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
‘Final Hour’ from 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.
Symphony of the senses
Stockholm is to host the world première of EST Symphony. Tickets for the concert went on sale at the weekend in Stockholm for the concert to be held at the city’s Konserthuset on 12 June. An announcement about further concert dates in July will be made later, EST management confirms.
Distinguished Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, formerly of the hit Finnish band Trio Töykeät, whose latest solo album My History of Jazz was released in the autumn is to perform with EST’s Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans Ek, with acclaimed Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick (Skala, The Door), Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder, and pedal steel guitarist Johan Lindström (from Berglund’s band Tonbruket) joining.
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Esbjörn Svensson, the charismatic and influential pianist and composer tragically died on 14 June 2008 aged just 44 as a result of a scuba diving accident in his native Sweden. In his short career he changed the face of European jazz taking it global, and has influenced a countless number of bands around the world since including Trichotomy, GoGo Penguin, Tingvall Trio, Neil Cowley Trio, and Brad Mehldau, to name just five. Svensson gained the appreciation and respect of jazz giant Pat Metheny who performed with EST at the Jazz Baltica festival in Germany and songs performed at JazzBaltica, arranged by Svensson for chamber orchestra, form the basis of the symphony with totally new arrangements for symphony by Hans Ek. Material is thought to include the beautiful ‘Serenade for the Renegade’ from the 2002-released album Strange Place for Snow; ‘Definition of a Dog’ (from Gagarin’s Point of View, a version of which also later appeared on the epic Live in Hamburg); ‘When God Created the Coffee Break’ (again from Strange Place for Snow); and ‘Pavane’ (featured on Good Morning Susie Soho).
At JazzBaltica Pat Metheny joined EST and the chamber orchestra to play ‘Behind the Yashmak’, and that concert at the core of EST Symphonic also featured ‘Believe, Beleft, Below’, and ‘Dodge the Dodo’.
Ek, born in Uppsala is best known for his work as music director of the Polar Music Prize ceremony, where he has arranged and performed with the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra music by Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Björk, and Paul Simon among the winners of the prestigious prize.
Esbjörn Svensson became the most significant figure in Swedish jazz since Jan Johansson in the 1960s far surpassing Johansson’s reach despite the huge success of Johansson’s classic album Jazz på svenska (‘Jazz in Swedish’), which used European folk music as an ingredient for jazz improvisation, one of the first to do so. Västeras-born, Svensson harnessed the power of rock, free jazz, and electronics for the first time allying them to his own virtuoso grasp of the music of the masters of jazz piano including chiefly Thelonious Monk in the early stages of his career. Svensson’s compositional strength was firmly rooted within the co-operative spirit of the trio as the band shared writing duties and credits and thought as one. Svensson founded EST in 1993 with his childhood friend drummer Magnus Öström and bassist Dan Berglund. They together went on to become global jazz stars, releasing 11 albums during Esbjörn’s lifetime with another, Leucocyte, appearing shortly after Svensson’s death, and four years later the extraordinary 301 released in March last year. EST Symphony is a brand new day. Stephen Graham
Venue link: http://bit.ly/YVNPRL
Jamming at the new jazz club in Dubai
Pizza Express has opened a new jazz club called Jazz@PizzaExpress in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers residential district, local reports suggest. Next to the Mövenpick Hotel in the Jumeirah Lakes Towers district, there are no details of the club’s programme so far, but Time Out Dubai claims that: “In Dubai managers say they hope to replicate the London venue’s success by showcasing local talent." The picture above was run on the Undefined Declarations blog. Read more about the launch there: http://undefineddeclarations.wordpress.com/tag/jazzpizzaexpress
Photo: Undefined Declarations
Manchester commission for 2013: ‘The Felonious Monks’
The Manchester jazz festival traditionally leaves it late to declare its programme but one thing the festival was early in declaring again this year was the latest MJF Originals commission. That’s the leading north west of England summertime jazz festival’s pioneering scheme to unlock new creative talent and pinpoint new jazz. The 2013 commission, is unusual, titled ‘The Felonious Monks’, and it’s a collaboration between Mike Hall and Deborah Rogers in an ensemble work that meshes early renaissance music and contemporary jazz, with modern and replica 16th century instruments. Tonsured bebop, no less. Crumhorns (no me, neither, except you blow it), shawms, cornamuses, cornets, sackbuts, lute, gemshorns and recorders are part of the instrumentational palette. Hall is a saxophonist, a former member of NYJO, and is a member of Echoes of Ellington; while Deborah Rogers has been closely associated with early music group Kincorth Waits and leads No Strings Attached and big band In The Pink. This year’s Manchester Jazz Festival begins on 26 July.
Sony Music Italy ***1/2
This is quite a production, with a big brassy opening, lush strings, and Biondi’s deep very soulful voice. It’s very superior crooning in a soul-jazz situation with great diction and control and the voice speaks to you. Sun may well flatter to distract though as there are so many famous guests on the album, with the Incognito band in tow, quite a few songs by Bluey, and guests including Chaka Khan on Boz Scaggs’ ‘Lowdown’, Al Jarreau, and Leon Ware. The big songs with guests for me are ‘Never Stop’ featuring Omar in duo with Biondi, the higher voice contrasting with Biondi’s grizzly tones; and ‘Light to the World’ with Al Jarreau joining to duet, a still sadness in Jarreau’s voice although it’s an upbeat song. Tracks without famous people that impressed me include Biondi’s excellent vocal on ‘Come to Me’, with cadences oddly familiar (like Bacharach/David’s ‘Magic Moments’ in the bit here where the lyric goes the joy comes after). And the multi-tracked vocals on ‘What Have You Done To Me’, Bluey’s song co-written with Biondi and one Davide Florio, soar. Downsides? The Barry White moments which pop up along the way like a vocal alter ego Biondi releases some times can be a bit cheesy and intrude, but the Italian could teach some of the wannabe jazz crooners a thing or two. He’s a class act. Stephen Graham
Mario Biondi above plays the Albert Hall with Incognito on 10 May. Sun is released on 13 May
Top ten rated albums in March on Marlbank
1 & ALBUM OF THE MONTH Kendrick Scott and Oracle
2 Aaron Diehl
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
4 Erin Boheme
What a Life
6 Robert Hurst
Bob: a Palindrome
7 Dave Douglas
Green Leaf Music
8 Barry Altschul
The 3dom Factor
9 Patricia Barber
At the city of Derry jazz and big band festival in a year that the city marks its UK city of culture status with many special festivals and events, the jazz festival in May will host a radio broadcast to be recorded by BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up show presented by pianist Julian Joseph, with a concert to take place at the Tower Hotel in Derry on Monday 6 May. Artists to take part in the broadcast are to include BBC New Generation artist saxophonist Trish Clowes who last year released And In The Night-Time She Is There, with a Derry-bound band featuring Troyka guitarist Chris Montague, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer James Maddren, and The Impossible Gentlemen’s Gwilym Simcock on piano.
Three albums in the can for Gwilym Simcock
Welsh-born Simcock, 32, has been busy finishing the last studio work on the latest Impossible Gentlemen album set for release later this year. “Very exciting few days,” he says on Facebook, mentioning he’s also been preparing a new orchestral CD featuring the City of London Sinfonia and Martin France of Spin Marvel. Simcock has just returned from the Bavarian artist retreat of Schloss Elmau where his previous album Good Days At Schloss Elmau for Siggi Loch’s ACT label garnered the pianist a Mercury nomination in 2011. This time he was there for a duo recording with bassist Yuri Goloubev. Gwilym Simcock pictured
Blanchard: no borders just horizons
When Terence Blanchard appeared at Ronnie Scott’s during the London Jazz Festival he let drop in his bandstand chat that his band would be entering the studio imminently. And that Friday night on Frith Street the quintet played for the early house Brice Winston’s ‘Time To Spare’ a sprawling multi-section epic that sure enough is included on new album Magnetic.
Now confirmed for a May release by Blue Note in the States (no UK date yet) the album has ten songs with Tuczon road warrior Winston joining the great jazz composer and trumpeter, as well as pianist Fabian Almazan, new bassist Joshua Crumbly, and drummer Kendrick Scott whose own album, the happening Oracle session Conviction, has just been released by Concord. Magnetic has the Second Great Miles Quintet bassist Ron Carter as a guest plus Ravi Coltrane, who’s also signed to Blue Note, and Blanchard’s old friend guitarist Lionel Loueke who used to be in the Quintet and whose lovely ballad ‘Benny’s Tune’ named for Lionel’s former wife is still in the band book. Tunes are ‘Magnetic’, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’,‘Don’t Run’, ‘Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song’, ‘Hallucinations’, ‘No Borders Just Horizons’, ‘Comet’, ‘Central Focus’, ‘Another Step’, and that tune previously mentioned, ‘Time To Spare’ as closer. Blanchard is also to premiere Champion, an opera in jazz at a theatre in St Louis, more of which later in Marlbank.
Terence Blanchard above
The New York Quartet to play the Barbican on 15 May
They’re into their second night at Birdland in New York tonight and now the Barbican in London has confirmed the UK debut of the Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet. To appear in a double bill with the Jazz FM-winning John Surman who appeared with Stańko as far back as late-1990s album From The Green Hill the concert will mark a new phase for Stańko in terms of his UK and broader European public. Stańko’s latest album, a double set called Wisława, is the first with an American band and the first double album of his career, also the first to be recorded in America. At 70 Stańko still connects with jazz at a deep level, almost on a level of suffering but also in the joy of his influences and the empathy of a great artist. Living in New York for large stretches of the year he is now able for the first extended period of his long career to commune with the history of the music there, but also the way it lives in city streets, the galleries, studios, and in the life of the musicians he plays with, and who he writes for. His New York quartet begins and ends with the abstractions of Generation X-er Gerald Cleaver who on Wisława plays brushes a great deal, every soft stroke like a footfall; and it’s Thomas Morgan in the slipstream to heighten the effect of this presence while David Virelles almost in an absurdist tradition waits to swoop because that’s his task, arpeggiating and making every chord inflection count. Wisława is mostly modal and the songs are sad but life affirming: think the best arthouse film you know and the music from Wisława would work beyond context.
Having performed with the late Wisława Szymborska he appreciated the poet’s simplicity and he is able to channel the laments at the heart of her poetry, again a benevolent but perceptive sort of despair at discovered ignorance rather than the unmasking of ghosts or the depiction of menace at the heart of, say, Zbigniew Herbert’s very different muse, or the horror ready to damn the world in Miłosz’s. Wisława has a simplicity in its 12 tunes, and ‘Metafizyka’ is the best piece of all. But every tune have a point even a little “bosanetta” such as ‘Oni’, an inverted dance. The first bars of Wisława amount not to a symphony but a song touched with love and sadness, or the melancholy Stańko speaks of, and that humanity that Birdland audiences this weekend and the London audience in May might well discover for themselves. Stephen Graham
Metaphysical approach: Thomas Morgan, Tomasz Stańko, David Virelles and Gerald Cleaver above
Apocalyptic saxophone carries the day
Nicolas Masson/Roberto Pianca/Emanuele Maniscalco
Beginning with a little tune that recalls the melody of ‘Nature Boy’ this Swiss Italian trio though has written all the fairly short tunes themselves with single, double or band credits and the album is a curiosity. The name of the band suggests folk you might think or ‘reel’ as tape whether audio or celluloid, but by the second track it’s more a cosmic Pharoah-esque sound that sticks with a kind of an apocalyptic feel to Masson’s keening tenor saxophone lead. Recorded in Lugano the band apparently came together from the duo of Masson and guitarist Pianca and via MySpace and jamming in Geneva honed their sound. The band reminds me a little of Partikel (although it’s guitar instead of bass) but the approach is similar if a little more abstract. It’s all a slow burn requiring some patience and to be frank a little too dour at times, especially from ‘Fasten’ onwards. That said Masson has a certain personality that makes him and this promising band worth discovering.
Emanuele Maniscalco (above left), Nicolas Masson, and Roberto Pianca
Released on Monday 1 April
Tour notes: June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren
It’s becoming a default band name already so let’s just say Quercus, and leave it at that, are touring next month and, following a review of Quercus yesterday of June Tabor, Iain Ballamy, and Huw Warren’s deeply satisfying folk-jazz album in these virtual pages, here are details of the tour dates coming up. Alas and alack Basingstoke, where the album was so beautifully recorded, is not on the schedule on this tour at least but these are: Stables, Milton Keynes (14 April, www.stables.org); Phoenix, Exeter (23 April www.exeterphoenix.org.uk); St George’s, Bristol (25 April www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk); Sage, Gateshead (27 April www.thesagegateshead.org); Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (29 April www.warwickartscentre.co.uk); LSO St Luke’s, London (30 April www.lso.co.uk); and the Playhouse, Salisbury as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival (31 May www.salisburyfestival.co.uk). MB
Kendrick Scott and Oracle show their class on Conviction
Opening with the prayer of St Francis as spoken word, Kendrick Scott and Oracle’s Conviction make a second unusual choice: a cover of influential Brummie outfit Broadcast’s ‘Pendulum’ (from their Haha Sound album put out a decade ago). Guitarist Mike Moreno is 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 Blanchard man 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 undulations at the end and the mood is set. Not out in the UK until May the album has gone to number one in the US iTunes jazz chart just a few days after release and no wonder as word of this spread like wildfire. 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 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 has produced Conviction and the album is accessible but very much a jazz head’s album as well. That’s a knack.
Released by Concord in May in the UK
Great drums and keyboards processing on ‘Too Much’, love the scrappy industrial edge, and a guitar break to die for, and 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.
‘Be water my friend, empty your mind’ — Bruce Lee
Kendrick’s solo at the beginning of ‘Cycling Through Reality’ might bring a few smiles from Jack DeJohnette (that’s in a good way although he might joke about which Special Edition album of his he’s been listening to!), 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’ (love the bass riff and tone row harmony snatches from guitar and keys); 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. Best thing I’ve heard this year standing tall alongside The Sirens. Conviction (*****) just leaps out of the speakers.
Oracle pictured with Derrick Hodge right
City of Broken Dreams
There’s no sense of place other than in the title track of City of Broken Dreams and its bookending variant. And philosophically the ‘city’ like the dreams themselves does not exist. “Enrico Rava’s pianist” Guidi, with Stańko New York Quartet bassist Thomas Morgan and Portuguese drummer João Lobo dwell at least in the titles on a range of situations: determined (‘No Other Possibility’), contemplative (‘Ocean View’), fearful (‘The Forbidden Zone’) or predicated on vital relationships (‘The Impossible Divorce’, ‘The Way Some People Live’). There’s a mysterious ‘Leonie’ who is given an exquisite weightless melody that lifts the album via Morgan’s traction and Guidi’s harmonic touch to the heights as well. Guidi is a child of the 1980s, little known until now beyond his connection to Rava, but this Bley-esque debut as a leader for ECM is really very different to what you’ll hear on a Rava record. Lovely music throughout from a highly promising new leader, and it’s beautifully played and cultured although lacking a certain bite at times even if Morgan manages to add a master improviser’s edge. All the compositions are Guidi’s and to pinpoint another ‘The Forbidden Zone’ exhibits the trio’s ability to conjure highly contrasting noir that depict the ruins of emotion rather than metropolitan rubble. Stephen Graham
Giovanni Guidi above photo Paolo Soriani / ECM