Kendrick Scott and Oracle show their class on Conviction
Opening with the prayer of St Francis as spoken word, Kendrick Scott and Oracle’s Conviction make a second unusual choice: a cover of influential Brummie outfit Broadcast’s ‘Pendulum’ (from their Haha Sound album put out a decade ago). Guitarist Mike Moreno is Loueke-like as the track builds and then saxophonist John Ellis goes into hipster overdrive, really building as Scott provides the beautiful rhythm undergrowth. The Blanchard man powers Oracle like you wouldn’t believe, different limbs playing different rhythms, the epitome of the brilliant drummer just doing what he does on strong tunes. Taylor Eigsti on Fender Rhodes responds to the lapping guitar undulations at the end and the mood is set. Not out in the UK until May the album has gone to number one in the US iTunes jazz chart just a few days after release and no wonder as word of this spread like wildfire. Alan Hampton, old Houston mate of Robert Glasper’s who performed with the keyboardist in the autumn at the Roundhouse, doesn’t really play bass any more instead he’s a decent singer/songwriter of some quality and shows what he can do by really nailing ‘Too Much’ Sufjan Stevens’ song next up on Conviction captioned as Love. Another Glasper connection and ex-Floetry sideman Derrick Hodge has produced Conviction and the album is accessible but very much a jazz head’s album as well. That’s a knack.
Released by Concord in May in the UK
Great drums and keyboards processing on ‘Too Much’, love the scrappy industrial edge, and a guitar break to die for, and Scott opens up the time signature, a little like the way he does with Blanchard playing behind Brice Winston. Herbie’s ‘I Have a Dream’ is next with swinging bass from Joe Sanders and really classy modern jazz guitar from Moreno; the important equality track written by Scott ‘We Shall By Any Means’ with Sanders at his best on unaccompanied bass beautifully captured leading into a bass clarinet ostinato of some tenderness by Ellis. Then it’s ‘Liberty or Death’ (representing freedom), turning the volume up after a couple of minutes and a rhythm section figure you’ve got to hear with Moreno spiderwebbing up to the top of the band sound and then a multi-tracked vocal swell reminiscent of the much missed Mark Ledford.
‘Be water my friend, empty your mind’ — Bruce Lee
Kendrick’s solo at the beginning of ‘Cycling Through Reality’ might bring a few smiles from Jack DeJohnette (that’s in a good way although he might joke about which Special Edition album of his he’s been listening to!), and then it’s chords all the way from Moreno and a Blanchard-esque horn entry as this expansive tune develops. It’s possibly the most technical on the album but one that is very accessible as well so it’s not just for the jazz heads. Ellis loves getting in Chris Potter-land as well when the tune passes the three-minute mark and Moreno hits the sweet spot when he joins. Derrick Hodge’s title track ‘Conviction’ (love the bass riff and tone row harmony snatches from guitar and keys); then Walter Smith III’s ballad ‘Apollo’ with Eigsti showing what he can do on bravura piano, the crackling ‘Serenity’ with Hampton’s winning vocals against bass clarinet representing Faith; Scott’s ‘Be Water’ with some spoken word from martial arts guru Bruce Lee, the album’s bizarre Eric Cantona moment, and Michiel (not as stated) Borstlap’s ‘Memory of Enchantment’, a lucid piano solo, completes this superlative album. Best thing I’ve heard this year standing tall alongside The Sirens. Conviction (*****) just leaps out of the speakers.
Oracle pictured with Derrick Hodge right
City of Broken Dreams
There’s no sense of place other than in the title track of City of Broken Dreams and its bookending variant. And philosophically the ‘city’ like the dreams themselves does not exist. “Enrico Rava’s pianist” Guidi, with Stańko New York Quartet bassist Thomas Morgan and Portuguese drummer João Lobo dwell at least in the titles on a range of situations: determined (‘No Other Possibility’), contemplative (‘Ocean View’), fearful (‘The Forbidden Zone’) or predicated on vital relationships (‘The Impossible Divorce’, ‘The Way Some People Live’). There’s a mysterious ‘Leonie’ who is given an exquisite weightless melody that lifts the album via Morgan’s traction and Guidi’s harmonic touch to the heights as well. Guidi is a child of the 1980s, little known until now beyond his connection to Rava, but this Bley-esque debut as a leader for ECM is really very different to what you’ll hear on a Rava record. Lovely music throughout from a highly promising new leader, and it’s beautifully played and cultured although lacking a certain bite at times even if Morgan manages to add a master improviser’s edge. All the compositions are Guidi’s and to pinpoint another ‘The Forbidden Zone’ exhibits the trio’s ability to conjure highly contrasting noir that depict the ruins of emotion rather than metropolitan rubble. Stephen Graham
Giovanni Guidi above photo Paolo Soriani / ECM
First Keith Jarrett standards trio album in a decade
ECM has confirmed the release of Somewhere, the long rumoured Keith Jarrett Standards trio album. Recorded in Lucerne in July 2009 at KKL Luzern, a Jean Nouvel-designed concert hall with wondrous acoustics the work of famed acoustician Russell Johnson part of a complex that includes a modern art gallery, smaller hall, and restaurants overlooking Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.
The first standards trio release in a decade (the last was Up For It recorded outdoors in the south of France), no track listings are available yet but there is some speculation that the set contains a long version of ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story. It’s released on 6 May. Stephen Graham
The view from KKL in Lucerne top; Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock pictured middle; and inside the hall above.
Photos: Olivier Bruchez; and Standards trio photo: ECM
Not since Lammas has jazz and folk combined so effectively
June Tabor/Iain Ballamy/Huw Warren
Straddling folk and, by association and intent, jazz, Quercus, the trio of leading folk singer June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy also of the band Food, and pianist Huw Warren (who has performed with Tabor for an astonishing 25 years) these 11 songs have taken some time to be released, seven years since they were recorded in Basingstoke on a fabled piano in the town’s Anvil venue. But it’s more than worth the wait and it’s Warren’s interplay with the full expressive sound of Tabor’s voice (like Norma Waterson’s slightly, but darker than Christine Tobin’s) that counts. Iain Ballamy here and in Food recently has been on the form of his life, and his solo for instance on ‘Near But Far Away’ distils a life time’s work on ballads. At the end ‘All I Ask of You’ is a reminder of the moving version of the song on Balloon Man Ballamy’s first big breakthrough in the late-1980s. Texts of the songs draw on disparate sources including Robert Burns, A. E .Housman and Shakespeare and highlights include the lovely ‘Who Wants the Evening Rose’ where the honesty of Tabor’s voice momentarily recalling the late Kirsty MacColl, is truest. Ballamy here, oak-sturdy as the genus the band itself takes its name from, intertwines his improvisations with Warren’s superbly empathetic accompaniment so appropriately. Not since Lammas, has a folk-jazz project worked as joyously as here. Stephen Graham
Released on Monday 1 April
Babel **** RECOMMENDED
This is the debut release of Human, drummer and composer Stephen Davis’ new quartet. The Human sound is coloured by the violin of the maverick Dylan Bates, notable for his work with Billly Jenkins and Waiting For Dwarfs and it’s his best work to date. Human also features the talismanic presence of pianist Alexander Hawkins, and the electronicist, trumpeter Alex Bonney. ‘Little Particles’ finds Bonney In a Silent Way state of mind amid the complementary African-sounding piano and drums, with Bates resembling Leroy Jenkins in his pomp with that jagged Beckenham-derived individuality bolted on his brother Django also possesses. Hawkins is a haunting presence throughout. ‘I Am Planet’ has a rustling unsettled feel to it, with Hawkins’ three-note figure after the three-minute marking the warts-and-all groove that opens up for Davis to then move deep into multi-directional territory. ‘Cartagena’ is very different, as the clash of the drummer’s snare pumps the band up. An eloquent expression, there’s plenty of originality on Being Human. MB
With his band the Orient House Ensemble the band the saxophonist has led and toured hard for a dozen years, Gilad Atzmon is to celebrate his 50th birthday with two nights at the progressive Vortex club in east London on 14-15 June.
Collecting controversy effortlessly, his latest album Songs of the Metropolis recorded at the end of September and beginning of October last year is not though controversial in the slightest, with a theme based around the “sound of the city”, with tracks named after places: Paris, the opener, say. Or Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and so on, with one odd exception: the seaside town of Scarborough, “as opposed to London” as Atzmon’s gloss in the notes has it.
Atzmon says: “Now our planet weeps. Beauty is perhaps the last true form of spiritual resistance. The song is there to counter detachment and alienation.” Later in the album booklet there’s a quotation from the David Garrioch 2003 book Sounds of the City that contrasts how the sounds in a city were heard in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to the way they are heard today. “The evolution of this information system reflects changes in social and political organization and in attitudes towards time and urban space,” Garrioch writes. An “auditory community” is how he also terms it. Atzmon’s ballads-driven album taps into a line of jazz ballad-making that goes way back to at least Sidney Bechet in terms of the saxophone. The quartet on this World Village release, Atzmon with pianist Frank Harrison, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Eddie Hick, meld well to the expressive Atzmon playing style, which for me works best in his take on the traditional ‘Scarborough Fair’ melody (‘Scarborough’), and on the lovely ‘Vienna’. This album is a different view of the city, as urban soundscapes are usually thrusting affairs, radically different in flavour, and a lot grittier and volatile as Atzmon himself usually is. One of Atzmon’s best, alongside Exile and his work with the great Robert Wyatt, particularly For The Ghosts Within. These Vortex appearances coming immediately after the release of such a fine album should be very special indeed. Stephen Graham
Advance tickets from www.vortexjazz.co.uk
The Orient House Ensemble pictured with Eddie Hick, above left, Yaron Stavi, Frank Harrison, and Gilad Atzmon
Chelsea club to host festival from 22 May-2 June
Philadelphia jazz legend Pat Martino is to open the 606 club’s 25th anniversary festival in May with the guitarist making his first ever appearance in the Chelsea basement club. Originally located on the King’s Road, bandleader and flautist Stevie Rubie’s classic jazz club has consistently punched above its weight now long established on Lots Road, near the old Lots Road power station and in itself generating enough jazz power to keep the street swinging with neighbourhood, national, and international appeal as a jazz venue.
The festival begins on Wednesday 22 May with Pat Martino opening the 606 25 Fest, and while the complete line-up is still to be confirmed artists taking part in the 606 festival, which runs until 2 June, with up to four bands playing each night, are so far: Dan Reinstein, Dill Katz, Tony Kofi (Thursday 23 May); Lillian Boutte, Ian Shaw, Jacqui Dankworth (Friday 24 May); Mornington Lockett, Tim Whitehead, Nigel Hitchcock (Saturday 25 May); 606 Club Big Band (Sunday 26 May lunchtime); Hamish Stuart, Tony O’Malley (Sunday 26 May evening); 606 club band past and present, Jim Mullen, Ronnie Scott All-Stars (Monday 27 May); Adam Glasser with Robin Aspland, Tony Remy, Steve Watts and Frank Tontoh, John Critchinson/Dave Ciff, Derek Nash (Tuesday 28 May); Gwilym Simcock, John Parricelli / Mark Lockheart, Iain Ballamy (Wednesday 29 May); Jack Wilkins/Peter Rubie, Dave O’Higgins, Clark Tracey (Thursday 30 May), Paul Carmichael, Imaani, Stacey Brothers (Friday 31 May); Julian Joseph, Peter King, Bobby Wellins (Saturday 1 June), Christine Tobin (lunchtime, Sunday 2 June), Liane Carroll, Tommy Blaize Band, and Samara (Sunday 2 June). MB
Pat Martino top is opening the 606 25 Fest. Club owner Steve Rubie pictured in action above with his new band Skydive on flute
Birthday shows this week at New York club the Jazz Standard and a new quintet album Time Travel swings hard
Dave Douglas turned 50 at the weekend and what better way than to celebrate the trumpeter’s birthday than a run of shows at a top New York jazz club and the release of a new CD Time Travel?
So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday or Kansas City when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. How about the Vanguard in 1961 listening to John Coltrane on the cusp or Bill Evans on a Sunday night? Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought.
Time Travel is about hard bop swing essentially. You’ll know the sound if you’re in a jazz club and a tune such as the opener here ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ plays, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo.
“I was really interested in what David Toomey wrote in his book The New Time Travelers. How the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backwards, forwards, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect.”
- Dave Douglas
In terms of Douglas’ output, think The Infinite a bit, but there’s no Fender Rhodes. Or the band with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist who will appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival next month inside the quintet for the exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when Williams was with Terence Blanchard, and this quintet compares strongly to Blanchard’s latest aggregation, although the way the News Orleansian leaves space for Brice Winston is different to Douglas’ approach to harmonising with Irabagon. Both approaches share that salt; and swagger. Time Travel is almost the same band as last year’s acclaimed Be Still but it’s without a singer, although vocalist Heather Masse (not Aoife O’Donovan who’s on Be Still), will join the quintet in Cheltenham with quintet changes as well as saxophone applying also to drums.
‘Law of Historical Memory’ on Time Travel has a superbly ominous atmosphere courtesy of Mitchell, and then some admirably sour horn lines accentuated by drummer Rudy Royston that allow plenty of deliberately uneasy modulating for mood purposes. ‘Beware of Doug’ opens like something out of the Treme soundtrack, while ‘Little Feet’ is where Douglas can ‘speak’ to us listeners with that personal sound of his. ‘Garden State’ referring to New Jersey has a Sopranos-like jauntiness. Finally, the album to be released by Greenleaf in April flutters to a halt with ‘The Pigeon and the Pie’, and in these 10 minutes Douglas, who turned 50 on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. Set the tardis to fly. Stephen Graham
Dave Douglas, above
Soweto Kinch, Take Five Europe, and Rich Tailors are Paris-bound next month
Soweto Kinch will be performing music from The Legend of Mike Smith at next month’s Banlieues Bleues festival in Paris, and at la Dynamo situated right in the heart of the Quatre-Chemins quartier in Pantin, there’s a Take Five Europe presentation featuring new music developed and performed by a group of leading new European jazz artists performing under its banner. Trumpeter Airelle Besson, saxophonist Guillaume Perret, clarinettist Arun Ghosh, trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz, reeds player David Kweksilber, guitarist Chris Sharkey, pianist Marcin Masecki piano, bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Marcos Baggiani will perform at the concert in a double bill with the Rich Tailors, the formidable Anglo-French collaboration formed of members of Blink and the Mediums with Robin Fincker, Daniel Erdmann, Vincent Courtois, Alcyona Mick, and Paul Clarvis. More on Banlieues Bleues in festival listings. MB
Rich Tailors, above
With a UK release now confirmed for May although it’s released in the States this week Kendrick Scott and his band Oracle’s album Conviction, the drummer’s 11-track debut for Concord, follows on from the huge promise shown by The Source, Scott’s debut as a leader, released six years ago. But just in the autumn at Ronnie Scott’s club in London Scott, no stranger to homegrown audiences, was on storming form as the band shot into Eddie Cleanhead Vinson’s ‘Four’ with some fleetness of foot just days after President Obama was re-elected, the choice of tune title appropriate. Scott was Blakey-fast and driving hard, alongside young bass sensation Joshua “Smiler” Crumbly who himself was moving like a young Jimmy Blanton to his side. “Stoked” as he had put it before the gig and clearly up for it Scott displayed great mallet touch as the set developed, and he found the sweet part of the cymbal time and again.
Tracks on Conviction are Broadcast’s ‘Pendulum’; Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Too Much’ with a vocal by Alan Hampton who Glasper fans would have witnessed live guesting at the iTunes fest last year; Herbie Hancock’s ‘I Have a Dream’; solo bass track ‘We Shall By Any Means’; ‘Liberty or Death’; ‘Cycling Through Reality’; ‘Conviction’; ‘Apollo’; ‘Serenity’; ‘Be Water’ with a unusal monologue by that well known jazzer, martial arts master Bruce Lee; and solo piano piece ‘Memory of Enchantment’.
Scott, best known for his work in Terence Blanchard’s band, is joined in Oracle by a mostly new line-up with saxophonist and bass clarinettist John Ellis, guitarist Mike Moreno (the only band member here featured on The Source), hotshot pianist the still developing Taylor Eigsti, and bassist Joe Sanders, with Alan Hampton on two tracks in all. Co-produced by The Experiment’s Derrick Hodge, expected himself to debut for Blue Note records later this year, Hodge also wrote the title track ‘Conviction’. Scott, who’s 32 and comes from Houston where he attended the famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where both Robert Glasper and Jason Moran studied, and later Berklee in Boston, the drummer appeared on Terence Blanchard’s albums A Tale of God’s Will, and Flow, on which Scott’s tune ‘The Source’ features Herbie Hancock, who picked up a Grammy nomination for his solo. The song then gave its name to Scott’s own first album as a leader. New York-based for approaching a decade Scott besides Blanchard has also toured heavily with Herbie, John Scofield, and Wayne Shorter, as well as Pat Metheny and Christian McBride. Look out for an early review of Conviction in these pages soon. MB
Kendrick Scott above
Band on the Wall has confirmed on its website that Rokia Traoré is to play the Manchester club on 20 May hot on the heels of the release of the Malian singer/songwriter/guitarist’s latest album Beautiful Africa. It’s a coup for the Swan Street club as Traoré’s appearance in the city marks a return to heartland jazz clubs in the UK by the musician who has in the last year galvanised support among artists since Islamic militants threatened artistic and cultural freedoms in her home country following a bloody uprising. Beautiful Africa released in April features drummer Seb Rochford, in action at the weekend with the touring Ellington in Anticipation band in Belfast, in a session recorded in Bristol by PJ Harvey producer John Parish. Traoré sings in French, Bambara and English and plays guitar on an album comprising nine songs with the singer also joined by Mamah Diabaté on ngoni; Fatim Kouyaté and Bintou Soumbounou, backing vocals; Nicolaï Munch Hansen, bass; producer John Parish, on additional guitar; Stefano Pilia, guitar; and Jason Singh, human beatbox. Beautiful Africa is Traoré’s first album since Tchamantché in 2009. MB
Rokia Traoré, above
Neil Cowley: artist in residence at the UK city of culture
The Neil Cowley trio appearing at the Nerve Centre, drummer David Lyttle’s trio featuring ex-Sting keyboardist Jason Rebello, and Irish jazz guitar legend Louis Stewart have been announced as part of the extensive line-up of this year’s Derry jazz and big band festival.
David Lyttle: driving the new Irish jazz scene
The Cowley Trio, who just ahead of the festival on Monday 29 April are to release a live album recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival following the popular success of The Face of Mount Molehill, will also during a run of Irish dates play an earlier club date at the Black Box in Belfast with a village festival in west Cork also on their itinerary in May.
Jason Rebello: ex-Sting keyboardist
performing with David Lyttle in Derry
But Derry is the big one, with Cowley artist-in-residence at the city celebrating its prestigious UK city of culture status this year. In this very special year for culture in the north west of Ireland the festival will also host a radio broadcast to be recorded by BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up show presented by pianist Julian Joseph, with a concert to take place at the Tower Hotel in Derry on Monday 6 May. Artists to take part in the broadcast are to include saxophonist Trish Clowes with a band featuring Troyka guitarist Chris Montague, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer James Maddren and The Impossible Gentlemen’s Gwilym Simcock on piano. Local Radio Ulster presenter trumpeter Linley Hamilton’s Saxtet will also appear on the broadcast.
Other names for Derry this year include The Dark Energy trio (The Playhouse, 2 May), that’s bassist Alan Niblock with Mujician saxophonist Paul Dunmall and leading improv drummer Mark Sanders; Brass Impact Big Band (Waterside theatre, 3 May); Dana Masters band (City Hotel, 3 May); the Paul McIntyre trio plus Richie Buckley (The Playhouse, 4 May); the Puppini Sisters (The Venue 4 May); and Pink Martini (Millennium Forum, 5 May). MB
2-6 May www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com
West will, you’d have thought, once again be best if the line-up at the just announced Sligo Jazz Festival is anything to go by this year. The town, well known for its love of traditional Irish music, and in recent years a burgeoning reputation as a jazz place thanks to local jazz education initiative the Sligo Jazz Project, hosts the Sligo jazz festival from 16-21 July. This year’s line-up features the Mike Stern/Victor Wooten band with multi-Grammy award winning bass guitarist Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones renown teaming up with We Want Miles-period ex-Miles jazz-rock force-of-nature guitarist Mike Stern in their co-led quartet completed by saxophonist Bob Franceschini and drummer Derico Watson.
A big feature of the Sligo programme this year is the pairing of the Janek Gwizdala Trio, with fusion hotshot Gwizdala joined by guitarist Mike Nielsen and Human drummer Steve Davis, in a double bill with exciting new Celtic-alt.rock fusion trio The Olllam, featuring the great Belfast uilleann piper John McSherry (Lúnasa), the Detroit-born guitarist/keyboardist/piper Tyler Duncan, and drummer Michael Shimmin. Also for Sligo: pianist Kenny Werner with his trio; and an appearance by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra plus guests Ian Shaw, Marshall Gilkes, and Jean Toussaint. MB
Victor Wooten top and The Olllam above
Damon Albarn with Michael Horovitz
The vinyl-only Kings Cross jazz label Gearbox is to release a single featuring poet Michael Horovitz’s ‘Ballade Of The Nocturnal Commune / Extra Time Meltdown’ when the poet is joined by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and Paul Weller.
The Blur pair and the Modfather also appear with the distinguished anti-war poet on the new heavy vinyl album Bankbusted Nuclear Detergent Blues, the title track of which was commissioned by Paul Weller and the text of which appeared within the artwork of Weller’s album Sonik Kicks.
These releases are to coincide with the first ever release of archive recording Blues For The Hitchiking Dead (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #1) on two pieces of heavy 12-inch vinyl within a box set that recalls the important anti-nuclear era of the 1960s. ‘Hitchhiking Dead’ features the Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet in a March 1962 recording, with Horovitz and poet/songwriter Pete Brown playing the student union of Southampton university along with Stan Tracey, Jeff Clyne, Laurie Morgan, John Mumford and Bobby Wellins. In pre-release publicity material Pete Brown is quoted as saying: “Listening to the Blues again, the first thing that hits me is the fear. This was the most dangerous known period in history for a potential nuclear war, and we really felt it…. This may be a piece of history, an antique even, but it still has a lot to say. And we are by no means out of trouble yet.” MB
Damon Albarn and Michael Horovitz above (photo: courtesy Damon Albarn unofficial)
Released for Record Store Day, Saturday 20 April www.recordstoreday.co.uk Support your local record shop
(Updated at 3.15)
Babel records has just confirmed on its Bandcamp page the release of Being Human, the debut release of Human, Irish-born drummer and composer Stephen Davis’ new quartet. A pre-release gig at the Vortex tomorrow has, though, just been cancelled, the band’s Alex Bonney has said, explaining that the cancellation is “due to weather/travel etc," via Twitter. The inclement weather also affected the band’s Brilliant Corners festival appearance in Belfast yesterday.
Best known for Davis’ decade-long and continuing adventures as part of Bourne/Davis/Kane, the Human sound is coloured by the violin of the maverick Dylan Bates, notable for his work with Billly Jenkins and his tenure in the bizarre Waiting For Dwarfs. Human also features the talismanic presence of pianist Alexander Hawkins, and the electronicist, trumpeter Alex Bonney. There’s no bass on Being Human, confirmed by the east London-based label for a Monday 29 April release.
Tracks are ‘Frozen Goat’, ‘Being Human’, ‘Little Particles’ with Bonney finding an In a Silent Way sense of calm on this number amid the complementary African-sounding piano and drums, with the album completed by ‘I Am Planet’, ‘Cartagena’ and ‘Vinila Life’. Davis doesn’t need to channel anyone on this record, although there are echoes of Tony Oxley at times, and the benign presence of the late John Stevens hovers tantalisingly. Early listens suggest strong evidence of what Bates really can do: think Leroy Jenkins in his pomp with a jagged Beckenham-derived individuality bolted on, while Hawkins is a haunting presence throughout. ‘I Am Planet’ has a rustling unsettled feel to it, with Hawkins’ three-note figure after the three-minute marking the warts-and-all groove that opens up for Davis to then move deep into multi-directional territory. ‘Cartagena’ is very different, a track clued-up DJs might well wish to sample, as the clash of Davis’ snare pumps the band up and would get any club audience going. MB
The cover of Being Human top
Zoe Rahman, directing the Guildhall Jazz Ensemble, gets the Guildhall jazz festival off to a flying start tonight. The London conservatoire’s annual festival also features Ian Shaw, guesting with the Guildhall Jazz Singers and Ensemble; saxophonist Tom Challenger; Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts and Paul Dunmall better known as the Dartington Improvising Trio. Iain Ballamy and the Guildhall Jazz Band are also appearing during this year’s running. Zoe Rahman, above
Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print opened the Brilliant Corners jazz festival at the Belfast Barge on Thursday
Brilliant Corners began in Belfast the night before the snow arrived yesterday. While the festival was named in honour of Monk’s Brilliant Corners album there were no obvious tie-ins on the opening night to the great composer and pianist’s music; the festival was too cool to offer a literal interpretation although the spirit was clearly felt. So instead the bands booked did the interpreting by way of original new music.
Below deck: rising star saxophonist Meilana Gillard’s accomplished set
Brilliant Corners utilised three venues: the Belfast Barge, the MAC in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter; and the nearby Black Box; and new talent on display included Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print, a US tenor saxophonist now resident in Northern Ireland joined by double bassist Marcos Varela, who appears on Gillard’s Greg Osby-produced album Day One. Varela’s debut with Billy Hart and George Cables will be released later this year, with Spike Lee’s brother Arnold Lee and Sonny Rollins trombonist Clifton Anderson guesting. Varela pushed the band hard and tastefully with Gillard, whose individual non-retro sound on the tenor saxophone, probing and darting with a salty edge especially in her reading of Herman Hupfeld’s ‘As Time Goes By’. Leading Irish jazz musician David Lyttle was on drums and excelled. Meilana’s composition ‘Rear View’ was the big highlight of the first set by a highly proficient unit.
Ellington in Anticipation band played the Factory in the MAC
At the MAC in the Factory on the sixth floor of the very smart post-brutalist arts temple opened in 2012, its volcanic stone facade tastefully undemonstrative, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington in Anticipation band were already burning by the time I got over from the Barge. It’s Ellington for the Polar Bear generation and in many ways codifies the mysterious non-linear compositional method Lockheart has cultivated in his own music a step on from his acclaimed Edition records set, In Deep.
The Black Box opens for Brilliant Corners
Ellington’s music is like a dream behind the new music, not old music in new clothes at all. Seb Rochford and The Invisible’s Tom Herbert had that kind of ESP that people who are comfortable with each other on a bandstand possess, and chopped it up throughout, especially on ‘My Caravan’ while ‘Azure’ was a revelation. Lockheart blew wildly on ‘Jungle Lady’, clearly at ease, and both Finn Peters and James Allsopp knew how to stoke the flames especially as the music went further out.
Playing the Sun Ra blues on Hill Street: Decoy debut
And taking the music even further out free improv rounded off the evening at the Black Box, with Decoy, the tremendous organ trio of Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Steve Noble marking Hawkins’ first Northern Ireland appearance. Sun Ra and kinetic bar-vaulting improv never sounded so good: a suitably Saturnine way to draw the first night of this exciting new festival to a close.
Story and photos: Stephen Graham
The father of Chucho Valdés, and the inspiration of the acclaimed animated film Chico and Rita, the pianist, bandleader, and composer Bebo Valdés, has died at the age of 94. Valdés, who passed away in Sweden where he had lived for many years, began his career as a pianist in the night clubs of Havana and it was in one such, Tropicana, that he made his name. In the 1950s Valdés was a pivotal figure in the development of the mambo with his championing of the batanga rhythm. Valdés settled in Sweden after the 1959 revolution in Cuba and played bar lounges there in virtual obscurity until the mid-1990s when his album Bebo Rides Again caught the music industry’s attention, followed by the success firstly of documentary Calle 54 and then the inspired Chico and Rita which featured much of his music in 2010 and fictionalised his life story so evocatively.
Bebo Valdés top pictured with his son Chucho. Photo: Berklee