Reports online suggest that Harold Mabern has died at the age of 83. Few details are otherwise available. However, Memphis website Commercial Appeal has noted the pianist’s passing citing his label Smoke Sessions Records as to having confirmed his passing. Already there are quite a number of tributes online that include this on Twitter from drummer Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith: “DAMN!!! R.I.P. Mabes”.
Mabern’s 2014 album Right on Time issued handsomely by Smoke Sessions and reviewed in these pages included an interview with Mabern and in the notes he mentions how he was taught by Dee Dee Bridgewater’s dad at high school (who also taught Charles Lloyd among other luminaries) and touches fascinatingly on Mabern’s Chicago days with Walter Perkins’ MJT+3 who had success with the gloriously laidback but now little remembered ‘Sleepy’.
Powered and seasoned by the blues Right on Time was an album to put a smile on your face. As did the elegant touch Mabern habitually displayed on records over many decades including 2006’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
I can’t find any audio to share so I will try to describe it in lieu. Pity that you are in the dark dear readers so far but perhaps not for long as the record is released coming out on vinyl, CD, etc on 27 September. A darn good trio record. File under “success on every level” if such a shelf existed. With the Yes guitar legend Steve Howe in his trio are Ross Stanley on organ and Steve’s son Dylan Howe on drums in a studio affair. The tunes are very strong. Jazz students who are learning how to write should study this record at college. Tracks are: ‘Hiatus’, ‘Left To Chance’, ‘Fair Weather Friend’, ‘Zodiac’, ‘Gilded Splinter’, ‘Showdown’, ‘Missing Link’, ‘Outer Limit’, ‘Western Sun’, ‘The Changing Same’. Three unspecified compositions on the album (I am still no wiser as to which three are by Bruford but no matter for the purposes of review because everything knits together well) Howe’s erstwhile Yes colleague.
There is plenty of poke on ‘Left to Chance’ Howe the da a riffmeister to his bones and this would be my pick of the whole caboodle. Howe (Dylan) is a very fine drummer, and he reminds me of Mez Clough a bit or David Lyttle while Stanley, a classy accompanist who shone playing with
Scouse singer Rebecca Ferguson provides a great bedrock and pencils in all sorts of shade and meaning.
The heat on the record is coming from Steve Howe, he is our guide and navigator; he solos gloriously and if you dig the jazz side of Jeff Beck you will like this for different reasons. One warning, however, New Frontier is not about scorching solos. I hear a bit of Pat Martino in his sound in the jazzier bits and that aspect of the record tunnels back to Philly jazz guitar in and beyond Martino. The great thing about all these tracks is that everything is built on tiny motifs that mean something when they are enlarged and then go somewhere.
There is a concision about the record and no bombast at all. This record revels in its wise choices. On the faster ‘Gilded Splinter’ the motor is running however and Howe the da finds new things to say and says them more than well. ‘Showdown’ has a quirky lop sided motion to it that is really grooving while Howe jr a jumping presence on that track and Howe senior vaults the frets a little in the vein of the facility of Artie Zaitz at happy go lucky play. ‘Missing Link’ is a joy, incredible technique displayed as if Howe senior is dancing on the head of a pin, the nimble lines and great organ swell upping the atmosphere in quite a gripping start to the tune which then tumbles along and you can relate to every note. Skip ‘Outer Limit’ because it is maybe surplus to requirements but linger over ‘Western Sun’ with its Spanish flavour thanks to acoustic guitar in the beginning and then finally the sense of arrival and panorama is everywhere on ‘The Changing Same.’ Who knew? Howe knew – more like it. SG
Tickets for Blicher-Hemmer-Gadd who appear at the Lost Lane in Dublin on 6 November go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am. Promoted by Dublin Jazz existing subscribers to their mailing list can avail of a promotional code to get a ticket today. Demand should be brisk.
Cast your minds back to 2014 and the trio’s self-titled C-Nut release. Certainly a feelgood surprise and of course a must for Gadd fans of whom there are more than one or two – the drum titan doing what he does best: effortlessly groove until the cows come home and here playing with two likely lads: Danes saxist/flautist Michael Blicher and Hammond organist Dan Hemmer – who more than cut the mustard.
Mostly Blicher’s music, with 1920s tune ‘In a Little Spanish Town’ and Yusef Lateef’s ‘Like It Is’ closing the album the whole shebang opened gently with ‘Well I’m Not Really Much of a Dancer,’ Blicher bluesy and nicely shrill, Gadd holding back. On the record ‘Babylon’ upped the excitement factor, Gadd’s offbeats and use of cowbell just great. It was a very listenable lively runaround of a record most of which you’d want to put on in the kitchen at a party. The live experience much road hardened since will be a revelation.
As for Gadd let us just sit back, close the old peepers, and listen to Steely Dan’s Aja (1977) and the title track especially because it would be remiss of any self respecting music lover not to regularly and to the epic era defining duo with Wayne Shorter that begins around 4 mins and 42 secs in but listen from the first downbeat way back at the start if you have a few more minutes for the big picture. Dan Hemmer, top left, Michael Blicher, and Steve Gadd. Photo: Bente Jaeger. That link again, to book in for Blicher-Hemmer-Gadd from tomorrow even if without a code, is here.
Ahead of the Code Girl appearance in Birmingham Mary Halvorson chews the fat with marlbank to give us the skinny on an upcoming collaboration with John Dieterich of Deerhoof as well as expressing her love for the music of Robert Wyatt
Speaking from Brooklyn at lunchtime yesterday “I am a late starter,” says the guitarist-composer-bandleader, “just catching up on work and about to practise”. She explains that she does as much of the latter when she can schedule it as possible. That however cannot be easy given how busy a player she is in New York, further afield in America – and journeying to Europe.
Asked how she got into music in the first place and why, she says: “It wasn’t obvious. I started playing violin at seven years old. My friends were doing it but I never took to it and then I discovered Jimi Hendrix who was cool.”
Guitar became the thing itself. Later, and “gradually”, her love of jazz began to develop as she immersed herself in Coltrane, Miles and Monk. “I really enjoy learning standards,” she says, and in her own remarkable compositions which are unlike anything that you may ever have heard – and which involve a riot of fracture, the free form cry of the blues as well as adventures in timbre, detunery, and space – a yearning for a strong sense of melody that derives and she detects in “so many standards” can be discerned. I ask her about the architecture, the structure of the songs and how she connects to it. Her answer leans towards the “variety” that standards instil in her.
Mary discovered the music of Robert Wyatt in a moment of revelation when she heard Rock Bottom “sitting on the floor in my living room in front of the stereo. It was the first record of his that I heard and to this day is my favourite.” She isolates her reason for liking the great singer-songwriter and former drummer with Soft Machine because of that “emotion”. She adds: “Just everything is unique about him. Something genuine just hit me.” In 2013 on Illusionary Sea her album included new material and a tribute to Wyatt, the first cover to appear on any of the avant garde guitarist’s albums as leader at that time. Halvorson on Illusionary Sea followed advice taken from Anthony Braxton to extend her ensemble and the Wyatt tribute was an arrangement of the source for ‘Maryan’ (‘Nairam’ by Philip Catherine), which had appeared on Wyatt’s 1997 album, Shleep, 23 years on from Rock Bottom.
Halvorson, who I think it is true to say is a guitar innovator of the first rank and the first to come along in a long while (for me only Miles Okazaki and Lionel Loueke can be spoken of in such a way from the younger generation of players to have followed in the wake of masters such as Bill Frisell [who Halvorson has played with so thrillingly], Pat Metheny and John Scofield) has a fine group called Code Girl which features some very imaginative writing and also her lyrics for voice.
A word on the Code Girl line-up, Ambrose Akinmusire will not be appearing in Birmingham although the rest of the personnel is the same as the excellent record of the same name: Halvorson joined by Amirtha Kidambi, vocals; Maria Grand, saxophone, vocals; Adam (son of the great Arturo) O’Farrill, trumpet; Michael Formanek, bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums.
Halvorson also has a new project which will be of huge interest to the many followers of Deerhoof out there which is a two guitar duel with John Dieterich. Mary says she knows John “through mutual friends” and “admired his approach”. Asked in 2017 at the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels to come up with something new she thought of Dieterich. Their collaboration to be issued as an album and titled as a tangle of stars, is available in late-October and spans experimental jazz, pop, rock, noise, and improvisation. Form a disorderly queue.
Dieterich is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a long way from Brooklyn. Halvorson says she enjoyed their collaboration together “it was really cool”. As for other projects recently in the Jazz Gallery back in New York she appeared with the composer-cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum whose 9-tette record The Ambiguity Manifesto is released by Firehouse 12 Records today. Bynum exudes an affinity to the later more recent avant side of Alex Bonney in terms of tonal adventure, gradation of texture and metre erased in the shavings and shaping of an acoustic canopy. Mary explains that the music is written in “modular sections” and Taylor cues rather than conducts the ensemble. As the brief interview draws to a close she tells me that she will be travelling to Birmingham with her trusty Flip Scipio custom made guitar. SG
• Tickets and more details via the Town Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham website. Showtime on Saturday 5 October is 8pm.
RETRO The heartbreaking St. John/Paul Tierney/Michael Mormecha song ‘WALK AWAY’ off the upcoming Muscle Shoals from the ridiculously soulful County Antrim singer Amanda St. John recorded at FAME, Muscle Shoals in Sheffield, Alabama. Close your eyes you’d swear for a split second that we were going into Ewan MacColl territory by the gasworks wall to begin and then a massive key change, melodic shift and in feel and mood it’s a languorous journey instead into sensuous symphonic soul via the Dusty road ever on. All superlatives are redundant because trying to describe bliss even when it palpably is always falls short. Hear Amanda St John at the Green Note in Camden Town, London NW1 on 25 September.
Van Morrison has a new album out called Three Chords & the Truth, the John Steinbeck via Rabbie Burns-referencing ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ and which is above to come out the Friday before Samhain aka Celtic New Year through Exile/Caroline International on 25 October. Three Chords And The Truth has 14 originals + ‘If We Wait for Mountains’ by Don ‘Born Free’ Black. Jay Berliner who was on Astral Weeks is among the album personnel as too is Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers.
A never heard before concert recording by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio made in their homeland of Sweden is to be released for the first time this autumn. One of the tracks on the double album Live in Gothenburg which was recorded on 10 October 2001 called ‘Bowling’ has never been issued before on a recording. ‘Bowling’ features a superb drum solo from Magnus Öström who spoke to marlbank on the phone earlier today and who is actually back in Gothenburg which is some five or six hours’ travelling time away from Västerås where the bandleader and composer was born and grew up in. Öström is currently in the Swedish city recording with Lars Danielsson, Grégory Privat and John Parricelli whose Liberetto III band play the EFG London Jazz Festival in November. Issuing label ACT describe Live in Gothenburg, which will be released on 25 October, aptly as: “A concert for the ages’’.
Esbjörn Svensson died in 2008 and was a Magnus Öström childhood friend. In this 2001 concert, e.s.t. played tunes from the albums From Gagarin’s Point of View and Good Morning Susie Soho ahead of going into the studio a few months later to record almost the entirety of the tracks that were issued the following year as Strange Place For Snow. Magnus begins when asked by talking about playing in Gothenburg on prior occasions before with e.s.t. He says that they played in the city’s jazz club. ‘‘Nefertiti is there. It is like the Ronnie Scott’s of Gothenburg, or like Fasching in Stockholm.’’ As for the Nefertiti capacity ‘‘it has not more than 200 people,’’ he says.
The symphony hall, however, where Live in Gothenburg was captured is a bigger beast. The Gothenburg Concert Hall is home to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and he says it ‘‘rarely puts on jazz: the size there is about 1,000 people.’’
Listening to Live in Gothenburg it is hard to glean how many people were there but it sounds like quite a lot that night. There is a kind of a waterfall of applause rather than a heavy trickle as you get when club recordings are the context. The sound is crammed with observers when they make their presence felt. That autumn day Magnus tells me “we did the sound check as usual in the afternoon over a couple of hours.’’ In those days he says they did not use electronics much apart from in the case of bassist Dan Berglund ‘‘so it was straight forward’’. Their engineer Åke Linton was on hand as he had been since ‘‘really early,’’ Magnus says, ‘‘from around 1994-95.’’
Magnus travelled to Gothenburg with cymbals and ‘‘maybe a snare’’ using the kit provided by the promoter. Nowadays, for instance in his own bands or with Rymden, the new trio who via Jazzland put out the superb Reflections and Odysseys this year and which has Berglund and Bugge Wesseltoft on it, he keeps the same modus operandi but adds some more pedals.
Not long after Gothenburg, just a matter of a few months, e.s.t went into the studio to record Strange Place For Snow which is one of the band’s very many classic achievements. This new live album, spoiler alert, is up there and to me is primus inter pares with the brilliant later Live in Hamburg. Magnus cannot recall if they knew at the time of the concert whether they had decided to go into the studio. “I’m not sure. Esbjörn was writing all the time.’’
All the tunes on Live in Gothenburg are jointly attributed to e.s.t as always was their way. The tunes are all Esbjörn’s, Magnus says, although the music is arranged by all three with contributions added by him and Dan. Magnus came up with the titles of the tunes in terms of naming. His best and most personal titles probably arrived later on the 2006 album Tuesday Wonderland. The trio were always a properly democratic band. ‘‘The grooves come from me!’’ he adds.
Ahead of the album release ‘The Second Page’, which is all gospelly and soulful, will be issued as a single on 4 October. Magnus explains that the naming is an oblique reference and homage to Bob Dylan in regards to the Keith Jarrett treatment of his Bobness’ ‘My Back Pages’ that Jarrett put out as opening track on the 1969 released Vortex label live album Somewhere Before. (Note, too, on Live in Gothenburg in the naming an eight-minute tune called ‘Somewhere Else Before’ because yes we are deep in Jarrettonia – true on more than one level given Svensson’s superb chops and the aura like our Keith that he created.)
Changing tack to Sweden a bit, Magnus asked about Fredrik Norén (1941-2016), the drummer, describes his fellow player as ‘‘kind of the Art Blakey of Sweden’’ and who Esbjörn played with as a young man. Magnus studied an album of Norén’s when he was at school. Later Magnus worked with a singer called Monica Borrfors. He is steeped in the Great American Songbook through this early life. Norén he agrees belonged to an older generation although all the young cats of his generation played with him, he intimates.
The drummers Magnus was into when asked about his heroes he says included such surprising figures as Mick Tucker of glam rockers (The) Sweet and on the jazz side Billy Cobham. Magnus says that he went in a ‘‘milestone’’ moment along with his older brother to a concert of John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham’s when Magnus himself was 12 years old. Now 54, he mentions also liking Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, and Bill Bruford and was thrown and surprised to bump into the Yes legend during a Pizza Express gig of e.s.t’s: ‘‘In the men’s room’’ of all places because unbeknownst to him Bruford was in the house. We chat then briefly about the upcoming what I think is a very special trio album New Frontier from Steve Howe which I mention... and for which Bruford has co-written three tunes.
Turning back to Gothenburg and to ‘Bowling’ there is the ecstasy shall we call it, or ‘grunting’ non-drum sound in other words, reactions, passion if you prefer, that adds to the superb drum solo, I check in case this derives from audience noise, some enthusiastic fan invading the stage moved by it all and possibly responsible! But no this was Magnus and it certainly adds to the impact of the track and above all it seems and is real.
Since Esbjörn’s death Magnus has worked on a number of projects including with his own prog-jazz led outfit. The pick of these albums was Searching For Jupiter that followed on from Öström’s 2011 debut Thread of Life that featured Pat Metheny. Guitarist Andreas Hourdakis, pianist Daniel Karlsson, who tours this autumn with his own trio, and bassist Thobias Gabrielson all featured on Jupiter alongside Öström who clearly built on his reputation as a player who knows how to join the dots between the thrillingly uncompromising jazz-rock of Tony Williams and the demanding dance floor grooves of drum ’n’ bass.
Magnus tells me that with his own band he does not set out to be ‘‘prog’’ or anything. It is instead about displaying what he refers to as ‘‘your own vision, the sum of all your inputs.’’ As for composing he writes the patterns and rhythms first and the melodies come later. He does not, he says, intend them to be in odd metre. ‘‘But they come out like that sometimes ‘‘oh shit 7/8, 13’’. It is natural, just how I hear things.’’
His electronics now rely around 2 chains of pedals one ‘‘an old Lexicon JamMan’’ a sampler which was an early live looping tool. He adopts a DOD filter for electronic and harmonic effects, also making use of a Digitech Whammy.‘‘I love to bend notes, those floating sounds,’’ he says, and in his own projects he uses three mics and can use the technology to enable him to sing. He says that in Rymden, Dan does not use Ableton software and neither does he although Bugge is trying to convince him to do just this. Magnus says that he is old school and does not want to use a computer on stage.
Moving towards the end of the conversation he agrees that Rymden have a parallel life to EST and explains that Bugge is a different kind of player and the fans who come to hear Rymden are a mix of EST and Bugge fans. At the moment there are no live plans for e.s.t Symphony concerts but he hopes there will be more in the future. The project takes he says a long time to plan ahead for, especially in the booking of an orchestra. A carpe diem time: e.s.t above: l-r: Magnus Öström, Esbjörn Svensson, Dan Berglund. Photo: Tobias Regell/ACT.
Interview: Stephen Graham
Four Visions from which ‘Blaizza’ is drawn is a relative rarity: four saxes slicing up the sound spectrum in soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone parts. The work of three renowned masters at work plus a relative newcomer who makes a few introductions and his presence more than felt in a masterly intertwining labyrinth of exploration. From high to way down lower Dave Liebman, Dave Binney and Donny McCaslin need no introductions. However, deepest down on bari is Samuel Blais, the writer of this Eugène Bozza ‘Andante' & ‘Scherzo’-inspired piece, who will – it is obvious if you lock ears to the track – make a lot of new friends and fans given this taster. Look for the album on the Sunnyside label from 11 October when it is released.
“Amazon said that Ultra HD would deliver ‘revelatory’ experiences for listening to classic albums such as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue. Files that were formerly compressed for digital streaming will now reveal the nuances in the original recording.”
Full story via Music Week.
• On the subject of high end streaming also read “Why get hung up on vinyl when the hungrily audio guzzling future is geekily saying ‘MQA’?”
We played this back in August... it sounds just as good today. One of the big releases of the autumn. From True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter by the New Orleans singer-pianist to be released by Verve on 25 October.
Described in publicity material as “reflecting the jazz/fusion side of Steve Howe’s musical personality” in other words if that is to be taken at face value presumably not prog, with the Yes guitar legend Steve Howe in his trio are Ross Stanley on organ and Steve’s son Dylan Howe on drums in a studio affair. Tracks on this Esoteric Antenna release, to come out on vinyl and CD + digital, are: ‘Hiatus’, ‘Left To Chance’, ‘Fair Weather Friend’, ‘Zodiac’, ‘Gilded Splinter’, ‘Showdown’, ‘Missing Link’, ‘Outer Limit’, ‘Western Sun’, ‘The Changing Same’. Three unspecified compositions on the album were co-written with Howe’s erstwhile Yes colleague drummer Bill Bruford.
Release date is a week from this Friday.
Best known internationally for his extensive work over many years with Anna Maria Jopek – the ex-Eurovision singer famed for Upojenie – guitarist Marek Napiórkowski has a new record called Hipokamp to be released on 27 September. ‘Brainstorm’ is a lead-off track from it. Displaying the blisteringly accomplished jazz-rock side of his artistry that he adopts on this track reminiscent a little of the influential style of Wayne Krantz: here Marek is with Jan Smoczyński on synthesizers, Paweł Dobrowolski, drums, Luis Ribeiro, percussion and Adam Pierończyk – soprano sax.
Among the Mercury nominees Seed Ensemble are nominated for Driftglass. The Cassie Kinoshi-led band launched their debut at Kings Place in February. Fact fans: no jazz act has, ridiculously, ever won the Mercury which is the UK’s most credible and high profile music prize to encompass indie rock, electronica, hip-hop, folk, soul, jazz etc spanning UK and Irish releases. Can Seed Ensemble to borrow from a Miles Davis track title run the voodoo down? Check the vibe out on Thursday from 7pm on the Tom Ravenscroft show to know.
Binker Golding has a new quartet album and it will be launched this week, the date already sold out. Mellow, deep, challenging and inhabiting a Denys Baptiste and beyond sound universe the album is titled gnomically Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers and, the exact opposite of a pedestrian affair, it was however recorded on hallowed ground at Abbey Road studios in St John’s Wood. Alongside Dem Ones tenorist Golding features Daniel Casimir on double bass, Joe Armon-Jones on piano and Sam Jones on drums. Compositions are by Golding and the release is on King’s Cross label Gearbox. Golding will launch the album at Ronnie Scott’s on Wednesday. In Soho and about bowl up to see if there are any returns. You may strike lucky.
Speaking on the phone from Munich ahead of going on stage last night at Unterfahrt in the company of Charles Lloyd bassist Joe Sanders and the Mehldau Art of the Trio legend Jorge Rossy this snatched interview with Ethan Iverson luckily snuck in ahead of time because someone missed their interview slot, heralded after a “Hello. Great!” text began by Iverson uttering the word “genius” when quizzed. But who was he talking about and what was the context?