Brinsley Forde above centre with (l-r) Jazz Jamaica’s Rod Youngs, Robin Banerjee, Pete Eckford and Denys Baptiste, plus the Voicelab choir behind
In one of their most significant concerts to date Jazz Jamaica are confirmed to play the Royal Festival Hall in London with their Catch a Fire show in the summer. The July concert follows the big band’s October show at the QEH in the South Bank Centre last year. Catch a Fire is a themed concert based on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1973 classic album Catch a Fire and features the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, strings section the Urban Soul Orchestra and the Voicelab choir with special guest Brinsley Forde of the reggae band ASWAD. ‘Concrete Jungle’, ‘Slave Driver’, ‘400 Years’, ‘Stop That Train’, ‘Baby We’ve Got a Date’, and ‘Stir It up’, ‘Kinky Reggae’, and ‘No More Trouble’ from Catch a Fire form the main plank of the concert with other Marley classics featured including ‘Redemption Song’ and ‘One Love’ from Exodus. The 13 July concert will see Jazz Jamaica joined by a 200-strong Voicelab choir. Tickets www.southbankcentre.co.uk
For the Love of Abbey
Motéma **** RECOMMENDED ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Abbey Lincoln who died in the summer of 2010 was at the forefront of the 1960s African-American civil rights struggle to achieve equality in the eyes of the law in the US, and a singer whose work with Max Roach (We Insist: Freedom Now Suite) and her own records including Abbey is Blue in the 1950s and much more recently Wholly Earth in the late-1990s more than stand the test of time. New York-born DC-raised pianist Marc Cary from 1994-2006 accompanied Ms Lincoln and has carefully chosen this tribute to the singer on his first solo piano recording. For the Love of Abbey reminds a distracted world of Ms Lincoln’s artistry as a composer and cultural figure and underlines what the cognoscenti have long realised that Cary is a pianist of real quality and distinction. There’s a swirling certainty to the album, a sweep of imagery, and a sense of piano history at play, not surprising as Cary followed Mal Waldron, Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly and Kenny Barron among the singer’s accompanists. Cary has recorded a few of the songs included here before, both Lincoln’s own, and Ellington’s ‘Melancholia’, a favourite of Lincoln’s. But ‘Should’ve Been’ (“It’s the sound of sorry/ Lookin’ yonder with regret” as the second verse has it), which appeared along with another great highlight here, the stabbingly effective ‘Throw It Away’ on 1994 album A Turtle’s Dream, has not to my knowledge been recorded by Cary before. For the Love of Abbey has a tenderness and power and is both a significant rekindling and reminder of the spirit of Abbey Lincoln performed by a pianist at the peak of his powers. Solo piano albums thrive on intimacy, and Cary uses this aspect of the musical situation he finds himself in to his advantage but knows, like Lincoln herself did, how to make a sense of the private moment transform itself into a shared experience.
For the Love of Abbey is released on Monday
Marc Cary above
Gateway **** RECOMMENDED
Bill Frisell and Sex Mob alumni bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen have joined forces here with the Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess to release a distinctly Bob Dylan-flavoured “new melodic” album. Recorded last year in Brooklyn it opens bravely, and quite brilliantly as it turns out, with a ballad, the Dylan song ‘Make You Feel My Love’ Adele has made familiar in recent years. A later take on Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, originally released 50 years ago on The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan (‘I just want you to know/I can see through your masks’), shows the trio’s teeth, its effortlessly intuitive layering the improvisational motion at work. The trio operate like an undercurrent in a fast flowing stream with Hess, a little Jef Neve-like at times, providing a disturbance of ideas that stimulate the trio and alter its course. Apart from the Dylan tunes and Ellington’s ‘Cotton Tail’ the rest of the compositions are the Dane’s own, yet the 10 tunes have a seamless flow and knit together as a collection. Scherr’s buzzy bass, brooding and typically exploratory, emerges time and again as the probing piano makes unhurried progress towards a sense of resolution the edgy drums often provide. It’s an enthralling listen, one that should greatly enhance Hess’ international reputation, but also show Scherr and Wollesen in a strong new light.
Nikolaj Hess, above
Really New Music Orchestra keep it real with Wadada Leo Smith
Occupy the World, Wadada Leo Smith’s upcoming double album set for release in late-June follows last autumn’s Ancestors when the great Mississippi-born avant-garde trumpeter, now 71, paired with South African free-jazz drum icon Louis Moholo-Moholo for their first recording together. For anyone who caught Smith at Cafe Oto last year or heard the Radio 3 broadcast of the Dalston show then Occupy the World is understandably a significant release. Reviewing the civil rights inspired-set John Fordham in The Guardian observed Smith’s presence was “vivid in every sound and space”, and for neophytes the new work could well be a case of at last waking up and smelling the coffee as memories of the Occupy movement’s protests at St Paul’s and Finsbury Square in 2011 and 2012 fade. The scale of Occupy the World is a towering construction with the new presence in Smith’s music of TUMO (the Really New Music Orchestra) a large 21-piece ensemble that unites heroes of free-jazz past and present chiefly trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, from the new generation, and the veteran 77-year-old Juhani Aaltonen here on flute and piccolo with the widow of the great Edward Vesala, ECM solo artist Iro Haarla on harp, and a range of leading Finnish talent alongside. TUMO is just over a year old and performed for the first time in early-2012 led by the trumpeter at a festival in Helsinki. Smith was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Ten Freedom Summers, and was named musician of the year for 2013 by the New York-based Jazz Journalists Association. Stephen Graham
Wadada Leo Smith above
UPDATED 28 MAY
Apocalyptic samples-laden futurist electroprog, an air of alienation framed within a maths-jazz design, Staffordshire-born London-based keyboardist Nicholls’ hard boiled post-Wikileaks anti-war morality tales come complete with blotchily anarchic computer generated images splashed psychedelically all over the artwork. Random snippets of dense text cut into patterns inside containing disturbing messages scattered about like a Guantánamo rewrite of Finnegans Wake simply add to the effect. A challenging listen the work of a high powered band that includes Troyka’s Kit Downes on organ, Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet and the seemingly ubiquitous James Allsopp on tenor saxophone and clarinet confront rather than caress the listener, although it’s never aggressively projected. The rhythm framework provided by Outhouse’s Dave Smith is deliberately fairly loose and allows greater harmonic possibilities to develop, it’s as much about creating a tech-heavy electronica soundscape as anything else. Improvising in an obvious jazz sense is not really the point here beyond its use as a compositional vehicle, and Nicholls’ randomising method seems to go some way towards minimalism by the end of ‘Voice Intercepts’. Very much an anti-war record for a generation still coming to terms with the unwarranted war in Iraq Ruins makes its point forcibly and effectively. Stephen Graham
Released on 1 June