Human Feel

There has not been a Human Feel record in many years. So this is an event.

Gold does not disappoint.

For a whole new generation of fans the band is unknown. This is a new mountain of discovery to explore.

If this extraordinary record had come out last year it would have topped a lot of people’s lists and I do not think that anyone will be able to even get close to the quality of this record this year certainly in terms of originality and ambition not to mention the quality of the writing.

How much the band plan to tour this year is impossible to say at this distance but I think when promoters hear this and still have festival spaces to fill they will be getting on the phone pretty quickly when they hear Gold unless that is their idea of a headliner is some sort of lightweight showbiz ivory-tinkler.

The great thing here by contrast is the blues connotation and the quality of the melodies. The style straddles a lot of things and you could be a rock fan or an avant jazz fan, a mix of the two or even someone more attuned to the contemporary classical avant garde and you will get what is going on here. By the way it will give you kicks and not make you come away with the feeling that you should be writing a PhD thesis about it although there are plenty of things to consider and strike you as brand new and innovative.

One of the great things about these sounds is the complete lack of a false corny swing sensibility when you know that swing has become a facsimile for complacency or sentimentality which it often has become in the wrong hands.

As for details of instrumentation Andrew d’Angelo alternates between alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Jim Black as well as drums contributes synth (it can sound like the grandeur of an organ say on his tune ‘Martens’ which has a ‘Round Midnight’ calibre greatness to it) Kurt Rosenwinkel of course is on guitar and not as arrogantly all over the shop as he can be on some of his more mainstream chops-heavy records, while Chris Speed alternates between tenor and clarinet. The tracks were recorded in a studio in 2017.

More impressions? There is a huge tenderness and some tremendous ballad playing here, actually many of the more absorbing passages have a bittersweet quality to them, but they are counterweighted with a brutal sense of the reality of the world in contrasting play. Check the beginning of ‘Lights Out’ for instance when the reeds go into exploratory and very nihilistic mode which almost tears up the band’s own thinking.

There is quite pervasively a social realism to the sound which is the antithesis of romanticism but there is also plenty of imagination thrown in too so this is not a mundane earnest kind of record at all which often bedevils more orthodox free improv which this resembles at times but is ultimately distinct from.

The sax interplay between d’Angelo and Speed is the best thing about it all and certainly narrates the album most so the reeds are your guides at all times to “the story” and underpins everything. Rosenwinkel has to fashion his harmonic colour into a smaller space which challenges him and the listener in the end.

Jim Black is very powerful and shows how world class a player he certainly is in this regard but he is more of an auteur than a drummer if that makes sense.

When an avant garde record is accessible and this certainly is you just know someone has cracked the code and given listeners the key to a certain kind of rare wisdom. Push yourself as a listener. These guys do as players and it works.


It might become compulsory to begin a live album with the noise of the audience just so we know that it is live.

In any case that is how Live From the Cotton Club Tokyo Vol 1 begins. “Volume 1” makes it sound like The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But this particular story is not that epic a tale.

Joey Calderazzo is an A list player, usually known as a member of a group and for a long time with Branford Marsalis and who has a new album The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul out in March.

There is a British interest in the choice of bassist with Orlando Le Fleming who lives in America and who swings like mad on ‘Hats Off to Rebay’ and the Jeff Watts-like sound of Donald Edwards on drums completes the band.

Most of these tracks are pretty long and that is not unusual in a live jazz club setting. The band swing all night long and it is enjoyable but you will not come away from this with any other great insights other than bask in the ability of the players or just wish you were there because going by the audience it was fun.

The latinate ‘Cianna’ has a feelgood style to it but you certainly will be looking for a bit more edge and that luckily is provided in the opening of ‘One Way’ that has a mysterious teasing opening from Le Fleming and Calderazzo, the pianist using the deepest notes of his instrument to add a little suspense, the bluesiness an added ingredient for great flavour.

I have not heard Calderazzo live in quite a few years, I think the last time was at a festival in Glasgow, and was always blown away by his technique on his own records and which is still there in natural abundance. I’d pick ‘Free’ to indicate that great aspect of his playing best of all with Edwards really coming into his own and the trio respond best and show their firepower which mostly on this record as a unit is kept in reserve.

The audience show their engagement again at the beginning of the choppy opening to ‘The Mighty Sword’ and Le Fleming rampages the tune along, the trio going for broke. Certainly then to reach a conclusion a pretty album and very easy to absorb but I would not say it is a classic and is quite undemanding in large sections. Nevertheless it certainly helps put the Cotton Club in Tokyo on the map for quality live recordings and presumably future volumes. Stephen Graham   

Image result for vijay iyer marlbank

Vijay Iyer

A ROUND UP OF CLUB ACTIVITY AT A RANGE OF INTERNATIONAL CLUBS: The Kevin Brady trio featuring Bill Carrothers and Seamus Blake are at Arthur’s Dublin on 20 February. Over at the A-Trane in Berlin Human Feel are in town on 30 January.  

Look out for the Jazz Art Orchestra with Jason Marsalis at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam on 14 January.

Over at Birdland New York Ingrid Jensen’s quintet play from 23-26 January. 

At Bix in Stuttgart the accent is smooth, reggae and Afrobop in the mix courtesy of Yolanda Brown on 25 January. 

In Italy at the Blue Note in Milan acid jazz stalwarts JTQ are playing there on 18 January. 

The Blue Note in New York has Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah coming up on 5-8 February.

The Tokyo Blue Note has Tony Allen’s sextet on 23 and 24 January. Stateside at Washington DC club Blues Alley David Binney's Angelino Quartet are in the club on 19 February.

In Denver club Dazzle Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart are playing on 17 January. Staying in the US, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle hosts UK guitar legend Martin Taylor on 15 and 16 January. At Dizzy’s, in New York, the mighty Cookers begin a four-night residency on 24 January.

Across the Atlantic at the Domicil in Dortmund Ambrose Akinmusire makes the trip to Germany once more with his quartet to play on 30 January. Criss crossing the continent to the Duc des Lombards in Paris where you can hear the David Kikoski trio on 30-31 January. 

At Fasching in Stockholm look out for Antonio Sánchez and Migration on 16 January while over at the Green Mill in Chicago Patricia Barber is in the house on 28 January.    

At Jamboree in Barcelona Liane Carroll is in town playing there on 16 January. Further north at the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen Jan Lundgren with strings pays tribute to Jan Johansson from 31 January-2 February.

Interestingly at the Jazzkeller in Frankfurt Vincent Herring and Soul Chemistry play on 17 January while back in the States at the Jazz Standard in New York Vijay Iyer are in the club on 22 and 23 January. Note the (how new?) line-up, with Linda Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. 

Back in Europe at the Loft in Cologne the Kari Ikonen trio are to play on 18 January and in the States at Mezzrow in New York Sullivan Fortner plays after hours from 11pm on 23 January. 

Moods in Zurich presents Craig Taborn and Dave King in duo on 20 January. At Porgy and Bess in Vienna the Iiro Rantala trio featuring Dan Berglund play on 23 January.

At the Regatta bar in Boston Stanley Jordan is in the club on 1 February and a few weeks before at Smoke in New York Al Foster celebrates his 75th with a three-night residency beginning on 18 January. Snug Harbor in New Orleans features the Herlin Riley quartet on 26 January. 

Back in Germany at the Stadtgarten in Cologne Kris Davis, Stephan Crump and Eric McPherson under the moniker the Borderlands trio play on 27 January. 

Before that and this week, finally in this round-up, at the Sunset-Sunside in Paris trad trumpeter Pete Horsfall of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band makes the trip across the channel to play on 15 January in the company of Frank Amsallem as they pay homage to Louis Armstrong.    

Nu Civilisation Orchestra

Nu Civilisation Orchestra, 2 Feb 2019

Sun 13 Jan (also 14th) Aaron Diehl trio, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

Mon 14 Jan Dominic Lash Quartet, Cafe Oto, London

Tues 15 Jan Kansas Smitty’s House Band, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Wed 16 Jan (in residence from 7-18 Jan) Rebecca Ferguson, Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London

Thurs 17 Jan Tori Freestone trio, Hidden Rooms, Cambridge

Fri 18 Jan Salena Jones, Brasserie Zédel, London

Sat 19 Jan Jo Harrop sings Peggy Lee feat. Tony Kofi, The Verdict, Brighton

Sun 20 Jan (afternoon) Tomorrow’s Warriors jam, Rich Mix, London

Mon 21 Jan NYJORonnie Scott’s, London

Tues 22 Jan Neil Yates, Blue Arrow, Glasgow

Wed 23 Jan Laura Mvula and Black Voices, Kings Place, London

Thurs 24 Jan Gareth Williams, Clark Tracey, Arnie Somogyi trio, East Side, Birmingham

Fri 25 Jan Florence Joelle Quartet, Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec, London

Sat 26 Jan Norma Winstone/John Parricelli/Huw Warren, Vortex, London

Sun 27 Jan Bokanté, Jacaranda Records Phase One, Liverpool

Mon 28 Jan (also previous and next two nights) Ledisi, Jazz Cafe, London

Tues 29 Jan (also previous and subsequent nights) Ruby TurnerRonnie Scott’s, London

Wed 30 Jan Dizzy Reece Routes in Jazz Retrospective, Band on the Wall, Manchester

Thurs 31 Jan Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds, Triskel, Cork 

Fri 1 Feb Martin Speake, Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, Essex 

Sat 2 Feb Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Sun 3 Feb Trio HLK and Evelyn Glennie, RNCM, Manchester

Mon 4 Feb Helen Sung, The Pheasantry, London

Tues 5 Feb Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

Wed 6 Feb (also prior two nights) Ruby Turner, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Thurs 7 Feb Tin Men and the Telephone, Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham

Fri 8 Feb Huw Warren trio, Vortex, London

Sat 9 Feb Ari Hoenig trio, Seven Arts, Leeds

Sun 10 Feb Patrick Naylor and Maciek Pysz Trio, Green Note, London

Mon 11 Feb Blowin’ the Blues Away with the Ronnie Scott's club quintet, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Tues 12 Feb Nishla Smith Quintet, Vortex, London

Wed 13 Feb (also previous night) Liane Carroll and Claire Martin, The Pheasantry, London

Thurs 14 Feb Sara Dowling, 606 club, London

Fri 15 Feb Clare Teal, Cadogan Hall, London

Sat 16 Feb Craig Taborn, Sonic Lab, Belfast

Sun 17 Feb Natalie Williams Soul Family, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Mon 18 Feb Joshua Redman, Barbican, London

Tues 19 Feb Archipeligo, Vortex, London  

Wed 20 Feb Evan Parker/Alexander Hawkins, Riot Ensemble, Enemy, Cafe Oto, London 

Thurs 21 Feb Bill Frisell trio, National Concert Hall, Dublin

Fri 22 Feb Claire Martin and Jamie Safir, Hampstead Jazz Club, London

Sat 23 Feb Osian Roberts quartet, The Verdict, Brighton

Sun 24 Feb Anthony Joseph, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Mon 25 Feb John Turville Head First quintet feat. Julian Arguelles, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

Tues 26 Feb Ife Ogunjobi band/George Winstone Trio, Vortex, London

Wed 27 Feb Tony Rémy, Vortex, London

Thurs 28 Feb John Turville Head First quintet feat. Julian Arguelles, Hidden Rooms, Cambridge

Fri 1 March Branford MarsalisBarbican, London

The Brit Awards are not exactly top viewing for jazz people, usually a switch-off because they rarely even acknowledge the existence of jazz let along celebrate it.

This year and it shows how deeply he has penetrated the wider music loving public’s consciousness there is a twist and Kamasi Washington has snuck in and has been nominated in the best international male solo artist category up against Drake, Eminem, Shawn Mendes and Travis Scott. Let’s hope he wins although I guess it is highly unlikely but more to the point gains a bit more profile for jazz in the process.

Three years on from their African Dagaare traditional music, electronica and minimalism-inspired debut Good is Good, Bex Burch’s band Vula Viel return later this month with Do Not Be Afraid. Burch on Gyil, a Ghanaian type of xylophone, is joined by bass guitarist Ruth Goller and drummer Jim Hart. The album also includes vocalist guests such as Gwyneth Herbert and its release is marked with a Cafe Oto, London show on 24 January. 

Here we have the explosive sounding first track released from Circuits by Chris Potter new on English jazz indie Edition in the latter part of February. 

Sounds very jazz-rock, Eric Harland given free rein, groove the order of the day. And yet with a big sprinkling of glassy electronics fed in contributing to a highly customised sound full of episodic metrical changes, twists and turns but pretty full on (and certainly mastered away up on this track so striking even on this lo-fi Bandcamp audio version), the keyboards however sounding very organic.

Check especially underneath the bonnet what the still fairly unknown keyboardist James Francies despite a major label debut recently is doing on this track. His profile I guess will zoom ever higher this year as more people around the world get to hear of him if for no other reason than he is a new Pat Metheny “Side Eye” keyboardist as Metheny cultivates new sounds.

Potter played with Metheny in recent years in the Unity set-up when the guitarist brought the sax back into his sound and it is interesting how families of musicians develop often circles within circles, their past experiences morphing into new spheres as they play on and on.

Potter here, note the credits on the Bandcamp page, overall on the album switches between tenor and soprano saxes, clarinets, flutes, uses a sampler, guitars, keyboards, and percussion so you can imagine how much production went into this album which was recorded in September 2017.

As for Francies well just think the excitement of Robert Glasper when he was unknown for a moment and then lift off into a new orbit (the comparison is even more striking on Francies’ Blue Note debut). Circuits on less than half of the tracks also credits the highly mobile bass guitarist Linley Marthe you may recall from the Zhenya Strigalev record Blues For Maggie.  

Born and raised in Kenya, living later in Minneapolis, J.S. Ondara is doing the promotional rounds soon for his major label debut record to be released in February.

Tales of America is billed by Verve as “an examination of the American Dream from an outsider’s perspective.”

Very acoustic with a rootsy flavour the album was recorded in Los Angeles. Album lyrics are by Ondara who is quoted by the label as saying: “When I came to America five years ago, all I wanted to do was to make a record. I had no leads, no knowledge of how to go about it, I couldn’t even play the guitar at the time. But I loved records so much and I had this dream that someday perhaps, I’d make one of my own. Many a times along the way, I was dealt with challenges that made me doubt my path, but I was too far from home to turn back, so I forged forward. The journey has been long but also short, tumultuous but also exciting. This record is a documentation of my time in America; a deliberation on the times and a search for wisdom and the American Dream.” 

Look out for a London date at the Slaughtered Lamb on 21 January.

Hawkins album

Six years since the release of his first solo piano album reviewed here pianist Alexander Hawkins switches from Babel to Intakt for this latest recording venture which is titled Iron Into Wind (cover above) to be released next month by the Swiss label. Hawkins says in a brief description on his website: “All original compositions; liner notes by Richard Williams; immaculately recorded by Martin Pearson in the studios of the Swiss radio, Zürich, in September 2018.”  

A 2015 studio recording of freely improvised, spontaneously composed music performed by drummer Terry Day whose career has embraced such wildly divergent milestones as appearances with Kilburn and the Highroads and Derek Bailey, Dominic Lash known for his work with Alexander Hawkins playing double bass, and the Mopomoso guitarist/clarinettist Alex Ward.

The track titles have a sense to them although knowledge of what they mean is not at all compulsory or even that relevant however if curious they relate to the geology of the sea and to marine biology so ‘Bathyal’ is a term that relates to zonal sea depths between the continental shelf and the abyssal zone; ‘Abyssal’ refers to ocean depth of 3,000-6,000m; ‘Hadal’ are sea depths of more than 6000m; ‘Zoobenthos’ refers to sea bed organisms; and ‘Phytobenthos’ are plant or algae organisms.

As to how it sounds? Well this is very un-noisy free improv. There is a lot of contemplative open work at play and one of the great strengths of the record is how the three play a great deal together and so the collective nature of their bandplay is far greater than on some records which divide down into long duo or solo episodes.

A very fibrous record, meaning that there is a real sense of natural instruments at work, in other words a physical sense of finger on string or stick on skin, the mechanics of the sound operating very much from a point of view where notions of tone, exact rhythm or metrical divisions do not matter in the least and yet the improvising lines are not difficult to follow or hostile. On ‘Hadal’ Lash really comes into his own and throughout his role is vital. Midnight and Below builds cell on cell: a sense of mystery, fecundity and wild growth feeds a wider eco-system as part of the spell. Beyond experimentation this sounds more about putting long held ideas into effect and proving how well they work in performance. SG