Band on the Wall has confirmed on its website that Rokia Traoré is to play the Manchester club on 20 May hot on the heels of the release of the Malian singer/songwriter/guitarist’s latest album Beautiful Africa. It’s a coup for the Swan Street club as Traoré’s appearance in the city marks a return to heartland jazz clubs in the UK by the musician who has in the last year galvanised support among artists since Islamic militants threatened artistic and cultural freedoms in her home country following a bloody uprising. Beautiful Africa released in April features drummer Seb Rochford, in action at the weekend with the touring Ellington in Anticipation band in Belfast, in a session recorded in Bristol by PJ Harvey producer John Parish. Traoré sings in French, Bambara and English and plays guitar on an album comprising nine songs with the singer also joined by Mamah Diabaté on ngoni; Fatim Kouyaté and Bintou Soumbounou, backing vocals; Nicolaï Munch Hansen, bass; producer John Parish, on additional guitar; Stefano Pilia, guitar; and Jason Singh, human beatbox. Beautiful Africa is Traoré’s first album since Tchamantché in 2009. MB
Rokia Traoré, above
Neil Cowley: artist in residence at the UK city of culture
The Neil Cowley trio appearing at the Nerve Centre, drummer David Lyttle’s trio featuring ex-Sting keyboardist Jason Rebello, and Irish jazz guitar legend Louis Stewart have been announced as part of the extensive line-up of this year’s Derry jazz and big band festival.
David Lyttle: driving the new Irish jazz scene
The Cowley Trio, who just ahead of the festival on Monday 29 April are to release a live album recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival following the popular success of The Face of Mount Molehill, will also during a run of Irish dates play an earlier club date at the Black Box in Belfast with a village festival in west Cork also on their itinerary in May.
Jason Rebello: ex-Sting keyboardist
performing with David Lyttle in Derry
But Derry is the big one, with Cowley artist-in-residence at the city celebrating its prestigious UK city of culture status this year. In this very special year for culture in the north west of Ireland the festival will also host a radio broadcast to be recorded by BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up show presented by pianist Julian Joseph, with a concert to take place at the Tower Hotel in Derry on Monday 6 May. Artists to take part in the broadcast are to include saxophonist Trish Clowes with a band featuring Troyka guitarist Chris Montague, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer James Maddren and The Impossible Gentlemen’s Gwilym Simcock on piano. Local Radio Ulster presenter trumpeter Linley Hamilton’s Saxtet will also appear on the broadcast.
Other names for Derry this year include The Dark Energy trio (The Playhouse, 2 May), that’s bassist Alan Niblock with Mujician saxophonist Paul Dunmall and leading improv drummer Mark Sanders; Brass Impact Big Band (Waterside theatre, 3 May); Dana Masters band (City Hotel, 3 May); the Paul McIntyre trio plus Richie Buckley (The Playhouse, 4 May); the Puppini Sisters (The Venue 4 May); and Pink Martini (Millennium Forum, 5 May). MB
2-6 May www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com
West will, you’d have thought, once again be best if the line-up at the just announced Sligo Jazz Festival is anything to go by this year. The town, well known for its love of traditional Irish music, and in recent years a burgeoning reputation as a jazz place thanks to local jazz education initiative the Sligo Jazz Project, hosts the Sligo jazz festival from 16-21 July. This year’s line-up features the Mike Stern/Victor Wooten band with multi-Grammy award winning bass guitarist Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones renown teaming up with We Want Miles-period ex-Miles jazz-rock force-of-nature guitarist Mike Stern in their co-led quartet completed by saxophonist Bob Franceschini and drummer Derico Watson.
A big feature of the Sligo programme this year is the pairing of the Janek Gwizdala Trio, with fusion hotshot Gwizdala joined by guitarist Mike Nielsen and Human drummer Steve Davis, in a double bill with exciting new Celtic-alt.rock fusion trio The Olllam, featuring the great Belfast uilleann piper John McSherry (Lúnasa), the Detroit-born guitarist/keyboardist/piper Tyler Duncan, and drummer Michael Shimmin. Also for Sligo: pianist Kenny Werner with his trio; and an appearance by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra plus guests Ian Shaw, Marshall Gilkes, and Jean Toussaint. MB
Victor Wooten top and The Olllam above
Damon Albarn with Michael Horovitz
The vinyl-only Kings Cross jazz label Gearbox is to release a single featuring poet Michael Horovitz’s ‘Ballade Of The Nocturnal Commune / Extra Time Meltdown’ when the poet is joined by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and Paul Weller.
The Blur pair and the Modfather also appear with the distinguished anti-war poet on the new heavy vinyl album Bankbusted Nuclear Detergent Blues, the title track of which was commissioned by Paul Weller and the text of which appeared within the artwork of Weller’s album Sonik Kicks.
These releases are to coincide with the first ever release of archive recording Blues For The Hitchiking Dead (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #1) on two pieces of heavy 12-inch vinyl within a box set that recalls the important anti-nuclear era of the 1960s. ‘Hitchhiking Dead’ features the Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet in a March 1962 recording, with Horovitz and poet/songwriter Pete Brown playing the student union of Southampton university along with Stan Tracey, Jeff Clyne, Laurie Morgan, John Mumford and Bobby Wellins. In pre-release publicity material Pete Brown is quoted as saying: “Listening to the Blues again, the first thing that hits me is the fear. This was the most dangerous known period in history for a potential nuclear war, and we really felt it…. This may be a piece of history, an antique even, but it still has a lot to say. And we are by no means out of trouble yet.” MB
Damon Albarn and Michael Horovitz above (photo: courtesy Damon Albarn unofficial)
Released for Record Store Day, Saturday 20 April www.recordstoreday.co.uk Support your local record shop
(Updated at 3.15)
Babel records has just confirmed on its Bandcamp page the release of Being Human, the debut release of Human, Irish-born drummer and composer Stephen Davis’ new quartet. A pre-release gig at the Vortex tomorrow has, though, just been cancelled, the band’s Alex Bonney has said, explaining that the cancellation is “due to weather/travel etc," via Twitter. The inclement weather also affected the band’s Brilliant Corners festival appearance in Belfast yesterday.
Best known for Davis’ decade-long and continuing adventures as part of Bourne/Davis/Kane, the Human sound is coloured by the violin of the maverick Dylan Bates, notable for his work with Billly Jenkins and his tenure in the bizarre Waiting For Dwarfs. Human also features the talismanic presence of pianist Alexander Hawkins, and the electronicist, trumpeter Alex Bonney. There’s no bass on Being Human, confirmed by the east London-based label for a Monday 29 April release.
Tracks are ‘Frozen Goat’, ‘Being Human’, ‘Little Particles’ with Bonney finding an In a Silent Way sense of calm on this number amid the complementary African-sounding piano and drums, with the album completed by ‘I Am Planet’, ‘Cartagena’ and ‘Vinila Life’. Davis doesn’t need to channel anyone on this record, although there are echoes of Tony Oxley at times, and the benign presence of the late John Stevens hovers tantalisingly. Early listens suggest strong evidence of what Bates really can do: think Leroy Jenkins in his pomp with a jagged Beckenham-derived individuality bolted on, while Hawkins is a haunting presence throughout. ‘I Am Planet’ has a rustling unsettled feel to it, with Hawkins’ three-note figure after the three-minute marking the warts-and-all groove that opens up for Davis to then move deep into multi-directional territory. ‘Cartagena’ is very different, a track clued-up DJs might well wish to sample, as the clash of Davis’ snare pumps the band up and would get any club audience going. MB
The cover of Being Human top
Zoe Rahman, directing the Guildhall Jazz Ensemble, gets the Guildhall jazz festival off to a flying start tonight. The London conservatoire’s annual festival also features Ian Shaw, guesting with the Guildhall Jazz Singers and Ensemble; saxophonist Tom Challenger; Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts and Paul Dunmall better known as the Dartington Improvising Trio. Iain Ballamy and the Guildhall Jazz Band are also appearing during this year’s running. Zoe Rahman, above
Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print opened the Brilliant Corners jazz festival at the Belfast Barge on Thursday
Brilliant Corners began in Belfast the night before the snow arrived yesterday. While the festival was named in honour of Monk’s Brilliant Corners album there were no obvious tie-ins on the opening night to the great composer and pianist’s music; the festival was too cool to offer a literal interpretation although the spirit was clearly felt. So instead the bands booked did the interpreting by way of original new music.
Below deck: rising star saxophonist Meilana Gillard’s accomplished set
Brilliant Corners utilised three venues: the Belfast Barge, the MAC in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter; and the nearby Black Box; and new talent on display included Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print, a US tenor saxophonist now resident in Northern Ireland joined by double bassist Marcos Varela, who appears on Gillard’s Greg Osby-produced album Day One. Varela’s debut with Billy Hart and George Cables will be released later this year, with Spike Lee’s brother Arnold Lee and Sonny Rollins trombonist Clifton Anderson guesting. Varela pushed the band hard and tastefully with Gillard, whose individual non-retro sound on the tenor saxophone, probing and darting with a salty edge especially in her reading of Herman Hupfeld’s ‘As Time Goes By’. Leading Irish jazz musician David Lyttle was on drums and excelled. Meilana’s composition ‘Rear View’ was the big highlight of the first set by a highly proficient unit.
Ellington in Anticipation band played the Factory in the MAC
At the MAC in the Factory on the sixth floor of the very smart post-brutalist arts temple opened in 2012, its volcanic stone facade tastefully undemonstrative, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington in Anticipation band were already burning by the time I got over from the Barge. It’s Ellington for the Polar Bear generation and in many ways codifies the mysterious non-linear compositional method Lockheart has cultivated in his own music a step on from his acclaimed Edition records set, In Deep.
The Black Box opens for Brilliant Corners
Ellington’s music is like a dream behind the new music, not old music in new clothes at all. Seb Rochford and The Invisible’s Tom Herbert had that kind of ESP that people who are comfortable with each other on a bandstand possess, and chopped it up throughout, especially on ‘My Caravan’ while ‘Azure’ was a revelation. Lockheart blew wildly on ‘Jungle Lady’, clearly at ease, and both Finn Peters and James Allsopp knew how to stoke the flames especially as the music went further out.
Playing the Sun Ra blues on Hill Street: Decoy debut
And taking the music even further out free improv rounded off the evening at the Black Box, with Decoy, the tremendous organ trio of Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Steve Noble marking Hawkins’ first Northern Ireland appearance. Sun Ra and kinetic bar-vaulting improv never sounded so good: a suitably Saturnine way to draw the first night of this exciting new festival to a close.
Story and photos: Stephen Graham
The father of Chucho Valdés, and the inspiration of the acclaimed animated film Chico and Rita, the pianist, bandleader, and composer Bebo Valdés, has died at the age of 94. Valdés, who passed away in Sweden where he had lived for many years, began his career as a pianist in the night clubs of Havana and it was in one such, Tropicana, that he made his name. In the 1950s Valdés was a pivotal figure in the development of the mambo with his championing of the batanga rhythm. Valdés settled in Sweden after the 1959 revolution in Cuba and played bar lounges there in virtual obscurity until the mid-1990s when his album Bebo Rides Again caught the music industry’s attention, followed by the success firstly of documentary Calle 54 and then the inspired Chico and Rita which featured much of his music in 2010 and fictionalised his life story so evocatively.
Bebo Valdés top pictured with his son Chucho. Photo: Berklee
Still under the radar but not for long Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco has been confirmed for the Glasgow Jazz Festival in the first tranche of bookings announced so far. Blanco is to appear at the City Halls recital room on 26 June.
Blind Boys of Alabama, Georgie Fame and Three Line Whip and 1980s band Jazzateers (Rough 46) are also confirmed for the five-day festival with the full line-up expected soon. MB
Leo Blanco top www.jazzfest.co.uk
The stellar Miles Smiles band has been confirmed for Ronnie Scott’s, the club has now confirmed on its website. A superband, it’s the return of Wallace Roney to Frith Street, the trumpeter above who famously was mentored and performed extensively with Miles Davis late in the great East St Louis man’s career. Miles Smiles is also headed up by drum titan Omar Hakim (Amandla, Tutu), with saxophonist Rick Margitza (Amandla, Live in Montreux), organist Joey DeFrancesco (Live Around the World), and ex-Herbie man Ralphe Armstrong on bass. The band has been playing in the States and appeared at the Cork jazz festival in the autumn, but this is a rare chance for London jazz club audiences to sample the band and its core material based around the Second Great Quintet album Miles Smiles released in 1967.
Already this year fans of Wayne Shorter who wrote several tunes on the album have warmed to his new take on ‘Orbits’, the lead-off track Wayne wrote for Miles Smiles, and which appears on the brand new Wayne Shorter Quartet album Without a Net that signalled a significant return for the saxophonist to Blue Note records, brought back to the fold by Don Was.
Miles Smiles originally recorded at the 30th Street Studio in New York city and produced by Teo Macero, besides ‘Orbits’ features ‘Circle’, plus Wayne’s most famous piece ‘Footprints’, and on side two of the original vinyl ‘Dolores’, Eddie Harris’ ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’, and Jimmy Heath’s ‘Gingerbread Boy’. MB
Miles Smiles plays Ronnie’s on 3-4 May www.ronniescotts.co.uk
Wallace Roney top
The Erik Truffaz Quartet
El tiempo de la Revolución
Blue Note ****
A highly impressive return to form, this, by French Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz. Bristling with club friendly, modal, and electronically processed sounds reminiscent of Mark Isham’s 1990s purple patch, Truffaz’s quartet has produced an evocative mood piece that joins the dots between the reimagined-1950s in his head and the “successive revolutions through which our lives are chronicled”, as the unsigned note on the sleeve has it. Intelligent dance music through a jazz filter as ever with Truffaz, but this has more edge than his last few albums, and Anna Aaron’s Nico-via-Beth Gibbons vocal touches are a definite plus. Stephen Graham
The Truffaz quartet play Ronnie Scott’s, London on Monday www.ronniescotts.co.uk
The image of a jazz club has changed drastically in recent years. The biggest change? Well no one smokes in clubs any longer, although gig-goers may huddle on the pavement outside where the sounds of that seventeenth chorus inside can still just about be picked out through the vents. Saxophones no longer honk, it’s just as likely to be the hum of a Mac or the pop of a guitar plugging in as the gleam of a Selmer or the bright flash of a Monette when the stagelights go on. But jazz clubs yearn to live up to romantic clichés, and yes you can find some places with murals depicting the heroes of yesteryear proudly displayed, or clubs with beautifully framed photographs or paintings on the walls, their interiors decked out with little lamps or candles sitting discreetly on tables, and knowledgeable bar staff on hand ready to reminisce about the days Harry Sweets Edison played the club, or Wynton arrived to jam at two o’clock in the morning.
Many clubs, worthy of the name, put on jazz just once or twice a week, providing ‘nights’ only. Take Wednesday nights in Sheffield. You won’t find the kids who necessarily want to be the next Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, or Human League at the Lescar on Sharrowvale Road, although this “charmingly vintage pub” does have a quiz night on Tuesdays to stoke their general knowledge in the meantime. Starter for ten: Who appeared at the Lescar this month? Well, guitarist Ant Law did, taking in the Lescar as part of his first national tour. The price of a couple of cups of coffee, just £5 on the door, would have gained you admittance to hear the guitarist, with his band of James Maddren, Dice Factory’s Tom Farmer, and new star of the alto saxophone, Michael Chillingworth. It’s not just national names at the Lescar, as the scene looks after its own as well, as all the best and longest running jazz spots tend to do, and Sheffield singer Sally Doherty was there last night. Coming up are Jiannis Pavlidis (27 March), the miraculously-monikered Fluff (3 April), GoGo Penguin, the cuddliest piano trio on eternal tastemaker Gilles Peterson’s radar at the moment (10 April), and Beats & Pieces guitarist Anton Hunter with his trio on 17 April.
Real jazz fans of course muse on living the dream, having a club at the end of their street, ideally. They’d live in one if they could, or at least go there most nights, hear music, but crucially treat the place as a café, a bar, a restaurant, somewhere to glance at the paper, fiddle with their phones, date, and ruminate on the issues of the day while taking in the best improvised music irrespective of whether it’s played on orthodox instruments or kazoo, stylophone, banjo, mini-iPad, or the back of a biscuit tin. There’s been an upsurge in jazz club activity even in these days of the imminent triple dip and the Con/Dems’ ruinous economic policies. In the wake of the budget yesterday, and where better than to gauge the mood of the economy than in a jazz club, which club would JM Keynes, were he still around, ‘chill’ in to take a break from addressing the nation’s woes? He might well muse sat in one of the clubs below that “jazz improvising," or ‘words’ as Keynes had it, “ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking." MB
The rest is improvisation
Clubs in Britain
Ronnie Scott’s, London www.ronniescotts.co.uk
Pizza Express Jazz Club, London www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk
Vortex, London www.vortexjazz.co.uk
Cafe Oto, London www.cafeoto.co.uk
606, London www.606club.co.uk
Spice of Life, London www.spiceoflifesoho.com
Charlie Wright’s, London www.charliewrights.com
Bull’s Head, London www.thebullshead.com
Quecumbar, London www.quecumbar.co.uk
Pheasantry, London www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk
Hideaway, London www.hideawaylive.co.uk
Boisdale, London www.boisdale.co.uk
Jazz Bar, Edinburgh www.thejazzbar.co.uk
Dempsey’s, Cardiff www.jazzatdempseys.org.uk
Band on the Wall, Manchester www.bandonthewall.org
Matt & Phred’s, Manchester www.mattandphreds.com
Seven Jazz, Leeds www.sevenjazz.co.uk
Lescar, Sheffield www.jazzatthelescar.com
Jagz, Ascot www.jagz.co.uk
The Verdict, Brighton www.verdictjazz.co.uk
Be-bop club, Bristol www.bebopclub.co.uk
St Ives jazz club, St Ives, Cornwall http://www.stivesjazzclub.com
JJ Smyth’s, Dublin www.jjsmyths.com
And in other parts of Europe
Duc des Lombards, Paris www.ducdeslombards.com
Sunset Sunside, Paris www.sunset-sunside.com
Bimhuis, Amsterdam www.bimhuis.nl
Porgy & Bess, Vienna www.porgy.at
L’Archiduc, Brussels www.archiduc.net
Blue Note, Milan www.bluenotemilano.com
Blue Note, Poznań www.bluenote.poznan.pl
Half Note, Athens www.halfnote.gr
A-Trane, Berlin www.a-trane.de/
Stadtgarten, Cologne www.stadtgarten.de
Unterfahrt, Munich http://www.unterfahrt.de
Fasching, Stockholm www.fasching.se
Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, Oslo www.nasjonaljazzscene.no
Casa del jazz, Rome http://www.casajazz.it
A jazz audience anticipates the night’s entertainment ahead top; and GoGo Penguin above coming to the Lescar in Sheffield soon
She’s been on the cover of both Downbeat and Jazz Times, and with the release of her latest album Claroscuro as recently as the autumn, the multi-award winning clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone player Anat Cohen, with a finely honed individualism in her extraordinarily burnished playing, here achieves maximum impact with her down home version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The Wedding’. That version alone along with her reputation Stateside should whet the appetites of UK jazz fans sufficiently to draw the serious jazz heads down to the Soho basement club she’s to play when the Israeli-born musician debuts in the UK for a first appearance in London as part of a brief European tour. With a band on the album that includes the hip Jason Lindner on piano, skilled bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freedman, all of whom are making the trip, there’s much to savour from the deep traditions of jazz clarinet onwards towards the modern global sound on an album that playfully uses the Spanish spelling of the Italian word ‘chiaroscuro’ in its title. Don’t forget to catch Cohen’s wonderful take on Artie Shaw’s ‘Nightmare’, with Paquito d’Rivera guesting, if you pick up Claroscuro. Stephen Graham
Anat Cohen above plays the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London tonight
Last minute tickets: www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk
Thought-Fox: part of the new wave of the Irish jazz scene
Named after a Ted Hughes poem Thought-Fox are a world away from a Hughesian landscape, with the poet’s somewhat severe and even brutalistic grasp of the natural world a long way distant. With singer Lauren Kinsella’s voice the main distinguishing feature, My Guess (Diatribe) opens with the knotty ‘Nightlight’, which might have benefited, though, from being placed much later in the album. Kinsella’s advanced approach compares immediately to a singer such as Gretchen Parlato, so it’s not a big blustery wave of noise but one that favours asides and confidences, syllabic invention, and daring intervallic leaps, with a control at low volumes that can translate to a bigger effect. The singer is a confidante, as it were, to the instrumentalists who respond from her hints and cues.
‘Ideas burning brightly’
Thought-Fox are that bit different, with a bespoke rhythm imperative, and Simon Roth on drums sculpts this alternative direction with a growing sense of unforced momentum as the album develops. By ‘Worm of Thought’ (inspired by The Waste Land) when the album gains a free improv impetus both he and Kinsella have clearly found common ground, a sort of “peace of mind” as the lyric to the title track later has it, as the singer’s ambition increases and the direction of the music becomes less mannered.
Remaining tracks ‘Malin’s Chai’ (the best melody by far and most involved band interplay), ‘Celia’, and title track ‘My Guess’ build on the promise shown first in ‘Worm of Thought’. There’s probably an even better album inside this one crying to get out but it’s clear that a fine new singer with ideas burning brightly inside and the right improvising attitude has arrived. For that in a scene often bereft of original approaches we should be very grateful. Stephen Graham
My Guess is released on Monday 6 May. Thought-Fox play the Vortex in London on 8 May
Newly named a UNESCO artist for peace the distinguished bassist and producer Marcus Miller is to perform a concert on Friday (22 March) at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, in a programme that will follow the slave trade route, starting with artists from Africa, the Caribbean and North America, with other artists taking part including the National Ballet of Cameroon, west African band Benyoro, singer Somi, and Handsworth Revolution reggae legends Steel Pulse.
Miller’s involvement with UNESCO goes back to masterclasses he taught at the first International Jazz Day hosted by UNESCO in association with the Thelonious Monk Institute, and next month Miller will be involved in jazz day once more. In July the bassist famed for his work with Miles Davis among others will be officially designated a UNESCO Artist for Peace in Paris and in his new role Miller will support UNESCO’s Slave Route Project and promote peace, dialogue, and unity through jazz. The international day of remembrance for the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade is held on 25 March, with this year’s theme celebrating emancipation.
Marcus Miller above
Jay’s Jitter Jive dance night began at the Hippodrome on Charing Cross Road, just yards from Leicester Square earlier this month with trumpeter Jay Phelps leading his eight-piece band featuring Lauren Dalrymple on vocals, and Perry Louis, of Jazzcotech renown, leading the dance moves. Jay, acting a role as one of two trumpeters in the Louis Lester Band, and also on the hit soundtrack of Adrian Johnston’s music for the Dancing on the Edge band, and whose own debut as a leader Jay Walkin’ was released to good reviews in 2010, did a trial run for Jitter Jive just before the end of 2012 at Kings Place. On his website he says speaking of the night at the prestigious York Way venue: “We had a great time playing the music of the era, and we even included three tunes from the Snakehips Johnson band transcribed by Soweto Kinch.” On recent BBC2 documentary Swinging into the Blitz the death was grippingly recalled of Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, who was among the many to die in the Blitzed-out West End night club Café de Paris, just a few hundred yards from the Hippodrome, on 8 March 1941. Jay performed in the documentary band sequences recreating the Snakehips sound as did Soweto Kinch who has a new record out, The Legend of Mike Smith, released earlier this year, and Jay appears on it in one of the best spots of the whole affair on the ballad ‘Vacuum’, his horn set alongside the elegiac piano of Julian Joseph. SG
Jitter jive takes place on Wed 27 March. More at http://www.hippodromecasino.com
Watch some Cab Calloway jitterbug jive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N06KxYyUZkk