Top ten rated albums in March on Marlbank
1 & ALBUM OF THE MONTH Kendrick Scott and Oracle
2 Aaron Diehl
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
4 Erin Boheme
What a Life
6 Robert Hurst
Bob: a Palindrome
7 Dave Douglas
Green Leaf Music
8 Barry Altschul
The 3dom Factor
9 Patricia Barber
At the city of Derry jazz and big band festival in a year that the city marks its UK city of culture status with many special festivals and events, the jazz festival in May will 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 BBC New Generation artist saxophonist Trish Clowes who last year released And In The Night-Time She Is There, with a Derry-bound band featuring Troyka guitarist Chris Montague, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer James Maddren, and The Impossible Gentlemen’s Gwilym Simcock on piano.
Three albums in the can for Gwilym Simcock
Welsh-born Simcock, 32, has been busy finishing the last studio work on the latest Impossible Gentlemen album set for release later this year. “Very exciting few days,” he says on Facebook, mentioning he’s also been preparing a new orchestral CD featuring the City of London Sinfonia and Martin France of Spin Marvel. Simcock has just returned from the Bavarian artist retreat of Schloss Elmau where his previous album Good Days At Schloss Elmau for Siggi Loch’s ACT label garnered the pianist a Mercury nomination in 2011. This time he was there for a duo recording with bassist Yuri Goloubev. Gwilym Simcock pictured
Blanchard: no borders just horizons
When Terence Blanchard appeared at Ronnie Scott’s during the London Jazz Festival he let drop in his bandstand chat that his band would be entering the studio imminently. And that Friday night on Frith Street the quintet played for the early house Brice Winston’s ‘Time To Spare’ a sprawling multi-section epic that sure enough is included on new album Magnetic.
Now confirmed for a May release by Blue Note in the States (no UK date yet) the album has ten songs with Tuczon road warrior Winston joining the great jazz composer and trumpeter, as well as pianist Fabian Almazan, new bassist Joshua Crumbly, and drummer Kendrick Scott whose own album, the happening Oracle session Conviction, has just been released by Concord. Magnetic has the Second Great Miles Quintet bassist Ron Carter as a guest plus Ravi Coltrane, who’s also signed to Blue Note, and Blanchard’s old friend guitarist Lionel Loueke who used to be in the Quintet and whose lovely ballad ‘Benny’s Tune’ named for Lionel’s former wife is still in the band book. Tunes are ‘Magnetic’, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’,‘Don’t Run’, ‘Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song’, ‘Hallucinations’, ‘No Borders Just Horizons’, ‘Comet’, ‘Central Focus’, ‘Another Step’, and that tune previously mentioned, ‘Time To Spare’ as closer. Blanchard is also to premiere Champion, an opera in jazz at a theatre in St Louis, more of which later in Marlbank.
Terence Blanchard above
The New York Quartet to play the Barbican on 15 May
They’re into their second night at Birdland in New York tonight and now the Barbican in London has confirmed the UK debut of the Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet. To appear in a double bill with the Jazz FM-winning John Surman who appeared with Stańko as far back as late-1990s album From The Green Hill the concert will mark a new phase for Stańko in terms of his UK and broader European public. Stańko’s latest album, a double set called Wisława, is the first with an American band and the first double album of his career, also the first to be recorded in America. At 70 Stańko still connects with jazz at a deep level, almost on a level of suffering but also in the joy of his influences and the empathy of a great artist. Living in New York for large stretches of the year he is now able for the first extended period of his long career to commune with the history of the music there, but also the way it lives in city streets, the galleries, studios, and in the life of the musicians he plays with, and who he writes for. His New York quartet begins and ends with the abstractions of Generation X-er Gerald Cleaver who on Wisława plays brushes a great deal, every soft stroke like a footfall; and it’s Thomas Morgan in the slipstream to heighten the effect of this presence while David Virelles almost in an absurdist tradition waits to swoop because that’s his task, arpeggiating and making every chord inflection count. Wisława is mostly modal and the songs are sad but life affirming: think the best arthouse film you know and the music from Wisława would work beyond context.
Having performed with the late Wisława Szymborska he appreciated the poet’s simplicity and he is able to channel the laments at the heart of her poetry, again a benevolent but perceptive sort of despair at discovered ignorance rather than the unmasking of ghosts or the depiction of menace at the heart of, say, Zbigniew Herbert’s very different muse, or the horror ready to damn the world in Miłosz’s. Wisława has a simplicity in its 12 tunes, and ‘Metafizyka’ is the best piece of all. But every tune have a point even a little “bosanetta” such as ‘Oni’, an inverted dance. The first bars of Wisława amount not to a symphony but a song touched with love and sadness, or the melancholy Stańko speaks of, and that humanity that Birdland audiences this weekend and the London audience in May might well discover for themselves. Stephen Graham
Metaphysical approach: Thomas Morgan, Tomasz Stańko, David Virelles and Gerald Cleaver above
Apocalyptic saxophone carries the day
Nicolas Masson/Roberto Pianca/Emanuele Maniscalco
Beginning with a little tune that recalls the melody of ‘Nature Boy’ this Swiss Italian trio though has written all the fairly short tunes themselves with single, double or band credits and the album is a curiosity. The name of the band suggests folk you might think or ‘reel’ as tape whether audio or celluloid, but by the second track it’s more a cosmic Pharoah-esque sound that sticks with a kind of an apocalyptic feel to Masson’s keening tenor saxophone lead. Recorded in Lugano the band apparently came together from the duo of Masson and guitarist Pianca and via MySpace and jamming in Geneva honed their sound. The band reminds me a little of Partikel (although it’s guitar instead of bass) but the approach is similar if a little more abstract. It’s all a slow burn requiring some patience and to be frank a little too dour at times, especially from ‘Fasten’ onwards. That said Masson has a certain personality that makes him and this promising band worth discovering.
Emanuele Maniscalco (above left), Nicolas Masson, and Roberto Pianca
Released on Monday 1 April
Tour notes: June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren
It’s becoming a default band name already so let’s just say Quercus, and leave it at that, are touring next month and, following a review of Quercus yesterday of June Tabor, Iain Ballamy, and Huw Warren’s deeply satisfying folk-jazz album in these virtual pages, here are details of the tour dates coming up. Alas and alack Basingstoke, where the album was so beautifully recorded, is not on the schedule on this tour at least but these are: Stables, Milton Keynes (14 April, www.stables.org); Phoenix, Exeter (23 April www.exeterphoenix.org.uk); St George’s, Bristol (25 April www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk); Sage, Gateshead (27 April www.thesagegateshead.org); Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (29 April www.warwickartscentre.co.uk); LSO St Luke’s, London (30 April www.lso.co.uk); and the Playhouse, Salisbury as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival (31 May www.salisburyfestival.co.uk). MB
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