Jarringly miscued at time, of all the sometimes lamentably misinformed reaction to Dancing on the Edge, which tonight has an extra programme, a quirky set of fictional interviews with the band conducted by Stanley (Matthew Goode), the journalist modelled on Spike Hughes), the only writer who really understood the essence of this Poliakoff work as television, writing even as he did at the half way point, was Clive James. What a lot of people missed, but not James, who picks up on a then and now comparison about society and prejudice, is that Poliakoff isn’t interested in some sort of churning momentum. And even if you thought episodes dragged (I think the third was most guilty in this respect), the characters were given depth and the actors did the writing justice although I thought Julian’s portrayal could have been handled better as it wasn’t clear if he was a chinless wonder, or just cruel. Maybe he was both. Poliakoff does leave you hanging at times and that’s why I think the series worked as a whole.
Anyway, a lyricist as well as a television reviewer of genius James, had this to say, which went to the heart of the matter:
‘Languid or not in its writing and direction, however – Mr Poliakoff is in charge of both departments – the show’s treatment of race prejudice is a proof that British culture has come a long way. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, both of them theoretically advanced, casually took it for granted that a social acceptance for black entertainers was a sure sign of national decadence.
Times have changed, although one thing will probably never change. As long as a British series is up for sale to the Americans, two people of different races, even if they are as beautiful as Janet Montgomery and Chiwetel Ejiofor, will never be allowed to go to bed together without a carefully interposed sheet.
Mind you, if the couple were both of the same race, the sheet would still be there. That’s the way the Americans want it, so they must have it. Poor them, though: did they ever deserve something as wonderful as jazz? It was 1969 before President Nixon honoured Duke Ellington with the Medal of Freedom, and yet jazz was recognized as a miracle forty years previously by the future Duke of Windsor, in almost all other respects a total idiot.’
Tune in for the interviews with the band on BBC2 at 10.30 MB
Most euphonious name on the circuit, Ballydehob Jazz Festival, has unveiled its line-up with, in a coup for the village, the Neil Cowley Trio headlining for 2013.
The Cowley Trio, about to release their first live album and DVD, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, were the biggest selling UK jazz artists in 2012 with their ‘hit’ album The Face of Mount Molehill, and drew in ever larger audiences live, with the band playing the Barbican in London for the first time, and touring in the US.
Also for Ballydehob, a still fairly new festival in West Cork, Ireland (the jazz version of Other Voices?), set this year for its seventh running, are Kitten and the Hip, that’s ex-Freak Power/Loose Tubes trombonist Ashley Slater and singer/songwriter Kitten Quinn’s band; with Mongoose; Earthship; and Camilla Griehsel / Maurice Seezer, all to appear. MB
Ballydehob Jazz Festival runs from 3-6 May http://www.ballydehobjazzfestival.org
Festival time in Ballydehob: pictured top at the festival club; the Neil Cowley Trio middle; and Kitten and the Hip, above
With more than six months to go, the organisers of the Herts Jazz Festival have not let the grass grow under their feet, and have announced this year’s full programme.
On paper it’s looking like the best yet, with the Stan Tracey octet,Tony Kofi, Georgie Fame, the Jason Yarde/Andrew McCormack Duo, Django Bates Beloved Trio, Kenny Wheeler Quintet, Iain Ballamy, Don Weller, and a tribute to JJ Johnson and Kai Winding included in the stellar line-up.
The festival runs from 20-22 September at the Hawthorne Theatre, Campus West, in Welwyn Garden City. SG
Tony Kofi, top; and Georgie Fame, above
Verb or noun, certainly energy-laden as a word, Smash, Patricia Barber’s latest record is an outside sort of album, the energy inherent rather than overt. The singer/pianist is among street lights and car headlights on the cover, and touching the paving stones of a deserted, night-time city street inside. Barber, as long time fans will of course know, is also of the outside. Her first for Concord, the dozen songs contrast highly with one of her best albums to date, the sublime Ovid-inspired Mythologies from 2006, with the added advantage of not having to live up to a grand conceptual scheme. Rather than concern herself with myth, instead she immerses herself in real-time life, the here and now using images of the seasons and natural elements as a backdrop.
With her band of guitarist John Kregor (whose big power rock solo on the title track is a defining moment), bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Jon Deitemyer behind her vocals and piano parts, they made Smash in Chicago with Barber producing. A city she’s strongly identified with, especially at the Green Mill club, the title track’s lyrics conjuring noise ‘the sound/Of a heart breaking’, ‘the sound of/The red on the road’. It’s not despairing though as a whole, just real, and devices like the bossa feel scaled down on ‘Redshift’ let the anger Barber sometimes boils up evaporate yet however it’s contained a sentiment such as ‘by degrees I see/You are leaving me’ is cold comfort. The piano opening to ‘Spring Song’ ‘talks’ Bill Evans a bit, and Kohut could even be channelling Eddie Gomez to his side, a fitting approach given the song. First impressions are of a strong return here by Barber. A deep album, not a precious one, nor one to act as a balm, or to make you “feel good”. You would find it hard to discover a singer in this idiom, and certainly you’d search long and hard in rock or pop, to find lyrics as freighted with meaning as here. They’re not about home truths, Barber is beyond delivering crap homilies. Yet her voice is both a prisoner to the song, as well as its keeper: a unique burden. Highlight? I’d go for ‘Missing’, a love song of impossible inspiration framed within the cycle of the seasons, with its drifting guitar and the utterly unique Barber voice. SG
Patricia Barber, above. Photo: Jimmy Katz
Zoe Rahman, directing the Guildhall Jazz Ensemble; Ian Shaw guesting with the Guildhall Jazz Singers and Ensemble; saxophonist Tom Challenger; Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts and Paul Dunmall (the Dartington Improvising Trio); plus Iain Ballamy and the Guildhall Jazz Band, are all now finally confirmed to appear at this month’s Guildhall Jazz Festival, the full line-up of which has just been published. The festival runs from Saturday 23 March-Thursday 28 March. SG
Zoe Rahman, above
Full line-up and booking information: http://www.gsmd.ac.uk
Well the word’s out and Monday 22 April is now confirmed for the release of Light From Old Stars, the Kit Downes quintet album first revealed in these pages on New Year’s Day. http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39377045983/1683
Featuring members of the London-based, Norwich reared, award winning pianist’s trio: that’s bassist Calum Gourlay (also on crooner Anthony Strong’s Stepping Out to be released a fortnight earlier by Naïve), and drummer James Maddren, with Golden Age of Steam’s James Allsopp on bass clarinet, and cellist Lucy Railton.
The album was recorded at Fishmarket Studios by Robert Harder who produced The Cherry Thing.
Light From Old Stars combines a variety of elements from chamber jazz signifiers in the arranging style through to free improv on a track such as ‘Owls’ and the more cinematic “road movie” conception of ‘Outlaws’, or the remoulded ‘jam’ blow-out feel of ‘What’s the Rumpus.’
Recorded on a special Steinway sourced from Beccles in Suffolk Light From Old Stars is to be released as reported previously by London-based indie jazz label Basho, home to The Impossible Gentlemen, and follows Downes’ Basho albums the Mercury nominated trio album Golden (2009), and Quiet Tiger (2011).
Tracks are ‘Wonder and Colossus’, ‘Bley Days’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘What’s the Rumpus’, ‘Two Ones’, ‘Falling, Dancing’, ‘Owls’, ‘The Mad Wren’, and ‘Jan Johansson’.
The cover of ‘lost leader’ Jan Johansson’s masterwork, above
‘Bley Days’, which the quintet played live on selected dates last year, is Downes’ homage to Paul Bley, and the final track is clearly named as a tribute for the lost leader of Swedish jazz, pianist Jan Johansson who died at the young age of 37 in 1968.
Johansson is best known for his classic album Jazz på svenska (‘Jazz in Swedish’), which used European folk music as an ingredient for jazz improvisation, one of the first so to do.
‘Jan Johansson’ is a quietly yearning dream-like track that begins with a scamperingly laidback Maddren rhythm, a low piano rumble, and a lovely melody line that Downes and cellist Railton state in unison before the softly unfolding melody line ascends. SG
Updated quintet tour dates include: The Verdict, Brighton, tomorrow (8 March); The Hive, Shrewsbury 13 April; Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham 18 April; and Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, London, on 29 April, with more dates in May and June
The Kit Downes quintet top (courtesy Basho records); and Kit Downes, pictured in London, with St Paul’s, and Blackfriars bridge in the distance behind him (photo: Yamaha)
So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday; the Little Theatre club towards the end of the 1960s, perhaps. Or Kansas City, when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought. Dave Douglas’ latest, Time Travel (**** recommended), has a “businessman’s bounce”, which might raise a few eyebrows. That’s hard bop swing essentially, a phrase the Dizzy Reece and Tubby Hayes record producer and writer Tony Hall sometimes talks knowledgeably about when he hears the sound. If you’re in a jazz club a tune such as opener ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo, though, would bounce sense into any executive.
"I was really interested in what David Toomey wrote in his book The New Time Travelers. How the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backwards, forwards, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect."
- Dave Douglas
Jon Irabagon’s tenor saxophone solo might make the exec dwell by the bandstand to listen a bit, and you know the suited-and-booted might just think: 9-5 is for losers. But don’t hold your breath.
In terms of Douglas’ output, think The Infinite a bit, but there’s no Fender Rhodes. Or the band with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist who will appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival inside the quintet for the spatown exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when he was with Terence Blanchard, and this quintet compares strongly to Blanchard’s latest aggregation, although the way the News Orleansian leaves space for Brice Winston is different to Douglas’ approach to harmonising with Irabagon. Both approaches share that salt; and swagger. Time Travel is almost the same band as Be Still but it’s without a singer, although vocalist Heather Masse (not Aoife O’Donovan who’s on Be Still), will join the quintet in Cheltenham with quintet changes as well as saxophone applying also to drums.
‘Law of Historical Memory’ has a superbly ominous atmosphere courtesy of Mitchell, and then some admirably sour horn lines accentuated by drummer Rudy Royston that allow plenty of deliberately uneasy modulating for mood purposes. ‘Beware of Doug’ opens like something out of the Treme soundtrack, while ‘Little Feet’ is where Douglas can ‘speak’ to us listeners with that personal sound of his. ‘Garden State’ referring to New Jersey has a jauntiness again that recalls Tony’s thing about the “businessman bounce”, although, thinking of another Tony with New Jersey connections who’s not a vocalist: it’s none of my business! Finally, the album to be released by Greenleaf in April flutters to a halt with ‘The Pigeon and the Pie’, and in these 10 minutes Douglas, who turns 50 a fortnight on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. SG
Dave Douglas, above
Listen to the title track via this link to NTS jazz show Babel Babble http://shar.es/jBslz
So it’s 2013 and the second night of Chick Corea’s The Vigil playing Ronnie Scott’s.
It’s also 1969. Kind of.
Why? Well this remarkable video clip, which Twitter user @AdrianDeliu has just posted, tells part of the story:
And that’s not all. As the quintet on the road made these recordings just released by Columbia.
Fast forward to this very day and keeping the Vigil tonight at Ronnie Scott’s before the band moves over to the Blue Note in Milan, Corea will be joined on the stage of the Frith Street jazz shrine by Tim Garland, Hadrien Feraud, Marcus Gilmore, and Charles Altura.
The club dates come just less than a year since New Crystal Silence arranger and former Chick band member Garland joined the Return To Forever man on stage as a surprise guest at the Barbican, when Corea had earlier performed in front of a big concert hall audience that night with Gary Burton.
Garland played soprano sax during the encore “jamming” on Chick’s classic composition ‘La Fiesta’ and Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’.
The terminology ‘third great Miles Davis quintet’ is just starting to be used by the record company guys and fans. But you can understand why if you’ve heard the triple album/DVD set even if it’s lesser known than the second great quintet, which Wayne Shorter was also a member of; and the distant, but equally acclaimed, first great quintet with John Coltrane.
Of the five musicians making the recording, well Miles is Miles: the next big thing will be a new re-imagining of his screen image via the vision and determination of Don Cheadle with the score written for the film by Herbie Hancock. After Tavernier’s Round Midnight everyone thought of the individual personas of Lester Young and Bud Powell (via the fictionalised persona whose story the film told) differently. Hancock was there at the time acting a little, and wrote the music, which would win him an Oscar. How will we view Miles when eventually we get to see the film and hear the music? The Davis legend will without a shadow of a doubt move to a different level entirely no matter how successful or otherwise the film turns out to be.
As for Wayne Shorter well, he’s on fire with ‘Pegasus’ and much else (the rest all live) on Without a Net, and was last in this country playing in Birmingham with the quartet towards the tail end of last year.
[Without a Net background http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/37908086641/256]
Jack DeJohnette put out a fine album late last year [more at http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/32873499206/40688], but Dave Holland has slipped off the radar a bit, although he is expected to release a record by the Prism band at some stage following some non-UK touring last year with the stellar outfit. Details are very scarce.
And lastly Chick Corea won two Grammys last month. Birthing The Vigil means for him it’s all about 2013 no matter how brightly 1969 still burns. SG
Chick Corea, top, yesterday, inside Ronnie Scott’s
Photo: via @Chick Corea