Fresh from his “sit down" comedy shows in Edinburgh Ian Shaw was on familiar ground at a venue he loves, the Vortex, and where he is constantly asked back and plays several times a year, even appearing there on New Year’s Eve. At the end of his gig last night he was comfortable enough to be found behind the bar talking in relaxed form to old friends and newcomers alike who had filed in to fill up the Gillett Square club earlier.

The concert was, I don’t want to use the expression but here goes anyway, a game of two halves, with the first a run of songs from Ian’s fine new Fran Landesman album A Ghost in Every Bar released on Sussex indie jazz label Splashpoint. Accompanying himself on the piano mostly he was joined towards the end of the first half only vacating the stool for pianist Simon Wallace who co-wrote many of the songs by the great Landesman featured on the album.

Best known of course for standards ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ and ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’, Landesman songs have a depth and a bittersweet realness few lyricists achieve, and Ian who has a strong affinity with her songs developed over many years was then joined on ‘Ballad’ by Sue Richardson on flugelhorn, to add that extra touch of piquancy. 

After the break, Ian turned to his Edinburgh show A Bit of a Mouthful, named he said mischievously for the jaw-breaking Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, as he’s from Wales. Frequently hilarious the show charts topics featuring tall tales of love and sex from Shaw’s point of view of, as he puts it, “a practising homosexual." Some are deliciously rude (the tale of the hapless Gareth, for instance), and a beautifully conceived list song featuring lots of Internet acronyms. Best of all was his James Taylor pastiche which was very, very funny, even managing a good old swipe at James Blunt which was well aimed. At the end Shaw topped it off expertly by seguing beautifully into Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone Again Naturally’, which was wonderfully done. A hugely enjoyable night all in all.

Stephen Graham

Ian Shaw pictured above

Jacky Terrasson


Universal France **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT

A welcome return from pianist Terrasson whose profile has dipped lately but who is newly signed to a major label after a spell in the past with Blue Note. Terrasson follows the Yaron Herman path a little by choosing unusual pop songs to cover (Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ the equivalent of Herman doing Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ a while back), but there’s nothing gimmicky in the slightest about Gouache, which also features a fun version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’, some Satie, original music of Terrasson’s, and listen out for the delicate and affecting voice of rising star Cécile McLorin Salvant on John Lennon’s ‘Oh My Love’. The latter provides some spine tingling moments on what is overall a fine jazz pop-inclined album full of delights that draw you back in time through jazz history, a nod to James P Johnson here, a Herbie-ism there, but all these styles are stood back from, absorbed, and given a nowadays personality. Terrasson also plays Rhodes on some tracks, and he shows considerable depth throughout both as a soloist (on the Chopin-esque ‘Happiness’) and an accompanist, particularly set against the trumpet of Stéphane Belmondo on some tracks. 
Released on Monday

Diana Krall

Glad Rag Doll

Verve ***

A very different Diana Krall at work on this T Bone Burnett-produced album, with a rootsy Americana flavour, recorded on an old nineteenth century piano, that unmistakable voice and lots of guitar. There’s very little jazz, possibly even none, but instead mature interpretations of songs ranging from the 1920s and 30s to the 50s. Glad Rag Doll, which takes its name from the Ager/Dougherty/Yellen song, the fifth track, has people like Marc Ribot cropping up to considerable effect, and it’s a bit of a reality check when you hear him in this context as other projects of his have included the wildly different Spirits Rejoice Albert Ayler project with Henry Grimes that played in London last year. The Krall band besides Ribot and producer Burnett on guitar by contrast has ukulele player Howard Coward, drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Dennis Crouch, guitarists Bryan Sutton and Colin Linden, plus keyboardist Keefus Green. Krall, it’s easy to forget, began as a pianist and mentored by the late great Ray Brown developed her vocals side, becoming a very high class and much celebrated jazz singer who then switched to co-write her own songs on The Girl in The Other Room, away from her earlier interests in say the music of Nat King Cole. I think this album will appeal to Bill Frisell or Bob Dylan fans a bit, maybe Charlie Haden devotees even, at the country end of his work, will take to it as well. Highlights here are Doc Pomus’ ‘Lonely Avenue’, which is an interesting contrast to say the way Van Morrison interprets the song, and a deeply satisfying rendition of the Millers’ ‘Wide River To Cross’. A sophisticated album, with unexpected pleasures including the tempo and feel of ‘When The Curtain Comes Down’ and one that shows considerable artistic growth despite the tacky artwork. Clearly Krall won’t be pigeonholed, although of course that is not an ultimate end in itself and not the point of the album at all. What though is harder to ascertain is whether it is just a bunch of songs or not.  
Released on Monday 15 October

Mick Coady’s Synergy

Nine Tales of the Pendulum

Jelly Mould ***

‘Naturally Liberating Molecules’ might be the most science-laden song title I have come across in a while (ask Irish bassist Coady after the gig what the song title means if you catch him and his band on tour this autumn). More familiar although that bit more metaphysical is Ivo Neame’s ‘Unseen Coracle’, which also features on the pianist’s octet album Yatra released soon. Featuring the cerebral circuitously engaging US alto sax player David Binney and with Irish jazz scene faces drummer Sean Carpio and saxophonist Michael Buckley joining Coady and Neame, Nine Tales is intelligent music making, with an engaging abstract accent that fans of Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman will relate to. Released in October

Davide Mantovani


Equilateral Records ***

While a little over produced but with a pleasantly pan-global feel to it UK-based Italian bassist Davide Mantovani is well known for his work as a sideman with a range of leading jazz artists including Zoe Rahman, who appears here on a number of tracks. At times the album transports you to Africa via the kora of Madou Sidiki Diabate (on ‘Choice is Yours’), but also skips back in time to the baroque for a brief foray into the world of Bach. But Choices also recalls the Pat Metheny Group at times, the approach of Antonio Forcione as well occasionally, and features tunes mainly by Mantovani that will delight this well liked and tasteful player’s fans and maybe newcomers as well.
Released on 24 September

Anat Cohen



Highly accomplished clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone player, a critics’ favourite in the States, and rightly so, Anat Cohen doesn’t take herself too seriously and there is a finely honed character in her extraordinarily burnished playing at times as well as monstrously well developed technique. Go straight to her down home version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The Wedding’, which could bring her many new fans and wider audiences beyond America if news of this release spreads beyond New York and she tours. But with a band that includes the hip Jason Lindner on piano, skilled bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freeman with special guests among them Wycliffe Gordon there’s much to savour on an album that slightly perversely uses the Spanish spelling of the Italian word ‘chiaroscuro’ in its title (a mere quibble, incidentally). Don’t forget to catch Cohen’s wonderful take on Artie Shaw’s ‘Nightmare’ with Paquito d’Rivera guesting.

US release date 25 September

Stephen Graham

A few thoughts immediately spring to mind about The Master. First of all it’s a very long wait until November when the film, the latest by Paul Thomas Anderson is released. Anderson, for Magnolia and more recently There Will Be Blood, is one of the artiest of ‘commercial’ arthouse directors possessing the unique ability to combine the most arresting of visual images (think the frogs raining from the sky to the waifish wailing of Aimee Mann or the gushing of Brahms to the blackest of an oil well in spate in Blood) to music. Secondly, with a score once again on an Anderson film by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (pictured below), there is beyond the gloriously fractured themes infused by the spirit of the Polish classical avant garde (Penderecki, who Greenwood has worked with, and maybe Lutoslawski) music which accompanies a plot that concerns itself with the story of a Naval veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix coming home from war who falls under the spell of The Cause (pick a cult, any cult) led by its maverick and slightly disturbing leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who you’ll remember was the much put upon nurse in Magnolia.

From what I’ve heard so far of the score it has a substantial, fibrous feel to it, with plenty of crunch points that effortlessly point to a sense of mystique without appearing to do so in an obvious way. The Master is debuting at The Venice Film Festival this week and undoubtedly early reviews will appear in the national press shortly.

The other aspect that occurs to me that is worth mentioning is the way the extra music in the film, whether it is ‘Get Thee Behind Me Satan’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald, or ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)’ performed by Madisen Beaty, or the spooky version of Chopin’s Tristesse ‘No Other Love’ by Jo Stafford or best of all the ambiguous ‘Changing Partners’ by Helen Forrest (pictured top) makes you revisit songs that on a reissued CD would not be so gripping all together. That’s partly the skill of the juxtaposing of this often old-sounding music with the very modern Greenwood score, so the context changes the perception. Older readers will recall Forrest who had wartime hits with the Harry James band, but on this soundtrack is accompanied by the Sy Oliver orchestra.

One final thing about the music, it features Shabaka Hutchings, Neil Charles and Tom Skinner collectively Zed-U, along with veteran Humphrey Lyttelton clarinettist Jimmy Hastings and the London Contemporary Orchestra violinist Daniel Pioro on the eighth track, which is titled ‘Able-Bodied Seamen’. A certain clarinet-led experimental modernism Greenwood explores heavily on this track and adds that bit more interest for jazz people with their involvement here. So remember, remember the fifth of November when the soundtrack is released by Nonesuch: it might even send you off to explore the vocal jazz of the 1940s with renewed interest.

Stephen Graham

Journey into the night on the jazz scene anywhere and you’ll find people you’d never even imagined were there playing like their lives depended on it.

Subterranean by nature, nocturnal by instinct, they thrive on the spontaneous, and instigate creative situations that in time mutate into the music of the future. They could come from anywhere. Jamming, they play gigs starting ever later in the evening, eventually surfacing as night becomes day with a visit to a studio and an album that often or not causes a stir.

Guitarist Hannes Riepler is one such musician who, for the past two years, has been organising weekly concerts and jam sessions at Charlie Wright’s club in Hoxton, a hub for musicians on the up and up, and for visiting luminaries passing through London wishing to let off a bit of steam in John Nash’s congenial bar a short stroll from where the Bass Clef fulfilled a similar role in the 1990s.

Riepler is 33, from Austria, and is influenced by the likes of John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel. His debut self-penned album The Brave just released by Huddersfield indie jazz label Jellymould matches the guitarist, whose roots are in the acoustic period of jazz from the 1950s and 60s, to a strong band. His fellow Bravehearts include Troyka’s Kit Downes; Ma’s saxophone hard hitter Tom Challenger; newcomer bassist Ryan Trebilcock; and Kairos 4tet’s drummer, Jon Scott. Recorded in the spring of 2010, Riepler arrived in London via study in Amsterdam more than half a decade ago, and honed his sound by checking out the scene all over London playing with young stars along the way including the late trumpeter Richard Turner who died in tragic circumstances last summer, and who The Brave is dedicated to along with Riepler’s dad. Stephen Graham

Hannes Riepler, leads the jam session every Tuesday at Charlie Wright’s in Hoxton.

This is a small extract from an article published in the July issue of Jazzwise available in larger branches of WH Smith and selected local newsagents. Download the app from the Apple store for the Jazzwise iPhone and tablet edition, or subscribe at

Brass Jaw saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist Euan Stevenson have come together to record New Focus, a quartet album with additional string quartet and harp instrumentation, to be released by bassist Michael Janisch’s label Whirlwind just ahead of this year’s London Jazz Festival.

The album features original music by the pair working inside a quartet, which also comprises Scottish National Jazz Orchestra drummer Alyn Cosker, and Janisch on bass; and they’re joined by the Glasgow String Quartet, made up of players from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and harpist Alina Bzhezhinska.

Recorded and mixed at Castlesound Studios in Scotland and released on 5 November, tracks are: ‘Nicola’s Piece’, ‘Intro’, ‘El Paraiso’, ‘For Ray’, ‘Interlude’, ‘Music for a Northern Mining Town’, ‘Illuminate’, ‘Dziadzio’, ‘Leonard’s Lament’ and ‘Parsons Green.’

While Glasgow-based Wiszniewski is well known for his work with the hard gigging Brass Jaw and in his writing for New Focus draws on his Polish and Scottish heritage, Stevenson is less known outside Scotland but with influences including Oscar Peterson, George Shearing and Bill Evans the pianist has quickly achieved a following in his homeland in a relatively short space of time with BBC Radio Scotland broadcasts bringing his music to an audience far beyond the jazz club and concert hall circuit. Stevenson also leads his own standards-rooted trio, and has worked as an arranger for trumpeter Colin Steele’s high powered Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra. Tour dates include the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on 26 September; Glasgow Art Club (27 Sept); Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (13 November); The Institute, New Lanark (24 Nov); and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (29 Nov).

Stephen Graham

Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson pictured above

With little advance fanfare tomorrow sees the release of the latest album for Blue Note by US-based Beninese jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. Co-produced by labelmate Robert Glasper whose own record Black Radio this year has marked a turning point in his own already rocketing career and who returns to the UK for the iTunes festival next month, Heritage is Loueke’s third album for Blue Note a label that signed him after Loueke appeared on a couple of Terence Blanchard records. Loueke, who has also toured extensively with Herbie Hancock as recently as his Imagine Project tour, also contributed to the Blanchard band’s songbook, and ‘Benny’s Tune’ if you haven’t heard it, is to my mind one of the best jazz compositions across the board in the last decade. It’s like a standard in the making with a distinctively bittersweet poignancy.

Heritage has dispensed with Loueke’s longstanding trio of bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth, so instead there’s electric bassist Derrick Hodge, who you’ll know from Robert Glasper’s band, and who is himself to release a debut as a leader for Blue Note. And there’s also Mark Guiliana, the drummer who made such an impact with UK jazz lovers on Alive by Phronesis and previously when he played with Avishai Cohen. Heritage has seven new Loueke tunes, a couple by Glasper, who also plays on many of the tracks, and another distinguishing feature of the album is background vocal glimpses of singer Gretchen Parlato on a few tracks.

There’s a real warmth to the album and it sounds undeniably Loueke from the first notes. It’s interesting that in the past he has talked about liking George Benson’s music when he started out and was thinking about playing jazz, and particularly the 1970s album Weekend in LA. Well, Heritage is a world away from the Benson sound but both players share an instant ability to communicate their musical ideas however complex. With Glasper’s involvement and a new band the message will get across that bit more directly with Heritage I think and maybe Loueke’s vocals will come to the fore more and more as his career develops. ‘Tribal Dance’, the third track, written by Glasper, has a beautiful warmth to it opening up for Loueke to expand on the bed of percussion and vocals behind him, but there’s a lot of strong material throughout and above all Heritage works as a play-through album, which is always better than just a series of tracks in isolation unless you just want the thrill of a pop hit. Glasper’s input gives Loueke’s approach a new creative energy and it’s interesting that Loueke was an original member of Glasper’s band the Experiment. How recent jazz history would have been different if he had stayed. Let’s hope Loueke plays the UK again soon so we can hear some of these songs live.

Stephen Graham

Nadje Noordhuis

Nadje Noordhuis

Little Mystery Records ***

Another of the burgeoning new-melodic school, trumpet/flugel player Nadje Noordhuis, from Sydney, based in New York since 2008, was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk competition the year before.

In her mid-thirties, a member of underground jazz composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, her band on this debut is full of good players including pianist Geoff Keezer, drummer Obed Calvaire, and bassist Joe Martin, and it’s easy to feel at ease with the chamber-jazz material, instantly attractive and approachable from the first sounds of the little piano figure on opener ‘Water Crossing.’

Fourth track ‘Big Footprint’ draws the musical world of Kenny Wheeler to mind, but the record also presents a very different side to Geoff Keezer, particularly if you think of him in terms of say his Rhodes work with Christian McBride’s jazz-rock band. Keezer is instead more like the pianist on a mid-20th century prairie period drama, and Sara Carswell’s violin playing on ‘Waltz for Winter’ completes this sepia tinted impression.

The last track ‘Open Road’, Noordhuis says this about on her blog: “I was thinking to myself ‘I want to write a tune as beautiful as a Pat Metheny ballad.’" And in some ways she has, although Metheny doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious source, which is probably a good sign. It’s a record that’s hard to dislike, but could do with a bit more of an edge at times, although the young trumpeter has a very expressive narrative style that lifts the record’s appeal immeasurably.

Stephen Graham

Released on 9 October in the US

Nadje Noordhuis, pictured top

Kurt Elling

1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project

Concord ****

An album about songs and the craft of songwriters centred around the famed building in Midtown Manhattan where for some 40 years some of the most universally loved songs in American popular music were created. Elling begins with ‘On Broadway’ and his typically knowing way with both the lyrics of a song and his rapport with the band mean it feels as if he’s making you ‘unhear’ these very familiar songs. Initial listens suggest Bacharach/David’s ’ A House is Not A Home’ and Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ are the go-to tracks but Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ will intrigue Zappa fans as well.

Released on 25 September. Kurt Elling, with Sheila Jordan, plays the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 14 November

The Bad Plus

Made Possible


With this release you get the feeling that The Bad Plus have come up with something radically different. It’s almost as if they have begun all over again, with synthesizers and electronic drums added to the acoustic trio setting. The album comprises a bunch of original, frequently gripping, tunes, and a take on the late Paul Motian’s ‘Victoria’. Pianist Ethan Iverson says that Made Possible “is the sound of getting together in your garage and all committing, no matter what, seeing what you can make up today.” This frequently engrossing album indicates such an approach has more than paid off.

Released on 25 September in the States, and on 22 October internationally. The Bad Plus play Ronnie Scott’s in London on 23 and 24 October.

The Bad Plus photo by Cameron Wittig

Philip Dizack

End of an Era

Truth Revolution ***

Very promising, with a high-register sense of abandon and plenty of guts, trumpeter Philip Dizack is still a new name on a crowded US scene. Slightly reminiscent of Christian Scott (circa the album Anthem) it’s been seven years since the Milwaukee player’s debut, Beyond a Dream. With tracks featuring two separate bands, one with Linda Oh, the bassist most likely to storm through from the underground jazz scene in America, Blue Note artist pianist Aaron Parks and Herbie Hancock drummer Kendrick Scott, and strings even, it’s an ambitious project that came to fruition with the help of some Kickstarter fundraising. If Coldplay ever become remotely hip it will be thanks to the likes of Dizack for covering songs of theirs such as the heart-on-sleeve ‘What If’, the fifth track here.

Stephen Graham

Released on 2 October in the US

Next month at Ronnie Scott’s there’s a fascinating two-night Late Late Show presentation in prospect that aims to summon up the spirit of The Establishment, the legendary Greek Street club founded by Peter Cook that gave birth to the 1960s satire boom.

Actor Keith Allen is to MC the shows, which begin just a half an hour shy of midnight on 19 and 20 September.

The Establishment was a revelation in 1961, and as the Ronnie’s website relates, the club featured uncensored stand-up comedy giving “a platform to radical, political, and anarchic performers (everyone from Lenny Bruce to Barry Humphries)."

Dudley Moore used to play jazz at the Establishment and his role for these evenings now falls to Ronnie’s musical director James Pearson who will play Moore rarities. New comedy, cabaret, burlesque and musical talent as yet to be confirmed are also to play an intrinsic part of the presentation, and Private Eye writer Victor Lewis-Smith is to provide a Pathé News style round-up of the week’s news to begin each evening.

Stephen Graham

For more go to

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

Now Here This

Abstract Logix ****

This is a deceptive release. Listen to the first tracks ‘Trancefusion’ and ‘Riff Raff’ and you’d swear the record was a generic jazz-rock fusion album with Ranjit Barot adopting the Billy Cobham role, and McLaughlin not sounding like himself at all. But everything changes from ‘Echoes From Then’ on, as Etienne M’Bappé steers the band on a loping, boogie-ing tilt, and Gary Husband moving into more open improvising territory. M’bappé produces a lovely figure at the beginning of ‘Wonderfall’ and so, lo and behold, the album suddenly becomes much more tender and approachable. ‘Not Here Not There’ is where McLaughlin really opens up in terms of expression rather than firepower, utterly remarkable at 70 or any age.  

Released on 15 October

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

St Peter & 57th St

Rounder ***

Marking 50 years of a trad jazz institution recorded at Carnegie Hall in January St Peter & 57th St is a starry gathering with Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle (a big highlight on ‘Taint Nobody’s Business’) and remarkably Merrill Garbus of the toggle-case loving Tuneyards. Check your deeply ingrained ideas about trad at the door or you’ll miss out on a few gems here.

Released on 24 September

The Cloudmakers Trio with Ralph Alessi

Live at the Pizza Express

Whirlwind ****

Recorded in 2010 this classy release, with great artwork and live sound faithfully captured by the Pizza Express’ sound engineer Luc Saint-Martin complementing the quality of the musicianship at play, the Cloudmakers allow once more a good hard look at Jim Hart’s outstanding vibes playing. The existential, at times admittedly overly-serious, sound of trumpeter Ralph Alessi is the main thing you’ll hear upfront on many of the tracks, but there is a complex set of rhythms at play from the trio that demands more detailed listening, as anyone who has heard bassist Michael Janisch play in whatever context over the past five years will testify to. Outhouse’s Dave Smith is typically capable, and this release will also do much to raise the profile of Whirlwind not just for the undoubted taste it brings to its output, but also the label’s improving presentation, something that many indie jazz labels don’t think hard enough about. 

Released on 10 September

Stephen Graham

Here’s a book, Soul Unsung: Reflections on the Band in Black Popular Music, crying out to be written. And who better to write it than Kevin Le Gendre. It’s the award winning music writer’s first book, although his essays have appeared between hard covers before, for instance in the anthology Ic3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain edited by Courttia Newland and Kadija Sesay, published a dozen or so years ago.

Soul Unsung, to be issued with a slightly different title in the States, was published in the UK on 1 August by the Sheffield-based Equinox, who have already published important jazz-related books on Lee Morgan and Ian Carr to name but two. I, for one, am looking forward immensely to reading Kevin’s book, as the Tottenham-based writer has that rare ability to make you think that bit harder, and feel that bit more deeply about jazz, and its position within the bigger socio-economic and cultural orbit. 

The book “celebrates the contribution of players of instruments to soul", and “offers insights into the state of contemporary soul and its relationship with jazz, rock and hip-hop," according to the blurb you’ll find on Amazon. The great jazz writer Ashley Kahn says this of the book: "Le Gendre does a yeoman’s job — with the creative approach of a songwriter and the uplifting spirit of a Sunday preacher — at unveiling the long-hidden history of the legendary instrumentalists of the Golden Era of Soul. A must-read for any student of culture." Praise indeed. 

Stephen Graham

Kevin Le Gendre, pictured

Brian Eno (above) is to remix live at September’s Punkt festival in the southern Norwegian city of Kristiansand.

Eno, the festival’s artistic director for 2012, doesn’t often appear on stage these days, and will take to the Alfa Room, the live remix room at the heart of the festival renowned for the immediate remixing of live sets by a variety of complementary artists.

Alfa is like a stage and studio hybrid, an extension of festival curators Jan Bang and Erik Honoré’s concept in integrating live sampling and live electronics, with remixing at its core.

Other artists set to appear are: Cyclobe, Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown’s electronic project founded in 1999 playing only their third concert; Malian guitarist/n’goni player Guimba Kouyaté; singer/composer Ebe Oke, who Eno has collaborated with in recent years; Iceland-based Australian electronicist Ben Frost; Canadian violinist Owen Pallett; live ambient remixers Marconi Union; Icelanders glitch electronica outfit Múm; and noisniks Three Trapped Tigers.

Stephen Graham


Ian Shaw

A Ghost in Every Bar: The Lyrics of Fran Landesman

Splashpoint ****

When Fran Landesman died last year there was a real outpouring of not just understandable sorrow at the loss of an influential writer and convivial human being, but also an instant recognition of the artistry and huge effect her meaningful, slightly cynical, but very real, songs had on people. Above all the reaction was a reflection of what the songs meant to singers on the jazz scene and London’s closely converging literary circles, particularly among the beat writers and their modern day counterparts.

While ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ and ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’, written with Tommy Wolf, are her widely acknowledged major achievements, proof should it be needed that there was so much more beyond these non pareils is provided by this exemplary album. Landesman liked Ian Shaw’s version of ‘Spring’: “Who’s playing my song?" Shaw recalls her saying, as she discovered him sight reading from sheet music he had found in her house in Islington where he had been rehearsing with her son Miles.

So Shaw is clearly the right person to bring something to the fireside, and perform the songs both Fran wrote with Wolf in the 1950s, and much more recently with Simon Wallace, who fittingly plays piano on all the tracks apart from the three Shaw accompanies himself on. I’m quite partial to hearing Shaw accompanying himself, something I only properly realised when Shaw played a duo gig with Gwyneth Herbert at the Pizza Express Jazz Club earlier this year. But Wallace is ideal throughout. 

A Ghost in Every Bar, what an evocative title for the album, features some Landesman/Wallace songs previously unheard comprising the bittersweet but lonesome ‘Stranger’ ("waiting for a meeting with that special person"), ‘Noir’, and the witty ‘Killing Time’, OK not the most instantly memorable of songs, but this album is clearly destined for a long term relationship, one I know I’ll be picking off the shelf and listening to time and again with great pleasure. Why so? It’s both the quality of the lyrics and the performance, Shaw never oversells the songs but draws out their nuances so you feel there is a roomful of interior and exterior conversations at play. ‘Small Day Tomorrow’, which Landesman wrote with Bob Dorough, and ‘Spring’ are the tracks I have gravitated towards most so far, but this may well change with repeated plays.

It’s lazy journalism to say that this is such-and-such’s best album with a broad stroke of the pen and and no further justification. But for me it is Shaw’s greatest achievement, and I’ll explain it by saying that it’s more so than even his best work A World Still Turning recorded in New York, and the Joni Mitchell songbook Drawn To All Things. It’s so good because Ian creates more of a personal dream world of the imagination here than either of these considerable highlights quite achieve. It’s a process of transforming the simple notes or words lifted from the pulpiest of pages into something that makes you experience the moment you’re hearing it, with that much more significance. There’s no pretending on this most poetic of albums, and an uncanny empathy that’s quite remarkable. 

Stephen Graham

A Ghost in Every Bar: The Lyrics of Fran Landesman is available now


It’s always sad when someone whose music you admire and who you’ve even met a few times passes away. Even more so when it’s someone with such a freewheeling spirit as Tomasz Szukalski, the saxophonist, who has died in a Piaseczno hospital in Poland. He was not very old, just 64, and even though he wasn’t that well known outside his native land he was very well known indeed inside Poland, liked, admired and revered inside the country often winning polls as the leading jazz saxophonist. His playing on Stanko’s album Balladyna alone is a great legacy and testimony to his endeavours.

A true bohemian who embraced the jazz lifestyle and had an infectious smile and big personality, Szukalski, known as the Jackal, was the sort of person jazz needs. Not boring and with a willingness to reach out to any audience who cares to pitch up, listeners always got something out of his playing even if he wasn’t by any chalk an innovator nor would he have wanted to have been. He had too much modesty.

But he did make you think and he had a fine strong sound, Slavic, for sure, and with the blues at its heart as well. He was best known for his work with Stanko, and with alto hero Zbigniew Namysłowski. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease in recent years.

From Warsaw Szukalski was born on 8 January 1948. He studied clarinet at the Academy of Music and first made his mark nationally at the Jazz on the Oder festival in 1970 when he won a prize for his playing, ushering him in to play with the Polish Radio Jazz Studio Orchestra. He’s to be found on Namysłowski’s great album Winobranie, and the classic Kujaviak Goes Funky. But with Stanko in 1975 he left his most indelible mark on Balladyna in a band that also featured the wondrous bass playing of Dave Holland and Stanko’s great soul mate Edward Vesala on drums. In the 1980s Szukalski made a great splash with the band Time Killers in the company of keyboards hero Wojciech Karolak, and the diminutive Czeslaw Bartkowski on drums, and the album received suitable acclaim in the Polish music press notably in Jazz Forum magazine, the country’s leading authority on jazz. Stephen Graham

John Turville Trio


F-IRE Records ***

A surprise Parliamentary Jazz Award winner for best album last year when Turville’s debut Midas garnered enough votes to win, the 33-year-old Walthamstow scene pianist/composer has earned more than his share of plaudits in his short career to date although he is still fairly unknown to the wider public.

Here with Jamie Cullum bassist Chris Hill and drummer Ben Reynolds joined by cellist Eduardo Vassallo on some tracks, Turville comes across in the manner of Gwilym Simcock at first. It’s highly proficient, of course, but somehow fails to engage on the opener ‘Pharaoh Ant’, while his arrangement of Radiohead’s ‘Scatterbrain’, which draws out Turville’s more rhapsodic side is also a bit on the undercooked side. Then again until Blues Vignette many people recognised Simcock’s talent but failed to connect emotionally with him until he managed to unlearn a certain amount of musical baggage from his hothoused youth.

Turville certainly shows his learning, and has been compared by some critics to John Taylor, in itself quite a compliment, but fairly meaningless especially here. Maybe it’s an allusion to a specific style of chamber jazz Turville is pursuing, it’s hard to say, which prompts the linking of the two.

Conception, taking its name from the George Shearing bop original arranged sympathetically by Turville, is the final track here and worth the wait. But don’t forget Hill who plays a big role in the band sound overall, and he also writes one of the more expressive tunes in ‘Old Park Avenue’, with Reynolds more functional but pretty handy throughout, and in what makes all the difference the tango-like input of Vassallo who enters the fray with ‘Barrio Once’ and sticks around on ‘Elegia’ when the album only really starts to get going.

It’s a hard album to like but easy enough to admire particularly as structurally it’s strong with clear notions of episodic form and a sense of the wider world especially when Vassallo is involved. However, there are many fine piano trios around and it’s not clear given the presence of cello if Turville actually wishes to lead a piano trio or a flexible ensemble instead, his writing hints at the latter.

The album was recorded at the famed Artesuono studio in Italy, and mention ought to be made of engineer Stefano Amerio who has a reputation in Italy akin to Jan Erik Kongshaug’s in Norway for world class sound. He’s been working with the hit Hamburg trio Tingvall to telling effect as well as with Trio Libero, Craig Taborn, Anouar Brahem, Marcin Wasilewski, and a host of others. Conception has some handsome sonic clarity; if only the songs were that bit more memorable, but Turville has time on his side.

Stephen Graham

John Turville plays the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on 27 September. Conception is released on 1 October and further live dates are: Jazz at the Fleece, Stoke By Nayland Hotel, Suffolk (5 October); Dempsey’s Cardiff (9 Oct); The Castle, Wellingborough (11 Oct); Hidden Rooms, Cambridge (14 Oct); Symphony Hall foyer Birmingham (19 Oct); St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall (23 Oct); Performance Centre, Falmouth (24 Oct); 606, London (6 November); and The Cellar, Southampton (12 November)

It’s one of the questions of our age. No, not how do we stop global warming or tackle world poverty, but does the venerable ECM label have a sense of humour? Even a tiny bit. Well you may contend that an inanimate object is unlikely ever to have a sense of anything, but as we’re all guilty of conferring human qualities on our most cherished pets then why not ponder on whether the label that brought us such pieces of art as Afric Pepperbird, The Köln Concert, Officium and Khmer has a funny bone, or not, as the case may be.

Mostly ECM as everyone knows is about the deadly serious making of music, although there is brooding and there is downright blatant moodiness and there’s many an ECM album that could do with a little bit of lightening up. Someone close to producer and label founder Manfred Eicher, even the great man himself, must have thought we have to loosen up. So step forward the perfect man for the job: Enrico Rava. That may explain the unlikeliest ECM album ever with the silver haired lion of Italian jazz, an icon of the 1970s European avant garde with a wonderful fractured trumpet style, recording Rava On the Dance Floor with the Parco della Musica Jazz Lab live in the Eternal City last year. Then again it may not, as Rava explains that after Michael Jackson’s death he bought all Jacko’s CDs and DVDs and really got into him: “I felt the need to delve more deeply into Michael’s world."

And so for whatever reason Rava On the Dance Floor was born, nine tracks with nearly all the music Jackson’s, plus one of the singer’s favourite songs Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’ and Rod Temperton’s ‘Thriller’ thrown in, of course. Well you’ve got to laugh, it’s the wackiest thing Rava’s ever done and while not as risible as say a jazzed up collection of ABBA songs it’s pretty lightweight stuff which feels like dad dancing with the lights on at a disco in Romford, or should that be Rimini, on a Tuesday night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, within reason.

The band give it a shot and there’s plenty of beef from the trumpets neighing and carrying on in ‘Thriller’ and sentimental tenderness on ‘Smile’, a tune that’s impossible to dislike.

It’s not as if the album is an attempt either to reimagine Michael Jackson, surely Miles Davis did that better than anyone when he did ‘Human Nature’, or invest the music with such import as if every note was like a massive statement. That would have been fatal and actually you come away from this thinking, that Enrico Rava, bit of a groover. You can’t help but throw your head back and laugh at the opening to ‘Privacy’ say. So there we have it, the Italians make Manfred and the rest of us smile. Who would ever have thought it, no not even Manfred.

Stephen Graham

Fred Hersch Trio

Alive at the Vanguard

Palmetto ****

The first striking aspect of this 2-CD set recorded during a five-night run at the famed New York club in February is the superb sound engineering of the album. So take a bow Tyler McDiarmid and Geoffrey Countryman. But good sound is only the icing on the cake of any album truth be told, and the trio of the 56-year-old Hersch, who has battled the effects of HIV for many years and has even survived a two-month coma, is on superlative form, along with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson who both played in Andrew Hill’s last band, on this album of seven new Hersch tunes, four from the Great American Songbook’s panoply of treasure, and seven jazz standards, the latter including ‘Softly as in a Morning Sunrise’ which John Coltrane recorded in the Vanguard in 1961. So no pressure!

Towards the end of the first CD on the penultimate track Hersch’s playful version rewards its inclusion and is a clear highlight overall, although the sandwiching of Russ Freeman’s ‘The Wind’ into Alec Wilder’s ‘Moon and Sand’, with its softly lapping ebb and flow on the second disc, which also has another clever segueing of ‘The Song Is You’ and Monk’s ‘Played Twice’ at the end, comes movingly close.

Wonderfully woody bass, drums you’d swear you can hear the skin’s very wrinkles of, and deep expressive improvising drawing out the fertile ideas in Hersch’s head, make this a must for fans and more than worth the purchase price for Hersch newcomers alike. It’s a piano trio that has no fussy gimmicks, no pop or rock sensibility at all, but is never pretentious in a cod chamber goulash. A wonderful album, that works because it has a cleverly assembled narrative arc disc-by-disc (the second is less intense but possibly more organic than the first) capturing a master pianist at the top of his game presented by the admirable Palmetto, a record label that values taste and presentation over the fast food approach of certain very famous jazz megacorporations. No one ever named a ballad ‘The Takeover’, did they?

Stephen Graham

Released on 11 September in the US

Fred Hersch plays solo at the Purcell Room in London on 2 October; The Apex, Bury St Edmunds (3 Oct); St George’s, Bristol (4 Oct); Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton (5 Oct); The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock (7 Oct); The Venue, Leeds College of Music, Leeds (9 Oct); Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (10 Oct); The Church of St John the Evangelist, Oxford (11 Oct, note new venue); and Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (12 Oct).


An accountant by training who used to manage the Jazz Cafe and The Forum for promoter Mean Fiddler, has opened a new jazz venue in London’s Herne Hill. Tony Dyett opened Jazz on the Hill, a smart street front cafe bar with good sight lines on Railton Road very close to Herne Hill station in late-June, and it all got underway in some style with a range of high profile jazz acts.

With bookings now under the personal remit of Dyett the cafe has an eclectic Caribbean-style menu and presents jazz on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with open mic nights on Sundays and weekly blues nights on Tuesdays. Dyett says the Herne Hill area is in need of a jazz club and already locals are looking to the club as a regular haunt. Anton Browne

It’s on the site of a former night club and the Poet’s Bar but Dyett and his team have made a series of much needed alterations, including moving the bar further to the right, removing stud walls and relocating the kitchen. Jazz on the Hill is working with local visual artists mounting exhibition space at the front of the club and at the rear for regular art exhibitions, and a relationship has also been established with the local Sunday farmers market with jazz becoming a soundtrack to activities on the street as shoppers sample the local traders’ wares.

There’s no house drum kit just yet, and the piano is a modest upright but with good sound, attractive decor and an easily accessible location, Jazz on the Hill adds considerably to the profile of jazz in south London with Hideaway in Streatham not far away, already a major draw.

Upcoming bookings for the venue include Anton Browne Trio (9 August), The Esther Bennett Trio (10 August), Alan Barnes Quartet (11 August) and the Brandon Allen Trio (16 August) - Stephen Graham

The exterior of Jazz on the Hill (pictured, top), and Anton Browne appearing on Thursday 9 August above

Stian Westerhus
The Matriarch and the Wrong Kind of Flowers
Rune Grammofon ****
Westerhus is the Nordic jazz cognoscenti’s guitarist of choice, and this album more than explains why. Just guitars and voice the ex-Fraud and recent Nils Petter Molvaer sideman pulls off a formidable coup with this tantalisingly anti-chillout excursion. The Terje Rypdal of his generation it’s clear, Westerhus slowly unfolds slabs of sonic sophistication in a masterfully unhurried style.
Released on 17 August 

Django Bates Belovèd
Lost Marble ****
Three years on from their first album, and still keeping Charlie Parker as honorary inspiration, Django Bates, Petter Eldh and Peter Bruun, joined by Ashley Slater on Bacharach/David’s ‘A House is Not A Home’, are on dazzling form with an album that’s sure to delight longstanding Django fans.  It’s complex for sure, relevant to the bop tradition just like the first album, but with a warmth and curiosity that has a life force all of its own. Head straight for the hucklebuck meditation, ‘Now’s The Time’, but Slater’s lounge-sleazy vocal is also a big plus.
Released on 17 September

Yaron Herman
Alter Ego
ACT ****
With pianist Yaron Herman in trio mode I have often felt he’s a musician in search of a band. Expanding to a quintet here he’s finally found a better expression for his huge talent. Go down to the beautifully revealing ‘Mechanical Brothers’ for a great piano-led beat cooked up along with bassist Stéphane Kerecki, leading into suitably dank and drizzling saxophone from highly promising Kansas City altoist  Logan Richardson and Herman’s long time playing colleague Emile Parisien.
Released on 28 September  


Pierrick Pédron
Kubic’s Monk
ACT ***
I was pretty unimpressed by the self-consciousness of Pédron’s earlier album Cheerleaders, but the alto saxophonist has turned things around dramatically here with this fine Monk-themed trio album he has also co-arranged. Featuring much talked about Blue Note trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on three tracks, you’ve just got to hear Ambrose burn the house down on ‘Ugly Beauty.’
Released on 28 September 

Stephen Graham

Next year Brad Mehldau will be touring with former Avishai Cohen drummer Mark Guiliana but before that and following quickly on from Ode, a companion album, Where Do You Start, taking its name from the Johnny Mandel, Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman song, is to be released on 17 September, the pianist’s label Nonesuch has confirmed. Barbra Streisand covered the song to great effect on her Columbia album Love Is The Answer three years ago.

Performing with his familiar trio of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard on Where Do You Start, Mehldau, who is due to play the London Jazz Festival in November with the trio, has included his celebrated and so far unreleased take on Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Holland’ on this album, which Mehldau fans will know nearly always steals the show when he performs it live, often as an encore.

But the album actually opens with ‘Got Me Wrong’ by Jerry Cantrell of the grunge band Alice in Chains, a song that appeared on the soundtrack of Kevin Smith’s film Clerks and was released as a single in the wake of the film’s runaway success in 1994. 

Other tracks are ‘Brownie Speaks’ by Clifford Brown; ‘Baby Plays Around’, by Elvis Costello and his former wife Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues; ‘Airegin’ by Sonny Rollins; ‘Hey Joe’ by Californian folkster Billy Roberts made famous by Jimi Hendrix; ‘Samba E Amor’ by Rio legend Chico Buarque; ‘Jam’ by Mehldau, his only self-penned song on the album; ‘Time Has Told Me’ by Nick Drake, whose songs Mehldau interprets so intuitively; ‘Aquelas Coisas Todas’ by Clube da Esquina guitarist Toninho Horta; and the tearjerking ‘Where Do You Start.’

Stephen Graham

Brad Mehldau, pictured top

Talking to Eric Revis three years ago after his performance with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel on an outdoor stage overlooking the Grand Harbour of Valletta the Branford Marsalis Quartet bassist shrugged as he was asked how the band’s new recruit Justin Faulkner, still a teenager at the time, was settling in. Revis looked at me hard and said simply, as if it was the most blindingly obvious thing in the world: “He’s doing fine.”

At the time I was surprised there wasn’t more reaction to the departure of Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, who had been with Branford for such a long time and whose place at the forefront of jazz drumming globally was pretty much unassailable for someone of his vintage. Tain was up there, and had been for some time, as Generation X’s version of Elvin Jones, or Tony Williams. There was nobody quite like him in post-bop circles and his own albums for Columbia particularly Citizen Tain and Bar Talk even raised him to the level of a Jack DeJohnette, a drummer who could not just play at a superlative level but one who could write interestingly into the bargain. Tain has been busy on a myriad of projects since, although it is true for the time being he is less high profile than he was, although granted Branford isn’t quite centre stage in the way he used to be.

The quartet without Tain but with Faulkner has recorded for the first time on the rebelliously titled Four MFs Playin’ Tunes just released on Branford’s own Marsalis Music label. It follows on from the slightly disappointing duo album Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, which Marsalis cut with the quartet’s pianist Joey Calderazzo and released just last year. Four MFs is a much more vital record, displaying a sinuous sense of abandon as the watchword from the off on opener ‘The Mighty Sword.’ Faulkner is athletic for certain, but I’m not sure it necessarily “marks an exciting new era”, as Branford’s website puts it. Faulkner isn’t that different, and to claim that his appearance on the scene equates with Miles’ hiring of the then 17-year-old Tony Williams, is to heap too many expectations on Faulkner’s still young shoulders. In many ways although this is to Faulkner’s credit he sounds like a much much older player, one with a sensible head on him and the maturity of an elder. But sheer maturity does not necessarily mean a major new voice has arrived and this record is about the band. By the third track ‘Maestra’ Faulkner shows he has the seriousness both Marsalis and Calderazzo demand, and the way the drummer moulds himself around Calderazzo’s yearning solo and Revis’ insistent pedal point shows he knows how to listen and assert himself while still working with the pianist as an accompanist essentially.

On ‘Teo’ it’s almost as if Marsalis is back to his Trio Jeepy days, I mean because of the jaunty irreverent opening theme, and it’s good to hear he’s got his sense of humour back as it seemed to have deserted him entirely on Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, which was more about melancholy… and still more dolefulness, even on the lighter bits. There’s an endearingly scampering quality to ‘Whiplash’, and that jam session sense of adventure it’s hard to fake, but which comes instinctively to both Marsalis and Calderazzo. ‘As Summer Into Autumn Slips’ makes me think of Branford’s wonderful album Requiem and I wonder what Branford thinks of Sleeper, the long-in-hibernation Keith Jarrett Belonging Band’s just released album given that on Requiem Marsalis paid tribute to Jarrett on the track ‘Lykief’. ‘My Ideal’ definitely is in the lineage of Jarrett’s quartet work from the 1970s, particularly the European quartet. Four MFs is a great return to form by Marsalis, his best album since Braggtown, although it does lack the fire power with Tain on A Love Supreme Live. It’s also worth mentioning the bookending of the album with nods to the atmosphere of New Orleans on ‘The Mighty Sword’ with its sweltering sense of momentum and then the bonus track at the end, ‘Treat It Gentle’, drawing Sidney Bechet firmly to mind. Stephen Graham

The Branford Marsalis Quartet pictured above

September’s Kings Place Festival is an epic three-day chance to cram in as much or as little cultural nourishment as required after a sports-heavy summer.

Jazz is one of the pillars of the programming at Kings Place, in central London near St Pancras station, all the year round, particularly the Saturday night strand in Hall 2, and while at times the atmosphere there despite the beautiful surroundings and quality of the bookings can be a little lacking in excitement, the festival judging by previous years does ramp up the buzz factor a considerable notch. This year overall there are some 100 performances taking place across the arts, including classical music, comedy, and spoken word.

The jazz programming is extensive and includes cellist Matthew Barley and Friends (that’s the shakuhachi of Adrian Freedman and the piano of Julian Joseph), the sax/piano duo of Jason Yarde and Andrew McCormack, and Yarde’s Trio WAH! Also on are the vibes/piano duo of Jim Hart and Barry Green; Alexander Hawkins; Tomorrow’s Warriors performing The Queen’s Suite by Duke Ellington; and saxophonist Denys Baptiste’s new trio Triumvirate featuring up-and-coming drummer Moses Boyd along with bassist Larry Bartley.

(Denys Baptiste, pictured, top)

The festival also hosts the Edition Festival, showcasing artists from the roster of the leading Cardiff-based indie jazz label. The Ivo Neame Ensemble, Troyka, the sax/tuba duo of Marius Neset and Daniel Herskedal, and tenorist Josh Arcoleo are among those taking part.

(Ivo Neame, pictured above)

Trumpeter and composer Jay Phelps (above), who features on the soundtrack and plays the role of a member of the Louis Lester band in Stephen Poliakoff’s upcoming television drama Dancing on the Edge, also appears at Kings Place in two line-ups. One of these features the talented Canadian’s quartet joined by the Koco Quartet led by violinist Miles Brett, who like Jay also acts and plays in the Poliakoff serial, which is set in the London of the 1930s and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jacqueline Bisset and John Goodman.

Free foyer events include octets and dectets by the National Youth Jazz Collective, the duo of bassist Ben Hazleton and singer Julia Biel, the duo of Emilia Martensson and Barry Green, plus singer Randolph Matthews with saxophonist Rob Hughes. The festival runs from 14-16 September. 

Stephen Graham

More at

Pedro Segundo on the drums, with Chris Crenshaw, trombone, and Marcus Printup, trumpet, at the Late Late Show in Ronnie Scott’s
Photo: Benjamin Amure

Updated with new pictures

The Late Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s, the jam session that draws in some of the cream of the capital’s jazz talent for informal performances after the main draw of the evening has finished, dedicated the Wednesday evening session to Abram Wilson whose death from colon cancer at just 38 on 9 June was such a cruel blow. With members of the widely admired and respected trumpeter, composer, and bandleader’s family in the club following a New Orleans-type procession from the South Bank Centre to a memorial service in Waterloo earlier in the day when musicians taking part included Wynton Marsalis, pianist James Pearson leading the jamming told the audience that Abram had been due to return to the club in a few weeks if death hadn’t taken him away.

In just 10 years living in the UK the Arkansas-born trumpeter made a big and lasting impact on the national scene, and with Tim Thornton, bass, and Pedro Segundo on drums, Pearson, the club’s artistic director and leader of the Ronnie’s All-Stars, called on Andy Davies who runs the popular upstairs hard bop jam on Wednesdays to play a few songs in tribute. Welshman Davies, with his love of Kenny Dorham and Chet Baker, a communicative ability on the trumpet and the expressive tone of a musician who knows what he wants to say and does so with aplomb, was able to squeeze out every little nuance in a lovely sparkling rendition of ‘The Nearness of You’ in particular as well as opener ‘If I Were A Bell’. Singer Emma Smith, newly blond, also joined, running through ‘Skylark’ and scatting with some ease before guests from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, trombonist Chris Crenshaw tall and lean and playing fine and mellow with ridiculous skill, and trumpeter Marcus Printup in immaculately subtle form at low volume came down to Ronnie’s to jam fresh from performing with JALCO and The London Symphony Orchestra as they premiered Wynton’s Swing Symphony at the Barbican under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

Above: Marcus Printup of JALCO at the Late Late Show
Photo: Benjamin Amure

As young up-and-coming players lined up to jam including a name to watch in the smartly tailored pianist Reuben James who Abram had himself mentored, a new generation of National Youth Jazz Orchestra players and Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni circulated in the club into the wee small hours to play their socks off. It was a night that you’d guess Abram would have enjoyed. His spirit lives on for sure at the heart of it all, on Frith Street. Stephen Graham

Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) received its UK premiere last night with the London Symphony Orchestra joining forces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

Conducting without the score for the opening performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances it was a bit like being under the knife of the most remarkable surgeon in the world: the orchestra and the audience mere putty in his hands, the outcome never in doubt.

Wynton came on to the stage at the beginning of the second half almost in disguise, as the momentarily distracted audience settling into their seats took a while to spot the great New Orleansian as he walked to his seat right in the middle of the trumpet section of JALCO in front of the conductor’s podium, with the LSO spread out all around the jazz orchestra.

‘All Rise’ and ‘Blues Symphony’, the work’s predecessors paradoxically given that they were called that most classical of forms, ‘symphonies’, were actually experimental music in the sense that Wynton was trying out his solutions to orchestrating for symphony orchestra and jazz band. Neither succeeded particularly beyond their ambition and initial impact at the time, and I’m sure most fans of Wynton’s as well as critics see them more of a curiosity than say the oratorio Blood on the Fields, a much more significant achievement despite its massive length. Swing Symphony is different, a notch up in terms of the art of the composer, although the jury’s out as to whether it will be any more significant than say the likeable score Marsalis composed for Dan Pritzker’s silent film, Louis.

The symphony’s obvious sophistication and the multiple inspirations it summons, from ragtime and plantation dance forms, through Fletcher Henderson to Ellington, shares at least these links in common with the earlier works among the active ingredients at play. The heart of the matter, though, in his work is the parallel lines of the harmony, the scrabbling indeterminacy of the juxtaposing of chromaticism with classic song-like saxophone solos, at others echoing Leonard Bernstein in terms of romanticism, or Aaron Copland occasionally but as ever owing its creative core to Ellington. But without wishing to be trite, where were the tunes? Answer, for the most part absent, although one or two seemed to peep through which Ellington was always adept at drawing out. While Rachmaninov used the brass instruments in his Symphonic Dances only sparingly Marsalis liberally calls them into the action. Yet the carefully sculpted solo space for jazz tenor saxophone and clarinet and good use of the strings involved both orchestras to best effect, with the LSO zealous in their determination to enter into an accord with the spirit of the endeavour firmly intact.

Stephen Graham

Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) is performed again tonight by the London Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO, above), conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

The Late Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s, the jam session that draws in some of the cream of the capital’s jazz talent for informal performances after the main draw of the evening has finished, last night dedicated the evening to Abram Wilson whose death from colon cancer at just 38 on 9 June was such a cruel blow. With members of the widely admired and respected trumpeter, composer, and bandleader’s family in the club following a New Orleans-type procession from the South Bank Centre to a memorial service in Waterloo earlier in the day when musicians taking part included Wynton Marsalis, pianist James Pearson leading the jamming told the audience that Abram was due to return to the club in a few weeks if death hadn’t taken him away.

In just 10 years living in the UK the Arkansas-born trumpeter made a big and lasting impact on the national scene, and with Tim Thornton, bass, and Pedro Segundo on drums, Pearson, the club’s artistic director and leader of the Ronnie’s All-Stars, called on Andy Davies who runs the popular upstairs hard bop jam on Wednesdays to play a few songs in tribute. Welshman Davies, with his love of Kenny Dorham and Chet Baker, a communicative ability on the trumpet and the expressive tone of a musician who knows what he wants to say and does so with aplomb, was able to squeeze out every little nuance in a lovely sparkling rendition of ‘The Nearness of You’ in particular as well as opener ‘If I Were A Bell’. Singer Emma Smith, newly blond, also joined, running through ‘Skylark’ and scatting with some ease before guests from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, trombonist Chris Crenshaw tall and lean and playing fine and mellow with ridiculous skill, and trumpeter Marcus Printup in immaculately subtle form at low volume came down to Ronnie’s to jam fresh from performing with JALCO and The London Symphony Orchestra as they premiered Wynton’s Swing Symphony at the Barbican under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

As young up-and-coming players lined up to jam including a name to watch in the smartly tailored pianist Reuben James who Abram had himself mentored, a new generation of NYJO players and Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni circulated in the club into the wee small hours to play their socks off. It was a night that you’d guess Abram would have enjoyed. His spirit lives on for sure at the heart of it all, on Frith Street. Stephen Graham

Abram Wilson (pictured, top) Photo: Benjamin Amure

It was the first Soho Session at Pizza Express Jazz Club last night, a special invitation-only affair when the club went to some pains to put on a fine array of talent. Music manager Ross Dines hovered by the stage while over at the sound desk “voice of the club" sound engineer Luc Saint-Martin was happily twiddling the knobs of a specially installed state-of-the-art audio system set up for the night. The club has been toying with upgrading the sound in the basement space for some time and this was a key opportunity to put the kit through its paces although it all goes back in the box today.

Beat boxer extraordinaire Shlomo opened proceedings with his uncanny technique and the capability, with the help of a Loop Station and bags of natural talent, to resemble a complete band not just a guy standing there making odd noises into a pair of microphones. I liked his Public Enemy-type rush at the beginning and he accurately built up some Michael Jackson-type routines later. But the novelty faded after a while, although it was big fun. Happily the crystal-clear sound system definitely captured every hi-hat lick, the pop of a Shlomo snare and more in amazing clarity.

Next up was singer/songwriter Mara Carlyle who was accompanied by Nick Ramm on piano. Drenched with what sounded like reverb or some textural wash her voice has nonetheless a delicate freshness about it and she performed an engaged set accompanying herself on ukulele and adding a remarkable turn on musical saw later. Frail and delicate her stage persona may well be but she has a strong folky voice, like a female Jeff Buckley, with lots of interesting contrasts (her take on Schumann ‘I Blame You Not’ [‘Ich Grolle Nicht’] came off best) although some of the stage patter was a bit on the twee side.

Jamie Cullum was the surprise guest making a return to the club after his Big Audition concert last year. Trialling new material, he’s preparing his latest album, “if you talk to my manager", he joked to fans earlier, “he’ll tell you it’s coming out next week!" Cullum sat at the Steinway as if it were his second home, and got the audience on side and some of the singers present harmonising along to the mambo-hinting opening song ‘When I Get Famous’, about a schoolboy’s unrequited love for a girl and the feelings he has about her rejecting him.

The lovely ballad-like second song, ‘Save Your Soul’, hit the mark almost in the vein of his still unreleased ‘Rayleigh Road’, and he finished it off by romping home with ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ on a day that Mara Carlyle had noted giggling was “the hottest day of the year". You’re always on a hiding to nothing with a weather song, but Cullum is comfortable on classic songbook material like this so everyone’s luck was in.

Gregory Porter then charmed the audience and I really envy people present who had not heard the Brooklyn-based Californian before. A great sensory overload even if you’ve heard him umpteen times. Here, he was on his way "through" Harlem he twinkled changing the preposition from ‘to’ in his evocative homage to Langston Hughes and Marvin Gaye and the unrecognisable face of an America and a New York only a thoughtfully wistful song and great singer such as Porter can adequately convey. With José James’ drummer-of-choice Richard Spaven, gutsy tenor sax from Ben Castle and soulful Grant Windsor on piano plus lively bass from Chris Hill, this was a party performance fun but serious, of the moment yet of the past. Such a great talent and a joy to listen to on any occasion. I could listen to ‘Be Good’ all day long. Mr Bojangles himself would be proud.

Stephen Graham


Gregory Porter on the microphone and Jamie Cullum pictured above last night at the Soho Session, with Chris Hill on double bass at the rear of the stage and Ben Castle standing with his tenor saxophone

In a day and age when it’s so easy for a musician or band to slip under the radar, particularly as they enter middle age, saxophonist Yuri Honing who turned 47 earlier this month although still massively young by most jazz yardsticks (!) was pre-Bad Plus one of the pace setters in terms of the new post-jazz movement.

That’s ‘post’ in the sense of Coltrane on the one hand, and post in the sense of ‘punk’ on the other.

A Generation X-er from the Netherlands, Honing emerged quietly at least internationally like so many Dutch jazz people at first, forming a trio, which in 1996 made waves with Star Tracks. In essence they took absurd songs by the likes of Abba and The Police and tore them up note by note much like The Bad Plus would do and still do.

Never too arch, but very knowing and ironic in a classic post-jazz way, Honing with bassist Tony Overwater and drummer Joost Lijbaart paved the way for a new cynical generation wishing to question complacent attitudes grown unwieldy by both the excesses of free jazz and the posturing of certain strands of jazz-rock.

It’s easy to make the link to more recent improvisers such as Pete Wareham of Acoustic Ladyland who would emerge a little later in the UK.

Honing and Lijbaart are still playing together, and on their latest release True, recorded in Berlin to be released on the Amsterdam-based Challenge Records on 17 September, are joined by pianist/harmonium player Wolfert Brederode – remember his fine quartet album Post Scriptum ECM put out quietly last year? – and bassist Ruben Samama.

Most of the songs on True are Honing’s own, apart from a cover of Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp’s ‘Paper Bag’; a tender take on Bowie’s ‘Bring Me The Disco King’ from his 2003 album Reality; and a new song ‘Nobody Knows’ by the bassist Samama.

Honing sounds infinitely more at ease here than the last time I heard him live with his band Wired Paradise in 2010 during the Cork Jazz Festival.

Tracks are ‘True’, ‘Paper Bag’, ‘End of Friedrichsheim’, ‘Borchardt’, ‘Paper Bag (reprise)’, ‘Bring Me The Disco King’, ‘Yasutani’, ‘Nobody Knows’ and ‘True (reprise)’.

Certainly not a long album it’s more than worth your while and has a brooding interior vision few albums these days get close to achieving.

Stephen Graham

Yuri Honing Quartet (pictured, above) plays the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on 20 September. Photo: Jean-Boris Szymczak

The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars are going to be right at the heart of the action during the Olympics playing for no fewer than 17 nights at what’s being talked up as the closest venue to the Olympic Park.

The claim might not be that fishy,  do read on, as from 10pm until Ronnie’s official closing time of three in the morning, the atmosphere of the Soho club is to be beamed east to Forman’s Fish Island at Stour Road on Fish Island appropriately enough for this Moby Dick-like run.

Apparently they’re ready to recreate the atmosphere of Soho on the banks of the Lea in this restaurant that’s come from nowhere just like the Stadium although the firm backing it is a London foodie institution and the place will stay open until 4am. The man behind the booking Lance Forman pops up in disembodied virtual maître d’ style on their website to elaborate. It’s all about “world class sport with world class jazz, cocktails and late-night dining." So, er, volleyball in the kitchen, table tennis on the bandstand, 100m dash to the bar, that sort of thing?

Maybe not, but fair play to the brains involved with the booking as it’s only a short hop from the Olympic Stadium and you can bet the music will be of Olympic standard as the effortlessly classy pianist James Pearson is on hand with his repertory rolling roster of seasoned players in the band with singer Natalie Williams always a popular luminous and soulful presence. She might even dye her hair specially for the run, who knows. Apparently the closing ceremony night will feature someone special  so check their site for updates. Stephen Graham

James Pearson pictured above


Flying into Genoa airport on a humid July day the first thing that hit home is how close the tarmac of the runway is to the lapping waves of the sea. The modest heat of an overcast morning was nonetheless a welcome blast of goodness after the dreary English summer so far and matched the warmth of the prevailing reddish hue of many buildings along the way as the speedy cab driver drove like a bat out of hell from the airport to the hotel ahead of the gig in the evening.

Genoa has Italy’s largest port and there on the horizon as we sped along it was a cinch to spot slumbering tankers and ferry boats alike, just little dots in the distance. I was over in the Ligurian city to review a double bill of two bands, Planet Microjam from the United States and Interstatic from Norway who were to appear at the city’s Gezmataz Jazz Festival in the evening mounted by their London-based label RareNoise records on an open air stage at Porto Antico, the ancient port, now pedestrianised and revamped following a major overhaul in the 1990s. Trendy restaurants, little boutiques and tempting cafes were all scattered about the streets close to the venue, with old cotton warehouses, like old warehouses everywhere these days, used for everything except their original purpose. The seemingly ubiquitous architect Renzo Piano – he of the Shard and the ongoing reconstruction of Valletta’s historic city gate – has also been busy at work in Genoa creating the Bigo, a big quasi sculptural statement in the harbour resembling out size cranes or monstrous daddy long legs as part of a big development.

Before the gig at the Arena del Mare I joined members of Planet Microjam and Interstatic and personnel from RareNoise for dinner at a long table set out in front of the Rossopomodoro ‘Red Tomato’ restaurant (house speciality: Neapolitan pizza), and the pizza seemed to go down a treat washed down with a little vino. RareNoise is a London-based label, less than four years old run by the winningly enthusiastic Giacomo Bruzzo, who just recently brought the great Bob Belden to London for some rare dates. The label prides itself on promoting experimental non categorisable artists of note and both the bands to play later in the evening fit this aspiration completely. Giacomo introduced the musicians to the small but appreciate audience with first up a rare sighting of expat English organist Roy Powell, now living in Norway, whose band Interstatic chimes completely with the current wave of young prog jazz bands like Troyka and WorldService Project making an impact on the scene back in England.


Opening proceedings Powell on Hammond organ was joined by Tord Gustavsen Trio drummer Jarle Vespestad in unlikely jazz-rock mode along with tasteful guitarist Jacob Young playing in a bluesier style than you’d expect from his work for ECM. Powell channelled Keith Emerson and even the late Jon Lord into his lively style but explained to the audience that Interstatic play like Tony Williams’ Lifetime, most evident on their tune ‘The Elverum Incident’, but with a few modern twists. Yet the band took leave of this inspiration many times during a set only slightly hampered by a pedal of Young’s guitar needing to be replaced. Playing material mainly from the eponymous Interstatic release Powell got well and truly stuck in like some sort of hippy organ guru griot specially attuned to the sultry Genoese night.


Microjam were something else entirely, an experimental microtonal band led by David “Fuze” Fiuczynski who with his trademark double necked guitar specially tuned to allow for the band’s distinctive quarter tones, rocked up with the microtonal keyboards of young Turk Utar Artun to his side, although the main direction came through his duetting with English violinist Helen Sherrah-Davies. Kansas City drummer Alex Bailey, and the colourfully dressed Memphis bass guitarist Dywane ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas, who plays his bass guitar right handed but upside down, cooked up a mysterious heat around ‘Micro Emperor’, a fragment of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto.

Now heading up the Microjam Institute at Berklee in Boston Fiuczynski’s set based on music from the Planet Microjam record was a compelling snatch of a style of music you rarely get to hear, certainly not in a jazz setting. Sun Ra’s ‘Sun Song’ originally on the 1957 album Jazz By Sun Ra was for me the outstanding performance of the night, and let’s hope we hear more on this side of the Atlantic again from Helen Sherrah-Davies who like Fuze also teaches at Berklee.

Fuze is back with a great new concept to run with. It’s up to the rest of the jazz planet to catch up with this particular rare noise.

Flying out of Genoa the next day there was a chance to reflect on how all this new music will sit with listeners coming to it for the first time. The music is clearly out there but has a distinctive enough character to make it stand out from all the rehashes and reimaginings circling around the European festival scene this summer.

Fuze faces the future head on with Microjam. and Interstatic somehow have managed to breathe new life into the tired organ trio formula, no small feat for sure.

Stephen Graham

Read my review of the double bill in the September issue of Jazzwise. Gezmataz poster (pictured, top), Interstatic, and David Fiuczynski

Jorge Ben


Wrasse ***

Ever wondered what the inspiration of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ was? No, me neither, but hearing ‘Taj Mahal’ on this handy nicely packaged double CD overview of Jorge Ben’s output anchored firmly in the 1960s and early-70s is a white light moment.

Daniel Herskedal, Marius Neset

Neck of the Woods

Edition            ***

Tuba meets saxophone essentially on this unlikely but compelling introduction to new tuba phenomenon in the making Herskedal (above). There’s a superb arrangement of Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The Wedding’ among many delights here, although the album does dip into classical waters a little too much. Neset goes from strength to strength if hearing too much tuba in one go palls but it’s their empathy that impresses even more.

Antonio Forcione

Sketches of Africa  ****

First album in five years by the popular UK-based Italian guitarist (pictured above). While for some his sheer eclecticism means Forcione is hard to pin down, here all the strands of his musical personality knit together rooted in Africa. ‘Madiba’s Jive’ written for Nelson Mandela is a fine addition to the large body of music inspired by the great statesman.

Tom Bancroft: Trio Red

First Hello to Last Goodbye

Interrupto **** PICK OF THE MONTH

A welcome return from the influential Scottish drummer and educator Bancroft (above) with his trio of pianist Tom Cawley and bassist Per Zanussi. There’s noticeably more discipline in Bancroft’s approach these days, especially if you compare this album to the early output of Trio AAB. Highlights here include an unlikely segue into Ornette’s ‘Lonely Woman’ via Joan Armatrading’s ‘Opportunity.’

Stephen Graham

He’s one of the biggest draws on the UK jazz club circuit and yet virtuoso guitarist Antonio Forcione lacks the profile that many musicians of his stature achieve. Not that he’s complaining, and those very much in the know are surely relishing next month’s three-week residency at the Edinburgh fringe.

The fringe is almost a home from home for the popular Italian London-based guitarist whose signature style encompasses contemporary jazz, world music and the strains of flamenco guitar.

Forcione has been performing in Edinburgh for some 20 years, but this year he unveils material from his latest album Sketches of Africa for the first time which to my ears on early listens sounds like one of his most effortlessly accomplished recording sessions in a long recording career.

Forcione is joined on the album by his core group of Adriano Adewale, Jenny Adejayan and Nathan Thompson, while musicians from Senegal, Zimbabwe, Gambia, South Africa among other countries make the release in typical Forcione style music without national boundaries or forced genre constraints.

In Edinburgh Forcione is appearing with Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita and drummer Dado Pasqualini from 2-11 August at Venue No 3, and later in the run by Salvador’s Anselmo Netto and folk-latin bassist Matheus Nova from 12-27 August.

Antonio has been based in London since 1983 and hails from southern Italy, born in a village on the Adriatic coast. His musical journey began as a busker in the tourist heavy streets of Covent Garden, but he soon began to tour widely forming a regular quartet and releasing albums. In the 1990s he also was part of a musical comedy group Olé and in Edinburgh has won awards such as Best Spirit of the Fringe as well as awards in his native Italy.

Sketches of Africa, Forcione says on his website, was inspired by his many travels on the Continent and is his first release for five years. Opening track ‘Madiba’s Jive’ was composed as a tribute to Nelson Mandela who just this week celebrated his 94th birthday. Other tracks are ‘Song for Zimbabwe’, ‘Stay Forever’, ‘Africa’, ‘Tarifa’, ‘Tar’, ‘Clear Day’ and ‘Sun Groove’. All tracks are composed, arranged and produced by Forcione and the album’s co-producer is Chris Kimsey. More dates follow the fringe season with Pizza Express Jazz Club dates in London prominent among them from 13-16 September.

Stephen Graham

Pictured above: Antonio Forcione

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension are scheduled to release their latest album, the title of which is now confirmed as Now Here This, in the autumn.

Details are still sketchy at this stage, although the release date is set for 16 October, according to UK distributor Proper Note.

Now Here This is to be released by Souvik Dutta’s AbstractLogix label, the US record and publishing company that first signed a distribution and retail agreement to promote John McLaughlin’s guitar instruction DVD This is the Way I Do It following a merchandising connection with McLaughlin’s Indo-fusion band Remember Shakti.

AbstractLogix also released 4th Dimension’s A Love Supreme-inspired Grammy-nominated album To the One in 2010.

Complete personnel details have not been confirmed so far for the new album, but tracks are: ‘Trancefusion’, ‘Riff Raff’, ‘Echoes From Then’, ‘Wonderfall’, ‘Call and Answer’, ‘Not Here Not There’,’ Guitar Love’ and ‘Take It or Leave It’.

Stephen Graham

John McLaughlin 4th Dimension, pictured above, play the London Jazz Festival on 11 November. For more go to:

Here’s an extract of my review of Neneh Cherry and The Thing, who slayed the devoted in Shoreditch’s Village Undeground last night.

The frequently riotous, and defiantly non-conformist collaboration between Neneh Cherry and The Thing hit London’s Village Underground with some thump last night, as part of its fast wheeling European tour. Their album The Cherry Thing was “born here in Acton,” Cherry told the all-standing audience who jostled for position in this cavernous, old industrial building near the train tracks in Shoreditch. It has caused quite a stir, and producer Robert Harder was also on hand here manning the sound desk, something Cherry was obviously pleased about.

The place was packed to the gills with a mix of old punks, free jazz nuts and gaggles of women who had earlier danced around to the dub reggae blasting out like a furnace from the venue’s sound system before Cherry and The Thing came on around 10pm.

– Stephen Graham


Neneh Cherry, pictured above. Photo: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen