Joey Alexander lands in a contented Christmas mood on A Joey Alexander Christmas (Motéma) featuring the teenage pianist’s version of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ alongside an Aretha Franklin-inspired gospel favourite in ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’

The highlight, however, and mercifully from the point of view of non-Yuletide play not Christmassy at all, is a lingeringly evocative remastered duo version of ‘My Favorite Things’ featuring the 15-year-old in duo with the great Brad Mehldau Trio bassist Larry Grenadier, a performance drawn from Alexander’s debut a few years ago in a stirring rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune synonymous with John Coltrane. 

A solo piano, hitherto unreleased, 2016 treatment of the Coltrane producer Bob Thiele’s song made famous by Louis Armstrong ‘What a Wonderful World’ completes the selections on the digital-only EP.

Tickets are to go on sale early in 2019 for a revival of Blues in the Night.

Taking its name from the Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen title song of a 1940s film which featured the Jimmie Lunceford orchestra, the musical was staged in London at the Donmar Warehouse in 1987 five years after a Broadway run. 

Set in a Chicago hotel in the late-1930s the story revolves around three women’s intertwining relationships with the same no-good guy and features music by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington and of course Mercer and Arlen. 

Sharon D. Clarke and Clive Rowe are to star and the run will begin in the summer. More information.

ARRIVING IN THE LATTER PART OF JANUARY 2019 is the latest from Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano and Jan Lundgren, in a series of gently dreamy Mediterranean themed albums which began with the first in the series in 2007 followed nine years later by the second.

Among the selections this time around is a piece by Galliano dedicated to French master violinist Didier Lockwood who passed away just a few months before this Gothenburg studio affair was recorded.

Long term fans of the trumpet-accordion-piano trio may not be surprised to discover that there is a lot of romance in these new selections nor that there is a pervasive warmth once again.

Coloured by the great accordionist Richard Galliano whose unravelling of melody and capturing of mood is unrivalled you will find material by Michel Legrand (the classic ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’), Quincy Jones (‘Love Theme from The Getaway’), as well as originals by all three of these iconic European bandleaders whose rapport is evident in their sincerity and skill all of which elevates their coming together into something very much of an occasion indeed.

The clip above features a taste of the Jan Lundgren composition  ‘Love Land’, which is the third track of the 15 included on the René Hess produced ACT label issued release.

Whirlwind have a habit of occasionally releasing albums by complete unknowns and being scrupulously fair some sink without a trace. Name recognition is not everything. Nonetheless Canadian tenor/soprano saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff could do with a bit of it. He may or may not get some with Path of Totality. A pretty dour listen so far his band Flux has the much admired David Binney and always listenable to Tim Berne pianist/keyboardist Matt Mitchell in its favour and the more you persevere the more you will discover given the lack of cliché. While the title track, above, takes its time to introduce itself the savoury rather than sweet-tasting two-saxophone joust between David Binney and Nachoff has a brutally compelling listenable factor to it. Intensity darts higher and tension levels are ratcheted ever skywards and we are left dangling there all part of the intrigue at play. Look for the release in a little under two months’ time. 

Get the party started: A boon to hear Andreya Triana last month ‘Woman’ released back in the autumn was great live in a pared back version and even better in this banging clubby treatment, all positivity and self-esteem boosting, perfect to cut a rug to over the holidays. Cheers. 

 
’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s, 
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks; 
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks 
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays; 
                The world’s whole sap is sunk; 
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk, 
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk, 
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh, 
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph. 
 
Study me then, you who shall lovers be 
At the next world, that is, at the next spring; 
         For I am every dead thing, 
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy. 
                For his art did express 
A quintessence even from nothingness, 
From dull privations, and lean emptiness; 
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot 
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not. 
 
All others, from all things, draw all that’s good, 
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have; 
         I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave 
         Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood 
                Have we two wept, and so 
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow 
To be two chaoses, when we did show 
Care to aught else; and often absences 
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses. 
 
But I am by her death (which word wrongs her) 
Of the first nothing the elixir grown; 
         Were I a man, that I were one 
         I needs must know; I should prefer, 
                If I were any beast, 
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest, 
And love; all, all some properties invest; 
If I an ordinary nothing were, 
As shadow, a light and body must be here. 
 
But I am none; nor will my sun renew. 
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun 
         At this time to the Goat is run 
         To fetch new lust, and give it you, 
                Enjoy your summer all; 
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival, 
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call 
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this 
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is. 

At the winter solstice: I'm listening to the polymath pianist/composer Ketil Bjørnstad’s exploration of the work of poet John Donne released back in 2014 that added to quite a body of albums, 2001’s Grace the high water of his Donne-devotion this latest album notwithstanding. 

Recorded live the Norwegian composed the music to settings of Donne (1572-1631) for the Oslo International Church Festival premiering the work at the Sofienberg Kirke in the Norwegian capital in March 2012. The Oslo Chamber Choir is directed by Håkon Daniel Nystedt, with saxophonist Håkon Kornstad providing a Garbarekian presence excellent throughout, but particularly compelling on ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.’

Bjørnstad often picks big literary or more broadly artistic subjects as themes of his albums, Sunrise for instance released the previous year a cantata derived from texts of Edvard Munch joined again by the Oslo chamber choir but a little more overtly jazz-infused.

By complete contrast but just as valid as a response given the ecstasy of emotion and transcendental flow in Van Morrison’s performance, not to mention the literary name checks, and warm metaphysical love, immerse yourself in ‘Rave On John Donne’ from Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983).

Perhaps it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when such elaborate themes are the scaffolding for his albums. And maybe his Donne pilgrimage has been made too many times already. That said, as a longtime admirer (2010’s Remembrance the first album I’d turn to for a desert island pick of Bjørnstad’s) there is plenty to enjoy here on an album even bearing in mind it is largely a classical choral one in spirit and execution with only a little room for an improviser’s latitude (‘Farewell to Love’ stretching out most of all).

‘A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day’ moved me most here the choir occupying a musical space of their own. Yet it’s Bjørnstad’s melodic command, the serenity of his themes and contemplative inclination that they inspire so naturally that are so striking. And Kornstad’s sheer rapport turning to flute to duet with Bjørnstad on the final one of the three beautiful interlude pieces a winning element towards the end. Stephen Graham

A BEAUTIFUL new track with a real feeling of aching intimacy and rapport, second track in, SEEDS OF CHANGE, taken from the upcoming Trio Tapestry, Lovano in a tiny motif — vital as if a revelation under the microscope at 36 seconds and repeated later — you’d swear hinting at the melody of ‘Equinox’ before veering into a free floating bluesy reverie, an emergent Crispell in serene contemplation. As the tonality waveringly oblique adds mystery and a sense of occasion, a weightlessness wraps the atmosphere in ribbons of space. Castaldi sweeps forth in the latter part emerging as a glinting observational presence amid the steely fragility of the momentous mood.  

Art Neville to retire. At 81. Above: the keyboardist/organist with the Meters on classic ‘Cissy Strut’. More at nola.com

“As a composer it’s mandatory to be in concordance with the director’s vision,” says Arturo Sandoval in this short introductory video which besides a tiny taste of the elegiac and tender themes drawn from his score also features explanatory comment provided by the great Cuban jazz trumpeter-composer’s manager Melody Lisman.

As for the scenario of The Mule: 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone played by Eastwood is facing financial ruin and instead of lying down and accepting his fate decides to act as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. It all goes well to begin with but soon he runs the gauntlet of drug enforcement agent Colin Bates played by Bradley Cooper — and faces an urgent dilemma.

The Mule is to be released in the UK on 25 January 2019.

the view from marlbank Check the release date carefully especially if you are buying via streaming services. Sometimes there will be a release date which may not be accurate. There is nothing illegal in this. But it is irritating and misleading.

The key thing to remember is that the stated release date you accept in good faith may only be the release date in terms, for instance, of its Bandcamp release: not when the album originally, ie “actually”, came out. 

Sometimes and it is surprising how often that this happens the release may have been first unveiled a year or more before.

Ideally these kick-the-can-down-the-road staggered releases, if there is a big gap in format availability times, should carry a note along the lines of “originally released on CD and first released on [x] date.” Better still most format releases should be within weeks of release.

Staggering formats over a year or more and worse gaming the release by conveniently failing to mention an earlier format being available is not that clever clever. Usually a quick Google will work all this out, however it might put you off the release entirely if the company is not being transparent. 

A new release needs to be new: and not already available on another format. Labels — you know who you are.