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With a programme that so far has included US jazz-rock fusion heavyweights Yellowjackets, the Henry Threadgill-inspired improv of the acclaimed Trio Red, a sold out slice of New Orleans with  Hot 8 Brass Band, pianist Brian Kellock playing the music of Fats Waller, the intriguingly monikered Trio Elf at the Blue Lamp, as well as blues hero Mud Morganfield, gospel from Ruby Turner, and Courtney Pine, the festival moves to a conclusion tonight with Trio Libero featuring the ‘King of Aberdeen’ himself: Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford. The open-minded trio with Rochford joined by Andy Sheppard and Michel Benita make their Scottish debut. More at www.aberdeenjazzfestival.com

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Marian McPartland, radio days

There’s a rare screening next week of a film that recalls the career highlights of pianist Marian McPartland, host of US public radio network NPR’s Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, the programme that since 1978 has offered a startlingly different look at how pianists present themselves both in conversation and musically.

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With Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk in
A Great Day of Harlem, in 1958.

An American radio institution In Good Time, The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland traces McPartland’s time in the States since leaving England where her jazz story began in the late-1940s and concentrates on the 94-year-old’s tunes and improvisational style down the years, recalling the Hickory House years the 52nd street jazz spot where steaks were on the menu, and sitting-in the order of the day.  
Marian McPartland, top and pictured

The screening is on Sunday 24 March at the Stables in Wavendon
For tickets and more details go to www.stables.org

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Following quickly on from the death of trad era trumpeter Kenny Ball on 7 March clarinettist Terry Lightfoot has died, aged 77, it’s been announced. Lightfoot had been suffering from prostate cancer, and passed away yesterday, according to ITV news. Born on 21 May 1935 in Potters Bar, the clarinettist and bandleader would go on to lead the Wood Green Stompers while still in his teens, having left Enfield Grammar School and following a brief stint as a reporter on The Barnet Press. He formed his own band, the long-running Terry Lightfoot’s Jazzmen, after RAF service in the mid-1950s, a band Kenny Ball was a member of for a spell. Lightfoot would continue to lead his own bands during his long career in music, although he took breaks for long periods in the 1960s and 70s to run a pub. 

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Of his records some of his peak early-1960s period has been featured on Lightfoot at Lansdowne, a compilation by trad specialists Lake, with sides originally produced by Denis Preston, better known for his work with Joe Harriott, including ‘Tiger Rag’, ‘Bali Hai’ and ‘Old Man River’. Lightfoot continued performing until last year, with fairly recent shows of his including The Special Magic of Louis Armstrong, Hit Me With A Hot Note, and From Bourbon Street to Broadway along with the Jazzmen who in recent years were joined by his daughter Melinda who survives him, as does Lightfoot’s daughter Michele, and wife Iris.
Terry Lightfoot, above

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Martin Speake
Always a First Time
Pumpkin Records 2 CDs *** / ****
Recorded over a decade ago Change of Heart was saxophonist Martin Speake’s last big statement but it took a long while to appear, eventually emerging on ECM. Recorded with the late Paul Motian, Mick Hutton, and Bobo Stenson, that album was praised at the time for its Lee Konitz-type clarity and “unhurried” playing. Always a First Time, this new double album released on Speake’s own label, an imprint that two years ago released a quartet album called Live at Riverhouse, retains that palpable sense of patience, beginning at an almost stately pace. The Konitz connection is retained, not just in Speake’s sound but in the presence of former Konitz drummer Jeff Williams returning from the quartet. Speake also dedicates ‘Ramshackle’ to Konitz.

Williams appears in an up-front role throughout the 20 songs just like the other two musicians, with guitarist’s guitarist Mike Outram also performing a crucial function, colouring the sound especially on the Puccini aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (dedicated to Speake’s father, appropriately). Oddly you don’t miss the bass, but Outram’s skill has a lot to do with this as well as Williams’ ability to make the drums sing.

From the heart: Jeff Williams, above left,
Martin Speake and Mike Outram

The trio covers a great deal of ground only partially explained by the extra canvas the two CDs provide. With songs dedicated to friends, mentors and inspirations Always a First Time is predominantly ballad-driven, but it’s not particularly brooding. More philosophical, and on tracks such as ‘Twister’, on the second CD, there is also a sense of abandon that a quick first listen might not straight away fix on to but is definitely there.

In the notes the author of Love and Will, the existential psychologist Rollo May is quoted to the effect that the creative artist, poet and saint, must fight the gods of conformism, apathy, material success and exploitative power: formidable foes one and all yet May despairs that “These are the ‘idols’ of our society that are worshipped by multitudes of people.” Further quotes within the artwork contribute a sense of aphorism to Speake’s outlook as does his typically thoughtful, but skilfully non-conformist playing.

Recorded in the same room, unseparated, without headphones, the way records used to be made Speake says “we all played from the heart”. And you can tell this when a song like ‘Meditation’, which crops up on both discs with two different dedicatees one of whom includes Fidel Castro, dissolves (on the second disc) into a ‘listening silence’, when you just know the players like what they’re hearing and do not need to push the tune on any more than is strictly necessary in case the mood is spoiled. The second of the CDs has the edge, as it’s a bit more open, but the more orthodox ballad-and- cool school bop approach on the first disc, with songs that include Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ and many fine Speake originals, have an integrity that is a hallmark of Always a First Time. As is its sense of the bigger picture.

Released on 25 March

 

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Kenny Garrett: intimate appearances

It’s not easy to catch, live, the undisputed giants of the music up close and personal in a jazz club. When it happens it’s impossible to forget.

Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, even, in your neighbourhood jazz club any time soon? Forget about it: it’s just not going to happen. But a kid can dream.

Well truth can be stranger and even more mind blowing than fiction sometimes, and last year one of the giants of the music alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett best known for his intuitive work with Miles Davis and for his own records made a welcome return to the UK playing a few jazz clubs rather than a concert hall.

And he returns to one of the clubs, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London tonight for two shows after last night’s opener. Garrett is reunited with pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. who played London last year slaying the crowd on one of the nights with the infectious ‘Happy People’ but adding percussionist Rudy Bird this week for even more heat.

On form in the studio, it’s just a year since the release of one of Garrett’s most memorably melodic albums to date, Seeds From The Underground, yet live there’s an additional rapid-fire spontaneity from the alto man, allied by Hunter’s Tony Williams-type attack that communicates immediately.

With his trademark skull cap, still youthful demeanour and playing style head-bobbing up and down, alto saxophone in the air, or down low to the ground, Garrett can deliver elegant runs of beautifully fluid improvising episodes with at times a Mali-meets-McCoy Tyner style bubbling up from pianist Brown on original material of the quality of ‘Boogety Boogety’. Not to be missed. MB

Kenny Garrett, above

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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Northern exposure

Double bassist Andy Champion and his band ACV have signed to the cutting edge jazz independent record label Babel and will launch their debut Busk early next month.

From the north east of England a relative newcomer to the national scene Andy Champion performs with Voice of The North, and with his wife singer Zoe Gilby, and for the new album Champion has worked closely with producer Chris Sharkey, of Leeds skronksters trioVD.

The Champion five sees the bassist joined by saxophonist Graeme Wilson, pianist/keyboardist Paul Edis, guitarist Mark Williams, and drummer Adrian Tilbrook in ACV whose sound is grounded in prog and free improv. 

ACV above launch the album with dates at the Vortex, London on Thursday 4 April, and the Gateshead Jazz Festival two days later. In Gateshead, in addition to launching Busk, Champion will also perform Ian Carr’s ‘Northumbrian Sketches’ in a band to include Henry Lowther, Tim Whitehead and strings.

Quest
Circular Dreaming
Enja ****
It’s a Charles Lloyd kind of day today as the great man celebrates his 75th birthday. Love in bassist Ron McClure, who’s a pillar of Quest, must have some extraordinary memories from those far-off quartet days with Charles, Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.

And Quest, too, is about memories, their own as a longstanding group with 10 albums now released, but also of the 1960s. A repertory band featuring a sprinkling of new compositions with a pair here by sax icon Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach, Quest, (with McClure, pianist Beirach, drummer Billy Hart, and Liebman) look and you can make out in the typography within the circle of the ‘Q’ on the cover text that proclaims the band “plays the music of Miles 60s”. It’s a message amplified by Michael Cuscuna in a preface to the notes inside who boldly states Quest is “devoted to interdependent group music rather than the soloist with rhythm aesthetic.”

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On a mission: Ron McClure (above, left),
Dave Liebman, Billy Hart and Richie Beirach

Beautifully presented with attractive artwork, clear notes and photographs Circular Dreaming begins with Wayne Shorter’s ‘Pinocchio’, and other tunes include five other Wayne compositions, including a throaty Liebman-led ‘Footprints’ and album standout ‘Vonetta’. Shame about the spelling of ‘Nefertiti’ though, you can never have too many ts… except here. The album title track is a tune of Beirach’s, a homage to Miles. Beirach says: “I wanted the circular feeling of no beginning and no end with the harmony definitely moulded to the melody”. Maths jazz today strips away that connection, a fault Circular Dreaming avoids entirely. Fine playing throughout with gutsy blowing and a desire to make the music exist as part of a continuum without putting the music behind a glass case in a museum. Circular Dreaming also shines the spotlight on a significant amount, yet still represents just a small sample, of Wayne Shorter’s best work as a composer, timely as his latest great extended piece ‘Pegasus’ has just been released on Without a Net.

The cover of Circular Dreaming, top, and Quest above

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George Shearing
At Home
Jazzknight NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT ****
Beginning like a foxtrot, when was the last time that happened?, ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’ has a twinkling style, full of the chirpiness Nat King Cole managed to endow old Broadway songs with when he himself played piano. Shearing turns on his significant charm though after about a minute in, and these living room songs recorded in the great pianist’s New York home in 1983 draw out Don Thompson’s role as a confidant to Shearing’s left hand. Thompson played with Shearing for some 20 years in all, and you feel as if he knows Shearing’s every move on the tracks they play together. Now 73, he accompanied Barney Kessel early in his career in Vancouver clubs, and appears on the John Handy Quintet classic live album Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival recorded in 1965.

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Don Thompson: hearth of the matter

Thompson began playing concerts with Shearing decades later, from 1982 onwards, the year before the newly discovered At Home was recorded. And just under the three-minute mark he and the recording engineer (in fact one and the same), draw out the woodiness of the bass a skilled carpenter would find hard to locate.

A sprightly start then to this remarkable Jazzknight records album, Lady Shearing’s label, with the backing of discerning jazz distributor Proper Note, there’s an elegant fade at the end of the opener; and then, like some sort of mirage Johnny Mandel’s ‘A Time For Love’ emerges after the silence. Well what can you say? It’s beautiful. You just want to be there, even though the track’s very short. Thompson comes in on the arc of the Shearing line here time and again, at the emotional tug of the note. 

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Thompson’s own tune ‘Ghoti’ (apparently Shearing dubbed it: “up at the crack of Don”), leads into a riot in swing, and you could hear this being played with a vibes quintet, Shearing’s preferred stomping ground in his heyday. This one’s got bebop written all over it. After two minutes Shearing changes the goalposts, and there’s a rhythmic murmur that’s the very essence of bop syncopation.

The sound quality is fine throughout At Home: you can really hear the piano and bass and the instruments together. The album was mastered much later in Toronto, the city where Ellie Shearing first heard the tapes played before pressing green for go to start the process towards release after an ice age of 30 years in the obscurity of a drawer.

‘The Things We Did Last Summer’, the Jule Style/Sammy Cahn song begins jauntily, as if the duo are feeling completely at ease, and that’s a defining feature of this wonderful album. Apparently Lady Shearing provided cups of tea in breaks over the few days the album took to make. No producer was present, and there is a comfortable feel to all these tracks recorded around the time of a run of club dates in New York.

‘Laura’ is the first big talking point and really the test of the album. Opening expansively the theme is stated quite simply with a few ornate touches, but Shearing seems more interested in building the darkness in his left hand at which he more than succeeds. The tempo slows right down and there are some lovely washes after the 150-second mark moving towards some high-end tinkling that ends even more seriously than it began. With Thompson back ‘The Skye Boat Song’ I could have done without, although it’s a pretty enough melody and close to the bassist’s heart. But Shearing and Thompson are on more satisfying territory with Bird’s ‘Confirmation’ joyously foot tapping, but not fast at all. Remaining tracks are a winningly shy take on ‘The Girl Next Door’ with its hesitant opening; a swayingly optimistic ‘Can’t We Be Friends?’; the more mundane ‘I Cover the Waterfront’; and ‘Out of Nowhere’. Although ‘That Old Devil Called Love’ opens things up, ‘SubconsciousLee’ allows lots of bass space, and little detours here and there. Victor Young’s ‘Beautiful Love’ is simply a display of Shearing genius at the end.
At Home is released on 15 April

Sir George Shearing top, Don Thompson above; and the album cover  

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Erin Boheme
What a Life
Heads Up **** RECOMMENDED
This is quite a special album: full of great songs delivered in a very commercial way. Some of the songs could chart even. Boheme has been around a while, signed as a teenager, and the album has added stardust, as Michael Bublé has produced. But where’s the jazz you might ask? Well if you ask that kind of question, this album is not for you. It’s about songs not improvising, but it’s perfectly compatible within its alt.country framework rather than the flawed smooth jazz format that is now disappearing or at best morphing into more acceptable soul-jazz. Contrast the Eric Benet version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, less cheesy for sure. In Benet’s take on his own highly effective melancholic song, co-written among others with famed songwriter David Foster (who penned ‘I Have Nothingfor the late Whitney Houston and produced the Corrs), the natural feeling gets lost a bit crouched behind the layers of glossy audio production and arrangement. Bublé’s approach although you mightn’t think so at first blush is to strip away the varnish, and let the songs breathe, and Carly Simon-loving Boheme begins demurely on a low key Emeraldesque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, which is close enough for jazz as Van Morrison might put it. Why Boheme needed to cover a Coldplay song I don’t know, and I didn’t care for the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day who is on the otherwise excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last’. But ‘One More Try’ is quite superb, and jazz-intuitive, and of the band we really should be hearing more of pianist Alan Chang who co-wrote the song with Boheme. Overall then, songs that will stay with you, delivered by a singer who clearly believes in her material and carries both the record and the day.

Close enough for jazz: Erin Boheme above plays the Hippodrome, London on 16 April, with special guest Tammy Weis. What A Life is released on 25 March
www.hippodromecasino.com

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Torchbearer for the beats: Michael Horovitz

Ian McMillan in ‘I wandered lonely as a cat’ on Radio 4 tomorrow at 11.30 explores the history of jazz and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance and the San Francisco beats, via Pete Brown and Michael Horovitz with McMillan joined in conversation by singer Barb Jungr.

Saturday’s Jazz Record Requests (R3, 7.45pm) concentrates on the trumpet, with tracks by Miles Davis, Valaida Snow, and Bill Coleman. Pat Halcox, of the Chris Barber band who died recently, is remembered by the programme’s presenter, Alyn Shipton.

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Henri Texier: Inimitable savoir-faire

Jazz Line-Up (R3, Sun, 11pm) presented by Julian Joseph this week concentrates on the hard blowing Marius Neset quartet in concert, recorded in the Merseyside seaside town of Southport. The programme also features an interview with Mark Lockheart. Jazz on 3 on Monday evening, again on Radio 3 at 11pm, features French bass legend Henri Texier and his trio, plus the duo of Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston, recorded at the 2012 London Jazz Festival. MB

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Surely Ethan Iverson won’t, will he, lean over to say ‘play it again, Sam?’ Even a whisper might be out of the question from the piano player, or the fun-loving fans in the audience bound to turn out in some number when The Bad Plus’ Iverson plays an exclusive trio club date in the spring.

No, it’s not with The Bad Plus although he will be back on tour with the acclaimed trio in the UK soon but instead with man of mystery, bassist Sam Lasserson, and the more familiar ex-Lee Konitz drummer and Dave Liebman associate, Jeff Williams. But who exactly is Lasserson?

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‘I’ll play it again’: Sam Lasserson

Well, the bassist is in ECM saxophonist Martin Speake’s quartet, and plays with rising star of the guitar Hannes Riepler, the “Country Gentleman" player who helms the burgeoning Sunday night jam downstairs at the Vortex in Dalston’s Gillett Square. Lasserson obviously keeps good company.

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Cool school: Jeff Williams

How the polymath Iverson has hooked up with Lasserson is anyone’s guess but the pianist is a shrewd observer of the scene, and in terms of London is no stranger to the Vortex where the gig is to take place. Iverson four years ago joined Bad Plus drummer Dave King, hipster alto sensation Tim Berne, and cellist Hank Roberts in the very spot for one of the most hardcore improvising gigs ever witnessed at the cutting edge club. Early booking advised.  MB

Ethan Iverson, top
www.vortexjazz.co.uk, Saturday 20 April

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It’s not easy to catch, live, the undisputed giants of the music up close and personal in a jazz club. When it happens it’s impossible to forget.

Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, even, in your neighbourhood jazz club any time soon? Forget about it: it’s just not going to happen. But a kid can dream.

Well truth can be stranger and even more mind blowing than fiction sometimes, and last year one of the giants of the music alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett best known for his intuitive work with Miles Davis and for his own records made a welcome return to the UK playing a few jazz clubs rather than a concert hall.

And he returns to one of the clubs, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on Friday, followed by two shows on Saturday. Garrett is reunited with pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. who played London last year slaying the crowd on one of the nights with the infectious ‘Happy People’ but adding percussionist Rudy Bird this week for even more heat.

On form in the studio, it’s just a year since the release of one of Garrett’s most memorably melodic albums to date, Seeds From The Underground, yet live there’s an additional rapid-fire spontaneity from the alto man, allied by Hunter’s Tony Williams-type attack that communicates immediately.

With his trademark skull cap, still youthful demeanour and playing style head-bobbing up and down, alto saxophone in the air, or down low to the ground, Garrett can deliver elegant runs of beautifully fluid improvising episodes with at times a Mali-meets-McCoy Tyner style bubbling up from pianist Brown on original material of the quality of ‘Boogety Boogety’.

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Expect funk a plenty (in the Miles Davis 1980s sense), free-form Ornettian figures as well at these shows. On the Friday after Garrett leaves the stage there’s a free entry Whirlwind jam, so stick around if you’re stepping out, as the cream of the Soho scene are likely to show. MB

Kenny Garrett, top and Pizza Express Jazz Club above word on the street

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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The Aberdeen jazz festival gets underway later and on the programme of a busy festival today there’s US jazz-rock fusion heavyweights Yellowjackets, and the Henry Threadgill-inspired improv of the acclaimed Trio Red. Tomorrow (Wednesday 13 March) features a young musicians’ showcase, with the Hot 8 Brass Band already sold out, and Brian Kellock playing the music of Fats Waller. Thursday finds Trio Elf feat. guitarist Graeme Stephen at the Blue Lamp, and also for Aberdeen this week is bluesman Mud Morganfield. Friday features concerts by Ruby Turner, and Courtney Pine, with an appearance by Hidden Orchestra on Saturday and the festival moves to a climax with Trio Libero (above) featuring the ‘King of Aberdeen’ himself Seb Rochford, with Andy Sheppard and Michel Benita, making their Scottish debut on Sunday. More at www.aberdeenjazzfestival.com

On the horizon


Derry jazz and big band festival 2-6 May
http://www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com

Glasgow jazz festival 26 June-30 June
www.jazzfest.co.uk

Edinburgh jazz and blues festival 19-28 July
http://www.edinburghjazzfestival.com/

Marlborough jazz festival 19-21 July
http://www.marlboroughjazz.com/

Hull jazz festival
26-28 July and 21-27 November
http://www.jnight.org/hulljazzfestival.php

and from Marlbank yesterday:

Jazz festival 10

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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. (Porter, Pine and Portico, above)
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

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Some singers are known only by their first name. It’s all that’s needed.

With Eska Mtungwazi, universally known as Eska, there’s no mistaking the musicianship and supreme vocal talent at play.

An improviser first and foremost, with an ear for a melody that vaults genres and continents, new EP Gatekeeper, to be followed by a milestone album English Skies, are expected later this year.

But before that, at a major solo headlining show the singer is to present, appearing at the Albany theatre in London previewing new songs some of which will appear on English Skies, an album that promises to be one of the most talked about UK jazz vocal events of the year.

Brought up in Lewisham, the Zimbabwe-born singer has a voice that communicates instantly no matter the style, and features a technique that’s unsurpassable in terms of range, emotion and skill, with Eska at home in an a cappella situation, part of a vocal grouping, or even improvising against a saxophone or raw bass line. Eska’s talents have also seen her work with acclaimed indie bands including The Invisible; and she has appeared with vocal great Bobby McFerrin, as well as maverick jazz composer and big band leader Matthew Herbert.

Now an associate artist at the Albany in Deptford, where Soweto Kinch previewed The Legend of Mike Smith last year, and clarinettist Arun Ghosh has performed multi-media experimental productions in the past, the Saturday 23 March show is a first-name-only affair, and a chance above all to glimpse a singer on the cusp of great things. MB
Stephen Graham

ESKA, top

www.thealbany.org.uk

 

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Jazz record labels make things happen, and although notions of what a record company are there to do vary enormously nowadays, they still count.

In recent years the tide has changed with the digital revolution and artist empowerment, and even since the last survey here in November, a bunch of important new labels, or reactivated ones, are making a real difference in pushing the music forward, connecting with fans and building the sector.

Digital-only releases, for instance, the latest Andrew McCormack trio album through Edition, are becoming more commonplace, but remain the exception to the rule. The vinyl-only label Gearbox, though, has begun to make its unique presence felt. What goes around…

…comes around, and watch out for the return of Verve records in the UK, with new A&R in the late-spring, a year after the UK office was closed down. It comes at a time when Blue Note and Verve will come under the same roof for the first time, “great ships coming in to dock", as the label chief at Universal has put it. 

Label activity

Diatribe
Prog-jazz inclined, artists include Redivider, ZoiD, and Thought-Fox. http://www.diatribe.ie/

Spartacus
Sax force-of-nature Tommy Smith’s label, back with a bang and In The Spirit of Duke
http://www.spartacusrecords.com/

Alex Wilson records
A burgeoning label catalogue topped by a fine new trio release from the leading latin-jazz pianist of his generation
http://www.alexwilsonrecords.com/

Lyte records
Drummer David Lyttle’s forward thinking label. Artists include teenage jazz guitar sensation Andreas Varady http://www.lyterecords.com

Destin-e
House of Legends was a big hit for Courtney Pine’s label in 2012 topping the Jazzwise Album of the Year critics’ poll
http://www.propermusic.com/label/Destin-E-2051

Subtone
Martin Speake’s label, Polar Bear-meets-Ellington at last!
http://marklockheart.co.uk

Okeh
Part of Sony Classical: Bill Frisell, Dhafer Youssef, John Medeski, and Michel Camilo are on the roster. No website yet.
Latest www.marlbank.net/news/388-michel-camilo-signs-to-okeh

Verve
There is a UK placeholder website for the famed record company founded by Norman Granz. But there are few details so far, and the Universal-owned label won’t comment on the new signings. Check back for the first news when the publicity button is finally pressed. Last year before the label closed vocals starlet Natalie Duncan, among others, was signed.
http://www.ververecordsuk.com/

Gearbox
Vinyl-only, artists include hard bop purist Simon Spillett, and the great Kenny Wheeler.
http://www.gearboxrecords.com/Site/gearbox.html       MB

Report: Stephen Graham

 Diatribe artist ZoiD, top

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There must be a dream factory somewhere, a place where crooners are manufactured. Well there definitely is a crooner style and sound among new Britjazz singers, and it usually involves a suit, a sharp haircut and a knowing look. Alexander Stewart and Theo Jackson are just two of the latest to emerge, and ex-West End theatre singer Anthony Strong follows quickly on from these Manchester and London jazz stars in the making. A crooner and piano player, he has the suit of course, and the hair. With the trace of his own shadow on the wall Strong stands almost but not quite the rebel on a sofa on the cover of Stepping Out (Naïve **1/2). There’s a strong cast of players on this album with bass duties shared by Tom Farmer and Calum Gourlay; and former Jamie Cullum drummer Sebastiaan de Krom and Matt Skelton the sticksmen involved, on a selection of the 14 tracks here. Guitarist Chris Allard completes the core band, with guests Aussie trumpeter James Morrison, saxophonists Brandon Allen and Nigel Hitchcock, with still more players in the horn section and strings as well. I really didn’t warm to the rinky-dinky way the horns have been recorded (it’s just the audio style incidentally not the playing which is perfectly fine), but more than this Strong really doesn’t make his presence felt. The song choices are good, although you can’t really go wrong with ‘Witchcraft’, ‘Too Darn Hot’ and ‘My Ship’, yet the album sounds as if it’s going through the motions. Strong’s voice is like a younger, more bashful, Jamie Cullum and owes a debt to Harry Connick Jr; and it’s clearly too early to talk about an individual sound. Dream factories are all very well, but no one can create raw excitement on demand, and that’s an element Stepping Out could do with. MB
Stephen Graham 

Anthony Strong above

 

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Imagine coming across a tape, languishing in a drawer, by a giant of jazz. Unheard for more than three decades. Too unknown even to be properly forgotten.

Bassist Don Thompson made such a discovery.

And now At Home, a lost recording George Shearing and the ex-Paul Desmond sideman made together in Shearing’s New York apartment, emerges at last.

Shearing’s widow the former-singer Ellie Shearing is issuing the album on a new label called JazzKnight on 15 April.

Interest in Sir George is at a high at the moment two years since the great Battersea man’s passing with the launch of The Shearing Hour, an early evening piano hour at the Pizza Express Jazz Club.

There’s also a strong indication that Universal will step into the fray some time after May to reissue tracks from the storied Capitol years, languishing in the recently acquired EMI vaults.

Canadian Thompson, a musical partner of Shearing’s on such albums as Live at the Cafe Carlyle, played the January 1983 created tape to Ellie Shearing after a memorial concert in Toronto.

Lady Shearing says she liked what she heard. “I brought it back to New York," she says in publicity material, “and took it to Jim Czak, who is the chief engineer of his own recording studio. I wanted to hear this CD on the big speakers in his studio. Mike Renzi [a late-period Peggy Lee accompanist], a fabulous jazz pianist in his own right, also came by. Well, we sat listening to the entire recording without saying a word. When the last note had died away, there was silence. Jim spoke first. ‘Ellie, I couldn’t have recorded this better here in the studio.’ Mike then added: ‘This has got to be heard’."

Look out for more on At Home, which features duo tracks and four solo numbers, later in the week on Marlbank. Tracks are thought to include ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, ‘Can’t We Be Friends’, ‘Laura’, and ‘Beautiful Love’. MB

An earlier version of ‘Laura’ performed by George Shearing to listen to for now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF72hjbPO2A and a version of ‘Beautiful Love’ also previously issued: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz9njOgKBYU

George Shearing, top

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So festivals based on album titles. What’s to think? Well, I’m in favour although, clearly, some album titles would not quite work. 20 Jazz Funk Greats might not be the best choice to be perfectly frank. Throbbing Gristle fans aren’t necessarily heartland jazz fans. Or at all. But can you imagine the chaos? And a festival themed around Peter Brötzmanns Machine Gun might be a bit intense.

Brilliant Corners though works, and if you noticed the earlier post today about festivals, its first running as a festival later this month bristles with some great artist choices. 

The album Brilliant Corners itself has just five tracks: the title track clocking in modestly at just under eight minutes followed by the A side epic ‘Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba Lues-Are’; with ‘Pannonica’, named after the jazz baroness of course; ‘I Surrender Dear’; and jam session favourite, ‘Bemsha Swing’, completing the music. The album’s producer Orrin Keepnews recalls the album in this fascinating video, a link to which is below. MB

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W6mRy4jdk0