Sonny Rollins has cancelled his forthcoming appearances at the Umbria jazz festival in Italy as well as Vienne in France and North Sea in Rotterdam because of health problems. "This past spring," the 82-year-old says in a statement, “I was dealing with some respiratory issues that necessitated my cancelling several concerts. I have been under a doctor’s care, and we were hopeful that I would be able to return to performing in time for my scheduled concerts this month and next. However, I am still not in condition to perform, and regretfully I must cancel these shows."

 

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The Swallow Quintet
Into the Woodwork
XtraWatt ***1/2
Recorded in a Provençal studio characterised by a “post-hippie vibe”, as Steve Swallow describes it, Carla Bley’s stealthily alert organ part on opener ‘Sad Old Candle’ and a quietly brooding Chris Cheek on tenor saxophone prepare the way for an often quite unusual album that Swallow is quoted as saying “evokes a sense of going into somewhere, somewhere slightly unusual”. As guitarist Steve Cardenas emerges as if from a thicket, and ex-Brad Mehldau trio drummer Jorge Rossy brushes suitably lethargically on the opener the charming scene is set. With a dozen tracks featuring music all written by Swallow there’s a jaunty vibe mostly even if some of the song titles, the likes of ‘Grisly Business’ and ‘Unnatural Causes’, are not exactly cheerful. ‘From Whom It May Concern’ (the title a quote from a Paul Haines salutation) has a big old fashioned and suitably Cheek-y romantic tenor solo, with Bley comping astutely. Swallow, from the beginning of the 1960s, has been an increasingly important figure in international jazz as the years have gone by, an influence on a new generation as his recent work as a member of The Impossible Gentlemen more than confirms. Highlights? Chris Cheek almost steals the show entirely on ‘Small Comfort’ with a Getzian solo of real surprise emerging from a quality arrangement; and Carla Bley has some offbeat moments to raise a cheer near the end on ‘Still There’ and she’s witty and quirky throughout. Swallow’s funky bass figure on ‘Exit Stage Left’ is a treat.
Released on 17 June

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Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell
Azure
ECM ****
If friendships and musical associations are about the ‘now’ and the ‘then’ Azure draws this sharply into relief with a burning intensity. The ‘then’ may have been the pairing of Peacock and Crispell with the late Paul Motian; the ‘now’, a music of risk-taking adventure and contemplation in equal measure. It’s also quite a moving album at times, and Crispell’s tune ‘Waltz After David M’ is just beautifully conceived within a post-bebop piano timeline that journeys back to Bill Evans but also reveals a significant compositional voice at play. There are goodbyes and lullabies, colours and dances on Azure, the duo performing tunes they each composed individually or in three cases, together. Crispell used to be a somewhat severe pianist – I’m thinking of the marvellous Kitchen Concert trio set for Leo recorded in the late-1980s – but Azure taps an elegiac sense with some tenderness on the lovely ‘Goodbye’. Listening to Peacock here is a wholly different experience to hearing the bassist with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, as on the recent Standards trio Lucerne live album Somewhere. The anti-grammar of the tunes on Azure, the role of Peacock as an equal soloist, and the radical conception of musical freedom they share make the experience of listening to him very rewarding. Azure challenges the listener with an accessible familiarity or so it seems; but it’s above all an album that values the mystery of experience, the seeking and the sought.
Released on 17 June
Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell above photo Elliott Peacock/ECM

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Dave Holland

Ronnie Scott’s is to host the London and UK debut of Prism, Dave Holland’s stellar new electric band. Playing the club on 2 and 3 November it’s hallowed turf for Holland the very spot where Miles Davis discovered the Wolverhampton man in 1968 when he was making his way on the jazz scene in a support slot, performing with singer Elaine Delmar, for the Bill Evans trio. Prism toured in continental Europe last year but has yet to play anywhere in the UK. YouTube clips suggest the band is something else.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NMAVWfNY7sv

The band besides Holland has keyboardist Craig Taborn who’s recently released his own trio album Chants to acclaim http://www.marlbank.net/post/51370755645/ghostly-calm; plus Charles Lloyd’s remarkable drummer Eric Harland; and Kevin Eubanks, who released The Messenger last year reviewed here http://www.marlbank.net/post/33669617086/kevin-eubanks-is-back-with-elegant-ballads-laden-album. The ex-Tonight Show band guitarist who goes way back with Holland (the pair plus Mino Cinelu had a good thing going in the mid-1990s on their album World Trio). Fans of Holland will this year have already marvelled at hearing the bassist on the previously unreleased Miles Davis release Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 http://www.marlbank.net/post/48422499665/the-lost-band and so Prism will be the icing on the cake even if November seems a long way off. An ideal build to the London Jazz Festival later in the month:
Tickets http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk/performances/view/1559-dave-holland-prism

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Moments club set captured on Live in Bremen

The return of Anthony Joseph and the Spasm band with their latest album on 1 July is a welcome bit of news about an artist who never sits comfortably within the often rigid genre distinctions of jazz. A charismatic poet and spoken word artist fronting an Afro-beat and free jazz-influenced band on the surface Joseph’s artistry is based on a deep love of Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and as a poet the work of Derek Walcott and Linton Kwesi Johnson are important influences. Joseph, described by Robin Denselow in The Guardian as “an intriguing multicultural all-rounder”, in his direction is not going to be an obvious choice for jazz purists. But his pluralistic approach is completely in keeping with the spirit of the music and those jazz artists who are able to push the music forward. Working closing with the Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto, and as a guest in recent years with Jerry Dammers’ groundbreaking Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra, Trinidad-born Joseph has a unique vantage point as an artist able to draw in additional elements to his artistic ideas that make perfect sense often folding in soca and psychedelic rock to the mix and keeping it dance-friendly while retaining a strong improvisational sensibility as a bedrock ingredient. Moving to the UK in the late-1980s, Joseph has an Afro-futurist approach in his poetry and his music is its natural corollary. With three albums featuring the Spasm band so far released, the latest of which is Rubber Orchestras two years ago with its quite brilliant stand out track ‘She is the Sea’ the new album Live in Bremen was recorded in October last year and features these tracks: ‘Heavy’, ‘Griot’, ‘Cutlass’, ‘Bullets in the Rock’, ‘Buddha’, ‘Speak the Name’, ‘Bird Head Son’, ‘The Engine Room’, and ‘Started Off as a Dance’. It is released on the French label Naïve. Check back for a review of the album in these pages soon.
Anthony Joseph, above
Photo: Edwige Hamben

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I heard Wes Montgomery, and it was like ‘Oh My God!’" was how swinging modern mainstream US guitarist Sheryl Bailey explained her guitar calling to one magazine interviewer some years ago. That spark of inspiration was enough to send the player who grew up in Pittsburgh on her way deep into the heart of the modern mainstream jazz guitar tradition even as a teenager. After study at Berklee in Boston and a move to New York city the mid-1990s saw the guitarist, who’s on tour in England this week, debut with an album called Little Misunderstood and since then Bailey has chalked up a strong discography and a reputation as a guitarist’s guitarist with albums such as the 2011 album For All Those Living and A New Promise. Hear this fine player this week, with dates at Spike’s Place, Beckenham with Gareth Lockrane, Simon Woolf, and Matt Fishwick (13 June); Da Scalzo 2, Ecclestone Place, London SW1 with Karen Sharp, and Simon Woolf (14 June); the Verdict, Brighton with Geoff Simkins, and Simon Woolf (15 June); Eagle Tavern, Rochester with Dave O’Higgins, Simon Woolf, and Tristan Maillot (16 June, lunchtime); Ronnie Scott’s Late Late Show with Ross Stanley, Simon Woolf, and Winston Clifford (17 June); Lower Ground Bar, West Hampstead, London with Christian Brewer, Simon Woolf, and Clark Tracey (18 June); Boisdale Canary Wharf with Jim Mullen, Simon Woolf, and Steve Brown (19 June); Clock Tower, Croydon with Allison Neale and Simon Woolf (20 June, afternoon); and 606, London with Ross Stanley, Simon Woolf, and Winston Clifford (20 June).
Sheryl Bailey above