Journey into the night on the jazz scene anywhere and you’ll find people you’d never even imagined were there playing like their lives depended on it.
Subterranean by nature, nocturnal by instinct, they thrive on the spontaneous, and instigate creative situations that in time mutate into the music of the future. They could come from anywhere. Jamming, they play gigs starting ever later in the evening, eventually surfacing as night becomes day with a visit to a studio and an album that often or not causes a stir.
Guitarist Hannes Riepler is one such musician who, for the past two years, has been organising weekly concerts and jam sessions at Charlie Wright’s club in Hoxton, a hub for musicians on the up and up, and for visiting luminaries passing through London wishing to let off a bit of steam in John Nash’s congenial bar a short stroll from where the Bass Clef fulfilled a similar role in the 1990s.
Riepler is 33, from Austria, and is influenced by the likes of John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel. His debut self-penned album The Brave just released by Huddersfield indie jazz label Jellymould matches the guitarist, whose roots are in the acoustic period of jazz from the 1950s and 60s, to a strong band. His fellow Bravehearts include Troyka’s Kit Downes; Ma’s saxophone hard hitter Tom Challenger; newcomer bassist Ryan Trebilcock; and Kairos 4tet’s drummer, Jon Scott. Recorded in the spring of 2010, Riepler arrived in London via study in Amsterdam more than half a decade ago, and honed his sound by checking out the scene all over London playing with young stars along the way including the late trumpeter Richard Turner who died in tragic circumstances last summer, and who The Brave is dedicated to along with Riepler’s dad. Stephen Graham
Hannes Riepler, leads the jam session every Tuesday at Charlie Wright’s in Hoxton. http://www.charliewrights.com
This is a small extract from an article published in the July issue of Jazzwise available in larger branches of WH Smith and selected local newsagents. Download the app from the Apple store for the Jazzwise iPhone and tablet edition, or subscribe at jazzwisemagazine.com
Brass Jaw saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist Euan Stevenson have come together to record New Focus, a quartet album with additional string quartet and harp instrumentation, to be released by bassist Michael Janisch’s label Whirlwind just ahead of this year’s London Jazz Festival.
The album features original music by the pair working inside a quartet, which also comprises Scottish National Jazz Orchestra drummer Alyn Cosker, and Janisch on bass; and they’re joined by the Glasgow String Quartet, made up of players from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and harpist Alina Bzhezhinska.
Recorded and mixed at Castlesound Studios in Scotland and released on 5 November, tracks are: ‘Nicola’s Piece’, ‘Intro’, ‘El Paraiso’, ‘For Ray’, ‘Interlude’, ‘Music for a Northern Mining Town’, ‘Illuminate’, ‘Dziadzio’, ‘Leonard’s Lament’ and ‘Parsons Green.’
While Glasgow-based Wiszniewski is well known for his work with the hard gigging Brass Jaw and in his writing for New Focus draws on his Polish and Scottish heritage, Stevenson is less known outside Scotland but with influences including Oscar Peterson, George Shearing and Bill Evans the pianist has quickly achieved a following in his homeland in a relatively short space of time with BBC Radio Scotland broadcasts bringing his music to an audience far beyond the jazz club and concert hall circuit. Stevenson also leads his own standards-rooted trio, and has worked as an arranger for trumpeter Colin Steele’s high powered Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra. Tour dates include the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on 26 September; Glasgow Art Club (27 Sept); Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (13 November); The Institute, New Lanark (24 Nov); and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (29 Nov).
Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson pictured above
With little advance fanfare tomorrow sees the release of the latest album for Blue Note by US-based Beninese jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. Co-produced by labelmate Robert Glasper whose own record Black Radio this year has marked a turning point in his own already rocketing career and who returns to the UK for the iTunes festival next month, Heritage is Loueke’s third album for Blue Note a label that signed him after Loueke appeared on a couple of Terence Blanchard records. Loueke, who has also toured extensively with Herbie Hancock as recently as his Imagine Project tour, also contributed to the Blanchard band’s songbook, and ‘Benny’s Tune’ if you haven’t heard it, is to my mind one of the best jazz compositions across the board in the last decade. It’s like a standard in the making with a distinctively bittersweet poignancy.
Heritage has dispensed with Loueke’s longstanding trio of bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth, so instead there’s electric bassist Derrick Hodge, who you’ll know from Robert Glasper’s band, and who is himself to release a debut as a leader for Blue Note. And there’s also Mark Guiliana, the drummer who made such an impact with UK jazz lovers on Alive by Phronesis and previously when he played with Avishai Cohen. Heritage has seven new Loueke tunes, a couple by Glasper, who also plays on many of the tracks, and another distinguishing feature of the album is background vocal glimpses of singer Gretchen Parlato on a few tracks.
There’s a real warmth to the album and it sounds undeniably Loueke from the first notes. It’s interesting that in the past he has talked about liking George Benson’s music when he started out and was thinking about playing jazz, and particularly the 1970s album Weekend in LA. Well, Heritage is a world away from the Benson sound but both players share an instant ability to communicate their musical ideas however complex. With Glasper’s involvement and a new band the message will get across that bit more directly with Heritage I think and maybe Loueke’s vocals will come to the fore more and more as his career develops. ‘Tribal Dance’, the third track, written by Glasper, has a beautiful warmth to it opening up for Loueke to expand on the bed of percussion and vocals behind him, but there’s a lot of strong material throughout and above all Heritage works as a play-through album, which is always better than just a series of tracks in isolation unless you just want the thrill of a pop hit. Glasper’s input gives Loueke’s approach a new creative energy and it’s interesting that Loueke was an original member of Glasper’s band the Experiment. How recent jazz history would have been different if he had stayed. Let’s hope Loueke plays the UK again soon so we can hear some of these songs live.
Little Mystery Records ***
Another of the burgeoning new-melodic school, trumpet/flugel player Nadje Noordhuis, from Sydney, based in New York since 2008, was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk competition the year before.
In her mid-thirties, a member of underground jazz composer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, her band on this debut is full of good players including pianist Geoff Keezer, drummer Obed Calvaire, and bassist Joe Martin, and it’s easy to feel at ease with the chamber-jazz material, instantly attractive and approachable from the first sounds of the little piano figure on opener ‘Water Crossing.’
Fourth track ‘Big Footprint’ draws the musical world of Kenny Wheeler to mind, but the record also presents a very different side to Geoff Keezer, particularly if you think of him in terms of say his Rhodes work with Christian McBride’s jazz-rock band. Keezer is instead more like the pianist on a mid-20th century prairie period drama, and Sara Carswell’s violin playing on ‘Waltz for Winter’ completes this sepia tinted impression.
The last track ‘Open Road’, Noordhuis says this about on her blog: “I was thinking to myself ‘I want to write a tune as beautiful as a Pat Metheny ballad.’" And in some ways she has, although Metheny doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious source, which is probably a good sign. It’s a record that’s hard to dislike, but could do with a bit more of an edge at times, although the young trumpeter has a very expressive narrative style that lifts the record’s appeal immeasurably.
Released on 9 October in the US
Nadje Noordhuis, pictured top
1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project
An album about songs and the craft of songwriters centred around the famed building in Midtown Manhattan where for some 40 years some of the most universally loved songs in American popular music were created. Elling begins with ‘On Broadway’ and his typically knowing way with both the lyrics of a song and his rapport with the band mean it feels as if he’s making you ‘unhear’ these very familiar songs. Initial listens suggest Bacharach/David’s ’ A House is Not A Home’ and Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ are the go-to tracks but Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ will intrigue Zappa fans as well.
Released on 25 September. Kurt Elling, with Sheila Jordan, plays the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 14 November
The Bad Plus
Concord **** SEASON HIGHLIGHT
With this release you get the feeling that The Bad Plus have come up with something radically different. It’s almost as if they have begun all over again, with synthesizers and electronic drums added to the acoustic trio setting. The album comprises a bunch of original, frequently gripping, tunes, and a take on the late Paul Motian’s ‘Victoria’. Pianist Ethan Iverson says that Made Possible “is the sound of getting together in your garage and all committing, no matter what, seeing what you can make up today.” This frequently engrossing album indicates such an approach has more than paid off.
Released on 25 September in the States, and on 22 October internationally. The Bad Plus play Ronnie Scott’s in London on 23 and 24 October.
The Bad Plus photo by Cameron Wittig
End of an Era
Truth Revolution ***
Very promising, with a high-register sense of abandon and plenty of guts, trumpeter Philip Dizack is still a new name on a crowded US scene. Slightly reminiscent of Christian Scott (circa the album Anthem) it’s been seven years since the Milwaukee player’s debut, Beyond a Dream. With tracks featuring two separate bands, one with Linda Oh, the bassist most likely to storm through from the underground jazz scene in America, Blue Note artist pianist Aaron Parks and Herbie Hancock drummer Kendrick Scott, and strings even, it’s an ambitious project that came to fruition with the help of some Kickstarter fundraising. If Coldplay ever become remotely hip it will be thanks to the likes of Dizack for covering songs of theirs such as the heart-on-sleeve ‘What If’, the fifth track here.
Released on 2 October in the US
Next month at Ronnie Scott’s there’s a fascinating two-night Late Late Show presentation in prospect that aims to summon up the spirit of The Establishment, the legendary Greek Street club founded by Peter Cook that gave birth to the 1960s satire boom.
Actor Keith Allen is to MC the shows, which begin just a half an hour shy of midnight on 19 and 20 September.
The Establishment was a revelation in 1961, and as the Ronnie’s website relates, the club featured uncensored stand-up comedy giving “a platform to radical, political, and anarchic performers (everyone from Lenny Bruce to Barry Humphries)."
Dudley Moore used to play jazz at the Establishment and his role for these evenings now falls to Ronnie’s musical director James Pearson who will play Moore rarities. New comedy, cabaret, burlesque and musical talent as yet to be confirmed are also to play an intrinsic part of the presentation, and Private Eye writer Victor Lewis-Smith is to provide a Pathé News style round-up of the week’s news to begin each evening.
For more go to www.ronniescotts.co.uk
John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension
Now Here This
Abstract Logix ****
This is a deceptive release. Listen to the first tracks ‘Trancefusion’ and ‘Riff Raff’ and you’d swear the record was a generic jazz-rock fusion album with Ranjit Barot adopting the Billy Cobham role, and McLaughlin not sounding like himself at all. But everything changes from ‘Echoes From Then’ on, as Etienne M’Bappé steers the band on a loping, boogie-ing tilt, and Gary Husband moving into more open improvising territory. M’bappé produces a lovely figure at the beginning of ‘Wonderfall’ and so, lo and behold, the album suddenly becomes much more tender and approachable. ‘Not Here Not There’ is where McLaughlin really opens up in terms of expression rather than firepower, utterly remarkable at 70 or any age.
Released on 15 October
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
St Peter & 57th St
Marking 50 years of a trad jazz institution recorded at Carnegie Hall in January St Peter & 57th St is a starry gathering with Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle (a big highlight on ‘Taint Nobody’s Business’) and remarkably Merrill Garbus of the toggle-case loving Tuneyards. Check your deeply ingrained ideas about trad at the door or you’ll miss out on a few gems here.
Released on 24 September
The Cloudmakers Trio with Ralph Alessi
Live at the Pizza Express
Recorded in 2010 this classy release, with great artwork and live sound faithfully captured by the Pizza Express’ sound engineer Luc Saint-Martin complementing the quality of the musicianship at play, the Cloudmakers allow once more a good hard look at Jim Hart’s outstanding vibes playing. The existential, at times admittedly overly-serious, sound of trumpeter Ralph Alessi is the main thing you’ll hear upfront on many of the tracks, but there is a complex set of rhythms at play from the trio that demands more detailed listening, as anyone who has heard bassist Michael Janisch play in whatever context over the past five years will testify to. Outhouse’s Dave Smith is typically capable, and this release will also do much to raise the profile of Whirlwind not just for the undoubted taste it brings to its output, but also the label’s improving presentation, something that many indie jazz labels don’t think hard enough about.
Released on 10 September
Here’s a book, Soul Unsung: Reflections on the Band in Black Popular Music, crying out to be written. And who better to write it than Kevin Le Gendre. It’s the award winning music writer’s first book, although his essays have appeared between hard covers before, for instance in the anthology Ic3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain edited by Courttia Newland and Kadija Sesay, published a dozen or so years ago.
Soul Unsung, to be issued with a slightly different title in the States, was published in the UK on 1 August by the Sheffield-based Equinox, who have already published important jazz-related books on Lee Morgan and Ian Carr to name but two. I, for one, am looking forward immensely to reading Kevin’s book, as the Tottenham-based writer has that rare ability to make you think that bit harder, and feel that bit more deeply about jazz, and its position within the bigger socio-economic and cultural orbit.
The book “celebrates the contribution of players of instruments to soul", and “offers insights into the state of contemporary soul and its relationship with jazz, rock and hip-hop," according to the blurb you’ll find on Amazon. The great jazz writer Ashley Kahn says this of the book: "Le Gendre does a yeoman’s job — with the creative approach of a songwriter and the uplifting spirit of a Sunday preacher — at unveiling the long-hidden history of the legendary instrumentalists of the Golden Era of Soul. A must-read for any student of culture." Praise indeed.
Kevin Le Gendre, pictured
Brian Eno (above) is to remix live at September’s Punkt festival in the southern Norwegian city of Kristiansand.
Eno, the festival’s artistic director for 2012, doesn’t often appear on stage these days, and will take to the Alfa Room, the live remix room at the heart of the festival renowned for the immediate remixing of live sets by a variety of complementary artists.
Alfa is like a stage and studio hybrid, an extension of festival curators Jan Bang and Erik Honoré’s concept in integrating live sampling and live electronics, with remixing at its core.
Other artists set to appear are: Cyclobe, Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown’s electronic project founded in 1999 playing only their third concert; Malian guitarist/n’goni player Guimba Kouyaté; singer/composer Ebe Oke, who Eno has collaborated with in recent years; Iceland-based Australian electronicist Ben Frost; Canadian violinist Owen Pallett; live ambient remixers Marconi Union; Icelanders glitch electronica outfit Múm; and noisniks Three Trapped Tigers.
A Ghost in Every Bar: The Lyrics of Fran Landesman
When Fran Landesman died last year there was a real outpouring of not just understandable sorrow at the loss of an influential writer and convivial human being, but also an instant recognition of the artistry and huge effect her meaningful, slightly cynical, but very real, songs had on people. Above all the reaction was a reflection of what the songs meant to singers on the jazz scene and London’s closely converging literary circles, particularly among the beat writers and their modern day counterparts.
While ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ and ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’, written with Tommy Wolf, are her widely acknowledged major achievements, proof should it be needed that there was so much more beyond these non pareils is provided by this exemplary album. Landesman liked Ian Shaw’s version of ‘Spring’: “Who’s playing my song?" Shaw recalls her saying, as she discovered him sight reading from sheet music he had found in her house in Islington where he had been rehearsing with her son Miles.
So Shaw is clearly the right person to bring something to the fireside, and perform the songs both Fran wrote with Wolf in the 1950s, and much more recently with Simon Wallace, who fittingly plays piano on all the tracks apart from the three Shaw accompanies himself on. I’m quite partial to hearing Shaw accompanying himself, something I only properly realised when Shaw played a duo gig with Gwyneth Herbert at the Pizza Express Jazz Club earlier this year. But Wallace is ideal throughout.
A Ghost in Every Bar, what an evocative title for the album, features some Landesman/Wallace songs previously unheard comprising the bittersweet but lonesome ‘Stranger’ ("waiting for a meeting with that special person"), ‘Noir’, and the witty ‘Killing Time’, OK not the most instantly memorable of songs, but this album is clearly destined for a long term relationship, one I know I’ll be picking off the shelf and listening to time and again with great pleasure. Why so? It’s both the quality of the lyrics and the performance, Shaw never oversells the songs but draws out their nuances so you feel there is a roomful of interior and exterior conversations at play. ‘Small Day Tomorrow’, which Landesman wrote with Bob Dorough, and ‘Spring’ are the tracks I have gravitated towards most so far, but this may well change with repeated plays.
It’s lazy journalism to say that this is such-and-such’s best album with a broad stroke of the pen and and no further justification. But for me it is Shaw’s greatest achievement, and I’ll explain it by saying that it’s more so than even his best work A World Still Turning recorded in New York, and the Joni Mitchell songbook Drawn To All Things. It’s so good because Ian creates more of a personal dream world of the imagination here than either of these considerable highlights quite achieve. It’s a process of transforming the simple notes or words lifted from the pulpiest of pages into something that makes you experience the moment you’re hearing it, with that much more significance. There’s no pretending on this most poetic of albums, and an uncanny empathy that’s quite remarkable.
A Ghost in Every Bar: The Lyrics of Fran Landesman is available now