Among the Mercury nominees Seed Ensemble are nominated for Driftglass. The Cassie Kinoshi-led band launched their debut at Kings Place in February. Fact fans: no jazz act has, ridiculously, ever won the Mercury which is the UK’s most credible and high profile music prize to encompass indie rock, electronica, hip-hop, folk, soul, jazz etc spanning UK and Irish releases. Can Seed Ensemble to borrow from a Miles Davis track title run the voodoo down? Check the vibe out on Thursday from 7pm on the Tom Ravenscroft show to know.
Binker Golding has a new quartet album and it will be launched this week, the date already sold out. Mellow, deep, challenging and inhabiting a Denys Baptiste and beyond sound universe the album is titled gnomically Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers and, the exact opposite of a pedestrian affair, it was however recorded on hallowed ground at Abbey Road studios in St John’s Wood. Alongside Dem Ones tenorist Golding features Daniel Casimir on double bass, Joe Armon-Jones on piano and Sam Jones on drums. Compositions are by Golding and the release is on King’s Cross label Gearbox. Golding will launch the album at Ronnie Scott’s on Wednesday. In Soho and about bowl up to see if there are any returns. You may strike lucky.
Speaking on the phone from Munich ahead of going on stage last night at Unterfahrt in the company of Charles Lloyd bassist Joe Sanders and the Mehldau Art of the Trio legend Jorge Rossy this snatched interview with Ethan Iverson luckily snuck in ahead of time because someone missed their interview slot, heralded after a “Hello. Great!” text began by Iverson uttering the word “genius” when quizzed. But who was he talking about and what was the context?
The indisputable genius in question is Manfred Eicher, the producer of Common Practice, a live-at-the-Village Vanguard quartet affair featuring trumpet icon, the elegant Eldrigian Tom Harrell which is to be released this coming Friday the context. There was a verb too and a back story. “He is a genius. I grew up listening to ECM”. The first ECM he says he recalls was Paul Bley with Gary Peacock, “early on”, and refers me to a list of his favourite 50 ECMs (available online).
As the conversation settles into the bouncy benevolent fuzziness of a mobile to mobile soundzzizzzsphere thanks to a trampoline signal crisscrossing the continent of Europe from east to west across Germany to the marlbank hole in the hedge in the borderlands of Ireland, Ethan says when asked about his preferred pianos that his heroes Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk could play on any piano although the New York Manhattan club the Village Vanguard where the album was recorded has “a nice Steinway” and he recalls first playing there with Kurt Rosenwinkel and many times thereafter with The Bad Plus, some “17 times playing there every year,” he pinpoints.
Grilled about the sound the pianist who is originally from the midwest of the USA says down there in the Village the sound is “very dry”. He took a decision to bring a “‘classical’” engineer, namely Andreas Meyer — a Glenn Gould and Bob Dylan reissue producer — in. We talk, it would be rude not to, about applause and how the applause of the audience has been captured. These things matter. The album thankfully does not sound like a vicar’s tea party when the audience respond.
More seriously this brings up the subject of how audiences are significant. Artists want to move us. And Ethan mentions how much on another more recent occasion in the Vanguard when they played together an audience member was so moved by Tom Harrell’s playing that “tears were flowing down her face” in the front row and seems to agree with my description of his blueness and mentions that there is “a vulnerability” in Tom’s sound.
In terms of historic Vanguard records the ones Ethan likes most were the Sonny Rollins, Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones et al classic A Night at The Village Vanguard issued by Blue Note, released in 1958; the Coltrane “Live” at the Village Vanguard put out in 1962 and the Bobby Timmons In Person recorded (as was the Trane) in 1961 with Ron Carter and Tootie Heath the latter two living legends both players who Ethan has worked with extensively. I cheekily ask him if he has to raise his sartorial standards when playing with big Ron given how great a dresser the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet bassist is especially in terms of beautiful suits and ties. He laughs. Playing with Carter he says wisely that the important thing is not “to feel too intimidated” by his greatness.
As for standards on the album we talk about the Dorseys a little as quite a few of the standards included have well known versions by either Tommy (eg ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’) or Jimmy (‘I Remember You’) however Ethan steers me in the direction of Thelonious Monk for his model version of ‘I’m Getting Sentimental Over You’. He shocks me a little by saying he will never make another standards album again.
Ben Street from the Billy Hart quartet that also features Iverson is on double bass in the quartet and Eric McPherson from the Fred Hersch trio is on drums and complete the quartet. Hersch who plays Ireland this autumn taught Iverson. Recorded towards the end of January in 2017 Ethan tells me Common Practice is drawn from four sets of material and selected from 4-and-a-half hours worth of music and that he is “confident” that they picked the best performances. Perhaps there will be a future clamour for more from the sessions. Let’s see. However, it is a no brainer to realise as you dear readers may well discover for yourself come release time that Common Practice is nothing less, spoiler alert, than a marvel.
Track titles on it include George Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’, taken very slowly, the aforementioned ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams,’ Denzil Best’s ‘Wee’ plus a brace of Iverson originals. As for the inclusion of ‘Wee’ Iverson writing on his multi-award winning blog Do the Math in 2016 noted: “When I was in high school I went every summer to the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp in Elmhurst, Illinois. The very first time I was placed in David Baker’s combo. “David Baker was a thrilling personality. He had hung out and played with major jazz figures, and we loved hearing him tell stories about the masters from the vantage point of being a casual friend. One day that week Baker came in and began singing Denzil Best’s ‘Wee’ to us. No chart: We had to learn it by ear, and deal. The next day he made us play Lee Morgan’s ‘Ceora’ in all twelve keys. Baker was also a serious composer. I had yet to become immersed in classical music, but Baker gave me a book that was a strong indication that I should investigate more 20th-century composition.”
Iverson too as a serious composer himself recently premiered music for Samuel Beckett’s Quad at the Happy Days festival in Enniskillen performed by the Mark Morris Dance Group. He tells me that he has written a concerto and will be looking ahead to a new record as well as touring with Billy Hart to mark the Mwandishi great’s 80th next year. SG
To the power of four – Ben Street, Tom Harrell, Ethan Iverson, Eric McPherson top. Photo: Monica Frisell.
• Ethan Iverson, Joe Sanders and Jorge Rossy play London in the Pizza Express, Holborn tonight.
Waiting Game is new from the great drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science this autumn and what a sound from the singles so far. Marlbank dropped in to the studio to play from the album ‘Bells (Ring Loudly)’ feat. Malcolm Jamal Warner and chat to trumpeter Linley Hamilton on his BBC Radio Ulster show Jazz World this week looking ahead to the very fine prospect of the TLC residency at the London Jazz Festival. Listen from 28mins 19secs.
LIVE REPORT ARDHOWEN THEATRE, ENNISKILLEN, GALLERY BAR Under a harvest moon a very special occasion this because “cosmic” Clive Culbertson was in the house and on bass guitar joining the erstwhile Waterboys drummer Peter McKinney who played superbly all night in a cracking rhythm section completed by John McCullough on organ/keys and Anthony ‘Sailortown’ Toner rhythm and occasional lead guitar and vocals with Lisburn blues legend Ronnie Greer on lead blues guitar and vocals. Marlbank grabbed a quick chat with Clive later kindly introduced by Ronnie who when asked expressed his admiration for the bass playing of David Hayes, touched briefly on Rosicrucianism, and showed us a pic of Van Morrison’s recent 74th birthday celebrations that he attended and which looked fun.
The main takeaway from the gig was that Ronnie mentioned to us all in the audience that he is about to record a live album in Lisburn to follow on from The Jazz Project and the earlier A Lifetime With the Blues.
The first set opened with a rollicking ‘No Brainer’ and highlights later included a superb ‘Cajun Moon’ – Toner elegant on this JJ Cale favourite. The take on Mingus’ ‘Nostalgia in Times Square’ was a little ragged however the Dan’s ‘Do it Again’ raised the bar to new heights and the Chicago blues got the room going. There was a great turn out in the Gallery and very nice to see Sidewalk Boogie drummer Des Campbell in the front row lapping it up – and Blakes of the Hollow owner Pat Blake where the Boogie are a house band one of the luminaries in the audience.
Anthony Toner, middle pic foreground left-to-right, Clive Culbertson, Ronnie Greer (John McCullough who excelled best of all grinding in the Jimmy Smith segment is in the background of the shot while Peter McKinney is not in shot) in the Gallery Bar. Text + pics Stephen Graham/marlbank. In the audio Clive Culbertson is on ‘High Spirits’ with Van Morrison and the Chieftains as he is on what became a peace meditational: the poetic ‘Coney Island’. Peter McKinney also in the audio with the Waterboys is on the wondrous ‘Fisherman’s Blues’.
The inspiration behind ‘Cousin Mary’ on classic John Coltrane 1960 album Giant Steps died on the last day of August. “A very earthy, folksy, swinging person,” Trane described her in the album liner notes. Mary Lyerly Alexander was 92. A first cousin of the saxophonist’s, Mary became an activist in Philadelphia and served on the board of the TraneStop Resource Institute and later the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society which was incorporated in 1985 with its hq at the Coltrane House where Mary and her husband lived and which was dedicated to inner city youth positivity, jazz, and the legacy of John William Coltrane. She suffered a stroke in 2005 which rendered her speechless and she lived in a nursing home until her death. Read The New York Times obituary.
The great Ahmad Jamal has produced the brand new From Baku to New York City just released. The Baku born Shahin Novrasli harnesses a very supple fast improvising facility and hitches it to a flexible classical technique. His poetic side is extremely strong and natural, ripples of mindfulness radiate in ever increasing circles.
With Jamal producing, the Ahmadians bassist James Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley play with Shahin on From Baku to New York City and the record arrives on the same day as the new Jamal record Ballades.
On one level one track released back in the summer ‘Cry of Gulchokhra’ ahead of the album, written by the great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, is a conversation with Cammack; on another it is like a nocturne, and revels in the simplicity of modal study breaking eventually into the release of a natural bluesy display of virtuosity in the open improvisation drawn from the ingredients of what has gone before like a natural conclusion.
As for the other tracks on the album the choices journey deep into the popular jazz and songbook consciousness: ‘Both Sides Now’ has a throbbing pedal note to underpin the Joni journeying and the rhapsody; ‘52nd Street Theme’ bobs along like a cork in the bebop river nipping past stones and little sticks.
‘Night Song’ is a beautiful ballad, the layers of modal discovery showing the incredible touch that Shahin possesses and absorption of the essence of the mugham; ‘Shahin’s Day’ is exploratory the senses going deeper and deeper, Herlin Riley on drums an iridescent presence. ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ begins in epic quietude with ‘Salt Peanuts’, ‘Memories’ and ‘Stella By Starlight’ all heartening in their passion. It is a long way from Baku to New York city and Shahin journeys there and straight to the heart on his greatest album to date. You may well chuckle or grin from ear to ear in delight. SG
From Baku to New York City is on Jazz Village **** highly recommended
Kurt Elling is transporting his 1950s themed Chicago radio drama The Big Blind to London after a New York premiere earlier this year. The cast in the Terry Kinney directed production includes Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Clarke Peters and Ian Shaw + the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Guy Barker. The Big Blind was co-written by Elling and Phil Galdston. The show will be performed at the QEH on the South Bank of the Thames on 31 January 2020.
Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl which finds in terms of the live date the guitarist-leader-composer with Amirtha Kidambi, vocals; Maria Grand, saxophone, vocals; Adam O’Farrill, trumpet; Michael Formanek, bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums appear at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on 5 October. Expect ideas; superb band interplay; and above all imagination.
As the latest single from Waiting Game ‘If Not Now’ is released 2019 is certainly the time for Terri Lyne Carrington who is artist in residence at the EFG London Jazz Festival. The festival director Pelin Opcin sets the scene
“We at the EFG London Jazz Festival are thrilled to feature Terri Lyne Carrington as the artist in residence this year, in partnership with Kings Place as part of their Venus Unwrapped series.
“Terri Lyne is a prominent drummer, composer and producer who has been the sought-after musical director in many projects that focused on women leaders in jazz in particular.
“In her current work, Social Science, she creates a platform for experiments and interactions with musicians sharing a common language and bringing in their differences. As a major part of the residency she will invite some of the most exciting musicians from the British jazz scene for a fresh and stimulating musical experience, including saxophonist Soweto Kinch, trumpet player Emma-Jean Thackray, rapper Truemendous.
“This residency will showcase Social Science, which ‘was born from a need to express the emotions and thoughts about where we are socially, historically, politically, and spiritually. This alternative jazz band reflects a contemporary/post-modern view on music’.”