by Ian Mann
December 03, 2014
Ian Mann enjoys the rock flavoured jazz of the Andre Canniere Quintet and the different global styles of Paul Booth's Patchwork Project and Arifa.
Photograph of Arifa sourced from the EFG London Jazz Festival website http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk
EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL, DAY FIVE, 18/11/2014.
Today was the first of four consecutive lunchtime visits to the famous Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho to witness their daily free music event. The programme was a varied mix of British and European jazz talent and featured both instrumental ensembles and vocalists. You’re pretty much obliged to eat so I worked my way through the Pizza Express menu ? pizza (natch) on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday, risotto on Thursday and lasagne on Friday!. The Pizza represents pretty good value for money and I enjoyed my food, they certainly don’t send you away feeling hungry!
I enjoyed the music too, the Pizza is a good, intimate place to watch jazz and our early arrival each day ensured that we’d normally despatched our food by the time the band came on stage and we could concentrate on the music. Booking ahead and making sure that we got there early also meant that we had front row seats and could watch some world class musicians from very close quarters.
The first lunchtime show I saw at the Pizza featured the Pennsylvania born , London based trumpeter and composer Andre Canniere who was leading a stellar quintet featuring Phronesis pianist Ivo Neame, bassist Ryan Trebilcock, drummer Jon Scott (the third sighting of this festival week) and the Austrian guitarist Hannes Riepler.
It was the same line up that I’d seen at Charlie Wright’s a couple of years ago opposite Riepler’s own band as part of the 2012 LJF. However I felt today’s gig was better, a combination of the intimacy of the venue and the fact that the musicians have continued to mature both individually and collectively in the intervening period.
Canniere has released two acclaimed albums on the Whirlwind Recordings label, “Forward Space” (2012) and “Coalescence” (2013). Both recordings were represented today as the quintet began their first set with the hard driving “Lost In Translation” from “Forward Space”. Like myself Canniere came to jazz from a sideways direction having started out as a rock music fan and there are still strong elements of this in his writing which ensures that his music sounds very contemporary. Guitarist Riepler played an important role here as he shared soloing duties with the leader.
From “Coalescence” came “Gibbs And East”, Canniere’s homage to the city of Rochester, NY with features for Trebilcock, Neame and Canniere himself.
Canniere’s writing is often influenced by political events. The sombre “Gaslands” is his protest against the effects of fracking in his home state and featured thoughtful solos from both Neame and the composer.
The title track from “Forward Space” represented a return to the powerful, fusion-esque style of the set opener with features for Riepler on guitar and the propulsive Scott at the drums.
Also from “Forward Space” came “Crunch”, a similarly forceful tune written in response to the financial crisis of 2008. With solos from Canniere and Riepler this brought the curtain down on a predominately energetic first half.
From “Coalescence” the composition “Point Zero”, Canniere’s protest against the laxity of American gun laws, began the second half with the composer’s unrest being expressed via his trumpet and Riepler’s guitar.
Although as yet unrecorded the tune “Realising” dates back to Canniere’s music college days. This proved to be a thoughtful, ballad like piece with Scott frequently deploying brushes and with solos from Neame and Riepler.
“Accelerated Decrepitude” appeared on a 2006 recording, “As of Yet”, made in New York with American musicians. The tune title comes from a phrase used in the dystopian film “Blade Runner”. Elements of this crept into the music but Canniere’s writing is intrinsically melodic and rarely wilfully “difficult”. Solos here from the composer on trumpet and Neame at the piano.
The ballad “Where We Grew Up”, another yet to be recoded item featured Canniere’s mournful trumpet above Scott’s mallet rumbles followed by Neame’s lyrical piano. As Scott switched to sticks Canniere’s playing became more anthemic, his soaring trumpet melodies doubled by Riepler on guitar.
I remember being disappointed at Charlie Wright’s by the fact that Canniere elected not to play “Cure” from “Forward Space” and I was delighted that he chose the piece to conclude his performance with it today. Written to describe the energy and urgency of living in New York City the tune has a killer riff and proved to be the jumping off point for bravura solos from Neame, Canniere and Riepler, the guitarist crouching to manipulate his sound via a range of floor mounted gizmos. An urgent dialogue between Neame and Scott mutated into a full blown drum solo as Canniere and his colleagues ended their lunchtime performance with a bang.
This was a great start to a very enjoyable few days at the Pizza Express. Both of Canniere’s most recent albums have been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann and both are highly recommended, particularly the excellent “Forward Space”.
PAUL BOOTH ? PATCHWORK PROJECT
The free early evening performance at The Front Room at QEH was by a new band led by saxophonist Paul Booth. Booth has released four albums as a leader including “No Looking Back” (2007) and “Trilateral” (2012), both of which have been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann. He also featured on bassist Michael Janisch’s excellent “Purpose Built” but is perhaps best known outside the immediate jazz camp as the long serving saxophonist of Steve Winwood’s touring band.
His new Patchwork Project blends jazz with a variety of world music styles in an international group featuring Giorgio Serci (guitar), Davide Mantovani (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums) and Satin Singh (percussion) together with Australian vocalist Victoria Newton. Most of these musicians are based in London, evidence again of the thriving cosmopolitan music scene within the city.
Given the varied backgrounds of its members it’s perhaps no surprise that Patchwork Project’s music brings together many disparate elements to create a kind of pan-global jazz. The opening piece featured soaring Brazilian style wordless vocals plus solos from Booth on flute and Serci on guitar . Shades here of Wayne Shorter’s “Native Dancer” album or some of Pat Metheny’s South American flavourings.
Booth moved to soprano sax for the next piece, “Pipe Dream”, again sharing the soloing with Serci above a forest of percussion. The leader went on to explain that the Patchwork project had taken eighteen months to come together but I suspect that his other commitments have entailed that getting the band together has only been possible on an intermittent basis. Continuing the world music theme he also informed us that his soprano was replicating the sound of the uillean pipes but over an Afro-Venezuelan rhythm, a typical juxtaposition of musical styles and the kind of “mix and match” music making that gives the group its name.
“There Was Another Time” was a fully formed song with lyrics by vocalist Victoria Newton, originally from Perth, Western Australia. The multi talented Booth moved temporarily to piano as Singh concentrated on tablas. Solos came from Serci on guitar and the instrument hopping leader on tenor sax.
The song “Behind Every Lover There Is A Thief” incorporated a joyous drum and percussion duet featuring Afro-Peruvian rhythms plus further solos from Mantovani on electric bass and Booth on tenor sax.
“Dragonfly” was originally recorded by Booth with a trio featuring bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Andrew Bain. Today’s version first found the leader on flute and rain stick, looping and layering sounds on the intro before soloing above the resultant backdrop on soprano sax. Serci created ambient electric guitar textures before switching to acoustic to solo as the tune mutated into a slow bossa, Booth sharing the soloing following a further switch to tenor.
“Miles From Nowhere”, a piece jointly composed by Booth and Newton, explored the point where Indian rhythms and modal jazz meet, the piece introduced by Mantovani at the bass and featuring Booth on piano and Singh on tabla. Newton delivered the lyric with instrumental solos from Serci on electric guitar, Mantovani on bass in dialogue with Simpson and Booth on tenor above Singh’s rich tabla undertow.
In many ways Patchwork Project seems to have been inspired by Mantovani’s 2012 album “Choices”, reviewed elsewhere on this site, a similarly wide ranging collection featuring jazz and world music styles, songs and instrumentals, and Booth on saxes.
The final piece added dub reggae grooves to the mix with solos by Serci on electric guitar and Booth on both tenor and soprano.
There was much to enjoy in Patchwork Project’s music and the performance was a good showcase for Booth’s virtuosity and versatility. With its diverse range of styles the music occasionally reminded me of a less politicised Soothsayers but in attempting to cover such a broad spectrum the performance sometimes felt a little unfocussed. Despite its eighteen month gestation period Patchwork Project still felt like a work in progress but with such accomplished musicians there is great potential here.
Later that same evening a large ensemble of young London based musicians played at The Forge in Camden under the name Patchwork Orchestra. There’s no overlap of members as far as I know. Confusing or what? Should somebody be thinking of a name change?
The global theme continued with a concert by the quartet Arifa at the Purcell Room. Based in Holland the group features an international cast of musicians led by Alex Simu on clarinet and electronics, Franz von Chossy at the piano, Sjahin During on percussion and newcomer Michalis Cholevas on tarhu. The group name variously means beauty, grace and wisdom in a varirty of Arabic languages.
The group have acquired something of a cult following in Europe but this was their first ever London concert appearance and the performance was supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute. Simu was born in Hungary but brought up in Romania before moving to the Netherlands.
Despite the different instrumentation Arifa reminded me very much of Oregon with their “chamber” style approach to jazz and world music, particularly with regard to their ECM style use of space. Arifa’s music also has different geographical roots with the focus centred on East European, Balkan, Middle Eastern and North African styles. Their latest album “Anatolian Alchemy” reflects the influence of Turkish music and the presence of Turkish born musicians During (on percussion) and oud player Mehmet Polat. Polat has since been replaced by the Greek born Cholevas who brings a new dimension to the group through his use of tarhu, an instrument I’d never seen played before.
The tarhu is a fairly recent invention, developed in the 1980s by the Australian musician Peter Biffin. Building on the characteristics of many already extant ethnic stringed instruments Biffin developed a hybrid that embodied both Eastern and Western characteristics. An instrument with a long, slender neck and a small shell shaped body the tarhu rests upon the seated player’s knee and can be both bowed and plucked, to Western ears it is able to combine the sonority of the cello with the rhythmic properties of the jazz double bass but with a mysterious Eastern exoticism thrown in.
The number of strings can vary, the basic configuration is four, but this is sometimes expanded by the provision of extra playing strings plus additional sympathetic strings. From what I could see Clolevas’ instrument had five playing strings plus seven sympathetics. Cholevas certainly brings a new vitality and freshness to the Arifa group sound. He also plays the ney, the Persian end blown flute but we didn’t get to hear that this evening.
Arifa began with a lengthy segue of tunes which allowed the listeners to immerse themselves thoroughly in the group’s distinctive sound world. During was very much a “percussionist” rather than a “drummer” with his array of frame drums, udu, cymbals and small percussion. Elements of the conventional drum kit were also included in his set up but they were deployed in a very unconventional way, the bulk of his playing being done with his bare hands, providing a consistently ongoing rhythmic impetus but never overpowering the other members of the group.
All the members of the group were reading music, this was very much a “concert” performance and the familiar Western sounds of von Chossy’s piano provided a fascinating contrast with the more exotic sounds of his colleagues. Simultaneously a melodicist and a rhythmic anchor the Munich born pianist was a vital component in the group’s sound. Von Chossy has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as a member of Luxembourg based vibist Pascal Schumacher’s quartet but tonight represented a very different context for his playing.
Leader Simu played both clarinet and bass clarinet, occasionally subtly mutating the sound of his instruments via the use of electronics. He was regularly at the forefront of the Arifa sound with his bass clarinet providing a deliciously deep and woody sound.
The opening segue embraced several combinations of instruments as the responsibility for leading the ensemble was passed around the players. We heard passages of solo piano, absorbing dialogues between bass clarinet and percussion, bowed, cello like tarhu solos and a percussion feature from the consistently interesting During. The music was a melange of Eastern and Western influences, a constantly evolving tapestry of music from many corners of the globe with Simu revealing that During had studied percussion in Cuba.
The lengthy opening sequence was followed by the title track from “Anatolian Alchemy” with Simu’s clarinet to the fore in a series of spirited exchanges with During’s percussion. I suspect that many other audience members were seeing the group for the first time but at the interval most seemed to be delighted with what they’d heard. There were brisk sales of “Anatolian Alchemy” while the smaller number of copies of the earlier album “Beyond Babylon” quickly sold out.
Set Two began with a merger of “Kids Play” and “Dacian Tale”, both sourced from the latest album. Solo clarinet passages combined with a piano and percussion dialogue before Simu’s soaring clarinet took flight in the second part of the sequence.
The lengthy “Nine Lives” was presumably sourced from the group’s first album as it doesn’t appear on “Alchemy”. Here Simu demonstrated his remarkable slap tongue technique on bass clarinet on the intro, complemented by During’s use of mallets on various items of percussion. Cholevas picked up the melody on tarhu before handing over for von Chossy’s piano solo. Further dialogue between Simu and During eventually led to a percussion feature, During using his hands exclusively. Simu’s subsequent clarinet solo was astonishingly fluent, variously wiggling, soaring and screaming with a low key passion above a backdrop of pattering percussion.
Arifa enjoyed another great reception and encored with “Nights In Shiraz”, another older song learned by Simu in Iran as part of a previous project. This piece had arguably the strongest Middle Eastern influence of them all and included a bowed tarhu solo over a groove featuring the sound of dampened piano strings. Von Chossy also featured as a soloist underpinned by Simu’s remarkable slap tongued clarinet bass lines. Finally the leader took flight for a final time, his soaring solo squeezing in a quote from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”.
For many listeners Arifa represented an exciting new musical discovery. I treated myself to a copy of the “Anatolian Alchemy” album and found it to be a highly listenable collection of mainly short tunes featuring the group’s intriguing merger of Eastern and Western sounds.
The group are also involved in the Arifa and Voices from the East project in which the core quartet is augmented by the voices and instruments of three female performers from different countries. They are;
Meng Xiaoxu ? erhu & vocals (China)
Niusha Barimani ? kamanche & vocals (Iran)
Vanya Valkova ? gadulka & vocals (Bulgaria)
The expanded group is due to release a live album, recorded at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam in early 2015.
More at http://www.arifamusic.net
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