by Ian Mann
December 07, 2017
Ian Mann witnesses the future of British jazz at the NYJO Jazz Jam and the JazzNewBlood showcase and loses himself in a spectacular Norwegian double bill featuring Sinikka Langeland and Jaga Jazzist.
Painting of the Peter Wilson Trio by Gina Southgate
EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL, SUNDAY NOVEMBER 19th 2017
NYJO JAZZ JAM, RAY’S JAZZ AT FOYLE’S
The last Festival event at Foyle’s was a special Festival edition of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s monthly jam sessions.
The first half of the event was dedicated to a performance by the NYJO Jazz Messengers led by tenor saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael and featuring Sheila Maurice Grey on trumpet, Ed Rice on piano, Joe Bristow on trombone, Arthur O’Hara on electric bass and Benjamin Appiah at the drums.
I’d previously seem most of the performers playing with other bands during the Festival period.
The Messengers name isn’t just inspired by Art Blakey, they go out and perform at schools and colleges all over the country, introducing the music of jazz to young people far and wide.
Today’s performance attracted a sizeable audience to Foyle’s for this free Sunday lunchtime event and the sextet commenced with a Freddie Hubbard tune, “Red Clay”, if I remember correctly, with Carmichael, Maurice Grey, Bristow, O’Hara and Appiah all featuring as soloists.
Carmichael’s own “Calm After The Storm” was an impressive piece of writing that was introduced by a dialogue between the composer on tenor and Rice at the piano. Further solos came from Carmichael on tenor and Bristow on trombone, with the sophisticated blending of the horns during the ensemble passages offering a good example of Carmichael’s composing and arranging skills.
Victor Feldman’s “Seven Steps To Heaven”, made famous by Miles Davis, then featured Rice at the piano alongside Carmichael and Bristow.
The final tune of this section was unannounced but commenced with an unaccompanied passage from O’Hara on five string electric bass and included an exceptional trumpet solo from Maurice Grey plus a slow burning tenor solo from Carmichael and a final drum feature from Appiah.
After the interval proceedings became less formal as saxophonist Phil Meadows, seen earlier in the week at Foyle’s with his own trio Skint, co-ordinated and MC’d a jazz jam that saw a number of musicians calling tunes which were performed by an ever changing cast of young performers from the NYJO Academy or from local youth jazz orchestras such as the Croydon YJO. These ad hoc groups would typically included a couple of Messengers, mostly in their early twenties, plus three or four younger players ranging in age between nine and eighteen.
The tunes played were mainly jazz and bebop standards and included “Summertime”, “Have You Met Miss Jones” Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” and the Miles Davis classics “Mr P.C.” and “So What”. Kasia Kawalek, who had impressed at Iklectik the previous day fronting her own band and playing her own music turned up to sing the Duke Ellington composition “In A Sentimental Mood”.
With the constantly rotating cast of musicians it was impossible to keep track of the various combinations and of the individual soloists, all of whom were very impressive. With this in mind Phil Meadows (who at one point got up to play himself) announced my presence in the house and suggested that the young musicians introduce themselves to me after the show so I could get all their names and give them a mention in my review.
I decided that the best way of doing this would be to pass my notebook round and for the youngsters to jot down their names and the instrument they played. “Think of it as signing your autograph” I told them, “it’s something you’ll have to get used to when you’re rich and famous” - although this is jazz so I’m not sure about the “rich” bit!
So here is the cast of young musicians at the NYJO Jazz Jam at Foyle’s on 19th November 2017, in no particular order other than that in which they signed my notebook;
Will Wood – saxophone
Matthew Richardson – alto saxophone
Klara Devlin – trumpet
Nathan Oriaki – drums
Sarah Wald – trumpet
Kai MacRae – drums
Finn Genockey – drums
Dylan Holmes-Conan – guitar
Jedd Bailey-Smith – double bass
Jacob Murphy – guitar
Max Florez – saxophone, piano
Gabrielle Carberry – double bass
Kasia Kawalek- vocals
Remember those names, you’ll be hearing them in the future.
If it doesn’t seem too invidious I’d like to single two individuals out from that list. Nine year old drummer Nathan Oriaki charmed everybody and is already a highly competent musician. He even insisted on having his photograph taken with me! For a minute I almost felt famous myself, but suspect that ultimately it’s going to be the other way round!
Alto saxophonist Matthew Richardson is older and is currently studying at Leeds College of Music. A highly accomplished soloist he is well on his way to becoming a professional musician but loves to come back and participate in these jams. He’s a great advertisement for the NYJO spirit and an excellent example of what these sessions can lead to.
Well done also to Phil Meadows, a busy musician and bandleader in his own right for coming to conduct these sessions. One feels that the future of British jazz is in good hands.
It was left to the NYJO Messengers sextet to close the proceedings in barnstorming fashion. A splendid and thoroughly rewarding afternoon all round.
SAM BARNETT QUINTET / ZOE PASCAL 4tet/ PETER WILSON TRIO, IKLECTIK ART LAB, WATERLOO
The second JazzNewBlood event of the weekend featured a further three young up and coming bands at the Iklectik Art Lab in Waterloo.
SAM BARNETT QUINTET
The length of the NYJO Jazz Jam and my subsequent meeting with its young participants meant that I was rather late getting to Iklectik and unfortunately I missed most of the performance by the Sam Barnett Quintet. They were literally on their last number when I got there. I managed to catch solos from Barnett on alto sax, Laurence Wilkins on trumpet and Alberto Garcera on piano, the line up being completed on this occasion by Seth Tackaberry on double bass and Zoe Pascal at the drums.
Although I was disappointed to miss the bulk of Barnett’s set I was fortunate enough to review his début album “New York – London Suite” released in February 2017. Featuring Barnett, Wilkins and Pascal plus pianist Timur Pak and bassist Michele Montolli the album was released when Barnett was just sixteen and is an astonishingly mature piece of work that has attracted many plaudits. Incredibly much of the music was written when Barnett was only fourteen.
I can’t supply too much information about today’s performance but readers can find out more about Sam Barnett and his colleagues in my review of “New York – London Suite” here;
ZOE PASCAL 4tet
Drummer, composer and bandleader Zoe Pascal appeared at the 2016 JazzNewBlood showcase as a member of the trio Zenel, also featuring Laurence Wilkins on trumpet and electronics and Noah Stoneman on piano and keyboards. Zenel continues to perform and recently appeared in front of large crowds and to great acclaim at the 2017 Love Supreme Festival.
This year Pascal, son of JazzNewBlood founder Patricia Pascal, returned to Iklectik with a new four piece group featuring saxophonist Quinn Oulton, pianist Jonah Grimbly-Larrington and bassist Hamish Nockalls-More, the last named recently seen performing with acclaimed saxophonist Steve Williamson at Foyle’s as part of the Festival.
The first piece was a yet untitled original composition by Pascal, a highly melodic tune that saw Oulton stating the theme on tenor before sharing the solos with Grimbly.
Like the Mike Stern / Dave Weckl Quartet the previous evening they included “Nothing Personal”, a tune written by Don Grolnick but indelibly associated with Michael Brecker. Pascal’s urgent drum grooves helped to give the piece a contemporary sound, something heightened by Oulton’s restless, darting sax phrases. Grimbly’s percussive piano solo presaged a powerful outing on tenor from Oulton, powered by Pascal’s explosive drumming. The piece was crowned by the leader’s dynamic drum feature.
Pascal invited Laurence Wilkins to guest with the group on Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” which was introduced by Grimbly at the piano and featured solos from Oulton and Wilkins. Grimbly and Nockalls-More were also featured as soloists with Pascal subsequently trading fours with the rest of the group.
Still only sixteen Zoe Pascal continues to impress as both a drummer and composer and already has two recordings under his belt with Barnett and with Portuguese vocalist / guitarist Carmen Souza. His musical future looks very bright indeed, as do those of his highly accomplished bandmates.
PETER WILSON TRIO
Peter Wilson is young guitarist and composer with a burgeoning reputation. His Iklectik performance teamed him with Seth Tackaberry, seen earlier with the Sam Barnett Quintet, and drummer Luca Caruso.
With Tackaberry now concentrating on electric bass the trio commenced with Wilson’s original “No, I Know” - or “Know I Know”, take you pick, which included solos from Wilson and Tackaberry and a series of drum breaks and Caruso. The trio impressed with their cohesiveness and togetherness with Wilson adopting a pure, clean jazz guitar tone and proving to be a highly fluent soloist.
These virtues also continued into “Clear To See” with Wilson and Tackaberry taking introductory solos. However a change of pace mid tune saw Wilson upping the wattage and soloing powerfully in a manner that reminded me of the great John Scofield. The impressive Caruso closed the piece out with a correspondingly energetic drum feature.
Wilson explained that “Stand By” had emerged out of a bass and drum groove formulated by Tackaberry and Caruso at a rehearsal jam and the piece was appropriately rhythmic, gradually building momentum and positively soaring by the close with Wilson’s solo suggesting the possibility of an alternative career as a rock lead guitarist.
A bass solo from Takaberry and an unaccompanied guitar cadenza from Wilson signalled a segue into Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and a return to more conventional jazz virtues. Wilson’s treatment of the tricky theme was sometimes reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” but things took more of a jazz rock turn later in the piece with another diversion into high octane, fusion type territory crowned by a drum feature from Caruso.
For the well deserved encore Wilson invited Quinn Oulton, Laurence Wilkins and Sam Barnett onto the stage to jam on “Take The Coltrane” with Wilkins taking the first solo on trumpet followed by Oulton on tenor and Barnett on alto, the latter in dialogue with Tackaberry’s electric bass. As the tune gathered momentum Wilson took over on guitar with the rhythm section rounding things off with a series of electric bass and drum exchanges.
This was a good natured but highly accomplished display of music making that rounded off this year’s JazzNewBlood programme on a very positive note. My thanks to Patricia Pascal and all at Iklectik for again making me so welcome. Gina Southgate was painting again and it’s her illustration of the Peter Wilson Trio that accompanies this review.
Also adding interest to the events at Iklectik was the exhibition of jazz photography by Patricia Pascal and Steve of Funkyfeet Photography which included one particularly striking image of Zoe Pascal and Zenel playing to the huge audience at Love Supreme.
SINIKKA LANGELAND / JAGA JAZZIST, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, SOUTH BANK
Incredibly this was my first visit to the South Bank, notionally the Festival hub for the whole ten days of EFG LJF. But here I was on the last night for this Norwegian double bill, part of an entire day at the RFH featuring Scandinavian artists and billed collectively as “Nordic Matters”.
Earlier in the Clore Ballroom audiences had seen the Tolvan Big Band from Sweden, Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and his quartet and Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur leading her all female eleven piece band Shamania.
I love Pohjola’s music but I didn’t relish seeing him in the vast public space of the Clore with all of its attendant hubbub and distractions. It’s the second time he’s performed for free in similar circumstances at EFG LJF. I know these gigs play to large crowds but come on Serious, a musician of this stature deserves a proper concert slot with a listening audience. The Purcell Room, Hall 2 at Kings Place or maybe even at one of the clubs, perhaps?
I had hoped to catch something of Maralyn Mazur but spent rather too long socialising at Iklectik even after the music had finished so mea culpa I’m afraid, although I did think I’d catch the last fifteen minutes at least. I’m doubly disappointed as by all accounts it was a very exciting performance.
SINIKKA LANGELAND GROUP
Sinikka Langeland has been recording since 1994 and began an association with the German ECM label in 2009 with the release of the album “Maria’s Song”.
She has since issued three more items for the label, “The Land That Is Not” (2011), “The Half Finished Heaven” (2015) and her most recent offering “The Magical Forest” (2016).
It was the latter that formed the basis for tonight’s performance with Langeland joined by album personnel Arve Henriksen (trumpet), Trygve Seim (tenor & soprano saxes), Markku Ounaskari (drums, percussion) and the voices of Trio Medieval ( Linn Andrea Fuglseth, Torun Ostrem Ossum, Anna Maria Friman). Mats Eilersen replaced Anders Jormin on double bass to complete the line up.
Langeland sings and plays the kantele, a zither like instrument that is actually Finnish in origin but has spread throughout the rest of Scandinavia. With the Finnish born Ounaskari behind the kit and the Swedish born Friman forming part of Trio Medieval this was a truly Nordic band, one that mattered.
Langeland’s music is inspired by the folklore of Norway and beyond with “The Magical Forest”, as its title suggests, concentrating on songs with a ‘trees’ theme. Her blend of folk and jazz seems particularly well suited to the ECM aesthetic with the arrangements concentrating on colour, texture and atmosphere in a manner that is inescapably ‘Nordic’.
Langeland’s music is slow and unhurried and she is adept at building moods and atmospheres, her arrangements enhanced by the contributions of some of Scandinavia’s finest jazz musicians.
The performance began with the twinkling, ethereal sound of Langeland’s kantele, an instrument guaranteed to evoke images of snow glistening on the boughs of trees in the Nordic forests. Trio Medieval added their voices, bringing an almost liturgical feel to the music while Eilertsen and Ounaskari provided almost subliminal bass and drums. Langeland sang the lead vocal, blending well with Seim on tenor and Henriksen on trumpet. During what was essentially a totally acoustic performance it was interesting to see Henriksen playing almost ‘straightahead’, without any of the electronic enhancements or extended techniques he deploys in other contexts, including his acclaimed solo performances.
“Jacob’s Dream” was based on the biblical story of Jacob’s ladder and featured the atmospheric blending of Langeland’s lead voice with the choral vocals of Trio Medieval allied to Eilertsen’s arco bass drone. Henriksen’s trumpet solo then demonstrated his fluency and purity of tone in this acoustic context.
Based on a tale from Norwegian folklore “The Wolfman”, with its “jumping around like a wolf” refrain offered something more vigorous with its trumpet and tenor sax exchanges complementing the story told by the singers.
The next piece featured the magical combination of the sounds of Seim’s Garbarek-like curved soprano and the delicate, harp like timbres of the leader’s kantele. Bowed bass and a solo on pocket trumpet from Henriksen subsequently added to the magic.
A lengthy solo passage from Langeland explored the full sonic possibilities of the kantele as she played it not only with her fingers but also with hammers, in the manner of a dulcimer and even dragged a bow across the strings at one juncture. In time she was joined by Eilertsen’s bass and the gently martial tapping of Ounaskar’s snare plus the sacred sounds of the voices of Trio Medieval. Finally the sounds of Seim’s soprano and Henriksen’s muted trumpet were added to the agenda.
Langeland drew the audience deep into her very personal sound-world of myth and magic. This was a compelling and absorbing performance, even when the subject matter was at its darkest, as on “Kamui” a song sourced from Japanese Ainu folk tradition that told the grisly tale of the sacrifice of a young bear cub. This featured some of Langeland’s most powerful singing as she delivered an impassioned lead vocal, aided by the sounds of kantele, bowed bass, trumpet and soprano sax. Having reached a peak the piece resolved itself with Langeland’s whispered vocals and the almost subliminal sounds of the instrumentalists.
“Karsikko” told of the Norwegian folk custom of the “memory tree” on which the names of those that have passed away are carved. Langeland’s accapella vocals were straight out of the folk tradition, these later augmented by the sounds of the leader’s kantele and Henriksen’s softly mournful trumpet.
The instrumental “Pillar To Heaven” gave the core quartet of Henriksen, Seim, Eilertsen and Ounaskari the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable chops, commencing with an engaging bass and drum dialogue followed by a series of exchanges between Seim on tenor and Henriksen on trumpet, the latter producing some astonishing sounds. A closing free jazz episode included the adoption of extended techniques, particularly from bass and drums.
Langeland began the final piece solo, subsequently joined by Trio Medieval and the jazz quartet with Seim soloing on tenor prior to a closing section featuring Trio Medieval incanting the hymn “Gloria In Excelsis Deo”.
This quiet, thoughtful, melancholy music was listened to with rapt attention by a sell out crowd at the Royal Festival Hall. Sometimes bleak, but always beautiful, Langeland’s richly nuanced music and story telling seemed to resonate with the audience and you could hear the proverbial pin drop. It was so different to what was to follow.
First formed back in 1994 Jaga Jazzist is one of Norway’s best known musical exports, a genre straddling band that embraces elements of jazz, rock, electronic and dance music in a thrilling, multi-faceted melange.
At its core Jaga is a family band centred around brothers Lars Horntveth (saxes, clarinets, guitars, keyboards) and Martin Horntveth (drums) and their multi-instrumentalist sister Line Horttveth (flute, tuba, euphonium, keyboards, voice). The band’s line up has been fluid and at various times has included such well known Norwegian musicians as trumpeter Mathias Eick, guitarist Stian Westerhus and keyboard player Morten Qvenild.
Currently an octet the band’s current line up includes the three Hortveth siblings plus Marcus Forsgren (guitars, keyboards) Even Ormestad (bass, keyboards), Erik Johannsen (trombone), Oystein Moen (keyboards) and Andreas Mjos (vibraphone, guitar, keyboards).
Electronics are a vital part of the band’s music making and they frequently play at rock venues and at a volume to match. I first saw Jaga Jazzist (as a ‘punter’) at the Academy in Islington in 2010 around the time of their “One Armed Bandit” album, a performance marred by a muddy sound mix. That was primarily a rock performance at a rock venue and at the time I was slightly disappointed.
I’d first been attracted to the group’s music after hearing them on BBC Radio 3’s “Late Junction” programme where they were great favourites around that time. Jaga’s 2002 album “A Livingroom Hush” was named “best jazz album of the year” by the BBC and this also helped to bring the band a lot of attention in the UK. They have visited London frequently, tonight representing their fifteenth performance in the city.
Jaga are a band with a large cult following, something encouraged by their exciting live performances which always contain a strong visual element. The band members themselves are content to remain fairly anonymous, only drummer Martin Horntveth was to engage with the audience tonight, but their light-shows are spectacular. This evening the band were surrounded by a forest of LED batons that looked vaguely light sabres and which pulsed and changed colour along with the music. Projected behind the band was the Bridget Riley like spiral that adorns the cover of their latest album “Starfire”. Those of us of a certain age were reminded of the dizzying graphics of the fondly remembered Vertigo record label.
Seeing the band at the all seated Festival Hall was very different to seeing them at the Academy. I, for one enjoyed it better, the more comfortable surroundings allowing one to appreciate the subtleties of their music, despite the seeming relentlessness of their attack.
Besides the myriad of LEDs the stage was also a forest of musical instruments, vibes, drums, guitars, saxes and racks of keyboards. Instrument swappage was widespread and frequent, with virtually everybody doubling up in one way or another. Meanwhile the light-show was probably the most exciting I’ve seen since Hawkwind in their 70s heyday, I was never so much into rave or contemporary club culture so I can’t make comparisons from that angle, despite its obvious influence on Jaga’s music. “Hawkwind, but with jazz chops” I scribbled down at one point.
And make no mistake Jaga can play, rhythmic changes were handled with crisp precision as the group moved between genres and influences at the turn of a dime. Although there were moments of individual brilliance this wasn’t about orthodox jazz soloing, the many headed, multi-limbed instrument juggling Jaga Jazzist is all about the overall ensemble sound.
Amidst the flashing lights this wasn’t really music to be making notes about, it was far more satisfying to absorb oneself in the audio-visual extravaganza that is Jaga Jazzist. The mimimalism of Reich, Glass and Riley was transposed with chunky, complex prog rock riffing and exuberant dance floor flavoured beats. Dynamic variations were both frequent and extreme as typified by Line Horntveth alternating between flute and tuba. Wordless vocal chanting was deployed effectively to create an atmosphere of grandeur, while Lars Horntveth emerged as the most distinctive instrumentalist with solos on both guitar and saxophone.
Aside from geography the music of Jaga Jazzist might, at first sight, appear to have little in common with that of Sinikka Langeland, the sound and presentation of the two acts being so different. Yet the RFH audience loved them both and in Arve Henriksen they have a common link.
The innovative trumpeter is an acknowledged influence on Jaga Jazzist and his guest appearance with the group generated a huge cheer from the London crowd. A rare acoustic episode saw the little wizard soloing on trumpet accompanied by bass clarinet, trombone and tuba as part of an an unlikely wind quartet. Henriksen’s playing here was more reminiscent of his own solo work, his feature including flute like trumpet whispering but also including his distinctive vocalising, inspired by the nomadic Sami people of northern Norway.
Much of tonight’s performance was sourced from the recent “Starfire” album with the announcement of “Big City Music” eliciting a spontaneous round of applause from the audience for a piece that is clearly already a big crowd favourite with its blend of Middle Eastern influences, shamanistic vocalising and electronica.
“We are from Norway – let’s have a party!” shouted Martin Horntveth from behind the kit, encouraging the small but enthusiastic knot of dancers in the balcony who were joyously throwing shapes in time to the group’s extraordinary music. Indeed even in the more sedate stalls it was hard to keep still, I was almost tempted to get up and join them. One suspects the band would have approved, the people seated immediately behind probably not.
Although the majority of the audience remained seated there was no doubting their love for this band, calling them back for an encore that was almost metallic in its intensity.
This was a hugely exciting way to end an excellent EFG LJF that had once again produced some superb music at venues large and small across the city. I loved every minute of it and as usual would like to thank Sally Reeves of Serious for organising press tickets for myself and my wife. Huge thanks are also due to our hosts Paul and Richard for putting us up for over a week. I couldn’t even think of coming to EFG LJF without the generosity of these guys.Over the course of the ten days I saw over forty different performances at venues large and small, admittedly some of them part of double or even triple bills.
And thanks to all the friends I met along the way, musicians, photographers, artists, fellow journalists, club owners, promoters, publicists, fellow fans etc. Jazz engenders a real spirit of community and it’s good to feel a part of it.
Writing for London Jazz News about the JazzNewBlood showcase on Saturday 18th November Joseph Paice noted that all three bands were female led and this was a trend that I noticed throughout the Festival.
More significantly these leaders were more often instrumentalists than singers. Personally I witnessed and enjoyed performances by the following female bandleaders;
Zoe Rahman, Dee Byrne, Sarah Tandy, Kate Williams, Cassie Kinoshi, Kasia Kawalek, Romarna Campbell, Saskia Horton, Sinikka Langeland and Chelsea Carmichael with Ranjana Ghatek a co-leader and Mary Halvorson representing a key and equal part of the collaborative Illegal Crowns quartet.
I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing to highlight this or not, but to my mind it’s a good sign that the music is moving in the right direction.
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