Pianist Zac Gvi returns this summer with a smart new Thelonious Monk-themed album on the F-IRE label.
Called Monk Spent Youth it features Ben Davis (cello), Fred Thomas (drums, bass, prepared piano) and Gvi on piano, bass clarinet, organ, toy piano. The album was recorded by Alex Bonney at Greenway Studios and Heath Street Baptist Church in Hampstead, and mixed and mastered by Bonney. The launch will be on 13 August at the Vortex in London.
At least a couple of times a year I go out to see an unreconstructed blues-rock guitarist called Pat McManus who has incredible chops but does not play jazz, only getting close when he opens up on a Hendrix-like run. I often wonder standing in front of his power trio how it would sound if he played jazz. It probably would not work in the same way. However this guy Olli Hirvonen (photo: Luke Marantz) can do the sort of things I want with a guitar and this summer the guitarist who used to be on the Edition label and who has won a high profile Montreux Jazz Guitar competition judged by John McLaughlin switches to US indie Ropeadope returns with Displace. I have been listening to the album, which I must say is superb, this morning but cannot share anything for the time being: maybe something will turn up on YouTube or Bandcamp and if so I will add a track or two.
It is pretty compulsive stuff kitted out with gutsy McLaughlin-like jagged lines full of intensity and strength. The 30-year-old Finn is in a quartet setting with pianist Luke Marantz, bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell. Playing a Fender Jazzmaster solidbody electric guitar there is something completely organic about his sound, full of a very modern sounding jazz without being remotely avant garde but with that spiky sound going on that commands attention. Hirvonen started studying classical guitar in Finland when he was 9, studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at Manhattan School of Music in New York where his creative world opened up and he began to move away from bebop to the sounds of the likes of Nels Cline and Lee Ranaldo. Next time I hear Pat McManus I will be thinking of Hirvonen and wondering if when the Finn was into Deep Purple years ago he sounded anything like Pat. Look for the record in late-August. SG.
The National Jazz Youth Orchestra has announced details of a new scheme called the NYJO Jazz Exchange which is a two-year national project which NYJO says is about “encouraging young professional musicians to take charge of their artistic voice.”
To begin next year ten musicians will be supported by mentorship, regular rehearsals, paid performances and masterclasses with the first ensemble to be coached by vibist Orphy Robinson MBE, pictured above.
The initiative is funded by Arts Council England and the Peter Sowerby Foundation.
Austrian saxophonist, flautist, bandleader and educator Karlheinz Miklin died on Saturday afternoon following a stroke. He was 72. The Carinthian culture minister and governor Peter Kaiser expressed his deepest sympathy to Miklin’s family and said that Carinthia has lost an inspirational cultural ambassador.
Miklin appeared in numerous projects, including with Albert Mangelsdorff, Art Farmer, Mark Murphy, Horace Parlan, Mel Lewis and Barre Phillips and appeared at festivals all over Europe during a long career. From 1983 to 2000 he led the jazz department of the Graz University of Arts.
I will be updating my pick of the year so far soon to add Carib. It is one of those albums where everything just gels.
To be frank I had forgotten about Sánchez in recent years. I used to like his gutsy, powerful, natural sound a lot in the 1990s and interviewed him once for a long forgotten magazine called Jazz on CD.
Somehow however contemporaries like Danilo Pérez have become much higher profile. The Puerto Rican taps his homeland and Haiti for inspiration that connects with his 1990s self on albums like The Departure. Sánchez also manages to make the connection between the Caribbean and the US a seamless one, Dizzy Gillespie knew how to do that years ago and that style still makes sense.
The album has its poignancy. Sánchez says: “This album is in memory of my father Dimas and especially my late wife Karla. After a great deal of research and listening to Haitian music, Karla encouraged and helped me take a trip to Haiti. It was an incredible and intense experience, seeing everyday people’s struggles. She felt like it was important that I had this direct contact with Haitian culture. I feel like this recording wouldn’t have been possible without her wisdom, sensibility and love. Even if she wasn’t physically around when I was in the studio, she was constantly present in many different forms and definitely a key component of this album’s vibe.”
Check Carib out above: drummer Obed Calvaire, guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, and pianist Luis Perdomo who plays the Fender Rhodes on just under half the 11 tracks join the saxist. It is simply a thrill. SG
It is quite preposterous really how much pitch bending courtesy of guitarist Mark Wingfield is going on here... and it is also quite staggering how much empathy and sheer power he and long time Billy Cobham and John McLaughlin keyboardist Gary Husband generate. Tor & Vale is out next month and going by the generous example of the lead-off tracks will make the jazz-rock & prog fan in your life inordinately happy.
Dedicated to Umberto Eco, a friend of accordionist Gianni Coscia, Eco’s 2004 novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana inspired reedist Trovesi and Coscia on this new record to be released by ECM on 21 June. Listen to New Orleans classic ‘Basin Street Blues’ above.
Radically different from any album you will hear on current release This Land Abounds With Life (Biophilia) is essentially a piano trio album but you hardly realise. Pianist Fabian Almazan with his wife Linda May Han Oh (acoustic/electric bass) and Henry Cole (drums) shape a strong Cuban theme, and there is a certain power and widescreen compositional vision (a little birdsong too!) that make this stand out. It avoids trio clichés and has a strong percussive fix that contributes to the wealth of ideas on the album. Almazan is an extraordinary pianist and this album underlines that fact once again.
Great booking for the Soho Jazz Festival, back on again next month, with saxophone legend the 90-year-old Benny Golson who is also one of the most significant composers in jazz appearing, his work including ‘Whisper Not’, ‘Stablemates’ and ‘I Remember Clifford’. Dates are 12 and 13 July. Check out the rest of the festival running from 5-15 July too, Melissa Aldana and Joel Ross, Lew Tabackin and Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart also appear. Details.
This blasts out of the speakers. Worth saying, so much contemporary jazz is pretty quiet. A lot of production has gone into this record by trumpeter Theo Croker, samples and spooky echoes abound. Croker has great tone and a sense of attack on the track above and if you like Christian Scott you will probably enjoy his similar approach. Bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Kassa Overall are used well and Irwin Hall on alto sax gives the front line firepower, I’d prefer the album as fully instrumental my only caveat, none of the vocals contributions really connected with me. However, the Elew feature at the end on the pulsating ‘The Messenger’ really shows where Croker’s heart lies, beefy hard bop with a moody edge and if the whole album was as compelling as this then even better.
Interpretations of Brel crop up surprisingly often on jazz vocals album. This goes a step further and gathers a stellar crop of singers for a Larry Klein produced songbook album to mark the 90th anniversary of the great Belgian singer-songwriter’s birth. Melody Gardot, Madeleine Peyroux, Marianne Faithfull, Thomas Dutronc, etc etc are all included. Not everything hits the bull’s eye but Gardot steals the show. Out on Decca.
You may well search hard and long but may probably never find two more virtuosic musicians deliver a new album in a set-up which is so very unusual. Swiss-born harmonica wizard Grégoire Maret and Columbian harpist Edmar Castañeda however keep things loose and erect no barriers to listening and this is far from a showboating exercise because it is so bluesy and laidback from the off.
Tunes lean towards originals and gems like a stately version of ‘Our Spanish Love Song’ by Charlie Haden and the Brazilian standard ‘Manhã de Carnaval’ by Luiz Bonfá also make the cut. Guests are Béla Fleck, another once in a lifetime virtuoso, and fine singer Andrea Tierra do not crowd in too much. Maret has the unique ability to speak to you like a singer might and for instance on Tierra vocal track ‘Acts’ matches the singer in tenderness and kind. Castañeda keeps marvellous time and brings a gravitas to the record and when he opens up say on the Bonfá standard shows how natural an improviser he is. Tailor made for radio play this has a gentle easy listening appeal but there is more grit and meaning than a gentle, indulgent stroll and is a pleasure from beginning to end. SG. photo: ACT
He is the foremost jazz musician who writes for film, has picked up five Grammys along the way, and now Terence Blanchard has been named the first Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at the UCLA [University of California at Los Angeles] Herb Alpert School of Music. The chair according to UCLA is a key component of the school’s new global jazz studies programme. “Terence’s accomplishments are impressive and astounding for their range,” says school of music Dean Judith Smith. “His commitment to educating the next generation of jazz artists and his devotion to illuminating social justice issues through his music embody our UCLA values and align with the mission of our global jazz studies program.”
Blanchard says: “I’m looking forward to educating new generations of jazz artists, not only as performers, but as teachers, producers and jazz scholars who understand the power of music to transform the worlds in which they engage.”
Terence Blanchard above, photo: Henry Adebonojo
To produce his version of ‘Moon River,’ Jacob Collier recorded himself singing 5,000 times and asked more than a few Huckleberry Friends to send a video of themselves singing the word “moon” in the key of B-flat. Chris Martin, Charlie Puth, Tori Kelly, David Crosby, Kimbra, Daniel Caesar, Merrill Garbus, JoJo, Darwin Deez, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Hans Zimmer, Steve Vai, Ty Dolla $ign and Lianne La Havas were just some of the respondees. ‘Moon River’ is from Djesse — Volume 2 to be released in July.
A mouthwatering limited edition 2LP set featuring a bonus 7-inch single of the track ‘Paradise’ is being put out by Rhino. Rubberband dates back over 30 years but was never released. The entire 11-song Rubberband album will make its debut finished off by the original producers and Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., who played drums on the original sessions for the album in 1985-86. Vocals from Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi have been layered over Davis' trumpet and keyboard sessions. Look for the release in September.
1. Rubberband Of Life – featuring Ledisi
2. This Is It
4. So Emotional – featuring Lalah Hathaway
5. Give It Up
7. Carnival Time
8. I Love What We Make Together – featuring Randy Hall
9. See I See
10. Echoes In Time/The Wrinkle
A rather beautiful treatment of a number of Robert Schumann pieces, original material, and even that sentimental old favourite ‘Besame Mucho’ in the paired down setting of a duo: clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi and pianist Enrico Zanisi who recorded in an Italian winery, part of a series close to their label’s heart.
A very delicate performance but containing plenty of life, the duo display rapport and sensitivity. It is all quite moving in a way. Go get this: it’s a surprise treat and a textbook example of how music from a number of sources can come together and make perfect sense. SG
More info at the CAM Jazz site.
Nérija — Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Cassie Kinoshi (alto saxophone), Rosie Turton (trombone), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), Lizy Exell (drums) and Rio Kai (bass) — are to release Blume on 2 August, having signed to Domino. Check out the woozy hard bop and Afrobeat-flavoured ‘Riverfest’, above.
Pretty fresh sounding new pianist Olly Chalk here, check him out, who with alto sax star John O’Gallagher, bassist Sam Ingvorsen and drummer Gwilym Jones launch their album Scathed Citizens this summer.
Chalk was a winner of the Peter Whittingham Development Award in January 2018. Scathed Citizens has an adventurous progressive outlook that sits well with the style of Matthew Bourne.
Hear Chalk at the Vortex on 21 August.
Joe Stilgoe does not take himself too seriously and that characteristic sense of humour and love for retro jazz surfaces once again this time as he tackles the dreaded 1980s, when pop did its very best to eat itself! The Heat Is On: Swinging the 80s with his big band arranged by Evan Jolly features songs you never really expected to be jazzed up such as ‘The Heat Is On’, ‘Glory Of Love’, ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ for goodness’ sake. Singer-pianist Stilgoe, son of witty That’s Life entertainer Richard Stilgoe, has already sold out Ronnie Scott’s for his 30 June show coming up when the album is released on the Silva Screen label.
A busy year of releases for bassist Mats Eilertsen 2019 is proving to be. I enjoyed And Then Comes the Night back in February and now the if anything even more hardcore release Reveries and Revelations on the folk-inclined Hubro label. To be frank I am not immediately taken by ‘Tundra,’ the heavily produced lead-off track but it is worth being patient with. Personnel includes a guesting Geir Sundstøl on guitar and banjo, Eivind Aarset guitar, Per Oddvar Johansen drums, Thomas Strønen, drums, and Arve Henriksen trumpet. Eilertsen provides the tunes and variously plays double bass, electric bass, acoustic bass guitar, guitar, harmonium, and keyboards. “An experimental score for some yet to be realised film,” the label suggests. Hmmm, wishful thinking no doubt but Eilertsen is worth spending quality time with in what is proving a bumper year of releases for him.
Impressive sounds from singer Quiana Lynell in an accessible mix that takes in Love Unlimited/Chaka Khan’s ‘Move Me No Mountain,’ Irma Thomas’ ‘Hip Shakin’ Momma’ and Donny Hathaway’s ‘Tryin’ Times’. Cyrus Chestnut on piano steers the band well and there is a heartland command of ‘Come Sunday/I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)’. If your tastes yearn for a jazz with a twist of soul then A Little Love is perfect listening among the current crop of releases.
Encounter Babelfish for the first time and you will be intrigued.
Landing somewhere in a jazz, folk, experimental space topped by the adventurous voice of Brigitte Beraha this is their third and most mature album.
Vocal jazz clichés there are none but their jazz roots are strong and Beraha gets great support from the Ian Shaw pianist Barry Green, veteran Chris Laurence on double bass and Paul Clarvis on drums.
Beraha has a big range of extra sounds, whether sighs, laughter or elaborate ornamentation that she dresses her lyrics with. Her style lands in the Norma Winstone heritage and like Winstone can stop you in your tracks with her quiet but devastating intent in the most unexpected places. Includes lots of originals plus a great version of the Ellington/Strayhorn standard ‘Pretty Girl (Star Crossed Lovers)’. SG
Babelfish, left to right above: Barry Green, Brigitte Beraha, Paul Clarvis, Chris Laurence. Babelfish launch the album at Kings Place, London on 29 June.
This is very tasty, the ever prolific Jamie Saft, the ever inspired RareNoise records, calling on the services of Dave Liebman for that extra slice of spiritual jazz inspiration on Hidden Corners, along with Bradley Jones on bass, and Hamid Drake on drums. Could well be the best thing you hear all day.
Meaty stuff from pianist Aki Takase, to be released by the Intakt label on 21 June, drawing inspiration from a Japanese painter, and part of a two day session of recordings at the Sendesaal Rundfunk in Berlin-Brandenburg. Alexander von Schlippenbach pops up on one track as a guest.
A big deal in Germany with his trio Martin Tingvall switches to solo piano once again with The Rocket due out soon which the Swede is touring extensively this summer. Pretty easy listening to be fair but Tingvall and his accessible compositional touch drawing on the lilt of Swedish folk traditions and the language of contemporary Eurojazz have a certain inescapable charisma that hook you in.
The guitar great Martin Taylor was presented with his lifetime achievement award by Suzanne Miller. Other winners included: Best band: SNJO; Best album: Turas by The Fergus McCreadie Trio; Best vocalist: Georgia Cecile.
Full list of winners:
Best Vocalist Award sponsored by Whighams Jazz Club
Best Instrumentalist Award sponsored by ESP Music Rentals
Best Band Award sponsored by Musicians’ Union
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
Best Album Award sponsored by Birnam CD
Fergus McCreadie Trio, Turas
Rising Star Award sponsored by The Blue Arrow
Services to Scottish Jazz sponsored by Ticketmaster
Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Help Musicians Scotland