In a society that often reveres the ephemeral and mocks ideas or concepts that don’t conform to the norm of the day here’s something to cherish, something only an independent record company can produce these days, and something only people with a passion and determination can achieve when they set their minds to it.
It’s the reissue by Swedish record label Caprice of Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society on CD and handsome double vinyl, whose sonic pristine presence hovers over the sorry tattered mess of the major label reissue efforts of late like an avenging angel.
Cherry by the end of the 1960s was living in Sweden with his wife Moki Karlsson and family, and collaborating with a range of Swedish players exploring what’s now called, uncomfortably to some because of its ‘coffee table’ connotations, world music. So in 1971 and 1972 Cherry got down the tracks for this double album which until this year apparently hadn’t appeared on CD. A few tracks ‘Elixir’ and ‘Relativity Suite’ were taped in a studio but the rest was live made on portable machines. Along with a range of leading Swedish players of the day including Bengt Berger, Christer Bothén, and Tommy Koverhult who sound just great alongside Cherry listen out for Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, and even Nana Vasconcelos little known in Europe at the time. As well as playing pocket cornet Cherry sings and takes to a range of instruments including harmonium, flute and conch shell. Of the music there’s a version of Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas’ ‘The Creator has a Masterplan’, music by Dollar Brand as he then was, and the great minimalist Terry Riley with plenty more beside to savour. The sound hits you in the face. So if you get hold of a copy, take your time, kick back, it might just make your day.
The MOBO nominations are released tonight. Last year Kairos 4tet was nominated in the best jazz act category, and Empirical and Yolanda Brown are recent winners. It’s a very difficult one to call, and I’ve blogged about this before in connection with the Mercurys.
The four in the frame for me this year are:
The cellist vocalist released this EP quietly last year. A rare UK winner at the famed Apollo amateur night in New York where she also spent time as a student at the Manhattan School of Music Witter-Johnson has the ability to cross boundaries with her carefully crafted compositions and thoughtful manner. If the 27-year-old Londoner gets the nomination, it will be for her authenticity and quiet distinctiveness, a quality in short supply for sure.
Just under a year ago guitarist Femi Temowo launched his second album Orin Meta in the unusual surroundings of Under The Bridge, the venue beneath the Shed End of Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge home, Best known for his work with Soweto Kinch who also appears on the album among a large cast of musicians and singers the British Nigerian surely has an original guitar approach, marking him out as a new jazz guitar star having absorbed his influences and come up with something new, honed in the past by performing with Soweto Kinch in the early J-Noir promoted days of Kinch’s career at gigs in the West End around 2003, and as a leader with his partly realised debut album Quiet Storm already under his belt released five years ago. He could well be on the MOBO radar this year.
Released on Gilles Peterson’s label last year this took a while to grow but with a confident live performance and interesting, emotive songs blessed with unusual harmonies and a refreshing approach McFarlane (pictured, top) made a lot of fans with this album. It’s a long way since she was a vocalist with Jazz Jamaica, but even then when she sang on Stevie Wonder’s ‘My Cherie Amour’ it was clear she had a big talent that has now come to fruition. Zara would be a popular choice.
Zoe has won a Mercury nomination in the past and at the beginning of her career a Perrier, so she’s no stranger to awards. Very experienced, an unusual pianist in that her key jazz influence was Joanne Brackeen, and she merges music from her Bengali heritage and even Irish heritage on this her latest album. Touring with Courtney Pine and Spatial AKA has added to her range and stagecraft, and her inclusion on the MOBO list of nominations would be a shrewd and knowledgeable choice.
Let’s see who’s on the list. From 8pm #mobo on Twitter and over at mobo.com
UPDATE: All the above were indeed nominated plus Roller Trio
One of the classiest guitarists and singers around, Matt Backer crops up in all sorts of people’s bands and on their records, most notably in recent years with Rumer on the superb Seasons of my Soul, and he’s currently touring with the Radio 2 A-playlisted Ethio-Swedish singer Emilia Mitiku.
But Backer doesn’t often release his own records, and the possibly ironically-titled Idle Hands is that bit more special for this reason.
His last album The Impulse Man came out in 2006 and picked up plenty of airplay in the States, but it was five years on from Is That All? So following a certain pattern here comes this one, with Julian Lennon joining the London-based American on the stirring ‘All That You’ve Wanted’, the fourth track here.
Martin Fry of ABC, who performed with Backer’s band at a rollicking Blues Kitchen gig in Camden at the tail end of last year, is also featured on the likeable Radio 2-friendly ‘Halfway To Jessica’ complete with a slab of standout Shadows-like shuddering bass.
But the album begins on a different tack with the Steely Dan-esque ‘Let’s Art’ and ‘Freak Patrol’, so there’s plenty of variety at work with Backer even unashamedly garage rock-inclined at times with a bluesy tinge on ‘I’m No Fool.’ A welcome return from a fine player who really should be better known under his own name.
Released by Right Recordings through Nova. Out now.
Playing in the foyer must be one of the hardest things an artist has to do.
Just looking around before Emilia Mårtensson and Barry Green took to the Box Office stage in the foyer of Kings Place at the annual Kings Place festival it’s as if there’s a riot in leisure going on. At the back there’s the candy store; over near some of the quietest escalators in London the regular café; and dotted about are simply dozens and dozens of people sitting, chatting, waiting to be entertained for free. Little kids before the duo came on were dancing to the re-imagined Brahms of a clarinet ‘taverna’ quintet, someone was grappling with a skateboard, don’t ask, and a steward was loading a bicycle into a lift.
But for Swedish singer Mårtensson and London pianist Green playing songs from their excellent Babel album And So It Goes they could have been in a library. Nothing would have fazed this pair. There was nothing subliminal in the opening song, Jacques Brel’s ‘If You Go Away’, or was there?
The audience to their credit began to listen after a while, and the din of excited and muffled chat, tinkling cups, and tumbling tots died down to at best a dull roar. Mårtensson tall, with long fair tresses and an imposing physique has a surprisingly quiet voice with plenty of light and shade to it not at all sung full gale at you, and the outcome was mellow but not in a Heart Radio sense. Green is an ideal accompanist who has a sensitivity to the gestures and cadences of singers as different as say show singer Claudia Morris as he is to the more left-field Mårtensson. In a purely instrumental setting, for instance with bop legend Charles McPherson, he can come over all Kenny Drew-like, remember that great master? But here he took a little run here and there although he didn’t really have to: it was enough to enjoy the voicings and resolutions.The foyer, no matter how plush, and Kings Place’s is exceedingly plush and beautiful, is a place no one wants to play, but everyone wants to congregate in. Mårtensson and Green gave it a great go, but please Mr Promoter put them on a stage that better suits their talents next time.
The pair, pictured above, play another foyer, at the Southbank Centre on the 28th; and the opening night of the London Jazz Festival on 9 November, at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho
Heart of the Matter
His fourth album as a leader for ACT, Haffner is an award-winning first call jazz drummer in Germany, and has played with a host of leading artists including Pat Metheny, Chaka Khan, Nils Landgren and Lars Danielsson. It’s a classy album for sure with a slick electric band that includes Sting guitarist Dominic Miller. Mostly Haffner tunes, Heart of the Matter is a little in the Pat Metheny Group vein at times, and manages to be highly polished without becoming too cloying. Not sure about the decision to include a cover of Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’ although it’s pleasant enough. I think the Haffner tunes stand up well enough to make the case for an all-originals album next time.
Released in late-October/early November
Chaos Collective ****
Much talked about on the London jazz underground grapevine for the past year or so trumpeter Jurd (above) was only 21 when she recorded this album in May, and it’s astonishingly cohesive and rewarding. All the music is her own arranged for a quartet plus the strings of the formidably plangent Ligeti Quartet, which features Basquiat cellist Ben Davis and fine violinist Mandhira de Saram, who with the Mount Molehill Strings plays on the Neil Cowley Trio record The Face of Mount Molehill. At times Jurd’s sound possibly recalls long-ago Kenny Wheeler themes and maybe as the album progresses Dave Douglas, but sometimes there’s no clear reference point at all, usually a good sign. It’s very much a confident, engaging and stimulating approach characterised by a Nordic feel along the way. An excellent debut.
Released on 5 November
Cinéma El Mundo
World Village ****
Oh this is just great, and not just because Robert Wyatt crops up along the way. Lo’Jo, from Angers, have been round the block a bit with many albums under their belt already and so you’re in safe hands here. Funky, a mix of sounds, with a bit of chanson and dub Denis Péan’s voice is endearing as are the backing vocals of Nadia Nid El Mourid and Yamina Nid El Mourid. Open ended, socially conscious, and unpretentious, it’s no wonder they’re festival favourites in world-music land, and very jazz-friendly as well. ‘Tout est Fragile’ is the pick of the tunes but there are lots of good ones to dip into.
Released on 24 September
My History of Jazz
Fascinatingly personal, Finnish pianist Rantala says “my entire history in music can be heard on this album", beginning with his encountering the music of Bach at just six, hence the presence of five improvisations on the Goldberg Variations at the core of this often sprightly mainstream album. Recorded in April, June and as recently as July in Sweden, Berlin and Montreux respectively, Rantala’s ‘journey’ via Bach takes in Kurt Weill, Monk, Gershwin, Juan Tizol, and Lars Gullin plus his own tunes. There is plenty of spirit, and good interplay with the band of Danish drummer Morten Lund, the supremely melodic Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson, and Polish violinist Adam Baldych. Rantala’s indomitable zest for a good improvisational break always stands out.
Released in late-October/early-November
Penguin Cafe ***
A piano/dulcitone/Rhodes/harmonium-violin duo no less with Arthur Jeffes of Penguin Café Orchestra renown and violinist Oli Langford providing a cornucopia of minimalist delights and little moments scattered about that imprint themselves in your head gently and quite beautifully at times. I liked ‘Both Hands in Pockets’ best, which extraordinarily, according to Jeffes’ notes, “uses a rock which we found can be made to sing." Worth seeking out; clearly every dog (and the odd boulder) has its day.
It’s got a rhythm about it, soft little syllables that trip off the tongue, and that part of the name that makes you think instinctively, if a bit waywardly, of hippies. Yes, it’s the Tampere Jazz Happening, and its programme for this year has just been announced. And this year the festival has been chosen as festival of the year by the Finland Festivals organisation who promote festivals all over this fascinating jazz-mad country. The happening is based in just two venues, in the Finnish industrial city north-west of Helsinki, a less rainy, more snowy version of Manchester.
The venues are just across the square from one another, a stone’s throw from the city’s train station. One of these is pretty small, a little restaurant with a hothouse atmosphere, not surprising perhaps as there is a sauna elsewhere in the building. But, as it’s Finland, that’s maybe not that unusual. The other is a medium sized concert hall with a club space attached. Tampere has a reputation for being “cutting edge", but that’s slightly deceptive as its remit is very wide within creative music, and it’s not a small area of whatever that trickily serrated genre actually is. The Happening is just a great festival over a weekend that usually includes a local holiday, and if you want to escape the UK in early-November you’ll have a whale of a time. Acts this year include just one UK representative, the go-ahead prog-y firestarters WorldService Project, who presented a great festival called Match & Fuse in London earlier in the year, and will be be touring in the UK soon with the highly promising Norwegian outfit, Pixel.
The Tampere line-up for 2012 has a mix of the best new local and international names and some big stars. As well as WorldService Project, there’s Actuum, who made a big impression at the 12 Points festival in Portugal earlier this year, Big Blue, Gerry Hemingway Quintet, Vijay Iyer Trio, Ibrahim Maalouf, Jorma Tapio and Kaski, Slo Motive, Black Motor and Mikko Innanen, Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra and DJ Borzin, Schneeweiss und Rosenrot, Hasse Poulsen’s Progressive Patriots, Sha’s Feckel, Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures Octet, The Jazz Passengers Reunited, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, Mopo, Rakka, Fredator, Ebo Taylor and The Afrobeat Academy plus DJ Bilongo, Han Bennink and Aki Takase, Mark Solborg Trio featuring Herb Robertson, Lotte Anker and Mikko Innanen, John Scofield Trio featuring Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart, and finally Adam Rudolph & Go: Organic Orchestra. (SG)
The Tampere Jazz Happening runs from 1-4 November. http://www.tamperemusicfestivals.fi/jazz/en/
WorldService Project pictured (photo: Philip Ower)
It’s always an event and a sense of occasion when Courtney Pine releases an album. And House of Legends, the saxophonist’s latest, is no different.
There is a chameleon-like trajectory to Pine’s career with huge stylistic shifts in recent years but the new album to be released on Destin-e World Records on 15 October is a return to the Caribbean, although very different to earlier albums such as the reggae-based Closer To Home.
In this the 50th year since Jamaica gained independence from Britain Pine intends this album to be a pan-Caribbean exploration, and playing soprano saxophone rather than bass clarinet on recent albums he tackles merengue, ska, mento and calypso on House of Legends with a different band as well. For instance, in comes French Martinique pianist Mario Canonge, in also comes Ghanaian bassist Miles Danso, Jazz Jamaica drummer Rod Youngs, and stalwart guitarist Cameron Pierre is back in the fold once more. Look out for Jamaican legend Rico, flautist Michael Bammi Rose and trumpeter Eddie Tan Tan Thornton guesting, and many more great players on the record including pianist Mervyn Africa, steel pan player Annise Hadeed, guitarists Lucky Ranku and Dominic Grant, trombonist Trevor Edwards, trumpeter Mark Crown, flugel player Claude Deppa, Robert Fordjour on the unusual cajon-like dube invented by footballer Dion Dublin, and a string quartet.
The first track, ‘The Tale of Stephen Lawrence’, is Courtney’s conscious meditation on the racist murder of the London teenager Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s. I well remember at the open air Jazz on a Summer’s Day festival in Alexandra Palace in 1993 not long after Lawrence was killed Courtney speaking out about the murder from the stage. He was one of the first artists to do so.
Later tracks move to the music and culture of the Caribbean, first to Jamaica on ‘Kingstonian Swing’, then on ‘Liamuiga (Cook Up)’ to Saint Kitts and Nevis and the world of the Carib Indians. Courtney organised a competition with the help of a local radio DJ in St Kitts and Nevis to rename this track and this is what local person Wallis Wilin came up with.
‘House of Hutch’, the fourth track is about Grenada singer pianist Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, not the better known Jiver Hutchinson, but the man who became a popular entertainer and moved in high society during the war, and who sang a bit like Ivor Novello. ‘Ca C’est Bon Ca’ is the Dominican part of the album, a lovely romantic dance tune in a style the French call “zouk love", which Courtney dedicates to his wife.
Notting Hill carnival founder Claudia Jones is celebrated on the sixth track, bearing her name, and ‘Song of The Maroons’ takes on a further historic Caribbean dimension with its referencing of Cimarron runaway slaves, while companion piece ‘Samuel Sharpe’ is about a slave who became a preacher later to organise the Christmas Rebellion in 1831 in Jamaica. Courtney also on the album explores the oral tradition of passing on acquired knowledge on ‘From the Father to the Son’ and says in the notes: “As a jazz musician I have been fortunate to have shared moments with many great teachers. I could not do what I am doing without their guidance." The final official track is ‘Ma-Di-Ba’ dedicated to Nelson Mandela, and the bonus track is the infectious choro ‘Tico Tico’ written by Zequinha de Abreu, which is a superb way to end this fine record, the only non-original, with all the other tunes written by Courtney Pine. The album is dedicated to Harry Beckett and Andy Hamilton MBE. Courtney launches the record at Islington Assembly Halls in London on 19 October with his band. It promises to be quite a night.
Courtney Pine pictured top
Back in 1980 when there actually still was a country called Yugoslavia, Georgie Fame was invited there for the first time to sing with a local big band. The bass player from that outfit, Mario Mavrin, turns up on this record of a dozen tunes, Fame explains in the notes to brand new album Lost In a Lover’s Dream released on Fame’s own label Three Line Whip, as does quietly accomplished Slovenian guitarist Primož Grašič who Fame also knows from his visits to the Balkans.
Fame clearly relished playing at the Bosko Petrovic Jazz Club in Zagreb, and this album was recorded not in Croatia but Slovenia earlier this year, clearly a memento of happy days all these years on.
Opening with Amen Corner founder Andy Fairweather-Low’s tongue-in-cheek ‘Wide-Eyed and Legless’, Fame, who only sings on the album, there isn’t an organ in sight Hammond or otherwise and no drums either, is on insightfully tender form on ‘My Foolish Heart’ and customarily wry on ‘Sking Blues.’
There are a number of Fame originals including ‘Say When’, ‘Singing Horn’, ‘How Blue’ and the title track itself, and the abiding impression throughout is of Fame sounding as if he’s enjoying himself. It’s a stress-free set of comfortable but rewarding songs, with Fame singing his heart out displaying tremendous artistry and that tone, that style no one can replicate. It’s also tinged with a little sadness at times especially on the rather beautiful vocal on ‘Singing Horn.’
Fame fans starved of a new album for a little while will love this record I’m sure. Out of the blue it may be, but it’s great to have an album as good as this just showing up unannounced. Stephen Graham
Released on 8 October. Georgie Fame pictured top tours in November. Dates are: The Grand, Clitheroe (7 Nov); The Platform, Morecambe (8 Nov); Buccleugh Arts Centre, Carlisle (9 Nov); R&B Club, Mickleton (10 Nov); Floral Hall, New Brighton (11 Nov); Subscription Rooms, Stroud (13 Nov); Millfield Theatre, Edmonton (14 Nov); Ropetackle, Shoreham by Sea (15 Nov); Capitol, Horsham (16 Nov); Gulbenkian, Canterbury (17 Nov); The Globe, Cardiff (19 Nov); Palace Theatre, Paignton (20 Nov); Electric Palace, Bridport (21 Nov); Cheese and Grain, Frome (22 Nov); and Sturmer Hall, Haverhill (24 Nov).