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New producer Sushil Dade 

Sushil Dade is the new producer of BBC Radio 3 Sunday night show Jazz Line-Up. Long time producer Keith Loxam, who has been synonymous with the show since its beginning, and who was recently nominated for a Parliamentary Jazz Award for services to jazz, is retiring at the end of June.

Glasgow-born Dade grew up listening to Bollywood and Indian classical music, and has worked in the past as a content producer for BBC Radio Scotland and produced Radio Scotland’s Jazz House show. He also produced the first BBC Radio Scotland young jazz musician of the year competition for the station. Dade has also served on the board of the Scottish Academy of Asian Arts, and as a specialist music advisor at the Scottish Arts Council. Story: Stephen Graham
Sushil Dade above. Photo: BBC

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Danzón take on ‘Solar’: a clever departure

Alex Wilson
Trio

Alex Wilson Records ***1/2
A prisoner to his big technique and eclecticism at times, the trio format on Trio released earlier this week suits Alex Wilson well although the sequencing here doesn’t do him any favours. Big, booming number ‘Kalisz’ named for Paweł Brodowski’s piano festival in Poland is an early peak (it might have been better at the end) but ‘Remercier les travailleurs’ with its Malian lilt is less overly energetic and all the better for it, allowing bassist Davide Mantovani more scope. It’s great to hear drummer Frank Tontoh in a trio setting on an album again, although you can often hear him in clubs such as Hideaway regularly. Recorded live in London and at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, as well as in studios in the capital, the danzón take on ‘Solar’ is a clever departure, and listen hard and you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Not sure about some of the tinkling applause at the beginning of some of the tracks as it makes everything resemble a vicar’s tea party. That’s not much of a drawback on an otherwise effortless sounding release by a pianist clearly hitting his stride.
Just released

Alex Wilson top left with Frank Tontoh and Davide Mantovani

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John Medeski
A Different Time
Okeh ***

Medeski originals, gospel, and Willie Nelson’s ‘I’m Falling in Love Again’ feature on new solo piano album by the jam band hero

The spine says it all. On the far left on black the yellow letters in a familiar handwritten script allow the eye to catch the word “OKeh”. It’s tiny. As the label is owned by a major record company there’s only so much romance in its return, but A Different Time is the first album to appear since welcome news came that the historical blues and jazz label is now back in the land of the living and signing again.

Stepping back in time is what the record is about. A solo piano release recorded on a French period Gaveau piano, an instrument known for its crafted cases, manufactured by a company originally founded in the mid-19th century. Medeski in the notes says this 7-footer dates back to 1924 and “the feel is very different” and that “one must sing with the fingers.”

It’s a very quiet often elegiac album and gets that bit more whisper-soft after opener ‘A Different Time’ on Willie Nelson’s ‘I’m Falling in Love Again’, which has a sort of musical box quality to it that’s new and sometimes on the record you have to do a double take. After all with Medeski Martin & Wood in the early-1990s Medeski got swept up in what became known as the jam band phenomenon, often with Hammond organ leading the swelling youth-friendly grassroots movement as at ease in indie rock clubs and outdoor festivals as it was in jazz spots.

A Different Time is the antithesis of groove and acid jazz. Most of the tunes are by Medeski except the Nelson just mentioned and an arrangement of Gabriel and Martin’s early 20th century gospel hymn ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’. At its best, on say the lovely opening to ‘Graveyard Fields’ or the melodic exposition of ‘Luz Marina (From Mama Kia)’ the album shows another side to Medeski; at its worst it is that bit too ponderous.

On the cover there’s a piano on a flying carpet and a song such as ‘Luz Marina’ does just about have the ability to transport you to a land beyond the temporal sphere. For instance ‘Waiting at the Gate’ grows beautifully, like a Randy Newman song, with an air of optimistic expectation the album to that point had lacked and this song has a quiet grandeur to it, one that might outlast everything else on the album in my mind. So all in all very much the contemplative side of Medeski on display, in an album that has its moments but doesn’t always ignite. Stephen Graham

John Medeski above. Photo: Michael Bloom

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Kendrick Scott, Julian Siegel, and Sam Leak jam at Ronnie’s

Kurt Elling was having his picture taken with fans as the Ronnie Scott’s door staff last night let a bunch of people standing on the street in for the Late Late Show. He had just completed the second night of his sold out residency at the club this week, and there’s a buzz about the place.

The late show hosted by Alex Garnett, the diminutive flat cap-wearing saxophonist who can whip up a solo from the lower reaches of his horn with all the panache of a conjurer, was hosting the show, a featured band-led jam session for night owls after eleven, and this was a chance to let touring US alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius and his quartet show their undoubted class. The altoist may have kept his very best to last, to around 2am, with a fine take on his hero Charlie Parker’s tune ‘Dexterity’, but Cornelius with old friend Michael Janisch on pulsing bass and tasteful guitarist Phil Robson (pushed along by drummer Andrew Bain) called the shots harmonically on demandingly sinuous advanced bebop.

Garnett, who has a winningly deadpan patter introducing the musicians, encouraged a “quiet roar” from the sizable late night turn-out for a line-up of great players who then joined to jam. Besides Garnett on tenor another fine tenor attraction was Julian Siegel standing lean and mean attacking like a latter-day Sonny Rollins, and with pianist Sam Leak joining in, Harold Arlen’s ‘My Shining Hour’ was the pick of this section of the session. Arlen oddly has made headline news this week for very different reasons as the writer of ‘Ding Dong’, now a Margaret Thatcher protest song currently at number two in the charts.

The promising Konitzian altoist Allison Neale impressed on a few numbers with ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ the pick, and Kendrick Scott from the Elling band in residence really turned up the heat when he joined. And then towards the end former Amy Winehouse guitarist Robin Banerjee found those friction-heavy percussive sounds at low volume on the instrument only he seems to know how to locate: a nice surprise. 

Elling with his young daughter stayed to observe the jam for a while, and the Kurtster’s drummer Kendrick Scott told me later after he had eaten supper that he is in talks with promoters Serious to bring his band Oracle to the UK. Let’s hope this pans out as their latest album Conviction is one of the best jazz releases to appear this year, burning as it does with sheer energy and packed full of strong compositional ideas. Elling pianist and main man Laurence Hobgood chatted about his former Naim labelmate the late Chris Anderson, and reminisced about meeting Alan Broadbent which he said was “a thrill”. He also intimated that he’s putting together a new band for the autumn, featuring a trumpet in the line-up. When I asked who he’d envisage filling that role the pianist and arranger said unblinkingly: “Terence Blanchard.” Let’s hope that exciting prospect shapes up. SG

 

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Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter among the giants of jazz performing in 21st running of the London Jazz Festival

Tickets go on sale on Friday for some of the big names just announced for the 21st London Jazz Festival to be held this year. With the BBC having now ended its long-running commitment as a festival sponsor the LJF adds three replacement letters, EFG, a private bank, who have been involved with the festival since 2008, in the corporation’s place. The festival which runs from 15-24 November will also feature Jazz Voice on opening night at the Barbican; Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis; Stan Sulzmann’s Neon Orchestra; Arild Andersen; Schlippenbach Trio vs Noszferatu; the Wayne Shorter Quartet and BBC Concert Orchestra at the Barbican; a Charlie Parker on Dial jazz theatre event; Sonny Rollins this time at the Royal Albert Hall; Tigran Hamasyan + Elina Duni; Mehliana; John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain: Remember Shakti; Gilad Atzmon at the QEH; and Madeleine Peyroux at the Festival Hall.

Sonny Rollins above

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Erin Boheme + Tammy Weis, Hippodrome, London tonight

When jazz and pop collides it can be messy. But if the tunes are good, the spirit’s right, the words to the songs possessing a staying power, delivered by a confident performer then what’s not to like: it’s not as if it’s life or death, is it?

Tonight at the Hippodrome in London’s west end Wisconsin-born Erin Boheme makes her London debut following the release of What a Life last month on Heads Up. She’s to be joined by Tammy Weis, a London-based Canadian singer who’s a well kept secret until, well, now on the London jazz vocals scene. Tammy’s also co-written one of the songs on the album as previously reported in these pages. Michael Bublé no less has produced this album… so where’s the jazz you might ask?! Well if you ask that kind of question, this album is not for you. It’s about songs, not improvising, but it’s perfectly compatible within its commercial framework rather than the flawed smooth jazz format that is now disappearing. Contrast the Eric Benet smooth jazz version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, and it’s less cheesy for sure. In Benet’s take on his own highly effective melancholic song, co-written among others with famed songwriter David Foster incidentally also chair of the Verve Music Group (who penned ‘I Have Nothingfor the late Whitney Houston), the natural feeling gets lost a bit crouched behind the layers of glossy audio production and arrangement.

Bublé’s approach although you mightn’t think so at first blush is to strip away the varnish, and let the songs breathe, and Carly Simon-loving Boheme begins demurely on a low key Caro Emerald-esque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, Tammy’s song, which is close enough for jazz put it on Born To Sing: No Plan B. Why Boheme needed to cover a Coldplay song I don’t know, and I didn’t care one bit for the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day who is on the otherwise excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last’. But ‘One More Try’ is quite superb, and jazz-intuitive, and of the band we really should be hearing more of pianist Alan Chang who co-wrote the song with Boheme. Overall then, songs that will stay with you, delivered by a singer who clearly believes in her material and carries both the record and the day.

Erin Boheme above 
www.hippodromecasino.com

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Dominic Alldis

With the Pizza Express Jazz Club currently closed for a refurbishment to the restaurant upstairs (it’s opening up again next week), there’s no better time to check out the club’s sister venue the Pheasantry. This week at the restaurant venue on the King’s Road, a jazz and cabaret place that’s built up a loyal following in the last few years, pianist Dominic Alldis is appearing on Friday and Saturday, following the release of A Childhood Suite earlier in the year. That release, a trio album "for jazz piano trio and orchestra", picks up from earlier album Songs We Heard with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh that first drew on the idea of a trio improvising on nursery rhymes from around the world. A Childhood Suite reworks more than a dozen of these arrangements, adding a string section and containing an Alldis original. The album has a simplicity and sincerity rare these days in the hustle and bustle of the record industry demanding a certain crash, bang, wallop approach. ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ is typical of some of the momentum generated by the trio, and with a dark opening, the mood changes to allow for a developing momentum and joyousness that many of the other improvisations also possess. Very much in the Jacques Loussier or David Rees-Williams stream of light jazz and classical synthesis it’s an album that never lacks for charm and empathy, with some lovely moments along the way including the captivating Vaughan Williams-like violin solo and fine arrangement on ‘Girls and Boys Come Out To Play.’ Alldis is appearing at the Pheasantry in duo with the fine saxophone player Alex Garnett. 

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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There must come a time when an artist wakes up and says: “I’m going to do a ‘with strings’ project”. Purists or the jaded might roll their eyes not another one,  but you would be a brave person to second guess Avishai Cohen. The charismatic Israeli bassist and singer, an inspiration to leading UK bands Phronesis, Kairos 4tet, and a generation of progressively minded young improvisers around the world, is to debut his “with strings” concept at the Barbican in London on Tuesday 7 May. This video of ‘Russian Song there’s a link below gives you an idea of what to expect.

Cohen’s ensemble based around the trio of pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who the bassist recorded Duende for Blue Note with an album released last year, and drums of 19-year-old Ofri Nehemya (on superb form recently in London with Eli Degibri) adds the strings/wind quintet of violinist Cordelia Hagmann, viola players Amit Landau and Noam Haimovitz Weinschel, cellist Yael Shapira, and oboist Yoram Lachish.

Expect arrangements of Israeli love songs, and music by Mordechai Ze’ira, with Ladino songs, as is often the case at Cohen concerts, a feature, and extracts from Avishai’s ‘Concerto.’

Avishai Cohen above

‘Russian song’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mlncsn-r10Q

www.barbican.org.uk

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Pat Metheny
Tap: The Book of Angels: Vol 20
Nonesuch/Tzadik **** RECOMMENDED
There’s going to a lot of interest in this album on the avant jazz circuit, mainly as it acts as a prelude to the Zorn@60 festival touring activity this spring and summer, ahead of John Zorn’s birthday in September. For Metheny Tap is the third in a trilogy of out-there albums, not as shocking as Song X or his collaboration with the late Derek Bailey were but that’s not really the point. It would be more of a sensation in a way if blazing controversy was the only point. A duo album, drummer Antonio Sanchez is Metheny’s foil although it’s a subsidiary role this time apart from on the final improv-heavy track as the guitarist has typically come fully equipped with numerous guitars, sitar, tiples, bass, keyboards, orchestrionics, electronics, and much more, and plays expansively.

The musical ideas of Zorn Metheny is performing date back to the 1990s and these half dozen songs based on traditional Jewish music are but a small fraction of the 300 songs belonging to the second of what Zorn calls the “Masada Book”. Where Zorn ends and Metheny begins can be traced fairly easily to ‘Tharsis’, the third track, which starts with the atmosphere of a village dance and then with a deep synth guitar crunch Metheny, well, is just unmistakeably Metheny, with the lovely minimalist overdubs his trusty companion. It’s a fairly hi-tech record that nonetheless retains its humanity, although with a certain mystical apparatus attached, archangels or no. ‘Mastema’ at the beginning has the most driving jazz-rock intensity, while ‘Sariel’ is the most “middle Eastern” in a way although it twists and turns into a kind of road movie, swapping sensuality for a rickety momentum that is both appealing and different. ‘Phanuel’ becomes a love song by the end, as the curtain of disembodied voices and altered rhythmic emphasis reduce the overall effect to an evocative essence. Tap has some gorgeous moments, and Metheny is simply marvellous, negotiating the complexities of the writing with consummate artistry. As an early birthday present to Zorn what could be better?
Released on 20 May

Pat Metheny, above

Tune into Jazz on 3 tonight on BBC Radio 3 for the first UK airplay of ‘Mastema’

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Time machine: Basquiat Strings as they were

They might have to graffiti the news on the walls but Basquiat Strings, a band that led the way in fusing cutting edge jazz within a strings format, is returning after an extended hiatus to release an album long in the can called Part Two next month. A new-look Basquiats line-up will also tour. 

Part Two (F-IRE) was recorded just two years on from picking up what was a welcome but surprise Mercury nomination in 2007 that cemented their reputation and paved the way for the zeitgeist across Europe to encompass other similarly minded ensembles, such as radio.string.quartet.vienna and later the Atom String Quartet in Poland.

The Basquiats on their debut album Basquiat Strings With Seb Rochford were able to reimagine material such as Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’ but now the band’s leader Ben Davis says Part Two: “Is an extension of the first record, producing an alternative string sound from the spontaneity of jazz, rawness of ethnic sounds, and finesse and heavy arco attacking fusion of classical/contemporary music.”

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Second coming: album due on 13 May

The Basquiats on the album are the violins of Emma Smith (who also features on the acclaimed new Ellington in Anticipation record) and Vicky Fifield; with Jennymay Logan, viola; Ben Davis, cello; Richard Pryce, double bass and Seb Rochford, drums; plus violinist Amanda Drummond and Outhouse drummer Dave Smith, on some tracks. All the tunes all composed by Ben Davis apart from the final track and are: ‘Calum Campbell’, ‘Bobette II’, ‘History of Her’, ‘Slopes’, ‘Scam’, Great Gables’, ‘Bebella’ ‘Jack and Jill’, ‘Hop Scotch’, and ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. Tour dates with Davis joined by Seb Rochford, Fly Agaric’s Fred Thomas on bass, and Newt guitarist Graeme Stephen are: Village Hall, Hunton (Kent) 16 May; Vortex, London 17-18 May; Stables, Milton Keynes, 19 May; Queen’s theatre, Barnstaple, 22 May; St George’s, Bristol, 23 May; and Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, 25 May.

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40 Kurt Elling tracks

Ahead of the Kurt Elling Ronnie Scott’s residency this week here are 40 tracks featuring the singer that pack the biggest punch in terms of interpretation, delivery, and overall performance to whet your appetite

40 ‘Rosa Morena’ bossa time from This Time It’s Love. Understated and all the better for it.

39 On ‘The Beauty of All Things’ Elling showed his control at speed on this nimble track from The Messenger.

38 On ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ part of Elling’s appeal is his maturity and believability. From Flirting With Twilight.

37 ‘Matte Kudasai’. Who would have thought it? The Kurtster does King Crimson. Laconic and persuasive. From the Don Was-produced album The Gate.

36 Lovely swinging stuff from the band on ‘April in Paris’, and Elling responds and how! Featured on The Messenger.

35 No pressure let’s be Frank: on ‘Come Fly With Me’ Elling doesn’t do the obvious and refuses to deal with it as a swinger. He adds new depth in the process. From the new 1619 Broadway album.

34 On ‘Norwegian Wood’ Elling opens the song up, and what a guitar solo from John McLean. From The Gate.

33 ‘Remembering Veronica’. Adventurous but still familiar. From Close Your Eyes.

32 Wonderfully weighted take on Paul Simon’s ‘An American Tune’, a highlight of 1619 Broadway. Elling does mournful.

31 On ‘Orange Blossoms in Summertime’ it’s hip and laidback. From Flirting With Twilight.

30 ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ is the ultimate Elling suburban critique, and a nod to Ken Nordine into the bargain. From 1619 Broadway.

29 ‘After the Love Has Gone’ sees Elling step back into a private zone. Quietly moving. From The Gate.

28 ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ from Live in Chicago. An over familiar song holds no fear.

27 ‘Tutti for Cootie’ Ridiculously catchy and lively, it’s wise guy time. From the new Brill Building album.

26 ‘You Send Me’ also from 1619 Broadway. A vibey treatment.

25 ‘A Time for Love’ from This Time It’s Love, and Elling shows he’s not just sentimental and blue.

24 ‘Lil’ Darlin’’ can be a boring big band staple these days. In Elling’s hands at a slow tempo it more than earns its place on this list. From Flirting With Twilight.

23 Scat time ‘Downtown live’ from the Live in Chicago album: “Sing along now”, says Kurt!

22 ‘Higher Vibe’ from Man in the Air. The spiritual side without any of the usual phoney banter.

21 On ‘Easy Living’ the horns respond as if Elling is a horn player himself. From Flirting With Twilight.

20 A very nuanced take on ‘The Very Thought of You’. Again from This Time It’s Love, made during Elling’s Blue Note years.

19 ‘Man in the air’: ‘He can fly off anywhere’ can the man in the air, and so too can Elling on the title track to one of his best albums.

18 ‘Steppin’ Out’ is about turning a likeable enough pop song into a classic swinger. Elling makes Joe Jackson’s song really move. From The Gate.

17 ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ from The Messenger: E is for Ellington, too.

16 ‘Tight’ from Night Moves. Sage advice from the singer. Truly effortless.

15 ‘Night Dream Live’, on home ground on the live Chicago album. Tremendous impact and band energy here.

14 ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’ Warm and swinging. From Dedicated to You.

13 On ‘Minuano’ it’s a case of getting completely inside the Pat Metheny classic composition. From Man in the Air.

12 On ‘Nature Boy’ the Chicagoan is optimistic and elegant as he powers up on The Messenger.

11 ‘All Or Nothing At All’ from the Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album Dedicated To You. Lots of drama and this live recording crackles with energy.

10 ‘Time To say Goodbye’: comforting and comfortably accomplished. From Man in the Air. There’s no need to try to impress any more.

‘I’m Thru With Love’, Elling’s great on material associated with Nat King Cole. From Flirting with Twilight.

‘A New Body and Soul’ from Nightmoves. Technique, expression, improvisational flair, it’s got it all.

‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’: Almost dropping the tempo to a dead stop on this Landesmann/Wolf classic back in the 1990s on Close Your Eyes.

‘Lush Life (Live)’ Classic take on the Strayhorn song. From Dedicated to You.

‘You Are Too Beautiful’: Corny but effective. The audience love it and they’re not faking. Again from Dedicated to You.

‘In The Winelight’ from Man in the Air. It’s all about the feel. Almost genius.

‘Golden Lady’ a tremendous counter-intuitive version of Stevie Wonder’s song. From The Gate.

‘Nancy With the Laughing Face’. Phil Silvers’ song got very lucky. From Dedicated To You.

‘Nightmoves’ Darkness and light come together on this Michael Franks song. From the 2007 album of the same name.

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Jamil Sheriff Big Band
Ichthyology
GLP ***
Pianist Sheriff lectures at the Leeds College of Music as do some other members of the 16-piece big band here, beginning modally on ‘Future Car’. It is, despite the title, a lively 1950s-era set of wheels that runs on gas rather than petrol (or for that matter hydrogen), equipped with a tantalising solo from Jamie Taylor who then digs digger with a more extensive feature on third track ‘T.T.F’. Nine tracks in all composed and arranged by Sheriff, the title track (the word refers to the study of fish) has a lovely far-away feel to it in the horn theme eventually allowing Sheriff to emerge. The pianist, who’s 36, formed his own octet a decade ago and released Daydreams on GLP and later Backchat for 33 records five years ago, so he’s a seasoned bandleader and composer and Ichthyology points to further development three years on from the big band having been founded. His influences on the evidence here seem to range from Gil Evans (‘T.T.F’) to Oliver Nelson (at least as far as the horns are concerned), and Sheriff likes close harmonies and improvising around a scale. You’ll hear little clashes rather than blaring horns in his arranging but in a year when prevailing fashions have favoured Ellingtonia this is a bit different. Of the soloists Tori Freestone from Compassionate Dictatorship on flute particularly emerges well, and Taylor is a name to watch out for. SG

 

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June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren’s Quercus released earlier this month is a folk-jazz revelation, an album that not since 1990s-era band Lammas with saxophonist Tim Garland, and Don Paterson now a leading poet, has jazz and folk combined so effectively. The record also combines English folk traditions with hints of Celtic songcraft, a very unusual feat deftly accomplished. Touring at the moment with dates at the Stables in Milton Keynes tomorrow, Exeter on the 23rd, and then Bristol, Gateshead, Coventry, London and Salisbury, the band having taken on the name of the album straddles folk and, by association and intent, jazz. The 11 songs on the record have taken some time to be released, seven years since they were recorded in Basingstoke on a fabled piano in the town’s Anvil venue. But it’s more than worth the wait and it’s Warren’s interplay with the full expressive sound of Tabor’s voice (like Norma Waterson’s slightly, but darker than Christine Tobin’s) that counts.

Iain Ballamy here and in Food recently has been on the form of his life, and his solo for instance on ‘Near But Far Away’ distils a life time’s work on ballads. At the end ‘All I Ask of You’ is a reminder of the moving version of the song on Balloon Man Ballamy’s first big breakthrough in the late-1980s. Texts of the songs draw on disparate sources including Robert Burns, A. E .Housman and Shakespeare, and highlights include the lovely ‘Who Wants the Evening Rose’ where the honesty of Tabor’s voice momentarily recalling the late Kirsty MacColl, is truest. Ballamy here, oak-sturdy as the genus the band itself takes its name from, intertwines his improvisations with Warren’s superbly empathetic accompaniment so appropriately.

June Tabor pictured   

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Speake low: Jeff Williams (above, left), Martin Speake, and Mike Outram

Saxophonist Martin Speake’s new recording, a double album called Always a First Time was released a decade after Change of Heart was recorded, Speake’s last big statement until now eventually emerging on ECM. It’s very stop and start with Speake, one of the 1980s Britjazz generation’s biggest talents but whose contribution is most difficult to gauge. Change of Heart recorded with the late Paul Motian, Mick Hutton, and Bobo Stenson, was praised at the time for its Lee Konitz-type clarity and “unhurried” playing. And Always a First Time, this new double album released on Speake’s own label retains that palpable sense of patience, beginning at an almost stately pace.

The Konitz connection is retained, not just in Speake’s sound but in the presence of former Konitz drummer Jeff Williams returning from the quartet. Speake also dedicates ‘Ramshackle’ to Konitz.

At the Vortex gig the Finchley-based saxophonist appears with Williams and guitarist Mike Outram. On Always A First Time Williams appears in an up-front role throughout the 20 songs just like the other two musicians, with Outram also performing a crucial function, colouring the sound especially on the Puccini aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (dedicated to Speake’s father, appropriately). Oddly you don’t miss the bass, but Outram’s skill has a lot to do with this as well as Williams’ ability to make the drums sing.

The trio covers a great deal of ground only partially explained by the extra canvas the two CDs provide. With songs dedicated to friends, mentors and inspirations Always a First Time is predominantly ballad-driven, but it’s not particularly brooding. More philosophical, and on tracks such as ‘Twister’, on the second CD, there is also a sense of abandon that a quick first listen might not straight away fix on to but is definitely there. Recorded in the same room, unseparated, without headphones, the way records used to be made Speake says “we all played from the heart”. And you can tell this when a song like ‘Meditation’, which crops up on both discs with two different dedicatees one of whom includes Fidel Castro, dissolves (on the second disc) into a ‘listening silence’, when you just know the players like what they’re hearing and do not need to push the tune on any more than is strictly necessary in case the mood is spoiled. The second of the CDs may well have the edge, as it’s a bit more open, and perhaps the club gig will draw on this aspect of Speake’s approach. But the more orthodox ballad-and- cool school bop approach on the first disc, with songs that include Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ and many fine Speake originals, have an integrity that is a hallmark of Always a First Time as is its sense of the bigger picture. SG
Tickets www.vortexjazz.co.uk

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Beatles, Bach, and balmy strings on Redman’s latest 

Joshua Redman
Walking Shadows
Nonesuch ***1/2
Sooner or later, and this is only when a jazz artist becomes successful, he or she can put out records and give concerts in massive halls that are of a satisfyingly high standard sufficient to retain their fans and attract new ones, but somehow don’t rattle any cages. They don’t need to, and it’s not like the artist is coasting. It’s just an “at ease with yourself” kind of feeling. Joshua Redman, even when he wasn’t at peace with himself, always had a calmness and clarity about him, and while not an old fashioned player in the ultra young-fogey sense, wasn’t mad keen to be a trailblazing innovator either. Dewey Redman, his late father, was so much more of an avantgardist in his day, although there are many more similarities than differences than you might think. The first big talking point on Walking Shadows is the fact that Brad Mehldau has produced it and plays Boswell to Redman’s Dr Johnson, manicuring every nuance and little touch in this diary of strings-laden discovery. Brad puts his stamp on the record by suggesting ensemble arrangements and pointing Joshua in the direction of Lennon and McCartney. ‘Let it Be’ is as quietly moving as ‘Tears in Heaven’ on Wish, with Mehldau perfect and Redman so very cool on what could have been a cheesefest.

During the European tour of Highway Rider I thought Redman had found a new space for himself both as a performer and in the way he listened to the Britten Sinfonia before he joined in to solo at their London concert in the Barbican. This new record is a slightly snoozy but very upmarket ballads (and Bach) affair, and even with the newer material to bear in mind Redman shows his jazz pedigree best by a very nuanced take on a classic ballad in ‘Lush Life’, a memorable interpretation. It’s not angsty or a memorial but just languorous and that’s Redman’s style. He’s like a good friend having a heart-to-heart throwing in a few jokes to lighten the mood over a few beers. The band is a mix of Brad’s with the ever reliable bassist Larry Grenadier and Brad joined by the distinguished Wayne Shorter Quartet drummer Brian Blade, while both Joshua and Brad provide arrangements as does Patrick Zimmerli whose music Mehldau toured in the UK earlier this year alternating with Mehliana. I think Redman’s James Farm in 2011 was a more adventurous record (and fans took its quality for granted), but Redman has been less daring with these ballads and not just because they’re ballads. But that said it’s a likeable record that has a mellow mood all of its own and at its best is like a conversation you don’t want to end. Stephen Graham


Walking Shadows is released on 7 May

Joshua Redman above

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Lineage (clockwise from top left): Byron Wallen, Tony Kofi, Trevor Watkis, Rod Youngs, and Larry Bartley

It’s looking like Lineage are to make their Ronnie Scott’s debut on 12 June, now confirmed (4.30pm update) on the club’s site following the news broken by the quintet’s Tony Kofi today.

This is great for the music following on from the supergoup’s London debut in Hideaway earlier in the year.

That gig was only their second gig ever after an earlier try-out in Brighton. With a front line of trumpeter Byron Wallen, and saxophonist Tony Kofi concentrating on alto saxophone and soprano sax, the quintet features a rhythm section of fine Mulgrew Miller-influenced pianist Trevor Watkis, bassist Larry Bartley, and UK-based American drummer Rod Youngs, like Bartley and Kofi, a member of the great Abdullah Ibrahim’s band Ekaya.

The Collins Dictionary defines the word ‘Lineage’ as meaning in one primary sense “direct descent from an ancestor, especially a line of descendants from one ancestor”, and both as a diaspora band united in shared musical and cultural approaches, and as stylistic descendants of some of the giants of jazz from the hard bop years and their modern day counterparts, the band succeeds on both fronts as it does on its own terms as top class players.

It’s also a meeting of old musical friends, as for instance Kofi and Wallen go way back to the heyday of 1990s hard bop band Nu Troop, and you can tell when two instrumentalists have a close understanding as they know each other’s moves and can read each other’s direction beyond the letter of the closely arranged often intricate material as here.

Kofi said that night at Hideaway he couldn’t think of anyone better to play the trumpet part on his ballad ‘A Song For Papa Jack’, which appeared on Kofi’s acclaimed 2006 album Future Passed, the song dedicated to Tony’s father who died 15 years ago, and Wallen played it beautifully.

Wallen, also a member of Mulatu Astatke’s fine band about to release a new record for Jazz Village, made the astute comment: “Music is about relationships,” and that’s something audiences and musicians neglect to remember sometimes, but this band doesn’t in the broader sense even for one moment.

Bookended by Woody Shaw tunes at Hideaway, opening with ‘Sweet Love of Mine’ and culminating at the end of the first set in Shaw’s classic mover, ‘Moontrane’ (Byron explained the title by saying amusingly: “Woody Shaw had a dream of Coltrane riding a bicycle on the moon”). Other set highlights that night were Tony Williams’ ‘Citadel’, heard on the much missed drummer’s 1980s Blue Note quintet album Civilization, here featuring Trevor Watkis on fine form as he was throughout, especially later on his own tune ‘With Substance’, which featured Larry Bartley and the deep throb of his bass was captured accurately by the club sound system, while Youngs’ cymbals were crisp and clear in the body of the big room.

This band just has to be heard. And it will be in June at the heart of the matter and the heat of the action on Frith Street.
Stephen Graham

Tickets from www.ronniescotts.co.uk

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Tracks and release date confirmed

It’s an achievement in itself to perform at the Montreux jazz festival, the Swiss summertime festival founded by the late Claude Nobs, one of the few festivals to stand tall with Newport in jazz mythology where the whole notion of a jazz festival was born in the first place.

Now the Neil Cowley Trio have gone one step further with the release of Live at Montreux 2012 confirmed for a 29 April release by Eagle.

The Cowley band played the festival for the first time on 11 July last year and the release comes hard on the heels of the trio winning the accolade of UK jazz artist of the year at the prestigious Jazz FM awards in January following a public vote.

London-born pianist Cowley, 40, with Australian bassist Rex Horan and New Zealander Evan Jenkins on drums take jazz to a new generation within a classic jazz piano trio format, their music laced with influences including EST, indie rock, and electronic dance music. Cowley is also known for his work with Adele appearing on 19 and 21 and features crucially on monster hit ‘Rolling in the Deep’, the pianist’s ability to build hypnotic drama in his backing to the vocal part of the song’s wide appeal.

2012 besides recording in Montreux saw the band’s biggest UK concert to date with a Barbican hall gig accompanied by strings during the London Jazz Festival.

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Live in Montreux as well as appearing as a DVD is also released as a CD, and on Blu-Ray. Tracks are: ‘Lament’, Rooster Was a Witness’, ‘Distance By Clockwork’, ‘Slims’, ‘Hug The Greyhound’, ‘Kenny Two Steps’, ‘Box Lily’, ‘How Do We Catch Up’, ‘Hope Machine’, ‘Meyer’, ‘Skies Are Rare’, ‘La Porte’, ‘Fable’, ‘The Face of Mount Molehill’, and ‘She Eats Flies.’

The Cowley trio (originally featuring Richard Sadler on bass) debuted with Displaced in 2006, from which ‘She Eats Flies’ ‘How Do We Catch Up’ and ‘Kenny Two Steps’ are taken. The album won a BBC jazz award the following year and went into the studio to record Loud…Louder….Stop, which then appeared in 2008 although no tracks from this album are featured on the DVD. ‘Hug The Greyhound’ from the follow-up Radio Silence is, though, included, as is ‘Box Lily’ released in 2010, the last to feature Sadler, with the rest of the material drawn from The Face of Mount Molehill, an album that saw rocker Horan join and the band augmented with strings and electronic textures. This new release should further enhance the trio’s reputation internationally with American touring having already begun in earnest last year.
Stephen Graham

The Neil Cowley trio top and the cover of the DVD above

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Hülsmann soars on the beautiful Mehldau-esque introduction to ‘Sealion’

A baker’s dozen of tracks, the majority of compositions written by Julia Hülsmann, and her husband Marc Muellbauer, In Full View (ECM), the pianist/composer’s latest album released next week is a quartet affair, the difference this time is that Hülsmann is joined by trumpeter/flugel player Tom Arthurs whose superb but much delayed album Postcards from Pushkin with Richard Fairhurst was released last year.

In Full View has multiple points of entry, and one of the main talking points comes at the end with a nuanced take on ‘Nana’ by Manuel de Falla, the twentieth century Spanish composer’s lovely melody based on an Andalucian lullaby.

Hülsmann also demonstrates just what she can do without artifice as an interpretative artist on the beautiful Mehldau-esque introduction to ‘Sealion’, the song also known as ‘See Line Woman’ made famous by Nina Simone and covered more recently by Canadian indie folk singer/songwriter Feist.

Arthurs’ ‘Forgotten Poetry’ is another firm highlight of an album on early listens that as a quartet extends the ambition of Hülsmann’s writing that bit further, and shows the acute sensitivity of Arthurs on melancholic ballads and mood pieces.

In Full View was recorded over three days in June 2012 by the Bonn-born Hülsmann, a former pupil of the late Walter Norris who famously appeared on Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary debut Something Else!!!!.

The Hülsmann trio was founded in 1997, has changed personnel a little over the years, and now with the addition of Arthurs, who first burst on to the scene just under a decade ago with the remarkable Centripede, moves to an adventurous if more settled-sounding fresh phase, its essence intact.

As well as collaborating with singer Rebekka Bakken for ACT, with Scattering Poems, Hülsmann has also released The End of a Summer, a trio record for ECM featuring half a dozen of her own tunes, along with co-operatively written band material, and a version of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. Summer was followed by Imprint, but In Full View reflects some of her very best work to date, heard in a clear new light with Arthurs. SG
Released on Monday 15 April. Julia Hülsmann, above