Damon Albarn with Michael Horovitz
Released for the fast approaching Record Store Day on Saturday 20 April the vinyl-only Kings Cross jazz label Gearbox is to release a single featuring poet Michael Horovitz called ‘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: Damon Albarn unofficial).
In the States as Jazz Times has reported these records are being released for Record Store Day in limited runs: Miles Davis Round About Midnight (Legacy 12" LP); Miles Davis Milestones (Legacy 12" LP); Miles Davis Someday My Prince Will Come (Legacy 12" LP); Fela Kuti Sorrow Tears and Blood/Perambulator (Knitting Factory); The Cal Tjader Trio The Cal Tjader Trio (Fantasy 3-9/Concord 10" orange vinyl); The Dave Brubeck Trio Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals (Fantasy 3-2/Concord 10" red vinyl), and Marco Benevento Invisible Baby (The Royal Potato 12" blue vinyl). More at www.jazztimes.com
Chet Baker: gone too soon
Released in May to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the death of Chet Baker, Too Cool: The Life and Music of Chet Baker, as this 12-song set is ambitiously titled, is a new album that combines trumpet and vocals on material written by Chet Baker, with other songs by Sue Richardson and one a fan-girl anthem called ‘Adored’ the Sussex-based Richardson has co-written with Annette Keen. The trumpeter, who has worked with Mina Agossi and Ian Shaw in recent years and whose brassy trumpet style is forthright and bold, is joined by a modern mainstream band with Karen Sharp on baritone saxophone making her presence felt on Richardson’s tune ‘All Through
It’s pretty laid back stuff, as you can imagine, and fairly undemanding at times although very well meant. Richardson’s singing on ‘My Funny Valentine’ and on the bittersweet ‘Chetty’s Lullaby’ are the pick of the vocals. Sue’s husband Neal, who also produced the record, accompanies effectively on piano and Rhodes while Jazz Jamaica’s Rod Youngs on drums drives the band along, with George Trebar’s double bass a lively presence. There’s guest guitar from Andy Drudy as well as the presence of Karen Sharp referred to above. The album could do, it’s fair to say, with a bit more of the dark side of Chet on display, but maybe that would be pushing everyone’s luck that bit too far. Chet certainly pushed his, as most great artists inevitably do. Their tragedy, but our guilty reward in the music and artistry they leave behind.
Sue Richardson plays a special lunchtime show in Ronnie Scott’s on 19 May, a club Chet himself performed in. Watch this extraordinary video of Chet Baker at Ronnie Scott’s in 1986 with footage filmed just two years before the trumpeter’s untimely passing in Amsterdam http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6IiFpOVBjU
Andy Kershaw once likened modern jazz to a “fire in a pet shop", well he would, wouldn’t he?, but in a suitable spirit of mischief, prog jazzers World Service Project take that fire on the road, presumably carrying it like the Olympic torch with protective gloves accompanied by a bus riding alongside blaring out inappropriate music, possibly by Heather Small.
They’re off to Hull and back beginning on Humberside at the Pave Bar on Sunday (14 April) followed by dates in Lancashire, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, da da da, and ending up, at least for this month, in Bristol on the 28th.
They’re “the Led Bib you can dance to", as Moochin’ About’s Selwyn Harris so memorably put it. He’s got a point, with WSP apparently harbouring a deep seated grudge against Rick Wakeman into the bargain I’d add. The band hunkers around the band’s visionary Dave Morecroft at the keyboards in oddly asymmetric and suitably anonymous fashion but that’s part of the plan: it’s all about the band even with all those tricky time signatures and real ale-powered crypto-funk handbrake turns as the band gets into one.
Digging in live in Dalston last summer
There’s a new album out to coincide with the tour featuring the title track, which has already appeared on a collectable EP called Live From London. I’m not sure of the other tracks so far but ‘De-Frienders’, a highlight of last year’s Match & Fuse festival in Dalston, might make the cut as well (looks like ‘Barmy Army might be on it going by their Soundcloud page). If they don’t it’s a case of tracking down WSP’s back catalogue to a local pet shop that may even these days double as a pop-up vinyl emporium and probably offers a bespoke key-cutting service as well. There are worse things than a burn-up on the high street, the band seem to saying, as an artfully de-(be)friended Kershaw might realise if he heard this lot. SG
Quiet Money Recordings **** RECOMMENDED
The Liane Carroll album we’ve all been waiting for in more ways than one is released on Monday, an album that surpasses her greatest and considerable achievements to date such as her quietly moving 2003 album, Billy No Mates, or the way, live, she sings ‘You Don’t Know Me’ with that despairing rebuke in her voice. Forget all the awards she’s won this is where the music does the talking. The 11 songs of Ballads, such sad lingering ones, with their demon eyes blazing furiously, or simply gazing slackly as the song demands, the mood set in terms of interpretation by the resigned quietly dark despair in the ambivalent ‘Here’s to Life’, as good in its different way as the superlative version of the song on Barbra Streisand’s Love is the Answer. Another early album peak of Ballads is the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen song Sinatra made his own, ‘Only the Lonely’, set for big band by a 21st century Nelson Riddle, Chris Walden, its opening lyric: ‘Each place I go/only the lonely go’, could even be the maxim for an album that as a journey to intimacy thrives on isolation as in the stark Gwilym Simcock piano accompaniment to ‘Mad About the Boy’, or returning to the theme explicitly on ‘The Two Lonely People’, Carroll’s expression by times hotly emotional or icily cold depending on the mood she’s conveying. Be warned though, it’s not a depressing album in any way, as her version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ more than affirms. In a sense Ballads is a confessional album gathering together many classic complementary songs cleverly collected and interpreted that espouse loneliness, loss, but above all a longing for love. Carroll is at her most heartfelt and life-affirming on Todd Rundgren’s ‘Pretending to Care’ from 1985’s A Cappella with a remarkable, pingingly-pure, top note at a crucial arc of the song. No one’s come close to releasing a jazz vocals album of this quality so far this year and my guess is it will be a long wait until someones does.
Bassist draws on Middle Eastern sound for trio album featuring guests including Jason Yarde
Jazz record labels you would have thought are an endangered species. With little or no subsidy from arts bodies or charitable foundations their very survival particularly in the niche jazz area is always an issue. Few labels can do it all, possess the ability to invest and grow their artists, keep to their brief, and grow their business by spotting new talent and cutting good deals so they can at least cover their costs, and with any luck find an artist that the public gets behind. For a long period the UK indie jazz label sector was out of step with the progress made in other parts of Europe particularly in Germany and France where there are bigger markets and a bigger and deeper appetite for jazz to cushion the development period. That now has changed with a wave of new active indie jazz labels. Distribution patterns have also altered greatly since the digital revolution of the last 15 years, and with the decreasing costs of manufacturing albums also helping the small operator for bread and butter physical releases and the ability to harness cheaper means of marketing and PR via social media, newer labels such as Edition, Naim Jazz and Jellymould have taken on the challenge of getting new jazz out there to find and meet demand.
Whirlwind Recordings, bassist Michael Janisch’s label, has shown consistent growth in the last two years and ahead of releasing a new live album by Lee Konitz next month, a landmark release for Whirlwind, the label has now signed the Matt Ridley Trio for an autumn release with the bassist’s debut album Thymos (Greek for ‘spiritedness’) set to appear in October.
With alto saxophone star Jason Yarde guesting, bassist Ridley, a Trinity college of music graduate in 2005, will preview tunes from the album at a club show in the Vortex later this month. The bassist’s trio features John Turville whose Parliamentary award-winning album Midas first put the pianist on the map and relative unknown George Hart on drums. Pretty much a complete unknown himself still, Ridley has, though, worked extensively as a member of the popular Darius Brubeck Quartet touring widely, and has appeared with the MJQ Celebration band featuring Jim Hart, Barry Green, and Steve Brown, as well as the Lyric Ensemble. A SE London Collective scenester Ridley has also collaborated with celebrated oudist Attab Haddad, who is an additional guest on Thymos.
The debut album features original tunes and Ridley says ahead of the Vortex date: “I envisaged a sound encompassing the exotic flavours and emotions of Middle Eastern music, with the jazz sensibility of improvisation on complex structures.” One to watch for later in the year. There’s a tour then in the offing as well. SG
Matt Ridley pictured above
Gimme the Boots
Continuing the label’s commitment to young German jazz Gimme the Boots taps the Maceo Parker side of soul jazz with Rhodes knitting in, plenty of Maceo-like blowing from Felix F. Falk on various saxes and much else, and there’s so much positive energy flying around that the band could power a small town with their relentless flow. It does wear a bit thin after a while, and by the time a didgeridoo, no less, is produced on the title track the band has almost done itself a mischief. Debuting for the label with For Those About To Funk a few years back, Mr Funky Trombone himself, Nils Landgren, produced these funkster likely lads. Not so much feel good as feel exhausted Mo’Blow must have needed a good sit down after these 12 tracks, and so might you. Released on 29 April. SG
When jazz and pop collide it can be messy. But if the tunes are good, the spirit’s right, the words to the songs possessing a staying power, delivered by a confident performer then what’s not to like: it’s not as if it’s life or death, is it?
Next Tuesday at the Hippodrome in London’s west end (the old Talk of the Town, now a casino with a music venue on tap as well as the roulette wheel and blackjack), Erin Boheme makes her London debut following the release of What a Life last month on Heads Up. She’s to be joined by Tammy Weis, a London-based Canadian singer who’s a well kept secret until, well, now, on the London jazz vocals scene. Tammy’s also co-written one of the songs on the album as previously reported in these pages. Michael Bublé no less has produced this album… so where’s the jazz you might ask?! Well if you ask that kind of question, this album is not for you. It’s about songs, not improvising, but it’s perfectly compatible within its commercial framework rather than the flawed smooth jazz format that is now disappearing or at best morphing into more acceptable soul-jazz.
Contrast the Eric Benet version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, less cheesy for sure. In Benet’s take on his own highly effective melancholic song, co-written among others with famed songwriter David Foster, incidentally also chair of the Verve Music Group (who penned ‘I Have Nothing’ for the late Whitney Houston), the natural feeling gets lost a bit crouched behind the layers of glossy audio production and arrangement.
Bublé’s approach although you mightn’t think so at first blush is to strip away the varnish, and let the songs breathe, and Carly Simon-loving Boheme begins demurely on a low key Emerald-esque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, Tammy’s song, which is close enough for jazz as Van Morrison put it on Born To Sing: No Plan B. Why Boheme needed to cover a Coldplay song I don’t know, and I didn’t care one bit for the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day who is on the otherwise excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last’. But ‘One More Try’ is quite superb, and jazz-intuitive, and of the band itself we really should be hearing more of pianist Alan Chang who co-wrote the song with Boheme. Overall then, songs that will stay with you, delivered by a singer who clearly believes in her material and carries both the record and the day.
Erin Boheme above plays the Hippodrome, London on Tuesday 16 April, with special guest Tammy Weis.
Superlative Paul Motian retrospective
ECM 6 CDs ****1/2
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma may be an apt way to view Paul Motian now with the benefit of the passage of time since his passing at the age of 80 in November 2011. This extraordinary eponymous box set of six albums recorded between 1972 and 1984 all issued for the first time together as an Old & New Masters edition reinforces that impression. The story begins, but does not end, in a band with Keith Jarrett, in fact for once Jarrett is a bit player in the overall musical drama, and while Ethan Iverson in his warm and beautifully written essay accompanying the music attempts to organise the music into three pairs: Conception Vessel and Tribute made when Motian was a member of the Jarrett Quartet; trio albums with Charles Brackeen “their own private universe” and in Psalm and It Should’ve Happened A Long Time Ago, a "triumphant reign" as a bandleader, even this sensible pointer adds little to the making sense of the music as a whole. Iverson comments most effectively that Motian changed as a late starter into becoming a composer in his own right. And if you listen to Motian in his Bill Evans days it’s almost as if this is a new person entirely. Conception Vessel is less about Jarrett perhaps than the chrysalis phase of Motian reborn as a musical thinker, and an advanced abstract expressionist at that. Sam Brown’s flamenco touches at the beginning are something you don’t easily expect but the first big moment is the doom-laden drum statement at the beginning of ‘Ch’i Energy’ matched and surpassed only in sheer daring at the very end of all these albums by ‘Fiasco’ on It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago.
That latter album title could well be the mantra of all the music collected in Paul Motian. They’re much freer than I remember previous selected listens in isolation and Iverson goes so far as to make the claim “There have been many great free drummers, but I believe Motian might have been the greatest.” I’m not sure if I agree with that but there is strong evidence here that Motian has achieved the nirvana of musical freedom in terms of both structure and abstraction. Best bits for me? Well, Charlie Haden coming in at the beginning of ‘War Orphans’ on Tribute with Motian clanking almost in the shadows to scuffle in behind the pristine guitar of Paul Metzke; or how about the very still and mysterious cymbal work at the beginning of ‘Folk Song For Rosie’ with the chilled saxophone of Charles Brackeen wading in the luke warm water of JF Jenny-Clark’s lulling bass? Or even, on ‘Second Hand’ from Psalm, the toms joyously going AWOL right at the beginning, a voice off, and then the dull ache of Frisell’s chordal pain entering dispassionately?
This riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma is a major retrospective that marks only the beginning of a coming to terms with Motian as a major artist. His legend will grow even more: and it starts right here. Stephen Graham