Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Sunday at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 30/04/2023.

by Ian Mann

May 06, 2023

Ian Mann on performances by Paal Nilssen-Love's Circus, Deadeye, Mozes Rosenberg / Giacomo Smith Quartet, Stanley Clarke's N'4EVER, Julian Lage Trio and Fergus McCreadie Trio.

Photograph of Stanley Clarke by Tim Dickeson



Paal Nilssen-Love – drums, percussion, Juliana Venter – vocals, Thomas Johansson – trumpet, Signe Emmeluth – alto sax, Oddrun Lilja – guitar, vocals, Christian Meaas Svendsen – electric and acoustic bass, Kalle Moberg – accordion

The Festival’s Norwegian strand continued with this performance by Circus, a septet led by the Norwegian drummer, percussionist, composer and improviser Paal Nilssen-Love.

Nilssen-Love is best known as a ferocious free jazz improviser and has worked with such celebrated figures of that scene as saxophonists Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee. British musicians with whom he works on a regular basis include fellow drummer Steve Noble and pianist Alexander Hawkins.

One time Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen is something of a fan and reviewed some of Nilssen-Love’s live appearances during the early days of the site, notably by free jazz power trio The Thing, featuring the drummer alongside Gustafsson and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten.

But Nilssen-Love is also a composer and bandleader, leading his own groups, including the celebrated twenty one piece Large Unit. He has recorded frequently as both leader and sideman and details of his extensive discography can be found at his website

His latest project is Circus, a band featuring six young musicians, most of whom who have passed through the ranks of Large Unit. The majority are Norwegian but the line up includes the extraordinary South African born vocalist Julia Venter.

Conceived during lockdown the septet’s début album “Pairs of Three” is inspired by the music of Brazil, although today’s astonishing performance never sounded obviously Brazilian. Nilssen-Love also draws on the inspiration of Ethiopian music as well as both the American and European jazz and improv traditions.

Today’s show was structured as a single unbroken performance, a mix of written and improvised music divided into discernible sections within the framework of the piece as a whole. I spoke to bassist Svendsen after the show, who informed me that the band had a number of tunes that they could dip in and out of at will but that the performance was largely improvised. With the exception of Venter, who had crib sheets for the lyrics, no one was sight reading an indication of the overall concept of freeness with regard to the project.

This was also a highly visual performance, with Nilssen-Love and his equipment situated centre stage, with three huge gongs situated behind the conventional drum kit. Even before the band came on this set up represented an arresting visual spectacle.

Nilssen-Love began by standing to play the gongs. Those of us of a certain age will remember the huge gongs that prog rock groups used to have, which were probably only ever hit once at the very end of the set.  ELP I’m thinking of you here.

But this was very different from such prog rock excesses, Nilssen-Love’s playing of the gongs during an atmospheric opening section was inherently musical,  beautiful, and even magical. He was joined by the sounds of Venter’s voice, emulating bird song, the fluttering of Emmeluth’s alto sax and the muted whisper of Johansson’s trumpet.

The momentum increased as Nilseen-Love rattled shakers before moving to the drum kit, his rhythms augmented by the free jazz squalls of alto and trumpet. As Svendsen’s electric bass locked in with the leader the whole band coalesced with an explosive power around a mighty riff, although at this stage of the proceedings Lilja’s guitar was still a little too low in the mix.

Gradually the riffing fragmented into a softer dialogue between Moberg’s accordion and the leader’s hand drums and small percussion. Venter’s remarkable vocals were then added to the equation, ranging from semi-operatic to primal screaming but also incorporating her own lyrics, sung in English. At one point there was even a snippet of Dolly Parton’s “Joelene” but in truth this music was closer to that of Frank Zappa and his cut and paste approach.

Venter’s voice proved to be an incredibly versatile instrument, ranging from piercing high pitch screams to almost impossibly deep ululations akin to throat singing. She also represented a visual presence,  a previously demure looking figure coming to the front of the stage to dance in shamanistic, dervish like fashion as if battered by the force of the music, rather like David Byrne with Talking Heads or Peter Hammill during Van Der Graaf Generator’s more extreme instrumental moments.

The music continued to ebb and flow, veering between the written and the improvised with bouts of monumental riffing interspersed by more reflective episodes featuring the lonely ring of muted trumpet and the quiet rustle of small percussion.

A rousing ‘marching band’ style section fragmented into a free jazz episode, from which Johansson emerged to deliver a powerful trumpet solo as the rest of the band coalesced around him playing a mighty, drum driven riff.

The music continued to evolve in kaleidoscopic fashion with various members of the group coming to the fore at different points. Venter delivered more extraordinary larynx splitting screams, a kind of vocal shredding, as well as singing further passages of English language lyrics.

Emmeluth screamed through her alto, soaring above the odd meter riffs and grooves generated by the rest of the band, these enough to set heads nodding around the venue as the audience became increasingly immersed in this remarkable music.

Lilja, a solo artist in her own right with two album to her credit, came to the front of the stage to deliver her guitar solo. We could certainly hear her now as her guitar seared and soared and as she entered into an unlikely face off with accordionist Moberg.

Eventually all good things come to an end and the audience responded with an ecstatic reaction to this extraordinary music. All the copies of the Circus CD had been sold before I had even exited the auditorium, which was the only disappointment about a gig that was probably my favourite of the Festival.

This year’s Festival featured a number of long form improvisations, including CollapseUncollapse and Black Top on Saturday and Deadeye later in the day, but this had to be the pick of them for its sheer distinctiveness and unpredictability. Venter’s astonishing vocal performance was also a major factor, as was the dazzling playing of Nilssen-Love, a phenomenally gifted drummer and percussionist who was technically brilliant and also marshalled the entire performance from the drum kit. It was his vision that helped to make this such a remarkable performance.


The second gig of the day at the PAC featured Deadeye, a new trio featuring the British organist Kit Downes plus the German musicians Reinier Baas (guitar) and Jonas Burgwinkel (drums).

Downes has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages for a number of years and I have have encountered Burgwinkel’s playing in groups led by pianist Pablo Held and saxophonist Peter Ehwald, but Baas was a new name to me.

The trio operate in the classic ‘organ trio’ format with Downes on Hammond and they have already released two albums, the studio set “Deadeye” and the concert recording “Deadeye Live”, the latter only available on vinyl.

The band attempt to update the concept of the organ trio for the 21st century and place a strong emphasis on the process of improvisation. The trio’s sound owes little to the classic organ trio sound of vintage Blue Note recordings and the group’s Bandcamp page features the following mission statement;

 “It has been a long-cherished wish for the three of us to play music together, and we have done as much in different settings and projects. We feel we have found the right instrumentation to unify our various musical influences in the tried and tested formula of the Hammond trio. In doing so, we are indebted to Ennio Morricone, Lili Boulanger, Richard Strauss, Wes Montgomery and MF DOOM, among many others”.

The trio’s show at the Parabola featured Downes playing a vintage, dual manual, matt black Hammond complete with Leslie speaker cabinet. Their performance featured two lengthy excursions that pushed the boundaries of the organ trio to their limits.

The title of the first piece was unannounced but was introduced by Burgwinkel at the drums, playing with a combination of mallets and bare hands. Baas responded to his rhythmic patterns with the sound of FX drenched guitar as Downes added church like organ sounds.

Baas adopted a purer, more conventional guitar sound as the music began to veer in the direction of prog rock in a manner that was sometimes reminiscent of the fondly remembered Troyka, Downes’ previous organ trio with guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Joshua Blackmore. That said Deadeye probably push the envelope even further than Troyka, in a manner that sometimes reminded me of Medeski, Martin and Wood and particularly the Norwegian trio Elephant9, featuring organist Stale Storlokken. Reviews of this show have also made comparisons with the original edition of Lifetime, featuring drummer Tony Williams and organist Larry Young.

Sit down guitarist Baas delivered incisive,  nimble fingered solos that occasionally ventured into the realms of extended technique. Downes meanwhile explored the full range of the organ’s sonic capabilities, from the celestial and ethereal to the deep and earthy, whether in dialogue with Baas or Burgwinkel. In the main he avoided the usual jazz Hammond clichés and his performance was consistently exploratory and inventive.

The second half of the set was based around Baas’ composition “On Two”, a piece that appears on the “Deadeye Live” album. This was introduced by the sound of guitar and drums as Downes made brief running repairs to the Hammond. As a trio the musicians then established a taut, riffy groove, the basis for enterprising solos from Downes and Baas, plus a drum feature for Burgwinkel.

At this juncture I suspect that the music segued into another piece but the music continued unbroken with a quieter, more atmospheric episode featuring the sounds of organ drones, guitar scratches and rubbed drumsticks.

An odd meter groove then emerged, with Bass soloing above the sound of Burgwinkel’s drums and Downes’ growling Hammond. The organist’s own solo saw him pushing the instrument to its limits, exploring the kind of bass frequencies that you feel rather than hear. For the second time this afternoon I was reminded of Van Der Graaf Generator and the lurid 1970s music paper headlines that the group’s keyboard player, Hugh Banton, was “building an organ that can knock down walls”.

Thankfully the Parabola survived Downes’ low end experimental rumblings and in a performance of extreme dynamic contrasts we now enjoyed Baas’ gentle solo guitar ruminations before the music segued into the American folk / gospel tune “The Wayfaring Stranger”, a version of which appears on Deadeye’s studio album. This featured Downe’s Hammond playing at its most celestial and church like.

Finally a neatly constructed solo drum passage from the excellent Burgwinkel led to a dazzling riff based closing passage featuring turn on a dime dynamic changes and final solos from Downes on swirling Hammond and Baas on guitar.

This was music that was both exploratory and highly exciting, an excellent combination, and again the audience responded accordingly. The free vinyl offered by Downes was quickly snaffled up and the CD wasn’t available, so I wasn’t able to take a piece of Deadeye home with me, which was again disappointing.

From where I was sitting, not far from the mixing desk, the sound was well balanced and in the rare quiet moments one could even hear the swish of the Leslie as the drum spun around. However audience members right at the front of the hall complained that the guitar was too loud and blotted out both the drums and the Hammond. I can only surmise that the bulk of the organ itself blocked the sound from the Leslie. An interesting phenomenon, I’ve been attending events at the Parabola for many years and this is the only real complaint I’ve ever heard about the sound, which has generally always been excellent.


From one sit down guitarist to another, albeit one operating in a very different genre of jazz.

Mozes Rosenberg is a member of the famous Dutch gypsy jazz dynasty, a clan that also includes guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg, regarded by many as the natural heir of the great Django Reinhardt, and rhythm guitarist and vocalist Johnny Rosenberg.  Members of the family often perform together under the collective name The Rosenbergs.

I recall seeing Mozes perform as part of a quintet led by Stochelo at the 2019 Brecon Jazz Festival that delivered some of the finest gypsy jazz playing that I have ever seen or heard.

Today Mozes was co-leading an international quartet alongside Kansas Smitty’s clarinettist Giacomo Smith, with rhythmic duties being undertaken by guitarist Oswald Remi and double bassist William Brunard, both from France.

Gypsy jazz is rarely heard as part of the concert programme at CJF but the enduring popularity of the genre was reflected by the large and highly attentive audience at the Jazz Arena. The excellent turn out was also testament to the reputation of the Rosenberg family as keepers of the gypsy jazz flame and to the popularity of the affable Smith and the Kansas Smitty’s franchise.

Inevitably the music of the Rosenberg / Smith quartet is inspired by the playing and writing of the late, great Django Reinhardt and although Reinhardt’s most famous collaboration was with the violinist Stephane Grappelli he also worked regularly with horn players, and particularly with clarinettists, so there were plenty of precedents for today’s collaboration, among them the American clarinettist Evan Christopher’s popular Django a la Creole project.

As rain drummed on the roof of the Jazz Arena during the course of one of the few promised heavy showers the erudite Smith announced the first tune, a brisk romp through “After You’ve Gone”, with solos from himself on clarinet and Rosenberg on guitar.

“Double Scotch” featured further solos from Smith and Rosenberg and also included a solo from Brunard on double bass. Apparently Paris based Brunard is a multi-instrumentalist capable of playing any instrument in the band, including the clarinet.

Introducing the Reinhardt composition “Minor Blues” Smith recounted the now familiar story of Reinhardt losing two fingers in a caravan fire but overcoming this setback to become a virtuoso guitarist. As an American based in London Smith equated this tale with that of baseball pitcher Mordecai Brown, inventor of the “knuckle ball”. For British audiences a more familiar parallel might be Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, who damaged his fingers in an industrial accident and took inspiration from Reinhardt as he adapted his guitar technique to compensate for his injuries.

Cole Porter’s “Begin The Beguine” featured solos from Smith, Rosenberg and Brunard, with Remi focussing on the vital rhythm guitar function throughout the set.

The Porter theme continued with “Just One Of Those Things”, with the rapid chug of Remi’s rhythm guitar fuelling solos from Rosenberg and Smith.

The clarinettist then performed a stunning unaccompanied version of Reinhardt’s best known ballad, the enduringly popular “Nuages”. “An appropriate title for today”, mused Smith although the rain had abated by now. This was a performance that combined awesome technique with great beauty, but for the first time sound leakage from the other stages was unfortunately noticeable.

Reinhardt recorded a version of another of his most famous compositions, “Tiger Rag”, with a French alto saxophonist, whose name Smith did announce but which I didn’t catch. This version was unusual in that Reinhardt played rhythm guitar, and was, of course, just as brilliant in this role as he was as a soloist. This afternoon’s duo version from Smith and Rosenberg saw the guitarist playing mainly rhythm, only breaking ranks towards the close to exchange melodic flourishes with Smith. 

The other members of the quartet returned for the final two numbers, both of which were unannounced but were delivered in rapid ‘Hot Club’ style with dazzling solos from the co-leaders on both tunes and from Brunard on the first.

As with the 2019 Brecon concert with Mozes and Stochelo this was gypsy jazz of the first order and the crowd responded accordingly, giving the members of the quartet a terrific reception. The only misgivings I heard were from serious guitar aficionados who wished to have heard more from Rosenberg and a little less from Smith. It may have been the clarinet dominated versions of “Nuages” and “Tiger Rag” that prompted this response. Personally I had no complaints and this amiable set from four very talented musicians added greatly to the variety of music played at the Festival. On this evidence a regular gypsy jazz slot on the concert programme in future years would be something to be welcomed by many Festival goers.


I grew up listening to Stanley Clarke’s virtuoso playing on recordings by Chick Corea’s Return To Forever and on Clarke’s celebrated solo album “School Days”. My personal jazz tastes have moved on from that kind of fusion but Clarke remains something of a legend and I couldn’t resist the opportunity of seeing one of my very first jazz heroes performing in the flesh for the first time. (I’d already caught up with the late Corea performing in various different musical guises over the years).

Clarke’s current band, N’4EVER is touring Europe at the moment and features the seventy one year old in the company of a group of highly talented young musicians, most of whom are probably half, or even a third, his age. For today’s show Clarke and the American musicians Emilio Modeste (saxophones, EWI), Colin Cook (acoustic & electric guitars) and Jeremiah Collier (drums, percussion) were joined by the Georgian born Beka Gochiashvili on grand piano and electric keyboards.

No two Stanley Clarke shows are ever the same and although the bassist has acquired a reputation for being something of a showman he is still a serious musician and the process of improvisation remains at the core of his music.

Clarke played for many years with the late keyboard player and composer George Duke (1946 – 2013) and he makes a point of playing a George Duke tune at every gig. Today’s set began with a lengthy exploration of Duke’s composition “Brazilian Love Affair”, introduced by Collier at the drums and with Clarke playing the melody on acoustic double bass. There was an interesting mix of acoustic and electric instruments with Cook featuring on acoustic guitar and Modeste on EWI. Meanwhile the impressive Gochiashvili took the first solo on acoustic piano, followed by Cook on acoustic guitar. The leader’s bass solo combined a strong sense of melody with a deeply resonant tone and an astonishing manual dexterity, his technique incorporating flamboyant flamenco style strumming and the use of the body of the instrument as a form of auxiliary percussion. Clarke’s hands are huge and his fingers almost prehensile, already six feet tall by the age of twelve he is the perfect physical fit for the double bass. Clarke’s extended solo developed into a dialogue with the dynamic young drummer Collier, a native of Chicago aged just twenty two. As Gochiashvili moved to electric keyboards the impressive Collier rounded off this first piece with an explosive drum feature, underpinned by the Georgian’s synth bass lines.

Clarke’s sets will often include an interpretation of a jazz standard and today’s choice was the Joe Henderson composition “Black Narcissus”, introduced by a gentle passage of unaccompanied acoustic piano from Gochiashvili. Once again Clarke took up the melody on double bass, with Modeste joining him on tenor sax to expand upon the theme and to take the first solo. Cook had switched to electric guitar and his solo was both cool and elegant. Gochiashvili than took over on piano and then Clarke on double bass. Collier deployed brushes throughout and his drum feature initially represented a total contrast to the hammering at the close of the Duke piece. Eventually he did pick up the sticks to increase the power levels, with Modeste returning to restate Henderson’s theme.

The publicity for this gig had suggested that the performance would be centred around the classic 1976 Return To Forever album “Romantic Warrior”. Instead Clarke’s tribute to the late Corea was the title track of the previous year’s RTF album “No Mystery”. I’d not heard this in a long time and had forgotten just what a good tune it is. The performance saw Cook moving back to acoustic guitar while Modeste took up the soprano sax. Clarke demonstrated his impressive technique with the bow before eventually switching back to pizzicato bass. Gochiashvili’s acoustic piano solo was a rumbustious, fiery affair and he was followed by Modeste on soprano sax and Cook on acoustic guitar,  both of whom displayed great virtuosity, with Cook adding some flamenco style flourishes of his own. Clarke then took over for a totally compelling double bass feature, much it performed in the sole company of Collier, a showcase that combined prodigious plucking with strumming and slapping techniques. The rest of the band, led by Modeste’s soprano, then returned for a final theme statement.

Although they had only played three pieces N’4EVER had already exceeded their designated seventy five minute Festival slot and despite the cheers of a rapturous audience there was to be no more. Two electric basses were propped up at the back of the stage but we were denied the opportunity of seeing Stanley strut his stuff through “School Days” or something similar.

Nevertheless nobody was complaining about what they had seen and heard. Clarke’s own virtuoso playing had been nothing less than stunning, and like Ezra Collective the previous evening the crowd pleasing elements were only part of a wider musicality. The leader was well supported by a hugely talented band of younger musicians, of whom Collier, in particular caught the eye. Already a phenomenally talented technician his playing will improve even more and gain a greater subtlety as his career progresses. These young guys certainly help to Clarke on his toes. He may perch on a tall stool to play the double bass these days but his fingers are as fast as ever and his love of the music remains undimmed.

It’s not always easy to mix a band that contains electric and acoustic instruments but the quality of the sound was very good, especially in a venue that I have criticised for its acoustics in the past, so once again well done to the sound engineers too. They played their part in making my first Stanley Clarke gig such a memorable one.


Like so many other leading musicians the American guitarist and composer Julian Lage (born in 1987) first came to the attention of jazz audiences as a member of vibraphonist Gary Burton’s band.

Burton’s quartet, featuring Lage, appeared in this same venue ten years ago, but I remember being slightly disappointed by them at the time.

It was only after some deliberation that I came to Lage’s gig today. In a case of unfortunate Festival scheduling he was playing at the same time as British trumpeter Laura Jurd at the Parabola, who was performing a special commission honouring Tony Dudley-Evans at what was to be his final gig as Programme Advisor at CJF. A tough choice, but I figured that Laura’s commission might get a second performance in Birmingham later in the year, so working on the principle that you have to catch American musicians when you get the chance I opted for the guitarist.

During the course of the last decade Lage has established himself as a bandleader in his own right and now has fifteen recordings as a leader to his credit. He is currently signed to Blue Note Records following a previous tenure with Mack Avenue and his regular trio, which is currently touring Europe, features Jorge Roeder on double bass and Bad Plus drummer Dave King behind the kit.

Lage is very much a ‘guitarist’s guitarist’ and the audience included his fellow axemen Chris Cobbson and Andy Bowen, who both later told me that they had been hugely impressed with Lage’s playing. Also present were saxophonist / vocalist Kim Cypher and her drummer husband Mike, plus pianist Alex Steele. The Cyphers and Steele had recently played a gig in Cheltenham with the American guitarist B.D. Lenz and there was certainly something of B.D.’s jazz meets rock meets Americana sound in Lage’s playing.

The trio commenced with “Twilight Summer”, a track from Lage’s first Blue Note album “Squint”. Lage has developed a guitar style that draws on the influences of Pat Metheny, another Burton alumnus, and Bill Frisell, but which is very much his own. Indeed Frisell appears alongside Lage on Julian’s latest album “View With A Room”, from which much of tonight’s material was sourced, and its companion EP “The Layers”.

The new album was represented by “Auditorium”, which featured the Frisell like twang of the leader’s guitar alongside the subtle swing of Roeder’s bass and the deft brush work of King. It was interesting to see King play in a different musical setting to the Bad Plus and to note that in the context of the Lage trio that his drumming was more obviously jazz, rather than rock, influenced.

Also from “View With A Room” the track “Castle Park” featured King’s playing more prominently as it concluded with a rousing drum feature.

A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced “Fairbanks”, another tune from the “View With A Room” album. Roeder and King then combined to produce an insistent,  chugging rhythm that underpinned Lage’s six string explorations, the guitarist drawing inspiration both from the blues and from early rock’n’roll. Much like Frisell Lage has developed his own brand of Americana. This piece also included a bass feature for the impressive Jorge Roeder.

King’s drums introduced the hard driving “Chavez”, the most energetic piece thus far and one that delivered some dazzling soloing from Lage, a flurry of mercurial single note lines and complex, sophisticated chording.

Tune announcements fizzled out as the members of the trio just focussed on the playing, clearly enjoying themselves immensely. The programme included two elegant ballads featuring Lage’s fluent soloing, sounding almost Metheny like at times, and more skilled brush work from King. The second of these had an almost anthemic quality, drawing on the influence of mainstream rock.

There was an obvious Metheny homage with a blisteringly fast, technically brilliant rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “Round Trip / Broadway Blues”, a tune that appears on Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” album. This was more loosely structured than Metheny’s version and included a drum feature for the excellent King.

I certainly enjoyed this performance from Lage, whose blending together of various types of American music – jazz, rock, country and more – is undeniably impressive and highly skilled. Yet even with the irrepressible King on drums that sense that it’s all just a little bit TOO tasteful remained.

The rest of the audience seemed to have no such reservations and this admittedly excellent show was rewarded with a great reception.


My final gig of the day found me back at Cheltenham Town Hall for this performance by the Scottish pianist, composer and improviser Fergus McCreadie and his trio.

A frequent award winner and a Mercury Music Prize nominee McCreadie is a rising star of the UK jazz scene and his appearance at one of the Festival’s larger venues is a testament to the size of the following he has generated for his distinctive blend of jazz and Scottish traditional music.

McCreadie is not the first Scottish jazz musician to integrate elements of Scottish folk music into his sound, but his inclusion of it in the context of a Keith Jarrett inspired jazz piano trio must surely be unique.

An increasingly important player on both the British and European jazz scenes McCreadie has released three albums to date, beginning with the self released “Turas” (2018), which won the 2019 Parliamentary Jazz Award for best album. The success of “Turas” led to the McCreadie Trio signing to Edition Records for “Cairn” (2021) and the Mercury nominated “Forest Floor” (2022).

Tonight’s performance saw the pianist in the company of long serving trio members David Bowden (double bass) and Stephen Henderson (drums). These three young musicians are all still in their twenties and “Turas” was recorded when they were still students. Nevertheless they have developed an impressive and astonishingly mature rapport and this was a quality that was readily apparent throughout this performance.

Playing with minimal amplification this was essentially an acoustic performance and the clarity of the sound at this sometimes difficult venue was again a significant factor in the success of this excellent concert.

McCreadie uses his folk inspired melodies as the basis for improvisation and spontaneity is very much a factor in the trio’s live appearances. Like all the best jazz no two McCreadie Trio shows are exactly alike and today’s show was very different to my last sighting of the trio at Clun Valley Jazz in Bishop’s Castle in the Autumn of 2022. That performance had sometimes been very intense but the playing tonight was more measured and spacious and was frequently very beautiful.

McCreadie was very busy during lockdown and gave weekly online performances, in which a substantial part of the programme was given over to lengthy Jarrett style solo improvisations. The quality of these suggested that Fergus could give Keith a run for his money and McCreadie has suggested that he may record in this format at some point in the future.

Tonight there was a Jarrett like quality about a fifty minute opening segue that took in four different tunes, “Morning Moon” from the “Forest Floor” album, “Ardbeg” from” Turas”, the traditional Scottish tune “The Kerfunken Jig” and the as yet unrecorded new composition “Snowcap”, inspired by the wintry beauty of the Scottish landscape around Glencoe.

The sequence evolved from a hymn like solo piano introduction to embrace folk inspired melodies, classical style flourishes and an increasingly animated McCreadie solo that contained a veritable outpouring of musical ideas.  Bowden and Henderson were in step with the leader every inch of the way and the bassist’s arco feature, accompanied by Henderson’s filigree cymbal work provided the link into the next section of the segue. Bowden put down the bow for a more conventional bass solo before McCreadie took over again, working on a fresh set of ideas throughout a spellbinding solo that again invited those Jarrett comparisons. Significantly nobody was sight reading, a sign both of the trio’s instinctive rapport and to their commitment to the art of improvisation. The performance seemed to be coming to a conclusion with a near anthemic passage that included some dramatic drumming from Henderson, but the subsequent diminuendo developed into an engaging dialogue between Bowden and Henderson, supported by the leader’s gently rippling piano arpeggios.

McCreadie had been playing with his back to the crowd but now turned to face the audience, informing us of the individual tune titles in that dazzling but totally immersive opening segue. He also stressed that like Jarrett he liked to take to the stage unprepared and to let the music lead him. We were also informed that the trio have a new album in the pipeline. As a long time supporter of McCreadie’s music I shall very much be looking forward to that.

The next piece was announced as “a new tune, we’ll see where it goes”. Introduced by piano and drums the piece included features for both Bowden and Henderson as well as the expansive pianistic explorations of the leader as the music continued to gather momentum during its ten to fifteen minute duration. As with much of McCreadie’s music the results were so absorbing that I lost track of time.

The trio’s final piece was quiet and spacious, almost hymnal and was ushered in by a passage of unaccompanied piano, again possessed of an almost hymn like quality. Bowden’s bass solo was achingly melodic, augmented by Henderson’s feather like cymbal embellishments. This was delicate, intensely beautiful music that sometimes reminded me of Tord Gustavsen, Jarrett’s ECM label mate and another possible influence for McCreadie.

As this was the last show of the day at the Town Hall and as the audience reaction was so ecstatic the trio were accorded the rare Festival luxury of playing an encore. This combined folk inspired melodies with E.S.T. inspired grooves and featured a dazzling final solo from the leader.

There may have been less people in than for Ezra Collective or Stanley Clarke but the size of the audience was still re-assuringly large and their love for the music was even greater. This must have been one of the biggest UK gigs the trio have played thus far and it was an undoubted triumph for them.

So ended an incredible day of music, for me probably the best of the Festival all round. It was certainly the most varied, covering a broad range of jazz genres and featuring musicians from many different countries, a tribute to the unifying power of music and of jazz in particular.

It’s hard to pick a gig of the day, but it probably has to go to Paal Nilssen-Love for a strikingly original performance that was so unusual and unexpected.





blog comments powered by Disqus