Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte have a new record coming up on 25 January once again on London prog-jazz label RareNoise and they have come up with a highly non-predictable song to cover as title track that certainly chimes mightily with their creative instincts.
The title track is from Billy Gibbons’ psychedelic blues band The Moving Sidewalks. “Billy Gibbons,” says Saft, “is a master of his instrument in the same way that these great jazz masters are. I wanted to find tunes that were soulful, important pieces of music to me that would also resonate with Steve and Bobby.
‘You Don’t Know the Life’ creates this trance-like space that I thought it would be just a perfect vehicle for the trio.”
There has not been a Human Feel record in many years. So this is an event.
Gold does not disappoint.
For a whole new generation of fans the band is unknown. This is a new mountain of discovery to explore.
If this extraordinary record had come out last year it would have topped a lot of people’s lists and I do not think that anyone will be able to even get close to the quality of this record this year certainly in terms of originality and ambition not to mention the quality of the writing.
How much the band plan to tour this year is impossible to say at this distance but I think when promoters hear this and still have festival spaces to fill they will be getting on the phone pretty quickly when they hear Gold unless that is their idea of a headliner is some sort of lightweight showbiz ivory-tinkler.
The great thing here by contrast is the blues connotation and the quality of the melodies. The style straddles a lot of things and you could be a rock fan or an avant jazz fan, a mix of the two or even someone more attuned to the contemporary classical avant garde and you will get what is going on here. By the way it will give you kicks and not make you come away with the feeling that you should be writing a PhD thesis about it although there are plenty of things to consider and strike you as brand new and innovative.
One of the great things about these sounds is the complete lack of a false corny swing sensibility when you know that swing has become a facsimile for complacency or sentimentality which it often has become in the wrong hands.
As for details of instrumentation Andrew d’Angelo alternates between alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Jim Black as well as drums contributes synth (it can sound like the grandeur of an organ say on his tune ‘Martens’ which has a ‘Round Midnight’ calibre greatness to it) Kurt Rosenwinkel of course is on guitar and not as arrogantly all over the shop as he can be on some of his more mainstream chops-heavy records, while Chris Speed alternates between tenor and clarinet. The tracks were recorded in a studio in 2017.
More impressions? There is a huge tenderness and some tremendous ballad playing here, actually many of the more absorbing passages have a bittersweet quality to them, but they are counterweighted with a brutal sense of the reality of the world in contrasting play. Check the beginning of ‘Lights Out’ for instance when the reeds go into exploratory and very nihilistic mode which almost tears up the band’s own thinking.
There is quite pervasively a social realism to the sound which is the antithesis of romanticism but there is also plenty of imagination thrown in too so this is not a mundane earnest kind of record at all which often bedevils more orthodox free improv which this resembles at times but is ultimately distinct from.
The sax interplay between d’Angelo and Speed is the best thing about it all and certainly narrates the album most so the reeds are your guides at all times to “the story” and underpins everything. Rosenwinkel has to fashion his harmonic colour into a smaller space which challenges him and the listener in the end.
Jim Black is very powerful and shows how world class a player he certainly is in this regard but he is more of an auteur than a drummer if that makes sense.
When an avant garde record is accessible and this certainly is you just know someone has cracked the code and given listeners the key to a certain kind of rare wisdom. Push yourself as a listener. These guys do as players and it works.
It might become compulsory to begin a live album with the noise of the audience just so we know that it is live.
In any case that is how Live From the Cotton Club Tokyo Vol 1 begins. “Volume 1” makes it sound like The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But this particular story is not that epic a tale.
Joey Calderazzo is an A list player, usually known as a member of a group and for a long time with Branford Marsalis and who has a new album The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul out in March.
There is a British interest in the choice of bassist with Orlando Le Fleming who lives in America and who swings like mad on ‘Hats Off to Rebay’ and the Jeff Watts-like sound of Donald Edwards on drums completes the band.
Most of these tracks are pretty long and that is not unusual in a live jazz club setting. The band swing all night long and it is enjoyable but you will not come away from this with any other great insights other than bask in the ability of the players or just wish you were there because going by the audience it was fun.
The latinate ‘Cianna’ has a feelgood style to it but you certainly will be looking for a bit more edge and that luckily is provided in the opening of ‘One Way’ that has a mysterious teasing opening from Le Fleming and Calderazzo, the pianist using the deepest notes of his instrument to add a little suspense, the bluesiness an added ingredient for great flavour.
I have not heard Calderazzo live in quite a few years, I think the last time was at a festival in Glasgow, and was always blown away by his technique on his own records and which is still there in natural abundance. I’d pick ‘Free’ to indicate that great aspect of his playing best of all with Edwards really coming into his own and the trio respond best and show their firepower which mostly on this record as a unit is kept in reserve.
The audience show their engagement again at the beginning of the choppy opening to ‘The Mighty Sword’ and Le Fleming rampages the tune along, the trio going for broke. Certainly then to reach a conclusion a pretty album and very easy to absorb but I would not say it is a classic and is quite undemanding in large sections. Nevertheless it certainly helps put the Cotton Club in Tokyo on the map for quality live recordings and presumably future volumes. Stephen Graham
A ROUND UP OF CLUB ACTIVITY AT A RANGE OF INTERNATIONAL CLUBS: The Kevin Brady trio featuring Bill Carrothers and Seamus Blake are at Arthur’s Dublin on 20 February. Over at the A-Trane in Berlin Human Feel are in town on 30 January.
Look out for the Jazz Art Orchestra with Jason Marsalis at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam on 14 January.
Over at Birdland New York Ingrid Jensen’s quintet play from 23-26 January.
At Bix in Stuttgart the accent is smooth, reggae and Afrobop in the mix courtesy of Yolanda Brown on 25 January.
In Italy at the Blue Note in Milan acid jazz stalwarts JTQ are playing there on 18 January.
The Blue Note in New York has Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah coming up on 5-8 February.
In Denver club Dazzle Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart are playing on 17 January. Staying in the US, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle hosts UK guitar legend Martin Taylor on 15 and 16 January. At Dizzy’s, in New York, the mighty Cookers begin a four-night residency on 24 January.
Across the Atlantic at the Domicil in Dortmund Ambrose Akinmusire makes the trip to Germany once more with his quartet to play on 30 January. Criss crossing the continent to the Duc des Lombards in Paris where you can hear the David Kikoski trio on 30-31 January.
At Jamboree in Barcelona Liane Carroll is in town playing there on 16 January. Further north at the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen Jan Lundgren with strings pays tribute to Jan Johansson from 31 January-2 February.
Interestingly at the Jazzkeller in Frankfurt Vincent Herring and Soul Chemistry play on 17 January while back in the States at the Jazz Standard in New York Vijay Iyer are in the club on 22 and 23 January. Note the (how new?) line-up, with Linda Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.
At the Regatta bar in Boston Stanley Jordan is in the club on 1 February and a few weeks before at Smoke in New York Al Foster celebrates his 75th with a three-night residency beginning on 18 January. Snug Harbor in New Orleans features the Herlin Riley quartet on 26 January.
Back in Germany at the Stadtgarten in Cologne Kris Davis, Stephan Crump and Eric McPherson under the moniker the Borderlands trio play on 27 January.
Before that and this week, finally in this round-up, at the Sunset-Sunside in Paris trad trumpeter Pete Horsfall of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band makes the trip across the channel to play on 15 January in the company of Frank Amsallem as they pay homage to Louis Armstrong.
Nu Civilisation Orchestra, 2 Feb 2019
Sun 13 Jan (also 14th) Aaron Diehl trio, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
Mon 14 Jan Dominic Lash Quartet, Cafe Oto, London
Tues 15 Jan Kansas Smitty’s House Band, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Wed 16 Jan (in residence from 7-18 Jan) Rebecca Ferguson, Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London
Thurs 17 Jan Tori Freestone trio, Hidden Rooms, Cambridge
Fri 18 Jan Salena Jones, Brasserie Zédel, London
Sat 19 Jan Jo Harrop sings Peggy Lee feat. Tony Kofi, The Verdict, Brighton
Sun 20 Jan (afternoon) Tomorrow’s Warriors jam, Rich Mix, London
Mon 21 Jan NYJO, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Tues 22 Jan Neil Yates, Blue Arrow, Glasgow
Wed 23 Jan Laura Mvula and Black Voices, Kings Place, London
Thurs 24 Jan Gareth Williams, Clark Tracey, Arnie Somogyi trio, East Side, Birmingham
Fri 25 Jan Florence Joelle Quartet, Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec, London
Sat 26 Jan Norma Winstone/John Parricelli/Huw Warren, Vortex, London
Sun 27 Jan Bokanté, Jacaranda Records Phase One, Liverpool
Mon 28 Jan (also previous and next two nights) Ledisi, Jazz Cafe, London
Tues 29 Jan (also previous and subsequent nights) Ruby Turner, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Wed 30 Jan Dizzy Reece Routes in Jazz Retrospective, Band on the Wall, Manchester
Thurs 31 Jan Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds, Triskel, Cork
Fri 1 Feb Martin Speake, Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, Essex
Sat 2 Feb Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Sun 3 Feb Trio HLK and Evelyn Glennie, RNCM, Manchester
Mon 4 Feb Helen Sung, The Pheasantry, London
Tues 5 Feb Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
Wed 6 Feb (also prior two nights) Ruby Turner, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Thurs 7 Feb Tin Men and the Telephone, Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Fri 8 Feb Huw Warren trio, Vortex, London
Sat 9 Feb Ari Hoenig trio, Seven Arts, Leeds
Sun 10 Feb Patrick Naylor and Maciek Pysz Trio, Green Note, London
Mon 11 Feb Blowin’ the Blues Away with the Ronnie Scott's club quintet, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Tues 12 Feb Nishla Smith Quintet, Vortex, London
Wed 13 Feb (also previous night) Liane Carroll and Claire Martin, The Pheasantry, London
Thurs 14 Feb Sara Dowling, 606 club, London
Fri 15 Feb Clare Teal, Cadogan Hall, London
Sat 16 Feb Craig Taborn, Sonic Lab, Belfast
Sun 17 Feb Natalie Williams Soul Family, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Mon 18 Feb Joshua Redman, Barbican, London
Tues 19 Feb Archipeligo, Vortex, London
Wed 20 Feb Evan Parker/Alexander Hawkins, Riot Ensemble, Enemy, Cafe Oto, London
Thurs 21 Feb Bill Frisell trio, National Concert Hall, Dublin
Fri 22 Feb Claire Martin and Jamie Safir, Hampstead Jazz Club, London
Sat 23 Feb Osian Roberts quartet, The Verdict, Brighton
Sun 24 Feb Anthony Joseph, Ronnie Scott’s, London
Mon 25 Feb John Turville Head First quintet feat. Julian Arguelles, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
Tues 26 Feb Ife Ogunjobi band/George Winstone Trio, Vortex, London
Wed 27 Feb Tony Rémy, Vortex, London
Thurs 28 Feb John Turville Head First quintet feat. Julian Arguelles, Hidden Rooms, Cambridge
Fri 1 March Branford Marsalis, Barbican, London