courtesy of the flexible but propulsive grooves generated by Coady and Teixeira. Indeed it was Coady who took the first solo, impressing in terms of dexterity, resonance and melodic sense. A bandleader in his own right Coady led the international quintet Synergy, a band that featured both Julian Arguelles and the great American alto saxophonist David Binney. Pereira followed on guitar, again adopting a conventional jazz guitar sound combining bebop stylings with more contemporary influences. The closing stages of the piece featured the thrilling carousing of the two saxes with Williams providing some stunning high register blowing.

The first set concluded with album opener “Lomo”, named for an eclectic bar in Pereira’s native Porto, a music venue that hosts events ranging from all out rock to experimental jazz and beyond.
This riff based composition had a genuinely celebratory feel about it with the leader now bringing his range of effects pedals into play as he unleashed a fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar solo, his fretboard pyrotechnics fuelled by Teixeira’s brisk, crisp drum grooves. There was to be no let up in intensity as Nathoo stretched out with an extended tenor solo that combined fluency with a bristling power. This brought the first set to a turbo-charged conclusion and was vociferously appreciated by a discerning audience. Such was the momentum that the band had generated it was a shame to be going into the break.

The second half commenced with “Tag Along”, actually the final track on the new album. This offered further examples of the dynamic interplay between the two saxes as they negotiated Pereira’s complex melodic themes with considerable aplomb. Solos here came from Coady on double bass ,Wiliams on alto and Pereira on guitar with Texeira’s deft drumming driving the increasingly animated band forwards.

At almost nine minutes in duration “Something in the Middle” is the lengthiest item on the new album and also proved to be something of an epic here. Complex but dramatic tonight’s performance covered a broad stylistic and dynamic range with impressionistic saxophone chorales and the leader’s thoughtful guitar soloing contrasting with more dynamic sections, with the quintet sometimes adding an element of wilful dissonance to a performance featuring some of Pereira’s most ambitious writing.

If the title track was somewhat intense then the lovely “Twilight Trails” calmed things down again. The penultimate track on the recording it represented the only piece even approaching a ballad performance. A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced the piece with Pereira making effective use of his FX pedals to create a Frisell like ambience.  Williams’ alto then picked out the distinctive melody, shadowed by the swish and rumble of Texeira’s brushes and mallets. Coady’s double bass solo was followed by Nathoo on breathy tenor, dovetailing beguilingly with Williams’ alto prior to a gentle guitar / double bass outro.

It was perhaps appropriate that the performance should end with the tight, riffy “Better Late Than Never”, which raised the energy levels once more with its staccato twin sax blasting and the sound of the leader’s fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar. Nathoo dug in on tenor for his lengthiest solo of the night as he shared the spotlight with the leader’s heavily distorted guitar.

The Shrewsbury crowd gave the quintet a great reception for this frequently complex original music, with several getting to their feet and many shouting for more. The band needed little coaxing to return to the stage, choosing to play “Bohm’s Hologram”, a piece from the “New World” album inspired by the subject of quantum physics! Introduced by the contrapuntal pecked sounds of the two saxes the piece quickly gathered momentum with the addition of guitar, bass and drums with Williams embarking on an agreeably meandering alto solo. This was followed by an engaging set of exchanges between the leader on guitar and Nathoo on tenor before the piece ended as it began with the distinctive sound of the two reeds.

This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue with an attentive and appreciative audience. Between them the band and their listeners proved that “Somewhere in the Middle” can be a great place to be. The album itself is strongly recommended.

My thanks to Vitor, Chris and Adam for speaking with me afterwards.

The Vitor Pereira Quintet tour continues with forthcoming dates at;

12th November in Manchester at The Whiskey Jar https://nqjazz.com
16th November in Birmingham at Jazzlines https://www.thsh.co.uk
17th November in Brighton at The Verdict https://verdictjazz.co.uk
18th November in Southampton at Southampton modern jazz club http://www.southamptonmodernjazzclub.com
5th December in London at The Vortex http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk - Official release date

More information at;

http://www.vitorpereiramusic.com

Youtube: https://youtu.be/jv-yEaiYm4M

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vitorpereiraquintet

Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.

Vitor Pereira Quintet

Monday, November 12, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.

This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue and with an attentive and appreciative audience.

Vitor Pereira Quintet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/11/2018.

For their November event Shrewsbury Jazz Network hosted the Portuguese born, London based guitarist and composer Vitor Pereira and his highly accomplished quintet.

A native of Porto Pereira studied classical guitar in his homeland, graduating in 2003, but a growing fascination for jazz found him seeking private tuition from such guitar luminaries as Pat Metheny, Gilad Hekselman and Jonathan Kreisberg, plus pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Matt Penman.

Pereira moved to England in 2004 to study on the Jazz course at Middlesex University where his tutors included guitarist Mike Outram, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Hall, trumpeter Chris Batchelor and pianist Nikki Iles. He has since remained in the UK, gradually establishing himself as a significant presence on the British jazz scene. Among those with whom he has worked are saxophonists Binker Golding and Josh Arcoleo, trumpeter Andre Canniere and drummer Asaf Sirkis.

Pereira has released three albums as a leader, all of them in the same instrumental format of guitar, alto sax, tenor sax, double bass and drums. A constant presence in all of Pereira’s groups has been alto saxophonist Chris Williams, a fellow Middlesex alumnus who is probably best known to UK jazz audiences as a member of the mighty Led Bib.

Pereira made his recording début in 2012 with “Doors”, an impressive offering on the F-ire Presents label that saw Pereira and Williams joined by James Allsopp on tenor sax, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Eddie Hick at the drums.

2016’s equally impressive “New World”, which also appeared on the F-ire Presents imprint, featured a new line up with George Crowley on tenor, Andrea Di Biase on bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums. The standard of both the writing and the playing remained high as Pereira and his colleagues delivered another high quality recording.

Around the time of the release of “New World” I reviewed a performance by a quintet featuring Pereira, Williams and Trebilcock plus tenor saxophonist Alam Nathoo and Canadian born drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira at a Birmingham Jazz event at the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter. My account of that performance, plus a look at the then new album can be viewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/vitor-pereira-quintet-birmingham-jazz-the-red-lion-uab-jewellery-quarter-bi/

Fast forward to 2018 and Pereira is back with a self released new album “Somewhere in the Middle” featuring a line up including Williams, Nathoo and Teixeira with new recruit Mick Coady handling bass duties. It was this line up that Pereira brought to The Hive for the third night of a nine date tour partly financed by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

“Somewhere In The Middle” features eight new original compositions from Pereira and the quintet performed the entire repertoire tonight, albeit in a different running order to the album. The album title is intended to embody the space where “the audience meet the musicians in a symbiotic middle plane of mutual stimulation”.

It may sound a rather lofty concept but essentially this is what happened with a receptive Shrewsbury audience responding well to the quintet’s sometimes challenging music. It was a gig that rewarded SJN’s adventurous booking policy with an audience of over eighty forming part of near full house. Both band and audience were delighted with the turnout, fifty would have represented a break-even figure, so this was a real win-win situation with the positive audience reaction spurring the quintet on as they delivered some excellent playing. Vitor was
pleased with the level of CD sales too, with the audience taking advantage of some very generous deals, especially with regard to the earlier material.

Pereira’s influences as a composer include jazz pianist Vijay Iyer but he also draws inspiration from the folk music of his native Portugal, plus the world of rock, including such bands as Queens Of The Stone Age.  The guitarist describes his writing as including both “head-banging guitar riffs” and “the complexity of contrapuntal interweaving melodic lines”. In truth we probably heard more of the latter tonight, but for all its harmonic and rhythmic sophistication this was music that remained eminently accessible thanks to some tight, highly accomplished ensemble playing allied to fluent and adventurous soloing, all this fuelled by the supple but propulsive grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira, who combined effectively throughout.

Plenty of that ‘contrapuntal interweaving’ could be heard on the opening tune, “Alternative Facts”, the title presumably a comment on the current predilection for ‘fake news’. The tersely dovetailing saxophone lines of Williams and Nathoo combined with the leader’s sophisticated chording to create a lattice of sound that floated above the sturdy grooves laid down by Coady and Teixeira. This densely written, but consistently absorbing, piece saw the lead shifting between alto, tenor and guitar but with no single musician breaking out to deliver an orthodox jazz solo. There was to be more of that later on in the set as the quintet, doubtless encouraged by the audience reaction, began to open up more. What was immediately apparent was just how tight this unit was, particularly with regard to the written passages, this was a proper ‘working band’.

On “Refreshments” Williams and Nathoo tended to operate in tandem, often doubling up on the melody lines, rather than deploying contrapuntal techniques. Perieira’s writing remained intricate, but his tricky melodic themes also provided the jumping off point for (relatively) conventional jazz soloing with Williams going first on incisive alto. Pereira’s subsequent dialogue with bassist Coady provided an effective contrast before the leader stretched out with a more expansive guitar solo, favouring a clean, distortion free sound that demonstrated a high level of fretboard agility and musical sophistication.

“Anima” may have been inspired by the writings of the psychologist Carl Jung but it saw the quintet building up an impressive head of steam courtesy of the flexible but propulsive grooves generated by Coady and Teixeira. Indeed it was Coady who took the first solo, impressing in terms of dexterity, resonance and melodic sense. A bandleader in his own right Coady led the international quintet Synergy, a band that featured both Julian Arguelles and the great American alto saxophonist David Binney. Pereira followed on guitar, again adopting a conventional jazz guitar sound combining bebop stylings with more contemporary influences. The closing stages of the piece featured the thrilling carousing of the two saxes with Williams providing some stunning high register blowing.

The first set concluded with album opener “Lomo”, named for an eclectic bar in Pereira’s native Porto, a music venue that hosts events ranging from all out rock to experimental jazz and beyond.
This riff based composition had a genuinely celebratory feel about it with the leader now bringing his range of effects pedals into play as he unleashed a fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar solo, his fretboard pyrotechnics fuelled by Teixeira’s brisk, crisp drum grooves. There was to be no let up in intensity as Nathoo stretched out with an extended tenor solo that combined fluency with a bristling power. This brought the first set to a turbo-charged conclusion and was vociferously appreciated by a discerning audience. Such was the momentum that the band had generated it was a shame to be going into the break.

The second half commenced with “Tag Along”, actually the final track on the new album. This offered further examples of the dynamic interplay between the two saxes as they negotiated Pereira’s complex melodic themes with considerable aplomb. Solos here came from Coady on double bass ,Wiliams on alto and Pereira on guitar with Texeira’s deft drumming driving the increasingly animated band forwards.

At almost nine minutes in duration “Something in the Middle” is the lengthiest item on the new album and also proved to be something of an epic here. Complex but dramatic tonight’s performance covered a broad stylistic and dynamic range with impressionistic saxophone chorales and the leader’s thoughtful guitar soloing contrasting with more dynamic sections, with the quintet sometimes adding an element of wilful dissonance to a performance featuring some of Pereira’s most ambitious writing.

If the title track was somewhat intense then the lovely “Twilight Trails” calmed things down again. The penultimate track on the recording it represented the only piece even approaching a ballad performance. A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced the piece with Pereira making effective use of his FX pedals to create a Frisell like ambience.  Williams’ alto then picked out the distinctive melody, shadowed by the swish and rumble of Texeira’s brushes and mallets. Coady’s double bass solo was followed by Nathoo on breathy tenor, dovetailing beguilingly with Williams’ alto prior to a gentle guitar / double bass outro.

It was perhaps appropriate that the performance should end with the tight, riffy “Better Late Than Never”, which raised the energy levels once more with its staccato twin sax blasting and the sound of the leader’s fuzzed up, rock influenced guitar. Nathoo dug in on tenor for his lengthiest solo of the night as he shared the spotlight with the leader’s heavily distorted guitar.

The Shrewsbury crowd gave the quintet a great reception for this frequently complex original music, with several getting to their feet and many shouting for more. The band needed little coaxing to return to the stage, choosing to play “Bohm’s Hologram”, a piece from the “New World” album inspired by the subject of quantum physics! Introduced by the contrapuntal pecked sounds of the two saxes the piece quickly gathered momentum with the addition of guitar, bass and drums with Williams embarking on an agreeably meandering alto solo. This was followed by an engaging set of exchanges between the leader on guitar and Nathoo on tenor before the piece ended as it began with the distinctive sound of the two reeds.

This was the sound of a well drilled regular working band really hitting its stride in a highly conducive venue with an attentive and appreciative audience. Between them the band and their listeners proved that “Somewhere in the Middle” can be a great place to be. The album itself is strongly recommended.

My thanks to Vitor, Chris and Adam for speaking with me afterwards.

The Vitor Pereira Quintet tour continues with forthcoming dates at;

12th November in Manchester at The Whiskey Jar https://nqjazz.com
16th November in Birmingham at Jazzlines https://www.thsh.co.uk
17th November in Brighton at The Verdict https://verdictjazz.co.uk
18th November in Southampton at Southampton modern jazz club http://www.southamptonmodernjazzclub.com
5th December in London at The Vortex http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk - Official release date

More information at;

http://www.vitorpereiramusic.com

Youtube: https://youtu.be/jv-yEaiYm4M

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vitorpereiraquintet

Josephine Davies - In the Corners of Clouds Rating: 4 out of 5 "Davies continues to demonstrate her mastery of the saxophone trio format". Ian Mann enjoys the second album by Josephine Davies' Satori trio.

Josephine Davies’ Satori

“In the Corners of Clouds”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4730)

“In the Corners of Clouds” is the second album by the Satori trio, led by tenor saxophonist and composer Josephine Davies. It follows the acclaimed 2017 release “Satori”, also issued by Whirlwind Recordings.

The first Satori album featured Davies alongside the talents of Dave Whitford on double bass and Paul Clarvis on drums and percussion. The phenomenally busy Clarvis has since been replaced by the scarcely less busy James Maddren, arguably the most in demand British jazz drummer of his generation.

In August 2018 I was privileged to witness the Davies/Whitford/Maddren trio give a brilliant performance of much of the material from this latest album at Brecon Jazz Festival. It certainly whetted my appetite for the release of the recording and I’m pleased to report that “In the Corners of Clouds” doesn’t disappoint.

Originally from the Shetland Isles but now based in London Davies was a relative late comer to the jazz ranks, switching from the classical to the jazz course after hearing the music of John Coltrane. She’s been an important part of the UK jazz scene for a number of years, despite taking time out to complete a doctorate in psychotherapy.

Prior to the formation of Satori I’d become used to hearing Davies’ playing in more mainstream contexts including small group work with bands led by pianist Steve Melling and bassist Dominic Howells. At Brecon she also appeared as part of a band led by the South African born harmonica and keyboard player Adam Glasser.

Davies’ large ensemble engagements have included flautist Gareth Lockrane’s Big Band,  Bassist Calum Gourlay’s Big Band, the London Jazz Orchestra, and, perhaps most significantly, the Pete Hurt Jazz Orchestra with whom she has also recorded, appearing on the 2016 release “A New Start”.

Prior to Satori Davies led the JD5, a quintet featuring Whitford on bass plus trumpeter Robbie Robson, keyboard player Ross Stanley and drummer Nick Smalley. Focussing on Davies’ original writing this line up recorded two enjoyable albums, “Elation” and “Perspective”.

Currently she is also the leader of the all female folk-jazz trio Orenda, alongside vocalist Brigitte Beraha and pianist Alcyona Mick, exploring the traditional music of a number of European countries and blending them with jazz and classical elements.

But it’s arguably the chordless trio Satori that represents Davies’ most adventurous project to date. The exposed setting ensures that this is jazz without a safety net,but once again Davies and her colleagues rise to the challenge with considerable aplomb.

Davies has said of her choice of band name;
‘Satori’ is a word derived from Buddhist philosophy that describes an experience of spontaneous awakening, it is understood to arise only after a period of more concentrated preparation or focus. I find this analogous to the process of improvisation where so much conscious practice and hard graft occurs in order to make possible the moments of freedom and expression within performance”.

The trio’s music exhibits the influence not only of John Coltrane but also the classic saxophone trios of both Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, the latter a particular touchstone for Davies. The influence of trios led by more contemporary saxophonists has also been mentioned, notably Julian Arguelles and Rich Perry, the latter a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Schneider herself is a considerable influence on Davies who writes for the London Jazz Orchestra and is also planning her own large ensemble project.

With “In the Corners of Clouds” the new look trio has adopted a more open ended approach with Davies commenting;
“We played a lot of shows after the first release and soon I had written another album’s worth of material. Because our approach has become more and more open I began to see my tunes mainly as a basis for improvisation. It might be seen as limiting to have no traditional ‘harmonic instrument’ in this line up, particularly with the deeper frequencies of the tenor, but it actually throws melody to the fore, which I like. And if melody is happening you can really do whatever you want. We create so much space together that it actually encourages me to compose and play in a different way.”

Recorded at Buffalo Studios over the course of Valentine’s Day 2018 the album is comprised almost entirely of first takes, beginning with “Wabi Sabi”, the tune title another reflection of Davies’ fascination with Japanese philosophy. Whitford and Maddren provide the constantly evolving rhythmic flow that provides the impetus for Davies’ attractively melodic tenor improvisations. No matter how deeply she probes a tangible sense of melody always remains, something that still applies even during the brilliant Maddren’s brief unaccompanied drum passages. For all his technical prowess Maddren’s playing is always innately musical, making him the perfect fit for this exposed trio situation.

“Song of the Dancing Saint” is Davies’ dedication to the late, great John Coltrane. Whitford’s bass comes to the fore here, both as a grounding force and as a fluent solo instrument. Davies continues to solo inventively and melodically, channelling Coltrane but never imitating him. Meanwhile Maddren drums with an insouciant polyrhythmic brilliance, always finding the right sound, colour or accent.

The melody of the title track has a folk tinged, almost naive, melody that is sometimes reminiscent of Polar Bear with Maddren’s drum patterns sounding a little like those of Seb Rochford. Davies’ own playing has a melodic quality that recalls Mark Lockheart. Inspired by two Japanese Haikus it’s one of Davies’ most melodic and accessible pieces.

Davies is keen to emphasise that Satori’s music occupies a distinctive niche midway between straight-ahead and free jazz without ever being either. It’s a position that was warmly appreciated by the Brecon Jazz audience in the delightful setting of St. Mary’s Church. The trio’s adventurous, but still accessible approach was rewarded by a well deserved encore. I clearly wasn’t the only one to be impressed by the sheer quality of Satori’s performance.

“Oddities” commences with an engaging passage of unaccompanied saxophone before alighting on a quirky, bop infused melody that provides the jumping off point for an absorbing bass and drum dialogue plus further robust tenor soloing from Davies. It’s an agreeably quirky, up-tempo piece enlivened by the colourful drumming of the irrepressible Maddren, one can almost see his trademark grin as he gleefully circumnavigates his kit.

Maddren switches to brushes for the appropriately introspective “The Space Between Thoughts”, which features a softer, breathier tenor sound and includes a feature for Whitford’s melodic, but deeply resonant bass.  Inspired by Buddhist meditation there’s an almost hymnal quality about the tune, surprisingly it didn’t feature in the set list at St. Mary’s.

One piece that did feature at Brecon was “Cry”, a more overt dedication to Coltrane inspired by his composition “Alabama”. Here Davies does genuinely sound like her inspiration, that Trane-like “cry” of the title is very much there in her playing.

The breezy and charming “Lazy” is influenced by the ‘Township’ jazz of South Africa and there’s a joyous quality about the playing with both Whitford and Maddren featuring strongly as Davies stretches out fluently.

The free-wheeling “Scatter” is the closest the trio get to genuine free jazz and embodies Satori’s spirit of freedom and interaction without descending into mere bluster.  This piece closed the set at Brecon, before the trio were invited back for an encore, choosing to play the Joe Henderson tune “Y Ya la Quiero”.

Again sporting the distinctive artwork of Fini Bearman “In the Corners of Clouds” is a worthy follow up to the first Satori album with Maddren sounding like he’s been a member of the group for years. Critical reaction has again been favourable as Davies continues to demonstrate her mastery of the saxophone trio format.

Satori looks to be a project with considerable mileage still left in it and the trio is currently touring the UK. Forthcoming dates as below;

11/11/18 - Satori, Southampton Jazz Club
17/11/18 - Satori, Clun Valley Jazz, Shropshire
22/11/18 - Satori, Cambridge Modern Jazz Club
04/12/18 - Satori ALBUM LAUNCH, Vortex London
14/12/18 - Satori, Crookes Social Club, Sheffield

 

In the Corners of Clouds

Josephine Davies

Friday, November 09, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

In the Corners of Clouds

"Davies continues to demonstrate her mastery of the saxophone trio format". Ian Mann enjoys the second album by Josephine Davies' Satori trio.

Josephine Davies’ Satori

“In the Corners of Clouds”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4730)

“In the Corners of Clouds” is the second album by the Satori trio, led by tenor saxophonist and composer Josephine Davies. It follows the acclaimed 2017 release “Satori”, also issued by Whirlwind Recordings.

The first Satori album featured Davies alongside the talents of Dave Whitford on double bass and Paul Clarvis on drums and percussion. The phenomenally busy Clarvis has since been replaced by the scarcely less busy James Maddren, arguably the most in demand British jazz drummer of his generation.

In August 2018 I was privileged to witness the Davies/Whitford/Maddren trio give a brilliant performance of much of the material from this latest album at Brecon Jazz Festival. It certainly whetted my appetite for the release of the recording and I’m pleased to report that “In the Corners of Clouds” doesn’t disappoint.

Originally from the Shetland Isles but now based in London Davies was a relative late comer to the jazz ranks, switching from the classical to the jazz course after hearing the music of John Coltrane. She’s been an important part of the UK jazz scene for a number of years, despite taking time out to complete a doctorate in psychotherapy.

Prior to the formation of Satori I’d become used to hearing Davies’ playing in more mainstream contexts including small group work with bands led by pianist Steve Melling and bassist Dominic Howells. At Brecon she also appeared as part of a band led by the South African born harmonica and keyboard player Adam Glasser.

Davies’ large ensemble engagements have included flautist Gareth Lockrane’s Big Band,  Bassist Calum Gourlay’s Big Band, the London Jazz Orchestra, and, perhaps most significantly, the Pete Hurt Jazz Orchestra with whom she has also recorded, appearing on the 2016 release “A New Start”.

Prior to Satori Davies led the JD5, a quintet featuring Whitford on bass plus trumpeter Robbie Robson, keyboard player Ross Stanley and drummer Nick Smalley. Focussing on Davies’ original writing this line up recorded two enjoyable albums, “Elation” and “Perspective”.

Currently she is also the leader of the all female folk-jazz trio Orenda, alongside vocalist Brigitte Beraha and pianist Alcyona Mick, exploring the traditional music of a number of European countries and blending them with jazz and classical elements.

But it’s arguably the chordless trio Satori that represents Davies’ most adventurous project to date. The exposed setting ensures that this is jazz without a safety net,but once again Davies and her colleagues rise to the challenge with considerable aplomb.

Davies has said of her choice of band name;
‘Satori’ is a word derived from Buddhist philosophy that describes an experience of spontaneous awakening, it is understood to arise only after a period of more concentrated preparation or focus. I find this analogous to the process of improvisation where so much conscious practice and hard graft occurs in order to make possible the moments of freedom and expression within performance”.

The trio’s music exhibits the influence not only of John Coltrane but also the classic saxophone trios of both Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, the latter a particular touchstone for Davies. The influence of trios led by more contemporary saxophonists has also been mentioned, notably Julian Arguelles and Rich Perry, the latter a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Schneider herself is a considerable influence on Davies who writes for the London Jazz Orchestra and is also planning her own large ensemble project.

With “In the Corners of Clouds” the new look trio has adopted a more open ended approach with Davies commenting;
“We played a lot of shows after the first release and soon I had written another album’s worth of material. Because our approach has become more and more open I began to see my tunes mainly as a basis for improvisation. It might be seen as limiting to have no traditional ‘harmonic instrument’ in this line up, particularly with the deeper frequencies of the tenor, but it actually throws melody to the fore, which I like. And if melody is happening you can really do whatever you want. We create so much space together that it actually encourages me to compose and play in a different way.”

Recorded at Buffalo Studios over the course of Valentine’s Day 2018 the album is comprised almost entirely of first takes, beginning with “Wabi Sabi”, the tune title another reflection of Davies’ fascination with Japanese philosophy. Whitford and Maddren provide the constantly evolving rhythmic flow that provides the impetus for Davies’ attractively melodic tenor improvisations. No matter how deeply she probes a tangible sense of melody always remains, something that still applies even during the brilliant Maddren’s brief unaccompanied drum passages. For all his technical prowess Maddren’s playing is always innately musical, making him the perfect fit for this exposed trio situation.

“Song of the Dancing Saint” is Davies’ dedication to the late, great John Coltrane. Whitford’s bass comes to the fore here, both as a grounding force and as a fluent solo instrument. Davies continues to solo inventively and melodically, channelling Coltrane but never imitating him. Meanwhile Maddren drums with an insouciant polyrhythmic brilliance, always finding the right sound, colour or accent.

The melody of the title track has a folk tinged, almost naive, melody that is sometimes reminiscent of Polar Bear with Maddren’s drum patterns sounding a little like those of Seb Rochford. Davies’ own playing has a melodic quality that recalls Mark Lockheart. Inspired by two Japanese Haikus it’s one of Davies’ most melodic and accessible pieces.

Davies is keen to emphasise that Satori’s music occupies a distinctive niche midway between straight-ahead and free jazz without ever being either. It’s a position that was warmly appreciated by the Brecon Jazz audience in the delightful setting of St. Mary’s Church. The trio’s adventurous, but still accessible approach was rewarded by a well deserved encore. I clearly wasn’t the only one to be impressed by the sheer quality of Satori’s performance.

“Oddities” commences with an engaging passage of unaccompanied saxophone before alighting on a quirky, bop infused melody that provides the jumping off point for an absorbing bass and drum dialogue plus further robust tenor soloing from Davies. It’s an agreeably quirky, up-tempo piece enlivened by the colourful drumming of the irrepressible Maddren, one can almost see his trademark grin as he gleefully circumnavigates his kit.

Maddren switches to brushes for the appropriately introspective “The Space Between Thoughts”, which features a softer, breathier tenor sound and includes a feature for Whitford’s melodic, but deeply resonant bass.  Inspired by Buddhist meditation there’s an almost hymnal quality about the tune, surprisingly it didn’t feature in the set list at St. Mary’s.

One piece that did feature at Brecon was “Cry”, a more overt dedication to Coltrane inspired by his composition “Alabama”. Here Davies does genuinely sound like her inspiration, that Trane-like “cry” of the title is very much there in her playing.

The breezy and charming “Lazy” is influenced by the ‘Township’ jazz of South Africa and there’s a joyous quality about the playing with both Whitford and Maddren featuring strongly as Davies stretches out fluently.

The free-wheeling “Scatter” is the closest the trio get to genuine free jazz and embodies Satori’s spirit of freedom and interaction without descending into mere bluster.  This piece closed the set at Brecon, before the trio were invited back for an encore, choosing to play the Joe Henderson tune “Y Ya la Quiero”.

Again sporting the distinctive artwork of Fini Bearman “In the Corners of Clouds” is a worthy follow up to the first Satori album with Maddren sounding like he’s been a member of the group for years. Critical reaction has again been favourable as Davies continues to demonstrate her mastery of the saxophone trio format.

Satori looks to be a project with considerable mileage still left in it and the trio is currently touring the UK. Forthcoming dates as below;

11/11/18 - Satori, Southampton Jazz Club
17/11/18 - Satori, Clun Valley Jazz, Shropshire
22/11/18 - Satori, Cambridge Modern Jazz Club
04/12/18 - Satori ALBUM LAUNCH, Vortex London
14/12/18 - Satori, Crookes Social Club, Sheffield

 

Ant Law Quintet - Life I Know Rating: 4 out of 5 Law is one of the UK’s most distinctive guitarists and this album will further enhance his reputation as both a musician and a composer.

Ant Law

“Life I Know”

(Edition Records EDN1119)

“Life I Know” is the third album as a leader by the British guitarist and composer Ant Law and his first for Edition Records.

Like its predecessors “Entanglement” (33 Records, 2013) and “Zero Sum World” (Whirlwind Recordings, 2015) it features Law’s regular working group, an all star quintet featuring the talents of Mike Chillingworth (alto sax), Ivo Neame (piano), Tom Farmer (double bass) and James Maddren (drums). Of these Phronesis pianist Neame is the comparative newcomer, John Turville having occupied the piano chair on Law’s début.

Law studied physics at Edinburgh University prior to a stint at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston and his writing and tune titles are often inspired by scientific and mathematical principles. He is also a pioneer of the “perfect fourths” system of guitar tuning (E,A,D,G,C,F instead of the usual E,A,D,G,B,E) and is a published author having written a book on this subject entitled “Third Millennium Guitar; An Introduction”.

Now a full time musician he is perhaps most familiar to UK jazz audiences for his work with his Edition label mate, saxophonist and composer Tim Garland. He is also part of Trio HLK, a collaborative unit also featuring pianist Richard Harrold and drummer Richard Kass. This core trio is frequently augmented by the famous classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Others with whom Law has worked include saxophonists Paul Riley and Alam Nathoo, trumpeter Henry Spencer and drummer Ollie Howell plus the band Partikel, led by saxophonist and composer Duncan Eagles.

In 2016 he toured with the Art Of Rhythm Trio featuring Matt Ridley (double bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums and konnakol), a group fusing Indian classical music with jazz.

Law’s musical interests are wide ranging, embracing jazz, rock, blues, world and contemporary classical music. This is reflected in his writing, which is often complex, but which remains highly rhythmic and pleasingly accessible.

Album opener “Movies” contrasts a lilting melodic theme with jagged rhythms, out of which emerges a stunning guitar solo from the leader, the sustain heavy, spiralling intensity of which sometimes recalls the late, great Allan Holdsworth. Law is keen to stress that despite its complexities this is essentially a rock piece, explaining; “Many guitarists playing jazz steadily shed all their non-jazz influences, I haven’t, yet”.

Law plays both electric and acoustic guitars, and has sometimes been sighted playing an eight string model. As befits its title “Searching” is more reflective than the opener and begins with a simple, folk-like acoustic guitar strum. Chillingworth and Neame combine on the lyrical theme, which gathers an anthemic momentum as Law, Farmer and Maddren get behind them.  The piece was inspired by a train trip up the east coast and the vista across the North Sea just south of Edinburgh.
“The piece reflects this as it builds in scale and dynamic”, explains the composer, “it is based around an unusual six bar harmony, this uneven phrase correlates to the beautiful (but uneven) natural landscape”.  Unfortunately at two minutes and forty seconds the journey is all over far too quickly.

Nonetheless the momentum is maintained on the lengthier “Aquilinus” which has a more orthodox jazz feel, with another attractive melodic theme providing the springboard for future complexities and for solos from Law, again adopting a Holdsworth like tone, and from guest Tim Garland on fluent, but highly charged tenor sax. There’s also a drum feature for the excellent Maddren, a musician capable of handling the demands of Law’s music with considerable aplomb.

At the centre of the album is the tune “Pure Imagination”, written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and famous for its inclusion in the film “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”.  The lyric  “There is no life I know, that compares to pure imagination” gives Law’s album its title.
Law treats the tune to a solo guitar performance, removing nearly all the chords and making effective use of electronic effects to create a spacious, shimmering, ethereal soundscape. “I wanted to leave more to the imagination of the listener” explains the guitarist.

The two part “Laurvin Glaslowe” (which appeared in another form on the album “Entanglement”) explores the rhythms and timbres of South Indian classical music and their similarities to contemporary jazz styles. In this sense it’s a continuation of his work with the Art Of Rhythm Trio and Law invites one of his colleagues from that band, Asaf Sirkis, to provide the Indian style ‘mouth percussion’ or konnakol on the “Introduction to Laurvin Glaslowe”.
Sirkis’ vocal gymnastics are accompanied by the sounds of finger cymbals (at a guess) and a sitar like drone, presumably generated by Law’s guitar.
“Laurvin Glaslowe” itself eventually explodes out of this, the “angular rhythmic frameworks” (Law’s words) common to both Indian music and 21st century jazz now reminiscent of the sound of New York. There’s now an edgy, urban energy about the music with its jagged rhythms and biting unison guitar and alto sax lines. Feverish solos come from Law on guitar and Neame on piano with Sirkis briefly joining the group again towards the close. Law spent some time in New York studying with some of that city’s leading guitarists, among them Ben Monder, who Law has acknowledged as a particularly significant influence.

The twelve and a half minute “The Act Itself” is this album’s epic with Law describing it as the album’s “darkest piece” and as a “long-form contemporary classical type thing”. The title refers to “the psychological relationship between thoughts and actions, and which of those defines us”. Heavy stuff, as is the music on this brooding, densely written, episodic composition which passes through several distinct phrases during the course of its duration. The suite like arrangement includes the effective use of bass clarinet, although its not certain whether this is played by Chillingworth or Garland as neither is credited with the instrument. Elsewhere Chillingworth is featured more assertively on alto and there’s also another feature for Maddren.

The cinematic theme running through the album emerges again at the end with “Credits”. This composition began as a solo guitar piece and was moulded into a group performance in the studio. Law begins in solo mode, with the rest of the band making subtle entrances, including Farmer on bowed bass. Law says of the piece “ I wanted to have a euphoric and warm piece to finish on, reflecting the resolution of the album, and an antidote to some of the more dissonant and dark music in the preceding track. This piece plays as the credits roll…”. Following a gentle introduction the piece explodes into life with a Bonham like crash of the drums, triggering an ecstatic soprano sax solo from guest Garland.

Packed with imaginative writing and excellent playing “Life I Know” is a tightly focussed piece of work from a well balanced, long running quintet where everybody knows their roles and fulfils them admirably. Guests Garland and Sirkis, both similarly familiar to the leader, make telling contributions and add to the overall success of the album. Law is one of the UK’s most distinctive guitarists and this album will further enhance his reputation as both a musician and a composer.

I’m currently looking forward to seeing Law perform with a one off international quartet at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival. Law will line up alongside Belfast based pianist Scott Flanigan, bassist Ferg Ireland and French drummer Marc Michel. It’s a free lunchtime event on Monday 19th November and further details can be viewed here;  https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/ant-law-quartet

“Life I Know” will be released on Friday, November 9th 2018.

Life I Know

Ant Law Quintet

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Life I Know

Law is one of the UK’s most distinctive guitarists and this album will further enhance his reputation as both a musician and a composer.

Ant Law

“Life I Know”

(Edition Records EDN1119)

“Life I Know” is the third album as a leader by the British guitarist and composer Ant Law and his first for Edition Records.

Like its predecessors “Entanglement” (33 Records, 2013) and “Zero Sum World” (Whirlwind Recordings, 2015) it features Law’s regular working group, an all star quintet featuring the talents of Mike Chillingworth (alto sax), Ivo Neame (piano), Tom Farmer (double bass) and James Maddren (drums). Of these Phronesis pianist Neame is the comparative newcomer, John Turville having occupied the piano chair on Law’s début.

Law studied physics at Edinburgh University prior to a stint at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston and his writing and tune titles are often inspired by scientific and mathematical principles. He is also a pioneer of the “perfect fourths” system of guitar tuning (E,A,D,G,C,F instead of the usual E,A,D,G,B,E) and is a published author having written a book on this subject entitled “Third Millennium Guitar; An Introduction”.

Now a full time musician he is perhaps most familiar to UK jazz audiences for his work with his Edition label mate, saxophonist and composer Tim Garland. He is also part of Trio HLK, a collaborative unit also featuring pianist Richard Harrold and drummer Richard Kass. This core trio is frequently augmented by the famous classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Others with whom Law has worked include saxophonists Paul Riley and Alam Nathoo, trumpeter Henry Spencer and drummer Ollie Howell plus the band Partikel, led by saxophonist and composer Duncan Eagles.

In 2016 he toured with the Art Of Rhythm Trio featuring Matt Ridley (double bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums and konnakol), a group fusing Indian classical music with jazz.

Law’s musical interests are wide ranging, embracing jazz, rock, blues, world and contemporary classical music. This is reflected in his writing, which is often complex, but which remains highly rhythmic and pleasingly accessible.

Album opener “Movies” contrasts a lilting melodic theme with jagged rhythms, out of which emerges a stunning guitar solo from the leader, the sustain heavy, spiralling intensity of which sometimes recalls the late, great Allan Holdsworth. Law is keen to stress that despite its complexities this is essentially a rock piece, explaining; “Many guitarists playing jazz steadily shed all their non-jazz influences, I haven’t, yet”.

Law plays both electric and acoustic guitars, and has sometimes been sighted playing an eight string model. As befits its title “Searching” is more reflective than the opener and begins with a simple, folk-like acoustic guitar strum. Chillingworth and Neame combine on the lyrical theme, which gathers an anthemic momentum as Law, Farmer and Maddren get behind them.  The piece was inspired by a train trip up the east coast and the vista across the North Sea just south of Edinburgh.
“The piece reflects this as it builds in scale and dynamic”, explains the composer, “it is based around an unusual six bar harmony, this uneven phrase correlates to the beautiful (but uneven) natural landscape”.  Unfortunately at two minutes and forty seconds the journey is all over far too quickly.

Nonetheless the momentum is maintained on the lengthier “Aquilinus” which has a more orthodox jazz feel, with another attractive melodic theme providing the springboard for future complexities and for solos from Law, again adopting a Holdsworth like tone, and from guest Tim Garland on fluent, but highly charged tenor sax. There’s also a drum feature for the excellent Maddren, a musician capable of handling the demands of Law’s music with considerable aplomb.

At the centre of the album is the tune “Pure Imagination”, written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and famous for its inclusion in the film “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”.  The lyric  “There is no life I know, that compares to pure imagination” gives Law’s album its title.
Law treats the tune to a solo guitar performance, removing nearly all the chords and making effective use of electronic effects to create a spacious, shimmering, ethereal soundscape. “I wanted to leave more to the imagination of the listener” explains the guitarist.

The two part “Laurvin Glaslowe” (which appeared in another form on the album “Entanglement”) explores the rhythms and timbres of South Indian classical music and their similarities to contemporary jazz styles. In this sense it’s a continuation of his work with the Art Of Rhythm Trio and Law invites one of his colleagues from that band, Asaf Sirkis, to provide the Indian style ‘mouth percussion’ or konnakol on the “Introduction to Laurvin Glaslowe”.
Sirkis’ vocal gymnastics are accompanied by the sounds of finger cymbals (at a guess) and a sitar like drone, presumably generated by Law’s guitar.
“Laurvin Glaslowe” itself eventually explodes out of this, the “angular rhythmic frameworks” (Law’s words) common to both Indian music and 21st century jazz now reminiscent of the sound of New York. There’s now an edgy, urban energy about the music with its jagged rhythms and biting unison guitar and alto sax lines. Feverish solos come from Law on guitar and Neame on piano with Sirkis briefly joining the group again towards the close. Law spent some time in New York studying with some of that city’s leading guitarists, among them Ben Monder, who Law has acknowledged as a particularly significant influence.

The twelve and a half minute “The Act Itself” is this album’s epic with Law describing it as the album’s “darkest piece” and as a “long-form contemporary classical type thing”. The title refers to “the psychological relationship between thoughts and actions, and which of those defines us”. Heavy stuff, as is the music on this brooding, densely written, episodic composition which passes through several distinct phrases during the course of its duration. The suite like arrangement includes the effective use of bass clarinet, although its not certain whether this is played by Chillingworth or Garland as neither is credited with the instrument. Elsewhere Chillingworth is featured more assertively on alto and there’s also another feature for Maddren.

The cinematic theme running through the album emerges again at the end with “Credits”. This composition began as a solo guitar piece and was moulded into a group performance in the studio. Law begins in solo mode, with the rest of the band making subtle entrances, including Farmer on bowed bass. Law says of the piece “ I wanted to have a euphoric and warm piece to finish on, reflecting the resolution of the album, and an antidote to some of the more dissonant and dark music in the preceding track. This piece plays as the credits roll…”. Following a gentle introduction the piece explodes into life with a Bonham like crash of the drums, triggering an ecstatic soprano sax solo from guest Garland.

Packed with imaginative writing and excellent playing “Life I Know” is a tightly focussed piece of work from a well balanced, long running quintet where everybody knows their roles and fulfils them admirably. Guests Garland and Sirkis, both similarly familiar to the leader, make telling contributions and add to the overall success of the album. Law is one of the UK’s most distinctive guitarists and this album will further enhance his reputation as both a musician and a composer.

I’m currently looking forward to seeing Law perform with a one off international quartet at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival. Law will line up alongside Belfast based pianist Scott Flanigan, bassist Ferg Ireland and French drummer Marc Michel. It’s a free lunchtime event on Monday 19th November and further details can be viewed here;  https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/ant-law-quartet

“Life I Know” will be released on Friday, November 9th 2018.

Devin Gray - Dirigo Rataplan ll Rating: 4 out of 5 Gray is a talented composer who has written some memorable themes for the quartet to improvise around. Intelligent, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable music skilfully played by 4 leading exponents.

Devin Gray

“Dirigo Rataplan II”

(Rataplan Records RR001)

Originally from the US state of Maine drummer and composer Devin Gray is now based in Brooklyn where he has become a major player on the cutting edge of the New York City jazz scene.

This second, self issued Dirigo Rataplan release reconvenes the line up that recorded the original “Dirigo Rataplan” album on the Skirl record label back in 2012. Once again Gray is joined by a stellar line up featuring Ellery Eskelin ( tenor sax), Michael Formanek (double bass) and Dave Ballou (trumpet), all leading figures on the American jazz and experimental music circuit.

Gray is busy and versatile musician who is involved with numerous other projects. The best known of these is probably RelativE ResonancE, another quartet led by the drummer that features Chris Speed on tenor sax, Chris Tordini on bass and Kris Davis at the piano. A trio version of this group featuring Gray, Speed and bassist Drew Gress played at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston as part of the 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-monday-november-13th-2017/

Gray also leads Fashionable Pop Music, another quartet, featuring Tordini plus twin guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Ryan Ferreira. Yet another four piece is Meta Cache featuring clarinettist Jeremy Viner, pianist Elias Stemeseder and bassist Kim Cass. Meanwhile the trio Cloudsounds features saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and pianist Corey Smythe.

Gray has recorded with all of these ensembles but a glance at his website http://www.devingraymusic.com reveals that he is also involved with numerous other projects as leader, co-leader and sideman. In the latter capacity he has worked with trumpeters Nate Woolley and Daniel Levine and with saxophonists Dave Liebman and Tony Malaby, plus many other leading figures of contemporary American jazz.

With its chordless line up Dirigo Rataplan is influenced by the work of saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill, bassist Dave Holland and pianist Craig Taborn among others. The music on “Dirigo Rataplan II” explores the hinterland between composition and improvisation with Gray emphasising that there is a greater degree of free improvisation on this recording than there was on Volume One. However Gray’s compositions are also rich in terms of melody and harmony, with his tunes offering plenty of scope for the musicians to be able to express themselves. Formanek says of his rhythm partner’s writing;
“This music is free and open with a lot of room for improvisation, but the tunes also have an intrinsic rhythmic and melodic character to them, a colour and energy.”


With this release Gray feels that “the melodic fluidity between the composition and the improvisation is more seamless, with one flowing into the other in a way that I really like”.
A case in point is the opening “Congruently” which features the rich, warm blend of Eskelin’s tenor and Ballou’s trumpet allied to the fluid, loose limbed rhythms of Gray and Formanek. An attractive opening theme featuring the elegant dovetailing of the horns leads to more more full-blooded, open ended improvising with the horns pirouetting around in each other in spirited but graceful dialogue as Gray and Formanek provide the constantly unfolding rhythmic flow around which Eskelin and Ballou can dance.

“Rollin’ Thru Town” incorporates a fleeting theme statement followed by a passage of knotty improvisation with the horns sparring gently above the fluent rhythms, the quartet eventually coalescing towards the end around the fulcrum of Formanek’s bass.

The bassist is also the anchor of “Trends of Trending”, his melodic and propulsive motif introducing the tune as Gray’s drums patter around him. Long horn melody lines and the sheer musicality of Gray’s drumming briefly reminds of the UK’s own Polar Bear, but this thought is quickly extinguished as the music takes a more abstract turn with the quartet diving more deeply into improvised waters, the group conversation becoming increasingly garrulous as the piece progresses. Things eventually resolve themselves with a punchy closing written passage.

“Texicate” sounds entirely improvised with hesitant, pecked horn exchanges punctuated by the furtive rustle of Gray’s drums with Formanek’s bass coming late to the proceedings. It’s very much a conversation between equals, one can sense the musicians listening to each other, even towards the closing stages when the music becomes more animated and restless.

I’m not sure if “The Wire” is named for the TV programme or the magazine or something else entirely. It’s a more obviously written piece with deep grooves and an arresting opening unison horn melody. But it’s not long before Eskelin is stretching out with a powerful tenor solo, propelled by Gray’s fluid but dynamic drumming and Formanek’s muscular bass. Hitherto the horns have worked together, this piece being the first one where they truly diverge, and Ballou follows Eskelin with an impressive solo statement of his own. Finally the horns, and indeed the whole group, are united with what at first promises to be a closing theme statement, but even this splinters into improvised abstraction.

“Quantum Cryptology” commences with a melodic trumpet flourish from Ballou, but it’s subsequently Formanek’s earthy bass that sets the tone, his resonant plucking the foil for Eskelin’s tenor sax meditations. Ballou’s astonishing trumpeting brings an other worldly feel to the proceedings, whether solo or in dialogue with Gray as the track moves deeper into freely improvised territory and Formanek picks up his bow. Again the improvising is highly empathic, gratuitous noise and bluster isn’t what Dirigo Rataplan is about, despite a rousing more obviously written passage towards the close.

Gray’s brushed drums introduce “What We Learn From Cities” with Formanek’s pliant but muscular bass subsequently picking up the reins. The rhythm team provide the impetus for the sinuous dialogue between the intertwining horns, with Formanek’s bass sometimes taking over the lead.

“The Feeling Of Healing” is dedicated to Steve Grover, Gray’s former teacher in Maine, and features an attractive opening theme that subsequently shades off into atmospheric avant garde abstraction with the horns plus Formanek’s grainy arco bass coalescing around the clicks and rustles of the leader’s drums. At times the music becomes so quiet that it is almost subliminal as Gray and his colleagues go even further out, before reeling things in again at the end with an extended return tofthe opening theme.

“Intrepid Travellers” might be a suitable alternative group moniker for this supremely well balanced quartet. The piece of that name features one of Gray’s most attractive melodies, around which Ballou and Eskelin swoop and circle gracefully. But the stand out moment comes with Formanek’s virtuoso pizzicato bass solo, his inventive, melodic, deeply resonant plucking skilfully shadowed by Gray.

The closing “Micro Dosage” represents an energetic, spiky, garrulous coda with the four musicians jostling for space with bustling bass and drums competing with short, clipped horn phrases before coming together with some impressive unison passages.

The constantly mutating music of the Dirigo Rataplan group isn’t particularly easy to write about, but to these ears it’s damn good to listen to. This is a very well calibrated and beautifully balanced quartet, a band of equals, all serving the music faithfully and diligently in a collective endeavour where all egos are checked in at the door despite the evident virtuosity of the musicians involved.
Nobody stands out but everybody stands out in an excellent example of collective creativity. As the leader Gray sublimates his own playing to the good of the music, no drum solos, but he excels in his role as colourist and accompanist whilst also subtly shaping the flow of the music through his writing and playing.

There’s no conventional jazz swing in Dirigo Rataplan’s music which may alienate some listeners, but for all its adventurousness the quartet’s music remains readily accessible. It’s location in a place that straddles the borders between composition and improvisation is one that I personally find very appealing. Gray is a talented composer who has written some memorable themes for the quartet to improvise around. This is intelligent, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable music skilfully played by four leading exponents of the genre.

Dirigo Rataplan ll

Devin Gray

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Dirigo Rataplan ll

Gray is a talented composer who has written some memorable themes for the quartet to improvise around. Intelligent, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable music skilfully played by 4 leading exponents.

Devin Gray

“Dirigo Rataplan II”

(Rataplan Records RR001)

Originally from the US state of Maine drummer and composer Devin Gray is now based in Brooklyn where he has become a major player on the cutting edge of the New York City jazz scene.

This second, self issued Dirigo Rataplan release reconvenes the line up that recorded the original “Dirigo Rataplan” album on the Skirl record label back in 2012. Once again Gray is joined by a stellar line up featuring Ellery Eskelin ( tenor sax), Michael Formanek (double bass) and Dave Ballou (trumpet), all leading figures on the American jazz and experimental music circuit.

Gray is busy and versatile musician who is involved with numerous other projects. The best known of these is probably RelativE ResonancE, another quartet led by the drummer that features Chris Speed on tenor sax, Chris Tordini on bass and Kris Davis at the piano. A trio version of this group featuring Gray, Speed and bassist Drew Gress played at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston as part of the 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-monday-november-13th-2017/

Gray also leads Fashionable Pop Music, another quartet, featuring Tordini plus twin guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Ryan Ferreira. Yet another four piece is Meta Cache featuring clarinettist Jeremy Viner, pianist Elias Stemeseder and bassist Kim Cass. Meanwhile the trio Cloudsounds features saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and pianist Corey Smythe.

Gray has recorded with all of these ensembles but a glance at his website http://www.devingraymusic.com reveals that he is also involved with numerous other projects as leader, co-leader and sideman. In the latter capacity he has worked with trumpeters Nate Woolley and Daniel Levine and with saxophonists Dave Liebman and Tony Malaby, plus many other leading figures of contemporary American jazz.

With its chordless line up Dirigo Rataplan is influenced by the work of saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill, bassist Dave Holland and pianist Craig Taborn among others. The music on “Dirigo Rataplan II” explores the hinterland between composition and improvisation with Gray emphasising that there is a greater degree of free improvisation on this recording than there was on Volume One. However Gray’s compositions are also rich in terms of melody and harmony, with his tunes offering plenty of scope for the musicians to be able to express themselves. Formanek says of his rhythm partner’s writing;
“This music is free and open with a lot of room for improvisation, but the tunes also have an intrinsic rhythmic and melodic character to them, a colour and energy.”


With this release Gray feels that “the melodic fluidity between the composition and the improvisation is more seamless, with one flowing into the other in a way that I really like”.
A case in point is the opening “Congruently” which features the rich, warm blend of Eskelin’s tenor and Ballou’s trumpet allied to the fluid, loose limbed rhythms of Gray and Formanek. An attractive opening theme featuring the elegant dovetailing of the horns leads to more more full-blooded, open ended improvising with the horns pirouetting around in each other in spirited but graceful dialogue as Gray and Formanek provide the constantly unfolding rhythmic flow around which Eskelin and Ballou can dance.

“Rollin’ Thru Town” incorporates a fleeting theme statement followed by a passage of knotty improvisation with the horns sparring gently above the fluent rhythms, the quartet eventually coalescing towards the end around the fulcrum of Formanek’s bass.

The bassist is also the anchor of “Trends of Trending”, his melodic and propulsive motif introducing the tune as Gray’s drums patter around him. Long horn melody lines and the sheer musicality of Gray’s drumming briefly reminds of the UK’s own Polar Bear, but this thought is quickly extinguished as the music takes a more abstract turn with the quartet diving more deeply into improvised waters, the group conversation becoming increasingly garrulous as the piece progresses. Things eventually resolve themselves with a punchy closing written passage.

“Texicate” sounds entirely improvised with hesitant, pecked horn exchanges punctuated by the furtive rustle of Gray’s drums with Formanek’s bass coming late to the proceedings. It’s very much a conversation between equals, one can sense the musicians listening to each other, even towards the closing stages when the music becomes more animated and restless.

I’m not sure if “The Wire” is named for the TV programme or the magazine or something else entirely. It’s a more obviously written piece with deep grooves and an arresting opening unison horn melody. But it’s not long before Eskelin is stretching out with a powerful tenor solo, propelled by Gray’s fluid but dynamic drumming and Formanek’s muscular bass. Hitherto the horns have worked together, this piece being the first one where they truly diverge, and Ballou follows Eskelin with an impressive solo statement of his own. Finally the horns, and indeed the whole group, are united with what at first promises to be a closing theme statement, but even this splinters into improvised abstraction.

“Quantum Cryptology” commences with a melodic trumpet flourish from Ballou, but it’s subsequently Formanek’s earthy bass that sets the tone, his resonant plucking the foil for Eskelin’s tenor sax meditations. Ballou’s astonishing trumpeting brings an other worldly feel to the proceedings, whether solo or in dialogue with Gray as the track moves deeper into freely improvised territory and Formanek picks up his bow. Again the improvising is highly empathic, gratuitous noise and bluster isn’t what Dirigo Rataplan is about, despite a rousing more obviously written passage towards the close.

Gray’s brushed drums introduce “What We Learn From Cities” with Formanek’s pliant but muscular bass subsequently picking up the reins. The rhythm team provide the impetus for the sinuous dialogue between the intertwining horns, with Formanek’s bass sometimes taking over the lead.

“The Feeling Of Healing” is dedicated to Steve Grover, Gray’s former teacher in Maine, and features an attractive opening theme that subsequently shades off into atmospheric avant garde abstraction with the horns plus Formanek’s grainy arco bass coalescing around the clicks and rustles of the leader’s drums. At times the music becomes so quiet that it is almost subliminal as Gray and his colleagues go even further out, before reeling things in again at the end with an extended return tofthe opening theme.

“Intrepid Travellers” might be a suitable alternative group moniker for this supremely well balanced quartet. The piece of that name features one of Gray’s most attractive melodies, around which Ballou and Eskelin swoop and circle gracefully. But the stand out moment comes with Formanek’s virtuoso pizzicato bass solo, his inventive, melodic, deeply resonant plucking skilfully shadowed by Gray.

The closing “Micro Dosage” represents an energetic, spiky, garrulous coda with the four musicians jostling for space with bustling bass and drums competing with short, clipped horn phrases before coming together with some impressive unison passages.

The constantly mutating music of the Dirigo Rataplan group isn’t particularly easy to write about, but to these ears it’s damn good to listen to. This is a very well calibrated and beautifully balanced quartet, a band of equals, all serving the music faithfully and diligently in a collective endeavour where all egos are checked in at the door despite the evident virtuosity of the musicians involved.
Nobody stands out but everybody stands out in an excellent example of collective creativity. As the leader Gray sublimates his own playing to the good of the music, no drum solos, but he excels in his role as colourist and accompanist whilst also subtly shaping the flow of the music through his writing and playing.

There’s no conventional jazz swing in Dirigo Rataplan’s music which may alienate some listeners, but for all its adventurousness the quartet’s music remains readily accessible. It’s location in a place that straddles the borders between composition and improvisation is one that I personally find very appealing. Gray is a talented composer who has written some memorable themes for the quartet to improvise around. This is intelligent, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable music skilfully played by four leading exponents of the genre.

François Bourassa Quartet - François Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys a performance by this long running Montreal based quartet led by pianist and composer Francois Bourassa and takes a look at their superb new album "Number 9".

Francois Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018.

One of the joys of being a reviewer is getting to discover the playing of musicians that you otherwise might never have even heard of. A case in point is the Canadian pianist and composer Francois Bourassa, who is currently leading his quartet on a short tour of Europe.

The Bourassa Quartet’s latest album, simply titled “Number 9” in a conscious acknowledgement of the Beatles’ most openly avant garde moment, recently dropped through my letterbox. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that the title of the opening track, “Carla Und Karlheinz”, appeared to be a homage to both Ms. Bley and Herr Stockhausen, the latter an influence on John Lennon. Thus tempted to give the disc an immediate spin I found myself instantly captivated by the quartet’s music, promising to myself to catch them live at one of their three British tour dates on their first visit to the UK since 2013.

Bourassa and his colleagues had already played in Manchester and Glasgow before I caught up with them in Birmingham at the recently opened 1000 Trades pub in the Jewellery Quarter, the new HQ of Birmingham Jazz following their re-location from the nearby Red Lion. That said I don’t think the Sunday night jazz events here come under BJ’s jurisdiction.

Tonight’s event was an early evening show that took place in an intimate performance space on the venue’s middle floor. Bourassa made effective use of the venue’s acoustic upright piano and he was joined by Andre Leroux on tenor sax and flute, Guy Boisvert on double bass and Guillaume Pilote on drums, the latter replacing Greg Ritchie, who appears on the “Number 9” album but who has recently quit the quartet after a fifteen year tenure to concentrate on other projects.

“Number 9” really is Bourassa’s ninth album as a leader. Born in 1959 the Montreal based musician has been leading his own jazz trios and quartets since 1983 as well as writing for contemporary classical ensembles and for ballet and film. The majority of his jazz recordings have been in the quartet format and he has enjoyed a long association with the Montreal based Effendi record label, also the home of Leroux’s solo projects.

Bourassa, Boisvert and Leroux have enjoyed a long association since first playing together in the early 1980s and have established a near telepathic rapport. Speaking with me after the performance the pianist was also full of praise for young drummer Pilote, a rising star of the Canadian jazz scene, who had learned the drum parts of Bourassa’s frequently complex compositions specifically for this European tour.

All the members of the Bourassa Quartet are excellent technicians, but what struck me most about the music to be heard on “Number 9” was the quality of the leader’s writing. Bourassa’s compositions are rich, episodic, constantly evolving, multi-faceted pieces that feature strong, accessible melodies allied to unusual and imaginative harmonies. They draw upon many influences ranging from jazz to classical and even rock. As the Beatles reference suggests Bourassa is a big rock fan who played electric guitar for most of his teenage years before returning to his original instrument, the piano.

Tonight’s single set actually began with a new, as yet unrecorded Bourassa composition, featuring Boisvert’s unaccompanied bowed bass introduction followed by Leroux’s tenor sax theme statement and then a lengthy solo from the leader as the group settled into piano trio mode. Leroux was then given his chance to stretch out on tenor before engaging in a sparky sax / drum dialogue with
newcomer Pilote, who was also afforded the chance of a solo. All four members of the group speak French as a first language so I can’t be categorical about the title of this spirited opener, although it sounded a little like “Lumeau” to these Anglophone ears. I confess to forgetting to check with Francois later.

I was on more secure ground with “11 Beignes” from the new album, with its glacial solo piano opening, the leader subsequently joined in the atmospheric intro by Leroux’s flute and Pilote’s deft brush work and imaginative use of small percussive devices. Leroux is a genuine multi-reed player and the quartet’s recordings also feature him on soprano sax and bass clarinet. Tonight he limited himself to just tenor sax and flute, soloing here on both, alongside the leader on piano. Leroux’s versatility makes him ideal for the Bourassa quartet with the leader’s writing making good use of the broad variety of reed generated sounds that Leroux is capable of producing.

Also from the new album “5 And Less” was inspired by the title of Miles Davis’ “4 And More”, written in 5/4 but with variations thereon. Again introduced solo by the composer but with a melodic theme stated by Leroux on tenor this beguiling piece acted as the vehicle for a flowingly melodic piano solo from Bourassa, an engaging pizzicato bass feature from Boisvert and a fluent and expansive tenor excursion from Leroux.

The introduction to the eleven minute epic “Frozen” saw Boisvert flourishing the bow once more as he joined in dialogue with Leroux’s tenor, their atmospheric discourse underpinned by Bourassa’ s sparse piano chording and the rustle of Pilote’s drums and small percussion. Leroux subsequently adopted a grittier, harder edged tone as he soloed in more conventional fashion, his robust tone reminiscent of the great John Coltrane. Bourassa’s compositions are in a constant state of flux and the leader soloed on piano above a curiously loping odd meter groove before handing back to Leroux for another muscular tenor solo, this propelled by Pilote’s explosive drumming. Finally a last change of direction, and indeed instrumentation, with a gentle coda featuring Leroux’s wispy, almost imperceptible flute.

Like “Frozen” the next piece was also sourced from the new album. The ballad “18, Rue De L’Hotel De Ville” is named for the address of the Studio du Quebec in Paris, a haven for visiting French Canadian musicians where Bourassa spent some time in 2015.  Bourassa’s classically honed technique was apparent in a lengthy solo piano introduction that made effective use of dampened strings. Tenor sax, double bass and Pilote’s mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers added to the atmosphere with Leroux stating a melodic theme prior to further piano meditations from Bourassa.
The saxophonist then soloed anthemically above a rumbling, rubato undertow on the album’s most introspective and ruminative track.

Finally we heard the stunning album opener “Carla Und Karlheinz”, a piece that proved to be equally effective when scheduled at the end of the programme. Bourassa’s audacious solo piano intro was followed by similarly complex contributions from flute, bass and drums. Next we heard more dazzling solo piano before a propulsive odd meter groove was generated with Leroux taking his first solo on effervescent, high register flute, followed by Boisvert on plucked double bass and Bourassa with a series of tumbling piano inventions. Leroux then switched to tenor sax, soloing powerfully, all the while lashed on by Pilote’s dynamic drumming. Avant garde trappings were embraced in the form of saxophone multiphonics, grainy arco bass and interior piano scrapings before the quartet reined things back in again with a return to the opening theme.

I was impressed by this all too short performance by the Bourassa Quartet and have returned to the album many times since. It’s a recording that continues to delight and fascinate with its multi faceted compositions and superb playing. Bourassa’s music is consistently unpredictable, yet flows organically and logically, and always seems to make perfect sense.

The track listing also includes “Past Ich”, one of the album’s more reflective moments, which breathes new life into an old, but previously unused, melody and features Leroux on soprano sax.

There is also “Lostage”, the title a word invented by Bourassa, “it’s half English, half French” he explains, “meaning a loss of control”. As rich and complex as anything else on the record the piece begins in similarly atmospheric fashion to “11 Beignes”, building organically through Boisvert’s plucked bass solo to eventually embrace a sense of controlled chaos, with further solos coming from Leroux on tenor and Bourassa on piano.

Bourassa and his colleagues are well known in their native Canada and have won several awards in their homeland including a Juno Prize and the Oscar Peterson Award. On the evidence of “Number 9” they deserve to be much better known internationally and this album is strongly recommended to anybody who might read this. Adventurous but accessible the Francois Bourassa Quartet is one of the most interesting of contemporary jazz groups.

It would have been nice to have heard Bourassa on a concert grand but he still sounded good on the venue’s modest upright, even if he was rather hidden away in a corner. But it’s perhaps as a composer that Bourassa impresses me most. With its broad range of influences his writing is a constant source of fascination. As a jazz composer he covers a truly impressive amount of ground.

My thanks to all the members of the quartet for speaking with me afterwards. I also treated myself to an earlier Bourassa album, 2007’s “Rasstones” (Effendi Records) recorded by the same quartet as “Number 9” and featuring an equally diverse and rewarding set of compositions.

I was also keen to hear Leroux leading his own group and purchased his 2009 Effendi release “Corpus Callosum”, featuring a quartet of Frederic Alarie (bass), Normand Deveault (drums) and Christian Lajoie (drums). Despite including some compositions by Bourassa it’s less distinctive than the pianist’s own recordings and is more obviously in thrall to John Coltrane and the American jazz tradition. It’s a pretty decent offering nevertheless and Leroux remains a highly distinctive multi-reed instrumentalist.

The Bourassa Quartet are currently in Europe with dates as follows;


6 November 2018 Paris FR -Sunset Sunside  

8 November 2018 Turin IT - Jazzclub Torino    

11 November 2018 Aachen DE -Dumont

François Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018.

François Bourassa Quartet

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

François Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018.

Ian Mann enjoys a performance by this long running Montreal based quartet led by pianist and composer Francois Bourassa and takes a look at their superb new album "Number 9".

Francois Bourassa Quartet, 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 04/11/2018.

One of the joys of being a reviewer is getting to discover the playing of musicians that you otherwise might never have even heard of. A case in point is the Canadian pianist and composer Francois Bourassa, who is currently leading his quartet on a short tour of Europe.

The Bourassa Quartet’s latest album, simply titled “Number 9” in a conscious acknowledgement of the Beatles’ most openly avant garde moment, recently dropped through my letterbox. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that the title of the opening track, “Carla Und Karlheinz”, appeared to be a homage to both Ms. Bley and Herr Stockhausen, the latter an influence on John Lennon. Thus tempted to give the disc an immediate spin I found myself instantly captivated by the quartet’s music, promising to myself to catch them live at one of their three British tour dates on their first visit to the UK since 2013.

Bourassa and his colleagues had already played in Manchester and Glasgow before I caught up with them in Birmingham at the recently opened 1000 Trades pub in the Jewellery Quarter, the new HQ of Birmingham Jazz following their re-location from the nearby Red Lion. That said I don’t think the Sunday night jazz events here come under BJ’s jurisdiction.

Tonight’s event was an early evening show that took place in an intimate performance space on the venue’s middle floor. Bourassa made effective use of the venue’s acoustic upright piano and he was joined by Andre Leroux on tenor sax and flute, Guy Boisvert on double bass and Guillaume Pilote on drums, the latter replacing Greg Ritchie, who appears on the “Number 9” album but who has recently quit the quartet after a fifteen year tenure to concentrate on other projects.

“Number 9” really is Bourassa’s ninth album as a leader. Born in 1959 the Montreal based musician has been leading his own jazz trios and quartets since 1983 as well as writing for contemporary classical ensembles and for ballet and film. The majority of his jazz recordings have been in the quartet format and he has enjoyed a long association with the Montreal based Effendi record label, also the home of Leroux’s solo projects.

Bourassa, Boisvert and Leroux have enjoyed a long association since first playing together in the early 1980s and have established a near telepathic rapport. Speaking with me after the performance the pianist was also full of praise for young drummer Pilote, a rising star of the Canadian jazz scene, who had learned the drum parts of Bourassa’s frequently complex compositions specifically for this European tour.

All the members of the Bourassa Quartet are excellent technicians, but what struck me most about the music to be heard on “Number 9” was the quality of the leader’s writing. Bourassa’s compositions are rich, episodic, constantly evolving, multi-faceted pieces that feature strong, accessible melodies allied to unusual and imaginative harmonies. They draw upon many influences ranging from jazz to classical and even rock. As the Beatles reference suggests Bourassa is a big rock fan who played electric guitar for most of his teenage years before returning to his original instrument, the piano.

Tonight’s single set actually began with a new, as yet unrecorded Bourassa composition, featuring Boisvert’s unaccompanied bowed bass introduction followed by Leroux’s tenor sax theme statement and then a lengthy solo from the leader as the group settled into piano trio mode. Leroux was then given his chance to stretch out on tenor before engaging in a sparky sax / drum dialogue with
newcomer Pilote, who was also afforded the chance of a solo. All four members of the group speak French as a first language so I can’t be categorical about the title of this spirited opener, although it sounded a little like “Lumeau” to these Anglophone ears. I confess to forgetting to check with Francois later.

I was on more secure ground with “11 Beignes” from the new album, with its glacial solo piano opening, the leader subsequently joined in the atmospheric intro by Leroux’s flute and Pilote’s deft brush work and imaginative use of small percussive devices. Leroux is a genuine multi-reed player and the quartet’s recordings also feature him on soprano sax and bass clarinet. Tonight he limited himself to just tenor sax and flute, soloing here on both, alongside the leader on piano. Leroux’s versatility makes him ideal for the Bourassa quartet with the leader’s writing making good use of the broad variety of reed generated sounds that Leroux is capable of producing.

Also from the new album “5 And Less” was inspired by the title of Miles Davis’ “4 And More”, written in 5/4 but with variations thereon. Again introduced solo by the composer but with a melodic theme stated by Leroux on tenor this beguiling piece acted as the vehicle for a flowingly melodic piano solo from Bourassa, an engaging pizzicato bass feature from Boisvert and a fluent and expansive tenor excursion from Leroux.

The introduction to the eleven minute epic “Frozen” saw Boisvert flourishing the bow once more as he joined in dialogue with Leroux’s tenor, their atmospheric discourse underpinned by Bourassa’ s sparse piano chording and the rustle of Pilote’s drums and small percussion. Leroux subsequently adopted a grittier, harder edged tone as he soloed in more conventional fashion, his robust tone reminiscent of the great John Coltrane. Bourassa’s compositions are in a constant state of flux and the leader soloed on piano above a curiously loping odd meter groove before handing back to Leroux for another muscular tenor solo, this propelled by Pilote’s explosive drumming. Finally a last change of direction, and indeed instrumentation, with a gentle coda featuring Leroux’s wispy, almost imperceptible flute.

Like “Frozen” the next piece was also sourced from the new album. The ballad “18, Rue De L’Hotel De Ville” is named for the address of the Studio du Quebec in Paris, a haven for visiting French Canadian musicians where Bourassa spent some time in 2015.  Bourassa’s classically honed technique was apparent in a lengthy solo piano introduction that made effective use of dampened strings. Tenor sax, double bass and Pilote’s mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers added to the atmosphere with Leroux stating a melodic theme prior to further piano meditations from Bourassa.
The saxophonist then soloed anthemically above a rumbling, rubato undertow on the album’s most introspective and ruminative track.

Finally we heard the stunning album opener “Carla Und Karlheinz”, a piece that proved to be equally effective when scheduled at the end of the programme. Bourassa’s audacious solo piano intro was followed by similarly complex contributions from flute, bass and drums. Next we heard more dazzling solo piano before a propulsive odd meter groove was generated with Leroux taking his first solo on effervescent, high register flute, followed by Boisvert on plucked double bass and Bourassa with a series of tumbling piano inventions. Leroux then switched to tenor sax, soloing powerfully, all the while lashed on by Pilote’s dynamic drumming. Avant garde trappings were embraced in the form of saxophone multiphonics, grainy arco bass and interior piano scrapings before the quartet reined things back in again with a return to the opening theme.

I was impressed by this all too short performance by the Bourassa Quartet and have returned to the album many times since. It’s a recording that continues to delight and fascinate with its multi faceted compositions and superb playing. Bourassa’s music is consistently unpredictable, yet flows organically and logically, and always seems to make perfect sense.

The track listing also includes “Past Ich”, one of the album’s more reflective moments, which breathes new life into an old, but previously unused, melody and features Leroux on soprano sax.

There is also “Lostage”, the title a word invented by Bourassa, “it’s half English, half French” he explains, “meaning a loss of control”. As rich and complex as anything else on the record the piece begins in similarly atmospheric fashion to “11 Beignes”, building organically through Boisvert’s plucked bass solo to eventually embrace a sense of controlled chaos, with further solos coming from Leroux on tenor and Bourassa on piano.

Bourassa and his colleagues are well known in their native Canada and have won several awards in their homeland including a Juno Prize and the Oscar Peterson Award. On the evidence of “Number 9” they deserve to be much better known internationally and this album is strongly recommended to anybody who might read this. Adventurous but accessible the Francois Bourassa Quartet is one of the most interesting of contemporary jazz groups.

It would have been nice to have heard Bourassa on a concert grand but he still sounded good on the venue’s modest upright, even if he was rather hidden away in a corner. But it’s perhaps as a composer that Bourassa impresses me most. With its broad range of influences his writing is a constant source of fascination. As a jazz composer he covers a truly impressive amount of ground.

My thanks to all the members of the quartet for speaking with me afterwards. I also treated myself to an earlier Bourassa album, 2007’s “Rasstones” (Effendi Records) recorded by the same quartet as “Number 9” and featuring an equally diverse and rewarding set of compositions.

I was also keen to hear Leroux leading his own group and purchased his 2009 Effendi release “Corpus Callosum”, featuring a quartet of Frederic Alarie (bass), Normand Deveault (drums) and Christian Lajoie (drums). Despite including some compositions by Bourassa it’s less distinctive than the pianist’s own recordings and is more obviously in thrall to John Coltrane and the American jazz tradition. It’s a pretty decent offering nevertheless and Leroux remains a highly distinctive multi-reed instrumentalist.

The Bourassa Quartet are currently in Europe with dates as follows;


6 November 2018 Paris FR -Sunset Sunside  

8 November 2018 Turin IT - Jazzclub Torino    

11 November 2018 Aachen DE -Dumont

Roz Harding - Supermood Rating: 4 out of 5 Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that thrillingly explores the hinterland between composition and improvisation.

Roz Harding

“Supermood”

(Leo Records LR 761)

Roz Harding is a Devon based alto saxophonist and composer. Born in Bristol but raised in Devon she studied music at Exeter College before choosing to specialise in jazz, graduating with BA Hons from the Jazz Course at Middlesex University where she studied with saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Rob Townsend plus other leading jazz luminaries such as Stuart Hall, Eddie Parker, Nikki Iles, Pete Churchill and Chris Batchelor.

Harding is probably best known for her playing in various ensembles led by husband and wife the Westbrooks, such as Mike’s Uncommon Orchestra and Kate’s Granite Band.  She is also a regular member of that eclectic and unclassifiable outfit Billie Bottle and the Multiple, plus its various offshoots. Harding has also played as a sidewoman with an impressive list of leading musicians that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of British jazz.

Harding has also been a leader of her own groups, including the now defunct units Sketch and Wave. Her latest project is Supermood, a trio founded in 2013 featuring guitarist Mike Outram and the Birmingham based drummer Jim Bashford.  Supermood is also an audio-visual project with the trio’s live performances enhanced by 1960s style light shows.

In the meantime we have Supermood’s début album to enjoy, a ‘live in the studio’ recording documented over the course of three days in February 2016 under the guidance of studio owner, engineer and producer Josiah Manning. Multiple microphones were set up to allow the musicians to move around, thus bringing something of that visual element to the audio recording. The album is available on both vinyl and CD with the vinyl version divided into “Breathe In” and “Breathe Out” sides while Harding describes the CD as being “a non-stop narrative of life inside the Supermood”.

All the pieces are credited to Harding but the album commences with “Breath Intro”, one and a half minutes of music that sounds as if it may have been entirely improvised. It begins almost subliminally with the breathy sound of the leader’s sax but Outram’s scratchy, then grungy guitar and the rustling, then pummelling of Bashford’s drums soon muddy the waters with Harding quickly adjusting the style of her playing accordingly. It’s an uncompromising start that throws down the gauntlet for much of what is to follow.

That said Harding is more than capable of writing a catchy melodic motif or hook, as typified by the opening of the following “If You Could”. But this quickly dissipates as the trio once more steer a course into deeper, more obviously improvised waters.  Sax and guitar lines intertwine as the trio float gently for a while, but this reverie is soon interrupted by a barrage of riffage that ends almost as suddenly as it arrives. The opening hook then returns, acting as the trigger for another bout of gnarly, knotty improvising from which Harding’s sax emerges to deliver a powerful, incisive solo with Outram’s muscular, rock influenced guitar the perfect foil. The trio are capable of covering a lot of ground in the course of a single composition, varying their angle of attack with seamless changes of mood and dynamics.

“Waiting For Pea” begins as a ballad, with the gentle keening of Harding’s alto sax accompanied by Outram’s tasteful guitar FX and, eventually, Bashford’s atmospheric cymbal shimmers. Momentum builds via the solos of Harding and Outram, both of which are fluent and wildly imaginative, yet still with the music remaining broadly in the ballad format. There’s a more coherent and conventional feel to this piece, but there is still plenty to engage the listener.

“Tangled Part 1” is a studio created melange of the trio’s speaking voices (shades of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”) that acts as a precursor to the twelve minute epic that is “Tangled Part 2”. This develops from an opening riffy dialogue between Harding’s alto and Bashford’s drums, with Outram’s ringing guitar soon coming on board. Harding’s long melody lines are supported by Outram’s inventive comping, but the pair are soon going head to head, exchanging lines thrillingly in an ongoing dialogue featuring Harding’s bellicose sax blasting and Outram’s high octane guitar, all this supported by the constantly unfolding ferment of Bashford’s drums. Eventually the energy dissipates with a more impressionistic passage mid tune featuring the sound of Outram’s unaccompanied guitar. The pace picks up again with the odd meter riffing of the closing section as Harding undertakes something approaching a conventional solo, her playing hard edged and visceral. There’s something of the primal power of Led Bib or Acoustic Ladyland about this trio when they build up a head of steam. Eventually Harding and the trio reel things back in again, but even when they’re winding down there’s still an edgy quality about the music.

“Mega Bear”, is almost as lengthy, emerging from a free jazz intro featuring Harding’s slap tongue and multiphonic techniques. Outram’s scratchy guitar and the rumblings and scrapings of Bashford’s drums and percussion are added to the foghorn like wail of the leader’s sax as a melody of sorts emerges. Nevertheless the overall mood remains dark and menacing, only changing mid tune with the introduction of a softer edged alto sound allied to a brief wordless vocal and a more languid guitar sound. But the trio are soon ratcheting up the tension once more as Outram’s soaring, clangorous guitar imbues the piece with a genuinely anthemic quality. Finally we come full circle with a free improv style outro.

Outram’s turbo charged riffing introduces “You Brewed Up A Storm” which also features the guitarist deploying his FX as a kind of sound-scaping tool. Harding’s sax again wails demoniacally as Bashford attacks his kit with relish. The leader’s catchy sax hook ushers in a more conventional riff based, jazz rock passage that hits like a punch to the gut. It’s brutal and relentless but hugely invigorating, culminating in a suitably thunderous Bashford drum solo. Finally the trio coalesce once more for a high octane finish with sinister sounding voices briefly intoning the tune title.

The lovely “For The Moon” represents one of the trio’s more reflective moments, with Harding revealing a genuine gift for melody as her gently probing alto is teamed with Outram’s Frisell like guitar and Bashford’s subtle but imaginative brush work.

“Breath Outro” is thirty seconds of free improvisation that mirrors the album opener and leads to “Yesterday I Was On Time” which commences with a gentle dialogue between Harding and Outram. However it’s not long before the pair are upping the energy levels once more with some taut riffing, fiery guitar / sax interplay and kinetic, hard driving drumming. Then there’s a slide into a harsh, wilful dissonance, this interspersed with more riff based passages. The mood remains frighteningly intense almost throughout, but, having peaked in ferocity the piece ends as it began with a calming dialogue between Harding and Outram, this time accompanied by Bashford’s cymbal shimmers.

“Fifty-Two Fifty” ensures that sparks continue to fly until the end with the jagged, staccato riffing of the intro leading to a powerful Harding solo underpinned by Outram’s guitar drive and Bashford’s sturdy drumming. The energy and attack continues throughout on a piece that I suspect probably acts as a climactic closer at the trio’s live shows.

“Supermood” isn’t a particularly easy album to write about, Harding’s pieces twist and turn in a manner that ensures that several different musical territories are routinely explored during the course of a single tune.  But I did enjoy it; Harding’s music inhabits a space that I like, the hinterland between through composition and spontaneous improvisation. There’s usually a hook or a riff to hang your hat on, but plenty of room for the musicians to express themselves within the loose confines of the framework.

The interplay between Harding and the supremely inventive Outram is superb throughout. I’ve heard the guitarist before in several different contexts but he’s rarely been given as much freedom to shape the music as he does here and he seems to relish the opportunity. His playing is brilliant throughout. Indeed his partnership with Harding reminds me at times of that between alto saxophonist Tim Berne and guitarist Marc Ducret in Berne’s Big Satan and Science Friction projects.

Harding doesn’t cite Berne as an influence although she does mention Art Pepper and Jackie McLean. There’s certainly something of McLean’s acerbic dryness in her tone, this allied to an attack reminiscent of Berne and Ornette Coleman.

Bashford is another musician I have seen and heard many times before, but again rarely in such a free-wheeling context as this. He, too rises to the challenge and is excellent throughout, inventive and technically accomplished, hard driving at times but capable of sympathy and subtlety if required. Together with Outram he ensures that the absence of a bassist is never noticed.

Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that will only suit so many ears. It certainly appealed to mine, and on that basis I’m happy to recommend it, but realise that it won’t be for everybody.

My thanks to Roz Harding for sending me a copy of this album for review. She wasn’t part of the Westbrook band that visited The Edge in Much Wenlock in May 2010, having joined shortly after, thus she represents an exciting new discovery for me. She’s part of a line of adventurous female saxophonists that includes Ingrid Laubrock, Dee Byrne, Cath Roberts, Trish Clowes, Rachel Musson and others.

On the evidence of the “Supermood” album I’d certainly be keen to see the trio play live, especially with that light show!

Supermood

Roz Harding

Friday, November 02, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Supermood

Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that thrillingly explores the hinterland between composition and improvisation.

Roz Harding

“Supermood”

(Leo Records LR 761)

Roz Harding is a Devon based alto saxophonist and composer. Born in Bristol but raised in Devon she studied music at Exeter College before choosing to specialise in jazz, graduating with BA Hons from the Jazz Course at Middlesex University where she studied with saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Rob Townsend plus other leading jazz luminaries such as Stuart Hall, Eddie Parker, Nikki Iles, Pete Churchill and Chris Batchelor.

Harding is probably best known for her playing in various ensembles led by husband and wife the Westbrooks, such as Mike’s Uncommon Orchestra and Kate’s Granite Band.  She is also a regular member of that eclectic and unclassifiable outfit Billie Bottle and the Multiple, plus its various offshoots. Harding has also played as a sidewoman with an impressive list of leading musicians that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of British jazz.

Harding has also been a leader of her own groups, including the now defunct units Sketch and Wave. Her latest project is Supermood, a trio founded in 2013 featuring guitarist Mike Outram and the Birmingham based drummer Jim Bashford.  Supermood is also an audio-visual project with the trio’s live performances enhanced by 1960s style light shows.

In the meantime we have Supermood’s début album to enjoy, a ‘live in the studio’ recording documented over the course of three days in February 2016 under the guidance of studio owner, engineer and producer Josiah Manning. Multiple microphones were set up to allow the musicians to move around, thus bringing something of that visual element to the audio recording. The album is available on both vinyl and CD with the vinyl version divided into “Breathe In” and “Breathe Out” sides while Harding describes the CD as being “a non-stop narrative of life inside the Supermood”.

All the pieces are credited to Harding but the album commences with “Breath Intro”, one and a half minutes of music that sounds as if it may have been entirely improvised. It begins almost subliminally with the breathy sound of the leader’s sax but Outram’s scratchy, then grungy guitar and the rustling, then pummelling of Bashford’s drums soon muddy the waters with Harding quickly adjusting the style of her playing accordingly. It’s an uncompromising start that throws down the gauntlet for much of what is to follow.

That said Harding is more than capable of writing a catchy melodic motif or hook, as typified by the opening of the following “If You Could”. But this quickly dissipates as the trio once more steer a course into deeper, more obviously improvised waters.  Sax and guitar lines intertwine as the trio float gently for a while, but this reverie is soon interrupted by a barrage of riffage that ends almost as suddenly as it arrives. The opening hook then returns, acting as the trigger for another bout of gnarly, knotty improvising from which Harding’s sax emerges to deliver a powerful, incisive solo with Outram’s muscular, rock influenced guitar the perfect foil. The trio are capable of covering a lot of ground in the course of a single composition, varying their angle of attack with seamless changes of mood and dynamics.

“Waiting For Pea” begins as a ballad, with the gentle keening of Harding’s alto sax accompanied by Outram’s tasteful guitar FX and, eventually, Bashford’s atmospheric cymbal shimmers. Momentum builds via the solos of Harding and Outram, both of which are fluent and wildly imaginative, yet still with the music remaining broadly in the ballad format. There’s a more coherent and conventional feel to this piece, but there is still plenty to engage the listener.

“Tangled Part 1” is a studio created melange of the trio’s speaking voices (shades of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”) that acts as a precursor to the twelve minute epic that is “Tangled Part 2”. This develops from an opening riffy dialogue between Harding’s alto and Bashford’s drums, with Outram’s ringing guitar soon coming on board. Harding’s long melody lines are supported by Outram’s inventive comping, but the pair are soon going head to head, exchanging lines thrillingly in an ongoing dialogue featuring Harding’s bellicose sax blasting and Outram’s high octane guitar, all this supported by the constantly unfolding ferment of Bashford’s drums. Eventually the energy dissipates with a more impressionistic passage mid tune featuring the sound of Outram’s unaccompanied guitar. The pace picks up again with the odd meter riffing of the closing section as Harding undertakes something approaching a conventional solo, her playing hard edged and visceral. There’s something of the primal power of Led Bib or Acoustic Ladyland about this trio when they build up a head of steam. Eventually Harding and the trio reel things back in again, but even when they’re winding down there’s still an edgy quality about the music.

“Mega Bear”, is almost as lengthy, emerging from a free jazz intro featuring Harding’s slap tongue and multiphonic techniques. Outram’s scratchy guitar and the rumblings and scrapings of Bashford’s drums and percussion are added to the foghorn like wail of the leader’s sax as a melody of sorts emerges. Nevertheless the overall mood remains dark and menacing, only changing mid tune with the introduction of a softer edged alto sound allied to a brief wordless vocal and a more languid guitar sound. But the trio are soon ratcheting up the tension once more as Outram’s soaring, clangorous guitar imbues the piece with a genuinely anthemic quality. Finally we come full circle with a free improv style outro.

Outram’s turbo charged riffing introduces “You Brewed Up A Storm” which also features the guitarist deploying his FX as a kind of sound-scaping tool. Harding’s sax again wails demoniacally as Bashford attacks his kit with relish. The leader’s catchy sax hook ushers in a more conventional riff based, jazz rock passage that hits like a punch to the gut. It’s brutal and relentless but hugely invigorating, culminating in a suitably thunderous Bashford drum solo. Finally the trio coalesce once more for a high octane finish with sinister sounding voices briefly intoning the tune title.

The lovely “For The Moon” represents one of the trio’s more reflective moments, with Harding revealing a genuine gift for melody as her gently probing alto is teamed with Outram’s Frisell like guitar and Bashford’s subtle but imaginative brush work.

“Breath Outro” is thirty seconds of free improvisation that mirrors the album opener and leads to “Yesterday I Was On Time” which commences with a gentle dialogue between Harding and Outram. However it’s not long before the pair are upping the energy levels once more with some taut riffing, fiery guitar / sax interplay and kinetic, hard driving drumming. Then there’s a slide into a harsh, wilful dissonance, this interspersed with more riff based passages. The mood remains frighteningly intense almost throughout, but, having peaked in ferocity the piece ends as it began with a calming dialogue between Harding and Outram, this time accompanied by Bashford’s cymbal shimmers.

“Fifty-Two Fifty” ensures that sparks continue to fly until the end with the jagged, staccato riffing of the intro leading to a powerful Harding solo underpinned by Outram’s guitar drive and Bashford’s sturdy drumming. The energy and attack continues throughout on a piece that I suspect probably acts as a climactic closer at the trio’s live shows.

“Supermood” isn’t a particularly easy album to write about, Harding’s pieces twist and turn in a manner that ensures that several different musical territories are routinely explored during the course of a single tune.  But I did enjoy it; Harding’s music inhabits a space that I like, the hinterland between through composition and spontaneous improvisation. There’s usually a hook or a riff to hang your hat on, but plenty of room for the musicians to express themselves within the loose confines of the framework.

The interplay between Harding and the supremely inventive Outram is superb throughout. I’ve heard the guitarist before in several different contexts but he’s rarely been given as much freedom to shape the music as he does here and he seems to relish the opportunity. His playing is brilliant throughout. Indeed his partnership with Harding reminds me at times of that between alto saxophonist Tim Berne and guitarist Marc Ducret in Berne’s Big Satan and Science Friction projects.

Harding doesn’t cite Berne as an influence although she does mention Art Pepper and Jackie McLean. There’s certainly something of McLean’s acerbic dryness in her tone, this allied to an attack reminiscent of Berne and Ornette Coleman.

Bashford is another musician I have seen and heard many times before, but again rarely in such a free-wheeling context as this. He, too rises to the challenge and is excellent throughout, inventive and technically accomplished, hard driving at times but capable of sympathy and subtlety if required. Together with Outram he ensures that the absence of a bassist is never noticed.

Embracing elements of jazz, rock and improv “Supermood” is an intense, uncompromising album that will only suit so many ears. It certainly appealed to mine, and on that basis I’m happy to recommend it, but realise that it won’t be for everybody.

My thanks to Roz Harding for sending me a copy of this album for review. She wasn’t part of the Westbrook band that visited The Edge in Much Wenlock in May 2010, having joined shortly after, thus she represents an exciting new discovery for me. She’s part of a line of adventurous female saxophonists that includes Ingrid Laubrock, Dee Byrne, Cath Roberts, Trish Clowes, Rachel Musson and others.

On the evidence of the “Supermood” album I’d certainly be keen to see the trio play live, especially with that light show!

Dave Jones Quartet - Dave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 The quartet’s efforts were warmly appreciated by a decent sized crowd on a very chilly October night.

Dave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018.

Port Talbot based pianist and composer Dave Jones has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages since I reviewed his excellent trio album “Impetus” back in 2009. He has since released an impressive catalogue of other recordings beginning with the more expansive offerings “Journeys (2010) and “Resonance” (2012), both of which featured a core quartet including saxophonist Lee Goodall plus additional brass and strings. Like “Impetus” both albums highlighted just what an accomplished and ambitious composer Jones can be and all attracted an impressive amount of critical acclaim from the London based jazz media.

In recent years Jones’ preferred working group has been a quartet featuring Goodall on reeds, Ashley John Long on double bass and, when available, the Irishman Kevin Lawlor at the drums. This line up released the excellent concert recording “Live At AMG” in 2014.

Jones has since released “Postscript” (2016),  an intimate duo set recorded with Long and has appeared as a sideman on Lawlor’s two solo albums “Exodus” (2013) and “Eight” (2015). Other credits include work with the jazz/folk outfit Burum and with Coltrane Dedication, the free-wheeling aggregation co-led by saxophonists Lyndon Owen and Caractacus Downes, 


In February 2017 Jones visited BMJ to première his latest quartet recording “Key Notes”, an album that introduced a new quartet featuring Long, saxophonist and flautist Ben Waghorn, and young drum tyro Lloyd Haines, a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Haines, who had also appeared on “Journeys” and “Resonance”, is now making a name for himself on the London jazz scene and at the time of the BMJ performance his place in the Jones quartet had just been taken by Andy Hague, a highly talented and versatile musician from Bristol who is arguably better known as a trumpeter, although he seems to be spending more and more time behind the drum kit these days. Hague is now the first choice drummer for the Jones quartet and will appear on the group’s next album, which is due to be recorded in the Spring of 2019. He has also drummed for pianist John Law but as a trumpeter has released a number of albums as a leader including 2012’s Horace Silver inspired “Cross My Palm”, which is reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, as have all of Jones’ recordings from “Impetus” onwards.

“Key Notes” includes a couple of tracks that feature Long on his ‘second’ instrument, the vibraphone. Long’s ability as a versatile and virtuoso bassist is well known, he also has a parallel classical career, but he’s increasingly acquiring a reputation for his skills with the mallets too. Long first began playing the vibes on stage during his tenure with the long running, but sadly now defunct, Cardiff cult outfit Heavy Quartet but has subsequently led his own vibes fronted groups, including an appearance in this capacity at the 2017 Brecon Jazz Festival.

At the suggestion of BMJ promoter Mike Skilton Long brought both his double bass and his vibes to Abergavenny (it’s amazing what you can fit into the back of a VW Passat!), thus helping to ensure that tonight’s performance was radically different from 2017’s. It must be unusual for any quartet to include two such talented multi-instrumentalists as Long and Hague, maybe we’ll get to hear some of Andy’s trumpeting at the 2019 visit!

Tonight’s performance had something of an experimental feel to it as the quartet played a mix of freshly written material slated for the impending new album and more familiar ‘played in’ items from the “KeyNotes” repertoire.

The quartet commenced with “Sands”, the opening piece from the “KeyNotes” album. The composition was originally written as a solo piano piece and was introduced here by the sound of Jones’ unaccompanied keyboard. The entry of the band found Waghorn re-iterating the folk tinged theme on tenor sax before Long took the first full length solo of the night on double bass. Long’s virtuoso, classically honed technique ensures that every solo he plays is full of interest. Bass solos are never boring when Ashley John Long is around. A few days previously I’d seen Jones and Long performing as part of the Coltrane Dedication quintet at the Queens Head in nearby Monmouth. There the bassist’s solos were little short of astonishing, involving the liberal use of extended techniques, both with and without the bow. In the Jones group he’s not encouraged to go quite so far out, but tonight his inventiveness and dexterity still remained stunning. The bassist was followed by Waghorn’s fluent, probing tenor and by Jones himself at the keyboard, adopting an acoustic piano sound as Hague provided responsive and relevant drum commentary. A final theme restatement, led by Waghorn’s tenor, saw Long briefly flourishing the bow.

Perhaps Waghorn should also be regarded as a multi-instrumentalist. His playing on flute on the McCoy Tyner inspired “Afro” from “KeyNotes” was exceptional as he shared the solos with Jones, while Hague also weighed in with a closing drum feature.

Besides his jazz output Jones has also written prolifically for film and TV soundtracks, plus so called “library music”. This proved to be the source of inspiration for the first new number of the evening. Still unnamed but with the working title “New Kalimba Song” this performance saw the leader wrestling with new musical technology as he triggered a loop of pre-recorded kalimba like keyboard sounds that Jones had previously recorded as part of his soundtrack work. Underpinning the piece in Terry Riley like fashion the loop, plus Jones’ keyboard generated bass lines courtesy of a second on stage keyboard, freed Long up to feature on vibes.  The loop was switched off as Hague’s crisp, Latin-esque drum grooves powered solos from Waghorn on tenor and Long on vibes, the latter deploying two mallets in the manner of Milt Jackson. The kalimba sounds were resumed towards the end of the tune but it’s probably fair to say that in the overall context of the performance the technological aspect was only a qualified success.

Another new piece, currently prosaically titled “Second New Tune” was again Tyner influenced, and again featured Waghorn on flute. This proved to be rather more straightforward as Waghorn shared the solos with Jones on piano and Long on double bass.

Most of the titles on the “KeyNotes” album sound as if they started as working titles but subsequently remained unchanged. Most are a single, highly descriptive word, as typified by the following “Blues”, which did pretty much ‘what it says on the tin’. Waghorn stretched out on tenor on a piece that sounded like an update of a classic Blue Note record. He was followed by Jones at the piano with Hague also enjoying a series of brisk, colourful drum breaks as he traded phrases with the other members of the band. Jones has described “KeyNotes” as “back to basics, but not basic”, which sums the album up well. Jones and his colleagues are capable of finding interesting things to say within the most conventional of jazz formats.

“Blues” ended a lengthy first set which saw the audience retire to the Melville Centre’s bar area to recharge their glasses and enjoy a slice of complementary pizza from the Abergavenny franchise of Domino’s who had sponsored the recent Wall2Wall Jazz Festival and are continuing their support of BMJ.  It’s a nice touch that shows true community spirit, so thanks very much to them for that.

A shorter second set began with another new, and as yet untitled tune, with Jones’ walking keyboard bass lines locking in with Hague’s drums and Waghorn’s tenor to create an authentic hard bop sound, this fuelling an impressive vibraphone solo from Long as demonstrated his mastery of the four mallet technique, Gary Burton and all that. Waghorn followed him with some powerful, meaty tenor soloing. An invigorating start to the second half.

The energy levels were maintained with another of those bluntly descriptive titles from “KeyNotes”. “Funky” lived up to its name as Hague’s drum grooves synchronised with Jones’ keyboard bass lines to fuel further solos from Long on vibes, two mallets again this time, and Waghorn on r’n’b flavoured tenor, sounding suitably earthy as he dug in deeply.

Also from “KeyNotes” “Departures” was one of the first pieces written for that project, the original title “Arrivals and Departures” a reference to the travelling lifestyle of the freelance jazz musician.
Combining an authentic hard bop feel with one of Jones’  most arresting melodic themes the piece included solos for Jones on piano, the astonishingly dexterous Long on double bass, Waghorn on tenor and finally Hague at the drums.

In the absence of Debs Hancock, who was away representing BMJ at the Rotterdam International Jazz Festival, it was left to Mike Skilton make the monthly 200 Club draw. The holder of winning ticket number 69 found themselves in a very good position!

Mike then tempted the Jones quartet back for a well deserved encore. This proved to be “Latin”, the final track from “KeyNotes” which featured some appropriate rhythmic patterns plus solos from Waghorn on flute and the composer at the piano. It’s a while since I last went to a jazz gig where the flute featured quite so prominently, thus tonight’s performance represented a refreshing change.

I continue to be a fan of Jones’ writing and playing and although there were moments when tonight’s gig felt a little like public rehearsal as new material was tried out the quartet’s efforts were warmly appreciated by a decent sized crowd on a very chilly October night.

Jones is a great friend of BMJ and on the Saturday of the recent Wall2Wall he played a series of engaging duets with friends in the bar area as changeovers were being affected between acts in the main theatre space. The duets teamed Jones with Long, vocalist Debs Hancock, trumpeter Ceri Williams and alto saxophonist Glen Manby. These were performances that were listened to attentively and very well received, with many listeners returning tonight to hear Jones in a slightly more formal context. The proposed 2019 recording by the Jones quartet will be awaited with much interest.


 

Dave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018.

Dave Jones Quartet

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Dave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018.
Photography: Photograph sourced from the Black Mountain Jazz website http://www.blackmountainjazz.co.uk

The quartet’s efforts were warmly appreciated by a decent sized crowd on a very chilly October night.

Dave Jones Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2018.

Port Talbot based pianist and composer Dave Jones has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages since I reviewed his excellent trio album “Impetus” back in 2009. He has since released an impressive catalogue of other recordings beginning with the more expansive offerings “Journeys (2010) and “Resonance” (2012), both of which featured a core quartet including saxophonist Lee Goodall plus additional brass and strings. Like “Impetus” both albums highlighted just what an accomplished and ambitious composer Jones can be and all attracted an impressive amount of critical acclaim from the London based jazz media.

In recent years Jones’ preferred working group has been a quartet featuring Goodall on reeds, Ashley John Long on double bass and, when available, the Irishman Kevin Lawlor at the drums. This line up released the excellent concert recording “Live At AMG” in 2014.

Jones has since released “Postscript” (2016),  an intimate duo set recorded with Long and has appeared as a sideman on Lawlor’s two solo albums “Exodus” (2013) and “Eight” (2015). Other credits include work with the jazz/folk outfit Burum and with Coltrane Dedication, the free-wheeling aggregation co-led by saxophonists Lyndon Owen and Caractacus Downes, 


In February 2017 Jones visited BMJ to première his latest quartet recording “Key Notes”, an album that introduced a new quartet featuring Long, saxophonist and flautist Ben Waghorn, and young drum tyro Lloyd Haines, a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Haines, who had also appeared on “Journeys” and “Resonance”, is now making a name for himself on the London jazz scene and at the time of the BMJ performance his place in the Jones quartet had just been taken by Andy Hague, a highly talented and versatile musician from Bristol who is arguably better known as a trumpeter, although he seems to be spending more and more time behind the drum kit these days. Hague is now the first choice drummer for the Jones quartet and will appear on the group’s next album, which is due to be recorded in the Spring of 2019. He has also drummed for pianist John Law but as a trumpeter has released a number of albums as a leader including 2012’s Horace Silver inspired “Cross My Palm”, which is reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, as have all of Jones’ recordings from “Impetus” onwards.

“Key Notes” includes a couple of tracks that feature Long on his ‘second’ instrument, the vibraphone. Long’s ability as a versatile and virtuoso bassist is well known, he also has a parallel classical career, but he’s increasingly acquiring a reputation for his skills with the mallets too. Long first began playing the vibes on stage during his tenure with the long running, but sadly now defunct, Cardiff cult outfit Heavy Quartet but has subsequently led his own vibes fronted groups, including an appearance in this capacity at the 2017 Brecon Jazz Festival.

At the suggestion of BMJ promoter Mike Skilton Long brought both his double bass and his vibes to Abergavenny (it’s amazing what you can fit into the back of a VW Passat!), thus helping to ensure that tonight’s performance was radically different from 2017’s. It must be unusual for any quartet to include two such talented multi-instrumentalists as Long and Hague, maybe we’ll get to hear some of Andy’s trumpeting at the 2019 visit!

Tonight’s performance had something of an experimental feel to it as the quartet played a mix of freshly written material slated for the impending new album and more familiar ‘played in’ items from the “KeyNotes” repertoire.

The quartet commenced with “Sands”, the opening piece from the “KeyNotes” album. The composition was originally written as a solo piano piece and was introduced here by the sound of Jones’ unaccompanied keyboard. The entry of the band found Waghorn re-iterating the folk tinged theme on tenor sax before Long took the first full length solo of the night on double bass. Long’s virtuoso, classically honed technique ensures that every solo he plays is full of interest. Bass solos are never boring when Ashley John Long is around. A few days previously I’d seen Jones and Long performing as part of the Coltrane Dedication quintet at the Queens Head in nearby Monmouth. There the bassist’s solos were little short of astonishing, involving the liberal use of extended techniques, both with and without the bow. In the Jones group he’s not encouraged to go quite so far out, but tonight his inventiveness and dexterity still remained stunning. The bassist was followed by Waghorn’s fluent, probing tenor and by Jones himself at the keyboard, adopting an acoustic piano sound as Hague provided responsive and relevant drum commentary. A final theme restatement, led by Waghorn’s tenor, saw Long briefly flourishing the bow.

Perhaps Waghorn should also be regarded as a multi-instrumentalist. His playing on flute on the McCoy Tyner inspired “Afro” from “KeyNotes” was exceptional as he shared the solos with Jones, while Hague also weighed in with a closing drum feature.

Besides his jazz output Jones has also written prolifically for film and TV soundtracks, plus so called “library music”. This proved to be the source of inspiration for the first new number of the evening. Still unnamed but with the working title “New Kalimba Song” this performance saw the leader wrestling with new musical technology as he triggered a loop of pre-recorded kalimba like keyboard sounds that Jones had previously recorded as part of his soundtrack work. Underpinning the piece in Terry Riley like fashion the loop, plus Jones’ keyboard generated bass lines courtesy of a second on stage keyboard, freed Long up to feature on vibes.  The loop was switched off as Hague’s crisp, Latin-esque drum grooves powered solos from Waghorn on tenor and Long on vibes, the latter deploying two mallets in the manner of Milt Jackson. The kalimba sounds were resumed towards the end of the tune but it’s probably fair to say that in the overall context of the performance the technological aspect was only a qualified success.

Another new piece, currently prosaically titled “Second New Tune” was again Tyner influenced, and again featured Waghorn on flute. This proved to be rather more straightforward as Waghorn shared the solos with Jones on piano and Long on double bass.

Most of the titles on the “KeyNotes” album sound as if they started as working titles but subsequently remained unchanged. Most are a single, highly descriptive word, as typified by the following “Blues”, which did pretty much ‘what it says on the tin’. Waghorn stretched out on tenor on a piece that sounded like an update of a classic Blue Note record. He was followed by Jones at the piano with Hague also enjoying a series of brisk, colourful drum breaks as he traded phrases with the other members of the band. Jones has described “KeyNotes” as “back to basics, but not basic”, which sums the album up well. Jones and his colleagues are capable of finding interesting things to say within the most conventional of jazz formats.

“Blues” ended a lengthy first set which saw the audience retire to the Melville Centre’s bar area to recharge their glasses and enjoy a slice of complementary pizza from the Abergavenny franchise of Domino’s who had sponsored the recent Wall2Wall Jazz Festival and are continuing their support of BMJ.  It’s a nice touch that shows true community spirit, so thanks very much to them for that.

A shorter second set began with another new, and as yet untitled tune, with Jones’ walking keyboard bass lines locking in with Hague’s drums and Waghorn’s tenor to create an authentic hard bop sound, this fuelling an impressive vibraphone solo from Long as demonstrated his mastery of the four mallet technique, Gary Burton and all that. Waghorn followed him with some powerful, meaty tenor soloing. An invigorating start to the second half.

The energy levels were maintained with another of those bluntly descriptive titles from “KeyNotes”. “Funky” lived up to its name as Hague’s drum grooves synchronised with Jones’ keyboard bass lines to fuel further solos from Long on vibes, two mallets again this time, and Waghorn on r’n’b flavoured tenor, sounding suitably earthy as he dug in deeply.

Also from “KeyNotes” “Departures” was one of the first pieces written for that project, the original title “Arrivals and Departures” a reference to the travelling lifestyle of the freelance jazz musician.
Combining an authentic hard bop feel with one of Jones’  most arresting melodic themes the piece included solos for Jones on piano, the astonishingly dexterous Long on double bass, Waghorn on tenor and finally Hague at the drums.

In the absence of Debs Hancock, who was away representing BMJ at the Rotterdam International Jazz Festival, it was left to Mike Skilton make the monthly 200 Club draw. The holder of winning ticket number 69 found themselves in a very good position!

Mike then tempted the Jones quartet back for a well deserved encore. This proved to be “Latin”, the final track from “KeyNotes” which featured some appropriate rhythmic patterns plus solos from Waghorn on flute and the composer at the piano. It’s a while since I last went to a jazz gig where the flute featured quite so prominently, thus tonight’s performance represented a refreshing change.

I continue to be a fan of Jones’ writing and playing and although there were moments when tonight’s gig felt a little like public rehearsal as new material was tried out the quartet’s efforts were warmly appreciated by a decent sized crowd on a very chilly October night.

Jones is a great friend of BMJ and on the Saturday of the recent Wall2Wall he played a series of engaging duets with friends in the bar area as changeovers were being affected between acts in the main theatre space. The duets teamed Jones with Long, vocalist Debs Hancock, trumpeter Ceri Williams and alto saxophonist Glen Manby. These were performances that were listened to attentively and very well received, with many listeners returning tonight to hear Jones in a slightly more formal context. The proposed 2019 recording by the Jones quartet will be awaited with much interest.


 

The Matt Wates Sextet - Matt Wates Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 19/10/2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 "It’s all too easy to take British jazz musicians for granted. The Matt Wates Sextet served to remind us of their world class qualities". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister on the music of Matt Wates.

Matt Wates Sextet
 
Progress Theatre, Friday 19 October
 
Steve Fishwick trumpet & flugelhorn, Matt Wates alto saxophone, Steve Main tenor saxophone, Leon Greening piano, Malcolm Creese bass, Matt Home drums
 
Having to sit through handful of groan-worthy jokes that easily pre-dated the Relief of Mafeking was a small price to pay for the otherwise sublime pleasure of listening to the Matt Wates’ Sextet at Reading’s Progress Theatre on Friday 19 October. Though the band is brimming with solo talent, it was the quality of Wates’ writing and arranging skills that stood out in my mind throughout the evening. As host-for-the-evening Paul Johnson pointed out in his introduction to the second set, ‘An entire programme of originals can get to be very samey. Not so with Matt Wates.’ With all but two of the tightly-arranged numbers coming from Wates’ prolific pen, each set sparkled with interest, variety and thrilling challenge for musicians and audience alike. He has a remarkable ear for creating melodies that take firm root in the imagination and uses the instrumental resources of the band to bring them to life in full.
 
The gorgeous bass-lines of Malcolm Creese set the opening number, ‘Victoria’, in motion and introduced the contrasting sounds of the three front-line instruments as they blended together or played their separate parts in developing the theme: the fluid, pure toned and balletic grace of Wates’ alto; the immaculate precision of Steve Fishwick’s trumpet and the dry, muscular tones of Steve Main’s tenor. Leon Greening is both the band’s energy source and harmonic navigator at the keyboard and charts his course with a huge sound. His two-handed, multi-layered approach to soloing never loses sight of the melody and it’s this quality which makes his playing so beguiling. Meanwhile, Matt Home demonstrated the aplomb that makes him the first-call drummer for any situation demanding straight-ahead jazz swing.
 
‘Heatwave’ maintained the temperature, though at a slightly more relaxed pace, before the band changed into their dancing shoes for the blistering jazz-waltz ‘Hill Street’ – the residents of Hill Street, Reading, located a little more than a mile away from the Progress would have been delighted with this unexpected dedication to their notoriously steep thoroughfare.
 
‘What Good Is Spring’ brought a change of mood. Composed by Matt Wates’ twin brother Rupert, resident in the United States, it featured the haunting tenor of Steve Main in a beautifully melancholic evocation of spring.
 
Obviously with a mind to the fast approaching interval and the well-stocked Progress bar, ‘Gin and Bitters’ brought the first set to a suitable close. Bright and cheery, and like the cocktail itself, it held a gentle hint of potential menace.
 
The second set opened with ‘Third Eye’ and instantly brought to mind the clean, knife-edge swing of Cannonball Adderley’s great bands of the early sixties. ‘We held that together by the skin of our teeth,’ Wates admitted when this breathtaking number came to a close.
 
‘On the Up’ hit a more funky groove with tenor saxist Steve Main to the fore, while rock inspired ensemble passages added tense excitement to ‘Dark Energy’. The effervescent joy of ‘The People Tree’ culminated in a masterful drum solo by Matt Home.
 
Steve Fishwick’s mellow flugelhorn set the smoky, blues-soaked scene for ‘After Hours’, a moving dedication to Ray Charles featuring Leon Greening at the height of his keyboard powers.
 
Matt Wates and Leon Greening presented ‘Beatriz’, a composition by Brazilian guitarist and singer Edu Lobo, as a duo, unleashing in the process a performance of powerfully expressed emotion. Wates’ intense cry of passion was absolutely spellbinding.
 
Can you think of a better title to describe six young-at-heart jazzers than ‘When We Grow Up?’ It wrapped up the evening in suitably playful style, but as no jazz concert is complete without an encore a little persuasion  brought the band back to the stage to ride-out the evening with the rousing, ‘Blues for Ari’.
 
It’s all too easy to take British jazz musicians for granted. The Matt Wates Sextet served to remind us of their world class qualities. As the late alto legend Joe Harriott once observed, ‘Parker? There’s some over here who can play aces too …’
 
A great evening and thanks as ever to the Progress ‘House Team’ for the warmth of their hospitality and flawless management of sound and lighting.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 

Matt Wates Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 19/10/2018.

The Matt Wates Sextet

Monday, October 29, 2018

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

4 out of 5

Matt Wates Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 19/10/2018.
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

"It’s all too easy to take British jazz musicians for granted. The Matt Wates Sextet served to remind us of their world class qualities". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister on the music of Matt Wates.

Matt Wates Sextet
 
Progress Theatre, Friday 19 October
 
Steve Fishwick trumpet & flugelhorn, Matt Wates alto saxophone, Steve Main tenor saxophone, Leon Greening piano, Malcolm Creese bass, Matt Home drums
 
Having to sit through handful of groan-worthy jokes that easily pre-dated the Relief of Mafeking was a small price to pay for the otherwise sublime pleasure of listening to the Matt Wates’ Sextet at Reading’s Progress Theatre on Friday 19 October. Though the band is brimming with solo talent, it was the quality of Wates’ writing and arranging skills that stood out in my mind throughout the evening. As host-for-the-evening Paul Johnson pointed out in his introduction to the second set, ‘An entire programme of originals can get to be very samey. Not so with Matt Wates.’ With all but two of the tightly-arranged numbers coming from Wates’ prolific pen, each set sparkled with interest, variety and thrilling challenge for musicians and audience alike. He has a remarkable ear for creating melodies that take firm root in the imagination and uses the instrumental resources of the band to bring them to life in full.
 
The gorgeous bass-lines of Malcolm Creese set the opening number, ‘Victoria’, in motion and introduced the contrasting sounds of the three front-line instruments as they blended together or played their separate parts in developing the theme: the fluid, pure toned and balletic grace of Wates’ alto; the immaculate precision of Steve Fishwick’s trumpet and the dry, muscular tones of Steve Main’s tenor. Leon Greening is both the band’s energy source and harmonic navigator at the keyboard and charts his course with a huge sound. His two-handed, multi-layered approach to soloing never loses sight of the melody and it’s this quality which makes his playing so beguiling. Meanwhile, Matt Home demonstrated the aplomb that makes him the first-call drummer for any situation demanding straight-ahead jazz swing.
 
‘Heatwave’ maintained the temperature, though at a slightly more relaxed pace, before the band changed into their dancing shoes for the blistering jazz-waltz ‘Hill Street’ – the residents of Hill Street, Reading, located a little more than a mile away from the Progress would have been delighted with this unexpected dedication to their notoriously steep thoroughfare.
 
‘What Good Is Spring’ brought a change of mood. Composed by Matt Wates’ twin brother Rupert, resident in the United States, it featured the haunting tenor of Steve Main in a beautifully melancholic evocation of spring.
 
Obviously with a mind to the fast approaching interval and the well-stocked Progress bar, ‘Gin and Bitters’ brought the first set to a suitable close. Bright and cheery, and like the cocktail itself, it held a gentle hint of potential menace.
 
The second set opened with ‘Third Eye’ and instantly brought to mind the clean, knife-edge swing of Cannonball Adderley’s great bands of the early sixties. ‘We held that together by the skin of our teeth,’ Wates admitted when this breathtaking number came to a close.
 
‘On the Up’ hit a more funky groove with tenor saxist Steve Main to the fore, while rock inspired ensemble passages added tense excitement to ‘Dark Energy’. The effervescent joy of ‘The People Tree’ culminated in a masterful drum solo by Matt Home.
 
Steve Fishwick’s mellow flugelhorn set the smoky, blues-soaked scene for ‘After Hours’, a moving dedication to Ray Charles featuring Leon Greening at the height of his keyboard powers.
 
Matt Wates and Leon Greening presented ‘Beatriz’, a composition by Brazilian guitarist and singer Edu Lobo, as a duo, unleashing in the process a performance of powerfully expressed emotion. Wates’ intense cry of passion was absolutely spellbinding.
 
Can you think of a better title to describe six young-at-heart jazzers than ‘When We Grow Up?’ It wrapped up the evening in suitably playful style, but as no jazz concert is complete without an encore a little persuasion  brought the band back to the stage to ride-out the evening with the rousing, ‘Blues for Ari’.
 
It’s all too easy to take British jazz musicians for granted. The Matt Wates Sextet served to remind us of their world class qualities. As the late alto legend Joe Harriott once observed, ‘Parker? There’s some over here who can play aces too …’
 
A great evening and thanks as ever to the Progress ‘House Team’ for the warmth of their hospitality and flawless management of sound and lighting.


TREVOR BANNISTER
 
 

Flying Machines - New Life Rating: 4 out of 5 Another impressive offering from Flying Machines.The music to be heard on “New Life” reflects a road honed tightness, togetherness and sense of purpose. This is a band capable of a broad appeal.

Flying Machines

“New Life”

(Ubuntu Music UBU00017)

“New Life” is the second album from Flying Machines, the quartet led by London based guitarist and composer Alex Munk. It follows their acclaimed eponymous début from 2016 and retains the same personnel with the leader again joined by Matt Robinson on piano, synthesiser and Fender Rhodes, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums.

 The band’s name draws on the inspiration of the leader’s late father Roger Munk, the man regarded as “the father of the modern technology airship” - or “Hybrid Air Vehicle” as they are now more commonly referred to. Honoured by the Royal Aeronautical Society Roger Munk worked with enormous lighter than air machines “bigger than football pitches and capable of flying at 20,000 ft. for weeks at a time”.  HAV, the company that he founded in 2007 is currently flight testing the world’s largest ever air vehicle.

Alex Munk studied at Leeds College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music in London and he retains close ties to both institutions. It’s these links that have led to a busy career as a highly adaptable and in demand sideman. Munk’s name has already appeared several times on the Jazzmann website on large ensemble recordings by trumpeters Jack Davies and Reuben Fowler and in connection with small group records by Hamblett, multi reed player Sam Rapley, pianist Tom Millar,  saxophonist Matt Anderson’s Wayne Shorter inspired Wildflower Sextet and the young collaborative Stoop Quintet. A highly versatile musician he has also worked with saxophonists Trish Clowes in her Tangent and Emulsion Ensembles and Stan Sulzmann in his Neon Orchestra. In addition he has recently been recruited by yet another saxophonist, Phil Meadows, for the latter’s latest project. Others with whom Munk has performed include trumpeter Nick Smart, pianists Ivo Neame and Gwilym Simcock, saxophonist Iain Ballamy, flautist Gareth Lockrane and organist James Taylor.

“New Life finds Flying Machines building on the success of their acclaimed début. Since the release of that first recording the band have toured extensively and the music to be heard on “New Life” reflects a road honed tightness, togetherness and sense of purpose. The new album features a harder edged, but still intensely melodic sound, something encouraged by the presence in the studio of the celebrated producer Sonny Johns, who has previously worked with Dinosaur, Polar Bear, Portico Quartet and others. Munk remains the group’s composer in residence but “New Life” also contains three pieces of collective improvisation credited as “made by the band on the fly”.  Under the guidance of Johns these are skilfully woven into the fabric of the album as a whole.

If you’ll pardon the use of the F-word Flying Machines essentially play ‘fusion’ , but do so from a thoroughly contemporary standpoint, drawing from the best of jazz and rock plus elements of electronic and ambient music. Munk’s influences include fellow guitarists Wayne Krantz, Pat Metheny and Mike Walker plus the pianist and composer  Tigran Hamasyan.  He is also a big admirer of the now defunct British trio Troyka, whose guitarist, Chris Montague, a long term associate and mentor of Munk’s, provides New Life’s insightful liner notes.

As photographer Gabe Shaughnessy’s cover images of the Veil Nebula suggest “New Life” sees Flying Machines soaring above the stratosphere and into outer space. The opening title track combines chunky, metallic math rock riffing with spacey keyboards and thunderous rhythms as Munk’s axe heads for the stars. It’s a turbo charged introduction that pins the listener’s ears back and demands that they hang on tight, revelling in the visceral thrill of it all.

There’s no let up with “Blink” a fifty one second blast of jagged, angular improvisation that manages to combine aggression and impressionism in a little under a minute.

There’s a change of mood with the gentler grooves of “Moondust” which finds the quartet serenely drifting in deep space with Munk’s cleanly picked, gently ringing guitar complemented by Robinson’s acoustic piano embellishments. The piece combines a Metheny like sense of melody and narrative with the anthemic qualities of rock.

Munk sings on “Prelude to Elation”, his high pitched wordless vocals giving the music an ethereal quality that is a direct follow on from “Moondust”.
“Elation” itself retains a vaguely other-worldly feel but at over seven and a half minutes progresses through a series of dynamic and stylistic changes, with the episodic writing of composers like Metheny and Hamasyan again a profound influence. Along the way we enjoy a sparkling acoustic piano solo from Robinson, something of a drum feature from Hamblett and some more wonderful guitar playing from Munk. The leader is a musician capable of coaxing a broad array of sounds out of his chosen instrument, using his effects wisely to bring an almost orchestral depth to his guitar playing. He impresses with his inventiveness and maturity throughout the album.

“Standing Still” is the second passage of collective improvisation. At a little over two and a half minutes in duration it’s longer than the first and the mood is gentler and more impressionistic with Munk’s ethereal, FX enhanced guitar at times reminiscent of Bill Frisell or even Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Floyd fans and adventurous rock listeners in general are likely to find much to enjoy in Flying Machines’  21st century fusion.

Like “Moondust” the lovely “Kilter” has a simple, even naive, melody, that is quite gorgeous. It’s lyrical beauty is well served by Munk’s crystalline guitar sound and Robinson’s acoustic piano but the real highlight here is Chaplin’s warm, liquidly melodic electric bass solo. He’s followed by Munk on guitar with a typically fluent and elegant solo that is still rich in invention.

“Fall In” ups the wattage once more and even adds a funk element to the mix as the rhythm section’s supple but propulsive grooves fuel a powerful Scofield / Stern influenced solo from Munk and a more laid back Rhodes excursion from Robinson.

“Bullet Train” is the last of the improvised episodes which develops out of a minimalist keyboard pattern to embrace rich atmospherics as it builds towards a measured climax. Such is the rapport that Flying Machines have established that the piece seems to unfold so naturally and organically that it almost sounds pre-composed.
Munk has said of these improvised episodes;
“We didn’t want to sacrifice one approach for the other. We just wanted to throw a bit more chaos into the mix, knowing that the unique sound we’ve developed over the years would bring the two approaches into a cohesive narrative”.

Amen to that as “Bullet Train” segues into the closing “Take Time” which follows a similar arc, this time over a six minute duration as it develops from gentle, simple beginnings, its beguiling melodies enhanced by a second melodic electric bass solo from Chaplin, this followed by Robinson at the keyboard. Munk’s solo sees the piece gathering momentum, inexorably building towards a soaring, anthemic climax.

“New Life” represents another impressive offering from Flying Machines. The playing is excellent throughout, especially from the leader, but the band are not afraid to keep things simple, Hamblett’s drums are functional and economical throughout, and there’s no sense of musical excess or grandstanding. Instead each of the composed pieces tells a story with Munk impressing as a writer with his strong melodic and narrative sense and his adroit command of dynamics, the latter strongly influenced by the rock world. One senses that this is a band capable of a broad appeal if they can get their music ‘out there’.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to seeing Flying Machines perform this material on the afternoon of Sunday November 25th at the Spice of Life in Soho as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival.

The band will then be touring the UK more extensively during 2019 with dates scheduled as below;

15 March - Birmingham Jazzlines
25 March - The Whiskey Jar, Manchester
29 March - Wakefield Jazz
5 April - Derby Jazz
25 April - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
26 April - Edinburgh Jazz Bar
7 May - St Ives Jazz Club
19 September - The Spin, Oxford
23 October - The Lescar, Sheffield

 

New Life

Flying Machines

Friday, October 26, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

New Life

Another impressive offering from Flying Machines.The music to be heard on “New Life” reflects a road honed tightness, togetherness and sense of purpose. This is a band capable of a broad appeal.

Flying Machines

“New Life”

(Ubuntu Music UBU00017)

“New Life” is the second album from Flying Machines, the quartet led by London based guitarist and composer Alex Munk. It follows their acclaimed eponymous début from 2016 and retains the same personnel with the leader again joined by Matt Robinson on piano, synthesiser and Fender Rhodes, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums.

 The band’s name draws on the inspiration of the leader’s late father Roger Munk, the man regarded as “the father of the modern technology airship” - or “Hybrid Air Vehicle” as they are now more commonly referred to. Honoured by the Royal Aeronautical Society Roger Munk worked with enormous lighter than air machines “bigger than football pitches and capable of flying at 20,000 ft. for weeks at a time”.  HAV, the company that he founded in 2007 is currently flight testing the world’s largest ever air vehicle.

Alex Munk studied at Leeds College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music in London and he retains close ties to both institutions. It’s these links that have led to a busy career as a highly adaptable and in demand sideman. Munk’s name has already appeared several times on the Jazzmann website on large ensemble recordings by trumpeters Jack Davies and Reuben Fowler and in connection with small group records by Hamblett, multi reed player Sam Rapley, pianist Tom Millar,  saxophonist Matt Anderson’s Wayne Shorter inspired Wildflower Sextet and the young collaborative Stoop Quintet. A highly versatile musician he has also worked with saxophonists Trish Clowes in her Tangent and Emulsion Ensembles and Stan Sulzmann in his Neon Orchestra. In addition he has recently been recruited by yet another saxophonist, Phil Meadows, for the latter’s latest project. Others with whom Munk has performed include trumpeter Nick Smart, pianists Ivo Neame and Gwilym Simcock, saxophonist Iain Ballamy, flautist Gareth Lockrane and organist James Taylor.

“New Life finds Flying Machines building on the success of their acclaimed début. Since the release of that first recording the band have toured extensively and the music to be heard on “New Life” reflects a road honed tightness, togetherness and sense of purpose. The new album features a harder edged, but still intensely melodic sound, something encouraged by the presence in the studio of the celebrated producer Sonny Johns, who has previously worked with Dinosaur, Polar Bear, Portico Quartet and others. Munk remains the group’s composer in residence but “New Life” also contains three pieces of collective improvisation credited as “made by the band on the fly”.  Under the guidance of Johns these are skilfully woven into the fabric of the album as a whole.

If you’ll pardon the use of the F-word Flying Machines essentially play ‘fusion’ , but do so from a thoroughly contemporary standpoint, drawing from the best of jazz and rock plus elements of electronic and ambient music. Munk’s influences include fellow guitarists Wayne Krantz, Pat Metheny and Mike Walker plus the pianist and composer  Tigran Hamasyan.  He is also a big admirer of the now defunct British trio Troyka, whose guitarist, Chris Montague, a long term associate and mentor of Munk’s, provides New Life’s insightful liner notes.

As photographer Gabe Shaughnessy’s cover images of the Veil Nebula suggest “New Life” sees Flying Machines soaring above the stratosphere and into outer space. The opening title track combines chunky, metallic math rock riffing with spacey keyboards and thunderous rhythms as Munk’s axe heads for the stars. It’s a turbo charged introduction that pins the listener’s ears back and demands that they hang on tight, revelling in the visceral thrill of it all.

There’s no let up with “Blink” a fifty one second blast of jagged, angular improvisation that manages to combine aggression and impressionism in a little under a minute.

There’s a change of mood with the gentler grooves of “Moondust” which finds the quartet serenely drifting in deep space with Munk’s cleanly picked, gently ringing guitar complemented by Robinson’s acoustic piano embellishments. The piece combines a Metheny like sense of melody and narrative with the anthemic qualities of rock.

Munk sings on “Prelude to Elation”, his high pitched wordless vocals giving the music an ethereal quality that is a direct follow on from “Moondust”.
“Elation” itself retains a vaguely other-worldly feel but at over seven and a half minutes progresses through a series of dynamic and stylistic changes, with the episodic writing of composers like Metheny and Hamasyan again a profound influence. Along the way we enjoy a sparkling acoustic piano solo from Robinson, something of a drum feature from Hamblett and some more wonderful guitar playing from Munk. The leader is a musician capable of coaxing a broad array of sounds out of his chosen instrument, using his effects wisely to bring an almost orchestral depth to his guitar playing. He impresses with his inventiveness and maturity throughout the album.

“Standing Still” is the second passage of collective improvisation. At a little over two and a half minutes in duration it’s longer than the first and the mood is gentler and more impressionistic with Munk’s ethereal, FX enhanced guitar at times reminiscent of Bill Frisell or even Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Floyd fans and adventurous rock listeners in general are likely to find much to enjoy in Flying Machines’  21st century fusion.

Like “Moondust” the lovely “Kilter” has a simple, even naive, melody, that is quite gorgeous. It’s lyrical beauty is well served by Munk’s crystalline guitar sound and Robinson’s acoustic piano but the real highlight here is Chaplin’s warm, liquidly melodic electric bass solo. He’s followed by Munk on guitar with a typically fluent and elegant solo that is still rich in invention.

“Fall In” ups the wattage once more and even adds a funk element to the mix as the rhythm section’s supple but propulsive grooves fuel a powerful Scofield / Stern influenced solo from Munk and a more laid back Rhodes excursion from Robinson.

“Bullet Train” is the last of the improvised episodes which develops out of a minimalist keyboard pattern to embrace rich atmospherics as it builds towards a measured climax. Such is the rapport that Flying Machines have established that the piece seems to unfold so naturally and organically that it almost sounds pre-composed.
Munk has said of these improvised episodes;
“We didn’t want to sacrifice one approach for the other. We just wanted to throw a bit more chaos into the mix, knowing that the unique sound we’ve developed over the years would bring the two approaches into a cohesive narrative”.

Amen to that as “Bullet Train” segues into the closing “Take Time” which follows a similar arc, this time over a six minute duration as it develops from gentle, simple beginnings, its beguiling melodies enhanced by a second melodic electric bass solo from Chaplin, this followed by Robinson at the keyboard. Munk’s solo sees the piece gathering momentum, inexorably building towards a soaring, anthemic climax.

“New Life” represents another impressive offering from Flying Machines. The playing is excellent throughout, especially from the leader, but the band are not afraid to keep things simple, Hamblett’s drums are functional and economical throughout, and there’s no sense of musical excess or grandstanding. Instead each of the composed pieces tells a story with Munk impressing as a writer with his strong melodic and narrative sense and his adroit command of dynamics, the latter strongly influenced by the rock world. One senses that this is a band capable of a broad appeal if they can get their music ‘out there’.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to seeing Flying Machines perform this material on the afternoon of Sunday November 25th at the Spice of Life in Soho as part of the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival.

The band will then be touring the UK more extensively during 2019 with dates scheduled as below;

15 March - Birmingham Jazzlines
25 March - The Whiskey Jar, Manchester
29 March - Wakefield Jazz
5 April - Derby Jazz
25 April - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
26 April - Edinburgh Jazz Bar
7 May - St Ives Jazz Club
19 September - The Spin, Oxford
23 October - The Lescar, Sheffield

 

Dakhla Brass - Murmur Rating: 4 out of 5 “Murmur” represents their most multi-faceted album to date. This is music that you want to go back to over and over again.

Dakhla Brass

“Murmur”

(Impossible Ark Records)

“Murmur”, not to be confused with the R.E.M. album of the same name, represents the fourth full length release from the Bristol based ensemble Dakhla Brass, the group currently a sextet following the addition of bassist Riaan Vosloo. It is available on twelve inch vinyl and as a digital release.

Dakhla Brass was formed in 2011 by saxophonists Sophie Stockham (alto) and Charlotte Ostafew (baritone) plus trumpeter Pete Judge and drummer Matt Brown. This line up featured on the band’s first two albums “In the Land of Milk and Honey” (2011) and “The Eye of Icarus” (2013). Trombonist Liam Treasure had been added by the time of 2015’s “Gorilla Gorilla” and the band have expanded their sonic palette even further with the recruitment of Vosloo, who joined during the recording of “Murmur”.

Dakhla Brass have attracted a considerable degree of critical acclaim and have enjoyed national exposure by way of festival appearances and regular radio play from a very supportive BBC. One of their biggest champions is pianist, vocalist and radio presenter Jamie Cullum who invited Dakhla Brass to appear at his 2016 BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, an event that was broadcast on both Radio 3 and BBC 4 television. As a result of the Cullum connection they also played at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the same year.

I first recall enjoying Dakhla’s music on a Radio 3 broadcast from Manchester Jazz Festival a few years ago, when they were still a four piece. That performance was the result of the band being chosen as one of the acts representing the “Best of New Jazz”, the selections having been made by the influential broadcasters Jez Nelson and Giles Peterson.

In September 2017 I enjoyed witnessing a live performance by the five piece Dakhla Brass at The Hatch in rural Worcestershire, the venue run by guitarist Remi Harris, whose trio had also appeared at the Cullum prom and Montreal. My account of that occasion can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/dakhla-brass-yardbird-arts-club-the-hatch-eardiston-tenbury-wells-worcs.-19/

“Murmur” was recorded at the Fish Factory Studio in London with Ben Lamdin, Vosloo’s bandmate from the group Nostalgia 77 producing. Under Lamdin’s guidance Dakhla’s core brass sound has been supplemented by additional instruments including synthesiser and vibraphone, both played by Vosloo, and the zither like Marxohone, played by Brown. New recruit Vosloo plays both acoustic and electric bass, integrating his parts into the already existing compositions during the recording sessions. The result is the most varied and wide ranging Dakhla album to date with the new elements adding extra colour and texture to the music.

The six members of Dakhla Brass bring a broad range of influences to the music and their sound is very different to the high energy ‘get up and dance’ approach of New Orleans brass bands such as the Hot 8. Instead Dakhla embrace a wide range of influences including jazz, rock, folk, world and contemporary classical music. It’s a more ‘serious’ or ‘European’ approach if you will, offering greater subtlety, complexity and musical and emotional variation, especially on disc.  Nevertheless Dakhla remain a highly rhythmic unit who are capable of generating considerable excitement in the live environment and who are more than capable of tailoring their performances to the setting in which they find themselves.

“Murmur” features ten new original compositions,  the majority of them by Charlotte Ostafew, several of which featured in that performance at The Hatch.

The album opens with Brown’s “One Wicker Wisp” with Vosloo’s bass immediately making its presence felt with an underpinning groove that frees up the horn players to provide rich colours and voicings as Brown provides inventive and colourful drum commentary. The piece undertakes numerous twists and turns during its duration with sure footed changes of mood and pace and with solo cameos from Stockham on alto and Judge on trumpet. The latter is arguably the highest profile name in the band, known to many listeners as a member of Bristolian cult heroes Get The Blessing. Judge also performs as one half of the duo Eyebrow, alongside drummer and percussionist Paul Wigens.

“Lotus” opened the performance at The Hatch and develops from Ostafew’s opening bari riff to embrace complex but invigorating rhythms with succinct but incisive solos coming from Treasure, Stockham and Judge.

“5000 What?” adopts a vaguely North African / cop show feel with punchy horns coalescing above a propulsive, rolling groove. But this being Dakhla Brass it’s not quite as straightforward as that. There are more reflective moments too, featuring sombre low register sounds from bari, trombone and bass plus a fluent trumpet solo from Judge.

“Murmuration”, co-written by Ostafew and Brown, presumably helped to give the album its title and sees the band embracing elements of free improvisation and expanded technique, particularly from Vosloo’s bass. Historically Dakhla’s horn arrangements have been very precise and structured with Brown being given a degree of improvisational freedom behind the kit. The introduction to this piece is probably the free-est thing Dakhla have ever recorded, although they return to more conventional territory later on, including some beguiling melodic flourishes before another semi-free episode leads to a thumping closing riff that nevertheless incorporates further elements of the avant garde.

“Silver + Gold” was one of the pieces played at The Hatch and is introduced here by a delightful horn chorale with Brown’s subtly colourful drumming subsequently underpinning the intertwining melody lines of the horns. Dakhla don’t really do jazz solos as such,  and although various instruments take turns at taking the lead these are rarely big ‘sign posted’ features or solos. In this regard Dakhla adopt more of a ‘chamber jazz’ approach and its one that works very well, even in the band’s more energetic moments.

Also played in Worcestershire “Insomnia Somnia” with its staccato rhythmic patterns encapsulates the feel of a sleepless night and the disturbance that comes with it, this expressed via the growling, vocalised horn sounds from various members of the ensemble. However it all seems to resolve itself melodically as a modicum of peacefulness is ultimately achieved.

“The Last Host” is sombre and almost hymnal with long, solemn horn lines accompanied by Brown’s economical drum patterns. It seems to have evolved since the beautiful performance I witnessed at The Hatch with a brief avant garde episode featuring bass and drums mid tune now leading into an anthemic finale.

“Zenith + Nadir” is lighter in tone and combines an almost classical use of counterpoint with more orthodox jazz grooves, with Judge emerging as the featured soloist.

As its title suggests “Heartache + Loneliness” is another composition that emphasises the more reflective side of the band, this finding expression in the melancholy beauty of the opening horn chorale. The subsequent addition of drums and bass adds colour momentum but the essential mood of the piece remains.

“Quicksand” closed the show at The Hatch and concludes the album also. Driven by Brown’s dynamic drumming and featuring the staccato riffing of the horns it’s one of Dakhla’s most exuberant and crowd pleasing pieces. The addition of Vosloo’s bass brings additional rhythmic impetus and he even adds some Dan Berglund type arco bass to compete with featured horn soloist Ostafew.

Dakhla may now be less obviously a ‘brass ensemble’ than they once were but the addition of Vosloo has broadened their sonic horizons and “Murmur” represents their most multi-faceted album to date. Each of these ten compositions represents a journey with no one piece remaining in one place for long. It’s music that’s frankly difficult to write about but immensely rewarding to listen to. There’s so much going on here, making Dakhla’s music far more interesting and satisfying than all that one dimensional “let’s party” stuff that proliferates elsewhere. This is music that you want to go back to over and over again.

As for the future Ostafew has stated that the addition of Vosloo will free up her baritone sax to play more melodically, with the bass parts now being covered by the new arrival. This will indeed be an interesting development, but Vosloo has already demonstrated that he’s a musician capable of doing so much more than just holding down the ‘bottom end’ so it will be very interesting to see which direction Dakhla Brass take next. In the meantime “Murmur” is highly recommended.

Murmur

Dakhla Brass

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Murmur

“Murmur” represents their most multi-faceted album to date. This is music that you want to go back to over and over again.

Dakhla Brass

“Murmur”

(Impossible Ark Records)

“Murmur”, not to be confused with the R.E.M. album of the same name, represents the fourth full length release from the Bristol based ensemble Dakhla Brass, the group currently a sextet following the addition of bassist Riaan Vosloo. It is available on twelve inch vinyl and as a digital release.

Dakhla Brass was formed in 2011 by saxophonists Sophie Stockham (alto) and Charlotte Ostafew (baritone) plus trumpeter Pete Judge and drummer Matt Brown. This line up featured on the band’s first two albums “In the Land of Milk and Honey” (2011) and “The Eye of Icarus” (2013). Trombonist Liam Treasure had been added by the time of 2015’s “Gorilla Gorilla” and the band have expanded their sonic palette even further with the recruitment of Vosloo, who joined during the recording of “Murmur”.

Dakhla Brass have attracted a considerable degree of critical acclaim and have enjoyed national exposure by way of festival appearances and regular radio play from a very supportive BBC. One of their biggest champions is pianist, vocalist and radio presenter Jamie Cullum who invited Dakhla Brass to appear at his 2016 BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, an event that was broadcast on both Radio 3 and BBC 4 television. As a result of the Cullum connection they also played at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the same year.

I first recall enjoying Dakhla’s music on a Radio 3 broadcast from Manchester Jazz Festival a few years ago, when they were still a four piece. That performance was the result of the band being chosen as one of the acts representing the “Best of New Jazz”, the selections having been made by the influential broadcasters Jez Nelson and Giles Peterson.

In September 2017 I enjoyed witnessing a live performance by the five piece Dakhla Brass at The Hatch in rural Worcestershire, the venue run by guitarist Remi Harris, whose trio had also appeared at the Cullum prom and Montreal. My account of that occasion can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/dakhla-brass-yardbird-arts-club-the-hatch-eardiston-tenbury-wells-worcs.-19/

“Murmur” was recorded at the Fish Factory Studio in London with Ben Lamdin, Vosloo’s bandmate from the group Nostalgia 77 producing. Under Lamdin’s guidance Dakhla’s core brass sound has been supplemented by additional instruments including synthesiser and vibraphone, both played by Vosloo, and the zither like Marxohone, played by Brown. New recruit Vosloo plays both acoustic and electric bass, integrating his parts into the already existing compositions during the recording sessions. The result is the most varied and wide ranging Dakhla album to date with the new elements adding extra colour and texture to the music.

The six members of Dakhla Brass bring a broad range of influences to the music and their sound is very different to the high energy ‘get up and dance’ approach of New Orleans brass bands such as the Hot 8. Instead Dakhla embrace a wide range of influences including jazz, rock, folk, world and contemporary classical music. It’s a more ‘serious’ or ‘European’ approach if you will, offering greater subtlety, complexity and musical and emotional variation, especially on disc.  Nevertheless Dakhla remain a highly rhythmic unit who are capable of generating considerable excitement in the live environment and who are more than capable of tailoring their performances to the setting in which they find themselves.

“Murmur” features ten new original compositions,  the majority of them by Charlotte Ostafew, several of which featured in that performance at The Hatch.

The album opens with Brown’s “One Wicker Wisp” with Vosloo’s bass immediately making its presence felt with an underpinning groove that frees up the horn players to provide rich colours and voicings as Brown provides inventive and colourful drum commentary. The piece undertakes numerous twists and turns during its duration with sure footed changes of mood and pace and with solo cameos from Stockham on alto and Judge on trumpet. The latter is arguably the highest profile name in the band, known to many listeners as a member of Bristolian cult heroes Get The Blessing. Judge also performs as one half of the duo Eyebrow, alongside drummer and percussionist Paul Wigens.

“Lotus” opened the performance at The Hatch and develops from Ostafew’s opening bari riff to embrace complex but invigorating rhythms with succinct but incisive solos coming from Treasure, Stockham and Judge.

“5000 What?” adopts a vaguely North African / cop show feel with punchy horns coalescing above a propulsive, rolling groove. But this being Dakhla Brass it’s not quite as straightforward as that. There are more reflective moments too, featuring sombre low register sounds from bari, trombone and bass plus a fluent trumpet solo from Judge.

“Murmuration”, co-written by Ostafew and Brown, presumably helped to give the album its title and sees the band embracing elements of free improvisation and expanded technique, particularly from Vosloo’s bass. Historically Dakhla’s horn arrangements have been very precise and structured with Brown being given a degree of improvisational freedom behind the kit. The introduction to this piece is probably the free-est thing Dakhla have ever recorded, although they return to more conventional territory later on, including some beguiling melodic flourishes before another semi-free episode leads to a thumping closing riff that nevertheless incorporates further elements of the avant garde.

“Silver + Gold” was one of the pieces played at The Hatch and is introduced here by a delightful horn chorale with Brown’s subtly colourful drumming subsequently underpinning the intertwining melody lines of the horns. Dakhla don’t really do jazz solos as such,  and although various instruments take turns at taking the lead these are rarely big ‘sign posted’ features or solos. In this regard Dakhla adopt more of a ‘chamber jazz’ approach and its one that works very well, even in the band’s more energetic moments.

Also played in Worcestershire “Insomnia Somnia” with its staccato rhythmic patterns encapsulates the feel of a sleepless night and the disturbance that comes with it, this expressed via the growling, vocalised horn sounds from various members of the ensemble. However it all seems to resolve itself melodically as a modicum of peacefulness is ultimately achieved.

“The Last Host” is sombre and almost hymnal with long, solemn horn lines accompanied by Brown’s economical drum patterns. It seems to have evolved since the beautiful performance I witnessed at The Hatch with a brief avant garde episode featuring bass and drums mid tune now leading into an anthemic finale.

“Zenith + Nadir” is lighter in tone and combines an almost classical use of counterpoint with more orthodox jazz grooves, with Judge emerging as the featured soloist.

As its title suggests “Heartache + Loneliness” is another composition that emphasises the more reflective side of the band, this finding expression in the melancholy beauty of the opening horn chorale. The subsequent addition of drums and bass adds colour momentum but the essential mood of the piece remains.

“Quicksand” closed the show at The Hatch and concludes the album also. Driven by Brown’s dynamic drumming and featuring the staccato riffing of the horns it’s one of Dakhla’s most exuberant and crowd pleasing pieces. The addition of Vosloo’s bass brings additional rhythmic impetus and he even adds some Dan Berglund type arco bass to compete with featured horn soloist Ostafew.

Dakhla may now be less obviously a ‘brass ensemble’ than they once were but the addition of Vosloo has broadened their sonic horizons and “Murmur” represents their most multi-faceted album to date. Each of these ten compositions represents a journey with no one piece remaining in one place for long. It’s music that’s frankly difficult to write about but immensely rewarding to listen to. There’s so much going on here, making Dakhla’s music far more interesting and satisfying than all that one dimensional “let’s party” stuff that proliferates elsewhere. This is music that you want to go back to over and over again.

As for the future Ostafew has stated that the addition of Vosloo will free up her baritone sax to play more melodically, with the bass parts now being covered by the new arrival. This will indeed be an interesting development, but Vosloo has already demonstrated that he’s a musician capable of doing so much more than just holding down the ‘bottom end’ so it will be very interesting to see which direction Dakhla Brass take next. In the meantime “Murmur” is highly recommended.

Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens Quintet - In Common Rating: 4 out of 5 The part composed, part improvised statements of “In Common” speak succinctly and elegantly. The music is full of excellent ideas and some frequently wonderful playing.

Walter Smith III / Matthew Stevens Quintet

“In Common”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4728)

“In Common” features a stellar North American quintet co-led by tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and guitarist Matthew Stevens. The group also includes vibraphonist Joel Ross, double bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Marcus Gilmore.

Smith has been a mainstay of the Whirlwind label since its inception, having appeared on its very first release, bassist and label founder Michael Janisch’s seminal “Purpose Built” from way back in 2009. He also guested on guitarist Romain Pilon’s “Colourfield” in 2013 and earlier in 2018 released his leadership début for the label “Twio” featuring drummer Eric Harland and with bass duties shared between long term collaborator Raghavan and Christian McBride. Fellow saxophonist Joshua Redman also guests on a couple of tracks.  Smith has also featured extensively in bands led by the American trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire, these groups also including Raghavan.

Smith and the Toronto born Stevens have worked regularly together and the guitarist was part of the Smith led quartet that toured the UK in 2013 – Janisch and drummer Jamire Williams completed the line up. Stevens has also played a crucial role in groups led by trumpeter Christian Scott and by bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, at various times acting as something of a ‘musical right hand man’ for both these artists. Others with whom he has been associated include pianist Jacky Terrasson, bassist Linda Oh, and drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Harvey Mason.

Stevens is also a leader of his own groups and released the excellent quintet album “Woodwork” on the Whirlwind label in 2015, his band featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Eric Doob and percussionist Paulo Stagnaro. More recently he has been working in a more obviously fusion-esque power trio featuring Archer and Doob, releasing the album “Preverbal” on the Ropeadope label in March 2017. It was this line up, albeit with Zach Brown replacing Archer