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.
Tickets from www.ronniescotts.co.uk
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.
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.
The Neil Cowley trio top and the cover of the DVD above
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
Time still does the talking for Patty Griffin
“Time goin’ do the talking/ Years’ll do the walking,” soul great Bettye LaVette sang on her return to form last year and rising to the theme later in the song almost hollered “…change the locks on the door/ Learn how to take a little bit more/ I can outrun all the devils here/ But I just can’t outrun doubt."
LaVette might have taken a few liberties with the song but she did everyone a favour by covering it in the first place. It’s ‘Time Will Do The Talking’ the lead-off track from Living with Ghosts from Patty Griffin’s 1996 debut, an album that may well be long in the past but, although it may be a truism, great songs refuse to age.
Griffin is just announced to gig in the UK on the back of a new album American Kid to be released in May with a Union Chapel date in July. The new album was written to honour her father and is her first album of new material in six years. Of late Griffin has appeared as a guest with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and toured solo dates of her own in the States last year according to Rolling Stone. A Top 40 Billboard album artist her songs have been covered by a wide range of artists across genres from the Dixie Chicks to Detroit soul great LaVette.
Listen to Bettye’s take on the song ‘Time Will Do The Talking’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVdeU0w5zs8
‘Ohio’ from American Kid you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/newwestrecords/patty-griffin-ohio
Patty Griffin above
Damon Albarn with Michael Horovitz
Released for the fast approaching Record Store Day on Saturday 20 April the vinyl-only Kings Cross jazz label Gearbox is to release a single featuring poet Michael Horovitz called ‘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: Damon Albarn unofficial).
In the States as Jazz Times has reported these records are being released for Record Store Day in limited runs: Miles Davis Round About Midnight (Legacy 12" LP); Miles Davis Milestones (Legacy 12" LP); Miles Davis Someday My Prince Will Come (Legacy 12" LP); Fela Kuti Sorrow Tears and Blood/Perambulator (Knitting Factory); The Cal Tjader Trio The Cal Tjader Trio (Fantasy 3-9/Concord 10" orange vinyl); The Dave Brubeck Trio Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals (Fantasy 3-2/Concord 10" red vinyl), and Marco Benevento Invisible Baby (The Royal Potato 12" blue vinyl). More at www.jazztimes.com
Chet Baker: gone too soon
Released in May to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the death of Chet Baker, Too Cool: The Life and Music of Chet Baker, as this 12-song set is ambitiously titled, is a new album that combines trumpet and vocals on material written by Chet Baker, with other songs by Sue Richardson and one a fan-girl anthem called ‘Adored’ the Sussex-based Richardson has co-written with Annette Keen. The trumpeter, who has worked with Mina Agossi and Ian Shaw in recent years and whose brassy trumpet style is forthright and bold, is joined by a modern mainstream band with Karen Sharp on baritone saxophone making her presence felt on Richardson’s tune ‘All Through
It’s pretty laid back stuff, as you can imagine, and fairly undemanding at times although very well meant. Richardson’s singing on ‘My Funny Valentine’ and on the bittersweet ‘Chetty’s Lullaby’ are the pick of the vocals. Sue’s husband Neal, who also produced the record, accompanies effectively on piano and Rhodes while Jazz Jamaica’s Rod Youngs on drums drives the band along, with George Trebar’s double bass a lively presence. There’s guest guitar from Andy Drudy as well as the presence of Karen Sharp referred to above. The album could do, it’s fair to say, with a bit more of the dark side of Chet on display, but maybe that would be pushing everyone’s luck that bit too far. Chet certainly pushed his, as most great artists inevitably do. Their tragedy, but our guilty reward in the music and artistry they leave behind.
Sue Richardson plays a special lunchtime show in Ronnie Scott’s on 19 May, a club Chet himself performed in. Watch this extraordinary video of Chet Baker at Ronnie Scott’s in 1986 with footage filmed just two years before the trumpeter’s untimely passing in Amsterdam http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6IiFpOVBjU
Andy Kershaw once likened modern jazz to a “fire in a pet shop", well he would, wouldn’t he?, but in a suitable spirit of mischief, prog jazzers World Service Project take that fire on the road, presumably carrying it like the Olympic torch with protective gloves accompanied by a bus riding alongside blaring out inappropriate music, possibly by Heather Small.
They’re off to Hull and back beginning on Humberside at the Pave Bar on Sunday (14 April) followed by dates in Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, da da da, and ending up, at least for this month, in Bristol on the 28th.
They’re “the Led Bib you can dance to", as Moochin’ About’s Selwyn Harris so memorably put it. He’s got a point, with WSP apparently harbouring a deep seated grudge against Rick Wakeman into the bargain I’d add. The band hunkers around the band’s visionary Dave Morecroft at the keyboards in oddly asymmetric and suitably anonymous fashion but that’s part of the plan: it’s all about the band even with all those tricky time signatures and real ale-powered crypto-funk handbrake turns as the band gets into one.
Digging in live in Dalston last summer
There’s a new album out to coincide with the tour featuring the title track, which has already appeared on a collectable EP called Live From London. I’m not sure of the other tracks so far but ‘De-Frienders’, a highlight of last year’s Match & Fuse festival in Dalston, might make the cut as well (looks like ‘Barmy Army might be on it going by their Soundcloud page). If they don’t it’s a case of tracking down WSP’s back catalogue to a local pet shop that may even these days double as a pop-up vinyl emporium and probably offers a bespoke key-cutting service as well. There are worse things than a burn-up on the high street, the band seem to saying, as an artfully de-(be)friended Kershaw might realise if he heard this lot. SG
Quiet Money Recordings **** RECOMMENDED
The Liane Carroll album we’ve all been waiting for in more ways than one is released on Monday, an album that surpasses her greatest and considerable achievements to date such as her quietly moving 2003 album, Billy No Mates, or the way, live, she sings ‘You Don’t Know Me’ with that despairing rebuke in her voice. Forget all the awards she’s won this is where the music does the talking. The 11 songs of Ballads, such sad lingering ones, with their demon eyes blazing furiously, or simply gazing slackly as the song demands, the mood set in terms of interpretation by the resigned quietly dark despair in the ambivalent ‘Here’s to Life’, as good in its different way as the superlative version of the song on Barbra Streisand’s Love is the Answer. Another early album peak of Ballads is the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen song Sinatra made his own, ‘Only the Lonely’, set for big band by a 21st century Nelson Riddle, Chris Walden, its opening lyric: ‘Each place I go/only the lonely go’, could even be the maxim for an album that as a journey to intimacy thrives on isolation as in the stark Gwilym Simcock piano accompaniment to ‘Mad About the Boy’, or returning to the theme explicitly on ‘The Two Lonely People’, Carroll’s expression by times hotly emotional or icily cold depending on the mood she’s conveying. Be warned though, it’s not a depressing album in any way, as her version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ more than affirms. In a sense Ballads is a confessional album gathering together many classic complementary songs cleverly collected and interpreted that espouse loneliness, loss, but above all a longing for love. Carroll is at her most heartfelt and life-affirming on Todd Rundgren’s ‘Pretending to Care’ from 1985’s A Cappella with a remarkable, pingingly-pure, top note at a crucial arc of the song. No one’s come close to releasing a jazz vocals album of this quality so far this year and my guess is it will be a long wait until someones does.
Bassist draws on Middle Eastern sound for trio album featuring guests including Jason Yarde
Jazz record labels you would have thought are an endangered species. With little or no subsidy from arts bodies or charitable foundations their very survival particularly in the niche jazz area is always an issue. Few labels can do it all, possess the ability to invest and grow their artists, keep to their brief, and grow their business by spotting new talent and cutting good deals so they can at least cover their costs, and with any luck find an artist that the public gets behind. For a long period the UK indie jazz label sector was out of step with the progress made in other parts of Europe particularly in Germany and France where there are bigger markets and a bigger and deeper appetite for jazz to cushion the development period. That now has changed with a wave of new active indie jazz labels. Distribution patterns have also altered greatly since the digital revolution of the last 15 years, and with the decreasing costs of manufacturing albums also helping the small operator for bread and butter physical releases and the ability to harness cheaper means of marketing and PR via social media, newer labels such as Edition, Naim Jazz and Jellymould have taken on the challenge of getting new jazz out there to find and meet demand.
Whirlwind Recordings, bassist Michael Janisch’s label, has shown consistent growth in the last two years and ahead of releasing a new live album by Lee Konitz next month, a landmark release for Whirlwind, the label has now signed the Matt Ridley Trio for an autumn release with the bassist’s debut album Thymos (Greek for ‘spiritedness’) set to appear in October.
With alto saxophone star Jason Yarde guesting, bassist Ridley, a Trinity college of music graduate in 2005, will preview tunes from the album at a club show in the Vortex later this month. The bassist’s trio features John Turville whose Parliamentary award-winning album Midas first put the pianist on the map and relative unknown George Hart on drums. Pretty much a complete unknown himself still, Ridley has, though, worked extensively as a member of the popular Darius Brubeck Quartet touring widely, and has appeared with the MJQ Celebration band featuring Jim Hart, Barry Green, and Steve Brown, as well as the Lyric Ensemble. A SE London Collective scenester Ridley has also collaborated with celebrated oudist Attab Haddad, who is an additional guest on Thymos.
The debut album features original tunes and Ridley says ahead of the Vortex date: “I envisaged a sound encompassing the exotic flavours and emotions of Middle Eastern music, with the jazz sensibility of improvisation on complex structures.” One to watch for later in the year. There’s a tour then in the offing as well. SG
Matt Ridley pictured above
Gimme the Boots
Continuing the label’s commitment to young German jazz Gimme the Boots taps the Maceo Parker side of soul jazz with Rhodes knitting in, plenty of Maceo-like blowing from Felix F. Falk on various saxes and much else, and there’s so much positive energy flying around that the band could power a small town with their relentless flow. It does wear a bit thin after a while, and by the time a didgeridoo, no less, is produced on the title track the band has almost done itself a mischief. Debuting for the label with For Those About To Funk a few years back, Mr Funky Trombone himself, Nils Landgren, produced these funkster likely lads. Not so much feel good as feel exhausted Mo’Blow must have needed a good sit down after these 12 tracks, and so might you. Released on 29 April. SG
When jazz and pop collide 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?
Next Tuesday at the Hippodrome in London’s west end (the old Talk of the Town, now a casino with a music venue on tap as well as the roulette wheel and blackjack), 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 or at best morphing into more acceptable soul-jazz.
Contrast the Eric Benet version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, 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 Nothing’ for 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 Emerald-esque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, Tammy’s song, which is close enough for jazz as Van Morrison 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 itself 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 plays the Hippodrome, London on Tuesday 16 April, with special guest Tammy Weis.
Superlative Paul Motian retrospective
ECM 6 CDs ****1/2
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma may be an apt way to view Paul Motian now with the benefit of the passage of time since his passing at the age of 80 in November 2011. This extraordinary eponymous box set of six albums recorded between 1972 and 1984 all issued for the first time together as an Old & New Masters edition reinforces that impression. The story begins, but does not end, in a band with Keith Jarrett, in fact for once Jarrett is a bit player in the overall musical drama, and while Ethan Iverson in his warm and beautifully written essay accompanying the music attempts to organise the music into three pairs: Conception Vessel and Tribute made when Motian was a member of the Jarrett Quartet; trio albums with Charles Brackeen “their own private universe” and in Psalm and It Should’ve Happened A Long Time Ago, a "triumphant reign" as a bandleader, even this sensible pointer adds little to the making sense of the music as a whole. Iverson comments most effectively that Motian changed as a late starter into becoming a composer in his own right. And if you listen to Motian in his Bill Evans days it’s almost as if this is a new person entirely. Conception Vessel is less about Jarrett perhaps than the chrysalis phase of Motian reborn as a musical thinker, and an advanced abstract expressionist at that. Sam Brown’s flamenco touches at the beginning are something you don’t easily expect but the first big moment is the doom-laden drum statement at the beginning of ‘Ch’i Energy’ matched and surpassed only in sheer daring at the very end of all these albums by ‘Fiasco’ on It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago.
That latter album title could well be the mantra of all the music collected in Paul Motian. They’re much freer than I remember previous selected listens in isolation and Iverson goes so far as to make the claim “There have been many great free drummers, but I believe Motian might have been the greatest.” I’m not sure if I agree with that but there is strong evidence here that Motian has achieved the nirvana of musical freedom in terms of both structure and abstraction. Best bits for me? Well, Charlie Haden coming in at the beginning of ‘War Orphans’ on Tribute with Motian clanking almost in the shadows to scuffle in behind the pristine guitar of Paul Metzke; or how about the very still and mysterious cymbal work at the beginning of ‘Folk Song For Rosie’ with the chilled saxophone of Charles Brackeen wading in the luke warm water of JF Jenny-Clark’s lulling bass? Or even, on ‘Second Hand’ from Psalm, the toms joyously going AWOL right at the beginning, a voice off, and then the dull ache of Frisell’s chordal pain entering dispassionately?
This riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma is a major retrospective that marks only the beginning of a coming to terms with Motian as a major artist. His legend will grow even more: and it starts right here. Stephen Graham
Monday sees the release of At Home the first album of unreleased George Shearing material since the bebop piano master’s passing two years ago. It’s unusual in that it was recorded in the front room of Shearing’s New York flat in down time during a club residency in the 1980s.
Released on Jazzknight, a label established by Sir George’s widow Lady Ellie the album begins like a foxtrot, and ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’ has a twinkling style, full of the chirpiness Nat King Cole managed to endow old Broadway songs with when he himself played piano.
Shearing turns on his significant charm though after about a minute in, and these living room songs draw out Don Thompson’s role as a confidant to Shearing’s left hand.
Thompson played with Shearing for some 20 years in all, and you feel as if he knows Shearing’s every move on the tracks they play together. Now 73, he accompanied Barney Kessel early in his career in Vancouver clubs, and appears on the John Handy Quintet classic live album Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival recorded in 1965.
‘Up at the crack of Don’
Thompson began playing concerts with Shearing decades later, from 1982 onwards, the year before the newly discovered At Home was recorded. And just under the three-minute mark he draws out the woodiness of the bass a skilled carpenter would find hard to locate.
A sprightly start then to this remarkable Jazzknight records album and there’s an elegant fade at the end of the opener; and like some sort of mirage Johnny Mandel’s ‘A Time For Love’ emerges after the silence. Thompson comes in on the arc of the Shearing line here time and again, at the emotional tug of the note.
Bill Evans link, as two tracks on At Home appeared on
1961 album Explorations
Thompson’s own tune ‘Ghoti’ (apparently Shearing dubbed it “up at the crack of Don”), leads into a riot in swing, and you could hear this being played with a vibes quintet, Shearing’s preferred stomping ground in his heyday. This one’s got bebop written all over it. After two minutes Shearing changes the goalposts, and there’s a rhythmic murmur that’s the very essence of bop syncopation.
The sound quality is fine throughout At Home: you can really hear the piano and bass and the instruments together. The album was mastered much later in Toronto, the city where Ellie Shearing first heard the tapes played before pressing green for go to start the process towards release after an ice age of 30 years in the obscurity of a drawer.
‘The Things We Did Last Summer’, the Jule Style/Sammy Cahn song begins jauntily, as if the duo are feeling completely at ease, and that’s a defining feature of this wonderful album. Lady Shearing provided cups of tea in breaks over the few days the album took to make. No producer was present, and there is a comfortable feel to all these tracks recorded around the time of a run of club dates in New York.
‘Laura’ is the first big talking point and really the test of the album. Opening expansively the theme is stated quite simply with a few ornate touches, but Shearing seems more interested in building the darkness in his left hand at which he more than succeeds. The tempo slows right down and there are some lovely washes after the 150-second mark moving towards some high-end tinkling that ends even more seriously than it began. With Thompson back ‘The Skye Boat Song’ I could have done without, although it’s a pretty enough melody and close to the bassist’s heart. But Shearing and Thompson are on more satisfying territory with Bird’s ‘Confirmation’ joyously foot tapping, but not fast at all. Remaining tracks are a winningly shy take on ‘The Girl Next Door’ with its hesitant opening; a swayingly optimistic ‘Can’t We Be Friends?’; the more mundane ‘I Cover the Waterfront’; and ‘Out of Nowhere’. Although ‘That Old Devil Called Love’ opens things up, ‘SubconsciousLee’ allows lots of bass space, and little detours here and there. Victor Young’s ‘Beautiful Love’ is simply a display of Shearing genius at the end.
Sir George Shearing top, Don Thompson above; and the album cover. Listen to another version of ‘Beautiful Love’, recorded in the 1970s, by Shearing to get in the zone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz9njOgKBYU
Rich Tailors, and international Take Five Europe band, gig
in Paris on 18 April
Soweto Kinch will be performing music from The Legend of Mike Smith at the Banlieues Bleues festival in Paris this month, and at la Dynamo situated right in the heart of the Quatre-Chemins quartier in Pantin, there’s a Take Five Europe presentation featuring new music developed and performed by a group of leading new European jazz artists performing under its EU-funded banner. Trumpeter Airelle Besson, saxophonist Guillaume Perret, clarinettist Arun Ghosh, trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz, reeds player David Kweksilber, guitarist Chris Sharkey, pianist Marcin Masecki piano, bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Marcos Baggiani will perform at the concert in a double bill with the Rich Tailors, the formidable Anglo-French collaboration formed of members of Blink and the Mediums with Robin Fincker, Daniel Erdmann, Vincent Courtois, Alcyona Mick, and Paul Clarvis.
Rich Tailors, above
Anthony Branker & Word Play
Provocative and controversial in his choice of title Princeton professor Anthony Branker explains extremely well his motivation for using such a frequently offensive term, and moves the discussion in his notes to the album on by referring to the murder and beatings of young African-American men such as Jordan Miles, Jordan Davis, Ramarley Graham and most notoriously Trayvon Martin an unarmed Miami teenager who was killed by a neighbourhood watch co-ordinator because, Branker says, he looked “suspicious while wearing a ‘hoody’.”
It’s a marvel that this sextet album, recorded last year in Brooklyn, and other albums by the composer such as Word Play’s 2011 album Dialogic exist at all given the fact that Branker suffered life threatening illness that necessitated brain surgery more than a decade ago. Originally a trumpeter he has written and arranged six tunes of depth and interest here, beginning with a light funk feel courtesy of Jim Ridl’s Fender Rhodes on ‘Let’s Conversate!’ but there’s a considerable step change after the relatively light opening as the album goes deeper and deeper and has a seriousness and integrity to it that draws you in.
The best of the tunes is the moving ballad ‘Three Gifts (from a Nigerian Mother to God)’ that Branker was inspired to write following a television news report about a plane crash that killed dozens of young African school children. He dedicated the piece to the Nigerian mother he watched interviewed about the loss of her three children. Eli Asher’s flugelhorn solo does the human tragedy justice as an artistic response, as does the integrated vocal of Charmaine Lee, while overall tenorist Ralph Bowen is a towering presence throughout the album. Uppity is an album you won’t want to forget in a hurry: for all the right reasons. SG
The cover of Uppity above
Jazzahead in Bremen later this month promises a feast of music and much new jazz in store, and there’s a major opportunity to sample a great deal of music resolutely below the radar, brand new or just under known. It’s not just about live music, though, as the jazz music business gathers en masse in the German city in increasing numbers each year, the event having taken on the mantle of a latterday MIDEM for jazz. Here’s a brief look at what’s on offer in terms of live music this year.
The partner country in 2013 is Israel, and there are many new and established Israeli jazz acts appearing in Bremen. Also look out for a broad cross-section of the host country Germany’s burgeoning scene often little known internationally, as well as jazz from all over Europe and beyond. On Thursday 25 April check out Yotam, and the Omer Klein Trio as a taster while on Friday 26 April the Olivia Trummer trio, Avishai Cohen trio, and the jazz@Israel jam session are distinct highlights. Saturday 27 April has a British presence with Zoe Rahman, Beats & Pieces, and Django Bates all appearing. Also worth making a point to catch are the Helge Lien trio from Norway, Belgian pace setters De Beren Gieren, and the unique sound of Elina Duni and her quartet.
De Beren Gieren above
ECM (5-CDs) Old & New Masters Edition **** RECOMMENDED
Fish Out of Water, Notes From Big Sur, All My Relations, The Call and Canto are collected here in the by now easily recognisable white box livery of the Old and New Master series were recorded in Oslo between 1989 and 1996. Three of the albums share the same quartet line-up with The Call, All My Relations and Canto able to be exactly compared although on The Call Lloyd restricts himself to tenor saxophone. Fish Out of Water made the greatest impact at the time of release, as Lloyd had not been active on the jazz scene for many years until prompted out of retirement some years before these recordings were made by the enthusiasm of a questing Michel Petrucciani who recorded with him, drummer Son Ship Theus and the Belonging band’s Palle Danielsson, as well as touring extensively. It’s fitting that Danielsson is on Fish Out of Water, along with Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson and ex-Jarrett bandmate Jon Christensen on drums. Christensen’s tenure in the Lloyd quartet as far as these recordings are concerned was brief and apart from Ralph Peterson appearing on Notes From Big Sur it’s Billy Hart who plays on the majority of the Quartets tracks taken as a whole.
Fish Out of Water begins very meditatively and it takes almost 15 minutes, well into the second track, when it’s Stenson who lifts the momentum to which Lloyd responds with that deeply emotional sound of his on the saxophone and the holding pattern melts away. ‘Mirror’ here isn’t the same song as the recent New Quartet album title track incidentally (that melody resembles ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ whereas this piano-introduced composition doesn’t). By the end of Fish Out of Water the stately flute is underlining the fact that Lloyd has made a significant comeback.
The big swell on ‘Requiem’, the opening track of Notes From Big Sur, recorded two years later underlines the point of Lloyd’s earlier return and in tandem with Stenson whose role becomes more defined and the fine articulation of Ralph Peterson’s brushes an additional factor Lloyd plays with even greater confidence and the tunes change. You could imagine in ‘Sam Song’ a tune that would have worked for Keith Jarrett like the old days. Whether Lloyd was recreating (via Stenson and casting Peterson as DeJohnette, Anders Jormin as Cecil McBee) is unlikely, but the comparison at times is striking.
Nowadays Jason Moran accompanies Lloyd so differently to Stenson although there is a continuum in the choice of melodies between these two important periods in Lloyd’s career. Lloyd’s style then and now digs deep into his soul and enters the listener’s subconscious eventually. The pick of the tracks could be ‘When Miss Jessye Sings’, a long tune that really unfolds into an exuberantly weary swing, just the sort of beat Lloyd needs when the tears in his sound transform into pure joy in the course of the improvisation.
1993’s The Call introduces Billy Hart whose presence is so important on three of these albums. ‘The Blessing’ is the big tune here (it’s a Lloyd composition, not the tune of the same name by Ornette Coleman), its stillness breathtaking, and Stenson’s African-sounding gently brittle backdrop to the developing improvisation is a masterclass in control. The Swede’s opening statement on ‘Figure in Blue, Memories of Duke’ shows how Stenson can manipulate the descending line of a Ellington-inspired melody routine. No tenor player then or now enters after a piano introduction like Lloyd habitually does, and his first solo here on ‘Figure in Blue’ is just one of many memorable moments of this box set. All My Relations, which Lloyd uses to extend his instrumental palette by paying Chinese oboe, has as its centrepiece a homage to Nelson Mandela in the ‘Cape to Cairo Suite’ begun by Jormin and where Hart comes into his own as cross rhythms stir and shake the band into a new direction. In the course of this journey Lloyd responds magisterially, Coltrane-like just after the three-minute mark: another exquisite sensation. The title track of ‘All My Relations’ is catchily calypso-like within a bebop prism and this also leaves its mark.
The final album, Canto, recorded towards the end of 1996, is the most mysterious of the albums and possibly the greatest of all, and the use of Tibetan oboe has something to do with this on ‘Nachiketa’s Lament’, but it’s more an extension of the unique mood Lloyd through his writing, performance and inspirational presence is able to draw on during these years. There’s a power too and on ‘Durga Durga’ Lloyd testifies like he was simply put on this planet to play this music and to communicate its power, and to transcend.
Charles Lloyd top and the cover of Quartets above. Released today.
Bernt Rosengren Big Band
Bernt Rosengren Big Band with Horace Parlan piano, Doug Raney guitar
While the title might be cumbersome, the music isn’t in an album located stylistically firmly within the Basie band sound. The eponymous tenor saxophonist famous for ‘Ballad for Bernt’, the tune Komeda named after him and which he played on in the soundtrack to Polanski’s early masterpiece Knife in the Water, is a significant senior jazz figure in Scandinavia, now in his mid-seventies. Lars Westin in the 1980 notes updated in 2012 and reissued earlier this year says: “Ask almost any jazz saxophonist in Sweden and he (or she) will be mentioning Bernt as a great source of inspiration.”
It’s easy to understand why: unadorned, characterful playing from the heart with the prowess of a Dexter Gordon and with the speed and agility at times of Johnny Griffin although it’s not just about the tenor as Rosengren also plays alto and flute on this album as well. Rosengren formed his big band in 1975, a surprise, Westin says, at the time, but beyond Scandinavia and big band contexts he occasionally surfaced on the wider international stage most notably with Tomasz Stańko on the Litania Komeda-themed album released in 1997 when Rosengren as good as stole the show at live concerts, the matching of his romantic lead to the pervasive Stańko ensemble’s ascetic sound a perfect fit. US players Parlan and Raney who were long established in Denmark by the time of this recording have been part of the jazz scene there for a long time and have worked regularly with the Rosengren big band recording this project in Stockholm in 1980. The arrangements were written by Rosengren and most of the tunes too although there are a few standards, ‘How Deep is the Ocean’, and ‘Naima’. An unaffected album made with a love of the music: the funkiness on a track such as ‘Hip Walk’, tuneful optimism in ‘Sad Waltz’, and a real period feel in ‘Autumn Song’ give it a certain warm nostalgic appeal.
Archive listening: ‘Ballad for Bernd’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpSP_a5XdNQ
Magic Moments 6: In the Spirit of Jazz
Label compilations are made for a variety of reasons. For someone completely unfamiliar with some or all of the artists but curious to explore genuinely new music then they work on that level. They can be, though, as unsatisfactory as a short story or as untypical as a taster of an artist’s work as a by-election is an indicator of the result of a general election. The sixth Magic Moments, a personal compilation by ACT label owner Siggi Loch of recently released music on his label, is to some extent no different to the earlier albums in the series. There are some surprises, though. For instance, the version of Duffy’s ‘Stepping Stone’ by Caecilie Norby, Lars Danielsson and Leszek Możdżer made me like the song for the first time. Norby’s serious version of the song with Możdżer’s choice of chord changes work together admirably to apply a huge textural makeover to this half decent but slightly doleful pop number. The tracks to go for, worth the price of purchase alone, are In The Country’s ‘Birch Song’ and radio.string.quartet.vienna’s ‘Volcano For Hire’, as well as ‘Stepping Stone’.
Caecilie Norby above
Swedish Ballads… & More
This may sound heretical but there comes a point when everyone has to put away their Miles Davis records. It may well be that his music is so engrained in listeners and musicians’ consciousness that the imagining and being-influenced-by will still make their presence felt. Like sunlight, and darkness, it’s unavoidable. Scott Hamilton is possibly the antithesis of Miles Davis in that he has never been and probably never will be even remotely fashionable. He probably put away his Miles Davis records long ago, and more to the point his Ben Webster ones a generation back (although Hamilton is a mere youth in “jazz years” of 58). Yet the first track on Swedish Ballads… & More is ‘Dear Old Stockholm’, based on a Swedish folk song called ‘Ack Värmeland Du Sköna’, and identified closely with not just Miles Davis but John Coltrane. Hamilton is not derivative essentially any more (he really is too good to have that accusation hurled at him) but it’s easy to place Hamilton nonetheless, and it’s in the Golden Age of jazz any time from the year Coleman Hawkins recorded ‘Body and Soul’ in 1939 until the release of Kind of Blue in 1959.
Recorded not in Sweden but the Danish capital of Copenhagen just four months ago the tweedy popular tenorist, looking a little tired in the album artwork but playing as beautifully as ever with that vibrato-laden teasingly laconic sound of his on a ballad, is joined by pianist Jan Lundgren, whose style is closer to Swedish lost leader Jan Johansson than most even if it’s filtered via Wynton Kelly, along with bassist Jesper Lundgaard and drummer Kristian Leth.
Lundgren provides the gloss in the notes on the seven tracks that besides ‘Stockholm’ are ‘Swing in F’, ‘You Can’t Be In Love With A Dream’, a big headline-grabbing highlight, ‘Trubbel’, Quincy Jones’ ‘Stockholm Sweetnin’’, ‘Min soldat’ (‘My Soldier’), and very suitably Jan Johansson’s ‘Blues i Oktaver’.
To be perfectly frank everything on this album sounds American and a time machine takes you back to a world photographed chiefly in black and white despite the Swedish origins of the tunes. This isn’t really an issue at all, though, so don’t be put off. Pipe and slippers music played with panache and perfect as a backdrop for a Sunday afternoon snooze the album works on a blue and sentimental level. Olle Adolphson’s bossa-hinting ballad ‘Trubbel’ is a revelation, just one of the delights of this latest slice of Hamiltonia.
Sam Crowe Group
Towards the Centre of Everything
Whirlwind **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT
The best Whirlwind release so far? Well that depends on your criteria, but for me it is, based on the life in the performance and the quality of the compositions and improvising group interplay. While the pianist composer’s Synaesthesia three years ago showed a lot of promise it wasn’t an album that stayed with me for long but this new one, though, shaped by the twin pillars of on different tracks saxophonists Adam Waldmann and Will Vinson with new bassist Alan Hampton (who appears in singer/songwriter guise on the Kendrick Scott album Conviction), and new drummer Mark Guiliana recently in the UK with Brad Mehldau as half of Mehliana, is different. Will Davies, a long time Crowe associate is retained, and Kairos 4tet singer Emilia Mårtensson crops up on the fourth track ‘Back into the Earth’. Recorded in Brooklyn last year by famed engineer Mike Marciano this is a step up in terms of ambition all round for Crowe. But put all the ‘facts’ aside and what is there?
Well, the title track with Vinson taking the melody on is a kind of anthem that has a certain gravitational pull to it, and you’d guess that physics plays a part in ideas behind the album. Some of the other titles have that sort of direction (‘Gaia’, ‘The Arrow of Time’ or the EST-like intro to ‘Bad Science’), but the album sounds very untechnical as there is plenty of humanity and spontaneity to it, and while the recording does not feature Jasper Høiby who appeared on Synaesthesia there is a sense of a Phronesis influence here and there. Maybe that comes from Guiliana who of course was on Alive.
Crowe’s first truly ‘naked’ solo happens on the ballad ‘Gaia’ and it’s skilfully weighted, while Hampton on woody upright bass keeps the pace down as Crowe gains momentum. Davies adds some great touches to warm the ensemble sound on ‘64 Interlude’, while the tasteful Waldmann’s saxophone contribution has a saltiness that then lends itself to lead on to Davies’ Lionel Loueke-like solo. The much vaunted English sense of melancholia (whatever that is exactly) you can guess is here a bit in Crowe’s writing although Towards the Centre of Everything is more urban than a pastoral album, and on a track such as ‘Back into the Earth’ takes on a New Age-y sophisticated jazz-rock dimension, a tune that Chick Corea would perhaps be pleased to have written. Crowe in the solo after Mårtensson’s Flora-like vocal shows he can develop an idea in the course of a real-time solo, and that’s what Towards the Centre of Everything is all about: a sense of ideas at work and an improvising sophistication that gives it staying power. Mehliana fans might want to start with the drum ’n’ bass-driven ‘The Global Brain’ where Crowe also shows what he can do on Rhodes, and clearly it’s not all about Brad any more, is it, when players like Crowe appear on a quality album such as this?
Crowe says a little grandly but unapologetically in the notes that “Music for me has always been a gateway to the infinite”, and there is a sense of scale on Towards the Centre of Everything, in the miasmic conjuring of ‘The Arrow of Time’ and yet there’s a contrasting intimacy on the ballads, particularly ‘Lydia’. At the end reprising ‘64’ Hampton’s bass leads off the tune rather than the piano earlier, and it’s an interesting contrast that works to draw attention to one of the best songs on a robustly creative album.
Sam Crowe top and the album cover above. Released on Monday 29 April.
Jaki Byard above left and Tommy Flanagan
Monday sees the release of Tommy Flanagan and Jaki Byard’s The Magic of 2: Live at Keystone Korner available on CD and vinyl. Housed in CD format in a sturdy stiffly-boarded digipak with a picture of the street sign of San Francisco club Keystone Korner, where the album was recorded on a February night in 1982, on the inside front and a full plate photograph of the pianists on the inside back, the music is annotated carefully with producer Zev Feldman doing the introduction and then a note from the first voice actually on the record Todd Barkan, who was general manager of the Korner and now after a spell at Jazz@Lincoln Center is at Iridium in New York city.
Barkan used to record artists at the club on cassette and explains that: “From 1972-1983 Tommy and Jaki both came out from New York to play regularly at Keystone Korner in San Francisco, singularly leading their own bands, and together for a total of two weeks.” In his introduction on the first track from the stage Barkan then continues the praise by quoting club favourite Rahsaan Roland Kirk as he introduces Byard as “the emperor of creative jazz piano” while reserving lavish praise on Flanagan as well. The songs in the set are Bird’s ‘Scrapple From The Apple’; Cole Porter’s ‘Just One Of Those Things’; Ellington’s ‘Satin Doll’; Strayhorn’s ‘Something To Live For’; and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Send One Your Love’ with an extensive quotation, the main talking point of the whole set, from ‘Giant Steps’ performed by Byard not Flanagan who of course played the epic Coltrane composition on the original Atlantic studio album of the same name. Later Tadd Dameron’s ‘Our Delight’ is probably the most orthodox bebop rendering of the album, with a lovely little ‘English Country Garden’ quotation at the end, while the album is steeped in Ellingtonia that Tommy Flanagan himself alludes to in his brief words before the quietly moving ‘Something To Love For’ (he says “Jaki Byard just quit” [to laughter] so it gives me a chance to play something alone, see”).
The album also includes Strayhorn’s ‘All Day Long’; the standard ‘Sunday’; Strayhorn’s ‘Chelsea Bridge’; an oddity in Chuck Mangione’s ‘Land of Make Believe’, which Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap in a note towards the end of the CD booklet says “finds Jaki in a freer zone. You can hear Jaki’s humour and intensity.” A seven-and-a-half minute version of Miles’ ‘The Theme’ completes The Magic of 2. Distinguished jazz writer Howard Mandel and historian Dan Morgenstern contribute to the scholarship in the album’s booklet and Mandel quotes Jason Moran who took lessons from Byard interestingly, with the pianist commenting: “I think of Tommy as a legato player, Jaki as a staccato player. Tommy slides through the rhythm, each move well-calculated, while Jaki is trying to up-end the structure all the time. Tommy plays within the steps of the tune, and Jaki plays these large intervals, which are strangely beautiful.”
And the beauty is there particularly on Flanagan’s solo take on ‘Chelsea Bridge’, while Byard is possibly at his best on ‘Send One Your Love’ the Wonder tune from Secret Life of Plants released three years before this club date. The sound quality while good isn’t totally pristine possibly this is down to the fact that the source is from cassette tape but it’s perfectly acceptable and creates no barrier to enjoyment, the only downside is that there’s too much piano bass at times and the treble sound is not as clear as it could be. Byard died in 1999 and Flanagan in 2001. This release keeps memory of these departed mastiers alive by the care and attention to detail the producers exhibit. Their music making continues to give joy and pleasure, and Resonance once more have made a big contribution to curating jazz from yesteryear. Stephen Graham
I’m grateful to jazz writer Selwyn Harris, the compiler and producer of acclaimed box sets Film Noir and Beat, Square and Cool for news of a special screening tomorrow afternoon of Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (‘Lift to the Scaffold’) at the Institut Français’ Ciné Lumière in London. The 88 minute-long black and white film in French with English subtitles dates back to 1958, and was directed by Louis Malle at the beginning of his career. The film starred Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet, and featured an atmospheric soundtrack composed and performed on by Miles Davis. The story revolves around Florence Carala and her lover Julien’s conspiracy to murder Florence’s husband by faking a suicide, but a forgotten-about rope and a malfunctioning lift complicate the pair’s murderous intent. Lift to the Scaffold was a first feature for the influential director who would later become known to a new generation in America with the effectively elegiac Atlantic City with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, and his late masterpiece Au Revoir les Enfants. For more details and ticket information go to www.institut-francais.org.uk
Jeanne Moreau as Florence Carala above in a still from Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. Watch a scene from the film with music by Miles Davis here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OKQdp6iGUk
Before Duck Baker’s gig last night a fan who had travelled across London to Dalston from Croydon was recalling the first time he had heard the player, as he remembered in an obscure part of Hampshire. “Hope he plays ‘Zebra Blues’." Baker, an American avant gardist known for his work with Eugene Chadbourne and John Zorn, didn’t get round to ‘Zebra Blues’ at least in the first set but began instead with ‘Friday’ firmly in Jimmy Giuffre-land with a lively Alex Ward on clarinet. Decoy’s John Edwards was on bass with his bandmate Steve Noble either joining the trio on drums or sitting out as the quartet became a trio before our very eyes.
Duck Baker above left before the gig and top
“The balance all right out there?” asked Baker near the beginning. “You can hear the trumpet?” This bit of banter was typical of the guitarist’s agreeably droll humour and luckily there were plenty of people in the club to hear it and this fine performance, and more came in as the set progressed to fill the place, and the musicians responded to the congenial atmosphere. The quirkiness of ‘The Odd Fellows’ March’ which was where Noble took the loping gait of the tune under his wing coaxing the band along like Han Bennink might the ICP. ‘There’s No Time Like The Past’ was where the band hit their stride and their humour collided perfectly with Baker’s on ‘Ode to Joe’, a rewriting of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ leaving out “mostly every seven notes”, Baker said, the 63-year-old Washington DC-born musician a little amused. His own ballad ‘Always’ near the end showed great control at low volume and Baker’s grasp of bebop harmonies to render them not too twangy on the nylon strings and his dextrous navigational sense at the frets was always sure-fingered. Sometimes his sound resembled the approach of Jim Hall, but with more of an avant edge. ‘The Legend of the Legend of Bebop’ at the end (a play on words and reference to Ornette’s tune from The Art of The Improvisers) was a case of keeping the very best to last, its sinuous labyrinthine swing a good way to go to the break. Wonder if they played ‘Zebra Blues’ in the second half? That would have sent the Baker fan from earlier back to Croydon a happy man. Stephen Graham
Iiro Rantala/Michael Wollny/Leszek Możdżer
Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic I
ACT **** RECOMMENDED
Interesting for a number of reasons chief among them the fact that the concert was able to take place at the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, in the Kammermusiksaal, the chamber music room, at all. Also of topical interest is the presence of Iiro Rantala, now confirmed as the pianist at the first EST Symphonic concert to take place in Stockholm in June. In a double piano setting with [em]’s Michael Wollny the pair fittingly perform the Finn’s composition ‘Tears for Esbjörn’, the lovely melody of which curiously recalls Phil Collins’ ‘Another Day in Paradise’ in the harmonic setting of the opening notes of the main theme. The sound of this album is as you’d expect given the acoustics of the room, pianos utilised and the quality of ACT album sound, very fine with the audience applause superbly captured, a sure indication as well of the album’s live feel. These three pianists comprise a troika of ACT’s stellar front line main piano jazz talent (the others including Vijay Iyer, Gwilym Simcock, and the veteran Joachim Kühn) an aggregation few labels are able to match globally. Rantala, Wollny and Możdżer come together to play Chick Corea’s ‘Armando’s Rumba’ at the end in a dazzling piano and Rhodes display but highlights for me were Rantala’s measured Jarrett-esque arrangement of ‘Aria and Goldberg Variation’ (which turns into ‘All the Things You Are’ by the end), and Możdżer’s modulating pointilist tour de force ‘No Message’ half way through.
A dazzling December night at the Berlin Phil: the cover of Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic I, above
Joe Morello above left, Eugene Wright, Tony Bennett, and Dave Brubeck
In the White House of President John F Kennedy two jazz legends came together for a concert that has never before been issued in full. It was a special time and a place in American history, but the long wait for the recordings in full to see the light of day for the first time is almost over. RPM/Columbia/Legacy recordings are recalling this brief glimpse of the Camelot years with the release of the meeting of Tony Bennett and the late Dave Brubeck in what’s being dubbed “the White House sessions" and officially Bennett & Brubeck: Live at the Washington Monument.
It was 28 August 1962, but the record company only dusted down the Teo Macero produced master tapes in the Sony vaults just in December not long after Brubeck’s death at the age of 91 to ready the process it takes for a release. Next month the recordings are released in their entirety for the first time. The show, a party thrown by President Kennedy for college students working as interns for the administration, was recorded in the Sylvan Theater in the grounds of the White House with the Washington Monument in the near distance. The plan had been to stage the concert in the Rose Garden, but there were too many people to accommodate so the venue switch was made. Bennett was on an early career high in 1962 having released what became the song most identified with the singer, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. But he and Brubeck didn’t work together again until four years ago at the Newport jazz festival which adds further to the interest in this 1962 collaboration.
The recordings begin with an introduction by New York radio DJ William B Williams, then Paul Desmond’s ‘Take Five’, a band introduction, ‘Nomad’, ‘Thank you Dziekuje’ [that’s Polish for “thank you"], and ‘Castilian Blues’, performed by the classic Brubeck quartet (the pianist plus Paul Desmond, alto sax; Eugene Wright, bass; and Joe Morello, drums). Then after another introduction from Williams, Bennett, joined by longstanding pianist and musical director Ralph Sharon on piano, Hal Gaylor on bass, and Billy Exiner, drums, perform ‘Just in Time’, ‘Small World, ‘Make Someone Happy’, ‘Rags to Riches’, ‘One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)’ and ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ . The final tracks feature the key collaboration: with Bennett joining Brubeck, Wright and Morello on ‘Lullaby Of Broadway’, ‘Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)’, ‘That Old Black Magic’ [which has previously appeared on record], and ‘There Will Never Be Another You’. The album will be released on Monday 27 May in the UK.
In September last year Martin Tingvall, the leader of one of the most acclaimed and best selling young European piano jazz trios currently around, released En ny dag, his first solo piano album. Here the trio reconvene and are back with another first: their debut live album recorded on tour in the autumn.They’re still fairly unknown in the UK with only a single club appearance in London so far but I guess this will change although don’t hold your breath given the difficulties jazz promoters are facing taking risks with new bands particularly outside the capital even if Tingvall are a safe bet.
The trio, that’s Swedish pianist Martin Tingvall based like Cuban bassist Omar Rodriguez Calvo and German drummer Jürgen Spiegel in Hamburg, are a big deal in Germany winning ensemble of the year at the Echo awards and charting at number one in the German jazz charts. Their previous albums Vattensaga (2009), Norr (2008), and Skagerrak (2006) have each sold very well, and Vägen (‘The Road’) was released in the UK by their long time label Skip. All the songs on In Concert were written by Tingvall and arranged by the trio, and several of the tunes the band played at their Pizza Express Jazz Club concert last summer including ‘Mustasch’ and ‘Trolldans-Monster’ are here. From the off and certainly by ‘Nu Djävlar’ the band is in the zone, and Martin Tingvall has the ability to raise the drama at a rate of knots while he throws in little touchs of stride and funk. The big track ‘Vägen’ , the title track of the last studio album and played live in London is quite superb, an emotional tour de force, with little folk-y touches that recall Jan Johansson the patron saint of Swedish jazz piano who English piano star Kit Downes is remembering as well on his latest album for Basho. The talented Calvo (think Cachaito) makes his presence felt, for instance at the end of ‘Valsang’, and Spiegel brings life force and personality to all the tracks.
Martin Tingvall, above left, Jürgen Spiegel, and Omar
‘Trolldans-Monster’ takes the improvising a step further and has a great deal of impact and it’s here the band is closest to EST. But really Tingvall are quite different: naturalistic in essence, and they’re not afraid to play what they feel. If you’re still unfamiliar with Tingvall experience the sheer flow of these talented improvisers: they’re the real thing.
Released on Monday 8 April
Murphy: a continuing inspiration
The release date is still to be confirmed but Gearbox records hopes it will be in time for what would have been Shirley Horn’s 79th birthday on 1 May. The release in question, Mark Murphy’s vinyl EP A Beautiful Friendship Remembering Shirley Horn, with tracks ‘A Beautiful Friendship’, ‘But Beautiful’, ‘Get out of Town’ and ‘Here’s To Life’ were recorded in the US as recently as November 2012 as previously reported in these pages. It’s a rare chance to hear Mark Murphy on a record at all these days and recently even though he was to have appeared at Ronnie Scott’s in London for club dates, Murphy, who’s 81, on doctor’s orders, wasn’t able to fly to make the gigs.
The only jazz singer (possibly the only person) on the planet to make Kurt Elling seem unhip, Murphy is no stranger to the UK and lived in London for a spell in the late-1960s and later in the acid jazz years the young retro clubbers took to Murphy with some fervour and he found a new young listenership. Murphy’s setting of lyrics to Oliver Nelson’s ‘Stolen Moments’ was just one point of entry for new fans, and he still retained the affection of the beats. Many think of Murphy as the only jazz singer truly on the same artistic wavelength as Jack Kerouac. Murphy’s last great album, one of the best vocal jazz albums of the 1990s, was Song for the Geese for which he was Grammy nominated, but Murphy has continued to work with younger musicians such as the driving Five Corners Quintet. On A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn two of the songs, ‘But Beautiful’ and ‘Here’s To Life’ Horn recorded, apparently at a New York spot called the Au bar, and was released in 2005 with Roy Hargrove her muse, as Miles Davis once regarded Shirley Horn as his.
Very much a heart-on-sleeve band ‘Degree Absolute’ the second track here exemplifies Andy Champion’s band ACV’s debut for Babel best, with ‘Dust Red’ at the end driving the point home. Rough and ready, but deliberately so, as the band swarms and separates on opening numbers they’re big softies really. On ‘Nutmeg State’ the short stabby phrases leaking out of Paul Edis’ rubbery keyboards as drummer Adrian Tilbrook conjures a Billy Cobham-like rhythm undertow have impact that Champion builds on; but ‘She Said It Ugly’ throws the ball sharply to Edis to kick about, and like ‘Degree Absolute’ this song is all about anthemic saxophone with Graeme Wilson giving it plenty of wellie guided by an in-your-face production approach that Chris Sharkey of trioVD injects. ‘Second Season’ allows the proggy McCallum-esque guitar of Mark Williams a bit of space at the beginning, but the song drags its heels and Busk does have its longueurs, feeling more like a gig (part of the point I suppose) than an album at times. ‘Giant Mice’ is the band at its proggiest with gizmo keyboards and Tilbrook hooligan-like on drums, and later Sharkey’s no-messing-about influence coming to bear on ‘What’s For Breakfast’. So, honest music-making by a band that follows its own instincts, and sees them through come what may.
Currently on release.
ACV play the Vortex on Thursday 4 April, supported by Dialogues. See Gigs
There are slim pickings for jazz fans at the Glastonbury festival this year given its sheer scale but there are some notable names close enough for jazz at the biggest rock festival in the world when all attention this year will understandably be on The Rolling Stones. Closest to a jazz sensibility on the Pyramid stage is Rokia Traoré who before Glastonbury will be taking herself to Band on the Wall for a jazz club set soon. And Laura Mvula, who’s appearing at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May, is also heading for the Pyramid stage, while the Other Stage has only Portishead of interest, a bit tangential maybe although Jim Barr and Clive Deamer of Get the Blessing are strongly part of the Portishead sound. The West Holts stage has Lianne La Havas, like Mvula Cheltenham-bound, and also there’s a chance to hear the jazztronica sound of BadBadNotGood, and the soul jazz clubber’s delight approach of Alice Russell. Michael Kiwanuka who’s appearing at many jazz festivals on the continent this summer is on at the Park stage, while other highlights include Steve Winwood in the Acoustic tent.
Laura Mvula above
Joshua Redman to release ballad-driven new album Walking Shadows
Brad Mehldau has produced the soon to be released Walking Shadows, saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman’s latest album to be released in early-May. Ballad-heavy and characterised by an orchestral ensemble with a core quartet featuring Mehldau, Larry Grenadier, and Brian Blade from Wayne Shorter’s quartet the tunes feature Redman and Mehldau originals and songs by John Mayer, Pino Palladino, Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein, and Lennon and McCartney.
Legendary guitarist to release interpretation of
John Zorn’s Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol 20
In the spirit of Pat Metheny’s groundbreaking forays into free improvised music that dates back to Song X with Ornette Coleman released in 1986 and a collaboration with Derek Bailey called The Sign Of Four a decade later, the great jazz guitarist’s label Nonesuch has united with John Zorn’s Tzadik label to release a new album called Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol 20 in late-May. John Zorn, about to embark on a major Zorn At 60 festival tour with key appearances including one at the historic Moers festival in Germany next month, has never collaborated with Metheny on a record before. The music Metheny is to release is taken from the second volume of the Masada Book known as the ‘Book of Angels’, inspired like the first volume by traditional Jewish music. Metheny and Zorn started to think about working together via email, Metheny says, after Zorn contacted him to write notes for one of his Arcana publications. “I mentioned", Metheny says via his record company, “that I had followed his Book of Angels series from the start and felt like I might be able to contribute something unique to the collection. With his enthusiastic encouragement, he gave me some suggestions as to which tunes were still unrecorded, and I picked the ones that jumped out and spoke to me. Over the next year, in between breaks from the road, I recorded them one by one in my home studio whenever I got a chance." Tracks are ‘Mastema’, ‘Albim’, ‘Tharsis’, ‘Sariel’, ‘Phanuel’, and ‘Hurmiz’. Look out for a review in Marlbank nearer release.
The cover of Tap, above
There’s minimalism and there’s minimalism. Cast a glance in the direction of the blotchy almost opaque seascape of the artwork to Iva Bittová above, an album incidentally succinct enough to be self titled. The composition titles complete the effect: there’s just one word ‘Fragments’, and then a dozen roman numerals tacked on although they’re not so much variations as chapters in a continuing and engrossing tale. The Czech vocalist and violinist isn’t a minimalist in the Terry Riley sense at all but hovers at the pared-down end of improv with occasional bird-like forays and the incantatory power of a prophetess at other times. Surprisingly tuneful at times, although mysteriously so the approach is defiantly unorthodox and more structured than it seems at first. The best clues you might have thought beforehand would be to look in the songs with lyrics provided by Gertrude Stein and Chris Cutler, There’s even an additional ‘fragment’ of composer Joaquin Rodrigo in here as well. But the words are as elemental and inscrutable as the seascape on the cover. Bittová manages to sound as if she’s from a desperately remote place, the instrument of a song emerging from the earth itself, yet the improvisations are never alienating. These ‘fragments’ would have been inconsequential in a lesser artist’s hands, but with Bittová enlarge before your very eyes. It’s a quality that makes this album, where less is more is paramount, so appealing.