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Muddy Waters’ son, bluesman Mud Morganfield, and a debuting Champian Fulton, are two highlights of this year’s Fife Jazz Festival fast approaching. New York-based singer Fulton is appearing with her trio. imageAlso for Fife in 2013 are The Norrbotten Big Band, Carla Cook, Graeme Stephen, Erja Lyytinen, The Nimmo Brothers, Red Stripe, Dan Block, Eric Alexander, Tim Kliphuis, Brian Kellock, and David Blenkhorn. This weekend festival runs from 1-3 February, and concerts are spread across the kingdom of Fife in cities and towns from Anstruther to Auchtermuchty, with main concerts in Dunfermline, Glenrothes and St Andrews. SG
Above Mud Morganfield, and right Champian Fulton. For the full programme click http://www.fifejazzfestival.com/2013-programme.html

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Vole
The Hillside Mechanisms
Babel ****
Roland Ramanan, the trumpeter son of the influential West Indian trumpeter and poet Shake Keane to whom he paid tribute on the 2002 Emanem album Shaken, has with this trio record laid down a substantial footprint all of his own. Vole, on the record that’s Ramanan, guitarist/electronicist Roberto Sassi, and drummer Javier Carmona, in their band name sound as if they collect together as one small creature, but the album artwork with its mechanical drawings makes one think not of a small being but instead of a futuristic machine as the artwork has some extraordinary cylindrical apparatus depicted in diagram form. Ramanan, who is also known for his longstanding work with the London Improvisers Orchestra, as well as his bands Swift and Wooden Tops, was inspired early in his career by the drummer and educator John Stevens at a Search and Reflect workshop. In the album note to this Babel records release, one of the distinguished label’s finest, speaking of the Hillside in the title Ramanan refers to the road where the “laboratory” of drummer Carmona’s house has acted as a hub for musicians such as himself and guitarist Sassi, who has also created the artwork, “passing through”. What they concocted musically via this meeting of minds was to draw on pure improvisation and composed music. Ramanan, speaking further of “interesting interlocking rhythm structures as well as a certain gritty edge to it”, has an appealing tone, a little reminiscent of Don Cherry’s but also with the wildness of the European avant garde, say early Enrico Rava. There’s also a tenderness on a tune such as ‘No Knees’ that says hit the replay. An album that’s both free jazz and improv (sometimes it’s easy to say one or the other, harder to claim both), and to my mind this doubling indicates width and vision in both performance and improvisational approach. Co-operatively written the eight tracks with the unobtrusive electronic textures on ‘Tim’s Frosties’ just one of the ways the music manifests itself, the exploratory forays of Ramanan’s here and on other tracks, and prevailing drums, a little like the Sunny Murray approach, add up to an excellent album. 

Stephen Graham
Vole, top

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The Shearing Hour launches at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Thursday. It’s a solo piano hour beginning at 7.15, ahead of singer Clare Teal’s return to the club later in the evening. The first Shearing Hour, named after the great pianist and composer George Shearing, features a set from pianist John Turville whose trio album Conception was released in the autumn by F-IRE Records. The winner of a Parliamentary Jazz Award for best album in 2011 Turville’s debut Midas turned heads on release gaining a profile for the pianist and composer part of the burgeoning Walthamstow scene. On Conception, he was joined by Jamie Cullum bassist Chris Hill and drummer Ben Reynolds plus cellist Eduardo Vassallo on some tracks. The album highlight turned out to be its title track ‘Conception’, the George Shearing bop original arranged sympathetically by Turville.

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The Shearing Hour with its theme of ‘September in the Rain’ has never been a better time to recall Sir George Shearing who died on Valentine’s day in 2011 at the age of 91. Famed for ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, the 1952 theme that was written for the original New York jazz club Birdland, Shearing was a hero of the beats and in On the Road Jack Kerouac writes: “Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. ‘God’s empty chair,’ he said. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure. It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night.” Shearing who was blind was born in Battersea and after learning piano at the Linden Lodge school for the blind became a pub pianist in Lambeth, and after a break began recording for BBC radio in the late-1930s. He joined a band led by Harry Parry and won Melody Maker awards before two years after the war emigrating to the United States where he made a name for himself playing at New York night spot the Hickory House with the Oscar Pettiford Trio. Later he recorded for Capitol (famously with Nat King Cole one of several revered albums for the label), among other record companies. His quintet with vibes player Margie Hyams, guitarist Chuck Wayne, bassist John Levy and drummer Denzil Best recorded the best selling ‘September in the Rain’ for MGM and the quintet with different personnels ran intermittently until the late-1970s. The Shearing Hour, put together by Marlbank in association with Pizza Express Jazz Club, is a celebration of the great man’s music and an introduction to the fine talent of John Turville.
Stephen Graham
John Turville top and Sir George Shearing above. pizzaexpresslive.co.uk Visit the Shearing Hour on Pinterest for clips and photos http://pinterest.com/shearinghour/the-shearing-hour

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Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins are part of the line-up of the first Brilliant Corners jazz festival, to be held in Belfast from 21-23 March at the MAC, the Black Box and the Belfast Barge. Taking place in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, the three-day festival, which draws its name from the classic 1957 Thelonious Monk Riverside album, is promoted by leading Northern Ireland producer Moving on Music.

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Director Brian Carson says: “Many of today’s more popular music forms take direct influence from jazz and there seems to be a real movement at the moment. Jazz has had a bit of an image problem in recent years, which is definitely changing. We’re seeing a whole new audience coming to our events throughout the year, and an extremely talented group of new musicians emerging. It’s an exciting time.” The line-up is: Continuous Battle Of Order, Decoy (Thursday 21 March, Black Box); Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print (21 March, Barge); Ellington in Anticipation (21 March, MAC); David Lyttle and Interlude (Friday 22 March, Black Box); Ronnie Greer Blues Trio (22 March, Barge); Steve Davis’ Human (22 March, MAC); Arthur Kell (Saturday 23 March, Barge); and Liane Carroll (23 March, MAC). Stephen Graham
David Lyttle top right, to play the Black Box at Brilliant Corners, and Liane Carroll headlining at the MAC on the Saturday night

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Eleni Karaindrou
Concert in Athens
ECM New Series ***
With a considerable body of work for ECM already in the catalogue, this Athens concert hall performance of music by the distinguished veteran film, theatre and TV composer Eleni Karaindrou recorded in 2010 begins somewhat glacially with saxophonist Jan Garbarek a slightly masked presence at first. Slowly its treasure unfolds as the strings draw out the tender theme. Along with other guests, celebrated viola player Kim Kashkashian and oboist Vangelis Christopoulos with Karaindrou on piano, this chamber music album, utilising a small band of musicians and the Camerata Friends of Music Orchestra conducted by Alexandros Myrat, takes in music written for the films of the late Theo Angelopoulos, with whom Karaindrou is strongly associated, as well as music for the theatre including American classics Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Death of a Salesman. ‘Requiem for Willie Loman’, the tragic hero of Arthur Miller’s great play, and the very theme captured so well by Garbarek, and reprised at the end of the album once more, is the sort of work that the composer must have had to keep a brave face writing. You’d need to be made of flint not to be moved by this album highlight as it unfolds so unflinchingly and returns so effectively at the album’s conclusion. So, superior arthouse mood music as a whole, with a serious disposition the meditational footprint of which is often tellingly felt. SG
Released on 11 February 

Dominic Alldis
A Childhood Suite
Canzona ***1/2
In Dominic Alldis’s latest trio album A Childhood Suite for jazz piano trio and orchestra, the pianist, arranger, and composer explains he is “always looking for melodic material with which to inspire new creative projects.” He had realized at an earlier point that the simplicity of nursery rhymes allowed for great variation and instant recognition, and earlier album Songs We Heard (with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh) first drew on the idea of a trio improvising on nursery rhymes from around the world. This new release reworks more than a dozen of these arrangements, adding a string section and containing an Alldis original. With the pianist are modern-mainstream bassist Andrew Cleyndert, and Spin Marvel drummer Martin France, whose trio work with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson has been justly praised. Beautifully recorded at Menuhin Hall, A Childhood Suite, has a simplicity and sincerity rare these days in the hustle and bustle of the record industry demanding a certain crash, bang, wallop approach. You many have come across Bruno Heinen’s Dialogues trio record Twinkle Twinkle last year, when the pianist put ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ under the microscope as Mozart did in a different time and fashion, and as Alldis does here. But think of A Childhood Suite as a broader sweep, beyond jazz although of it in the same way as the album draws on classical music, with a soft soothing touch more like a finely constructed harmonic reverie than a more inquisitive foray at the raw materials of the musical themes. ‘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.’ Stephen Graham
The Dominic Alldis trio pictured above

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Last year was like a dream for Roller Trio, and it wasn’t just that they picked up nods from the Mercury and MOBO prize panjandrums or surprise discombobulated indie scenesters at the Roundhouse. It was also a good year for the F-IRE label whose vicarious pleasure in their band’s success was palpable. image
This year, once the snow has melted, is about touring and while the northern outfit is not returning to Milo’s in Leeds where the fuse was lit at least on YouTube where you’ll see them play ‘The Nail That Stands Up’, Roller Trio are appearing not far away at the Venue in Leeds College of Music, the very college where the band first met. Super educated young jazz polite boys and girls who haven’t heard them so far can catch the band there should they venture out or at a jazz spot around and about. Dates are: The Lescar, Sheffield (30 January); Kings Place, London (2 February); King Tut’s, Glasgow (23 Feb); Capstone Theatre, Liverpool (28 Feb); Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich (7 March); Vibraphonic Festival, Exeter (14 March); Venue, Leeds (22 March); Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham (6 May); and Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, on 29 May. SG
The Venue, Leeds College of Music top where Roller trio above, right play in March

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The James Taylor Quartet are to release their latest album Closer to the Moon an album that suggests a broadening of scope for the Jimmy Smith-influenced Hammond organ-led acid jazz era band as the album planned for a 6 May release is to bristle with added celeste, vibes, harp, zither, gong, glockenspiel, and apparently even tubular bells. Hammond man Taylor who fronts the longstanding outfit also takes a lead vocal on ‘Close To You’, a definite departure. JTQ touring dates before the album release include a return to Ronnie Scott’s, London appearing with the Nick Smart Horns and singer Yvonne Yanney from 20-23 March; then the Donkey in Leicester on 6 April; Guildhall, Portsmouth (12 April); and Assembly Hall, Islington, London for two nights on 3-4 May just ahead of Closer to the Moon album day. SG
James Taylor, above