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Brilliant Corners 21-23 March
With Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins to perform at this new festival inspired by a classic Monk album. http://movingonmusic.co.uk

Gateshead jazz festival 5-7 April
Centred at the Sage, Soweto Kinch, Lighthouse, Christine Tobin, Ruby Turner and Louis Moholo-Moholo/Alexander Hawkins are Tyneside bound this year.
http://thesagegateshead.org/tour-dates/gateshead-international-jazz-festival-2013

Cheltenham jazz festival 1-6 May
Dionne Warwick, Van Morrison, Laura Mvula, Polar Bear, Gary Burton, Dave Douglas, and Mike Gibbs are set to appear in the lively old regency spa town. http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Love Supreme, 5-7 July
New outdoor festival in Sussex, Bryan Ferry, Chic, Gregory Porter, Michael Kiwanuka, Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Robert Glasper, Neil Cowley Trio and Portico Quartet feature.
http://www.lovesupremefestival.com

Swanage jazz festival 12-14 July
Dorset bound are Kit Downes Quintet, Jean Toussaint, Gilad Atzmon, and Karen Street at the long established jazz gathering.
http://www.swanagejazz.org

Manchester jazz festival 26 July-3 August
One of the most innovative jazz festivals in the country, with a strong regional and artistic identity. Worth waiting for the line-up to be announced in the spring.
http://www.manchesterjazz.com

Brecon jazz festival 9-11 August
Acker Bilk, Courtney Pine, Gilad Atzmon, Roller Trio, John Surman and more in the Powys market town for the biggest jazz gathering in Wales, now reborn.
http://breconjazz.com

Scarborough jazz festival 27-29 September
Kicking the sands from their shoes in Yorkshire are Courtney Pine, Kyle Eastwood, Ian Shaw, Beats & Pieces and more this year.
http://jazz.scarboroughspa.co.uk

Cork jazz festival 25-29 Oct
Line-up should be available in September.
http://www.guinnessjazzfestival.com/

London jazz festival 15-24 November
The biggest of the UK jazz festivals, celebrating its 21st year in 2013.
http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk MB

Gregory Porter, Courtney Pine and Portico Quartet top

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Jarringly miscued at time, of all the sometimes lamentably misinformed reaction to Dancing on the Edge, which tonight has an extra programme, a quirky set of fictional interviews with the band conducted by Stanley (Matthew Goode), the journalist modelled on Spike Hughes), the only writer who really understood the essence of this Poliakoff work as television, writing even as he did at the half way point, was Clive James. What a lot of people missed, but not James, who picks up on a then and now comparison about society and prejudice, is that Poliakoff isn’t interested in some sort of churning momentum. And even if you thought episodes dragged (I think the third was most guilty in this respect), the characters were given depth and the actors did the writing justice although I thought Julian’s portrayal could have been handled better as it wasn’t clear if he was a chinless wonder, or just cruel. Maybe he was both. Poliakoff does leave you hanging at times and that’s why I think the series worked as a whole.  

Anyway, a lyricist as well as a television reviewer of genius James, had this to say, which went to the heart of the matter:

‘Languid or not in its writing and direction, however – Mr Poliakoff is in charge of both departments the show’s treatment of race prejudice is a proof that British culture has come a long way. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, both of them theoretically advanced, casually took it for granted that a social acceptance for black entertainers was a sure sign of national decadence.

Times have changed, although one thing will probably never change. As long as a British series is up for sale to the Americans, two people of different races, even if they are as beautiful as Janet Montgomery and Chiwetel Ejiofor, will never be allowed to go to bed together without a carefully interposed sheet.

Mind you, if the couple were both of the same race, the sheet would still be there. That’s the way the Americans want it, so they must have it. Poor them, though: did they ever deserve something as wonderful as jazz? It was 1969 before President Nixon honoured Duke Ellington with the Medal of Freedom, and yet jazz was recognized as a miracle forty years previously by the future Duke of Windsor, in almost all other respects a total idiot.’ 

(telegraph.co.uk)

Tune in for the interviews with the band on BBC2 at 10.30 MB

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Most euphonious name on the circuit, Ballydehob Jazz Festival, has unveiled its line-up with, in a coup for the village, the Neil Cowley Trio headlining for 2013.

The Cowley Trio, about to release their first live album and DVD, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, were the biggest selling UK jazz artists in 2012 with their ‘hit’ album The Face of Mount Molehill, and drew in ever larger audiences live, with the band playing the Barbican in London for the first time, and touring in the US.

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Also for Ballydehob, a still fairly new festival in West Cork, Ireland (the jazz version of Other Voices?), set this year for its seventh running, are Kitten and the Hip, that’s ex-Freak Power/Loose Tubes trombonist Ashley Slater and singer/songwriter Kitten Quinn’s band; with Mongoose; Earthship; and Camilla Griehsel / Maurice Seezer, all to appear. MB

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Ballydehob Jazz Festival runs from 3-6 May http://www.ballydehobjazzfestival.org

Festival time in Ballydehob: pictured top at the festival club; the Neil Cowley Trio middle; and Kitten and the Hip, above

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With more than six months to go, the organisers of the Herts Jazz Festival have not let the grass grow under their feet, and have announced this year’s full programme.

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On paper it’s looking like the best yet, with the Stan Tracey octet,Tony Kofi, Georgie Fame, the Jason Yarde/Andrew McCormack Duo, Django Bates Beloved Trio, Kenny Wheeler Quintet, Iain Ballamy, Don Weller, and a tribute to JJ Johnson and Kai Winding included in the stellar line-up.

The festival runs from 20-22 September at the Hawthorne Theatre, Campus West, in Welwyn Garden City. SG

Tony Kofi, top; and Georgie Fame, above

http://www.hertsjazzfestival.co.uk

Verb or noun, certainly energy-laden as a word, Smash, Patricia Barber’s latest record is an outside sort of album, the energy inherent rather than overt. The singer/pianist is among street lights and car headlights on the cover, and touching the paving stones of a deserted, night-time city street inside. Barber, as long time fans will of course know, is also of the outside. Her first for Concord, the dozen songs contrast highly with one of her best albums to date, the sublime Ovid-inspired Mythologies from 2006, with the added advantage of not having to live up to a grand conceptual scheme. Rather than concern herself with myth, instead she immerses herself in real-time life, the here and now using images of the seasons and natural elements as a backdrop.

With her band of guitarist John Kregor (whose big power rock solo on the title track is a defining moment), bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Jon Deitemyer behind her vocals and piano parts, they made Smash in Chicago with Barber producing. A city she’s strongly identified with, especially at the Green Mill club, the title track’s lyrics conjuring noise ‘the sound/Of a heart breaking’, ‘the sound of/The red on the road’. It’s not despairing though as a whole, just real, and devices like the bossa feel scaled down on ‘Redshift’ let the anger Barber sometimes boils up evaporate yet however it’s contained a sentiment such as ‘by degrees I see/You are leaving me’ is cold comfort. The piano opening to ‘Spring Song’ ‘talks’ Bill Evans a bit, and Kohut could even be channelling Eddie Gomez to his side, a fitting approach given the song. First impressions are of a strong return here by Barber. A deep album, not a precious one, nor one to act as a balm, or to make you “feel good”. You would find it hard to discover a singer in this idiom, and certainly you’d search long and hard in rock or pop, to find lyrics as freighted with meaning as here. They’re not about home truths, Barber is beyond delivering crap homilies. Yet her voice is both a prisoner to the song, as well as its keeper: a unique burden. Highlight? I’d go for ‘Missing’, a love song of impossible inspiration framed within the cycle of the seasons, with its drifting guitar and the utterly unique Barber voice. SG

Patricia Barber, above. Photo: Jimmy Katz

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Zoe Rahman, directing the Guildhall Jazz Ensemble; Ian Shaw guesting with the Guildhall Jazz Singers and Ensemble; saxophonist Tom Challenger; Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts and Paul Dunmall (the Dartington Improvising Trio); plus Iain Ballamy and the Guildhall Jazz Band, are all now finally confirmed to appear at this month’s Guildhall Jazz Festival, the full line-up of which has just been published. The festival runs from Saturday 23 March-Thursday 28 March. SG
Zoe Rahman, above

Full line-up and booking information: http://www.gsmd.ac.uk

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Well the word’s out and Monday 22 April is now confirmed for the release of Light From Old Stars, the Kit Downes quintet album first revealed in these pages on New Year’s Day. http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39377045983/1683

Featuring members of the London-based, Norwich reared, award winning pianist’s trio: that’s bassist Calum Gourlay (also on crooner Anthony Strong’s Stepping Out to be released a fortnight earlier by Naïve), and drummer James Maddren, with Golden Age of Steam’s James Allsopp on bass clarinet, and cellist Lucy Railton.

The album was recorded at Fishmarket Studios by Robert Harder who produced The Cherry Thing.

Light From Old Stars combines a variety of elements from chamber jazz signifiers in the arranging style through to free improv on a track such as ‘Owls’ and the more cinematic “road movie” conception of ‘Outlaws’, or the remoulded ‘jam’ blow-out feel of ‘What’s the Rumpus.’

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Recorded on a special Steinway sourced from Beccles in Suffolk Light From Old Stars is to be released as reported previously by London-based indie jazz label Basho, home to The Impossible Gentlemen, and follows Downes’ Basho albums the Mercury nominated trio album Golden (2009), and Quiet Tiger (2011).

Tracks are ‘Wonder and Colossus’, ‘Bley Days’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘What’s the Rumpus’, ‘Two Ones’, ‘Falling, Dancing’, ‘Owls’, ‘The Mad Wren’, and ‘Jan Johansson’.

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The cover of ‘lost leader’ Jan Johansson’s masterwork, above

‘Bley Days’, which the quintet played live on selected dates last year, is Downes’ homage to Paul Bley, and the final track is clearly named as a tribute for the lost leader of Swedish jazz, pianist Jan Johansson who died at the young age of 37 in 1968.

Johansson is best known for his classic album Jazz på svenska (‘Jazz in Swedish’), which used European folk music as an ingredient for jazz improvisation, one of the first so to do.

‘Jan Johansson’ is a quietly yearning dream-like track that begins with a scamperingly laidback Maddren rhythm, a low piano rumble, and a lovely melody line that Downes and cellist Railton state in unison before the softly unfolding melody line ascends. SG

Updated quintet tour dates include: The Verdict, Brighton, tomorrow (8 March); The Hive, Shrewsbury 13 April; Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham 18 April; and Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, London, on 29 April, with more dates in May and June

The Kit Downes quintet top (courtesy Basho records); and Kit Downes, pictured in London, with St Paul’s, and Blackfriars bridge in the distance behind him (photo: Yamaha)

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So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday; the Little Theatre club towards the end of the 1960s, perhaps. Or Kansas City, when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought. Dave Douglas’ latest, Time Travel (**** recommended), has a “businessman’s bounce”, which might raise a few eyebrows. That’s hard bop swing essentially, a phrase the Dizzy Reece and Tubby Hayes record producer and writer Tony Hall sometimes talks knowledgeably about when he hears the sound. If you’re in a jazz club a tune such as opener ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo, though, would bounce sense into any executive.

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"I was really interested in what David Toomey wrote in his book The New Time Travelers. How the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backwards, forwards, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect." 
- Dave Douglas

Jon Irabagon’s tenor saxophone solo might make the exec dwell by the bandstand to listen a bit, and you know the suited-and-booted might just think: 9-5 is for losers. But don’t hold your breath.

In terms of Douglas’ output, think The Infinite a bit, but there’s no Fender Rhodes. Or the band with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist who will appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival inside the quintet for the spatown exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when he was with Terence Blanchard, and this quintet compares strongly to Blanchard’s latest aggregation, although the way the News Orleansian leaves space for Brice Winston is different to Douglas’ approach to harmonising with Irabagon. Both approaches share that salt; and swagger. Time Travel is almost the same band as Be Still but it’s without a singer, although vocalist Heather Masse (not Aoife O’Donovan who’s on Be Still), will join the quintet in Cheltenham with quintet changes as well as saxophone applying also to drums.

‘Law of Historical Memory’ has a superbly ominous atmosphere courtesy of Mitchell, and then some admirably sour horn lines accentuated by drummer Rudy Royston that allow plenty of deliberately uneasy modulating for mood purposes. ‘Beware of Doug’ opens like something out of the Treme soundtrack, while ‘Little Feet’ is where Douglas can ‘speak’ to us listeners with that personal sound of his. ‘Garden State’ referring to New Jersey has a jauntiness again that recalls Tony’s thing about the “businessman bounce”, although, thinking of another Tony with New Jersey connections who’s not a vocalist: it’s none of my business! Finally, the album to be released by Greenleaf in April flutters to a halt with ‘The Pigeon and the Pie’, and in these 10 minutes Douglas, who turns 50 a fortnight on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. SG   

Dave Douglas, above

Listen to the title track via this link to NTS jazz show Babel Babble http://shar.es/jBslz

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So it’s 2013 and the second night of Chick Corea’s The Vigil playing Ronnie Scott’s.  

It’s also 1969. Kind of.

Why? Well this remarkable video clip, which Twitter user @AdrianDeliu has just posted, tells part of the story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uW0SRgmxkY

And that’s not all. As the quintet on the road made these recordings just released by Columbia. 

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Fast forward to this very day and keeping the Vigil tonight at Ronnie Scott’s before the band moves over to the Blue Note in Milan, Corea will be joined on the stage of the Frith Street jazz shrine by Tim Garland, Hadrien Feraud, Marcus Gilmore, and Charles Altura.

The club dates come just less than a year since New Crystal Silence arranger and former Chick band member Garland joined the Return To Forever man on stage as a surprise guest at the Barbican, when Corea had earlier performed in front of a big concert hall audience that night with Gary Burton.

Garland played soprano sax during the encore  “jamming” on Chick’s classic composition ‘La Fiesta’ and Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’.

The terminology ‘third great Miles Davis quintet’ is just starting to be used by the record company guys and fans. But you can understand why if you’ve heard the triple album/DVD set even if it’s lesser known than the second great quintet, which Wayne Shorter was also a member of; and the distant, but equally acclaimed, first great quintet with John Coltrane.

Of the five musicians making the recording, well Miles is Miles: the next big thing will be a new re-imagining of his screen image via the vision and determination of Don Cheadle with the score written for the film by Herbie Hancock. After Tavernier’s Round Midnight everyone thought of the individual personas of Lester Young and Bud Powell (via the fictionalised persona whose story the film told) differently. Hancock was there at the time acting a little, and wrote the music, which would win him an Oscar. How will we view Miles when eventually we get to see the film and hear the music? The Davis legend will without a shadow of a doubt move to a different level entirely no matter how successful or otherwise the film turns out to be.

As for Wayne Shorter well, he’s on fire with ‘Pegasus’ and much else (the rest all live) on Without a Net, and was last in this country playing in Birmingham with the quartet towards the tail end of last year.

[Without a Net background http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/37908086641/256]

Jack DeJohnette put out a fine album late last year [more at http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/32873499206/40688], but Dave Holland has slipped off the radar a bit, although he is expected to release a record by the Prism band at some stage following some non-UK touring last year with the stellar outfit. Details are very scarce.

And lastly Chick Corea won two Grammys last month. Birthing The Vigil means for him it’s all about 2013 no matter how brightly 1969 still burns. SG

Chick Corea, top, yesterday, inside Ronnie Scott’s
Photo: via @Chick Corea


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Last year TUM Records released the immaculate Ancestors by Wadada Leo Smith and Louis Moholo-Moholo, their first recording together, and the label has continued its valuable work of seeking out influential musicians whose music does not comfortably sit with commercial or even critical trends despite their renown. With the release of The 3dom Factor (****) Barry Altschul, who turned 70 in January, the Helsinki label has again come up trumps. Altschul, best known for 1971 album A.R.C. with Chick Corea and Dave Holland and on Chick’s The Song of Singing as well as Arista-period Anthony Braxton, is joined by ex-Wadada bassist Joe Fonda, and Jon Irabagon, the Mostly Other People Do The Killing avatar, here playing tenor saxophone. It’s adventurous free jazz in the Ornette Coleman sense, its freedom, alphanumerical or not, in the way it leaps bar-lines and lets rhythms simply flow. It’s never about the ‘one’. Tracks include Altschul’s  ‘Irina’, ‘Natal Chart’, ‘Oops’, and Carla Bley’s ‘Ictus’. TUM has risen to the challenge of doing justice to this special release, Altschul’s first as a leader in more than 25 years, making it into an event, by adding insightful portraiture, a scholarly essay, and signature Marianna Uutinen paintings. The drummer says in his own introductory note that he looks at free jazz in terms of Beaver Harris’ phrase ‘from Ragtime to No Time’ so there’s no fear, he explains, to “know, and not be afraid to use, the music’s history as well as newer concepts in spontaneous improvised music.” Altschul’s idea that “to be free, one needs choices” is more than borne out on The 3dom Factor. It’s quite meditative at times; and, alternately, illuminated with a wildness that the three channel wonderfully making the music that bit more substantial. Irabagon is like the commentator on the rhythm; while Fonda is the wise observer occasionally stepping in as the music demands as he does experimentally on ‘Be Out S’cool.’ It’s all cool.  

Stephen Graham

Out now

Barry Altschul, above. Photo: Dmitry Mandel

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Nestled between James Dunn’s fascinating archive collage show and The Arts Desk’s “folkadelia, psychtronica and afro-prog" extravaganza, I found myself spinning a few tunes for an hour on Babel Babble, sitting in for resident DJ Oliver Weindling, this afternoon. I thought before it’s available as a download from NTS I’d add a playlist and associated artist links/photos/videos/tracks as jumping off points where possible. Most of the tracks played are from new albums destined for immediate or spring release with a classic archive track slotted in as well, as Chick Corea is in town with The Vigil. So here goes:

Rokia Traoré
‘Lalla’
Beautiful Africa
Nonesuch

Link to the title track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3GTnc9M92c & marlbank story today (scroll down)

Dave Douglas Quintet
‘Time Travel’
Time Travel
Greenleaf Music

Album cover

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Aaron Diehl
‘Single Petal of a Rose’
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue

Three tracks from the album streamed here: https://soundcloud.com/dlmedia/sets/aaron-diehl-the-bespoke-mans/s-pUcw5


Alex Wilson
Trio
‘Remercier Les Travailleurs’
Alex Wilson records

The trio Alex Wilson (below, left), Frank Tontoh, and Davide Mantovani

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Robert Hurst
‘Indiscreet in da Street’
Böb A Palindrome,
Bebob

Detroit jazz fest video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InHZv3eG1G8


Goran Kajfes
‘Badidoom’
The Reason Why, Vol 1
Headspin

Review http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/44443238716/lotus-groves

Chick Corea
‘What Game Shall We Play Today’
Return to Forever
ECM

Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyqyROM6Shw

Quest
‘Vonetta’
Circular Dreaming
Enja

Album cover top

Terri Lyne Carrington
Rem Blues/Music’
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
Concord
News piece http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39832148740/1736465

Bobby Avey
‘Stardust’

Be Not So Long To Speak
Minsi Ridge Records

Video of Avey with Miguel Zenon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m8qEQaYkpk

You can listen again and download the Babel Babble hour when the show is archived in a few days. SG

Updated (playlist order and link): You can now listen via this link at

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Please note that this is not a seated event.” That’s one of the things the venue points out about the fast approaching appearance of Mehliana. And be upstanding too for some intriguingly offbeat support worthy of the heyday of the old New York club the Knitting Factory, in a rare Shoreditch sighting of the Oren-o-phone. No, not something that comes with 4G, but a customised tuba.

Mehliana, Brad Mehldau going electric in a rocketscience duo with cult ex-Avishai Cohen drummer Mark Guiliana, are set to hit Village Underground, which last year hosted the frequently riotous collaboration between Neneh Cherry and The Thing, with some wallop. The cavernous old industrial building near the train tracks that early summer’s night was packed to the gills with loads of old punks and free jazz nuts. Tessa Pollitt of the Slits spun some dub reggae before Cherry belted out Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’, and The Thing would have set about dismantling the place if it hadn’t been already left to rot in the post industrial pre-digital age that laid waste to the area.

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There’s no ex-Slit billed this time, but the Oren-o-phone played by the must-hear Oren Marshall (the Mehliana entourage equivalent of Colin Stetson to Arcade Fire) should wet the crowd’s whistle to begin with. But maybe a few of those who heard Mehldau at the Barbican during the London Jazz Festival delivering his take on Paul McCartney’s ‘Great Day’ might be just as aghast at the thought of what he’s plugging in for as curmudgeonly Dylan fans were when his Bobness scandalised Newport way back when.

Mehliana finds Mehldau on Fender Rhodes and a bunch of old synths, while Guiliana’s style brings together judderingly-jagged sounds, Afrobeat flavours, hand tooled Cobham-esque patterns, and a post-Vinnie Colaiuta sense of bar-line abandon in a formidable maelstrom of boulder-melting proportions. After all that, and all the standing, everyone’s going to need a real good sit-down.  SG

www.villageunderground.co.uk 11 March

Brad Mehldau, top and with Mark Guiliana, as Mehliana, above

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A baker’s dozen of tracks, the majority written by Julia Hülsmann, and Marc Muellbauer, In Full View, the pianist/composer’s latest album, a quartet release this time, sees Hülsmann joined by trumpeter/flugel player Tom Arthurs whose superb album Postcards from Pushkin with Richard Fairhurst was released last year. In Full View has multiple points of entry, and one of the main talking points comes at the end with a nuanced take on ‘Nana’ by Manuel de Falla, the twentieth century Spanish composer’s lovely melody based on an Andalucian lullaby. Hülsmann also demonstrates just what she can do without artifice as an interpretative artist on the beautiful Mehldau-esque introduction to ‘Sealion’, the song also known as ‘See Line Woman’ made famous by Nina Simone and covered more recently by Canadian indie folk singer/songwriter Feist. Arthurs’ ‘Forgotten Poetry’ is another firm highlight of an album on early listens that as a quartet extends the ambition of Hülsmann’s writing that bit further, and shows the acute sensitivity of Arthurs on melancholic ballads and mood pieces.

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

The Hülsmann trio was founded in 1997, has changed personnel a little over the years, and now with the addition of Arthurs, who first burst on to the scene just under a decade ago with the remarkable Centripede, moves to an adventurous if more settled-sounding fresh phase, its essence intact. As well as collaborating with singer Rebekka Bakken for ACT, with Scattering Poems, Hülsmann has also released The End of a Summer, a trio record for ECM featuring half a dozen of her own tunes, along with co-operatively written band material, and a version of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. Summer was followed by Imprint, but In Full View reflects some of her very best work to date, heard in a clear new light with Arthurs. SG
Released in April by ECM. Julia Hülsmann, above

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Youn Sun Nah
Lento
ACT ***
There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom. At her first UK concert that year, singing in Portuguese, French on Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, as well as a knowing version of Jim Pepper’s ‘Witchi Tai To’ and Esbjörn Svensson’s ‘Believe Beleft Below’, Sun Nah greatly impressed a jazz club audience at the Vortex with superb melismatic control and dynamic poise especially in the softer passages. Follow-up Same Girl was a big seller for the South Korean singer in France, and Lento on paper has plenty of possibilities. However, this latest album, released later this month lacks the spark of Voyage and charisma of Same Girl, although with her fine band of guitarist Ulf Wakenius, illustrious bassist Lars Danielsson, the added accordion of Vincent Peirani and the percussion of Xavier Desandre-Navarre, the framework is there. Lento can be overly dramatic and the singer’s self-penned ‘Lament’ is certainly in that category, while the awful cowboy song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I could do without entirely. Navigating material from Nine Inch Nails to Scriabin and back is clearly adventurous, but Youn Sun Nah’s latest requires a leap of faith from even the most fearless listener to work on any significant level. SG

The cover of Lento, above

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Goran Kajfeš / Subtropic Arkestra
The Reason Why Vol. 1
Headspin ***1/2
Into the spring bulbs will be sprouting to this one given half a chance. The Swede first surfaced in 2001 with the very alert Home, and while Kajfeš has remained an unknown since, at least in terms of more Eeyore-like potting shed-inclined jazz fans, The Reason Why should tempt people away from the garden and on to the dance floor or at least fairly near one. Opener, the trowel friendly but bafflingly titled ‘Yakar Inceden Incedan’ by Edip Akbayram, is an infectiously mighty vamp, and there’s progpsychedelia-into-Afrobeat later, and some unstuffy big band lifts on ‘Badiboom’ (like a Gondwana Mancunian take on Alice Coltrane via Roy Budd), and Soft Machine. By covering Tame Impala (‘Desire Be, Desire Go’) a continuity is established, the torch passed on historically from Soft Machine. Fourth track ‘The Nodder’ from the Softs’ Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris is an interesting choice with a Zawinul Syndicate-type link under Kajfeš’ trumpet and electronics. I’d love to hear the Arkestra plus Anthony Joseph joining as guest vocalist. With support by Sons of Kemet. That would be a night to remember. SG

Update (5/3/13):UK release confirmed for late-April

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Bassist Steve Rodby will be joining The Impossible Gentlemen when the acclaimed band tours again this year.

Dates have still to be announced for the full tour, but the Brecon Jazz Festival in Wales has confirmed that the band will be appearing on the closing night of the festival on 11 August with besides Rodby in the line-up new drummer, the Chicagoan Mark Walker from the jazz and new age band Oregon, taking Adam Nussbaum’s place.

Rodby has produced the latest Basho Records album expected this year, The Impossible Gentlemen’s second outing for Basho records, the north London based label that’s also home to Kit Downes, whose quintet release is a priority in early-2013 http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39377045983/1683.

The bassist in the Pat Metheny Group for long periods during the last 30 years, Rodby, 58, who was born in Joliet, Illinois, has produced records for Oregon, Eliane Elias, the Jim Hall & Pat Metheny duo album, and  Pat Metheny Trio albums among many others.

The new IG album was recorded last summer in Sussex following a four-night club residency at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in June.

During that lengthy stint The Impossible Gentlemen unveiled new songs from the album they were about to record.

Just three years old now the Gentlemen on their debut were five-string electric bass legend Steve Swallow, distinguished former Sco drummer Adam Nussbaum, piano star Gwilym Simcock, and north west jazz guitar cult hero Mike Walker.

Steve Swallow added new material to the band book performed at the Soho club with an untitled ballad on one night, and other tunes included Walker’s ‘The Slither Of Other Lovers’ and ‘Modern Day Heroes’.

Swallow said at the time, reported exclusively on downbeat.com, the tunes for the record “have very asymmetrical structures but keep their integrity. We have eight new tunes that we’ve worked up in the last eight to 10 days. I have to go through that door so they seem natural like they’re in 4/4 even if they’re not. Moving ahead, it’s a conscious decision to extend.” SG

Steve Rodby above

Update (6/3/13): The Impossible Gentlemen tour dates in the autumn are now understood to be 10-25 October. Founder member Adam Nussbaum will be on drums again for the October dates.

 

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Aaron Diehl
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue ****
It’s uncanny, a prologue that summons the mood music of Ahmad Jamal to this feast of a piano album, and then ushers in a new pianist so assured you might think it’s a cruel illusion. In solo (briefly), trio and quartet formations Diehl, only just out of his mid-twenties, has a suave sense of sophistication which the “bespoke” conceit in the title emphasises. He’s clearly saying “I’m a man of taste”, yet instead of sitting around in a gentleman’s club wearing a deerstalker and tweeds he’s happy in a modern armchair Philippe Starck might have designed, with fashionable book shelves lolling (if shelves could so idle) behind him. It’s a slightly contradictory message, but Diehl is more modern than stuck in the past, even if arch Wyntonite Stanley Crouch crops up in the notes shooting from the hip as ever and stating the case strongly for Diehl who he knew at Julliard. Typo of the year so far must be the bit about one “Charge Mingus” in an apt phrase comparing the piano to “tuned bongos”. I’m not sure how “bespoke” the band is, although it does sound very slick befitting of one put together by a Cole Porter fellow in jazz composition, an award bestowed on Diehl by the American Pianists Association. Vibist Warren Wolf is as dependable as ever as is drummer Rodney Green with the up-and-coming David Wong nimble on bass. The trio tracks are good hearty fare but it’s slightly paradoxical that the main album highlight is very possibly the convincing solo version of Ellington’s ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ (also covered recently by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra). ‘Bess You Is My Woman Now’ is cleverly approached and very expressive, and the treatment of Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin [III. Forlane]’ weighted very thoughtfully and sequenced well. Diehl has made a statement here that’s much more than a sartorial one, although he might have to keep on changing his musical clothes for a while yet to get really comfortable.
Stephen Graham 

Released on 18 March. Aaron Diehl, above

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Not fantasy but reality. Fifty years ago in April Capitol records would release Jazz Moments a George Shearing record few would care to quickly forget. It would be a momentous session.

Instead of a vibes quintet, which the pianist was already renowned for, Shearing would assemble a trio, drafting in none other than Ahmad Jamal’s bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier, two thirds of the At The Pershing: But Not For me dream team.

Sadly Jazz Moments would be Crosby’s last recording, an early departure for a bassist actually born the same year as Shearing, but who later in 1963 would suffer a heart attack and die aged just 43. Crosby had made his mark on the jazz scene with Gene Krupa in the 30s before going down to create jazz history with Jamal and Fournier at the Pershing hotel.

John Turville returns for the second instalment of The Shearing Hour on Thursday evening, a piano hour that begins and ends with the inspiration of Sir George Shearing (1919-2011). Take your seats for 7.15. SG

Listen to the trio here play ‘The Mood is Mellow’ from Jazz Moments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w7-87uJ4xA

Book at www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk
/more: www.theshearinghour.tumblr.com

there’s never been a better time

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With the deeply concerning upsurge in support for Euroscepticism of late stoked by the sentimentalism of a hopeless little Englandism and mischief-making in the populist press, a new series of concerts and wider discussion events soon couldn’t come at a better time. The Time and the Place: Culture and Identity in Today’s Europe at Kings Place connects the distant past with the present across national boundaries and cultures featuring artists as distinctive in their own fields as gypsy violinist Roby Farkas and Budapest Bár, saxophonist/MC Soweto Kinch, and Mari Boine (top).

The Kings Place series in London features performance events, discussions and exhibitions with funding from the Humanities in the European Research Area’s (HERA) Joint Research programme working in association with live music producers Serious.

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The HERA network operates across 18 countries and strives for excellence in the humanities, pushing research forward. Events include Budapest Bár with special guests, on 30 May in Hall 1;  Poul Høxbro – Tones and Tales from Distant Lands + Fraser Fifield on 31 May in Hall Two; Soweto Kinch: Urban Landscape also on 31 May in Hall 1; Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia (above) on 1 June in Hall Two; and Mari Boine also 1 June, in Hall 1.

Stephen Graham

More details and how to book: www.kingsplace.co.uk

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
In the Spirit of Duke
Spartacus ***1/2
There is a new creative wave of interest in the music of Duke Ellington at the moment, and if anything the crest of the breakers won’t fully crash on to the obliging beaches of the global jazz community until next year, the fortieth anniversary of the death of the great composer and bandleader.

None of the notable projects though by Terri Lyne Carrington, Mark Lockheart, and others in this zeitgeist, strive for the authenticity that In the Spirit of Duke does. The orchestra’s director and tenor saxophone inspiration Tommy Smith in his sleeve note talks about the pains he went to in this regard: “I managed to get my hands on some authentic mutes from America”, he even writes, and Smith settled to transcribe a small mountain of music including tunes found in movie music and at concerts. Smith was also able to draw on first hand experience performing with Ellingtonians in the Ellington Legacy Orchestra, and on his own record The Sound of Love made a major contribution to new jazz inspired by the master long after the death of Ellington had been mourned in the 1970s.

In the Spirit of Duke was recorded live in Scotland as recently as October and mixed weeks later by Jan Erik Kongshaug in Norway, the great ECM engineer. Not surprisingly the album has meticulous sound and the performances match, with the enthusiasm of audiences adding another decisive element. There’s some fine soloing, notably from Smith himself on album closer ‘Diminuendo in Blue [Wailing Interval] Crescendo in Blue’, Brian Kellock, Ryan Quigley, and Ru Pattison. Fine drummer Alyn Cosker shows his mettle on ‘Diminuendo’, and elsewhere, as does ever Braveheart-like Calum Gourlay who audiences south of the border know only too well for his maraudingly impressive bass forays with Kit Downes among others. This new SNJO album has spirit and energy, but it’s aimed more at connoisseurs of Ellington’s music than for those not naturally drawn to reminisce in tempo so don’t expect postmodern reinvention as there’s none of that here. Do expect lots of energy, consummate musicianship and some jumping for joy: it’s what the music demands after all. SG

Released on 13 March

The cover of In The Spirit of Duke, above

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Jay’s Jitter Jive dance night begins at The Hippodrome casino on Charing Cross Road, just yards from Leicester Square on Wednesday with trumpeter Jay Phelps leading his eight-piece band featuring Lauren Dalrymple on vocals, and Perry Louis, of Jazzcotech renown, leading the dance moves.

Jay, acting a role as one of two trumpeters in the Louis Lester Band, and also on the hit soundtrack of Adrian Johnston’s music for the Dancing on the Edge band, and whose own debut as a leader Jay Walkin’ came out to good reviews in 2010, did a trial run for Jitter Jive just before the end of 2012 at Kings Place. On his website he says speaking of the night at the prestigious York Way venue: “We had a great time playing the music of the era, and we even included three tunes from the Snakehips Johnson band transcribed by Soweto Kinch.”

On recent BBC2 documentary Swinging into the Blitz the death was grippingly recalled of Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, who was among the many to die in the Blitzed-out West End night club Café de Paris, just a few hundred yards from the Hippodrome, on 8 March 1941. Jay performed in the documentary band sequences recreating the Snakehips sound as did Soweto Kinch who has a new record out, The Legend of Mike Smith, released last week, and Jay appears on it in one of the best spots of the whole affair on the ballad ‘Vacuum’, his horn set alongside the elegiac piano of Julian Joseph. SG

Jay’s Jitter Jive is a regular night and the second presentation follows on 27 March. More at http://www.hippodromecasino.com

Jitter jive special: Jay Phelps top

Watch some Cab Calloway jitterbug jive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N06KxYyUZkk

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The historic newly reactivated jazz label Okeh has revealed that it is to issue a solo piano album by the highly rated jazz and classical pianist from the Dominican Republic, Michel Camilo, to be called What’s Up, on 13 May.

This latest album by the Grammy winning band leader follows on from his 2011 trio album Mano a Mano.

Camilo will appear at Ronnie Scott’s in London just ahead of release on 10-11 May with his trio of Cliff Almond and Lincoln Goines.

Camilo in the mid-1980s debuted with Why Not? and his albums Michel Camilo, On Fire, and On the Other Hand were widely played on jazz radio stations in the States, where he had earlier studied at Julliard in New York city.

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Bob James and David Sanborn are also to release Quartette Humaine on Okeh, an acoustic quartet album with James Genus and Steve Gadd, the label has intimated. That’s all set for a 20 May release in the UK.

James and Sanborn worked together with Gadd, plus Marcus Miller and Al Jarreau among others, on hit album Double Vision, a landmark release in the early years of smooth jazz.

Before those releases there’s a various artists album on the blocks called Dalla in Jazz, a tribute to the Bologna-born Italian singer/songwriter Lucio Dalla who wrote monster hit ‘Caruso’ covered by artists as disparate as Maynard Ferguson and (in a multi-million selling version) Luciano Pavarotti.

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Dalla in Jazz features trumpeter Paolo Fresu recently touring in the UK with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and whose Devil Quartet album Desertico has just appeared. Saxophonist Stefano di Battista, and singer Maria Pia De Vito, known for her work with both Huw Warren and Colin Towns also appear on this tribute to Dalla, who died last year. It’s released on 6 May.

But first there’s a new release date for A Different Time, John Medeski’s solo piano album now confirmed for 9 April.

Big Sur, the much anticipated new Bill Frisell album, will be released by Okeh on 3 June. SG

Michel Camilo, top; Bob James with David Sanborn, middle; and Paolo Fresu, above

Further Okeh background as the story unfolded:

http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/34825030411/9284moa

http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/37628707140/2837

For Ronnie Scott’s dates: http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk/performances/view/1212-michel-camilo-trio

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The last Keith Jarrett solo concert in London at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008 became two thirds of the triple album Paris/London: Testament, and memories of that extraordinary night run high still.

Manfred Eicher, founder in 1969 of ECM, Jarrett’s long time label and where the story of his global success began in solo piano terms with the studio album Facing You, speaking in the foyer of the Hall beforehand smiled at the mention of Testament, and recalled it was recorded in Paris as well. “We’re recording tonight,” he said, having made the trip over to be in the hall in person. Jarrett is still finding new audiences, and the National Concert Hall concert in Dublin on Thursday was his first in Ireland in 30 years. Imagine hearing Keith Jarrett for the very first time. 

Like the Testament night that distant December Jarrett started with a wild improvisation, a clearing for what would follow. He could have played in that vein all night as he does on albums such as Radiance, but this was not an improv set in its entirety.

Most of the songs particularly in the second set after the official interval were lovely ballads or ballad-inclined leavened with the gospel-tinged blues: the left hand on one such number showed the groove set-up Jarrett did on such classics as ‘Long As You’re Living Yours’ players such as Brad Mehldau have done much to learn from.

Jarrett only name checked one song, ‘Summertime’, and launched into an anecdote about the night he first played the Gershwin number, a perennial favourite with jazz audiences the world over since Porgy and Bess. It was a night in San Francisco he said when he played the tune for the first time in front of an audience. Jarrett explained that that particular crowd was an unruly one, and he had to take requests and bit by bit the troublemakers melted away. Later Robin Williams came backstage to see him afterwards and congratulated him on getting shot of the troublemakers. Jarrett impersonated the Good Morning Vietnam man’s voice, and then laughed at his own impersonation.

The second half showed a hitherto little known aspect of Jarrett’s public persona: he told jokes and people in the audience laughed. It was a relief, as there is always massive tension at Jarrett gigs, partly why it’s fair to say even if the concerts are demanding they’re so good.

During the first set he left the stage quite early on as he had to take a “two minutes” break. He mentioned “medicines” that he had been taking, and he was gone for about five minutes. That gave the audience a chance to chat to friends or strangers sitting next to them after the enforced stifling silence demanded at his concerts.

Later after the official interval when the man from Allentown came back for the second half referred back to the unscheduled break and the medicines earlier mentioned that people had given him advice on what remedies he should take. He had a cold as it turned out. He said his response to the advice was: “all of them!”

Someone inevitably took pictures despite a very polite announcement by John Cumming of the concert producers Serious at the very beginning. The snapping began shortly after he took the stage for the second set, and the good humour on Jarrett’s part could have dissipated, but didn’t, although Jarrett did say archly that photography is a great art but taking photos on “equipment like that” meaning presumably camera phones “doesn’t make great art.”

People did continue to take pictures bafflingly, even after this, and later on. The Festival Hall was packed, and even the choir stalls sold so Jarrett had people to the left side of him above his head curving round to the sides. The piano position was different to the time he did the Testament concert (the Steinway last night was side on, a lot straighter), and his body language was a bit different as sometimes he sits at the piano almost side saddle at an angle. Sometimes in his posture last night the shape was like an anglepoise lamp. At the beginning of Pixar films there is a short animated sequence and the anglepoise lamp hops about. Jarrett doesn’t hop about, but he does stand up a lot, and the first thing he did last night, was to look inside the piano and reach out to the strings. He vocalised quite a bit as well throughout, humming and sort of singing.

There were four encores at the end, including ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, but most of the great moments came earlier especially on the tune that sounded like the melody of an old 1970s ballad ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ in the theme. Whatever it is called this one was the most beautiful. There was another tune that could have turned into ‘Here’s To Life’. Jarrett isn’t averse to popular songs from more recent times, and on Jasmine, the duo studio album with Charlie Haden, there’s a very good version of Joe Sample and Will Jennings’ ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. Another of last night’s songs had a fine flamenco section (think the spirit of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain). As raconteur in the second half his anecdote about Nürnberg was the most interesting. Maybe it was the March 1973 concert he was referring to, the same year as Solo Concerts Bremen Lausanne made less than 16 months after Facing You. Jarrett said in the university auditorium on that occasion the audience were up close to him. That night, he went on, he said that he was ill (as he was last night) not helped by bad food “Chinese food made by Italians”, as he put it, that he and “my producer here tonight” meaning Manfred Eicher had eaten ahead of the concert all those years ago, but they liked the music made that night. The inference was clear: even though he didn’t feel well it wouldn’t stop the music being good. The most famous instance of this was the later masterpiece The Köln Concert when he had not only eaten bad food beforehand, but had a bad back and was tired after travelling. Last night’s concert wasn’t a classic, but there were many beautiful moments, one or two of these quite moving. The record when it comes out eventually will tell a different story as live records often do with all the extra detail. But no one can forget hearing Keith Jarrett play.

Stephen Graham

UPDATED with setlist added at 6.15

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Draw a line in the sand from Soft Machine to well out into the sea. The tide may have changed many thousands of times since the late-1960s, yet prog jazz or the nuprog, emanating in the Canterbury sound, and more especially psychedelic rock, is increasingly where it’s at in terms of the new wave of experimental Britjazz. It has been for a while. Prog began to be reclaimed after the term became derided for many years as its creativity waned and became bloated and identified with ELP and god help us Rick Wakeman. Psychedelic prog is really at the heart of the matter and it’s very different to say Jon Hiseman’s more jazz-rock approach back in the day. There are only a few bands who come under the banner, you can’t really fake it unless somebody decides to add a click track to it and loads of vocals. So there’s Troyka and World Service Project, and Polar Bear more elliptically. The jazz influences that feed in are very disparate. There’s probably Weather Report in there, big dollops of M-BASE, and spoonfuls of Django Bates and wistful nods to King Crimson.

WSP export the concept all over the place via Match & Fuse, the name east London web producer Lee Paterson dreamt up brainstorming with the band driven by the visionary and well organised Dave Morecroft.

The idea is to link WSP with bands who don’t happen to live their lives in a Redditch potting shed, or whatever the equivalent is in Caen or Stavanger, or play bowls on the village green or discuss the finer points of wood burning in their spare time. These bands include Twin Peaks‘-loving Owls Are Not What They Seem, and the pick of the bunch Pixel, from Norway, now signed to Soft Machine-loving US experimental label Cuneiform.

In arts-speak Match & Fuse has a “primary aim of connecting creative scenes across Europe", which it sort of does. After touring England with Matt Jacobsen’s “two horns/no chords" boffins Redivider last year and playing the Gillett Square M & F all dayer to good effect they hook up with Redivider again this time in Ireland next month. Dates are Dolan’s, Limerick (7 March); Crane Lane Theatre Cork (8 March); and The Twisted Pepper, Dublin (10 March). SG

World Service Project, above

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Alex Wilson
Trio

Alex Wilson Records ***1/2
A prisoner to his big technique and eclecticism at times, the trio format suits Wilson well although the sequencing here doesn’t do him any favours. Big, booming number ‘Kalisz’ named for Paweł Brodowski’s piano festival in Poland is an early peak (it might have been better at the end) but ‘Remercier les travailleurs’ with its Malian lilt is less overly energetic and all the better for it, allowing bassist Davide Mantovani more scope. It’s great to hear drummer Frank Tontoh in a trio setting on an album again, although you can often hear him in clubs such as Hideaway regularly. Recorded live in London and at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, as well as in studios in the capital, the danzón take on ‘Solar’ is a clever departure, and listen hard and you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Not sure about some of the tinkling applause at the beginning of some of the tracks as it makes everything resemble a vicar’s tea party. That’s not much of a drawback on an otherwise effortless sounding release by a pianist clearly hitting his stride.
Released on 15 April

Caswell Sisters
Alive in the Singing Air

Turtle Ridge Records ***
Their first full album together, sisters Rachel and Sara Caswell (Rachel’s the pure-voiced singer, and Sara the intuitive violinist), are joined by a piano trio led by the great Fred Hersch, and that’s the chief interest on this album. But there’s another connection as ‘Song of Life’ and the standout track ‘A Wish’ (introduced beautifully by Hersch) have words by Norma Winstone and music by Hersch. The very influential educator David Baker taught both sisters, and I’m sure he will find a lot to savour on this highly accomplished album. Chamber jazz, but that bit different.
Released on 5 March in the US

Bobby Avey
Be Not So Long To Speak
Minsi Ridge Records ***
The title is a bit clunky, almost a half sentence invented by a bot, but this solo piano album recorded in New York in 2011 with a fairly anonymous wiggy head of hair covering the monochrome cover deserves your attention. It may be overly serious at times and a bit full-on but ‘Late November’ joins the dots more with heavy holds and dark momentum. But listen to Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Stardust’ tucked in at the end before Avey’s own tunes and you’ll get what he’s doing that bit more. Having to acclimatise to this very different sound via a familiar tune makes this slightly odd album by an original thinker that bit easier to grasp.
On release

The Ian Carey Quintet + 1
Roads and Codes
Kabocha Records ***
Heavily influenced by Dave Douglas but with a slightly airier sound, trumpeter Carey did the whole of this album in a day with his band in a San Francisco studio, and it benefits from the real time method at work. More people across the Atlantic are remarking on just how much Kenny Wheeler has influenced them and are playing his tunes and Carey’s the latest. Carey’s own tune ‘Wheels’ here is another tribute, a hipster waltz, that works on more than a name-checking level. Carey, who’s on flugel as well as trumpet, might not have the bite of a player like Tom Arthurs on the instrument but he has a lost-in-the-mirror haze to his style that is really appealing. Inspired by Jim Jarmusch, and Charles Ives as well as Wheeler, there’s nothing stuck in the mud about this young player and his band. SG
On release

The Alex Wilson Trio top

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There’s no more erudite a jazz writer and critic than Brian Morton, in his use of language as a treasure chest, rather than a toolbox, his pen a much needed scalpel for criticism to root out the malign or facilitate the benign, his ear attuned to the kind of phrase you just wished you yourself could have come up with. He also, with the late Richard Cook in the Penguin Guide to Jazz, picked up on new music and then called the shots: like an expert in the paddock looking at how a young colt is shaping up or as an observer stating something obvious yet that no-one has hitherto chosen to express. Brian used to speak of “lost leaders", he probably still does; and would cite a range of greats who qualified: Krzysztof Komeda; Jan Johansson; and Eric Dolphy among them.

Bill Evans was hardly a lost leader but his bassist Scott LaFaro, who died aged 25 in a car crash, most definitely was in the Morton sense. Although no one can really be sure how his career in music would have unfolded, if following a remarkable series of concerts at the Village Vanguard in New York in 1961 he hadn’t died at such a young age. A new novel by Welsh writer Owen Martell takes up the facts and adds the fiction interpreting how LaFaro’s life affected Bill Evans and his family. Intermission takes its title from the crisis in Evans’ life as he was gripped by the trauma of the loss of LaFaro. Boyd Tonkin writing in The Independent says: “Like Evans’ own music, Intermission might prove simply too rarefied and intangible for some tastes; too disdainful of the sweet chords and easy resolutions of major-key story-telling.” He does compare the book favourably to Michael Ondaatje’s novel Coming through Slaughter about fabled trumpeter Buddy Bolden, another “lost leader”, whose memory has become putty in the hands of myth makers notably Wynton Marsalis.

Half-Blood Blues author Esi Edugyan reviewing Intermission in The Guardian today says more directly that Martell’s book is “an introspective, original novel”, and that it concerns family grief as much as it does  the idolising of a musician. She also says: “At its best, this novel stands as a well-written lament… an apt tribute to a music so full of life that even a pause, a silence, can go down howling.”

Morton in the seclusion of bucolic windswept Argyll these days would add some prescient comments of his own on a book about loss and its overthrow of leadership: buffeting jazz in 1961 and an ocean of music since.

Stephen Graham

 

 

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Best rated albums on Marlbank since the beginning of the year

10 Joe Lovano UsFive (date of review 21 February 2013)
Cross Culture
Blue Note ****

9 Jah Wobble/Bill Sharpe (17 February 2013)
Kingdom of Fitzrovia
Storyville ****

8 Terri Lyne Carrington (6 January)
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
Concord **** equivalent

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7 Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran (10 February)
Hagar’s Song
ECM ****

6 Liane Carroll
Ballads

Quiet Money Recordings **** RECOMMENDED (7 February)

5 Rudresh Mahanthappa (7 January)
Gamak

ACT **** RECOMMENDED

4 Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet (30 January)
Wisława
ECM **** RECOMMENDED

3 Soweto Kinch (12 January)
The Legend of Mike Smith
Soweto Kinch Productions **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT RECOMMENDED

2 Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, London Vocal Project (27 January)
Mirrors
Edition **** RECOMMENDED NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT

1 Chris Potter
The Sirens (15 January)
ECM *****

Chris Potter top, Terri Lyne Carrington middle, and the cover of Wisława above

 

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There’s a growing collegiate atmosphere in UK jazz. That sounds odd, as ‘collegiate’ is a term you don’t hear as much here as in US academic circles. It’s unheard of at jazz gigs. Why I say that is the use of the word “fellows” and “fellowships”, in the wake of the announcement last night of the recipients of the first Jazzlines Fellowships in Birmingham. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while and musical instrument company Yamaha got there a while back with their jazz “scholars” scheme. One of the new fellows Lluis Mather was a scholar himself three years ago. The image of musicians, possibly monks, toiling over illuminated manuscripts springs absurdly to mind. There’s even a pun there somewhere.

The Birmingham fellowships offer mentoring, advice and masterclasses, a bit like Take Five that the promoter Serious runs and has extended to a wider European roll-out. But the Birmingham scheme is different, angled at the creation of new work and then the touring of it directly, with no residential element as far as I can make out involved, unlike Take Five’s annual sojourns in Kent. The Jerwood Charitable Foundation’s involvement means the scheme connects with the foundation’s work in other sectors of the arts. 

The three musicians selected are part of the Birmingham and increasingly national scene having graduated from the Conservatoire jazz course, and in trumpeter Percy Pursglove’s case have had an active involvement in running the Harmonic festival, one of the most imaginative new festivals to begin in recent years. Dan Nicholls reminds me in his setting up of magazine Green Chimneys and gigging with his band Strobes of the enterprise demonstrated by someone like World Service Project’s Dave Morecroft, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he isn’t on the talent-spotting Whittingham prize radar already for later in the year as WSP were.

Maybe the Jazzlines fellows will also be in the vanguard of the new jazz in the future. Tony Dudley-Evans of Jazzlines has a good track record working with Jerwood in the past at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and if the new music produced is of the calibre achieved in a festival commission such as the one that resulted in the formation of the band Food then it will prove to be of wider European let alone national significance. So collegiality might be as jazz a word in 2013 as ‘Congeniality’ even if the mortar boards might have to be ditched.   

Stephen Graham

Dan Nicholls (above left), Lluis Mather, and Percy Pursglove.
Photo: John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Ornette Coleman’s ‘Congeniality’ from The Shape of Jazz to Come: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNOzv2KuAAo

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The Manchester scene is a pretty loose term. Take Adam Fairhall who is very much part of it even if he lives 40 miles from the city: he even hails from much further afield, Cornwall. Jazz is not defined by location any longer as Stuart Nicholson first pointed out in his influential book Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved To  A New Address?) and dawned on everyone else despite protests from those with strong home town allegiances. Fairhall could have been part of the Leeds scene as he studied there but Leeds in jazz is different (it’s more punk jazz, no wave, and death-metal referencing) and I’m not making a glib comparison I hope. Leeds spawned Matthew Bourne, trioVD, Roller Trio, and now the intriguing Shatner’s Bassoon. Manchester has Stuart McCallum, Beats & Pieces at the cutting edge 12 Points new band Euro jazz fest in Dublin last week… and Adam Fairhall. Somehow he doesn’t fit in, composers of his distinctiveness and ideas rarely do. Think Django Bates: he’s not part of any place scene is he? Although you can note a geographical location for shorthand he’s usually referred to in terms of Loose Tubes or “his generation", but when you hear Django’s music influencing Norwegian musicians (as on Marius Neset’s new record Birds) or in Brooklyn feeding into Tim Berne’s ideas, you’ll realise that if people could live on the moon they’d probably play Earthling music and so calling it “Moon music” would be a bit ridiculous.

Fairhall plays a range of styles and he can do stride, say, or the rarely heard ragtime styles, but he’s attuned to mavericks in terms of piano, the uncategorisable talents of someone like the much missed Don Pullen. Still in his mid-thirties, a music boffin and academic who has a Phd (not that a doctorate cuts any swath at all on the bandstand), he plays his own music although he crops up as a sideman, and you might come across Fairhall in a Manchester scene place such as Band on the Wall. His records include Imaginary Delta, actually recorded at the Swan Street club, stemming from an original commission by the Manchester Jazz Festival. It’s a suite “celebrating American vernacular forms, early jazz, blues, rags and stomps, featuring unusual instruments”. A high powered gigging septet time travels back and forth with Fairhall, he’s written the music for players such as Golden Age of Steam’s reeds titan James Allsopp, and improv kingpin Paul Rogers who are in the band with him. The Manchester Evening News has written of Fairhall: “There is no jazz code he hasn’t deciphered and mastered.” Do a Bletchley, and hear him in Camden tonight playing music from The Imaginary Delta. SG

Adam Fairhall above

Tickets http://www.forgevenue.org/whats-on/eventdetails/22-feb-13-pianoled-jazz-the-forge/

Watch an interview with Fairhall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk5JsS35-PY

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Next month sees the return to the UK after her ReVoice debut in the autumn of singer Becca Stevens and her band. Known for her work with jazz luminaries who include Eric Harland and Brad Mehldau, the latter who happens to be in Birmingham tonight playing at Town Hall, Stevens, as well as singing in an improvising inclined Björk tribute band, is as attuned to Irish traditional folk music as she is to the latest improvising styles and progressive approaches. But inspirations as unexpected as Paula Abdul jostle in her list of influences as much as Joni Mitchell or even Michael Jackson. Brought up in North Carolina, where she began singing in a band called the Tune Mammals with her mum and dad, Stevens appeared last on these shores in Soho with her band featuring the accordion and keyboards of Liam Robinson; double bass and vocals of Chris Tordini who she knows from New School days; and the drums of Jordan Perlson, while Stevens herself plays guitar and ukulele in addition to singing. Her record Weightless came out in 2011 to favourable notices. Dates are Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (4 March); and Band on the Wall, Manchester (5 March). SG
The Becca Stevens band above

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Joe Lovano UsFive
Cross Culture
Blue Note **** 

It’s a coincidence that Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Star Crossed Lovers’, the fifth track of Joe Lovano’s latest by his two-drummer band UsFive, appears around the same time as Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran’s Hagar’s Song on which Lloyd interprets the song that famously featured on Ellington’s Shakespeare-themed 1957 album Such Sweet Thunder. The Memphis man, though, opts for the alternative title the tune is known for, ‘Pretty Girl’. The two versions are strikingly different: Lloyd’s the spaces between the notes, and the poetry of the song; Lovano’s the lovingly rendered ur-text of the melody there for the ear to tune into, and as natural as the rain in the evocative flow of his improvising. As writer Willard Jenkins in the liner note puts it: “There’s a very humane quality to his saxophonic pronouncements.” And it’s that sense Jenkins alerts us to that is at the heart of another fine Lovano album, his 23rd for the label, a staggering record of achievement over many years.
Stephen Graham

Out now
The cover of Cross Culture, above

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The University of Southampton music department has confirmed the conferring of a Turner Sims professorship on pianist and composer Dave Stapleton. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama piano graduate and co-founder of the jazz independent record label Edition last year released his eighth album to date, Flight, featuring his jazz quartet plus the Brodowski string quartet. In his new position Stapleton will mentor and lecture university music students. In the spring he appears with the Edition quartet at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of Connexions with a concert at the Parabola on 4 May. SG

Dave Stapleton pictured

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One of the most notorious and ill fated drains on the public purse in the late-1990s was the egregious waste of many millions of pounds poured into ill fated Hackney venue Ocean. Kitted out with a state-of-the-art sound system, and beautifully designed, its booking policy though was a disaster from the off, and it quickly became a beacon for Saturday night fighting and general mayhem combined with the frittering away of much new millennial period cash. But there were some notable gigs, and in those days the Arts Council of England’s Contemporary Music Network put on the best international big budget and elephant eared jazz and improv-related art-jazz national tours, and in 2001 at Ocean one of these featured an appearance by P.I.L. alumnus dub bass exponent Jah Wobble with his Solaris band that included bass genius Bill Laswell and drummer Jaki Liebezeit, a founder of the influential Cologne Krautrock band Can. The sound system at  Ocean captured the filthy underground rumble of this mighty music machine thrillingly to the nth degree.

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Forewarning you dear reader, to move you right up to speed with the imminent arrival of a slab of laidback audio pleasure, Kingdom of Fitzrovia (****) is on the horizon for an April release courtesy of the historic Danish jazz label Storyville not otherwise known for its commitment to post-Milesian funk. Teaming Wobble with keyboardist Bill Sharpe who was in late-disco funksters Shakatak beloved of the people who liked to ride around in Capri Ghias in the 1980s, and a band that also includes former Nu-Trooper Sean Corby here on trumpet and flugel plus Marc Layton-Bennett at the kit, house music singer PJ Higgins, and Sharpe-approved guitarist Fridrik Karlsson, the eight tunes written by Wobble and Sharpe take on the concept of the central London area of Fitzrovia as a framing device, and the album was recorded there in a Berners Street studio. Wobble mentions that Fitzrovia was where the forward thinking Chartists met in the 1830s, and during the counterculture of the 1960s was home to the psychedelic UFO club. In his notes Wobble also refers to 1982 Saul Bellow novel The Dean’s December (by way of Ian McEwan) whose character Albert Corde eats at a restaurant called the Étoile on Charlotte Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the area and now paradoxically at the heart of Adland. “Bill and I regularly dined at Étoile while recording KoF,” Wobble recalls. “During lulls in our conversation we would sense the collective spectral, bohemian spirit of the Kingdom of Fitzrovia.” What’s on the menu on this attractive album is a Milesian spirit courtesy of Corby, although the album is probably closer to Bob Belden’s approach, which is the right kind of lineage, and the rhythm section is consistently excellent. ‘Loquacious Loretta’ has a superb groove, for instance, and drummer Marc Layton-Bennett from the evidence of this track alone, won’t be under anyone’s radar for too long, while Sharpe’s album-stealing suitably laconic solo is a gem. 

Stephen Graham

Released on 15 April. The album cover top. Jah Wobble above and Bill Sharpe play the Islington Assembly Hall on 26 April.

UPDATE (20/2/13): Shakatak dates coming up include Gala Theatre Durham (1 March); Hideaway, Streatham, London (9 March); Nantwich Jazz Festival, Cheshire (30 March); The Robin, Bilston (5 April); Lighthouse, Poole (6 April); and Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (13-16 June)