Steve Coleman and Five Elements
Pi **** Album of the week
There’s always been a thirst for knowledge with Steve Coleman, and an urge to connect his musical explorations to the wider world. “The title of this recording,” the MBASE originator says in the sleeve notes, “refers to paths of modulating heartbeat-like rhythmic melodies that function similar to the contrapuntal firing of nerve impulses.” And he goes on to explain that the compositions were created spontaneously, then transcribed, and then more improvisations added to “arrive at the final compositions performed by the ensemble.” Coleman credits drummer Milford Graves for his research and music that allowed him to “first become aware of the connection between the biology of the human body, the human soul and music.”
The 14 tracks of Functional Arrhythmias feature the Five Elements in quartet or quintet formation, the main difference between the two settings being the tracks that don’t feature guitarist Miles Okazaki.
Cultured British bassist Anthony Tidd who now lives in the States is back in the Five Elements fold and he plays an important anchoring role throughout but the main drama of the record is the trialogue between saxophone, trumpet, and drums.
When you hear a Steve Coleman record or see him live (for instance most recently with Reflex during the London Jazz Festival in 2011) the sound is immediately identifiable. After all, Coleman invented a whole sound that has influenced a new generation of what people now loosely call “maths jazz” musicians, or for those longer in the tooth, still MBASE. Musicians such as Tom Challenger and Tom Farmer most recently have followed in the wake of Vijay Iyer and before Vijay got the MBASE bug, Steve Williamson, and Barak Schmool who spread the message to his F-IRE Collective adding to other new ideas.
Its base sound is avant funk with a rough edge mixed in with bebop although as the years have gone by there are few clichés of classic bebop left. On a track such as ‘Medulla-Vagus’ there is an Afro-Cuban layer to the abstract picture Coleman paints (an element Coleman has investigated before extensively), while on an Improv-heavy ballad such as the very stark ‘Chemical Intuition’ once more Coleman’s debt to Bunky Green’s sound comes through, and Jonathan Finlayson manages to channel the late Bill Dixon a little. Sean Rickman plays time and no-time on a track such as ‘Chemical Intuition’, and when trumpet, sax and drums play separate melody and rhythm lines the true no-safety-net improvising approach can be glimpsed. This record is about the naked improvising method customised by Coleman as he explained in his method mentioned earlier. It’s uncompromising, and a worthy successor to Harvesting Semblances and Affinities his first album for Pi.
Last year I was chatting to David Murray at the London Jazz Festival launch briefly and I asked him about Curves of Life, the Paris live album he appeared on with Coleman back in the 1990s. Murray’s eyes lit up, and agreed that he thought it was some of Coleman’s best work. Although Coleman’s music is very different now but just as appealing, its essence is no different to Curves of Life. Rhythm is key, and when blocks and drum rhythms embed themselves behind the loose off-beats and off kilter momentum often implied, as on ‘Cerebrum Crossover’, a tipping point is reached. It’s another language entirely, one that now has many dialects, but Coleman is the source and this fine, inspirational album is a reminder of just what he has to say: and how potent that message still is.
Steve Coleman above and the cover of Functional Arrhythmias. Out now
Paul Edis Sextet
There Will Be Time
Jazz action ***
A second release involving 27-year-old north east pianist Paul Edis, following his appearance on ACV’s Babel debut Busk released earlier this month, There Will Be Time, with a clock on the front depicting the timepiece’s hands stuck at eight minutes past ten surrounded by autumnal leaves, is a three-horn sextet full of the spirit of the Jazz Messengers even if the muted trumpet of Graham Hardy on opener ‘Administrate This!’ seems to dig back further stylistically to Rex Stewart or Buck Clayton. There are a dozen tunes, mostly written and arranged by Edis, and it’s pretty orderly modern mainstream stuff: exuberantly brassy on ‘Re: Vamp’, with Edis dismantling his chords behind the plaintive trumpet melody, and drummer Adam Sinclair lending an air of solid authority as he does throughout. Edis can sound like a disciple of Herbie Hancock or Horace Silver at times and favours accessible licks and funky solo lines but perhaps the easy going tempi make the tunes just too digestible. The funky turns and twists on ‘Sharp 9/8’, though, exhibit plenty of spirit and it’s likeable enough fare by a promising pianist. SG
As an enfant terrible Django Bates last played the Proms with Loose Tubes some 26 years ago, but it’s just been announced that the composer/ pianist is to return to the Proms this year to celebrate another great maverick: bebop pioneer Charlie Parker. The concert will also include the UK premiere of a new Bates piece called ‘The Study of Touch’.
Bates will be joined for the concert by his Belovèd Bird trio, the Norbotten big band from Sweden, and Ashley Slater (Freak Power) with a programme of Bird-related tunes.
The BBC Proms this year in addition to the main classical programme, dominated by Daniel Barenboim’s complete Ring cycle with the Staatskapelle Berlin also feature a gospel prom; an appearance by a cappella group Naturally 7; a performance of Frank Zappa’s ‘The Adventures of Greggery Peccary’; an urban classic prom with Jules Buckley leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra bringing together the music of Fazer, Henze, Laura Mvula, Mosolov and Maverick Sabre; and a World Routes prom featuring Fidan Hajiyeva, Gochaq Askarov, Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, and Tinariwen. SG
The full programme is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms
Django Bates, above, plays the Proms on 28 August at 10.15
Jazz bookings this year include Charles Lloyd and Vijay Iyer
Quincy Jones, who turned 80 in March, will during this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival combine a special birthday concert with a tribute to Claude Nobs at the first festival to be held since Nobs’ death following a skiing accident.
The concert will feature Patti Austin, James Ingram, Siedah Garrett, Nikki Yanofsky, Emily Bear, Alfredo Rodriguez, Andreas Varady, and Justin Kauflin taking part.
At Montreux this year jazz bookings also include Charles Lloyd, Gregory Porter, the Joe Sample trio, Avishai Cohen Quartet, Vijay Iyer trio, Youn Sun Nah, José James, Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human, with Bob James and David Sanborn reuniting, and George Benson.
Pianists Michael Wollny, Iiro Rantala, shortly to perform with the EST Symphony in Stockholm, and Leszek Możdżer will also appear in Montreux at the ACT label night.
The festival is always a mix of jazz and stellar names from rock, R&B, and pop, and will also feature Leonard Cohen, Lianne la Havas, Green Day, Prince, and Sting as headliners.
For the full line-up just announced go to www.montreuxjazz.com
Quincy Jones, above
New producer Sushil Dade
Sushil Dade is the new producer of BBC Radio 3 Sunday night show Jazz Line-Up. Long time producer Keith Loxam, who has been synonymous with the show since its beginning, and who was recently nominated for a Parliamentary Jazz Award for services to jazz, is retiring at the end of June.
Glasgow-born Dade grew up listening to Bollywood and Indian classical music, and has worked in the past as a content producer for BBC Radio Scotland and produced Radio Scotland’s Jazz House show. He also produced the first BBC Radio Scotland young jazz musician of the year competition for the station. Dade has also served on the board of the Scottish Academy of Asian Arts, and as a specialist music advisor at the Scottish Arts Council. Story: Stephen Graham
Sushil Dade above. Photo: BBC
Danzón take on ‘Solar’: a clever departure
Alex Wilson Records ***1/2
A prisoner to his big technique and eclecticism at times, the trio format on Trio released earlier this week suits Alex Wilson well although the sequencing here doesn’t do him any favours. Big, booming number ‘Kalisz’ named for Paweł Brodowski’s piano festival in Poland is an early peak (it might have been better at the end) but ‘Remercier les travailleurs’ with its Malian lilt is less overly energetic and all the better for it, allowing bassist Davide Mantovani more scope. It’s great to hear drummer Frank Tontoh in a trio setting on an album again, although you can often hear him in clubs such as Hideaway regularly. Recorded live in London and at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, as well as in studios in the capital, the danzón take on ‘Solar’ is a clever departure, and listen hard and you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Not sure about some of the tinkling applause at the beginning of some of the tracks as it makes everything resemble a vicar’s tea party. That’s not much of a drawback on an otherwise effortless sounding release by a pianist clearly hitting his stride.
Alex Wilson top left with Frank Tontoh and Davide Mantovani
A Different Time
Medeski originals, gospel, and Willie Nelson’s ‘I’m Falling in Love Again’ feature on new solo piano album by the jam band hero
The spine says it all. On the far left on black the yellow letters in a familiar handwritten script allow the eye to catch the word “OKeh”. It’s tiny. As the label is owned by a major record company there’s only so much romance in its return, but A Different Time is the first album to appear since welcome news came that the historical blues and jazz label is now back in the land of the living and signing again.
Stepping back in time is what the record is about. A solo piano release recorded on a French period Gaveau piano, an instrument known for its crafted cases, manufactured by a company originally founded in the mid-19th century. Medeski in the notes says this 7-footer dates back to 1924 and “the feel is very different” and that “one must sing with the fingers.”
It’s a very quiet often elegiac album and gets that bit more whisper-soft after opener ‘A Different Time’ on Willie Nelson’s ‘I’m Falling in Love Again’, which has a sort of musical box quality to it that’s new and sometimes on the record you have to do a double take. After all with Medeski Martin & Wood in the early-1990s Medeski got swept up in what became known as the jam band phenomenon, often with Hammond organ leading the swelling youth-friendly grassroots movement as at ease in indie rock clubs and outdoor festivals as it was in jazz spots.
A Different Time is the antithesis of groove and acid jazz. Most of the tunes are by Medeski except the Nelson just mentioned and an arrangement of Gabriel and Martin’s early 20th century gospel hymn ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’. At its best, on say the lovely opening to ‘Graveyard Fields’ or the melodic exposition of ‘Luz Marina (From Mama Kia)’ the album shows another side to Medeski; at its worst it is that bit too ponderous.
On the cover there’s a piano on a flying carpet and a song such as ‘Luz Marina’ does just about have the ability to transport you to a land beyond the temporal sphere. For instance ‘Waiting at the Gate’ grows beautifully, like a Randy Newman song, with an air of optimistic expectation the album to that point had lacked and this song has a quiet grandeur to it, one that might outlast everything else on the album in my mind. So all in all very much the contemplative side of Medeski on display, in an album that has its moments but doesn’t always ignite. Stephen Graham
John Medeski above. Photo: Michael Bloom
Kendrick Scott, Julian Siegel, and Sam Leak jam at Ronnie’s
Kurt Elling was having his picture taken with fans as the Ronnie Scott’s door staff last night let a bunch of people standing on the street in for the Late Late Show. He had just completed the second night of his sold out residency at the club this week, and there’s a buzz about the place.
The late show hosted by Alex Garnett, the diminutive flat cap-wearing saxophonist who can whip up a solo from the lower reaches of his horn with all the panache of a conjurer, was hosting the show, a featured band-led jam session for night owls after eleven, and this was a chance to let touring US alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius and his quartet show their undoubted class. The altoist may have kept his very best to last, to around 2am, with a fine take on his hero Charlie Parker’s tune ‘Dexterity’, but Cornelius with old friend Michael Janisch on pulsing bass and tasteful guitarist Phil Robson (pushed along by drummer Andrew Bain) called the shots harmonically on demandingly sinuous advanced bebop.
Garnett, who has a winningly deadpan patter introducing the musicians, encouraged a “quiet roar” from the sizable late night turn-out for a line-up of great players who then joined to jam. Besides Garnett on tenor another fine tenor attraction was Julian Siegel standing lean and mean attacking like a latter-day Sonny Rollins, and with pianist Sam Leak joining in, Harold Arlen’s ‘My Shining Hour’ was the pick of this section of the session. Arlen oddly has made headline news this week for very different reasons as the writer of ‘Ding Dong’, now a Margaret Thatcher protest song currently at number two in the charts.
The promising Konitzian altoist Allison Neale impressed on a few numbers with ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ the pick, and Kendrick Scott from the Elling band in residence really turned up the heat when he joined. And then towards the end former Amy Winehouse guitarist Robin Banerjee found those friction-heavy percussive sounds at low volume on the instrument only he seems to know how to locate: a nice surprise.
Elling with his young daughter stayed to observe the jam for a while, and the Kurtster’s drummer Kendrick Scott told me later after he had eaten supper that he is in talks with promoters Serious to bring his band Oracle to the UK. Let’s hope this pans out as their latest album Conviction is one of the best jazz releases to appear this year, burning as it does with sheer energy and packed full of strong compositional ideas. Elling pianist and main man Laurence Hobgood chatted about his former Naim labelmate the late Chris Anderson, and reminisced about meeting Alan Broadbent which he said was “a thrill”. He also intimated that he’s putting together a new band for the autumn, featuring a trumpet in the line-up. When I asked who he’d envisage filling that role the pianist and arranger said unblinkingly: “Terence Blanchard.” Let’s hope that exciting prospect shapes up. SG
Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter among the giants of jazz performing in 21st running of the London Jazz Festival
Tickets go on sale on Friday for some of the big names just announced for the 21st London Jazz Festival to be held this year. With the BBC having now ended its long-running commitment as a festival sponsor the LJF adds three replacement letters, EFG, a private bank, who have been involved with the festival since 2008, in the corporation’s place. The festival which runs from 15-24 November will also feature Jazz Voice on opening night at the Barbican; Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis; Stan Sulzmann’s Neon Orchestra; Arild Andersen; Schlippenbach Trio vs Noszferatu; the Wayne Shorter Quartet and BBC Concert Orchestra at the Barbican; a Charlie Parker on Dial jazz theatre event; Sonny Rollins this time at the Royal Albert Hall; Tigran Hamasyan + Elina Duni; Mehliana; John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain: Remember Shakti; Gilad Atzmon at the QEH; and Madeleine Peyroux at the Festival Hall.
Sonny Rollins above
Erin Boheme + Tammy Weis, Hippodrome, London tonight
When jazz and pop collides it can be messy. But if the tunes are good, the spirit’s right, the words to the songs possessing a staying power, delivered by a confident performer then what’s not to like: it’s not as if it’s life or death, is it?
Tonight at the Hippodrome in London’s west end Wisconsin-born Erin Boheme makes her London debut following the release of What a Life last month on Heads Up. She’s to be joined by Tammy Weis, a London-based Canadian singer who’s a well kept secret until, well, now on the London jazz vocals scene. Tammy’s also co-written one of the songs on the album as previously reported in these pages. Michael Bublé no less has produced this album… so 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 commercial framework rather than the flawed smooth jazz format that is now disappearing. Contrast the Eric Benet smooth jazz version of ‘The Last Time’ with the version here and there’s a huge difference in interpretation, and it’s less cheesy for sure. In Benet’s take on his own highly effective melancholic song, co-written among others with famed songwriter David Foster incidentally also chair of the Verve Music Group (who penned ‘I Have Nothing’ for the late Whitney Houston), 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 Caro Emerald-esque rumba ‘Everything But Me’, Tammy’s song, which is close enough for jazz put it on Born To Sing: No Plan B. Why Boheme needed to cover a Coldplay song I don’t know, and I didn’t care one bit 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.
Erin Boheme above
With the Pizza Express Jazz Club currently closed for a refurbishment to the restaurant upstairs (it’s opening up again next week), there’s no better time to check out the club’s sister venue the Pheasantry. This week at the restaurant venue on the King’s Road, a jazz and cabaret place that’s built up a loyal following in the last few years, pianist Dominic Alldis is appearing on Friday and Saturday, following the release of A Childhood Suite earlier in the year. That release, a trio album "for jazz piano trio and orchestra", picks up from earlier album Songs We Heard with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh that first drew on the idea of a trio improvising on nursery rhymes from around the world. A Childhood Suite reworks more than a dozen of these arrangements, adding a string section and containing an Alldis original. The album has a simplicity and sincerity rare these days in the hustle and bustle of the record industry demanding a certain crash, bang, wallop approach. ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ is typical of some of the momentum generated by the trio, and with a dark opening, the mood changes to allow for a developing momentum and joyousness that many of the other improvisations also possess. Very much in the Jacques Loussier or David Rees-Williams stream of light jazz and classical synthesis it’s an album that never lacks for charm and empathy, with some lovely moments along the way including the captivating Vaughan Williams-like violin solo and fine arrangement on ‘Girls and Boys Come Out To Play.’ Alldis is appearing at the Pheasantry in duo with the fine saxophone player Alex Garnett.
There must come a time when an artist wakes up and says: “I’m going to do a ‘with strings’ project”. Purists or the jaded might roll their eyes not another one, but you would be a brave person to second guess Avishai Cohen. The charismatic Israeli bassist and singer, an inspiration to leading UK bands Phronesis, Kairos 4tet, and a generation of progressively minded young improvisers around the world, is to debut his “with strings” concept at the Barbican in London on Tuesday 7 May. This video of ‘Russian Song there’s a link below gives you an idea of what to expect.
Cohen’s ensemble based around the trio of pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who the bassist recorded Duende for Blue Note with an album released last year, and drums of 19-year-old Ofri Nehemya (on superb form recently in London with Eli Degibri) adds the strings/wind quintet of violinist Cordelia Hagmann, viola players Amit Landau and Noam Haimovitz Weinschel, cellist Yael Shapira, and oboist Yoram Lachish.
Expect arrangements of Israeli love songs, and music by Mordechai Ze’ira, with Ladino songs, as is often the case at Cohen concerts, a feature, and extracts from Avishai’s ‘Concerto.’
Avishai Cohen above
‘Russian song’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mlncsn-r10Q
Tap: The Book of Angels: Vol 20
Nonesuch/Tzadik **** RECOMMENDED
There’s going to a lot of interest in this album on the avant jazz circuit, mainly as it acts as a prelude to the Zorn@60 festival touring activity this spring and summer, ahead of John Zorn’s birthday in September. For Metheny Tap is the third in a trilogy of out-there albums, not as shocking as Song X or his collaboration with the late Derek Bailey were but that’s not really the point. It would be more of a sensation in a way if blazing controversy was the only point. A duo album, drummer Antonio Sanchez is Metheny’s foil although it’s a subsidiary role this time apart from on the final improv-heavy track as the guitarist has typically come fully equipped with numerous guitars, sitar, tiples, bass, keyboards, orchestrionics, electronics, and much more, and plays expansively.
The musical ideas of Zorn Metheny is performing date back to the 1990s and these half dozen songs based on traditional Jewish music are but a small fraction of the 300 songs belonging to the second of what Zorn calls the “Masada Book”. Where Zorn ends and Metheny begins can be traced fairly easily to ‘Tharsis’, the third track, which starts with the atmosphere of a village dance and then with a deep synth guitar crunch Metheny, well, is just unmistakeably Metheny, with the lovely minimalist overdubs his trusty companion. It’s a fairly hi-tech record that nonetheless retains its humanity, although with a certain mystical apparatus attached, archangels or no. ‘Mastema’ at the beginning has the most driving jazz-rock intensity, while ‘Sariel’ is the most “middle Eastern” in a way although it twists and turns into a kind of road movie, swapping sensuality for a rickety momentum that is both appealing and different. ‘Phanuel’ becomes a love song by the end, as the curtain of disembodied voices and altered rhythmic emphasis reduce the overall effect to an evocative essence. Tap has some gorgeous moments, and Metheny is simply marvellous, negotiating the complexities of the writing with consummate artistry. As an early birthday present to Zorn what could be better?
Released on 20 May
Pat Metheny, above
Tune into Jazz on 3 tonight on BBC Radio 3 for the first UK airplay of ‘Mastema’
Time machine: Basquiat Strings as they were
They might have to graffiti the news on the walls but Basquiat Strings, a band that led the way in fusing cutting edge jazz within a strings format, is returning after an extended hiatus to release an album long in the can called Part Two next month. A new-look Basquiats line-up will also tour.
Part Two (F-IRE) was recorded just two years on from picking up what was a welcome but surprise Mercury nomination in 2007 that cemented their reputation and paved the way for the zeitgeist across Europe to encompass other similarly minded ensembles, such as radio.string.quartet.vienna and later the Atom String Quartet in Poland.
The Basquiats on their debut album Basquiat Strings With Seb Rochford were able to reimagine material such as Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’ but now the band’s leader Ben Davis says Part Two: “Is an extension of the first record, producing an alternative string sound from the spontaneity of jazz, rawness of ethnic sounds, and finesse and heavy arco attacking fusion of classical/contemporary music.”
Second coming: album due on 13 May
The Basquiats on the album are the violins of Emma Smith (who also features on the acclaimed new Ellington in Anticipation record) and Vicky Fifield; with Jennymay Logan, viola; Ben Davis, cello; Richard Pryce, double bass and Seb Rochford, drums; plus violinist Amanda Drummond and Outhouse drummer Dave Smith, on some tracks. All the tunes all composed by Ben Davis apart from the final track and are: ‘Calum Campbell’, ‘Bobette II’, ‘History of Her’, ‘Slopes’, ‘Scam’, Great Gables’, ‘Bebella’ ‘Jack and Jill’, ‘Hop Scotch’, and ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. Tour dates with Davis joined by Seb Rochford, Fly Agaric’s Fred Thomas on bass, and Newt guitarist Graeme Stephen are: Village Hall, Hunton (Kent) 16 May; Vortex, London 17-18 May; Stables, Milton Keynes, 19 May; Queen’s theatre, Barnstaple, 22 May; St George’s, Bristol, 23 May; and Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, 25 May.
40 Kurt Elling tracks
Ahead of the Kurt Elling Ronnie Scott’s residency this week here are 40 tracks featuring the singer that pack the biggest punch in terms of interpretation, delivery, and overall performance to whet your appetite
40 ‘Rosa Morena’ bossa time from This Time It’s Love. Understated and all the better for it.
39 On ‘The Beauty of All Things’ Elling showed his control at speed on this nimble track from The Messenger.
38 On ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ part of Elling’s appeal is his maturity and believability. From Flirting With Twilight.
37 ‘Matte Kudasai’. Who would have thought it? The Kurtster does King Crimson. Laconic and persuasive. From the Don Was-produced album The Gate.
36 Lovely swinging stuff from the band on ‘April in Paris’, and Elling responds and how! Featured on The Messenger.
35 No pressure let’s be Frank: on ‘Come Fly With Me’ Elling doesn’t do the obvious and refuses to deal with it as a swinger. He adds new depth in the process. From the new 1619 Broadway album.
34 On ‘Norwegian Wood’ Elling opens the song up, and what a guitar solo from John McLean. From The Gate.
33 ‘Remembering Veronica’. Adventurous but still familiar. From Close Your Eyes.
32 Wonderfully weighted take on Paul Simon’s ‘An American Tune’, a highlight of 1619 Broadway. Elling does mournful.
31 On ‘Orange Blossoms in Summertime’ it’s hip and laidback. From Flirting With Twilight.
30 ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ is the ultimate Elling suburban critique, and a nod to Ken Nordine into the bargain. From 1619 Broadway.
29 ‘After the Love Has Gone’ sees Elling step back into a private zone. Quietly moving. From The Gate.
28 ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ from Live in Chicago. An over familiar song holds no fear.
27 ‘Tutti for Cootie’ Ridiculously catchy and lively, it’s wise guy time. From the new Brill Building album.
26 ‘You Send Me’ also from 1619 Broadway. A vibey treatment.
25 ‘A Time for Love’ from This Time It’s Love, and Elling shows he’s not just sentimental and blue.
24 ‘Lil’ Darlin’’ can be a boring big band staple these days. In Elling’s hands at a slow tempo it more than earns its place on this list. From Flirting With Twilight.
23 Scat time ‘Downtown live’ from the Live in Chicago album: “Sing along now”, says Kurt!
22 ‘Higher Vibe’ from Man in the Air. The spiritual side without any of the usual phoney banter.
21 On ‘Easy Living’ the horns respond as if Elling is a horn player himself. From Flirting With Twilight.
20 A very nuanced take on ‘The Very Thought of You’. Again from This Time It’s Love, made during Elling’s Blue Note years.
19 ‘Man in the air’: ‘He can fly off anywhere’ can the man in the air, and so too can Elling on the title track to one of his best albums.
18 ‘Steppin’ Out’ is about turning a likeable enough pop song into a classic swinger. Elling makes Joe Jackson’s song really move. From The Gate.
17 ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ from The Messenger: E is for Ellington, too.
16 ‘Tight’ from Night Moves. Sage advice from the singer. Truly effortless.
15 ‘Night Dream Live’, on home ground on the live Chicago album. Tremendous impact and band energy here.
14 ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’ Warm and swinging. From Dedicated to You.
13 On ‘Minuano’ it’s a case of getting completely inside the Pat Metheny classic composition. From Man in the Air.
12 On ‘Nature Boy’ the Chicagoan is optimistic and elegant as he powers up on The Messenger.
11 ‘All Or Nothing At All’ from the Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album Dedicated To You. Lots of drama and this live recording crackles with energy.
10 ‘Time To say Goodbye’: comforting and comfortably accomplished. From Man in the Air. There’s no need to try to impress any more.
9 ‘I’m Thru With Love’, Elling’s great on material associated with Nat King Cole. From Flirting with Twilight.
8 ‘A New Body and Soul’ from Nightmoves. Technique, expression, improvisational flair, it’s got it all.
7 ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’: Almost dropping the tempo to a dead stop on this Landesmann/Wolf classic back in the 1990s on Close Your Eyes.
6 ‘Lush Life (Live)’ Classic take on the Strayhorn song. From Dedicated to You.
5 ‘You Are Too Beautiful’: Corny but effective. The audience love it and they’re not faking. Again from Dedicated to You.
4 ‘In The Winelight’ from Man in the Air. It’s all about the feel. Almost genius.
3 ‘Golden Lady’ a tremendous counter-intuitive version of Stevie Wonder’s song. From The Gate.
2 ‘Nancy With the Laughing Face’. Phil Silvers’ song got very lucky. From Dedicated To You.
1 ‘Nightmoves’ Darkness and light come together on this Michael Franks song. From the 2007 album of the same name.
Jamil Sheriff Big Band
Pianist Sheriff lectures at the Leeds College of Music as do some other members of the 16-piece big band here, beginning modally on ‘Future Car’. It is, despite the title, a lively 1950s-era set of wheels that runs on gas rather than petrol (or for that matter hydrogen), equipped with a tantalising solo from Jamie Taylor who then digs digger with a more extensive feature on third track ‘T.T.F’. Nine tracks in all composed and arranged by Sheriff, the title track (the word refers to the study of fish) has a lovely far-away feel to it in the horn theme eventually allowing Sheriff to emerge. The pianist, who’s 36, formed his own octet a decade ago and released Daydreams on GLP and later Backchat for 33 records five years ago, so he’s a seasoned bandleader and composer and Ichthyology points to further development three years on from the big band having been founded. His influences on the evidence here seem to range from Gil Evans (‘T.T.F’) to Oliver Nelson (at least as far as the horns are concerned), and Sheriff likes close harmonies and improvising around a scale. You’ll hear little clashes rather than blaring horns in his arranging but in a year when prevailing fashions have favoured Ellingtonia this is a bit different. Of the soloists Tori Freestone from Compassionate Dictatorship on flute particularly emerges well, and Taylor is a name to watch out for. SG