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Following quickly on from the death of trad era trumpeter Kenny Ball on 7 March clarinettist Terry Lightfoot has died, aged 77, it’s been announced. Lightfoot had been suffering from prostate cancer, and passed away yesterday, according to ITV news. Born on 21 May 1935 in Potters Bar, the clarinettist and bandleader would go on to lead the Wood Green Stompers while still in his teens, having left Enfield Grammar School and following a brief stint as a reporter on The Barnet Press. He formed his own band, the long-running Terry Lightfoot’s Jazzmen, after RAF service in the mid-1950s, a band Kenny Ball was a member of for a spell. Lightfoot would continue to lead his own bands during his long career in music, although he took breaks for long periods in the 1960s and 70s to run a pub. 

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Of his records some of his peak early-1960s period has been featured on Lightfoot at Lansdowne, a compilation by trad specialists Lake, with sides originally produced by Denis Preston, better known for his work with Joe Harriott, including ‘Tiger Rag’, ‘Bali Hai’ and ‘Old Man River’. Lightfoot continued performing until last year, with fairly recent shows of his including The Special Magic of Louis Armstrong, Hit Me With A Hot Note, and From Bourbon Street to Broadway along with the Jazzmen who in recent years were joined by his daughter Melinda who survives him, as does Lightfoot’s daughter Michele, and wife Iris.
Terry Lightfoot, above

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Martin Speake
Always a First Time
Pumpkin Records 2 CDs *** / ****
Recorded over a decade ago Change of Heart was saxophonist Martin Speake’s last big statement but it took a long while to appear, eventually emerging on ECM. Recorded with the late Paul Motian, Mick Hutton, and Bobo Stenson, that album was praised at the time for its Lee Konitz-type clarity and “unhurried” playing. Always a First Time, this new double album released on Speake’s own label, an imprint that two years ago released a quartet album called Live at Riverhouse, retains that palpable sense of patience, beginning at an almost stately pace. The Konitz connection is retained, not just in Speake’s sound but in the presence of former Konitz drummer Jeff Williams returning from the quartet. Speake also dedicates ‘Ramshackle’ to Konitz.

Williams appears in an up-front role throughout the 20 songs just like the other two musicians, with guitarist’s guitarist Mike Outram also performing a crucial function, colouring the sound especially on the Puccini aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (dedicated to Speake’s father, appropriately). Oddly you don’t miss the bass, but Outram’s skill has a lot to do with this as well as Williams’ ability to make the drums sing.

From the heart: Jeff Williams, above left,
Martin Speake and Mike Outram

The trio covers a great deal of ground only partially explained by the extra canvas the two CDs provide. With songs dedicated to friends, mentors and inspirations Always a First Time is predominantly ballad-driven, but it’s not particularly brooding. More philosophical, and on tracks such as ‘Twister’, on the second CD, there is also a sense of abandon that a quick first listen might not straight away fix on to but is definitely there.

In the notes the author of Love and Will, the existential psychologist Rollo May is quoted to the effect that the creative artist, poet and saint, must fight the gods of conformism, apathy, material success and exploitative power: formidable foes one and all yet May despairs that “These are the ‘idols’ of our society that are worshipped by multitudes of people.” Further quotes within the artwork contribute a sense of aphorism to Speake’s outlook as does his typically thoughtful, but skilfully non-conformist playing.

Recorded in the same room, unseparated, without headphones, the way records used to be made Speake says “we all played from the heart”. And you can tell this when a song like ‘Meditation’, which crops up on both discs with two different dedicatees one of whom includes Fidel Castro, dissolves (on the second disc) into a ‘listening silence’, when you just know the players like what they’re hearing and do not need to push the tune on any more than is strictly necessary in case the mood is spoiled. The second of the CDs has the edge, as it’s a bit more open, but the more orthodox ballad-and- cool school bop approach on the first disc, with songs that include Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ and many fine Speake originals, have an integrity that is a hallmark of Always a First Time. As is its sense of the bigger picture.

Released on 25 March

 

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Kenny Garrett: intimate appearances

It’s not easy to catch, live, the undisputed giants of the music up close and personal in a jazz club. When it happens it’s impossible to forget.

Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, even, in your neighbourhood jazz club any time soon? Forget about it: it’s just not going to happen. But a kid can dream.

Well truth can be stranger and even more mind blowing than fiction sometimes, and last year one of the giants of the music alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett best known for his intuitive work with Miles Davis and for his own records made a welcome return to the UK playing a few jazz clubs rather than a concert hall.

And he returns to one of the clubs, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London tonight for two shows after last night’s opener. Garrett is reunited with pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. who played London last year slaying the crowd on one of the nights with the infectious ‘Happy People’ but adding percussionist Rudy Bird this week for even more heat.

On form in the studio, it’s just a year since the release of one of Garrett’s most memorably melodic albums to date, Seeds From The Underground, yet live there’s an additional rapid-fire spontaneity from the alto man, allied by Hunter’s Tony Williams-type attack that communicates immediately.

With his trademark skull cap, still youthful demeanour and playing style head-bobbing up and down, alto saxophone in the air, or down low to the ground, Garrett can deliver elegant runs of beautifully fluid improvising episodes with at times a Mali-meets-McCoy Tyner style bubbling up from pianist Brown on original material of the quality of ‘Boogety Boogety’. Not to be missed. MB

Kenny Garrett, above

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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Northern exposure

Double bassist Andy Champion and his band ACV have signed to the cutting edge jazz independent record label Babel and will launch their debut Busk early next month.

From the north east of England a relative newcomer to the national scene Andy Champion performs with Voice of The North, and with his wife singer Zoe Gilby, and for the new album Champion has worked closely with producer Chris Sharkey, of Leeds skronksters trioVD.

The Champion five sees the bassist joined by saxophonist Graeme Wilson, pianist/keyboardist Paul Edis, guitarist Mark Williams, and drummer Adrian Tilbrook in ACV whose sound is grounded in prog and free improv. 

ACV above launch the album with dates at the Vortex, London on Thursday 4 April, and the Gateshead Jazz Festival two days later. In Gateshead, in addition to launching Busk, Champion will also perform Ian Carr’s ‘Northumbrian Sketches’ in a band to include Henry Lowther, Tim Whitehead and strings.

Quest
Circular Dreaming
Enja ****
It’s a Charles Lloyd kind of day today as the great man celebrates his 75th birthday. Love in bassist Ron McClure, who’s a pillar of Quest, must have some extraordinary memories from those far-off quartet days with Charles, Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.

And Quest, too, is about memories, their own as a longstanding group with 10 albums now released, but also of the 1960s. A repertory band featuring a sprinkling of new compositions with a pair here by sax icon Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach, Quest, (with McClure, pianist Beirach, drummer Billy Hart, and Liebman) look and you can make out in the typography within the circle of the ‘Q’ on the cover text that proclaims the band “plays the music of Miles 60s”. It’s a message amplified by Michael Cuscuna in a preface to the notes inside who boldly states Quest is “devoted to interdependent group music rather than the soloist with rhythm aesthetic.”

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On a mission: Ron McClure (above, left),
Dave Liebman, Billy Hart and Richie Beirach

Beautifully presented with attractive artwork, clear notes and photographs Circular Dreaming begins with Wayne Shorter’s ‘Pinocchio’, and other tunes include five other Wayne compositions, including a throaty Liebman-led ‘Footprints’ and album standout ‘Vonetta’. Shame about the spelling of ‘Nefertiti’ though, you can never have too many ts… except here. The album title track is a tune of Beirach’s, a homage to Miles. Beirach says: “I wanted the circular feeling of no beginning and no end with the harmony definitely moulded to the melody”. Maths jazz today strips away that connection, a fault Circular Dreaming avoids entirely. Fine playing throughout with gutsy blowing and a desire to make the music exist as part of a continuum without putting the music behind a glass case in a museum. Circular Dreaming also shines the spotlight on a significant amount, yet still represents just a small sample, of Wayne Shorter’s best work as a composer, timely as his latest great extended piece ‘Pegasus’ has just been released on Without a Net.

The cover of Circular Dreaming, top, and Quest above

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George Shearing
At Home
Jazzknight NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT ****
Beginning like a foxtrot, when was the last time that happened?, ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’ has a twinkling style, full of the chirpiness Nat King Cole managed to endow old Broadway songs with when he himself played piano. Shearing turns on his significant charm though after about a minute in, and these living room songs recorded in the great pianist’s New York home in 1983 draw out Don Thompson’s role as a confidant to Shearing’s left hand. Thompson played with Shearing for some 20 years in all, and you feel as if he knows Shearing’s every move on the tracks they play together. Now 73, he accompanied Barney Kessel early in his career in Vancouver clubs, and appears on the John Handy Quintet classic live album Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival recorded in 1965.

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Don Thompson: hearth of the matter

Thompson began playing concerts with Shearing decades later, from 1982 onwards, the year before the newly discovered At Home was recorded. And just under the three-minute mark he and the recording engineer (in fact one and the same), draw out the woodiness of the bass a skilled carpenter would find hard to locate.

A sprightly start then to this remarkable Jazzknight records album, Lady Shearing’s label, with the backing of discerning jazz distributor Proper Note, there’s an elegant fade at the end of the opener; and then, like some sort of mirage Johnny Mandel’s ‘A Time For Love’ emerges after the silence. Well what can you say? It’s beautiful. You just want to be there, even though the track’s very short. Thompson comes in on the arc of the Shearing line here time and again, at the emotional tug of the note. 

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Thompson’s own tune ‘Ghoti’ (apparently Shearing dubbed it: “up at the crack of Don”), leads into a riot in swing, and you could hear this being played with a vibes quintet, Shearing’s preferred stomping ground in his heyday. This one’s got bebop written all over it. After two minutes Shearing changes the goalposts, and there’s a rhythmic murmur that’s the very essence of bop syncopation.

The sound quality is fine throughout At Home: you can really hear the piano and bass and the instruments together. The album was mastered much later in Toronto, the city where Ellie Shearing first heard the tapes played before pressing green for go to start the process towards release after an ice age of 30 years in the obscurity of a drawer.

‘The Things We Did Last Summer’, the Jule Style/Sammy Cahn song begins jauntily, as if the duo are feeling completely at ease, and that’s a defining feature of this wonderful album. Apparently Lady Shearing provided cups of tea in breaks over the few days the album took to make. No producer was present, and there is a comfortable feel to all these tracks recorded around the time of a run of club dates in New York.

‘Laura’ is the first big talking point and really the test of the album. Opening expansively the theme is stated quite simply with a few ornate touches, but Shearing seems more interested in building the darkness in his left hand at which he more than succeeds. The tempo slows right down and there are some lovely washes after the 150-second mark moving towards some high-end tinkling that ends even more seriously than it began. With Thompson back ‘The Skye Boat Song’ I could have done without, although it’s a pretty enough melody and close to the bassist’s heart. But Shearing and Thompson are on more satisfying territory with Bird’s ‘Confirmation’ joyously foot tapping, but not fast at all. Remaining tracks are a winningly shy take on ‘The Girl Next Door’ with its hesitant opening; a swayingly optimistic ‘Can’t We Be Friends?’; the more mundane ‘I Cover the Waterfront’; and ‘Out of Nowhere’. Although ‘That Old Devil Called Love’ opens things up, ‘SubconsciousLee’ allows lots of bass space, and little detours here and there. Victor Young’s ‘Beautiful Love’ is simply a display of Shearing genius at the end.
At Home is released on 15 April

Sir George Shearing top, Don Thompson above; and the album cover  

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Erin Boheme
What a Life
Heads Up **** RECOMMENDED
This is quite a special album: full of great songs delivered in a very commercial way. Some of the songs could chart even. Boheme has been around a while, signed as a teenager, and the album has added stardust, as Michael Bublé has produced. But where’s the jazz you might ask? Well if you ask that kind of question, this album is not for you. It’s about songs not improvising, but it’s perfectly compatible within its alt.country framework rather than the flawed smooth jazz format that is now disappearing or at best morphing into more acceptable soul-jazz. Contrast the Eric Benet version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, less cheesy for sure. In Benet’s take on his own highly effective melancholic song, co-written among others with famed songwriter David Foster (who penned ‘I Have Nothingfor the late Whitney Houston and produced the Corrs), the natural feeling gets lost a bit crouched behind the layers of glossy audio production and arrangement. Bublé’s approach although you mightn’t think so at first blush is to strip away the varnish, and let the songs breathe, and Carly Simon-loving Boheme begins demurely on a low key Emeraldesque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, which is close enough for jazz as Van Morrison might put it. Why Boheme needed to cover a Coldplay song I don’t know, and I didn’t care for the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day who is on the otherwise excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last’. But ‘One More Try’ is quite superb, and jazz-intuitive, and of the band we really should be hearing more of pianist Alan Chang who co-wrote the song with Boheme. Overall then, songs that will stay with you, delivered by a singer who clearly believes in her material and carries both the record and the day.

Close enough for jazz: Erin Boheme above plays the Hippodrome, London on 16 April, with special guest Tammy Weis. What A Life is released on 25 March
www.hippodromecasino.com

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Torchbearer for the beats: Michael Horovitz

Ian McMillan in ‘I wandered lonely as a cat’ on Radio 4 tomorrow at 11.30 explores the history of jazz and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance and the San Francisco beats, via Pete Brown and Michael Horovitz with McMillan joined in conversation by singer Barb Jungr.

Saturday’s Jazz Record Requests (R3, 7.45pm) concentrates on the trumpet, with tracks by Miles Davis, Valaida Snow, and Bill Coleman. Pat Halcox, of the Chris Barber band who died recently, is remembered by the programme’s presenter, Alyn Shipton.

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Henri Texier: Inimitable savoir-faire

Jazz Line-Up (R3, Sun, 11pm) presented by Julian Joseph this week concentrates on the hard blowing Marius Neset quartet in concert, recorded in the Merseyside seaside town of Southport. The programme also features an interview with Mark Lockheart. Jazz on 3 on Monday evening, again on Radio 3 at 11pm, features French bass legend Henri Texier and his trio, plus the duo of Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston, recorded at the 2012 London Jazz Festival. MB

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Surely Ethan Iverson won’t, will he, lean over to say ‘play it again, Sam?’ Even a whisper might be out of the question from the piano player, or the fun-loving fans in the audience bound to turn out in some number when The Bad Plus’ Iverson plays an exclusive trio club date in the spring.

No, it’s not with The Bad Plus although he will be back on tour with the acclaimed trio in the UK soon but instead with man of mystery, bassist Sam Lasserson, and the more familiar ex-Lee Konitz drummer and Dave Liebman associate, Jeff Williams. But who exactly is Lasserson?

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‘I’ll play it again’: Sam Lasserson

Well, the bassist is in ECM saxophonist Martin Speake’s quartet, and plays with rising star of the guitar Hannes Riepler, the “Country Gentleman" player who helms the burgeoning Sunday night jam downstairs at the Vortex in Dalston’s Gillett Square. Lasserson obviously keeps good company.

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Cool school: Jeff Williams

How the polymath Iverson has hooked up with Lasserson is anyone’s guess but the pianist is a shrewd observer of the scene, and in terms of London is no stranger to the Vortex where the gig is to take place. Iverson four years ago joined Bad Plus drummer Dave King, hipster alto sensation Tim Berne, and cellist Hank Roberts in the very spot for one of the most hardcore improvising gigs ever witnessed at the cutting edge club. Early booking advised.  MB

Ethan Iverson, top
www.vortexjazz.co.uk, Saturday 20 April

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It’s not easy to catch, live, the undisputed giants of the music up close and personal in a jazz club. When it happens it’s impossible to forget.

Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, even, in your neighbourhood jazz club any time soon? Forget about it: it’s just not going to happen. But a kid can dream.

Well truth can be stranger and even more mind blowing than fiction sometimes, and last year one of the giants of the music alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett best known for his intuitive work with Miles Davis and for his own records made a welcome return to the UK playing a few jazz clubs rather than a concert hall.

And he returns to one of the clubs, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on Friday, followed by two shows on Saturday. Garrett is reunited with pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer McClenty Hunter Jr. who played London last year slaying the crowd on one of the nights with the infectious ‘Happy People’ but adding percussionist Rudy Bird this week for even more heat.

On form in the studio, it’s just a year since the release of one of Garrett’s most memorably melodic albums to date, Seeds From The Underground, yet live there’s an additional rapid-fire spontaneity from the alto man, allied by Hunter’s Tony Williams-type attack that communicates immediately.

With his trademark skull cap, still youthful demeanour and playing style head-bobbing up and down, alto saxophone in the air, or down low to the ground, Garrett can deliver elegant runs of beautifully fluid improvising episodes with at times a Mali-meets-McCoy Tyner style bubbling up from pianist Brown on original material of the quality of ‘Boogety Boogety’.

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Expect funk a plenty (in the Miles Davis 1980s sense), free-form Ornettian figures as well at these shows. On the Friday after Garrett leaves the stage there’s a free entry Whirlwind jam, so stick around if you’re stepping out, as the cream of the Soho scene are likely to show. MB

Kenny Garrett, top and Pizza Express Jazz Club above word on the street

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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The Aberdeen jazz festival gets underway later and on the programme of a busy festival today there’s US jazz-rock fusion heavyweights Yellowjackets, and the Henry Threadgill-inspired improv of the acclaimed Trio Red. Tomorrow (Wednesday 13 March) features a young musicians’ showcase, with the Hot 8 Brass Band already sold out, and Brian Kellock playing the music of Fats Waller. Thursday finds Trio Elf feat. guitarist Graeme Stephen at the Blue Lamp, and also for Aberdeen this week is bluesman Mud Morganfield. Friday features concerts by Ruby Turner, and Courtney Pine, with an appearance by Hidden Orchestra on Saturday and the festival moves to a climax with Trio Libero (above) featuring the ‘King of Aberdeen’ himself Seb Rochford, with Andy Sheppard and Michel Benita, making their Scottish debut on Sunday. More at www.aberdeenjazzfestival.com

On the horizon


Derry jazz and big band festival 2-6 May
http://www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com

Glasgow jazz festival 26 June-30 June
www.jazzfest.co.uk

Edinburgh jazz and blues festival 19-28 July
http://www.edinburghjazzfestival.com/

Marlborough jazz festival 19-21 July
http://www.marlboroughjazz.com/

Hull jazz festival
26-28 July and 21-27 November
http://www.jnight.org/hulljazzfestival.php

and from Marlbank yesterday:

Jazz festival 10

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Brilliant Corners 21-23 March
With Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins to perform at this new festival inspired by a classic Monk album. http://movingonmusic.co.uk

Gateshead jazz festival 5-7 April
Centred at the Sage, Soweto Kinch, Lighthouse, Christine Tobin, Ruby Turner and Louis Moholo-Moholo/Alexander Hawkins are Tyneside bound this year.
http://thesagegateshead.org/tour-dates/gateshead-international-jazz-festival-2013

Cheltenham jazz festival 1-6 May
Dionne Warwick, Van Morrison, Laura Mvula, Polar Bear, Gary Burton, Dave Douglas, and Mike Gibbs are set to appear in the lively old regency spa town. http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Love Supreme, 5-7 July
New outdoor festival in Sussex, Bryan Ferry, Chic, Gregory Porter, Michael Kiwanuka, Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Robert Glasper, Neil Cowley Trio and Portico Quartet feature. (Porter, Pine and Portico, above)
http://www.lovesupremefestival.com

Swanage jazz festival 12-14 July
Dorset bound are Kit Downes Quintet, Jean Toussaint, Gilad Atzmon, and Karen Street at the long established jazz gathering.
http://www.swanagejazz.org

Manchester jazz festival 26 July-3 August
One of the most innovative jazz festivals in the country, with a strong regional and artistic identity. Worth waiting for the line-up to be announced in the spring.
http://www.manchesterjazz.com

Brecon jazz festival 9-11 August
Acker Bilk, Courtney Pine, Gilad Atzmon, Roller Trio, John Surman and more in the Powys market town for the biggest jazz gathering in Wales, now reborn.
http://breconjazz.com

Scarborough jazz festival 27-29 September
Kicking the sands from their shoes in Yorkshire are Courtney Pine, Kyle Eastwood, Ian Shaw, Beats & Pieces and more this year.
http://jazz.scarboroughspa.co.uk

Cork jazz festival 25-29 Oct
Line-up should be available in September.
http://www.guinnessjazzfestival.com/

London jazz festival 15-24 November
The biggest of the UK jazz festivals, celebrating its 21st year in 2013.
http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk MB

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Some singers are known only by their first name. It’s all that’s needed.

With Eska Mtungwazi, universally known as Eska, there’s no mistaking the musicianship and supreme vocal talent at play.

An improviser first and foremost, with an ear for a melody that vaults genres and continents, new EP Gatekeeper, to be followed by a milestone album English Skies, are expected later this year.

But before that, at a major solo headlining show the singer is to present, appearing at the Albany theatre in London previewing new songs some of which will appear on English Skies, an album that promises to be one of the most talked about UK jazz vocal events of the year.

Brought up in Lewisham, the Zimbabwe-born singer has a voice that communicates instantly no matter the style, and features a technique that’s unsurpassable in terms of range, emotion and skill, with Eska at home in an a cappella situation, part of a vocal grouping, or even improvising against a saxophone or raw bass line. Eska’s talents have also seen her work with acclaimed indie bands including The Invisible; and she has appeared with vocal great Bobby McFerrin, as well as maverick jazz composer and big band leader Matthew Herbert.

Now an associate artist at the Albany in Deptford, where Soweto Kinch previewed The Legend of Mike Smith last year, and clarinettist Arun Ghosh has performed multi-media experimental productions in the past, the Saturday 23 March show is a first-name-only affair, and a chance above all to glimpse a singer on the cusp of great things. MB
Stephen Graham

ESKA, top

www.thealbany.org.uk

 

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Jazz record labels make things happen, and although notions of what a record company are there to do vary enormously nowadays, they still count.

In recent years the tide has changed with the digital revolution and artist empowerment, and even since the last survey here in November, a bunch of important new labels, or reactivated ones, are making a real difference in pushing the music forward, connecting with fans and building the sector.

Digital-only releases, for instance, the latest Andrew McCormack trio album through Edition, are becoming more commonplace, but remain the exception to the rule. The vinyl-only label Gearbox, though, has begun to make its unique presence felt. What goes around…

…comes around, and watch out for the return of Verve records in the UK, with new A&R in the late-spring, a year after the UK office was closed down. It comes at a time when Blue Note and Verve will come under the same roof for the first time, “great ships coming in to dock", as the label chief at Universal has put it. 

Label activity

Diatribe
Prog-jazz inclined, artists include Redivider, ZoiD, and Thought-Fox. http://www.diatribe.ie/

Spartacus
Sax force-of-nature Tommy Smith’s label, back with a bang and In The Spirit of Duke
http://www.spartacusrecords.com/

Alex Wilson records
A burgeoning label catalogue topped by a fine new trio release from the leading latin-jazz pianist of his generation
http://www.alexwilsonrecords.com/

Lyte records
Drummer David Lyttle’s forward thinking label. Artists include teenage jazz guitar sensation Andreas Varady http://www.lyterecords.com

Destin-e
House of Legends was a big hit for Courtney Pine’s label in 2012 topping the Jazzwise Album of the Year critics’ poll
http://www.propermusic.com/label/Destin-E-2051

Subtone
Martin Speake’s label, Polar Bear-meets-Ellington at last!
http://marklockheart.co.uk

Okeh
Part of Sony Classical: Bill Frisell, Dhafer Youssef, John Medeski, and Michel Camilo are on the roster. No website yet.
Latest www.marlbank.net/news/388-michel-camilo-signs-to-okeh

Verve
There is a UK placeholder website for the famed record company founded by Norman Granz. But there are few details so far, and the Universal-owned label won’t comment on the new signings. Check back for the first news when the publicity button is finally pressed. Last year before the label closed vocals starlet Natalie Duncan, among others, was signed.
http://www.ververecordsuk.com/

Gearbox
Vinyl-only, artists include hard bop purist Simon Spillett, and the great Kenny Wheeler.
http://www.gearboxrecords.com/Site/gearbox.html       MB

Report: Stephen Graham

 Diatribe artist ZoiD, top

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There must be a dream factory somewhere, a place where crooners are manufactured. Well there definitely is a crooner style and sound among new Britjazz singers, and it usually involves a suit, a sharp haircut and a knowing look. Alexander Stewart and Theo Jackson are just two of the latest to emerge, and ex-West End theatre singer Anthony Strong follows quickly on from these Manchester and London jazz stars in the making. A crooner and piano player, he has the suit of course, and the hair. With the trace of his own shadow on the wall Strong stands almost but not quite the rebel on a sofa on the cover of Stepping Out (Naïve **1/2). There’s a strong cast of players on this album with bass duties shared by Tom Farmer and Calum Gourlay; and former Jamie Cullum drummer Sebastiaan de Krom and Matt Skelton the sticksmen involved, on a selection of the 14 tracks here. Guitarist Chris Allard completes the core band, with guests Aussie trumpeter James Morrison, saxophonists Brandon Allen and Nigel Hitchcock, with still more players in the horn section and strings as well. I really didn’t warm to the rinky-dinky way the horns have been recorded (it’s just the audio style incidentally not the playing which is perfectly fine), but more than this Strong really doesn’t make his presence felt. The song choices are good, although you can’t really go wrong with ‘Witchcraft’, ‘Too Darn Hot’ and ‘My Ship’, yet the album sounds as if it’s going through the motions. Strong’s voice is like a younger, more bashful, Jamie Cullum and owes a debt to Harry Connick Jr; and it’s clearly too early to talk about an individual sound. Dream factories are all very well, but no one can create raw excitement on demand, and that’s an element Stepping Out could do with. MB
Stephen Graham 

Anthony Strong above

 

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Imagine coming across a tape, languishing in a drawer, by a giant of jazz. Unheard for more than three decades. Too unknown even to be properly forgotten.

Bassist Don Thompson made such a discovery.

And now At Home, a lost recording George Shearing and the ex-Paul Desmond sideman made together in Shearing’s New York apartment, emerges at last.

Shearing’s widow the former-singer Ellie Shearing is issuing the album on a new label called JazzKnight on 15 April.

Interest in Sir George is at a high at the moment two years since the great Battersea man’s passing with the launch of The Shearing Hour, an early evening piano hour at the Pizza Express Jazz Club.

There’s also a strong indication that Universal will step into the fray some time after May to reissue tracks from the storied Capitol years, languishing in the recently acquired EMI vaults.

Canadian Thompson, a musical partner of Shearing’s on such albums as Live at the Cafe Carlyle, played the January 1983 created tape to Ellie Shearing after a memorial concert in Toronto.

Lady Shearing says she liked what she heard. “I brought it back to New York," she says in publicity material, “and took it to Jim Czak, who is the chief engineer of his own recording studio. I wanted to hear this CD on the big speakers in his studio. Mike Renzi [a late-period Peggy Lee accompanist], a fabulous jazz pianist in his own right, also came by. Well, we sat listening to the entire recording without saying a word. When the last note had died away, there was silence. Jim spoke first. ‘Ellie, I couldn’t have recorded this better here in the studio.’ Mike then added: ‘This has got to be heard’."

Look out for more on At Home, which features duo tracks and four solo numbers, later in the week on Marlbank. Tracks are thought to include ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, ‘Can’t We Be Friends’, ‘Laura’, and ‘Beautiful Love’. MB

An earlier version of ‘Laura’ performed by George Shearing to listen to for now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF72hjbPO2A and a version of ‘Beautiful Love’ also previously issued: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz9njOgKBYU

George Shearing, top

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So festivals based on album titles. What’s to think? Well, I’m in favour although, clearly, some album titles would not quite work. 20 Jazz Funk Greats might not be the best choice to be perfectly frank. Throbbing Gristle fans aren’t necessarily heartland jazz fans. Or at all. But can you imagine the chaos? And a festival themed around Peter Brötzmanns Machine Gun might be a bit intense.

Brilliant Corners though works, and if you noticed the earlier post today about festivals, its first running as a festival later this month bristles with some great artist choices. 

The album Brilliant Corners itself has just five tracks: the title track clocking in modestly at just under eight minutes followed by the A side epic ‘Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba Lues-Are’; with ‘Pannonica’, named after the jazz baroness of course; ‘I Surrender Dear’; and jam session favourite, ‘Bemsha Swing’, completing the music. The album’s producer Orrin Keepnews recalls the album in this fascinating video, a link to which is below. MB

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W6mRy4jdk0

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Brilliant Corners 21-23 March
With Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins to perform at this new festival inspired by a classic Monk album. http://movingonmusic.co.uk

Gateshead jazz festival 5-7 April
Centred at the Sage, Soweto Kinch, Lighthouse, Christine Tobin, Ruby Turner and Louis Moholo-Moholo/Alexander Hawkins are Tyneside bound this year.
http://thesagegateshead.org/tour-dates/gateshead-international-jazz-festival-2013

Cheltenham jazz festival 1-6 May
Dionne Warwick, Van Morrison, Laura Mvula, Polar Bear, Gary Burton, Dave Douglas, and Mike Gibbs are set to appear in the lively old regency spa town. http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Love Supreme, 5-7 July
New outdoor festival in Sussex, Bryan Ferry, Chic, Gregory Porter, Michael Kiwanuka, Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Robert Glasper, Neil Cowley Trio and Portico Quartet feature.
http://www.lovesupremefestival.com

Swanage jazz festival 12-14 July
Dorset bound are Kit Downes Quintet, Jean Toussaint, Gilad Atzmon, and Karen Street at the long established jazz gathering.
http://www.swanagejazz.org

Manchester jazz festival 26 July-3 August
One of the most innovative jazz festivals in the country, with a strong regional and artistic identity. Worth waiting for the line-up to be announced in the spring.
http://www.manchesterjazz.com

Brecon jazz festival 9-11 August
Acker Bilk, Courtney Pine, Gilad Atzmon, Roller Trio, John Surman and more in the Powys market town for the biggest jazz gathering in Wales, now reborn.
http://breconjazz.com

Scarborough jazz festival 27-29 September
Kicking the sands from their shoes in Yorkshire are Courtney Pine, Kyle Eastwood, Ian Shaw, Beats & Pieces and more this year.
http://jazz.scarboroughspa.co.uk

Cork jazz festival 25-29 Oct
Line-up should be available in September.
http://www.guinnessjazzfestival.com/

London jazz festival 15-24 November
The biggest of the UK jazz festivals, celebrating its 21st year in 2013.
http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk MB

Gregory Porter, Courtney Pine and Portico Quartet top

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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.’ 

(telegraph.co.uk)

Tune in for the interviews with the band on BBC2 at 10.30 MB

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

http://www.hertsjazzfestival.co.uk

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

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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

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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.’

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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’.

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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)

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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.

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"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

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uW0SRgmxkY

And that’s not all. As the quintet on the road made these recordings just released by Columbia. 

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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


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Last year TUM Records released the immaculate Ancestors by Wadada Leo Smith and Louis Moholo-Moholo, their first recording together, and the label has continued its valuable work of seeking out influential musicians whose music does not comfortably sit with commercial or even critical trends despite their renown. With the release of The 3dom Factor (****) Barry Altschul, who turned 70 in January, the Helsinki label has again come up trumps. Altschul, best known for 1971 album A.R.C. with Chick Corea and Dave Holland and on Chick’s The Song of Singing as well as Arista-period Anthony Braxton, is joined by ex-Wadada bassist Joe Fonda, and Jon Irabagon, the Mostly Other People Do The Killing avatar, here playing tenor saxophone. It’s adventurous free jazz in the Ornette Coleman sense, its freedom, alphanumerical or not, in the way it leaps bar-lines and lets rhythms simply flow. It’s never about the ‘one’. Tracks include Altschul’s  ‘Irina’, ‘Natal Chart’, ‘Oops’, and Carla Bley’s ‘Ictus’. TUM has risen to the challenge of doing justice to this special release, Altschul’s first as a leader in more than 25 years, making it into an event, by adding insightful portraiture, a scholarly essay, and signature Marianna Uutinen paintings. The drummer says in his own introductory note that he looks at free jazz in terms of Beaver Harris’ phrase ‘from Ragtime to No Time’ so there’s no fear, he explains, to “know, and not be afraid to use, the music’s history as well as newer concepts in spontaneous improvised music.” Altschul’s idea that “to be free, one needs choices” is more than borne out on The 3dom Factor. It’s quite meditative at times; and, alternately, illuminated with a wildness that the three channel wonderfully making the music that bit more substantial. Irabagon is like the commentator on the rhythm; while Fonda is the wise observer occasionally stepping in as the music demands as he does experimentally on ‘Be Out S’cool.’ It’s all cool.  

Stephen Graham

Out now

Barry Altschul, above. Photo: Dmitry Mandel

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Nestled between James Dunn’s fascinating archive collage show and The Arts Desk’s “folkadelia, psychtronica and afro-prog" extravaganza, I found myself spinning a few tunes for an hour on Babel Babble, sitting in for resident DJ Oliver Weindling, this afternoon. I thought before it’s available as a download from NTS I’d add a playlist and associated artist links/photos/videos/tracks as jumping off points where possible. Most of the tracks played are from new albums destined for immediate or spring release with a classic archive track slotted in as well, as Chick Corea is in town with The Vigil. So here goes:

Rokia Traoré
‘Lalla’
Beautiful Africa
Nonesuch

Link to the title track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3GTnc9M92c & marlbank story today (scroll down)

Dave Douglas Quintet
‘Time Travel’
Time Travel
Greenleaf Music

Album cover

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Aaron Diehl
‘Single Petal of a Rose’
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue

Three tracks from the album streamed here: https://soundcloud.com/dlmedia/sets/aaron-diehl-the-bespoke-mans/s-pUcw5


Alex Wilson
Trio
‘Remercier Les Travailleurs’
Alex Wilson records

The trio Alex Wilson (below, left), Frank Tontoh, and Davide Mantovani

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Robert Hurst
‘Indiscreet in da Street’
Böb A Palindrome,
Bebob

Detroit jazz fest video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InHZv3eG1G8


Goran Kajfes
‘Badidoom’
The Reason Why, Vol 1
Headspin

Review http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/44443238716/lotus-groves

Chick Corea
‘What Game Shall We Play Today’
Return to Forever
ECM

Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyqyROM6Shw

Quest
‘Vonetta’
Circular Dreaming
Enja

Album cover top

Terri Lyne Carrington
Rem Blues/Music’
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
Concord
News piece http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/39832148740/1736465

Bobby Avey
‘Stardust’

Be Not So Long To Speak
Minsi Ridge Records

Video of Avey with Miguel Zenon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m8qEQaYkpk

You can listen again and download the Babel Babble hour when the show is archived in a few days. SG

Updated (playlist order and link): You can now listen via this link at

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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.

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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

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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

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Youn Sun Nah
Lento
ACT ***
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

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Goran Kajfeš / Subtropic Arkestra
The Reason Why Vol. 1
Headspin ***1/2
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

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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.

 

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Aaron Diehl
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.
Stephen Graham 

Released on 18 March. Aaron Diehl, above