“Please note that this is not a seated event.” That’s one of the things the venue points out about the fast approaching appearance of Mehliana. And be upstanding too for some intriguingly offbeat support worthy of the heyday of the old New York club the Knitting Factory, in a rare Shoreditch sighting of the Oren-o-phone. No, not something that comes with 4G, but a customised tuba.
Mehliana, Brad Mehldau going electric in a rocketscience duo with cult ex-Avishai Cohen drummer Mark Guiliana, are set to hit Village Underground, which last year hosted the frequently riotous collaboration between Neneh Cherry and The Thing, with some wallop. The cavernous old industrial building near the train tracks that early summer’s night was packed to the gills with loads of old punks and free jazz nuts. Tessa Pollitt of the Slits spun some dub reggae before Cherry belted out Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’, and The Thing would have set about dismantling the place if it hadn’t been already left to rot in the post industrial pre-digital age that laid waste to the area.
There’s no ex-Slit billed this time, but the Oren-o-phone played by the must-hear Oren Marshall (the Mehliana entourage equivalent of Colin Stetson to Arcade Fire) should wet the crowd’s whistle to begin with. But maybe a few of those who heard Mehldau at the Barbican during the London Jazz Festival delivering his take on Paul McCartney’s ‘Great Day’ might be just as aghast at the thought of what he’s plugging in for as curmudgeonly Dylan fans were when his Bobness scandalised Newport way back when.
Mehliana finds Mehldau on Fender Rhodes and a bunch of old synths, while Guiliana’s style brings together judderingly-jagged sounds, Afrobeat flavours, hand tooled Cobham-esque patterns, and a post-Vinnie Colaiuta sense of bar-line abandon in a formidable maelstrom of boulder-melting proportions. After all that, and all the standing, everyone’s going to need a real good sit-down. SG
www.villageunderground.co.uk 11 March
Brad Mehldau, top and with Mark Guiliana, as Mehliana, above
A baker’s dozen of tracks, the majority written by Julia Hülsmann, and Marc Muellbauer, In Full View, the pianist/composer’s latest album, a quartet release this time, sees Hülsmann joined by trumpeter/flugel player Tom Arthurs whose superb album Postcards from Pushkin with Richard Fairhurst was released last year. In Full View has multiple points of entry, and one of the main talking points comes at the end with a nuanced take on ‘Nana’ by Manuel de Falla, the twentieth century Spanish composer’s lovely melody based on an Andalucian lullaby. Hülsmann also demonstrates just what she can do without artifice as an interpretative artist on the beautiful Mehldau-esque introduction to ‘Sealion’, the song also known as ‘See Line Woman’ made famous by Nina Simone and covered more recently by Canadian indie folk singer/songwriter Feist. Arthurs’ ‘Forgotten Poetry’ is another firm highlight of an album on early listens that as a quartet extends the ambition of Hülsmann’s writing that bit further, and shows the acute sensitivity of Arthurs on melancholic ballads and mood pieces.
In Full View was recorded over three days in June 2012 by the Bonn-born Hülsmann, a former pupil of the late Walter Norris who famously appeared on Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary debut Something Else!!!!.
The Hülsmann trio was founded in 1997, has changed personnel a little over the years, and now with the addition of Arthurs, who first burst on to the scene just under a decade ago with the remarkable Centripede, moves to an adventurous if more settled-sounding fresh phase, its essence intact. As well as collaborating with singer Rebekka Bakken for ACT, with Scattering Poems, Hülsmann has also released The End of a Summer, a trio record for ECM featuring half a dozen of her own tunes, along with co-operatively written band material, and a version of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. Summer was followed by Imprint, but In Full View reflects some of her very best work to date, heard in a clear new light with Arthurs. SG
Released in April by ECM. Julia Hülsmann, above
Youn Sun Nah
There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom. At her first UK concert that year, singing in Portuguese, French on Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, as well as a knowing version of Jim Pepper’s ‘Witchi Tai To’ and Esbjörn Svensson’s ‘Believe Beleft Below’, Sun Nah greatly impressed a jazz club audience at the Vortex with superb melismatic control and dynamic poise especially in the softer passages. Follow-up Same Girl was a big seller for the South Korean singer in France, and Lento on paper has plenty of possibilities. However, this latest album, released later this month lacks the spark of Voyage and charisma of Same Girl, although with her fine band of guitarist Ulf Wakenius, illustrious bassist Lars Danielsson, the added accordion of Vincent Peirani and the percussion of Xavier Desandre-Navarre, the framework is there. Lento can be overly dramatic and the singer’s self-penned ‘Lament’ is certainly in that category, while the awful cowboy song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I could do without entirely. Navigating material from Nine Inch Nails to Scriabin and back is clearly adventurous, but Youn Sun Nah’s latest requires a leap of faith from even the most fearless listener to work on any significant level. SG
The cover of Lento, above
Goran Kajfeš / Subtropic Arkestra
The Reason Why Vol. 1
Into the spring bulbs will be sprouting to this one given half a chance. The Swede first surfaced in 2001 with the very alert Home, and while Kajfeš has remained an unknown since, at least in terms of more Eeyore-like potting shed-inclined jazz fans, The Reason Why should tempt people away from the garden and on to the dance floor or at least fairly near one. Opener, the trowel friendly but bafflingly titled ‘Yakar Inceden Incedan’ by Edip Akbayram, is an infectiously mighty vamp, and there’s progpsychedelia-into-Afrobeat later, and some unstuffy big band lifts on ‘Badiboom’ (like a Gondwana Mancunian take on Alice Coltrane via Roy Budd), and Soft Machine. By covering Tame Impala (‘Desire Be, Desire Go’) a continuity is established, the torch passed on historically from Soft Machine. Fourth track ‘The Nodder’ from the Softs’ Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris is an interesting choice with a Zawinul Syndicate-type link under Kajfeš’ trumpet and electronics. I’d love to hear the Arkestra plus Anthony Joseph joining as guest vocalist. With support by Sons of Kemet. That would be a night to remember. SG
Update (5/3/13):UK release confirmed for late-April
Bassist Steve Rodby will be joining The Impossible Gentlemen when the acclaimed band tours again this year.
Dates have still to be announced for the full tour, but the Brecon Jazz Festival in Wales has confirmed that the band will be appearing on the closing night of the festival on 11 August with besides Rodby in the line-up new drummer, the Chicagoan Mark Walker from the jazz and new age band Oregon, taking Adam Nussbaum’s place.
Rodby has produced the latest Basho Records album expected this year, The Impossible Gentlemen’s second outing for Basho records, the north London based label that’s also home to Kit Downes, whose quintet release is a priority in early-2013 http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39377045983/1683.
The bassist in the Pat Metheny Group for long periods during the last 30 years, Rodby, 58, who was born in Joliet, Illinois, has produced records for Oregon, Eliane Elias, the Jim Hall & Pat Metheny duo album, and Pat Metheny Trio albums among many others.
The new IG album was recorded last summer in Sussex following a four-night club residency at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in June.
During that lengthy stint The Impossible Gentlemen unveiled new songs from the album they were about to record.
Just three years old now the Gentlemen on their debut were five-string electric bass legend Steve Swallow, distinguished former Sco drummer Adam Nussbaum, piano star Gwilym Simcock, and north west jazz guitar cult hero Mike Walker.
Steve Swallow added new material to the band book performed at the Soho club with an untitled ballad on one night, and other tunes included Walker’s ‘The Slither Of Other Lovers’ and ‘Modern Day Heroes’.
Swallow said at the time, reported exclusively on downbeat.com, the tunes for the record “have very asymmetrical structures but keep their integrity. We have eight new tunes that we’ve worked up in the last eight to 10 days. I have to go through that door so they seem natural like they’re in 4/4 even if they’re not. Moving ahead, it’s a conscious decision to extend.” SG
Steve Rodby above
Update (6/3/13): The Impossible Gentlemen tour dates in the autumn are now understood to be 10-25 October. Founder member Adam Nussbaum will be on drums again for the October dates.
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue ****
It’s uncanny, a prologue that summons the mood music of Ahmad Jamal to this feast of a piano album, and then ushers in a new pianist so assured you might think it’s a cruel illusion. In solo (briefly), trio and quartet formations Diehl, only just out of his mid-twenties, has a suave sense of sophistication which the “bespoke” conceit in the title emphasises. He’s clearly saying “I’m a man of taste”, yet instead of sitting around in a gentleman’s club wearing a deerstalker and tweeds he’s happy in a modern armchair Philippe Starck might have designed, with fashionable book shelves lolling (if shelves could so idle) behind him. It’s a slightly contradictory message, but Diehl is more modern than stuck in the past, even if arch Wyntonite Stanley Crouch crops up in the notes shooting from the hip as ever and stating the case strongly for Diehl who he knew at Julliard. Typo of the year so far must be the bit about one “Charge Mingus” in an apt phrase comparing the piano to “tuned bongos”. I’m not sure how “bespoke” the band is, although it does sound very slick befitting of one put together by a Cole Porter fellow in jazz composition, an award bestowed on Diehl by the American Pianists Association. Vibist Warren Wolf is as dependable as ever as is drummer Rodney Green with the up-and-coming David Wong nimble on bass. The trio tracks are good hearty fare but it’s slightly paradoxical that the main album highlight is very possibly the convincing solo version of Ellington’s ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ (also covered recently by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra). ‘Bess You Is My Woman Now’ is cleverly approached and very expressive, and the treatment of Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin [III. Forlane]’ weighted very thoughtfully and sequenced well. Diehl has made a statement here that’s much more than a sartorial one, although he might have to keep on changing his musical clothes for a while yet to get really comfortable.
Released on 18 March. Aaron Diehl, above
Not fantasy but reality. Fifty years ago in April Capitol records would release Jazz Moments a George Shearing record few would care to quickly forget. It would be a momentous session.
Instead of a vibes quintet, which the pianist was already renowned for, Shearing would assemble a trio, drafting in none other than Ahmad Jamal’s bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier, two thirds of the At The Pershing: But Not For me dream team.
Sadly Jazz Moments would be Crosby’s last recording, an early departure for a bassist actually born the same year as Shearing, but who later in 1963 would suffer a heart attack and die aged just 43. Crosby had made his mark on the jazz scene with Gene Krupa in the 30s before going down to create jazz history with Jamal and Fournier at the Pershing hotel.
John Turville returns for the second instalment of The Shearing Hour on Thursday evening, a piano hour that begins and ends with the inspiration of Sir George Shearing (1919-2011). Take your seats for 7.15. SG
Listen to the trio here play ‘The Mood is Mellow’ from Jazz Moments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w7-87uJ4xA
there’s never been a better time
With the deeply concerning upsurge in support for Euroscepticism of late stoked by the sentimentalism of a hopeless little Englandism and mischief-making in the populist press, a new series of concerts and wider discussion events soon couldn’t come at a better time. The Time and the Place: Culture and Identity in Today’s Europe at Kings Place connects the distant past with the present across national boundaries and cultures featuring artists as distinctive in their own fields as gypsy violinist Roby Farkas and Budapest Bár, saxophonist/MC Soweto Kinch, and Mari Boine (top).
The Kings Place series in London features performance events, discussions and exhibitions with funding from the Humanities in the European Research Area’s (HERA) Joint Research programme working in association with live music producers Serious.
The HERA network operates across 18 countries and strives for excellence in the humanities, pushing research forward. Events include Budapest Bár with special guests, on 30 May in Hall 1; Poul Høxbro – Tones and Tales from Distant Lands + Fraser Fifield on 31 May in Hall Two; Soweto Kinch: Urban Landscape also on 31 May in Hall 1; Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia (above) on 1 June in Hall Two; and Mari Boine also 1 June, in Hall 1.
More details and how to book: www.kingsplace.co.uk
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
In the Spirit of Duke
There is a new creative wave of interest in the music of Duke Ellington at the moment, and if anything the crest of the breakers won’t fully crash on to the obliging beaches of the global jazz community until next year, the fortieth anniversary of the death of the great composer and bandleader.
None of the notable projects though by Terri Lyne Carrington, Mark Lockheart, and others in this zeitgeist, strive for the authenticity that In the Spirit of Duke does. The orchestra’s director and tenor saxophone inspiration Tommy Smith in his sleeve note talks about the pains he went to in this regard: “I managed to get my hands on some authentic mutes from America”, he even writes, and Smith settled to transcribe a small mountain of music including tunes found in movie music and at concerts. Smith was also able to draw on first hand experience performing with Ellingtonians in the Ellington Legacy Orchestra, and on his own record The Sound of Love made a major contribution to new jazz inspired by the master long after the death of Ellington had been mourned in the 1970s.
In the Spirit of Duke was recorded live in Scotland as recently as October and mixed weeks later by Jan Erik Kongshaug in Norway, the great ECM engineer. Not surprisingly the album has meticulous sound and the performances match, with the enthusiasm of audiences adding another decisive element. There’s some fine soloing, notably from Smith himself on album closer ‘Diminuendo in Blue [Wailing Interval] Crescendo in Blue’, Brian Kellock, Ryan Quigley, and Ru Pattison. Fine drummer Alyn Cosker shows his mettle on ‘Diminuendo’, and elsewhere, as does ever Braveheart-like Calum Gourlay who audiences south of the border know only too well for his maraudingly impressive bass forays with Kit Downes among others. This new SNJO album has spirit and energy, but it’s aimed more at connoisseurs of Ellington’s music than for those not naturally drawn to reminisce in tempo so don’t expect postmodern reinvention as there’s none of that here. Do expect lots of energy, consummate musicianship and some jumping for joy: it’s what the music demands after all. SG
Released on 13 March
The cover of In The Spirit of Duke, above