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Muddy Waters’ son, bluesman Mud Morganfield, and a debuting Champian Fulton, are two highlights of this year’s Fife Jazz Festival fast approaching. New York-based singer Fulton is appearing with her trio. imageAlso for Fife in 2013 are The Norrbotten Big Band, Carla Cook, Graeme Stephen, Erja Lyytinen, The Nimmo Brothers, Red Stripe, Dan Block, Eric Alexander, Tim Kliphuis, Brian Kellock, and David Blenkhorn. This weekend festival runs from 1-3 February, and concerts are spread across the kingdom of Fife in cities and towns from Anstruther to Auchtermuchty, with main concerts in Dunfermline, Glenrothes and St Andrews. SG
Above Mud Morganfield, and right Champian Fulton. For the full programme click http://www.fifejazzfestival.com/2013-programme.html

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Vole
The Hillside Mechanisms
Babel ****
Roland Ramanan, the trumpeter son of the influential West Indian trumpeter and poet Shake Keane to whom he paid tribute on the 2002 Emanem album Shaken, has with this trio record laid down a substantial footprint all of his own. Vole, on the record that’s Ramanan, guitarist/electronicist Roberto Sassi, and drummer Javier Carmona, in their band name sound as if they collect together as one small creature, but the album artwork with its mechanical drawings makes one think not of a small being but instead of a futuristic machine as the artwork has some extraordinary cylindrical apparatus depicted in diagram form. Ramanan, who is also known for his longstanding work with the London Improvisers Orchestra, as well as his bands Swift and Wooden Tops, was inspired early in his career by the drummer and educator John Stevens at a Search and Reflect workshop. In the album note to this Babel records release, one of the distinguished label’s finest, speaking of the Hillside in the title Ramanan refers to the road where the “laboratory” of drummer Carmona’s house has acted as a hub for musicians such as himself and guitarist Sassi, who has also created the artwork, “passing through”. What they concocted musically via this meeting of minds was to draw on pure improvisation and composed music. Ramanan, speaking further of “interesting interlocking rhythm structures as well as a certain gritty edge to it”, has an appealing tone, a little reminiscent of Don Cherry’s but also with the wildness of the European avant garde, say early Enrico Rava. There’s also a tenderness on a tune such as ‘No Knees’ that says hit the replay. An album that’s both free jazz and improv (sometimes it’s easy to say one or the other, harder to claim both), and to my mind this doubling indicates width and vision in both performance and improvisational approach. Co-operatively written the eight tracks with the unobtrusive electronic textures on ‘Tim’s Frosties’ just one of the ways the music manifests itself, the exploratory forays of Ramanan’s here and on other tracks, and prevailing drums, a little like the Sunny Murray approach, add up to an excellent album. 

Stephen Graham
Vole, top

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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.

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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