Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Sunday at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 05/05/2024.

by Ian Mann

May 09, 2024

Ian Mamm enjoys performances by Dreamscapes, Sam Eastmond and John Zorn's Bagatelles, The Royal Scammers, un.procedure plus, Theo Croker and Huey Morgan

Photograph of Theo Croker by Tim Dickeson



Julien Durand – guitar, vocals, Lucy-Anne Daniels – lead vocals, George Garford – alto sax, vocals Cenk Esen – piano, keyboards, vocals,  Jack Robson – drums, vocals

Dreamscapes is a quintet led by the young guitarist and composer Julien Durand,  a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire but now based in London.

The group describe their music as “post-fusion, nu-jazz” and their sound incorporates the singing of rising star vocalist Lucy-Anne Daniels as well as embracing electronic effects.

Dreamscapes have already recorded a three track EP featuring two of Durand’s compositions, neither of which we heard today, plus a distinctive and surprisingly effective slowed down arrangement of The Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”.

Today’s hour long set featured new compositions from Durand, Daniels and Garford and suggested that the band now has enough original material for a full length album. I note that they have a number of tour dates booked for September 2024 and wonder if a new recording might be appearing then. If so it will be very eagerly anticipated and I hope to check Dreamscapes out again when they play at Kidderminster Jazz Club on Friday September 6th.

Today’s performance began in unusual fashion with “Chant”, which featured all five band members coming to the front of the stage to sing wordless vocal harmonies, accompanied by the strumming of Durand’s guitar. It was reminiscent of both folk and choral music and worked surprisingly well. “I’m glad it worked” Durand told me afterwords, “apart from Lucy none of us are really singers”.

Garford added the sound of alto sax as Esen and Robson took up their places behind their instruments as the band launched into a lengthy segue of the compositions “Portals” and “Wander”, the new name of the latter representing a vast improvement on its working title of “Treacle”.

It was now that the group name Dreamscapes really began to make sense as the shape of the music gently swirled and shifted with Daniels’ ethereal wordless vocal melody lines doubled by Garford’s alto and with Durand’s guitar variously adding droning ambient textures or positively soaring during the course of his solo. Snatches of folk like melody alternated with wispy ambient passages with both Garford and Durand contributing further solos, the latter unaccompanied and making subtle use of ‘hammering on’ techniques. “Wander”, co-written by Durand and Daniels, also featured the vocalist’s own lyrics,  her words referencing experiences of isolation.

Durand’s composition “Sisyphus” was inspired by the writing of Albert Camus and was introduced by an extended passage of piano from Esen that exhibited a strong classical influence. Eventually Robson began to add a drum commentary with Garford eventually taking over to solo on alto sax. This evolved into a dialogue with Durand on guitar, before Daniels joined to double up on Garford’s melody lines. The music continued to shift and evolve in the Dreamscapes style as wordless vocals combined with piano, before Daniels’ voice really began to soar as guitar and drums were added.

Garford’s composition “Shiverwarm”, a title inspired by complex emotions and mood swings was also introduced by the shades wearing Esen at the piano, with Durand’s guitar later joining in dialogue. The keyboard player also doubled on synth bass as he and Robson established a groove that provided the platform for Garford’s powerful alto sax soloing. As the music continued to mutate a loosely structured but highly atmospheric passage followed with Daniels’ voice and lyrics eventually added, her singing accompanied by piano only.

The instrumental “Fodastica” (a Portuguese phrase meaning “Fucking Great!”) was introduced by an unaccompanied drum passage from Robson, to which were added synth bass lines, with Esen also providing melody from the piano. With guitar and sax also added this was the most obviously riff based piece thus far, but this was complex odd meter riffing that exhibited something of the group’s acknowledged prog rock influence. Within this framework room was found for solos from Esen on piano and Durand on guitar, with Robson weighing in once more with a closing drum feature.

Daniels returned for the closing “Maddie”, the sound of her wordless vocals echoed via the use of electronic effects. The sound of Durand’s guitar was also heavily treated and with Esen adding synth bass lines plus an electric piano solo this was the piece that most clearly exhibited the influence of electronica.

There was much to enjoy about the music of Dreamscapes with its mix of jazz, rock, electronica and more, plus the influence of literature on the writing. I liked the way the band’s music constantly evolved and the maturity exhibited in their shrewd deployment of colour, texture and dynamics. On the evidence of today’s performance their first full length album recording should be well worth hearing.

My only reservation about today’s performance was that Daniels’ voice was too often drowned out by Garford’s sax on the occasions that they doubled up on unison melody lines, but this is fairly minor complaint in the context of the show overall. This is certainly a band that I shall look forward to hearing again and it’s obvious that this is a group with great potential for the future, an observation that also applies to its individual members.

My thanks to Julien and Lucy-Anne for speaking with me after the show and for providing full details of the set list. Much appreciated.


Sam Eastmond – director, Charlotte Keeffe, Noel Langley – trumpets, Asha Parkinson, George Garford – tenor saxes, Chris Williams – alto sax,  Mick Foster – baritone sax, Joel Knee – trombone, Tom Briers – tuba, Olly Chalk – piano, Moss Freed – guitar, Fergus Quill – bass, Alasdair Pennington – drums, percussion

This thrilling performance brought twelve of the UK’s finest improvisers together to perform Sam Eastmond’s arrangements of just a few of the compositions in John Zorn’s “Bagatelles” series.

New York based saxophonist Zorn, born in 1954, has been one of America’s leading figures on the experimental music scene for many years, his music embracing a broad swathe of influences and including jazz, free improvisation, contemporary classical, film music, his own Jewish heritage and so much more.  He has been extraordinarily prolific with literally dozens of recordings to his credit and hundreds, if not thousands, of compositions.

His “Bagatelles” series features some three hundred compositional sketches, usually consisting of a simple three line melody,  that are left open to interpretation, with musicians being given the licence to take Zorn’s initial idea in any direction that they wish.

For the London based trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader this involves using them as the basis for open ended big band arrangements that give plenty of scope for the improvising musicians within its ranks.

A version of today’s band recorded the album “John Zorn’s Bagatelles Vol’ 16” for release on Zorn’s own Tzadik label in 2023 and Eastmond has also recorded earlier albums featuring works from Zorn’s “Masada” series. Eastmond and Zorn have worked together closely with regard to these projects and Eastmond’s interpretations of Zorn’s works very much have the approval of Zorn himself.

I understand that Eastmond’s “Bagatelles” adaptations are the first time that Zorn’s music has been arranged for a large ensemble. The project was launched in 2023 at London’s Cafe Oto but today was its first festival performance.

Zorn’s “Bagatelles” pieces are identified by number rather than title and today’s performance began with a twenty minute rendition of “No. 256” that featured the low, buzzing sounds of reeds and brass, frantic sax shredding from the twin tenors, freely structured passages incorporating the sounds of bowed bass and a volcanic solo piano feature that saw Chalk channelling the spirit of Cecil Taylor. Alto saxophonist Williams and guitarist Freed, band mates in the quartet Let Spin both delivered individual solos before locking horns to wail ferociously at each other. Towards the close the whole ensemble coalesced around what sounded like an American cop show theme, albeit one filtered through Zorn’s unique prism. An exhilarating, if sometimes demanding, start with conductor Eastmond justifiably describing both Zorn’s music and his charges’ performance of it as “incandescent”.

“No. 78” began with the sounds of a brass and reeds chorale, followed by a trumpet solo from Keeffe that embraced the sounds of extended techniques and the extraordinary deployment of breath and vocalisations as the avant garde collided with New Orleans. Keeffe had played the same venue the previous day with her Right Here, Right Now Quartet, a group that also included Moss Freed. Having favourably reviewed the quartet’s recent album I was disappointed to have to miss this but at least I could catch up with her and Freed today. Similarly Freed’s feature embraced extended guitar techniques and electronic effects as he soloed above a backdrop of bowed bass and the rustle and rattle of Pennington’s percussion.
Pennington then set up a kind of apocalyptic, almost heavy metal, march with the full band sounding like a juggernaut in full steam and with Garford, playing his second gig of the day and on a different instrument, the featured soloist as he wailed away on tenor, emitting high register squeaks and squawks before entering into a fiery duel with Williams’ alto. Eventually this sixteen minute piece ended as it had begun with a brief, warm horn chorale.

“No. 198” was ushered in by an extended solo passage from Quill on double bass that saw him utilising the body of the instrument as a form of percussion, playing pizzicato below the bridge and deploying feedback -  an extraordinary introduction. The band’s complex, math rock like riffing framed squalling individual contributions from the horns with trumpeters Keeffe and Langley and tenor saxophonist Parkinson all featured. Parkinson then featured more fully with an impassioned solo, followed by Knee on trombone as the ensemble continued to punch out lurching, odd meter rhythms. This was indeed rousing stuff, climaxing in a melange of arco bass and guitar effects.

It’s probably counter-intuitive to think of John Zorn having ‘greatest hits’, but Eastmond and the band were more than happy to comply with a request from an audience member to play “No.74”. This was introduced by Chalk at the piano, before moving into full big band mode before breaking back down into smaller units as Williams and Freed renewed their earlier dialogue with Williams also soling on alto sax. George Garford, heard to better effect in this ensemble, delivered a remarkable unaccompanied tenor sax episode before Chalk picked up the main theme again at the piano and eventually steered things home.

This had been an excellent performance, always engaging, sometimes challenging and often thrilling. There were may moments of individual brilliance but under Eastmond’s skilful stewardship the ensemble also functioned very effectively as a whole, bringing warmth and colour to Zorn’s music and taking it in exciting new directions.

Zorn’s music has earned a reputation for being challenging, and sometimes it is, but there’s warmth and humour in it too and Eastmond and the band brought out some of those qualities. I didn’t find it at all ‘difficult’ and where other reviewers have made comparisons between this music and that of Charles Mingus I was also reminded of Loose Tubes, with whom Langley once played.

Zorn’s reputation may have deterred some listeners and the PAC was less full than I had been expecting for such a unique event. This was the only disappointing aspect about a highly enjoyable gig that ranks as one of my Festival highlights. Well done to all involved and my thanks to Chris Williams, Charlotte Keeffe and Asha Parkinson for speaking with me after the show.


Jeremy Stacey -drums, Paul Stacey – lead guitar, Andy Caine – lead vocals, guitar, Dave Arch, Gary Sanctuary – keyboards, Yolanda Charles – electric bass, Pete Eckford – percussion, Andy Ross, Jim Hunt – saxes, Trevor Mires – trombone, Dominic Glover – trumpet, Bryan Chambers, Hayley Sanderson, Jess Greenfield – backing vocals

Due to scheduling clashes I hadn’t actually bothered to acquire a press ticket for this event at the Jazz Arena. However with a bit of time to spare before the next gig at the PAC I was able to persuade an obliging steward to let me catch half an hour or so of The Royal Scammers, the Steely Dan tribute led by brothers Jeremy Stacey (drums) and Paul Stacey (guitar).

I arrived just as the fourteen piece band launched into “Kid Charlemagne”, what a great place for me to start. I also enjoyed “Babylon Sisters” and a funky version of “Time Out Of Mind”, both from the “Gaucho” album. Even better was “Deacon Blue”, a real Steely Dan classic. The hits “Reeling In The Years”  and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” were segued together and I was obliged to take my leave just before the band launched into “Josie”. Most readers will probably know these songs intimately, so I don’t feel obliged to describe them at length.

As would be expected from musicians of this calibre the playing was exceptional throughout. This was the second Steely Dan tribute that I’ve seen after enjoying Nearly Dan at the Robin 2 in Bilston a couple of years ago. Both acts have had the arrangements on the original Steely Dan recordings down pat and there’s virtually no messing around with the songs.

Interestingly though, neither of the vocalists in either Nearly Dan or The Royal Scammers attempts to copy Donald Fagen’s famous adenoidal New Jersey sneer. Fagen’s voice is unique, a one off, so it’s probably a wise decision not to try. Both singers are accomplished vocalists and the songs still sound good when they sing them, which is a reflection of the quality of the original writing by Fagen and his musical partner, the late, great Walter Becker. And at least these two tribute acts don’t try to dress like or look like their subjects. Let’s face it Donald and Walter did their best to remain anonymous anyway.

After today’s taster I’d love to see the full Royal Scammers show, possibly when they play at Swansea Jazz Festival in June.

un.procedure plus

This Festival commission featured the band un.procedure, normally comprised of Cassie Kinoshi (alto saxophone), Piera Onacko (keyboards, electronics) and Nathan England-Jones (drums, electronics) plus visual artist David Stanley aka Guri Bosh.

Onacko and England-Jones are graduates of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire, while Onacko knew Kinoshi from school days and had performed with her in youth jazz orchestras.

Following a move to London Kinoshi became a leading figure on the capital’s music scene thanks to her involvement with the band Nerija and with the Afro-beat ensemble Kokoroko. She also leads her own group Seed Ensemble.

Kinoshi is currently in the process of re-locating to Berlin and post Brexit rules prevented her from making a return to the UK to play at Cheltenham, which was very disappointing for her, not to mention the rest of the band and, of course, the audience. Thanks a bunch David Cameron.

With Kinoshi recording saxophone parts remotely specifically for today’s performance it was decided to push on with a project that had initially been commissioned by the Jazzlines organisation at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It also represented the first  Tony Dudley-Evans Commission for the Parabola programme, with Longrow Capital kindly providing funds to help ensure that the PAC programme continues to remain at the cutting edge of UK jazz in the coming years.

For this performance Onacko and England-Jones were augmented by Alicia Gardener-Trejo on baritone sax plus the members of a string quartet, featuring violinists Beth Bellis and Maureen Onwunali, violist Natalie Mason and cellist Simon (sorry, didn’t catch his second name).

With Kinoshi absent much of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Onacko, who responded to the challenge admirably. Her skilful manipulation of a variety of electronic devices was central to the band’s sound and with England-Jones also deploying electronics this was primarily an electronic performance but with strings and woodwinds providing welcome additional colour and texture, and of course that all important humanising element.

This hour long unbroken musical performance was accompanied by Stanley’s visuals which were bright, colourful and inventive, although I found them less distracting than those of Bret Syfert at the NYJO / Nikki Yeoh show on Friday night, possibly because Stanley’s were more abstract. Nevertheless discernible visual themes included mountain scenery and water imagery, a railway journey, architecture and space travel. Apparently much of the music was inspired by various video games so a collaboration with a visual artist made perfect sense for un.procedure.

Onacko introduced the performance at the keyboards whilst also deploying her various electronic devices to generate driving beats, these augmented by the jagged bowing of the strings and the contrasting high register sounds of Gardener-Trejo’s flute.

Sampled voices were used to generate choral effects and there were also examples of sampled speech as melancholy cello contrasted effectively with Onacko’s electronica.

Although the performance was unbroken the music did appear to be divided into different sections, the next sequence featuring the sounds of Kinoshi’s remotely recorded saxophone parts, these subtly treated by Onacko. Strings, drums and baritone sax were added with Gardener-Trejo on baritone augmenting Kinoshi’s fog horn like blasts. This led to an anthemic passage featuring a combination of electronic beats and soaring strings.

The blend of electronic beats, strings (particularly cello) and Gardener-Trejo’s range of flutes continued to be extremely effective as the music progressed.

What was effectively the fourth movement was introduced by Mason on viola and included a flute solo from Gardener-Trejo plus Kinoshi’s second remotely recorded contribution. England-Jones was also featured as an electronics artist with his spacey electronics augmented by suitably cosmic visual imagery and the sounds of saxophones both on stage and off.

A rousing closing section featured powerful drumming, rattling electronic beats, pizzicato strings and towering baritone sax.

It had been an absorbing hour of music and visuals, but one couldn’t escape the fact that there had been a Cassie shaped hole where Kinoshi should have been. The other participants coped admirably in her absence but this still wasn’t quite the performance that it should have been.

I was particularly impressed by Onacko who held the whole thing together. Electronic artists are too often dismissed as mere ‘knob twiddlers’, but here was a real musician at work, displaying an impressive command of the various devices at her disposal and shaping and directing the flow of the music. Her performance really was at the heart of it all.

Hopefully Kinoshi will be available when the core un.procedure trio headline the Jazz Stroud festival later in the month.


From one act making effective use of electronics to another.

The American trumpeter Theo Croker is the grandson of the late, great Doc Cheatham and learned his trade from Donald Byrd.

I caught a quick glimpse of Croker when he played on the Barbican Freestage at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival and was very impressed by what I briefly saw and heard.

In 2019 Croker was back at EFGLJF as part of the all star Jazz Animals sextet celebrating the 80th anniversary of the iconic American record label Blue Note, founded in New York City in 1939. Reviews of both these performances can be found a part of my Festival coverage elsewhere on this site.

Of course the Jazz Animals performance in particular found Croker playing in a relatively mainstream jazz context. As the leader of his own band he takes a far more contemporary approach and augments the sound of his trumpet with electronics.

Now an established bandleader with two EPs and eight full length albums under his belt Croker brought his quartet to Cheltenham for this much anticipated and well attended show.  Joining the trumpeter were Idris Cedric on piano and keyboards, Eric Wheeler on double bass and the remarkable Jeremiah Collier (drums).

The show commenced with the sounds of long, breathy trumpet notes, rippling piano arpeggios and arco bass, with Croker also deploying electronics to manipulate his sound. Seated behind an enormous drum and percussion set up Collier began to establish an ever evolving groove that provided the impetus for Croker’s long, open ended trumpet melody lines and his inventive use of electronics, including the sounds of sampled voices.  Cedric added flashes of piano lyricism before the music became more forceful, sometimes reminiscent of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, with Cedric now making effective use of electric keyboards. The music also suggested the influence of John Coltrane inspired spiritual jazz, while also possessing something of the quasi-orchestral sweep of Kamasi Washington.

At first I wasn’t entirely convinced about the use of quite so much electronica, I’d initially been expecting something a bit more mainstream, but I quickly found myself being drawn into Croker’s sound-world with its mix of acoustic and electric elements allied to a political dimension that embraced the sounds of the sampled voice of Malcolm X.

In addition to his fluency as a trumpet soloist Croker also featured as a vocalist, first sounding like a cosmic 21st century version of Chet Baker, before launching into semi rap territory.

A free-wheeling performance saw Croker and the quartet seguing several tunes together, the material including “Amen Waters”, “64 Joints”, “To Believe” and “Where Will You Go?”, the latter co-written by Croker and Kassa Overall, who had been behind the kit at that 2015 EFGLJF performance. Wheeler had been part of that line up too.

The next sequence included the tunes “Dinner With Grace” and “Cyclic Episodes” and was ushered in by a dialogue between Croker and the brilliant Collier, with Croker subsequently embarking on a relatively more conventional trumpet solo. Cedric was featured on electric piano and the leader on echoed trumpet, all the while fuelled by Collier’s kinetic drumming. There was no letting up in terms of intensity during Cedric’s acoustic piano solo on the venue’s Yamaha grand, or during Croker’s next trumpet excursion, which also saw Cedric deploying an organ sound on his Nord keyboard.

We were now coming towards the end of the show with Croker exiting the stage and leaving the trio to carry on, Cedric delivering a keyboard solo that deployed a synth sound before departing himself and letting the patient Wheeler take over. Finally, Collier, ‘Mr Perpetual Motion’, was left alone for a marathon drum solo that demonstrated both his awesome technique and his phenomenal stamina. Croker now bounded back on to the stage to trigger some samples that the drummer responded to with considerable aplomb.

With its mix of brilliant all round playing, the inventive use of electronics and the skilled melding of acoustic and electric sounds this was a remarkable performance.

In 2015 I observed;
“Croker’s phenomenal ‘chops’ combined with a sense of showmanship and a streetwise, politically savvy attitude suggested that he is a musician whose star will continue to rise as he accrues a strong following”.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet I’d say that that prediction was pretty much borne out by tonight’s performance. The Jazz Arena crowd responded in kind and this was definitely one of THE gigs of the Festival.

For me Croker was almost upstaged by Collier, who also impressed at last year’s Festival as a member of superstar bassist Stanley Clarke’s N’4EVER band at the Town Hall. Still only twenty three Collier seems to have kicked on already. He really is a phenomenal drummer and we’re bound to hear a lot more from him.

In the meantime look out for Croker’s forthcoming album, which is due in autumn.


Following last night’s disastrous rock gig from Nadine Shah at the Town Hall I was beginning to question the wisdom of requesting a ticket for this show starring Huey Morgan, former front man of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

I have to confess about not knowing a whole lot about Morgan and FLC but I have enjoyed his work as a radio presenter for BBC Radio 6 and decided to give it a go.

This was a standing only gig so I positioned myself near the back of the hall, not far from the mixing desk, and the sound was so much better than it had been for Nadine Shah. I could even hear the words.

Morgan’s band featured himself on lead guitar and lead vocal plus the mysteriously named “King” on electric bass, Adrian Gautry on keyboards and occasional guitar, Leon Harrison-James on drums and Mateo DiFontaine on turntables. The fact that Gautry had a genuine Hammond B3 on stage represented a huge bonus as far as I was concerned.

Morgan proved to be a charismatic and witty front man, a confident vocalist and a skilled guitar soloist. A native New Yorker his music reflected the musical melting pot that is New York City, a mix of rock, funk and hip hop, but if I describe it as a rock / rap crossover that makes it sound like the UK’s own Pop Will Eat Itself and really wasn’t like PWEI at all – although having said that neither PWEI or FLC, and by extension Morgan, were averse to injecting a little irreverent into their music. Just look at two of FLC’s biggest hits, “Barry White” and “Scooby Snacks”, both of which got an airing tonight and elicited ecstatic audience sing alongs.

Other crowd favourites included “King of New York”, “The View Belongs to Everyone”, “I Can’t Go With That”, “Smoke ‘Em While You Got ‘Em” and “Mini Bar Blues”.

Morgan’s observational style of writing occasionally reminded me of his fellow New Yorker, Lou Reed. Despite his decadent image Lou had moments of humour too, but generally Morgan is far more irreverent and tongue in cheek.

As this was a standing show I didn’t really take notes, but I did enjoy myself and was impressed with Morgan in his various roles of singer, guitarist, songwriter and streetwise raconteur. I’m no fan of rap and preferred the rock content, but I didn’t find the hip hop element in any way offensive to my ear. On the evidence of this performance I’d be more than happy to check out the Morgan / FLC back catalogue.

Of the other instrumentalists I was particularly impressed by Gautrey, and especially by his playing of that B3.

Morgan’s fans, and there were plenty of them, loved this show and after giving the faithful the hits Morgan indulged the recently discovered country side of his musical persona during a three song encore that finished with an arrangement of “We Have All The Time In The World”, written by John Barry and Hal David and made famous by Louis Armstrong. It represented an appropriate way for Morgan to round off a gig at a jazz festival.

As a first timer at a Huey Morgan show I was impressed, and was glad that I decided to take a chance on this one.









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