image

The Shearing Hour launches at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Thursday. It’s a solo piano hour beginning at 7.15, ahead of singer Clare Teal’s return to the club later in the evening. The first Shearing Hour, named after the great pianist and composer George Shearing, features a set from pianist John Turville whose trio album Conception was released in the autumn by F-IRE Records. The winner of a Parliamentary Jazz Award for best album in 2011 Turville’s debut Midas turned heads on release gaining a profile for the pianist and composer part of the burgeoning Walthamstow scene. On Conception, he was joined by Jamie Cullum bassist Chris Hill and drummer Ben Reynolds plus cellist Eduardo Vassallo on some tracks. The album highlight turned out to be its title track ‘Conception’, the George Shearing bop original arranged sympathetically by Turville.

image

The Shearing Hour with its theme of ‘September in the Rain’ has never been a better time to recall Sir George Shearing who died on Valentine’s day in 2011 at the age of 91. Famed for ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, the 1952 theme that was written for the original New York jazz club Birdland, Shearing was a hero of the beats and in On the Road Jack Kerouac writes: “Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. ‘God’s empty chair,’ he said. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure. It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night.” Shearing who was blind was born in Battersea and after learning piano at the Linden Lodge school for the blind became a pub pianist in Lambeth, and after a break began recording for BBC radio in the late-1930s. He joined a band led by Harry Parry and won Melody Maker awards before two years after the war emigrating to the United States where he made a name for himself playing at New York night spot the Hickory House with the Oscar Pettiford Trio. Later he recorded for Capitol (famously with Nat King Cole one of several revered albums for the label), among other record companies. His quintet with vibes player Margie Hyams, guitarist Chuck Wayne, bassist John Levy and drummer Denzil Best recorded the best selling ‘September in the Rain’ for MGM and the quintet with different personnels ran intermittently until the late-1970s. The Shearing Hour, put together by Marlbank in association with Pizza Express Jazz Club, is a celebration of the great man’s music and an introduction to the fine talent of John Turville.
Stephen Graham
John Turville top and Sir George Shearing above. pizzaexpresslive.co.uk Visit the Shearing Hour on Pinterest for clips and photos http://pinterest.com/shearinghour/the-shearing-hour

image

Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins are part of the line-up of the first Brilliant Corners jazz festival, to be held in Belfast from 21-23 March at the MAC, the Black Box and the Belfast Barge. Taking place in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, the three-day festival, which draws its name from the classic 1957 Thelonious Monk Riverside album, is promoted by leading Northern Ireland producer Moving on Music.

image

Director Brian Carson says: “Many of today’s more popular music forms take direct influence from jazz and there seems to be a real movement at the moment. Jazz has had a bit of an image problem in recent years, which is definitely changing. We’re seeing a whole new audience coming to our events throughout the year, and an extremely talented group of new musicians emerging. It’s an exciting time.” The line-up is: Continuous Battle Of Order, Decoy (Thursday 21 March, Black Box); Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print (21 March, Barge); Ellington in Anticipation (21 March, MAC); David Lyttle and Interlude (Friday 22 March, Black Box); Ronnie Greer Blues Trio (22 March, Barge); Steve Davis’ Human (22 March, MAC); Arthur Kell (Saturday 23 March, Barge); and Liane Carroll (23 March, MAC). Stephen Graham
David Lyttle top right, to play the Black Box at Brilliant Corners, and Liane Carroll headlining at the MAC on the Saturday night

image

Eleni Karaindrou
Concert in Athens
ECM New Series ***
With a considerable body of work for ECM already in the catalogue, this Athens concert hall performance of music by the distinguished veteran film, theatre and TV composer Eleni Karaindrou recorded in 2010 begins somewhat glacially with saxophonist Jan Garbarek a slightly masked presence at first. Slowly its treasure unfolds as the strings draw out the tender theme. Along with other guests, celebrated viola player Kim Kashkashian and oboist Vangelis Christopoulos with Karaindrou on piano, this chamber music album, utilising a small band of musicians and the Camerata Friends of Music Orchestra conducted by Alexandros Myrat, takes in music written for the films of the late Theo Angelopoulos, with whom Karaindrou is strongly associated, as well as music for the theatre including American classics Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Death of a Salesman. ‘Requiem for Willie Loman’, the tragic hero of Arthur Miller’s great play, and the very theme captured so well by Garbarek, and reprised at the end of the album once more, is the sort of work that the composer must have had to keep a brave face writing. You’d need to be made of flint not to be moved by this album highlight as it unfolds so unflinchingly and returns so effectively at the album’s conclusion. So, superior arthouse mood music as a whole, with a serious disposition the meditational footprint of which is often tellingly felt. SG
Released on 11 February 

Dominic Alldis
A Childhood Suite
Canzona ***1/2
In Dominic Alldis’s latest trio album A Childhood Suite for jazz piano trio and orchestra, the pianist, arranger, and composer explains he is “always looking for melodic material with which to inspire new creative projects.” He had realized at an earlier point that the simplicity of nursery rhymes allowed for great variation and instant recognition, and earlier album Songs We Heard (with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh) first drew on the idea of a trio improvising on nursery rhymes from around the world. This new release reworks more than a dozen of these arrangements, adding a string section and containing an Alldis original. With the pianist are modern-mainstream bassist Andrew Cleyndert, and Spin Marvel drummer Martin France, whose trio work with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson has been justly praised. Beautifully recorded at Menuhin Hall, A Childhood Suite, has a simplicity and sincerity rare these days in the hustle and bustle of the record industry demanding a certain crash, bang, wallop approach. You many have come across Bruno Heinen’s Dialogues trio record Twinkle Twinkle last year, when the pianist put ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ under the microscope as Mozart did in a different time and fashion, and as Alldis does here. But think of A Childhood Suite as a broader sweep, beyond jazz although of it in the same way as the album draws on classical music, with a soft soothing touch more like a finely constructed harmonic reverie than a more inquisitive foray at the raw materials of the musical themes. ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ is typical of some of the momentum generated by the trio, and with a dark opening, the mood changes to allow for a developing momentum and joyousness that many of the other improvisations also possess. Very much in the Jacques Loussier or David Rees-Williams stream of light jazz and classical synthesis it’s an album that never lacks for charm and empathy, with some lovely moments along the way including the captivating Vaughan Williams-like violin solo and fine arrangement on ‘Girls and Boys Come Out To Play.’ Stephen Graham
The Dominic Alldis trio pictured above

image

Last year was like a dream for Roller Trio, and it wasn’t just that they picked up nods from the Mercury and MOBO prize panjandrums or surprise discombobulated indie scenesters at the Roundhouse. It was also a good year for the F-IRE label whose vicarious pleasure in their band’s success was palpable. image
This year, once the snow has melted, is about touring and while the northern outfit is not returning to Milo’s in Leeds where the fuse was lit at least on YouTube where you’ll see them play ‘The Nail That Stands Up’, Roller Trio are appearing not far away at the Venue in Leeds College of Music, the very college where the band first met. Super educated young jazz polite boys and girls who haven’t heard them so far can catch the band there should they venture out or at a jazz spot around and about. Dates are: The Lescar, Sheffield (30 January); Kings Place, London (2 February); King Tut’s, Glasgow (23 Feb); Capstone Theatre, Liverpool (28 Feb); Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich (7 March); Vibraphonic Festival, Exeter (14 March); Venue, Leeds (22 March); Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham (6 May); and Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, on 29 May. SG
The Venue, Leeds College of Music top where Roller trio above, right play in March

image

The James Taylor Quartet are to release their latest album Closer to the Moon an album that suggests a broadening of scope for the Jimmy Smith-influenced Hammond organ-led acid jazz era band as the album planned for a 6 May release is to bristle with added celeste, vibes, harp, zither, gong, glockenspiel, and apparently even tubular bells. Hammond man Taylor who fronts the longstanding outfit also takes a lead vocal on ‘Close To You’, a definite departure. JTQ touring dates before the album release include a return to Ronnie Scott’s, London appearing with the Nick Smart Horns and singer Yvonne Yanney from 20-23 March; then the Donkey in Leicester on 6 April; Guildhall, Portsmouth (12 April); and Assembly Hall, Islington, London for two nights on 3-4 May just ahead of Closer to the Moon album day. SG
James Taylor, above
 

image

In the National Theatre foyer earlier, and returning later this afternoon for a further 90-minute set, singer Aimua Eghobamien’s Indigo Sessions took the chill off a wintry day on the Southbank with a fine mix of songs subtly delivered. Featuring two double bassists Jerome Davies and Oli Hayhurst joining Eghobamien and The Face of Mount Molehill violinist Julian Ferraretto the set opened with a poised, downtempo reading of the 1920s Irving Berlin standard ‘Blue Skies’ , but the highlight was perhaps Randy Newman’s ‘Same Girl’ from the singer/songwriter’s Trouble in Paradise album released 30 years ago this month, with a lyric close enough to indigo just like the opening Berlin song, the ‘Same Girl’ lyric effortlessly captured by Eghobamien’s bass baritone: ‘With the same sweet smile that you always had/And the same blue eyes like the sun’, performed with a suitably languid jazz connotation. SG
Indigo Sessions above continue at 5.45 

image

Dieter Ilg
Parsifal
ACT ***

Eric Schaefer
Who Is Afraid of Richard W.?
ACT ***
With a Wagner connection, both albums, despite one playfully equipped with a question mark, find solutions to a problem that doesn’t really exist. If anyone wants to cover classical material even by a hideously divisive figure such as Wagner, then there really isn’t anything new or necessarily interesting in this. After all since Jacques Loussier’s interpreting of Bach, or classical composers from Milhaud on incorporating jazz into their compositional approach, it’s not a live issue. Bassist Ilg, who knows his Verdi as well as his Wagner, performs his Parsifal with the trio of pianist Rainer Böhm and drummer Patrice Héral with respect and gentleness, and it corresponds to the orthodox modern jazz piano style that’s not dissimilar to the tasteful approach of the Benedikt Jahnel Trio indicated on Equilibrium, although there is some fulfilling Ilg Trio improvising on tracks such as ‘Ich bin ein reiner Tor’, as any “fool” might discover. There’s some familiar Beethoven tucked in as well at the end.

image

Ilg offers variations on Wagner in essence but [em] drummer Schaefer’s album is “revisiting”, and despite the loaded terminology has more impact, flavoured by the superb pristine trumpet and flugel tone and interpretative subtlety of Tom Arthurs who you’ll also hear on the upcoming Julia Hülsmann quartet album. It’s not as conventional as Ilg’s, with bits of reggae on his own tune ‘Nietzsche in Disguise’ for instance, and Volker Meitz’s steamy organ intro to ‘Lohengrin’ is an inventive touch that does work especially when Arthurs builds a solo from its marshy base. Bassist John Eckhardt is also clearly a name to watch. If you liked Schaefer’s groove on ‘Das Modell’ on Wasted and Wanted you’ll want to hear what he does on this album from a drumming point of view, but the overall concept of both albums is more of a burden than a plus.

Stephen Graham 

Both albums are released on 11 February. Dieter Ilg, top, and the cover of Who Is Afraid of Richard W.?

image

Francesc Marco (on accordion) and Fred Thomas set up as bassist Jiri Slavik looks on at the soundcheck before last night’s Fly Agaric gig at the Vortex in Dalston. Joined by fourth member, reedsman Zac Gvi, later to complete their set-up the F-IRE Collective band went on to perform selections from their new album for the label, In Search of Soma. Opening with ‘Closely Observed Trains’, which takes its name from an influential 1966 Czech film, three of the band curiously donned bright red “mushroom hats”, a link to the fungus-loving outfit’s name. Later tunes included a trenchant juxtaposition of a discredited speech of Nicolas Sarkozy’s with a puckishly Mingusian groove on ‘Travailler plus pour gagner plus’; a brand new song translated as ‘Wicked’ in English, charismatic frontman Gvi explained with a laugh; and the pleasantly tricksy ‘It takes one two, no’, surely a soundcheck special at least in spirit. Marco on piano added some great stride touches towards the end while Gvi channelled his inner Prez. SG

image

Lunchtime today sees the beginning of a major solo piano tour by Robert Mitchell, during which his latest album The Glimpse will be released. A solo feature for left hand only its dozen tracks contain some of the most unusual piano music you’ll hear this year. In the notes to the Whirlwind Records release Mitchell talks of the challenge of undertaking the project in the first place. “I don’t believe,” he says, “there has been anywhere near enough recording to address what I think is a strongly valid form of piano music – that made by the left hand alone. And the insisting that improvisation play a part, also takes this to a rare, but intensely interesting place for me.” Initially drawn to the idea by writing for a classical piano event, the title track Mitchell says integrates the “different pathways and possibilities” that the task could take him to. The pianist, who received acclaim for his earlier less unconventional piano solo album Equinox released in 2007 cites classical piano history specifically Zichy, Wittgenstein and Godowsky in terms of left hand-only playing, with jazz connections encompassing the music of Phineas Newborn Jr and Kenny Drew among others. On The Glimpse recorded at the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool last summer Mitchell has composed all the music except for classical composer Frederico Mompou’s ‘Prelude No 6’, which trumpeter Byron Wallen had alerted Mitchell to, and ‘Nocturne for the Left hand Alone’ by American pianist Fred Hersch, a “modern classic”, Mitchell says of it. This new album certainly makes me for one think of solo piano a little differently, as it’s like looking at a familiar building from a different angle and in so doing finding detail hitherto neglected or taken for granted. It’s about an altered reality for sure. Track six ‘The Sage’ in only five minutes and nineteen seconds the composition has a cinematic reach within this small time that is very remarkable. Rhapsodic, the restriction imposed by playing left hand only is not a barrier in the least, although as elsewhere on the album sometimes there is a feeling that it’s a bass player’s record! An innovative album then, don’t assume a thing.
Stephen Graham

The tour begins with a Royal Festival Hall foyer concert at 1pm
See www.robertmitchellmusic.com for further tour dates. 
The Glimpse is released on 18 February. Robert Mitchell, above