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bird dogs of paradisePeacefulAbstractions of Reality Past and Incredible FeathersVers L’Azur NoirWaiting GameRadio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 27/10/2019.Quentin Collins Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 18/10/2019.Slow BurnSarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019.PolyhymniaArt In MotionThe Freedom of MovementShort StoriesClave Sin EmbargoWhat You Thought Was HomeIt’s MorningWaifs & StraysSomersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019.Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, 03/10/2019.Mark Lockheart, ‘Days On Earth’, Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Berkshire, 27/09/2019.Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 20/09/2019.BATL Quartet LiveVictoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019.Travel SketchesPigfoot ShuffleWorlds CollideRoad WarriorDismantle YourselfBonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019.Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019.Peaceful KingAtsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 10/09/2019.MoveLady Nade Duo,“Tribute to the Blues Dames”,Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019Stepping Back, Jumping InNuadha Quartet, “Jazz In The Garden”, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019.CatenaccioFinding HomeBloomThe Lost AnimalsBobbyDani Diodato’s SUNAAT, Vout-O-Reenee’s, Tower Hill, London, 20/07/2019.Bonsai ClubThe Shirt Tail Stompers, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/07/2019.The Remix Jazz Orchestra, ‘The Evolution of the Big Band’  Reading Minster, Reading, 23/07/2019.The Banger FactoryOnce Upon a TideAlong Came BennyGreg Abate and the Craig Milverton Trio, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 12/07/2019.Gods of ApolloCircle Inside the FoldsRay d’Inverno / Rod Paton Sextet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 09/07/2019.ImmigranceBunker, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 30/06/2019.Owl Light Trio / Brackenbury & Neilson, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 29/06/2019.Paz, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 21/06/2019.CounterpartNit De NitGraviton; The CallingAll Good ThingsEl Mar de NubesThe ProcessRachel Head Trio/Michael Blanchfield Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/06/19.Different Coloured DaysRob Luft Band, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/06/2019.ApopheniaIl Cielo Sopra BerlinoJourney to ShambhalaRISE EPThe Ray Davies Songbook Vol IIOrphy Robinson Quintet, ‘The Bobby Hutcherson Project’, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berks. 17/05/2019KnifeAngelBecki Biggins Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 19/05/2019.Henry Lowther’s Still Waters, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, 18/05/2019.ValueBen Thomas / Julian Martin Quartet, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 14/05/2019.Brandon Allen / Tim Lapthorn Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 11/05/2019.Trish Clowes’ My Iris, Gateway Arts & Education Centre, Shrewsbury, 01/05/2019.Gareth Roberts Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/04/2019.Long Story ShortMake Your StandSeptuor de Grand MatinHaftor Medboe / Jacob Karlzon EPHenry Lowther’s Still Waters, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 12/04/2019.Valley of AngelsThe Moon and IDave Jones Quartet, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 09/04/2019.ScopesAsaf Sirkis / Sylwia Bialas International Quartet, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 06/04/2019.BoscoChube, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 31/03/2019.Uncanny Valley, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Arts Centre (mac), Birmingham, 28/03/2019.Get The Blessing, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 22/03/2019.Strange Beauty (Every Way OK)Circuits | Review | The Jazz Mann

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REVIEW

Lars Danielsson Group - Lars Danielsson Group; Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019 ( EFG London Jazz Festival). Rating: 4 out of 5 Danielsson has a unique approach to composition and the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution.

Lars Danielsson Group, Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019

(Part of the EFG London Jazz Festival)

Lars Danielsson – double bass, composer Gregory Privat – piano, John Parricelli – guitar, Magnus Ostrom - drums


The Swedish bassist, cellist and composer Lars Danielsson has enjoyed a long fruitful association with the Munich based ACT record label, founded by producer Siggi Loch, releasing his first album for the label as a leader in 2004.

The roots of the Liberetto project lay in the highly creative alliance that he formed with the Polish pianist Leszek Modzder, with whom he collaborated on the duo recording “Pasodoble” (2007). The pianist remained for 2009’s “Tarantella”, a quintet recording made under Danielsson’s leadership that featured a stellar international band that also included Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, British guitarist John Parricelli and American drummer Eric Harland.

The excellent “Tarantella” can be seen as the forerunner of the “Liberetto” series that Danielsson has since recorded for ACT. With Mozdzer concentrating on a highly successful solo career Danielsson assembled a new international group for the first “Liberetto” recording, released in 2012. Parricelli remained in place with the Armenian born Tigran Hamasyan taking over the piano chair as Arve Henriksen replaced his compatriot Eick on trumpet and former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom came in behind the kit.

The second “Liberetto” album from 2014 saw the group reduced to a four piece following Henriksen’s departure and the quartet format remained for 2017’s “Liberetto III” but with the French pianist Gregory Privat replacing Hamasyan, the second of Danielsson’s pianists to choose to concentrate on a solo career.

Away from the Liberetto group Danielsson has recorded prolifically for ACT as a collaborator or sideman including recordings with trumpeter Paolo Fresu, trombonist Nils Landgren, drummer Wolfgang Haffner, vocalists Caecilie Norby and Youn Sun Nah and many more.

Prior to his tenure with ACT Danielsson, born in 1958, worked with many leading American and European musicians including saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarists John Abercrombie and John Scofield, pianist Bobo Stenson, drummers Jon Christensen and Jack DeJohnette among many others.

The Liberetto series of recordings have always placed a strong emphasis on melody while seeking to blend the influences of jazz, classical chamber music and European folk music. Danielsson studied classical cello before turning to jazz and picking up the double bass. It was perhaps as a result of these classical leanings that tonight’s performance, part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, took place in the refined surroundings of Wigmore Hall, one of London’s leading classical music venues.

The performance began with “Nikita’s Dream”, the freely structured intro featuring the sound of Danielsson’s bowed bass. Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves, Privat’s melodic piano motifs and the glistening textures of Parricelli’s guitar then helped to establish an overall feel of lyricism allied to a sense of Nordic melancholy. Danielsson’s highly developed melodic sensibilities were immediately in evidence on his introductory bass solo, his feature followed by a similarly tasteful guitar solo from Parricelli and a more expansive outing from Privat at the piano.

Dating back to the first “Liberetto” recording “Orange Market” proved to be more sprightly with Privat and Parricelli doubling up on the melody lines prior to Danielsson’s typically tuneful bass solo. As the music gathered momentum Privat’s piano solo became feverishly inventive and it was the Frenchman who proved to be the real discovery of the evening. He was the only member of the quartet that I hadn’t seen or heard before and his playing was a revelation. I’d certainly be interested in investigating his work in other contexts.  Privat leads his own trio and in 2016 released his own album, “Family Tree” on ACT, a recording also featuring the talents of bassist Linley Marthe and drummer Tilo Bertholo. In the meantime “Orange Market” featured further soloing from Danielsson, plus a well received drum feature from Ostrom, who deployed brushes almost throughout the evening.

The next piece was unannounced, beginning in ballad mode with Parricelli’s gentle acoustic guitar introduction, subsequently joined by piano, bass and drums as the piece began to unfold, with the delicate interplay between the instruments consistently absorbing the listener’s attention. Danielsson’s bowed bass solo was both melancholic and beautiful, his tone high pitched (comparatively) and almost cello like.

Dedicated to the Ukrainian city “Lviv” was sourced from the latest album and was clearly a crowd favourite with a smattering of applause breaking out as members of the audience recognised the melody.  Ostrom laid down a busily brushed rhythm that resembled his patented “E.S.T. groove”, this proving to be the perfect jumping off point for Privat’s virtuoso piano pyrotechnics and one of Danielsson’s more muscular pizzicato bass excursions. Ostrom’s final drum flourish then helped to elicit the loudest cheers of the night thus far.

The first set concluded with “Passacaglia”, played here in 4/4 rather than the usual waltz time Privat’s rippling piano arpeggios were accompanied by the keening, eerie textures of Parricelli’s guitar with the Frenchman also featuring as a soloist alongside the leader on dexterously plucked double bass.

I was a little surprised that an interval was called at this venue but maybe it was just as well as the break seemed to galvanise the band and drive them on to even greater heights in the second half. With the exception of Privat everybody had played it relatively cool in the first set but the second half was to feature a greater degree of dynamic contrasts, particularly towards the end of the show when all the musicians seemed to shed their inhibitions.

Set two began began with a new tune titled “Fifth Grade”, introduced by Privat at the keyboard and with Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves fuelling yet another feverish solo from the Martinique born pianist. Also prominent as a soloist was the consistently melodic leader on double bass.

The evening really came alive as an event with Danielsson’s unaccompanied bass extemporisations around the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now”. This was simultaneously technically dazzling and jaw-droppingly beautiful, an irresistible combination that held the Wigmore audience totally spellbound. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop.

Danielsson dedicated the beautiful, and eminently hummable, melody of “Agnus Dei” to the memory of his late mother. Propelled by the gently shuffling grooves of Ostrom’s brushed drums the piece reminded me of Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” and incorporated delightfully mellifluous solos from Privat and Danielsson.

Danielsson described the next piece as being “stressful and fast”. I missed the title but from reading other accounts of the show suspect that it may have been called “Up the Tunnel”. In any event it saw the quartet upping both the pace and the energy levels with Ostrom’s increasingly propulsive   drumming leading the way. There were more Metheny-esque elements in Parricelli’s coruscating guitar solo, setting the tone for the leader on bass and Privat with a bravura and highly percussive piano solo.

The intensity was maintained on the final tune of the second set, a piece introduced by the military rhythms of Ostrom’s brushed drums and Privat’s slivers of piano melody. Parricelli’s slow burning solo introduced a subtle and unexpected blues influence before Danielsson’s solo provided the link into a riff based closing section that continued to exhibit a distinct rock feel and attitude. Metaphorically this chamber jazz group had suddenly swapped their matching suits for leather jackets.

This rousing finale had the audience on their feet and an encore was inevitable, with the quartet winding things down again with another gorgeous ballad featuring the melodic and dexterous soloing of Danielsson and Parricelli.

This performance by the Danielsson group has been well received by audience and critics alike. I heard many favourable comments immediately after the show and the online reviews have been universally positive. I was at the very back of the Hall and didn’t have the best view of the players but the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution. Danielsson’s best soloing came on “Both Sides Now” but his presence as the composer of virtually all the other material was arguably even more important than his role as a musician. He has a unique approach to composition that has helped to make his music both distinctive and popular, a rare combination. Parricelli grabbed his soloing opportunities with both hands and the effervescent and exuberant Privat impressed throughout, often getting to his feet during his frequently dazzling solos. Also key to the success of the evening was Ostrom, one of the world’s most distinctive drummers, who drove the music with subtlety and inventiveness and an understated power, largely deploying brushes alone, an impressive feat.

Even those who have found Danielsson a little bloodless on record were impressed by this evening’s performance, particularly in the shorter, but less inhibited second set where the matchless beauty of “Both Sides Now” opened the floodgates for a genuinely rousing final section.

Lars Danielsson Group; Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019 ( EFG London Jazz Festival).

Lars Danielsson Group

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Lars Danielsson Group; Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019 ( EFG London Jazz Festival).
Photography: Photograph sourced from the EFG London Jazz Festival website; http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Danielsson has a unique approach to composition and the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution.

Lars Danielsson Group, Liberetto III, Wigmore Hall, London, 19/11/2019

(Part of the EFG London Jazz Festival)

Lars Danielsson – double bass, composer Gregory Privat – piano, John Parricelli – guitar, Magnus Ostrom - drums


The Swedish bassist, cellist and composer Lars Danielsson has enjoyed a long fruitful association with the Munich based ACT record label, founded by producer Siggi Loch, releasing his first album for the label as a leader in 2004.

The roots of the Liberetto project lay in the highly creative alliance that he formed with the Polish pianist Leszek Modzder, with whom he collaborated on the duo recording “Pasodoble” (2007). The pianist remained for 2009’s “Tarantella”, a quintet recording made under Danielsson’s leadership that featured a stellar international band that also included Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, British guitarist John Parricelli and American drummer Eric Harland.

The excellent “Tarantella” can be seen as the forerunner of the “Liberetto” series that Danielsson has since recorded for ACT. With Mozdzer concentrating on a highly successful solo career Danielsson assembled a new international group for the first “Liberetto” recording, released in 2012. Parricelli remained in place with the Armenian born Tigran Hamasyan taking over the piano chair as Arve Henriksen replaced his compatriot Eick on trumpet and former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom came in behind the kit.

The second “Liberetto” album from 2014 saw the group reduced to a four piece following Henriksen’s departure and the quartet format remained for 2017’s “Liberetto III” but with the French pianist Gregory Privat replacing Hamasyan, the second of Danielsson’s pianists to choose to concentrate on a solo career.

Away from the Liberetto group Danielsson has recorded prolifically for ACT as a collaborator or sideman including recordings with trumpeter Paolo Fresu, trombonist Nils Landgren, drummer Wolfgang Haffner, vocalists Caecilie Norby and Youn Sun Nah and many more.

Prior to his tenure with ACT Danielsson, born in 1958, worked with many leading American and European musicians including saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarists John Abercrombie and John Scofield, pianist Bobo Stenson, drummers Jon Christensen and Jack DeJohnette among many others.

The Liberetto series of recordings have always placed a strong emphasis on melody while seeking to blend the influences of jazz, classical chamber music and European folk music. Danielsson studied classical cello before turning to jazz and picking up the double bass. It was perhaps as a result of these classical leanings that tonight’s performance, part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, took place in the refined surroundings of Wigmore Hall, one of London’s leading classical music venues.

The performance began with “Nikita’s Dream”, the freely structured intro featuring the sound of Danielsson’s bowed bass. Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves, Privat’s melodic piano motifs and the glistening textures of Parricelli’s guitar then helped to establish an overall feel of lyricism allied to a sense of Nordic melancholy. Danielsson’s highly developed melodic sensibilities were immediately in evidence on his introductory bass solo, his feature followed by a similarly tasteful guitar solo from Parricelli and a more expansive outing from Privat at the piano.

Dating back to the first “Liberetto” recording “Orange Market” proved to be more sprightly with Privat and Parricelli doubling up on the melody lines prior to Danielsson’s typically tuneful bass solo. As the music gathered momentum Privat’s piano solo became feverishly inventive and it was the Frenchman who proved to be the real discovery of the evening. He was the only member of the quartet that I hadn’t seen or heard before and his playing was a revelation. I’d certainly be interested in investigating his work in other contexts.  Privat leads his own trio and in 2016 released his own album, “Family Tree” on ACT, a recording also featuring the talents of bassist Linley Marthe and drummer Tilo Bertholo. In the meantime “Orange Market” featured further soloing from Danielsson, plus a well received drum feature from Ostrom, who deployed brushes almost throughout the evening.

The next piece was unannounced, beginning in ballad mode with Parricelli’s gentle acoustic guitar introduction, subsequently joined by piano, bass and drums as the piece began to unfold, with the delicate interplay between the instruments consistently absorbing the listener’s attention. Danielsson’s bowed bass solo was both melancholic and beautiful, his tone high pitched (comparatively) and almost cello like.

Dedicated to the Ukrainian city “Lviv” was sourced from the latest album and was clearly a crowd favourite with a smattering of applause breaking out as members of the audience recognised the melody.  Ostrom laid down a busily brushed rhythm that resembled his patented “E.S.T. groove”, this proving to be the perfect jumping off point for Privat’s virtuoso piano pyrotechnics and one of Danielsson’s more muscular pizzicato bass excursions. Ostrom’s final drum flourish then helped to elicit the loudest cheers of the night thus far.

The first set concluded with “Passacaglia”, played here in 4/4 rather than the usual waltz time Privat’s rippling piano arpeggios were accompanied by the keening, eerie textures of Parricelli’s guitar with the Frenchman also featuring as a soloist alongside the leader on dexterously plucked double bass.

I was a little surprised that an interval was called at this venue but maybe it was just as well as the break seemed to galvanise the band and drive them on to even greater heights in the second half. With the exception of Privat everybody had played it relatively cool in the first set but the second half was to feature a greater degree of dynamic contrasts, particularly towards the end of the show when all the musicians seemed to shed their inhibitions.

Set two began began with a new tune titled “Fifth Grade”, introduced by Privat at the keyboard and with Ostrom’s brushed drum grooves fuelling yet another feverish solo from the Martinique born pianist. Also prominent as a soloist was the consistently melodic leader on double bass.

The evening really came alive as an event with Danielsson’s unaccompanied bass extemporisations around the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now”. This was simultaneously technically dazzling and jaw-droppingly beautiful, an irresistible combination that held the Wigmore audience totally spellbound. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop.

Danielsson dedicated the beautiful, and eminently hummable, melody of “Agnus Dei” to the memory of his late mother. Propelled by the gently shuffling grooves of Ostrom’s brushed drums the piece reminded me of Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” and incorporated delightfully mellifluous solos from Privat and Danielsson.

Danielsson described the next piece as being “stressful and fast”. I missed the title but from reading other accounts of the show suspect that it may have been called “Up the Tunnel”. In any event it saw the quartet upping both the pace and the energy levels with Ostrom’s increasingly propulsive   drumming leading the way. There were more Metheny-esque elements in Parricelli’s coruscating guitar solo, setting the tone for the leader on bass and Privat with a bravura and highly percussive piano solo.

The intensity was maintained on the final tune of the second set, a piece introduced by the military rhythms of Ostrom’s brushed drums and Privat’s slivers of piano melody. Parricelli’s slow burning solo introduced a subtle and unexpected blues influence before Danielsson’s solo provided the link into a riff based closing section that continued to exhibit a distinct rock feel and attitude. Metaphorically this chamber jazz group had suddenly swapped their matching suits for leather jackets.

This rousing finale had the audience on their feet and an encore was inevitable, with the quartet winding things down again with another gorgeous ballad featuring the melodic and dexterous soloing of Danielsson and Parricelli.

This performance by the Danielsson group has been well received by audience and critics alike. I heard many favourable comments immediately after the show and the online reviews have been universally positive. I was at the very back of the Hall and didn’t have the best view of the players but the music sounded marvellous, with each member of this well balanced, tightly knit all star group making a telling contribution. Danielsson’s best soloing came on “Both Sides Now” but his presence as the composer of virtually all the other material was arguably even more important than his role as a musician. He has a unique approach to composition that has helped to make his music both distinctive and popular, a rare combination. Parricelli grabbed his soloing opportunities with both hands and the effervescent and exuberant Privat impressed throughout, often getting to his feet during his frequently dazzling solos. Also key to the success of the evening was Ostrom, one of the world’s most distinctive drummers, who drove the music with subtlety and inventiveness and an understated power, largely deploying brushes alone, an impressive feat.

Even those who have found Danielsson a little bloodless on record were impressed by this evening’s performance, particularly in the shorter, but less inhibited second set where the matchless beauty of “Both Sides Now” opened the floodgates for a genuinely rousing final section.

Tommaso Starace Quartet - Tommaso Starace Quartet plays Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019. Rating: 5 out of 5 "An evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz. It’s 5 stars from me". Guest contributor Debs Hancock enjoys this tribute to Cannonball Adderley from saxophonist Tommaso Starace and his band.

Tommaso Starace Quartet play Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.


Well, the great Mann himself doesn’t give 5 stars for a performance (from my observations)
HOWEVER… he is not here and has asked me to write about tonight’s entertainment with Tommaso Starace and his Quartet and I conclude, “It’s 5 stars from me”.

Comments from the audience were very complimentary “It was like a great night in a NEW York Jazz Club” declared more than one of the regular and discerning audience after Sunday’s performance. “I closed my eyes and I could be in any major jazz club in the world, marvellous!”

Certainly it was anything but a New York evening outside on a rather wet and windy November Sunday night in Abergavenny! But inside The Melville Centre it was a very different story.

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley was an American jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950s and1960s and notably performed with some of the most iconic jazz musicians of the day, appearing on some of the most iconic jazz albums to this day.

“He was simply the best” opined Tommaso, “A disciple of Charlie Parker, yet he continued pushing and inventing new music and exciting compositions full of fresh ideas.” A lesser known character perhaps in the company of giants, but the analysis of Cannonball’s discography is extraordinary.

Tommaso’s passion for his subject was pleasingly shared with his audience, both in his story telling and his musical connections, and,  together with his stellar band,  he provided an evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz.

Born in Milan, Tommaso Starace came to Britain in 1995, graduating with a First in Music at the Birmingham Conservatoire and then with a post grad degree in Jazz Studies at the Guildhall in London. He runs British and Italian bands and has recorded several much-lauded albums. He’s also appeared with leading musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Billy Cobham, Dave Liebman and Jim Mullen.

London based Tommaso played alto and soprano saxes at The Melville Centre in Abergavenny, with his Quartet, comprised of a stellar trio including renowned pianist David Newton, bassist Al Swainger and, fellow Italian, drummer Paolo Adamo. They had been on a mini tour of the area performing in Bristol the previous evening.

Paolo Adamo had previously visited Black Mountain Jazz Club notably with The Ben Thomas Trumpet Quartet, but it was a first visit to BMJ for both Dave Newton and Al Swainger, and hopefully not to be the last.

Commencing with a lively rendition of “Del Sasser”, followed by “Scotch and Water” and “Waltz for Debby” Tommaso took us on a journey through two sets of Cannonball Adderley’s musical collaborations including Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Miles Davies to name a few.

In the second set “Once I Loved”, “Grand Central”, “Janine” and “Worksong” shone like musical diamonds with solos providing depth, exploring the nature of each tune, expertly crafted by Tommaso Starace, Dave Newton, Al Swainger and Paolo Adamo.

It always interests me when I meet musicians, as to how small a world is the jazz world, where musical connections are very present and often right in the room. On this occasion, it appeared very apt that pianist Dave Newton had performed live with Cannonball Adderley’s trumpeter brother Nat in the past. A lovely link connecting our small jazz club to this iconic musician.

Sunday’s BMJ Club night, was the final club night of Black Mountain Jazz Club 2019. The club ended the year with an almost full house, having had an excellent evening.
GREAT news for this small but growing club in Wales. http://www.blackmountainjazz.co.uk

DEBS HANCOCK, BLACK MOUNTAIN JAZZ

Tommaso Starace Quartet plays Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.

Tommaso Starace Quartet

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

5 out of 5

Tommaso Starace Quartet plays Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.
Photography: Photograph of Tommaso Starace and Paolo Adamo courtesy of Debs Hancock.

"An evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz. It’s 5 stars from me". Guest contributor Debs Hancock enjoys this tribute to Cannonball Adderley from saxophonist Tommaso Starace and his band.

Tommaso Starace Quartet play Cannonball Adderley, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 24/11/2019.


Well, the great Mann himself doesn’t give 5 stars for a performance (from my observations)
HOWEVER… he is not here and has asked me to write about tonight’s entertainment with Tommaso Starace and his Quartet and I conclude, “It’s 5 stars from me”.

Comments from the audience were very complimentary “It was like a great night in a NEW York Jazz Club” declared more than one of the regular and discerning audience after Sunday’s performance. “I closed my eyes and I could be in any major jazz club in the world, marvellous!”

Certainly it was anything but a New York evening outside on a rather wet and windy November Sunday night in Abergavenny! But inside The Melville Centre it was a very different story.

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley was an American jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950s and1960s and notably performed with some of the most iconic jazz musicians of the day, appearing on some of the most iconic jazz albums to this day.

“He was simply the best” opined Tommaso, “A disciple of Charlie Parker, yet he continued pushing and inventing new music and exciting compositions full of fresh ideas.” A lesser known character perhaps in the company of giants, but the analysis of Cannonball’s discography is extraordinary.

Tommaso’s passion for his subject was pleasingly shared with his audience, both in his story telling and his musical connections, and,  together with his stellar band,  he provided an evening of compelling, passionate and exciting jazz.

Born in Milan, Tommaso Starace came to Britain in 1995, graduating with a First in Music at the Birmingham Conservatoire and then with a post grad degree in Jazz Studies at the Guildhall in London. He runs British and Italian bands and has recorded several much-lauded albums. He’s also appeared with leading musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Billy Cobham, Dave Liebman and Jim Mullen.

London based Tommaso played alto and soprano saxes at The Melville Centre in Abergavenny, with his Quartet, comprised of a stellar trio including renowned pianist David Newton, bassist Al Swainger and, fellow Italian, drummer Paolo Adamo. They had been on a mini tour of the area performing in Bristol the previous evening.

Paolo Adamo had previously visited Black Mountain Jazz Club notably with The Ben Thomas Trumpet Quartet, but it was a first visit to BMJ for both Dave Newton and Al Swainger, and hopefully not to be the last.

Commencing with a lively rendition of “Del Sasser”, followed by “Scotch and Water” and “Waltz for Debby” Tommaso took us on a journey through two sets of Cannonball Adderley’s musical collaborations including Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Miles Davies to name a few.

In the second set “Once I Loved”, “Grand Central”, “Janine” and “Worksong” shone like musical diamonds with solos providing depth, exploring the nature of each tune, expertly crafted by Tommaso Starace, Dave Newton, Al Swainger and Paolo Adamo.

It always interests me when I meet musicians, as to how small a world is the jazz world, where musical connections are very present and often right in the room. On this occasion, it appeared very apt that pianist Dave Newton had performed live with Cannonball Adderley’s trumpeter brother Nat in the past. A lovely link connecting our small jazz club to this iconic musician.

Sunday’s BMJ Club night, was the final club night of Black Mountain Jazz Club 2019. The club ended the year with an almost full house, having had an excellent evening.
GREAT news for this small but growing club in Wales. http://www.blackmountainjazz.co.uk

DEBS HANCOCK, BLACK MOUNTAIN JAZZ

The Casimir Connection - Cause and Effect Rating: 4 out of 5 This is ‘chamber jazz’ with feel and spirit, evocative and intelligent music that embraces a broad range of emotions, as well as musical styles.

The Casimir Connection

“Cause and Effect”

(Ciconia Records 1910CD)


Diane McLoughlin – saxophones, piano, compositions, Pawel Grudzien – piano, violin
Kit Massey – violin, Tim Fairhall – double bass


When I first saw the name of this quartet I assumed that it was going to be a group led by the young rising star bassist Daniel Casimir.

On closer inspection I found it to be a new ensemble led by saxophonist, composer and occasional pianist Diane McLoughlin, featuring Kit Massey on violin, Pawel Grudzien on piano and violin and Tim Fairhall on double bass.

McLoughlin has previously featured on the Jazzmann pages as a member of groups led by bassist Alison Rayner and trumpeter Chris Hodgkins. She is a key member of Rayner’s ARQ quintet and has contributed compositions to the band’s repertoire. She has also written for Hodgkins’ groups.

The saxophonist also leads the seventeen piece Giant Steppes Big Band (great name), acting as musician, composer, arranger and bandleader.

McLoughlin explains her choice of name for this new quartet thus;
“The reference is to the Casimir effect, a mysterious force in quantum physics that draws elements together. I see it as a metaphor for the spontaneous energy created by musicians interacting intuitively when playing together.”

She continues;
“Cause and Effect is a journey through the influence of childhood experiences. The music sometimes reflects a mood, sometimes evokes a half forgotten memory, combining the sensibility of classical music with the instinctive spontaneity of jazz improvisation.”

Very much like Rayner McLoughlin’s writing is inspired by personal experiences and in this respect “Cause and Effect” is very much ‘an autobiography in music’. McLoughlin’s liner notes outline the inspirations behind each individual track, and in doing so they reveal much about McLoughlin, the person.

The music can perhaps best be described as ‘ chamber jazz’ and also takes in various folk influences as well as the aforementioned jazz and classical elements. And even though it’s a drummer-less line up there’s still plenty of rhythmic interest and impetus, thanks to the efforts of pianist Grudzien and bassist Fairhall.

Again like Rayner McLoughlin places great emphasis on strong and memorable melodies and there are some excellent tunes here in collection of eleven McLoughlin original compositions. Many of the pieces possess a strong narrative arc and a tangible sense of time and place –  this is music that genuinely deserves the description “cinematic”.


Opener “Eisenstein’s Theory” was inspired by “a childhood memory of watching an old black and white film on television depicting Teutonic knights fighting Russian soldiers on a frozen lake. The image of the white horses and the defeated soldiers falling through the ice was a frightening and haunting image.”
Grudzien’s piano underpins the piece as McLoughlin on soprano sax and Massey on violin variously double up on and exchange melody lines. There’s an air of nostalgic melancholy about the music that finds expression in Massey’s bowing, but as its source of inspiration would suggest there’s nothing bloodless about this brand of chamber jazz, as exemplified by the leader’s expansive excursion on soprano.

“The Nurture of Nature” has more of a pastoral feel with McLoughlin observing;
“In a modern society full of noise and data overload, it’s even more important to have quiet times. Being outdoors surrounded by trees, grass and flowers, listening to birdsong, allows me to re-connect with myself. Nature soothes the soul”.
Almost classical in feel the piece includes some beautiful violin soloing, presumably by Massey, the bowing sometimes evoking the sound of birdsong or the image of a bird in flight. Piano and bass again provide the rhythm and structure around which the violin and saxophone swoop and soar. With the exception of McLoughlin’s reeds it’s difficult to credit individual soloists with both Massey and Grudzien credited with violin and Grudzien and McLoughlin with piano.

“The Secretive Irishman” was written for McLoughlin’s Irish grandfather of whom she says;
“he was a quiet man, but only later did we discover that his silence held many secrets. Family secrets can sometimes be a burden”. Behind these enigmatic remarks is an intriguing composition that embraces different elements of traditional Irish folk music. The first part of the tune has the feel of an air, wistful and nostalgic and distinguished by the gentle keening of McLoughlin’s soprano sax. The tune then gathers pace, evolving into a sprightly jig with racing soprano sax and violin melodies fuelled by propulsive piano and bass lines.

Of the melancholic “Lonely Child” McLoughlin remarks;
“Childhood for many can seem the most difficult times of their lives. Having a parent, or parents, who are suffering, especially from mental illness, can leave a child with confused feelings that are difficult to share, leaving them with a particular kind of loneliness”.
Musically the piece starts with the sound of Fairhall’s unaccompanied double bass, the sparseness and spaciousness of the playing seeming to embody the sense of isolation implicit in the title. Piano eventually enters, followed by sombre, but beautiful, violin, with Massey’s lines echoed and answered by McLoughlin’s soprano. Fairhall’s playing then returns to the fore in a glacial dialogue with the piano, this in turn leading to further saxophonic ruminations from McLoughlin. For all its beauty there’s a lot of pain in this piece.

“Up on the Moors” is a musical depiction of the Yorkshire landscape. McLoughlin and her colleagues conjure images of both beauty and bleakness in an arrangement that also captures the openness of the moorlands and, in the dramatic second half of the piece, its wildness.

As its title suggests “Torch Song” is a tune about unrequited love, but proves to be surprisingly lively, drawing as it does on the influence of Balkan folk music. There’s no piano here so the focus is on the interplay between the various strings, Massey and Grudzien are flamboyant on violins, while Fairhall provides the underlying bass pulse.

That Eastern European influence is also apparent on “Nadya”, which McLoughlin dedicates to the Bulgarian folk singer Nadya Karadjova. McLoughlin’s notes recount how she discovered East European folk music as a child, almost by chance on her transistor radio. “Suddenly the world seemed so much bigger and more exciting than the Yorkshire council estate I grew up in” she recalls. It was only years later that she found out that the singer she had heard was Karadjova.
McLoughlin features on soprano and Grudzien returns to the piano on this wistful sounding tune, the reflective moments punctuated by livelier ‘folk dance’ style episodes. There’s something of a feature for Fairhall on melodic double bass and an extended passage of unaccompanied piano, presumably from Grudzien.

“Lost in Colour” draws its inspiration from the twin sources of the artwork of David Hockney and childhood memory. A colour in a Hockney painting reminded McLoughlin of the “deep purple blue” of the paper bags that were used for currants or sugar during her childhood and of how she used to use them as drawing paper, or to create mosaics. Again the music evokes a nostalgic air as McLoughlin’s gently piping soprano intertwines with Massey’s violin lines. There’s an extended duo passage featuring bass and piano, Fairhall taking the lead at first before a more expansive and lyrical solo from Grudzien.

Of “The Storm Inside” McLoughlin says; “The internal world can often conflict with the external. There’s nothing comparable to feeling rage on a sunny day”. The dichotomy is expressed by a wilful dissonance, the harsh bowing of Massey, the low end rumble of piano and bass and McLoughlin making a rare foray on tenor – much of this album seems to feature her on the lighter, airier soprano.

“A Day in a Polish Village, 1933”  reflects another side of McLoughlin’s heritage with the composer stating; “War not only causes physical damage, but mental damage too, which can last for years, even lifetimes. This composition is a tribute to my mother, who was a casualty of war. I knew little of her early life, but this is imagining of her as a seven year old child in a village in Poland”.
It’s a highly evocative composition that draws on folk and classical influences and features twin violins, with Grudzien, or maybe McLoughlin doubling on piano.

The closing “Contemplation” is a beautiful, lyrical, elegant ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on an ECM album. This is particularly apt as “Cause and Effect” is immaculately recorded with mix engineer Grudzien, who also acts as McLoughlin’s co-producer, capturing every nuance and subtlety of the music.

The qualities that McLoughlin brings to ARQ are also apparent in this very different, and very personal, record. Her writing is consistently interesting and evocative and embraces a wide range of influences – jazz, folk, classical – that are skilfully woven together to create a very convincing whole.

This may be ‘chamber jazz’ but it’s music that transcends the sometimes pejorative assumptions that are made about the genre. There’s nothing bland or bloodless about this quartet’s music, and at no time did I find myself missing the presence of a drum kit. This is ‘chamber jazz’ with feel and spirit, evocative and intelligent music that embraces a broad range of emotions, as well as musical styles.

“Cause and Effect” is an album that McLoughlin can be justly proud of and it has enjoyed a highly positive critical reception, praise that will hopefully translate itself into sales.

Cause and Effect

The Casimir Connection

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Cause and Effect

This is ‘chamber jazz’ with feel and spirit, evocative and intelligent music that embraces a broad range of emotions, as well as musical styles.

The Casimir Connection

“Cause and Effect”

(Ciconia Records 1910CD)


Diane McLoughlin – saxophones, piano, compositions, Pawel Grudzien – piano, violin
Kit Massey – violin, Tim Fairhall – double bass


When I first saw the name of this quartet I assumed that it was going to be a group led by the young rising star bassist Daniel Casimir.

On closer inspection I found it to be a new ensemble led by saxophonist, composer and occasional pianist Diane McLoughlin, featuring Kit Massey on violin, Pawel Grudzien on piano and violin and Tim Fairhall on double bass.

McLoughlin has previously featured on the Jazzmann pages as a member of groups led by bassist Alison Rayner and trumpeter Chris Hodgkins. She is a key member of Rayner’s ARQ quintet and has contributed compositions to the band’s repertoire. She has also written for Hodgkins’ groups.

The saxophonist also leads the seventeen piece Giant Steppes Big Band (great name), acting as musician, composer, arranger and bandleader.

McLoughlin explains her choice of name for this new quartet thus;
“The reference is to the Casimir effect, a mysterious force in quantum physics that draws elements together. I see it as a metaphor for the spontaneous energy created by musicians interacting intuitively when playing together.”

She continues;
“Cause and Effect is a journey through the influence of childhood experiences. The music sometimes reflects a mood, sometimes evokes a half forgotten memory, combining the sensibility of classical music with the instinctive spontaneity of jazz improvisation.”

Very much like Rayner McLoughlin’s writing is inspired by personal experiences and in this respect “Cause and Effect” is very much ‘an autobiography in music’. McLoughlin’s liner notes outline the inspirations behind each individual track, and in doing so they reveal much about McLoughlin, the person.

The music can perhaps best be described as ‘ chamber jazz’ and also takes in various folk influences as well as the aforementioned jazz and classical elements. And even though it’s a drummer-less line up there’s still plenty of rhythmic interest and impetus, thanks to the efforts of pianist Grudzien and bassist Fairhall.

Again like Rayner McLoughlin places great emphasis on strong and memorable melodies and there are some excellent tunes here in collection of eleven McLoughlin original compositions. Many of the pieces possess a strong narrative arc and a tangible sense of time and place –  this is music that genuinely deserves the description “cinematic”.


Opener “Eisenstein’s Theory” was inspired by “a childhood memory of watching an old black and white film on television depicting Teutonic knights fighting Russian soldiers on a frozen lake. The image of the white horses and the defeated soldiers falling through the ice was a frightening and haunting image.”
Grudzien’s piano underpins the piece as McLoughlin on soprano sax and Massey on violin variously double up on and exchange melody lines. There’s an air of nostalgic melancholy about the music that finds expression in Massey’s bowing, but as its source of inspiration would suggest there’s nothing bloodless about this brand of chamber jazz, as exemplified by the leader’s expansive excursion on soprano.

“The Nurture of Nature” has more of a pastoral feel with McLoughlin observing;
“In a modern society full of noise and data overload, it’s even more important to have quiet times. Being outdoors surrounded by trees, grass and flowers, listening to birdsong, allows me to re-connect with myself. Nature soothes the soul”.
Almost classical in feel the piece includes some beautiful violin soloing, presumably by Massey, the bowing sometimes evoking the sound of birdsong or the image of a bird in flight. Piano and bass again provide the rhythm and structure around which the violin and saxophone swoop and soar. With the exception of McLoughlin’s reeds it’s difficult to credit individual soloists with both Massey and Grudzien credited with violin and Grudzien and McLoughlin with piano.

“The Secretive Irishman” was written for McLoughlin’s Irish grandfather of whom she says;
“he was a quiet man, but only later did we discover that his silence held many secrets. Family secrets can sometimes be a burden”. Behind these enigmatic remarks is an intriguing composition that embraces different elements of traditional Irish folk music. The first part of the tune has the feel of an air, wistful and nostalgic and distinguished by the gentle keening of McLoughlin’s soprano sax. The tune then gathers pace, evolving into a sprightly jig with racing soprano sax and violin melodies fuelled by propulsive piano and bass lines.

Of the melancholic “Lonely Child” McLoughlin remarks;
“Childhood for many can seem the most difficult times of their lives. Having a parent, or parents, who are suffering, especially from mental illness, can leave a child with confused feelings that are difficult to share, leaving them with a particular kind of loneliness”.
Musically the piece starts with the sound of Fairhall’s unaccompanied double bass, the sparseness and spaciousness of the playing seeming to embody the sense of isolation implicit in the title. Piano eventually enters, followed by sombre, but beautiful, violin, with Massey’s lines echoed and answered by McLoughlin’s soprano. Fairhall’s playing then returns to the fore in a glacial dialogue with the piano, this in turn leading to further saxophonic ruminations from McLoughlin. For all its beauty there’s a lot of pain in this piece.

“Up on the Moors” is a musical depiction of the Yorkshire landscape. McLoughlin and her colleagues conjure images of both beauty and bleakness in an arrangement that also captures the openness of the moorlands and, in the dramatic second half of the piece, its wildness.

As its title suggests “Torch Song” is a tune about unrequited love, but proves to be surprisingly lively, drawing as it does on the influence of Balkan folk music. There’s no piano here so the focus is on the interplay between the various strings, Massey and Grudzien are flamboyant on violins, while Fairhall provides the underlying bass pulse.

That Eastern European influence is also apparent on “Nadya”, which McLoughlin dedicates to the Bulgarian folk singer Nadya Karadjova. McLoughlin’s notes recount how she discovered East European folk music as a child, almost by chance on her transistor radio. “Suddenly the world seemed so much bigger and more exciting than the Yorkshire council estate I grew up in” she recalls. It was only years later that she found out that the singer she had heard was Karadjova.
McLoughlin features on soprano and Grudzien returns to the piano on this wistful sounding tune, the reflective moments punctuated by livelier ‘folk dance’ style episodes. There’s something of a feature for Fairhall on melodic double bass and an extended passage of unaccompanied piano, presumably from Grudzien.

“Lost in Colour” draws its inspiration from the twin sources of the artwork of David Hockney and childhood memory. A colour in a Hockney painting reminded McLoughlin of the “deep purple blue” of the paper bags that were used for currants or sugar during her childhood and of how she used to use them as drawing paper, or to create mosaics. Again the music evokes a nostalgic air as McLoughlin’s gently piping soprano intertwines with Massey’s violin lines. There’s an extended duo passage featuring bass and piano, Fairhall taking the lead at first before a more expansive and lyrical solo from Grudzien.

Of “The Storm Inside” McLoughlin says; “The internal world can often conflict with the external. There’s nothing comparable to feeling rage on a sunny day”. The dichotomy is expressed by a wilful dissonance, the harsh bowing of Massey, the low end rumble of piano and bass and McLoughlin making a rare foray on tenor – much of this album seems to feature her on the lighter, airier soprano.

“A Day in a Polish Village, 1933”  reflects another side of McLoughlin’s heritage with the composer stating; “War not only causes physical damage, but mental damage too, which can last for years, even lifetimes. This composition is a tribute to my mother, who was a casualty of war. I knew little of her early life, but this is imagining of her as a seven year old child in a village in Poland”.
It’s a highly evocative composition that draws on folk and classical influences and features twin violins, with Grudzien, or maybe McLoughlin doubling on piano.

The closing “Contemplation” is a beautiful, lyrical, elegant ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on an ECM album. This is particularly apt as “Cause and Effect” is immaculately recorded with mix engineer Grudzien, who also acts as McLoughlin’s co-producer, capturing every nuance and subtlety of the music.

The qualities that McLoughlin brings to ARQ are also apparent in this very different, and very personal, record. Her writing is consistently interesting and evocative and embraces a wide range of influences – jazz, folk, classical – that are skilfully woven together to create a very convincing whole.

This may be ‘chamber jazz’ but it’s music that transcends the sometimes pejorative assumptions that are made about the genre. There’s nothing bland or bloodless about this quartet’s music, and at no time did I find myself missing the presence of a drum kit. This is ‘chamber jazz’ with feel and spirit, evocative and intelligent music that embraces a broad range of emotions, as well as musical styles.

“Cause and Effect” is an album that McLoughlin can be justly proud of and it has enjoyed a highly positive critical reception, praise that will hopefully translate itself into sales.

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon - The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon,  ‘A Requiem’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/11/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 This had been an excellent evening of words and music, with the timing of the event, on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, giving it an extra poignancy and sense of meaning.

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon, “A Requiem”,
The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/11/2019.

Alan Barnes – baritone saxophone, clarinet, Dean Masser – tenor saxophone, Gilad Atzmon – alto & soprano saxophone, Neil Yates – trumpet & flugelhorn, Robbie Harvey – trombone, Pat McCarthy- guitar, Dave Green – double bass, Seb de Krom – drums, Josie Moon – voice


Alan Barnes is probably best known to many jazz fans as the wise cracking compère of Scarborough Jazz Festival, or as the hard working gigging musician traversing the highways and byways of the country playing standards sets as the guest soloist with local rhythm sections.

Barnes is all these things and more, a highly skilled professional musician with a command of all the instruments of the saxophone family, plus clarinet. But as well as the standards and bebop sets Barnes is also a skilled composer and arranger who has issued several albums of original music, often conceptual in approach, such as his “Marbella Suite” and his “Sherlock Holmes Suite”.

One of the most successful of these was “Fish Tales”, a suite commissioned by Grimsby Jazz that told the history of the town’s fishing industry. The music for the project was written by Barnes and guitarist Pat McCarthy and their musical compositions were complemented by the words of the poet Josie Moon, whose poetic narrative formed a central part of the “Fish Tales” project.

To play the music Barnes and McCarthy assembled a stellar octet of UK based musicians featuring themselves, Atzmon, Masser, Green and de Krom plus Martin Shaw on trumpet & flugel and Mark Nightingale on trombone.  This line up, augmented by Moon’s voice, released the “Fish Tales” album on Barnes’ own Woodville record label in 2017. The project proved to be extremely successful and toured widely, with Neil Yates subsequently replacing Shaw in the line up.

“Fish Tales” came to The Hive for a Shrewsbury Jazz Network promotion but it was a performance that I was unable to attend as it clashed with my annual visit to the EFG London Festival. This year Barnes and his octet visited a week earlier, which suited me well and also tied in neatly with Remembrance Day as they toured their new work “A Requiem”, a suite written as “A commemoration for all who have died in conflict over the century past and a call for peace”.

Once again the work features music by Barnes and McCarthy allied to words by Moon, the music and text both making allusions to the Requiem Masses of classical music. The accompanying recording, again issued on Woodville,  features a band comprised of Barnes, McCarthy, Masser, Atzmon, Yates, Nightingale, Green, de Krom and Moon and the work was again supported by Grimsby Jazz and by Arts Council England.

Tonight was the last night of a tour that began in July and saw Nightingale replaced by the young trombonist Robbie Harvey, who acquitted himself brilliantly, having only arrived in Shrewsbury about ninety minutes before the performance and with no prior knowledge of the music. His assured performance was a credit to his sight reading skills and to his overall musicianship.

Moon’s liner notes explain that “A Requiem” was originally her idea, conceived around the time of Remembrance Sunday in 2017 after witnessing homeless military veterans on the streets of Grimsby. “I wanted to write a requiem for the war dead of the century that had passed” she explains, “but more than that I wanted to write something that raised questions about war and the act of remembrance. I thought about what a Two Minute Silence means, given the global state of perpetual war and the brinkmanship of so many world leaders intent on using war as a solution to international tensions”.

Again collaborating with Barnes and McCarthy she knew that the work would not be finished in time for the 2018 commemorations of the end of World War 1 but the decision was taken not to rush and for the work not to be defined by one particular conflict. The album is dedicated to “all beings caught up in conflict and war, wherever they are in the world. May there be peace in our time.”

Barnes’ enduring popularity with jazz audiences ensured a near capacity crowd at The Hive and the audience paid rapt attention as the ensemble performed “A Requiem” in full, with the performance divided into two ‘Acts’ separated by an interval. A free four page programme had been printed for the tour, which ensured that listeners could easily follow the progress of the work – a nice touch.

The performance began with the octet playing “Epitaph”, a brief horn chorale that saw Barnes on clarinet and which functioned her as a kind of ‘overture’.

The first poem to be read by Moon was “Prelude”, also a kind of scene setter that made reference to “the Crow Men”, her term for politicians and war mongers, and in this instance perhaps First World War generals. It was an image to which she was to return – a jazz and poetry equivalent to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”.

The next musical piece was “Waves”, which featured Moon reciting her words above the sensitive accompaniment of the octet.  Besides musing on the origins of life itself Moon’s poem also seemed to allude to British troops crossing the Channel to fight in the trenches of World War One. Tonight’s performance expanded on the recorded version to include a solos from Yates on trumpet and a shorter cameo from Barnes on clarinet.

“Seek the Light In The Darkness” presented Moon’s thoughts on acts of remembrance, particularly the Two Minutes Silence. While we in the West hold our breath on Remembrance Sunday wars still continue in other parts of the world. The poem also made reference to the famous Christmas Day truce in the trenches, a window of sanity quickly closed again by the orders of the Crow Men. The piece also made reference to those homeless veterans in Grimsby and of the town’s NEED to remember.

The band’s performance of “Inter-Trench Conversation” was a musical depiction of that famous truce, symbolised by the dialogues between the various instruments. Centred around McCarthy’s guitar motif and with Green and de Krom providing an impressive impetus the composition encouraged the discourse between the horns, with Barnes featuring on baritone sax. More extended solos came from the impressive Masser on tenor, Yates on trumpet and McCarthy on guitar.

“In Memory of Marion Scott and Ivor Gurney” represented Moon’s tribute to the troubled Gloucestershire composer and poet Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) and his close friend and literary editor Marion Scott. Gurney was wounded in the trenches during the First World War and later suffered from ‘shell shock’, although he had exhibited symptoms of what we now know as ‘bi-polar’ behaviour since his early teens. Moon’s poem again evoked the imagery of the Two Minutes Silence and The Crow Men before she handed over to the band for the Barnes’ composition “Gurney”, which included impressive solos from Harvey on trombone and Atzmon on soprano sax plus a shorter cameo from Masser on tenor.

“The Return of Shadows” represented Moon’s meditation’s on the flawed Treaty of Versailles and the growing unrest of the 1920s and 30s as the Crow Men eventually took the World back to war.

This was followed by McCarthy’s composition “Songs Without Words”, a reflective lament with a nocturnal, almost hymn like feel with Yates featuring on flugel and Barnes on clarinet. A more upbeat second section brought solos from Barnes and from Masser on tenor. I wasn’t previously familiar with Masser’s playing but throughout the evening he impressed with the robust beauty of his tone and his fluency as a soloist.

“Appeasement” represented Moon’s allegories on Neville Chamberlain and the failure of the peace negotiations, thwarted by the “Advance of the Death’s Head” and the “Wheeling of the Crow Men”.

The advent of the 1939 conflict was expressed musically by the strident sounds of the Barnes composition “Theatre of War”, with the five horns of the ensemble playing with the power of a ‘mini big band’ and creating a mightily impressive sound.
Moon then joined the band to recite her poem “The Days of Wrath”, her voice shadowed first by trombone and then by guitar. This ‘shadowing’ of the voice by different instruments was a device that was to be deployed again at the close of Act 2. Moon’s words here used Latin phrases in a direct parallel with classical Requiem Masses. The poem also featured some of her most striking verbal imagery - “the grudges of old men play out in the bodies of the young”.

The first Act then concluded with a reprise of “Waves”, featuring concise solos from Yates on trumpet and Barnes on clarinet, this followed by Moon reading the poem “How Peace Works”.

A shorter Act 2 commenced with the Barnes composition “Peace Returns”, a suitably warm sounding composition featuring the velvet fluency of Yates on flugel and the smooth elegance of McCarthy on guitar, plus Barnes himself on baritone, exhibiting an astonishing agility on the ‘big horn’.

Moon’s poem “When Souls are Returned to the Stars” was presaged by the startling fact that there has only been one true month of global peace since the end of World War 2 and that there are currently no fewer than forty wars going on in the world. The poem itself addressed death, loss and widowhood.

Barnes’ “Dark At The Edges” was centred around the composer’s insistent baritone sax vamp in an arrangement that featured Yates on muted trumpet and Atzmon on soprano sax. Powerful solos came from Masser on tenor sax and Harvey on trombone, with de Krom enjoying a series of fiery drum breaks. At times the piece reminded me of a Charles Mingus composition, which is praise indeed.

Moon’s poem “The Holy Places of the Earth” brought the war story right up to date and included a litany of names that we are used to hearing in the news – Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Gaza, Basra.
While we remember Coventry and Dresden war continues elsewhere - “Cursed are the Crow Men, for they have inherited the Earth”.

McCarthy’s composition “Sacred Music” evoked something of a swing era jazz feel in a warm Barnes arrangement featuring Yates on muted trumpet and with a plangent alto sax solo coming from Atzmon.

The poem “Lambs at the Slaughter” represented Moon’s condemnation of the horrors of war and was subsequently complemented by Yates’ trumpet sounding the “Last Post” as part of a concise band arrangement by Barnes.

Light is a theme throughout the work, the concept of “lux aeterna, luceat eis”, that no matter how dark things become light always returns, a concept that informed Moon’s poem “Faith to Find The Light”.

In a diversion from the recorded version the octet now performed a composition called “All Quiet”, a piece that doesn’t actually appear on the CD. This then represented a considerable bonus, particularly as it contained a stunning, beautifully melodic double bass solo from Green plus an incisive alto sax solo from Atzmon, this followed by a more mellow feature from McCarthy.

Act 2 concluded with a segue of McCarthy’s “Liberation” and the Barnes/Moon collaboration “Deliver Me”.
McCarthy’s piece was vibrant and uplifting, with the octet again sounding like a ‘mini big band’.
A surging, swinging bass and drum groove fuelled vivid solos from Barnes on baritone, Yates on trumpet, Masser on tenor, Harvey on trombone, Atzmon on alto and McCarthy on guitar. All of these outstanding instrumentalists seemed to relish the chance to stretch out and there was even room for a brief feature from de Krom.
“Deliver Me” was more considered with Harvey and Masser taking it in turns to shadow Moon’s words, the work concluding with the phrase “when the darkness falls let us search for light”.

The audience, who had been quiet and attentive throughout gave the performers a terrific reception. This had been an excellent evening of words and music, with the timing of the event on the eve of Remembrance Sunday giving it an extra poignancy and sense of meaning.

I haven’t always been convinced by jazz and poetry collaborations but this one worked very well. Moon’s words were thoughtful and evocative and she delivered them with confidence, her recitative well served by Barnes’ sympathetic arrangements.

The band themselves were superb. I loved the rich timbres of the five man horn section, who brought even more colour to the already finely nuanced and textured compositions of Barnes and McCarthy. Within a tightly structured framework there was still room for some fine soloing, with every musician impressing in this respect at some point in the proceedings. Several listeners singled out Masser’s contribution on tenor, in particular his wonderful tone on the instrument.

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter Barnes still found room to inject a little humour into the proceedings, particularly during his band introductions, but it was good to see him stepping out of his comfort zone and tackling something weighty.

As an event this performance was highly impressive, and, in its own way highly enjoyable, particularly with regard to the superb musicianship. It dealt with some pretty heavy subject matter, but did so with a pleasing lightness of touch. The content, allied to the timing of the performance, certainly gave the listener plenty of cause for thought and reflection.

 

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon,  ‘A Requiem’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/11/2019.

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon,  ‘A Requiem’, The Hive, Shrewsbury, 09/11/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

This had been an excellent evening of words and music, with the timing of the event, on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, giving it an extra poignancy and sense of meaning.

The Alan Barnes Octet featuring Josie Moon, “A Requiem”,
The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 09/11/2019.

Alan Barnes – baritone saxophone, clarinet, Dean Masser – tenor saxophone, Gilad Atzmon – alto & soprano saxophone, Neil Yates – trumpet & flugelhorn, Robbie Harvey – trombone, Pat McCarthy- guitar, Dave Green – double bass, Seb de Krom – drums, Josie Moon – voice


Alan Barnes is probably best known to many jazz fans as the wise cracking compère of Scarborough Jazz Festival, or as the hard working gigging musician traversing the highways and byways of the country playing standards sets as the guest soloist with local rhythm sections.

Barnes is all these things and more, a highly skilled professional musician with a command of all the instruments of the saxophone family, plus clarinet. But as well as the standards and bebop sets Barnes is also a skilled composer and arranger who has issued several albums of original music, often conceptual in approach, such as his “Marbella Suite” and his “Sherlock Holmes Suite”.

One of the most successful of these was “Fish Tales”, a suite commissioned by Grimsby Jazz that told the history of the town’s fishing industry. The music for the project was written by Barnes and guitarist Pat McCarthy and their musical compositions were complemented by the words of the poet Josie Moon, whose poetic narrative formed a central part of the “Fish Tales” project.

To play the music Barnes and McCarthy assembled a stellar octet of UK based musicians featuring themselves, Atzmon, Masser, Green and de Krom plus Martin Shaw on trumpet & flugel and Mark Nightingale on trombone.  This line up, augmented by Moon’s voice, released the “Fish Tales” album on Barnes’ own Woodville record label in 2017. The project proved to be extremely successful and toured widely, with Neil Yates subsequently replacing Shaw in the line up.

“Fish Tales” came to The Hive for a Shrewsbury Jazz Network promotion but it was a performance that I was unable to attend as it clashed with my annual visit to the EFG London Festival. This year Barnes and his octet visited a week earlier, which suited me well and also tied in neatly with Remembrance Day as they toured their new work “A Requiem”, a suite written as “A commemoration for all who have died in conflict over the century past and a call for peace”.

Once again the work features music by Barnes and McCarthy allied to words by Moon, the music and text both making allusions to the Requiem Masses of classical music. The accompanying recording, again issued on Woodville,  features a band comprised of Barnes, McCarthy, Masser, Atzmon, Yates, Nightingale, Green, de Krom and Moon and the work was again supported by Grimsby Jazz and by Arts Council England.

Tonight was the last night of a tour that began in July and saw Nightingale replaced by the young trombonist Robbie Harvey, who acquitted himself brilliantly, having only arrived in Shrewsbury about ninety minutes before the performance and with no prior knowledge of the music. His assured performance was a credit to his sight reading skills and to his overall musicianship.

Moon’s liner notes explain that “A Requiem” was originally her idea, conceived around the time of Remembrance Sunday in 2017 after witnessing homeless military veterans on the streets of Grimsby. “I wanted to write a requiem for the war dead of the century that had passed” she explains, “but more than that I wanted to write something that raised questions about war and the act of remembrance. I thought about what a Two Minute Silence means, given the global state of perpetual war and the brinkmanship of so many world leaders intent on using war as a solution to international tensions”.

Again collaborating with Barnes and McCarthy she knew that the work would not be finished in time for the 2018 commemorations of the end of World War 1 but the decision was taken not to rush and for the work not to be defined by one particular conflict. The album is dedicated to “all beings caught up in conflict and war, wherever they are in the world. May there be peace in our time.”

Barnes’ enduring popularity with jazz audiences ensured a near capacity crowd at The Hive and the audience paid rapt attention as the ensemble performed “A Requiem” in full, with the performance divided into two ‘Acts’ separated by an interval. A free four page programme had been printed for the tour, which ensured that listeners could easily follow the progress of the work – a nice touch.

The performance began with the octet playing “Epitaph”, a brief horn chorale that saw Barnes on clarinet and which functioned her as a kind of ‘overture’.

The first poem to be read by Moon was “Prelude”, also a kind of scene setter that made reference to “the Crow Men”, her term for politicians and war mongers, and in this instance perhaps First World War generals. It was an image to which she was to return – a jazz and poetry equivalent to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”.

The next musical piece was “Waves”, which featured Moon reciting her words above the sensitive accompaniment of the octet.  Besides musing on the origins of life itself Moon’s poem also seemed to allude to British troops crossing the Channel to fight in the trenches of World War One. Tonight’s performance expanded on the recorded version to include a solos from Yates on trumpet and a shorter cameo from Barnes on clarinet.

“Seek the Light In The Darkness” presented Moon’s thoughts on acts of remembrance, particularly the Two Minutes Silence. While we in the West hold our breath on Remembrance Sunday wars still continue in other parts of the world. The poem also made reference to the famous Christmas Day truce in the trenches, a window of sanity quickly closed again by the orders of the Crow Men. The piece also made reference to those homeless veterans in Grimsby and of the town’s NEED to remember.

The band’s performance of “Inter-Trench Conversation” was a musical depiction of that famous truce, symbolised by the dialogues between the various instruments. Centred around McCarthy’s guitar motif and with Green and de Krom providing an impressive impetus the composition encouraged the discourse between the horns, with Barnes featuring on baritone sax. More extended solos came from the impressive Masser on tenor, Yates on trumpet and McCarthy on guitar.

“In Memory of Marion Scott and Ivor Gurney” represented Moon’s tribute to the troubled Gloucestershire composer and poet Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) and his close friend and literary editor Marion Scott. Gurney was wounded in the trenches during the First World War and later suffered from ‘shell shock’, although he had exhibited symptoms of what we now know as ‘bi-polar’ behaviour since his early teens. Moon’s poem again evoked the imagery of the Two Minutes Silence and The Crow Men before she handed over to the band for the Barnes’ composition “Gurney”, which included impressive solos from Harvey on trombone and Atzmon on soprano sax plus a shorter cameo from Masser on tenor.

“The Return of Shadows” represented Moon’s meditation’s on the flawed Treaty of Versailles and the growing unrest of the 1920s and 30s as the Crow Men eventually took the World back to war.

This was followed by McCarthy’s composition “Songs Without Words”, a reflective lament with a nocturnal, almost hymn like feel with Yates featuring on flugel and Barnes on clarinet. A more upbeat second section brought solos from Barnes and from Masser on tenor. I wasn’t previously familiar with Masser’s playing but throughout the evening he impressed with the robust beauty of his tone and his fluency as a soloist.

“Appeasement” represented Moon’s allegories on Neville Chamberlain and the failure of the peace negotiations, thwarted by the “Advance of the Death’s Head” and the “Wheeling of the Crow Men”.

The advent of the 1939 conflict was expressed musically by the strident sounds of the Barnes composition “Theatre of War”, with the five horns of the ensemble playing with the power of a ‘mini big band’ and creating a mightily impressive sound.
Moon then joined the band to recite her poem “The Days of Wrath”, her voice shadowed first by trombone and then by guitar. This ‘shadowing’ of the voice by different instruments was a device that was to be deployed again at the close of Act 2. Moon’s words here used Latin phrases in a direct parallel with classical Requiem Masses. The poem also featured some of her most striking verbal imagery - “the grudges of old men play out in the bodies of the young”.

The first Act then concluded with a reprise of “Waves”, featuring concise solos from Yates on trumpet and Barnes on clarinet, this followed by Moon reading the poem “How Peace Works”.

A shorter Act 2 commenced with the Barnes composition “Peace Returns”, a suitably warm sounding composition featuring the velvet fluency of Yates on flugel and the smooth elegance of McCarthy on guitar, plus Barnes himself on baritone, exhibiting an astonishing agility on the ‘big horn’.

Moon’s poem “When Souls are Returned to the Stars” was presaged by the startling fact that there has only been one true month of global peace since the end of World War 2 and that there are currently no fewer than forty wars going on in the world. The poem itself addressed death, loss and widowhood.

Barnes’ “Dark At The Edges” was centred around the composer’s insistent baritone sax vamp in an arrangement that featured Yates on muted trumpet and Atzmon on soprano sax. Powerful solos came from Masser on tenor sax and Harvey on trombone, with de Krom enjoying a series of fiery drum breaks. At times the piece reminded me of a Charles Mingus composition, which is praise indeed.

Moon’s poem “The Holy Places of the Earth” brought the war story right up to date and included a litany of names that we are used to hearing in the news – Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Gaza, Basra.
While we remember Coventry and Dresden war continues elsewhere - “Cursed are the Crow Men, for they have inherited the Earth”.

McCarthy’s composition “Sacred Music” evoked something of a swing era jazz feel in a warm Barnes arrangement featuring Yates on muted trumpet and with a plangent alto sax solo coming from Atzmon.

The poem “Lambs at the Slaughter” represented Moon’s condemnation of the horrors of war and was subsequently complemented by Yates’ trumpet sounding the “Last Post” as part of a concise band arrangement by Barnes.

Light is a theme throughout the work, the concept of “lux aeterna, luceat eis”, that no matter how dark things become light always returns, a concept that informed Moon’s poem “Faith to Find The Light”.

In a diversion from the recorded version the octet now performed a composition called “All Quiet”, a piece that doesn’t actually appear on the CD. This then represented a considerable bonus, particularly as it contained a stunning, beautifully melodic double bass solo from Green plus an incisive alto sax solo from Atzmon, this followed by a more mellow feature from McCarthy.

Act 2 concluded with a segue of McCarthy’s “Liberation” and the Barnes/Moon collaboration “Deliver Me”.
McCarthy’s piece was vibrant and uplifting, with the octet again sounding like a ‘mini big band’.
A surging, swinging bass and drum groove fuelled vivid solos from Barnes on baritone, Yates on trumpet, Masser on tenor, Harvey on trombone, Atzmon on alto and McCarthy on guitar. All of these outstanding instrumentalists seemed to relish the chance to stretch out and there was even room for a brief feature from de Krom.
“Deliver Me” was more considered with Harvey and Masser taking it in turns to shadow Moon’s words, the work concluding with the phrase “when the darkness falls let us search for light”.

The audience, who had been quiet and attentive throughout gave the performers a terrific reception. This had been an excellent evening of words and music, with the timing of the event on the eve of Remembrance Sunday giving it an extra poignancy and sense of meaning.

I haven’t always been convinced by jazz and poetry collaborations but this one worked very well. Moon’s words were thoughtful and evocative and she delivered them with confidence, her recitative well served by Barnes’ sympathetic arrangements.

The band themselves were superb. I loved the rich timbres of the five man horn section, who brought even more colour to the already finely nuanced and textured compositions of Barnes and McCarthy. Within a tightly structured framework there was still room for some fine soloing, with every musician impressing in this respect at some point in the proceedings. Several listeners singled out Masser’s contribution on tenor, in particular his wonderful tone on the instrument.

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter Barnes still found room to inject a little humour into the proceedings, particularly during his band introductions, but it was good to see him stepping out of his comfort zone and tackling something weighty.

As an event this performance was highly impressive, and, in its own way highly enjoyable, particularly with regard to the superb musicianship. It dealt with some pretty heavy subject matter, but did so with a pleasing lightness of touch. The content, allied to the timing of the performance, certainly gave the listener plenty of cause for thought and reflection.

 

Snarky Puppy / Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward - Snarky Puppy / Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward, O2 Academy, Bristol, 08/11/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys the "energy and precision" of headliners Snarky Puppy, plus an entertaining support slot from guitarist Charlie Hunter and vocalist Lucy Woodward.

Snarky Puppy /  Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward
O2 Academy, Bristol, 08/11/2019


At last! I’ve finally got to enjoy a live show by Snarky Puppy, the acclaimed international collective led by bassist and composer Michael League.

It had become a source of great regret to me that several years ago I passed up the opportunity of covering the then unknown Snarky Puppy at one of their earliest UK shows at the Hare & Hounds pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Since then they have become global stars, building an enormous following via the old fashioned virtues of hard work and almost constant gigging. Theirs is a success that, rather like their music, transcends conventional generic descriptions. Like Pat Metheny and e.s.t Snarky Puppy have achieved their superstar status via word of mouth, their exciting stage shows becoming the stuff of legend and holding equal appeal to jazz and rock audiences alike.

They now play leading rock venues and concert halls rather than pubs and the currently ongoing tour in support of current album “Immigrance” has seen them ‘on the road’ for most of the year, from April to the end of November,  criss-crossing the globe and playing dates in North America, Australasia, Japan and Europe. This current run of British and Irish shows comes towards the end of the tour, but on the evidence of this performance Snarky Puppy are exhibiting no signs of road weariness. No one could accuse this Dog of being tired.

Snarky Puppy was formed fifteen years ago and “Immigrance” represents the band’s thirteenth album. The majority of tonight’s material was sourced either from the latest album or its immediate predecessor, 2016’s award winning “Culcha Vulcha”. Such has been Snarky Puppy’s success that the band has now started its own GroundUP record label, the choice of name reflecting the hard working, ‘300 gigs a year’ ethic that helped to bring them to this position. They will also be curating their own GroundUP Festival in Mimi Beach, Florida in February 2020, which will feature the Pups alongside many other major jazz names, with leading saxophonist Chris Potter the artist in residence.

CHARLIE HUNTER & LUCY WOODWARD
Before the Snarkys hit the stage we were to enjoy a set from their friends and label mates Charlie Hunter and Lucy Woodward.

Hunter is a virtuoso guitarist who on specialises on seven or eight string models, allowing him to play bass and lead guitar simultaneously. It’s quite a trick. He has been on the scene since the early 1990s and as a bandleader he has recorded prolifically. Hunter’s playing embraces most of the genres that have helped to shape contemporary American music, effortlessly taking in jazz, blues, rock and funk and more. In 2016 I enjoyed a performance by him at Ronnie Scott’s as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. Hunter was leading a quartet featuring his long term sparring partner Bobby Previte at the drums, the American duo supplemented by two young British horn players, Kieran McLeod (trombone) and Yelfris Valdes (trumpet). The young Brits acquitted themselves well but it was the chemistry between Hunter and Previte that was the defining aspect of an excellent and hugely entertaining and enjoyable performance. My account of this event can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-nine-saturday-19th-november-2016/

The Ronnie’s show revealed that Hunter is a musician who likes to have fun, a serious musician who doesn’t take himself too seriously. This was also apparent in his partnership with the vocalist Lucy Woodward as the pair opened tonight’s show performing songs from their recent album “Music!Music!Music!”.

Woodward has released four previous albums and enjoyed a degree of pop success.  She has also been part of the all female trio The Goods and has also worked as a jazz big band vocalist. Woodward sang with Snarky Puppy on their first “Family Dinner” album and her 2015 solo release “’Til They Bang On The Door”  was co-produced by Michael League. The links between tonight’s two acts are strong, and the Hunter & Woodward set was introduced by the Pups’ top dog.

Hunter and Woodward were joined by Japanese drummer / percussionist Keita Ogawa, a member of the Snarky Puppy collective and who appeared on “Immigrance”.

The title of the Hunter and Woodward album seemed particularly apposite as the pair, plus Ogawa, tackled a collection of songs sourced from a variety of musical genres, but all given a distinctive twist.

Woodward has a soulful and powerful voice and this was immediately evidenced on the bluesy opener “Soul Of A Man”, which also featured Hunter’s virtuoso soloing on (I think) seven string guitar. Hunter played seated and it wasn’t that easy to see him from the ‘mosh pit’, particularly among the forest of keyboards and percussion that was already on the stage ready for the Pups’ appearance.

“My Love Is Like A Mountainside” was an earthy blend of blues and funk, and a song that also contained much water imagery. A cover of the old Terence Trent Darby hit “Wishing Well” increased the funk quotient yet further and included a crowd pleasing scat vocal episode from Hunter.

Woodward encouraged Hunter to indulge in more vocalising as the trio tackled the Nina Simone song “Be My Husband”, which featured a powerful vocal performance from Woodward and a show stopping feature from Ogawa that found him deploying soft, squeaky toys as percussion, the squeaks deployed to replicate the sounds of a hip-hop DJ’s scratching. This was great fun, and naturally the crowd loved it, but there was real technical virtuosity behind the humour.

“You’re Never Going To Get It” saw a sultry Woodward encouraging the audience to sing along, while an unusual arrangement of “Don’t Let Me Be Understood” introduced a hint of reggae to all the other elements.

A hugely enjoyable set came to an end with the trio offering their distinctive take on “You’re The One That I Want” - yes, the one from “Grease”.  This was delivered as an insidious slow blues, whose swampy grooves, allied to Woodward’s sensuous vocals, gave the song an air of menace that even the inevitable sing along sections couldn’t entirely dispel Definitely an improvement on the irritating, overly cheerful original.

So ended an enjoyable opening set that warmed the sell out audience up nicely. This was great fun, but behind the good humour there was also some genuinely impressive singing and playing, most notably from Hunter, a musician who has developed a unique guitar style that draws on many influences. This tour will have brought his talents, and those of the similarly versatile Woodward, to the attention of a whole new audience.

SNARKY PUPPY

And so to the headliners. Snarky Puppy is routinely referred to as a ‘collective’ and “Immigrance” features the contributions of over twenty musicians, predominately
American, but hailing from all over the globe. The pool includes the highly talented British keyboard player and composer Bill Laurance, who also enjoys a successful parallel career as a solo artist.

Snarky Puppy’s live performances are delivered by a smaller group of key players, in tonight’s case a nine piece ensemble featuring the talents of;

Michael League – bass guitar

Mark Lettieri – electric guitar

Justin Stanton – keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn

Shaun Martin – keyboards, voice

Chris Bullock – tenor sax, flute, alto flute

Bob Reynolds – tenor sax

Mike “Maz” Maher – trumpet, flugelhorn

Jason Thomas – drums

Marcelo Woloski – percussion

In a packed, standing only crowd making notes was difficult, so this isn’t going to be a tune by tune account, more an impression of the overall Snarky Puppy experience. Guest contributor
Mark Albini’s short, but highly enthusiastic, account of the group’s show at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith in 2015 had given me some idea of what to expect.  Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/snarky-puppy-eventim-apollo-hammersmith-london-06-10-2015/

Tonight was more like a rock gig than the average jazz concert and I found myself down in the ‘mosh pit’ among a much younger crowd than usual. Bristol’s large student population, in particular, seemed to be out in force. Snarky Puppy are a band who have acquired something of a cult following, and many of these people seemed to have seen the band before, six times in the case of one individual whose conversation I overheard, and knew every note of the tunes.

Snarrky Puppy have become ‘show biz’, without ever being overtly ‘show-bizzy’. The artwork from “Immigrance” was projected onto a screen behind the band, the same screen that had advertised the GroundUP Festival during the interval. Later close up black and white images of the musicians playing were projected, which was very helpful in terms of picking up details and appreciating the individual musicianship.

Routinely described as a”jam band” the success of Snarky Puppy’s music has always been based on memorable melodies and strong grooves. These qualities are to be found in abundance throughout “Immigrance”. Despite the studio embellishments both the new album and “Culcha Vulcha” represent a return to the band’s core values after their work with a whole series of guest vocalists, among them Lucy Woodward, on the two “Family Dinner” recordings.
“Sylva” (2015) then found them working, successfully, with an orchestra (the Netherlands based Metropole Orkest) for the first time.

As alluded to previously the majority of the material performed tonight was sourced from the two most recent albums, plus occasional forays into the impressive back catalogue. Pieces were frequently segued together and tune announcements were scant.

Snarky Puppy compositions are typically episodic affairs, allowing for plenty of variation in mood, pace and rhythm within the course of a single piece. The nine man line up, with its array of keyboards, and with several musicians doubling on different instruments, made for a rich, colourful sound, full of textural and dynamic contrasts. The lead changed hands frequently, although not in the conventional head-solos-head sense, with every musician featuring strongly at some point in the proceedings. This constant changing of roles, allied to the inherent sense of groove, helped to keep both band members and listeners on their toes. Individual solos and cameos were cheered wildly, and although they were tightly drilled one still sensed that the band members were having fun. Snarky Puppy exude a genuine gang mentality, a sense of being ‘all in this together’.

An opening salvo of (I think) “Alma”, Thing Of Gold” and Semente” included outstanding contributions from Stanton on electric piano, Woloski on percussion and Bullock on tenor sax. The impressive Stanton also doubled effectively on trumpet and flugel, and later on in the set soloed very effectively on trumpet,  he is a genuine, and highly talented, multi-instrumentalist.

In the early days Snarky Puppy was almost exclusively the compositional province of League. These days more and more of its members write for the group and Stanton’s “Bad Kids To The Back”, from “Immigrance”, proved to be a big crowd pleaser, with Reynolds delivering an incisive tenor sax solo amid the choppy funk grooves.

“Tarova” and “Palermo” saw the group digging into the “Culcha Vulcha” repertoire.  A feature of this sequence was Martin’s effective use of a voice bag, activated by synthesiser rather than guitar, which made the band’s grooves sound even dirtier and funkier. Like Stanton he also delivered a number of searing keyboard solos and was very much the ‘showman’ of the group, encouraging the audience to clap along and sing the melody lines, as on “Palermo”,  and reprimanding anybody who didn’t do so.

All members of the band impressed, Thomas weighed in with a couple of hard hitting drum features and his dynamic playing helped to drive the band throughout. Maher impressed with some powerful trumpet soloing, but also displayed delicacy when required, particularly on flugel.

Woloski’s mastery of a whole battery of percussion was also impressive, and he enjoyed several features over the course of the evening. The Argentinian is also part of the group’s growing rank of composers, with the anthemic “Palermo” coming from his pen.

Guitarist Lettieri came into his own with an incendiary solo on League’s rousing composition “Chonks”,  the high energy opening salvo on the “Immigrance” album and an absolute killer of a live track.

The only musician who didn’t really feature as a soloist was League himself, but his hard grooving bass playing represented the foundation stone of the band’s music as he presided over the night’s proceedings.

League encouraged the audience to clap along with his composition “Xavi”, a track from the “Immigrance” album that was inspired by the Gnawa music of Morocco. Here we were made to work, with League dividing the audience into separate sections clapping out different rhythms. It actually worked surprisingly well, with the energy of the crowd complementing that of the band. This piece also saw Ogawa returning to the stage together with guest British percussionist Felix Higginbottom, the two joining Woloski, as all three musicians roamed the percussion ‘cage’.

An encore of the crowd pleasing “Shofukan”, from the 2014 album “We Like It Here” saw Martin conducting the crowd in a mass sing along of the tune’s rousing and anthemic melodic hook. The concert became a community event as the audience radiated their love for the band and its music.

It had been early start with Hunter and Woodward on at 7.15 and the Pups at 8.15 prompt. It was now nudging ten o’clock and the Academy staff were keen to clear the venue before admitting a different audience for a club night scheduled to start at 10.30. Martin, however seemed reluctant to leave the stage, finally departing still singing. League had earlier revealed that on a sweltering summer night in the same venue in 2015 Snarky Puppy had stayed on to jam into the early hours of the morning, mostly at Martin’s insistence. If League is the group’s ‘benign dictator’  then Martin is its ‘wild card’, with both musicians united by a love of the music and an underlying work ethic. Snarky Puppy are disciplined and professional, but retain a vital energy, edge and spontaneity that prevents their music descending into mere ‘slickness’. The arrangements of several of tonight’s pieces had been ‘tweaked’ in an effort to keep the band sharp and retain a genuine jazz element.

They weren’t quite as loud as Mark’s review had led me to expect, but they were loud enough, and those “sassy and brassy” qualities that he mentioned also shone through with the punchy horn section complementing the multiple keyboards and guitars and the battery of percussion. It’s a big sound, high on energy, but also on precision, an award winning combination that has won Snarky Puppy a following that transcends the usual genre barriers.

On the evidence of tonight’s performance, and of the “Immigrance” album, this is a unit that even after fifteen years still has plenty of mileage in it.

The British and Irish leg of the Snarky Puppy world tour continues with dates as below. Catch them if you can.

11/11/2019 – Ulster Hall - Belfast
12/11/2019 - Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
14/11/2019 - Royal Albert Hall, London
15/11/2019 - O2 Apollo, Manchester
16/11/2019 - Barrowlands, Glasgow
For ticket details please visit http://www.snarkypuppy.com

 

Snarky Puppy / Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward, O2 Academy, Bristol, 08/11/2019.

Snarky Puppy / Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward

Monday, November 11, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Snarky Puppy / Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward, O2 Academy, Bristol, 08/11/2019.
Photography: Live image of Snarky Puppy courtesy of Republic Media

Ian Mann enjoys the "energy and precision" of headliners Snarky Puppy, plus an entertaining support slot from guitarist Charlie Hunter and vocalist Lucy Woodward.

Snarky Puppy /  Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward
O2 Academy, Bristol, 08/11/2019


At last! I’ve finally got to enjoy a live show by Snarky Puppy, the acclaimed international collective led by bassist and composer Michael League.

It had become a source of great regret to me that several years ago I passed up the opportunity of covering the then unknown Snarky Puppy at one of their earliest UK shows at the Hare & Hounds pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Since then they have become global stars, building an enormous following via the old fashioned virtues of hard work and almost constant gigging. Theirs is a success that, rather like their music, transcends conventional generic descriptions. Like Pat Metheny and e.s.t Snarky Puppy have achieved their superstar status via word of mouth, their exciting stage shows becoming the stuff of legend and holding equal appeal to jazz and rock audiences alike.

They now play leading rock venues and concert halls rather than pubs and the currently ongoing tour in support of current album “Immigrance” has seen them ‘on the road’ for most of the year, from April to the end of November,  criss-crossing the globe and playing dates in North America, Australasia, Japan and Europe. This current run of British and Irish shows comes towards the end of the tour, but on the evidence of this performance Snarky Puppy are exhibiting no signs of road weariness. No one could accuse this Dog of being tired.

Snarky Puppy was formed fifteen years ago and “Immigrance” represents the band’s thirteenth album. The majority of tonight’s material was sourced either from the latest album or its immediate predecessor, 2016’s award winning “Culcha Vulcha”. Such has been Snarky Puppy’s success that the band has now started its own GroundUP record label, the choice of name reflecting the hard working, ‘300 gigs a year’ ethic that helped to bring them to this position. They will also be curating their own GroundUP Festival in Mimi Beach, Florida in February 2020, which will feature the Pups alongside many other major jazz names, with leading saxophonist Chris Potter the artist in residence.

CHARLIE HUNTER & LUCY WOODWARD
Before the Snarkys hit the stage we were to enjoy a set from their friends and label mates Charlie Hunter and Lucy Woodward.

Hunter is a virtuoso guitarist who on specialises on seven or eight string models, allowing him to play bass and lead guitar simultaneously. It’s quite a trick. He has been on the scene since the early 1990s and as a bandleader he has recorded prolifically. Hunter’s playing embraces most of the genres that have helped to shape contemporary American music, effortlessly taking in jazz, blues, rock and funk and more. In 2016 I enjoyed a performance by him at Ronnie Scott’s as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. Hunter was leading a quartet featuring his long term sparring partner Bobby Previte at the drums, the American duo supplemented by two young British horn players, Kieran McLeod (trombone) and Yelfris Valdes (trumpet). The young Brits acquitted themselves well but it was the chemistry between Hunter and Previte that was the defining aspect of an excellent and hugely entertaining and enjoyable performance. My account of this event can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2016-day-nine-saturday-19th-november-2016/

The Ronnie’s show revealed that Hunter is a musician who likes to have fun, a serious musician who doesn’t take himself too seriously. This was also apparent in his partnership with the vocalist Lucy Woodward as the pair opened tonight’s show performing songs from their recent album “Music!Music!Music!”.

Woodward has released four previous albums and enjoyed a degree of pop success.  She has also been part of the all female trio The Goods and has also worked as a jazz big band vocalist. Woodward sang with Snarky Puppy on their first “Family Dinner” album and her 2015 solo release “’Til They Bang On The Door”  was co-produced by Michael League. The links between tonight’s two acts are strong, and the Hunter & Woodward set was introduced by the Pups’ top dog.

Hunter and Woodward were joined by Japanese drummer / percussionist Keita Ogawa, a member of the Snarky Puppy collective and who appeared on “Immigrance”.

The title of the Hunter and Woodward album seemed particularly apposite as the pair, plus Ogawa, tackled a collection of songs sourced from a variety of musical genres, but all given a distinctive twist.

Woodward has a soulful and powerful voice and this was immediately evidenced on the bluesy opener “Soul Of A Man”, which also featured Hunter’s virtuoso soloing on (I think) seven string guitar. Hunter played seated and it wasn’t that easy to see him from the ‘mosh pit’, particularly among the forest of keyboards and percussion that was already on the stage ready for the Pups’ appearance.

“My Love Is Like A Mountainside” was an earthy blend of blues and funk, and a song that also contained much water imagery. A cover of the old Terence Trent Darby hit “Wishing Well” increased the funk quotient yet further and included a crowd pleasing scat vocal episode from Hunter.

Woodward encouraged Hunter to indulge in more vocalising as the trio tackled the Nina Simone song “Be My Husband”, which featured a powerful vocal performance from Woodward and a show stopping feature from Ogawa that found him deploying soft, squeaky toys as percussion, the squeaks deployed to replicate the sounds of a hip-hop DJ’s scratching. This was great fun, and naturally the crowd loved it, but there was real technical virtuosity behind the humour.

“You’re Never Going To Get It” saw a sultry Woodward encouraging the audience to sing along, while an unusual arrangement of “Don’t Let Me Be Understood” introduced a hint of reggae to all the other elements.

A hugely enjoyable set came to an end with the trio offering their distinctive take on “You’re The One That I Want” - yes, the one from “Grease”.  This was delivered as an insidious slow blues, whose swampy grooves, allied to Woodward’s sensuous vocals, gave the song an air of menace that even the inevitable sing along sections couldn’t entirely dispel Definitely an improvement on the irritating, overly cheerful original.

So ended an enjoyable opening set that warmed the sell out audience up nicely. This was great fun, but behind the good humour there was also some genuinely impressive singing and playing, most notably from Hunter, a musician who has developed a unique guitar style that draws on many influences. This tour will have brought his talents, and those of the similarly versatile Woodward, to the attention of a whole new audience.

SNARKY PUPPY

And so to the headliners. Snarky Puppy is routinely referred to as a ‘collective’ and “Immigrance” features the contributions of over twenty musicians, predominately
American, but hailing from all over the globe. The pool includes the highly talented British keyboard player and composer Bill Laurance, who also enjoys a successful parallel career as a solo artist.

Snarky Puppy’s live performances are delivered by a smaller group of key players, in tonight’s case a nine piece ensemble featuring the talents of;

Michael League – bass guitar

Mark Lettieri – electric guitar

Justin Stanton – keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn

Shaun Martin – keyboards, voice

Chris Bullock – tenor sax, flute, alto flute

Bob Reynolds – tenor sax

Mike “Maz” Maher – trumpet, flugelhorn

Jason Thomas – drums

Marcelo Woloski – percussion

In a packed, standing only crowd making notes was difficult, so this isn’t going to be a tune by tune account, more an impression of the overall Snarky Puppy experience. Guest contributor
Mark Albini’s short, but highly enthusiastic, account of the group’s show at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith in 2015 had given me some idea of what to expect.  Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/snarky-puppy-eventim-apollo-hammersmith-london-06-10-2015/

Tonight was more like a rock gig than the average jazz concert and I found myself down in the ‘mosh pit’ among a much younger crowd than usual. Bristol’s large student population, in particular, seemed to be out in force. Snarky Puppy are a band who have acquired something of a cult following, and many of these people seemed to have seen the band before, six times in the case of one individual whose conversation I overheard, and knew every note of the tunes.

Snarrky Puppy have become ‘show biz’, without ever being overtly ‘show-bizzy’. The artwork from “Immigrance” was projected onto a screen behind the band, the same screen that had advertised the GroundUP Festival during the interval. Later close up black and white images of the musicians playing were projected, which was very helpful in terms of picking up details and appreciating the individual musicianship.

Routinely described as a”jam band” the success of Snarky Puppy’s music has always been based on memorable melodies and strong grooves. These qualities are to be found in abundance throughout “Immigrance”. Despite the studio embellishments both the new album and “Culcha Vulcha” represent a return to the band’s core values after their work with a whole series of guest vocalists, among them Lucy Woodward, on the two “Family Dinner” recordings.
“Sylva” (2015) then found them working, successfully, with an orchestra (the Netherlands based Metropole Orkest) for the first time.

As alluded to previously the majority of the material performed tonight was sourced from the two most recent albums, plus occasional forays into the impressive back catalogue. Pieces were frequently segued together and tune announcements were scant.

Snarky Puppy compositions are typically episodic affairs, allowing for plenty of variation in mood, pace and rhythm within the course of a single piece. The nine man line up, with its array of keyboards, and with several musicians doubling on different instruments, made for a rich, colourful sound, full of textural and dynamic contrasts. The lead changed hands frequently, although not in the conventional head-solos-head sense, with every musician featuring strongly at some point in the proceedings. This constant changing of roles, allied to the inherent sense of groove, helped to keep both band members and listeners on their toes. Individual solos and cameos were cheered wildly, and although they were tightly drilled one still sensed that the band members were having fun. Snarky Puppy exude a genuine gang mentality, a sense of being ‘all in this together’.

An opening salvo of (I think) “Alma”, Thing Of Gold” and Semente” included outstanding contributions from Stanton on electric piano, Woloski on percussion and Bullock on tenor sax. The impressive Stanton also doubled effectively on trumpet and flugel, and later on in the set soloed very effectively on trumpet,  he is a genuine, and highly talented, multi-instrumentalist.

In the early days Snarky Puppy was almost exclusively the compositional province of League. These days more and more of its members write for the group and Stanton’s “Bad Kids To The Back”, from “Immigrance”, proved to be a big crowd pleaser, with Reynolds delivering an incisive tenor sax solo amid the choppy funk grooves.

“Tarova” and “Palermo” saw the group digging into the “Culcha Vulcha” repertoire.  A feature of this sequence was Martin’s effective use of a voice bag, activated by synthesiser rather than guitar, which made the band’s grooves sound even dirtier and funkier. Like Stanton he also delivered a number of searing keyboard solos and was very much the ‘showman’ of the group, encouraging the audience to clap along and sing the melody lines, as on “Palermo”,  and reprimanding anybody who didn’t do so.

All members of the band impressed, Thomas weighed in with a couple of hard hitting drum features and his dynamic playing helped to drive the band throughout. Maher impressed with some powerful trumpet soloing, but also displayed delicacy when required, particularly on flugel.

Woloski’s mastery of a whole battery of percussion was also impressive, and he enjoyed several features over the course of the evening. The Argentinian is also part of the group’s growing rank of composers, with the anthemic “Palermo” coming from his pen.

Guitarist Lettieri came into his own with an incendiary solo on League’s rousing composition “Chonks”,  the high energy opening salvo on the “Immigrance” album and an absolute killer of a live track.

The only musician who didn’t really feature as a soloist was League himself, but his hard grooving bass playing represented the foundation stone of the band’s music as he presided over the night’s proceedings.

League encouraged the audience to clap along with his composition “Xavi”, a track from the “Immigrance” album that was inspired by the Gnawa music of Morocco. Here we were made to work, with League dividing the audience into separate sections clapping out different rhythms. It actually worked surprisingly well, with the energy of the crowd complementing that of the band. This piece also saw Ogawa returning to the stage together with guest British percussionist Felix Higginbottom, the two joining Woloski, as all three musicians roamed the percussion ‘cage’.

An encore of the crowd pleasing “Shofukan”, from the 2014 album “We Like It Here” saw Martin conducting the crowd in a mass sing along of the tune’s rousing and anthemic melodic hook. The concert became a community event as the audience radiated their love for the band and its music.

It had been early start with Hunter and Woodward on at 7.15 and the Pups at 8.15 prompt. It was now nudging ten o’clock and the Academy staff were keen to clear the venue before admitting a different audience for a club night scheduled to start at 10.30. Martin, however seemed reluctant to leave the stage, finally departing still singing. League had earlier revealed that on a sweltering summer night in the same venue in 2015 Snarky Puppy had stayed on to jam into the early hours of the morning, mostly at Martin’s insistence. If League is the group’s ‘benign dictator’  then Martin is its ‘wild card’, with both musicians united by a love of the music and an underlying work ethic. Snarky Puppy are disciplined and professional, but retain a vital energy, edge and spontaneity that prevents their music descending into mere ‘slickness’. The arrangements of several of tonight’s pieces had been ‘tweaked’ in an effort to keep the band sharp and retain a genuine jazz element.

They weren’t quite as loud as Mark’s review had led me to expect, but they were loud enough, and those “sassy and brassy” qualities that he mentioned also shone through with the punchy horn section complementing the multiple keyboards and guitars and the battery of percussion. It’s a big sound, high on energy, but also on precision, an award winning combination that has won Snarky Puppy a following that transcends the usual genre barriers.

On the evidence of tonight’s performance, and of the “Immigrance” album, this is a unit that even after fifteen years still has plenty of mileage in it.

The British and Irish leg of the Snarky Puppy world tour continues with dates as below. Catch them if you can.

11/11/2019 – Ulster Hall - Belfast
12/11/2019 - Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
14/11/2019 - Royal Albert Hall, London
15/11/2019 - O2 Apollo, Manchester
16/11/2019 - Barrowlands, Glasgow
For ticket details please visit http://www.snarkypuppy.com

 

Jaimie Branch - Fly or Die II; bird dogs of paradise Rating: 4-5 out of 5 Fuses brilliant jazz musicianship with a raw punk energy in a way that ends up sounding totally unique. “Fly or Die II” has the feeling of a major personal and political statement.

Jaimie Branch

“Fly or Die II; bird dogs of paradise

(International Anthem IARC0027)

Jaimie Branch – trumpet, voice, synths, sneaker squeaks, bells and whistles
Lester St. Louis – cello, Jason Ajemian- double bass, percussion, vocals, Chad Taylor – drums, mbira, xylophone

Guests;
Ban Lamar Gay, Marvin Tate – voices (track 2) Matt Schneider – 12 string guitar (track 2), Dan Bitney – percussion, synthesiser (track 8), Scott McNiece – egg (track 8)


New York based trumpeter and composer Jaimie Branch made a big impression with her 2017 début album “Fly or Die”, a recording that found its way onto the ‘Best of Year’ lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now aged thirty six Branch has spent time in New York, Chicago and Baltimore and has been involved in the music scenes of all three cities, playing everything from free jazz to punk rock. She has performed with leading cutting edge jazz musicians in both New York and Chicago, among them saxophonists Matana Roberts and Ken Vandermark, bassists Tim Daisy and William Parker and drummers Jason Nazary (the duo Anteloper) and Hamid Drake. She has also led her own rock group, Bomb Shelter, and worked as a sidewoman with a number of alternative rock bands, among them Atlas Math.

The first “Fly or Die” album featured Branch leading a core quartet comprised of cellist Tomeka Reid, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor, with cameo guest appearances by guitarist Matt Schneider and cornet players Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman.

The success of Branch’s début led to extensive touring, including a first visit to Europe. Branch’s itinerary included a visit to London during the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival that included a residency at Café Oto. Much of the music for this new album was written on the tour and during her time in London Branch and her band entered the studios at Total Refreshment Centre where seven of the nine tracks on this recording were documented. The remaining two pieces were captured at Oto. Editing and overdubbing later took place in Chicago, and this is presumably where the guest musicians added their contributions.

“Fly or Die II” , released on the Chicago based label International Anthem, features a core quartet of Branch, Ajemian and Taylor, with Lester St. Louis taking over from Reid on cello. In addition to her trumpet playing Branch also adds synthesiser and other electronic effects and also makes her vocal début on record.

Branch, whose lineage is part Latino, is a politically informed musician with a healthy distaste for the current state of affairs in US politics and American society as a whole. There’s a punk like anger and intensity about much of the music here with Branch remarking;
“So much beauty lies in the abstract of instrumental music, but being this ain’t a particularly beautiful time I’ve chosen a more literal path. The voice is good for that”.

The album commences with “Birds of Paradise” and the strummed and plucked sounds of cello, bass and mbira, creating a series of hypnotic, interlocking rhythms. Branch eventually joins the proceedings, sketching woozy, fragile trumpet melodies above the minimalist patterns. Other elements are also added, including wispy flute like sounds, presumably generated by Branch’s synths and other electronic devices. This opening piece is credited to Branch/St. Louis/Ajemian/Taylor, suggesting that it was freely improvised. It’s one of two items recorded during the Café Oto sessions

The effective and atmospheric opener acts as a kind of overture for the incendiary “Prayer for AmeriKKKa Part 1 & 2”, a near twelve minute epic that arguably represents the album’s centre piece. Note the spelling as Branch, the vocalist, rails against the “bunch of wide eyed racists” at the heart of the American political system. Branch has also described her country’s political elite as “liars and thieves”, and this track pulls no punches about telling you exactly what she feels and where she stands. “This is not my America” she has said. Musically the piece is as powerful as the message, a slow, down- tuned blues that advances in the implacable manner of a funeral march. Guests LaMar Gay and Tate answer her vocal lines in the manner of Danny Richmond on Charles’ Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus”, and Branch’s piece can be seen as an updating of that message, and of that of Archie Shepp too. Branch’s trumpeting is a clarion call that cuts through the underpinning rhythms like a scythe, and her singing is as impassioned as her playing. She may not be a trained singer but her vocalising is extremely effective and conveys her message more than adequately. “This is a warning honey, they’re coming for you”.

The apocalyptic “Prayer” is followed by “Lesterlude”, a brief but intense passage of solo improvised cello from St. Louis that features both bowed and plucked sounds.

“Twenty- Three n me, Jupiter Redux” commences with the throb of a synthesiser, quickly joined by the sound of St. Louis’ cello. The rest of the band then jump in with Branch doubling on trumpet and synths. The buoyant,  propulsive grooves and the almost celebratory theme present a band positively fizzing with energy. This is subsequently waylaid by a squalling free jazz episode that itself shades off into atmospheric, electronically enhanced abstraction, before seguing into the jointly credited improvisation “Whales”, largely a feature for Ajemian’s pizzicato bass.

It’s Ajemian that introduces “Simple Silver Surfer”, his plucked bass subsequently joined by St. Louis’ plucked cello, the pair later joined by Taylor’s rolling drum grooves. Again there’s a veritable forest of interlocking rhythms through which Branch’s trumpet cuts a bravura swathe. Once more there’s a feeling of joyousness about this music, alongside her righteous anger Branch’s music is also a celebration of alternative life styles. The track is also something of a showcase for bassist Ajemian, who features strongly as a soloist and is a commanding presence throughout.

“Bird Dogs of Paradise” is another improvised episode, this time featuring the grainy, droning arco sounds of cello and bass, eventually joined by the rolling thunder of drums. Taylor’s contribution evolves into a full on drum feature, augmented by the vocal howls of Branch and Ajemian, the “Bird Dogs of Paradise”.

This segues into the exuberant “Nuevo Roquero Estereo”, the title presumably a nod to Branch’s Colombian roots.  This is the second piece that was recorded at Oto, but in this case a degree of post production was added in Chicago. Again there’s a dense rhythmic backdrop, a veritable forest of sound enhanced by additional percussion, synth, the mysterious egg and excited vocal whoops. The post production techniques impart a certain ‘dubbiness’ to the music, with Branch’s horn soaring above it all, surfing the wave with her punchy, incantatory trumpeting.

The closing “Love Song” is subtitled “for Assholes and Clowns”. Apparently it was written more than a decade ago, but suddenly seems to have acquired a contemporary relevance and resonance, I can’t think why, can you? Branch sings the lyric with her tongue firmly in her cheek, but hers’ is a savage humour, and this is reflected in both the singing and the playing, which becomes more intense and unhinged as the piece progresses. Branch overdubs herself on trumpet and vocals and there’s a degree of electronic manipulation, but there are still traces of Mingus and Shepp in the music here.

I’ve yet hear the first “Fly or Die” album, but I have to say that I love this new recording. Of course the fact that it was recorded in London gives it an extra resonance to British listeners, but it’s a stunning work in any event.

“Fly or Die II” fuses brilliant jazz musicianship with a raw punk energy in a way that ends up sounding totally unique. Branch has stated that she places more importance on ‘sound’ as opposed to technique, but there’s some stunning playing here, not least from the leader. Crucially it doesn’t sound gratuitous or forced, the players deploying their formidable chops in the service of the music. And for all the skill involved there’s still an agreeable edge and roughness to the sound, with leader’s trumpet playing exhibiting a rare attacking intensity. Branch herself is a force of nature, whether vocally or on the trumpet, and there’s a real sense of danger about her music, a frisson that is rarely applicable to jazz these days. Her political sentiments will chime with left leaning people all over the globe; here in the UK we have our own “wide eyed racists” and “assholes and clowns”.

But this album is not just about anger, when Branch isn’t venting her spleen the music takes on an irrepressible joyousness, albeit one still underpinned by a sense of injustice and ‘otherness’. “Fly or Die II” has the feeling of a major personal and political statement.

Vivid and angry Branch’s music has a real punk spirit about it and her music deserves to be heard by a wide audience, not just hard core jazz and improv fans. This is music with enough bite and crackle to appeal adventurous rock listeners and Branch’s previous excursions into this world may help to encourage this. She has also worked with DJs and MCs as she endeavours to get her message across to a contemporary audience.

I was sorry to have missed Branch’s Oto residency but have heard great things about it from those that were there, among them one time Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen.

The success of the Oto shows has led to the return of Branch for the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. This time she, together with St. Louis, Ajemian and Taylor, will be playing a single date at the Church of Sound in Clapton on Friday November 22nd 2019 as part of a European tour. Although its been scheduled for some time it represents a late addition to the Festival programme and once again I will have to miss out as I am already committed to covering another event elsewhere. Having enjoyed this album so much I have to say that this does come as something of a disappointment. Still, I hope one day to see Jaimie Branch performing her music live. The UK clearly holds a special place in her heart and her band would be a natural fit for the Parabola Arts Centre programme at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, hint, hint.

Details of Jaimie Branch’s European tour dates including the London show can be found at http://www.jaimiebranch.com

See also http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

 

 

 

Fly or Die II; bird dogs of paradise

Jaimie Branch

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Fly or Die II; bird dogs of paradise

Fuses brilliant jazz musicianship with a raw punk energy in a way that ends up sounding totally unique. “Fly or Die II” has the feeling of a major personal and political statement.

Jaimie Branch

“Fly or Die II; bird dogs of paradise

(International Anthem IARC0027)

Jaimie Branch – trumpet, voice, synths, sneaker squeaks, bells and whistles
Lester St. Louis – cello, Jason Ajemian- double bass, percussion, vocals, Chad Taylor – drums, mbira, xylophone

Guests;
Ban Lamar Gay, Marvin Tate – voices (track 2) Matt Schneider – 12 string guitar (track 2), Dan Bitney – percussion, synthesiser (track 8), Scott McNiece – egg (track 8)


New York based trumpeter and composer Jaimie Branch made a big impression with her 2017 début album “Fly or Die”, a recording that found its way onto the ‘Best of Year’ lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now aged thirty six Branch has spent time in New York, Chicago and Baltimore and has been involved in the music scenes of all three cities, playing everything from free jazz to punk rock. She has performed with leading cutting edge jazz musicians in both New York and Chicago, among them saxophonists Matana Roberts and Ken Vandermark, bassists Tim Daisy and William Parker and drummers Jason Nazary (the duo Anteloper) and Hamid Drake. She has also led her own rock group, Bomb Shelter, and worked as a sidewoman with a number of alternative rock bands, among them Atlas Math.

The first “Fly or Die” album featured Branch leading a core quartet comprised of cellist Tomeka Reid, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor, with cameo guest appearances by guitarist Matt Schneider and cornet players Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman.

The success of Branch’s début led to extensive touring, including a first visit to Europe. Branch’s itinerary included a visit to London during the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival that included a residency at Café Oto. Much of the music for this new album was written on the tour and during her time in London Branch and her band entered the studios at Total Refreshment Centre where seven of the nine tracks on this recording were documented. The remaining two pieces were captured at Oto. Editing and overdubbing later took place in Chicago, and this is presumably where the guest musicians added their contributions.

“Fly or Die II” , released on the Chicago based label International Anthem, features a core quartet of Branch, Ajemian and Taylor, with Lester St. Louis taking over from Reid on cello. In addition to her trumpet playing Branch also adds synthesiser and other electronic effects and also makes her vocal début on record.

Branch, whose lineage is part Latino, is a politically informed musician with a healthy distaste for the current state of affairs in US politics and American society as a whole. There’s a punk like anger and intensity about much of the music here with Branch remarking;
“So much beauty lies in the abstract of instrumental music, but being this ain’t a particularly beautiful time I’ve chosen a more literal path. The voice is good for that”.

The album commences with “Birds of Paradise” and the strummed and plucked sounds of cello, bass and mbira, creating a series of hypnotic, interlocking rhythms. Branch eventually joins the proceedings, sketching woozy, fragile trumpet melodies above the minimalist patterns. Other elements are also added, including wispy flute like sounds, presumably generated by Branch’s synths and other electronic devices. This opening piece is credited to Branch/St. Louis/Ajemian/Taylor, suggesting that it was freely improvised. It’s one of two items recorded during the Café Oto sessions

The effective and atmospheric opener acts as a kind of overture for the incendiary “Prayer for AmeriKKKa Part 1 & 2”, a near twelve minute epic that arguably represents the album’s centre piece. Note the spelling as Branch, the vocalist, rails against the “bunch of wide eyed racists” at the heart of the American political system. Branch has also described her country’s political elite as “liars and thieves”, and this track pulls no punches about telling you exactly what she feels and where she stands. “This is not my America” she has said. Musically the piece is as powerful as the message, a slow, down- tuned blues that advances in the implacable manner of a funeral march. Guests LaMar Gay and Tate answer her vocal lines in the manner of Danny Richmond on Charles’ Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus”, and Branch’s piece can be seen as an updating of that message, and of that of Archie Shepp too. Branch’s trumpeting is a clarion call that cuts through the underpinning rhythms like a scythe, and her singing is as impassioned as her playing. She may not be a trained singer but her vocalising is extremely effective and conveys her message more than adequately. “This is a warning honey, they’re coming for you”.

The apocalyptic “Prayer” is followed by “Lesterlude”, a brief but intense passage of solo improvised cello from St. Louis that features both bowed and plucked sounds.

“Twenty- Three n me, Jupiter Redux” commences with the throb of a synthesiser, quickly joined by the sound of St. Louis’ cello. The rest of the band then jump in with Branch doubling on trumpet and synths. The buoyant,  propulsive grooves and the almost celebratory theme present a band positively fizzing with energy. This is subsequently waylaid by a squalling free jazz episode that itself shades off into atmospheric, electronically enhanced abstraction, before seguing into the jointly credited improvisation “Whales”, largely a feature for Ajemian’s pizzicato bass.

It’s Ajemian that introduces “Simple Silver Surfer”, his plucked bass subsequently joined by St. Louis’ plucked cello, the pair later joined by Taylor’s rolling drum grooves. Again there’s a veritable forest of interlocking rhythms through which Branch’s trumpet cuts a bravura swathe. Once more there’s a feeling of joyousness about this music, alongside her righteous anger Branch’s music is also a celebration of alternative life styles. The track is also something of a showcase for bassist Ajemian, who features strongly as a soloist and is a commanding presence throughout.

“Bird Dogs of Paradise” is another improvised episode, this time featuring the grainy, droning arco sounds of cello and bass, eventually joined by the rolling thunder of drums. Taylor’s contribution evolves into a full on drum feature, augmented by the vocal howls of Branch and Ajemian, the “Bird Dogs of Paradise”.

This segues into the exuberant “Nuevo Roquero Estereo”, the title presumably a nod to Branch’s Colombian roots.  This is the second piece that was recorded at Oto, but in this case a degree of post production was added in Chicago. Again there’s a dense rhythmic backdrop, a veritable forest of sound enhanced by additional percussion, synth, the mysterious egg and excited vocal whoops. The post production techniques impart a certain ‘dubbiness’ to the music, with Branch’s horn soaring above it all, surfing the wave with her punchy, incantatory trumpeting.

The closing “Love Song” is subtitled “for Assholes and Clowns”. Apparently it was written more than a decade ago, but suddenly seems to have acquired a contemporary relevance and resonance, I can’t think why, can you? Branch sings the lyric with her tongue firmly in her cheek, but hers’ is a savage humour, and this is reflected in both the singing and the playing, which becomes more intense and unhinged as the piece progresses. Branch overdubs herself on trumpet and vocals and there’s a degree of electronic manipulation, but there are still traces of Mingus and Shepp in the music here.

I’ve yet hear the first “Fly or Die” album, but I have to say that I love this new recording. Of course the fact that it was recorded in London gives it an extra resonance to British listeners, but it’s a stunning work in any event.

“Fly or Die II” fuses brilliant jazz musicianship with a raw punk energy in a way that ends up sounding totally unique. Branch has stated that she places more importance on ‘sound’ as opposed to technique, but there’s some stunning playing here, not least from the leader. Crucially it doesn’t sound gratuitous or forced, the players deploying their formidable chops in the service of the music. And for all the skill involved there’s still an agreeable edge and roughness to the sound, with leader’s trumpet playing exhibiting a rare attacking intensity. Branch herself is a force of nature, whether vocally or on the trumpet, and there’s a real sense of danger about her music, a frisson that is rarely applicable to jazz these days. Her political sentiments will chime with left leaning people all over the globe; here in the UK we have our own “wide eyed racists” and “assholes and clowns”.

But this album is not just about anger, when Branch isn’t venting her spleen the music takes on an irrepressible joyousness, albeit one still underpinned by a sense of injustice and ‘otherness’. “Fly or Die II” has the feeling of a major personal and political statement.

Vivid and angry Branch’s music has a real punk spirit about it and her music deserves to be heard by a wide audience, not just hard core jazz and improv fans. This is music with enough bite and crackle to appeal adventurous rock listeners and Branch’s previous excursions into this world may help to encourage this. She has also worked with DJs and MCs as she endeavours to get her message across to a contemporary audience.

I was sorry to have missed Branch’s Oto residency but have heard great things about it from those that were there, among them one time Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen.

The success of the Oto shows has led to the return of Branch for the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. This time she, together with St. Louis, Ajemian and Taylor, will be playing a single date at the Church of Sound in Clapton on Friday November 22nd 2019 as part of a European tour. Although its been scheduled for some time it represents a late addition to the Festival programme and once again I will have to miss out as I am already committed to covering another event elsewhere. Having enjoyed this album so much I have to say that this does come as something of a disappointment. Still, I hope one day to see Jaimie Branch performing her music live. The UK clearly holds a special place in her heart and her band would be a natural fit for the Parabola Arts Centre programme at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, hint, hint.

Details of Jaimie Branch’s European tour dates including the London show can be found at http://www.jaimiebranch.com

See also http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

 

 

 

Nicolas Meier World Group - Peaceful Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An engaging musical voyage around the Mediterranean and beyond. Meier performs with his usual skill and flair and everybody in the band plays well, with each musician a distinctive presence.

Nicolas Meier World Group

“Peaceful”

(MGP Records MGPCD022)

Nicolas Meier – nylon fretted & fretless six string guitars, acoustic twelve string guitar, glissentar
Kevin Glasgow – six string electric bass
Richard Jones – violin
Demi Garcia - percussion


“Peaceful” is the latest album from the Swiss born, London based guitarist Nicolas Meier. It continues Meier’s exploration of the fusion of jazz and Middle Eastern music that has previously been documented on such excellent albums as “Orient” (2006), “Journey” and “Breeze” ( both 2010) and “From Istanbul to Cueta with a Smile” (2013), all reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Meier is a prolific composer and has released a total of twelve albums as a solo artist. He is also half of an acclaimed guitar duo with fellow fretboard wizard Pete Oxley, a partnership that is also well documented on disc.

Meier’s skill and versatility earned a lengthy stint as a member the great rock guitarist Jeff Beck’s band, while his 2017 trio album “Infinity” was made in the company of US jazz heavyweights Jimmy Haslip (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums).

Meier has also worked with cellist Shirley Smart, bassist Nick Kacal’s Guerilla Sound group, drummer Robert Castelli’s Boom Quartet and the genre hopping quartet Eclectica! He also played on, and produced, the 2018 release “Across The Bridge”, the latest album by the Belgian born vocalist and songwriter Gabrielle Ducomble. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gabrielle-ducomble-across-the-bridge/

The guitarist’s fascination with the music of the Middle East is inspired by his Turkish wife, Songul, who acts as his muse and also provides the distinctive artwork that has graced the covers of many of Meier’s recordings.

More than two dozen musicians have passed through the ranks of various Meier groups but “Peaceful” features his current working quartet, or World Group, featuring violinist Richard Jones, six string electric bass specialist Kevin Glasgow and the Spanish percussionist Demi Garcia. Glasgow and Garcia were part of an edition of the Meier group that I saw at the now defunct Forge venue in Camden as part of the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival. The band that night also included violinist and vocalist Lizzie Ball and kit drummer Laurie Lowe. A review of that event is included as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2013-part-two/

As its title suggests the new recording is a largely acoustic affair, a long way removed from the versatile Meier’s Seven7 and My Dark Side heavy metal projects! Indeed Meier describes this quartet as “an acoustic world jazz group”.

Opener “Besiktas Café”, sets the scene, a beguiling blend of Turkish and gypsy jazz influences that variously transports the listener between Paris and Istanbul. The interplay between Meier’s guitars and Jones’ violin is particularly striking, while Garcia’s percussion provides a subtle rhythmic impetus.

Initially influenced by Pat Metheny, Meier’s writing also exhibits something of the American’s gift for melody. The largely breezy “Manzanita Samba” puts his distinctive world jazz slant on an episodic, seven minute composition that incorporates impressive solos from Jones, Glasgow and Meier, and even features Garcia, presumably, blowing a whistle, as if to emphasise the authenticity of the tune’s samba credentials.

The languid title track features more exquisite interplay between guitar and violin while Garcia adds delightful percussive details. At seven and a half minutes plus it’s another episodic piece, and as befits the name of the quartet the sound again hints at the music of several cultures, Meier’s playing again evokes the flavours of the Middle East while Garcia’s percussion introduces a subtle Indian element.

If anything the atmospheric “Caravan of Anatolia” is even more evocative with Meier effecting an oud like sound. This is presumably achieved on his Godin manufactured glissentar, an eleven string fretless guitar designed to sound similar to the oud, the lute like instrument common throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Garcia’s percussion introduces “Water Lilies”, a flamenco flavoured piece that intersperses vibrant, highly rhythmic passages with gentler, more reflective episodes. Typically the piece features some dazzling soloing from the leader and Garcia continues to feature strongly, his rapid fire percussion imparting the music with a considerable rhythmic drive.

The title of “Princes’ Islands” references the cluster of small islands in the Sea of Marmara, just south east of Istanbul. They are famed for their beauty and Meier and his colleagues bring an authentically Turkish feel to the music in a richly atmospheric performance, with both Meier and Jones impressing as soloists.

“City of the 3 Rivers” offers another example of Meier’s episodic and highly evocative writing as it develops out of rippling guitar arpeggios to embrace a typically broad range of influences, including a return of those earlier flamenco flavourings. The playing is typically excellent and includes extended solos from Meier and Jones.

“The Island” re-introduces a more overt Middle Eastern sound with Meier again deploying an oud like sound as he dovetails effectively with Jones’ violin.

The album concludes with “Soho Square”, the title acknowledging Meier’s current status as a London resident. It’s the most conventionally ‘jazz’ sounding piece on the album, with a theme that threatens to allude to standards such as “Georgia” and “Sunny Side of the Street”. There are subtle blues inflections, but the patter of Garcia’s percussion helps to imbue the music with an exotic sheen that reflects the cosmopolitan nature of 21st century London.

“Peaceful” represents an engaging musical voyage around the Mediterranean, with excursions to Brazil, and maybe even India, before finally ending up in London. The broad range of influences certainly justifies the quartet’s ‘World Group’ moniker.

Meier performs with his usual skill and flair and everybody in the band plays well, with each musician representing a distinctive instrumental presence. “Peaceful” builds on the success of Meier’s earlier solo work and it’s probably fair to say that he’s created an entire ‘world jazz’ sub genre of his own by now.

If anything “Peaceful” is almost a little too tasteful, and despite the universally high standard of musicianship on display it’s possible that some listeners may find these elegant musical travelogues a trifle bloodless.

Having witnessed Meier in live performance on several occasions, both as a band leader and as a sideman, it’s probably fair to say that he’s one of those musicians who has to be seen in the flesh for one to appreciate just how talented a player he really is. Meier is a stunning technician on a wide range of guitars and related instruments, fretted and fretless, acoustic and electric, and with any number of strings.

I’m currently looking forward to seeing Meier and the World Group performing this music live at midday on Friday 22nd November at the Culford Room, Cadogan Hall as part of the 2019 EFG Jazz Festival. The event forms part of Cadogan Hall’s ‘Out to Lunch’ programme and admission is free.
https://cadoganhall.com/whats-on/ljf19-nicolas-meier-world-group/

Peaceful

Nicolas Meier World Group

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Peaceful

An engaging musical voyage around the Mediterranean and beyond. Meier performs with his usual skill and flair and everybody in the band plays well, with each musician a distinctive presence.

Nicolas Meier World Group

“Peaceful”

(MGP Records MGPCD022)

Nicolas Meier – nylon fretted & fretless six string guitars, acoustic twelve string guitar, glissentar
Kevin Glasgow – six string electric bass
Richard Jones – violin
Demi Garcia - percussion


“Peaceful” is the latest album from the Swiss born, London based guitarist Nicolas Meier. It continues Meier’s exploration of the fusion of jazz and Middle Eastern music that has previously been documented on such excellent albums as “Orient” (2006), “Journey” and “Breeze” ( both 2010) and “From Istanbul to Cueta with a Smile” (2013), all reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Meier is a prolific composer and has released a total of twelve albums as a solo artist. He is also half of an acclaimed guitar duo with fellow fretboard wizard Pete Oxley, a partnership that is also well documented on disc.

Meier’s skill and versatility earned a lengthy stint as a member the great rock guitarist Jeff Beck’s band, while his 2017 trio album “Infinity” was made in the company of US jazz heavyweights Jimmy Haslip (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums).

Meier has also worked with cellist Shirley Smart, bassist Nick Kacal’s Guerilla Sound group, drummer Robert Castelli’s Boom Quartet and the genre hopping quartet Eclectica! He also played on, and produced, the 2018 release “Across The Bridge”, the latest album by the Belgian born vocalist and songwriter Gabrielle Ducomble. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gabrielle-ducomble-across-the-bridge/

The guitarist’s fascination with the music of the Middle East is inspired by his Turkish wife, Songul, who acts as his muse and also provides the distinctive artwork that has graced the covers of many of Meier’s recordings.

More than two dozen musicians have passed through the ranks of various Meier groups but “Peaceful” features his current working quartet, or World Group, featuring violinist Richard Jones, six string electric bass specialist Kevin Glasgow and the Spanish percussionist Demi Garcia. Glasgow and Garcia were part of an edition of the Meier group that I saw at the now defunct Forge venue in Camden as part of the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival. The band that night also included violinist and vocalist Lizzie Ball and kit drummer Laurie Lowe. A review of that event is included as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2013-part-two/

As its title suggests the new recording is a largely acoustic affair, a long way removed from the versatile Meier’s Seven7 and My Dark Side heavy metal projects! Indeed Meier describes this quartet as “an acoustic world jazz group”.

Opener “Besiktas Café”, sets the scene, a beguiling blend of Turkish and gypsy jazz influences that variously transports the listener between Paris and Istanbul. The interplay between Meier’s guitars and Jones’ violin is particularly striking, while Garcia’s percussion provides a subtle rhythmic impetus.

Initially influenced by Pat Metheny, Meier’s writing also exhibits something of the American’s gift for melody. The largely breezy “Manzanita Samba” puts his distinctive world jazz slant on an episodic, seven minute composition that incorporates impressive solos from Jones, Glasgow and Meier, and even features Garcia, presumably, blowing a whistle, as if to emphasise the authenticity of the tune’s samba credentials.

The languid title track features more exquisite interplay between guitar and violin while Garcia adds delightful percussive details. At seven and a half minutes plus it’s another episodic piece, and as befits the name of the quartet the sound again hints at the music of several cultures, Meier’s playing again evokes the flavours of the Middle East while Garcia’s percussion introduces a subtle Indian element.

If anything the atmospheric “Caravan of Anatolia” is even more evocative with Meier effecting an oud like sound. This is presumably achieved on his Godin manufactured glissentar, an eleven string fretless guitar designed to sound similar to the oud, the lute like instrument common throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Garcia’s percussion introduces “Water Lilies”, a flamenco flavoured piece that intersperses vibrant, highly rhythmic passages with gentler, more reflective episodes. Typically the piece features some dazzling soloing from the leader and Garcia continues to feature strongly, his rapid fire percussion imparting the music with a considerable rhythmic drive.

The title of “Princes’ Islands” references the cluster of small islands in the Sea of Marmara, just south east of Istanbul. They are famed for their beauty and Meier and his colleagues bring an authentically Turkish feel to the music in a richly atmospheric performance, with both Meier and Jones impressing as soloists.

“City of the 3 Rivers” offers another example of Meier’s episodic and highly evocative writing as it develops out of rippling guitar arpeggios to embrace a typically broad range of influences, including a return of those earlier flamenco flavourings. The playing is typically excellent and includes extended solos from Meier and Jones.

“The Island” re-introduces a more overt Middle Eastern sound with Meier again deploying an oud like sound as he dovetails effectively with Jones’ violin.

The album concludes with “Soho Square”, the title acknowledging Meier’s current status as a London resident. It’s the most conventionally ‘jazz’ sounding piece on the album, with a theme that threatens to allude to standards such as “Georgia” and “Sunny Side of the Street”. There are subtle blues inflections, but the patter of Garcia’s percussion helps to imbue the music with an exotic sheen that reflects the cosmopolitan nature of 21st century London.

“Peaceful” represents an engaging musical voyage around the Mediterranean, with excursions to Brazil, and maybe even India, before finally ending up in London. The broad range of influences certainly justifies the quartet’s ‘World Group’ moniker.

Meier performs with his usual skill and flair and everybody in the band plays well, with each musician representing a distinctive instrumental presence. “Peaceful” builds on the success of Meier’s earlier solo work and it’s probably fair to say that he’s created an entire ‘world jazz’ sub genre of his own by now.

If anything “Peaceful” is almost a little too tasteful, and despite the universally high standard of musicianship on display it’s possible that some listeners may find these elegant musical travelogues a trifle bloodless.

Having witnessed Meier in live performance on several occasions, both as a band leader and as a sideman, it’s probably fair to say that he’s one of those musicians who has to be seen in the flesh for one to appreciate just how talented a player he really is. Meier is a stunning technician on a wide range of guitars and related instruments, fretted and fretless, acoustic and electric, and with any number of strings.

I’m currently looking forward to seeing Meier and the World Group performing this music live at midday on Friday 22nd November at the Culford Room, Cadogan Hall as part of the 2019 EFG Jazz Festival. The event forms part of Cadogan Hall’s ‘Out to Lunch’ programme and admission is free.
https://cadoganhall.com/whats-on/ljf19-nicolas-meier-world-group/

Binker Golding - Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers Rating: 3-5 out of 5 A collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved.

Binker Golding

“Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers”

(Gearbox Records GB1555CD)

Binker Golding – tenor saxophone, Joe Armon-Jones – piano, Daniel Casimir – double bass, Sam Jones - drums


London born saxophonist Binker Golding is one of the leading figures on the capital’s contemporary jazz scene, part of the young crop of musicians behind the latest jazz ‘revival’, one which has seen the music reaching out to appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic.

Golding is probably best known for Binker & Moses,  his free-wheeling, award winning duo with drummer Moses Boyd. In 2015 I was lucky enough to catch a typically exciting and energetic show from these two at a packed Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. My review of that event can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2015-second-friday-20-11-2015/

The edgy urgency of the duo’s live performances was captured on the acclaimed vinyl only release “Dem Ones”  (Gearbox Records, 2015). Binker & Moses followed this with the ambitious, semi-conceptual double set “Journey To The Mountains Of Forever” (2017), which placed a greater emphasis on composition and featured an expanded line up that included free jazz doyen Evan Parker. A club performance of this material, also featuring Parker, was documented on the live album “Alive in the East?” (2018).

Golding has also forged a successful duo alliance with pianist Elliot Galvin, with whom he released the wholly improvised vinyl album “Ex Nihilo”, recorded in April 2018 at London’s famous Vortex Jazz Club and released on the boutique record label ByrdOut. Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/binker-golding-and-elliot-galvin-ex-nihilo/

Golding is a product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme (founded by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons) and continues to be associated with the organisation. Currently he is the Musical Director of the Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra and he has also conducted, and written for, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra.

As a prolific sideman Golding has performed with an impressive array of cross-generational jazz talent including  vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes, Maisha and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden. Others with whom he has worked include bassist Gary Crosby and fellow saxophonists Steve Williamson, Jason Yarde, Denys Baptiste and Gilad Atzmon.

Parallel to his other musical activities Golding also leads a long running quartet featuring the talents of three more rising stars of the London jazz scene, pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. These three regularly work together as a unit and also form part of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s highly regarded quartet.

“Abstractions…” represents Golding’s much anticipated début in the classic saxophone led quartet format. The album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London and mixed in New York by the celebrated recording engineer James Farber, who has worked with such giants of the music as saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker and pianist Brad Mehldau.

Of the inspirations behind the recording Golding, now aged thirty one, says;
“It’s about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you’ve forgotten and remembering again. It’s about people and friends that you’ll never see again and times that you can’t go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future”.

In this wholly acoustic quartet format Golding’s playing has been compared to that of saxophone greats such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Indeed there’s something re-assuringly ‘conventional’ about Golding’s sound here, particularly when compared to his more abstract, freely structured recordings with Boyd and Galvin.

This new album also places a greater focus on Golding the composer. Despite the enigmatic nature of the titles his writing here is firmly within the jazz ‘tradition’, mixing the sounds of 60s hard bop and modal jazz with elements of 70s fusion and more contemporary developments such as hip hop.

Casimir’s bass introduces the opening “I Forgot Santa Monica”, which gets the album off to an invigorating start. Golding solos with great fluency over the propulsive grooves laid down by his colleagues, with drummer Jones a particularly busy presence, sometimes channelling the spirit of his namesake, Elvin. Golding’s three accompanists played with Nubya Garcia’s quartet at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival and I recall being hugely impressed by the contribution of Armon-Jones, then playing an electric keyboard. He positively dazzles here with a barnstorming solo on acoustic piano as Golding and his colleagues set their stall out from the off.

“Exquisite She-Green”  effectively combines contemporary broken beat grooves with old style tenor sax soulfulness and lyricism as Golding stretches out, followed by Armon-Jones at the piano. Both soloists impress with their fluency and invention as they subtly steer the music in unexpected directions.

Casimir sets the ball rolling again on “Skinned Alive, Tasting Blood”, helping to establish a rolling groove that underscores the leader’s tenor sax ruminations. Golding’s soloing here has been compared to Rollins and he probes with an appropriate eloquence and rigour, again followed by the impressive Armon-Jones at the keyboard. Once more the pianist is in inspired form, avoiding the obvious licks and phrases and sounding positively Tyner-esque at times. The performance also includes a closing drum feature from Jones, who performs with great sensitivity and intelligence throughout the piece.

“…. And I Like Your Feathers” is positively playful, with a light airy soul-jazz style theme that forms the framework for a delightfully melodic double bass solo from Casimir, followed by a joyously inventive excursion from Armon-Jones at the piano. Golding himself keeps things pretty simple, but Jones drums with great colour, wit and invention throughout. This is the sound of a band having fun.

“You, That Place, That Time” continues with the soul- jazz feel and features the leader at his most melodic. Armon-Jones maintains his high level of creativity at the keyboard and when Golding finally does stretch out he does so with considerable power and authority, urged on by Jones’ dynamic drumming.

The piece segues directly into “Strange – Beautiful Remembered”, with its arresting descending melodic motif. This represents the jumping off point for typically inventive solos from Armon-Jones and Golding himself, supported by similarly imaginative drums and bass.

The closing “Fluorescent Black” features Golding at his most Coltrane-like as he stretches out on tenor around an infectious riff based theme. The leader solos with power and authority and his colleagues respond with a dynamic group performance that includes some bravura drumming from the brilliant Sam Jones.

“Abstractions…” represents an impressive full leadership from Golding and one suspects that this quartet must be a hugely exciting live act. Besides the Rollins, Coltrane and Brecker comparisons Golding’s writing has been likened to that of the great Wayne Shorter, which is praise indeed.

This new album has been very well received and it features a collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved. By jazz standards it’s probably a release that will do very well commercially.

And yet, there’s still a nagging feeling that Golding has played it safe. It’s certainly a more ‘conventional’ jazz recording than any of his duo releases and is very much in the ‘tradition’.
It could be a Blue Note or Impulse! record from the 1960s.

I appreciate that this album only represents one side of Golding’s musical personality and that he has done more radical work elsewhere. “Abstractions…” is a good record, and one that will doubtless bring great pleasure to a good many listeners. Nevertheless I’m still left feeling slightly disappointed that it doesn’t deliver something more obviously contemporary and cutting edge.

Meanwhile Golding’s experimental side will be in evidence at the forthcoming EFG London Jazz Festival when he and Elliot Galvin perform as a duo at Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s at 6.00 pm on the evening of Wednesday 20th November 2019.

 

Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

Binker Golding

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

A collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved.

Binker Golding

“Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers”

(Gearbox Records GB1555CD)

Binker Golding – tenor saxophone, Joe Armon-Jones – piano, Daniel Casimir – double bass, Sam Jones - drums


London born saxophonist Binker Golding is one of the leading figures on the capital’s contemporary jazz scene, part of the young crop of musicians behind the latest jazz ‘revival’, one which has seen the music reaching out to appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic.

Golding is probably best known for Binker & Moses,  his free-wheeling, award winning duo with drummer Moses Boyd. In 2015 I was lucky enough to catch a typically exciting and energetic show from these two at a packed Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. My review of that event can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-2015-second-friday-20-11-2015/

The edgy urgency of the duo’s live performances was captured on the acclaimed vinyl only release “Dem Ones”  (Gearbox Records, 2015). Binker & Moses followed this with the ambitious, semi-conceptual double set “Journey To The Mountains Of Forever” (2017), which placed a greater emphasis on composition and featured an expanded line up that included free jazz doyen Evan Parker. A club performance of this material, also featuring Parker, was documented on the live album “Alive in the East?” (2018).

Golding has also forged a successful duo alliance with pianist Elliot Galvin, with whom he released the wholly improvised vinyl album “Ex Nihilo”, recorded in April 2018 at London’s famous Vortex Jazz Club and released on the boutique record label ByrdOut. Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/binker-golding-and-elliot-galvin-ex-nihilo/

Golding is a product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme (founded by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons) and continues to be associated with the organisation. Currently he is the Musical Director of the Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra and he has also conducted, and written for, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra.

As a prolific sideman Golding has performed with an impressive array of cross-generational jazz talent including  vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Boyd’s Exodus, Mr. Jukes, Maisha and drummer Lorraine Baker’s Ed Blackwell inspired group Eden. Others with whom he has worked include bassist Gary Crosby and fellow saxophonists Steve Williamson, Jason Yarde, Denys Baptiste and Gilad Atzmon.

Parallel to his other musical activities Golding also leads a long running quartet featuring the talents of three more rising stars of the London jazz scene, pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. These three regularly work together as a unit and also form part of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s highly regarded quartet.

“Abstractions…” represents Golding’s much anticipated début in the classic saxophone led quartet format. The album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London and mixed in New York by the celebrated recording engineer James Farber, who has worked with such giants of the music as saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker and pianist Brad Mehldau.

Of the inspirations behind the recording Golding, now aged thirty one, says;
“It’s about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you’ve forgotten and remembering again. It’s about people and friends that you’ll never see again and times that you can’t go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future”.

In this wholly acoustic quartet format Golding’s playing has been compared to that of saxophone greats such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Indeed there’s something re-assuringly ‘conventional’ about Golding’s sound here, particularly when compared to his more abstract, freely structured recordings with Boyd and Galvin.

This new album also places a greater focus on Golding the composer. Despite the enigmatic nature of the titles his writing here is firmly within the jazz ‘tradition’, mixing the sounds of 60s hard bop and modal jazz with elements of 70s fusion and more contemporary developments such as hip hop.

Casimir’s bass introduces the opening “I Forgot Santa Monica”, which gets the album off to an invigorating start. Golding solos with great fluency over the propulsive grooves laid down by his colleagues, with drummer Jones a particularly busy presence, sometimes channelling the spirit of his namesake, Elvin. Golding’s three accompanists played with Nubya Garcia’s quartet at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival and I recall being hugely impressed by the contribution of Armon-Jones, then playing an electric keyboard. He positively dazzles here with a barnstorming solo on acoustic piano as Golding and his colleagues set their stall out from the off.

“Exquisite She-Green”  effectively combines contemporary broken beat grooves with old style tenor sax soulfulness and lyricism as Golding stretches out, followed by Armon-Jones at the piano. Both soloists impress with their fluency and invention as they subtly steer the music in unexpected directions.

Casimir sets the ball rolling again on “Skinned Alive, Tasting Blood”, helping to establish a rolling groove that underscores the leader’s tenor sax ruminations. Golding’s soloing here has been compared to Rollins and he probes with an appropriate eloquence and rigour, again followed by the impressive Armon-Jones at the keyboard. Once more the pianist is in inspired form, avoiding the obvious licks and phrases and sounding positively Tyner-esque at times. The performance also includes a closing drum feature from Jones, who performs with great sensitivity and intelligence throughout the piece.

“…. And I Like Your Feathers” is positively playful, with a light airy soul-jazz style theme that forms the framework for a delightfully melodic double bass solo from Casimir, followed by a joyously inventive excursion from Armon-Jones at the piano. Golding himself keeps things pretty simple, but Jones drums with great colour, wit and invention throughout. This is the sound of a band having fun.

“You, That Place, That Time” continues with the soul- jazz feel and features the leader at his most melodic. Armon-Jones maintains his high level of creativity at the keyboard and when Golding finally does stretch out he does so with considerable power and authority, urged on by Jones’ dynamic drumming.

The piece segues directly into “Strange – Beautiful Remembered”, with its arresting descending melodic motif. This represents the jumping off point for typically inventive solos from Armon-Jones and Golding himself, supported by similarly imaginative drums and bass.

The closing “Fluorescent Black” features Golding at his most Coltrane-like as he stretches out on tenor around an infectious riff based theme. The leader solos with power and authority and his colleagues respond with a dynamic group performance that includes some bravura drumming from the brilliant Sam Jones.

“Abstractions…” represents an impressive full leadership from Golding and one suspects that this quartet must be a hugely exciting live act. Besides the Rollins, Coltrane and Brecker comparisons Golding’s writing has been likened to that of the great Wayne Shorter, which is praise indeed.

This new album has been very well received and it features a collection of engaging original compositions allied to some dynamic performances from all the musicians involved. By jazz standards it’s probably a release that will do very well commercially.

And yet, there’s still a nagging feeling that Golding has played it safe. It’s certainly a more ‘conventional’ jazz recording than any of his duo releases and is very much in the ‘tradition’.
It could be a Blue Note or Impulse! record from the 1960s.

I appreciate that this album only represents one side of Golding’s musical personality and that he has done more radical work elsewhere. “Abstractions…” is a good record, and one that will doubtless bring great pleasure to a good many listeners. Nevertheless I’m still left feeling slightly disappointed that it doesn’t deliver something more obviously contemporary and cutting edge.

Meanwhile Golding’s experimental side will be in evidence at the forthcoming EFG London Jazz Festival when he and Elliot Galvin perform as a duo at Ray’s Jazz at Foyle’s at 6.00 pm on the evening of Wednesday 20th November 2019.

 

Joachim Caffonnette Trio - Vers L’Azur Noir Rating: 0 out of 5 An impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted pianist.

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

“Vers L’Azur Noir”

(Neuklang Records NCD4205N – Proper Music Distribution)

Joachim Caffonnette – piano, Alex Gilson – bass, Jean-Baptiste Pinet – drums

The Joachim Caffonnette Trio is about to embark on a week’s tour of the UK, so now represents a good time to take a look at their new album, released on the German record label Neuklang Records.

Thirty year old Caffonnette is a Belgian born pianist and composer who has established himself as a regular presence on his country’s jazz scene, including a long running residency at Sounds Jazz Club in Brussels. He studied at music colleges in his home city of Brussels, where his tutors included his fellow countryman Eric Legnini. Caffonnette works regularly as a sideman and has also collaborated on theatre productions. Outside Belgium he has performed elsewhere in Europe and also in New York.

In 2011 Caffonnette formed his own quintet, a band that focussed exclusively on the pianist’s own compositions. In 2015 this group released the album “Simplexity” for AZ productions.

In 2016 Caffonnette formed his current trio and the bulk of this new release was recorded in the studio in late 2017, when the band were coming off the back of a twelve date tour. Three more pieces were documented at the Brussels jazz club Cellule 133a in September 2018. The material includes six Caffonnette originals, a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” , and two pop-rock covers, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the title song from the documentary film “Sugar Man”.

Joining Caffonnette are two French musicians, bassist Alex Gilson and drummer Jean-Baptiste Pinet, both born in 1990. Each has an impressive pedigree as a sideman and both have worked extensively with a wide range of leading European and American jazz musicians.

Besides his work as a pianist and composer Caffonnette is the chairman of the Belgian jazz association “Les Lundis d’Hortense”, a forty three year old entity dedicated to the promotion of Belgian jazz which organises concerts, tours and workshops and fights for the rights of musicians.

Caffonnette’s credentials as a musician with a social conscience are also evidenced by his album notes, with some compositions being inspired by political or social events, even though the album is far from being a ‘political’ or ‘protest’ record.

Caffonnette’s playing has been compared to that of Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock but as this album reveals he is a musician and composer who has absorbed several influences. The pianist was classically taught in his early years before studying jazz piano with Legnini at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles and composition and arrangement with Kris Defoort at Koninklijk Conservatorium, also in Brussels. As his choice of covers reveals he has also been influenced by the sounds of pop, rock and the cinema.

The album commences with the Caffonnette composition “Perspectives”, introduced by the leader alone at the piano but subsequently joined by the tick of Pinet’s cymbals and the anchor of Gilson’s melodic bass. Initially the leader’s rippling piano arpeggios seem to symbolise the concept of shifting perspectives but the trio are soon getting into something knottier and more improvisatory as Caffonnette embarks on his solo, inviting Gilson and Pinet to respond. The rapport that the trio have developed since their formation is reflected in this fiercely interactive performance.

The title of “Inner Necessity” is inspired by a quote from the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)  and the music represents another example of this trio’s vigorous interplay. It’s a fast moving piece with an agreeably contemporary feel about it as Caffonnette’s fingers dance around the keyboard complemented by energetic bass and drums. There’s also an extended drum feature for Pinet during the latter stages of the tune.

There’s a change of style and pace with the ballad “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, a beautiful but sombre solo piano performance that Caffonnette dedicates to the victims of modern day slavery. “And in the twenty-first century, slavery continues in full view of everybody. But most of us look away”.

The first cover is Caffonnette’s re-writing of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Hey Jude”, which the pianist dedicates to his partner, Judith. Caffonnette re-harmonises the tune, centring it around the thrum of Gilson’s bass. It’s a surprisingly effective treatment that actually enhances the beauty of the familiar melody and also provides the springboard for the trio’s subsequent improvisations.
It’s less arch than a Bad Plus cover and one can imagine its new dedicatee being quite delighted with this inventive, but heartfelt, re-imagining of the song.

The name of the title track is sourced from a line in a poem by Arthur Rimbaud and means “Towards The Black Azure”. Caffonnette uses these words to draw attention to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean the thousands who “full of mad hope launch themselves towards the black azure”. The album as a whole is dedicated to castaways everywhere.
The first part of the tune is, if anything, even more sombre than the earlier “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, and is a melancholy reflection on the harsh realities of the refugee crisis. Subsequently bass and drums are added in a measured trio performance that combines sadness with a delicate lyricism.

“Sugar Man” is Caffonnette’s arrangement of a song by the American musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the acclaimed 2012 documentary film “Searching For Sugar Man”, directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul. The trio’s version commences with a ruminative passage of unaccompanied piano before entering into a passage of more spirited and energetic trio interplay. The piece also includes a dexterous double bass solo from Gilson, accompanied by the leader’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Pinet’s drums.

The final three tracks were recorded live in a jazz club environment and the positive audience reactions are testament to the quality of the performances.

The first of these is “A Mawda”, dedicated to the memory of a two year old migrant girl, who was killed after a Belgian policeman opened fire on the vehicle that she was travelling in. Although elegiac at times the performance also possesses a bristling energy that becomes more pronounced as the trio stretch out. Finally this is reined in again with the gentle coda.

Documented at the same performance the trio version of “Monk’s Dream” was included on the album due to the fond memories the performance evokes among the trio’s members. Caffonnette demonstrates his bop chops on a lively, swinging, highly interactive trio performance that includes an extended drum feature from Pinet. The three musicians sound as if they’re having great fun, and that spirit of joie de vivre communicates itself both to the audience on the night and to the listener at home. Caffonnette sounds remarkably like Monk at times, and one senses that Thelonious himself would have approved.

The album concludes with the Caffonnette original “Jax And Reddy” of which the composer notes;
“In 2017, in Kentucky, a five year old boy called Jax asked for a haircut just like his best friend Reddy. The two classmates were convinced that, given their resemblance, their teacher would be unable to tell them apart, and they found this hilarious. Our twisted adult minds will smile when we learn that Jax is white and Reddy is black. It felt right to conclude this record on such a note of hope”.
Musically the performance captures the innocence and impishness of its subjects as it develops from an introductory passage of unaccompanied piano to embrace some typically brisk, crisp, playful trio interplay. This includes a show stopping set piece that sees Gilson using the body of his bass as auxiliary percussion in a particularly dazzling passage of rhythmic interaction. The performance is actually edited out before it reaches its conclusion, which is a pity.

This minor cavil aside this is an impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted musician and an inventive piano soloist. Gilson and Pinet also acquit themselves well in well integrated and highly interactive trio, and grab their soloing opportunities with relish. The music embraces a broad range of moods, styles and influences and the forthcoming tour should see the trio expanding their British fanbase following their successful UK début at Edinburgh Jazz Festival earlier in the year.

The trio kick off their tour with a return to Edinburgh but unfortunately they won’t be coming anywhere near me, which is a shame. However I’d urge anyone reading this to check them out, if you can, at one of the following dates;

2019;

Sun. 3 November - 21.00
EDINBURGH The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HR / £5-6 http://www.thejazzbar.co.uk/

Tues. 5 November - 19.30
GLASGOW The Blue Arrow, 323 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3HW / £8 https://www.thebluearrow.co.uk/

Wed. 6 November - 21:00
MANCHESTER -Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LG /  free https://mattandphreds.com/

Thurs. 7 November - 19.00
LONDON - Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market E8 4PH.  / £9 https://www.kansassmittys.com/     

Friday 8 November – 21.00
LUTON The Bear Club, 24a Guildford Street, Mill Yard, Luton LU1 2NR / £10 http://www.the-bear.club/ 

Sat. 9 November – 20.30
NOTTINGHAM Peggy’s Skylight, 3 George Street, Nottingham NG1 3BH /  £12   https://www.peggysskylight.co.uk/

Sun. 10 November – 20.00
HOVE The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF / £8-10 http://www.thebrunswick.net/2019/05/joachim-caffonnette-trio-sunday-10th-nov-2019/

Vers L’Azur Noir

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

0 out of 5

Vers L’Azur Noir

An impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted pianist.

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

“Vers L’Azur Noir”

(Neuklang Records NCD4205N – Proper Music Distribution)

Joachim Caffonnette – piano, Alex Gilson – bass, Jean-Baptiste Pinet – drums

The Joachim Caffonnette Trio is about to embark on a week’s tour of the UK, so now represents a good time to take a look at their new album, released on the German record label Neuklang Records.

Thirty year old Caffonnette is a Belgian born pianist and composer who has established himself as a regular presence on his country’s jazz scene, including a long running residency at Sounds Jazz Club in Brussels. He studied at music colleges in his home city of Brussels, where his tutors included his fellow countryman Eric Legnini. Caffonnette works regularly as a sideman and has also collaborated on theatre productions. Outside Belgium he has performed elsewhere in Europe and also in New York.

In 2011 Caffonnette formed his own quintet, a band that focussed exclusively on the pianist’s own compositions. In 2015 this group released the album “Simplexity” for AZ productions.

In 2016 Caffonnette formed his current trio and the bulk of this new release was recorded in the studio in late 2017, when the band were coming off the back of a twelve date tour. Three more pieces were documented at the Brussels jazz club Cellule 133a in September 2018. The material includes six Caffonnette originals, a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” , and two pop-rock covers, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the title song from the documentary film “Sugar Man”.

Joining Caffonnette are two French musicians, bassist Alex Gilson and drummer Jean-Baptiste Pinet, both born in 1990. Each has an impressive pedigree as a sideman and both have worked extensively with a wide range of leading European and American jazz musicians.

Besides his work as a pianist and composer Caffonnette is the chairman of the Belgian jazz association “Les Lundis d’Hortense”, a forty three year old entity dedicated to the promotion of Belgian jazz which organises concerts, tours and workshops and fights for the rights of musicians.

Caffonnette’s credentials as a musician with a social conscience are also evidenced by his album notes, with some compositions being inspired by political or social events, even though the album is far from being a ‘political’ or ‘protest’ record.

Caffonnette’s playing has been compared to that of Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock but as this album reveals he is a musician and composer who has absorbed several influences. The pianist was classically taught in his early years before studying jazz piano with Legnini at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles and composition and arrangement with Kris Defoort at Koninklijk Conservatorium, also in Brussels. As his choice of covers reveals he has also been influenced by the sounds of pop, rock and the cinema.

The album commences with the Caffonnette composition “Perspectives”, introduced by the leader alone at the piano but subsequently joined by the tick of Pinet’s cymbals and the anchor of Gilson’s melodic bass. Initially the leader’s rippling piano arpeggios seem to symbolise the concept of shifting perspectives but the trio are soon getting into something knottier and more improvisatory as Caffonnette embarks on his solo, inviting Gilson and Pinet to respond. The rapport that the trio have developed since their formation is reflected in this fiercely interactive performance.

The title of “Inner Necessity” is inspired by a quote from the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)  and the music represents another example of this trio’s vigorous interplay. It’s a fast moving piece with an agreeably contemporary feel about it as Caffonnette’s fingers dance around the keyboard complemented by energetic bass and drums. There’s also an extended drum feature for Pinet during the latter stages of the tune.

There’s a change of style and pace with the ballad “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, a beautiful but sombre solo piano performance that Caffonnette dedicates to the victims of modern day slavery. “And in the twenty-first century, slavery continues in full view of everybody. But most of us look away”.

The first cover is Caffonnette’s re-writing of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Hey Jude”, which the pianist dedicates to his partner, Judith. Caffonnette re-harmonises the tune, centring it around the thrum of Gilson’s bass. It’s a surprisingly effective treatment that actually enhances the beauty of the familiar melody and also provides the springboard for the trio’s subsequent improvisations.
It’s less arch than a Bad Plus cover and one can imagine its new dedicatee being quite delighted with this inventive, but heartfelt, re-imagining of the song.

The name of the title track is sourced from a line in a poem by Arthur Rimbaud and means “Towards The Black Azure”. Caffonnette uses these words to draw attention to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean the thousands who “full of mad hope launch themselves towards the black azure”. The album as a whole is dedicated to castaways everywhere.
The first part of the tune is, if anything, even more sombre than the earlier “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, and is a melancholy reflection on the harsh realities of the refugee crisis. Subsequently bass and drums are added in a measured trio performance that combines sadness with a delicate lyricism.

“Sugar Man” is Caffonnette’s arrangement of a song by the American musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the acclaimed 2012 documentary film “Searching For Sugar Man”, directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul. The trio’s version commences with a ruminative passage of unaccompanied piano before entering into a passage of more spirited and energetic trio interplay. The piece also includes a dexterous double bass solo from Gilson, accompanied by the leader’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Pinet’s drums.

The final three tracks were recorded live in a jazz club environment and the positive audience reactions are testament to the quality of the performances.

The first of these is “A Mawda”, dedicated to the memory of a two year old migrant girl, who was killed after a Belgian policeman opened fire on the vehicle that she was travelling in. Although elegiac at times the performance also possesses a bristling energy that becomes more pronounced as the trio stretch out. Finally this is reined in again with the gentle coda.

Documented at the same performance the trio version of “Monk’s Dream” was included on the album due to the fond memories the performance evokes among the trio’s members. Caffonnette demonstrates his bop chops on a lively, swinging, highly interactive trio performance that includes an extended drum feature from Pinet. The three musicians sound as if they’re having great fun, and that spirit of joie de vivre communicates itself both to the audience on the night and to the listener at home. Caffonnette sounds remarkably like Monk at times, and one senses that Thelonious himself would have approved.

The album concludes with the Caffonnette original “Jax And Reddy” of which the composer notes;
“In 2017, in Kentucky, a five year old boy called Jax asked for a haircut just like his best friend Reddy. The two classmates were convinced that, given their resemblance, their teacher would be unable to tell them apart, and they found this hilarious. Our twisted adult minds will smile when we learn that Jax is white and Reddy is black. It felt right to conclude this record on such a note of hope”.
Musically the performance captures the innocence and impishness of its subjects as it develops from an introductory passage of unaccompanied piano to embrace some typically brisk, crisp, playful trio interplay. This includes a show stopping set piece that sees Gilson using the body of his bass as auxiliary percussion in a particularly dazzling passage of rhythmic interaction. The performance is actually edited out before it reaches its conclusion, which is a pity.

This minor cavil aside this is an impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted musician and an inventive piano soloist. Gilson and Pinet also acquit themselves well in well integrated and highly interactive trio, and grab their soloing opportunities with relish. The music embraces a broad range of moods, styles and influences and the forthcoming tour should see the trio expanding their British fanbase following their successful UK début at Edinburgh Jazz Festival earlier in the year.

The trio kick off their tour with a return to Edinburgh but unfortunately they won’t be coming anywhere near me, which is a shame. However I’d urge anyone reading this to check them out, if you can, at one of the following dates;

2019;

Sun. 3 November - 21.00
EDINBURGH The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HR / £5-6 http://www.thejazzbar.co.uk/

Tues. 5 November - 19.30
GLASGOW The Blue Arrow, 323 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3HW / £8 https://www.thebluearrow.co.uk/

Wed. 6 November - 21:00
MANCHESTER -Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LG /  free https://mattandphreds.com/

Thurs. 7 November - 19.00
LONDON - Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market E8 4PH.  / £9 https://www.kansassmittys.com/     

Friday 8 November – 21.00
LUTON The Bear Club, 24a Guildford Street, Mill Yard, Luton LU1 2NR / £10 http://www.the-bear.club/ 

Sat. 9 November – 20.30
NOTTINGHAM Peggy’s Skylight, 3 George Street, Nottingham NG1 3BH /  £12   https://www.peggysskylight.co.uk/

Sun. 10 November – 20.00
HOVE The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF / £8-10 http://www.thebrunswick.net/2019/05/joachim-caffonnette-trio-sunday-10th-nov-2019/

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science - Waiting Game Rating: 4 out of 5 With its hard hitting political and social commentary, genre fluid music, and its impressive list of guest performers “Waiting Game” has the feel of an ‘important’ record.

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science

“Waiting Game”

(Motema Music)

Terri Lyne Carrington – drums, vocals, Aaron Parks – piano, keyboards, Matthew Stevens – guitar, Kassa Overall – MC/DJ, Debo Ray – vocals, Morgan Guerin – saxophone, EWI, bass
plus guest vocalists and instrumentalists


“Waiting Game” is the ambitious new double album from the American drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington and her new band Social Science.

Carrington has been selected as the Artist in Residence at the forthcoming EFG London Jazz Festival and will appear with a different band dubbed the Social Science Community on Saturday 16th November at Kings Place.
Later that same evening she will collaborate with a number of British musicians at the same venue as part of a performance billed as “Experiments in London”.

On the following afternoon, again at Kings Place, she will discuss her love of the “Nina Simone Black Gold” album as part of the “Classic Album Sundays” series. Details of all Carrington’s EFG London Jazz Festival performances can be found at http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Turning now to this recording, a double set presenting two sides of Carrington’s talents. Disc one, “Waiting Game”, features the Social Science band plus a number of illustrious guests, on eleven song based pieces addressing the social problems of modern America, particularly as seen from the perspective of a contemporary Afro-American woman. The music is hard hitting and politically aware and includes elements of jazz, hip hop, rock, soul, r & b and funk – all the components of modern Afro-American music.

The music on the “Waiting Game” is primarily written by Carrington, Parks and Stevens with the words written by the individual guest vocalists.

The second disc, “Dreams and Desperate Measures”, is more abstract, a single improvised suite, subsequently delineated into four parts, performed by Carrington, Parks and Stevens plus bassist Esperanza Spalding with additional orchestrations by Edmar Colon. It’s possible that some listeners may view this second disc as a ‘bit of a bonus’ and as secondary to “Waiting Game”, but for me it still represents an impressive artistic statement in its own right.

Carrington has enjoyed an impressive career as a sidewoman, performing with Herbie Hancock among many others, but in recent years she has emerged as a composer and bandleader of some stature. Her writing has always been politically engaged as evidenced by her 2013 album “Money Jungle; Provocative In Blue”, which challenged the tenets of modern capitalism, and by her all female Mosaic Project, which championed the rights of women within the male dominated music industry.

In 2013 Carrington performed at the EFG London Jazz Festival as part of the trio ACS, alongside Spalding on bass and vocals and the late, great Geri Allen on piano, at a concert at The Barbican. Unfortunately the performance was marred by a terrible sound mix and by the general air of preciousness exuded by the performers. I rather turned my back on Carrington after this and missed a later Festival visit featuring her ‘Power Trio’ with Allen and saxophonist David Murray.

On the evidence of this new recording I may have given up on Carrington too easily and too soon. Despite the presence of musical elements that I’m not usually a fan of (primarily rap, hip hop and what passes for r’n’b these days) I rather enjoyed the music on this recording. The writing is sharp, focussed and intelligent, and the playing and singing displays similar qualities. Carrington mixes the various elements into a convincing and cohesive whole and the way in which she and the band tackle the social concerns of contemporary America is perceptive, pertinent and incisive.

The first issue to be addressed is the mass incarceration of disadvantaged citizens, the majority of them from ethnic minorities, in the US penal system - the ‘prison industrial complex’ as it has been described. British listeners may recently have had a shocking insight into this unsavoury aspect of American society thanks to Simon Reeves’ ongoing “The Americas” television documentary series.
Musically the piece features the semi spoken vocals of Kassa Overall above the economic, grooves generated by Carrington, Stevens and Parks, with the guitarist and pianist also adding shards of spidery melody. Wordless vocals and sampled speech add to the claustrophobic atmosphere while Guerin’s smouldering sax soloing adds a more discernible jazz element. The music gathers momentum and anger as the piece develops and Overall’s delivery takes on an extra intensity. Taken as a whole the piece is haunting and effective, and, above all, thought provoking.

The seed for the “Waiting Game”  project was the composition “Bells (Ring Loudly)”, which began life as a tune by Parks for which Carrington wrote a lyric addressing the subject of police brutality, inspired by the shooting of Philando Castille in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.  His own words are spoken with considerable gravitas by the actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner and soulfully sung by Debo Ray, the pair forming a contrasting but effective duo. The words are poetic but hard hitting – opening with the line “sirens swell, morphing into church bells, signifying another unjustifiable death”, and also referencing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Homophobia and Christian Fundamentalism are tackled on the insistent “Pray The Gay Away”, which features guest appearances from DJ/MC Raydar Ellis and trumpeter Nicholas Payton. The lyric parodies US gospel singer Kim Burrell’s infamous homophobic sermon, changing her words to “pray the hate away”. Within the framework of the piece there’s some space for the instrumentalists with Stevens briefly stretching out and with Payton’s trumpet entering into dialogue with Guerin’s sax.

The hard hitting and evocative “Purple Mountains” addresses the subject of the genocide of Native Americans with an impassioned rap from Washington DC born MC Kokayi, his words complemented by a similarly powerful performance from Carrington and her band.

American jazz is more politicised now than at any time since the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. I’ve never met a musician with a good word to say about Donald Trump and Carrington wrote the title track, “Waiting Game”, shortly after he was elected. “It’s about waiting for him to leave”, she explains, “but it’s also a metaphor for all the other things we’re waiting for”. It’s a hymn of defiance, sung with a soulful, gospel infused sincerity by guest artist Mark Kibble. Essentially it’s an acapella performance, with only minimal percussive assistance from the leader.

There’s more righteous anger on “The Anthem”, as female rapper Rapsody celebrates the solidarity of the sisterhood with a rousing battle cry of “breakdown the walls ‘til patriarchy falls”. Musically the band match the power of her delivery with Guerin’s saxophone, Stevens’ guitar and Parks’ piano all prominent in a jazz style arrangement driven by the march of Carrington’s drums.

With Parks featuring on electric keyboards “Love” is a more straightforward soul / r’n’b ballad that also incorporates the voices of Ray and Overall. Stevens also impresses on guitar, and its all pleasant enough, but lacks the political bite of the rest of the disc.

The political agenda is restored on “No Justice (for Political Prisoners) which features the sampled voices of the fugitive activist Assata Shakur and the imprisoned author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, the latter recoded in his prison cell in Pennsylvania. Guest artist Meshell Ndegeocello handles the song’s lead vocals.

“Over And Sons” is the first disc’s only instrumental and features the interplay of the core trio of Carrington, Stevens and Parks with bass duties presumably being undertaken by Guerin. It’s an agreeably relaxed performance, if slightly anomalous within the context of the disc as a whole, and features fluent solos from Stevens on acoustic guitar and Parks on piano as Carrington directs proceedings from the drum kit.

“If Not Now” I as second rallying cry for gender equality, a funky call to arms to the sisterhood from guest rapper Maimona Youssef (aka Mumu Fresh) that sees Carrington, in conjunction with Guerin’s bass, laying down some of her heaviest, most propulsive grooves of the set as Stevens takes flight on guitar and Parks doubles on acoustic and electric keyboards. Guerin throws in some soulful saxophone lines too.

Disc one concludes with a reprise of the title track, this time sung by Ray with accompaniment from Parks at the piano and with Stevens adding subtle guitar textures and colourings.

The second disc, “Dreams and Desperate Measures” inevitably sounds very different, consisting as it does of four freely structured improvisations, these later expanded with the addition of tasteful orchestral overdubs written by Edmar Colon.

Described as an “improvised suite” “Dreams and Desperate Measures”  is largely performed by the core quartet of Carrington, Stevens, Parks and Spalding. Stevens and Parks are key protagonists in the “Waiting Game” project as a whole, acting as Carrington’s co-producers as well as playing leading roles as instrumentalists.

The suite commences with the sprawling seventeen and a half minute “Part One”, a piece that embodies many of the now conventional tropes of freely improvised performances. It is introduced by a tentative dialogue between Carrington at the kit and Parks at the piano, subsequently joined by Parks and Spalding. Colon’s orchestrations add depth and colour to the delicate interplay between the four main players. Carrington’s role here is that of colourist, her mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers adding punctuation to Parks’  lyrical, melodic flourishes at the piano and the knottier improvised lines of Stevens’ scratchy guitar and Spalding’s resonant bass. Colon’s orchestration deploys woodwinds as well as strings to crate an even wider sonic palette. This is music that straddles the boundaries between the composed and the improvised, less frenetic than much free improv, and with the unusual component of orchestral material written in response to the initial improvisations of the core quartet. It’s a shadowy, atmospheric sound world that eschews bombast and bluster, and which is all the more effective for it.

The music segues into “Part 2”, which has more of a written feel about it, with Colon’s lush orchestrations adding colour and texture to the musings of the quartet. The mood subtly gravitates from pastoral and lyrical through sombre and atmospheric to subtly funky as Parks mixes acoustic and electric keyboard sounds. Spalding’s bass plays a key role in the proceedings and its good to hear her focussing on this side of her talent. Stevens’ distinctive acoustic guitar playing is sometimes reminiscent of that of the great Ralph Towner.

A second segue takes us into the lengthy “Part 3”, this time a twelve minute excursion that maintains the largely contemplative mood established by the previous two pieces. Parks reverts to acoustic piano, combining well with Stevens on guitar, while Colon’s orchestration plays an even greater role with its rich blend of strings and woodwinds. However a few minutes into the piece Carrington, hitherto a low profile but essential presence in the proceedings, delivers her first and only drum solo of the entire double album. It’s a passage of unaccompanied playing that is totally devoid of bombast as she continues in her ‘colourist’ role,  thoughtfully providing the link into the next ensemble section.
Indeed the drummer is a notably ego-less presence throughout the whole recording. Her technical abilities are undoubted, but as Carrington herself has said, she would prefer to be recognised for her political and societal legacy rather than as just ‘a great drummer’. It’s an approach that shapes her playing and writing throughout this whole double recording. “Waiting Game” never sounds anything remotely like a typical ‘drummer’s solo album’.

The second disc concludes with “Part 4” of the “Dreams and Desperate Measures” suite, emerging from gentle, wispy atmospheric beginnings to embrace a subtly propulsive funk groove which forms the bedrock for Stevens’ FX laden guitar explorations. Parks features on electric keyboards and the closing stages of the track feature a brief, but attention grabbing saxophone solo, presumably from Guerin.

“Dreams and Desperate Measures” is an impressive and distinctive piece of work in its own right, but inevitably the spotlight will focus on Disc 1, the “Waiting Game” half of this double set.

With its hard hitting political and social commentary, genre fluid music, and its impressive list of guest performers “Waiting Game” has the feel of an ‘important’ record. We all know by now that music itself can’t change the world overnight, but that doesn’t mean that musicians shouldn’t speak out about the injustices that they see around them. Through her music Carrington speaks out with intelligence and compassion, warning her listeners against complacency in an increasingly polarised world. She acknowledges that true liberation for all is a “Waiting Game”, but with this album she proves that she’s very much a ‘game changer’.

And Carrington is a musician who ‘puts her money where her mouth is’. She is the founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, dedicated to fighting the gender imbalance in music. The Institute’s slogan, coined by Carrington, is “Jazz Without Patriarchy”.

Carrington also supports, and draws inspiration from, the youth organisation Black Youth Project 100, founded in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

Politics aside “Waiting Game” is a musical triumph in its own right, two discs of contrasting music covering a wide range of stylistic bases and featuring some excellent playing and singing.

Carrington’s residency at EFG LJF promises to be unique and thought provoking experience, enhanced by some exceptional music.

“Waiting Game” will be released by Motema Music on Friday 8th November 2019.

 

 

Waiting Game

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Waiting Game

With its hard hitting political and social commentary, genre fluid music, and its impressive list of guest performers “Waiting Game” has the feel of an ‘important’ record.

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science

“Waiting Game”

(Motema Music)

Terri Lyne Carrington – drums, vocals, Aaron Parks – piano, keyboards, Matthew Stevens – guitar, Kassa Overall – MC/DJ, Debo Ray – vocals, Morgan Guerin – saxophone, EWI, bass
plus guest vocalists and instrumentalists


“Waiting Game” is the ambitious new double album from the American drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington and her new band Social Science.

Carrington has been selected as the Artist in Residence at the forthcoming EFG London Jazz Festival and will appear with a different band dubbed the Social Science Community on Saturday 16th November at Kings Place.
Later that same evening she will collaborate with a number of British musicians at the same venue as part of a performance billed as “Experiments in London”.

On the following afternoon, again at Kings Place, she will discuss her love of the “Nina Simone Black Gold” album as part of the “Classic Album Sundays” series. Details of all Carrington’s EFG London Jazz Festival performances can be found at http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Turning now to this recording, a double set presenting two sides of Carrington’s talents. Disc one, “Waiting Game”, features the Social Science band plus a number of illustrious guests, on eleven song based pieces addressing the social problems of modern America, particularly as seen from the perspective of a contemporary Afro-American woman. The music is hard hitting and politically aware and includes elements of jazz, hip hop, rock, soul, r & b and funk – all the components of modern Afro-American music.

The music on the “Waiting Game” is primarily written by Carrington, Parks and Stevens with the words written by the individual guest vocalists.

The second disc, “Dreams and Desperate Measures”, is more abstract, a single improvised suite, subsequently delineated into four parts, performed by Carrington, Parks and Stevens plus bassist Esperanza Spalding with additional orchestrations by Edmar Colon. It’s possible that some listeners may view this second disc as a ‘bit of a bonus’ and as secondary to “Waiting Game”, but for me it still represents an impressive artistic statement in its own right.

Carrington has enjoyed an impressive career as a sidewoman, performing with Herbie Hancock among many others, but in recent years she has emerged as a composer and bandleader of some stature. Her writing has always been politically engaged as evidenced by her 2013 album “Money Jungle; Provocative In Blue”, which challenged the tenets of modern capitalism, and by her all female Mosaic Project, which championed the rights of women within the male dominated music industry.

In 2013 Carrington performed at the EFG London Jazz Festival as part of the trio ACS, alongside Spalding on bass and vocals and the late, great Geri Allen on piano, at a concert at The Barbican. Unfortunately the performance was marred by a terrible sound mix and by the general air of preciousness exuded by the performers. I rather turned my back on Carrington after this and missed a later Festival visit featuring her ‘Power Trio’ with Allen and saxophonist David Murray.

On the evidence of this new recording I may have given up on Carrington too easily and too soon. Despite the presence of musical elements that I’m not usually a fan of (primarily rap, hip hop and what passes for r’n’b these days) I rather enjoyed the music on this recording. The writing is sharp, focussed and intelligent, and the playing and singing displays similar qualities. Carrington mixes the various elements into a convincing and cohesive whole and the way in which she and the band tackle the social concerns of contemporary America is perceptive, pertinent and incisive.

The first issue to be addressed is the mass incarceration of disadvantaged citizens, the majority of them from ethnic minorities, in the US penal system - the ‘prison industrial complex’ as it has been described. British listeners may recently have had a shocking insight into this unsavoury aspect of American society thanks to Simon Reeves’ ongoing “The Americas” television documentary series.
Musically the piece features the semi spoken vocals of Kassa Overall above the economic, grooves generated by Carrington, Stevens and Parks, with the guitarist and pianist also adding shards of spidery melody. Wordless vocals and sampled speech add to the claustrophobic atmosphere while Guerin’s smouldering sax soloing adds a more discernible jazz element. The music gathers momentum and anger as the piece develops and Overall’s delivery takes on an extra intensity. Taken as a whole the piece is haunting and effective, and, above all, thought provoking.

The seed for the “Waiting Game”  project was the composition “Bells (Ring Loudly)”, which began life as a tune by Parks for which Carrington wrote a lyric addressing the subject of police brutality, inspired by the shooting of Philando Castille in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.  His own words are spoken with considerable gravitas by the actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner and soulfully sung by Debo Ray, the pair forming a contrasting but effective duo. The words are poetic but hard hitting – opening with the line “sirens swell, morphing into church bells, signifying another unjustifiable death”, and also referencing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Homophobia and Christian Fundamentalism are tackled on the insistent “Pray The Gay Away”, which features guest appearances from DJ/MC Raydar Ellis and trumpeter Nicholas Payton. The lyric parodies US gospel singer Kim Burrell’s infamous homophobic sermon, changing her words to “pray the hate away”. Within the framework of the piece there’s some space for the instrumentalists with Stevens briefly stretching out and with Payton’s trumpet entering into dialogue with Guerin’s sax.

The hard hitting and evocative “Purple Mountains” addresses the subject of the genocide of Native Americans with an impassioned rap from Washington DC born MC Kokayi, his words complemented by a similarly powerful performance from Carrington and her band.

American jazz is more politicised now than at any time since the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. I’ve never met a musician with a good word to say about Donald Trump and Carrington wrote the title track, “Waiting Game”, shortly after he was elected. “It’s about waiting for him to leave”, she explains, “but it’s also a metaphor for all the other things we’re waiting for”. It’s a hymn of defiance, sung with a soulful, gospel infused sincerity by guest artist Mark Kibble. Essentially it’s an acapella performance, with only minimal percussive assistance from the leader.

There’s more righteous anger on “The Anthem”, as female rapper Rapsody celebrates the solidarity of the sisterhood with a rousing battle cry of “breakdown the walls ‘til patriarchy falls”. Musically the band match the power of her delivery with Guerin’s saxophone, Stevens’ guitar and Parks’ piano all prominent in a jazz style arrangement driven by the march of Carrington’s drums.

With Parks featuring on electric keyboards “Love” is a more straightforward soul / r’n’b ballad that also incorporates the voices of Ray and Overall. Stevens also impresses on guitar, and its all pleasant enough, but lacks the political bite of the rest of the disc.

The political agenda is restored on “No Justice (for Political Prisoners) which features the sampled voices of the fugitive activist Assata Shakur and the imprisoned author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, the latter recoded in his prison cell in Pennsylvania. Guest artist Meshell Ndegeocello handles the song’s lead vocals.

“Over And Sons” is the first disc’s only instrumental and features the interplay of the core trio of Carrington, Stevens and Parks with bass duties presumably being undertaken by Guerin. It’s an agreeably relaxed performance, if slightly anomalous within the context of the disc as a whole, and features fluent solos from Stevens on acoustic guitar and Parks on piano as Carrington directs proceedings from the drum kit.

“If Not Now” I as second rallying cry for gender equality, a funky call to arms to the sisterhood from guest rapper Maimona Youssef (aka Mumu Fresh) that sees Carrington, in conjunction with Guerin’s bass, laying down some of her heaviest, most propulsive grooves of the set as Stevens takes flight on guitar and Parks doubles on acoustic and electric keyboards. Guerin throws in some soulful saxophone lines too.

Disc one concludes with a reprise of the title track, this time sung by Ray with accompaniment from Parks at the piano and with Stevens adding subtle guitar textures and colourings.

The second disc, “Dreams and Desperate Measures” inevitably sounds very different, consisting as it does of four freely structured improvisations, these later expanded with the addition of tasteful orchestral overdubs written by Edmar Colon.

Described as an “improvised suite” “Dreams and Desperate Measures”  is largely performed by the core quartet of Carrington, Stevens, Parks and Spalding. Stevens and Parks are key protagonists in the “Waiting Game” project as a whole, acting as Carrington’s co-producers as well as playing leading roles as instrumentalists.

The suite commences with the sprawling seventeen and a half minute “Part One”, a piece that embodies many of the now conventional tropes of freely improvised performances. It is introduced by a tentative dialogue between Carrington at the kit and Parks at the piano, subsequently joined by Parks and Spalding. Colon’s orchestrations add depth and colour to the delicate interplay between the four main players. Carrington’s role here is that of colourist, her mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers adding punctuation to Parks’  lyrical, melodic flourishes at the piano and the knottier improvised lines of Stevens’ scratchy guitar and Spalding’s resonant bass. Colon’s orchestration deploys woodwinds as well as strings to crate an even wider sonic palette. This is music that straddles the boundaries between the composed and the improvised, less frenetic than much free improv, and with the unusual component of orchestral material written in response to the initial improvisations of the core quartet. It’s a shadowy, atmospheric sound world that eschews bombast and bluster, and which is all the more effective for it.

The music segues into “Part 2”, which has more of a written feel about it, with Colon’s lush orchestrations adding colour and texture to the musings of the quartet. The mood subtly gravitates from pastoral and lyrical through sombre and atmospheric to subtly funky as Parks mixes acoustic and electric keyboard sounds. Spalding’s bass plays a key role in the proceedings and its good to hear her focussing on this side of her talent. Stevens’ distinctive acoustic guitar playing is sometimes reminiscent of that of the great Ralph Towner.

A second segue takes us into the lengthy “Part 3”, this time a twelve minute excursion that maintains the largely contemplative mood established by the previous two pieces. Parks reverts to acoustic piano, combining well with Stevens on guitar, while Colon’s orchestration plays an even greater role with its rich blend of strings and woodwinds. However a few minutes into the piece Carrington, hitherto a low profile but essential presence in the proceedings, delivers her first and only drum solo of the entire double album. It’s a passage of unaccompanied playing that is totally devoid of bombast as she continues in her ‘colourist’ role,  thoughtfully providing the link into the next ensemble section.
Indeed the drummer is a notably ego-less presence throughout the whole recording. Her technical abilities are undoubted, but as Carrington herself has said, she would prefer to be recognised for her political and societal legacy rather than as just ‘a great drummer’. It’s an approach that shapes her playing and writing throughout this whole double recording. “Waiting Game” never sounds anything remotely like a typical ‘drummer’s solo album’.

The second disc concludes with “Part 4” of the “Dreams and Desperate Measures” suite, emerging from gentle, wispy atmospheric beginnings to embrace a subtly propulsive funk groove which forms the bedrock for Stevens’ FX laden guitar explorations. Parks features on electric keyboards and the closing stages of the track feature a brief, but attention grabbing saxophone solo, presumably from Guerin.

“Dreams and Desperate Measures” is an impressive and distinctive piece of work in its own right, but inevitably the spotlight will focus on Disc 1, the “Waiting Game” half of this double set.

With its hard hitting political and social commentary, genre fluid music, and its impressive list of guest performers “Waiting Game” has the feel of an ‘important’ record. We all know by now that music itself can’t change the world overnight, but that doesn’t mean that musicians shouldn’t speak out about the injustices that they see around them. Through her music Carrington speaks out with intelligence and compassion, warning her listeners against complacency in an increasingly polarised world. She acknowledges that true liberation for all is a “Waiting Game”, but with this album she proves that she’s very much a ‘game changer’.

And Carrington is a musician who ‘puts her money where her mouth is’. She is the founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, dedicated to fighting the gender imbalance in music. The Institute’s slogan, coined by Carrington, is “Jazz Without Patriarchy”.

Carrington also supports, and draws inspiration from, the youth organisation Black Youth Project 100, founded in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

Politics aside “Waiting Game” is a musical triumph in its own right, two discs of contrasting music covering a wide range of stylistic bases and featuring some excellent playing and singing.

Carrington’s residency at EFG LJF promises to be unique and thought provoking experience, enhanced by some exceptional music.

“Waiting Game” will be released by Motema Music on Friday 8th November 2019.

 

 

Radio Banska - Radio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 27/10/2019. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An enjoyable and highly accomplished performance from Radio Banska that was well received by the Abergavenny audience. The standard of the musicianship was excellent throughout,

Radio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2019.

Dave Spencer – electric guitar, Tony Barby – electric guitar, charango, Sol Ahmed – double bass,
Tim Robinson – drums


Tonight’s performance represented a welcome return to Abergavenny for the Bath based ensemble Radio Banska, who had first visited the town in 2015 when they appeared at BMJ’s annual Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, held that year at the Kings Arms hotel.

At the time I was totally unfamiliar with the band’s music, but I remember being very impressed by Radio Banska’s performance and also with the quality of their 2011 début album “The Balkan Courtesan”. My coverage of the band’s 2015 show can be read as part of my Wall2Wall Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/friday-and-saturday-at-wall2wall-jazz-festival-abergavenny-4th-and-5th-sept/

Radio Banska was formed in 2009 by guitarist Dave Spencer and violinist and accordionist Nina Trott, who had fronted the band at their 2015 performance. Disillusioned with constantly playing standards or gypsy jazz sets the pair set out to do something different, exploring a variety of musical genres within an instrumental context, among them the sounds of the Middle East, the Balkans and Latin America. However rather than drawing on traditional folk music the band decided to focus on writing its own music in these various styles, the majority of the compositions coming from the pen of the prolific and highly inventive Spencer.

Finding a category for Radio Banska’s music has proved to be a difficult task. The band’s website describes them as “an instrumental jazz/world quartet fusing Levantine mystery, Balkan passion and Latin rhythms into powerful original compositions”, which sums things up pretty nicely. The band have also described their output as “music from around the world”, while “world jazz” represents a neat catch all term for their distinctive sound.

The sad and untimely death of Nina Trott, aged 66, from breast cancer in 2017 inevitably resulted in the band going into a period of hiatus. Eventually it was decided that the remaining members should continue, with Spencer still needing an outlet for his numerous compositions.

The current edition of Radio Banska is a quartet, now led by Spencer on lead guitar and featuring fellow founder Tony Barby on second guitar and charango, long serving member Sol Ahmed on double bass, and for tonight only drummer Tim Robinson, who was deputising for regular incumbent Jon Clark. A number of rhythm players have passed through the Banska ranks over the years. “The Balkan Courtesan” recording features the pairing of bassist Roshan ‘Tosh’ Wijetunge and drummer Mark Whitlam.

The ill fated Radio Banska were due to play at BMJ in January 2018 but were forced to cancel due to illness. Other events that year saw them experimenting with a new line up featuring Spencer, Ahmed and Clark plus guitarist Phil Dawson and saxophonist Craig Cofton. It would seem that this combination didn’t quite work out and the group have now reverted to the quartet of Spencer, Ahmed, Clark and a returning Tony Barby.

Radio Banska had obviously made a good impression on the Abergavenny public with their Festival appearance back in 2015 and there was a pleasingly substantial turnout at the Melville Theatre on a cold, clear October night that followed a period of prolonged heavy rain – if it had been scheduled a night earlier the gig probably wouldn’t have gone ahead. Another pleasing aspect was the presence of a few new faces, evidence perhaps that Radio Banska have something of a cult following, or maybe that BMJ’s increasingly targeted publicity campaigns are becoming increasingly successful. Either way it was good to see.

Under Spencer’s guidance Radio Banska delivered two substantial sets of “95% original material”, including new arrangements of several pieces from the “Balkan Courtesan” album.

First up were two pieces that Spencer described as “Latin tunes”, commencing with the lively “She’s All Mayan”, which featured the sophisticated guitar interplay of Spencer and Barby, plus the solid rhythmic support of Ahmed and Robinson. I’m loath to describe Barby as a ‘rhythm guitarist’, as he did far more than just strum chords and keep time, so the title ‘second guitarist’ is probably more apt. Nevertheless it’s undeniable that all the soloing was undertaken by Spencer, a fluent and versatile guitarist with an exhaustive knowledge of global musical styles. His richly inventive compositions embraced a wide variety of rhythms and time signatures, and certainly kept his bandmates on their toes. Robinson, who was sight reading throughout, was the very model of concentration and acquitted himself well in the face of some very complex material.

“Get Over” was a slower Latin piece that embraced a variety of elements ranging from Brazilian to flamenco to a hint of the blues.

Spencer described much of his output as being “Middle Eastern and a bit weird”, adding that others have described it as being “genre defying”. To Illustrate the point we heard the Levantine styled sounds of “La Mezquita” (translating as “The Mosque”), the opening track from the band’s 2011 album. This saw the leader making judicious use of his various effects pedals.

From the same recording came “Chat Pitre”, a tune written by the French accordionist Richard Galliano. In Banska’s hands the piece was transformed into a patented brand of “Moroccan Reggae”, a beguiling blend of North African inspired melody and syncopated dub groove.

“Suleiman’s Dance” continued the Middle Eastern theme with its sophisticated guitar interplay and clipped rhythms, the sound further enriched by brief, but distinctive and melodic, arco bass flourishes from Ahmed.

Introducing his composition “Spice Caravan” Spencer described his group’s aim as being to “create original music that sounds like traditional tunes of other cultures”, which again seemed to sum up their approach very succinctly.

However the following “Lucid Dreamer” represented something of a contrast as the group edged closer to conventional jazz with both Spencer and Barby deploying a relatively orthodox ‘jazz guitar’ sound, with chord choices to match.

“Perfect Pitch” explored the possibilities of the “flattened fifth” or “blue note” and saw Spencer adopting a harder edged electric guitar sound as Ahmed enjoyed a brief cameo at the bass.

The title track of “The Balkan Courtesan” followed, introduced by Barby and again featuring the sound of Ahmed with the bow, here approximating the sound of Trott’s accordion on the recorded version. Meanwhile Spencer soloed on guitar with his customary fluency and inventiveness.

“Otono de Amor” marked a return to the group’s Latin side, a gentle piece featuring Spencer’s tasteful guitar soloing and Robinson’s softly brushed drums.

“Levantine Waltz”, described by Spencer as “tricky” took the music back to the Mediterranean prior to a final re-location for the final tune of the first set, the Nina Trott composition “Emo Latino”. A track from the group’s album this featured the distinctive sound of the Peruvian charango, a small, ten stringed instrument originally fashioned from the shell of a dead armadillo, but now made from wood. The interplay between Barby on charango and Spencer on guitar was particularly engaging with the guitarist sketching melody lines above the tautly strummed rhythms of the charango, with additional impetus coming from bass and drums.

The charango was also to feature at the beginning of the second set as the quartet delivered their arrangement of the John Zorn composition “Ravayah”, a piece that Spencer described as “contemporary klezmer”. Here the charango was deployed in more of a lead role and sounded very different. Zorn is a composure of some stature and this was a genuinely impressive performance that sounded distinctive and different.

Spencer’s love of wordplay was reflected in the title of “Budapest Control” with its loping rhythms and agile guitar soloing.

“10,000 Things” saw the group adopting a more contemporary, almost rock, sound on a piece with a title sourced from Buddhist philosophy, but which might also be applicable to the sheer diversity of the group’s music.

Barby introduced the gentle “A Country Mile”. As ‘second guitarist’ he would often create the motif or melody around which Spencer would solo. As befits its title this piece sometimes reminded me of the ‘Jazz Americana’ of Pat Metheny and, particularly, Bill Frisell.

The interplay between Barby and Spencer continued to impress on both “Ashkenazim” and “What a Frozen Waste”, the latter also including a dazzling solo from Spencer, a dizzying blend of sophisticated chording and lithe single note runs.

The Spencer composition “Isfahan”, not to be confused with the Billy Strayhorn tune of the same name, featured some of the most overtly “Middle Eastern” music of the set and featured another stunning solo from Spencer, whose guitar sometimes replicated the sound of an oud.

The breezy “Rio Coca” then took us back to Brazil before “Alkira”, with a title derived from the aboriginal word for “Sunrise”, added Australia to the list of musical destinations with Ahmed’s powerful bass lines helping to drive the piece.

Following all this sonic globe trotting the title of “We’re Not In Kansas Now” almost seemed like an understatement. The closing track on the band’s CD this composition was described by Spencer as being “slightly weird”. Introduced by the twin guitarists, who quickly combined with bass and drums to create a hypnotic groove, this was a piece that seemed to depict a meeting between America and all the other cultures whose music Radio Banska had explored during the course of the evening. The recorded version even features Barby on didgeridoo, a sound replicated here by Ahmed’s arco bass drone.

All in all this an enjoyable and highly accomplished performance from Radio Banska that was well received by the Abergavenny audience. The standard of the musicianship was excellent throughout, with leader Spencer particularly impressive, and with ‘dep’ Robinson navigating the complexities of the material admirably, a tribute to his sight reading skills.

But for all this, hand on heart, I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed this performance as much as I did the one in 2015. The reason for this, of course, was the absence of the irreplaceable Nina Trott.  As well as providing an essential additional instrumental voice Trott also gave the band a vital centre stage presence. Both Spencer and Barby are sit down guitarists and the current edition of the band lacks a strong visual focus.

Speaking to Barby after the show it’s clear that Trott’s band mates still miss her desperately. Besides her talent as a musician she was also a great organiser and music educator, “a force of nature”, as Barby put it, who also hustled for gigs for the band, also effectively acting as their manager. I remember Nina contacting me by email around five years ago looking for help in her search for gigs. I forwarded her email on to Mike Skilton at BMJ who then booked Radio Banska for Wall2Wall in 2015 and then invited them back this evening. I feel honoured and privileged to have played a small role in the life of the band.

It’s a shame that the experiment with Cofton didn’t come to fruition as Radio Banska really do need another front line instrumentalist, be it a saxophonist, or maybe a clarinettist, which I think could be a good fit given the Middle Eastern feel of so much of the band’s music. I suspect that they be wary of employing another violinist, out of deference to Trott and the fact that comparisons would inevitably be made.

However they may have to ‘bite the bullet’ if the band is to continue. Tonight’s show had much to commend it but the absence of an additional instrumental voice meant that it lacked a certain dynamism, both musically and visually. Spencer has written some great tunes, and they deserve to be heard, but having listened back to the “Balkan Courtesan” recording they really do sound at their best in a quintet format.

With regard to tonight’s show it was perhaps focussed too intensely on Spencer. The man is a master guitarist and played with consummate skill, but it would have been nice to have heard a little more from his colleagues. Admittedly Robinson was a ‘dep’, playing with the band for the first time, but it would have been nice to have seen Barby and Ahmed being given more opportunities to express themselves. The occasional use of charango and bowed bass added a welcome variety and splash of colour to music that largely inhabited the same dynamic range, despite the stylistic and cultural diversity of its sources.

Radio Banska is currently a band in transition, finding its feet again after the tragic loss of its co-founder. Once again I stress there was much to enjoy about tonight’s performance and that it’s not my attention for this article to sound overly critical. Let’s hope that the band can find a new front line partner that they can all feel comfortable working with as they continue the Radio Banska story. Spencer’s richly imaginative compositions deserve to be heard at their best, and one senses that this is what Nina Trott would have wanted.

 

Radio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 27/10/2019.

Radio Banska

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Radio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 27/10/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Pam Mann.

An enjoyable and highly accomplished performance from Radio Banska that was well received by the Abergavenny audience. The standard of the musicianship was excellent throughout,

Radio Banska, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 28/10/2019.

Dave Spencer – electric guitar, Tony Barby – electric guitar, charango, Sol Ahmed – double bass,
Tim Robinson – drums


Tonight’s performance represented a welcome return to Abergavenny for the Bath based ensemble Radio Banska, who had first visited the town in 2015 when they appeared at BMJ’s annual Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, held that year at the Kings Arms hotel.

At the time I was totally unfamiliar with the band’s music, but I remember being very impressed by Radio Banska’s performance and also with the quality of their 2011 début album “The Balkan Courtesan”. My coverage of the band’s 2015 show can be read as part of my Wall2Wall Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/friday-and-saturday-at-wall2wall-jazz-festival-abergavenny-4th-and-5th-sept/

Radio Banska was formed in 2009 by guitarist Dave Spencer and violinist and accordionist Nina Trott, who had fronted the band at their 2015 performance. Disillusioned with constantly playing standards or gypsy jazz sets the pair set out to do something different, exploring a variety of musical genres within an instrumental context, among them the sounds of the Middle East, the Balkans and Latin America. However rather than drawing on traditional folk music the band decided to focus on writing its own music in these various styles, the majority of the compositions coming from the pen of the prolific and highly inventive Spencer.

Finding a category for Radio Banska’s music has proved to be a difficult task. The band’s website describes them as “an instrumental jazz/world quartet fusing Levantine mystery, Balkan passion and Latin rhythms into powerful original compositions”, which sums things up pretty nicely. The band have also described their output as “music from around the world”, while “world jazz” represents a neat catch all term for their distinctive sound.

The sad and untimely death of Nina Trott, aged 66, from breast cancer in 2017 inevitably resulted in the band going into a period of hiatus. Eventually it was decided that the remaining members should continue, with Spencer still needing an outlet for his numerous compositions.

The current edition of Radio Banska is a quartet, now led by Spencer on lead guitar and featuring fellow founder Tony Barby on second guitar and charango, long serving member Sol Ahmed on double bass, and for tonight only drummer Tim Robinson, who was deputising for regular incumbent Jon Clark. A number of rhythm players have passed through the Banska ranks over the years. “The Balkan Courtesan” recording features the pairing of bassist Roshan ‘Tosh’ Wijetunge and drummer Mark Whitlam.

The ill fated Radio Banska were due to play at BMJ in January 2018 but were forced to cancel due to illness. Other events that year saw them experimenting with a new line up featuring Spencer, Ahmed and Clark plus guitarist Phil Dawson and saxophonist Craig Cofton. It would seem that this combination didn’t quite work out and the group have now reverted to the quartet of Spencer, Ahmed, Clark and a returning Tony Barby.

Radio Banska had obviously made a good impression on the Abergavenny public with their Festival appearance back in 2015 and there was a pleasingly substantial turnout at the Melville Theatre on a cold, clear October night that followed a period of prolonged heavy rain – if it had been scheduled a night earlier the gig probably wouldn’t have gone ahead. Another pleasing aspect was the presence of a few new faces, evidence perhaps that Radio Banska have something of a cult following, or maybe that BMJ’s increasingly targeted publicity campaigns are becoming increasingly successful. Either way it was good to see.

Under Spencer’s guidance Radio Banska delivered two substantial sets of “95% original material”, including new arrangements of several pieces from the “Balkan Courtesan” album.

First up were two pieces that Spencer described as “Latin tunes”, commencing with the lively “She’s All Mayan”, which featured the sophisticated guitar interplay of Spencer and Barby, plus the solid rhythmic support of Ahmed and Robinson. I’m loath to describe Barby as a ‘rhythm guitarist’, as he did far more than just strum chords and keep time, so the title ‘second guitarist’ is probably more apt. Nevertheless it’s undeniable that all the soloing was undertaken by Spencer, a fluent and versatile guitarist with an exhaustive knowledge of global musical styles. His richly inventive compositions embraced a wide variety of rhythms and time signatures, and certainly kept his bandmates on their toes. Robinson, who was sight reading throughout, was the very model of concentration and acquitted himself well in the face of some very complex material.

“Get Over” was a slower Latin piece that embraced a variety of elements ranging from Brazilian to flamenco to a hint of the blues.

Spencer described much of his output as being “Middle Eastern and a bit weird”, adding that others have described it as being “genre defying”. To Illustrate the point we heard the Levantine styled sounds of “La Mezquita” (translating as “The Mosque”), the opening track from the band’s 2011 album. This saw the leader making judicious use of his various effects pedals.

From the same recording came “Chat Pitre”, a tune written by the French accordionist Richard Galliano. In Banska’s hands the piece was transformed into a patented brand of “Moroccan Reggae”, a beguiling blend of North African inspired melody and syncopated dub groove.

“Suleiman’s Dance” continued the Middle Eastern theme with its sophisticated guitar interplay and clipped rhythms, the sound further enriched by brief, but distinctive and melodic, arco bass flourishes from Ahmed.

Introducing his composition “Spice Caravan” Spencer described his group’s aim as being to “create original music that sounds like traditional tunes of other cultures”, which again seemed to sum up their approach very succinctly.

However the following “Lucid Dreamer” represented something of a contrast as the group edged closer to conventional jazz with both Spencer and Barby deploying a relatively orthodox ‘jazz guitar’ sound, with chord choices to match.

“Perfect Pitch” explored the possibilities of the “flattened fifth” or “blue note” and saw Spencer adopting a harder edged electric guitar sound as Ahmed enjoyed a brief cameo at the bass.

The title track of “The Balkan Courtesan” followed, introduced by Barby and again featuring the sound of Ahmed with the bow, here approximating the sound of Trott’s accordion on the recorded version. Meanwhile Spencer soloed on guitar with his customary fluency and inventiveness.

“Otono de Amor” marked a return to the group’s Latin side, a gentle piece featuring Spencer’s tasteful guitar soloing and Robinson’s softly brushed drums.

“Levantine Waltz”, described by Spencer as “tricky” took the music back to the Mediterranean prior to a final re-location for the final tune of the first set, the Nina Trott composition “Emo Latino”. A track from the group’s album this featured the distinctive sound of the Peruvian charango, a small, ten stringed instrument originally fashioned from the shell of a dead armadillo, but now made from wood. The interplay between Barby on charango and Spencer on guitar was particularly engaging with the guitarist sketching melody lines above the tautly strummed rhythms of the charango, with additional impetus coming from bass and drums.

The charango was also to feature at the beginning of the second set as the quartet delivered their arrangement of the John Zorn composition “Ravayah”, a piece that Spencer described as “contemporary klezmer”. Here the charango was deployed in more of a lead role and sounded very different. Zorn is a composure of some stature and this was a genuinely impressive performance that sounded distinctive and different.

Spencer’s love of wordplay was reflected in the title of “Budapest Control” with its loping rhythms and agile guitar soloing.

“10,000 Things” saw the group adopting a more contemporary, almost rock, sound on a piece with a title sourced from Buddhist philosophy, but which might also be applicable to the sheer diversity of the group’s music.

Barby introduced the gentle “A Country Mile”. As ‘second guitarist’ he would often create the motif or melody around which Spencer would solo. As befits its title this piece sometimes reminded me of the ‘Jazz Americana’ of Pat Metheny and, particularly, Bill Frisell.

The interplay between Barby and Spencer continued to impress on both “Ashkenazim” and “What a Frozen Waste”, the latter also including a dazzling solo from Spencer, a dizzying blend of sophisticated chording and lithe single note runs.

The Spencer composition “Isfahan”, not to be confused with the Billy Strayhorn tune of the same name, featured some of the most overtly “Middle Eastern” music of the set and featured another stunning solo from Spencer, whose guitar sometimes replicated the sound of an oud.

The breezy “Rio Coca” then took us back to Brazil before “Alkira”, with a title derived from the aboriginal word for “Sunrise”, added Australia to the list of musical destinations with Ahmed’s powerful bass lines helping to drive the piece.

Following all this sonic globe trotting the title of “We’re Not In Kansas Now” almost seemed like an understatement. The closing track on the band’s CD this composition was described by Spencer as being “slightly weird”. Introduced by the twin guitarists, who quickly combined with bass and drums to create a hypnotic groove, this was a piece that seemed to depict a meeting between America and all the other cultures whose music Radio Banska had explored during the course of the evening. The recorded version even features Barby on didgeridoo, a sound replicated here by Ahmed’s arco bass drone.

All in all this an enjoyable and highly accomplished performance from Radio Banska that was well received by the Abergavenny audience. The standard of the musicianship was excellent throughout, with leader Spencer particularly impressive, and with ‘dep’ Robinson navigating the complexities of the material admirably, a tribute to his sight reading skills.

But for all this, hand on heart, I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed this performance as much as I did the one in 2015. The reason for this, of course, was the absence of the irreplaceable Nina Trott.  As well as providing an essential additional instrumental voice Trott also gave the band a vital centre stage presence. Both Spencer and Barby are sit down guitarists and the current edition of the band lacks a strong visual focus.

Speaking to Barby after the show it’s clear that Trott’s band mates still miss her desperately. Besides her talent as a musician she was also a great organiser and music educator, “a force of nature”, as Barby put it, who also hustled for gigs for the band, also effectively acting as their manager. I remember Nina contacting me by email around five years ago looking for help in her search for gigs. I forwarded her email on to Mike Skilton at BMJ who then booked Radio Banska for Wall2Wall in 2015 and then invited them back this evening. I feel honoured and privileged to have played a small role in the life of the band.

It’s a shame that the experiment with Cofton didn’t come to fruition as Radio Banska really do need another front line instrumentalist, be it a saxophonist, or maybe a clarinettist, which I think could be a good fit given the Middle Eastern feel of so much of the band’s music. I suspect that they be wary of employing another violinist, out of deference to Trott and the fact that comparisons would inevitably be made.

However they may have to ‘bite the bullet’ if the band is to continue. Tonight’s show had much to commend it but the absence of an additional instrumental voice meant that it lacked a certain dynamism, both musically and visually. Spencer has written some great tunes, and they deserve to be heard, but having listened back to the “Balkan Courtesan” recording they really do sound at their best in a quintet format.

With regard to tonight’s show it was perhaps focussed too intensely on Spencer. The man is a master guitarist and played with consummate skill, but it would have been nice to have heard a little more from his colleagues. Admittedly Robinson was a ‘dep’, playing with the band for the first time, but it would have been nice to have seen Barby and Ahmed being given more opportunities to express themselves. The occasional use of charango and bowed bass added a welcome variety and splash of colour to music that largely inhabited the same dynamic range, despite the stylistic and cultural diversity of its sources.

Radio Banska is currently a band in transition, finding its feet again after the tragic loss of its co-founder. Once again I stress there was much to enjoy about tonight’s performance and that it’s not my attention for this article to sound overly critical. Let’s hope that the band can find a new front line partner that they can all feel comfortable working with as they continue the Radio Banska story. Spencer’s richly imaginative compositions deserve to be heard at their best, and one senses that this is what Nina Trott would have wanted.

 

Quentin Collins Sextet - Quentin Collins Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 18/10/2019. Rating: 5 out of 5 "Jazz at its very best!". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys a five star performance by the Quentin Collins Sextet as they stop off in Reading on their 'Road Warrior' tour.

Jazz at Progress
 
The Quentin Collins Sextet ‘Road Warrior’ Tour
 
Progress Theatre, Reading Friday 18 October
 
Quentin Collins trumpet & flugelhorn, Tony Kofi alto saxophone, Brandon Allen tenor saxophone, Steve Hamilton keyboard, Larry Bartley bass, Shane Forbes drums
 

There’s something special about the shoe-box shape of Reading’s Progress Theatre and the intimacy of its stage to the steeply ranked 96-seats of the auditorium that casts its own magical spell and makes it a marvellous venue for jazz.  There’s no need for amplification, except for announcements, as each instrument finds its own balance and is perfectly audible within the natural acoustic. The audience can listen in comfort and there are no tinkling glasses or irritating conversations to distract the musicians. In short, the Progress has inspired many great performances throughout its seven-year association with Jazz in Reading, none more so than the breath-taking and utterly compelling visit by the Quentin Collins Sextet on Friday 18 October as part of its national ‘Road Warrior’ tour.
 
To describe Quentin Collins as a virtuoso is almost a disservice, but I can’t think of another superlative to adequately describe his astonishing technical skill, musicianship and feel for the music. He is THE complete trumpet player with a gorgeously burnished tone and an incredible range. He plays with unbelievable accuracy, expresses himself with a true sense of narrative, drawing on a seemingly infinite fund of ideas and can conjure the widest spectrum of sounds imaginable from his instrument without ever having to resort to a mute; a resonant growl at one end of the scale to an almost imperceptible wisp of sound at the other. And as if that wasn’t enough, like a latter-day Art Blakey, he leads his band with such strength and bravura, that his fellow musicians can’t fail to rise to the challenges of the music.
 
Add to the mix, writing of superb quality - more or less equally shared between Collins himself and his close compatriot Tom Harrison, plus a measure of blues from the great Oliver Nelson and a couple of standards; stir-in the tightest arrangements you’re likely to hear anywhere, honed to perfection on the early legs of the band’s tour and you arrive at a formula that burst into life on ‘Road Warrior’, the title track from Collins’ recently issued 5-star rated album. If the opening number impressed with its scorching solos and explosive ensemble sound, the tortuous ‘Float Flitter Flutter’, a dedication to the late Sonny Fortune, took the breath away with its knife-edge precision.

“How do they know when to come in?” asked one member of the audience in wide-eyed amazement during the interval. I guess the only simple answer is to say, “That’s the marvel of jazz at its very best!”
 
The mellow tones of Collins’ flugelhorn over drummer Shane Forbes’ tom-toms and cymbals opened ‘Jasmine Breeze’, its gentle mood sustained by the perfect support of Steve Hamilton on keyboard and Larry Bartley on bass and the haunting solos of Brandon Allen on tenor and Tony Kofi’s alto.
 
The joyful ‘Look Ahead (What Do You See?)’ took its inspiration from father-and-son conversations in the Collins’ household, and brilliantly evoked a vision of the infinite possibilities that might lay ahead for a ten-year-old boy, with perhaps just a touch of caution on the part of the father, and an ‘Oh, Dad’ shrug of the shoulders from the son.
 
The 12-bar bebop blues ‘Butch and Butch’, from Oliver Nelson’s classic 1961 album ‘Blues and the Abstract Truth’, closed the first set in storming fashion; a pattern of full-blooded riffs building the tension and driving along a string of free-flowing and perfectly executed solos, rounded off by a tour-de-force outing for Shane Forbes on drums. If Steve Hamilton succeeded in reducing the temperature at times, it was never at the expense of excitement. All this, I should add, was underpinned by the rich tones and immaculate bass of Larry Bartley.
 
The angular ‘Do You Know the Way?’, featuring the soaring alto saxophone of Tony Kofi, got the second set under way, while ‘The Hill’, Tom Harrison’s emotionally charged tribute to the abiding influence of the great saxophonist, composer and educator Jean Toussaint,  also served to trace a musical line of descent via Jean from the incomparable Art Blakey – whose ‘message’ is still a potent force today!
 
Despite its menacing undertones Art would have loved ‘El Farolito’, a high-octane impression of a fight that Tom Harrison had the misfortune to witness on a visit to San Francisco – scorching solos from Brandon Allen and Tony Kofi, while Collins’ provided the automatic gun-fire. A melee of sounds brought the piece to what we hope was a peaceful conclusion.
 
In complete contrast ‘Wide Horizons’ explored reflective territory, with Collins on flugelhorn to a gorgeous background of choral effects which drew to a beautiful ending with the repetition of a sub-theme over Shane Forbes’s drums.
 
In an evening of surprises there was none greater than the inclusion of ‘Oh, Look at Me Now’, written by pianist Joe Bushkin in 1941 and a huge hit for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with a certain Mr. Frank Sinatra on vocal duties. This polished and swinging, medium-tempo arrangement expressed all the feeling of the original and featured the poised and lyrical playing of Tony Kofi on alto and the ‘booting’ tenor of Brandon Allen, as well as brass fireworks from the leader. Shane Forbes’ perfectly timed cymbal chime brought the piece to a close.
 
Like ‘Oh, Look at Me Now’, Victor Young’s ‘Stella by Starlight’ began life in the 1940s as the main theme for the now long-forgotten movie ‘The Uninvited’. The song, on the other hand, which has always seemed to me perilously difficult to successfully negotiate, has lived on as a favourite for jazz players across the years. In that respect Quentin Collins paid tribute to such legends as Harry James, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis amongst many others, to bring an exhilarating evening of music to a fitting close amid the rapturous applause of the near sell-out audience.
 
As ever, thanks to the Progress ‘House Team’ for their warm hospitality and attention to detail, which all helped to make the music ‘really happen’!


TREVOR BANNISTER

Future dates on the 2019 ‘Road Warrior’ tour are;

27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com

Quentin Collins Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 18/10/2019.

Quentin Collins Sextet

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

5 out of 5

Quentin Collins Sextet, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 18/10/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

"Jazz at its very best!". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister enjoys a five star performance by the Quentin Collins Sextet as they stop off in Reading on their 'Road Warrior' tour.

Jazz at Progress
 
The Quentin Collins Sextet ‘Road Warrior’ Tour
 
Progress Theatre, Reading Friday 18 October
 
Quentin Collins trumpet & flugelhorn, Tony Kofi alto saxophone, Brandon Allen tenor saxophone, Steve Hamilton keyboard, Larry Bartley bass, Shane Forbes drums
 

There’s something special about the shoe-box shape of Reading’s Progress Theatre and the intimacy of its stage to the steeply ranked 96-seats of the auditorium that casts its own magical spell and makes it a marvellous venue for jazz.  There’s no need for amplification, except for announcements, as each instrument finds its own balance and is perfectly audible within the natural acoustic. The audience can listen in comfort and there are no tinkling glasses or irritating conversations to distract the musicians. In short, the Progress has inspired many great performances throughout its seven-year association with Jazz in Reading, none more so than the breath-taking and utterly compelling visit by the Quentin Collins Sextet on Friday 18 October as part of its national ‘Road Warrior’ tour.
 
To describe Quentin Collins as a virtuoso is almost a disservice, but I can’t think of another superlative to adequately describe his astonishing technical skill, musicianship and feel for the music. He is THE complete trumpet player with a gorgeously burnished tone and an incredible range. He plays with unbelievable accuracy, expresses himself with a true sense of narrative, drawing on a seemingly infinite fund of ideas and can conjure the widest spectrum of sounds imaginable from his instrument without ever having to resort to a mute; a resonant growl at one end of the scale to an almost imperceptible wisp of sound at the other. And as if that wasn’t enough, like a latter-day Art Blakey, he leads his band with such strength and bravura, that his fellow musicians can’t fail to rise to the challenges of the music.
 
Add to the mix, writing of superb quality - more or less equally shared between Collins himself and his close compatriot Tom Harrison, plus a measure of blues from the great Oliver Nelson and a couple of standards; stir-in the tightest arrangements you’re likely to hear anywhere, honed to perfection on the early legs of the band’s tour and you arrive at a formula that burst into life on ‘Road Warrior’, the title track from Collins’ recently issued 5-star rated album. If the opening number impressed with its scorching solos and explosive ensemble sound, the tortuous ‘Float Flitter Flutter’, a dedication to the late Sonny Fortune, took the breath away with its knife-edge precision.

“How do they know when to come in?” asked one member of the audience in wide-eyed amazement during the interval. I guess the only simple answer is to say, “That’s the marvel of jazz at its very best!”
 
The mellow tones of Collins’ flugelhorn over drummer Shane Forbes’ tom-toms and cymbals opened ‘Jasmine Breeze’, its gentle mood sustained by the perfect support of Steve Hamilton on keyboard and Larry Bartley on bass and the haunting solos of Brandon Allen on tenor and Tony Kofi’s alto.
 
The joyful ‘Look Ahead (What Do You See?)’ took its inspiration from father-and-son conversations in the Collins’ household, and brilliantly evoked a vision of the infinite possibilities that might lay ahead for a ten-year-old boy, with perhaps just a touch of caution on the part of the father, and an ‘Oh, Dad’ shrug of the shoulders from the son.
 
The 12-bar bebop blues ‘Butch and Butch’, from Oliver Nelson’s classic 1961 album ‘Blues and the Abstract Truth’, closed the first set in storming fashion; a pattern of full-blooded riffs building the tension and driving along a string of free-flowing and perfectly executed solos, rounded off by a tour-de-force outing for Shane Forbes on drums. If Steve Hamilton succeeded in reducing the temperature at times, it was never at the expense of excitement. All this, I should add, was underpinned by the rich tones and immaculate bass of Larry Bartley.
 
The angular ‘Do You Know the Way?’, featuring the soaring alto saxophone of Tony Kofi, got the second set under way, while ‘The Hill’, Tom Harrison’s emotionally charged tribute to the abiding influence of the great saxophonist, composer and educator Jean Toussaint,  also served to trace a musical line of descent via Jean from the incomparable Art Blakey – whose ‘message’ is still a potent force today!
 
Despite its menacing undertones Art would have loved ‘El Farolito’, a high-octane impression of a fight that Tom Harrison had the misfortune to witness on a visit to San Francisco – scorching solos from Brandon Allen and Tony Kofi, while Collins’ provided the automatic gun-fire. A melee of sounds brought the piece to what we hope was a peaceful conclusion.
 
In complete contrast ‘Wide Horizons’ explored reflective territory, with Collins on flugelhorn to a gorgeous background of choral effects which drew to a beautiful ending with the repetition of a sub-theme over Shane Forbes’s drums.
 
In an evening of surprises there was none greater than the inclusion of ‘Oh, Look at Me Now’, written by pianist Joe Bushkin in 1941 and a huge hit for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with a certain Mr. Frank Sinatra on vocal duties. This polished and swinging, medium-tempo arrangement expressed all the feeling of the original and featured the poised and lyrical playing of Tony Kofi on alto and the ‘booting’ tenor of Brandon Allen, as well as brass fireworks from the leader. Shane Forbes’ perfectly timed cymbal chime brought the piece to a close.
 
Like ‘Oh, Look at Me Now’, Victor Young’s ‘Stella by Starlight’ began life in the 1940s as the main theme for the now long-forgotten movie ‘The Uninvited’. The song, on the other hand, which has always seemed to me perilously difficult to successfully negotiate, has lived on as a favourite for jazz players across the years. In that respect Quentin Collins paid tribute to such legends as Harry James, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis amongst many others, to bring an exhilarating evening of music to a fitting close amid the rapturous applause of the near sell-out audience.
 
As ever, thanks to the Progress ‘House Team’ for their warm hospitality and attention to detail, which all helped to make the music ‘really happen’!


TREVOR BANNISTER

Future dates on the 2019 ‘Road Warrior’ tour are;

27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com

Mike De Souza - Slow Burn Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive début. The mix of electric and acoustic elements works well and the writing is intelligent and multi-faceted, with the trio embracing a variety of moods and musical styles.

Mike De Souza

“Slow Burn”

Mike De Souza is a young jazz guitarist and composer based in London and the self released “Slow Burn represents his album début as a leader, following in the wake of the earlier EP “Road Fork” (2018).

De Souza first came to my attention as a member of the quartet Big Bad Wolf, appearing on that group’s critically acclaimed début album “Pond Life” (2017).
Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/big-bad-wolf-pond-life/

Big Bad Wolf also features guitarist (and occasional vocalist) Rob Luft, trombonist Owen Dawson and drummer Jay Davis. On “Pond Life” De Souza played a Fender Bass VI electric bass, but he primarily regards himself as a guitarist.

De Souza studied at Leeds College of Music and at London’s Royal Academy of Music. His guitar tutors have included such leading exponents of the instrument as John Parricelli, Mike Outram, Mike Walker, Phil Robson and Gilad Hekselman. Other musicians with whom he has studied include saxophonists Iain Ballamy and Will Vinson, pianist Nikki Iles and vibraphonist Matt Moran.

As a sideman he has worked with US trumpeter Terence Blanchard as part of the Inner City Ensemble. Other regular engagements include work with groups led by three different saxophonists; Phil Meadows’ Beware of the Bear, Martin Speake’s Charukesi and Ronan Perrett’s Twospeak.

De Souza’s own trio features him on guitar with fellow Wolf Jay Davis at the drums. Bass duties are assumed by Huw V Williams, who is something of a rising star, and a bandleader in his own right.

De Souza acknowledges the influence of such jazz guitar greats as Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel, plus adventurous rock bands like Radiohead and Deerhoof. “Slow Burn” attempts to blur the boundaries between the typical low key and intimate ‘jazz guitar trio’ record and the more orchestrated and produced sound of an alternative rock album. To this end acoustic and electric guitars are layered and judicious use is made of uncredited synths, piano and wordless vocals, all presumably overdubbed by De Souza and the other members of the trio.

Of his compositions for “Slow Burn” De Souza states;
“All the music I composed for “Slow Burn was written at the guitar. My mission was to reconcile my earliest musical influences with my more recent ones. It was an exciting challenge – how could I combine the energy of rock with the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of jazz whilst also creating something personal and honest?”

The title refers to the “lifelong path of growth for all musicians” with De Souza adding; “This describes my personal journey from rock music to jazz through blues and fusion, releasing ‘Pond Life’ with Big Bad Wolf, then my first EP ‘Road Fork’, to now, with the release of my début album”.

The material included with my review copy of “Slow Burn” includes De Souza’s album notes, which offer further insights into his working methods and influences and the sources of inspiration behind the individual tunes.

Opener “Living With Nuns” is one of two tracks to draw inspiration from Olivier Messiaen’s “Modes of Limited Transposition”. It’s a lively piece that makes judicious use of electronic effects, keyboard overdubs and wordless vocals and which combines spiky contrapuntal instrumental interplay with a discernible rock energy and urgency - with the leader spectacularly cutting loose on electric guitar in the second half of the piece.
Conceptually the tune is linked to the later “Late for Breakfast” as De Souza explains;
“The titles of both these tracks refer to an incident that took place in Graz whilst on tour with Big Bad Wolf, when we were provided with accommodation in a nunnery. The nuns warned us not to be late for breakfast, but we inevitably were!”.

“Going Places” takes its inspiration from the Deerhoof song “The Galaxist” and initially promises to be a rather gentler affair with De Souza featuring acoustic guitar alongside the bass clarinet of uncredited guest Sam Rapley. But soon the music is changing direction with some chunky, angular electric guitar riffing on a constantly evolving piece that takes in many moods, styles, time signatures and textures. It represents a successful attempt to mirror certain aspects of Deerhoof’s music, the constant evolution, the unexpected twists and turns, the effective blending of wildness and cohesion. The use of soaring wordless vocals and the episodic quality of the writing may also remind some listeners of Pat Metheny.

“Morning Mind” is the most obviously ‘jazz’ piece on the record and draws inspiration from the playing of De Souza’s one time tutor Gilad Hekselman, and also from one time Gary Burton guitarist Julian Lage, particularly with regard to their use of two part counterpoint. There’s an agreeable air of intimacy about the playing of the trio on this track, the music always sounding warm and melodic despite its complexities. Williams’ warm. woody, melodic bass is the perfect foil to the clean sounding ‘jazz’ guitar of the leader and Davis’ delicate brushwork is tasteful and supportive throughout.

De Souza doesn’t say anything about “Nunchucks”, so we’ll never know if the title is reference to that nunnery in Graz – the mind boggles!. The tune itself draws upon the world of experimental rock with its combination of chunky riffing and odd meter rhythms with more impressionistic, ambient passages. De Souza solos with a smouldering intensity, while Williams’ loping electric bass grooves and Davis’ crisp drumming provide the necessary support and propulsion.

The title track is a musical illustration of the meaning behind it, as outlined previously. The piece unfolds over a full nine minutes, gradually developing from quiet beginnings featuring interlocking guitar and bass arpeggios. The main melody draws inspiration from the music of Radiohead, and particularly the voice of Thom Yorke. De Souza’s own wordless vocals are included in the mix as the music continues to evolve via an acoustic guitar solo. As is typical of De Souza’s episodic and multi-faceted compositions there’s a sudden shift into a more dynamic ‘fusion-esque’ section with the leader delivering a searing solo on electric guitar, strongly supported by bass and drums.

“Late for Breakfast Intro” begins quietly, as if the lads are slowly awakening from their slumbers. Sequenced as a separate track this leads into “Late For Breakfast” itself, a far more urgent, scurrying affair that perhaps depicts the rush to the breakfast table. De Souza mixes acoustic and electric guitar sounds and the piece eventually slows and becomes less frenetic, a pause for reflection after the repast, perhaps? Williams’ acoustic bass plays a leading role in this section, but in a final twist the pace and intensity increases prior to a ‘widescreen’ finish featuring electric guitars and a veritable ‘wall of sound’.

The album concludes with “Veritas Lux Mea”, the Latin title translating as “Truth is my Light”, an entirely acoustic live performance that begins in almost ‘free jazz’ fashion with the sound of Williams’ bowed bass forming the backdrop for De Souza’s acoustic guitar pickings and scrapings. The piece then evolves into a more formal acoustic trio performance, almost folk like at times, with the sound of acoustic guitar and pizzicato double bass now augmented by Davis’ delicate and atmospheric brush work. There’s a calming quality about the music that befits the tune’s title, at times it almost sounds like one of Ralph Towner’s recordings for ECM.

“Slow Burn” represents an impressive début album from De Souza. The mix of electric and acoustic elements works well and the writing is intelligent and multi-faceted with the trio embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, often within the boundaries of a single piece.

After only previously hearing De Souza on electric bass it’s good to be able to finally appreciate his wide ranging talents as a guitarist. His technical expertise on both the electric and acoustic versions of the instrument is impressive throughout.

It’s very much the leader’s album but both Williams and Davis offer crucial and impeccable support. De Souza is also quick to thank mixing engineer Alex Killpartrick, who had previously worked on the Big Bad Wolf album, for his contribution to the soundscaping elements on selected tracks. This aspect of the music, allied to the use of wordless vocals, represents a clear link between the sound of Big Bad Wolf and De Souza’s own band.

“Slow Burn” is rich in terms of both colour and texture and the music ranges far beyond the usual parameters of the usual ‘jazz guitar trio’ recording thanks, to its embrace of other elements including rock, folk, classical and electronica.

The Mike De Souza Trio is currently touring the album extensively in the UK with dates in late October and throughout November 2019. One would imagine that a live performance from this line up would be a fascinating, exciting and enjoyable experience. Dates (in receding order) are listed below;


2020
February:
1st – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz at John’s, Cambridge
2019
November:
29th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Leeds College Of Music (Workshop 1-4pm)
20th – Twospeak @ Jazztrain, London
16th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz at HEART, Leeds
15th – Mike De Souza Trio @ JATP Bradford
8th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Listen! Cambridge
5th – Mike De Souza Trio @ The Mad Hatter, Oxford
4th – Mike De Souza Trio (‘Slow Burn’ Album Launch) @ Pizza Express Dean Street
October:
31st – Mike De Souza Trio @ Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham
30th – Mike De Souza Trio @ The Lescar, Sheffield
29th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Parr Jazz, Liverpool
28th – Mike De Souza Trio @ NQ Jazz, The Whiskey Jar, Manchester
27th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz NE, The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle

Slow Burn is available for purchase from Mike De Souza’s Bandcamp page;
https://mikedesouzatrio.bandcamp.com/album/slow-burn

Also available for digital download at iTunes, Spotify, AppleMusic etc.

For further information on Mike De Souza please visit http://www.mikedesouza.co.uk

Slow Burn

Mike De Souza

Friday, October 25, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Slow Burn

An impressive début. The mix of electric and acoustic elements works well and the writing is intelligent and multi-faceted, with the trio embracing a variety of moods and musical styles.

Mike De Souza

“Slow Burn”

Mike De Souza is a young jazz guitarist and composer based in London and the self released “Slow Burn represents his album début as a leader, following in the wake of the earlier EP “Road Fork” (2018).

De Souza first came to my attention as a member of the quartet Big Bad Wolf, appearing on that group’s critically acclaimed début album “Pond Life” (2017).
Review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/big-bad-wolf-pond-life/

Big Bad Wolf also features guitarist (and occasional vocalist) Rob Luft, trombonist Owen Dawson and drummer Jay Davis. On “Pond Life” De Souza played a Fender Bass VI electric bass, but he primarily regards himself as a guitarist.

De Souza studied at Leeds College of Music and at London’s Royal Academy of Music. His guitar tutors have included such leading exponents of the instrument as John Parricelli, Mike Outram, Mike Walker, Phil Robson and Gilad Hekselman. Other musicians with whom he has studied include saxophonists Iain Ballamy and Will Vinson, pianist Nikki Iles and vibraphonist Matt Moran.

As a sideman he has worked with US trumpeter Terence Blanchard as part of the Inner City Ensemble. Other regular engagements include work with groups led by three different saxophonists; Phil Meadows’ Beware of the Bear, Martin Speake’s Charukesi and Ronan Perrett’s Twospeak.

De Souza’s own trio features him on guitar with fellow Wolf Jay Davis at the drums. Bass duties are assumed by Huw V Williams, who is something of a rising star, and a bandleader in his own right.

De Souza acknowledges the influence of such jazz guitar greats as Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel, plus adventurous rock bands like Radiohead and Deerhoof. “Slow Burn” attempts to blur the boundaries between the typical low key and intimate ‘jazz guitar trio’ record and the more orchestrated and produced sound of an alternative rock album. To this end acoustic and electric guitars are layered and judicious use is made of uncredited synths, piano and wordless vocals, all presumably overdubbed by De Souza and the other members of the trio.

Of his compositions for “Slow Burn” De Souza states;
“All the music I composed for “Slow Burn was written at the guitar. My mission was to reconcile my earliest musical influences with my more recent ones. It was an exciting challenge – how could I combine the energy of rock with the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of jazz whilst also creating something personal and honest?”

The title refers to the “lifelong path of growth for all musicians” with De Souza adding; “This describes my personal journey from rock music to jazz through blues and fusion, releasing ‘Pond Life’ with Big Bad Wolf, then my first EP ‘Road Fork’, to now, with the release of my début album”.

The material included with my review copy of “Slow Burn” includes De Souza’s album notes, which offer further insights into his working methods and influences and the sources of inspiration behind the individual tunes.

Opener “Living With Nuns” is one of two tracks to draw inspiration from Olivier Messiaen’s “Modes of Limited Transposition”. It’s a lively piece that makes judicious use of electronic effects, keyboard overdubs and wordless vocals and which combines spiky contrapuntal instrumental interplay with a discernible rock energy and urgency - with the leader spectacularly cutting loose on electric guitar in the second half of the piece.
Conceptually the tune is linked to the later “Late for Breakfast” as De Souza explains;
“The titles of both these tracks refer to an incident that took place in Graz whilst on tour with Big Bad Wolf, when we were provided with accommodation in a nunnery. The nuns warned us not to be late for breakfast, but we inevitably were!”.

“Going Places” takes its inspiration from the Deerhoof song “The Galaxist” and initially promises to be a rather gentler affair with De Souza featuring acoustic guitar alongside the bass clarinet of uncredited guest Sam Rapley. But soon the music is changing direction with some chunky, angular electric guitar riffing on a constantly evolving piece that takes in many moods, styles, time signatures and textures. It represents a successful attempt to mirror certain aspects of Deerhoof’s music, the constant evolution, the unexpected twists and turns, the effective blending of wildness and cohesion. The use of soaring wordless vocals and the episodic quality of the writing may also remind some listeners of Pat Metheny.

“Morning Mind” is the most obviously ‘jazz’ piece on the record and draws inspiration from the playing of De Souza’s one time tutor Gilad Hekselman, and also from one time Gary Burton guitarist Julian Lage, particularly with regard to their use of two part counterpoint. There’s an agreeable air of intimacy about the playing of the trio on this track, the music always sounding warm and melodic despite its complexities. Williams’ warm. woody, melodic bass is the perfect foil to the clean sounding ‘jazz’ guitar of the leader and Davis’ delicate brushwork is tasteful and supportive throughout.

De Souza doesn’t say anything about “Nunchucks”, so we’ll never know if the title is reference to that nunnery in Graz – the mind boggles!. The tune itself draws upon the world of experimental rock with its combination of chunky riffing and odd meter rhythms with more impressionistic, ambient passages. De Souza solos with a smouldering intensity, while Williams’ loping electric bass grooves and Davis’ crisp drumming provide the necessary support and propulsion.

The title track is a musical illustration of the meaning behind it, as outlined previously. The piece unfolds over a full nine minutes, gradually developing from quiet beginnings featuring interlocking guitar and bass arpeggios. The main melody draws inspiration from the music of Radiohead, and particularly the voice of Thom Yorke. De Souza’s own wordless vocals are included in the mix as the music continues to evolve via an acoustic guitar solo. As is typical of De Souza’s episodic and multi-faceted compositions there’s a sudden shift into a more dynamic ‘fusion-esque’ section with the leader delivering a searing solo on electric guitar, strongly supported by bass and drums.

“Late for Breakfast Intro” begins quietly, as if the lads are slowly awakening from their slumbers. Sequenced as a separate track this leads into “Late For Breakfast” itself, a far more urgent, scurrying affair that perhaps depicts the rush to the breakfast table. De Souza mixes acoustic and electric guitar sounds and the piece eventually slows and becomes less frenetic, a pause for reflection after the repast, perhaps? Williams’ acoustic bass plays a leading role in this section, but in a final twist the pace and intensity increases prior to a ‘widescreen’ finish featuring electric guitars and a veritable ‘wall of sound’.

The album concludes with “Veritas Lux Mea”, the Latin title translating as “Truth is my Light”, an entirely acoustic live performance that begins in almost ‘free jazz’ fashion with the sound of Williams’ bowed bass forming the backdrop for De Souza’s acoustic guitar pickings and scrapings. The piece then evolves into a more formal acoustic trio performance, almost folk like at times, with the sound of acoustic guitar and pizzicato double bass now augmented by Davis’ delicate and atmospheric brush work. There’s a calming quality about the music that befits the tune’s title, at times it almost sounds like one of Ralph Towner’s recordings for ECM.

“Slow Burn” represents an impressive début album from De Souza. The mix of electric and acoustic elements works well and the writing is intelligent and multi-faceted with the trio embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, often within the boundaries of a single piece.

After only previously hearing De Souza on electric bass it’s good to be able to finally appreciate his wide ranging talents as a guitarist. His technical expertise on both the electric and acoustic versions of the instrument is impressive throughout.

It’s very much the leader’s album but both Williams and Davis offer crucial and impeccable support. De Souza is also quick to thank mixing engineer Alex Killpartrick, who had previously worked on the Big Bad Wolf album, for his contribution to the soundscaping elements on selected tracks. This aspect of the music, allied to the use of wordless vocals, represents a clear link between the sound of Big Bad Wolf and De Souza’s own band.

“Slow Burn” is rich in terms of both colour and texture and the music ranges far beyond the usual parameters of the usual ‘jazz guitar trio’ recording thanks, to its embrace of other elements including rock, folk, classical and electronica.

The Mike De Souza Trio is currently touring the album extensively in the UK with dates in late October and throughout November 2019. One would imagine that a live performance from this line up would be a fascinating, exciting and enjoyable experience. Dates (in receding order) are listed below;


2020
February:
1st – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz at John’s, Cambridge
2019
November:
29th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Leeds College Of Music (Workshop 1-4pm)
20th – Twospeak @ Jazztrain, London
16th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz at HEART, Leeds
15th – Mike De Souza Trio @ JATP Bradford
8th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Listen! Cambridge
5th – Mike De Souza Trio @ The Mad Hatter, Oxford
4th – Mike De Souza Trio (‘Slow Burn’ Album Launch) @ Pizza Express Dean Street
October:
31st – Mike De Souza Trio @ Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham
30th – Mike De Souza Trio @ The Lescar, Sheffield
29th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Parr Jazz, Liverpool
28th – Mike De Souza Trio @ NQ Jazz, The Whiskey Jar, Manchester
27th – Mike De Souza Trio @ Jazz NE, The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle

Slow Burn is available for purchase from Mike De Souza’s Bandcamp page;
https://mikedesouzatrio.bandcamp.com/album/slow-burn

Also available for digital download at iTunes, Spotify, AppleMusic etc.

For further information on Mike De Souza please visit http://www.mikedesouza.co.uk

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio - Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 An excellent evening of music making from three of the leading figures on the South Wales jazz scene and their illustrious and highly talented American guest.

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019


Sarah Morrow – trombone, tambourine, vocals Dave Cottle – keyboard,
Alun Vaughan –  six string electric bass, Paul Smith – drums


Brecon Jazz Club’s October event saw the American trombonist and composer Sarah Morrow visiting the town in the company of the Swansea based Dave Cottle Trio.

The performance was the first of a short tour that was also to include dates in Swansea, Narberth and Bristol. It was made possible by the generous support of Arts Council Wales’ Noson Allan, or Night Out, scheme.

The necessity of staging the gig to tie in with the other dates on Morrow’s tour necessitated a change of date (from the second Tuesday of the month to the fourth) and consequently a change of venue. The unavailability of the Club’s regular haunt, The Muse Arts Centre, resulted in a move to the Ballroom at the Brecon Castle Hotel, a performance space that was probably already familiar to most members of the audience thanks to its use as a venue at Brecon Jazz Festival over many, many years.

Born in Houston, Texas but now based in Nashville, Tennessee Morrow first came to prominence as a member of Ray Charles’ touring band, which she joined in 1995. Charles heard her playing and asked “who is that guy on trombone? I want him in my band!”

Morrow has also worked extensively with another great figure of American music, the recently departed Dr. John with whom she worked as an instrumentalist, musical director and producer, staying with him for seven years and playing a key role on two of his later albums.

She has worked extensively as a sidewoman in both the US and Europe and lived and worked in France for five years. In recent years she has been writing soundtrack music for film and television and she is also an acclaimed music educator.

As a bandleader Morrow has released four albums across a variety of jazz styles, commencing with 2000’s “Greenlight”, which put the focus on her own writing. There have also been a couple of standards based sets while her latest recording, “Elektric Air” (2016) introduced electronics to her sound and featured the cutting edge contemporary musicians Robert Glasper (piano, keyboards), Derrick Hodge (bass) and Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave (drums).

The following list of artists, sourced from Morrow’s website http://www.sarahmorrow.com details some of the other musicians she has collaborated with during a productive and diverse career;
Bootsy Collins, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Van Morrison, Blind Boys of Alabama, The funky Drummers of James Brown (Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks), drummer Bernard Purdie, Bonnie Raitt, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Anthony Hamilton, free form saxophonist David Murray, organists Rhoda Scott and Tony Monaco, tenor sax legends Pee Wee Ellis and Hal “Cornbread” Singer, Cuban rapper Telmary, Rickie Lee Jones, the American All-Stars in Paris, Mingus alumni Ted Curson and Ricky Ford, French star Anne Ducros, trumpeters Arturo Sandoval, Terence Blanchard, Marcus Belgrave and Nicholas Payton, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, DJ Jahi Sundance, underground hip hop sensation Mike Ladd,

Given Morrow’s credentials we were very lucky to be seeing such a multi-talented performer coming to Brecon. Accompanying the trombonist was a trio led by the Swansea based pianist Dave Cottle, who was joined by his regular rhythm team of electric bass specialist Alun Vaughan and drummer Paul Smith. Cottle is also a talented trumpeter and in addition works as a jazz promoter, having run the Jazzland club in Swansea for twenty three years as well as co-ordinating the annual Swansea International Jazz Festival.

Morrow last worked with Cottle in 2006 and it was good to see the pair renewing their musical partnership over the course of two sets featuring imaginative arrangements of standards interspersed with a smattering of Morrow’s own compositions.

The first set commenced with a standard, a blues to be precise. I recognised the tune but couldn’t pin a title on it, a fairly common occurrence for many jazz listeners I suspect. When I spoke to Sarah at half time she couldn’t identify it either, nor could Dave or Alun. So if some knowledgeable audience member can help us out, give me a shout. The players seemed pretty unconcerned about it all, at the end of the day it’s the music itself that counts.
Morrow’s playing has been endorsed by that great of the trombone Curtis Fuller and you could immediately hear why as she stated the theme and delivered the first solo, her sound an irresistible blend of warmth, power and fluency. Cottle followed, adopting an acoustic piano sound on his remarkably versatile Yamaha Motif XF keyboard. Next came Vaughan who exhibited a guitar like agility on his six string electric bass, his fluency and virtuosity reminding me of the great Steve Swallow.

Next we heard the first song that Morrow wrote, “Tisha’s Dance” from her début album “Greenlight”. This was introduced by a passage of solo hand drumming from Smith that helped to shape the vaguely Latin-esque groove. A pleasingly quirky composition packed with complex, twisting stop / start phrases the piece included solos from Morrow on trombone and Cottle at the keyboard, now adopting an electric piano or’Rhodes’ sound, with Morrow shaking a tambourine as Cottle soloed.

The final section of “Tisha’s Dance” also saw Morrow’s first use of extended trombone techniques,  the subtle deployment of vocalisations and over-blowing. This was continued on the unaccompanied introduction to the next tune, the avant garde flourishes suggesting that she may well have listened to the late, great Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005) during her time in Europe. It was certainly an unusual way in which to usher in the Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine”, which eventually settled into a subtly funky groove as Morrow’s playing took on more of a blues inflection. Cottle was featured at the piano and the performance was also notable for the lively dialogue between Morrow, again making use of vocalised techniques, and the impressive Smith, who was clearly enjoying the challenge and the experience of working with Morrow.

An arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” found Morrow and the trio back in more familiar jazz territory with cogent solos coming from all four musicians, culminating in a powerful drum feature from Smith.

A second Morrow original came in the shape of the gospel flavoured “Good Music Medicine”, which saw Cottle adopting a convincing Hammond organ sound on his Yamaha keyboard. Solos came from Cottle on organ, Vaughan on bass and Morrow on plunger muted trombone. This may have been unfamiliar material, but it was very much in the jazz tradition and the Brecon audience loved it, giving the tune a rapturous reception.

The first half concluded with a version of Lou Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” with Morrow using the tune as a vehicle to introduce the individual musicians, and to engage the audience in a little game of call and response as we sang back her trombone lines, culminating in “Frere Jacques”! Great fun.

Set two also commenced with a blues, with Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” proving to be far more identifiable! Morrow’s shuffle blues style arrangement dated from a time when she played with the late Al Grey (1925-2000), once of the Count Basie Orchestra. Tonight’s version featured a rasping, bluesy solo from Morrow plus further outings from Cottle on ‘acoustic’ piano and Vaughan at the bass.

In honour of her former employer, Dr. John, Morrow had arranged the standard Bernie’s Tune” (written by Bernie Miller) in a New Orleans style. Smith introduced the piece at the drums, his marching rhythms underpinning Morrow’s theme statement before Cottle launched into a rollicking New Orleans style piano solo. A Smith drum feature then paved the way for Morrow’s own, hard driving trombone solo.

A propulsive jazz-funk groove drove the Morrow original “Bonehoppin’” which saw the composer state the theme and take the first solo, her raunchy sound and fruity vocalisations clearly delighting the audience. Cottle’s solo embraced a variety of keyboard sounds while Vaughan’s feature added slap bass techniques to his usual fluency. Smith was also featured at the drums, entering into dialogue with Morrow’s vocalised trombone once more. The composer subsequently described the piece as “Southern funk”, adding “I like to experiment with rhythm”.

The calm after the storm came in the shape of the ballad “You’ve Changed”, which demonstrated Morrow’s mastery of this style of playing and saw Smith deploying brushes for the first time. Cottle was also featured on ‘acoustic’ piano.

“Hit The Road Jack” closed the second set and saw Morrow deliver a serviceable blues styled vocal within a slyly funky arrangement that saw Cottle mixing electric piano and organ sounds. The performance also included a rousing trombone solo from Morrow that left the audience wanting more.

This came in the shape of “Sweet Georgia Brown”, played as a homage to New Orleans ‘tailgate’ trombone pioneer Kid Ory (1886-1973). Morrow is the proud owner of one of the Kid’s handkerchiefs, given to her by a descendant. Morrow and the quartet fairly romped through the tune with Morrow stating the theme prior to solos from Cottle on honky tonk style piano, Vaughan, with a typically virtuosic electric bass feature, and Smith at the drums. Morrow’s trombone solo led into an animated dialogue with Cottle’s keyboards as the quartet ended the evening in invigorating fashion.

The excellence of the playing, the quality of the original writing and the inventiveness of the other arrangements all helped to ensure that this performance was a notch ahead of the usual ‘guest soloist with local trio’ standards set.

Of course it helped that Morrow is such a talented soloist and all round musician but the efforts of the Cottle trio shouldn’t be over looked with Cottle soloing imaginatively throughout and coaxing a broad variety of sounds from his instrument. I’ve always been an admirer of Vaughan’s playing and some of his soloing tonight was quite inspired. Smith also turned in a fine performance behind the kit, probably the best I’ve seen him play, as he linked up effectively with Morrow.

This was an excellent start to the quartet’s short tour and one would imagine that subsequent performances will be even better. Apparently Morrow has brought a set of foot pedals over from the US, but these weren’t compatible with UK electrics and couldn’t be used tonight. She hopes to get them working later on the tour so audiences in Swansea, Narberth and Bristol may get to see another facet of her playing, one that presumably draws on the “Elektric Air” album.

Not that anybody tonight could have felt short changed, this was an excellent evening of music making from three of the leading figures on the South Wales jazz scene and their illustrious and highly talented American guest.

My thanks to Sarah, Dave and Alun for speaking with me afterwards. Hope the rest of the tour is a great success.

Sarah Morrow and the Dave Cottle Trio play at;

Swansea Jazzland,  The Garage Music Venue, Uplands, Swansea 23rd October 2019

Span Jazz, Hotel Plas Hyfryd, Narberth, Pembrokeshire 24th October 2019

Sarah Morrow and the Andy Nowak Trio are at The Be-Bop Club, Bristol on 25th October 2019
http://www.thebebopclub.co.uk/index_files/WhatsOn.htm

 

 

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019.

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019.

An excellent evening of music making from three of the leading figures on the South Wales jazz scene and their illustrious and highly talented American guest.

Sarah Morrow with the Dave Cottle Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon Castle Hotel, Brecon, 22/10/2019


Sarah Morrow – trombone, tambourine, vocals Dave Cottle – keyboard,
Alun Vaughan –  six string electric bass, Paul Smith – drums


Brecon Jazz Club’s October event saw the American trombonist and composer Sarah Morrow visiting the town in the company of the Swansea based Dave Cottle Trio.

The performance was the first of a short tour that was also to include dates in Swansea, Narberth and Bristol. It was made possible by the generous support of Arts Council Wales’ Noson Allan, or Night Out, scheme.

The necessity of staging the gig to tie in with the other dates on Morrow’s tour necessitated a change of date (from the second Tuesday of the month to the fourth) and consequently a change of venue. The unavailability of the Club’s regular haunt, The Muse Arts Centre, resulted in a move to the Ballroom at the Brecon Castle Hotel, a performance space that was probably already familiar to most members of the audience thanks to its use as a venue at Brecon Jazz Festival over many, many years.

Born in Houston, Texas but now based in Nashville, Tennessee Morrow first came to prominence as a member of Ray Charles’ touring band, which she joined in 1995. Charles heard her playing and asked “who is that guy on trombone? I want him in my band!”

Morrow has also worked extensively with another great figure of American music, the recently departed Dr. John with whom she worked as an instrumentalist, musical director and producer, staying with him for seven years and playing a key role on two of his later albums.

She has worked extensively as a sidewoman in both the US and Europe and lived and worked in France for five years. In recent years she has been writing soundtrack music for film and television and she is also an acclaimed music educator.

As a bandleader Morrow has released four albums across a variety of jazz styles, commencing with 2000’s “Greenlight”, which put the focus on her own writing. There have also been a couple of standards based sets while her latest recording, “Elektric Air” (2016) introduced electronics to her sound and featured the cutting edge contemporary musicians Robert Glasper (piano, keyboards), Derrick Hodge (bass) and Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave (drums).

The following list of artists, sourced from Morrow’s website http://www.sarahmorrow.com details some of the other musicians she has collaborated with during a productive and diverse career;
Bootsy Collins, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Van Morrison, Blind Boys of Alabama, The funky Drummers of James Brown (Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks), drummer Bernard Purdie, Bonnie Raitt, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Anthony Hamilton, free form saxophonist David Murray, organists Rhoda Scott and Tony Monaco, tenor sax legends Pee Wee Ellis and Hal “Cornbread” Singer, Cuban rapper Telmary, Rickie Lee Jones, the American All-Stars in Paris, Mingus alumni Ted Curson and Ricky Ford, French star Anne Ducros, trumpeters Arturo Sandoval, Terence Blanchard, Marcus Belgrave and Nicholas Payton, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, DJ Jahi Sundance, underground hip hop sensation Mike Ladd,

Given Morrow’s credentials we were very lucky to be seeing such a multi-talented performer coming to Brecon. Accompanying the trombonist was a trio led by the Swansea based pianist Dave Cottle, who was joined by his regular rhythm team of electric bass specialist Alun Vaughan and drummer Paul Smith. Cottle is also a talented trumpeter and in addition works as a jazz promoter, having run the Jazzland club in Swansea for twenty three years as well as co-ordinating the annual Swansea International Jazz Festival.

Morrow last worked with Cottle in 2006 and it was good to see the pair renewing their musical partnership over the course of two sets featuring imaginative arrangements of standards interspersed with a smattering of Morrow’s own compositions.

The first set commenced with a standard, a blues to be precise. I recognised the tune but couldn’t pin a title on it, a fairly common occurrence for many jazz listeners I suspect. When I spoke to Sarah at half time she couldn’t identify it either, nor could Dave or Alun. So if some knowledgeable audience member can help us out, give me a shout. The players seemed pretty unconcerned about it all, at the end of the day it’s the music itself that counts.
Morrow’s playing has been endorsed by that great of the trombone Curtis Fuller and you could immediately hear why as she stated the theme and delivered the first solo, her sound an irresistible blend of warmth, power and fluency. Cottle followed, adopting an acoustic piano sound on his remarkably versatile Yamaha Motif XF keyboard. Next came Vaughan who exhibited a guitar like agility on his six string electric bass, his fluency and virtuosity reminding me of the great Steve Swallow.

Next we heard the first song that Morrow wrote, “Tisha’s Dance” from her début album “Greenlight”. This was introduced by a passage of solo hand drumming from Smith that helped to shape the vaguely Latin-esque groove. A pleasingly quirky composition packed with complex, twisting stop / start phrases the piece included solos from Morrow on trombone and Cottle at the keyboard, now adopting an electric piano or’Rhodes’ sound, with Morrow shaking a tambourine as Cottle soloed.

The final section of “Tisha’s Dance” also saw Morrow’s first use of extended trombone techniques,  the subtle deployment of vocalisations and over-blowing. This was continued on the unaccompanied introduction to the next tune, the avant garde flourishes suggesting that she may well have listened to the late, great Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005) during her time in Europe. It was certainly an unusual way in which to usher in the Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine”, which eventually settled into a subtly funky groove as Morrow’s playing took on more of a blues inflection. Cottle was featured at the piano and the performance was also notable for the lively dialogue between Morrow, again making use of vocalised techniques, and the impressive Smith, who was clearly enjoying the challenge and the experience of working with Morrow.

An arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” found Morrow and the trio back in more familiar jazz territory with cogent solos coming from all four musicians, culminating in a powerful drum feature from Smith.

A second Morrow original came in the shape of the gospel flavoured “Good Music Medicine”, which saw Cottle adopting a convincing Hammond organ sound on his Yamaha keyboard. Solos came from Cottle on organ, Vaughan on bass and Morrow on plunger muted trombone. This may have been unfamiliar material, but it was very much in the jazz tradition and the Brecon audience loved it, giving the tune a rapturous reception.

The first half concluded with a version of Lou Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” with Morrow using the tune as a vehicle to introduce the individual musicians, and to engage the audience in a little game of call and response as we sang back her trombone lines, culminating in “Frere Jacques”! Great fun.

Set two also commenced with a blues, with Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” proving to be far more identifiable! Morrow’s shuffle blues style arrangement dated from a time when she played with the late Al Grey (1925-2000), once of the Count Basie Orchestra. Tonight’s version featured a rasping, bluesy solo from Morrow plus further outings from Cottle on ‘acoustic’ piano and Vaughan at the bass.

In honour of her former employer, Dr. John, Morrow had arranged the standard Bernie’s Tune” (written by Bernie Miller) in a New Orleans style. Smith introduced the piece at the drums, his marching rhythms underpinning Morrow’s theme statement before Cottle launched into a rollicking New Orleans style piano solo. A Smith drum feature then paved the way for Morrow’s own, hard driving trombone solo.

A propulsive jazz-funk groove drove the Morrow original “Bonehoppin’” which saw the composer state the theme and take the first solo, her raunchy sound and fruity vocalisations clearly delighting the audience. Cottle’s solo embraced a variety of keyboard sounds while Vaughan’s feature added slap bass techniques to his usual fluency. Smith was also featured at the drums, entering into dialogue with Morrow’s vocalised trombone once more. The composer subsequently described the piece as “Southern funk”, adding “I like to experiment with rhythm”.

The calm after the storm came in the shape of the ballad “You’ve Changed”, which demonstrated Morrow’s mastery of this style of playing and saw Smith deploying brushes for the first time. Cottle was also featured on ‘acoustic’ piano.

“Hit The Road Jack” closed the second set and saw Morrow deliver a serviceable blues styled vocal within a slyly funky arrangement that saw Cottle mixing electric piano and organ sounds. The performance also included a rousing trombone solo from Morrow that left the audience wanting more.

This came in the shape of “Sweet Georgia Brown”, played as a homage to New Orleans ‘tailgate’ trombone pioneer Kid Ory (1886-1973). Morrow is the proud owner of one of the Kid’s handkerchiefs, given to her by a descendant. Morrow and the quartet fairly romped through the tune with Morrow stating the theme prior to solos from Cottle on honky tonk style piano, Vaughan, with a typically virtuosic electric bass feature, and Smith at the drums. Morrow’s trombone solo led into an animated dialogue with Cottle’s keyboards as the quartet ended the evening in invigorating fashion.

The excellence of the playing, the quality of the original writing and the inventiveness of the other arrangements all helped to ensure that this performance was a notch ahead of the usual ‘guest soloist with local trio’ standards set.

Of course it helped that Morrow is such a talented soloist and all round musician but the efforts of the Cottle trio shouldn’t be over looked with Cottle soloing imaginatively throughout and coaxing a broad variety of sounds from his instrument. I’ve always been an admirer of Vaughan’s playing and some of his soloing tonight was quite inspired. Smith also turned in a fine performance behind the kit, probably the best I’ve seen him play, as he linked up effectively with Morrow.

This was an excellent start to the quartet’s short tour and one would imagine that subsequent performances will be even better. Apparently Morrow has brought a set of foot pedals over from the US, but these weren’t compatible with UK electrics and couldn’t be used tonight. She hopes to get them working later on the tour so audiences in Swansea, Narberth and Bristol may get to see another facet of her playing, one that presumably draws on the “Elektric Air” album.

Not that anybody tonight could have felt short changed, this was an excellent evening of music making from three of the leading figures on the South Wales jazz scene and their illustrious and highly talented American guest.

My thanks to Sarah, Dave and Alun for speaking with me afterwards. Hope the rest of the tour is a great success.

Sarah Morrow and the Dave Cottle Trio play at;

Swansea Jazzland,  The Garage Music Venue, Uplands, Swansea 23rd October 2019

Span Jazz, Hotel Plas Hyfryd, Narberth, Pembrokeshire 24th October 2019

Sarah Morrow and the Andy Nowak Trio are at The Be-Bop Club, Bristol on 25th October 2019
http://www.thebebopclub.co.uk/index_files/WhatsOn.htm

 

 

Yazz Ahmed - Polyhymnia Rating: 4-5 out of 5 Rich, powerful, colourful, exciting and highly evocative. Ahmed’s most ambitious and most successful work to date has the feel of a ‘major statement’ about it.

Yazz Ahmed

“Polyhymnia”

(Ropeadope Records RAD-506)

One of the main highlights of the 2019 Cheltenham Jazz Festival was the performance of the new work “Polyhymnia” by trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed, accompanied by a twelve piece ensemble representing an extended version of her regular Family Hafla septet.

The last few years have been exciting ones for Ahmed. Born to a British mother and a Bahrainian father she was brought up in England and developed a love of jazz through her British grandfather, the 1950s jazz trumpeter Terry Brown.

However she has also begun to explore her Bahraini roots, a process that first found musical expression in 2011 on her début release “Finding My Way Home”, which combined conventional jazz and bebop virtues with Middle Eastern elements.

The intervening years have seen Ahmed maturing musically and refining her approach, a process helped by the establishment of her regular working band, the Family Hafla, the name coming from an Arabic word meaning “friendly social gathering”.

Ahmed’s writing for her septet was documented on her second album “La Saboteuse”, released on Naim Records in 2017. This represented a major step forward and was widely acclaimed by critics and public alike, establishing Ahmed as a major new force on the UK jazz scene. Honed via regular live performance Ahmed’s compositions for “La Saboteuse” were her strongest to date, combining her jazz and Arabic influences with a judicious touch of electronica. This was exciting and exotic music created by an increasingly confident performer and composer.

In 2014 Ahmed was awarded a Jazz Fellowship from the Birmingham based Jazzlines association and as a result was commissioned to write her first large scale work. Based on the traditional songs of Bahraini pearl divers the nine part suite “Alhaan al Siduuri” was successfully premièred at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham in October 2015 by an extended version of the Family Hafla group. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/yazz-ahmed-alhaan-al-siduri-cbso-centre-birmingham-03-10-2015/

As Ahmed’s profile has continued to rise she has been the beneficiary of a number of other commissions, among them the “Polyhymnia” project. The suite was commissioned in 2015 by the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation with support from the PRS Women Make Music scheme. Inspired by six courageous and influential women “Polyhymnia” was premièred at the Purcell Room on the South Bank as part of the 2015 Women Of The World Festival and was performed by an all female ensemble.

The Cheltenham show that I was fortunate enough to witness represented the first performance of the work outside London. I was hugely impressed by the quality of the writing and the excellence of the playing and the whole event was a triumph for Ahmed and her band. My account of that live performance can be read here as part of my Festival coverage;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/sunday-at-cheltenham-jazz-festival-05-05-2019/

The success of that Cheltenham performance helped to ensure that the “Polyhymnia” album has been one of the most keenly anticipated releases of the year as far as I’m concerned. The album appears on the American Ropeadope record label, the home of numerous other innovative UK jazz acts.

Like its predecessor, “La Saboteuse”, it features the distinctive artwork of Sophie Bass, who Ahmed considers to be very much a key member of her team. The elaborate album packaging features a Bass artwork representing each of the six movements of the “Polyhymnia” suite.

“Polyhymnia” also features a large and fluctuating cast of musicians, many of them female.

The full line up comprises of;

Yazz Ahmed – trumpet, flugelhorn, Kaoss Pad, hand-claps

Noel Langley – trumpet, flugelhorn, Fender Rhodes

Becca Toft, Alex Ridout, Chloe Abbott – trumpets

Helena Kay, Camilla George – alto saxes

Tori Freestone – tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute

Nubya Garcia – tenor sax

Gemma Moore, Josie Simmons – baritone saxes

George Crowley – bass clarinet

Carol Jarvis – trombone, bass trombone

Rosie Turton - trombone

Johanna Burnheart – electric violin

Samuel Hallkvist, Shirley Tetteh – guitars

Sarah Tandy, Alcyona Mick, Naadia Sheriff - keyboards

Ralph Wylde – vibraphone

Charlie Pyne – bass guitar, double bass

Corinna Silvester – percussion

Sophie Alloway – drums

Tom Jenkins – additional synth programming

Sheila Maurice Grey – voice

“Polyhymnia” is named for the Greek Muse of music, poetry and dance, a figure that Ahmed describes as “A Goddess for the arts”. It is a suite of six movements that Ahmed dedicates to “six women of outstanding qualities, role models with whom I felt a strong connection”.

Since its inaugural performance in 2015 the music has developed further with Ahmed adding new elements and expanding the pool of collaborators. It was recorded at various UK and European locations over a three year period from 2016 to 2019, with Ahmed and her colleagues fitting recording sessions in with their various other commitments. Co-produced by Ahmed and Langley the album also features contributions from engineers Tom Jenkins, Robin Morrison, August Wanngren, Katrine Ambler and Marco Pasquariello.

The album actually features a different running order to the Cheltenham live performance and the arrangements are significantly different.  Here things commence with “Lahan Al-Mansour”, dedicated to Saudi Arabia’s first female film director Haifaa Al Mansour, director of the award winning film “Wadjda” (2012), which explores women’s issues in contemporary Saudi Arabia, winning plaudits in the West but attracting criticism and hatred at home. For Al-Mansour the sight of women secretly riding bicycles in Saudi Arabia represented a kind of freedom, something that Bass mirrors in her artwork.
Musically the piece begins with an ‘invocation to Polyhymnia’, an atmospheric improvisation featuring cameos from several members of the ensemble including Ahmed on flugel. Later the composition continues Ahmed’s experiments with Arabic music, the scales, the rhythms and the overall feel, to telling effect. Ancient collides with modern as Ahmed mutates the sound of her trumpet via her trusty and much loved Kaoss Pad. Others to shine include Freestone on soprano sax, George on alto and Tandy and Mick, both playing Fender Rhodes. The overall performance is rich, powerful, colourful, exciting and highly evocative.

“Ruby Bridges” is dedicated to the civil rights activist who was the first (and only) African-American pupil to attend a previously segregated school in Louisiana.  Born in 1954 Bridges enrolled at the William Frantz Elementary School in 1960 as part of a scheme supported by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) that was intended to lead to the full integration of the New Orleans school system. The angry reaction of the white parents (and most of the teachers) and the often violent protests outside the school gates meant that Bridges and her mother walked to school each day flanked by four Federal Marshalls to give them protection. Bridges was taught separately to the rest of the pupils in a one to one situation by Barbara Henry, a teacher originally from Boston.
Bass’s image reflects the “macabre carnival” of the protests while Ahmed’s music also conveys something of a ‘New Orleans’ feel, the composer stating;
“I wanted to write a piece invoking the spirit of a New Orleans carnival with a simple melody, conveying the innocent, pure viewpoint of a child, contrasted with harmonic dissonance, carrying an undercurrent of menace. ‘Ruby Bridges’ is my homage to the power of innocence to conquer evil’.
Alloway and Silvester establish the marching rhythm around which Mick spins inventive piano melodies, the horns subsequently adding weight to the arrangement and the guitars a twang of dissonance. Fluent and inventive solos come from Ahmed on flugel, Freestone on tenor and Mick on piano. The tune then changes pace with a ‘second line’ section in which Alloway and Silvester feature prominently.


Another pioneer of female education is celebrated on “One Girl Among Many”, a tune honouring Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistan born campaigner for the education of girls in fundamentalist Islamic communities. The survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt and the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Yousafzai has become an inspirational figure, founding the Malala fund, speaking at the United Nations and embarking on a degree course at Oxford University.
Bass’ image for this composition graces the front cover of the album and depicts Malala as a shining light.
Ahmed’s music is based on Yousafzai’s speech to the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday in 2013. The composition includes instrumental melody lines directly reflecting cadences and phrases in Malala’s speech and the arrangement also features the massed, almost exclusively female, voices of the ensemble speaking key phrases and sentences from Yousafzai’s address, one of these representing the tune’s title. This display of solidarity is complemented by an evocative arrangement that ensures that the spoken proclamations never sound sanctimonious or forced. Ahmed is the featured soloist on flugel, and the piece is bookended by two passages of solo piano, the first performed by Mick, the other by Tandy.

“2857” pays homage to another US Civil Rights activist. 2857 was the number of the vehicle in Montgomery, Alabama where Rosa Parks made her now famous ‘bus protest’ in November 1955, refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. It was an action inspired by the brutal murder just a few days earlier of Emmett Till, another well documented incident in the history of the Civil Rights movement. Parks’ arrest led to the boycott of Montgomery buses by the city’s black community. Parks later continued as a committed Civil Right activist and worked alongside Martin Luther King.
Ahmed’s piece draws inspiration from the number of the bus on which Parks made her protest, the numerals informing both the meter and the melody of the composition as Ahmed explains;  “It’s a piece of two halves, the first expressing the quiet dignity of her action, the second the storm of change to come”. The first section exudes that ‘quiet dignity’ via the warm colours of the arrangement and a gentle, but implacable groove. Freestone’s tenor sax cadenza forms the bridge into the angrier second section, this including what Ahmed describes as a “collective wild interlude”, a loosely structured squall featuring several members of the ensemble. Elsewhere powerful and insistent grooves predominate with Turton’s trombone prominent in the arrangement and with Ahmed producing some of her most belligerent trumpet soloing, her sound wilfully distorted by means of her Kaoss Pad.

“Deeds Not Words” honours freedom fighters nearer to home, the women of the Suffragette movement of the early 20th century. Ahmed’s composition takes its title from the movement’s motto, which found expression in increasingly radical acts of civil disobedience in the years leading up to World War 1. The actions of the Suffragettes allied to the effects of the war eventually led to the passing of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, which gave some women the vote, paving the way for universal suffrage some years later. Bass’ image depicts the Suffragette movement as a great wave, or tsunami.
Ahmed’s tune is based on a re-working of the Suffragette protest song “Shoulder to Shoulder”, which in turn was based on the Welsh battle hymn “The March of the Men of Harlech”. To this Ahmed has added jazz harmonies and Arabic scales to create something new and personal to her, an action she sees as being equivalent to the Suffragettes’ original adaptation of an existing song for their own purposes.
The performance commences with an evocative drum and percussion duet featuring Alloway and Silvester, signifying the growing rumble of discontent leading to the formation of the Suffragette movement. This evolves into a four way conversation between Ahmed on trumpet & Kaoss Pad, Simmons on baritone sax, Hallkvist on guitar and Wylde at the vibes. As the piece gathers momentum Pyne’s bass lines allude to “Men of Harlech” but it’s only later that the familiar melody finally, and triumphantly, breaks cover.


The closing piece, “Barbara”, pays tribute to one of Ahmed’s musical heroines, the saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson and her fifty plus years career as a jazz musician. Ahmed came to Thompson’s music fairly late thanks to the 2012 documentary “Playing Against Time”, which charted Thompson’s struggles to continue working as a professional musician while suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Thompson finally retired from live performance in 2015 but continues to compose, viewing the process as part of the management and treatment of her illness.
On a personal note I go back with Thompson’s music much further, to the late 70s and 80s and her bands Jubiaba and Paraphernalia, seeing the latter in live performance many times. Paraphernalia also featured the talents of Thompson’s husband, Jon Hiseman, drummer, producer and all round facilitator, who sadly died in 2018. Ahmed compares her own creative partnership with Langley with that of Thompson and Hiseman.
Musically Ahmed’s piece reflects an interest in minimalism and combines joyous melodies with polyrhytmic motifs, divided across all the instruments of the ensemble. Crowley’s bass clarinet is particularly prominent in the arrangement while further solos come from Ahmed on flugel,  Tetteh on multi-tracked guitar and Kay on alto sax. The mood of the piece is warm, reflective and richly evocative, eventually leading to a rousing and triumphant climax in C major that Ahmed declares to be “a celebration of human courage and an ode to Polyhymnia”.

As one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year “Polyhymnia” doesn’t disappoint. Ahmed’s compositions tackle weighty themes without becoming ‘preachy’ or pretentious, the listener never feels as if they’re being beaten about the head, despite the seriousness of the underlying messages. Instead Ahmed does her talking through the music, although it’s undeniably illuminating to read about the inspirations behind the tunes and to enjoy Bass’ visual responses to them.

But at the end of the day it’s all about the music, which is multi-faceted and multi-hued, rich in terms of mood, colour and texture and superbly played by a well integrated ensemble, with Ahmed’s own playing at the heart of the arrangements. The skill and craft of the writing and playing is matched by the production, making for a superb package all round.

Having enjoyed the Cheltenham performance so much I just knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed by this album. “Polyhymnia” represents Ahmed’s most ambitious and successful work to date and has the feel of a ‘major statement’ about it, but a statement that bears its weightiness lightly.

Ahmed is currently touring the “Polyhymnia” project in Europe and the UK. For details of forthcoming dates please visit http://www.yazzahmed.com

 

Polyhymnia

Yazz Ahmed

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Polyhymnia

Rich, powerful, colourful, exciting and highly evocative. Ahmed’s most ambitious and most successful work to date has the feel of a ‘major statement’ about it.

Yazz Ahmed

“Polyhymnia”

(Ropeadope Records RAD-506)

One of the main highlights of the 2019 Cheltenham Jazz Festival was the performance of the new work “Polyhymnia” by trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed, accompanied by a twelve piece ensemble representing an extended version of her regular Family Hafla septet.

The last few years have been exciting ones for Ahmed. Born to a British mother and a Bahrainian father she was brought up in England and developed a love of jazz through her British grandfather, the 1950s jazz trumpeter Terry Brown.

However she has also begun to explore her Bahraini roots, a process that first found musical expression in 2011 on her début release “Finding My Way Home”, which combined conventional jazz and bebop virtues with Middle Eastern elements.

The intervening years have seen Ahmed maturing musically and refining her approach, a process helped by the establishment of her regular working band, the Family Hafla, the name coming from an Arabic word meaning “friendly social gathering”.

Ahmed’s writing for her septet was documented on her second album “La Saboteuse”, released on Naim Records in 2017. This represented a major step forward and was widely acclaimed by critics and public alike, establishing Ahmed as a major new force on the UK jazz scene. Honed via regular live performance Ahmed’s compositions for “La Saboteuse” were her strongest to date, combining her jazz and Arabic influences with a judicious touch of electronica. This was exciting and exotic music created by an increasingly confident performer and composer.

In 2014 Ahmed was awarded a Jazz Fellowship from the Birmingham based Jazzlines association and as a result was commissioned to write her first large scale work. Based on the traditional songs of Bahraini pearl divers the nine part suite “Alhaan al Siduuri” was successfully premièred at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham in October 2015 by an extended version of the Family Hafla group. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/yazz-ahmed-alhaan-al-siduri-cbso-centre-birmingham-03-10-2015/

As Ahmed’s profile has continued to rise she has been the beneficiary of a number of other commissions, among them the “Polyhymnia” project. The suite was commissioned in 2015 by the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation with support from the PRS Women Make Music scheme. Inspired by six courageous and influential women “Polyhymnia” was premièred at the Purcell Room on the South Bank as part of the 2015 Women Of The World Festival and was performed by an all female ensemble.

The Cheltenham show that I was fortunate enough to witness represented the first performance of the work outside London. I was hugely impressed by the quality of the writing and the excellence of the playing and the whole event was a triumph for Ahmed and her band. My account of that live performance can be read here as part of my Festival coverage;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/sunday-at-cheltenham-jazz-festival-05-05-2019/

The success of that Cheltenham performance helped to ensure that the “Polyhymnia” album has been one of the most keenly anticipated releases of the year as far as I’m concerned. The album appears on the American Ropeadope record label, the home of numerous other innovative UK jazz acts.

Like its predecessor, “La Saboteuse”, it features the distinctive artwork of Sophie Bass, who Ahmed considers to be very much a key member of her team. The elaborate album packaging features a Bass artwork representing each of the six movements of the “Polyhymnia” suite.

“Polyhymnia” also features a large and fluctuating cast of musicians, many of them female.

The full line up comprises of;

Yazz Ahmed – trumpet, flugelhorn, Kaoss Pad, hand-claps

Noel Langley – trumpet, flugelhorn, Fender Rhodes

Becca Toft, Alex Ridout, Chloe Abbott – trumpets

Helena Kay, Camilla George – alto saxes

Tori Freestone – tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute

Nubya Garcia – tenor sax

Gemma Moore, Josie Simmons – baritone saxes

George Crowley – bass clarinet

Carol Jarvis – trombone, bass trombone

Rosie Turton - trombone

Johanna Burnheart – electric violin

Samuel Hallkvist, Shirley Tetteh – guitars

Sarah Tandy, Alcyona Mick, Naadia Sheriff - keyboards

Ralph Wylde – vibraphone

Charlie Pyne – bass guitar, double bass

Corinna Silvester – percussion

Sophie Alloway – drums

Tom Jenkins – additional synth programming

Sheila Maurice Grey – voice

“Polyhymnia” is named for the Greek Muse of music, poetry and dance, a figure that Ahmed describes as “A Goddess for the arts”. It is a suite of six movements that Ahmed dedicates to “six women of outstanding qualities, role models with whom I felt a strong connection”.

Since its inaugural performance in 2015 the music has developed further with Ahmed adding new elements and expanding the pool of collaborators. It was recorded at various UK and European locations over a three year period from 2016 to 2019, with Ahmed and her colleagues fitting recording sessions in with their various other commitments. Co-produced by Ahmed and Langley the album also features contributions from engineers Tom Jenkins, Robin Morrison, August Wanngren, Katrine Ambler and Marco Pasquariello.

The album actually features a different running order to the Cheltenham live performance and the arrangements are significantly different.  Here things commence with “Lahan Al-Mansour”, dedicated to Saudi Arabia’s first female film director Haifaa Al Mansour, director of the award winning film “Wadjda” (2012), which explores women’s issues in contemporary Saudi Arabia, winning plaudits in the West but attracting criticism and hatred at home. For Al-Mansour the sight of women secretly riding bicycles in Saudi Arabia represented a kind of freedom, something that Bass mirrors in her artwork.
Musically the piece begins with an ‘invocation to Polyhymnia’, an atmospheric improvisation featuring cameos from several members of the ensemble including Ahmed on flugel. Later the composition continues Ahmed’s experiments with Arabic music, the scales, the rhythms and the overall feel, to telling effect. Ancient collides with modern as Ahmed mutates the sound of her trumpet via her trusty and much loved Kaoss Pad. Others to shine include Freestone on soprano sax, George on alto and Tandy and Mick, both playing Fender Rhodes. The overall performance is rich, powerful, colourful, exciting and highly evocative.

“Ruby Bridges” is dedicated to the civil rights activist who was the first (and only) African-American pupil to attend a previously segregated school in Louisiana.  Born in 1954 Bridges enrolled at the William Frantz Elementary School in 1960 as part of a scheme supported by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) that was intended to lead to the full integration of the New Orleans school system. The angry reaction of the white parents (and most of the teachers) and the often violent protests outside the school gates meant that Bridges and her mother walked to school each day flanked by four Federal Marshalls to give them protection. Bridges was taught separately to the rest of the pupils in a one to one situation by Barbara Henry, a teacher originally from Boston.
Bass’s image reflects the “macabre carnival” of the protests while Ahmed’s music also conveys something of a ‘New Orleans’ feel, the composer stating;
“I wanted to write a piece invoking the spirit of a New Orleans carnival with a simple melody, conveying the innocent, pure viewpoint of a child, contrasted with harmonic dissonance, carrying an undercurrent of menace. ‘Ruby Bridges’ is my homage to the power of innocence to conquer evil’.
Alloway and Silvester establish the marching rhythm around which Mick spins inventive piano melodies, the horns subsequently adding weight to the arrangement and the guitars a twang of dissonance. Fluent and inventive solos come from Ahmed on flugel, Freestone on tenor and Mick on piano. The tune then changes pace with a ‘second line’ section in which Alloway and Silvester feature prominently.


Another pioneer of female education is celebrated on “One Girl Among Many”, a tune honouring Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistan born campaigner for the education of girls in fundamentalist Islamic communities. The survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt and the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Yousafzai has become an inspirational figure, founding the Malala fund, speaking at the United Nations and embarking on a degree course at Oxford University.
Bass’ image for this composition graces the front cover of the album and depicts Malala as a shining light.
Ahmed’s music is based on Yousafzai’s speech to the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday in 2013. The composition includes instrumental melody lines directly reflecting cadences and phrases in Malala’s speech and the arrangement also features the massed, almost exclusively female, voices of the ensemble speaking key phrases and sentences from Yousafzai’s address, one of these representing the tune’s title. This display of solidarity is complemented by an evocative arrangement that ensures that the spoken proclamations never sound sanctimonious or forced. Ahmed is the featured soloist on flugel, and the piece is bookended by two passages of solo piano, the first performed by Mick, the other by Tandy.

“2857” pays homage to another US Civil Rights activist. 2857 was the number of the vehicle in Montgomery, Alabama where Rosa Parks made her now famous ‘bus protest’ in November 1955, refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. It was an action inspired by the brutal murder just a few days earlier of Emmett Till, another well documented incident in the history of the Civil Rights movement. Parks’ arrest led to the boycott of Montgomery buses by the city’s black community. Parks later continued as a committed Civil Right activist and worked alongside Martin Luther King.
Ahmed’s piece draws inspiration from the number of the bus on which Parks made her protest, the numerals informing both the meter and the melody of the composition as Ahmed explains;  “It’s a piece of two halves, the first expressing the quiet dignity of her action, the second the storm of change to come”. The first section exudes that ‘quiet dignity’ via the warm colours of the arrangement and a gentle, but implacable groove. Freestone’s tenor sax cadenza forms the bridge into the angrier second section, this including what Ahmed describes as a “collective wild interlude”, a loosely structured squall featuring several members of the ensemble. Elsewhere powerful and insistent grooves predominate with Turton’s trombone prominent in the arrangement and with Ahmed producing some of her most belligerent trumpet soloing, her sound wilfully distorted by means of her Kaoss Pad.

“Deeds Not Words” honours freedom fighters nearer to home, the women of the Suffragette movement of the early 20th century. Ahmed’s composition takes its title from the movement’s motto, which found expression in increasingly radical acts of civil disobedience in the years leading up to World War 1. The actions of the Suffragettes allied to the effects of the war eventually led to the passing of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, which gave some women the vote, paving the way for universal suffrage some years later. Bass’ image depicts the Suffragette movement as a great wave, or tsunami.
Ahmed’s tune is based on a re-working of the Suffragette protest song “Shoulder to Shoulder”, which in turn was based on the Welsh battle hymn “The March of the Men of Harlech”. To this Ahmed has added jazz harmonies and Arabic scales to create something new and personal to her, an action she sees as being equivalent to the Suffragettes’ original adaptation of an existing song for their own purposes.
The performance commences with an evocative drum and percussion duet featuring Alloway and Silvester, signifying the growing rumble of discontent leading to the formation of the Suffragette movement. This evolves into a four way conversation between Ahmed on trumpet & Kaoss Pad, Simmons on baritone sax, Hallkvist on guitar and Wylde at the vibes. As the piece gathers momentum Pyne’s bass lines allude to “Men of Harlech” but it’s only later that the familiar melody finally, and triumphantly, breaks cover.


The closing piece, “Barbara”, pays tribute to one of Ahmed’s musical heroines, the saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson and her fifty plus years career as a jazz musician. Ahmed came to Thompson’s music fairly late thanks to the 2012 documentary “Playing Against Time”, which charted Thompson’s struggles to continue working as a professional musician while suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Thompson finally retired from live performance in 2015 but continues to compose, viewing the process as part of the management and treatment of her illness.
On a personal note I go back with Thompson’s music much further, to the late 70s and 80s and her bands Jubiaba and Paraphernalia, seeing the latter in live performance many times. Paraphernalia also featured the talents of Thompson’s husband, Jon Hiseman, drummer, producer and all round facilitator, who sadly died in 2018. Ahmed compares her own creative partnership with Langley with that of Thompson and Hiseman.
Musically Ahmed’s piece reflects an interest in minimalism and combines joyous melodies with polyrhytmic motifs, divided across all the instruments of the ensemble. Crowley’s bass clarinet is particularly prominent in the arrangement while further solos come from Ahmed on flugel,  Tetteh on multi-tracked guitar and Kay on alto sax. The mood of the piece is warm, reflective and richly evocative, eventually leading to a rousing and triumphant climax in C major that Ahmed declares to be “a celebration of human courage and an ode to Polyhymnia”.

As one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year “Polyhymnia” doesn’t disappoint. Ahmed’s compositions tackle weighty themes without becoming ‘preachy’ or pretentious, the listener never feels as if they’re being beaten about the head, despite the seriousness of the underlying messages. Instead Ahmed does her talking through the music, although it’s undeniably illuminating to read about the inspirations behind the tunes and to enjoy Bass’ visual responses to them.

But at the end of the day it’s all about the music, which is multi-faceted and multi-hued, rich in terms of mood, colour and texture and superbly played by a well integrated ensemble, with Ahmed’s own playing at the heart of the arrangements. The skill and craft of the writing and playing is matched by the production, making for a superb package all round.

Having enjoyed the Cheltenham performance so much I just knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed by this album. “Polyhymnia” represents Ahmed’s most ambitious and successful work to date and has the feel of a ‘major statement’ about it, but a statement that bears its weightiness lightly.

Ahmed is currently touring the “Polyhymnia” project in Europe and the UK. For details of forthcoming dates please visit http://www.yazzahmed.com

 

Aki Rissanen - Art In Motion Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive statement from a trio that has successfully synthesised its influences and which is at the peak of its creative powers.

Aki Rissanen

“Art In Motion”

(Edition Records EDN1134)

Aki Rissanen – piano, Antti Lotjonen – bass, Teppo Makynen - drums

“Art In Motion” is the third album release on the UK label Edition from the Finnish pianist and composer.

It follows “Amorandom” (2016) and “Another North” (2017), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Like its predecessors it features his long standing trio comprising bassist Antti Lotjonen and drummer Teppo Makynen.

Born in 1980 Rissanen is considered to be something of a rising star on the international jazz scene. Following studies in Finland, France, Germany and the US he has established a successful career as both a leader and a sideman and has collaborated with many leading musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, among them the American saxophonists Dave Liebman and Rick Margitza.


UK listeners will perhaps be familiar with his playing as a member of trumpeter Verneri Pohjola’s quartet. The pianist appeared on both of his compatriot’s albums for ACT, “Aurora” (2011) and “Ancient History” (2012) before making his Edition début on Pohjola’s first album for the label, “Bullhorn” (2015). In 2013 I was fortunate enough to witness Rissanen performing live as part of the Pohjola quartet at that year’s London Jazz Festival.

Away from the Pohjola group Rissanen co-leads the international Frozen Gainsbourg Quintet with saxophonist Mikko Innanen. He also leads the trio Aleatoric featuring drummer/percussionist Markku Ounaskari and Belgian born saxophonist Robin Verheyen. This group’s 2013 début album, then released under the name of the Aki Rissanen Trio, is reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/aki-rissanen-trio-aleatoric/

Currently Rissanen also leads a quartet called Sininen Syksy, featuring classical soprano Mari Palo, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen and drummer Joonas Riippa, which performs the music of the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja.

Rissanen has now appeared on ten albums as leader or co-leader, including two in the solo piano format. He has also played with the Finnish UMO Jazz Orchestra and collaborated with visual artists (Petri Ruikka) and playwrights (Kristian Smeds of the Finnish National Theatre).

Rissanen has also been part of numerous other productive, but now defunct units, over the course of the last decade, many of these international collaborations.

For all this it’s probably fair to say that the pianist’s primary creative outlet is this trio, a fact underlined by this new recording, the third album release from this line up in as many years. Lotjonen and Makynen are two of Finland’s leading exponents on their respective instruments and often work together as a unit, their credits including work with trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, saxophonist Timo Lassy and Makynen’s own Five Corners Quintet.

The title of Rissanen’s latest album, “Art In Motion”, is a play on the initial letters of ‘Aki Rissanen Trio’. It’s also a reference to the influence of art music from the European repertoire. Rissanen was originally trained as a classical musician and in his album notes he cites the composers Satie, Pergolesi, Bach, Ligeti and Stravinsky as being influences on his own writing. The material on the album includes arrangements of pieces by the Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo and the contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Alongside his classical training the young Rissanen also developed a love for electronic music and the attendant technology and actually acquired his first acoustic piano and first synthesiser at the same time. The rhythms of electronic dance music also inform his writing - “we are a rhythmically intense band inspired by the aesthetics of electronic music” he states.

Rissanen emphasises the level of interplay and interaction between the members of the trio, a process honed by a heavy touring schedule, and sees the group as “continuing the Nordic tradition as we see it”. He expands upon this by adding “we explore the roots of the current European jazz music from the outskirts of Europe with our perspective as Finnish artists with Nordic, Slavic and Western European heritage”. In these troubled times he is also keen to emphasise the message of “Unity in Diversity”.
He adds “We, as jazz musicians, are in constant motion because our art form doesn’t ever stand still”.

Rissanen’s writing for “Art In Motion” has seen him taking inspiration from his formative influences, as he explains;
“When I started to gather and compose the music for the new album I found myself noodling around tunes, moods and hooks that I had been absorbing when I was young”.

Not that there’s anything childish or unsophisticated about the sound of the Rissanen trio, although approaching the music from this direction does help to ensure that it is readily accessible, and rich in terms of both melody and rhythm. The blend of influences also ensures that the music embraces a variety of styles - “Unity in Diversity” indeed.

The album commences with Rissanen’s composition “Aeropeans”, an attention grabbing opener with its restless, interlocking rhythms immediately revealing something of that EDM influence. Meanwhile the leader’s piano melodies make fleeting allusions to classical music, while the performance as a whole is indubitably a jazz one. The rhythmic intensity of which Rissanen speaks is here in abundance during the course of a tightly focussed trio performance that sometimes reminds me of Edition label mates Phronesis, which is pretty much a recommendation in itself.

Makynen also has a background in electronic music and has worked in this field as a producer under the pseudonym Teddy Rok. His composition “Facts and Fiction”  also draws inspiration from this field with its tight, sometimes skittering grooves, initially instigated by the bass and drum team.
There’s no let up in the intensity of the music, which is constantly evolving and includes solos from both Rissanen and Lotjonen, while Mykanen himself delivers a virtuoso drum performance.

There’s a welcome change of mood and pace with the trio’s interpretation of “Moro Lasso al Miolo Duolo”, the piece written by the Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. With Makynen now deploying brushes, and concentrating on more of colourist’s role, Rissanen draws on the lyricism and romanticism of classical music, while still giving the work a contemporary jazz twist. 

The title of Rissanen’s own “Das Untemperierte Klavier” makes an obvious allusion to Bach but the rhythms that are deployed draw more obviously on hip hop and electronica. That said Bach himself was no stranger to rhythmic complexity and the advanced use of counterpoint. Rissanen’s piano melodies fleetingly allude to J.S. but it’s the relentless rhythms that best distinguish the track.

Rissanen’s own “Arborium” finds the trio adopting a slightly less frenetic approach as they combine flowing melodies with typically complex group interplay, with Makynen’s drums briefly coming to the fore.

The trio’s second classical interpretation finds them exploring “Cantus Arcticus, Melancholy”, written by the contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. The performance begins in atmospheric, lyrical fashion with Lotjonen’s melodic double bass prominent in the arrangement. As the piece develops the music becomes more intense as the instrumental interplay becomes more complex, but without losing the overall feel of the piece.

“Seemingly Radical” has been described as a “mutated bossa” and the piece features a particularly nimble contribution from Makynen, whose rhythmic percolations infuse the tune with much charm. The drummer also enjoys an extended feature towards the end of the piece, not the usual high octane hammering but a carefully constructed solo filled with nuance and colour. Rissanen himself, who solos at length, is relaxed and inventive at the keyboard throughout.

The simply titled “Love Song” is a solo piano performance that effectively finds Rissanen sparring with himself, with weighty left hand figures contrasting with lightly dancing right hand melodies. The pianist then brings everything together in a dramatic, virtuoso, high energy closing section.

The album concludes with the anthemic march of “Alava Maa”, a piece that features one of Rissanen’s simplest, but most effective melodies. A highlight here is Lotjonen’s melodic, but deeply resonant cameo on double bass just before the close.

With “Art In Motion” Rissanen and his trio continue to refine their approach as they build on the promise of their two previous Edition releases. The blend of jazz, classical and electronic influences works well as the trio continue to develop an increasingly personal sound.

The electronica influence isn’t as overt as, say. GoGo Penguin and is well integrated into the trio’s sound alongside the other components. The Rissanen Trio have inevitably been compared to E.S.T.
, but I don’t hear too much of that in their sound at all. The other obvious comparison is Brad Mehldau, which is nearer the mark, while I offer you Phronesis.

But at the end of the day the Rissanen trio is an increasingly distinctive and individual unit whose music is very much their own and transcends these comparisons. “Art In Motion” is an impressive statement from a band that has successfully synthesised its influences and which is at the peak of its creative powers.

There are a number of live dates scheduled in Germany and France in the coming months but let’s hope Edition can get the trio over to the UK at some point.

For details of forthcoming live performances please visit;

http://www.akarissanen.com

http://www.editionrecords.com

 

Art In Motion

Aki Rissanen

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Art In Motion

An impressive statement from a trio that has successfully synthesised its influences and which is at the peak of its creative powers.

Aki Rissanen

“Art In Motion”

(Edition Records EDN1134)

Aki Rissanen – piano, Antti Lotjonen – bass, Teppo Makynen - drums

“Art In Motion” is the third album release on the UK label Edition from the Finnish pianist and composer.

It follows “Amorandom” (2016) and “Another North” (2017), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Like its predecessors it features his long standing trio comprising bassist Antti Lotjonen and drummer Teppo Makynen.

Born in 1980 Rissanen is considered to be something of a rising star on the international jazz scene. Following studies in Finland, France, Germany and the US he has established a successful career as both a leader and a sideman and has collaborated with many leading musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, among them the American saxophonists Dave Liebman and Rick Margitza.


UK listeners will perhaps be familiar with his playing as a member of trumpeter Verneri Pohjola’s quartet. The pianist appeared on both of his compatriot’s albums for ACT, “Aurora” (2011) and “Ancient History” (2012) before making his Edition début on Pohjola’s first album for the label, “Bullhorn” (2015). In 2013 I was fortunate enough to witness Rissanen performing live as part of the Pohjola quartet at that year’s London Jazz Festival.

Away from the Pohjola group Rissanen co-leads the international Frozen Gainsbourg Quintet with saxophonist Mikko Innanen. He also leads the trio Aleatoric featuring drummer/percussionist Markku Ounaskari and Belgian born saxophonist Robin Verheyen. This group’s 2013 début album, then released under the name of the Aki Rissanen Trio, is reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/aki-rissanen-trio-aleatoric/

Currently Rissanen also leads a quartet called Sininen Syksy, featuring classical soprano Mari Palo, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen and drummer Joonas Riippa, which performs the music of the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja.

Rissanen has now appeared on ten albums as leader or co-leader, including two in the solo piano format. He has also played with the Finnish UMO Jazz Orchestra and collaborated with visual artists (Petri Ruikka) and playwrights (Kristian Smeds of the Finnish National Theatre).

Rissanen has also been part of numerous other productive, but now defunct units, over the course of the last decade, many of these international collaborations.

For all this it’s probably fair to say that the pianist’s primary creative outlet is this trio, a fact underlined by this new recording, the third album release from this line up in as many years. Lotjonen and Makynen are two of Finland’s leading exponents on their respective instruments and often work together as a unit, their credits including work with trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, saxophonist Timo Lassy and Makynen’s own Five Corners Quintet.

The title of Rissanen’s latest album, “Art In Motion”, is a play on the initial letters of ‘Aki Rissanen Trio’. It’s also a reference to the influence of art music from the European repertoire. Rissanen was originally trained as a classical musician and in his album notes he cites the composers Satie, Pergolesi, Bach, Ligeti and Stravinsky as being influences on his own writing. The material on the album includes arrangements of pieces by the Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo and the contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Alongside his classical training the young Rissanen also developed a love for electronic music and the attendant technology and actually acquired his first acoustic piano and first synthesiser at the same time. The rhythms of electronic dance music also inform his writing - “we are a rhythmically intense band inspired by the aesthetics of electronic music” he states.

Rissanen emphasises the level of interplay and interaction between the members of the trio, a process honed by a heavy touring schedule, and sees the group as “continuing the Nordic tradition as we see it”. He expands upon this by adding “we explore the roots of the current European jazz music from the outskirts of Europe with our perspective as Finnish artists with Nordic, Slavic and Western European heritage”. In these troubled times he is also keen to emphasise the message of “Unity in Diversity”.
He adds “We, as jazz musicians, are in constant motion because our art form doesn’t ever stand still”.

Rissanen’s writing for “Art In Motion” has seen him taking inspiration from his formative influences, as he explains;
“When I started to gather and compose the music for the new album I found myself noodling around tunes, moods and hooks that I had been absorbing when I was young”.

Not that there’s anything childish or unsophisticated about the sound of the Rissanen trio, although approaching the music from this direction does help to ensure that it is readily accessible, and rich in terms of both melody and rhythm. The blend of influences also ensures that the music embraces a variety of styles - “Unity in Diversity” indeed.

The album commences with Rissanen’s composition “Aeropeans”, an attention grabbing opener with its restless, interlocking rhythms immediately revealing something of that EDM influence. Meanwhile the leader’s piano melodies make fleeting allusions to classical music, while the performance as a whole is indubitably a jazz one. The rhythmic intensity of which Rissanen speaks is here in abundance during the course of a tightly focussed trio performance that sometimes reminds me of Edition label mates Phronesis, which is pretty much a recommendation in itself.

Makynen also has a background in electronic music and has worked in this field as a producer under the pseudonym Teddy Rok. His composition “Facts and Fiction”  also draws inspiration from this field with its tight, sometimes skittering grooves, initially instigated by the bass and drum team.
There’s no let up in the intensity of the music, which is constantly evolving and includes solos from both Rissanen and Lotjonen, while Mykanen himself delivers a virtuoso drum performance.

There’s a welcome change of mood and pace with the trio’s interpretation of “Moro Lasso al Miolo Duolo”, the piece written by the Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. With Makynen now deploying brushes, and concentrating on more of colourist’s role, Rissanen draws on the lyricism and romanticism of classical music, while still giving the work a contemporary jazz twist. 

The title of Rissanen’s own “Das Untemperierte Klavier” makes an obvious allusion to Bach but the rhythms that are deployed draw more obviously on hip hop and electronica. That said Bach himself was no stranger to rhythmic complexity and the advanced use of counterpoint. Rissanen’s piano melodies fleetingly allude to J.S. but it’s the relentless rhythms that best distinguish the track.

Rissanen’s own “Arborium” finds the trio adopting a slightly less frenetic approach as they combine flowing melodies with typically complex group interplay, with Makynen’s drums briefly coming to the fore.

The trio’s second classical interpretation finds them exploring “Cantus Arcticus, Melancholy”, written by the contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. The performance begins in atmospheric, lyrical fashion with Lotjonen’s melodic double bass prominent in the arrangement. As the piece develops the music becomes more intense as the instrumental interplay becomes more complex, but without losing the overall feel of the piece.

“Seemingly Radical” has been described as a “mutated bossa” and the piece features a particularly nimble contribution from Makynen, whose rhythmic percolations infuse the tune with much charm. The drummer also enjoys an extended feature towards the end of the piece, not the usual high octane hammering but a carefully constructed solo filled with nuance and colour. Rissanen himself, who solos at length, is relaxed and inventive at the keyboard throughout.

The simply titled “Love Song” is a solo piano performance that effectively finds Rissanen sparring with himself, with weighty left hand figures contrasting with lightly dancing right hand melodies. The pianist then brings everything together in a dramatic, virtuoso, high energy closing section.

The album concludes with the anthemic march of “Alava Maa”, a piece that features one of Rissanen’s simplest, but most effective melodies. A highlight here is Lotjonen’s melodic, but deeply resonant cameo on double bass just before the close.

With “Art In Motion” Rissanen and his trio continue to refine their approach as they build on the promise of their two previous Edition releases. The blend of jazz, classical and electronic influences works well as the trio continue to develop an increasingly personal sound.

The electronica influence isn’t as overt as, say. GoGo Penguin and is well integrated into the trio’s sound alongside the other components. The Rissanen Trio have inevitably been compared to E.S.T.
, but I don’t hear too much of that in their sound at all. The other obvious comparison is Brad Mehldau, which is nearer the mark, while I offer you Phronesis.

But at the end of the day the Rissanen trio is an increasingly distinctive and individual unit whose music is very much their own and transcends these comparisons. “Art In Motion” is an impressive statement from a band that has successfully synthesised its influences and which is at the peak of its creative powers.

There are a number of live dates scheduled in Germany and France in the coming months but let’s hope Edition can get the trio over to the UK at some point.

For details of forthcoming live performances please visit;

http://www.akarissanen.com

http://www.editionrecords.com

 

Pavillon - The Freedom of Movement Rating: 4 out of 5 Another impressive offering from Pavillon. Rattigan’s compositions and arrangements are rich, colourful and inventive and the playing, by a hand picked ensemble, is exceptional throughout.

Jim Rattigan’s Pavillon

“The Freedom of Movement”

(Three Worlds Records)


Jim Rattigan is the UK’s best known jazz French horn player. He is a busy musician who is the first call on his instrument across a variety of genres including jazz, folk, pop, classical and film and TV soundtracks. The latter include the James Bond and Lord of the Rings film series.

His list of credits is mind boggling, far too lengthy to list in full here, but includes six years with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other classical ensembles plus session work with some of the biggest names in rock and pop, among them Paul McCartney, George Michael and Adele. I know him best for his work in jazz ensembles including bands led by Mike Gibbs, Hans Koller, Mark Lockheart, Carla Bley, Percy Pursglove and the late, great Charlie Haden. And as he proved with Pursglove’s “Far Reaching Dreams of Mortal Souls” ensemble Rattigan is also a skilled accordionist.

In his capacity as a jazz musician Rattigan has released a number of albums under his own name including “Unfamiliar Guise” (2000), “Jazz French Horn” (2004), and “Shuzzed” (2010), the latter  recorded by a quartet featuring guitarist Phil Robson, bassist Phil Donkin and drummer Gene Calderazzo.

In 2014 I reviewed his excellent trio set “Triplicity” which teamed him with the classical violinist Thomas Gould and the acclaimed jazz pianist Liam Noble. This was a chamber jazz recording that combined moments of pure beauty with an admirable improvisational rigour.
The full review can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jim-rattigan-thomas-gould-liam-noble-triplicity/

It was his work with Mike Gibbs that inspired Rattigan to form his own twelve piece band, Pavillon. The group name comes from ‘pavillon’, the French word for the bell of the French horn.

In 2011 Pavillon recorded the album “Strong Tea”, a release that was re-issued in 2016 to tie in with a national tour being undertaken by the ensemble.  My review of that recording can be seen here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jim-rattigan-pavillon-strong-tea/


The 2016 tour included an EFG London Jazz Festival performance at The Vortex and Pavillon returned to the Festival the following year with an excellent lunchtime show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho. I was lucky enough to be able to attend that event and my review of the performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-sunday-november-12th-2017/


The Pavillon line up has, of necessity, been rather fluid over the years, although many of its members have been involved since the inception of the ensemble.

For “The Freedom of Movement” the current edition of Pavillon lines up as follows;

Jim Rattigan – French horn, composer

Martin Speake – alto sax

Andy Panayi – tenor sax

Mick Foster – baritone sax

Percy Pursglove – trumpet & flugelhorn

Steve Fishwick – trumpet

Robbie Robson – trumpet

Mark Nightingale – tenor trombone

Sarah Williams – bass trombone

Hans Koller – piano

Dave Whitford – double bass

Martin France -drums

Of this latest Pavillon recording Rattigan says;
“I chose the title ‘The Freedom of Movement’ to reflect my career, not only travelling the world performing but also moving between many different genres of music. The freedom to do both these things has always excited me as a musician and in all the truly wonderful experiences that I have had the highlight has undoubtedly been forming the group Pavillon. It is a joy to write for these amazing and creative musicians and I leave space in the compositions for creativity through improvisation. The music in the ‘Freedom of Movement’ is reflective at times, but also optimistic and, I hope, uplifting”.
Rattigan’s album notes also add insights into the inspirations and influences behind the individual compositions.

Opener “Timbuckthree” takes its title from a spot of banter between Rattigan and his then young son. Musically the piece references three 20th century classical themes, Richard Strauss’ horn concertos one and two and Ravel’s G major piano concerto. As Rattigan explains it Ravel was inspired by Gershwin, who in turn was inspired by black American music, i.e. jazz.
And this rousing introductory piece is undoubtedly a jazz performance, with the twelve piece ensemble making an impressively big sound with plenty of jazz and blues elements present in the music. Fluent solos come from Foster on baritone sax, Rattigan on French horn and Fishwick on trumpet. The leader plays the French horn with a remarkable degree of fluency, expressiveness and agility. In Rattigan’s hands the French horn becomes a thoroughly convincing vehicle for jazz soloing.

The title of “See You Suddenly” represents another example of Rattigan’s love of wordplay. This time the inspiration came from an eccentric bassoon player of Rattigan’s acquaintance, who would answer the more usual “See you later” with this phrase. Colourful horn voicings allied to a loping groove initially characterise this piece before things shift up a gear with Fishwick’s mercurial trumpet solo, delivered above a now furiously swinging groove. The energy levels are maintained on Panayi’s garrulous tenor solo, as the underlying rhythms and meters continue to mutate.

The inspiration behind “Oh Yeah Great, Thanks” is more serious than the title might suggest, as Rattigan explains; “The thought of a future generation living on a parched earth whilst embroiled in wars over water and looking back at past generations and saying “oh yeah great, thanks”.
Musically the piece is less angry than one might expect after reading the above. Instead it’s a bitter-sweet ballad with unexpectedly warm, lush textures and an underlying, if melancholic lyricism. Gently melodic solos come from Whitford at the bass, Koller on piano and Rattigan himself on French horn.

“Eclipse”, simply named after Rattigan witnessed a total eclipse, maintains something of the fragile mood and includes features from the same three soloists, whose playing again demonstrates those same lyrical qualities.

“Sweet Tamarind” was originally written by Rattigan for the “Triplicity” trio featuring Gould and Noble. Originally written as a Bill Evans inspired jazz waltz the piece becomes thoroughly transformed in this new arrangement for Pavillon. Where once it was “light and airy” it’s now a rousing ‘mini big band’ piece that here features ebullient solos from trombonist Mark Nightingale and the three trumpeters Pursglove, Fishwick and Robson, who relish their three way, nine valve tussle. Rattigan describes it all as “just a bit of fun”, which seems to sum it up pretty nicely.

As its title suggests the beautiful “Ballad Blue” is a blend of, in Rattigan’s words, “a gentle ballad…and a slow blues”. There’s a nocturnal feel about the arrangement with its muted brass, brushed drums and thoughtful, lyrical, gently unfolding solos from Speake on alto, Koller on piano, Robson on trumpet and the leader on French horn.

“Why Ask” is another old tune that Rattigan has re-arranged for the purpose of this recording. Delivered at a medium to fast tempo the arrangement is typically rich and colourful. Rattigan’s orchestrations routinely draw comparisons to those of such masters as Gil Evans and Mike Gibbs, and rightly so. The solos here include a seductively snaking alto excursion from Speake, a fruitier offering from Nightingale on trombone and the distinctive, fluent sounds of Pursglove on flugel.

Rattigan hails from the village of Houghton Regis near Luton and the closing “Crout’n Confusion” celebrates his roots. Another Luton native is the poet John Hegley who wrote a poem about “the town of his upbringing and the conflict between his working class origins and the middle class status conferred upon him by a university education”. One suspects that Rattigan may have gone through a similar identity crisis as he became assimilated into the classical music world. “I remember Luton, as I’m swallowing my crout’n” wrote Hegley, helping to provide Rattigan with his title.
This is a rumbustious but complex piece, initially constructed around a rollicking horn vamp, that includes expansive solos from Pursglove on trumpet and Speake on alto plus a drum feature from the consistently inventive France. The piece sounds as if it’s probably something of a challenge to play, but it’s still shot through with some of the humour inherent in its title and its source of inspiration.

It’s also France who ushers in the concluding title track, his atmospheric cymbal work establishing the mood of the piece, its gentle fanfares eventually paving the way for a thoughtful solo from Koller, with the group temporarily in piano trio mode, subsequently joined by Rattigan’s horn.
The final section sees the full ensemble return as the music takes on more of an anthemic quality.

“The Freedom of Movement” represents another impressive offering from Pavillon. Rattigan’s compositions and arrangements are rich, colourful and inventive and the playing, by a hand picked ensemble, is exceptional throughout. It’s a recording that wears its undoubted sophistication lightly, and which injects a little welcome humour at appropriate moments. Credit is also due to the production and engineering team of Rattigan, Peter Beckman and Alex Bonney for the warmth and quality of the mix.

Once again Rattigan makes the French horn a thoroughly convincing jazz solo instrument and “The Freedom of Movement” is 100% a jazz record, and an excellent one at that. In no way is this some kind of tepid jazz/classical crossover. The presence of such an all star jazz line up immediately dispels that idea.

Rattigan and Pavillon are currently touring the UK with forthcoming dates as follows;


2019;
15th October - Norwich Jazz Club
19th October - Jazz Café Posk, London (album launch)
5th November - Hastings Jazz Club
7th November - Birmingham East Side Jazz Club
22nd November - The Bear Club, Luton

17th January 2020 - Fleece Jazz at Stoke by Nayland, Colchester

 

The Freedom of Movement

Pavillon

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

The Freedom of Movement

Another impressive offering from Pavillon. Rattigan’s compositions and arrangements are rich, colourful and inventive and the playing, by a hand picked ensemble, is exceptional throughout.

Jim Rattigan’s Pavillon

“The Freedom of Movement”

(Three Worlds Records)


Jim Rattigan is the UK’s best known jazz French horn player. He is a busy musician who is the first call on his instrument across a variety of genres including jazz, folk, pop, classical and film and TV soundtracks. The latter include the James Bond and Lord of the Rings film series.

His list of credits is mind boggling, far too lengthy to list in full here, but includes six years with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other classical ensembles plus session work with some of the biggest names in rock and pop, among them Paul McCartney, George Michael and Adele. I know him best for his work in jazz ensembles including bands led by Mike Gibbs, Hans Koller, Mark Lockheart, Carla Bley, Percy Pursglove and the late, great Charlie Haden. And as he proved with Pursglove’s “Far Reaching Dreams of Mortal Souls” ensemble Rattigan is also a skilled accordionist.

In his capacity as a jazz musician Rattigan has released a number of albums under his own name including “Unfamiliar Guise” (2000), “Jazz French Horn” (2004), and “Shuzzed” (2010), the latter  recorded by a quartet featuring guitarist Phil Robson, bassist Phil Donkin and drummer Gene Calderazzo.

In 2014 I reviewed his excellent trio set “Triplicity” which teamed him with the classical violinist Thomas Gould and the acclaimed jazz pianist Liam Noble. This was a chamber jazz recording that combined moments of pure beauty with an admirable improvisational rigour.
The full review can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jim-rattigan-thomas-gould-liam-noble-triplicity/

It was his work with Mike Gibbs that inspired Rattigan to form his own twelve piece band, Pavillon. The group name comes from ‘pavillon’, the French word for the bell of the French horn.

In 2011 Pavillon recorded the album “Strong Tea”, a release that was re-issued in 2016 to tie in with a national tour being undertaken by the ensemble.  My review of that recording can be seen here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jim-rattigan-pavillon-strong-tea/


The 2016 tour included an EFG London Jazz Festival performance at The Vortex and Pavillon returned to the Festival the following year with an excellent lunchtime show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho. I was lucky enough to be able to attend that event and my review of the performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-sunday-november-12th-2017/


The Pavillon line up has, of necessity, been rather fluid over the years, although many of its members have been involved since the inception of the ensemble.

For “The Freedom of Movement” the current edition of Pavillon lines up as follows;

Jim Rattigan – French horn, composer

Martin Speake – alto sax

Andy Panayi – tenor sax

Mick Foster – baritone sax

Percy Pursglove – trumpet & flugelhorn

Steve Fishwick – trumpet

Robbie Robson – trumpet

Mark Nightingale – tenor trombone

Sarah Williams – bass trombone

Hans Koller – piano

Dave Whitford – double bass

Martin France -drums

Of this latest Pavillon recording Rattigan says;
“I chose the title ‘The Freedom of Movement’ to reflect my career, not only travelling the world performing but also moving between many different genres of music. The freedom to do both these things has always excited me as a musician and in all the truly wonderful experiences that I have had the highlight has undoubtedly been forming the group Pavillon. It is a joy to write for these amazing and creative musicians and I leave space in the compositions for creativity through improvisation. The music in the ‘Freedom of Movement’ is reflective at times, but also optimistic and, I hope, uplifting”.
Rattigan’s album notes also add insights into the inspirations and influences behind the individual compositions.

Opener “Timbuckthree” takes its title from a spot of banter between Rattigan and his then young son. Musically the piece references three 20th century classical themes, Richard Strauss’ horn concertos one and two and Ravel’s G major piano concerto. As Rattigan explains it Ravel was inspired by Gershwin, who in turn was inspired by black American music, i.e. jazz.
And this rousing introductory piece is undoubtedly a jazz performance, with the twelve piece ensemble making an impressively big sound with plenty of jazz and blues elements present in the music. Fluent solos come from Foster on baritone sax, Rattigan on French horn and Fishwick on trumpet. The leader plays the French horn with a remarkable degree of fluency, expressiveness and agility. In Rattigan’s hands the French horn becomes a thoroughly convincing vehicle for jazz soloing.

The title of “See You Suddenly” represents another example of Rattigan’s love of wordplay. This time the inspiration came from an eccentric bassoon player of Rattigan’s acquaintance, who would answer the more usual “See you later” with this phrase. Colourful horn voicings allied to a loping groove initially characterise this piece before things shift up a gear with Fishwick’s mercurial trumpet solo, delivered above a now furiously swinging groove. The energy levels are maintained on Panayi’s garrulous tenor solo, as the underlying rhythms and meters continue to mutate.

The inspiration behind “Oh Yeah Great, Thanks” is more serious than the title might suggest, as Rattigan explains; “The thought of a future generation living on a parched earth whilst embroiled in wars over water and looking back at past generations and saying “oh yeah great, thanks”.
Musically the piece is less angry than one might expect after reading the above. Instead it’s a bitter-sweet ballad with unexpectedly warm, lush textures and an underlying, if melancholic lyricism. Gently melodic solos come from Whitford at the bass, Koller on piano and Rattigan himself on French horn.

“Eclipse”, simply named after Rattigan witnessed a total eclipse, maintains something of the fragile mood and includes features from the same three soloists, whose playing again demonstrates those same lyrical qualities.

“Sweet Tamarind” was originally written by Rattigan for the “Triplicity” trio featuring Gould and Noble. Originally written as a Bill Evans inspired jazz waltz the piece becomes thoroughly transformed in this new arrangement for Pavillon. Where once it was “light and airy” it’s now a rousing ‘mini big band’ piece that here features ebullient solos from trombonist Mark Nightingale and the three trumpeters Pursglove, Fishwick and Robson, who relish their three way, nine valve tussle. Rattigan describes it all as “just a bit of fun”, which seems to sum it up pretty nicely.

As its title suggests the beautiful “Ballad Blue” is a blend of, in Rattigan’s words, “a gentle ballad…and a slow blues”. There’s a nocturnal feel about the arrangement with its muted brass, brushed drums and thoughtful, lyrical, gently unfolding solos from Speake on alto, Koller on piano, Robson on trumpet and the leader on French horn.

“Why Ask” is another old tune that Rattigan has re-arranged for the purpose of this recording. Delivered at a medium to fast tempo the arrangement is typically rich and colourful. Rattigan’s orchestrations routinely draw comparisons to those of such masters as Gil Evans and Mike Gibbs, and rightly so. The solos here include a seductively snaking alto excursion from Speake, a fruitier offering from Nightingale on trombone and the distinctive, fluent sounds of Pursglove on flugel.

Rattigan hails from the village of Houghton Regis near Luton and the closing “Crout’n Confusion” celebrates his roots. Another Luton native is the poet John Hegley who wrote a poem about “the town of his upbringing and the conflict between his working class origins and the middle class status conferred upon him by a university education”. One suspects that Rattigan may have gone through a similar identity crisis as he became assimilated into the classical music world. “I remember Luton, as I’m swallowing my crout’n” wrote Hegley, helping to provide Rattigan with his title.
This is a rumbustious but complex piece, initially constructed around a rollicking horn vamp, that includes expansive solos from Pursglove on trumpet and Speake on alto plus a drum feature from the consistently inventive France. The piece sounds as if it’s probably something of a challenge to play, but it’s still shot through with some of the humour inherent in its title and its source of inspiration.

It’s also France who ushers in the concluding title track, his atmospheric cymbal work establishing the mood of the piece, its gentle fanfares eventually paving the way for a thoughtful solo from Koller, with the group temporarily in piano trio mode, subsequently joined by Rattigan’s horn.
The final section sees the full ensemble return as the music takes on more of an anthemic quality.

“The Freedom of Movement” represents another impressive offering from Pavillon. Rattigan’s compositions and arrangements are rich, colourful and inventive and the playing, by a hand picked ensemble, is exceptional throughout. It’s a recording that wears its undoubted sophistication lightly, and which injects a little welcome humour at appropriate moments. Credit is also due to the production and engineering team of Rattigan, Peter Beckman and Alex Bonney for the warmth and quality of the mix.

Once again Rattigan makes the French horn a thoroughly convincing jazz solo instrument and “The Freedom of Movement” is 100% a jazz record, and an excellent one at that. In no way is this some kind of tepid jazz/classical crossover. The presence of such an all star jazz line up immediately dispels that idea.

Rattigan and Pavillon are currently touring the UK with forthcoming dates as follows;


2019;
15th October - Norwich Jazz Club
19th October - Jazz Café Posk, London (album launch)
5th November - Hastings Jazz Club
7th November - Birmingham East Side Jazz Club
22nd November - The Bear Club, Luton

17th January 2020 - Fleece Jazz at Stoke by Nayland, Colchester

 

Alison Rayner Quintet - Short Stories Rating: 4-5 out of 5 ARQ have come up with another impeccable album featuring warm, colourful, intelligent writing and some exceptional playing. It's a recording that is likely to appeal a broad listening constituency.

Alison Rayner Quintet

“Short Stories”

(Blow The Fuse Records BTF1914CD)

Alison Rayner – double bass, Buster Birch – drums, percussion, Deirdre Cartwright – guitar,
Diane McLoughlin – tenor & soprano saxophones, Steve Lodder - piano

The rise and rise of the Alison Rayner Quintet, or ARQ, has been one of the most heart warming stories of British jazz in recent years.

Bassist and composer Alison Rayner has been a stalwart of the UK jazz scene for many years and is probably best known for her membership of the Guest Stars, the all female group who emerged at the time of the 80s jazz boom along with Loose Tubes, Jazz Warriors and others. I’ve seen her perform live on a couple of occasions with trumpeter Chris Hodgkins’ quartet and Rayner’s other regular engagements include the Deirdre Cartwright Group and Terryazoome, the Greek flavoured jazz group led by guitarist/bouzouki player  Terry Hunt.

For more than twenty five years Rayner and guitarist Cartwright have run Blow The Fuse, an organisation dedicated to raising the profile of jazz in the UK with a particular emphasis on promoting the work of female jazz musicians. Besides organising the regular ‘Tomorrow the Moon’ club nights Blow The Fuse also runs its own record label.

An in demand sidewoman Rayner has played acoustic and electric bass across a variety of musical genres including jazz, funk and soul plus various types of world music. She has appeared on over thirty albums and her credits include work with guitarists Tal Farlowe and John Etheridge, vocalists Zoe Lewis and Ian Shaw, saxophonist Jean Toussaint and jazz poet Jayne Cortez.  Rayner is also an acclaimed educator who has taught at a wide array of colleges and summer schools. 

Rayner became a band leader at a comparatively late stage in her career, assembling the above line up and making her leadership début with the 2014 live set “August”, recorded at BTF’s spiritual home, the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, north London. The album highlighted Rayner’s abilities as a composer and was greeted by a compelling amount of critical acclaim.

This was followed in 2016 by the studio set “A Magic Life”, which consolidated and built upon the success of “August” and also featured compositions by other members of the quintet. Again the response from both the critical fraternity and the British jazz audience as a whole was overwhelmingly positive.

ARQ have also developed a reputation for the consistently excellent quality of their live performances and I have been lucky enough to witness and review club and festival appearances in London, Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Brecon and Abergavenny.

The combination of ARQ’s critically acclaimed albums and their exciting and accessible live shows has led to the band being honoured at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards (Ensemble Of The Year, 2018) and the British Jazz Awards (Best Small Group, also 2018).

Rayner’s compositions are multi-faceted, featuring memorable melodies and rich colours and textures. They are often informed by personal experiences and many have a strong pictorial or cinematic quality about them. The compositions by the other quintet members in this well balanced ensemble also fit neatly into this now well established band template.

Rayner says of her own compositions for this recording;
“My music is allegorical and I write songs without words about experiences, places and feelings. ‘Short Stories’ was inspired by the sudden losses of three young people within close family and friends. Their stories were too short, but through my music I want to celebrate the joy they brought to our lives”.

“Short Stories” is also an apt title given the strong narrative quality of ARQ’s music. The album packaging also includes succinct liner notes from the individual composers offering valuable insights into the inspirations behind their pieces.

The album packaging doesn’t specify exactly when the album was recorded but a number of the featured tunes have been part of ARQ’s live sets for some time, so I would surmise that much of the music had been thoroughly ‘road tested’ before being committed to disc. The relaxed and assured nature of the performances certainly suggests that this was the case.

The album commences with Rayner’s “Croajingolong Bushwalk”, of which its composer says;
“Inspired by a bushwalk in Croajingolong, Victoria, this song is about the Australian bush, with its extraordinary birdsong, crazy wildlife, vast blue skies, orange earth and ancient people”.
Like all of ARQ’s music there’s a strong narrative quality and a real sense of place within the music. Sampled bird song combines with tribal rhythms at the outset with Cartwright’s guitar simulating the sound of a jews harp. The insistent rhythmic pulse is combined with evocative melodies with solos coming from McLoughlin on tenor sax, Rayner on melodic double bass and Lodder at the piano. The latter’s dazzling solo seems to embody the sheer dizzying joyousness of Rayner’s experience, something that is also echoed by Birch’s closing drum feature.

Also from the pen of Rayner comes “Here And Now”, of which its composer says;
“With age comes more past (and memories) than future. I try to focus on the present, because I know that life can change in an instant”.
This is a more reflective offering characterised by wistful melodies and more fine soloing from Lodder on piano, Cartwright on guitar and McLoughlin on tenor, their contributions all representing fluent statements on the power of the present.

Rayner dedicates her piece “There Is A Crack In Everything” to the memory of her late niece Pippa Handley (1978-2018), the title a quote from the lyric of a Leonard Cohen song. Rayner’s notes speak of Handley “cycling all around the hills and lochs of Scotland, and the world, in an effort to find that crack of light”.
The music is less sombre than one might imagine as Rayner seeks to celebrate Handley’s short life. Introduced by Birch at the drums there’s a considerable rhythmic drive, plus a folkish tinge to the melody that also reflects Rayner’s own Scottish ancestry. Lodder again stars with an extended passage of unaccompanied piano mid tune that embraces a variety of emotions. McLoughlin is the other featured soloist, probing gently on softly keening soprano sax.

McLoughlin’s composition “Buster Breaks A Beat” was written as a feature for Birch, with its composer commenting; “I wrote this piece to feature Buster, experimenting with broken beats, funk and retro dance music”.
Of course it isn’t just a drum solo, it’s a highly ingenious piece of writing that toys with melody and rhythm and embraces a variety of jazz styles. Lodder on piano, Cartwright on guitar and McLoughlin on tenor all weigh in with highly cogent solos before Birch’s dynamic feature at the close.

Rayner’s “A Braw Boy” is another piece written in remembrance, this time for the life of Craig Handley (1994-2017). Rayner says of Handley;
“Craig spent his working life around the Scottish coast and islands. He captured the big skies, dawns, sunsets and seascapes in the beautiful photographs that he left behind”.
This time the music does sound rather more like a lament, but there’s a quiet beauty in its wistful and gently melancholic melodies that also embodies the lonely beauty of the land that Handley photographed and called home. McLoughlin again features on softly piping soprano, sharing the solos with the cool elegance of Cartwright’s guitar and the gentle lyricism of Lodder at the piano.

Cartwright’s “Life Lived Wide” is also a dedication, as its composer explains;
“Originally a tribute to Esbjorn Svensson, I rewrote this tune for my dear friend Debbie Dickinson. Debbie was the seventh member of The Guest Stars and the second part of the song evokes some of the spirit of that group”.
As Cartwright implies this is very much a ‘tune of two halves’. It begins in gently wistful fashion with sound of the composer’s crystalline guitar, Rayner’s melodic double bass and Birch’s cymbal shimmers. McLoughlin adds shards of tenor sax melody as the piece gradually develops with Dickinson’s old band mates, Cartwright and Rayner, justifiably prominent in the arrangement. Later the piece gains greater momentum and a rock inspired heaviness as the music moves into “Guest Stars” mode with Lodder contributing a rollicking piano solo and McLoughlin stretching out on tenor.

Rayner describes her final composition, “Colloquy”, as; “three ideas rolled into one, this piece explores the nuances and shifting sands of conversation.”
Paced by Rayner’s bass motif and Birch’s mallet rumbles the piece begins in atmospheric fashion with Lodder’s piano melody subtly shadowed by Cartwright’s shimmering guitar FX. McLoughlin’s tenor subsequently takes over the theme, her phrases answered by Lodder at the piano before the thread passes to Cartwright on guitar.  Her soloing elicits answering phrases from sax and piano in a musical conversation that evokes measured spoken discourse.
Birch later establishes a more muscular funk style groove that elicits livelier exchanges and prompts more extended solos from McLoughlin on tenor and Lodder on piano.

The final piece comes from the pen of Lodder, a jazz waltz titled “Seeing Around Corners”, of which its composer remarks rather enigmatically;
“Is it good to know what’s ahead? Sometimes its agreeable – as in this track, I hope – other times you could do with a forewarning device…”
The music is suitably quirky with a blues tinged guitar solo from Cartwright and lightly dancing soprano sax from McLoughlin.  A jaunty up-tempo opening passage is followed by a gentler,  more reflective section, again featuring McLoughlin’s soprano and also incorporating a final melodic bass solo from Rayner.

Rayner thanks her band mates for their “amazing musicality” and this is a quality that imbues this whole album. ARQ have come up with another impeccable album featuring warm, colourful, intelligent writing and some exceptional playing. Again, this is an album that is likely to appeal a broad listening constituency (pat Metheny fans are likely to find much that appeals in ARQ’s music) and which will consolidate ARQ’s reputation as one of the best and most consistent working bands around. A worthy follow up to its two acclaimed predecessors “Short Stories” exhibits no falling off in terms of quality control. The members of this particularly well integrated ensemble are perfectly in tune with Rayner’s artistic vision.

ARQ are supported by Arts Council England and by the PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music Fund. Besides the dedicatees of the individual tunes “Short Stories” is also dedicated to the memories of Dave Wickins and Harry Lisle.

“Short Stories” will be released on October 25th 2019.

ARQ will be touring in the UK during November and December 2019 and into 2020. Dates as below;


November 8         Wakefield Jazz Club                   YORKSHIRE

November 9           The Verdict                             BRIGHTON

November 15                 Kings Place (Jazz Festival Launch)      LONDON

December 19         Hemel Hempstead Old Town Hall     HERTS

2020:

February 26           Pizza Express Jazz Soho               LONDON

March 12               Jazz Coventry                         MIDLANDS

March 13               Birmingham Jazz Club                 MIDLANDS

March 14               Shrewsbury Hive                       SHROPSHIRE

March 31               Liverpool Parr Jazz                     MERSEYSIDE

April 1                 Sheffield Lescar                       YORKSHIRE

April 2                 Nottingham Bonington Theatre       NOTTS

April 3                 Derby Jazz                             DERBYSHIRE

May 3                   Colchester Arts Centre             ESSEX

 

Short Stories

Alison Rayner Quintet

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4-5 out of 5

Short Stories

ARQ have come up with another impeccable album featuring warm, colourful, intelligent writing and some exceptional playing. It's a recording that is likely to appeal a broad listening constituency.

Alison Rayner Quintet

“Short Stories”

(Blow The Fuse Records BTF1914CD)

Alison Rayner – double bass, Buster Birch – drums, percussion, Deirdre Cartwright – guitar,
Diane McLoughlin – tenor & soprano saxophones, Steve Lodder - piano

The rise and rise of the Alison Rayner Quintet, or ARQ, has been one of the most heart warming stories of British jazz in recent years.

Bassist and composer Alison Rayner has been a stalwart of the UK jazz scene for many years and is probably best known for her membership of the Guest Stars, the all female group who emerged at the time of the 80s jazz boom along with Loose Tubes, Jazz Warriors and others. I’ve seen her perform live on a couple of occasions with trumpeter Chris Hodgkins’ quartet and Rayner’s other regular engagements include the Deirdre Cartwright Group and Terryazoome, the Greek flavoured jazz group led by guitarist/bouzouki player  Terry Hunt.

For more than twenty five years Rayner and guitarist Cartwright have run Blow The Fuse, an organisation dedicated to raising the profile of jazz in the UK with a particular emphasis on promoting the work of female jazz musicians. Besides organising the regular ‘Tomorrow the Moon’ club nights Blow The Fuse also runs its own record label.

An in demand sidewoman Rayner has played acoustic and electric bass across a variety of musical genres including jazz, funk and soul plus various types of world music. She has appeared on over thirty albums and her credits include work with guitarists Tal Farlowe and John Etheridge, vocalists Zoe Lewis and Ian Shaw, saxophonist Jean Toussaint and jazz poet Jayne Cortez.  Rayner is also an acclaimed educator who has taught at a wide array of colleges and summer schools. 

Rayner became a band leader at a comparatively late stage in her career, assembling the above line up and making her leadership début with the 2014 live set “August”, recorded at BTF’s spiritual home, the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, north London. The album highlighted Rayner’s abilities as a composer and was greeted by a compelling amount of critical acclaim.

This was followed in 2016 by the studio set “A Magic Life”, which consolidated and built upon the success of “August” and also featured compositions by other members of the quintet. Again the response from both the critical fraternity and the British jazz audience as a whole was overwhelmingly positive.

ARQ have also developed a reputation for the consistently excellent quality of their live performances and I have been lucky enough to witness and review club and festival appearances in London, Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Brecon and Abergavenny.

The combination of ARQ’s critically acclaimed albums and their exciting and accessible live shows has led to the band being honoured at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards (Ensemble Of The Year, 2018) and the British Jazz Awards (Best Small Group, also 2018).

Rayner’s compositions are multi-faceted, featuring memorable melodies and rich colours and textures. They are often informed by personal experiences and many have a strong pictorial or cinematic quality about them. The compositions by the other quintet members in this well balanced ensemble also fit neatly into this now well established band template.

Rayner says of her own compositions for this recording;
“My music is allegorical and I write songs without words about experiences, places and feelings. ‘Short Stories’ was inspired by the sudden losses of three young people within close family and friends. Their stories were too short, but through my music I want to celebrate the joy they brought to our lives”.

“Short Stories” is also an apt title given the strong narrative quality of ARQ’s music. The album packaging also includes succinct liner notes from the individual composers offering valuable insights into the inspirations behind their pieces.

The album packaging doesn’t specify exactly when the album was recorded but a number of the featured tunes have been part of ARQ’s live sets for some time, so I would surmise that much of the music had been thoroughly ‘road tested’ before being committed to disc. The relaxed and assured nature of the performances certainly suggests that this was the case.

The album commences with Rayner’s “Croajingolong Bushwalk”, of which its composer says;
“Inspired by a bushwalk in Croajingolong, Victoria, this song is about the Australian bush, with its extraordinary birdsong, crazy wildlife, vast blue skies, orange earth and ancient people”.
Like all of ARQ’s music there’s a strong narrative quality and a real sense of place within the music. Sampled bird song combines with tribal rhythms at the outset with Cartwright’s guitar simulating the sound of a jews harp. The insistent rhythmic pulse is combined with evocative melodies with solos coming from McLoughlin on tenor sax, Rayner on melodic double bass and Lodder at the piano. The latter’s dazzling solo seems to embody the sheer dizzying joyousness of Rayner’s experience, something that is also echoed by Birch’s closing drum feature.

Also from the pen of Rayner comes “Here And Now”, of which its composer says;
“With age comes more past (and memories) than future. I try to focus on the present, because I know that life can change in an instant”.
This is a more reflective offering characterised by wistful melodies and more fine soloing from Lodder on piano, Cartwright on guitar and McLoughlin on tenor, their contributions all representing fluent statements on the power of the present.

Rayner dedicates her piece “There Is A Crack In Everything” to the memory of her late niece Pippa Handley (1978-2018), the title a quote from the lyric of a Leonard Cohen song. Rayner’s notes speak of Handley “cycling all around the hills and lochs of Scotland, and the world, in an effort to find that crack of light”.
The music is less sombre than one might imagine as Rayner seeks to celebrate Handley’s short life. Introduced by Birch at the drums there’s a considerable rhythmic drive, plus a folkish tinge to the melody that also reflects Rayner’s own Scottish ancestry. Lodder again stars with an extended passage of unaccompanied piano mid tune that embraces a variety of emotions. McLoughlin is the other featured soloist, probing gently on softly keening soprano sax.

McLoughlin’s composition “Buster Breaks A Beat” was written as a feature for Birch, with its composer commenting; “I wrote this piece to feature Buster, experimenting with broken beats, funk and retro dance music”.
Of course it isn’t just a drum solo, it’s a highly ingenious piece of writing that toys with melody and rhythm and embraces a variety of jazz styles. Lodder on piano, Cartwright on guitar and McLoughlin on tenor all weigh in with highly cogent solos before Birch’s dynamic feature at the close.

Rayner’s “A Braw Boy” is another piece written in remembrance, this time for the life of Craig Handley (1994-2017). Rayner says of Handley;
“Craig spent his working life around the Scottish coast and islands. He captured the big skies, dawns, sunsets and seascapes in the beautiful photographs that he left behind”.
This time the music does sound rather more like a lament, but there’s a quiet beauty in its wistful and gently melancholic melodies that also embodies the lonely beauty of the land that Handley photographed and called home. McLoughlin again features on softly piping soprano, sharing the solos with the cool elegance of Cartwright’s guitar and the gentle lyricism of Lodder at the piano.

Cartwright’s “Life Lived Wide” is also a dedication, as its composer explains;
“Originally a tribute to Esbjorn Svensson, I rewrote this tune for my dear friend Debbie Dickinson. Debbie was the seventh member of The Guest Stars and the second part of the song evokes some of the spirit of that group”.
As Cartwright implies this is very much a ‘tune of two halves’. It begins in gently wistful fashion with sound of the composer’s crystalline guitar, Rayner’s melodic double bass and Birch’s cymbal shimmers. McLoughlin adds shards of tenor sax melody as the piece gradually develops with Dickinson’s old band mates, Cartwright and Rayner, justifiably prominent in the arrangement. Later the piece gains greater momentum and a rock inspired heaviness as the music moves into “Guest Stars” mode with Lodder contributing a rollicking piano solo and McLoughlin stretching out on tenor.

Rayner describes her final composition, “Colloquy”, as; “three ideas rolled into one, this piece explores the nuances and shifting sands of conversation.”
Paced by Rayner’s bass motif and Birch’s mallet rumbles the piece begins in atmospheric fashion with Lodder’s piano melody subtly shadowed by Cartwright’s shimmering guitar FX. McLoughlin’s tenor subsequently takes over the theme, her phrases answered by Lodder at the piano before the thread passes to Cartwright on guitar.  Her soloing elicits answering phrases from sax and piano in a musical conversation that evokes measured spoken discourse.
Birch later establishes a more muscular funk style groove that elicits livelier exchanges and prompts more extended solos from McLoughlin on tenor and Lodder on piano.

The final piece comes from the pen of Lodder, a jazz waltz titled “Seeing Around Corners”, of which its composer remarks rather enigmatically;
“Is it good to know what’s ahead? Sometimes its agreeable – as in this track, I hope – other times you could do with a forewarning device…”
The music is suitably quirky with a blues tinged guitar solo from Cartwright and lightly dancing soprano sax from McLoughlin.  A jaunty up-tempo opening passage is followed by a gentler,  more reflective section, again featuring McLoughlin’s soprano and also incorporating a final melodic bass solo from Rayner.

Rayner thanks her band mates for their “amazing musicality” and this is a quality that imbues this whole album. ARQ have come up with another impeccable album featuring warm, colourful, intelligent writing and some exceptional playing. Again, this is an album that is likely to appeal a broad listening constituency (pat Metheny fans are likely to find much that appeals in ARQ’s music) and which will consolidate ARQ’s reputation as one of the best and most consistent working bands around. A worthy follow up to its two acclaimed predecessors “Short Stories” exhibits no falling off in terms of quality control. The members of this particularly well integrated ensemble are perfectly in tune with Rayner’s artistic vision.

ARQ are supported by Arts Council England and by the PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music Fund. Besides the dedicatees of the individual tunes “Short Stories” is also dedicated to the memories of Dave Wickins and Harry Lisle.

“Short Stories” will be released on October 25th 2019.

ARQ will be touring in the UK during November and December 2019 and into 2020. Dates as below;


November 8         Wakefield Jazz Club                   YORKSHIRE

November 9           The Verdict                             BRIGHTON

November 15                 Kings Place (Jazz Festival Launch)      LONDON

December 19         Hemel Hempstead Old Town Hall     HERTS

2020:

February 26           Pizza Express Jazz Soho               LONDON

March 12               Jazz Coventry                         MIDLANDS

March 13               Birmingham Jazz Club                 MIDLANDS

March 14               Shrewsbury Hive                       SHROPSHIRE

March 31               Liverpool Parr Jazz                     MERSEYSIDE

April 1                 Sheffield Lescar                       YORKSHIRE

April 2                 Nottingham Bonington Theatre       NOTTS

April 3                 Derby Jazz                             DERBYSHIRE

May 3                   Colchester Arts Centre             ESSEX

 

Time Zone - Clave Sin Embargo Rating: 4 out of 5 "Intelligent, highly personalised music that brings together the best aspects of jazz and traditional Cuban music". Ian Mann enjoys the unique music of trumpeter Loz Speyer's sextet Time Zone.

Loz Speyer’s Time Zone

“Clave Sin Embargo”

(Spherical Records SPR005)

Loz Speyer – trumpet, flugelhorn, Martin Hathaway – alto sax, bass clarinet, Stuart Hall – guitar,
Dave Manington – double bass, Maurizio Ravalico – congas, Andy Ball – drums


“Clave Sin Embargo”, roughly translating as “keys without restrictions”, is the third album by Time Zone, the sextet led by the British trumpeter and composer Loz Speyer. It follows the group’s eponymous 2004 début and 2011’s acclaimed follow up “Crossing The Line”. The latter was an innovative and highly personal recording that skilfully blended elements of European jazz with Cuban music. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/time-zone-crossing-the-line/

I first became aware of the music of London based Speyer back in 1999 when his quartet featuring guitarist Andy Jones, bassist Richard Jeffries and drummer Tony Bianco played on an open air bandstand at the inaugural Leamington Spa Jazz Festival. I was impressed and purchased a copy of their then latest album “Two Kinds Of Blue” (33 Records), I guess you don’t need me to tell you who one of the prime influences was.

Ten years later I reviewed the excellent album “Five Animal Dances”, recorded by a Speyer led quartet called Inner Space Music featuring Chris Biscoe (reeds), Julie Walkington (double bass) and Sebastian Rochford (drums). This chordless line up explored the interface between composed and improvised music, striking a perfect balance between the two on an album that made for highly satisfying listening. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/inner-space-music-five-animal-dances/

In 2017 Speyer followed this with “Life On The Edge”, another excellent recording in a similar vein credited to a quintet dubbed Loz Speyer’s Inner Space. Speyer and Biscoe remained in place, joined in the front line by Rachel Musson on tenor and soprano sax and with a new rhythm section featuring bassist Olie Brice and drummer Gary Willcox. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/loz-speyers-inner-space-life-on-the-edge/

The Time Zone project has its roots in Speyer’s domestic circumstances. His wife, Katiuska is Cuban and Speyer has spent the last few years travelling between London and Santiago de Cuba, crossing boundaries but also building bridges between the two countries.

Time Zone is the musical manifestation of this process with Speyer’s London based band incorporating Cuban elements into their jazz based improvising.  Speyer’s experiences of working with Son musicians in Santiago led to him forming his own London based ensemble. Time Zone was initially formed in 2003 and the current line up has been in place since 2012.

As with the previous release Speyer’s liner notes offer valuable insights into the inspirations behind the individual compositions, some of these highly personal, others relating to contemporary political events. Time Zone’s music deploys Cuban styles and rhythms, combining these with American and European jazz elements to create a sound that is highly distinctive. This is intelligent, ambitious, highly personalised music that extends far beyond the limits of the “let’s party” fluff that some listeners may associate as being synonymous with Cuban music.

The new album commences with “Stratosphere”, which Speyer describes as being “essentially one harmonic idea played out on three levels – the first close to the ground, a Latin tune with a 12 beat clave – the second, rhythms starting to shift and open up – the third, taking flight on a swing related fast 5/8”. The title comes from a comment made by a Cuban friend about Time Zone’s music, that it has the sound and feel of Cuban music, but instead of being rooted in the soil like the indigenous music of the island it has the ability to fly away elsewhere.
The subtly evolving rhythmic complexities of the piece are successfully negotiated by Manington, Ball and Ravalico while Hall’s guitar is subtly propulsive, helping to prompt incisive jazz style solos from Hathaway on alto and the leader on trumpet. There’s also a feature for the Italian born conganista Ravalico, who represents a vibrant and colourful presence throughout the album.

“Mood Swings” originally appeared on Time Zone’s eponymous 2004 début for 33 Records. Since then it has developed, acquiring new melodies and rhythms, and Speyer has also recorded the tune with Cuban musicians. The 2019 version features Hathaway on woody bass clarinet, soloing above a tricky eleven beat rhythm. The leader also features on trumpet, soloing thoughtfully and fluently above the rhythmic ferment bubbling beneath. There’s also a solo from Hall, a most distinctive guitarist whose quirky style first came to my attention when he was a member of Django Bates’  small group Human Chain. We also enjoy an extended feature from drummer Ball, aided and abetted by guitar, bass and percussion.

“Lost At Sea” combines 6/8 and 4/4 rhythms in unusual ways, the rhythmic changes and sudden accelerations of pace being reminiscent of bata music. The title references Cuban sea goddesses and the migration crises in the English Channel, the Mediterranean, and the seas between Cuba and the US. Yet Speyer still finds hope in all this, dedicating the tune to a woman whose parents found their way to the UK following the devastation of World War Two.
Musically the piece is played with feeling and urgency, the constantly mutating rhythms again provoking an incisive solo from Hathaway on biting alto, his tone sometimes reminiscent of Jackie McLean, or even Ornette Coleman. A brief passage of unaccompanied trumpet seems to act as a ‘last post’ for those desperate migrants lost at sea, and acts as the bridge into Speyer’s own solo during the very different second half of the tune.

In Speyer’s words “Full Circle” “closes the first half of the album on a peaceful note”. There’s a more laid back, orthodox jazz feel to this piece with Ball switching to brushes as Hathaway’s alto probes gently but intelligently. Hall’s guitar solo represents another excellent example of his idiosyncratic style, a kind of Anglicised, highly personalised version of Bill Frisell.

The title of “Checkpoint Charlie” references Speyer’s visit to Berlin in 1989, around the time that the wall came down. It’s also inspired by an incident in Cuba in 1980 when 10,000 dissidents occupied the grounds of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, demanding asylum. The Peruvians agreed to this, but ultimately couldn’t cope with the demand. Following urgent negotiations 125,000 Cubans eventually became US citizens following the Mariel Boatlift.
Speyer describes his tune as “cheerful” and there’s a palpable joyousness in the infectious rhythms, punchy horn lines and the ebullient solos from Speyer on trumpet and Hathaway on alto, the latter again probing incisively. Hall also adds more of his quirky magic with an inspired guitar solo.

“Guarapachanguero” is the name of a long, stretched out rhythm that Speyer learned from a Cuban musician known as Manolo (aka Rafael Cisneros), with whom he studied percussion and co-led the band Proyecto Evocacion, releasing the album “Roots en Route – Raices en Viaje” in 2010.
Speyer’s tune offers “a relatively slow take on the rhythm and is the only piece on the album that stays in clave throughout”. Despite the alleged ‘slowness’ the piece is hardly lacking in energy and conganista Ravalico plays a prominent part in an arrangement that features more fluent soloing from Hathaway on alto, Speyer on trumpet, Hall on guitar and the excellent Manington on double bass.

“Crossing The Line” is named after the second Time Zone album, although the piece didn’t actually appear on there. Speyer’s composition alternates between jazz and Cuban styles, but in this instance without making any attempt to fuse the two. “They remain separate and distinct, and yet it is all one piece of music” explains Speyer, who goes on to emphasise that “the boundaries by which we measure the world are largely artificial constructs, the equator, time zones, the Greenwich Meridian, even time itself”.
An introductory free jazz dialogue between Hathaway’s alto and Hall’s guitar segues into an almost exaggeratedly Cuban section featuring Speyer’s trumpet soloing. The second free jazz episode finds Ball joining Hall and Hathaway for a more extended improvisation prior to a return to the Cuban stylings, with Manington’s bass featuring as a solo instrument.

The album concludes with “Dalston Carnival”, a paean to Speyer’s North London neighbourhood. He describes the piece as “a dance, a kind of Punk-Comparsa, complete with the odd 2/4 bar, courtesy of Ornette Coleman”. There is indeed a genuine carnival atmosphere about this high energy romp with its busily percolating rhythms and joyous solos, Speyer going first on trumpet, followed by Hathaway on alto and Hall on guitar. There’s also an extended percussion ‘battle’ between Ravalico and Ball as the album concludes on an ebullient, celebratory note. Coleman notwithstanding, this is the kind of lively, salsa style music that most listeners probably associate with Cuba, but as Speyer and his colleagues demonstrate elsewhere there’s far more about the island’s music than that.

“Clave Sin Embargo” builds upon the virtues of Time Zone’s previous releases to deliver another set of intelligent, highly personalised music that brings together the best aspects of jazz and traditional Cuban music. Speyer’s sound is forged from a unique personal perspective and his Anglo-Cuban musical hybrid offers something that is both exciting and musically satisfying. His writing is colourful and insightful and the playing by a hand picked sextet is excellent throughout.

Given the title of the closing track it is perhaps appropriate that the album will be officially launched at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on the evening of Wednesday October 16th 2019. Time Zone will also be playing at Colchester Arts centre on December 1st 2019.

Meanwhile Speyer’s Inner Space will be appearing at the Grow venue in East London on the afternoon of Sunday November 17th as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. Details here;
https://efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/events/loz-speyers-inner-space

Clave Sin Embargo

Time Zone

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Clave Sin Embargo

"Intelligent, highly personalised music that brings together the best aspects of jazz and traditional Cuban music". Ian Mann enjoys the unique music of trumpeter Loz Speyer's sextet Time Zone.

Loz Speyer’s Time Zone

“Clave Sin Embargo”

(Spherical Records SPR005)

Loz Speyer – trumpet, flugelhorn, Martin Hathaway – alto sax, bass clarinet, Stuart Hall – guitar,
Dave Manington – double bass, Maurizio Ravalico – congas, Andy Ball – drums


“Clave Sin Embargo”, roughly translating as “keys without restrictions”, is the third album by Time Zone, the sextet led by the British trumpeter and composer Loz Speyer. It follows the group’s eponymous 2004 début and 2011’s acclaimed follow up “Crossing The Line”. The latter was an innovative and highly personal recording that skilfully blended elements of European jazz with Cuban music. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/time-zone-crossing-the-line/

I first became aware of the music of London based Speyer back in 1999 when his quartet featuring guitarist Andy Jones, bassist Richard Jeffries and drummer Tony Bianco played on an open air bandstand at the inaugural Leamington Spa Jazz Festival. I was impressed and purchased a copy of their then latest album “Two Kinds Of Blue” (33 Records), I guess you don’t need me to tell you who one of the prime influences was.

Ten years later I reviewed the excellent album “Five Animal Dances”, recorded by a Speyer led quartet called Inner Space Music featuring Chris Biscoe (reeds), Julie Walkington (double bass) and Sebastian Rochford (drums). This chordless line up explored the interface between composed and improvised music, striking a perfect balance between the two on an album that made for highly satisfying listening. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/inner-space-music-five-animal-dances/

In 2017 Speyer followed this with “Life On The Edge”, another excellent recording in a similar vein credited to a quintet dubbed Loz Speyer’s Inner Space. Speyer and Biscoe remained in place, joined in the front line by Rachel Musson on tenor and soprano sax and with a new rhythm section featuring bassist Olie Brice and drummer Gary Willcox. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/loz-speyers-inner-space-life-on-the-edge/

The Time Zone project has its roots in Speyer’s domestic circumstances. His wife, Katiuska is Cuban and Speyer has spent the last few years travelling between London and Santiago de Cuba, crossing boundaries but also building bridges between the two countries.

Time Zone is the musical manifestation of this process with Speyer’s London based band incorporating Cuban elements into their jazz based improvising.  Speyer’s experiences of working with Son musicians in Santiago led to him forming his own London based ensemble. Time Zone was initially formed in 2003 and the current line up has been in place since 2012.

As with the previous release Speyer’s liner notes offer valuable insights into the inspirations behind the individual compositions, some of these highly personal, others relating to contemporary political events. Time Zone’s music deploys Cuban styles and rhythms, combining these with American and European jazz elements to create a sound that is highly distinctive. This is intelligent, ambitious, highly personalised music that extends far beyond the limits of the “let’s party” fluff that some listeners may associate as being synonymous with Cuban music.

The new album commences with “Stratosphere”, which Speyer describes as being “essentially one harmonic idea played out on three levels – the first close to the ground, a Latin tune with a 12 beat clave – the second, rhythms starting to shift and open up – the third, taking flight on a swing related fast 5/8”. The title comes from a comment made by a Cuban friend about Time Zone’s music, that it has the sound and feel of Cuban music, but instead of being rooted in the soil like the indigenous music of the island it has the ability to fly away elsewhere.
The subtly evolving rhythmic complexities of the piece are successfully negotiated by Manington, Ball and Ravalico while Hall’s guitar is subtly propulsive, helping to prompt incisive jazz style solos from Hathaway on alto and the leader on trumpet. There’s also a feature for the Italian born conganista Ravalico, who represents a vibrant and colourful presence throughout the album.

“Mood Swings” originally appeared on Time Zone’s eponymous 2004 début for 33 Records. Since then it has developed, acquiring new melodies and rhythms, and Speyer has also recorded the tune with Cuban musicians. The 2019 version features Hathaway on woody bass clarinet, soloing above a tricky eleven beat rhythm. The leader also features on trumpet, soloing thoughtfully and fluently above the rhythmic ferment bubbling beneath. There’s also a solo from Hall, a most distinctive guitarist whose quirky style first came to my attention when he was a member of Django Bates’  small group Human Chain. We also enjoy an extended feature from drummer Ball, aided and abetted by guitar, bass and percussion.

“Lost At Sea” combines 6/8 and 4/4 rhythms in unusual ways, the rhythmic changes and sudden accelerations of pace being reminiscent of bata music. The title references Cuban sea goddesses and the migration crises in the English Channel, the Mediterranean, and the seas between Cuba and the US. Yet Speyer still finds hope in all this, dedicating the tune to a woman whose parents found their way to the UK following the devastation of World War Two.
Musically the piece is played with feeling and urgency, the constantly mutating rhythms again provoking an incisive solo from Hathaway on biting alto, his tone sometimes reminiscent of Jackie McLean, or even Ornette Coleman. A brief passage of unaccompanied trumpet seems to act as a ‘last post’ for those desperate migrants lost at sea, and acts as the bridge into Speyer’s own solo during the very different second half of the tune.

In Speyer’s words “Full Circle” “closes the first half of the album on a peaceful note”. There’s a more laid back, orthodox jazz feel to this piece with Ball switching to brushes as Hathaway’s alto probes gently but intelligently. Hall’s guitar solo represents another excellent example of his idiosyncratic style, a kind of Anglicised, highly personalised version of Bill Frisell.

The title of “Checkpoint Charlie” references Speyer’s visit to Berlin in 1989, around the time that the wall came down. It’s also inspired by an incident in Cuba in 1980 when 10,000 dissidents occupied the grounds of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, demanding asylum. The Peruvians agreed to this, but ultimately couldn’t cope with the demand. Following urgent negotiations 125,000 Cubans eventually became US citizens following the Mariel Boatlift.
Speyer describes his tune as “cheerful” and there’s a palpable joyousness in the infectious rhythms, punchy horn lines and the ebullient solos from Speyer on trumpet and Hathaway on alto, the latter again probing incisively. Hall also adds more of his quirky magic with an inspired guitar solo.

“Guarapachanguero” is the name of a long, stretched out rhythm that Speyer learned from a Cuban musician known as Manolo (aka Rafael Cisneros), with whom he studied percussion and co-led the band Proyecto Evocacion, releasing the album “Roots en Route – Raices en Viaje” in 2010.
Speyer’s tune offers “a relatively slow take on the rhythm and is the only piece on the album that stays in clave throughout”. Despite the alleged ‘slowness’ the piece is hardly lacking in energy and conganista Ravalico plays a prominent part in an arrangement that features more fluent soloing from Hathaway on alto, Speyer on trumpet, Hall on guitar and the excellent Manington on double bass.

“Crossing The Line” is named after the second Time Zone album, although the piece didn’t actually appear on there. Speyer’s composition alternates between jazz and Cuban styles, but in this instance without making any attempt to fuse the two. “They remain separate and distinct, and yet it is all one piece of music” explains Speyer, who goes on to emphasise that “the boundaries by which we measure the world are largely artificial constructs, the equator, time zones, the Greenwich Meridian, even time itself”.
An introductory free jazz dialogue between Hathaway’s alto and Hall’s guitar segues into an almost exaggeratedly Cuban section featuring Speyer’s trumpet soloing. The second free jazz episode finds Ball joining Hall and Hathaway for a more extended improvisation prior to a return to the Cuban stylings, with Manington’s bass featuring as a solo instrument.

The album concludes with “Dalston Carnival”, a paean to Speyer’s North London neighbourhood. He describes the piece as “a dance, a kind of Punk-Comparsa, complete with the odd 2/4 bar, courtesy of Ornette Coleman”. There is indeed a genuine carnival atmosphere about this high energy romp with its busily percolating rhythms and joyous solos, Speyer going first on trumpet, followed by Hathaway on alto and Hall on guitar. There’s also an extended percussion ‘battle’ between Ravalico and Ball as the album concludes on an ebullient, celebratory note. Coleman notwithstanding, this is the kind of lively, salsa style music that most listeners probably associate with Cuba, but as Speyer and his colleagues demonstrate elsewhere there’s far more about the island’s music than that.

“Clave Sin Embargo” builds upon the virtues of Time Zone’s previous releases to deliver another set of intelligent, highly personalised music that brings together the best aspects of jazz and traditional Cuban music. Speyer’s sound is forged from a unique personal perspective and his Anglo-Cuban musical hybrid offers something that is both exciting and musically satisfying. His writing is colourful and insightful and the playing by a hand picked sextet is excellent throughout.

Given the title of the closing track it is perhaps appropriate that the album will be officially launched at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on the evening of Wednesday October 16th 2019. Time Zone will also be playing at Colchester Arts centre on December 1st 2019.

Meanwhile Speyer’s Inner Space will be appearing at the Grow venue in East London on the afternoon of Sunday November 17th as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. Details here;
https://efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/events/loz-speyers-inner-space

Kjetil Mulelid Trio - What You Thought Was Home Rating: 4 out of 5 An album that builds on the promise of the début and which should find favour with all lovers of contemporary piano jazz.

Kjetil Mulelid Trio

“What You Thought Was Home”

(Rune Grammofon RCD2208)

Kjetil Mulelid – piano, Bjorn Marius Hegge – double bass, Andreas Skar Winther - drums


“What You Thought Was Home” is the second release on the Rune Grammofon label by the Kjetil Mulelid Trio, the follow up to 2017’s acclaimed “Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House”, reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/kjetil-mulelid-trio-not-nearly-enough-to-buy-a-house/

Mulelid, aged 28, was raised in the small Norwegian village of Hurdal and has been playing piano since the age of nine, initially inspired by the music of Frederic Chopin. He later developed an interest in jazz and subsequently obtained a bachelor degree in jazz performance from the NTNU in Trondheim before becoming a professional jazz musician.

Mulelid first came to my attention in 2013 as part of the Nordic trio Lauv ( the group name is the Norwegian for “Leaf”), who released the highly promising EP “De Som Er Eldre Enn Voksne” in that year, the title translating as “Those Who Are Older Than Adults”.  My review of the EP can be read here.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/de-som-er-eldre-enn-voksne/

The following year I enjoyed seeing Mulelid perform live at the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival when he was one of the star soloists at the annual Trondheim Jazz Exchange event, which sees students from the Jazz courses at the Birmingham and Trondheim Conservatoires combining to make music together and presenting the results to the jazz going public.

Now based in Copenhagen Mulelid a typical young jazz musician of today, involved in a variety of genre defying projects embracing a broad range of musical influences.  Lauv is no more but Mulelid leads his own piano trio (as featured here), forms half of the duo Kjemilie with vocalist Emilie Vasseljen Storaas and is part of the group Fieldfare, a song based, more pop orientated outfit featuring Winther, vocalist Siril Maldemal Hauge,and former Lauv bassist  Bardur Reinert Poulsen.

Mulelid and Poulsen are also members of the instrumental quartet Wako, a group that also includes saxophonist Martin Myhre Olsen (who appeared at the Trondheim Jazz Exchange event in 2012) and drummer Simon Olderskog Albertsen. Their début album, 2015’s “The Good Story” was very well received by the Norwegian jazz media.

Wako appears to be primarily Olsen’s project. The saxophonist wrote all the compositions and arrangements for the group’s second album “Modes for All Eternity” (2017),  an ambitious but largely successful collaboration between the Wako quartet and three members of Oslo Strings, violinist Kaja Constance Rogers,  violist Isa Caroline Holmesland and cellist Kaja Fjellberg Pettersen.  My review of that album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wako-and-oslo-strings-modes-for-all-eternity/

In 2018 Wako released a second quartet album, “Urolige Sinn”, for the Ora Fonogram label, a recording featuring compositions by both Olsen and Mulelid.

Mulelid also collaborates with Olsen as part of the saxophonist’s MMO Ensemble, a
jazz/classical quartet that also features vocalist Hauge and cellist Pettersen and is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Mulelid, Olsen and Hauge have also been part of the Norwegian sextet Wild Things Run Fast, a tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell.

As can be seen from the above the Norwegian jazz scene is something of a hothouse with the NTNU in Trondheim seemingly its epicentre. Bjorn Marius Hegge, bassist with the Mulelid trio, also studied there and appeared at the Trondheim Jazz Exchange in Cheltenham as recently as 2016. He has since turned professional and won a Norwegian Grammy for his début album with his quintet, a recording simply titled “Hegge”. The bassist also leads his own trio featuring pianist Oscar Gronberg and drummer Hans Hulbaekmo, two other Trondheim graduates. In June 2017 he released the album “Ideas”, leading an international quintet featuring Hulbaekmo, pianist Havard Wiik and the German musicians Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dorner (trumpet).

Drummer Winther is also a Trondheim graduate. He is a member of the Fieldfare group and has recorded two albums as part of the septet Megalodon Collective, another group comprised of Trondheim alumni. Winther also appears on “Left Exit, Mr K”, a quartet recording on the Clean Feed label featuring Karl Hjalmar Nyberg and Klaus Holm (reeds) and Michael Duch (double bass). Winther is the younger brother of jazz guitarist Christian Skar Winther.

Turning now to this latest recording which features eight new original compositions from Mulelid, plus one from the pen of Hegge.

The album introduces itself quietly with Mulelid’s beautiful title track, which begins in almost subliminal fashion before Mulelid sketches out one of his most beguiling melodies at the piano. The piece unfolds slowly with the leader soloing in lyrical fashion, developing the flow of his ideas above the gentle bustle of Winther’s filigree cymbal work and the anchoring presence of Hegge’s bass. There’s an almost hymnal quality about the music that invites comparisons with the work of Mulelid’s fellow countryman Tord Gustavsen, something that Winther’s delicate, subtly detailed, Jarle Vespestad-like performance only encourages.

Mulelid’s next composition, “Folk Song”, raises the energy levels a touch and finds the trio improvising around an ongoing bass and piano vamp. This fulcrum actually affords the musicians, particularly Mulelid and Winther, a good deal of freedom, with the drummer playing a prominent role in the success of the performance. The interplay between him and Mulelid is particularly engrossing with the dialogue almost shading off into ‘free jazz’ on occasions.

More obviously influenced by Norwegian music is Hegge’s composition “Bruremarsj”, the title translating as “Wedding March”. Again this is a highly interactive performance from a very well balanced trio. Throughout the album Winther and Hegge are far more than mere ‘accompanists’, this is a highly contemporary trio who function together as a single entity.
As if to emphasise the point Hegge features as a soloist here, complementing Mulelid’s Jarrett like interpretations of the folk inspired melody.

Winther introduces “Tales” at the drums, setting the pace for another of Mulelid’s compositions, this one a brief fascinating balance between hymn like melody and almost free jazz like interplay; the apparently serene surface initially created subsequently pierced by shards of wilful dissonance.

“Far Away” is a beautiful solo piano performance from Mulelid that commences in gently lyrical fashion before gradually embracing a greater intensity and complexity. That early Chopin influence is particularly evident here.

Hegge and Winther return for “A Cautionary Tale Against A Repetitive Life”. It sounds like an E.S.T. title but the music is more gentle and considered, initially flowingly lyrical but leading to a series of repeated diminuendos, that presumably give the piece its name. Hegge’s bass helps to punctuate these moments and trio emerge on the other side with an expansive and discursive solo from Mulelid, before ending with another short sequence of diminuendos. It’s an intriguingly structured piece, that nevertheless manages to maintain the listener’s attention.

“Waltz For Ima” is an engaging jazz waltz that helps to reinforce the Bill Evans comparisons made about the trio’s début. Here Mulelid’s piano explorations are complemented by a lengthy bass solo from Hegge, who also enters into a spirited dialogue with the leader above the bustle of Winther’s brushed drums. Mulelid’s playing here manages to evoke both Evans and Jarrett, but still sounds fiercely individual.

“When Winter Turns To Spring”  features the trio at their most interactive as they coalesce around Mulelid’s darting, staccato piano motifs. The leader’s Jarrett style vocalising suggests that much of the performance is freely improvised with both Hegge and Winther busy presences within the mix. Having reached a peak with their energetic but intricate interplay the trio then effect a slower, minimalist style outro.

The final track is “Homecoming”, introduced by Mulelid at the piano, another piece with a strong melody and a decidedly hymn like quality. Hegge delivers a highly melodic double bass solo while Winther’s performance offers a final reminder that he is one of the most ‘musical’ drummers around, his playing rich in terms of nuance, colour and texture, it’s so much more than just ‘keeping the beat’.

At the time of writing “What You Thought Was Home”, which was released on August 30th 2019, seems to have attracted rather less media attention than its widely acclaimed predecessor. I’m not quite sure why this should be as its another excellent recording incorporating strong melodies, rich harmonies and rhythmic inventiveness. The quality and imagination of the writing helps to engage the listener’s attention throughout and the quality of the playing is exceptional.

Despite the Evans and Jarrett comparisons this record sounds more obviously Norwegian than its predecessor with Gustavsen perhaps more of an influence this time round. But it’s still very much Mulelid’s record, an album that builds on the promise of the début and which should find favour with all lovers of contemporary piano jazz.

For what is still a comparatively young band it’s a highly mature collection from a very well integrated, highly interactive, and finely balanced trio.

The Kjetil Mulelid Trio are about to embark on a European tour with a date at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on Thursday 31st October 2019. Full tour schedule below;

Kjetil Mulelid Trio
16.10 Stockholm (Glenn Miller Jazz Café), Sweden
17.10 Copenhagen (KoncertKirken), Denmark
18.10 Hamar (Jazzklubb), Norway
19.10 Hurdal (Kultursenter), Norway
20.10 Halden (Athletic Live), Norway
27.10 Paris (City Universitet Jazz Festival), Norway
31.10 Vortex (Jazz Club), UK
01.11 Brügge (27bFlat), Belgium
08.11 Ålesund (Parken Kulturhus), Norway
09.11 Fosnavåg (Konserthus), Norway
10.11 Trondheim (Antikvariatet), Norway

What You Thought Was Home

Kjetil Mulelid Trio

Monday, October 14, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

What You Thought Was Home

An album that builds on the promise of the début and which should find favour with all lovers of contemporary piano jazz.

Kjetil Mulelid Trio

“What You Thought Was Home”

(Rune Grammofon RCD2208)

Kjetil Mulelid – piano, Bjorn Marius Hegge – double bass, Andreas Skar Winther - drums


“What You Thought Was Home” is the second release on the Rune Grammofon label by the Kjetil Mulelid Trio, the follow up to 2017’s acclaimed “Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House”, reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/kjetil-mulelid-trio-not-nearly-enough-to-buy-a-house/

Mulelid, aged 28, was raised in the small Norwegian village of Hurdal and has been playing piano since the age of nine, initially inspired by the music of Frederic Chopin. He later developed an interest in jazz and subsequently obtained a bachelor degree in jazz performance from the NTNU in Trondheim before becoming a professional jazz musician.

Mulelid first came to my attention in 2013 as part of the Nordic trio Lauv ( the group name is the Norwegian for “Leaf”), who released the highly promising EP “De Som Er Eldre Enn Voksne” in that year, the title translating as “Those Who Are Older Than Adults”.  My review of the EP can be read here.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/de-som-er-eldre-enn-voksne/

The following year I enjoyed seeing Mulelid perform live at the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival when he was one of the star soloists at the annual Trondheim Jazz Exchange event, which sees students from the Jazz courses at the Birmingham and Trondheim Conservatoires combining to make music together and presenting the results to the jazz going public.

Now based in Copenhagen Mulelid a typical young jazz musician of today, involved in a variety of genre defying projects embracing a broad range of musical influences.  Lauv is no more but Mulelid leads his own piano trio (as featured here), forms half of the duo Kjemilie with vocalist Emilie Vasseljen Storaas and is part of the group Fieldfare, a song based, more pop orientated outfit featuring Winther, vocalist Siril Maldemal Hauge,and former Lauv bassist  Bardur Reinert Poulsen.

Mulelid and Poulsen are also members of the instrumental quartet Wako, a group that also includes saxophonist Martin Myhre Olsen (who appeared at the Trondheim Jazz Exchange event in 2012) and drummer Simon Olderskog Albertsen. Their début album, 2015’s “The Good Story” was very well received by the Norwegian jazz media.

Wako appears to be primarily Olsen’s project. The saxophonist wrote all the compositions and arrangements for the group’s second album “Modes for All Eternity” (2017),  an ambitious but largely successful collaboration between the Wako quartet and three members of Oslo Strings, violinist Kaja Constance Rogers,  violist Isa Caroline Holmesland and cellist Kaja Fjellberg Pettersen.  My review of that album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wako-and-oslo-strings-modes-for-all-eternity/

In 2018 Wako released a second quartet album, “Urolige Sinn”, for the Ora Fonogram label, a recording featuring compositions by both Olsen and Mulelid.

Mulelid also collaborates with Olsen as part of the saxophonist’s MMO Ensemble, a
jazz/classical quartet that also features vocalist Hauge and cellist Pettersen and is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Mulelid, Olsen and Hauge have also been part of the Norwegian sextet Wild Things Run Fast, a tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell.

As can be seen from the above the Norwegian jazz scene is something of a hothouse with the NTNU in Trondheim seemingly its epicentre. Bjorn Marius Hegge, bassist with the Mulelid trio, also studied there and appeared at the Trondheim Jazz Exchange in Cheltenham as recently as 2016. He has since turned professional and won a Norwegian Grammy for his début album with his quintet, a recording simply titled “Hegge”. The bassist also leads his own trio featuring pianist Oscar Gronberg and drummer Hans Hulbaekmo, two other Trondheim graduates. In June 2017 he released the album “Ideas”, leading an international quintet featuring Hulbaekmo, pianist Havard Wiik and the German musicians Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dorner (trumpet).

Drummer Winther is also a Trondheim graduate. He is a member of the Fieldfare group and has recorded two albums as part of the septet Megalodon Collective, another group comprised of Trondheim alumni. Winther also appears on “Left Exit, Mr K”, a quartet recording on the Clean Feed label featuring Karl Hjalmar Nyberg and Klaus Holm (reeds) and Michael Duch (double bass). Winther is the younger brother of jazz guitarist Christian Skar Winther.

Turning now to this latest recording which features eight new original compositions from Mulelid, plus one from the pen of Hegge.

The album introduces itself quietly with Mulelid’s beautiful title track, which begins in almost subliminal fashion before Mulelid sketches out one of his most beguiling melodies at the piano. The piece unfolds slowly with the leader soloing in lyrical fashion, developing the flow of his ideas above the gentle bustle of Winther’s filigree cymbal work and the anchoring presence of Hegge’s bass. There’s an almost hymnal quality about the music that invites comparisons with the work of Mulelid’s fellow countryman Tord Gustavsen, something that Winther’s delicate, subtly detailed, Jarle Vespestad-like performance only encourages.

Mulelid’s next composition, “Folk Song”, raises the energy levels a touch and finds the trio improvising around an ongoing bass and piano vamp. This fulcrum actually affords the musicians, particularly Mulelid and Winther, a good deal of freedom, with the drummer playing a prominent role in the success of the performance. The interplay between him and Mulelid is particularly engrossing with the dialogue almost shading off into ‘free jazz’ on occasions.

More obviously influenced by Norwegian music is Hegge’s composition “Bruremarsj”, the title translating as “Wedding March”. Again this is a highly interactive performance from a very well balanced trio. Throughout the album Winther and Hegge are far more than mere ‘accompanists’, this is a highly contemporary trio who function together as a single entity.
As if to emphasise the point Hegge features as a soloist here, complementing Mulelid’s Jarrett like interpretations of the folk inspired melody.

Winther introduces “Tales” at the drums, setting the pace for another of Mulelid’s compositions, this one a brief fascinating balance between hymn like melody and almost free jazz like interplay; the apparently serene surface initially created subsequently pierced by shards of wilful dissonance.

“Far Away” is a beautiful solo piano performance from Mulelid that commences in gently lyrical fashion before gradually embracing a greater intensity and complexity. That early Chopin influence is particularly evident here.

Hegge and Winther return for “A Cautionary Tale Against A Repetitive Life”. It sounds like an E.S.T. title but the music is more gentle and considered, initially flowingly lyrical but leading to a series of repeated diminuendos, that presumably give the piece its name. Hegge’s bass helps to punctuate these moments and trio emerge on the other side with an expansive and discursive solo from Mulelid, before ending with another short sequence of diminuendos. It’s an intriguingly structured piece, that nevertheless manages to maintain the listener’s attention.

“Waltz For Ima” is an engaging jazz waltz that helps to reinforce the Bill Evans comparisons made about the trio’s début. Here Mulelid’s piano explorations are complemented by a lengthy bass solo from Hegge, who also enters into a spirited dialogue with the leader above the bustle of Winther’s brushed drums. Mulelid’s playing here manages to evoke both Evans and Jarrett, but still sounds fiercely individual.

“When Winter Turns To Spring”  features the trio at their most interactive as they coalesce around Mulelid’s darting, staccato piano motifs. The leader’s Jarrett style vocalising suggests that much of the performance is freely improvised with both Hegge and Winther busy presences within the mix. Having reached a peak with their energetic but intricate interplay the trio then effect a slower, minimalist style outro.

The final track is “Homecoming”, introduced by Mulelid at the piano, another piece with a strong melody and a decidedly hymn like quality. Hegge delivers a highly melodic double bass solo while Winther’s performance offers a final reminder that he is one of the most ‘musical’ drummers around, his playing rich in terms of nuance, colour and texture, it’s so much more than just ‘keeping the beat’.

At the time of writing “What You Thought Was Home”, which was released on August 30th 2019, seems to have attracted rather less media attention than its widely acclaimed predecessor. I’m not quite sure why this should be as its another excellent recording incorporating strong melodies, rich harmonies and rhythmic inventiveness. The quality and imagination of the writing helps to engage the listener’s attention throughout and the quality of the playing is exceptional.

Despite the Evans and Jarrett comparisons this record sounds more obviously Norwegian than its predecessor with Gustavsen perhaps more of an influence this time round. But it’s still very much Mulelid’s record, an album that builds on the promise of the début and which should find favour with all lovers of contemporary piano jazz.

For what is still a comparatively young band it’s a highly mature collection from a very well integrated, highly interactive, and finely balanced trio.

The Kjetil Mulelid Trio are about to embark on a European tour with a date at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London on Thursday 31st October 2019. Full tour schedule below;

Kjetil Mulelid Trio
16.10 Stockholm (Glenn Miller Jazz Café), Sweden
17.10 Copenhagen (KoncertKirken), Denmark
18.10 Hamar (Jazzklubb), Norway
19.10 Hurdal (Kultursenter), Norway
20.10 Halden (Athletic Live), Norway
27.10 Paris (City Universitet Jazz Festival), Norway
31.10 Vortex (Jazz Club), UK
01.11 Brügge (27bFlat), Belgium
08.11 Ålesund (Parken Kulturhus), Norway
09.11 Fosnavåg (Konserthus), Norway
10.11 Trondheim (Antikvariatet), Norway

Led Bib - It’s Morning Rating: 4 out of 5 "Just when you think you’ve got this group sussed they keep on surprising, always moving forwards". Ian Mann on a radical change of direction from Led Bib.

Led Bib

“It’s Morning”

(RareNoise Records RNR 108)


Mark Holub – drums, Chris Williams – alto sax, Pete Grogan – alto & tenor sax, Liran Donin- bass & backing vocals, Sharron Fortnam – lead vocals, Elliot Galvin – piano, keyboards

Guests; Jack Hues – vocals, Susanna Gartmayer – bass clarinet, Irene Kepl – violin, Noid - cello


Led Bib’s second album for the London based RareNoise record label represents a radical departure for the band with the first line up changes since its formation in 2004 and the first use of vocals and lyrics on a Led Bib recording.

Led by the American born drummer and composer Mark Holub Led Bib was founded at Middlesex University and the band have always relished their ‘outsider’ status on the British jazz scene. Strongly influenced by John Zorn their music has historically combined the power of rock with a passion for improvisation, resulting in a blend of ‘skronk’ or ‘punk’ jazz that invited comparisons with such bands as Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Get The Blessing and which resulted in an expanding cult following.

I’ve been following Led Bib’s music since 2006 after first discovering the band on a hot and sweaty night at the Vortex in North London. The enterprising quintet were curating their own mini festival dubbed the “Dalston Summer Stew”. The series was spread over three nights and I witnessed the first of these shows which featured sets from Led Bib themselves, a solo slot from that remarkable maverick of the piano Matthew Bourne and finally a second sonic attack from Nottingham noiseniks Pinski Zoo. Subsequent evenings featured the bands of Chris Batchelor and Iain Ballamy among others.

Led Bib themselves were loud and uncompromising but I enjoyed what I heard and purchased a copy of their début album “Arboretum”. I was most impressed by this and it remains something of a personal favourite.

In 2007 the band followed this with the equally impressive “Sizewell Tea”, which saw them broadening their range. Indeed every Led Bib album release has seen them building on their initial template and exhibiting clear signs of artistic growth. Initially Holub was the group’s sole composer, with the exception of the occasional inspired cover by the likes of David Byrne and David Bowie, and he has remained its principal writer. However later recordings have seen other group members bringing compositions to the table, expanding the range of the group, albeit within a well defined sonic framework. Interestingly enough “It’s Morning” is the first album to contain the credit “all music by Led Bib”, suggesting a radical change in the group’s working methods.

The first Led Bib album that I reviewed was the 2009 release “Sensible Shoes”, which received a Mercury Music Prize nomination and helped to raise their profile considerably. 2011’s “Bring Your Own” consolidated their position and was their most melodic record to date, while 2014’s “The People In Your Neighbourhood” saw them stretching out once more and placing a greater emphasis on the improvisational side of their music, an aspect explored even more deeply on the limited edition live recording “The Good Egg”.

Something of a hiatus followed with Holub re-locating from London to Vienna and concentrating on other projects, such as the trio Blublut (with Austrian guitarist Chris Janka and American theremin specialist Pamelia Stickney) and his duo with violinist Irene Kepl. The other members of the band also kept themselves busy, with Williams particularly active as a sideman with a broad range of jazz acts and the Israel born Donin forming his own 1000 Boats group, with which he released the excellent 2018 album “8 Songs”.

In 2017 Led Bib re-convened to release “Umbrella Weather”, their first album for RareNoise after a lengthy stint with Cuneiform Records. Suitably rejuvenated the band produced some of their best, and most dynamic, work on an album with a distinct political subtext. In the wake of Trump and Brexit Holub commented “there’s such a shit-storm outside it’s certainly Umbrella Weather”

Over the course of the last two years I’ve spoken to both Williams and Donin at gigs by other artists (Arun Ghosh, Sarah Gillespie, 1000 Boats) and both have told me that Led Bib have been working on something very special and that the next album was going to be very different to anything the band had ever recorded before.

On the evidence of “It’s Morning” one can hardly disagree with their assessment. The departure of the band’s original pianist and keyboard player Toby McLaren has seen the young, maverick talent of rising star Elliot Galvin added to the fold. Galvin had occasionally depped for McLaren and had obviously proved himself a good fit for the band.

Of even more significance is the expansion of the core line up to included singer and lyricist Sharron Fortnam, whose mezzo soprano vocals have been featured on recordings by the North Sea Radio Orchestra (of which she is a co-founder) and the bands Cardiacs and The Shrubbies.

Holub has said of his band’s change of direction;
“Led Bib has developed an identifiable improvisation language over the last fifteen years. After all that time we started to wonder what it might be like to take that language into a whole new area”.

This is a process that will be further expanded upon in the group’s forthcoming live appearances. The music of “It’s Morning” will be supplemented by a concert length film created by film-maker Dylan Pecora. This explores and expands upon the album and the cinematic images will be manipulated in live performances by VJ Oli Chilton.

“I want our shows to feel like Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests” explains Holub, “I’m hoping people will be transported somewhere else. The experience of just sitting down and being engrossed in something for an hour is a meaningful thing”.

The drummer has also mentioned the influence of ‘psychedelic’ bands such as Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.  Although there’s little in Led Bib’s music that draws directly from those bands there still remains something of a conceptual link.

The album itself follows a strong narrative arc with a series of atmospheric miniatures punctuating lengthier, more obviously composed pieces. Opener “Atom Stories” falls somewhere between these two approaches with a passage of spacey, electronic sounds, presumably keyboard generated, leading to a more formal section featuring Fortnam’s fragile vocals.

This segues into “Stratford East”, a slice of inner city inspired dystopia that emerges out of a dirty, glitchy, fuzzed up synthesiser motif, this complemented by the primitive power of Holub’s drumming. Kepl’s violin dances lithely around these rhythms as the music gathers both momentum and complexity, sometimes lending an African flavour to the music. Fortnam sings Hues’ lyric, the sweetness of her voice providing an effective contrast with the bitterness of the words and the power of the music. One is also reminded of the Led Bib of old as the saxes break loose mid tune, one soloing incisively before entering into a thrillingly squalling dialogue with its companion.

There’s another segue into the thirty nine second title track, a fleeting but engaging dialogue between Fortnam’s breathy vocal and guest Susanna Gartmayer’s bass clarinet.

The album’s centre piece is the eleven minute composition “Fold”, which emerges from a spookily atmospheric extended intro featuring organ and synthesiser sounds. Other elements gradually join the fray, electric bass,  acoustic piano and finally the two saxes in an uncharacteristically gentle dialogue. Holub’s drums subsequently instigate a more forceful strand of sonic exploration on a piece that stays true to Holub’s ‘psychedelic’ theme while also embracing the world of free jazz. In the latter changes of the tune Fortnam’s ethereal vocals inform us that “time is a haunting memory” and implore us to “change the storyline” prior to an atmospheric outro featuring the crystalline tones of Galvin on acoustic piano.

If the lyrics of “Fold” help to emphasise the filmic nature of this project then “Cutting Room Floor” goes a stage further with Hues, once of the new wave band Wang Chung, adopting the role of director with his spoken exhortations to “let the film run backwards”. He and Fortnam combine to deliver the jointly written lyrics above a minimalist groove dominated by the ‘ratcheting’ sounds of Holub’s drums.

Fortnam’s lyrics for the wistful “To Dry In The Rain” evoke a cloud shrouded cityscape, her voice complemented by Galvin’s ever inventive keyboard shadings.  It’s perhaps the most conventionally ‘song structured’ piece of the set, growing from quiet beginnings to embrace an anthemic intensity as the rest of the band become fully involved. However there’s a twist in the tail as the piece resolves itself with a wistful, spacious passage of unaccompanied acoustic piano from Galvin that also acts as the link into the next piece, simply titled “O”. This is an atmospheric, slowly building composition that again tips its hat to minimalism, before evolving into something more obviously song like and building to an anthemic climax, then finally subsiding once more.

Fortnam’s lyrics for “Flood Warning”  (“forgot your umbrella, keep your eyelids tightly closed tonight”) seem to allude to Led Bib’s previous album. Musically the piece again cleverly offsets the sweetness of her voice with the harsh ferment of the music bubbling beneath.

The album concludes with the brief, but atmospheric and elegiac “Set Sail”, one and a half minutes of Fortnam’s pure, yearning, folk tinged vocals combined with eerie, wispy electronics.

Williams and Donin promised me “something very different” from Led Bib and that’s exactly what this radical new album delivers.  Thanks to what they had both told me I was kind of prepared for this, but nevertheless the album will still probably come as something of a shock to many of the band’s regular listeners.

Nevertheless I felt that the time had probably come for Led Bib to do something different. After six studio albums and two live recordings their sound had become very well defined, the twin sax attack, the powerhouse rhythm section, the technological wild card element of McLaren’s keyboards. Even allowing for the fact that each album offered a discernible artistic development and a subtle refinement of that sound the time was still ripe for change.

On the whole “It’s Morning” works very well. Fortnam’s voice brings a whole new dimension to the band and the mercurial and brilliant Galvin is the perfect replacement for the madcap McLaren.
The album is clearly a semi-conceptual affair with the cinematic element a key part of the work. In the main the composing is colourful, inventive and varied, introducing new aspects to the group’s music while still retaining something of the old Led Bib ‘bite’. That said I’d like to have heard a bit more from Williams and Grogan, who rarely get the chance to cut loose, but then even Holub maintains a low profile at times, occasionally sitting out altogether.

My promo copy of the CD didn’t include any transcripts of the lyrics, which is a shame, as I’m sure that the opportunity of a full reading of the words would have enhanced and heightened my enjoyment of the work.

I’m now looking forward to seeing the band performing the album in conjunction with Pecora’s film and Chilton’s video-manipulations at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, London on the afternoon of Sunday 24th November 2019 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Led Bib will also be performing at the Metronome in Nottingham on November 8th. Please visit http://www.ledbib.com for further details.

Following the success of this recording it will be interesting to see what Led Bib will do next and whether Fortnam will become a permanent member of the group. I still love the old five piece Led Bib but applaud their adventurousness and willingness to change. Just when you think you’ve got this group sussed they keep on surprising, always moving forwards.

It’s Morning

Led Bib

Friday, October 11, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

It’s Morning

"Just when you think you’ve got this group sussed they keep on surprising, always moving forwards". Ian Mann on a radical change of direction from Led Bib.

Led Bib

“It’s Morning”

(RareNoise Records RNR 108)


Mark Holub – drums, Chris Williams – alto sax, Pete Grogan – alto & tenor sax, Liran Donin- bass & backing vocals, Sharron Fortnam – lead vocals, Elliot Galvin – piano, keyboards

Guests; Jack Hues – vocals, Susanna Gartmayer – bass clarinet, Irene Kepl – violin, Noid - cello


Led Bib’s second album for the London based RareNoise record label represents a radical departure for the band with the first line up changes since its formation in 2004 and the first use of vocals and lyrics on a Led Bib recording.

Led by the American born drummer and composer Mark Holub Led Bib was founded at Middlesex University and the band have always relished their ‘outsider’ status on the British jazz scene. Strongly influenced by John Zorn their music has historically combined the power of rock with a passion for improvisation, resulting in a blend of ‘skronk’ or ‘punk’ jazz that invited comparisons with such bands as Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Get The Blessing and which resulted in an expanding cult following.

I’ve been following Led Bib’s music since 2006 after first discovering the band on a hot and sweaty night at the Vortex in North London. The enterprising quintet were curating their own mini festival dubbed the “Dalston Summer Stew”. The series was spread over three nights and I witnessed the first of these shows which featured sets from Led Bib themselves, a solo slot from that remarkable maverick of the piano Matthew Bourne and finally a second sonic attack from Nottingham noiseniks Pinski Zoo. Subsequent evenings featured the bands of Chris Batchelor and Iain Ballamy among others.

Led Bib themselves were loud and uncompromising but I enjoyed what I heard and purchased a copy of their début album “Arboretum”. I was most impressed by this and it remains something of a personal favourite.

In 2007 the band followed this with the equally impressive “Sizewell Tea”, which saw them broadening their range. Indeed every Led Bib album release has seen them building on their initial template and exhibiting clear signs of artistic growth. Initially Holub was the group’s sole composer, with the exception of the occasional inspired cover by the likes of David Byrne and David Bowie, and he has remained its principal writer. However later recordings have seen other group members bringing compositions to the table, expanding the range of the group, albeit within a well defined sonic framework. Interestingly enough “It’s Morning” is the first album to contain the credit “all music by Led Bib”, suggesting a radical change in the group’s working methods.

The first Led Bib album that I reviewed was the 2009 release “Sensible Shoes”, which received a Mercury Music Prize nomination and helped to raise their profile considerably. 2011’s “Bring Your Own” consolidated their position and was their most melodic record to date, while 2014’s “The People In Your Neighbourhood” saw them stretching out once more and placing a greater emphasis on the improvisational side of their music, an aspect explored even more deeply on the limited edition live recording “The Good Egg”.

Something of a hiatus followed with Holub re-locating from London to Vienna and concentrating on other projects, such as the trio Blublut (with Austrian guitarist Chris Janka and American theremin specialist Pamelia Stickney) and his duo with violinist Irene Kepl. The other members of the band also kept themselves busy, with Williams particularly active as a sideman with a broad range of jazz acts and the Israel born Donin forming his own 1000 Boats group, with which he released the excellent 2018 album “8 Songs”.

In 2017 Led Bib re-convened to release “Umbrella Weather”, their first album for RareNoise after a lengthy stint with Cuneiform Records. Suitably rejuvenated the band produced some of their best, and most dynamic, work on an album with a distinct political subtext. In the wake of Trump and Brexit Holub commented “there’s such a shit-storm outside it’s certainly Umbrella Weather”

Over the course of the last two years I’ve spoken to both Williams and Donin at gigs by other artists (Arun Ghosh, Sarah Gillespie, 1000 Boats) and both have told me that Led Bib have been working on something very special and that the next album was going to be very different to anything the band had ever recorded before.

On the evidence of “It’s Morning” one can hardly disagree with their assessment. The departure of the band’s original pianist and keyboard player Toby McLaren has seen the young, maverick talent of rising star Elliot Galvin added to the fold. Galvin had occasionally depped for McLaren and had obviously proved himself a good fit for the band.

Of even more significance is the expansion of the core line up to included singer and lyricist Sharron Fortnam, whose mezzo soprano vocals have been featured on recordings by the North Sea Radio Orchestra (of which she is a co-founder) and the bands Cardiacs and The Shrubbies.

Holub has said of his band’s change of direction;
“Led Bib has developed an identifiable improvisation language over the last fifteen years. After all that time we started to wonder what it might be like to take that language into a whole new area”.

This is a process that will be further expanded upon in the group’s forthcoming live appearances. The music of “It’s Morning” will be supplemented by a concert length film created by film-maker Dylan Pecora. This explores and expands upon the album and the cinematic images will be manipulated in live performances by VJ Oli Chilton.

“I want our shows to feel like Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests” explains Holub, “I’m hoping people will be transported somewhere else. The experience of just sitting down and being engrossed in something for an hour is a meaningful thing”.

The drummer has also mentioned the influence of ‘psychedelic’ bands such as Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.  Although there’s little in Led Bib’s music that draws directly from those bands there still remains something of a conceptual link.

The album itself follows a strong narrative arc with a series of atmospheric miniatures punctuating lengthier, more obviously composed pieces. Opener “Atom Stories” falls somewhere between these two approaches with a passage of spacey, electronic sounds, presumably keyboard generated, leading to a more formal section featuring Fortnam’s fragile vocals.

This segues into “Stratford East”, a slice of inner city inspired dystopia that emerges out of a dirty, glitchy, fuzzed up synthesiser motif, this complemented by the primitive power of Holub’s drumming. Kepl’s violin dances lithely around these rhythms as the music gathers both momentum and complexity, sometimes lending an African flavour to the music. Fortnam sings Hues’ lyric, the sweetness of her voice providing an effective contrast with the bitterness of the words and the power of the music. One is also reminded of the Led Bib of old as the saxes break loose mid tune, one soloing incisively before entering into a thrillingly squalling dialogue with its companion.

There’s another segue into the thirty nine second title track, a fleeting but engaging dialogue between Fortnam’s breathy vocal and guest Susanna Gartmayer’s bass clarinet.

The album’s centre piece is the eleven minute composition “Fold”, which emerges from a spookily atmospheric extended intro featuring organ and synthesiser sounds. Other elements gradually join the fray, electric bass,  acoustic piano and finally the two saxes in an uncharacteristically gentle dialogue. Holub’s drums subsequently instigate a more forceful strand of sonic exploration on a piece that stays true to Holub’s ‘psychedelic’ theme while also embracing the world of free jazz. In the latter changes of the tune Fortnam’s ethereal vocals inform us that “time is a haunting memory” and implore us to “change the storyline” prior to an atmospheric outro featuring the crystalline tones of Galvin on acoustic piano.

If the lyrics of “Fold” help to emphasise the filmic nature of this project then “Cutting Room Floor” goes a stage further with Hues, once of the new wave band Wang Chung, adopting the role of director with his spoken exhortations to “let the film run backwards”. He and Fortnam combine to deliver the jointly written lyrics above a minimalist groove dominated by the ‘ratcheting’ sounds of Holub’s drums.

Fortnam’s lyrics for the wistful “To Dry In The Rain” evoke a cloud shrouded cityscape, her voice complemented by Galvin’s ever inventive keyboard shadings.  It’s perhaps the most conventionally ‘song structured’ piece of the set, growing from quiet beginnings to embrace an anthemic intensity as the rest of the band become fully involved. However there’s a twist in the tail as the piece resolves itself with a wistful, spacious passage of unaccompanied acoustic piano from Galvin that also acts as the link into the next piece, simply titled “O”. This is an atmospheric, slowly building composition that again tips its hat to minimalism, before evolving into something more obviously song like and building to an anthemic climax, then finally subsiding once more.

Fortnam’s lyrics for “Flood Warning”  (“forgot your umbrella, keep your eyelids tightly closed tonight”) seem to allude to Led Bib’s previous album. Musically the piece again cleverly offsets the sweetness of her voice with the harsh ferment of the music bubbling beneath.

The album concludes with the brief, but atmospheric and elegiac “Set Sail”, one and a half minutes of Fortnam’s pure, yearning, folk tinged vocals combined with eerie, wispy electronics.

Williams and Donin promised me “something very different” from Led Bib and that’s exactly what this radical new album delivers.  Thanks to what they had both told me I was kind of prepared for this, but nevertheless the album will still probably come as something of a shock to many of the band’s regular listeners.

Nevertheless I felt that the time had probably come for Led Bib to do something different. After six studio albums and two live recordings their sound had become very well defined, the twin sax attack, the powerhouse rhythm section, the technological wild card element of McLaren’s keyboards. Even allowing for the fact that each album offered a discernible artistic development and a subtle refinement of that sound the time was still ripe for change.

On the whole “It’s Morning” works very well. Fortnam’s voice brings a whole new dimension to the band and the mercurial and brilliant Galvin is the perfect replacement for the madcap McLaren.
The album is clearly a semi-conceptual affair with the cinematic element a key part of the work. In the main the composing is colourful, inventive and varied, introducing new aspects to the group’s music while still retaining something of the old Led Bib ‘bite’. That said I’d like to have heard a bit more from Williams and Grogan, who rarely get the chance to cut loose, but then even Holub maintains a low profile at times, occasionally sitting out altogether.

My promo copy of the CD didn’t include any transcripts of the lyrics, which is a shame, as I’m sure that the opportunity of a full reading of the words would have enhanced and heightened my enjoyment of the work.

I’m now looking forward to seeing the band performing the album in conjunction with Pecora’s film and Chilton’s video-manipulations at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, London on the afternoon of Sunday 24th November 2019 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Led Bib will also be performing at the Metronome in Nottingham on November 8th. Please visit http://www.ledbib.com for further details.

Following the success of this recording it will be interesting to see what Led Bib will do next and whether Fortnam will become a permanent member of the group. I still love the old five piece Led Bib but applaud their adventurousness and willingness to change. Just when you think you’ve got this group sussed they keep on surprising, always moving forwards.

Fat-Suit - Waifs & Strays Rating: 4 out of 5 Another impressive offering from Fat-Suit. The album combines intelligent writing and arranging with some excellent ensemble playing and some inspired individual soloing.

Fat-Suit

“Waifs & Strays”

(Equinox Records EQX006CD)

“Waifs & Strays” is the fourth album release from the young Scottish big band Fat-Suit and represents the follow up to 2016’s highly acclaimed “Atlas”.

Named because they are “a big outfit” Fat-Suit first came together at Strathclyde University” and was originally conceived as a Snarky Puppy tribute band. Taking their initial inspiration from the phenomenally successful Anglo-American act Fat-Suit developed quickly and now compose all of their material.

Fat-Suit has always maintained a fluid line up, its ranks including musicians drawn from the worlds of jazz, folk, rock and electronica. “Atlas” drew on a pool of twenty seven musicians while “Waifs & Strays” features even more, once its guest soloists become part of the equation.

For live work the band typically comprises of eight members for a club gig, fourteen for a concert hall or theatre engagement and up to thirty in the recording studio. “Waifs & Strays” was recorded, and also filmed,  over a four day period at the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow. Given the nature of the location I’m surprised they got any work done at all! I know I’d have been fatally distracted!

For this latest album the massed ranks of Fat Suit lined up as follows;

Mark Scobbie – drums

Stephen Henderson, Grant Cassidy, Martyn Hodge – percussion

Gus Sirrat – bass guitar

Dorian Cloudsley, Fraser Jackson – guitars

Craig McMahon, Alan Benzie, Moss Taylor, Ciaran McEneny – keyboards

Murray McFarlane, Alex Sharples – trumpets & flugels

Mateusz Sobieski – tenor sax

Liam Shortall – trombone & tuba

Mhairi Marwick, Laura Wilkie, Katie Rush, Rhona Macfarlane, Lissa Robertson, Colin McKee – violins

Sarah Leonard, Nicola Boag – violas

Rachel Wilson, David Munn – cellos

Guest Soloists;

Johnny Woodham – trumpet

Corrina Hewat – harp

Davie Dunsmuir – guitar

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to witness a performance by the fourteen piece version of Fat Suit in the Clore Ballroom at the Southbank as part of that year’s EFG Jazz Festival. My impressions of that event are reproduced below;

“Fat-Suit draw on many genres including jazz, funk, rock and folk and this was a performance to enjoy rather than analyse. With some dynamic grooves, crunching, razor sharp ensemble playing and some sparky solos from all sections of the band this was a technically proficient, but above all very exciting, performance. Fat-Suit are a great live band who are likely to appeal to a very broad constituency, not just hard core jazz fans. They work at their presentation but there’s no sense of them ‘dumbing down’ their music for their audience. Like their initial inspiration Fat-Suit are loud, sassy and brassy and the Clore audience absolutely loved them”.

My review of the “Atlas” album (which also incorporates the above paragraph) can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/fat-suit-atlas/

“Waifs & Strays” commences with the composition “Rumblings”, written by the band’s co-founder Dorian Cloudsley. Deep brass sonorities combine with electric keyboards and funky grooves to create an impressive barrage of sound. The punchy nature of the performance is a reminder of that Snarky Puppy influence, but there are more reflective episodes too, one eventually spawning a soaring guitar solo from featured musician Fraser Jackson that sees him gradually ratcheting up the tension before heading for the stratosphere. The band’s deployment of a wide range of keyboard colours and textures is also impressive, with both organ and synthesiser sounds being deployed in a rich and imaginative arrangement.

Bassist Gus Stirrat’s “Keo” offers another example of Fat-Suit’s impressive power, channelling 70s style funk and fusion for the 21st century, again deploying a rich mix of keyboard sounds. The featured musician here is Mateusz Sobieski, who weighs in with a muscular tenor sax solo above a powerful rhythmic groove spearheaded by Mark Scobbie’s dynamic drumming. Scobbie then enjoys an extended drum feature before a rousing collective finale featuring some truly gargantuan riffing.

Craig McMahon’s “The Crane And The Crow” begins in more reflective fashion, but gradually builds to embrace an impressive riff based dynamism featuring brass and reeds alongside the electric keyboards and guitars. The featured soloist is guest Johnny Woodham on trumpet, a musician known to me from his work with the artist Alfa Mist. Woodham delivers a thoughtful and fluent solo above a steadily escalating groove, his is an impressive and convincing contribution.

There’s a welcome change of mood, style and pace with the folk flavoured “Countryside Quiet”, written by the American harpist Rachel Clemente and arranged for Fat-Suit by bassist Stirrat. The strings feature more prominently here and the featured soloist is guest musician Corrina Hewat, whose delightfully delicate harp playing inevitably conjures up ethereal images of swirling Celtic mists. However it’s not all fey mysticism, the collective weight of Fat-Suit helps to ensure that there’s still plenty of heft and substance in Stirrat’s arrangement.
The composer of the piece, Clemente, was born in Ohio and is now based in New England. Thanks to her love of traditional Scottish music she came to study it at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, graduating in 2018. One suspects that although now resident in another country she is still a part of the Fat-Suit family.

Craig McMahon’s hard driving “Brum Doing A Wheelie” ups the pace once more and demonstrates the fun side of the band. Rock rhythms predominate with drummer Scobbie giving a particularly dynamic performance. The featured musician is Alan Benzie, one of the band’s four keyboard players, who delivers a searing synthesiser solo.

Cloudsley’s composition “Caretaker” builds gradually from simple and gentle beginnings to embrace rich horn and string textures before finally adapting a ferocious funk groove powered by Stirrat’s bass. Chunky guitars, funky keys and punchy horns add to the mix with Liam Shortall breaking ranks to deliver a rousing and rasping trombone solo. There’s also something of a feature for the band’s twin percussionists in addition to more scorching keyboard playing.

The trombonist features again on his own African flavoured “Uh Oh” with its joyous melodies and buoyant grooves. An ebullient ensemble performance is capped by another agile ‘bone solo from the composer, following which a shift in style and pace prompts an equally impressive solo from tenor man Sobieski.

Stirrat’s “Mombasa” is initially more reflective and is introduced by the cadences of the composer’s bass, subsequently joined by some subtle blues flavoured guitar, presumably played by the band’s final guest, guitarist Davie Dunsmuir. Although I know Dunsmuir’s playing from his work with Scottish drummer and composer Alyn Cosker he’s also been a regular member of drum superstar Billy Cobham’s band, establishing himself as one of Scotland’s leading jazz exports. After the thoughtful introduction Stirrat’s tune delights in some thrillingly complex seventies style fusion style riffery, reminiscent of Cobham’s classic “Spectrum” band. This really gives the impressive Dunsmuir the chance to demonstrate his chops with some dazzling, turbo-charged soloing.

The album concludes with the shimmering atmospherics of Cloudsley’s evocative and ethereal “Lunar Milk”, which offers some much needed room for the strings and includes a gently trilling electric piano solo from Benzie.

“Waifs & Strays” represents another impressive offering from Fat-Suit. The album combines intelligent writing and arranging with some excellent ensemble playing and some inspired individual soloing. Although frequently complex there’s always an underlying sense of groove allied to an overriding sense of fun. This is an ensemble that is serious about its music, but which doesn’t take itself too seriously, as is always the best way.

From previous experience I can confirm that Fat-Suit are a dynamic and hugely enjoyable live act. The eight piece version of the band is currently touring the UK in support of this current album.
Details of dates at http://www.fat-suit.co.uk

Waifs & Strays

Fat-Suit

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Waifs & Strays

Another impressive offering from Fat-Suit. The album combines intelligent writing and arranging with some excellent ensemble playing and some inspired individual soloing.

Fat-Suit

“Waifs & Strays”

(Equinox Records EQX006CD)

“Waifs & Strays” is the fourth album release from the young Scottish big band Fat-Suit and represents the follow up to 2016’s highly acclaimed “Atlas”.

Named because they are “a big outfit” Fat-Suit first came together at Strathclyde University” and was originally conceived as a Snarky Puppy tribute band. Taking their initial inspiration from the phenomenally successful Anglo-American act Fat-Suit developed quickly and now compose all of their material.

Fat-Suit has always maintained a fluid line up, its ranks including musicians drawn from the worlds of jazz, folk, rock and electronica. “Atlas” drew on a pool of twenty seven musicians while “Waifs & Strays” features even more, once its guest soloists become part of the equation.

For live work the band typically comprises of eight members for a club gig, fourteen for a concert hall or theatre engagement and up to thirty in the recording studio. “Waifs & Strays” was recorded, and also filmed,  over a four day period at the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow. Given the nature of the location I’m surprised they got any work done at all! I know I’d have been fatally distracted!

For this latest album the massed ranks of Fat Suit lined up as follows;

Mark Scobbie – drums

Stephen Henderson, Grant Cassidy, Martyn Hodge – percussion

Gus Sirrat – bass guitar

Dorian Cloudsley, Fraser Jackson – guitars

Craig McMahon, Alan Benzie, Moss Taylor, Ciaran McEneny – keyboards

Murray McFarlane, Alex Sharples – trumpets & flugels

Mateusz Sobieski – tenor sax

Liam Shortall – trombone & tuba

Mhairi Marwick, Laura Wilkie, Katie Rush, Rhona Macfarlane, Lissa Robertson, Colin McKee – violins

Sarah Leonard, Nicola Boag – violas

Rachel Wilson, David Munn – cellos

Guest Soloists;

Johnny Woodham – trumpet

Corrina Hewat – harp

Davie Dunsmuir – guitar

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to witness a performance by the fourteen piece version of Fat Suit in the Clore Ballroom at the Southbank as part of that year’s EFG Jazz Festival. My impressions of that event are reproduced below;

“Fat-Suit draw on many genres including jazz, funk, rock and folk and this was a performance to enjoy rather than analyse. With some dynamic grooves, crunching, razor sharp ensemble playing and some sparky solos from all sections of the band this was a technically proficient, but above all very exciting, performance. Fat-Suit are a great live band who are likely to appeal to a very broad constituency, not just hard core jazz fans. They work at their presentation but there’s no sense of them ‘dumbing down’ their music for their audience. Like their initial inspiration Fat-Suit are loud, sassy and brassy and the Clore audience absolutely loved them”.

My review of the “Atlas” album (which also incorporates the above paragraph) can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/fat-suit-atlas/

“Waifs & Strays” commences with the composition “Rumblings”, written by the band’s co-founder Dorian Cloudsley. Deep brass sonorities combine with electric keyboards and funky grooves to create an impressive barrage of sound. The punchy nature of the performance is a reminder of that Snarky Puppy influence, but there are more reflective episodes too, one eventually spawning a soaring guitar solo from featured musician Fraser Jackson that sees him gradually ratcheting up the tension before heading for the stratosphere. The band’s deployment of a wide range of keyboard colours and textures is also impressive, with both organ and synthesiser sounds being deployed in a rich and imaginative arrangement.

Bassist Gus Stirrat’s “Keo” offers another example of Fat-Suit’s impressive power, channelling 70s style funk and fusion for the 21st century, again deploying a rich mix of keyboard sounds. The featured musician here is Mateusz Sobieski, who weighs in with a muscular tenor sax solo above a powerful rhythmic groove spearheaded by Mark Scobbie’s dynamic drumming. Scobbie then enjoys an extended drum feature before a rousing collective finale featuring some truly gargantuan riffing.

Craig McMahon’s “The Crane And The Crow” begins in more reflective fashion, but gradually builds to embrace an impressive riff based dynamism featuring brass and reeds alongside the electric keyboards and guitars. The featured soloist is guest Johnny Woodham on trumpet, a musician known to me from his work with the artist Alfa Mist. Woodham delivers a thoughtful and fluent solo above a steadily escalating groove, his is an impressive and convincing contribution.

There’s a welcome change of mood, style and pace with the folk flavoured “Countryside Quiet”, written by the American harpist Rachel Clemente and arranged for Fat-Suit by bassist Stirrat. The strings feature more prominently here and the featured soloist is guest musician Corrina Hewat, whose delightfully delicate harp playing inevitably conjures up ethereal images of swirling Celtic mists. However it’s not all fey mysticism, the collective weight of Fat-Suit helps to ensure that there’s still plenty of heft and substance in Stirrat’s arrangement.
The composer of the piece, Clemente, was born in Ohio and is now based in New England. Thanks to her love of traditional Scottish music she came to study it at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, graduating in 2018. One suspects that although now resident in another country she is still a part of the Fat-Suit family.

Craig McMahon’s hard driving “Brum Doing A Wheelie” ups the pace once more and demonstrates the fun side of the band. Rock rhythms predominate with drummer Scobbie giving a particularly dynamic performance. The featured musician is Alan Benzie, one of the band’s four keyboard players, who delivers a searing synthesiser solo.

Cloudsley’s composition “Caretaker” builds gradually from simple and gentle beginnings to embrace rich horn and string textures before finally adapting a ferocious funk groove powered by Stirrat’s bass. Chunky guitars, funky keys and punchy horns add to the mix with Liam Shortall breaking ranks to deliver a rousing and rasping trombone solo. There’s also something of a feature for the band’s twin percussionists in addition to more scorching keyboard playing.

The trombonist features again on his own African flavoured “Uh Oh” with its joyous melodies and buoyant grooves. An ebullient ensemble performance is capped by another agile ‘bone solo from the composer, following which a shift in style and pace prompts an equally impressive solo from tenor man Sobieski.

Stirrat’s “Mombasa” is initially more reflective and is introduced by the cadences of the composer’s bass, subsequently joined by some subtle blues flavoured guitar, presumably played by the band’s final guest, guitarist Davie Dunsmuir. Although I know Dunsmuir’s playing from his work with Scottish drummer and composer Alyn Cosker he’s also been a regular member of drum superstar Billy Cobham’s band, establishing himself as one of Scotland’s leading jazz exports. After the thoughtful introduction Stirrat’s tune delights in some thrillingly complex seventies style fusion style riffery, reminiscent of Cobham’s classic “Spectrum” band. This really gives the impressive Dunsmuir the chance to demonstrate his chops with some dazzling, turbo-charged soloing.

The album concludes with the shimmering atmospherics of Cloudsley’s evocative and ethereal “Lunar Milk”, which offers some much needed room for the strings and includes a gently trilling electric piano solo from Benzie.

“Waifs & Strays” represents another impressive offering from Fat-Suit. The album combines intelligent writing and arranging with some excellent ensemble playing and some inspired individual soloing. Although frequently complex there’s always an underlying sense of groove allied to an overriding sense of fun. This is an ensemble that is serious about its music, but which doesn’t take itself too seriously, as is always the best way.

From previous experience I can confirm that Fat-Suit are a dynamic and hugely enjoyable live act. The eight piece version of the band is currently touring the UK in support of this current album.
Details of dates at http://www.fat-suit.co.uk

Somersaults - Somersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Creative, stimulating, unique". Ian Mann on the music of the improvising trio Somersaults featuring Olie Brice (double bass), Tobias Delius (tenor sax, clarinet) and Mark Sanders (drums, percussion).

Somersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019.


Olie Brice – double bass, Tobias Delius – tenor sax, clarinet, Mark Sanders – drums, percussion


This performance by the freely improvising trio Somersaults was the latest event in the N-Ex-T series of events curated by Hermon Chapel promoters Barry Edwards and Claudia Lis.

Standing for ‘New Experimental Tones’ the N-Ex-T series has seen a number of the UK’s leading improvisers visiting Oswestry. It’s a genre of music that is close to the heart of Edwards, a guitarist who has recorded with such improvising musicians as Crux Trio members drummer Ed Gauden, bassist Colin Somervell and saxophonist Mark Hanslip.

Somersaults released their eponymous début album in 2015, a studio set featuring three extended improvisations, one of these lasting over half an hour. In 2019 they released a follow up, “Numerology of Birdsong”, a live recording documented in June 2018 at the Iklectik venue in Waterloo, London.

Brice and Sanders have both been regular presences on the Jazzmann web pages in a variety of musical contexts. The bassist’s extensive discography includes two albums as the leader of his own quintet.  “Immune To Clockwork” (2015) and “Day After Day” (2017) are superb recordings that expertly straddle the boundaries between composed and improvised music.

Sanders’ back catalogue is even more exhaustive and he is a musician with an international reputation who has worked with leading British, American and European improvisers. He and Brice frequently perform together as a rhythm team and have worked with musicians such as saxophonists Paul Dunmall, Rachel Musson and Ken Vandermark and guitarist / clarinettist Alex Ward.

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness both Brice and Sanders performing live on several occasions, often at that bastion of free jazz in the Welsh Borders, the Queens Head in Monmouth.

Delius however was a new face to me. Born in England  to an Argentinian father and a German mother, he made his name on the Amsterdam improvised music scene working with musicians such as drummer Han Bennink and cellist Tristan Honsinger.  He has been a key member of the Dutch improvising collective the Instant Composers Pool, or ICP,  originally founded in 1967 by Bennink, pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker.  Like Sanders Delius is a player with an international reputation who has worked with leading improvisers from a variety of different countries.

It was discussions between the rhythm pairing of Brice and Sanders that led to the formation of Somersaults. Both musicians agreed that Delius was one of their favourite saxophonists and that they would like to attempt a collaboration with him. Their first gig was so successful, with the trio immediately establishing a mutual rapport,  that Somersaults has now become a semi-permanent unit with tonight’s event forming part of a short series of British tour dates.

For the past two years Barry and Claudia have been steadily building an audience at the Hermon with their folk programme proving to be particularly successful in terms of attendances. Jazz has generally proved to be a harder sell and free jazz the hardest of the lot. Tonight’s attendance was barely in double figures but the stay-at-homes missed a night of challenging, but always creative and stimulating, music making.

Despite its emphasis on ‘freedom’ and ‘no rules or boundaries’ this brand of jazz has almost inevitably become idiomatic. Improv die hards (and despite tonight’s turn out there are more around than you might think,  with comedian Stewart Lee being the most famous example) would be sorely disappointed if musicians like Brice, Sanders and Delius turned up and decided to play a set of jazz standards or pop covers on the spur of the moment, just because they felt like it. Paradoxically even in the rarefied world of free improvisation there are still certain ‘expectations’.

I write this not as a criticism but as an observation. The improvised world is one I’ve grown into over the years, learning to appreciate its creativity, its subtleties, and ultimately it limitations. I’ll admit that I’ve had to work it, and I’m grateful to one time Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen of the Dalston Sound website, a great champion of experimental and improvised music, for helping to guide me down the path. Also to Tim’s namesake Lyndon Owen, himself a skilled saxophonist, who co-ordinates the improvised music programme at the Queens Head in Monmouth and who has brought many leading figures of the genre to this outpost in the Welsh Borders, among them Sanders, Brice, Paul Dunmall,  Alex Ward,  bassist Dominic Lash, drummer Paul Hession, saxophonists Alan Wilkinson and Tony Bevan and international figures such as guitarist Joe Morris, Necks drummer Tony Buck and saxophonist Hans Peter Hiby. These days I genuinely enjoy this highly demanding style of jazz, I wouldn’t have made the 120 mile round trip to Oswestry otherwise.

All this is by way of saying that tonight’s event was a ‘typical’ free jazz performance with two sets consisting of a single lengthy unbroken improvisation of around forty minutes duration, plus a shorter improvised encore. Despite the small attendance the quality of the first two sets drew such an enthusiastic response from the select few lucky enough to witness them that an encore became inevitable.

Besides being one of the favourite saxophonists of Brice and Sanders Delius also plays the clarinet, and his work on that instrument is just as distinctive as his remarkable saxophone playing.

But it was the sounds of Sanders’ drums that ushered in the first set, subsequently joined by Brice’s bass. Sanders augmented a conventional drum kit with an array of small cymbals, gongs and other small percussive devices, among them a woodblock. These were sometimes deployed on the skins to help create an often staggering panoply of percussive sounds, generated by a myriad variety of sticks, mallets, brushes, beaters and bare hands. Eschewing conventional rhythms and meters Sanders’ drumming was an ongoing polyrhythmic flow, highly inventive and creative, and rich in terms of tone, nuance and colour - but at the right moments also capable of generating an enormous, and undeniably impressive, power.

Meanwhile Brice’s bass was at the heart of the trio, the fulcrum around which the music revolved. His highly physical and powerful pizzicato playing provided both the anchor and the counterpoint to Sanders’ constantly evolving drum commentary and Delius’ explorations on tenor sax and clarinet. His creative use of the bow provided additional colour and texture at various junctures of the performance, as did his judicious use of various extended techniques.

Delius proved to be a highly distinctive and creative player on the two reeds. Less intense than Alan Wilkinson his playing on tenor retained a strong melodic quality throughout, no matter how deeply or far out he probed, I was reminded of Mark Hanslip in this regard. That said Delius’ sax playing was far from conventional, his use of overtones and his habit of punctuating his improvisations with vocalisations, a la Wilkinson, was highly distinctive and it’s fair to say that I’ve never heard anybody play quite like him. Although capable of playing with great power there was no sense of bombast or bluster about Delius’ playing.
His work on the clarinet was no less distinctive, again eschewing the conventional and sometimes adopting an unexpectedly harsh and guttural tone on the instrument. At other times there were hints of the Middle East and North Africa in his sound. Acker Bilk it most certainly was not.

The first of the trio’s improvisations ebbed and flowed, embracing extremes of dynamic contrasts as the first section developed out of the introductory drum and bass improvisations to embrace whispered shards of tenor sax melody, with Delius’ playing gradually becoming more assertive as the music gradually built to an apparent climax, albeit one punctuated by numerous asides and diversions along the way. A passage of unaccompanied bowed bass provided the link into the next section, which saw Delius taking up the clarinet, his sound soft and fluttering at first, before he evoked the sounds of the muezzin as he improvised in strident fashion, fuelled by Brice’s percussive bowing and Sanders’ volcanic drumming. Having peaked the next section, which eventually saw Delius moving back to tenor, evoked a fragile beauty before the trio began to stoke the collective fires once more, building to boiling point through a combination of wailing tenor, powerfully plucked bass and roiling drums. The power generated by Sanders’ solo drum feature took on a certain poignancy on the day that the death of Ginger Baker was announced. The final passage saw Delius moving back to clarinet and Brice picking up the bow, but this wasn’t quite the gentle coda that the listener might have anticipated as Delius’ playing became increasingly animated and guttural before climaxing with some almost impossibly long sustained notes. Astonishing stuff.

The second set was to prove no less intense as it grew out of an introductory passage featuring pecked tenor sax, bowed bass and brushed drums. This led into a passage of solo drumming from Sanders that was stunning in terms of both power and technique. If a rock drummer, like Baker, had delivered this at a stadium gig ten thousand people would have gone absolutely apeshit - we did our best to emulate them. Sanders’ feature helped to pave the way for some of Delius’ most forceful playing of the night as he rattled out a series of rapid tenor sax phrases, giving the volleys of notes an urgent, guttural edge. A passage of solo pizzicato bass provided the link into the next section with Delius taking up the clarinet to deliver high pitched, bird like noises as the trio injected an element of humour into the proceedings. This is music that can turn on a dime, and soon Delius was using his clarinet to deliver foghorn like blasts above a backdrop of monstrous bass and rolling drums, developing to a climax with a series of piercing high register squeaks. Next a more abstract passage featuring Brice’s use of the bow and his deployment of extended techniques. This provided the link into a final ‘freak out’ section that saw Delius moving back to tenor and playing with an incredible power as he contorted his body into improbable shapes, finally unleashing his inner Wilkinson and Brotzmann.

The small, but highly select, audience gave the trio a terrific reception and Barry Edwards was able to tempt them back for a well deserved encore. This began with the duo of Brice and Delius, I suspect Sanders may have been availing himself of the Hermon’s facilities! The opening bass / tenor dialogue was subsequently augmented by the sound of Sanders’ gongs. Delius then began to stretch out on tenor, ululating above Brice’s grounding bass and the softly rolling thunder of Sanders’ drums, a combination of mallets and bare hands on toms and the sound of softly shimmering cymbals. Concise and atmospheric this was an excellent way to end an evening of consistently creative, and, by its very nature, unique music making.

 

 

Somersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019.

Somersaults

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Somersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Pam Mann.

"Creative, stimulating, unique". Ian Mann on the music of the improvising trio Somersaults featuring Olie Brice (double bass), Tobias Delius (tenor sax, clarinet) and Mark Sanders (drums, percussion).

Somersaults, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 06/10/2019.


Olie Brice – double bass, Tobias Delius – tenor sax, clarinet, Mark Sanders – drums, percussion


This performance by the freely improvising trio Somersaults was the latest event in the N-Ex-T series of events curated by Hermon Chapel promoters Barry Edwards and Claudia Lis.

Standing for ‘New Experimental Tones’ the N-Ex-T series has seen a number of the UK’s leading improvisers visiting Oswestry. It’s a genre of music that is close to the heart of Edwards, a guitarist who has recorded with such improvising musicians as Crux Trio members drummer Ed Gauden, bassist Colin Somervell and saxophonist Mark Hanslip.

Somersaults released their eponymous début album in 2015, a studio set featuring three extended improvisations, one of these lasting over half an hour. In 2019 they released a follow up, “Numerology of Birdsong”, a live recording documented in June 2018 at the Iklectik venue in Waterloo, London.

Brice and Sanders have both been regular presences on the Jazzmann web pages in a variety of musical contexts. The bassist’s extensive discography includes two albums as the leader of his own quintet.  “Immune To Clockwork” (2015) and “Day After Day” (2017) are superb recordings that expertly straddle the boundaries between composed and improvised music.

Sanders’ back catalogue is even more exhaustive and he is a musician with an international reputation who has worked with leading British, American and European improvisers. He and Brice frequently perform together as a rhythm team and have worked with musicians such as saxophonists Paul Dunmall, Rachel Musson and Ken Vandermark and guitarist / clarinettist Alex Ward.

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness both Brice and Sanders performing live on several occasions, often at that bastion of free jazz in the Welsh Borders, the Queens Head in Monmouth.

Delius however was a new face to me. Born in England  to an Argentinian father and a German mother, he made his name on the Amsterdam improvised music scene working with musicians such as drummer Han Bennink and cellist Tristan Honsinger.  He has been a key member of the Dutch improvising collective the Instant Composers Pool, or ICP,  originally founded in 1967 by Bennink, pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker.  Like Sanders Delius is a player with an international reputation who has worked with leading improvisers from a variety of different countries.

It was discussions between the rhythm pairing of Brice and Sanders that led to the formation of Somersaults. Both musicians agreed that Delius was one of their favourite saxophonists and that they would like to attempt a collaboration with him. Their first gig was so successful, with the trio immediately establishing a mutual rapport,  that Somersaults has now become a semi-permanent unit with tonight’s event forming part of a short series of British tour dates.

For the past two years Barry and Claudia have been steadily building an audience at the Hermon with their folk programme proving to be particularly successful in terms of attendances. Jazz has generally proved to be a harder sell and free jazz the hardest of the lot. Tonight’s attendance was barely in double figures but the stay-at-homes missed a night of challenging, but always creative and stimulating, music making.

Despite its emphasis on ‘freedom’ and ‘no rules or boundaries’ this brand of jazz has almost inevitably become idiomatic. Improv die hards (and despite tonight’s turn out there are more around than you might think,  with comedian Stewart Lee being the most famous example) would be sorely disappointed if musicians like Brice, Sanders and Delius turned up and decided to play a set of jazz standards or pop covers on the spur of the moment, just because they felt like it. Paradoxically even in the rarefied world of free improvisation there are still certain ‘expectations’.

I write this not as a criticism but as an observation. The improvised world is one I’ve grown into over the years, learning to appreciate its creativity, its subtleties, and ultimately it limitations. I’ll admit that I’ve had to work it, and I’m grateful to one time Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen of the Dalston Sound website, a great champion of experimental and improvised music, for helping to guide me down the path. Also to Tim’s namesake Lyndon Owen, himself a skilled saxophonist, who co-ordinates the improvised music programme at the Queens Head in Monmouth and who has brought many leading figures of the genre to this outpost in the Welsh Borders, among them Sanders, Brice, Paul Dunmall,  Alex Ward,  bassist Dominic Lash, drummer Paul Hession, saxophonists Alan Wilkinson and Tony Bevan and international figures such as guitarist Joe Morris, Necks drummer Tony Buck and saxophonist Hans Peter Hiby. These days I genuinely enjoy this highly demanding style of jazz, I wouldn’t have made the 120 mile round trip to Oswestry otherwise.

All this is by way of saying that tonight’s event was a ‘typical’ free jazz performance with two sets consisting of a single lengthy unbroken improvisation of around forty minutes duration, plus a shorter improvised encore. Despite the small attendance the quality of the first two sets drew such an enthusiastic response from the select few lucky enough to witness them that an encore became inevitable.

Besides being one of the favourite saxophonists of Brice and Sanders Delius also plays the clarinet, and his work on that instrument is just as distinctive as his remarkable saxophone playing.

But it was the sounds of Sanders’ drums that ushered in the first set, subsequently joined by Brice’s bass. Sanders augmented a conventional drum kit with an array of small cymbals, gongs and other small percussive devices, among them a woodblock. These were sometimes deployed on the skins to help create an often staggering panoply of percussive sounds, generated by a myriad variety of sticks, mallets, brushes, beaters and bare hands. Eschewing conventional rhythms and meters Sanders’ drumming was an ongoing polyrhythmic flow, highly inventive and creative, and rich in terms of tone, nuance and colour - but at the right moments also capable of generating an enormous, and undeniably impressive, power.

Meanwhile Brice’s bass was at the heart of the trio, the fulcrum around which the music revolved. His highly physical and powerful pizzicato playing provided both the anchor and the counterpoint to Sanders’ constantly evolving drum commentary and Delius’ explorations on tenor sax and clarinet. His creative use of the bow provided additional colour and texture at various junctures of the performance, as did his judicious use of various extended techniques.

Delius proved to be a highly distinctive and creative player on the two reeds. Less intense than Alan Wilkinson his playing on tenor retained a strong melodic quality throughout, no matter how deeply or far out he probed, I was reminded of Mark Hanslip in this regard. That said Delius’ sax playing was far from conventional, his use of overtones and his habit of punctuating his improvisations with vocalisations, a la Wilkinson, was highly distinctive and it’s fair to say that I’ve never heard anybody play quite like him. Although capable of playing with great power there was no sense of bombast or bluster about Delius’ playing.
His work on the clarinet was no less distinctive, again eschewing the conventional and sometimes adopting an unexpectedly harsh and guttural tone on the instrument. At other times there were hints of the Middle East and North Africa in his sound. Acker Bilk it most certainly was not.

The first of the trio’s improvisations ebbed and flowed, embracing extremes of dynamic contrasts as the first section developed out of the introductory drum and bass improvisations to embrace whispered shards of tenor sax melody, with Delius’ playing gradually becoming more assertive as the music gradually built to an apparent climax, albeit one punctuated by numerous asides and diversions along the way. A passage of unaccompanied bowed bass provided the link into the next section, which saw Delius taking up the clarinet, his sound soft and fluttering at first, before he evoked the sounds of the muezzin as he improvised in strident fashion, fuelled by Brice’s percussive bowing and Sanders’ volcanic drumming. Having peaked the next section, which eventually saw Delius moving back to tenor, evoked a fragile beauty before the trio began to stoke the collective fires once more, building to boiling point through a combination of wailing tenor, powerfully plucked bass and roiling drums. The power generated by Sanders’ solo drum feature took on a certain poignancy on the day that the death of Ginger Baker was announced. The final passage saw Delius moving back to clarinet and Brice picking up the bow, but this wasn’t quite the gentle coda that the listener might have anticipated as Delius’ playing became increasingly animated and guttural before climaxing with some almost impossibly long sustained notes. Astonishing stuff.

The second set was to prove no less intense as it grew out of an introductory passage featuring pecked tenor sax, bowed bass and brushed drums. This led into a passage of solo drumming from Sanders that was stunning in terms of both power and technique. If a rock drummer, like Baker, had delivered this at a stadium gig ten thousand people would have gone absolutely apeshit - we did our best to emulate them. Sanders’ feature helped to pave the way for some of Delius’ most forceful playing of the night as he rattled out a series of rapid tenor sax phrases, giving the volleys of notes an urgent, guttural edge. A passage of solo pizzicato bass provided the link into the next section with Delius taking up the clarinet to deliver high pitched, bird like noises as the trio injected an element of humour into the proceedings. This is music that can turn on a dime, and soon Delius was using his clarinet to deliver foghorn like blasts above a backdrop of monstrous bass and rolling drums, developing to a climax with a series of piercing high register squeaks. Next a more abstract passage featuring Brice’s use of the bow and his deployment of extended techniques. This provided the link into a final ‘freak out’ section that saw Delius moving back to tenor and playing with an incredible power as he contorted his body into improbable shapes, finally unleashing his inner Wilkinson and Brotzmann.

The small, but highly select, audience gave the trio a terrific reception and Barry Edwards was able to tempt them back for a well deserved encore. This began with the duo of Brice and Delius, I suspect Sanders may have been availing himself of the Hermon’s facilities! The opening bass / tenor dialogue was subsequently augmented by the sound of Sanders’ gongs. Delius then began to stretch out on tenor, ululating above Brice’s grounding bass and the softly rolling thunder of Sanders’ drums, a combination of mallets and bare hands on toms and the sound of softly shimmering cymbals. Concise and atmospheric this was an excellent way to end an evening of consistently creative, and, by its very nature, unique music making.

 

 

Wendy Kirkland Quintet - Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, 03/10/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys a performance by pianist / vocalist Wendy Kirkland and her quintet at the launch of the new Kidderminster Jazz Club. He also takes a look at Wendy's latest album "The Music's On Me".

Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, Worcs. 03/10/2019.


Wendy Kirkland – piano, vocals
Pat Sprakes – guitar
Roger Beaujolais – vibraphone
Paul Jefferies – double bass
Mitch Perrins – drums


This evening’s performance by pianist / vocalist Wendy Kirkland represented a highly significant event, the launch of Kidderminster Jazz Club.

The Club has been founded by the jazz vocalist Annette Gregory following her move to the area. Annette’s new venture has been generously supported by the local District Council and a full programme of events will be presented, usually on the first Thursday of the month, between October 2019 and June 2020. Future guests will include such well known names as saxophonist Alan Barnes and vocalist Tina May, plus Annette Gregory herself of course! The full programme for the coming months can be found at http://www.kidderminsterjazzclub.co.uk

Annette has clearly put a lot of hard work into publicising her new venture, whether through traditional printed methods or via social media. With a number of local radio stations also on board her endeavours were rewarded with an excellent turn out for this first night, which took place in the relaxed environment of Kidderminster Town Hall’s Corn Exchange Room, just off the main performance space. This more intimate setting proved to be ideal for jazz and the presence of the venue’s own Steinway grand piano was greatly appreciated, both by Kirkland and her grateful listeners.

Chesterfield based Kirkland has always gigged on a regular basis in the Midlands and the North of England with a variety of different musicians and in a wide range of jazz contexts. As a band leader her current projects include the Organik Trio, in which she plays Hammond organ, a group that is sometimes expanded to a four piece with the addition of a guest saxophonist to become the quartet Organik Fource.

In her role as a promoter she runs the successful Chesterfield and Peak Jazz Clubs and as a musician frequently leads the house band backing such visiting musicians as saxophonists Karen Sharp, Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi and guitarists Jim Mullen and Phil Robson.

However it was the release of her 2017 release “Piano Divas” that brought this hitherto ‘unsung heroine of British jazz’ to national attention. This was an album that paid homage to the great female pianist/vocalists of jazz including Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Blossom Dearie, Nina Simone and Shirley Horn plus lesser known figures such as Dena Derose, Carol Welsman and Tania Maria. 

“Piano Divas”, Kirkland’s first recording since 2005’s “To The Top”, attracted the attention of the national jazz press and was widely praised by the critics, the resultant acclaim helping to raise Kirkland’s profile considerably. The “Piano Divas” show has toured widely all over the UK, including a number of appearances at London’s most prestigious jazz clubs.

My review of the “Piano Divas” album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wendy-kirkland-quartet-piano-divas/

Given her hectic touring schedule it’s somewhat surprising, even to me, that tonight was the first time that I’d actually got to see Kirkland perform live. I contrived to miss her 2018 quartet show at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny, one of my regular haunts, because I was covering Cheltenham Jazz Festival at the time. It was left to guest reviewer David Hobbs to pen this very positive review of the “Piano Divas” show;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wendy-kirkland-quartet-piano-divas-black-mountain-jazz-melville-centre-aber/

In July 2019 Kirkland released the album “The Music’s On Me”, the keenly anticipated follow up to “Piano Divas”. Rather than repeating the formula the new album is a more personal offering featuring a greater emphasis on original material with three of the eleven tracks co-written by Kirkland and Sprakes, the latter her husband as well as her guitarist. The original songs reflect the experiences and emotions of being on the road as touring musicians. Elsewhere Kirkland and Sprakes add their own words to the tunes of others, the art of ‘vocalese’ - “some of these melodies were crying out for lyrics, we felt!”, explains Kirkland.

“The Music’s On Me” features an extended line up. Kirkland, Sprakes and Jefferies remain from “Piano Divas” with Steve Wyndham taking over the drum chair. The core quartet is augmented on some pieces by vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais and saxophonist Tommaso Starace.

Kirkland is currently touring the new album, her schedule as punishing as ever. At Kidderminster the core of Kirkland, Sprakes and Jefferies were joined by Beaujolais on vibraphone and Midlands based sticks man Mitch Perrins at the drum kit. The focus was mainly on the material from the new album, but with a few old favourites and a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure.

The quintet commenced with a song from the new album, “Sunday In New York”, written by Peter Nero, a piece that introduced Kirkland’s warm, pure toned, well enunciated vocals. The instrumental solos also demonstrated her abilities as a jazz pianist, she started her jazz career as an instrumentalist before adding singing to her musical armoury. Further instrumental features came from Sprakes on guitar, Beaujolais on vibraphone, and Perrins with a series of crisply brushed drum breaks.

Each season Kidderminster Jazz Club is to have a musical ‘theme’. For this inaugural season that theme is the music of George Gershwin and every act is set to perform a couple of Gershwin songs. Kirkland’s initial choice was a samba style arrangement of “S’Wonderful” with the leader’s breezy vocal performance augmented by solos from herself on piano, Beaujolais on vibes and Sprakes on guitar.

A return to the new album repertoire for Kenny Rankin’s jazz waltz “Haven’t We Met”, tonight complete with apposite allusions to the jazz standard “Here’s That Rainy Day”. Aside from Kirkland’s vocal performance this piece was also notable for her fluent piano soloing and the lively exchanges between Sprakes on guitar and Beaujolais on vibes. As a guitarist Sprakes favours a clean, classic jazz guitar, sound and names Wes Montgomery as his primary influence. His solo here included quotes from Montgomery’s “Full House”, as if to emphasise the point.

The quintet dipped into the “Piano Divas” repertoire for “Some Other Time”, a song that appeared in the movie “On The Town”. Kirkland opened the song solo, accompanying herself on piano before Sprakes joined in to create a duo. Subsequently Jefferies impressed with a bowed bass solo, with further instrumental features coming from Beaujolais on vibes and Kirkland on piano.

Also from the previous album came “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, a song now indelibly associated with Nina Simone. However in a neat twist a new arrangement by Sprakes teamed it with the Al Jarreau song “We’re In This Love Together”. The guitarist also impressed as he soloed above an infectious, and very contemporary sounding, shuffle groove courtesy of Perrins. Beaujolais then dazzled on the vibes, demonstrating his mastery of the four mallet technique. Kirkland herself featured on both piano and scat vocals.

Kirkland delivered the lyrics to the Duke Pearson tune “Sandalia Dela” in Portuguese, her version inspired by a recording by Flora Purim. The Brazilian style rhythms fuelled instrumental solos from Kirkland on piano and Beaujolais on vibes plus Perrin with a closing drum feature. This lively rendition concluded an engaging first set that was well received by the appreciative Kidderminster audience.

The start of the second set found found the quintet returning to the Gershwin theme with a Kirkland and Sprakes’ arrangement of “Fascinating Rhythm”. Inspired by a version recorded by Sarah Vaughan this saw the quintet tackling the song in a variety of different jazz styles with instrumental solos coming from Kirkland, Sprakes, Jefferies, this time playing pizzicato, and Perrins with a series of brushed drum breaks.

One of the more intriguing items on the new album is a version of the late Don Grolnick’s composition “Pools”, to which Kirkland has added her own lyrics, the words inspired by a friend’s house in Italy. Kirkland’s singing was enhanced by some inspired ensemble playing, plus extended solos from the leader on piano and scat vocals and Beaujolais on vibraphone.

Kirkland paid homage to the great American singer and pianist Blossom Dearie with her version of the Bob Dorough / Dave Frishberg song “I’m Hip”, a satire on the typical fifties style hipster or beatnik. Amazingly this was the second time I’d seen this song performed live in a week! Bristol based singer Victoria Klewin had also featured the tune in her Blossom Dearie themed show at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny just a few days earlier.

Like the earlier Don Grolnick composition Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues” represented another of those melodies that Kirkland and Sprakes felt was crying out for a lyric. Their words, a paean to an idealised California lifestyle, were also inspired by the painting of Pat’s father,  the artist John Sprakes, particularly his use of colour. Naturally Pat’s guitar featured substantially here alongside Beaujolais’ vibes and Perrins’  drums in this updated version of the sixties jazz classic.

Written in the 1930s by Brooks Bowman “East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon” actually represents a new addition to the Kirkland canon. Inspired by Diana Krall’s version of the song incorporated an extended scat vocal feature alongside instrumental solos from Sprakes and Beaujolais.

Having already featured their lyrics and arrangements Kirkland and Sprakes closed the show with one of their own compositions, the song “Travelling Home”, which also concludes the new album. This good natured reflection on the musical lifestyle and the joy of returning home after a successful gig featured a Metheny like melody and instrumental solos from Sprakes, Beaujolais and Kirkland.

It took little prompting from Annette Gregory for the quintet to remain on stage for a deserved encore, an arrangement of Peggy Lee’s “Love Being Here With You”, as filtered via Diana Krall, that Kirkland always likes to dedicate to her audiences. A splendidly swinging version of the song included features for all five musicians and brought a hugely successful evening to a most satisfactory conclusion.

This was an excellent performance from Kirkland and her colleagues that was musically satisfying and was also presented with warmth and wit by the leader. As well as delivering an assured vocal performance Kirkland also demonstrated her considerable abilities as a jazz piano soloist. The presence of Beaujolais was unexpected and represented a very welcome bonus. He’s a musician who has featured many times on the Jazzmann web pages, both as a leader and as a sideman with artists such as pianist Tim Richards, bassist Davide Mantovani and saxophonist Tommaso Starace.
My thanks to Roger and to Wendy for speaking with me after the show, it was good to meet both of them in person at last.

Most of this evening’s material was sourced from the “The Music’s On Me” album, although the record also includes several pieces not featured in tonight’s performance. These include the Sprakes / Kirkland originals “The Music In Me” and “O Gato Molhado”. The first of these, effectively the title track, is a muso’s song that name-checks Wes Montgomery, but ultimately emphasises the importance of feeling over technique. The second features Brazilian stylings and a playful mix of Kirkland’s own Portuguese and English lyrics.

The ‘vocalese’ items include “September Second”, a moving dedication to a late parent set to a Michel Petrucciani tune that includes a fluent solo from guest saxophonist Tommaso Starace. Then there’s “Playground”, which adds Kirkland’s words to a tune by guitarist Russell Malone, which posits the idea of jazz as a ‘musical playground’. Given that the recorded version includes a twinkling solo from a guesting Beaujolais it was perhaps a little surprising that the piece didn’t feature this evening.

The album also includes a brief but brisk romp through “Nothing Like You”, written by Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman.

Kirkland’s second album isn’t at all ‘difficult’, although it does expand her repertoire and places a greater focus on her original creativity. Once again it has received a highly positive response from the national jazz media.


Meanwhile the “Music’s On Me” tour continues with dates coming up as follows;

11th October, Marsden Jazz Festival – featuring Roger Beaujolais, vibraphone
12th October, Abbot’s Bromley Village Hall
13th October, Breadsall Village Hall
28th October, Bull’s Head, Barnes
6th November, Fougou Music, Brixham
7th November, The Acorn Theatre, Penzance
9th November, Lostwithiel Jazz Café, Duchy of Cornwall Estate
28th November, Grantham Conservative Club
14th December, Chesterfield Library (11:45 a.m.)
More details at http://www.wendykirkland.com

Huge congratulations are also due to Annette Gregory on the successful launch of Kidderminster Jazz Club, which will hopefully establish itself as a substantial presence on the Midlands jazz scene and beyond.
The remaining dates of this first season are as follows;

2019;

14th November – Swing From Paris

5th December – Annette Gregory

2020

6th February – Matheus Prado Mato Septet

5th March – Sue Richardson

2nd April – Wyre Forest Big Band

7th May – Alan Barnes

4th June – Tina May

Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, 03/10/2019.

Wendy Kirkland Quintet

Monday, October 07, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, 03/10/2019.

Ian Mann enjoys a performance by pianist / vocalist Wendy Kirkland and her quintet at the launch of the new Kidderminster Jazz Club. He also takes a look at Wendy's latest album "The Music's On Me".

Wendy Kirkland Quintet, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Kidderminster Town Hall, Kidderminster, Worcs. 03/10/2019.


Wendy Kirkland – piano, vocals
Pat Sprakes – guitar
Roger Beaujolais – vibraphone
Paul Jefferies – double bass
Mitch Perrins – drums


This evening’s performance by pianist / vocalist Wendy Kirkland represented a highly significant event, the launch of Kidderminster Jazz Club.

The Club has been founded by the jazz vocalist Annette Gregory following her move to the area. Annette’s new venture has been generously supported by the local District Council and a full programme of events will be presented, usually on the first Thursday of the month, between October 2019 and June 2020. Future guests will include such well known names as saxophonist Alan Barnes and vocalist Tina May, plus Annette Gregory herself of course! The full programme for the coming months can be found at http://www.kidderminsterjazzclub.co.uk

Annette has clearly put a lot of hard work into publicising her new venture, whether through traditional printed methods or via social media. With a number of local radio stations also on board her endeavours were rewarded with an excellent turn out for this first night, which took place in the relaxed environment of Kidderminster Town Hall’s Corn Exchange Room, just off the main performance space. This more intimate setting proved to be ideal for jazz and the presence of the venue’s own Steinway grand piano was greatly appreciated, both by Kirkland and her grateful listeners.

Chesterfield based Kirkland has always gigged on a regular basis in the Midlands and the North of England with a variety of different musicians and in a wide range of jazz contexts. As a band leader her current projects include the Organik Trio, in which she plays Hammond organ, a group that is sometimes expanded to a four piece with the addition of a guest saxophonist to become the quartet Organik Fource.

In her role as a promoter she runs the successful Chesterfield and Peak Jazz Clubs and as a musician frequently leads the house band backing such visiting musicians as saxophonists Karen Sharp, Alan Barnes and Tony Kofi and guitarists Jim Mullen and Phil Robson.

However it was the release of her 2017 release “Piano Divas” that brought this hitherto ‘unsung heroine of British jazz’ to national attention. This was an album that paid homage to the great female pianist/vocalists of jazz including Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Blossom Dearie, Nina Simone and Shirley Horn plus lesser known figures such as Dena Derose, Carol Welsman and Tania Maria. 

“Piano Divas”, Kirkland’s first recording since 2005’s “To The Top”, attracted the attention of the national jazz press and was widely praised by the critics, the resultant acclaim helping to raise Kirkland’s profile considerably. The “Piano Divas” show has toured widely all over the UK, including a number of appearances at London’s most prestigious jazz clubs.

My review of the “Piano Divas” album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wendy-kirkland-quartet-piano-divas/

Given her hectic touring schedule it’s somewhat surprising, even to me, that tonight was the first time that I’d actually got to see Kirkland perform live. I contrived to miss her 2018 quartet show at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny, one of my regular haunts, because I was covering Cheltenham Jazz Festival at the time. It was left to guest reviewer David Hobbs to pen this very positive review of the “Piano Divas” show;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/wendy-kirkland-quartet-piano-divas-black-mountain-jazz-melville-centre-aber/

In July 2019 Kirkland released the album “The Music’s On Me”, the keenly anticipated follow up to “Piano Divas”. Rather than repeating the formula the new album is a more personal offering featuring a greater emphasis on original material with three of the eleven tracks co-written by Kirkland and Sprakes, the latter her husband as well as her guitarist. The original songs reflect the experiences and emotions of being on the road as touring musicians. Elsewhere Kirkland and Sprakes add their own words to the tunes of others, the art of ‘vocalese’ - “some of these melodies were crying out for lyrics, we felt!”, explains Kirkland.

“The Music’s On Me” features an extended line up. Kirkland, Sprakes and Jefferies remain from “Piano Divas” with Steve Wyndham taking over the drum chair. The core quartet is augmented on some pieces by vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais and saxophonist Tommaso Starace.

Kirkland is currently touring the new album, her schedule as punishing as ever. At Kidderminster the core of Kirkland, Sprakes and Jefferies were joined by Beaujolais on vibraphone and Midlands based sticks man Mitch Perrins at the drum kit. The focus was mainly on the material from the new album, but with a few old favourites and a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure.

The quintet commenced with a song from the new album, “Sunday In New York”, written by Peter Nero, a piece that introduced Kirkland’s warm, pure toned, well enunciated vocals. The instrumental solos also demonstrated her abilities as a jazz pianist, she started her jazz career as an instrumentalist before adding singing to her musical armoury. Further instrumental features came from Sprakes on guitar, Beaujolais on vibraphone, and Perrins with a series of crisply brushed drum breaks.

Each season Kidderminster Jazz Club is to have a musical ‘theme’. For this inaugural season that theme is the music of George Gershwin and every act is set to perform a couple of Gershwin songs. Kirkland’s initial choice was a samba style arrangement of “S’Wonderful” with the leader’s breezy vocal performance augmented by solos from herself on piano, Beaujolais on vibes and Sprakes on guitar.

A return to the new album repertoire for Kenny Rankin’s jazz waltz “Haven’t We Met”, tonight complete with apposite allusions to the jazz standard “Here’s That Rainy Day”. Aside from Kirkland’s vocal performance this piece was also notable for her fluent piano soloing and the lively exchanges between Sprakes on guitar and Beaujolais on vibes. As a guitarist Sprakes favours a clean, classic jazz guitar, sound and names Wes Montgomery as his primary influence. His solo here included quotes from Montgomery’s “Full House”, as if to emphasise the point.

The quintet dipped into the “Piano Divas” repertoire for “Some Other Time”, a song that appeared in the movie “On The Town”. Kirkland opened the song solo, accompanying herself on piano before Sprakes joined in to create a duo. Subsequently Jefferies impressed with a bowed bass solo, with further instrumental features coming from Beaujolais on vibes and Kirkland on piano.

Also from the previous album came “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, a song now indelibly associated with Nina Simone. However in a neat twist a new arrangement by Sprakes teamed it with the Al Jarreau song “We’re In This Love Together”. The guitarist also impressed as he soloed above an infectious, and very contemporary sounding, shuffle groove courtesy of Perrins. Beaujolais then dazzled on the vibes, demonstrating his mastery of the four mallet technique. Kirkland herself featured on both piano and scat vocals.

Kirkland delivered the lyrics to the Duke Pearson tune “Sandalia Dela” in Portuguese, her version inspired by a recording by Flora Purim. The Brazilian style rhythms fuelled instrumental solos from Kirkland on piano and Beaujolais on vibes plus Perrin with a closing drum feature. This lively rendition concluded an engaging first set that was well received by the appreciative Kidderminster audience.

The start of the second set found found the quintet returning to the Gershwin theme with a Kirkland and Sprakes’ arrangement of “Fascinating Rhythm”. Inspired by a version recorded by Sarah Vaughan this saw the quintet tackling the song in a variety of different jazz styles with instrumental solos coming from Kirkland, Sprakes, Jefferies, this time playing pizzicato, and Perrins with a series of brushed drum breaks.

One of the more intriguing items on the new album is a version of the late Don Grolnick’s composition “Pools”, to which Kirkland has added her own lyrics, the words inspired by a friend’s house in Italy. Kirkland’s singing was enhanced by some inspired ensemble playing, plus extended solos from the leader on piano and scat vocals and Beaujolais on vibraphone.

Kirkland paid homage to the great American singer and pianist Blossom Dearie with her version of the Bob Dorough / Dave Frishberg song “I’m Hip”, a satire on the typical fifties style hipster or beatnik. Amazingly this was the second time I’d seen this song performed live in a week! Bristol based singer Victoria Klewin had also featured the tune in her Blossom Dearie themed show at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny just a few days earlier.

Like the earlier Don Grolnick composition Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues” represented another of those melodies that Kirkland and Sprakes felt was crying out for a lyric. Their words, a paean to an idealised California lifestyle, were also inspired by the painting of Pat’s father,  the artist John Sprakes, particularly his use of colour. Naturally Pat’s guitar featured substantially here alongside Beaujolais’ vibes and Perrins’  drums in this updated version of the sixties jazz classic.

Written in the 1930s by Brooks Bowman “East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon” actually represents a new addition to the Kirkland canon. Inspired by Diana Krall’s version of the song incorporated an extended scat vocal feature alongside instrumental solos from Sprakes and Beaujolais.

Having already featured their lyrics and arrangements Kirkland and Sprakes closed the show with one of their own compositions, the song “Travelling Home”, which also concludes the new album. This good natured reflection on the musical lifestyle and the joy of returning home after a successful gig featured a Metheny like melody and instrumental solos from Sprakes, Beaujolais and Kirkland.

It took little prompting from Annette Gregory for the quintet to remain on stage for a deserved encore, an arrangement of Peggy Lee’s “Love Being Here With You”, as filtered via Diana Krall, that Kirkland always likes to dedicate to her audiences. A splendidly swinging version of the song included features for all five musicians and brought a hugely successful evening to a most satisfactory conclusion.

This was an excellent performance from Kirkland and her colleagues that was musically satisfying and was also presented with warmth and wit by the leader. As well as delivering an assured vocal performance Kirkland also demonstrated her considerable abilities as a jazz piano soloist. The presence of Beaujolais was unexpected and represented a very welcome bonus. He’s a musician who has featured many times on the Jazzmann web pages, both as a leader and as a sideman with artists such as pianist Tim Richards, bassist Davide Mantovani and saxophonist Tommaso Starace.
My thanks to Roger and to Wendy for speaking with me after the show, it was good to meet both of them in person at last.

Most of this evening’s material was sourced from the “The Music’s On Me” album, although the record also includes several pieces not featured in tonight’s performance. These include the Sprakes / Kirkland originals “The Music In Me” and “O Gato Molhado”. The first of these, effectively the title track, is a muso’s song that name-checks Wes Montgomery, but ultimately emphasises the importance of feeling over technique. The second features Brazilian stylings and a playful mix of Kirkland’s own Portuguese and English lyrics.

The ‘vocalese’ items include “September Second”, a moving dedication to a late parent set to a Michel Petrucciani tune that includes a fluent solo from guest saxophonist Tommaso Starace. Then there’s “Playground”, which adds Kirkland’s words to a tune by guitarist Russell Malone, which posits the idea of jazz as a ‘musical playground’. Given that the recorded version includes a twinkling solo from a guesting Beaujolais it was perhaps a little surprising that the piece didn’t feature this evening.

The album also includes a brief but brisk romp through “Nothing Like You”, written by Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman.

Kirkland’s second album isn’t at all ‘difficult’, although it does expand her repertoire and places a greater focus on her original creativity. Once again it has received a highly positive response from the national jazz media.


Meanwhile the “Music’s On Me” tour continues with dates coming up as follows;

11th October, Marsden Jazz Festival – featuring Roger Beaujolais, vibraphone
12th October, Abbot’s Bromley Village Hall
13th October, Breadsall Village Hall
28th October, Bull’s Head, Barnes
6th November, Fougou Music, Brixham
7th November, The Acorn Theatre, Penzance
9th November, Lostwithiel Jazz Café, Duchy of Cornwall Estate
28th November, Grantham Conservative Club
14th December, Chesterfield Library (11:45 a.m.)
More details at http://www.wendykirkland.com

Huge congratulations are also due to Annette Gregory on the successful launch of Kidderminster Jazz Club, which will hopefully establish itself as a substantial presence on the Midlands jazz scene and beyond.
The remaining dates of this first season are as follows;

2019;

14th November – Swing From Paris

5th December – Annette Gregory

2020

6th February – Matheus Prado Mato Septet

5th March – Sue Richardson

2nd April – Wyre Forest Big Band

7th May – Alan Barnes

4th June – Tina May

Mark Lockheart - Mark Lockheart, ‘Days On Earth’, Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Berkshire, 27/09/2019. Rating: 5 out of 5 "An absolute musical triumph, rich in colour, texture, emotional depth and the vitality of the human spirit". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister is enthralled by this large ensemble performance.

Mark Lockheart ‘Days on Earth’
 
Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Friday 27 September
 

Mark Lockheart tenor saxophone, Alice Leggett alto, Laura Jurd trumpet & flugelhorn, Rowland Sutherland flute & piccolo, Sam Rapley clarinet & bass clarinet, Liam Noble piano, Mike Outram guitar, Tom Herbert bass, Sebastian Rochford drums, Jim Rattigan, Anna Drysdale French horns, Emma Smith, Phil Granell, Richard Jones violins, Sergio Serra cello
 


Finding a performance  outlet for any new music, albeit jazz or classical, is notoriously difficult; staging something of the scale and ambition of Mark Lockheart’s ‘Days on Earth’ comprising seven movements, a jazz ensemble,  plus a 30-piece orchestra, which first began to take shape in his imagination in 2016, must at times have seemed nigh on impossible. By December 2017, when Lockheart took ‘Days on Earth’ into Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studio to be recorded in its entirety under the baton of John Ashton Thomas, the project was gaining in momentum. It reached fruition on 9 January 2019 with the launch of the album and a live performance at London’s Milton Court Concert Hall with the Guildhall Studio Orchestra. There remained just one more thing to complete the project … to take ‘Days on Earth’ on the road.
 
At this moment providence played its hand. Jazz in Reading and Bracknell Jazz had already decided to combine their resources to present a ‘magnum opus’ at the Wilde Theatre, Bracknell; something which would stand apart from the usual gigs they promoted in their respective towns. What better choice than ‘Days on Earth’! But these things are never straightforward.  Now faced with the daunting challenge of reducing the size of his orchestra to suit a smaller venue and a reduced budget, would Lockheart succeed in retaining the aural splendour and emotional impact of his original work? We would have to wait until the second half of the concert for that question to be answered.
 
Meanwhile, as a foretaste to ‘Days on Earth’, Lockheart presented five original numbers with his octet, opening with the intriguing ‘Surfacing’. The first ever performance of ‘Fluorescences’ perfectly mirrored the subtle variations in colour and quality of light as it reflects on cut glass, the sharp edges of Liam Noble’s crystalline piano, Rowland Sutherland’s flute and Laura Jurd’s trumpet, contrasting beautifully with the dark shadows cast by Tom Herbert’s bass.
 
One was simply bowled over by the purity of the sound, especially from the lyrical alto of Alice Leggett, on  the John Zorn inspired ‘Dreamers’; another composition making its public début.
 
Wraith-like, violinist Emma Smith and bass clarinettist Sam Rapley appeared on stage to augment the octet for ‘Beautiful Man’, inspired by Geoff Dyer’s book about jazz and jazz musicians, ‘But Beautiful’ and the first of two pieces dedicated to Duke Ellington. One could picture Duke and Harry Carney on a road-trip in the depths of the night travelling across America between gigs; Carney at the wheel and Duke lost in thought with a pencil and manuscript paper at hand. Emma Smith’s exquisite violin and the resonant tones of Rapley’s bass clarinet evoked Ellington at his most reflective.  ‘My Caravan’, eschewed the hell-for-leather fury of many arrangements  for a subtle and gentle re-working of this Juan Tizol classic, much more in keeping with the original recording by the pre-war Ellington orchestra. However, the juxtaposition of old and new interpretations made for a thrilling climax to the first set.
 
The long-awaited presentation of ‘Days on Earth’ in the second half did not disappoint. I was not alone in declaring that it was an absolute musical triumph, rich in colour, texture, emotional depth and the vitality of the human spirit. Surely, Mark Lockheart now warrants a place in the Pantheon of British jazz composers alongside great figures such as Sir John Dankworth,  Graham Collier, the Mikes’ Gibbs, Garrick and Westbrook, Kenny Wheeler and Stan Tracey. This remarkably open and free-flowing piece presented contemporary music at its very finest. It held one’s attention so completely that the 60 minutes of its duration seemed to flash by in the blink of an eyelid.
 
Lockheart used the addition of clarinet, strings and French horns to generate even more power to the already formidable ensemble, and to weave an ever more intricate tapestry of beautifully blended sounds and rhythms to support individual solo voices, amongst which, Mark Lockheart’s own contributions on tenor sax were outstanding. It was a joyous, and often deeply moving, melting pot of different styles and influences with the metallic blues-soaked guitar of Mike Outram sitting comfortably with the formality of Sam Rapley’s clarinet and the wonderfully inventive rhythmic patterns laid down by Messrs. Noble, Herbert and Rochford. The sound of Laura Jurd’s trumpet, briefly muted with her hand, was alone worth the price of the admission ticket.
 
Lockheart gave away few verbal clues as to what inspired him to write ‘Days on Earth’, but as the titles unfolded, seemingly to emerge spontaneously from one another, we began to form some idea of his motivation - ‘A View from Above’, ‘Brave World’, ‘This Much is True’, ‘Party Animal’, ‘Believers’, ‘Triana’, and ‘Long Way Gone’. In other words, to borrow a sentence from Lockheart’s album sleeve notes, “Music is intrinsically linked to life, love, joy, frustration, acceptance and peace and all those feelings are here in this music for me.”
 
‘Long Way Gone’ stands out for me above all the other movements in ‘Days on Earth’. Born from the pages of Ishmail Beah’s harrowing account of his life as a child soldier in the civil war of Sierra Leone, its joyful optimism left one with the belief that even in the bleakest of moments there is a reason to find hope and to seek peace and reconciliation. Magnificent!
 
All praise to the technical team at the Wilde Theatre for the excellent quality of sound and lighting and to Jazz in Reading and Bracknell Jazz whose imaginative enterprise made possible this outstanding and unique performance of Mark Lockheart’s ‘Days on Earth’.
 
The album recording of ‘Days on Earth’ is available on Edition EDN 1120. For more information visit www.editionrecords.com


Further performances of the work, plus other live performances featuring Lockheart, are as follows;

October 4th - Days On Earth, Turner Sims, Southampton https://www.turnersims.co.uk/events/mark-lockheartss-days-on-earth/

October 10th - Days On Earth, RWCMD, Cardiff https://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/whats_on/events/mark_lockheart__guests.aspx

October 15th - ‘Salvator Mundi’ album launch, Mark Lockheart/Roger Sayer, Temple Church, London. For tickets go to Temple Music Foundation

October 30th - Days On Earth, Symphony Hall, Birmingham https://www.thsh.co.uk/event/mark-lockheart-days-on-earth

November 1st- New Day (with Huw Warren) , The Vortex, London

More at http://www.marklockheart.co.uk


 
 

Mark Lockheart, ‘Days On Earth’, Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Berkshire, 27/09/2019.

Mark Lockheart

Friday, October 04, 2019

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

5 out of 5

Mark Lockheart, ‘Days On Earth’, Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Berkshire, 27/09/2019.
Photography: Photographs by Zoë White

"An absolute musical triumph, rich in colour, texture, emotional depth and the vitality of the human spirit". Guest contributor Trevor Bannister is enthralled by this large ensemble performance.

Mark Lockheart ‘Days on Earth’
 
Wilde Theatre, Bracknell, Friday 27 September
 

Mark Lockheart tenor saxophone, Alice Leggett alto, Laura Jurd trumpet & flugelhorn, Rowland Sutherland flute & piccolo, Sam Rapley clarinet & bass clarinet, Liam Noble piano, Mike Outram guitar, Tom Herbert bass, Sebastian Rochford drums, Jim Rattigan, Anna Drysdale French horns, Emma Smith, Phil Granell, Richard Jones violins, Sergio Serra cello
 


Finding a performance  outlet for any new music, albeit jazz or classical, is notoriously difficult; staging something of the scale and ambition of Mark Lockheart’s ‘Days on Earth’ comprising seven movements, a jazz ensemble,  plus a 30-piece orchestra, which first began to take shape in his imagination in 2016, must at times have seemed nigh on impossible. By December 2017, when Lockheart took ‘Days on Earth’ into Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studio to be recorded in its entirety under the baton of John Ashton Thomas, the project was gaining in momentum. It reached fruition on 9 January 2019 with the launch of the album and a live performance at London’s Milton Court Concert Hall with the Guildhall Studio Orchestra. There remained just one more thing to complete the project … to take ‘Days on Earth’ on the road.
 
At this moment providence played its hand. Jazz in Reading and Bracknell Jazz had already decided to combine their resources to present a ‘magnum opus’ at the Wilde Theatre, Bracknell; something which would stand apart from the usual gigs they promoted in their respective towns. What better choice than ‘Days on Earth’! But these things are never straightforward.  Now faced with the daunting challenge of reducing the size of his orchestra to suit a smaller venue and a reduced budget, would Lockheart succeed in retaining the aural splendour and emotional impact of his original work? We would have to wait until the second half of the concert for that question to be answered.
 
Meanwhile, as a foretaste to ‘Days on Earth’, Lockheart presented five original numbers with his octet, opening with the intriguing ‘Surfacing’. The first ever performance of ‘Fluorescences’ perfectly mirrored the subtle variations in colour and quality of light as it reflects on cut glass, the sharp edges of Liam Noble’s crystalline piano, Rowland Sutherland’s flute and Laura Jurd’s trumpet, contrasting beautifully with the dark shadows cast by Tom Herbert’s bass.
 
One was simply bowled over by the purity of the sound, especially from the lyrical alto of Alice Leggett, on  the John Zorn inspired ‘Dreamers’; another composition making its public début.
 
Wraith-like, violinist Emma Smith and bass clarinettist Sam Rapley appeared on stage to augment the octet for ‘Beautiful Man’, inspired by Geoff Dyer’s book about jazz and jazz musicians, ‘But Beautiful’ and the first of two pieces dedicated to Duke Ellington. One could picture Duke and Harry Carney on a road-trip in the depths of the night travelling across America between gigs; Carney at the wheel and Duke lost in thought with a pencil and manuscript paper at hand. Emma Smith’s exquisite violin and the resonant tones of Rapley’s bass clarinet evoked Ellington at his most reflective.  ‘My Caravan’, eschewed the hell-for-leather fury of many arrangements  for a subtle and gentle re-working of this Juan Tizol classic, much more in keeping with the original recording by the pre-war Ellington orchestra. However, the juxtaposition of old and new interpretations made for a thrilling climax to the first set.
 
The long-awaited presentation of ‘Days on Earth’ in the second half did not disappoint. I was not alone in declaring that it was an absolute musical triumph, rich in colour, texture, emotional depth and the vitality of the human spirit. Surely, Mark Lockheart now warrants a place in the Pantheon of British jazz composers alongside great figures such as Sir John Dankworth,  Graham Collier, the Mikes’ Gibbs, Garrick and Westbrook, Kenny Wheeler and Stan Tracey. This remarkably open and free-flowing piece presented contemporary music at its very finest. It held one’s attention so completely that the 60 minutes of its duration seemed to flash by in the blink of an eyelid.
 
Lockheart used the addition of clarinet, strings and French horns to generate even more power to the already formidable ensemble, and to weave an ever more intricate tapestry of beautifully blended sounds and rhythms to support individual solo voices, amongst which, Mark Lockheart’s own contributions on tenor sax were outstanding. It was a joyous, and often deeply moving, melting pot of different styles and influences with the metallic blues-soaked guitar of Mike Outram sitting comfortably with the formality of Sam Rapley’s clarinet and the wonderfully inventive rhythmic patterns laid down by Messrs. Noble, Herbert and Rochford. The sound of Laura Jurd’s trumpet, briefly muted with her hand, was alone worth the price of the admission ticket.
 
Lockheart gave away few verbal clues as to what inspired him to write ‘Days on Earth’, but as the titles unfolded, seemingly to emerge spontaneously from one another, we began to form some idea of his motivation - ‘A View from Above’, ‘Brave World’, ‘This Much is True’, ‘Party Animal’, ‘Believers’, ‘Triana’, and ‘Long Way Gone’. In other words, to borrow a sentence from Lockheart’s album sleeve notes, “Music is intrinsically linked to life, love, joy, frustration, acceptance and peace and all those feelings are here in this music for me.”
 
‘Long Way Gone’ stands out for me above all the other movements in ‘Days on Earth’. Born from the pages of Ishmail Beah’s harrowing account of his life as a child soldier in the civil war of Sierra Leone, its joyful optimism left one with the belief that even in the bleakest of moments there is a reason to find hope and to seek peace and reconciliation. Magnificent!
 
All praise to the technical team at the Wilde Theatre for the excellent quality of sound and lighting and to Jazz in Reading and Bracknell Jazz whose imaginative enterprise made possible this outstanding and unique performance of Mark Lockheart’s ‘Days on Earth’.
 
The album recording of ‘Days on Earth’ is available on Edition EDN 1120. For more information visit www.editionrecords.com


Further performances of the work, plus other live performances featuring Lockheart, are as follows;

October 4th - Days On Earth, Turner Sims, Southampton https://www.turnersims.co.uk/events/mark-lockheartss-days-on-earth/

October 10th - Days On Earth, RWCMD, Cardiff https://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/whats_on/events/mark_lockheart__guests.aspx

October 15th - ‘Salvator Mundi’ album launch, Mark Lockheart/Roger Sayer, Temple Church, London. For tickets go to Temple Music Foundation

October 30th - Days On Earth, Symphony Hall, Birmingham https://www.thsh.co.uk/event/mark-lockheart-days-on-earth

November 1st- New Day (with Huw Warren) , The Vortex, London

More at http://www.marklockheart.co.uk


 
 

Scott Willcox Big Band - Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 20/09/2019. Rating: 3 out of 5 " The originality of Scott Willcox’s writing was brought to life, with jazz spirit, by world-class jazz musicians". Trevor Bannister enjoys the start of the new season of Jazz at Progress.

The Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band
 

Progress Theatre, Reading Friday 20 September 2019
 

Scott Willcox directing Andy Gibson trumpet & flugelhorn; Gabriel Garrick trumpet, flugelhorn & trombone; Martin Gladdish trombone; Julian Costello tenor saxophone; Pete Hurt tenor saxophone & flute; Bob McKay soprano, alto and baritone saxophones & clarinet; Samuel Eagles alto saxophone; Dave Frankel keyboards; Marcus Penrose bass & bass guitar; Gary Willcox drums.
 


Scott Willcox and his ten-piece big band made a welcome return to Reading on Friday 20 September, after an interval of three years, to open a new season of Jazz at Progress with a jaunty arrangement of Carol King’s smash hit ‘I’m Into Something Good’, featuring the rolling piano of Dave Frankel and the dazzling brass of Andy Gibson and Martin Gladdish.

Though best known for his exuberant humour, risqué lyrics and hard driving stride piano, Fats Waller could also be a composer of great sensitivity as the band demonstrated to perfect effect with perhaps his most engaging composition, ‘Jitterbug Waltz’, drawing on all the instruments of the ensemble to produce a wonderful cascade of sound.
 
While ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ paid tribute to an early inspiration in Scott Willcox’s musical career, the atmospheric ‘La Gomera’, a Canary Island dear to his heart, introduced us to a source of his own creative impulses. His writing evoked the stunning contrast between the tranquillity of the island, its black-sanded beaches washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the potential violence of its volcanic origins. Great work here from Gary Willcox on percussion, the plaintive saxophones of Julian Costello and Bob McKay, and the fiery trumpets of Andy Gibson and Gabriel Garrick.
 
The continent of Africa on the other hand, is not a location that Scott has visited and so the brilliantly conceived ‘African Dance’ was very much an impression of how he imagined it might be. Rich in colour and rhythm, and with each instrument clamouring for attention, it was full of the joyful spirit that gave birth to jazz in the first place.
 
Dave Frankel’s piano transported us from the vivid sunlight of Africa to the gentle breeze of Brazil in his elegant introduction to the delightful ‘Ask me in Latin (Nolite a me)’, in which the tonal variety achieved by using different instruments in combination was particularly effective.

Wilcox used a similar device in the intriguing ‘Thinking About It’ to create a seemingly infinite number of subtle variations on a basic theme.
 
‘Song for a Special Friend’ brought a complete change of mood with a deeply moving solo by Bob McKay on soprano saxophone and a coda of heart-wrenching emotion expressed by the trumpets of Andy Gibson and Gabriel Garrick. Brilliant!
 
‘Slane’, introduced by Marcus Penrose on bass and based on a traditional Irish folk song using the familiar hymnal tune of ‘Lord of All Faithfulness’, maintained the air of reflection. Bob McKay’s soulful playing was once again to the fore, while Gabriel Garrick rounded things off beautifully on flugelhorn.
 
Gary Willcox’s powerhouse drums set the pace for ‘Bouncing Back’, a challenging number in 5/4 time, featuring a wailing solo from Sam Eagles, which built to a glorious climax to bring the first set to an exhilarating close.
 
Gabriel Garrick took up the trombone, a new arrival in his instrumental armoury, to join forces with Martin Gladdish and the baritone sax of Bob McKay (transposing ‘on sight’ the original part written for a third trombone!) to open the second set with ‘Can’t Complain’; a number that builds and builds in gripping intensity and leaves you slightly breathless when it reaches its sudden conclusion.
 
Scott’s approach to music is a far cry from that of Count Basie and yet ‘Second Thoughts’ had the feel of “Li’l Darlin’”, a Neal Hefti arrangement from the classic album ‘The Atomic Mr Basie’, described by one writer as ‘an object lesson in how to swing at a slow tempo’ and by another as ‘an exercise in how to play slow without falling apart’. The Willcox band held its nerve to successfully negotiate the tightrope walk thanks to the languid tenor of Pete Hurt, muted brass and delicate brushwork of Gary Willcox, only giving way to a shout of triumph with a spectacular flurry of high notes from Gabriel Garrick on the final step.
 
Playing both muted and open horn, trombonist Martin Gladdish took the solo spotlight on the Scott Willcox arrangement of ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’. He held the audience enthralled as he drew every ounce of emotion from the Harold Arlen classic.
 
‘Regular Fries’ has proved to be a popular item on the menu since the earliest days of the Willcox Big Band, while Irving Berlin’s ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’’, a number forever associated with the impeccable footwork of Fred Astaire, provided scope for plenty of musical high-jinks – piano a la Les Dawson from Dave Frankel, slurring saxophones, the earthiest growl trumpet you’re likely to hear this side of New Orleans from Gabriel Garrick and a cheeky contribution from Pete Hurt on flute.

‘Make Mine Mambo’ with a declamatory statement from Martin Gladdish and searing alto solo from Sam Eagles, kept up the spirit of good fun, even if the title sounded as if it had been taken from a 1950’s Hollywood ‘B’ movie.
 
The penultimate number ‘Mixed Feelings’ proved to be exactly that; a haunting and enigmatic composition that perfectly balanced the tension between uninhibited free expression and beautiful lyricism.
 
‘All Change’, the title track of Scott’s most recent album, brought the evening to a show-stopping close and literally brought each member of the band to the tip of his toes in order to meet the challenge of its rapid changes in pace and time. One could only gaze in awe and wonder at the fantastic quality of the musicianship. As one player said afterwards, ‘Great music, but it’s exhausting reading all those charts!’
 
The Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band opened the new season of Jazz at Progress in splendid fashion and the theatre itself provided the perfect platform in terms of space, atmosphere and acoustics for the originality of Scott Willcox’s writing, brought to life with jazz spirit by world-class jazz musicians.
 
As ever, our thanks to the Progress ‘house team’ whose warm hospitality and attention to detail ensure that the gigs always run so smoothly.
 

Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 20/09/2019.

Scott Willcox Big Band

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Reviewed by: Trevor Bannister

Live Review

3 out of 5

Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 20/09/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Zoë White

" The originality of Scott Willcox’s writing was brought to life, with jazz spirit, by world-class jazz musicians". Trevor Bannister enjoys the start of the new season of Jazz at Progress.

The Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band
 

Progress Theatre, Reading Friday 20 September 2019
 

Scott Willcox directing Andy Gibson trumpet & flugelhorn; Gabriel Garrick trumpet, flugelhorn & trombone; Martin Gladdish trombone; Julian Costello tenor saxophone; Pete Hurt tenor saxophone & flute; Bob McKay soprano, alto and baritone saxophones & clarinet; Samuel Eagles alto saxophone; Dave Frankel keyboards; Marcus Penrose bass & bass guitar; Gary Willcox drums.
 


Scott Willcox and his ten-piece big band made a welcome return to Reading on Friday 20 September, after an interval of three years, to open a new season of Jazz at Progress with a jaunty arrangement of Carol King’s smash hit ‘I’m Into Something Good’, featuring the rolling piano of Dave Frankel and the dazzling brass of Andy Gibson and Martin Gladdish.

Though best known for his exuberant humour, risqué lyrics and hard driving stride piano, Fats Waller could also be a composer of great sensitivity as the band demonstrated to perfect effect with perhaps his most engaging composition, ‘Jitterbug Waltz’, drawing on all the instruments of the ensemble to produce a wonderful cascade of sound.
 
While ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ paid tribute to an early inspiration in Scott Willcox’s musical career, the atmospheric ‘La Gomera’, a Canary Island dear to his heart, introduced us to a source of his own creative impulses. His writing evoked the stunning contrast between the tranquillity of the island, its black-sanded beaches washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the potential violence of its volcanic origins. Great work here from Gary Willcox on percussion, the plaintive saxophones of Julian Costello and Bob McKay, and the fiery trumpets of Andy Gibson and Gabriel Garrick.
 
The continent of Africa on the other hand, is not a location that Scott has visited and so the brilliantly conceived ‘African Dance’ was very much an impression of how he imagined it might be. Rich in colour and rhythm, and with each instrument clamouring for attention, it was full of the joyful spirit that gave birth to jazz in the first place.
 
Dave Frankel’s piano transported us from the vivid sunlight of Africa to the gentle breeze of Brazil in his elegant introduction to the delightful ‘Ask me in Latin (Nolite a me)’, in which the tonal variety achieved by using different instruments in combination was particularly effective.

Wilcox used a similar device in the intriguing ‘Thinking About It’ to create a seemingly infinite number of subtle variations on a basic theme.
 
‘Song for a Special Friend’ brought a complete change of mood with a deeply moving solo by Bob McKay on soprano saxophone and a coda of heart-wrenching emotion expressed by the trumpets of Andy Gibson and Gabriel Garrick. Brilliant!
 
‘Slane’, introduced by Marcus Penrose on bass and based on a traditional Irish folk song using the familiar hymnal tune of ‘Lord of All Faithfulness’, maintained the air of reflection. Bob McKay’s soulful playing was once again to the fore, while Gabriel Garrick rounded things off beautifully on flugelhorn.
 
Gary Willcox’s powerhouse drums set the pace for ‘Bouncing Back’, a challenging number in 5/4 time, featuring a wailing solo from Sam Eagles, which built to a glorious climax to bring the first set to an exhilarating close.
 
Gabriel Garrick took up the trombone, a new arrival in his instrumental armoury, to join forces with Martin Gladdish and the baritone sax of Bob McKay (transposing ‘on sight’ the original part written for a third trombone!) to open the second set with ‘Can’t Complain’; a number that builds and builds in gripping intensity and leaves you slightly breathless when it reaches its sudden conclusion.
 
Scott’s approach to music is a far cry from that of Count Basie and yet ‘Second Thoughts’ had the feel of “Li’l Darlin’”, a Neal Hefti arrangement from the classic album ‘The Atomic Mr Basie’, described by one writer as ‘an object lesson in how to swing at a slow tempo’ and by another as ‘an exercise in how to play slow without falling apart’. The Willcox band held its nerve to successfully negotiate the tightrope walk thanks to the languid tenor of Pete Hurt, muted brass and delicate brushwork of Gary Willcox, only giving way to a shout of triumph with a spectacular flurry of high notes from Gabriel Garrick on the final step.
 
Playing both muted and open horn, trombonist Martin Gladdish took the solo spotlight on the Scott Willcox arrangement of ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’. He held the audience enthralled as he drew every ounce of emotion from the Harold Arlen classic.
 
‘Regular Fries’ has proved to be a popular item on the menu since the earliest days of the Willcox Big Band, while Irving Berlin’s ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’’, a number forever associated with the impeccable footwork of Fred Astaire, provided scope for plenty of musical high-jinks – piano a la Les Dawson from Dave Frankel, slurring saxophones, the earthiest growl trumpet you’re likely to hear this side of New Orleans from Gabriel Garrick and a cheeky contribution from Pete Hurt on flute.

‘Make Mine Mambo’ with a declamatory statement from Martin Gladdish and searing alto solo from Sam Eagles, kept up the spirit of good fun, even if the title sounded as if it had been taken from a 1950’s Hollywood ‘B’ movie.
 
The penultimate number ‘Mixed Feelings’ proved to be exactly that; a haunting and enigmatic composition that perfectly balanced the tension between uninhibited free expression and beautiful lyricism.
 
‘All Change’, the title track of Scott’s most recent album, brought the evening to a show-stopping close and literally brought each member of the band to the tip of his toes in order to meet the challenge of its rapid changes in pace and time. One could only gaze in awe and wonder at the fantastic quality of the musicianship. As one player said afterwards, ‘Great music, but it’s exhausting reading all those charts!’
 
The Scott Willcox Ten-Piece Big Band opened the new season of Jazz at Progress in splendid fashion and the theatre itself provided the perfect platform in terms of space, atmosphere and acoustics for the originality of Scott Willcox’s writing, brought to life with jazz spirit by world-class jazz musicians.
 
As ever, our thanks to the Progress ‘house team’ whose warm hospitality and attention to detail ensure that the gigs always run so smoothly.
 

BATL Quartet - BATL Quartet Live Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys this live debut album from the new quartet co-led by tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn.

BATL Quartet

“BATL Quartet Live”

(RT Jazz Records RTJR002)

Brandon Allen – tenor saxophone, Tim Lapthorn – piano, Arnie Somogyi – double bass, Lloyd Haines – drums


BATL Quartet is a relatively new group founded and co-led by two stalwarts of the UK jazz scene, saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn, both bandleaders in their own right.

Allen and Lapthorn have played together in various aggregations for over seventeen years, often in various quartet formations as part of the Ronnie Scott’s house band. As Allen’s liner notes make clear he obviously has a great respect for Lapthorn’s musicianship and in 2018 the decision was made for the pair to form a regular working band.

BATL Quartet puts the emphasis on the pair’s original compositions, although live performances can also include the occasional standard, often by composers such as John Coltrane and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Allen cites these two as key influences on the quartet, alongside Stan Getz, Chick Corea,  Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report and Brazilian music in general.

It was originally intended that the quartet would tour intensively and then cut a studio album. 2019 has seen the group touring widely and their performance in March at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London was documented by the Club’s in house engineer Luc Saint Martin. The quality of the performance and the musical chemistry between the performers, particularly the two co-leaders, forced a rethink, and the decision to make BATL Quartet’s début release a live album.

My review of the quartet’s performance at The Hive Music and Media Centre in Shrewsbury, with Tom Thornton on bass and Dave Ingamells at the drums, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/brandon-allen-tim-lapthorn-quartet-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-1/

“BATL Quartet Live” features many of the pieces that were played at Shrewsbury and the recording focusses on the original writing of Allen and Lapthorn exclusively. The compositions are firmly within the jazz tradition, drawing on swing and bebop and those previously detailed influences. The composers also draw inspiration from more contemporary jazz influences, and from their personal life experiences.

The album commences with Allen’s “Gone But Not Forgotten”, a piece dedicated to the memory of
Graham Wood, the late Australian pianist who was something of a mentor to the young Allen.  Wood was the founder of Perth Jazz and the first head of the jazz department at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in Allen’s native city of Perth. The recording itself is also dedicated to Wood’s memory.
Musically the piece exhibits a melodic urgency and has something of the feel of a hard bop standard about it. It commences in piano trio mode, with Lapthorn at the keyboard above a crisp bass and drum groove. Allen, on tenor, makes the occasional interjection but when his turn comes to solo he does so with power and authority, making effective use of his instrument’s upper registers. Elsewhere Lapthorn makes effective use of the Pizza’s Steinway with his fluent and inventive soloing, prompted by Haines’ neatly energetic drumming. The rhythm section also feature as soloists with an enjoyably melodic excursion from Somogyi and a concise but vigorous cameo from the effervescent Haines.

Also written by Allen “Lazy Days”, inspired by the arrival of summer,  develops out of Haines’ marching rhythms and takes its musical inspiration from the swing era with Allen generating a suitably warm and rounded sound on tenor. One of Allen’s previous projects has seen him updating the repertoire of the late American saxophonist Gene Ammons, and there’s something of Ammons in his sound here as he stretches out effectively. Lapthorn follows with a wryly witty solo that deservedly wins the approval of the knowledgeable Pizza audience.

Lapthorn makes his compositional bow with “Return To Life”, which embraces a more contemporary jazz feel. The composer takes the first solo, lithely dancing above the subtly propulsive bass and drum grooves. Allen then weighs in on incisive, but fluent, tenor, this followed by another melodic outing for Somogyi at the bass.

Allen’s speaking voice is heard as he introduces a second Lapthorn composition, the Ellington inspired ballad “Cuckoo”.  The piece is ushered in by a lyrical passage of unaccompanied piano before Allen takes up his tenor to demonstrate his skills as a balladeer. The saxophonist’s tone is warm, round and breathy, emotive, but still quietly authoritative. Lapthorn’s thoughtful piano solo follows, sympathetically supported by double bass and delicately brushed drums.  Following further melodic ruminations from Allen we hear Somogyi at his most lyrical on the bass with a perfectly paced solo, spacious but infused with a deep resonance.

Allen’s “Running Away With Me” lifts the tempo once more on a piece drawing inspiration from the works of Stan Getz, Bill Evans and Chick Corea, particularly the latter’s composition “Captain Marvel”. The BATL Quartet deliver a breezy, Latin tinged performance, galloping through Allen’s composition with great élan as the composer’s tenor swoops and soars, spurred on by Haines’ dynamic drumming. The youngest member of the group, Haines is a product of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff but is now based in London. He acquits himself superbly throughout the album, playing with great power or with great sensitivity as required. Following Lapthorn’s solo Haines gets to enjoy his own feature, a dynamic drum solo that elicits whoops of approval from the audience.

Allen announces his own composition “Theodore”, a dedication to his infant son. Relaxed but playful this mid tempo tune is another that has something of the feel of jazz standard about it. Allen’s tone on tenor is appropriately warm while Lapthorn’s quotes during an expansive and brilliantly constructed solo are suitably impish. The composer subsequently stretches out more incisively on tenor, followed by the consistently impressive Somogyi at the bass.

At Shrewsbury Allen informed us that his jazz waltz “A Little Love Song” had been inspired by Weather Report. “I hope we sound like an acoustic version of that band” he declared. A delightful ballad style performance embraces many twists and turns and includes eloquent solos from Somogyi, Allen and Lapthorn.

The closing tune is “Frack The Right”, the title reflecting Allen’s environmental and political concerns. This is a fourteen minute tour-de-force that sees the composer adopting a harder edged tone on tenor as he channels his inner Coltrane during a barnstorming solo that sees Lapthorn, Somogyi and Haines filling the roles of Tyner, Garrison and Jones. Lapthorn’s own solo is similarly feverish and inventive and there’s another dynamic feature from young drum tyro Haines. BATL Quartet really tear things up here on a rousing group performance that gives full expression to Allen’s dissatisfaction with the current political climate. The album concludes with his acknowledgement of his fellow musicians and the cheers of the Pizza audience.

“BATL Quartet Live” is an excellent document of the group in live performance, the spontaneous nature of the event imparting the music with a vital edge that might have been lost in a studio situation. Allen concedes that live recordings can sometimes be a bit of a risk, but the ‘warts and all’ approach does nothing to harm anyone’s reputation. Allen and Lapthorn both play with power and conviction, their solos fluent and consistently imaginative. The experienced Somogyi is a steadying and commanding presence at the bass and weighs in with his fair share of convincing solos.

On a personal note I’m most excited by the performance of Lloyd Haines, a musician whose progress I have monitored since his days as a student at the RWCMD. It’s good to see him making his mark on the London music scene and his contribution to the success of this recording is immense. As I observed previously his playing is exceptional throughout the album.

The presence of the regular team plus the availability of a grand piano ensures that the recording is a notch above the Shrewsbury performance and the album as a whole represents very enjoyable listening.

Indeed the playing of all four musicians is of the highest standard. If there’s a criticism of BATL Quartet it’s that the writing is a little too generic, but even so Allen’s optimism about the creative potential of this ensemble is still very much justified.

BATL Quartet Live

BATL Quartet

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

BATL Quartet Live

Ian Mann enjoys this live debut album from the new quartet co-led by tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn.

BATL Quartet

“BATL Quartet Live”

(RT Jazz Records RTJR002)

Brandon Allen – tenor saxophone, Tim Lapthorn – piano, Arnie Somogyi – double bass, Lloyd Haines – drums


BATL Quartet is a relatively new group founded and co-led by two stalwarts of the UK jazz scene, saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn, both bandleaders in their own right.

Allen and Lapthorn have played together in various aggregations for over seventeen years, often in various quartet formations as part of the Ronnie Scott’s house band. As Allen’s liner notes make clear he obviously has a great respect for Lapthorn’s musicianship and in 2018 the decision was made for the pair to form a regular working band.

BATL Quartet puts the emphasis on the pair’s original compositions, although live performances can also include the occasional standard, often by composers such as John Coltrane and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Allen cites these two as key influences on the quartet, alongside Stan Getz, Chick Corea,  Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report and Brazilian music in general.

It was originally intended that the quartet would tour intensively and then cut a studio album. 2019 has seen the group touring widely and their performance in March at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London was documented by the Club’s in house engineer Luc Saint Martin. The quality of the performance and the musical chemistry between the performers, particularly the two co-leaders, forced a rethink, and the decision to make BATL Quartet’s début release a live album.

My review of the quartet’s performance at The Hive Music and Media Centre in Shrewsbury, with Tom Thornton on bass and Dave Ingamells at the drums, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/brandon-allen-tim-lapthorn-quartet-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-1/

“BATL Quartet Live” features many of the pieces that were played at Shrewsbury and the recording focusses on the original writing of Allen and Lapthorn exclusively. The compositions are firmly within the jazz tradition, drawing on swing and bebop and those previously detailed influences. The composers also draw inspiration from more contemporary jazz influences, and from their personal life experiences.

The album commences with Allen’s “Gone But Not Forgotten”, a piece dedicated to the memory of
Graham Wood, the late Australian pianist who was something of a mentor to the young Allen.  Wood was the founder of Perth Jazz and the first head of the jazz department at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in Allen’s native city of Perth. The recording itself is also dedicated to Wood’s memory.
Musically the piece exhibits a melodic urgency and has something of the feel of a hard bop standard about it. It commences in piano trio mode, with Lapthorn at the keyboard above a crisp bass and drum groove. Allen, on tenor, makes the occasional interjection but when his turn comes to solo he does so with power and authority, making effective use of his instrument’s upper registers. Elsewhere Lapthorn makes effective use of the Pizza’s Steinway with his fluent and inventive soloing, prompted by Haines’ neatly energetic drumming. The rhythm section also feature as soloists with an enjoyably melodic excursion from Somogyi and a concise but vigorous cameo from the effervescent Haines.

Also written by Allen “Lazy Days”, inspired by the arrival of summer,  develops out of Haines’ marching rhythms and takes its musical inspiration from the swing era with Allen generating a suitably warm and rounded sound on tenor. One of Allen’s previous projects has seen him updating the repertoire of the late American saxophonist Gene Ammons, and there’s something of Ammons in his sound here as he stretches out effectively. Lapthorn follows with a wryly witty solo that deservedly wins the approval of the knowledgeable Pizza audience.

Lapthorn makes his compositional bow with “Return To Life”, which embraces a more contemporary jazz feel. The composer takes the first solo, lithely dancing above the subtly propulsive bass and drum grooves. Allen then weighs in on incisive, but fluent, tenor, this followed by another melodic outing for Somogyi at the bass.

Allen’s speaking voice is heard as he introduces a second Lapthorn composition, the Ellington inspired ballad “Cuckoo”.  The piece is ushered in by a lyrical passage of unaccompanied piano before Allen takes up his tenor to demonstrate his skills as a balladeer. The saxophonist’s tone is warm, round and breathy, emotive, but still quietly authoritative. Lapthorn’s thoughtful piano solo follows, sympathetically supported by double bass and delicately brushed drums.  Following further melodic ruminations from Allen we hear Somogyi at his most lyrical on the bass with a perfectly paced solo, spacious but infused with a deep resonance.

Allen’s “Running Away With Me” lifts the tempo once more on a piece drawing inspiration from the works of Stan Getz, Bill Evans and Chick Corea, particularly the latter’s composition “Captain Marvel”. The BATL Quartet deliver a breezy, Latin tinged performance, galloping through Allen’s composition with great élan as the composer’s tenor swoops and soars, spurred on by Haines’ dynamic drumming. The youngest member of the group, Haines is a product of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff but is now based in London. He acquits himself superbly throughout the album, playing with great power or with great sensitivity as required. Following Lapthorn’s solo Haines gets to enjoy his own feature, a dynamic drum solo that elicits whoops of approval from the audience.

Allen announces his own composition “Theodore”, a dedication to his infant son. Relaxed but playful this mid tempo tune is another that has something of the feel of jazz standard about it. Allen’s tone on tenor is appropriately warm while Lapthorn’s quotes during an expansive and brilliantly constructed solo are suitably impish. The composer subsequently stretches out more incisively on tenor, followed by the consistently impressive Somogyi at the bass.

At Shrewsbury Allen informed us that his jazz waltz “A Little Love Song” had been inspired by Weather Report. “I hope we sound like an acoustic version of that band” he declared. A delightful ballad style performance embraces many twists and turns and includes eloquent solos from Somogyi, Allen and Lapthorn.

The closing tune is “Frack The Right”, the title reflecting Allen’s environmental and political concerns. This is a fourteen minute tour-de-force that sees the composer adopting a harder edged tone on tenor as he channels his inner Coltrane during a barnstorming solo that sees Lapthorn, Somogyi and Haines filling the roles of Tyner, Garrison and Jones. Lapthorn’s own solo is similarly feverish and inventive and there’s another dynamic feature from young drum tyro Haines. BATL Quartet really tear things up here on a rousing group performance that gives full expression to Allen’s dissatisfaction with the current political climate. The album concludes with his acknowledgement of his fellow musicians and the cheers of the Pizza audience.

“BATL Quartet Live” is an excellent document of the group in live performance, the spontaneous nature of the event imparting the music with a vital edge that might have been lost in a studio situation. Allen concedes that live recordings can sometimes be a bit of a risk, but the ‘warts and all’ approach does nothing to harm anyone’s reputation. Allen and Lapthorn both play with power and conviction, their solos fluent and consistently imaginative. The experienced Somogyi is a steadying and commanding presence at the bass and weighs in with his fair share of convincing solos.

On a personal note I’m most excited by the performance of Lloyd Haines, a musician whose progress I have monitored since his days as a student at the RWCMD. It’s good to see him making his mark on the London music scene and his contribution to the success of this recording is immense. As I observed previously his playing is exceptional throughout the album.

The presence of the regular team plus the availability of a grand piano ensures that the recording is a notch above the Shrewsbury performance and the album as a whole represents very enjoyable listening.

Indeed the playing of all four musicians is of the highest standard. If there’s a criticism of BATL Quartet it’s that the writing is a little too generic, but even so Allen’s optimism about the creative potential of this ensemble is still very much justified.

Victoria Klewin - Victoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 Pure class. Klewin’s singing was superb throughout, embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, playful and vivacious on the livelier numbers and genuinely moving on ballads.

Victoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019.


Victoria Klewin – vocals, Denny Ilett – guitar, Dan Moore –keyboard, Pasquale Votino – double bass, Matt Brown - drums

Bristol based Victoria Klewin is a highly versatile vocalist capable of singing in a variety of musical styles including jazz, pop, soul, blues, folk and their various sub genres, and even classical and opera.

Her regular engagements include touring as a backing vocalist with the internationally known soul act Hannah Williams and The Affirmations. An accomplished session vocalist she has also worked in musical theatre and advertising. She is also an acclaimed musical educator and vocal coach.

However her first love is jazz and she works regularly with leading figures on the Bristol jazz scene as well as performing solo shows as a pianist and vocalist. In 2016 she released the solo album “Dance Me To Heaven”, a recording that featured her own songs alongside rarely heard items from the ‘Great American Songbook’.

She has also performed standards sets with Swansea based pianist Dave Cottle and his trio and it was good reports about a set by this combination at nearby Brecon Jazz Club that had whetted my appetite for tonight’s performance.

Klewin was born in Buckinghamshire but brought up in Corsham, Wiltshire. She studied music at Dartington College in Devon before re-locating to Bristol, the city she now calls home.

As a jazz vocalist Klewin’s singing has invited comparisons with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee with other influences including Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Melody Gardot, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

However her ultimate jazz heroine is the New York born singer and pianist Blossom Dearie (1924-2009). Klewin has toured widely with her “Sings Blossom Dearie” show, which features Dearie’s own compositions alongside material associated with her written by the likes of Cole Porter, Cy Coleman and Johnny Mercer. Klewin’s homage to Dearie follows in the wake of similarly successful projects paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Hoagy Carmichael.

Klewin’s Dearie show has been realised with the help of a group of Bristol’s finest musicians featuring Denny Ilett (guitar), Dan Moore (piano), Riaan Vosloo (double bass) and Matt Brown (drums). Vosloo was replaced for tonight’s performance by Naples born, Bristol based Pasquale Votino, who slotted in seamlessly alongside Brown and the others. The arrangements for the “Sings Blossom Dearie” show are written by Ilett, a musician already popular with Abergavenny audiences thanks to his involvement with regular BMJ visitors Moscow Drug Club.

Ilett was part of a sharp dressed ensemble with Klewin choosing to perform seated. By her own admission a reluctant dancer this helped to put the focus very much on the singing and the songs, but with vocalist still representing a charismatic stage presence.

The quintet commenced with the song “Let Me Love You”, written by Bart Howard and recorded by Dearie. Ilett’s arrangement introduced Klewin’s assured, well enunciated vocals and his own crisp, clean, classic jazz guitar sound. Also featuring as a soloist was Moore,  who deployed an acoustic piano setting on his keyboard throughout the evening. We also heard from bassist Votino, who immediately impressed with his first solo of the evening. Brown, using brushes, provided lightly swinging support throughout.

The Bob Haymes song “You For Me” was sourced from Dearie’s eponymous album from 1957 and featured a playful vocal from Klewin alongside instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore. Both soloists have previously worked in bands led by saxophonists Andy Sheppard, arguably Bristol’s most famous jazz export, and James Morton. In these groups Moore has revealed himself to be an exceptional organ soloist, but tonight it was a pleasure to hear him demonstrate his considerable abilities as a pianist.

Following a relatively lively start Klewin and the quintet varied the pace with a beautiful reading of the ballad “Try Your Wings”, with Klewin’s emotive but elegant vocals complemented by the cool eloquence of Ilett’s guitar solo as Brown provided delicately brushed, highly sympathetic support.

Brown’s drums introduced a joyous romp through Jerome Kern’s “I Won’t Dance” as he and Votino set up a gently propulsive groove that fuelled Klewin’s breezy vocals and instrumental solos from the bassist and from Ilett. According to her press release Klewin can sing in several different languages, but by her own admission she still shied away from the French lyrics at the end of the song.

Klewin presented tonight’s performance with wit and warmth, giving the audience just enough information on the story behind each song and its relationship to Dearie. The self penned “Blossom’s Blues” featured risqué lyrics and was also authentically bluesy, despite incorporating a scat vocal episode. Instrumental solos came from Ilett and Moore, the latter at one point soloing with double bass accompaniment only.

Another change of mood and pace on the ballad “How Will He Know?”, the first Dearie song that Klewin ever heard, despite it being relatively little known. A real ‘torch song’ this tale of unrequited love was performed in duo format by Klewin and Moore, the pianist providing sensitive and understated support to Klewin’s haunting vocal. The now outmoded lyrical reference to pipe smoking evoked a sense of nostalgia, and only added to the song’s appeal. This item was sourced from Dearie’s 1959 album “Sings Comden and Green”, a collection of songs featuring the lyrics of wordsmiths Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with music by a variety of well known composers, in this instance Jule Styne.

There were more references to the past on Cy Coleman’s “The Riviera” from Dearie’s 1958 album “Give Him the Ooh-La-La”. The introduction to the song saw Klewin and Moore continuing in duo mode before the rest of the band kicked in, their jaunty rhythms complementing Klewin’s breezy vocal performance of the clever and satirical lyrics.

The first set closed in the same vein with the quintet’s take on “I’m Hip”, written for Dearie by Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg,  the song a satirical take on a 1950s New York Bohemian. Klewin’s flawless reading of the complex, vicious but witty lyrics was a vocal tour de force and she received excellent support from a band featuring the cream of Bristol’s music scene.

The second half saw the quintet hit the ground running with a swinging, bluesy version of “The Party’s Over”, introduced by Ilett on guitar as he shared the instrumental solos with Moore on piano. These two also featured on a lively “Deed I Do”,  a song also recorded by Ray Charles.

Following a brisk start the set’s first ballad was “Some Other Time”, “a song about love at the wrong time” explained Klewin, “it gets me every time I sing it”. Her moving rendition of the song was complemented by a tasteful arrangement featuring piano, bass and brushed drums.

The Cole Porter composed title track of Dearie’s 1958 album “Give Him the Ooh-La-La” found Klewin back in playful mood in a bossa style arrangement on one of Porter’s now less well known songs.

From the pen of another famous songwriter came “Down With Love”, composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. A bluesy, swinging arrangement framed the cynical but witty lyrics with Klewin’s singing augmented by instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore.

Another song from Dearie’s “Ooh La-La” album revealed a gentler side of Cy Coleman’s writing on a compelling arrangement of the ballad “I Walk A Little Faster”, which featured an affecting vocal performance from Klewin and Moore at his most lyrical on the keyboard.

More Coleman with a vivacious performance of “When In Rome” with the lyrical reference to ‘Napoli’ (rhymed with ‘snappily’) triggering a bass solo from Naples born Votino alongside further instrumental features from Ilett and Moore.

There was more vocal and lyrical dexterity on Klewin’s performance of the song “My New Celebrity Is You”, written specifically for Dearie by Johnny Mercer and featuring references to then famous people ranging from band-leader Woody Herman to golfer Lee Trevino. Klewin’s brilliantly executed vocal performance was augmented by instrumental features for all the members of the band, including drummer Matt Brown, who clearly relished the opportunity to cut loose.

This represented the end of the scheduled set but a performance of this quality in front of a near capacity audience was never going to finish without an encore. After a brief discussion Ilett called an arrangement of “Teach Me Tonight” which incorporated an authentically sultry vocal performance from Klewin alongside final instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore. The audience loved it.

The quintet’s performance of this Dearie related material was pure class, a reflection of the quality of their chosen material and of the abilities of Dearie, a performer who seems to have been
‘re-discovered’ in the years following her death.

Klewin’s singing was superb throughout, like Dearie embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, playful and vivacious on the livelier numbers and genuinely moving on ballads. Technically flawless her enunciation was perfect as she navigated the twists and turns of the often complex lyrics, investing the words with just the right type of emotion at any given time.

Led by Ilett the instrumentalists were also at the top of their game, the solos concise and cogent, the accompaniment always tasteful and supportive, but bluesy and swinging too, as required. As the main soloists Ilett and Moore inevitably stood out, but the contributions of Brown and Votino shouldn’t be overlooked, with the latter slotting in well with an already very tight and well drilled ensemble.

‘Classy’ was the phrase used by many to sum up a hugely successful event that saw one of the best club night attendances of the year with band, organisers, and audience all genuinely happy with the way the evening had gone.

My thanks to Victoria and Denny for speaking with me afterwards. One suspects that these are musicians who will be invited back to BMJ in the future, something for Abergavenny audiences to look forward to.

 

 

 

 

Victoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019.

Victoria Klewin

Monday, September 30, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Victoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Haddon Sullivan

Pure class. Klewin’s singing was superb throughout, embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, playful and vivacious on the livelier numbers and genuinely moving on ballads.

Victoria Klewin Sings Blossom Dearie, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 29/09/2019.


Victoria Klewin – vocals, Denny Ilett – guitar, Dan Moore –keyboard, Pasquale Votino – double bass, Matt Brown - drums

Bristol based Victoria Klewin is a highly versatile vocalist capable of singing in a variety of musical styles including jazz, pop, soul, blues, folk and their various sub genres, and even classical and opera.

Her regular engagements include touring as a backing vocalist with the internationally known soul act Hannah Williams and The Affirmations. An accomplished session vocalist she has also worked in musical theatre and advertising. She is also an acclaimed musical educator and vocal coach.

However her first love is jazz and she works regularly with leading figures on the Bristol jazz scene as well as performing solo shows as a pianist and vocalist. In 2016 she released the solo album “Dance Me To Heaven”, a recording that featured her own songs alongside rarely heard items from the ‘Great American Songbook’.

She has also performed standards sets with Swansea based pianist Dave Cottle and his trio and it was good reports about a set by this combination at nearby Brecon Jazz Club that had whetted my appetite for tonight’s performance.

Klewin was born in Buckinghamshire but brought up in Corsham, Wiltshire. She studied music at Dartington College in Devon before re-locating to Bristol, the city she now calls home.

As a jazz vocalist Klewin’s singing has invited comparisons with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee with other influences including Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Melody Gardot, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

However her ultimate jazz heroine is the New York born singer and pianist Blossom Dearie (1924-2009). Klewin has toured widely with her “Sings Blossom Dearie” show, which features Dearie’s own compositions alongside material associated with her written by the likes of Cole Porter, Cy Coleman and Johnny Mercer. Klewin’s homage to Dearie follows in the wake of similarly successful projects paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Hoagy Carmichael.

Klewin’s Dearie show has been realised with the help of a group of Bristol’s finest musicians featuring Denny Ilett (guitar), Dan Moore (piano), Riaan Vosloo (double bass) and Matt Brown (drums). Vosloo was replaced for tonight’s performance by Naples born, Bristol based Pasquale Votino, who slotted in seamlessly alongside Brown and the others. The arrangements for the “Sings Blossom Dearie” show are written by Ilett, a musician already popular with Abergavenny audiences thanks to his involvement with regular BMJ visitors Moscow Drug Club.

Ilett was part of a sharp dressed ensemble with Klewin choosing to perform seated. By her own admission a reluctant dancer this helped to put the focus very much on the singing and the songs, but with vocalist still representing a charismatic stage presence.

The quintet commenced with the song “Let Me Love You”, written by Bart Howard and recorded by Dearie. Ilett’s arrangement introduced Klewin’s assured, well enunciated vocals and his own crisp, clean, classic jazz guitar sound. Also featuring as a soloist was Moore,  who deployed an acoustic piano setting on his keyboard throughout the evening. We also heard from bassist Votino, who immediately impressed with his first solo of the evening. Brown, using brushes, provided lightly swinging support throughout.

The Bob Haymes song “You For Me” was sourced from Dearie’s eponymous album from 1957 and featured a playful vocal from Klewin alongside instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore. Both soloists have previously worked in bands led by saxophonists Andy Sheppard, arguably Bristol’s most famous jazz export, and James Morton. In these groups Moore has revealed himself to be an exceptional organ soloist, but tonight it was a pleasure to hear him demonstrate his considerable abilities as a pianist.

Following a relatively lively start Klewin and the quintet varied the pace with a beautiful reading of the ballad “Try Your Wings”, with Klewin’s emotive but elegant vocals complemented by the cool eloquence of Ilett’s guitar solo as Brown provided delicately brushed, highly sympathetic support.

Brown’s drums introduced a joyous romp through Jerome Kern’s “I Won’t Dance” as he and Votino set up a gently propulsive groove that fuelled Klewin’s breezy vocals and instrumental solos from the bassist and from Ilett. According to her press release Klewin can sing in several different languages, but by her own admission she still shied away from the French lyrics at the end of the song.

Klewin presented tonight’s performance with wit and warmth, giving the audience just enough information on the story behind each song and its relationship to Dearie. The self penned “Blossom’s Blues” featured risqué lyrics and was also authentically bluesy, despite incorporating a scat vocal episode. Instrumental solos came from Ilett and Moore, the latter at one point soloing with double bass accompaniment only.

Another change of mood and pace on the ballad “How Will He Know?”, the first Dearie song that Klewin ever heard, despite it being relatively little known. A real ‘torch song’ this tale of unrequited love was performed in duo format by Klewin and Moore, the pianist providing sensitive and understated support to Klewin’s haunting vocal. The now outmoded lyrical reference to pipe smoking evoked a sense of nostalgia, and only added to the song’s appeal. This item was sourced from Dearie’s 1959 album “Sings Comden and Green”, a collection of songs featuring the lyrics of wordsmiths Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with music by a variety of well known composers, in this instance Jule Styne.

There were more references to the past on Cy Coleman’s “The Riviera” from Dearie’s 1958 album “Give Him the Ooh-La-La”. The introduction to the song saw Klewin and Moore continuing in duo mode before the rest of the band kicked in, their jaunty rhythms complementing Klewin’s breezy vocal performance of the clever and satirical lyrics.

The first set closed in the same vein with the quintet’s take on “I’m Hip”, written for Dearie by Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg,  the song a satirical take on a 1950s New York Bohemian. Klewin’s flawless reading of the complex, vicious but witty lyrics was a vocal tour de force and she received excellent support from a band featuring the cream of Bristol’s music scene.

The second half saw the quintet hit the ground running with a swinging, bluesy version of “The Party’s Over”, introduced by Ilett on guitar as he shared the instrumental solos with Moore on piano. These two also featured on a lively “Deed I Do”,  a song also recorded by Ray Charles.

Following a brisk start the set’s first ballad was “Some Other Time”, “a song about love at the wrong time” explained Klewin, “it gets me every time I sing it”. Her moving rendition of the song was complemented by a tasteful arrangement featuring piano, bass and brushed drums.

The Cole Porter composed title track of Dearie’s 1958 album “Give Him the Ooh-La-La” found Klewin back in playful mood in a bossa style arrangement on one of Porter’s now less well known songs.

From the pen of another famous songwriter came “Down With Love”, composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. A bluesy, swinging arrangement framed the cynical but witty lyrics with Klewin’s singing augmented by instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore.

Another song from Dearie’s “Ooh La-La” album revealed a gentler side of Cy Coleman’s writing on a compelling arrangement of the ballad “I Walk A Little Faster”, which featured an affecting vocal performance from Klewin and Moore at his most lyrical on the keyboard.

More Coleman with a vivacious performance of “When In Rome” with the lyrical reference to ‘Napoli’ (rhymed with ‘snappily’) triggering a bass solo from Naples born Votino alongside further instrumental features from Ilett and Moore.

There was more vocal and lyrical dexterity on Klewin’s performance of the song “My New Celebrity Is You”, written specifically for Dearie by Johnny Mercer and featuring references to then famous people ranging from band-leader Woody Herman to golfer Lee Trevino. Klewin’s brilliantly executed vocal performance was augmented by instrumental features for all the members of the band, including drummer Matt Brown, who clearly relished the opportunity to cut loose.

This represented the end of the scheduled set but a performance of this quality in front of a near capacity audience was never going to finish without an encore. After a brief discussion Ilett called an arrangement of “Teach Me Tonight” which incorporated an authentically sultry vocal performance from Klewin alongside final instrumental solos from Ilett and Moore. The audience loved it.

The quintet’s performance of this Dearie related material was pure class, a reflection of the quality of their chosen material and of the abilities of Dearie, a performer who seems to have been
‘re-discovered’ in the years following her death.

Klewin’s singing was superb throughout, like Dearie embracing a variety of moods and musical styles, playful and vivacious on the livelier numbers and genuinely moving on ballads. Technically flawless her enunciation was perfect as she navigated the twists and turns of the often complex lyrics, investing the words with just the right type of emotion at any given time.

Led by Ilett the instrumentalists were also at the top of their game, the solos concise and cogent, the accompaniment always tasteful and supportive, but bluesy and swinging too, as required. As the main soloists Ilett and Moore inevitably stood out, but the contributions of Brown and Votino shouldn’t be overlooked, with the latter slotting in well with an already very tight and well drilled ensemble.

‘Classy’ was the phrase used by many to sum up a hugely successful event that saw one of the best club night attendances of the year with band, organisers, and audience all genuinely happy with the way the evening had gone.

My thanks to Victoria and Denny for speaking with me afterwards. One suspects that these are musicians who will be invited back to BMJ in the future, something for Abergavenny audiences to look forward to.

 

 

 

 

Paul Booth - Travel Sketches Rating: 0 out of 5 An impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative.

Paul Booth

“Travel Sketches”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0034)

Paul Booth – tenor sax, Steve Hamilton – piano, Dave Whitford – double bass, Andrew Bain - drums

Paul Booth, the North East born saxophonist, is a hugely versatile musician who is probably best known for his long term association with Steve Winwood’s band. Indeed Booth’s formidable abilities have made him a first call sideman for an impressive roster of leading rock and pop artists, his credits including such A-listers as Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers Band,  Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Bonnie Raitt, Chaka Khan, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue, Marti Pellow, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Jamiroquai and the Eagles.

However Booth’s first love has always been jazz and his credentials in this field are no less impressive. Among those with whom Booth has worked are bassists Davide Mantovani, Arnie Somogyi and Michael Janisch,  trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Ryan Quigley and Ingrid Jensen, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Alan Barnes, vocalist Anita Wardell, flautist Gareth Lockrane and drummers Clark Tracey and Clarence Penn. Booth has also recorded with the Cuban born player of the Galician bagpipes Wilber Calver. In addition his playing has graced the ranks of the BBC Big Band.

In addition to his exhaustive sideman credits across a variety of genres Booth is also a composer and band leader in his own right and also runs his own Pathways record label. His output as a leader includes the albums “It’s Happening” (2003),  “No Looking Back” (Basho Records, 2007), “Pathways” (2009) and “Trilateral” (Pathway, 2012), the last named featuring Booth’s playing with three different trios.
Review here;  http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/paul-booth-trilateral/

In recent years Booth’s growing interest in world music styles has led to him forming two different ensembles, the Patchwork Project and the Bansangu Orchestra. The début releases from both bands are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/paul-booth-patchwork-project-vol.-1/
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/bansangu-orchestra-bansangu-orchestra/

Currently he also leads on organ trio featuring Ross Stanley on Hammond and Andrew Bain at the drums.

Bain’s playing also features on this new quartet release, a recording that sees Booth going back to his jazz roots. The sound may be rooted in the jazz tradition but as the album title suggests the saxophonist’s seven new original compositions draw inspiration from his global wanderings while on tour with some of the many artists listed above. Booth’s succinct liner notes offer brief, but cogent, insights into the inspirations behind each tune. The programme is completed by an instrumental interpretation of the Peter Gabriel song “Don’t Give Up”.

Of the overall concept behind the album Booth explains;
“The bulk of this album’s content was written while touring. It is my intention that each composition transcends the listener into an experience inspired by my travels. For this album I made a conscious decision to go back to my roots as a tenor player. Luckily, recording with my friends, who happen to be my first choice and best, proved wise. The album was recorded in one afternoon in a live playing situation, leaving zero chance for ‘fixes’. Most of the tracks on this album were first takes.”

Of his quartet Booth says;
“We are friends who make music together. There’s an empathy when we play, unspoken directions that lead us to constantly re-interpret the music we are playing. I really wanted my compositions to feel as if they were written by the whole band, and somehow I think we achieved this.”

The mood of the album is relaxed and generally mellow and as Booth has indicated there is clearly a highly developed rapport between the players. It’s a genuine team effort with the saxophonist receiving skilled and empathic support from his colleagues throughout. In a well balanced quartet there is a clear sense of the common goal and no grandstanding, despite the presence of many outstanding solos.

The album commences with the jazz waltz “Seattle Fall”, of which Booth informs us;
“I wrote this first piece one rainy Autumn day, whilst on tour with Steve Winwood. Looking for solitude in a Seattle theatre I found a beautiful old piano and the inspiration was set. Half an hour later it was complete”.
There’s an agreeably pastoral feel about the music, one that sums up the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that inspired it. Booth’s tenor sax soloing is fluent and elegant, unhurried and with no sense of bluster. Hamilton offers suitably sympathetic support at the piano and displays an admirable lyricism throughout. Whitford supplies melodic bass counterpoint and adds an understated but wonderfully dexterous solo. Bain also impresses with his contribution, particularly his delicate brush work in the earlier stages of the piece.

Of the next piece, “Seminole Serenade”, Booth states;
“As a lover of Native American culture, this tune is delicately inspired by their journey. I credit my fiancée with opening my eyes to the walk of her ancestors”.
Booth introduces the piece with a pure toned, but highly evocative, passage of unaccompanied tenor.  Overall the mood is similar to the opener, restrained, wistful, lyrical with the gentle, but exotic, patter of Bain’s drums granting just sufficient impetus for the mellifluous but intelligent soloing of Booth and Hamilton.

There’s a change of mood and pace on “Medina Scuffle”. Of this piece Booth says;
“If you have ever spent any time in Morocco you’ll have witnessed the embedded chaos in various parts of the country. This piece was written after navigating the intensity of the medina and also being inspired by the serenity of Gnawa music”.
A more forceful performance, introduced by Whitford at the bass, also displays the influence of bebop with Hamilton contributing a feverish piano solo as Bain’s drums chatter busily around him. Hitherto Booth’s playing has evoked comparisons with that of Stan Getz,  but his turbo-charged solo here is more reminiscent of John Coltrane. There’s also an extended drum feature from Bain, who gets the opportunity to release his inner Elvin Jones.

Booth now lives in Ramsgate – when he’s not on the road. Of the tune “No Place Like Home” he comments;
“Sometimes music, or a particular song, just has a way of saying it all. After so much time away, there really is no place like home”.
Hamilton’s solo piano ruminations introduce a piece that evokes an appropriate sense of wistfulness via Booth’s warm toned tenor soloing and Whitford’s delightfully melodic bass feature.

“Tuscan Charm” was written towards the close of a lengthy international tour that ended in Italy. Booth says of the experience;
“I discovered the delights of Tuscany. The majestic beauty of the countryside and kindness of its people easily brought pen to paper. The wine was pretty good too!”.
The music sounds appropriately balmy and relaxed with Booth constructing his tenor solo in unhurried fashion, yet all the while displaying great fluency and imagination. His colleagues respond to his every move with grace and acumen, particularly as the leader’s playing gradually becomes more loquacious. Bain’s inventive drumming plays a particularly prominent part in the arrangement.

It’s Bain who introduces “Red Rocks”, a ballad inspired by Booth’s adventures hiking in Colorado. Clearly moved by his experiences the composer writes;
“It would be an understatement to say Red Rocks is Mother Nature at her best. My mind was almost transfixed at the mountain’s peaks and I saw them as resembling notes on a stave. Feeling inspired I determined a key and basic scale, sketched out the melody I saw in the peaks and then interpreted the rhythms from various movements scattered around me. From that point on this tune grew into a piece that I am quite proud of”.
From the brushed drum intro Bain establishes a marching rhythm around which sax, piano and bass congregate, with Booth sketching the melody on tenor. The piece develops elegantly and naturally through the flowing lyricism of Hamilton’s piano solo and Booth’s subsequent tenor sax meditations. Rather than attempting to replicate the grandeur of nature Booth’s piece instead seems to encapsulate the humility he felt in the presence of almost overwhelming natural beauty.

One suspects that similar circumstances informed the writing of “Byron Bay”, written back in England following a tour of New Zealand and Australia. Hamilton’s piano ushers in the piece and is heard in mutual dialogue with Booth’s tenor. With the addition of bass and drums the piece evokes a sense of warmth and nostalgia for a place that Booth describes as having been “a ‘bucket list destination for as long as I can remember”. This is expressed in the gentle melodicism of the solos of Hamilton and Booth, although the way in which the latter subsequently stretches out is also a reminder of Byron Bay’s reputation as a surfing destination.

The album concludes with the quartet’s interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s hit “Don’t Give Up”, which featured a second vocal from guest Kate Bush. Booth’s group have played the piece many times in concert, usually at the end of the evening.
“It is my hope that the listener leaves with a sense of self and hope” explains Booth, “the positive message, woven in with my own interpretation, will hopefully trigger, or dare I say it, INSPIRE the ideals and ethics of future generations.”. He adds an autobiographical note; “Don’t give up on the hard work it takes. The life you can live through music is the most fulfilling and rewarding life. Trust me, I’m living it now.”
Musically the quartet play things pretty straight, keeping Gabriel’s melody intact. Whitford instigates things from the bass, soon joined by piano and brushed drums before Booth states the familiar theme. The mood is relaxed, lyrical and imbued with a now trademark sense of yearning.
Hamilton solos succinctly on piano before helping Booth to inject a vaguely gospel feel into the music as the saxophonist stretches out. The only real hint of jazz subversion comes via the extended outro.

Recorded at Birmingham’s new Eastside Jazz Club by engineer Alex Bonney “Travel Sketches” represents an impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative. Although it’s very much Booth’s album the contribution from all four musicians is excellent, with Bain in particular, displaying great sensitivity.

It’s an album that has attracted considerable critical acclaim with several writers reaching for the Getz comparisons. If there’s a criticism it could be that a sense of wistful lyricism pervades almost throughout with only “Medina Scuffle” really breaking out of the mould, but any allegations of bloodlessness are rather undermined by the quality of the playing on what is ultimately a rather lovely album.

Paul Booth has taken time out from his travels to deliver a beautiful set of musical postcards – does anybody remember those?

Booth and the quartet are currently touring the “Travel Sketches” material with forthcoming performances at;

Oct 16 - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff (Cardiff Jazz)
Oct 24 - Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Oct 25 - Cork Jazz Festival, Ireland
Dec 2 - NQ Jazz @ The Whiskey Jar, Manchester

2020
March 27 - International Study Centre, Cathedral Precincts, Canterbury (featuring the Festival Chamber Orchestra)
May 14 – The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
May 27 – Fougou Jazz, Torbay, Devon

Paul will also be performing music from the album with the La Havana house band:
October 11 2019 - La Havana Jazz Club, Chichester

More information at;
 https://www.paulboothmusic.com

 

Travel Sketches

Paul Booth

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

0 out of 5

Travel Sketches

An impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative.

Paul Booth

“Travel Sketches”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0034)

Paul Booth – tenor sax, Steve Hamilton – piano, Dave Whitford – double bass, Andrew Bain - drums

Paul Booth, the North East born saxophonist, is a hugely versatile musician who is probably best known for his long term association with Steve Winwood’s band. Indeed Booth’s formidable abilities have made him a first call sideman for an impressive roster of leading rock and pop artists, his credits including such A-listers as Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers Band,  Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Bonnie Raitt, Chaka Khan, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue, Marti Pellow, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Jamiroquai and the Eagles.

However Booth’s first love has always been jazz and his credentials in this field are no less impressive. Among those with whom Booth has worked are bassists Davide Mantovani, Arnie Somogyi and Michael Janisch,  trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Ryan Quigley and Ingrid Jensen, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Alan Barnes, vocalist Anita Wardell, flautist Gareth Lockrane and drummers Clark Tracey and Clarence Penn. Booth has also recorded with the Cuban born player of the Galician bagpipes Wilber Calver. In addition his playing has graced the ranks of the BBC Big Band.

In addition to his exhaustive sideman credits across a variety of genres Booth is also a composer and band leader in his own right and also runs his own Pathways record label. His output as a leader includes the albums “It’s Happening” (2003),  “No Looking Back” (Basho Records, 2007), “Pathways” (2009) and “Trilateral” (Pathway, 2012), the last named featuring Booth’s playing with three different trios.
Review here;  http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/paul-booth-trilateral/

In recent years Booth’s growing interest in world music styles has led to him forming two different ensembles, the Patchwork Project and the Bansangu Orchestra. The début releases from both bands are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/paul-booth-patchwork-project-vol.-1/
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/bansangu-orchestra-bansangu-orchestra/

Currently he also leads on organ trio featuring Ross Stanley on Hammond and Andrew Bain at the drums.

Bain’s playing also features on this new quartet release, a recording that sees Booth going back to his jazz roots. The sound may be rooted in the jazz tradition but as the album title suggests the saxophonist’s seven new original compositions draw inspiration from his global wanderings while on tour with some of the many artists listed above. Booth’s succinct liner notes offer brief, but cogent, insights into the inspirations behind each tune. The programme is completed by an instrumental interpretation of the Peter Gabriel song “Don’t Give Up”.

Of the overall concept behind the album Booth explains;
“The bulk of this album’s content was written while touring. It is my intention that each composition transcends the listener into an experience inspired by my travels. For this album I made a conscious decision to go back to my roots as a tenor player. Luckily, recording with my friends, who happen to be my first choice and best, proved wise. The album was recorded in one afternoon in a live playing situation, leaving zero chance for ‘fixes’. Most of the tracks on this album were first takes.”

Of his quartet Booth says;
“We are friends who make music together. There’s an empathy when we play, unspoken directions that lead us to constantly re-interpret the music we are playing. I really wanted my compositions to feel as if they were written by the whole band, and somehow I think we achieved this.”

The mood of the album is relaxed and generally mellow and as Booth has indicated there is clearly a highly developed rapport between the players. It’s a genuine team effort with the saxophonist receiving skilled and empathic support from his colleagues throughout. In a well balanced quartet there is a clear sense of the common goal and no grandstanding, despite the presence of many outstanding solos.

The album commences with the jazz waltz “Seattle Fall”, of which Booth informs us;
“I wrote this first piece one rainy Autumn day, whilst on tour with Steve Winwood. Looking for solitude in a Seattle theatre I found a beautiful old piano and the inspiration was set. Half an hour later it was complete”.
There’s an agreeably pastoral feel about the music, one that sums up the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that inspired it. Booth’s tenor sax soloing is fluent and elegant, unhurried and with no sense of bluster. Hamilton offers suitably sympathetic support at the piano and displays an admirable lyricism throughout. Whitford supplies melodic bass counterpoint and adds an understated but wonderfully dexterous solo. Bain also impresses with his contribution, particularly his delicate brush work in the earlier stages of the piece.

Of the next piece, “Seminole Serenade”, Booth states;
“As a lover of Native American culture, this tune is delicately inspired by their journey. I credit my fiancée with opening my eyes to the walk of her ancestors”.
Booth introduces the piece with a pure toned, but highly evocative, passage of unaccompanied tenor.  Overall the mood is similar to the opener, restrained, wistful, lyrical with the gentle, but exotic, patter of Bain’s drums granting just sufficient impetus for the mellifluous but intelligent soloing of Booth and Hamilton.

There’s a change of mood and pace on “Medina Scuffle”. Of this piece Booth says;
“If you have ever spent any time in Morocco you’ll have witnessed the embedded chaos in various parts of the country. This piece was written after navigating the intensity of the medina and also being inspired by the serenity of Gnawa music”.
A more forceful performance, introduced by Whitford at the bass, also displays the influence of bebop with Hamilton contributing a feverish piano solo as Bain’s drums chatter busily around him. Hitherto Booth’s playing has evoked comparisons with that of Stan Getz,  but his turbo-charged solo here is more reminiscent of John Coltrane. There’s also an extended drum feature from Bain, who gets the opportunity to release his inner Elvin Jones.

Booth now lives in Ramsgate – when he’s not on the road. Of the tune “No Place Like Home” he comments;
“Sometimes music, or a particular song, just has a way of saying it all. After so much time away, there really is no place like home”.
Hamilton’s solo piano ruminations introduce a piece that evokes an appropriate sense of wistfulness via Booth’s warm toned tenor soloing and Whitford’s delightfully melodic bass feature.

“Tuscan Charm” was written towards the close of a lengthy international tour that ended in Italy. Booth says of the experience;
“I discovered the delights of Tuscany. The majestic beauty of the countryside and kindness of its people easily brought pen to paper. The wine was pretty good too!”.
The music sounds appropriately balmy and relaxed with Booth constructing his tenor solo in unhurried fashion, yet all the while displaying great fluency and imagination. His colleagues respond to his every move with grace and acumen, particularly as the leader’s playing gradually becomes more loquacious. Bain’s inventive drumming plays a particularly prominent part in the arrangement.

It’s Bain who introduces “Red Rocks”, a ballad inspired by Booth’s adventures hiking in Colorado. Clearly moved by his experiences the composer writes;
“It would be an understatement to say Red Rocks is Mother Nature at her best. My mind was almost transfixed at the mountain’s peaks and I saw them as resembling notes on a stave. Feeling inspired I determined a key and basic scale, sketched out the melody I saw in the peaks and then interpreted the rhythms from various movements scattered around me. From that point on this tune grew into a piece that I am quite proud of”.
From the brushed drum intro Bain establishes a marching rhythm around which sax, piano and bass congregate, with Booth sketching the melody on tenor. The piece develops elegantly and naturally through the flowing lyricism of Hamilton’s piano solo and Booth’s subsequent tenor sax meditations. Rather than attempting to replicate the grandeur of nature Booth’s piece instead seems to encapsulate the humility he felt in the presence of almost overwhelming natural beauty.

One suspects that similar circumstances informed the writing of “Byron Bay”, written back in England following a tour of New Zealand and Australia. Hamilton’s piano ushers in the piece and is heard in mutual dialogue with Booth’s tenor. With the addition of bass and drums the piece evokes a sense of warmth and nostalgia for a place that Booth describes as having been “a ‘bucket list destination for as long as I can remember”. This is expressed in the gentle melodicism of the solos of Hamilton and Booth, although the way in which the latter subsequently stretches out is also a reminder of Byron Bay’s reputation as a surfing destination.

The album concludes with the quartet’s interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s hit “Don’t Give Up”, which featured a second vocal from guest Kate Bush. Booth’s group have played the piece many times in concert, usually at the end of the evening.
“It is my hope that the listener leaves with a sense of self and hope” explains Booth, “the positive message, woven in with my own interpretation, will hopefully trigger, or dare I say it, INSPIRE the ideals and ethics of future generations.”. He adds an autobiographical note; “Don’t give up on the hard work it takes. The life you can live through music is the most fulfilling and rewarding life. Trust me, I’m living it now.”
Musically the quartet play things pretty straight, keeping Gabriel’s melody intact. Whitford instigates things from the bass, soon joined by piano and brushed drums before Booth states the familiar theme. The mood is relaxed, lyrical and imbued with a now trademark sense of yearning.
Hamilton solos succinctly on piano before helping Booth to inject a vaguely gospel feel into the music as the saxophonist stretches out. The only real hint of jazz subversion comes via the extended outro.

Recorded at Birmingham’s new Eastside Jazz Club by engineer Alex Bonney “Travel Sketches” represents an impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative. Although it’s very much Booth’s album the contribution from all four musicians is excellent, with Bain in particular, displaying great sensitivity.

It’s an album that has attracted considerable critical acclaim with several writers reaching for the Getz comparisons. If there’s a criticism it could be that a sense of wistful lyricism pervades almost throughout with only “Medina Scuffle” really breaking out of the mould, but any allegations of bloodlessness are rather undermined by the quality of the playing on what is ultimately a rather lovely album.

Paul Booth has taken time out from his travels to deliver a beautiful set of musical postcards – does anybody remember those?

Booth and the quartet are currently touring the “Travel Sketches” material with forthcoming performances at;

Oct 16 - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff (Cardiff Jazz)
Oct 24 - Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Oct 25 - Cork Jazz Festival, Ireland
Dec 2 - NQ Jazz @ The Whiskey Jar, Manchester

2020
March 27 - International Study Centre, Cathedral Precincts, Canterbury (featuring the Festival Chamber Orchestra)
May 14 – The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
May 27 – Fougou Jazz, Torbay, Devon

Paul will also be performing music from the album with the La Havana house band:
October 11 2019 - La Havana Jazz Club, Chichester

More information at;
 https://www.paulboothmusic.com

 

Pigfoot - Pigfoot Shuffle Rating: 4 out of 5 This is music that is simultaneously sophisticated and earthy, musically complex but terrific fun.

Pigfoot

“Pigfoot Shuffle”

(Pokey Records PR001)

Chris Batchelor – trumpet, cornet, Liam Noble – piano/keyboards, James Allsopp – baritone sax, bass clarinet, Paul Clarvis – drums, percussion


“Pigfoot Shuffle” is the second album from the band Pigfoot, a welcome follow up to their 2014 début “21st Century Acid Trad”.

Named after the Bessie Smith song “Gimme a Pigfoot” the band was formed in 2013 by Batchelor, Noble, Clarvis and tuba player Oren Marshall, and it was a performance by this quartet that I enjoyed at that year’s London Jazz Festival.

In 2014 the same foursome released “21st Century Acid Trad” on Clarvis’ Village Life record label, the album receiving considerable acclaim for its radical adaptations of classic early jazz material  associated with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines and others.

The début saw Pigfoot giving their chosen material a fiercely contemporary twist, casting the old chestnuts in a new light by updating harmonies, rhythms and textures, but still leaving enough of the original melodies intact for the pieces to be instantly recognisable.

Pigfoot’s approach was a welcome reminder that early jazz was both subversive and wildly joyous. Their music is both rowdy and intelligent, sophisticated in its knowing adventurousness but most importantly great fun, albeit in a post modern sort of a way. Nonetheless Pigfoot’s obvious love of their source material shines through, despite the sometimes outrageous musical liberties that they take with it. The title of that first album encapsulated their sound at that time perfectly, and it’s arguable that the recording helped to spark the current ‘Vintage Revival’ that has become such a feature of the current London jazz scene.

In the intervening years Pigfoot have moved on, with reeds player James Allsopp replacing Marshall. The group have also expanded their stylistic palette to bring the Pigfoot sound to other genres of music. A regular series of ‘Pigfoot Play’ gigs at London’s Vortex Jazz Club has seen them dedicate entire performances to their interpretations of Opera, Motown, Elvis Presley, Burt Bacharach and The Hits of 1972. Highlights from this repertoire are included on the band’s new studio album, in this instance released on Batchelor’s own Pokey Records imprint.

It’s fitting that the album should appear on Batchelor’s label as the trumpeter is the unofficial leader of the band, selecting, transcribing and re-arranging the material and transforming, re-constructing and revitalising it as part of the process.

Of course it takes four exceptional musicians to deliver all of this convincingly, and that’s exactly what Pigfoot are. Musical skill combines with sly humour and a general irreverence, qualities that in Batchelor’s case date back to his Loose Tubes days.

Pigfoot’s approach is broadly similar to that of the younger and more wilfully iconoclastic New York based group Mostly Other People Do The Killing, but generally less arch. Much as I love them I’ve always harboured the nagging doubt that MOPDTK are sometimes a little too clever for their own good. It’s not a feeling I get from Pigfoot’s music, which sounds more organic, less forced and less affected. They genuinely do sound as if they’re having fun and enjoying every minute of it.

The broad range of music being given the Pigfoot treatment helps to give the new album its title, the genre hopping track listing looking something like a particularly eclectic i-pod shuffle.

We start with Elvis and a particularly rumbustious version of “Heartbreak Hotel” that takes the song back to New Orleans via Batchelor’s growling, vocalised trumpet (or maybe cornet) and Allsopp’s equally raucous baritone sax. Clarvis slams out marching band rhythms, aided and abetted by Noble whose slippery piano lines slide in and around the piece. A rousing start.

However it’s not all swagger and bluster. Noble’s solo piano introduction to Richard Strauss’ “Dance Of The Seven Veils” displays a genuine tenderness and lyricism. The arrival of Clarvis steers the music in a more playful direction with the Middle Eastern inflections of Batchelor on cornet and Allsopp on bass clarinet, the pair combining very effectively above the quirky, and sometimes jerky, rhythmic accompaniment from drums and piano. Adrian Pallant’s liner notes compare the second half of the tune with Ellington, whilst also informing us that on this piece Batchelor plays his cornet through a bassoon reed to help create a singularly distinctive sound.

From the “Hits of 1972” repertoire comes the band’s arrangement of the Curtis Mayfield song “Pusherman” from the “Superfly” movie soundtrack. Noble plays electric keyboards, thus capturing something of that 70s vibe,  while skilfully combining with the inventive Clarvis as well as trading ideas with Allsopp on bass clarinet. Batchelor frequently ‘sings’ the vocal melody lines of song based material on trumpet, as he does here. The second part of the tune introduces a kind of sinister funk as Pigfoot pay homage to the brilliant but tragic Mayfield (1942-99).

It’s back to the Presley related material for a segue of “Jail House Rock” and “Hound Dog”, with Batchelor describing his arrangement of the latter as “the blues in all keys at once”. The segue commences with a live New Orleans styled dialogue between Noble on piano and Clarvis at the drums, a reminder of their fruitful partnership as a stand alone duo. Rasping baritone and bluesy, vocalised trumpet then strike up the familiar tune, carousing above a powerful rhythm. At the close they shade off into an even more raucous rendition of “Hound Dog” with Batchelor’s horn again ‘singing’ the melody line in exaggerated fashion. It’s a timely reminder of rock’s roots in jazz and blues in an arrangement inspired by the ideas Ornette Coleman!

Pigfoot display their gentler side on their first Bacharach song, “The Look of Love”. A spacious arrangement features the breathy, intertwining lines of Batchelor and Allsopp, a dash of lyrical but gently subversive piano from Noble, and the sound of Clarvis deploying brushes throughout. 

Perhaps the most dramatic musical transformation here is of the Mozart pieces “Isis & Osiris” and “Dove Sono” which are melded together and treated to a joyous Township Jazz arrangement that makes them sound as if they might have been written by Abdullah Ibrahim. Batchelor’s trumpet takes flight against a backdrop of piano, drums and Allsopp’s circling baritone motif. Subsequently Noble also gets the opportunity to spread his wings.

Next we come to the track that has probably garnered the most attention, a powerhouse romp through the Led Zeppelin rock classic “Black Dog”, featuring Batchelor on biting wah wah trumpet, Allsopp on growling baritone and Noble on filthy sounding vintage synth. Meanwhile Clarvis unleashes his inner John Bonham. The power of the performance matches that of Zeppelin themselves and it has also been favorably compared to the punk jazz chutzpah of Acoustic Ladyland at their peak. Incidentally Pallant’s liner notes inform us that Batchelor is playing “vintage buzz wah trumpet mute, a quirky item complete with kazoos, one of several in his armoury”. Batchelor appears to be holding one such on the inside cover photograph, as does Allsopp incidentally. Brian Homer’s pic, taken after a gig in Birmingham, features all four members cradling various types of trumpet/cornet.

A lively, but less menacing, arrangement of the Stevie Wonder hit “For Once In My Life” features Batchelor ‘singing’ the vocal melody line and also replicating the famous harmonica solo on soprano cornet. Allsopp also gets the opportunity to dig in on gruff baritone and Clarvis drums with great panache throughout, a precursor to the tongue in cheek ‘bring on the dancing girls’ style finale.

Next up is an unusual gospel style arrangement that splices the song “Love Letters” with Richard Wagner’s “Song to the Evening Star” and makes it all sound perfectly logical. At times the piece resembles a New Orleans funeral march, the ideal backdrop for soulful and powerful solos from Allsopp on baritone and Batchelor on trumpet, with Noble acting as the wild card on piano.

Finally we hear the second of the Bacharach pieces, “Wives & Lovers”, which transcends the now rather dated lyrics by way of a McCoy Tyner inspired jazz arrangement that incorporates fluent solos from Allsopp on baritone,  Batchelor on trumpet and, of course Noble on piano.

Once again the critical response to “Pigfoot Shuffle” has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. This is music that is simultaneously sophisticated and earthy, musically complex but terrific fun.
Batchelor’s ingenious arrangements make something new from his chosen material, transforming his sources but without belittling them. It’s a neat trick, and one that is made even more impressive by the skill and vivacity of the performances, with all four musicians acquitting themselves superbly.

It’s been nearly six years since I last saw Pigfoot play live. Let’s hope that the favourable reaction accorded to “Pigfoot Shuffle” will enable the band to venture out on the road again sometime soon.

Pigfoot Shuffle

Pigfoot

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Pigfoot Shuffle

This is music that is simultaneously sophisticated and earthy, musically complex but terrific fun.

Pigfoot

“Pigfoot Shuffle”

(Pokey Records PR001)

Chris Batchelor – trumpet, cornet, Liam Noble – piano/keyboards, James Allsopp – baritone sax, bass clarinet, Paul Clarvis – drums, percussion


“Pigfoot Shuffle” is the second album from the band Pigfoot, a welcome follow up to their 2014 début “21st Century Acid Trad”.

Named after the Bessie Smith song “Gimme a Pigfoot” the band was formed in 2013 by Batchelor, Noble, Clarvis and tuba player Oren Marshall, and it was a performance by this quartet that I enjoyed at that year’s London Jazz Festival.

In 2014 the same foursome released “21st Century Acid Trad” on Clarvis’ Village Life record label, the album receiving considerable acclaim for its radical adaptations of classic early jazz material  associated with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines and others.

The début saw Pigfoot giving their chosen material a fiercely contemporary twist, casting the old chestnuts in a new light by updating harmonies, rhythms and textures, but still leaving enough of the original melodies intact for the pieces to be instantly recognisable.

Pigfoot’s approach was a welcome reminder that early jazz was both subversive and wildly joyous. Their music is both rowdy and intelligent, sophisticated in its knowing adventurousness but most importantly great fun, albeit in a post modern sort of a way. Nonetheless Pigfoot’s obvious love of their source material shines through, despite the sometimes outrageous musical liberties that they take with it. The title of that first album encapsulated their sound at that time perfectly, and it’s arguable that the recording helped to spark the current ‘Vintage Revival’ that has become such a feature of the current London jazz scene.

In the intervening years Pigfoot have moved on, with reeds player James Allsopp replacing Marshall. The group have also expanded their stylistic palette to bring the Pigfoot sound to other genres of music. A regular series of ‘Pigfoot Play’ gigs at London’s Vortex Jazz Club has seen them dedicate entire performances to their interpretations of Opera, Motown, Elvis Presley, Burt Bacharach and The Hits of 1972. Highlights from this repertoire are included on the band’s new studio album, in this instance released on Batchelor’s own Pokey Records imprint.

It’s fitting that the album should appear on Batchelor’s label as the trumpeter is the unofficial leader of the band, selecting, transcribing and re-arranging the material and transforming, re-constructing and revitalising it as part of the process.

Of course it takes four exceptional musicians to deliver all of this convincingly, and that’s exactly what Pigfoot are. Musical skill combines with sly humour and a general irreverence, qualities that in Batchelor’s case date back to his Loose Tubes days.

Pigfoot’s approach is broadly similar to that of the younger and more wilfully iconoclastic New York based group Mostly Other People Do The Killing, but generally less arch. Much as I love them I’ve always harboured the nagging doubt that MOPDTK are sometimes a little too clever for their own good. It’s not a feeling I get from Pigfoot’s music, which sounds more organic, less forced and less affected. They genuinely do sound as if they’re having fun and enjoying every minute of it.

The broad range of music being given the Pigfoot treatment helps to give the new album its title, the genre hopping track listing looking something like a particularly eclectic i-pod shuffle.

We start with Elvis and a particularly rumbustious version of “Heartbreak Hotel” that takes the song back to New Orleans via Batchelor’s growling, vocalised trumpet (or maybe cornet) and Allsopp’s equally raucous baritone sax. Clarvis slams out marching band rhythms, aided and abetted by Noble whose slippery piano lines slide in and around the piece. A rousing start.

However it’s not all swagger and bluster. Noble’s solo piano introduction to Richard Strauss’ “Dance Of The Seven Veils” displays a genuine tenderness and lyricism. The arrival of Clarvis steers the music in a more playful direction with the Middle Eastern inflections of Batchelor on cornet and Allsopp on bass clarinet, the pair combining very effectively above the quirky, and sometimes jerky, rhythmic accompaniment from drums and piano. Adrian Pallant’s liner notes compare the second half of the tune with Ellington, whilst also informing us that on this piece Batchelor plays his cornet through a bassoon reed to help create a singularly distinctive sound.

From the “Hits of 1972” repertoire comes the band’s arrangement of the Curtis Mayfield song “Pusherman” from the “Superfly” movie soundtrack. Noble plays electric keyboards, thus capturing something of that 70s vibe,  while skilfully combining with the inventive Clarvis as well as trading ideas with Allsopp on bass clarinet. Batchelor frequently ‘sings’ the vocal melody lines of song based material on trumpet, as he does here. The second part of the tune introduces a kind of sinister funk as Pigfoot pay homage to the brilliant but tragic Mayfield (1942-99).

It’s back to the Presley related material for a segue of “Jail House Rock” and “Hound Dog”, with Batchelor describing his arrangement of the latter as “the blues in all keys at once”. The segue commences with a live New Orleans styled dialogue between Noble on piano and Clarvis at the drums, a reminder of their fruitful partnership as a stand alone duo. Rasping baritone and bluesy, vocalised trumpet then strike up the familiar tune, carousing above a powerful rhythm. At the close they shade off into an even more raucous rendition of “Hound Dog” with Batchelor’s horn again ‘singing’ the melody line in exaggerated fashion. It’s a timely reminder of rock’s roots in jazz and blues in an arrangement inspired by the ideas Ornette Coleman!

Pigfoot display their gentler side on their first Bacharach song, “The Look of Love”. A spacious arrangement features the breathy, intertwining lines of Batchelor and Allsopp, a dash of lyrical but gently subversive piano from Noble, and the sound of Clarvis deploying brushes throughout. 

Perhaps the most dramatic musical transformation here is of the Mozart pieces “Isis & Osiris” and “Dove Sono” which are melded together and treated to a joyous Township Jazz arrangement that makes them sound as if they might have been written by Abdullah Ibrahim. Batchelor’s trumpet takes flight against a backdrop of piano, drums and Allsopp’s circling baritone motif. Subsequently Noble also gets the opportunity to spread his wings.

Next we come to the track that has probably garnered the most attention, a powerhouse romp through the Led Zeppelin rock classic “Black Dog”, featuring Batchelor on biting wah wah trumpet, Allsopp on growling baritone and Noble on filthy sounding vintage synth. Meanwhile Clarvis unleashes his inner John Bonham. The power of the performance matches that of Zeppelin themselves and it has also been favorably compared to the punk jazz chutzpah of Acoustic Ladyland at their peak. Incidentally Pallant’s liner notes inform us that Batchelor is playing “vintage buzz wah trumpet mute, a quirky item complete with kazoos, one of several in his armoury”. Batchelor appears to be holding one such on the inside cover photograph, as does Allsopp incidentally. Brian Homer’s pic, taken after a gig in Birmingham, features all four members cradling various types of trumpet/cornet.

A lively, but less menacing, arrangement of the Stevie Wonder hit “For Once In My Life” features Batchelor ‘singing’ the vocal melody line and also replicating the famous harmonica solo on soprano cornet. Allsopp also gets the opportunity to dig in on gruff baritone and Clarvis drums with great panache throughout, a precursor to the tongue in cheek ‘bring on the dancing girls’ style finale.

Next up is an unusual gospel style arrangement that splices the song “Love Letters” with Richard Wagner’s “Song to the Evening Star” and makes it all sound perfectly logical. At times the piece resembles a New Orleans funeral march, the ideal backdrop for soulful and powerful solos from Allsopp on baritone and Batchelor on trumpet, with Noble acting as the wild card on piano.

Finally we hear the second of the Bacharach pieces, “Wives & Lovers”, which transcends the now rather dated lyrics by way of a McCoy Tyner inspired jazz arrangement that incorporates fluent solos from Allsopp on baritone,  Batchelor on trumpet and, of course Noble on piano.

Once again the critical response to “Pigfoot Shuffle” has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. This is music that is simultaneously sophisticated and earthy, musically complex but terrific fun.
Batchelor’s ingenious arrangements make something new from his chosen material, transforming his sources but without belittling them. It’s a neat trick, and one that is made even more impressive by the skill and vivacity of the performances, with all four musicians acquitting themselves superbly.

It’s been nearly six years since I last saw Pigfoot play live. Let’s hope that the favourable reaction accorded to “Pigfoot Shuffle” will enable the band to venture out on the road again sometime soon.

Michael Janisch - Worlds Collide Rating: 0 out of 5 A worthy edition to the Janisch solo canon, a recording that demonstrates his increasing skill and maturity as a musician and composer. The playing, by an all star cast, is excellent throughout.

Michael Janisch

“Worlds Collide”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4742)

Michael Janisch – Acoustic & Electric Bass, Post Production, Percussion,
Jason Palmer – Trumpet,
John O’Gallagher – Alto Sax,
Rez Abbasi – Guitar,
Clarence Penn – Drums

Guests;
Jon Escreet – Keyboards,
George Crowley – Tenor Sax,
Andrew Bain – Drums & Percussion


I’ve long considered “Purpose Built”, the 2009 leadership début by bassist and composer Michael Janisch to be one of the most significant jazz albums to be released in the UK in the 21st century. As well as being a fine artistic statement in its own right it is also the album that launched Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings record label, now one of the country’s leading jazz independents with a catalogue of over one hundred titles and an increasingly identifiable label sound. It’s probably fair to say that any album released on Whirlwind is going to have something interesting to say to the discerning jazz listener.

The perpetually busy Janisch’s role as an entrepreneur has forced him to put his own musical career on hold to a degree, although of course he has never stopped performing and his bass playing has graced many ensembles in recent years, particularly those led by musicians associated with the Whirlwind label.

Janisch, an American who has lived in London since 2005, has always encouraged collaborations between British, American and European musicians and is also the guy with the ambition, drive and energy to make these things happen, hence the ‘Whirlwind’ nickname that gives his label its moniker. “Purpose Built”, with its Anglo-American line up, was a perfect illustration of this and this spirit of international co-operation is something that has manifested itself on numerous other Whirlwind releases.

I first heard Janisch’s music in 2009 around the time of the release of “Purpose Built”. In August of that year, encouraged by the presence behind the drum kit of the great Clarence Penn,  I covered Janisch’s show at that year’s Aber Jazz and Blues Festival in Fishguard. For me it was a seminal moment,  I became an instant fan and I’ve been covering the music of Janisch and of the Whirlwind label ever since, incredibly for more than a decade now.
Live review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janisch-live-theatr-gwaun-fishguard-31-08-2009/
“Purpose Built” album review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janisch-purpose-built/

Janisch’s releases under his own name include the live recordings “Banned In London” (2012), featuring a quintet co-led by Janisch and Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz, and “First Meeting” (2014) documented by an all star quartet featuring the veteran alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Janisch was also part of the Trans-Atlantic Collective, a gathering of American, British and European musicians that featured the original compositions of its five members on the 2008 release “Traveling Song”.

As impressive as the two live recordings were there was still something of an ‘extended jam session’ feel about them. Janisch’s next album to fully concentrate on his own compositions was 2015’s “Paradigm Shift”, an ambitious double set that combined elements of jazz, rock and electronics with Janisch involving himself in a series of post production processes. Janisch toured the project extensively and my review of a live performance at Leamington Spa Jazz Club, combined with a look at the album itself, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janischs-paradigm-shift-leam-jazz-leamington-spa-rugby-club-leaming/

“Worlds Collide” is very much the ‘follow up’ to this and features a cast of musicians associated with the ‘Whirlwind family’ and drawn from both sides of the Atlantic. The bulk of the album was recorded in London at the famous Abbey Road Studios by the core band of Janisch, Abbasi, O’Gallagher, Palmer and Penn with Tyler MacDiarmid engineering. Escreet’s parts were subsequently recorded in New York and those of Crowley and Bain at a second session in the UK.

The programme consists of seven previously unrecorded Janisch originals. The album title is a reflection of the turbulent times we live in. Like every other American jazz musician that I’ve ever spoken to Janisch has no time for the divisive politics of Donald Trump, but the words “Worlds Collide” also reference the toxic online discourses that have helped to poison the internet. Indeed Janisch and Whirlwind, with their spirit of inter-connectivity and international co-operation stand for the very opposite of these things. “That’s the whole philosophy of Whirlwind”,  Janisch has said, “all these different cultures and communities coming together to make music”.

A further subtext to the evocative title is the apparent clash between the acoustic and electric elements in Janisch’s music, particularly the post production and electro improvising techniques that were introduced to him by trumpeter and sound artist Alex Bonney on the “Paradigm Shift” tour.  Janisch sees no division between the two, preferring to refer to his band as an “electro-acoustic” ensemble. Similarly he’s receptive to musical influences from all quarters, from the intellectual to the populist,  moving between acoustic and electric bass and being able to groove in a propulsive manner in a variety of musical styles and time signatures.

It’s the leader’s double bass that introduces album opener “Another London”, a tune whose energy and urgency seems to encapsulate modern life in the English capital. The piece features the whole cast with the twin drum attack of Penn and Bain combining with Janisch’s bass to really drive the music. Escreet’s retro style keyboard washes add colour and texture, particularly during the gentler, more reflective episodes that punctuate the track. Janisch has said that the piece represents his positive view of walking through London, away from social media platforms, and witnessing “people from different cultures and backgrounds actually getting on in their lives, generally living in harmony with each other”. The buoyant rhythms help to fuel an incisive alto solo from the fluent and inventive O’Gallagher, who really surfs the groove. He also combines effectively with Palmer and Crowley during the ensemble passages as Abbasi’s nimble guitar snakes in and out of the music.

The guitarist comes into his own on “Ode To A Norwegian Strobe”, a piece that pays homage to Janisch’s love of contemporary electronic music acts such as Aphex Twin and the UK’s own Strobes, the latter the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and sound artist Dan Nicholls. Janisch’s piece combines elements of jazz, rock, minimalism and electronica to excellent effect, creating a vibrant, rhythmic music that is rich in terms of energy, colour and inventiveness. Abbasi’s hypnotic introductory guitar motif helps to shape the direction of a track that again features all eight musicians. The leader concentrates on electric bass here, while also adding effects and percussion. The bright, dynamic ensemble playing is complemented by some fiery soloing as O’Gallagher and Palmer exchange ideas in thrilling fashion and Escreet periodically comes to the fore on keyboards. The overall effect is splendidly uplifting.

“The JJ I Knew” revisits a piece that was originally recorded for the “Paradigm Shift” album. The work is Janisch’s dedication to his late elder brother, Joseph, and attempts to express something of his personality. The original version featured electric bass and electronics only but its composer has since re-arranged the piece for performance by a full band and the tune was to feature in this form at Leamington. Here it features the core quintet, plus some additional percussion from Bain. Janisch specialises on electric bass and the piece is a fitting elegy, interspersing moments of melancholic introspection with more lively, upbeat passages. Palmer’s pure toned trumpet ruminations combine beauty with an exploratory zeal, with similar qualities informing Abbasi’s eloquent guitar solo. Penn’s drums come to the fore during the closing stages as he trades ideas with the staccato stabs of the horns.

The same sextet appears on the curiously titled “Frocklebot”, the name apparently coming from “an imaginary toy looking like a giraffe with mechanical wings”, a creature dreamt up by Janisch’s young daughter. It’s a suitably playful piece that combines darting unison horn phrases with heavy, rock influenced guitar in a spirited opening salvo before breaking down into more freely structured two way conversations, firstly between Abbasi and Palmer and later Janisch and O’Gallagher. Eventually the full ensemble coalesces once more around a joyous theme that seems to celebrate the innocence and imagination of childhood. The piece has evoked favourable comparisons with the works of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.

“Intro To Pop” is a minute long solo alto sax excursion from the consistently impressive O’Gallagher, although the composition credit still goes to Janisch. It’s a cogent presage to “Pop” itself, the lengthiest and most ambitious track on the album. The piece is dedicated to Janisch’s English wife, Sarah, the title “Pop” being an abbreviation of the word ‘poppet’, rather than a musical identifier. Although performed as a single entity the piece is essentially a four part suite, but despite its complexities it is tackled by the core quintet. It’s a surprisingly reflective and atmospheric piece, written in a minor key but without being melancholic. The aim, says Janisch, was to reflect his wife’s “peaceful powerfulness”. Indeed there’s an almost Zen like sense of calm about the opening section with its measured ensemble playing, paced by the leader’s double bass. Instruments swim in and out of focus, briefly assuming the lead, although there’s no conventional soloing as such. The next section features a further dialogue between O’Gallagher’s alto sax, here soft and conversational, and the leader’s double bass. With the addition of Abbasi and Penn the saxophonist stretches out in more exploratory fashion, eventually handing over to the coolly elegant Abassi. The overall mood of the piece remains reflective, the tempo unhurried. There’s a gentle increase of pace in the next section as Palmer returns to the fold, temporarily assuming the lead before combining with O’Gallagher as the energy levels continue to rise, before eventually subsiding once more. This is a richly textured work that owes something to minimalism with the use of recurring motifs helping to shape the ebb and flow of the piece.

Janisch moves back to electric bass for the closing “Freak Out”. As its title suggests this is an altogether more energetic and dynamic piece of work that is kick started by Penn’s drums.
Janisch describes the piece as “a good old fashioned shred for Rez” and the guitarist is the main soloist here, his fiery playing inviting comparisons with John McLaughlin and the late Allan Holdsworth. That said Abassi is a distinctive stylist in his own right with a musical identity that is very much his own. This final piece also boasts some inspired soloing from Palmer with a fiery but fluent outing on trumpet, plus some crunching ensemble playing.

“Worlds Collide” is a worthy edition to the Janisch solo canon, a recording that demonstrates his increasing skill and maturity as a musician and composer. The playing, by an all star cast, is excellent throughout with the leader’s contribution at the heart of the ensemble.

Janisch has put a UK touring band together to perform the music which will feature George Crowley on tenor sax, Nathaniel Facey on alto, Rick Simpson on keyboards and Shaney Forbes at the drums. This quintet is currently on the road with forthcoming dates at;

2019;
Blue Arrow, Glasgow (24 Sep)
The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (25 Sep)
East Side Jazz Club, Birmingham (26 Sep)
Kings Place, London (album launch, 27 Sep)

Catch them if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Worlds Collide

Michael Janisch

Monday, September 23, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

0 out of 5

Worlds Collide

A worthy edition to the Janisch solo canon, a recording that demonstrates his increasing skill and maturity as a musician and composer. The playing, by an all star cast, is excellent throughout.

Michael Janisch

“Worlds Collide”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4742)

Michael Janisch – Acoustic & Electric Bass, Post Production, Percussion,
Jason Palmer – Trumpet,
John O’Gallagher – Alto Sax,
Rez Abbasi – Guitar,
Clarence Penn – Drums

Guests;
Jon Escreet – Keyboards,
George Crowley – Tenor Sax,
Andrew Bain – Drums & Percussion


I’ve long considered “Purpose Built”, the 2009 leadership début by bassist and composer Michael Janisch to be one of the most significant jazz albums to be released in the UK in the 21st century. As well as being a fine artistic statement in its own right it is also the album that launched Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings record label, now one of the country’s leading jazz independents with a catalogue of over one hundred titles and an increasingly identifiable label sound. It’s probably fair to say that any album released on Whirlwind is going to have something interesting to say to the discerning jazz listener.

The perpetually busy Janisch’s role as an entrepreneur has forced him to put his own musical career on hold to a degree, although of course he has never stopped performing and his bass playing has graced many ensembles in recent years, particularly those led by musicians associated with the Whirlwind label.

Janisch, an American who has lived in London since 2005, has always encouraged collaborations between British, American and European musicians and is also the guy with the ambition, drive and energy to make these things happen, hence the ‘Whirlwind’ nickname that gives his label its moniker. “Purpose Built”, with its Anglo-American line up, was a perfect illustration of this and this spirit of international co-operation is something that has manifested itself on numerous other Whirlwind releases.

I first heard Janisch’s music in 2009 around the time of the release of “Purpose Built”. In August of that year, encouraged by the presence behind the drum kit of the great Clarence Penn,  I covered Janisch’s show at that year’s Aber Jazz and Blues Festival in Fishguard. For me it was a seminal moment,  I became an instant fan and I’ve been covering the music of Janisch and of the Whirlwind label ever since, incredibly for more than a decade now.
Live review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janisch-live-theatr-gwaun-fishguard-31-08-2009/
“Purpose Built” album review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janisch-purpose-built/

Janisch’s releases under his own name include the live recordings “Banned In London” (2012), featuring a quintet co-led by Janisch and Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz, and “First Meeting” (2014) documented by an all star quartet featuring the veteran alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Janisch was also part of the Trans-Atlantic Collective, a gathering of American, British and European musicians that featured the original compositions of its five members on the 2008 release “Traveling Song”.

As impressive as the two live recordings were there was still something of an ‘extended jam session’ feel about them. Janisch’s next album to fully concentrate on his own compositions was 2015’s “Paradigm Shift”, an ambitious double set that combined elements of jazz, rock and electronics with Janisch involving himself in a series of post production processes. Janisch toured the project extensively and my review of a live performance at Leamington Spa Jazz Club, combined with a look at the album itself, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-janischs-paradigm-shift-leam-jazz-leamington-spa-rugby-club-leaming/

“Worlds Collide” is very much the ‘follow up’ to this and features a cast of musicians associated with the ‘Whirlwind family’ and drawn from both sides of the Atlantic. The bulk of the album was recorded in London at the famous Abbey Road Studios by the core band of Janisch, Abbasi, O’Gallagher, Palmer and Penn with Tyler MacDiarmid engineering. Escreet’s parts were subsequently recorded in New York and those of Crowley and Bain at a second session in the UK.

The programme consists of seven previously unrecorded Janisch originals. The album title is a reflection of the turbulent times we live in. Like every other American jazz musician that I’ve ever spoken to Janisch has no time for the divisive politics of Donald Trump, but the words “Worlds Collide” also reference the toxic online discourses that have helped to poison the internet. Indeed Janisch and Whirlwind, with their spirit of inter-connectivity and international co-operation stand for the very opposite of these things. “That’s the whole philosophy of Whirlwind”,  Janisch has said, “all these different cultures and communities coming together to make music”.

A further subtext to the evocative title is the apparent clash between the acoustic and electric elements in Janisch’s music, particularly the post production and electro improvising techniques that were introduced to him by trumpeter and sound artist Alex Bonney on the “Paradigm Shift” tour.  Janisch sees no division between the two, preferring to refer to his band as an “electro-acoustic” ensemble. Similarly he’s receptive to musical influences from all quarters, from the intellectual to the populist,  moving between acoustic and electric bass and being able to groove in a propulsive manner in a variety of musical styles and time signatures.

It’s the leader’s double bass that introduces album opener “Another London”, a tune whose energy and urgency seems to encapsulate modern life in the English capital. The piece features the whole cast with the twin drum attack of Penn and Bain combining with Janisch’s bass to really drive the music. Escreet’s retro style keyboard washes add colour and texture, particularly during the gentler, more reflective episodes that punctuate the track. Janisch has said that the piece represents his positive view of walking through London, away from social media platforms, and witnessing “people from different cultures and backgrounds actually getting on in their lives, generally living in harmony with each other”. The buoyant rhythms help to fuel an incisive alto solo from the fluent and inventive O’Gallagher, who really surfs the groove. He also combines effectively with Palmer and Crowley during the ensemble passages as Abbasi’s nimble guitar snakes in and out of the music.

The guitarist comes into his own on “Ode To A Norwegian Strobe”, a piece that pays homage to Janisch’s love of contemporary electronic music acts such as Aphex Twin and the UK’s own Strobes, the latter the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and sound artist Dan Nicholls. Janisch’s piece combines elements of jazz, rock, minimalism and electronica to excellent effect, creating a vibrant, rhythmic music that is rich in terms of energy, colour and inventiveness. Abbasi’s hypnotic introductory guitar motif helps to shape the direction of a track that again features all eight musicians. The leader concentrates on electric bass here, while also adding effects and percussion. The bright, dynamic ensemble playing is complemented by some fiery soloing as O’Gallagher and Palmer exchange ideas in thrilling fashion and Escreet periodically comes to the fore on keyboards. The overall effect is splendidly uplifting.

“The JJ I Knew” revisits a piece that was originally recorded for the “Paradigm Shift” album. The work is Janisch’s dedication to his late elder brother, Joseph, and attempts to express something of his personality. The original version featured electric bass and electronics only but its composer has since re-arranged the piece for performance by a full band and the tune was to feature in this form at Leamington. Here it features the core quintet, plus some additional percussion from Bain. Janisch specialises on electric bass and the piece is a fitting elegy, interspersing moments of melancholic introspection with more lively, upbeat passages. Palmer’s pure toned trumpet ruminations combine beauty with an exploratory zeal, with similar qualities informing Abbasi’s eloquent guitar solo. Penn’s drums come to the fore during the closing stages as he trades ideas with the staccato stabs of the horns.

The same sextet appears on the curiously titled “Frocklebot”, the name apparently coming from “an imaginary toy looking like a giraffe with mechanical wings”, a creature dreamt up by Janisch’s young daughter. It’s a suitably playful piece that combines darting unison horn phrases with heavy, rock influenced guitar in a spirited opening salvo before breaking down into more freely structured two way conversations, firstly between Abbasi and Palmer and later Janisch and O’Gallagher. Eventually the full ensemble coalesces once more around a joyous theme that seems to celebrate the innocence and imagination of childhood. The piece has evoked favourable comparisons with the works of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.

“Intro To Pop” is a minute long solo alto sax excursion from the consistently impressive O’Gallagher, although the composition credit still goes to Janisch. It’s a cogent presage to “Pop” itself, the lengthiest and most ambitious track on the album. The piece is dedicated to Janisch’s English wife, Sarah, the title “Pop” being an abbreviation of the word ‘poppet’, rather than a musical identifier. Although performed as a single entity the piece is essentially a four part suite, but despite its complexities it is tackled by the core quintet. It’s a surprisingly reflective and atmospheric piece, written in a minor key but without being melancholic. The aim, says Janisch, was to reflect his wife’s “peaceful powerfulness”. Indeed there’s an almost Zen like sense of calm about the opening section with its measured ensemble playing, paced by the leader’s double bass. Instruments swim in and out of focus, briefly assuming the lead, although there’s no conventional soloing as such. The next section features a further dialogue between O’Gallagher’s alto sax, here soft and conversational, and the leader’s double bass. With the addition of Abbasi and Penn the saxophonist stretches out in more exploratory fashion, eventually handing over to the coolly elegant Abassi. The overall mood of the piece remains reflective, the tempo unhurried. There’s a gentle increase of pace in the next section as Palmer returns to the fold, temporarily assuming the lead before combining with O’Gallagher as the energy levels continue to rise, before eventually subsiding once more. This is a richly textured work that owes something to minimalism with the use of recurring motifs helping to shape the ebb and flow of the piece.

Janisch moves back to electric bass for the closing “Freak Out”. As its title suggests this is an altogether more energetic and dynamic piece of work that is kick started by Penn’s drums.
Janisch describes the piece as “a good old fashioned shred for Rez” and the guitarist is the main soloist here, his fiery playing inviting comparisons with John McLaughlin and the late Allan Holdsworth. That said Abassi is a distinctive stylist in his own right with a musical identity that is very much his own. This final piece also boasts some inspired soloing from Palmer with a fiery but fluent outing on trumpet, plus some crunching ensemble playing.

“Worlds Collide” is a worthy edition to the Janisch solo canon, a recording that demonstrates his increasing skill and maturity as a musician and composer. The playing, by an all star cast, is excellent throughout with the leader’s contribution at the heart of the ensemble.

Janisch has put a UK touring band together to perform the music which will feature George Crowley on tenor sax, Nathaniel Facey on alto, Rick Simpson on keyboards and Shaney Forbes at the drums. This quintet is currently on the road with forthcoming dates at;

2019;
Blue Arrow, Glasgow (24 Sep)
The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (25 Sep)
East Side Jazz Club, Birmingham (26 Sep)
Kings Place, London (album launch, 27 Sep)

Catch them if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Quentin Collins Sextet - Road Warrior Rating: 4 out of 5 It’s the imaginative writing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session.

Quentin Collins Sextet

“Road Warrior”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0027)

Quentin Collins – trumpet & flugelhorn, Meilana Gillard – alto sax, Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Dan Nimmer – piano & Rhodes, Joe Sanders – double bass, Willie Jones III – drums
Guest – Jean Toussaint – tenor sax (tracks 5 & 7)


“Road Warrior” is the long awaited new solo album from the British trumpeter and composer Quentin Collins. It follows his 2007 début “If Not Now, Then When?” which featured the talents of vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Alan Cosker, plus saxophonist Tony Kofi guesting on alto on a couple of tracks.
Review here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/if-not-now-then-when/


Collins has also recorded as the co-leader of a quartet featuring saxophonist Brandon Allen. Once known as Drugstore Cowboy the QC/BA Quartet has released two albums, What’s It Gonna Be?” (2011) and “Beauty In Quiet Places” (2016). These are hard grooving, fiercely swinging releases made in the company of organist Ross Stanley and drummer Enzo Zirilli. Both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Born into a music loving family Collins was introduced to the sounds of jazz at an early age by his father and as a child got to see some of true greats of the music performing live, among them Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Dave Brubeck. It was seminal experiences such as these that inspired the young Collins to become a professional musician, a path that he has followed most successfully for the past twenty years as both a jazz and commercial trumpeter.

These days Collins is perhaps best known as a member of American bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood’s Band, a group with which he has toured the world, tasting international success. Other high profile artists with whom he has worked include Fred Wesley, Gregory Porter,  Roy Ayers, Mark Ronson, Omar Kamal, Basement Jaxx, Alicia Keys and Mulatu Astatke. In a more obviously jazz context he has performed with saxophonists Camilla George and Leo Richardson,  with Michael Janisch’s Transatlantic Collective and with the organ trio Wild Card.

Together with impresario Martin Hummell Collins is the co-founder of the increasingly influential Ubuntu Music record label, serving as its creative director and also working as a producer, as well as guesting on trumpet on a number of the label’s releases, notably on albums by George and Richardson.

On “Road Warrior” tenor specialist Richardson is part of a core sextet that features three British horn players alongside a stellar American rhythm section featuring pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones III. In keeping with the theme of the album Collins met Nimmer on the road when the American’s trio were opening for the Eastwood band. Nimmer is perhaps best known for his association with Wynton Marsalis while Sanders has worked with pianist Gerald Clayton. Jones performed with the late, great Cedar Walton but has also worked with British musicians such as saxophonist Alex Garnett. Earlier in 2019 he was part of a stellar international sextet led by pianist Trevor Watkis that paid homage to the music of the late Jamaican born trumpeter Dizzy Reece.

Collins says of his American colleagues “New York pianist Dan Nimmer is soaked in the history of jazz piano, in one moment evoking Errol Garner, in the next McCoy Tyner. Bassist Joe Sanders’ sound is a major driving force, while Willie Jones III pumps relentless energy into the music”.

“Road Warrior” is described in the accompanying press release as “a musical depiction of life as a touring musician” and in Scott Yanow’s liner notes as “a musical adventure inspired by those very events musicians encounter while on an unending and often unforgiving tour. It captures the raw emotion, frustration and ultimately joy in one musical ear and mind trip”.

The new album was conceived by Collins and alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, a band leader in his own right. Each musician contributes four original compositions to the recording and the programme is completed by a single standard, “Oh! Look At Me Now”, written by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries.

Harrison was due to appear on the recording but was unable to appear due to what Collins has described as a “personal injury”. The album was recorded almost a year ago so hopefully he will be fit to take up his place in the touring line up. The album features the alto playing of Meilana Gillard,  Belfast born but New York based,  who was drafted in at short notice and who does a terrific job, slotting in seamlessly with the all star line up.

Collins’ music has always been rooted in the sounds of hard bop with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers representing a particularly significant influence. The presence of Toussaint, who also acts as a producer, represents a living link between this recording and hard bop’s illustrious past. Meanwhile Collins’ own playing has been compared to such trumpet giants of the hard bop era as Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell and Lee Morgan. In this respect the music on “Road Warrior” doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that. As one would expect the playing is excellent throughout and the writing, from both Collins and Harrison, is succinct, insightful and intelligent and frequently expands the hard bop parameters.

The album commences with Collins’ title track, a piece that he dedicates to all those struggling to balance a career with family life. With its allusions to jazz classics of the past (specifically Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”)  the sound of the piece is reminiscent of Blakey and of Horace Silver with the skilfully performed ensemble passages leading to fluent solos from Collins on trumpet and Richardson on tenor sax. The latter is a musician who has made a big impact on the UK jazz scene in recent years with his own hard bop flavoured outings on the Ubuntu label, “The Chase” (2017) and “Move” (2019), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. Nimmer weighs in with a dazzling solo that fully underlines Collins’ remarks about the breadth of the pianist’s talent. Meanwhile Sanders and Jones keep things moving along swingingly and seamlessly, with the latter’s colourful drumming coming to the fore towards the close.

Sanders’ bass introduces Harrison’s “Float Flitter Flutter”, dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Sonny Fortune and inspired by performing at a French jazz festival staged in an old quarry. This mid tempo swinger includes more exceptional ensemble playing,  a dash of rhythmic trickery and hugely inventive solos from Collins, Gillard and Nimmer.

Collins’ “Do You Know The Way” features some of the most energetic playing of the set, a classic slice of contemporary bebop / hard bop with a tricky theme paving the way for barnstorming solos from Collins, Richardson and the ever impressive Nimmer. There’s also an effervescent drum feature from the irrepressible Jones.

Collins’ composition “Look Ahead (What Do You See?) is a further reflection on the work / life balance theme. The piece was inspired by a conversation between the composer and his ten year old son and represents a welcome change in style and pace. With Nimmer switching to Rhodes the feel of the piece is more contemporary with the writing exhibiting a Metheny like sense of melody. It’s not a ballad per se, but the mood is more mellow and relaxed, with gently exploratory solos coming from Nimmer and Collins, here (I think) on flugel.

Harrison’s “Jasmine Breeze” retains the more contemporary feel and is an atmospheric piece introduced by the sound of Sanders’ bass and Jones’ mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. Collins’ own playing is sparse, thoughtful and evocative. Sanders also features as a soloist, singing along to his own melody on a succinct bass feature. Toussaint makes the first of his two guest appearance with a suitably ruminative tenor solo. He also combines effectively with the leader.

Also by Harrison “The Hill” features something of a return to the hard bop template and is dedicated to the memory of Blakey. The title comes from Harrison’s memory of “a life changing performance that I did at the site of Blakey’s childhood home in Pittsburgh”. Musically the piece is a showcase for the brilliant Nimmer whose solo embraces a variety of jazz styles and has evoked comparisons with both Errol Garner and one time Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons. In any event it’s all wonderfully fluent and inventive, with the pianist complemented by some superb playing from the rest of the group, with Collins also impressing as a soloist. Sanders weighs in with a few more bars of bass soloing and wordless vocalising.

Harrison’s final contribution with the pen is “El Farolito” - “tense moments over a burrito in San Francisco” he notes enigmatically. This is a lively, Latin-esque hard bop delight with Toussaint making his second guest appearance, this time soloing in a more garrulous and forthright manner as he shares the spotlight with Collins and Gillard.  Meanwhile the busy and creative Jones drums up a storm behind them.

Collins’ final compositional offering is the ballad “Wider Horizons”, written in Los Angeles after a period of “heavy life turbulence”. The theme is one of optimism and of being open to new possibilities. The piece features the leader on flugel while Nimmer is heard at his most lyrical.
The excellent Jones is an important figure throughout with his inventive but supportive playing and Richardson’s tenor is also heard to telling effect. This is an impressive composition with a strong sense of narrative.

The album concludes with the intentionally retro sounds of “Oh! Look At Me Now”, a song probably best known as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra. This straight-ahead jazz instrumental version sounds as if it could have come directly from jazz’s golden age with Sanders and Jones providing the swinging propulsion for a series of excellent solos with Collins, Gillard and Richardson all featuring strongly.

It’s been a long time since Collins’ last album release under his own name. On the evidence of “Road Warrior” the wait has been well worth it. Collins has established an excellent Trans-Atlantic band, much in the spirit of his old mate Janisch, and the British contingent more than hold their own alongside the Americans. Collins is fine form throughout as are Richardson and late signing Gillard. Sanders and Jones form a Rolls Royce of a rhythm section but Nimmer almost steals the show with his inspired soloing and intelligent accompaniment. Toussaint makes a couple of memorable cameos and also acquits himself well in the producer’s chair, assisted by Collins and Harrison. The latter’s contribution to the success of this album shouldn’t be overlooked, he was due to play on it but still plays an important role as a composer and co-producer.

Indeed it’s the imaginative writing of Collins and Harrison that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session. Sure, both composers pay homage to the genre and the era, but they also bring a contemporary sensibility to bear, especially on pieces like “Look Ahead”  “Wider Horizons” and Jasmine Breeze”, all of which which break out of the hard bop mould. The composing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, ensures that “Road Warrior” is a notch above the norm and the album has received unanimous critical acclaim.

Apparently Collins also has another recording in the can due for release in 2020, this featuring a similarly stellar quintet under his leadership that includes pianist Jason Rebello and drummer Gary Husband. This is something well worth looking forward to but in the meantime Collins will be touring the “Road Warrior” material extensively with an all British band in tow. Remaining dates below;

2019
23rd September - Ashburton Arts Centre
24th September - Western Hotel, St Ives
25th September - Dorchester Arts Centre
28th September - Herts Jazz Festival
30th September - TrinityLaban Conservatoire, London
4th October - Leeds College of Music
8th October - Theatr Clwyd, Mold, North Wales
10th October - Bonington Theatre, Nottingham
11th October - Crookes Social Club, Sheffield
18th October - Progress Theatre, Reading
27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com


Road Warrior

Quentin Collins Sextet

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Road Warrior

It’s the imaginative writing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session.

Quentin Collins Sextet

“Road Warrior”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0027)

Quentin Collins – trumpet & flugelhorn, Meilana Gillard – alto sax, Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Dan Nimmer – piano & Rhodes, Joe Sanders – double bass, Willie Jones III – drums
Guest – Jean Toussaint – tenor sax (tracks 5 & 7)


“Road Warrior” is the long awaited new solo album from the British trumpeter and composer Quentin Collins. It follows his 2007 début “If Not Now, Then When?” which featured the talents of vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Alan Cosker, plus saxophonist Tony Kofi guesting on alto on a couple of tracks.
Review here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/if-not-now-then-when/


Collins has also recorded as the co-leader of a quartet featuring saxophonist Brandon Allen. Once known as Drugstore Cowboy the QC/BA Quartet has released two albums, What’s It Gonna Be?” (2011) and “Beauty In Quiet Places” (2016). These are hard grooving, fiercely swinging releases made in the company of organist Ross Stanley and drummer Enzo Zirilli. Both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Born into a music loving family Collins was introduced to the sounds of jazz at an early age by his father and as a child got to see some of true greats of the music performing live, among them Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Dave Brubeck. It was seminal experiences such as these that inspired the young Collins to become a professional musician, a path that he has followed most successfully for the past twenty years as both a jazz and commercial trumpeter.

These days Collins is perhaps best known as a member of American bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood’s Band, a group with which he has toured the world, tasting international success. Other high profile artists with whom he has worked include Fred Wesley, Gregory Porter,  Roy Ayers, Mark Ronson, Omar Kamal, Basement Jaxx, Alicia Keys and Mulatu Astatke. In a more obviously jazz context he has performed with saxophonists Camilla George and Leo Richardson,  with Michael Janisch’s Transatlantic Collective and with the organ trio Wild Card.

Together with impresario Martin Hummell Collins is the co-founder of the increasingly influential Ubuntu Music record label, serving as its creative director and also working as a producer, as well as guesting on trumpet on a number of the label’s releases, notably on albums by George and Richardson.

On “Road Warrior” tenor specialist Richardson is part of a core sextet that features three British horn players alongside a stellar American rhythm section featuring pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones III. In keeping with the theme of the album Collins met Nimmer on the road when the American’s trio were opening for the Eastwood band. Nimmer is perhaps best known for his association with Wynton Marsalis while Sanders has worked with pianist Gerald Clayton. Jones performed with the late, great Cedar Walton but has also worked with British musicians such as saxophonist Alex Garnett. Earlier in 2019 he was part of a stellar international sextet led by pianist Trevor Watkis that paid homage to the music of the late Jamaican born trumpeter Dizzy Reece.

Collins says of his American colleagues “New York pianist Dan Nimmer is soaked in the history of jazz piano, in one moment evoking Errol Garner, in the next McCoy Tyner. Bassist Joe Sanders’ sound is a major driving force, while Willie Jones III pumps relentless energy into the music”.

“Road Warrior” is described in the accompanying press release as “a musical depiction of life as a touring musician” and in Scott Yanow’s liner notes as “a musical adventure inspired by those very events musicians encounter while on an unending and often unforgiving tour. It captures the raw emotion, frustration and ultimately joy in one musical ear and mind trip”.

The new album was conceived by Collins and alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, a band leader in his own right. Each musician contributes four original compositions to the recording and the programme is completed by a single standard, “Oh! Look At Me Now”, written by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries.

Harrison was due to appear on the recording but was unable to appear due to what Collins has described as a “personal injury”. The album was recorded almost a year ago so hopefully he will be fit to take up his place in the touring line up. The album features the alto playing of Meilana Gillard,  Belfast born but New York based,  who was drafted in at short notice and who does a terrific job, slotting in seamlessly with the all star line up.

Collins’ music has always been rooted in the sounds of hard bop with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers representing a particularly significant influence. The presence of Toussaint, who also acts as a producer, represents a living link between this recording and hard bop’s illustrious past. Meanwhile Collins’ own playing has been compared to such trumpet giants of the hard bop era as Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell and Lee Morgan. In this respect the music on “Road Warrior” doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that. As one would expect the playing is excellent throughout and the writing, from both Collins and Harrison, is succinct, insightful and intelligent and frequently expands the hard bop parameters.

The album commences with Collins’ title track, a piece that he dedicates to all those struggling to balance a career with family life. With its allusions to jazz classics of the past (specifically Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”)  the sound of the piece is reminiscent of Blakey and of Horace Silver with the skilfully performed ensemble passages leading to fluent solos from Collins on trumpet and Richardson on tenor sax. The latter is a musician who has made a big impact on the UK jazz scene in recent years with his own hard bop flavoured outings on the Ubuntu label, “The Chase” (2017) and “Move” (2019), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. Nimmer weighs in with a dazzling solo that fully underlines Collins’ remarks about the breadth of the pianist’s talent. Meanwhile Sanders and Jones keep things moving along swingingly and seamlessly, with the latter’s colourful drumming coming to the fore towards the close.

Sanders’ bass introduces Harrison’s “Float Flitter Flutter”, dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Sonny Fortune and inspired by performing at a French jazz festival staged in an old quarry. This mid tempo swinger includes more exceptional ensemble playing,  a dash of rhythmic trickery and hugely inventive solos from Collins, Gillard and Nimmer.

Collins’ “Do You Know The Way” features some of the most energetic playing of the set, a classic slice of contemporary bebop / hard bop with a tricky theme paving the way for barnstorming solos from Collins, Richardson and the ever impressive Nimmer. There’s also an effervescent drum feature from the irrepressible Jones.

Collins’ composition “Look Ahead (What Do You See?) is a further reflection on the work / life balance theme. The piece was inspired by a conversation between the composer and his ten year old son and represents a welcome change in style and pace. With Nimmer switching to Rhodes the feel of the piece is more contemporary with the writing exhibiting a Metheny like sense of melody. It’s not a ballad per se, but the mood is more mellow and relaxed, with gently exploratory solos coming from Nimmer and Collins, here (I think) on flugel.

Harrison’s “Jasmine Breeze” retains the more contemporary feel and is an atmospheric piece introduced by the sound of Sanders’ bass and Jones’ mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. Collins’ own playing is sparse, thoughtful and evocative. Sanders also features as a soloist, singing along to his own melody on a succinct bass feature. Toussaint makes the first of his two guest appearance with a suitably ruminative tenor solo. He also combines effectively with the leader.

Also by Harrison “The Hill” features something of a return to the hard bop template and is dedicated to the memory of Blakey. The title comes from Harrison’s memory of “a life changing performance that I did at the site of Blakey’s childhood home in Pittsburgh”. Musically the piece is a showcase for the brilliant Nimmer whose solo embraces a variety of jazz styles and has evoked comparisons with both Errol Garner and one time Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons. In any event it’s all wonderfully fluent and inventive, with the pianist complemented by some superb playing from the rest of the group, with Collins also impressing as a soloist. Sanders weighs in with a few more bars of bass soloing and wordless vocalising.

Harrison’s final contribution with the pen is “El Farolito” - “tense moments over a burrito in San Francisco” he notes enigmatically. This is a lively, Latin-esque hard bop delight with Toussaint making his second guest appearance, this time soloing in a more garrulous and forthright manner as he shares the spotlight with Collins and Gillard.  Meanwhile the busy and creative Jones drums up a storm behind them.

Collins’ final compositional offering is the ballad “Wider Horizons”, written in Los Angeles after a period of “heavy life turbulence”. The theme is one of optimism and of being open to new possibilities. The piece features the leader on flugel while Nimmer is heard at his most lyrical.
The excellent Jones is an important figure throughout with his inventive but supportive playing and Richardson’s tenor is also heard to telling effect. This is an impressive composition with a strong sense of narrative.

The album concludes with the intentionally retro sounds of “Oh! Look At Me Now”, a song probably best known as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra. This straight-ahead jazz instrumental version sounds as if it could have come directly from jazz’s golden age with Sanders and Jones providing the swinging propulsion for a series of excellent solos with Collins, Gillard and Richardson all featuring strongly.

It’s been a long time since Collins’ last album release under his own name. On the evidence of “Road Warrior” the wait has been well worth it. Collins has established an excellent Trans-Atlantic band, much in the spirit of his old mate Janisch, and the British contingent more than hold their own alongside the Americans. Collins is fine form throughout as are Richardson and late signing Gillard. Sanders and Jones form a Rolls Royce of a rhythm section but Nimmer almost steals the show with his inspired soloing and intelligent accompaniment. Toussaint makes a couple of memorable cameos and also acquits himself well in the producer’s chair, assisted by Collins and Harrison. The latter’s contribution to the success of this album shouldn’t be overlooked, he was due to play on it but still plays an important role as a composer and co-producer.

Indeed it’s the imaginative writing of Collins and Harrison that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session. Sure, both composers pay homage to the genre and the era, but they also bring a contemporary sensibility to bear, especially on pieces like “Look Ahead”  “Wider Horizons” and Jasmine Breeze”, all of which which break out of the hard bop mould. The composing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, ensures that “Road Warrior” is a notch above the norm and the album has received unanimous critical acclaim.

Apparently Collins also has another recording in the can due for release in 2020, this featuring a similarly stellar quintet under his leadership that includes pianist Jason Rebello and drummer Gary Husband. This is something well worth looking forward to but in the meantime Collins will be touring the “Road Warrior” material extensively with an all British band in tow. Remaining dates below;

2019
23rd September - Ashburton Arts Centre
24th September - Western Hotel, St Ives
25th September - Dorchester Arts Centre
28th September - Herts Jazz Festival
30th September - TrinityLaban Conservatoire, London
4th October - Leeds College of Music
8th October - Theatr Clwyd, Mold, North Wales
10th October - Bonington Theatre, Nottingham
11th October - Crookes Social Club, Sheffield
18th October - Progress Theatre, Reading
27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com


Sloth Racket - Dismantle Yourself Rating: 4 out of 5 An album that is simultaneously the quintet’s most experimental and most cohesive.

Sloth Racket

“Dismantle Yourself”

Luminous Records LU011)

Cath Roberts – baritone saxophone, Sam Andreae – alto saxophone, Anton Hunter – guitar, Seth Bennett- double bass, Johnny Hunter - drums


“Dismantle Yourself” is the fourth studio album from Sloth Racket, the quintet led by saxophonist, composer and improviser Cath Roberts. It follows in the wake of “Triptych” (2016), “Shapeshifters” (2017) and “A Glorious Monster” (2018), all released on the Luminous record label and all reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann. There has also been one live recording, “See The Looks On The Faces” (2017), a cassette only release on the Tombed Visions imprint.

The personnel of Sloth Racket also form the core of Favourite Animals, a scaled up version of the original band with the following musicians added to the line up;
Julie Kjaer – bass clarinet, flute
Tom Ward – bass clarinet, flute
Dee Byrne – alto sax
Graham South – trumpet
Tullis Rennie – trombone
The resultant ten piece toured the UK as part of a double bill with Anton Hunter’s own large ensemble Article XI in December 2017.

Featuring a mix of musicians from the London, Manchester and Leeds jazz scenes Sloth Racket was founded in 2015 when Roberts was commissioned by Jazz North East to present a new project at Gateshead International Festival. The new group established an immediate rapport and the success of that event convinced Roberts that Sloth Racket should become a semi-regular working band and their output since that time has been both impressive and prolific.

Sloth Racket operate at the interface where composed and improvised music meet, playing Roberts’ compositions exclusively. These are intentionally sparse and rudimentary, often presented as graphic scores, and essentially represent ideas or basic frameworks around which the band can structure their improvisations. Roberts’ pieces habitually change shape in the course of the group’s live performances, a quality that makes the title of their second album particularly apposite. 

“Dismantle Yourself” sees the quintet continuing to hone their approach. It was recorded in early February 2019 at The Chairworks studio in Castleford, Yorkshire. After making three studio albums in single day sessions Roberts decided to give her bandmates more time to work on the music in the more relaxed setting of a residential studio.

Another change saw Roberts presenting her new compositions to the band unseen, the previous studio recordings had been documented at the end of tours when the musicians were already familiar with the material. This change of approach was designed to encourage greater experimentation, a process that the extra studio time was intended to encourage, as Roberts explains;
“With more time for experimentation the focus of the recording was the exploration and development of the new material, collectively improvising the composed starting points into finished pieces. It was a glimpse into the world of multi-day recordings and a fresh approach for the group, who now look forward to taking the new music on the road and completely de-constructing anything that may have been settled upon back in that cosy winter studio”.

The album is accompanied by a twenty page risograph-printed ‘zine’ containing words and graphics by Roberts and printed on recycled paper by the Footprint Workers Co-Operative in Leeds. It offers a valuable insight into the creative processes of Roberts, herself a talented artist and printmaker who has always designed and created her own album packages. The artwork for “Dismantle Yourself” also features a recycled cardboard case with hand-printed lino-cut artwork, available in five different ink colours.

A highly active presence on the London jazz and improvised music scene Roberts’ other projects have included the septet Quadraceratops and the quartet Word of Moth plus the improvising duo Ripsaw Catfish, another collaboration with guitarist Anton Hunter.  Elsewhere Roberts performs with the Madwort Saxophone Quartet, led by saxophonist Tom Ward, the eight piece improvising saxophone ensemble Saxoctopus and in a duo with trombonist Tullis Rennie, plus numerous other one off and ad hoc collaborations. 

Together with alto saxophonist Dee Byrne Roberts is the co-founder of Lume, a musician led organisation originally devoted to giving improvising musicians a platform on the London music scene. It has since expanded to incorporate the Luminous record label and has facilitated two successful Lume Festivals in 2016 and 2017.

The new album features five lengthy pieces commencing with “Proximity Warning”, at a little over eight minutes the shortest track on the recording. It emerges from a collision of harsh, acerbic saxes and metallic guitar, before Bennett and Johnny Hunter eventually join the proceedings to create a fluid groove around which the saxophonists continue to improvise in garrulous fashion. The drummer is a particularly busy presence and becomes embroiled in a feisty dialogue with the horns, before eventually dropping out once more as the reeds and Anton Hunter resume their animated conversation, the saxes buzzing like a nest of angry wasps. Like all Sloth Racket’s output the music is constantly evolving and mutating, “shapeshifting” indeed. “Proximity Warning” represents a challenging, but thrilling introduction to the quintet’s latest opus, music that is uncompromising but fiercely intelligent.

The title of “We Decide What Comes Next” could almost be the group’s manifesto. It’s a piece that initially reveals a gentler side to Sloth Racket, building up from the bottom with Bennett’s bass the improvisational exchanges are less frenetic, conversational rather then confrontational. Anton Hunter delivers spidery, pointillist guitar, brother Johnny’s cymbal ticks and mallet rumbles depict him in colourist mode, while the saxophonists play long, crepescular melody lines. There are more abstract moments too, helping to ensure that the music retains Sloth Racket’s trademark edge, the sound becoming more urgent and fidgety as the piece progresses through a series of distinct episodes, ending with a series of squalling saxophone exchanges fuelled by Johnny Hunter’s fractured drum grooves.

Roberts and Sloth Racket have always harboured a fondness for a good chunky riff and title track “Dismantle Yourself” comes roaring out of the blocks with a suitably gargantuan example, featuring turbo charged guitar, skronking baritone sax and sledgehammer drums. But this is Sloth Racket, just as quickly the guitar and drums drop out for a more refined passage featuring an almost courtly saxophone dialogue. But as soon as you’ve adjusted to that the killer riff kicks in once more, before fragmenting as the band embark on a series of more obviously improvised exchanges featuring whinnying saxes, scuzzy guitar and skittering drums. The final passage of a typically multi-faceted piece is intensely atmospheric with Anton’s looped and layered guitar serving as a textural device, providing the backwash for the gentle piping of the saxophones, Bennett’s grainy bowed bass and Johnny Hunter’s filigree drum and cymbal embellishments. It’s a piece that goes through several distinct phases and finds itself in a totally different position from where it started out. It’s to Sloth Racket’s credit that these stylistic shifts always seem to occur naturally and organically, the part composed, part improvised narrative always seeming to make perfect sense whatever the dynamic and stylistic extremes.

“Butterfly Takes The Train” draws its inspiration from a poem (of sorts) in the accompanying zine. The music begins with the sounds of pecked saxes and spider scratch guitar in an absorbing conversation. The addition of bass and drums increases the urgency with the leader’s muscular baritone sax coming to the fore to solo forcefully above busily roiling drums.
Andreae’s alto subsequently joins in to create a brief but spiky dialogue between the reeds, with Anton’s guitar also becoming involved as the opening discussion is renewed. The return of bass and drums sees the group coalescing once more, albeit loosely, as the Hunter brothers and Bennett fabricate an impressive wall of sound above which the saxes whinny and wail.

Finally we hear “Terraforming”, a near fourteen minute epic that constitutes the album’s lengthiest piece. The composed opening section is paced and powered by Bennett’s meaty, grounding bass motif, above which the reeds combine to powerful effect, double horns combining with clangorous guitar. It’s the kind of riffery that distinguished parts of “Triptych”  ans “A Glorious Monster” and which might make fans of Van Der Graaf or King Crimson sit up and take notice. Eventually the music shades off into more loosely structured, obviously improvised territory with the kind of stimulating, increasingly garrulous, collective musical exchanges that have become something of a Sloth Racket hallmark. It’s powerful stuff, not for the faint hearted, but a thrilling musical white knuckle ride for those brave enough to take the trip.

“Dismantle Yourself” shows Sloth Racket to be still developing as a band. The extra studio time has been used to good effect on an album that is simultaneously the quintet’s most experimental and most cohesive.

 I continue to find the balance that Sloth Racket strike between the composed and the improvised a constant source of fascination. Their music is constantly evolving, rarely settling in one place for long, and the transitions between the free and the structured are skilfully and seamlessly handled. There’s also a punk like edginess and vitality about their music that makes for challenging but highly rewarding listening. 

The band are currently on tour in the UK with two dates remaining as follows;

19/09/2019 – Norwich, Camouflage

20/09/2019 – Cambridge, Listen!

More at http://www.slothracket.co.uk

Dismantle Yourself

Sloth Racket

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Dismantle Yourself

An album that is simultaneously the quintet’s most experimental and most cohesive.

Sloth Racket

“Dismantle Yourself”

Luminous Records LU011)

Cath Roberts – baritone saxophone, Sam Andreae – alto saxophone, Anton Hunter – guitar, Seth Bennett- double bass, Johnny Hunter - drums


“Dismantle Yourself” is the fourth studio album from Sloth Racket, the quintet led by saxophonist, composer and improviser Cath Roberts. It follows in the wake of “Triptych” (2016), “Shapeshifters” (2017) and “A Glorious Monster” (2018), all released on the Luminous record label and all reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann. There has also been one live recording, “See The Looks On The Faces” (2017), a cassette only release on the Tombed Visions imprint.

The personnel of Sloth Racket also form the core of Favourite Animals, a scaled up version of the original band with the following musicians added to the line up;
Julie Kjaer – bass clarinet, flute
Tom Ward – bass clarinet, flute
Dee Byrne – alto sax
Graham South – trumpet
Tullis Rennie – trombone
The resultant ten piece toured the UK as part of a double bill with Anton Hunter’s own large ensemble Article XI in December 2017.

Featuring a mix of musicians from the London, Manchester and Leeds jazz scenes Sloth Racket was founded in 2015 when Roberts was commissioned by Jazz North East to present a new project at Gateshead International Festival. The new group established an immediate rapport and the success of that event convinced Roberts that Sloth Racket should become a semi-regular working band and their output since that time has been both impressive and prolific.

Sloth Racket operate at the interface where composed and improvised music meet, playing Roberts’ compositions exclusively. These are intentionally sparse and rudimentary, often presented as graphic scores, and essentially represent ideas or basic frameworks around which the band can structure their improvisations. Roberts’ pieces habitually change shape in the course of the group’s live performances, a quality that makes the title of their second album particularly apposite. 

“Dismantle Yourself” sees the quintet continuing to hone their approach. It was recorded in early February 2019 at The Chairworks studio in Castleford, Yorkshire. After making three studio albums in single day sessions Roberts decided to give her bandmates more time to work on the music in the more relaxed setting of a residential studio.

Another change saw Roberts presenting her new compositions to the band unseen, the previous studio recordings had been documented at the end of tours when the musicians were already familiar with the material. This change of approach was designed to encourage greater experimentation, a process that the extra studio time was intended to encourage, as Roberts explains;
“With more time for experimentation the focus of the recording was the exploration and development of the new material, collectively improvising the composed starting points into finished pieces. It was a glimpse into the world of multi-day recordings and a fresh approach for the group, who now look forward to taking the new music on the road and completely de-constructing anything that may have been settled upon back in that cosy winter studio”.

The album is accompanied by a twenty page risograph-printed ‘zine’ containing words and graphics by Roberts and printed on recycled paper by the Footprint Workers Co-Operative in Leeds. It offers a valuable insight into the creative processes of Roberts, herself a talented artist and printmaker who has always designed and created her own album packages. The artwork for “Dismantle Yourself” also features a recycled cardboard case with hand-printed lino-cut artwork, available in five different ink colours.

A highly active presence on the London jazz and improvised music scene Roberts’ other projects have included the septet Quadraceratops and the quartet Word of Moth plus the improvising duo Ripsaw Catfish, another collaboration with guitarist Anton Hunter.  Elsewhere Roberts performs with the Madwort Saxophone Quartet, led by saxophonist Tom Ward, the eight piece improvising saxophone ensemble Saxoctopus and in a duo with trombonist Tullis Rennie, plus numerous other one off and ad hoc collaborations. 

Together with alto saxophonist Dee Byrne Roberts is the co-founder of Lume, a musician led organisation originally devoted to giving improvising musicians a platform on the London music scene. It has since expanded to incorporate the Luminous record label and has facilitated two successful Lume Festivals in 2016 and 2017.

The new album features five lengthy pieces commencing with “Proximity Warning”, at a little over eight minutes the shortest track on the recording. It emerges from a collision of harsh, acerbic saxes and metallic guitar, before Bennett and Johnny Hunter eventually join the proceedings to create a fluid groove around which the saxophonists continue to improvise in garrulous fashion. The drummer is a particularly busy presence and becomes embroiled in a feisty dialogue with the horns, before eventually dropping out once more as the reeds and Anton Hunter resume their animated conversation, the saxes buzzing like a nest of angry wasps. Like all Sloth Racket’s output the music is constantly evolving and mutating, “shapeshifting” indeed. “Proximity Warning” represents a challenging, but thrilling introduction to the quintet’s latest opus, music that is uncompromising but fiercely intelligent.

The title of “We Decide What Comes Next” could almost be the group’s manifesto. It’s a piece that initially reveals a gentler side to Sloth Racket, building up from the bottom with Bennett’s bass the improvisational exchanges are less frenetic, conversational rather then confrontational. Anton Hunter delivers spidery, pointillist guitar, brother Johnny’s cymbal ticks and mallet rumbles depict him in colourist mode, while the saxophonists play long, crepescular melody lines. There are more abstract moments too, helping to ensure that the music retains Sloth Racket’s trademark edge, the sound becoming more urgent and fidgety as the piece progresses through a series of distinct episodes, ending with a series of squalling saxophone exchanges fuelled by Johnny Hunter’s fractured drum grooves.

Roberts and Sloth Racket have always harboured a fondness for a good chunky riff and title track “Dismantle Yourself” comes roaring out of the blocks with a suitably gargantuan example, featuring turbo charged guitar, skronking baritone sax and sledgehammer drums. But this is Sloth Racket, just as quickly the guitar and drums drop out for a more refined passage featuring an almost courtly saxophone dialogue. But as soon as you’ve adjusted to that the killer riff kicks in once more, before fragmenting as the band embark on a series of more obviously improvised exchanges featuring whinnying saxes, scuzzy guitar and skittering drums. The final passage of a typically multi-faceted piece is intensely atmospheric with Anton’s looped and layered guitar serving as a textural device, providing the backwash for the gentle piping of the saxophones, Bennett’s grainy bowed bass and Johnny Hunter’s filigree drum and cymbal embellishments. It’s a piece that goes through several distinct phases and finds itself in a totally different position from where it started out. It’s to Sloth Racket’s credit that these stylistic shifts always seem to occur naturally and organically, the part composed, part improvised narrative always seeming to make perfect sense whatever the dynamic and stylistic extremes.

“Butterfly Takes The Train” draws its inspiration from a poem (of sorts) in the accompanying zine. The music begins with the sounds of pecked saxes and spider scratch guitar in an absorbing conversation. The addition of bass and drums increases the urgency with the leader’s muscular baritone sax coming to the fore to solo forcefully above busily roiling drums.
Andreae’s alto subsequently joins in to create a brief but spiky dialogue between the reeds, with Anton’s guitar also becoming involved as the opening discussion is renewed. The return of bass and drums sees the group coalescing once more, albeit loosely, as the Hunter brothers and Bennett fabricate an impressive wall of sound above which the saxes whinny and wail.

Finally we hear “Terraforming”, a near fourteen minute epic that constitutes the album’s lengthiest piece. The composed opening section is paced and powered by Bennett’s meaty, grounding bass motif, above which the reeds combine to powerful effect, double horns combining with clangorous guitar. It’s the kind of riffery that distinguished parts of “Triptych”  ans “A Glorious Monster” and which might make fans of Van Der Graaf or King Crimson sit up and take notice. Eventually the music shades off into more loosely structured, obviously improvised territory with the kind of stimulating, increasingly garrulous, collective musical exchanges that have become something of a Sloth Racket hallmark. It’s powerful stuff, not for the faint hearted, but a thrilling musical white knuckle ride for those brave enough to take the trip.

“Dismantle Yourself” shows Sloth Racket to be still developing as a band. The extra studio time has been used to good effect on an album that is simultaneously the quintet’s most experimental and most cohesive.

 I continue to find the balance that Sloth Racket strike between the composed and the improvised a constant source of fascination. Their music is constantly evolving, rarely settling in one place for long, and the transitions between the free and the structured are skilfully and seamlessly handled. There’s also a punk like edginess and vitality about their music that makes for challenging but highly rewarding listening. 

The band are currently on tour in the UK with two dates remaining as follows;

19/09/2019 – Norwich, Camouflage

20/09/2019 – Cambridge, Listen!

More at http://www.slothracket.co.uk

Bonsai - Bonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 A hugely enjoyable event, distinguished by some top quality playing and diverse and intelligent writing.

Bonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019.

Rory Ingham – trombone, Dominic Ingham – violin, vocals, Toby Comeau – keyboard,
Joe Lee – electric bass, Jonny Mansfield- drums


Bonsai is the band that used to be known as Jam Experiment. The quintet has changed its name following a decidedly radical change of line up with violinist / vocalist Dominic Ingham, brother of the group’s trombonist Rory Ingham, replacing saxophonist Alexander Bone.

Bone was part of the quintet that appeared on the album “Jam Experiment”, released in 2017, a recording that attracted a good deal of critical acclaim for this new, exciting young band. The group toured the album extensively and I was privileged to catch them at a performance in Shrewsbury at The Hive Music and Media Centre, one of the monthly gigs promoted by Shrewsbury Jazz Network.
My review of that performance, plus my impressions of the Jam Experiment album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jam-experiment-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-17-06-017/

Bone, the 2014 winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year award , has since left to concentrate on a solo career. Dominic Ingham comes to the group thanks to his familial relationship with Rory and through his work with Bonsai drummer Jonny Mansfield’s innovative eleven piece ensemble Elftet.

Guest contributor Trevor Bannister reviewed the new line up, at that time still using the Jam Experiment name, at the Progress Theatre in Reading in August 2018. Trevor’s account can be read here;  http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/elftet-progress-theatre-reading-berkshire-28-09-2018/


In August 2019 I reviewed “Bonsai Club”, the group’s first album under their new name. The departure of Bone and his saxes and his replacement by violin and vocals ensured that Bonsai sounded very different to Jam Experiment, and initially this took some getting used to. However I persevered and gradually found myself becoming increasingly drawn into the quintet’s increasingly distinctive new sound world. In addition to the unusual instrumental front line of trombone and violin the album also featured vocals for the first time with several of the compositions featuring song like structures. The album was also notable for an increased reliance on electronic elements with both Lee and Mansfield credited with playing synthesiser, this in addition to Comeau’s mix of acoustic and electric keyboards. My review of the Bonsai Club album, from which some of the above paragraphs have been lifted, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/bonsai-bonsai-club/

My appetite for this performance by the group at The Hermon was whetted both by the “Bonsai Club” album and a recent performance by the Rory Ingham Quintet at the 2019 Brecon Jazz Festival. This was an excellent show from a band featuring Ingham, Mansfield, saxophonist Julia Mills, bassist Will Harris and German born drummer Felix Ambach. This line up enabled the multi-talented Mansfield to concentrate on the vibraphone, an instrument that he plays with a remarkable facility. It also transpired that Mills is the mother of Rory and Dominic Ingham, a highly talented player returning to the musical ‘front line’ after taking time out to concentrate on teaching and raising a family. My account of this performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/sunday-at-brecon-jazz-2019-11-08-2019/

Tonight’s date at The Hermon Chapel was part of Bonsai’s ongoing tour supporting their recent album release. Promoters Claudia Lis and Barry Edwards are steadily building an audience for their adventurous music programme featuring jazz and folk. The folk strand is an easier sell than the jazz, but nevertheless a small but highly enthusiastic audience turned up to see the Bonsai boys and the quality of the music, allied to the positivity of the crowd, helped to turn the event into a great night.

The programme featured material sourced from the “Bonsai Club” album plus a clutch of newer, as yet unrecorded compositions from members of the band.

The performance commenced with the title track from “Bonsai Club”, effectively the band’s signature tune. Written by Dominic Ingham the song opens the album and here featured his warm delivery of the haiku like lyric, the singing interspersed with instrumental solos from violin, electric bass and violin, the whole powered by Mansfield’s clipped, subtly funky drum grooves.

Lee’s bass introduced his own composition “Quay”, combining with Dominic’s vaguely mournful violin and Rory’s rounded trombone tones above a brushed drum groove. An atmospheric piece with a simple but effective one line lyric the tune also included instrumental solos from both of the Ingham brothers.

Dominic’s composition “Hop – The Hip Replacement” opened with the sound of shimmering keyboards, subsequently joined by bass and drums. As the piece gathered momentum Mansfield developed a hip hop like groove at the drums as the Ingham brothers delivered a unison theme statement. Subsequent solos came from Dominic on violin and Comeau at the keyboard, who combined with Lee’s bubbling electric bass and Mansfield’s melodic drum patterns.

The first of the newer pieces was Dominic’s composition “Warm As You”, a fully developed song featuring the composer’s voice and lyrics but also containing an increasingly propulsive groove that set heads nodding all around the venue. This helped to fuel a rousing trombone solo from Rory and the piece as a whole was rapturously received by the audience.

This was followed by another new tune, this time from the pen of Rory. “The Proselytiser” proved to be a more atmospheric offering that combined angular melodies with an infectious odd meter groove and saw Rory trading melodic phrases with his scat singing brother. A more conventional jazz solo saw Rory offering further evidence of his fluency and agility on the trombone while Dominic’s violin solo, at one point accompanied by electric bass only, introduced a folk element to the mix. The piece closed with a drum feature from the excellent Mansfield, confined to the kit tonight with no vibraphone present.

The second set commenced with Lee’s “The Crescent”, named after the street he grew up in in Truro, also the home city of Comeau. Meanwhile the Ingham brothers hail from Wakefield and Mansfield from Huddersfield. The group’s members met when they were studying at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester and they remain proud of their Northern and Cornish roots, despite since making the move to London.
Lee’s tune mixed darting melodic phrases for trumpet and violin with an infectious and buoyant groove. Comeau adopted a classic electric piano sound for his keyboard solo while Lee’s liquid bass solo reminded me of the playing of Mark Egan in an early edition of the Pat Metheny Group. The piece also featured Dominic’s wordless vocals and soaring violin.

Sourced from the “Bonsai Club” album Mansfield’s composition “Tin” featured trip hop style grooves and an eerie sound featuring layered keyboards and electronically enhanced trombone alongside Dominic’s vocals. The instrumental solo here came from Comeau, who enjoyed much more freedom in this second set.

The second half also saw the group introducing more new material, “two world premières in Oswestry!” exclaimed Ingham. Comeau’s “How Far” was introduced by his own electric piano and was another piece that saw the group expanding further into song based territory, with Dominic providing both wordless vocals and lyrics. Lee was the featured soloist here, fluent, fleet fingered and mellifluous on electric bass.

The bassist also introduced a new Mansfield composition, “Sunshine”, combining effectively with Dominic’s pizzicato violin. Keyboard arpeggios and Dominic’s wordless vocal melody lines were added to the equation to create an intriguing melange of interlocking patterns, these forming the backdrop to Rory’s rousing trombone solo as the group gradually developed a full on band sound.

Rory Ingham’s tune announcements were made with wit and warmth, even Ronnie Scott’s old jokes sounded fresh when recycled by a young twenty something. All too soon it seemed that we had come to the last number as Rory thanked Claudia and Barry and sound-man Phil, who had done an excellent job. Comeau’s new tune “Sam” took things storming out, a winning combination of fat funk grooves contrasted with wistful, introspective lyrics.

The enthusiastic crowd reaction ensured that an encore was inevitable, the band eventually settling on the Mansfield composition “Itchy Knee” with its infectious odd meter grooves borrowing from the lexicon of prog and math rock. Solos here came from Rory on fruity, rasping trombone and Dominic on wailing violin, at one juncture backed again only by Lee’s electric bass. Comeau, who plays a stunning solo on the recorded version, also featured at the keyboard.  Apparently the title is a play on the Japanese words for “one” “two” and “three”.

Overall this was an impressive performance from Bonsai, who certainly endeared themselves to the highly supportive audience. Under their new name the quintet have developed an increasingly distinctive group sound, something encouraged by the unusual instrumental line up and the rarely heard combination of trombone and violin. The new material suggests that in future they are likely to turn even more towards songs rather than instrumental compositions,  which may broaden their overall appeal, but possibly at the risk of losing some hard core jazz listeners. Nevertheless the reaction to the new songs tonight was overwhelmingly positive.

It will be interesting to follow Bonsai’s progress, but in the meantime tonight’s was a hugely enjoyable event, distinguished by some top quality playing and by the diverse and intelligent writing.

Bonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019.

Bonsai

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Bonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Pam Mann.

A hugely enjoyable event, distinguished by some top quality playing and diverse and intelligent writing.

Bonsai, Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire, 15/09/2019.

Rory Ingham – trombone, Dominic Ingham – violin, vocals, Toby Comeau – keyboard,
Joe Lee – electric bass, Jonny Mansfield- drums


Bonsai is the band that used to be known as Jam Experiment. The quintet has changed its name following a decidedly radical change of line up with violinist / vocalist Dominic Ingham, brother of the group’s trombonist Rory Ingham, replacing saxophonist Alexander Bone.

Bone was part of the quintet that appeared on the album “Jam Experiment”, released in 2017, a recording that attracted a good deal of critical acclaim for this new, exciting young band. The group toured the album extensively and I was privileged to catch them at a performance in Shrewsbury at The Hive Music and Media Centre, one of the monthly gigs promoted by Shrewsbury Jazz Network.
My review of that performance, plus my impressions of the Jam Experiment album can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jam-experiment-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-17-06-017/

Bone, the 2014 winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year award , has since left to concentrate on a solo career. Dominic Ingham comes to the group thanks to his familial relationship with Rory and through his work with Bonsai drummer Jonny Mansfield’s innovative eleven piece ensemble Elftet.

Guest contributor Trevor Bannister reviewed the new line up, at that time still using the Jam Experiment name, at the Progress Theatre in Reading in August 2018. Trevor’s account can be read here;  http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/elftet-progress-theatre-reading-berkshire-28-09-2018/


In August 2019 I reviewed “Bonsai Club”, the group’s first album under their new name. The departure of Bone and his saxes and his replacement by violin and vocals ensured that Bonsai sounded very different to Jam Experiment, and initially this took some getting used to. However I persevered and gradually found myself becoming increasingly drawn into the quintet’s increasingly distinctive new sound world. In addition to the unusual instrumental front line of trombone and violin the album also featured vocals for the first time with several of the compositions featuring song like structures. The album was also notable for an increased reliance on electronic elements with both Lee and Mansfield credited with playing synthesiser, this in addition to Comeau’s mix of acoustic and electric keyboards. My review of the Bonsai Club album, from which some of the above paragraphs have been lifted, can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/bonsai-bonsai-club/

My appetite for this performance by the group at The Hermon was whetted both by the “Bonsai Club” album and a recent performance by the Rory Ingham Quintet at the 2019 Brecon Jazz Festival. This was an excellent show from a band featuring Ingham, Mansfield, saxophonist Julia Mills, bassist Will Harris and German born drummer Felix Ambach. This line up enabled the multi-talented Mansfield to concentrate on the vibraphone, an instrument that he plays with a remarkable facility. It also transpired that Mills is the mother of Rory and Dominic Ingham, a highly talented player returning to the musical ‘front line’ after taking time out to concentrate on teaching and raising a family. My account of this performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/sunday-at-brecon-jazz-2019-11-08-2019/

Tonight’s date at The Hermon Chapel was part of Bonsai’s ongoing tour supporting their recent album release. Promoters Claudia Lis and Barry Edwards are steadily building an audience for their adventurous music programme featuring jazz and folk. The folk strand is an easier sell than the jazz, but nevertheless a small but highly enthusiastic audience turned up to see the Bonsai boys and the quality of the music, allied to the positivity of the crowd, helped to turn the event into a great night.

The programme featured material sourced from the “Bonsai Club” album plus a clutch of newer, as yet unrecorded compositions from members of the band.

The performance commenced with the title track from “Bonsai Club”, effectively the band’s signature tune. Written by Dominic Ingham the song opens the album and here featured his warm delivery of the haiku like lyric, the singing interspersed with instrumental solos from violin, electric bass and violin, the whole powered by Mansfield’s clipped, subtly funky drum grooves.

Lee’s bass introduced his own composition “Quay”, combining with Dominic’s vaguely mournful violin and Rory’s rounded trombone tones above a brushed drum groove. An atmospheric piece with a simple but effective one line lyric the tune also included instrumental solos from both of the Ingham brothers.

Dominic’s composition “Hop – The Hip Replacement” opened with the sound of shimmering keyboards, subsequently joined by bass and drums. As the piece gathered momentum Mansfield developed a hip hop like groove at the drums as the Ingham brothers delivered a unison theme statement. Subsequent solos came from Dominic on violin and Comeau at the keyboard, who combined with Lee’s bubbling electric bass and Mansfield’s melodic drum patterns.

The first of the newer pieces was Dominic’s composition “Warm As You”, a fully developed song featuring the composer’s voice and lyrics but also containing an increasingly propulsive groove that set heads nodding all around the venue. This helped to fuel a rousing trombone solo from Rory and the piece as a whole was rapturously received by the audience.

This was followed by another new tune, this time from the pen of Rory. “The Proselytiser” proved to be a more atmospheric offering that combined angular melodies with an infectious odd meter groove and saw Rory trading melodic phrases with his scat singing brother. A more conventional jazz solo saw Rory offering further evidence of his fluency and agility on the trombone while Dominic’s violin solo, at one point accompanied by electric bass only, introduced a folk element to the mix. The piece closed with a drum feature from the excellent Mansfield, confined to the kit tonight with no vibraphone present.

The second set commenced with Lee’s “The Crescent”, named after the street he grew up in in Truro, also the home city of Comeau. Meanwhile the Ingham brothers hail from Wakefield and Mansfield from Huddersfield. The group’s members met when they were studying at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester and they remain proud of their Northern and Cornish roots, despite since making the move to London.
Lee’s tune mixed darting melodic phrases for trumpet and violin with an infectious and buoyant groove. Comeau adopted a classic electric piano sound for his keyboard solo while Lee’s liquid bass solo reminded me of the playing of Mark Egan in an early edition of the Pat Metheny Group. The piece also featured Dominic’s wordless vocals and soaring violin.

Sourced from the “Bonsai Club” album Mansfield’s composition “Tin” featured trip hop style grooves and an eerie sound featuring layered keyboards and electronically enhanced trombone alongside Dominic’s vocals. The instrumental solo here came from Comeau, who enjoyed much more freedom in this second set.

The second half also saw the group introducing more new material, “two world premières in Oswestry!” exclaimed Ingham. Comeau’s “How Far” was introduced by his own electric piano and was another piece that saw the group expanding further into song based territory, with Dominic providing both wordless vocals and lyrics. Lee was the featured soloist here, fluent, fleet fingered and mellifluous on electric bass.

The bassist also introduced a new Mansfield composition, “Sunshine”, combining effectively with Dominic’s pizzicato violin. Keyboard arpeggios and Dominic’s wordless vocal melody lines were added to the equation to create an intriguing melange of interlocking patterns, these forming the backdrop to Rory’s rousing trombone solo as the group gradually developed a full on band sound.

Rory Ingham’s tune announcements were made with wit and warmth, even Ronnie Scott’s old jokes sounded fresh when recycled by a young twenty something. All too soon it seemed that we had come to the last number as Rory thanked Claudia and Barry and sound-man Phil, who had done an excellent job. Comeau’s new tune “Sam” took things storming out, a winning combination of fat funk grooves contrasted with wistful, introspective lyrics.

The enthusiastic crowd reaction ensured that an encore was inevitable, the band eventually settling on the Mansfield composition “Itchy Knee” with its infectious odd meter grooves borrowing from the lexicon of prog and math rock. Solos here came from Rory on fruity, rasping trombone and Dominic on wailing violin, at one juncture backed again only by Lee’s electric bass. Comeau, who plays a stunning solo on the recorded version, also featured at the keyboard.  Apparently the title is a play on the Japanese words for “one” “two” and “three”.

Overall this was an impressive performance from Bonsai, who certainly endeared themselves to the highly supportive audience. Under their new name the quintet have developed an increasingly distinctive group sound, something encouraged by the unusual instrumental line up and the rarely heard combination of trombone and violin. The new material suggests that in future they are likely to turn even more towards songs rather than instrumental compositions,  which may broaden their overall appeal, but possibly at the risk of losing some hard core jazz listeners. Nevertheless the reaction to the new songs tonight was overwhelmingly positive.

It will be interesting to follow Bonsai’s progress, but in the meantime tonight’s was a hugely enjoyable event, distinguished by some top quality playing and by the diverse and intelligent writing.

Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio - Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019. Rating: 4 out of 5 Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement and delivered some virtuoso playing allied to Garland's evocative writing.

Tim Garland’ s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019

Tim Garland - tenor & soprano saxophones, Jason Rebello – piano, Yuri Goloubev – double bass


Tonight’s event represented a welcome return to The Hive from saxophonist and composer Tim Garland.

Garland had previously visited the venue in January 2017, playing to a full house with his ‘Electric Quartet’ featuring Rebello, guitarist Ant Law and drummer / percussionist Asaf Sirkis. A highly charged group performance saw the quartet getting that year’s jazz programme at The Hive off to a terrific start. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/tim-garland-electric-quartet-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-14-01-2/

This evening’s performance was to be very different with Garland now leading an essentially acoustic chamber jazz trio featuring the talents of Rebello on grand piano and the Russian born virtuoso Yuri Goloubev on double bass.

In 2017 the electric quartet focussed on material from Garland’s then current album “One” (Edition Records) but tonight the emphasis was on the more recent “Weather Walker” (2018, also Edition), a recording with tonight’s trio at its core but one which also features contributions from the German pianist Pablo Held and from a thirty five piece orchestra. The album was recorded at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios.

Garland is one of the UK’s best known and best loved jazz musicians, although ultimately musical genres mean little to him. This is a musician whose work has consistently blurred the boundaries between jazz, folk, classical and even rock music. In addition to his own work as a leader Garland has also enjoyed high profile engagements with the similarly broad minded Chick Corea, and with the band Earthworks, led by former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.

Garland’s reputation, allied to the brilliance of that 2017 performance, helped to ensure that there was another near capacity crowd at The Hive once more. Rebello and Goloubev are also great favourites with Shrewsbury audiences, the bassist having visited The Hive on a number of previous occasions as part of bands led by guitarist Maciek Pysz and pianist Alex Hutton.

Tonight was essentially an acoustic ‘chamber jazz’ performance with a Yamaha baby grand specially hired for the use of Rebello and with only minimal amplification provided for Goloubev’s bass. Garland played into a microphone, which helped to provide a dash of atmospheric echo when required.

Garland is no stranger to working in the trio format having previously been part of the jazz / classical ensemble Acoustic Triangle alongside founder Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano, french horn). Garland was later a member of the fondly remembered Lighthouse Trio alongside Simcock and drummer /percussionist Asaf Sirkis, a group that enjoyed international exposure after signing for the German ACT record label.

The instrumentation of the ‘Weather Walker’ trio recalls that of Acoustic Triangle, but overall their approach is more robust, more in keeping with that of the Lighthouse Trio. Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement.

That said the trio eased their audience in relatively gently with the standard “How Deep Is The Ocean” which was introduced by Goloubev at the bass and which featured Garland on effortlessly fluent tenor sax. Meanwhile the quality of the sound and of Rebello’s playing, and particularly his soloing, more than justified the trouble and expense of hiring that grand piano. The always impressive Goloubev also endeared himself to the audience with a typically dazzling solo on double bass.

Material from the “One” album still found its way into tonight’s repertoire, beginning with “Bright New Year”, which saw Garland moving to soprano sax. Written, as the title suggests, at the turn of the year this piece combined folk like melodies and classical allusions with jazz soloing. Garland’s sound was occasionally oboe like and at other times reminiscent of Jan Garbarek. His opening theme statement was developed into a full on solo and this was followed by an intriguing dialogue between Rebello and Goloubev, their interplay leading to individual solos from both.

The title track of “Weather Walker” was inspired by Garland’s love of the Great British outdoors, and particularly the landscape of the Lake District. The vagaries of British geography and climate were celebrated in a piece that mixed pastoral beauty with moments of sonic dissonance intended to simulate the sometimes inclement Cumbrian weather. Garland’s soprano ranged from soft, light and feathery to piercingly incisive, qualities mirrored by Rebello at the piano and Goloubev at the bass, both of whom also featured as soloists.

Garland has a long standing love of English folk music, something that first found expression in the late 1990s with the folk/jazz crossover group Lammas.  It is still an important component in his work and helped to inspire the composition “The Snows” from the “Weather Walker” album, the piece borrowing its title from a poem and taking inspiration from folk melodies. Here Garland moved back to tenor, a dash of echo helping to emphasise the vastness of the winter landscape of the Lake District. Rebello’s piano solo was both expansive and flowingly lyrical, while Goloubev’s solo featured him at his most melodic. The directness of the melodies helped to ensure that this number was particularly well received by the appreciative Shrewsbury audience.

The first set concluded with a return to the “One” album and “Sama’i For Peace”, a composition taking its title from the name of an Indian rhythm that Garland learned from percussionist Asaf Sirkis. This rhythm, in ten, was speeded up by Garland who probed deeply on soprano above the busy rhythms generated by Rebello and Goloubev, the pianist also making effective use of the interior of his instrument. Rebello’s own solo featured highly effective use of dynamics, his thunderous low end clusters a particularly notable aspect of a truly virtuoso performance.

The second set also began with a standard, in this instance “If I Should Lose You”, played in the key of G minor and with fluent solos coming from Garland on tenor, Goloubev on bass and Rebello at the piano.

Garland proved to be an excellent between tunes interlocutor, warm, witty and informative, giving just the right amount of background behind each piece, but never allowing himself to ramble too much. “Traveller” was his dedication to his former employer, the great Chick Corea, now an astonishingly youthful seventy eight year old. The title references Corea’s travels as a musician, criss crossing the world to perform concerts as well as exploring a wide variety of global music styles. Simultaneously complex, playful and highly rhythmic Garland’s piece incorporated many of the South American elements that have informed Corea’s own music. The playing from Garland on soprano, Rebello at the piano and Goloubev on double bass sparkled with vitality and was truly virtuosic.

Acoustic Triangle performances were often held in sacred spaces and one of the hallmarks of their shows was when Garland used to place the bell of his saxophone into the lid of the piano to utilise the resonant qualities of the strings, the resultant echo enhanced yet further by the ecclesiastical setting. An audience member had clearly remembered this and at half time requested Garland to repeat the trick in the second set. It all worked remarkably well, Garland inserting the bell of his tenor into the bowels of the Yamaha and blowing pretty hard before pausing to asses his own echo as he generated a series of ringing overtones. More justification for bringing in the baby grand, it would never have worked with an electric keyboard!
This set piece formed the introduction to the trio’s arrangement of the Kenny Wheeler composition “Everybody’s Song But My Own”, a piece that has become something of a modern day standard. Solos here came from Rebello on piano, Garland on tenor and Goloubev at the bass, prior to a further statement of the memorable theme from Garland.

Garland dipped deeply into his back catalogue for “Rosa Ballerina”, a tune written for his then infant daughter, now a young woman in her early twenties. Of course the composition itself has hardly dated, its themes if anything now more relevant than ever. The simple, lullaby like beauty of the main theme was punctured by stabs of wilful dissonance; this may be a song written about the innocence of a child but it’s also a warning about the world that they will be growing up into. That said the mood of the piece was essentially joyous and melodic, with the composer featuring on soprano and with Goloubev delivering some of his most eloquent soloing of the set.

The ever magnanimous Garland handed over to Rebello for the final tune of the evening.  His composition “Pearl” was the opening track of his 2016 solo piano album “Held” (Edition Records), a fiendishly difficult piece that convinced some reviewers that Rebello had overdubbed a second piano part, which was emphatically not the case. This trio arrangement sacrificed nothing of these complexities with Rebello himself giving a virtuoso performance that included more judicious work ‘under the lid’. Meanwhile Garland’s darted and danced with a remarkable agility and Goloubev responded with his customary brilliance.

Rebello’s bravura performance of his own piece had threatened to steal the show but Garland re-asserted his authority on the inevitable encore, with the saxophonist calling a final standard, Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”. This proved to be a show case for Garland’s skills as a ballad player with his warm, fluent, sometimes breathy tenor playing. His opening solo was followed by a series of absorbing bass and piano exchanges before Garland rounded things off with a stunning solo sax cadenza.

The reaction from the knowledgeable Shrewsbury audience was little short of ecstatic and the organisers, Shrewsbury Jazz Network, pronounced the gig a great success.

For me it fell just short of the quartet performance from a couple of years ago, mainly because I must admit that there were times I did miss the presence of a drum kit. My only other quibble would be that we didn’t get to hear anything of Goloubev with the bow, the man is an absolute master of arco bass and it would have been good to have heard at least one example of this side of his talent.

However all this amounts to little more than nit picking. This was still an intimate but spirited performance from three of the finest jazz musicians currently based in the UK. A triumph for the band and the promoters alike, with the audience going home happily on a clear, warm Shropshire night.

Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019.

Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Tim Garland’s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019.
Photography: Photograph of Yuri Goloubev and Tim Garland by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement and delivered some virtuoso playing allied to Garland's evocative writing.

Tim Garland’ s ‘Weather Walker’ Trio, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/09/2019

Tim Garland - tenor & soprano saxophones, Jason Rebello – piano, Yuri Goloubev – double bass


Tonight’s event represented a welcome return to The Hive from saxophonist and composer Tim Garland.

Garland had previously visited the venue in January 2017, playing to a full house with his ‘Electric Quartet’ featuring Rebello, guitarist Ant Law and drummer / percussionist Asaf Sirkis. A highly charged group performance saw the quartet getting that year’s jazz programme at The Hive off to a terrific start. Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/tim-garland-electric-quartet-the-hive-music-media-centre-shrewsbury-14-01-2/

This evening’s performance was to be very different with Garland now leading an essentially acoustic chamber jazz trio featuring the talents of Rebello on grand piano and the Russian born virtuoso Yuri Goloubev on double bass.

In 2017 the electric quartet focussed on material from Garland’s then current album “One” (Edition Records) but tonight the emphasis was on the more recent “Weather Walker” (2018, also Edition), a recording with tonight’s trio at its core but one which also features contributions from the German pianist Pablo Held and from a thirty five piece orchestra. The album was recorded at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios.

Garland is one of the UK’s best known and best loved jazz musicians, although ultimately musical genres mean little to him. This is a musician whose work has consistently blurred the boundaries between jazz, folk, classical and even rock music. In addition to his own work as a leader Garland has also enjoyed high profile engagements with the similarly broad minded Chick Corea, and with the band Earthworks, led by former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.

Garland’s reputation, allied to the brilliance of that 2017 performance, helped to ensure that there was another near capacity crowd at The Hive once more. Rebello and Goloubev are also great favourites with Shrewsbury audiences, the bassist having visited The Hive on a number of previous occasions as part of bands led by guitarist Maciek Pysz and pianist Alex Hutton.

Tonight was essentially an acoustic ‘chamber jazz’ performance with a Yamaha baby grand specially hired for the use of Rebello and with only minimal amplification provided for Goloubev’s bass. Garland played into a microphone, which helped to provide a dash of atmospheric echo when required.

Garland is no stranger to working in the trio format having previously been part of the jazz / classical ensemble Acoustic Triangle alongside founder Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano, french horn). Garland was later a member of the fondly remembered Lighthouse Trio alongside Simcock and drummer /percussionist Asaf Sirkis, a group that enjoyed international exposure after signing for the German ACT record label.

The instrumentation of the ‘Weather Walker’ trio recalls that of Acoustic Triangle, but overall their approach is more robust, more in keeping with that of the Lighthouse Trio. Tonight’s performance may have been ‘chamber jazz’, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in terms of dynamism and excitement.

That said the trio eased their audience in relatively gently with the standard “How Deep Is The Ocean” which was introduced by Goloubev at the bass and which featured Garland on effortlessly fluent tenor sax. Meanwhile the quality of the sound and of Rebello’s playing, and particularly his soloing, more than justified the trouble and expense of hiring that grand piano. The always impressive Goloubev also endeared himself to the audience with a typically dazzling solo on double bass.

Material from the “One” album still found its way into tonight’s repertoire, beginning with “Bright New Year”, which saw Garland moving to soprano sax. Written, as the title suggests, at the turn of the year this piece combined folk like melodies and classical allusions with jazz soloing. Garland’s sound was occasionally oboe like and at other times reminiscent of Jan Garbarek. His opening theme statement was developed into a full on solo and this was followed by an intriguing dialogue between Rebello and Goloubev, their interplay leading to individual solos from both.

The title track of “Weather Walker” was inspired by Garland’s love of the Great British outdoors, and particularly the landscape of the Lake District. The vagaries of British geography and climate were celebrated in a piece that mixed pastoral beauty with moments of sonic dissonance intended to simulate the sometimes inclement Cumbrian weather. Garland’s soprano ranged from soft, light and feathery to piercingly incisive, qualities mirrored by Rebello at the piano and Goloubev at the bass, both of whom also featured as soloists.

Garland has a long standing love of English folk music, something that first found expression in the late 1990s with the folk/jazz crossover group Lammas.  It is still an important component in his work and helped to inspire the composition “The Snows” from the “Weather Walker” album, the piece borrowing its title from a poem and taking inspiration from folk melodies. Here Garland moved back to tenor, a dash of echo helping to emphasise the vastness of the winter landscape of the Lake District. Rebello’s piano solo was both expansive and flowingly lyrical, while Goloubev’s solo featured him at his most melodic. The directness of the melodies helped to ensure that this number was particularly well received by the appreciative Shrewsbury audience.

The first set concluded with a return to the “One” album and “Sama’i For Peace”, a composition taking its title from the name of an Indian rhythm that Garland learned from percussionist Asaf Sirkis. This rhythm, in ten, was speeded up by Garland who probed deeply on soprano above the busy rhythms generated by Rebello and Goloubev, the pianist also making effective use of the interior of his instrument. Rebello’s own solo featured highly effective use of dynamics, his thunderous low end clusters a particularly notable aspect of a truly virtuoso performance.

The second set also began with a standard, in this instance “If I Should Lose You”, played in the key of G minor and with fluent solos coming from Garland on tenor, Goloubev on bass and Rebello at the piano.

Garland proved to be an excellent between tunes interlocutor, warm, witty and informative, giving just the right amount of background behind each piece, but never allowing himself to ramble too much. “Traveller” was his dedication to his former employer, the great Chick Corea, now an astonishingly youthful seventy eight year old. The title references Corea’s travels as a musician, criss crossing the world to perform concerts as well as exploring a wide variety of global music styles. Simultaneously complex, playful and highly rhythmic Garland’s piece incorporated many of the South American elements that have informed Corea’s own music. The playing from Garland on soprano, Rebello at the piano and Goloubev on double bass sparkled with vitality and was truly virtuosic.

Acoustic Triangle performances were often held in sacred spaces and one of the hallmarks of their shows was when Garland used to place the bell of his saxophone into the lid of the piano to utilise the resonant qualities of the strings, the resultant echo enhanced yet further by the ecclesiastical setting. An audience member had clearly remembered this and at half time requested Garland to repeat the trick in the second set. It all worked remarkably well, Garland inserting the bell of his tenor into the bowels of the Yamaha and blowing pretty hard before pausing to asses his own echo as he generated a series of ringing overtones. More justification for bringing in the baby grand, it would never have worked with an electric keyboard!
This set piece formed the introduction to the trio’s arrangement of the Kenny Wheeler composition “Everybody’s Song But My Own”, a piece that has become something of a modern day standard. Solos here came from Rebello on piano, Garland on tenor and Goloubev at the bass, prior to a further statement of the memorable theme from Garland.

Garland dipped deeply into his back catalogue for “Rosa Ballerina”, a tune written for his then infant daughter, now a young woman in her early twenties. Of course the composition itself has hardly dated, its themes if anything now more relevant than ever. The simple, lullaby like beauty of the main theme was punctured by stabs of wilful dissonance; this may be a song written about the innocence of a child but it’s also a warning about the world that they will be growing up into. That said the mood of the piece was essentially joyous and melodic, with the composer featuring on soprano and with Goloubev delivering some of his most eloquent soloing of the set.

The ever magnanimous Garland handed over to Rebello for the final tune of the evening.  His composition “Pearl” was the opening track of his 2016 solo piano album “Held” (Edition Records), a fiendishly difficult piece that convinced some reviewers that Rebello had overdubbed a second piano part, which was emphatically not the case. This trio arrangement sacrificed nothing of these complexities with Rebello himself giving a virtuoso performance that included more judicious work ‘under the lid’. Meanwhile Garland’s darted and danced with a remarkable agility and Goloubev responded with his customary brilliance.

Rebello’s bravura performance of his own piece had threatened to steal the show but Garland re-asserted his authority on the inevitable encore, with the saxophonist calling a final standard, Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”. This proved to be a show case for Garland’s skills as a ballad player with his warm, fluent, sometimes breathy tenor playing. His opening solo was followed by a series of absorbing bass and piano exchanges before Garland rounded things off with a stunning solo sax cadenza.

The reaction from the knowledgeable Shrewsbury audience was little short of ecstatic and the organisers, Shrewsbury Jazz Network, pronounced the gig a great success.

For me it fell just short of the quartet performance from a couple of years ago, mainly because I must admit that there were times I did miss the presence of a drum kit. My only other quibble would be that we didn’t get to hear anything of Goloubev with the bow, the man is an absolute master of arco bass and it would have been good to have heard at least one example of this side of his talent.

However all this amounts to little more than nit picking. This was still an intimate but spirited performance from three of the finest jazz musicians currently based in the UK. A triumph for the band and the promoters alike, with the audience going home happily on a clear, warm Shropshire night.

Rebecca Nash / Atlas - Peaceful King Rating: 4 out of 5 An impressive début from Nash that highlights both her playing and composing skills. Her command of a variety of acoustic and electric keyboards is impressive throughout.

Rebecca Nash / Atlas

“Peaceful King”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4748)

Rebecca Nash – piano, keyboards, Nick Malcolm – trumpet, Thomas Seminar Ford – guitar, electronics, Chris Mapp – bass, electronics, Matt Fisher – drums

Guests;
Sara Colman – vocals
Nick Walters - electronics

“Peaceful King” is the début recording as a leader from keyboard player and composer Rebecca Nash.

Nash is a performer with close links to the music scenes of several British cities, among them Bristol, London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.  The line up of her band, Atlas, reflects this and includes musicians from different parts of the UK.

Nash and drummer Matt Fisher go back a long way and first worked together on the London scene. Both are integral components of saxophonist Dee Byrne’s quintet “Entropi”, appearing on both of that band’s album releases.

Trumpeter Nick Malcolm, a bandleader in his own right, is a leading figure on the Bristol jazz scene. Meanwhile guitarist Thomas Seminar Ford, bassist Chris Mapp and guest vocalist Sara Colman are all most closely associated with Birmingham.

Nick Walters, who adds electronics to the album’s title track and is also an acclaimed trumpeter and composer, cut his musical teeth in Manchester with the Beats & Pieces Big Band and his own nine piece Paradox Ensemble, with which Nash plays keyboards.

With its members hailing from different parts of the country Atlas gets to feel like a particularly appropriate band name.

Besides her work with Entropi, Paradox Ensemble and Sara Colman’s band Nash is also an acclaimed jazz educator who has undertaken teaching roles with the National Youth Jazz Collective, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham Jazzlines and Cheltenham Festivals. She has also performed with the Festival big band at Brecon Jazz Festival.

The music to be heard on “Peaceful King” embraces a variety of styles and genres. “I grew up in Bristol listening to Portishead, Massive Attack etc.” explains Nash and these early influences are reflected in the music of Atlas with its blend of jazz, rock, soul and electronica.

Nash continues;
“With its improvisational elements categorising Atlas’s music as ‘jazz’ is natural, but I view it with a wider sensibility. That’s really important to me, as is writing for the listener, serving a greater purpose than just satisfying my own musical endeavours. Much of the music is written for special people in my life, and as a response to personal events. The sound arrived with the band, and I greatly value how it continues to evolve without me consciously controlling that. Playing with these guys, who I’ve met while living indifferent cities, well it feels like a kind of musical biography!”.

Of her individual band mates Nash observes;
“Nick Malcolm, Matt and I go way back. Nick and I both think about music in similar terms, he’s contributed greatly to this recording, often making artistic sense of the seemingly nonsensical! We just have that connection, and I’m totally obsessed with his improvising. Tom and Chris often perform together and are really creative with electronics, so they generate walls of sound which tune into the more cosmic vibes and abstract harmonies that I love. Matt provides the band’s rhythmic energy and interest.”

Nash’s keyboards usher in the title track, which opens the album. Mixing acoustic and electric keyboard sounds her arpeggios eventually combine with Fisher’s drums to create a groove that is subsequently embellished by snatches of keyboard and trumpet melody. As the music develops it takes on a quasi orchestral quality that has evoked comparisons with the Pat Metheny Group. Nash takes the first solo on gently exploratory electric piano, weaving melodic patterns above a layered backdrop underpinned by Fisher’s sturdy drumming. Mapp features next on liquidly melodic electric bass before Malcolm’s trumpet gets the opportunity to soar once more. Guest Nick Walters’ electronic embellishments sprinkle the whole piece with a beguiling sonic fairydust.

The buoyant grooves of “Tumbleweed” have also invited the Metheny comparisons, but I also detect something of Joe Zawinul and Weather Report in Nash’s approach. Fisher’s drums introduce the piece and provide the necessary propulsion for Seminar Ford’s guitar to take flight. Nash adds glitchy Bitches Brew/Weather Report style keyboards and again solos on electric piano. This gives way to Malcolm’s trumpet ruminations, at first introspective, but subsequently more strident and forthright. This track is another example of Nash’s ability to write episodic compositions that are rich in terms of both colour and texture and which also possess a strong narrative and cinematic quality.

There’s something of a change of approach on “Hot Wired”, a song featuring the music of Nash and the voice and lyrics of Colman. The words are written from the point of view of a “sassy, feisty female” while the music features skittering brushed drum grooves and a combination of acoustic and electric keyboard sounds from the leader. Nash solos on electric piano, which gives the music something of a more conventional jazz feel, although a subtle electronic veneer also permeates the track.

“Grace” also features the voice and lyrics of Colman, the line “look out for the grace that’s woven in the stories of our mystery” helping to give the song its title. The arrangement features wispy electronics, pointillist guitar and the now familiar mix of acoustic and electric keyboards. The main instrumental solo comes from Malcolm on trumpet, again building from woozy, tentative beginnings to embrace a more rounded, confident, full on sound.

A third song, “Dreamer”, finds Nash deploying cyclic patterns and interlocking chord structures in a manner inspired by the late, great John Taylor. In this context Colman’s singing and lyrics inevitably become reminiscent of Norma Winstone, imbued as they are with an aura of fragile beauty. Nash’s acoustic piano solo is both expansive and lyrical, and is underpinned by swirling, organ like sounds.

The instrumental “Lokma” acts as a showcase for the talents of Seminar Ford, a product of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire. Seminar Ford has previously worked with drummer Jonathan Silk, pianist Sam Watts and alto saxophonist Chris Young, among others. He and Mapp currently work together in the trio Stillefelt, alongside trumpeter Percy Pursglove. Here Seminar Ford’s chiming guitar shares the solos with Nash’s expansive and highly impressive excursion on acoustic piano, her fiery playing fuelled by a rumbling, highly propulsive bass groove from Mapp and some dynamic drumming from Fisher.

“Little Light” commences with the atmospheric whispering of Malcolm’s trumpet in conversation with the leader’s thoughtful piano. The gentle lyricism of their dialogue is evocative of twilight on a calm summer’s evening. The predominately mellow mood continues as the rest of the band join the proceedings with Seminar Ford’s coolly elegant guitar temporarily assuming the lead prior to further eloquent trumpet musings from Malcolm. Nash then takes over on acoustic piano, soloing with an expansive lyricism as the music gathers momentum, and becomes increasingly rhapsodic.

Equally atmospheric, but in a very different way, is the closing “Inishbofin”. Named for an island off the west coast of “Ireland” Nash’s composition is a musical depiction of the boat journey out there, on rough and turbulent seas. The violence of the ocean is depicted in the music with its fuzzed up digital pulses, forceful drumming, wilfully dissonant piano chording and strident, incisive trumpeting. Powerful it may be, but Nash never loses her sense of melody, there even hints of traditional Irish folk song contained within this heady mix. Particularly striking are the increasingly impassioned exchanges between Malcolm’s trumpet and Seminar Ford’s guitar, a thrilling duel in which both combatants emerge as winners. These fireworks are followed by a more thoughtful electric piano solo from Nash that effectively brings the album full circle.

“Peaceful King” represents an impressive début from Nash and one that highlights both her playing and composing skills. Her command of a variety of acoustic and electric keyboards is impressive throughout, as is the way that she skilfully weaves them into her compositions. Her carefully selected team of musicians buy fully into her vision and the result is a well integrated and finely balanced ensemble. Hopefully the recording will help to bring musicians such as Seminar Ford and Mapp, two of Birmingham’s finest,  to greater national attention.

The three songs featuring the voice and lyrics of Colman help to punctuate the album and give it a strong sense of narrative and structure. They are very different to the other tracks yet still fit into the overall ethos of the album and help to demonstrate the breadth of Nash’s vision. I’m more inclined towards the instrumental tracks, but that’s purely a personal preference.

Finally a word, too, for Ning-Ning Li’s distinctive artwork, inspired by listening to Nash’s music, which helps to give the album a strong visual image.

The critical reaction to “Peaceful King” has been highly positive and readers are strongly advised to check out Rebecca Nash and Atlas at one of the following live dates;

30 October 2019 - The Canteen, Bristol

31 October 2019 - The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham

20 November 2019 - Sebright Arms, London (album launch)

More information at;

http://www.rebeccanashmusic.com

http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com

Peaceful King

Rebecca Nash / Atlas

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Peaceful King

An impressive début from Nash that highlights both her playing and composing skills. Her command of a variety of acoustic and electric keyboards is impressive throughout.

Rebecca Nash / Atlas

“Peaceful King”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4748)

Rebecca Nash – piano, keyboards, Nick Malcolm – trumpet, Thomas Seminar Ford – guitar, electronics, Chris Mapp – bass, electronics, Matt Fisher – drums

Guests;
Sara Colman – vocals
Nick Walters - electronics

“Peaceful King” is the début recording as a leader from keyboard player and composer Rebecca Nash.

Nash is a performer with close links to the music scenes of several British cities, among them Bristol, London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.  The line up of her band, Atlas, reflects this and includes musicians from different parts of the UK.

Nash and drummer Matt Fisher go back a long way and first worked together on the London scene. Both are integral components of saxophonist Dee Byrne’s quintet “Entropi”, appearing on both of that band’s album releases.

Trumpeter Nick Malcolm, a bandleader in his own right, is a leading figure on the Bristol jazz scene. Meanwhile guitarist Thomas Seminar Ford, bassist Chris Mapp and guest vocalist Sara Colman are all most closely associated with Birmingham.

Nick Walters, who adds electronics to the album’s title track and is also an acclaimed trumpeter and composer, cut his musical teeth in Manchester with the Beats & Pieces Big Band and his own nine piece Paradox Ensemble, with which Nash plays keyboards.

With its members hailing from different parts of the country Atlas gets to feel like a particularly appropriate band name.

Besides her work with Entropi, Paradox Ensemble and Sara Colman’s band Nash is also an acclaimed jazz educator who has undertaken teaching roles with the National Youth Jazz Collective, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham Jazzlines and Cheltenham Festivals. She has also performed with the Festival big band at Brecon Jazz Festival.

The music to be heard on “Peaceful King” embraces a variety of styles and genres. “I grew up in Bristol listening to Portishead, Massive Attack etc.” explains Nash and these early influences are reflected in the music of Atlas with its blend of jazz, rock, soul and electronica.

Nash continues;
“With its improvisational elements categorising Atlas’s music as ‘jazz’ is natural, but I view it with a wider sensibility. That’s really important to me, as is writing for the listener, serving a greater purpose than just satisfying my own musical endeavours. Much of the music is written for special people in my life, and as a response to personal events. The sound arrived with the band, and I greatly value how it continues to evolve without me consciously controlling that. Playing with these guys, who I’ve met while living indifferent cities, well it feels like a kind of musical biography!”.

Of her individual band mates Nash observes;
“Nick Malcolm, Matt and I go way back. Nick and I both think about music in similar terms, he’s contributed greatly to this recording, often making artistic sense of the seemingly nonsensical! We just have that connection, and I’m totally obsessed with his improvising. Tom and Chris often perform together and are really creative with electronics, so they generate walls of sound which tune into the more cosmic vibes and abstract harmonies that I love. Matt provides the band’s rhythmic energy and interest.”

Nash’s keyboards usher in the title track, which opens the album. Mixing acoustic and electric keyboard sounds her arpeggios eventually combine with Fisher’s drums to create a groove that is subsequently embellished by snatches of keyboard and trumpet melody. As the music develops it takes on a quasi orchestral quality that has evoked comparisons with the Pat Metheny Group. Nash takes the first solo on gently exploratory electric piano, weaving melodic patterns above a layered backdrop underpinned by Fisher’s sturdy drumming. Mapp features next on liquidly melodic electric bass before Malcolm’s trumpet gets the opportunity to soar once more. Guest Nick Walters’ electronic embellishments sprinkle the whole piece with a beguiling sonic fairydust.

The buoyant grooves of “Tumbleweed” have also invited the Metheny comparisons, but I also detect something of Joe Zawinul and Weather Report in Nash’s approach. Fisher’s drums introduce the piece and provide the necessary propulsion for Seminar Ford’s guitar to take flight. Nash adds glitchy Bitches Brew/Weather Report style keyboards and again solos on electric piano. This gives way to Malcolm’s trumpet ruminations, at first introspective, but subsequently more strident and forthright. This track is another example of Nash’s ability to write episodic compositions that are rich in terms of both colour and texture and which also possess a strong narrative and cinematic quality.

There’s something of a change of approach on “Hot Wired”, a song featuring the music of Nash and the voice and lyrics of Colman. The words are written from the point of view of a “sassy, feisty female” while the music features skittering brushed drum grooves and a combination of acoustic and electric keyboard sounds from the leader. Nash solos on electric piano, which gives the music something of a more conventional jazz feel, although a subtle electronic veneer also permeates the track.

“Grace” also features the voice and lyrics of Colman, the line “look out for the grace that’s woven in the stories of our mystery” helping to give the song its title. The arrangement features wispy electronics, pointillist guitar and the now familiar mix of acoustic and electric keyboards. The main instrumental solo comes from Malcolm on trumpet, again building from woozy, tentative beginnings to embrace a more rounded, confident, full on sound.

A third song, “Dreamer”, finds Nash deploying cyclic patterns and interlocking chord structures in a manner inspired by the late, great John Taylor. In this context Colman’s singing and lyrics inevitably become reminiscent of Norma Winstone, imbued as they are with an aura of fragile beauty. Nash’s acoustic piano solo is both expansive and lyrical, and is underpinned by swirling, organ like sounds.

The instrumental “Lokma” acts as a showcase for the talents of Seminar Ford, a product of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire. Seminar Ford has previously worked with drummer Jonathan Silk, pianist Sam Watts and alto saxophonist Chris Young, among others. He and Mapp currently work together in the trio Stillefelt, alongside trumpeter Percy Pursglove. Here Seminar Ford’s chiming guitar shares the solos with Nash’s expansive and highly impressive excursion on acoustic piano, her fiery playing fuelled by a rumbling, highly propulsive bass groove from Mapp and some dynamic drumming from Fisher.

“Little Light” commences with the atmospheric whispering of Malcolm’s trumpet in conversation with the leader’s thoughtful piano. The gentle lyricism of their dialogue is evocative of twilight on a calm summer’s evening. The predominately mellow mood continues as the rest of the band join the proceedings with Seminar Ford’s coolly elegant guitar temporarily assuming the lead prior to further eloquent trumpet musings from Malcolm. Nash then takes over on acoustic piano, soloing with an expansive lyricism as the music gathers momentum, and becomes increasingly rhapsodic.

Equally atmospheric, but in a very different way, is the closing “Inishbofin”. Named for an island off the west coast of “Ireland” Nash’s composition is a musical depiction of the boat journey out there, on rough and turbulent seas. The violence of the ocean is depicted in the music with its fuzzed up digital pulses, forceful drumming, wilfully dissonant piano chording and strident, incisive trumpeting. Powerful it may be, but Nash never loses her sense of melody, there even hints of traditional Irish folk song contained within this heady mix. Particularly striking are the increasingly impassioned exchanges between Malcolm’s trumpet and Seminar Ford’s guitar, a thrilling duel in which both combatants emerge as winners. These fireworks are followed by a more thoughtful electric piano solo from Nash that effectively brings the album full circle.

“Peaceful King” represents an impressive début from Nash and one that highlights both her playing and composing skills. Her command of a variety of acoustic and electric keyboards is impressive throughout, as is the way that she skilfully weaves them into her compositions. Her carefully selected team of musicians buy fully into her vision and the result is a well integrated and finely balanced ensemble. Hopefully the recording will help to bring musicians such as Seminar Ford and Mapp, two of Birmingham’s finest,  to greater national attention.

The three songs featuring the voice and lyrics of Colman help to punctuate the album and give it a strong sense of narrative and structure. They are very different to the other tracks yet still fit into the overall ethos of the album and help to demonstrate the breadth of Nash’s vision. I’m more inclined towards the instrumental tracks, but that’s purely a personal preference.

Finally a word, too, for Ning-Ning Li’s distinctive artwork, inspired by listening to Nash’s music, which helps to give the album a strong visual image.

The critical reaction to “Peaceful King” has been highly positive and readers are strongly advised to check out Rebecca Nash and Atlas at one of the following live dates;

30 October 2019 - The Canteen, Bristol

31 October 2019 - The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham

20 November 2019 - Sebright Arms, London (album launch)

More information at;

http://www.rebeccanashmusic.com

http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio - Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 10/09/2019. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys two sets of imaginative arrangements and original compositions in this collaboration between Japanese pianist Atsuko Shimada and the Anglo-Welsh trio led by saxophonist Greg Sterland.

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio

Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/09/2019.


Atsuko Shimada – piano, Greg Sterland – tenor sax, Aeddan Williams – double bass, Jon Reynolds - drums


This evening’s Brecon Jazz Club event represented the third visit to Brecon by the Japanese born pianist, composer and arranger Atsuko Shimada.

Shimada first visited Brecon in April 2015 to play at Brecon Jazz Club’s former HQ, the bar area at Theatr Brycheiniog. She performed with a quintet of musicians from South Wales and the Borders that included Greg Sterland on saxophone, Tom Ollendorff on guitar, Erika Lyons on double bass and Phill Redfox O’Sullivan at the drums.

The quintet’s performance, comprised mainly of jazz and bebop standards but also including a smattering of Shimada originals, was very well received by the Brecon audience and in 2017 she was invited back to the town to perform at that year’s Brecon Jazz Festival.

Shimada’s Festival appearance saw her leading a trio featuring bassist Matheus Prado and drummer Paolo Adamo, with guest appearances coming from alto saxophonist Kevin Figes and jazz french horn player Rod Paton. A busy Festival weekend also saw her perform with the Slice Of Life Big Band and as part of a group co-led by alto saxophonist Glen Manby and Ashley John Long, better known as a bassist but here specialising on vibes.

Born in Sapporo Shimada studied at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston before settling in Europe with her Spanish husband, fellow pianist and Berklee alumnus Juan Galiardo. Now living in Southern Spain she plays regularly at the Gibraltar Jazz Society’s regular Thursday night gigs at the colony’s Eliott’s Hotel and is also a respected music teacher.

Shimada initially came to Brecon due to Galiardo’s links with Brecon Jazz Club. In 2014 he visited Wales for a short tour in the company of his compatriot Arturo Serra (vibes) plus some of South Wales’ finest rhythm players. Galiardo currently enjoys a real prestige gig as the pianist in a group led by the veteran improvising vocalist Sheila Jordan.

Tonight’s event saw the popular Shimada renewing her collaboration with Sterland. The former RWCMD student is now based in Bristol and is an active presence on that city’s jazz scene, playing with a variety of ensembles. He also plays a key role in bassist and composer Aidan Thorne’s electro-jazz group Duski, who will shortly be releasing their second album on the American record label Ropeadope.

Shimada and Sterling were joined by the rhythm team of Aeddan Williams (double bass) and Jon Reynolds (drums). The pair had previously visited Brecon Jazz Club as recently as June 2019 when they formed part of a trio led by alto saxophonist Rachel Head.

Williams, who plays both acoustic and electric bass, has also worked with guitarist James Chadwick and is currently part of the exciting electro-fusion trio Chube, led by harpist and keyboard player Ben Creighton Griffiths. Chube, accompanied by guest collaborator Dennis Rollins (trombone), recently played a barnstorming set at the 2019 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in nearby Abergavenny.

Reynolds’ other visits to Brecon have involved large ensemble appearances with the RWCMD Big Band and the Festival Big Band led by trombonist , composer and arranger Gareth Roberts.

Tonight’s set featured the now familiar mix of Shimada’s adventurous and distinctive arrangements of familiar jazz standards plus a couple of her original compositions.

The quartet commenced with the jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street” with Sterland stating the theme on tenor sax and soloing expansively. He was followed by Shimada, who deployed an acoustic piano setting on her keyboard throughout the evening. There was also the first of a series of features for Williams on double bass.

An arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive” began in ballad mode with Shimada introducing the piece with a concise passage of solo piano. Double bass and brushed drums were added to the equation, followed by Sterland’s gently keening tenor sax. As Sterland’s solo developed he began to probe more deeply, with subtle avant garde inflections adding grit to the arrangement. Further solos followed from Shimada and Williams.

Shimada described her arrangement of that most familiar standards, “All The Things You Are” as “modern”. This was probably an understatement, I’d certainly never heard this old chestnut played in quite this way before. Reynolds’ broken beats and an underlying 7/4 time signature gave the piece a highly contemporary feel with Shimada taking the first solo. Sterland then stretched on tenor with Shimada temporarily dropping out as the group switched into sax trio mode. Once again there was also a feature for Williams on double bass.

Following the intense performance of “All The Things” Shimada’s arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance”  lowered the temperature a little as Reynolds switched to brushes and Shimada soloed fluently and expansively with the group in piano trio mode. As Sterland took over on tenor the music began to gather a greater momentum as the saxophonist moved up through the gears. Williams then followed him on double bass.

The first set concluded with Shimada’s original composition “Third Impression”, a piece inspired by, and building upon, both John Coltrane’s “Impressions” and the Coltrane inspired composition “Second Impression” by American saxophonist Eric Alexander. For many listeners this was the pick of the first half performances as Sterland stretched out in suitably Coltrane-esque fashion on tenor while Shimada delivered some of her most impassioned soloing of the set, doubtless inspired by the great McCoy Tyner. The powerful soloing of Shimada and Sterland was fuelled by the brisk and propulsive grooves generated by Williams and Reynolds. The drummer was also to enjoy a substantial feature as the music embraced a freely structured section incorporating numerous avant garde flourishes. This was genuinely rousing stuff and ended the first set on an energetic and satisfying note.

When the quartet returned after the breaking Shimada promised another set of challenging arrangements in the second set. This throwing down of the gauntlet seemed to inspire the band and the second set proved to be even better than the first as the quartet visibly grew in confidence.

The standard “Taking A Chance On Love” set the ball rolling with Sterland again soloing expansively on tenor, followed by Shimada on piano and Williams on muscular, but melodic double bass. Shimada’s arrangement of the song was inspired by vocal versions by the singers Jane Monheit and Anita O’Day.

“Romance”, written by the Russian composer Anton Arensky, a one time teacher of Rachmaninoff, began life as a classical solo piano piece before being arranged by Shimada as a jazz ballad. With Williams at his most melodic and Reynolds deploying brushes this was perhaps the most reflective performance of the evening with Sterland soloing on tenor and Shimada closing out the piece with a passage of unaccompanied piano, a reminder of the composition’s origins.

Reynolds’  drums introduced Shimada’s innovative Afro-Cuban style arrangement of “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, a tune normally performed as a ballad. This treatment was very different with solos coming from Sterland on tenor, Shimada on piano, Williams on bass and finally the irrepressible Reynolds at the drums.

A shorter second set concluded with Shimada’s original composition “Bera’s Waltz”, introduced by a piano and double bass duet. The addition of brushed drums then set the scene for Sterland’s theme statement on tenor with subsequent solos coming from Williams on melodic double bass and then from Sterland and Shimada. This composition was very different in style and feel to Shimada’s original in the first half, but in its own way it was equally effective, and again rounded the set off on a high note.

Lynne Gornall of Brecon Jazz Club coaxed the quartet into performing an encore, an arrangement of a tune called “Blue Jae”. Boppish, complex and difficult to play this was a real roller coaster ride and included some of Shimada’s most inventive playing of the set as she soloed with a feverish intensity. Further solos came from Sterland, Williams, and Reynolds with a series of fiery drum breaks. Thrilling stuff.

Shimada’s return to Wales was well received by the Brecon jazz public and overall both the Club organisers and the band themselves were pleased with the way things had gone.

However, despite the inventiveness of Shimada’s arrangements it would be a valid criticism to observe that most of the performances were delivered in the same format with the written passages punctuated by lengthy, highly discursive solos, usually delivered in the same order. At times it all sounded a little unfocussed despite the quality of the playing. That said it was the first of two Welsh dates for the trio and rehearsal times had been extremely limited. Shimada had forwarded details of her arrangements to her band mates by email, and some of them, particularly in the second set were remarkably complex and demanding. After the show Sterland and Williams admitted that it all been pretty challenging, but highly rewarding. This was real “flying by the seat of your pants stuff” as they graphically observed. On the whole they rose to the challenge magnificently.

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 10/09/2019.

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 10/09/2019.
Photography: Photograph by Pam Mann.

Ian Mann enjoys two sets of imaginative arrangements and original compositions in this collaboration between Japanese pianist Atsuko Shimada and the Anglo-Welsh trio led by saxophonist Greg Sterland.

Atsuko Shimada with the Greg Sterland Trio

Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/09/2019.


Atsuko Shimada – piano, Greg Sterland – tenor sax, Aeddan Williams – double bass, Jon Reynolds - drums


This evening’s Brecon Jazz Club event represented the third visit to Brecon by the Japanese born pianist, composer and arranger Atsuko Shimada.

Shimada first visited Brecon in April 2015 to play at Brecon Jazz Club’s former HQ, the bar area at Theatr Brycheiniog. She performed with a quintet of musicians from South Wales and the Borders that included Greg Sterland on saxophone, Tom Ollendorff on guitar, Erika Lyons on double bass and Phill Redfox O’Sullivan at the drums.

The quintet’s performance, comprised mainly of jazz and bebop standards but also including a smattering of Shimada originals, was very well received by the Brecon audience and in 2017 she was invited back to the town to perform at that year’s Brecon Jazz Festival.

Shimada’s Festival appearance saw her leading a trio featuring bassist Matheus Prado and drummer Paolo Adamo, with guest appearances coming from alto saxophonist Kevin Figes and jazz french horn player Rod Paton. A busy Festival weekend also saw her perform with the Slice Of Life Big Band and as part of a group co-led by alto saxophonist Glen Manby and Ashley John Long, better known as a bassist but here specialising on vibes.

Born in Sapporo Shimada studied at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston before settling in Europe with her Spanish husband, fellow pianist and Berklee alumnus Juan Galiardo. Now living in Southern Spain she plays regularly at the Gibraltar Jazz Society’s regular Thursday night gigs at the colony’s Eliott’s Hotel and is also a respected music teacher.

Shimada initially came to Brecon due to Galiardo’s links with Brecon Jazz Club. In 2014 he visited Wales for a short tour in the company of his compatriot Arturo Serra (vibes) plus some of South Wales’ finest rhythm players. Galiardo currently enjoys a real prestige gig as the pianist in a group led by the veteran improvising vocalist Sheila Jordan.

Tonight’s event saw the popular Shimada renewing her collaboration with Sterland. The former RWCMD student is now based in Bristol and is an active presence on that city’s jazz scene, playing with a variety of ensembles. He also plays a key role in bassist and composer Aidan Thorne’s electro-jazz group Duski, who will shortly be releasing their second album on the American record label Ropeadope.

Shimada and Sterling were joined by the rhythm team of Aeddan Williams (double bass) and Jon Reynolds (drums). The pair had previously visited Brecon Jazz Club as recently as June 2019 when they formed part of a trio led by alto saxophonist Rachel Head.

Williams, who plays both acoustic and electric bass, has also worked with guitarist James Chadwick and is currently part of the exciting electro-fusion trio Chube, led by harpist and keyboard player Ben Creighton Griffiths. Chube, accompanied by guest collaborator Dennis Rollins (trombone), recently played a barnstorming set at the 2019 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in nearby Abergavenny.

Reynolds’ other visits to Brecon have involved large ensemble appearances with the RWCMD Big Band and the Festival Big Band led by trombonist , composer and arranger Gareth Roberts.

Tonight’s set featured the now familiar mix of Shimada’s adventurous and distinctive arrangements of familiar jazz standards plus a couple of her original compositions.

The quartet commenced with the jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street” with Sterland stating the theme on tenor sax and soloing expansively. He was followed by Shimada, who deployed an acoustic piano setting on her keyboard throughout the evening. There was also the first of a series of features for Williams on double bass.

An arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive” began in ballad mode with Shimada introducing the piece with a concise passage of solo piano. Double bass and brushed drums were added to the equation, followed by Sterland’s gently keening tenor sax. As Sterland’s solo developed he began to probe more deeply, with subtle avant garde inflections adding grit to the arrangement. Further solos followed from Shimada and Williams.

Shimada described her arrangement of that most familiar standards, “All The Things You Are” as “modern”. This was probably an understatement, I’d certainly never heard this old chestnut played in quite this way before. Reynolds’ broken beats and an underlying 7/4 time signature gave the piece a highly contemporary feel with Shimada taking the first solo. Sterland then stretched on tenor with Shimada temporarily dropping out as the group switched into sax trio mode. Once again there was also a feature for Williams on double bass.

Following the intense performance of “All The Things” Shimada’s arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance”  lowered the temperature a little as Reynolds switched to brushes and Shimada soloed fluently and expansively with the group in piano trio mode. As Sterland took over on tenor the music began to gather a greater momentum as the saxophonist moved up through the gears. Williams then followed him on double bass.

The first set concluded with Shimada’s original composition “Third Impression”, a piece inspired by, and building upon, both John Coltrane’s “Impressions” and the Coltrane inspired composition “Second Impression” by American saxophonist Eric Alexander. For many listeners this was the pick of the first half performances as Sterland stretched out in suitably Coltrane-esque fashion on tenor while Shimada delivered some of her most impassioned soloing of the set, doubtless inspired by the great McCoy Tyner. The powerful soloing of Shimada and Sterland was fuelled by the brisk and propulsive grooves generated by Williams and Reynolds. The drummer was also to enjoy a substantial feature as the music embraced a freely structured section incorporating numerous avant garde flourishes. This was genuinely rousing stuff and ended the first set on an energetic and satisfying note.

When the quartet returned after the breaking Shimada promised another set of challenging arrangements in the second set. This throwing down of the gauntlet seemed to inspire the band and the second set proved to be even better than the first as the quartet visibly grew in confidence.

The standard “Taking A Chance On Love” set the ball rolling with Sterland again soloing expansively on tenor, followed by Shimada on piano and Williams on muscular, but melodic double bass. Shimada’s arrangement of the song was inspired by vocal versions by the singers Jane Monheit and Anita O’Day.

“Romance”, written by the Russian composer Anton Arensky, a one time teacher of Rachmaninoff, began life as a classical solo piano piece before being arranged by Shimada as a jazz ballad. With Williams at his most melodic and Reynolds deploying brushes this was perhaps the most reflective performance of the evening with Sterland soloing on tenor and Shimada closing out the piece with a passage of unaccompanied piano, a reminder of the composition’s origins.

Reynolds’  drums introduced Shimada’s innovative Afro-Cuban style arrangement of “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, a tune normally performed as a ballad. This treatment was very different with solos coming from Sterland on tenor, Shimada on piano, Williams on bass and finally the irrepressible Reynolds at the drums.

A shorter second set concluded with Shimada’s original composition “Bera’s Waltz”, introduced by a piano and double bass duet. The addition of brushed drums then set the scene for Sterland’s theme statement on tenor with subsequent solos coming from Williams on melodic double bass and then from Sterland and Shimada. This composition was very different in style and feel to Shimada’s original in the first half, but in its own way it was equally effective, and again rounded the set off on a high note.

Lynne Gornall of Brecon Jazz Club coaxed the quartet into performing an encore, an arrangement of a tune called “Blue Jae”. Boppish, complex and difficult to play this was a real roller coaster ride and included some of Shimada’s most inventive playing of the set as she soloed with a feverish intensity. Further solos came from Sterland, Williams, and Reynolds with a series of fiery drum breaks. Thrilling stuff.

Shimada’s return to Wales was well received by the Brecon jazz public and overall both the Club organisers and the band themselves were pleased with the way things had gone.

However, despite the inventiveness of Shimada’s arrangements it would be a valid criticism to observe that most of the performances were delivered in the same format with the written passages punctuated by lengthy, highly discursive solos, usually delivered in the same order. At times it all sounded a little unfocussed despite the quality of the playing. That said it was the first of two Welsh dates for the trio and rehearsal times had been extremely limited. Shimada had forwarded details of her arrangements to her band mates by email, and some of them, particularly in the second set were remarkably complex and demanding. After the show Sterland and Williams admitted that it all been pretty challenging, but highly rewarding. This was real “flying by the seat of your pants stuff” as they graphically observed. On the whole they rose to the challenge magnificently.

Leo Richardson Quartet - Move Rating: 4 out of 5 Richardson's hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.

Leo Richardson Quartet

“Move”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0026)

Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Rick Simpson – piano, Tim Thornton – bass, Ed Richardson – drums
with guest Alex Garnett – tenor sax on track 8


“Move” is the second album from tenor sax specialist Leo Richardson, and represents the follow up to his highly successful 2017 début for Ubuntu, “The Chase”.

Like Scott Hamilton and Simon Spillett Richardson is a saxophonist in thrall to an earlier age, in this case the golden era of hard bop and particularly the output of the Blue Note and Prestige record labels. Richardson cites jazz immortals such as drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane as primary influences on his own playing.

Leo Richardson is the son of the celebrated British bassist Jim Richardson, one time leader of the fondly remembered band Pogo and an in demand sideman who has worked with many of the greats of the music including the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker.  Jim Richardson acts as Leo’s co-producer on “Move”, acting as part of a production team that also includes recording engineers Lester Salmins, Alex Bonney and John Webber.

It was Jim Richardson who first introduced the young Leo to jazz, nurturing his interest in, and love of, the music. Leo subsequently studied jazz at the Trinity School of Music in London where his tutors included Jean Toussaint, Julian Siegel, Mark Lockheart, Martin Speake and Mick Foster.

Leo graduated from Trinity in 2013 with a First Class Honours Degree in Jazz Performance. Besides leading his own quartet he has also become an in demand sideman who has worked with an impressive array of jazz and pop artists, including Kylie Minogue, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Wet Wet Wet, Heritage Orchestra, Candi Staton, John Newman, Ella Eyre, Jessie Ware, The BBC Proms, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra, Ronan Keating, Blue, Peter Andre, Mulatu Astatke, Anne-Marie, Clare Teal, Roger Taylor (Queen), Toyah Wilcox, Il Divo, The Heliocentrics, Ben Sidran, Elaine Delmar, Vula Malinga, Alan Skidmore, Dick Pearce, Norma Winstone, Gary Husband, Simon Purcell, Andrew McCormack and Jim Mullen. It’s quite a list, and by no means comprehensive.

In 2017 Leo Richardson released the first album by his regular jazz quartet featuring pianist Rick Simpson, bassist Mark Lewandowski and drummer Ed Richardson,  apparently no relation. “The Chase” also featured guest appearances by trumpeter Quentin Collins and Richardson’s fellow tenor man, and another significant influence, the great Alan Skidmore.
Album review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/leo-richardson-quartet-the-chase/

Skidmore provides the liner notes this time round while the guest slot goes to the leading contemporary tenor saxophonist Alex Garnett. There’s also one change to the regular quartet line up with Tim Thornton taking over bass duties from Mark Lewandowski.

Thornton was already in the band when I reviewed the quartet’s performance at Kenilworth Jazz Club in December 2017. The second set included a number of what were then ‘new tunes’ and several of these appear on this second album. My account of the quartet’s Kenilworth show can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/leo-richardson-quartet-kenilworth-jazz-club-kenilworth-rugby-club-kenilwort/

Admirers of Richardson’s début won’t be disappointed by this new recording, which sees the saxophonist continuing to hone his approach and develop his sound. He says of his latest release;
“The compositions on ‘Move’ are very much a natural progression from the first album. The music has developed and matured, whilst instilling the essence of hard bop but remaining more contemporary and moving in different directions. The title ‘Move’ means just this! The music is very much in the hard bop vein but exploring newer contemporary avenues as a band and compositionally”.

He continues;
“I never thought I’d release my second album so soon after the first, but I just love playing with this band, so I thought why not?! The rhythm section in this quartet is absolutely world class and I’m very lucky to be able to play my music with them and develop it as a band.”

The Latin-esque opener “The Demise” gets things off to a rousing start with Richardson digging in with some Coltrane-esque tenor while Simpson impresses with a feverishly inventive piano solo. There’s also something of a feature for Ed Richardson at the drums as he plays the Elvin Jones role. At Kenilworth Richardson informed us that the tune title was inspired by “the folly of our current world leaders”.  Little seems to have changed in the intervening two years, if anything it’s got even worse!

It’s all enough to provoke a bout of “Effin, & Jeffin”, the title of another tune that was played at Kenilworth. A rolling piano figure sets the scene before Richardson again probes deeply and incisively on tenor with further solos coming from Simpson on piano and the always impressive Thornton at the bass. The vitality of the quartet’s reading of this tune at Kenilworth was particularly noteworthy and they bring similar qualities to this energetic and powerful recorded version.

“Martini Shuffle” combines a boppish theme with swinging, hard driving rhythms and includes fluent and confident solos from Richardson on tenor,  Simpson on piano and Thornton at the bass.

Title track “Move” embraces more of a modal, contemporary feel while still remaining true to the hard bop virtues. The versatile Simpson, recently seen at Brecon Jazz Festival with saxophonist Karen Sharp, leads off the solos on piano, his inventiveness paving the way for a major statement on tenor from the leader.

The ballad “E.F.G.”, written for Richardson’s wife Liz (rather than the sponsors of London Jazz Festival!) signals a welcome change of mood and pace following the intensity of the first four pieces. It is ushered in by a passage of lyrical solo piano from Simpson and also features the melodic bass playing of Thornton. In his liner notes Skidmore justifiably compares the ballad playing of Leo Richardson with that of Dexter Gordon. Meanwhile Ed Richardson’s delicate brush work emphasises his empathy and sensitivity.

As its title suggests the lively,  be-boppish “Mr. Tim”  offers a showcase for the dexterous and agile bass soloing of Tim Thornton. He takes the first solo, followed by a fluent Richardson on tenor and an exuberant Simpson at the piano. Meanwhile Ed Richardson gets to enjoy a series of invigorating drum breaks.

Another pause for breath with the medium tempo ballad “Peace”, which sees Richardson combining tenderness with great technical and improvisational facility as he stretches out at length on tenor. He’s followed on piano by the ever imaginative Simpson.

The album concludes with the cunningly titled “Second Wind”, which features the additional tenor saxophone of guest Alex Garnett, one of Richardson’s pals from his regular gigs at Ronnie Scott’s. This is an old fashioned, high octane, hugely enjoyable two tenor tear up with the two horn men exchanging phrases and solos over the fiercely swinging grooves generated by Simpson, Thornton and Ed Richardson. At one juncture Simpson drops out and the two saxophonists joust good naturedly, exchanging phrases above a backdrop of roiling drums.
Simpson subsequently comes into his own with a rollicking piano solo and Ed Richardson features strongly towards the close.

Those who enjoyed “The Chase” will no doubt relish Richardson’s second offering. Those hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.

The playing from all concerned is excellent throughout with Thornton fitting seamlessly into the band after playing the whole of the extensive 2017 tour.

Although it’s impossible to reproduce the impact of the début the new album has again been very well received by the jazz press and the Leo Richardson Quartet remains a hugely exciting and highly popular live draw.

Move

Leo Richardson Quartet

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Move

Richardson's hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.

Leo Richardson Quartet

“Move”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0026)

Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Rick Simpson – piano, Tim Thornton – bass, Ed Richardson – drums
with guest Alex Garnett – tenor sax on track 8


“Move” is the second album from tenor sax specialist Leo Richardson, and represents the follow up to his highly successful 2017 début for Ubuntu, “The Chase”.

Like Scott Hamilton and Simon Spillett Richardson is a saxophonist in thrall to an earlier age, in this case the golden era of hard bop and particularly the output of the Blue Note and Prestige record labels. Richardson cites jazz immortals such as drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane as primary influences on his own playing.

Leo Richardson is the son of the celebrated British bassist Jim Richardson, one time leader of the fondly remembered band Pogo and an in demand sideman who has worked with many of the greats of the music including the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker.  Jim Richardson acts as Leo’s co-producer on “Move”, acting as part of a production team that also includes recording engineers Lester Salmins, Alex Bonney and John Webber.

It was Jim Richardson who first introduced the young Leo to jazz, nurturing his interest in, and love of, the music. Leo subsequently studied jazz at the Trinity School of Music in London where his tutors included Jean Toussaint, Julian Siegel, Mark Lockheart, Martin Speake and Mick Foster.

Leo graduated from Trinity in 2013 with a First Class Honours Degree in Jazz Performance. Besides leading his own quartet he has also become an in demand sideman who has worked with an impressive array of jazz and pop artists, including Kylie Minogue, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Wet Wet Wet, Heritage Orchestra, Candi Staton, John Newman, Ella Eyre, Jessie Ware, The BBC Proms, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra, Ronan Keating, Blue, Peter Andre, Mulatu Astatke, Anne-Marie, Clare Teal, Roger Taylor (Queen), Toyah Wilcox, Il Divo, The Heliocentrics, Ben Sidran, Elaine Delmar, Vula Malinga, Alan Skidmore, Dick Pearce, Norma Winstone, Gary Husband, Simon Purcell, Andrew McCormack and Jim Mullen. It’s quite a list, and by no means comprehensive.

In 2017 Leo Richardson released the first album by his regular jazz quartet featuring pianist Rick Simpson, bassist Mark Lewandowski and drummer Ed Richardson,  apparently no relation. “The Chase” also featured guest appearances by trumpeter Quentin Collins and Richardson’s fellow tenor man, and another significant influence, the great Alan Skidmore.
Album review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/leo-richardson-quartet-the-chase/

Skidmore provides the liner notes this time round while the guest slot goes to the leading contemporary tenor saxophonist Alex Garnett. There’s also one change to the regular quartet line up with Tim Thornton taking over bass duties from Mark Lewandowski.

Thornton was already in the band when I reviewed the quartet’s performance at Kenilworth Jazz Club in December 2017. The second set included a number of what were then ‘new tunes’ and several of these appear on this second album. My account of the quartet’s Kenilworth show can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/leo-richardson-quartet-kenilworth-jazz-club-kenilworth-rugby-club-kenilwort/

Admirers of Richardson’s début won’t be disappointed by this new recording, which sees the saxophonist continuing to hone his approach and develop his sound. He says of his latest release;
“The compositions on ‘Move’ are very much a natural progression from the first album. The music has developed and matured, whilst instilling the essence of hard bop but remaining more contemporary and moving in different directions. The title ‘Move’ means just this! The music is very much in the hard bop vein but exploring newer contemporary avenues as a band and compositionally”.

He continues;
“I never thought I’d release my second album so soon after the first, but I just love playing with this band, so I thought why not?! The rhythm section in this quartet is absolutely world class and I’m very lucky to be able to play my music with them and develop it as a band.”

The Latin-esque opener “The Demise” gets things off to a rousing start with Richardson digging in with some Coltrane-esque tenor while Simpson impresses with a feverishly inventive piano solo. There’s also something of a feature for Ed Richardson at the drums as he plays the Elvin Jones role. At Kenilworth Richardson informed us that the tune title was inspired by “the folly of our current world leaders”.  Little seems to have changed in the intervening two years, if anything it’s got even worse!

It’s all enough to provoke a bout of “Effin, & Jeffin”, the title of another tune that was played at Kenilworth. A rolling piano figure sets the scene before Richardson again probes deeply and incisively on tenor with further solos coming from Simpson on piano and the always impressive Thornton at the bass. The vitality of the quartet’s reading of this tune at Kenilworth was particularly noteworthy and they bring similar qualities to this energetic and powerful recorded version.

“Martini Shuffle” combines a boppish theme with swinging, hard driving rhythms and includes fluent and confident solos from Richardson on tenor,  Simpson on piano and Thornton at the bass.

Title track “Move” embraces more of a modal, contemporary feel while still remaining true to the hard bop virtues. The versatile Simpson, recently seen at Brecon Jazz Festival with saxophonist Karen Sharp, leads off the solos on piano, his inventiveness paving the way for a major statement on tenor from the leader.

The ballad “E.F.G.”, written for Richardson’s wife Liz (rather than the sponsors of London Jazz Festival!) signals a welcome change of mood and pace following the intensity of the first four pieces. It is ushered in by a passage of lyrical solo piano from Simpson and also features the melodic bass playing of Thornton. In his liner notes Skidmore justifiably compares the ballad playing of Leo Richardson with that of Dexter Gordon. Meanwhile Ed Richardson’s delicate brush work emphasises his empathy and sensitivity.

As its title suggests the lively,  be-boppish “Mr. Tim”  offers a showcase for the dexterous and agile bass soloing of Tim Thornton. He takes the first solo, followed by a fluent Richardson on tenor and an exuberant Simpson at the piano. Meanwhile Ed Richardson gets to enjoy a series of invigorating drum breaks.

Another pause for breath with the medium tempo ballad “Peace”, which sees Richardson combining tenderness with great technical and improvisational facility as he stretches out at length on tenor. He’s followed on piano by the ever imaginative Simpson.

The album concludes with the cunningly titled “Second Wind”, which features the additional tenor saxophone of guest Alex Garnett, one of Richardson’s pals from his regular gigs at Ronnie Scott’s. This is an old fashioned, high octane, hugely enjoyable two tenor tear up with the two horn men exchanging phrases and solos over the fiercely swinging grooves generated by Simpson, Thornton and Ed Richardson. At one juncture Simpson drops out and the two saxophonists joust good naturedly, exchanging phrases above a backdrop of roiling drums.
Simpson subsequently comes into his own with a rollicking piano solo and Ed Richardson features strongly towards the close.

Those who enjoyed “The Chase” will no doubt relish Richardson’s second offering. Those hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.

The playing from all concerned is excellent throughout with Thornton fitting seamlessly into the band after playing the whole of the extensive 2017 tour.

Although it’s impossible to reproduce the impact of the début the new album has again been very well received by the jazz press and the Leo Richardson Quartet remains a hugely exciting and highly popular live draw.

Lady Nade Duo - Lady Nade Duo,“Tribute to the Blues Dames”,Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019 Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys the music of Bristol based singer, songwriter and guitarist Lady Nade on the second day of the 2019 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. He also takes a brief look at her two album releases.

Photograph of Lady Nade sourced from http://blackmountainjazz.co.uk/wall2wall-jazz-festival/

Lady Nade Duo, “Tribute to the Blues Dames”
Jazz Lounge, The Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019 (Part of Wall2Wall Jazz Festival)

Lady Nade – vocals, acoustic guitar, Holly Carter – electric guitar


It’s hard to believe that 2019 will be the seventh edition of the Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, held annually in the attractive Welsh market town of Abergavenny.

Over the years the Festival has used a variety of venues and experimented with a number of formats but had recently settled into a pattern of the annual dinner at the Angel Hotel on Thursday, a very full and diverse concert programme at the Melville Centre on Friday and Saturday, and the less formal Jazz Alley event and evening party at the Market Hall on Sunday.

This year the unavailability of the Market Hall due to refurbishment saw an enforced change of format with the Festival organisers, Black Mountain Jazz, deciding to extend Wall2Wall to a week long event. This came in the form of a blues related programme at the Kings Head Hotel, next door to the Market Hall but a new venue for BMJ and the Festival.

The performance space, dubbed The Jazz Lounge, proved to be an attractively converted barn to the rear of the hotel. With its own bar and with the capacity to seat up to fifty audience members cabaret style this proved to be an excellent venue with a genuine jazz club atmosphere and the Festival organisers were rewarded with very good attendances for the first two events. BMJ’s head honcho Mike Skilton was said to be “grinning like a Cheshire Cat!”.

The previous evening, August Bank Holiday Monday, had seen Bristol based organist John-Paul Gard, a real BMJ favourite, leading his trio. An audience of around forty were also delighted by an unscheduled guest appearance from Cheltenham based saxophonist and vocalist Kim Cypher, currently making waves on the national jazz scene following the release of her début album “Love, Kim X”.

I was unable to make the first night of Wall2Wall but the feedback regarding the Gard event was universally positive and it was clear that the Festival had got off to a great start.

This momentum was maintained this evening with around fifty people turning out to witness this beguiling performance from Bristol based vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Lady Nade. The singer, who also played some acoustic guitar was accompanied by Holly Carter, playing a beautiful Gretsch Electromatic guitar, that looked authentically vintage but which had actually been manufactured in 2008.

Nadine Gingell, aka Lady Nade has released two albums of original material, 2015’s “Hard To Forget” and 2019’s “Safe Place”. She currently has plans for a third album, for which some material has already been written.

In keeping with the blues theme this evening’s performance was billed as a “Tribute To The Blues Dames” and featured songs by some of the female jazz and blues singers that have inspired Nade, from the predictable Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone through to now less well known pioneers such as Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharp.

As the evening progressed the increasingly confident Nade began to include more of her own songs in the set, and the majority of these proved to be very good indeed, and much in keeping with the overall blues theme of the event.

Nade and Carter commenced with Sister Rosetta Tharp’s “Trouble In Mind”, with Nades’s soulful, subtly blues inflected vocals complemented by Carter’s cleanly picked guitar. A finger style specialist the Bristol based guitarist also plays pedal steel in other contexts.

Nade took up the acoustic guitar for her interpretation of “Hound Dog”, made famous by Elvis Presley, but originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (1926-84). Nade’s version, which incorporated the original lyrics, was inspired by jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s interpretation.

The duo dug further into the Thornton back catalogue for their version of Big Mama’s “Feelin’ Alright”, with Nade concentrating on the vocals and Carter’s guitar alternating between rhythm and lead.

Having got a supportive audience on side Nade decided to introduce one of her own songs to the set. Sourced from the “Safe Place” album “Sweet Honey Bee” dealt with the subject of romantic love, as do most of Nade’s songs. With the singer also playing acoustic guitar this was a pleasant, if rather slight item. Some of the later original songs were stronger than this. Nade is also a great food aficionado and revealed that most of her own songs have a recipe associated with them, in this case one for chocolate mousse!

It was back to the theme of the evening and a tribute to the now largely forgotten r & b vocalist, songwriter and actress Ruth Brown (1928 – 2006). However the song written by her, “Why Don’t You Do Right”, famously covered by Peggy Lee and others, was rather more familiar.

Nade, a warm and humorous announcer of tunes, confessed that she had been a fan of Muse and Nine Inch Nails before discovering jazz and blues through Nina Simone. Her interpretation of Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free”, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, was particularly well received by the Wall2Wall crowd.

The warm reception encouraged Nade to play another original song. The as yet unrecorded “Peace and Calm” featured Nade accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as Carter sat out. This was a genuinely impressive offering, the presumably autobiographical lyrics referencing her forebears were delivered with a very genuine warmth and intimacy – and she’s a pretty accomplished guitar player too.

Carter returned for the duo’s version of “The Sky Is Crying”, a tune recorded by Etta James but perhaps most closely associated with its writer,  Etta’s namesake Elmore James. Much covered by blues and rock artists, among them Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, performances of the song are normally distinguished by searing slide guitar solos. Nade’s slowed down arrangement, inspired by several different versions, took the usual macho bluster out of the song. In the hands of these two women it became more intimate, placing a greater emphasis on the sadness of the lyrics. It almost sounded like a different song. An interesting and innovative interpretation.

The guitars of Nade and Carter worked effectively in tandem on the little known Nina Simone song “Be My Husband”, with Carter again impressing with a carefully crafted lead guitar break. Carter favoured a very clean guitar sound with no reliance on FX pedals, although she did make judicious and very effective and evocative use of her instrument’s tremolo arm.

A highly enjoyable first set concluded with the Nade original “Don’t Make Him Wait”, sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album, a blues tinged song with a strong pop sensibility.

Set two commenced with the duo’s version of the much covered spiritual “Wade in the Water”, with Nade’s blues and gospel inflected vocals complemented by a typically economical and tasteful guitar solo from Carter.

Taking her cue from the Etta James version Nade invested “I Just Want To Make Love To You” (arguably most closely associated with Muddy Waters) with a seductive female sensuality in a captivating slowed down arrangement that also showcased Carter’s guitar skills.

“Complicated”, also from the “Hard To Forget” album, with its themes of love and loss was the most enthusiastically received original song thus far.

An equally warm reception was recorded to Billie Holiday’s “Billie’s Blues”. I suspect there might have been a few disappointed people in the audience if a “Tribute to the Blues Dames” hadn’t included something from ‘Lady Day’.

The duo went “way back” to pay tribute to the 1920s blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with the authentically vintage sounds of “Runaway Blues”. Due to the technical limitations of the time the lyrics on Rainey’s recordings are often difficult to decipher, so here Nade included some of her own, but without losing the essential feel of the song.

Another original, “Kiss This Troubled Mind”, was again sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album.
Most of the originals came from the earlier recording, mainly because they were more suited to the sparse instrumental configuration and the overall context of the blues themed evening. Chocolate truffles were on the menu here.

Another trip back to the 1920s for Bessie Smith’s Depression Era lament “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. The song, covered by artists as diverse as Nina Simone and Eric Clapton, retains a worrying pertinence nearly a century later.

From the “Safe Place” album “La La Larve (Deja Vu Refrain)” offered a little light relief with its witty observations on the absurdities of falling in love.

It was back to the Thornton catalogue for the lascivious lullaby “Rock a Bye Baby”.

The performance then ended as it began, with a return to the world of the gospel blues and Sister Rosetta’s “Journey To The Skies”.

Nade had got the audience eating out of her hand by this time, must have been all those recipes, and a deserved encore was inevitable.

She returned solo to perform the original song “Minds Made Up”, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Another song chronicling the pains of love and loss this was an intimate and poignant performance. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop in a hushed room with the audience hanging on every word.

Nade and Carter first performed together at the regular Bristol all female music night ‘Lady Sings’, and it was fitting that the guitarist, who had added so much to the success of the evening, should return to the stage. The duo rounded things off with the song “Ain’t One Thing” with Nade talking about the ‘cocktail’ of different influences on her music.

This was my first visit to Wall2Wall 2019 and I was delighted to see the Festival getting off to such a successful start. I shall miss the visit to the Jazz Lounge by the roots artist Sicknote Steve, an event for which advance ticket sales have ironically been very healthy, but will return to cover the bulk of the Festival over the main weekend.

My thanks to Nade and Holly for speaking with me afterwards and to Nade for gifting me copies of both her albums. These feature her performing in the company of a full band, sadly not including Carter, and the resultant arrangements have more of a pop sheen about them. But there’s no doubting the quality of her songs, many of them written in conjunction with other band members. That warm, soulful voice is there too, at the heart of songs that largely explore the joy and pain of romantic relationships.

These are classy productions that embrace elements of jazz, blues, soul and folk but which would normally be a bit too close to the pop mainstream for my personal tastes. However seeing many of the songs performed live in an intimate duo situation imbues them with an extra resonance and significance. I’ve been listening to both albums while writing this and have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Nade’s adaptability and the quality of her singing and playing, allied to the warmth of her personality, should ensure that her profile continues to rise. Her music has the capability to appeal to a wide musical constituency, something that was reflected in brisk CD sales this evening, and the presence of a clutch of younger listeners among the usual greying jazz audience.

 

Lady Nade Duo,“Tribute to the Blues Dames”,Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019

Lady Nade Duo

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

3-5 out of 5

Lady Nade Duo,“Tribute to the Blues Dames”,Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019

Ian Mann enjoys the music of Bristol based singer, songwriter and guitarist Lady Nade on the second day of the 2019 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. He also takes a brief look at her two album releases.

Photograph of Lady Nade sourced from http://blackmountainjazz.co.uk/wall2wall-jazz-festival/

Lady Nade Duo, “Tribute to the Blues Dames”
Jazz Lounge, The Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019 (Part of Wall2Wall Jazz Festival)

Lady Nade – vocals, acoustic guitar, Holly Carter – electric guitar


It’s hard to believe that 2019 will be the seventh edition of the Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, held annually in the attractive Welsh market town of Abergavenny.

Over the years the Festival has used a variety of venues and experimented with a number of formats but had recently settled into a pattern of the annual dinner at the Angel Hotel on Thursday, a very full and diverse concert programme at the Melville Centre on Friday and Saturday, and the less formal Jazz Alley event and evening party at the Market Hall on Sunday.

This year the unavailability of the Market Hall due to refurbishment saw an enforced change of format with the Festival organisers, Black Mountain Jazz, deciding to extend Wall2Wall to a week long event. This came in the form of a blues related programme at the Kings Head Hotel, next door to the Market Hall but a new venue for BMJ and the Festival.

The performance space, dubbed The Jazz Lounge, proved to be an attractively converted barn to the rear of the hotel. With its own bar and with the capacity to seat up to fifty audience members cabaret style this proved to be an excellent venue with a genuine jazz club atmosphere and the Festival organisers were rewarded with very good attendances for the first two events. BMJ’s head honcho Mike Skilton was said to be “grinning like a Cheshire Cat!”.

The previous evening, August Bank Holiday Monday, had seen Bristol based organist John-Paul Gard, a real BMJ favourite, leading his trio. An audience of around forty were also delighted by an unscheduled guest appearance from Cheltenham based saxophonist and vocalist Kim Cypher, currently making waves on the national jazz scene following the release of her début album “Love, Kim X”.

I was unable to make the first night of Wall2Wall but the feedback regarding the Gard event was universally positive and it was clear that the Festival had got off to a great start.

This momentum was maintained this evening with around fifty people turning out to witness this beguiling performance from Bristol based vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Lady Nade. The singer, who also played some acoustic guitar was accompanied by Holly Carter, playing a beautiful Gretsch Electromatic guitar, that looked authentically vintage but which had actually been manufactured in 2008.

Nadine Gingell, aka Lady Nade has released two albums of original material, 2015’s “Hard To Forget” and 2019’s “Safe Place”. She currently has plans for a third album, for which some material has already been written.

In keeping with the blues theme this evening’s performance was billed as a “Tribute To The Blues Dames” and featured songs by some of the female jazz and blues singers that have inspired Nade, from the predictable Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone through to now less well known pioneers such as Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharp.

As the evening progressed the increasingly confident Nade began to include more of her own songs in the set, and the majority of these proved to be very good indeed, and much in keeping with the overall blues theme of the event.

Nade and Carter commenced with Sister Rosetta Tharp’s “Trouble In Mind”, with Nades’s soulful, subtly blues inflected vocals complemented by Carter’s cleanly picked guitar. A finger style specialist the Bristol based guitarist also plays pedal steel in other contexts.

Nade took up the acoustic guitar for her interpretation of “Hound Dog”, made famous by Elvis Presley, but originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (1926-84). Nade’s version, which incorporated the original lyrics, was inspired by jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s interpretation.

The duo dug further into the Thornton back catalogue for their version of Big Mama’s “Feelin’ Alright”, with Nade concentrating on the vocals and Carter’s guitar alternating between rhythm and lead.

Having got a supportive audience on side Nade decided to introduce one of her own songs to the set. Sourced from the “Safe Place” album “Sweet Honey Bee” dealt with the subject of romantic love, as do most of Nade’s songs. With the singer also playing acoustic guitar this was a pleasant, if rather slight item. Some of the later original songs were stronger than this. Nade is also a great food aficionado and revealed that most of her own songs have a recipe associated with them, in this case one for chocolate mousse!

It was back to the theme of the evening and a tribute to the now largely forgotten r & b vocalist, songwriter and actress Ruth Brown (1928 – 2006). However the song written by her, “Why Don’t You Do Right”, famously covered by Peggy Lee and others, was rather more familiar.

Nade, a warm and humorous announcer of tunes, confessed that she had been a fan of Muse and Nine Inch Nails before discovering jazz and blues through Nina Simone. Her interpretation of Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free”, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, was particularly well received by the Wall2Wall crowd.

The warm reception encouraged Nade to play another original song. The as yet unrecorded “Peace and Calm” featured Nade accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as Carter sat out. This was a genuinely impressive offering, the presumably autobiographical lyrics referencing her forebears were delivered with a very genuine warmth and intimacy – and she’s a pretty accomplished guitar player too.

Carter returned for the duo’s version of “The Sky Is Crying”, a tune recorded by Etta James but perhaps most closely associated with its writer,  Etta’s namesake Elmore James. Much covered by blues and rock artists, among them Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, performances of the song are normally distinguished by searing slide guitar solos. Nade’s slowed down arrangement, inspired by several different versions, took the usual macho bluster out of the song. In the hands of these two women it became more intimate, placing a greater emphasis on the sadness of the lyrics. It almost sounded like a different song. An interesting and innovative interpretation.

The guitars of Nade and Carter worked effectively in tandem on the little known Nina Simone song “Be My Husband”, with Carter again impressing with a carefully crafted lead guitar break. Carter favoured a very clean guitar sound with no reliance on FX pedals, although she did make judicious and very effective and evocative use of her instrument’s tremolo arm.

A highly enjoyable first set concluded with the Nade original “Don’t Make Him Wait”, sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album, a blues tinged song with a strong pop sensibility.

Set two commenced with the duo’s version of the much covered spiritual “Wade in the Water”, with Nade’s blues and gospel inflected vocals complemented by a typically economical and tasteful guitar solo from Carter.

Taking her cue from the Etta James version Nade invested “I Just Want To Make Love To You” (arguably most closely associated with Muddy Waters) with a seductive female sensuality in a captivating slowed down arrangement that also showcased Carter’s guitar skills.

“Complicated”, also from the “Hard To Forget” album, with its themes of love and loss was the most enthusiastically received original song thus far.

An equally warm reception was recorded to Billie Holiday’s “Billie’s Blues”. I suspect there might have been a few disappointed people in the audience if a “Tribute to the Blues Dames” hadn’t included something from ‘Lady Day’.

The duo went “way back” to pay tribute to the 1920s blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with the authentically vintage sounds of “Runaway Blues”. Due to the technical limitations of the time the lyrics on Rainey’s recordings are often difficult to decipher, so here Nade included some of her own, but without losing the essential feel of the song.

Another original, “Kiss This Troubled Mind”, was again sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album.
Most of the originals came from the earlier recording, mainly because they were more suited to the sparse instrumental configuration and the overall context of the blues themed evening. Chocolate truffles were on the menu here.

Another trip back to the 1920s for Bessie Smith’s Depression Era lament “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. The song, covered by artists as diverse as Nina Simone and Eric Clapton, retains a worrying pertinence nearly a century later.

From the “Safe Place” album “La La Larve (Deja Vu Refrain)” offered a little light relief with its witty observations on the absurdities of falling in love.

It was back to the Thornton catalogue for the lascivious lullaby “Rock a Bye Baby”.

The performance then ended as it began, with a return to the world of the gospel blues and Sister Rosetta’s “Journey To The Skies”.

Nade had got the audience eating out of her hand by this time, must have been all those recipes, and a deserved encore was inevitable.

She returned solo to perform the original song “Minds Made Up”, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Another song chronicling the pains of love and loss this was an intimate and poignant performance. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop in a hushed room with the audience hanging on every word.

Nade and Carter first performed together at the regular Bristol all female music night ‘Lady Sings’, and it was fitting that the guitarist, who had added so much to the success of the evening, should return to the stage. The duo rounded things off with the song “Ain’t One Thing” with Nade talking about the ‘cocktail’ of different influences on her music.

This was my first visit to Wall2Wall 2019 and I was delighted to see the Festival getting off to such a successful start. I shall miss the visit to the Jazz Lounge by the roots artist Sicknote Steve, an event for which advance ticket sales have ironically been very healthy, but will return to cover the bulk of the Festival over the main weekend.

My thanks to Nade and Holly for speaking with me afterwards and to Nade for gifting me copies of both her albums. These feature her performing in the company of a full band, sadly not including Carter, and the resultant arrangements have more of a pop sheen about them. But there’s no doubting the quality of her songs, many of them written in conjunction with other band members. That warm, soulful voice is there too, at the heart of songs that largely explore the joy and pain of romantic relationships.

These are classy productions that embrace elements of jazz, blues, soul and folk but which would normally be a bit too close to the pop mainstream for my personal tastes. However seeing many of the songs performed live in an intimate duo situation imbues them with an extra resonance and significance. I’ve been listening to both albums while writing this and have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Nade’s adaptability and the quality of her singing and playing, allied to the warmth of her personality, should ensure that her profile continues to rise. Her music has the capability to appeal to a wide musical constituency, something that was reflected in brisk CD sales this evening, and the presence of a clutch of younger listeners among the usual greying jazz audience.

 

Laura Jurd - Stepping Back, Jumping In Rating: 4 out of 5 The mix of jazz, classical, folk, world and electronic elements is truly unique, yet it all comes together to create an impressively coherent whole, with Jurd’s vision the unifying force.

Laura Jurd

“Stepping Back, Jumping In”

(Edition Records EDN1131)

 Trumpeter, keyboard player and composer Laura Jurd has attracted a compelling amount of critical praise since exploding into the British jazz consciousness in 2013 with the release of her astonishingly mature début album “Landing Ground”, with its stunning mix of jazz and classical elements and influences.

A graduate of London’s Trinity Laban College of Music the Hampshire born Jurd has continued to traverse musical boundaries. 2014’s sprawling and ambitious “Human Spirit” introduced a folk element and was a semi-conceptual song cycle featuring the extraordinary vocals of the Irish born singer Lauren Kinsella.

Jurd and Kinsella united again as the female half of the quartet Blue-Eyed Hawk which fused elements of jazz, literature and indie rock together on 2014’s superb “Under the Moon” album. The band also featured guitarist Alex Roth and drummer Corrie Dick.

Dick, pianist Elliot Galvin and bassist Conor Chaplin have formed the core of Jurd’s working band from the beginning, first as the Laura Jurd Quartet and more recently as Dinosaur. All are members of the Chaos Collective, an aggregation of former Trinity students forged in the wake of the influential F-ire and Loop Collectives. Under Jurd’s direction the large ensemble Chaos Orchestra recorded the album “Island Mentality” which was released on the Collective’s own label in 2013.

Dinosaur’s 2016 début “Together As One” (Edition) attracted a compelling amount of critical acclaim and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. A similar amount of praise was lavished on its 2018 follow up “Wonder Trail” and the success of Dinosaur has ensured that the group has been Jurd’s main focus in the last few years.

However, like most jazz performers, Jurd isn’t the kind of musician to put all her eggs in one basket. A restlessly inquisitive and highly versatile musician she has also appeared in a variety of other contexts ranging from the free to the straight-ahead (the latter alongside veteran saxophonist Art Themen) and she and Dick appeared on Phronesis’ bassist Jasper Hoiby’s début solo album “Fellow Creatures”. Jurd has also featured in bands led by saxophonist Phil Meadows, and Mark Lockheart, bassist Huw V Williams and in Wildflower Sextet, the Wayne Shorter inspired group led by saxophonist Matt Anderson. She has performed and recorded with trombonist Raphael Clarkson’s large ensemble Dissolute Society and guested on Sarah Gillespie’s most recent album “Wishbones”.

Jurd’s first album for five years under her own name harks back to the classical and folk fusions of “Landing Ground” and “Human Spirit”. It’s possible that the seeds for the project were first sown in 2016 when Dinosaur collaborated with the BBC Concert Orchestra in a special event at the Royal Festival Hall that formed part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.

However “Stepping Back, Jumping In” is different again and features a fourteen piece ensemble that includes some of Jurd’s favourite musicians, the personnel coming from a range of musical backgrounds, including jazz, classical, world music and electronica,

Of the album title Jurd explains;
“It simply refers to the notion of perspective, having a broader view of one’s experiences in order to make bold, impactful choices and jump into the unknown. It felt apt for a project of this magnitude, having not released anything under my own name for a few years.”

The project was initially commissioned by Kings Place, London as part of their “Venus Unwrapped” series, with St. George’s, Bristol and The Sage, Gateshead also commissioning new works. The Sage also provided the recording space and the music was documented over the course of two days in March 2019 by the much lauded recording engineer Sonny Johns.

The ensemble lined up as follows;

Laura Jurd – trumpet

Raphael Clarkson – trombone (tracks 3,5 & 6)
Alex Paxton – trombone (tracks 1 & 2)

Martin Lee Thomson – euphonium

Soosan Lolovar – santoor

Rob Luft – banjo, guitars

The Ligeti Quartet;
Mandhira De Saram - violin
Patrick Dawes – violin
Richard Jones – viola
Cecilia Bignall – cello

Elliot Galvin – piano

Anja Lauvdal – synth, electronics

Conor Chaplin – double bass

Liz Exell – drum kit

Corrie Dick – drum kit

Jurd says of the ensemble;
“The ensemble consists of brass, string quartet (the Ligeti Quartet who featured on my début album ‘Landing Ground’), banjo/acoustic guitar and santoor – adding texture and welcome influences from other musical traditions- as well as piano, double bass and drums/percussion. The wild-card of this entirely acoustic ensemble is Anja Lauvdal who plays synth/electronics and works with the successful alt-pop group Broen. I’m a huge fan of Anja’s and knew that she would create sounds that would sit within the ensemble perfectly”.

The album features compositions from five different composers with Jurd, Galvin, Lolavar, Lauvdal and Heida K. Johannesdottir all contributing to the writing process.

The album commences with Jurd’s own “Jumping In”, a near eleven minute tour de force that skilfully brings together the various elements of the ensemble and embraces broad range of influences, skilfully stitching the diverse strands into a coherent whole. The music is restless, edgy and energetic and features several changes of style, pace and dynamics. Free jazz episodes alternate with banjo driven glimpses of Americana, the contemporary classical sounds of the Ligetis, and more. Jurd plays with an admirable fluency and urgency while Exell and Dick embark on an exciting and engaging drum and percussion battle. Jurd even finds room to incorporate the sound of the dulcimer like santoor. There’s a restlessness about the music and a willingness to experiment with different stylistic elements that reminds me of the work of Django Bates. For all its unorthodoxies “Jumping In” is a hugely exciting opening to the album, a real roller coaster ride of a composition that consistently keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.

Elliot Galvin, one of Jurd’s longest serving musical collaborators, is also known for his eclectic writing style and is described by his colleague as “one of the most captivating performers in European jazz”. His composition, “Ishtar”, represents something of a departure from the short, quirky, energetic, enigmatic pieces that he writes for his own trio. Instead it is a twelve minute excursion, more concerned with narrative and mood building than it is with Galvin’s usual irreverence. Jurd mentions the influence upon Galvin of modern classical composers Gyorgy Ligeti and George Crumb and their presence is felt here, together with Galvin’s jazz and improv sensibilities. Woozy, droning string textures combine with the plucked and hammered sounds of banjo, double bass and santoor, plus brass, percussion and the composer’s own piano. In the middle of the tune a passage of otherwise unaccompanied piano is subtly augmented by Lauvdal’s electronics. Subsequently Jurd’s breathy, Henriksen-esque trumpet whisper comes to the fore, followed by passages featuring deeper brass sonorities, odd meter drum grooves and a trombone solo from the impressive Alex Paxton. The final section is deeply atmospheric, with an almost funereal feel. Nevertheless as a piece of music it remains totally compelling.

Next we hear “I Am The Spring, You Are The Earth”, a piece written by santoor player Soosan Lolavar, of whom Jurd says;
“I met Soosan at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, where we both teach composition. Of Iranian heritage, I was really intrigued by her interest in traditional Iranian music and how she incorporates that in her own writing. She operates in more ‘classical’ circles and I was excited by the prospect of her writing for improvising musicians.”
The piece features the distinctive sound of the composer’s santoor above a bed of ominously droning strings, while Luft adds atmospheric slide guitar and Galvin glacially twinkling piano.
Tension builds almost imperceptibly, to be released by a salvo of drums and a fanfare of brass as it enters more obvious ‘contemporary classical avant garde’ territory, before gradually subsiding once more, ending with an eerie keyboard drone.

Jurd’s “Jump Cut Shuffle” was written specifically for the Ligetis and features the quartet exclusively, its members deploying a variety of bowed and pizzicato sounds to excellent effect.
At nearly nine and a half minutes in length the writing embraces a variety of styles ranging from contemporary classical through folk to gypsy jazz, but with the emphasis mainly on the former. Having worked with Jurd before the Ligetis are more than capable of handling the challenges the trumpeter / composer throws their way. De Saram has also worked with saxophonist Trish Clowes as part of her Emulsion Sinfonietta, while guest cellist Bignall has previously collaborated with vibraphonist Ralph Wyld.

“Companion Species” was jointly written by Lauvdal and Johannesdottir, with Jurd offering the following insights into the pair and their work;
“Keyboardist Anja Lauvdal and tuba player Heida Karine Johannesdottir are two of my favourite musicians from Oslo, Norway. They play regularly as an improvising duo and in a number of collaborative ensembles of various styles, including alt-pop group Broen. I love their collaborative, democratic approach to composition.  The way they occupy space as improvisers is also a huge inspiration to me and it was a delight to be a part of their music and to play with Anja for the first time.”
As multi-faceted as anything else on the album “Companion Species” commences with the scintillating soloing of Lolavar on accompanied santoor before embracing elements of avant garde jazz and electronica, a series of drum explosions eventually triggering a complex but infectious groove that provides the jumping off point for a forceful trumpet solo from Jurd and a slippery outing on guitar like synth from Lauvdal. Elsewhere fidgety electronica and pizzicato strings weave their way in and out of the mix. Incidentally Lauvdal is also a member of the trio Moskus, an innovative contemporary variant of the piano trio.

The album concludes with Jurd’s “Stepping Back”, the companion piece to the album opener. It’s less frenetic but no less inventive and colourful, with Jurd again making use of the broad sonic palette available to her. Again a broad range of sounds and musical styles is heard with the leader’s trumpet variously complemented by synths, brass and strings. The piece has a more pastoral feel than the opener and a more pronounced folk element. It concludes an often frenetic album on a pleasingly calming note.

“Stepping Back, Jumping In” is a truly a remarkable album, one that features what must surely be a unique instrumental line up. With so many diverse musical components and with so many hands involved in the composing process it really shouldn’t work, and yet it does, with Jurd’s vision, playing and presence the unifying force that brings it all together.

The mix of jazz, classical, folk, world and electronic elements is truly unique yet it all comes together to create an impressively coherent whole, a musical synthesis that embodies the spirit of the Edition label. It’s very much to Edition’s credit that this music, which had been performed live, but which might otherwise have vanished into the ether, has been documented on disc. This an adventurous, daring album that criss-crosses many musical boundaries and it represents a very worthy follow up to the similarly genre fluid “Landing Ground” and “Human Spirit”.

The openness of the new album and its willingness to experiment and blur musical and geographical boundaries is also wholly typical of Laura Jurd and represents another successful chapter in a remarkable musical career.

That said it won’t appeal to all listeners. Die hard jazz fans may find it all too musically schizophrenic and cite a lack of conventional jazz swing. However many more listeners will applaud Jurd’s sense of adventure and the all round skill and quality of this unique ensemble.

Stepping Back, Jumping In

Laura Jurd

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Stepping Back, Jumping In

The mix of jazz, classical, folk, world and electronic elements is truly unique, yet it all comes together to create an impressively coherent whole, with Jurd’s vision the unifying force.

Laura Jurd

“Stepping Back, Jumping In”

(Edition Records EDN1131)

 Trumpeter, keyboard player and composer Laura Jurd has attracted a compelling amount of critical praise since exploding into the British jazz consciousness in 2013 with the release of her astonishingly mature début album “Landing Ground”, with its stunning mix of jazz and classical elements and influences.

A graduate of London’s Trinity Laban College of Music the Hampshire born Jurd has continued to traverse musical boundaries. 2014’s sprawling and ambitious “Human Spirit” introduced a folk element and was a semi-conceptual song cycle featuring the extraordinary vocals of the Irish born singer Lauren Kinsella.

Jurd and Kinsella united again as the female half of the quartet Blue-Eyed Hawk which fused elements of jazz, literature and indie rock together on 2014’s superb “Under the Moon” album. The band also featured guitarist Alex Roth and drummer Corrie Dick.

Dick, pianist Elliot Galvin and bassist Conor Chaplin have formed the core of Jurd’s working band from the beginning, first as the Laura Jurd Quartet and more recently as Dinosaur. All are members of the Chaos Collective, an aggregation of former Trinity students forged in the wake of the influential F-ire and Loop Collectives. Under Jurd’s direction the large ensemble Chaos Orchestra recorded the album “Island Mentality” which was released on the Collective’s own label in 2013.

Dinosaur’s 2016 début “Together As One” (Edition) attracted a compelling amount of critical acclaim and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. A similar amount of praise was lavished on its 2018 follow up “Wonder Trail” and the success of Dinosaur has ensured that the group has been Jurd’s main focus in the last few years.

However, like most jazz performers, Jurd isn’t the kind of musician to put all her eggs in one basket. A restlessly inquisitive and highly versatile musician she has also appeared in a variety of other contexts ranging from the free to the straight-ahead (the latter alongside veteran saxophonist Art Themen) and she and Dick appeared on Phronesis’ bassist Jasper Hoiby’s début solo album “Fellow Creatures”. Jurd has also featured in bands led by saxophonist Phil Meadows, and Mark Lockheart, bassist Huw V Williams and in Wildflower Sextet, the Wayne Shorter inspired group led by saxophonist Matt Anderson. She has performed and recorded with trombonist Raphael Clarkson’s large ensemble Dissolute Society and guested on Sarah Gillespie’s most recent album “Wishbones”.

Jurd’s first album for five years under her own name harks back to the classical and folk fusions of “Landing Ground” and “Human Spirit”. It’s possible that the seeds for the project were first sown in 2016 when Dinosaur collaborated with the BBC Concert Orchestra in a special event at the Royal Festival Hall that formed part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.

However “Stepping Back, Jumping In” is different again and features a fourteen piece ensemble that includes some of Jurd’s favourite musicians, the personnel coming from a range of musical backgrounds, including jazz, classical, world music and electronica,

Of the album title Jurd explains;
“It simply refers to the notion of perspective, having a broader view of one’s experiences in order to make bold, impactful choices and jump into the unknown. It felt apt for a project of this magnitude, having not released anything under my own name for a few years.”

The project was initially commissioned by Kings Place, London as part of their “Venus Unwrapped” series, with St. George’s, Bristol and The Sage, Gateshead also commissioning new works. The Sage also provided the recording space and the music was documented over the course of two days in March 2019 by the much lauded recording engineer Sonny Johns.

The ensemble lined up as follows;

Laura Jurd – trumpet

Raphael Clarkson – trombone (tracks 3,5 & 6)
Alex Paxton – trombone (tracks 1 & 2)

Martin Lee Thomson – euphonium

Soosan Lolovar – santoor

Rob Luft – banjo, guitars

The Ligeti Quartet;
Mandhira De Saram - violin
Patrick Dawes – violin
Richard Jones – viola
Cecilia Bignall – cello

Elliot Galvin – piano

Anja Lauvdal – synth, electronics

Conor Chaplin – double bass

Liz Exell – drum kit

Corrie Dick – drum kit

Jurd says of the ensemble;
“The ensemble consists of brass, string quartet (the Ligeti Quartet who featured on my début album ‘Landing Ground’), banjo/acoustic guitar and santoor – adding texture and welcome influences from other musical traditions- as well as piano, double bass and drums/percussion. The wild-card of this entirely acoustic ensemble is Anja Lauvdal who plays synth/electronics and works with the successful alt-pop group Broen. I’m a huge fan of Anja’s and knew that she would create sounds that would sit within the ensemble perfectly”.

The album features compositions from five different composers with Jurd, Galvin, Lolavar, Lauvdal and Heida K. Johannesdottir all contributing to the writing process.

The album commences with Jurd’s own “Jumping In”, a near eleven minute tour de force that skilfully brings together the various elements of the ensemble and embraces broad range of influences, skilfully stitching the diverse strands into a coherent whole. The music is restless, edgy and energetic and features several changes of style, pace and dynamics. Free jazz episodes alternate with banjo driven glimpses of Americana, the contemporary classical sounds of the Ligetis, and more. Jurd plays with an admirable fluency and urgency while Exell and Dick embark on an exciting and engaging drum and percussion battle. Jurd even finds room to incorporate the sound of the dulcimer like santoor. There’s a restlessness about the music and a willingness to experiment with different stylistic elements that reminds me of the work of Django Bates. For all its unorthodoxies “Jumping In” is a hugely exciting opening to the album, a real roller coaster ride of a composition that consistently keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.

Elliot Galvin, one of Jurd’s longest serving musical collaborators, is also known for his eclectic writing style and is described by his colleague as “one of the most captivating performers in European jazz”. His composition, “Ishtar”, represents something of a departure from the short, quirky, energetic, enigmatic pieces that he writes for his own trio. Instead it is a twelve minute excursion, more concerned with narrative and mood building than it is with Galvin’s usual irreverence. Jurd mentions the influence upon Galvin of modern classical composers Gyorgy Ligeti and George Crumb and their presence is felt here, together with Galvin’s jazz and improv sensibilities. Woozy, droning string textures combine with the plucked and hammered sounds of banjo, double bass and santoor, plus brass, percussion and the composer’s own piano. In the middle of the tune a passage of otherwise unaccompanied piano is subtly augmented by Lauvdal’s electronics. Subsequently Jurd’s breathy, Henriksen-esque trumpet whisper comes to the fore, followed by passages featuring deeper brass sonorities, odd meter drum grooves and a trombone solo from the impressive Alex Paxton. The final section is deeply atmospheric, with an almost funereal feel. Nevertheless as a piece of music it remains totally compelling.

Next we hear “I Am The Spring, You Are The Earth”, a piece written by santoor player Soosan Lolavar, of whom Jurd says;
“I met Soosan at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, where we both teach composition. Of Iranian heritage, I was really intrigued by her interest in traditional Iranian music and how she incorporates that in her own writing. She operates in more ‘classical’ circles and I was excited by the prospect of her writing for improvising musicians.”
The piece features the distinctive sound of the composer’s santoor above a bed of ominously droning strings, while Luft adds atmospheric slide guitar and Galvin glacially twinkling piano.
Tension builds almost imperceptibly, to be released by a salvo of drums and a fanfare of brass as it enters more obvious ‘contemporary classical avant garde’ territory, before gradually subsiding once more, ending with an eerie keyboard drone.

Jurd’s “Jump Cut Shuffle” was written specifically for the Ligetis and features the quartet exclusively, its members deploying a variety of bowed and pizzicato sounds to excellent effect.
At nearly nine and a half minutes in length the writing embraces a variety of styles ranging from contemporary classical through folk to gypsy jazz, but with the emphasis mainly on the former. Having worked with Jurd before the Ligetis are more than capable of handling the challenges the trumpeter / composer throws their way. De Saram has also worked with saxophonist Trish Clowes as part of her Emulsion Sinfonietta, while guest cellist Bignall has previously collaborated with vibraphonist Ralph Wyld.

“Companion Species” was jointly written by Lauvdal and Johannesdottir, with Jurd offering the following insights into the pair and their work;
“Keyboardist Anja Lauvdal and tuba player Heida Karine Johannesdottir are two of my favourite musicians from Oslo, Norway. They play regularly as an improvising duo and in a number of collaborative ensembles of various styles, including alt-pop group Broen. I love their collaborative, democratic approach to composition.  The way they occupy space as improvisers is also a huge inspiration to me and it was a delight to be a part of their music and to play with Anja for the first time.”
As multi-faceted as anything else on the album “Companion Species” commences with the scintillating soloing of Lolavar on accompanied santoor before embracing elements of avant garde jazz and electronica, a series of drum explosions eventually triggering a complex but infectious groove that provides the jumping off point for a forceful trumpet solo from Jurd and a slippery outing on guitar like synth from Lauvdal. Elsewhere fidgety electronica and pizzicato strings weave their way in and out of the mix. Incidentally Lauvdal is also a member of the trio Moskus, an innovative contemporary variant of the piano trio.

The album concludes with Jurd’s “Stepping Back”, the companion piece to the album opener. It’s less frenetic but no less inventive and colourful, with Jurd again making use of the broad sonic palette available to her. Again a broad range of sounds and musical styles is heard with the leader’s trumpet variously complemented by synths, brass and strings. The piece has a more pastoral feel than the opener and a more pronounced folk element. It concludes an often frenetic album on a pleasingly calming note.

“Stepping Back, Jumping In” is a truly a remarkable album, one that features what must surely be a unique instrumental line up. With so many diverse musical components and with so many hands involved in the composing process it really shouldn’t work, and yet it does, with Jurd’s vision, playing and presence the unifying force that brings it all together.

The mix of jazz, classical, folk, world and electronic elements is truly unique yet it all comes together to create an impressively coherent whole, a musical synthesis that embodies the spirit of the Edition label. It’s very much to Edition’s credit that this music, which had been performed live, but which might otherwise have vanished into the ether, has been documented on disc. This an adventurous, daring album that criss-crosses many musical boundaries and it represents a very worthy follow up to the similarly genre fluid “Landing Ground” and “Human Spirit”.

The openness of the new album and its willingness to experiment and blur musical and geographical boundaries is also wholly typical of Laura Jurd and represents another successful chapter in a remarkable musical career.

That said it won’t appeal to all listeners. Die hard jazz fans may find it all too musically schizophrenic and cite a lack of conventional jazz swing. However many more listeners will applaud Jurd’s sense of adventure and the all round skill and quality of this unique ensemble.

Nuadha Quartet - Nuadha Quartet, “Jazz In The Garden”, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Ian Mann enjoys the music of Nuadha Quartet and takes a look at their debut album "Cabin Tales". He also sings the praises of Hereford Cathedral's popular "Jazz In The Garden" series of musical events

Nuadha Quartet, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019.

Colin Tully – keyboard, Chris Egan – reeds, Carlos Riba – electric bass, Pedro Brown – drums, percussion

Today’s performance was the last in Hereford Cathedral’s popular “Jazz In The Garden” series, which features free music events in the delightful setting of the Chapter House Garden in the precincts of Hereford Cathedral.

This now well established series has traditionally featured leading local musicians playing from 1.00 pm to 2.15 pm each Friday lunchtime during August, but such has been the popularity of these events that the programme has now been extended and this year commenced in mid July. “Jazz In The Garden” regularly attracts audiences in the region of two hundred and has become a much loved local institution, something that its many fans look forward to every year.

The success of the series has allowed the Cathedral to attract the cream of local talent, and also musicians from further away. The quality of the acts has improved since the very early days and whatever the genre a high standard of musicianship is now a given.

In the context of this series the term “jazz” is used fairly loosely, but it is still an important component of much of the music on offer. This year’s programme has included the raunchy jazz, blues and soul of the Hannah Lockerman Band, contrasted by the smoother sounds of the Debs Hancock Quartet, where the emphasis was more strongly focussed on jazz standards and the ‘Great American Songbook’.

Local heroes Whiskey River brought their distinctive brand of Americana with its blend of cajun, blues and country while Little Rumba delivered a wry and witty mix of tango, klezmer, Berlin cabaret and Tom Waits.

Due to my presence at Brecon Jazz Festival the only act I missed this year was Hoi Polloi, a new band said to provide “a blend of classic jazz standards and well known contemporary tunes, all arranged in a unique jazz/swing/funk/latin style”.

Previous series have seen visits from guitar virtuoso Remi Harris and his trio bringing a mix of gypsy jazz and blues rock, and from the quintet led by trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and saxophonist Liam Byrne, two young lions offering a contemporary take on the classic hard bop style.
Harris, Brownfield/Byrne and Debs Hancock have all been covered in greater detail elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

The Chapter House Garden is a delightful performance space, a real sun-trap and a riot of colour thanks to the iridescent blooms brightening up the borders. The musicians play beneath a small gazebo on the raised, grass covered area in the centre of the Garden, with the audience arranged around them in a semi-circle. It really is a delightful way to spend a sunny lunchtime in summer, especially with the Cathedral café open and doing good business.

In the event of rain the performance is moved inside and takes place in the Nave, a beautiful performance space in itself. This year rain affected two gigs, but Whiskey River played inside to an audience of 250 while Debs Hancock attracted a similarly healthy attendance, with Guy Shotton being able to make use of the Cathedral’s piano rather then an electric keyboard. Rain doesn’t necessarily place too much of a damper on proceedings.

The 2019 “Jazz In The Garden” series was financially supported by five different local sponsors, which was impressive, and a great tribute to the Cathedral’s marketing department.

I haven’t reviewed a “Jazz In The Garden” event before as they are free events with a retiring collection and I usually drop a fiver on to the offertory plate. Besides it’s nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the music sometimes, without the bother of taking notes, and the chilled out atmosphere of these events is particularly conducive to that.

Today, however, was different. Earlier in the year, around February or March, Pedro Brown forwarded me a copy of Nuadha Quartet’s début album, “Cabin Tales”, with a view to my writing a review. I listened to, and enjoyed, the album, but could find precious little about the group on line, and no information about where to buy the album, other than at gigs. It seemed a little counter productive to write about a recording that largely seemed to be unavailable, so I let it slide.

However Nuadha Quartet have since updated their website, http://www.nuadhaquartet.com, which now looks very impressive and professional, and the album is now available via their Bandcamp page.

With this in mind I decided that now would be a good time to take a fresh look at “Cabin Tales”, incorporating this with a review of the quartet in live performance. It also allows me to give a national plug for a great local music series, “Jazz In The Garden”, that readers outside Herefordshire and the Welsh Borders might hitherto have been unfamiliar with.

Nuadha Quartet is comprised of musicians living in the Monmouthshire and Herefordshire areas. First formed in 2016 the group initially traded as the Blue Sky Quartet before a change of moniker was enforced by the presence of another band on the circuit with a similar name.

The new name is representative of leader Colin Tully’s Scottish roots. Tully is the most high profile member of Nuadha Quartet having composed the soundtracks to two Bill Forsyth films, including the hit picture “Gregory’s Girl”. Also an accomplished alto saxophonist Tully worked as a sideman on this instrument for the late, great John Martyn. He has also worked with the bands Cado Belle and Sensorium.

Concentrating on keyboards with Nuadha Tully is happy to delegate saxophone duties to the experienced Chris Egan, who plays tenor and soprano, plus bass clarinet. Egan studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and his tutors have included British saxophone greats Tim Garland and Iain Ballamy. Egan also spent ten years living in Peru and playing with South American musicians. It’s an experience that informs both his playing and his writing. Currently he also plays with the Ross on Wye based Red River Blues band, a popular attraction on the local gig circuit.

Bassist Carlos Riba hails from Barcelona but is now based in the UK. He has worked on the Spanish music scene and has also spent some time in London. An electric bass specialist he names Jaco Pastorius as a seminal influence, and this is very much reflected in his playing.

Herefordshire based Pedro Brown is a highly popular musician with local audiences. This was his second gig of the Jazz In The Garden series following his recent appearance with the Hannah Lockerman Band. Brown also plays occasionally with an expanded version of Whiskey River. He, too, is an accomplished saxophonist and has released two instrumental solo albums featuring himself on drums, percussion, saxophone and keyboards. Something of a renaissance man Brown has travelled widely, always with camera to hand, and his photographs from visits to China, Africa, Australia and North America have been exhibited widely. He also photographs fellow musicians at the Cheltenham and Brecon Jazz Festivals. Brown’s travelling experiences are also reflected in his playing and his use of instruments such as the djembe, darabuka and shekere.

The majority of Nuadha Quartet’s material is composed by Tully or Egan, plus a handful of well chosen covers, including arrangements of traditional Scottish folk material. “Cabin Tales” is comprised mainly of original tunes and it was good to see them today putting the focus firmly on original material. As good as the other gigs in this year’s “Jazz In The Garden” series have been few of them have featured original writing, with the exception of Little Rumba, who included several of their own songs.

As Blue Sky Quartet today’s line up played in the Nave as part of the 2017 series (it must have been a wet day) and the emphasis then was more on covers, including tunes Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Weather Report and The Yellowjackets as I seem to recall. That performance was enjoyable but in the intervening two years Nuadha Quartet have really kicked on, writing and recording an album and putting the focus on their own compositions. The 2019 version of the group is tighter, more assured and more professional than it was two years ago. Even Tully, a reluctant announcer of tunes, seems more confident and relaxed.

Drawing subtly on Gaelic, South American and North African influences Nuadha Quartet’s music is probably best described as softly melodic fusion. That’s a summation that probably does them a disservice, suggesting that their music is bland and soporific. However that’s not really the case, their sound may be accessible enough for first time listeners to take to it straight away, as they did today, but there’s still a keen musical intelligence at work. Both Tully and Egan write memorable tunes capable of a broad appeal, but they also leave room for the soloists to stretch out in rewarding fashion.

Much of the album material was featured in today’s set as the Quartet commenced with album opener “For Love We Are Yearning”, written by Tully. A strong melody was augmented by the exotic sounds of Brown on djembe and shakers, in addition to kit drums. The memorable theme was enhanced by solos from Tully at the keyboard, Egan on tenor sax and Riba on electric bass, the latter’s liquidly melodic playing sounding very Pastorius like.

“Footsteps”, a non album track presumably written by Tully, found Egan stating the theme on tenor sax, before subsequently developing it during the course of his ensuing solo. Further solos came from Riba and Tully, the latter adopting a classic electric piano, or ‘Rhodes,’ sound on his Korg keyboard throughout today’s set.

Another new song, “The Lima Tango”, from the pen of Egan, added a dash of South American exotica with its composer switching to soprano sax. A pleasingly quirky mix of jazz and tango, the piece featured a complex but engaging theme and a fascinating amalgam of rhythms. Room was given for expansive solos from Tully at the keyboard, and Egan, probing incisively on soprano.

“Brother James’ Prayer”, credited on the album sleeve to Bain/Tully, was based on a Gaelic folk tune from Tully’s childhood. Introduced with a passage of unaccompanied piano the piece also featured the soft, breathy tenor sax of Egan as he and Tully engaged in an extended duet. Riba’s languidly melodic electric bass and Brown’s mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers added to the atmosphere. The adoption of a more conventional jazz rhythm led to solos for tenor sax, keyboard and electric bass, the latter even injecting a subtle element of funkiness to the Celtic inspired melodies.

Named after a South American god Egan’s “Kukulkan’s Feather” was a fascinating piece that Tully described as “coming from South America via Morocco”.  With its composer again moving to soprano sax this thoroughly engaging piece of ‘world jazz’ embraced Brown’s exotic percussive rhythms and the North African / Arabic inspired modality of Egan’s soprano sax explorations. Tully’s shimmering keys and Riba’s underpinning bass growl found their own space within this multi-cultural musical terrain.

The first ‘outside’ item was a beautiful arrangement of the Abdullah Ibrahim composition “Blue Bolero”, which was introduced by a duo of shimmering keyboards and languid electric bass with Riba stating the theme before handing over to Egan, still on soprano, for the first solo. Tully followed on keys before a further, more extended feature for Riba’s Pastorius inspired electric bass.

From the album Tully’s “Conte Sul” emerged out of a free jazz style intro featuring the exchanges of Egan’s tenor and Brown’s drums and percussion. Subsequently a more orthodox Latin-esque groove was adopted, this providing the jumping off point for solos from Egan on tenor and Tully at the keyboard, plus a closing drum feature from Brown.

A sly funk element had been present in many of the Quartet’s tunes and this became more overt on “Some Funk for J.P.”, a tune dedicated to the Bristol based jazz organist John-Paul Gard, a musician with whom several members of the Quartet have previously worked. Here seductive, subtly funky grooves formed the basis for solos from Riba, Tully, and Brown at the kit once more.

From the album Tully’s “Jock and Shona” (the Gaelic equivalent of ‘Jack and Jill’) introduced a strong Celtic folk feel with its sprightly, Gaelic inspired melodies floating above Brown’s crisply brushed drum grooves as Egan on soprano, Tully at the keyboard and Riba on electric bass provided the solos. Despite the absence of the instrument I was reminded of the music of the Scottish trumpeter and composer Colin Steele, who regularly writes material featuring folk inspired melodies.

Today’s performance concluded with the band playing a sure-fire audience pleaser, their arrangement of the song “What a Wonderful World”, made famous of course by Louis Armstrong.
This instrumental version brought out the beauty of the melody, with Riba carrying it on electric bass prior to solos from Egan on soprano and Tully at the keyboard. Brown’s brushed drum grooves kept things ticking along nicely as Nuadh Quartet were awarded an excellent reception for today’s performance of largely original music. The positive reaction was vary much deserved, as the band had performed with great skill and precision throughout.

Unfortunately time was up, although when chatting to Pedro and Chris afterwards I noted that they did have a couple of ‘spares’ in the set-list, the album track “Hughie Graham”, an arrangement of a traditional Scottish Borders tune, and a version of Pat Metheny’s “Phase Dance”, that I seem to recall them playing in 2017. Speaking as a big Metheny fan it would have been nice to have heard that again today. Also we didn’t get to hear Egan on bass clarinet, the instrument being present on stage, but remaining unplayed.

Nevertheless this was an excellent way to round off the 2019 “Jazz In The Garden Programme” and its return in 2020 will give many Herefordshire music fans something to look forward to over the cold winter months.

The track listing for “Cabin Tales” is;

1. For Love We Are Yearning
2. Hughie Graham
3.Brother James’ Prayer
4. Kukulkan’s Feather
5.You Can See It Everywhere
6.Conte Sul
7.Jock and Shona
8. Procrastination Blues
9. What a Wonderful World


Six of these were played today. Of the others the traditional “Hughie Graham” combines folk melodies with jazz harmonies and instrumentation, with Brown providing an exotic percussive presence, Riba briefly taking on the melody, and more orthodox jazz solos from Tully and Egan, the latter on tenor. Interestingly Tully appears on acoustic piano, the album featuring a mix of acoustic and electric keyboards.

Tully’s own “You Can See It Everywhere” is gently melodic, part ballad, part anthem, with its gentle melodies, liquid electric bass, softly trilling electric piano and neatly detailed but unobtrusive drumming. There’s even a little uncredited wordless vocalising, plus a gently probing tenor solo from the consistently impressive Egan.

Meanwhile Egan’s own “Procrastination Blues” is actually refreshingly uncomplicated, a genuine blues that features the composer’s straight ahead tenor playing backed by a swinging groove. Tully features on electric piano, but one could also imagine John-Paul Gard weighing in here on Hammond. Brown also gets to enjoy an extended feature behind the kit.

The day after their Hereford performance Nuadha Quartet were due to appear at the Aber Jazz & Blues Festival in Fishguard. The band’s profile is clearly beginning to rise, and the intelligent, melodic fusion of “Cabin Tales”, with its diverse jazz and folk influences, is well worth checking out.

Nuadha Quartet, “Jazz In The Garden”, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019.

Nuadha Quartet

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Nuadha Quartet, “Jazz In The Garden”, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019.

Ian Mann enjoys the music of Nuadha Quartet and takes a look at their debut album "Cabin Tales". He also sings the praises of Hereford Cathedral's popular "Jazz In The Garden" series of musical events

Nuadha Quartet, Chapter House Garden, Hereford Cathedral, 23/08/2019.

Colin Tully – keyboard, Chris Egan – reeds, Carlos Riba – electric bass, Pedro Brown – drums, percussion

Today’s performance was the last in Hereford Cathedral’s popular “Jazz In The Garden” series, which features free music events in the delightful setting of the Chapter House Garden in the precincts of Hereford Cathedral.

This now well established series has traditionally featured leading local musicians playing from 1.00 pm to 2.15 pm each Friday lunchtime during August, but such has been the popularity of these events that the programme has now been extended and this year commenced in mid July. “Jazz In The Garden” regularly attracts audiences in the region of two hundred and has become a much loved local institution, something that its many fans look forward to every year.

The success of the series has allowed the Cathedral to attract the cream of local talent, and also musicians from further away. The quality of the acts has improved since the very early days and whatever the genre a high standard of musicianship is now a given.

In the context of this series the term “jazz” is used fairly loosely, but it is still an important component of much of the music on offer. This year’s programme has included the raunchy jazz, blues and soul of the Hannah Lockerman Band, contrasted by the smoother sounds of the Debs Hancock Quartet, where the emphasis was more strongly focussed on jazz standards and the ‘Great American Songbook’.

Local heroes Whiskey River brought their distinctive brand of Americana with its blend of cajun, blues and country while Little Rumba delivered a wry and witty mix of tango, klezmer, Berlin cabaret and Tom Waits.

Due to my presence at Brecon Jazz Festival the only act I missed this year was Hoi Polloi, a new band said to provide “a blend of classic jazz standards and well known contemporary tunes, all arranged in a unique jazz/swing/funk/latin style”.

Previous series have seen visits from guitar virtuoso Remi Harris and his trio bringing a mix of gypsy jazz and blues rock, and from the quintet led by trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and saxophonist Liam Byrne, two young lions offering a contemporary take on the classic hard bop style.
Harris, Brownfield/Byrne and Debs Hancock have all been covered in greater detail elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

The Chapter House Garden is a delightful performance space, a real sun-trap and a riot of colour thanks to the iridescent blooms brightening up the borders. The musicians play beneath a small gazebo on the raised, grass covered area in the centre of the Garden, with the audience arranged around them in a semi-circle. It really is a delightful way to spend a sunny lunchtime in summer, especially with the Cathedral café open and doing good business.

In the event of rain the performance is moved inside and takes place in the Nave, a beautiful performance space in itself. This year rain affected two gigs, but Whiskey River played inside to an audience of 250 while Debs Hancock attracted a similarly healthy attendance, with Guy Shotton being able to make use of the Cathedral’s piano rather then an electric keyboard. Rain doesn’t necessarily place too much of a damper on proceedings.

The 2019 “Jazz In The Garden” series was financially supported by five different local sponsors, which was impressive, and a great tribute to the Cathedral’s marketing department.

I haven’t reviewed a “Jazz In The Garden” event before as they are free events with a retiring collection and I usually drop a fiver on to the offertory plate. Besides it’s nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the music sometimes, without the bother of taking notes, and the chilled out atmosphere of these events is particularly conducive to that.

Today, however, was different. Earlier in the year, around February or March, Pedro Brown forwarded me a copy of Nuadha Quartet’s début album, “Cabin Tales”, with a view to my writing a review. I listened to, and enjoyed, the album, but could find precious little about the group on line, and no information about where to buy the album, other than at gigs. It seemed a little counter productive to write about a recording that largely seemed to be unavailable, so I let it slide.

However Nuadha Quartet have since updated their website, http://www.nuadhaquartet.com, which now looks very impressive and professional, and the album is now available via their Bandcamp page.

With this in mind I decided that now would be a good time to take a fresh look at “Cabin Tales”, incorporating this with a review of the quartet in live performance. It also allows me to give a national plug for a great local music series, “Jazz In The Garden”, that readers outside Herefordshire and the Welsh Borders might hitherto have been unfamiliar with.

Nuadha Quartet is comprised of musicians living in the Monmouthshire and Herefordshire areas. First formed in 2016 the group initially traded as the Blue Sky Quartet before a change of moniker was enforced by the presence of another band on the circuit with a similar name.

The new name is representative of leader Colin Tully’s Scottish roots. Tully is the most high profile member of Nuadha Quartet having composed the soundtracks to two Bill Forsyth films, including the hit picture “Gregory’s Girl”. Also an accomplished alto saxophonist Tully worked as a sideman on this instrument for the late, great John Martyn. He has also worked with the bands Cado Belle and Sensorium.

Concentrating on keyboards with Nuadha Tully is happy to delegate saxophone duties to the experienced Chris Egan, who plays tenor and soprano, plus bass clarinet. Egan studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and his tutors have included British saxophone greats Tim Garland and Iain Ballamy. Egan also spent ten years living in Peru and playing with South American musicians. It’s an experience that informs both his playing and his writing. Currently he also plays with the Ross on Wye based Red River Blues band, a popular attraction on the local gig circuit.

Bassist Carlos Riba hails from Barcelona but is now based in the UK. He has worked on the Spanish music scene and has also spent some time in London. An electric bass specialist he names Jaco Pastorius as a seminal influence, and this is very much reflected in his playing.

Herefordshire based Pedro Brown is a highly popular musician with local audiences. This was his second gig of the Jazz In The Garden series following his recent appearance with the Hannah Lockerman Band. Brown also plays occasionally with an expanded version of Whiskey River. He, too, is an accomplished saxophonist and has released two instrumental solo albums featuring himself on drums, percussion, saxophone and keyboards. Something of a renaissance man Brown has travelled widely, always with camera to hand, and his photographs from visits to China, Africa, Australia and North America have been exhibited widely. He also photographs fellow musicians at the Cheltenham and Brecon Jazz Festivals. Brown’s travelling experiences are also reflected in his playing and his use of instruments such as the djembe, darabuka and shekere.

The majority of Nuadha Quartet’s material is composed by Tully or Egan, plus a handful of well chosen covers, including arrangements of traditional Scottish folk material. “Cabin Tales” is comprised mainly of original tunes and it was good to see them today putting the focus firmly on original material. As good as the other gigs in this year’s “Jazz In The Garden” series have been few of them have featured original writing, with the exception of Little Rumba, who included several of their own songs.

As Blue Sky Quartet today’s line up played in the Nave as part of the 2017 series (it must have been a wet day) and the emphasis then was more on covers, including tunes Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Weather Report and The Yellowjackets as I seem to recall. That performance was enjoyable but in the intervening two years Nuadha Quartet have really kicked on, writing and recording an album and putting the focus on their own compositions. The 2019 version of the group is tighter, more assured and more professional than it was two years ago. Even Tully, a reluctant announcer of tunes, seems more confident and relaxed.

Drawing subtly on Gaelic, South American and North African influences Nuadha Quartet’s music is probably best described as softly melodic fusion. That’s a summation that probably does them a disservice, suggesting that their music is bland and soporific. However that’s not really the case, their sound may be accessible enough for first time listeners to take to it straight away, as they did today, but there’s still a keen musical intelligence at work. Both Tully and Egan write memorable tunes capable of a broad appeal, but they also leave room for the soloists to stretch out in rewarding fashion.

Much of the album material was featured in today’s set as the Quartet commenced with album opener “For Love We Are Yearning”, written by Tully. A strong melody was augmented by the exotic sounds of Brown on djembe and shakers, in addition to kit drums. The memorable theme was enhanced by solos from Tully at the keyboard, Egan on tenor sax and Riba on electric bass, the latter’s liquidly melodic playing sounding very Pastorius like.

“Footsteps”, a non album track presumably written by Tully, found Egan stating the theme on tenor sax, before subsequently developing it during the course of his ensuing solo. Further solos came from Riba and Tully, the latter adopting a classic electric piano, or ‘Rhodes,’ sound on his Korg keyboard throughout today’s set.

Another new song, “The Lima Tango”, from the pen of Egan, added a dash of South American exotica with its composer switching to soprano sax. A pleasingly quirky mix of jazz and tango, the piece featured a complex but engaging theme and a fascinating amalgam of rhythms. Room was given for expansive solos from Tully at the keyboard, and Egan, probing incisively on soprano.

“Brother James’ Prayer”, credited on the album sleeve to Bain/Tully, was based on a Gaelic folk tune from Tully’s childhood. Introduced with a passage of unaccompanied piano the piece also featured the soft, breathy tenor sax of Egan as he and Tully engaged in an extended duet. Riba’s languidly melodic electric bass and Brown’s mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers added to the atmosphere. The adoption of a more conventional jazz rhythm led to solos for tenor sax, keyboard and electric bass, the latter even injecting a subtle element of funkiness to the Celtic inspired melodies.

Named after a South American god Egan’s “Kukulkan’s Feather” was a fascinating piece that Tully described