Tour notes: June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren
It’s becoming a default band name already so let’s just say Quercus, and leave it at that, are touring next month and, following a review of Quercus yesterday of June Tabor, Iain Ballamy, and Huw Warren’s deeply satisfying folk-jazz album in these virtual pages, here are details of the tour dates coming up. Alas and alack Basingstoke, where the album was so beautifully recorded, is not on the schedule on this tour at least but these are: Stables, Milton Keynes (14 April, www.stables.org); Phoenix, Exeter (23 April www.exeterphoenix.org.uk); St George’s, Bristol (25 April www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk); Sage, Gateshead (27 April www.thesagegateshead.org); Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (29 April www.warwickartscentre.co.uk); LSO St Luke’s, London (30 April www.lso.co.uk); and the Playhouse, Salisbury as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival (31 May www.salisburyfestival.co.uk). MB
Kendrick Scott and Oracle show their class on Conviction
Opening with the prayer of St Francis as spoken word, Kendrick Scott and Oracle’s Conviction make a second unusual choice: a cover of influential Brummie outfit Broadcast’s ‘Pendulum’ (from their Haha Sound album put out a decade ago). Guitarist Mike Moreno is Loueke-like as the track builds and then saxophonist John Ellis goes into hipster overdrive, really building as Scott provides the beautiful rhythm undergrowth. The Blanchard man powers Oracle like you wouldn’t believe, different limbs playing different rhythms, the epitome of the brilliant drummer just doing what he does on strong tunes. Taylor Eigsti on Fender Rhodes responds to the lapping guitar undulations at the end and the mood is set. Not out in the UK until May the album has gone to number one in the US iTunes jazz chart just a few days after release and no wonder as word of this spread like wildfire. Alan Hampton, old Houston mate of Robert Glasper’s who performed with the keyboardist in the autumn at the Roundhouse, doesn’t really play bass any more instead he’s a decent singer/songwriter of some quality and shows what he can do by really nailing ‘Too Much’ Sufjan Stevens’ song next up on Conviction captioned as Love. Another Glasper connection and ex-Floetry sideman Derrick Hodge has produced Conviction and the album is accessible but very much a jazz head’s album as well. That’s a knack.
Released by Concord in May in the UK
Great drums and keyboards processing on ‘Too Much’, love the scrappy industrial edge, and a guitar break to die for, and Scott opens up the time signature, a little like the way he does with Blanchard playing behind Brice Winston. Herbie’s ‘I Have a Dream’ is next with swinging bass from Joe Sanders and really classy modern jazz guitar from Moreno; the important equality track written by Scott ‘We Shall By Any Means’ with Sanders at his best on unaccompanied bass beautifully captured leading into a bass clarinet ostinato of some tenderness by Ellis. Then it’s ‘Liberty or Death’ (representing freedom), turning the volume up after a couple of minutes and a rhythm section figure you’ve got to hear with Moreno spiderwebbing up to the top of the band sound and then a multi-tracked vocal swell reminiscent of the much missed Mark Ledford.
‘Be water my friend, empty your mind’ — Bruce Lee
Kendrick’s solo at the beginning of ‘Cycling Through Reality’ might bring a few smiles from Jack DeJohnette (that’s in a good way although he might joke about which Special Edition album of his he’s been listening to!), and then it’s chords all the way from Moreno and a Blanchard-esque horn entry as this expansive tune develops. It’s possibly the most technical on the album but one that is very accessible as well so it’s not just for the jazz heads. Ellis loves getting in Chris Potter-land as well when the tune passes the three-minute mark and Moreno hits the sweet spot when he joins. Derrick Hodge’s title track ‘Conviction’ (love the bass riff and tone row harmony snatches from guitar and keys); then Walter Smith III’s ballad ‘Apollo’ with Eigsti showing what he can do on bravura piano, the crackling ‘Serenity’ with Hampton’s winning vocals against bass clarinet representing Faith; Scott’s ‘Be Water’ with some spoken word from martial arts guru Bruce Lee, the album’s bizarre Eric Cantona moment, and Michiel (not as stated) Borstlap’s ‘Memory of Enchantment’, a lucid piano solo, completes this superlative album. Best thing I’ve heard this year standing tall alongside The Sirens. Conviction (*****) just leaps out of the speakers.
Oracle pictured with Derrick Hodge right
City of Broken Dreams
There’s no sense of place other than in the title track of City of Broken Dreams and its bookending variant. And philosophically the ‘city’ like the dreams themselves does not exist. “Enrico Rava’s pianist” Guidi, with Stańko New York Quartet bassist Thomas Morgan and Portuguese drummer João Lobo dwell at least in the titles on a range of situations: determined (‘No Other Possibility’), contemplative (‘Ocean View’), fearful (‘The Forbidden Zone’) or predicated on vital relationships (‘The Impossible Divorce’, ‘The Way Some People Live’). There’s a mysterious ‘Leonie’ who is given an exquisite weightless melody that lifts the album via Morgan’s traction and Guidi’s harmonic touch to the heights as well. Guidi is a child of the 1980s, little known until now beyond his connection to Rava, but this Bley-esque debut as a leader for ECM is really very different to what you’ll hear on a Rava record. Lovely music throughout from a highly promising new leader, and it’s beautifully played and cultured although lacking a certain bite at times even if Morgan manages to add a master improviser’s edge. All the compositions are Guidi’s and to pinpoint another ‘The Forbidden Zone’ exhibits the trio’s ability to conjure highly contrasting noir that depict the ruins of emotion rather than metropolitan rubble. Stephen Graham
Giovanni Guidi above photo Paolo Soriani / ECM
First Keith Jarrett standards trio album in a decade
ECM has confirmed the release of Somewhere, the long rumoured Keith Jarrett Standards trio album. Recorded in Lucerne in July 2009 at KKL Luzern, a Jean Nouvel-designed concert hall with wondrous acoustics the work of famed acoustician Russell Johnson part of a complex that includes a modern art gallery, smaller hall, and restaurants overlooking Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.
The first standards trio release in a decade (the last was Up For It recorded outdoors in the south of France), no track listings are available yet but there is some speculation that the set contains a long version of ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story. It’s released on 6 May. Stephen Graham
The view from KKL in Lucerne top; Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock pictured middle; and inside the hall above.
Photos: Olivier Bruchez; and Standards trio photo: ECM
Not since Lammas has jazz and folk combined so effectively
June Tabor/Iain Ballamy/Huw Warren
Straddling folk and, by association and intent, jazz, Quercus, the trio of leading folk singer June Tabor, saxophonist Iain Ballamy also of the band Food, and pianist Huw Warren (who has performed with Tabor for an astonishing 25 years) these 11 songs have taken some time to be released, seven years since they were recorded in Basingstoke on a fabled piano in the town’s Anvil venue. But it’s more than worth the wait and it’s Warren’s interplay with the full expressive sound of Tabor’s voice (like Norma Waterson’s slightly, but darker than Christine Tobin’s) that counts. Iain Ballamy here and in Food recently has been on the form of his life, and his solo for instance on ‘Near But Far Away’ distils a life time’s work on ballads. At the end ‘All I Ask of You’ is a reminder of the moving version of the song on Balloon Man Ballamy’s first big breakthrough in the late-1980s. Texts of the songs draw on disparate sources including Robert Burns, A. E .Housman and Shakespeare and highlights include the lovely ‘Who Wants the Evening Rose’ where the honesty of Tabor’s voice momentarily recalling the late Kirsty MacColl, is truest. Ballamy here, oak-sturdy as the genus the band itself takes its name from, intertwines his improvisations with Warren’s superbly empathetic accompaniment so appropriately. Not since Lammas, has a folk-jazz project worked as joyously as here. Stephen Graham
Released on Monday 1 April
Babel **** RECOMMENDED
This is the debut release of Human, drummer and composer Stephen Davis’ new quartet. The Human sound is coloured by the violin of the maverick Dylan Bates, notable for his work with Billly Jenkins and Waiting For Dwarfs and it’s his best work to date. Human also features the talismanic presence of pianist Alexander Hawkins, and the electronicist, trumpeter Alex Bonney. ‘Little Particles’ finds Bonney In a Silent Way state of mind amid the complementary African-sounding piano and drums, with Bates resembling Leroy Jenkins in his pomp with that jagged Beckenham-derived individuality bolted on his brother Django also possesses. Hawkins is a haunting presence throughout. ‘I Am Planet’ has a rustling unsettled feel to it, with Hawkins’ three-note figure after the three-minute marking the warts-and-all groove that opens up for Davis to then move deep into multi-directional territory. ‘Cartagena’ is very different, as the clash of the drummer’s snare pumps the band up. An eloquent expression, there’s plenty of originality on Being Human. MB
With his band the Orient House Ensemble the band the saxophonist has led and toured hard for a dozen years, Gilad Atzmon is to celebrate his 50th birthday with two nights at the progressive Vortex club in east London on 14-15 June.
Collecting controversy effortlessly, his latest album Songs of the Metropolis recorded at the end of September and beginning of October last year is not though controversial in the slightest, with a theme based around the “sound of the city”, with tracks named after places: Paris, the opener, say. Or Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and so on, with one odd exception: the seaside town of Scarborough, “as opposed to London” as Atzmon’s gloss in the notes has it.
Atzmon says: “Now our planet weeps. Beauty is perhaps the last true form of spiritual resistance. The song is there to counter detachment and alienation.” Later in the album booklet there’s a quotation from the David Garrioch 2003 book Sounds of the City that contrasts how the sounds in a city were heard in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to the way they are heard today. “The evolution of this information system reflects changes in social and political organization and in attitudes towards time and urban space,” Garrioch writes. An “auditory community” is how he also terms it. Atzmon’s ballads-driven album taps into a line of jazz ballad-making that goes way back to at least Sidney Bechet in terms of the saxophone. The quartet on this World Village release, Atzmon with pianist Frank Harrison, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Eddie Hick, meld well to the expressive Atzmon playing style, which for me works best in his take on the traditional ‘Scarborough Fair’ melody (‘Scarborough’), and on the lovely ‘Vienna’. This album is a different view of the city, as urban soundscapes are usually thrusting affairs, radically different in flavour, and a lot grittier and volatile as Atzmon himself usually is. One of Atzmon’s best, alongside Exile and his work with the great Robert Wyatt, particularly For The Ghosts Within. These Vortex appearances coming immediately after the release of such a fine album should be very special indeed. Stephen Graham
Advance tickets from www.vortexjazz.co.uk
The Orient House Ensemble pictured with Eddie Hick, above left, Yaron Stavi, Frank Harrison, and Gilad Atzmon
Chelsea club to host festival from 22 May-2 June
Philadelphia jazz legend Pat Martino is to open the 606 club’s 25th anniversary festival in May with the guitarist making his first ever appearance in the Chelsea basement club. Originally located on the King’s Road, bandleader and flautist Stevie Rubie’s classic jazz club has consistently punched above its weight now long established on Lots Road, near the old Lots Road power station and in itself generating enough jazz power to keep the street swinging with neighbourhood, national, and international appeal as a jazz venue.
The festival begins on Wednesday 22 May with Pat Martino opening the 606 25 Fest, and while the complete line-up is still to be confirmed artists taking part in the 606 festival, which runs until 2 June, with up to four bands playing each night, are so far: Dan Reinstein, Dill Katz, Tony Kofi (Thursday 23 May); Lillian Boutte, Ian Shaw, Jacqui Dankworth (Friday 24 May); Mornington Lockett, Tim Whitehead, Nigel Hitchcock (Saturday 25 May); 606 Club Big Band (Sunday 26 May lunchtime); Hamish Stuart, Tony O’Malley (Sunday 26 May evening); 606 club band past and present, Jim Mullen, Ronnie Scott All-Stars (Monday 27 May); Adam Glasser with Robin Aspland, Tony Remy, Steve Watts and Frank Tontoh, John Critchinson/Dave Ciff, Derek Nash (Tuesday 28 May); Gwilym Simcock, John Parricelli / Mark Lockheart, Iain Ballamy (Wednesday 29 May); Jack Wilkins/Peter Rubie, Dave O’Higgins, Clark Tracey (Thursday 30 May), Paul Carmichael, Imaani, Stacey Brothers (Friday 31 May); Julian Joseph, Peter King, Bobby Wellins (Saturday 1 June), Christine Tobin (lunchtime, Sunday 2 June), Liane Carroll, Tommy Blaize Band, and Samara (Sunday 2 June). MB
Pat Martino top is opening the 606 25 Fest. Club owner Steve Rubie pictured in action above with his new band Skydive on flute
Birthday shows this week at New York club the Jazz Standard and a new quintet album Time Travel swings hard
Dave Douglas turned 50 at the weekend and what better way than to celebrate the trumpeter’s birthday than a run of shows at a top New York jazz club and the release of a new CD Time Travel?
So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday or Kansas City when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. How about the Vanguard in 1961 listening to John Coltrane on the cusp or Bill Evans on a Sunday night? Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought.
Time Travel is about hard bop swing essentially. You’ll know the sound if you’re in a jazz club and a tune such as the opener here ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ plays, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo.
“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
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 next month inside the quintet for the exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when Williams 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 last year’s acclaimed 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’ on Time Travel 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 Sopranos-like jauntiness. 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 turned 50 on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. Set the tardis to fly. Stephen Graham
Dave Douglas, above