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Florence Joelle
Stealing Flowers
Zoltan ***1/2
There’s a great coming together of influences on the London-based Paris singer’s latest album. On the one hand there’s a bohemian bar-room vibe going on, with gypsy jazz and early rock ’n’ roll, some authentic blues harp, and even a little chanson mixed in for good measure. Think Imelda May-meets-Mina Agossi and you’re part of the way there, and there’s also a dreaminess in Joelle’s voice that’s appealingly the singer’s own style. Beautifully presented with superior graphics, good sleeve notes and cover art issued on CD as well as heavy vinyl the highlight may very well be ‘How Many Chickens Are You Missing Today?’ a protest song against the terrible discrimination and deportations in France meted out to the Roma community when Sarkozy was president of the republic. There’s a bit of jazz here and there (‘Caravan’ comes off well), and there’s a jauntiness about ‘Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby’ but all Joelle’s songs have a point delivered in a laidback manner with an eye, and an ear, for the underdog, and her tight knit band support her well. Stephen Graham
Released on Monday

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Easy listening king Burt Bacharach, the Stan Tracey quartet joined by Bobby Wellins, Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, groove outfit Snarky Puppy, the Kevin Brady trio featuring Bill Carrothers, the touring Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco, and gospel veterans Blind Boys of Alabama, are all now fully confirmed for the five-day Glasgow Jazz Festival at the end of June. Look out this year too for a Classic Album strand where listeners are invited to fully immerse themselves in the album under the spotlight at a variety of playbacks run every day during the festival, allowing festivalgoers to hear the story behind the album and enjoy an uninterrupted vinyl playback on a high end audio system. Pick of the sessions is A Love Supreme while other albums in the series include Way Out West, Ella at Duke’s Place, Time Out, Sing a Song of Basie and Under Milk Wood. MB
Tickets www.jazzfest.co.uk
Chris Dave above

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It’s a decade since Live at the Blue Note the superlative trio album Michel Camilo recorded at the New York club. That release justly went on to win a Grammy for best latin jazz album, but since then even though he’s released a number of albums Camilo, from the Dominican Republic who’s made a highly successful career in the United States since first moving to New York to study in the late-1970s, has dipped from view. That is until now. Returning to Sony but his first for their recently revived OKeh label, solo piano album What’s Up? is pretty special. By the time I got to the beautifully yearning ‘Sandra’s Serenade’ via the New Orleans flavours of the title track, the Jarrett-esque ‘A Place in Time’, and an unstuffy take on the overly familiar ‘Take Five’, I was well and truly hooked. I hear quite a lot of Oscar Peterson in Camilo’s sound early on here but really Camilo has a lovely touch of his own design and a top-class technique that compares to Monty Alexander’s even if it’s more rhapsodic in essence.

When the son flavours really open up on ‘Island Beat’, even though the tune is crying out for congas, Camilo’s left hand compensates completely. It’s not really about volume but register, and the personality he brings to the song sections make them become like characters in a novel and together people What’s Up? It’s pretty joyous at times with rococo flourishes here and there but isn’t at all wearing. Camilo’s approach on ‘Alone Together’, the 1930s Arthur Schwartz / Howard Dietz standard, is a harmonic whodunit, elliptically modern by the end with voicings that would do Jason Moran proud. ‘Paprika’ is really powerful at the beginning of the tune and you can imagine this with a strong drummer really moving the trio along after the opening theme. Other tracks are an understated take on Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’; a banging, wonderfully-timed version of the late Compay Segundo’s classic ‘Chan Chan’, one for the Buena Vista Social Club generation definitely; and two more Camilo originals: ‘On Fire’ a contrafact of Cole Parker’s ‘Too Darn Hot’; and the airy ‘At Dawn’. So, all in all a very welcome return to form by a piano master and where better to hear him with his trio than at 47 Frith Street. Stephen Graham

Michel Camilo top appears with his trio at Ronnie Scott’s in London tomorrow, and on Saturday evening. Tickets www.ronniescotts.co.uk
What’s Up? is released on Monday  

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Kendrick Scott (fourth left) and Oracle show their sheer class on Conviction

Now confirmed for a Monday 20 May CD release date in the UK Conviction opens with the prayer of St Francis as spoken word, Kendrick Scott and Oracle’s Conviction (Concord records) then make a second very unusual choice: a cover of Broadcast’s ‘Pendulum’ (from their Haha Sound album put out a decade ago). Guitarist Mike Moreno is Lionel Loueke-like as the track builds and then saxophonist John Ellis goes into hipster overdrive, really building as Scott provides the beautiful rhythm undergrowth. The Terence Blanchard man, who appeared with Kurt Elling recently in a long residency at Ronnie Scott’s, powers Oracle like you wouldn’t believe, different limbs playing different rhythms, the epitome of the brilliant drummer just doing what he does on strong tunes. Taylor Eigsti on Fender Rhodes responds to the lapping guitar waves at the end and the mood is set. Alan Hampton, old Houston mate of Robert Glasper’s who performed with the keyboardist in the autumn at the Roundhouse, doesn’t really play bass so much any more instead he’s a decent singer/songwriter of some quality and shows what he can do by really nailing ‘Too Much’ Sufjan Stevens’ song next up on Conviction captioned as “Love". Another Glasper connection and ex-Floetry sideman Derrick Hodge whose debut for Blue Note has been delayed has produced Conviction and the album is accessible but very much a jazz head’s album as well.

There are some great drums and keyboards processing on ‘Too Much’, and I loved the scrappy industrial edge, and there’s a guitar break to die for. Scott opens up the time signature, a little like the way he does with Blanchard playing behind Brice Winston. Herbie’s ‘I Have a Dream’ is next with swinging bass from Joe Sanders and really classy modern jazz guitar from Moreno; the important equality track written by Scott, ‘We Shall By Any Means’, with Sanders at his best on unaccompanied bass beautifully captured leading into a bass clarinet ostinato of some tenderness by Ellis. Then it’s ‘Liberty or Death’ (representing freedom), turning the volume up after a couple of minutes and a rhythm section figure you’ve got to hear with Moreno spiderwebbing up to the top of the band sound and then a multi-tracked vocal swell reminiscent of the much missed Mark Ledford. Kendrick’s solo at the beginning of ‘Cycling Through Reality’ might bring a few smiles from Jack DeJohnette, and then it’s chords all the way from Moreno and a Blanchard-esque horn entry as this expansive tune develops. It’s possibly the most technical on the album but one that is very accessible as well so it’s not just for the jazz heads. Ellis loves getting in Chris Potter-land as well when the tune passes the three-minute mark and Moreno hits the sweet spot when he joins. Derrick Hodge’s title track ‘Conviction’; then Walter Smith III’s ballad ‘Apollo’ with Eigsti showing what he can do on bravura piano, the crackling ‘Serenity’ with Hampton’s winning vocals against bass clarinet representing Faith; Scott’s ‘Be Water’ with some spoken word from martial arts guru Bruce Lee, the album’s bizarre Eric Cantona moment, and Michiel (not as stated) Borstlap’s ‘Memory of Enchantment’, a lucid piano solo, completes this superlative album. Conviction just leaps out of the speakers. MB

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... Guy Barker was named jazz musician of the year at last night’s Parliamentary jazz awards and Saltash Bells by John Surman voted album of the year. The Impossible Gentlemen picked up the ensemble of the year award, and the Vortex won in the live jazz category. In the jazz journalist of the year category The Herald’s Rob Adams won; while Jazz FM’s Mike Chadwick was named jazz broadcaster of the year. A book was the winner in the publication of the year category, Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, by Catherine Tackley; and the Royal Academy of Music’s Nick Smart won the jazz education award. Pianist and composer Stan Tracey won for services to jazz; and a special award was made to singer Elaine Delmar. MB

Lord Colwyn (above left) and Michael Connarty MP, of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group; with special award winner Elaine Delmar, and presenter Moira Stuart.
Photo: Jazz Services

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Laszlo Gardony
Clarity
Sunnyside ***
When Tommy Smith was starting out, and a student at Berklee in Boston, the young saxophonist was part of a band called Forward Motion. The pianist in the band, Laszlo Gardony, a Hungarian-American has made many records since but retains the link to Smith’s alma mater, as since the 1980s the professor has taught at Berklee. Clarity is an unusual, and quite brave, album. He says in the notes: “I was at my Berklee studio all by myself. I felt a burst of inspiration so I set up some mics, turned on a recorder and started playing. I kept playing for 49 minutes.” Each short piece, he explains, took on from the previous one but he put the recording away; and not until a few months later would he listen to what he had performed last year. The resulting album, so much for months spent in the studio and an eternity in post-production, is probably best compared with earlier solo piano album Changing Standards (1990), the originals here the yin to the yang of the evergreen tunes back then. Despite the passage of time and difference in method the two compare very well: Gardony’s approach is muscular but quite passionate, and it’s from the fourth track, ‘Working Through (Clarity)’, that the music really begins to speak. It’s a kind of Gnostic meditation in the manner of Keith Jarrett (and track six, ‘Better Place’, is very Jarrettian) but with a few bravura twists, quite a lot of folk music, even gospel, but oddly very little bebop. Occasionally this very spontaneous set sags, but not for long, and is as honest an album as you’ll come across. That transparency is its strength and appeal, as well as a natural improviser’s flair at play. MB
Just released.
The cover of Clarity, above

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So will it be Christine Tobin’s year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, which are held tonight in the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons?

The singer has been nominated in two categories of the 2013 Parliamentary Jazz Awards but faces strong competition in the jazz musician of the year category as trumpeter Guy Barker, a newly announced associate composer of the BBC Concert Orchestra, and Soft Machine Legacy guitarist John Etheridge have also been nominated this year at the most prestigious awards in the UK jazz calendar.

Sponsored by royalties body PPL, and support organisation Jazz Services, in the album of the year category Tobin also received a nomination for her acclaimed album Sailing to Byzantium; while Jazz FM Awards album of the year winner Saltash Bells by John Surman and Walking Dark by Phronesis are also nominated.

The jazz ensemble of the year nominations are Beats & Pieces Big Band from Manchester; Anglo-American supergroup The Impossible Gentlemen, soon to release their second album; and completing the nominees, prog jazz guitar-organ-drums pacesetters Troyka who were nominated in the UK jazz artist of the year section of the Jazz FM awards in January but lost out to the Neil Cowley trio.

The live jazz award of the year nominations are Café Oto, who also missed out on a Jazz FM award when Ronnie Scott’s triumphed; Herts Jazz; Manchester Jazz Festival; and the Vortex, which inexplicably has never won a Parliamentary jazz award to date. Maybe it will be the Dalston club’s year.

Jazz journalist of the year nominees are: John Fordham of The Guardian a previous two-time winner; the Financial Times reviewer Mike Hobart; and Glasgow paper The Herald’s Rob Adams, who was also nominated last year.

Jazz broadcaster of the year nominees are 6Music’s Gilles Peterson; previous winner Jazz FM Dinner Jazz presenter Helen Mayhew; and Mike Chadwick, also of Jazz FM, who has often been nominated at the awards now in their ninth running but who has never won. Jazz publication of the year nominations go to Catherine Tackley for her book Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert; the magazine Jazzwise, a previous two-time winner; and website London Jazz News. The jazz education nominees are: Brian Moore, Jonathan Eno, Nick Smart, and Tommy Smith; while Services to Jazz nominees are free improv saxophone hero Evan Parker; outgoing BBC Jazz Line-Up producer Keith Loxam; singer Norma Winstone; and “the godfather of British jazz" himself, pianist Stan Tracey.

The winners are chosen by peers and MPs who are members of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. James Pearson and the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars will perform at the awards this evening, making a return appearance. MB
Christine Tobin, above



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Gregory Porter who guested with Van Morrison on ‘Tupelo Honey’ last night on the closing night of this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival is to feature on tenor saxophone great David Murray’s new Infinity Quartet album Be My Monster Love, an album that also sees the saxophonist joined by ‘I Try’ R&B sensation Macy Gray on the title track. To be released in the UK on 17 June by Harlem-based Motéma Be My Monster Love features the Murray Infinity quartet of cult pianist Marc Cary, bassist Jaribu Shahid and the Bandwagon’s drummer Nasheet Waits, with Gregory Porter, this year’s artist in residence in Cheltenham, singing Abiodun Oyewole’s lyrics to ‘About the Children’. Look out for a review in marlbank soon.
David Murray above

 

 

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Metamorphic
Coalescence
F-IRE ***
Unique probably in the long and chequered annals of popular music and jazz in featuring a song based on a dream about becoming a puma Coalescence in no way amounts to a ‘dreamy’ soundscape. Instead it’s the polar opposite, an intense and at times quite dark world, the vision of Leeds pianist Laura Cole whose squalling six-piece Metamorphic are identified in one main aspect by the vocals of Kerry Andrew and in another by the alto saxophone of Led Bib’s Chris Williams. A step up from debut album The Rock Between released in 2011, most of the dystopian tunes are Cole’s but the leader has also included an arrangement of Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Gentle Piece’ (from Music for Large and Small Ensembles), fused Ornette’s ‘Lonely Woman’ and Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ into a brand new piece, and arranged Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’ from their album In Rainbows, which is the best thing here. The Latinate ‘Light Up Yourself’ is untypical of the album as a whole but may actually show the breadth of this adventurously inclined band in the best light. SG
Released on 17 June
Metamorphic above