Saxophonist, clarinettist, and composer Gilad Atzmon collects controversy effortlessly, yet Songs of the Metropolis (World Village) recorded at the end of September and beginning of October last year is not controversial in the slightest, with a theme based around the “sound of the city”, with tracks named after places: Paris, the opener, say. Or Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and so on, with one odd exception: the seaside town of Scarborough, “as opposed to London” as Atzmon’s gloss in the notes has it. With text translated into French as well, as World Village is a French label, Atzmon says: “Now our planet weeps. Beauty is perhaps the last true form of spiritual resistance. The song is there to counter detachment and alienation.” Later in the album booklet there’s a quotation from the David Garrioch 2003 book Sounds of the City that contrasts how the sounds in a city were heard in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to the way they are heard today. “The evolution of this information system reflects changes in social and political organization and in attitudes towards time and urban space,” Garrioch writes. An “auditory community” is how he also terms it. Atzmon’s ballads-driven album does tap into a line of jazz ballad-making that goes way back to at least Sidney Bechet in terms of the saxophone. The quartet, Atzmon with pianist Frank Harrison, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Eddie Hick, meld well to the expressive Atzmon playing style, which for me works best in his take on the traditional ‘Scarborough Fair’ melody (‘Scarborough’), and on the lovely ‘Vienna’. This album is a different view of the city, as urban soundscapes are usually thrusting affairs, radically different in flavour, and a lot grittier and volatile as Atzmon himself usually is. One of Atzmon’s best, alongside Exile and his work with Robert Wyatt, particularly For The Ghosts Within. SG
With settings of Byzantine Greek prayers Stephan Micus returns for his twentieth album for ECM with Panagia, an astonishing tally for the Mallorca-based German composer who defies categorisation. Only rarely on a concert stage in the UK, though returning for a concert in April at Kings Place in London, Micus, who turned 60 earlier this month, sings and performs on an array of instruments on this his latest album released last week, including Bavarian zither, dilruba, chitrali sitar, and his own customised 14-string guitar. On Panagia, the Virgin Mary, Micus meditates via a concept of female energy inherent in the symbolism. New Agey, contemplative, and thought provoking, the album comes into its own on the third track ‘I Praise You Lady of Passion’, but it’s an hour of music with its alternating sung poems and instrumentals you need to experience as a single entity, preferably in one hearing. A music based on a sense of wonder and mysticism. SG
Stephan Micus above
Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, London Vocal Project
Edition **** RECOMMENDED NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT
With all music by Kenny Wheeler, London Vocal Project director Pete Churchill in the album notes explains that Mirrors was a commission for five solo voices in the first place, and with Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler, they duly performed it at the 1998 Berlin Jazz Festival. After performing the material with various college choirs and then, with the London Vocal Project five years ago, Churchill realised he “knew Mirrors had finally found a home.” The poetry of Stevie Smith (1902-1971) lies at its heart, and Kenny Wheeler’s music has meshed with it perfectly. But it’s not just Smith whose work forms the text for the vocals element, here interpreted by the LVP whose members number 25 split into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, with Wheeler joining on flugelhorn, Winstone the featured solo singer, pianist Nikki Iles, Polar Bear’s Mark Lockheart on saxophones, bassist Steve Watts, and drummer James Maddren. Besides settings of Smith’s work, the highlight of which for me is the delightful ‘Black March’ (‘I have a friend/At the end/Of the world’), there are settings of Lewis Carroll, and briefly WB Yeats (Winstone excelling on ‘The Lover Mourns’). Delight is a word that constantly springs to mind, an echo of ‘I sing this song for your delight’ on ‘Humpty Dumpty’ at the beginning. The singing is lovely throughout, ethereal, and endowed with a life force all of its own. Somehow everything manages to remain understated yet has impact, the unique charm of the album. Mirrors is still a further example, after The Long Waiting, of the extraordinary late-period flowering of Kenny Wheeler’s artistry once again. There’s a section on ‘Through the Looking Glass’ when Wheeler, Lockheart and Winstone interact spontaneously to tremendous effect, but it’s just one instance of the spirit on display on this remarkable album.
Released on 25 February
The View From Here
Jazz Village ***1/2
It’s uncanny although not a drummer’s record, The View From Here has that Jazz Messengers feel subtly transformed organically with the passage of time. “The View From Here” could even be an outlook on a pivotal period of jazz history, the Golden Age in the 1950s and 60s, rather than in some literal sense of a landscape or babbling brook. It’s scenic though, with the two Graemes (Blevins and Flowers) on saxophone and trumpet/flugel respectively, Martyn Kane on drums and Andrew McCormack on piano with Eastwood working as one on some pretty melodies. As much a film composer in recent years he’s no slouch at releasing records with his band and at only 44 Eastwood has packed in a great deal in his career so far. I think From There to Here right at the beginning is his best album to date, but this latest one builds on the huge advances made in Songs from the Chateau, and is easily his most mature album. Eastwood isn’t the most showy of bassists, and his instrument is quietly amplified whether on double or electric bass, and often not that demonstrative even on some of the solos he takes. That’s to his credit to an extent leaving the two Graemes as the public face of the album, with the harmonically advanced McCormack taking up the slack when he chooses to let off some steam. But The View From Here is also a classic hard bop quintet record, and not about the individuals as individuals. So in that sense, and perhaps it’s the first time in Eastwood’s jazz work so far, all the elements of his personal musical interests mostly steeped in the golden age of Blue Note records have come together on one set of tunes. ‘Sirocco’ has a perky “unsquare dance” feel to it (one of the most notable tunes, which each of the band had a hand in writing), and the album is also imbued with a link to the winds of the Mediterranean, and to Africa, with some track titles to reinforce these connections. There’s also, characteristically, an air of romance in Eastwood’s writing, and ‘Luxor’, which Eastwood has co-written with McCormack, is a good showcase for the Clifford Brown side of Graeme Flowers to emerge, with a melody that has a gracenote-leading character, before his peach of a solo. An unashamedly retro album that could have been made in the late-1950s or early-1960s, but no worse for this. If you’re an Eastwood fan already you’ll love this. For the unconvinced The View From Here is as good a place as any to start.
Released on 25 March
Oli Road Records ***
Singer-songwriter, keyboardist and arranger Oli Rockberger, a Londoner who has made his way steadily in the US music industry since studying at Berklee, has played with a host of jazz luminaries since, including the likes of Randy Brecker and Les McCann and two of his co-written songs will appear on Randy Brecker’s latest album. Old Habits is Rockberger’s second album as a singer songwriter (following the promising Hush Now), and this his latest album to be released in March, has guests who include erstwhile Pat Metheny Group harmonica whiz Gregoire Maret, guitarist John Shannon, and Becca Stevens Band drummer Jordan Perlson. The nine songs, plus bonus track ‘My Home’, are radio friendly jazzy pop with resemblances to Randy Newman and James Taylor. ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ has a bluesy feel that opens out into a gospellised keyboards break with the sound all misted up, which is part of the oblique appeal in the production. ‘Don’t Forget Me’, with multi-tracked vocals, harks back to the Phil Collins 1980s vocal sound circa ‘In the Air Tonight’, and is the best song on the album by far with its air of slight regret (‘Under the stars with the falling snow/Don’t forget me when I go’). The more upbeat ‘Queen of Evasion’ has a Steely Dan-like vibe, while ‘My Home’ has a lovely piano opening, a bit like Bob James would have recorded in years gone by, and sounds as if it could be used as a TV theme. It’s got that slightly ambiguous bittersweet quality, a character the album as a whole shares. Stephen Graham
Oli Rockberger, above
John Turville performed at the first Shearing Hour last night at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in a new early-evening piano hour slot at the Soho club in London. The theme of the hour was the music of George Shearing, and award winning pianist Turville whose album Conception, the title track of which is one of Shearing’s best known compositions, performed some newly transcribed material associated with Shearing. He interpreted Shearing’s signature “locked hands" style admirably, with a nuanced airy feel, and the club’s newly tuned Steinway sounded a treat. As well as ‘Conception’ he played the great Horace Silver’s composition ‘The Outlaw’, which appeared on the Shearing Quintet’s 1960 Capitol album San Francisco Scene, and another of Silver’s, ‘Room 608’. The set also featured ‘Station Break’, a lesser known tune from the Shearing live album Rare Form recorded in San Fran, the standard ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’, ‘September in the Rain’ (the Shearing Hour’s theme song), and of course ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, which Turville played quite beautifully. Earlier the audience, who would swell to fill the club to hear jazz singer Clare Teal deliver a fine performance later in the evening with her piano trio, warmed to some original 1947-1952 Shearing gems played over the club’s house sound system. SG
John Turville pictured at the Shearing Hour. Photo: Aimua Eghobamien
One word is already amounting to a major theme of jazz releases this year and that is: Duke. Of course, it’s Duke as in Ellington, and with Mark Lockheart releasing his remarkable Ellington in Anticipation record and heading out on tour http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/38943427946/265 , the uncanny Ellingtonian homage in Adrian Johnston’s original music for Dancing on the Edge http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/40600198373/2847525 set to reach a TV audience next month, the early part of 2013 will also see the release of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s new Spartacus records album In the Spirit of Duke. Recorded in the autumn of last year actually in Scotland the album follows the SNJO’s 2012 debut for ECM, Celebration, which featured Norwegian bass supremo Arild Andersen. Tracks on the new album are thought to include ‘Black & Tan Fantasy’, ‘Concerto for Cootie’, ‘Harlem Airshaft’, ‘The Single Petal of a Rose’, and movements from ‘The Queenʼs Suite’, plus the Ellington Strayhorn jazz adaptation of Edvard Griegʼs ‘Peer Gynt Suite’. Soloists on the album include pianist Brian Kellock, trumpeters Tom MacNiven and Ryan Quigley, alto saxophonist Ru Pattison, and director Tommy Smith on saxophone adopting the role of Paul Gonsalves on the Ellingtonian’s celebrated Newport crowdstealer, ‘Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.’ SG
In the Spirit of Duke is released on 13 March. Members of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Tommy Smith pictured top. Upcoming SNJO dates with guest trumpeter Paolo Fresu are Caird Hall, Dundee, 21 February; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 22 Feb; Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow, 23 Feb; and Macrobert, Stirling, 24 Feb
The input of the music of the Cape Verde islands in jazz, particularly as it appears indirectly within the music of Horace Silver and more directly with the late Cesária Évora, is considerable, and Souza, who’s in her early thirties from Lisbon of Cape Verdean descent is another part of the stream merging local folkloric musics and jazz. Released in France as long ago as September the new album comes out in the UK next month. Called Kachupada, after a well loved Cape Verdean dish, Souza is certainly not brand new, but fairly unknown to jazz audiences in the UK, although world music fans know of her here more but she has mutual appeal it’s clear. A decade ago the singer whose voice has a lingering contralto lilt was first working with the producer bassist Theo Pas’cal and she debuted in 2003 with an album that mixed Creole, African and Cape Verdean rhythms. Poppy at times, but not as light as a singer such as Luisa Sobral, on the new album Souza lets loose some lively vocalese on tracks such as ‘Tchega’, and there are jazz standards such as ‘Donna Lee’ and ‘My Favourite Things’ here sparkily handled, with a sympathetic band varying in size as the album tracks demand. So, a laidback sound with plenty of jazz textures (fine instrumental solos for instance saxophonist Guto Lucena’s on ‘Terra Sab’ [‘Amazing Land’]), along with pleasurable rhythms in abundance, although saudade is never far away. SG
Following news earlier this week that Liane Carroll is to headline the new Brilliant Corners festival in March, the following month, it’s now understood, will see the latest album to be released by the award winning singer who is also touring heavily in the spring. Titled, quite simply, Ballads, it’s the classic jazz singer’s latest for Quiet Money Recordings, trumpeter James McMillan’s label, who returns to produce Liane once more following their work together on Up and Down released two years ago. This new album features arrangements by Chris Walden whose work includes Paul McCartney’s 2012 album, Kisses on the Bottom.
Ballads tracks include ‘Here’s To Life’, featuring Carroll’s powerful vocals along with classical guitar and celeste; ‘Goodbye’ with a Walden orchestration and Mark Edwards on piano; a big band take on ‘Only The Lonely’ (not the Roy Orbison song, the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen torch song closely identified with Frank Sinatra); ‘Mad About The Boy’ with an appearance by pianist Gwilym Simcock; jazz standard ‘You’ve Changed’; Todd Rundgren’s ‘Pretending To Care’ featuring the bass clarinet of Julian Siegel; ‘Calgary Bay’ by songwriter Sophie Bancroft; a strong reading of ‘My One and Only Love’; ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ with acoustic guitar and the saxophone of Kirk Whalum who worked with Liane on Up and Down; ‘The Two Lonely People’; and the Buddy Holly associated song ‘Raining in My Heart’. Stephen Graham
Liane Carroll pictured top, and the album’s cover. Ballads is released on 15 April
Muddy Waters’ son, bluesman Mud Morganfield, and a debuting Champian Fulton, are two highlights of this year’s Fife Jazz Festival fast approaching. New York-based singer Fulton is appearing with her trio. Also for Fife in 2013 are The Norrbotten Big Band, Carla Cook, Graeme Stephen, Erja Lyytinen, The Nimmo Brothers, Red Stripe, Dan Block, Eric Alexander, Tim Kliphuis, Brian Kellock, and David Blenkhorn. This weekend festival runs from 1-3 February, and concerts are spread across the kingdom of Fife in cities and towns from Anstruther to Auchtermuchty, with main concerts in Dunfermline, Glenrothes and St Andrews. SG
Above Mud Morganfield, and right Champian Fulton. For the full programme click http://www.fifejazzfestival.com/2013-programme.html
The Hillside Mechanisms
Roland Ramanan, the trumpeter son of the influential West Indian trumpeter and poet Shake Keane to whom he paid tribute on the 2002 Emanem album Shaken, has with this trio record laid down a substantial footprint all of his own. Vole, on the record that’s Ramanan, guitarist/electronicist Roberto Sassi, and drummer Javier Carmona, in their band name sound as if they collect together as one small creature, but the album artwork with its mechanical drawings makes one think not of a small being but instead of a futuristic machine as the artwork has some extraordinary cylindrical apparatus depicted in diagram form. Ramanan, who is also known for his longstanding work with the London Improvisers Orchestra, as well as his bands Swift and Wooden Tops, was inspired early in his career by the drummer and educator John Stevens at a Search and Reflect workshop. In the album note to this Babel records release, one of the distinguished label’s finest, speaking of the Hillside in the title Ramanan refers to the road where the “laboratory” of drummer Carmona’s house has acted as a hub for musicians such as himself and guitarist Sassi, who has also created the artwork, “passing through”. What they concocted musically via this meeting of minds was to draw on pure improvisation and composed music. Ramanan, speaking further of “interesting interlocking rhythm structures as well as a certain gritty edge to it”, has an appealing tone, a little reminiscent of Don Cherry’s but also with the wildness of the European avant garde, say early Enrico Rava. There’s also a tenderness on a tune such as ‘No Knees’ that says hit the replay. An album that’s both free jazz and improv (sometimes it’s easy to say one or the other, harder to claim both), and to my mind this doubling indicates width and vision in both performance and improvisational approach. Co-operatively written the eight tracks with the unobtrusive electronic textures on ‘Tim’s Frosties’ just one of the ways the music manifests itself, the exploratory forays of Ramanan’s here and on other tracks, and prevailing drums, a little like the Sunny Murray approach, add up to an excellent album.
The Shearing Hour launches at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Thursday. It’s a solo piano hour beginning at 7.15, ahead of singer Clare Teal’s return to the club later in the evening. The first Shearing Hour, named after the great pianist and composer George Shearing, features a set from pianist John Turville whose trio album Conception was released in the autumn by F-IRE Records. The winner of a Parliamentary Jazz Award for best album in 2011 Turville’s debut Midas turned heads on release gaining a profile for the pianist and composer part of the burgeoning Walthamstow scene. On Conception, he was joined by Jamie Cullum bassist Chris Hill and drummer Ben Reynolds plus cellist Eduardo Vassallo on some tracks. The album highlight turned out to be its title track ‘Conception’, the George Shearing bop original arranged sympathetically by Turville.
The Shearing Hour with its theme of ‘September in the Rain’ has never been a better time to recall Sir George Shearing who died on Valentine’s day in 2011 at the age of 91. Famed for ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, the 1952 theme that was written for the original New York jazz club Birdland, Shearing was a hero of the beats and in On the Road Jack Kerouac writes: “Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. ‘God’s empty chair,’ he said. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure. It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night.” Shearing who was blind was born in Battersea and after learning piano at the Linden Lodge school for the blind became a pub pianist in Lambeth, and after a break began recording for BBC radio in the late-1930s. He joined a band led by Harry Parry and won Melody Maker awards before two years after the war emigrating to the United States where he made a name for himself playing at New York night spot the Hickory House with the Oscar Pettiford Trio. Later he recorded for Capitol (famously with Nat King Cole one of several revered albums for the label), among other record companies. His quintet with vibes player Margie Hyams, guitarist Chuck Wayne, bassist John Levy and drummer Denzil Best recorded the best selling ‘September in the Rain’ for MGM and the quintet with different personnels ran intermittently until the late-1970s. The Shearing Hour, put together by Marlbank in association with Pizza Express Jazz Club, is a celebration of the great man’s music and an introduction to the fine talent of John Turville.
John Turville top and Sir George Shearing above. pizzaexpresslive.co.uk Visit the Shearing Hour on Pinterest for clips and photos http://pinterest.com/shearinghour/the-shearing-hour
Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins are part of the line-up of the first Brilliant Corners jazz festival, to be held in Belfast from 21-23 March at the MAC, the Black Box and the Belfast Barge. Taking place in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, the three-day festival, which draws its name from the classic 1957 Thelonious Monk Riverside album, is promoted by leading Northern Ireland producer Moving on Music.
Director Brian Carson says: “Many of today’s more popular music forms take direct influence from jazz and there seems to be a real movement at the moment. Jazz has had a bit of an image problem in recent years, which is definitely changing. We’re seeing a whole new audience coming to our events throughout the year, and an extremely talented group of new musicians emerging. It’s an exciting time.” The line-up is: Continuous Battle Of Order, Decoy (Thursday 21 March, Black Box); Meilana Gillard’s Fine Print (21 March, Barge); Ellington in Anticipation (21 March, MAC); David Lyttle and Interlude (Friday 22 March, Black Box); Ronnie Greer Blues Trio (22 March, Barge); Steve Davis’ Human (22 March, MAC); Arthur Kell (Saturday 23 March, Barge); and Liane Carroll (23 March, MAC). Stephen Graham
David Lyttle top right, to play the Black Box at Brilliant Corners, and Liane Carroll headlining at the MAC on the Saturday night
Concert in Athens
ECM New Series ***
With a considerable body of work for ECM already in the catalogue, this Athens concert hall performance of music by the distinguished veteran film, theatre and TV composer Eleni Karaindrou recorded in 2010 begins somewhat glacially with saxophonist Jan Garbarek a slightly masked presence at first. Slowly its treasure unfolds as the strings draw out the tender theme. Along with other guests, celebrated viola player Kim Kashkashian and oboist Vangelis Christopoulos with Karaindrou on piano, this chamber music album, utilising a small band of musicians and the Camerata Friends of Music Orchestra conducted by Alexandros Myrat, takes in music written for the films of the late Theo Angelopoulos, with whom Karaindrou is strongly associated, as well as music for the theatre including American classics Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Death of a Salesman. ‘Requiem for Willie Loman’, the tragic hero of Arthur Miller’s great play, and the very theme captured so well by Garbarek, and reprised at the end of the album once more, is the sort of work that the composer must have had to keep a brave face writing. You’d need to be made of flint not to be moved by this album highlight as it unfolds so unflinchingly and returns so effectively at the album’s conclusion. So, superior arthouse mood music as a whole, with a serious disposition the meditational footprint of which is often tellingly felt. SG
Released on 11 February
A Childhood Suite
In Dominic Alldis’s latest trio album A Childhood Suite for jazz piano trio and orchestra, the pianist, arranger, and composer explains he is “always looking for melodic material with which to inspire new creative projects.” He had realized at an earlier point that the simplicity of nursery rhymes allowed for great variation and instant recognition, and earlier album Songs We Heard (with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh) first drew on the idea of a trio improvising on nursery rhymes from around the world. This new release reworks more than a dozen of these arrangements, adding a string section and containing an Alldis original. With the pianist are modern-mainstream bassist Andrew Cleyndert, and Spin Marvel drummer Martin France, whose trio work with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson has been justly praised. Beautifully recorded at Menuhin Hall, A Childhood Suite, has a simplicity and sincerity rare these days in the hustle and bustle of the record industry demanding a certain crash, bang, wallop approach. You many have come across Bruno Heinen’s Dialogues trio record Twinkle Twinkle last year, when the pianist put ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ under the microscope as Mozart did in a different time and fashion, and as Alldis does here. But think of A Childhood Suite as a broader sweep, beyond jazz although of it in the same way as the album draws on classical music, with a soft soothing touch more like a finely constructed harmonic reverie than a more inquisitive foray at the raw materials of the musical themes. ‘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.’ Stephen Graham
The Dominic Alldis trio pictured above
Last year was like a dream for Roller Trio, and it wasn’t just that they picked up nods from the Mercury and MOBO prize panjandrums or surprise discombobulated indie scenesters at the Roundhouse. It was also a good year for the F-IRE label whose vicarious pleasure in their band’s success was palpable.
This year, once the snow has melted, is about touring and while the northern outfit is not returning to Milo’s in Leeds where the fuse was lit at least on YouTube where you’ll see them play ‘The Nail That Stands Up’, Roller Trio are appearing not far away at the Venue in Leeds College of Music, the very college where the band first met. Super educated young jazz polite boys and girls who haven’t heard them so far can catch the band there should they venture out or at a jazz spot around and about. Dates are: The Lescar, Sheffield (30 January); Kings Place, London (2 February); King Tut’s, Glasgow (23 Feb); Capstone Theatre, Liverpool (28 Feb); Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich (7 March); Vibraphonic Festival, Exeter (14 March); Venue, Leeds (22 March); Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham (6 May); and Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, on 29 May. SG
The Venue, Leeds College of Music top where Roller trio above, right play in March
The James Taylor Quartet are to release their latest album Closer to the Moon an album that suggests a broadening of scope for the Jimmy Smith-influenced Hammond organ-led acid jazz era band as the album planned for a 6 May release is to bristle with added celeste, vibes, harp, zither, gong, glockenspiel, and apparently even tubular bells. Hammond man Taylor who fronts the longstanding outfit also takes a lead vocal on ‘Close To You’, a definite departure. JTQ touring dates before the album release include a return to Ronnie Scott’s, London appearing with the Nick Smart Horns and singer Yvonne Yanney from 20-23 March; then the Donkey in Leicester on 6 April; Guildhall, Portsmouth (12 April); and Assembly Hall, Islington, London for two nights on 3-4 May just ahead of Closer to the Moon album day. SG
James Taylor, above
In the National Theatre foyer earlier, and returning later this afternoon for a further 90-minute set, singer Aimua Eghobamien’s Indigo Sessions took the chill off a wintry day on the Southbank with a fine mix of songs subtly delivered. Featuring two double bassists Jerome Davies and Oli Hayhurst joining Eghobamien and The Face of Mount Molehill violinist Julian Ferraretto the set opened with a poised, downtempo reading of the 1920s Irving Berlin standard ‘Blue Skies’ , but the highlight was perhaps Randy Newman’s ‘Same Girl’ from the singer/songwriter’s Trouble in Paradise album released 30 years ago this month, with a lyric close enough to indigo just like the opening Berlin song, the ‘Same Girl’ lyric effortlessly captured by Eghobamien’s bass baritone: ‘With the same sweet smile that you always had/And the same blue eyes like the sun’, performed with a suitably languid jazz connotation. SG
Indigo Sessions above continue at 5.45
Who Is Afraid of Richard W.?
With a Wagner connection, both albums, despite one playfully equipped with a question mark, find solutions to a problem that doesn’t really exist. If anyone wants to cover classical material even by a hideously divisive figure such as Wagner, then there really isn’t anything new or necessarily interesting in this. After all since Jacques Loussier’s interpreting of Bach, or classical composers from Milhaud on incorporating jazz into their compositional approach, it’s not a live issue. Bassist Ilg, who knows his Verdi as well as his Wagner, performs his Parsifal with the trio of pianist Rainer Böhm and drummer Patrice Héral with respect and gentleness, and it corresponds to the orthodox modern jazz piano style that’s not dissimilar to the tasteful approach of the Benedikt Jahnel Trio indicated on Equilibrium, although there is some fulfilling Ilg Trio improvising on tracks such as ‘Ich bin ein reiner Tor’, as any “fool” might discover. There’s some familiar Beethoven tucked in as well at the end.
Ilg offers variations on Wagner in essence but [em] drummer Schaefer’s album is “revisiting”, and despite the loaded terminology has more impact, flavoured by the superb pristine trumpet and flugel tone and interpretative subtlety of Tom Arthurs who you’ll also hear on the upcoming Julia Hülsmann quartet album. It’s not as conventional as Ilg’s, with bits of reggae on his own tune ‘Nietzsche in Disguise’ for instance, and Volker Meitz’s steamy organ intro to ‘Lohengrin’ is an inventive touch that does work especially when Arthurs builds a solo from its marshy base. Bassist John Eckhardt is also clearly a name to watch. If you liked Schaefer’s groove on ‘Das Modell’ on Wasted and Wanted you’ll want to hear what he does on this album from a drumming point of view, but the overall concept of both albums is more of a burden than a plus.
Both albums are released on 11 February. Dieter Ilg, top, and the cover of Who Is Afraid of Richard W.?
Francesc Marco (on accordion) and Fred Thomas set up as bassist Jiri Slavik looks on at the soundcheck before last night’s Fly Agaric gig at the Vortex in Dalston. Joined by fourth member, reedsman Zac Gvi, later to complete their set-up the F-IRE Collective band went on to perform selections from their new album for the label, In Search of Soma. Opening with ‘Closely Observed Trains’, which takes its name from an influential 1966 Czech film, three of the band curiously donned bright red “mushroom hats”, a link to the fungus-loving outfit’s name. Later tunes included a trenchant juxtaposition of a discredited speech of Nicolas Sarkozy’s with a puckishly Mingusian groove on ‘Travailler plus pour gagner plus’; a brand new song translated as ‘Wicked’ in English, charismatic frontman Gvi explained with a laugh; and the pleasantly tricksy ‘It takes one two, no’, surely a soundcheck special at least in spirit. Marco on piano added some great stride touches towards the end while Gvi channelled his inner Prez. SG
Lunchtime today sees the beginning of a major solo piano tour by Robert Mitchell, during which his latest album The Glimpse will be released. A solo feature for left hand only its dozen tracks contain some of the most unusual piano music you’ll hear this year. In the notes to the Whirlwind Records release Mitchell talks of the challenge of undertaking the project in the first place. “I don’t believe,” he says, “there has been anywhere near enough recording to address what I think is a strongly valid form of piano music – that made by the left hand alone. And the insisting that improvisation play a part, also takes this to a rare, but intensely interesting place for me.” Initially drawn to the idea by writing for a classical piano event, the title track Mitchell says integrates the “different pathways and possibilities” that the task could take him to. The pianist, who received acclaim for his earlier less unconventional piano solo album Equinox released in 2007 cites classical piano history specifically Zichy, Wittgenstein and Godowsky in terms of left hand-only playing, with jazz connections encompassing the music of Phineas Newborn Jr and Kenny Drew among others. On The Glimpse recorded at the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool last summer Mitchell has composed all the music except for classical composer Frederico Mompou’s ‘Prelude No 6’, which trumpeter Byron Wallen had alerted Mitchell to, and ‘Nocturne for the Left hand Alone’ by American pianist Fred Hersch, a “modern classic”, Mitchell says of it. This new album certainly makes me for one think of solo piano a little differently, as it’s like looking at a familiar building from a different angle and in so doing finding detail hitherto neglected or taken for granted. It’s about an altered reality for sure. Track six ‘The Sage’ in only five minutes and nineteen seconds the composition has a cinematic reach within this small time that is very remarkable. Rhapsodic, the restriction imposed by playing left hand only is not a barrier in the least, although as elsewhere on the album sometimes there is a feeling that it’s a bass player’s record! An innovative album then, don’t assume a thing.
The tour begins with a Royal Festival Hall foyer concert at 1pm
See www.robertmitchellmusic.com for further tour dates. The Glimpse is released on 18 February. Robert Mitchell, above
Vinyl specialist label Gearbox is to release a new Mark Murphy record, a vinyl EP tribute to Shirley Horn recorded in the US as recently as November. Songs include a fine version of ‘But Beautiful’, although full track listings are still to be confirmed. As previously indicated, the label is also partnering with Cardiff indie Edition to bring out Mirrors on heavy vinyl with an imminent release date. This is the new Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and London Vocal Project album, and also working with Edition Gearbox will issue the flute-flavoured marvel, as early listens more than suggest, of Birds by young Norwegian heavyweight saxophonist Marius Neset of Golden Xplosion renown. Gearbox is also issuing a new vinyl LP by esteemed Tubbyologist, tenor saxophonist Simon Spillett and his quartet of double bassist Alec Dankworth, pianist John Critchinson and drummer Clark Tracey. The label is also putting out a vinyl EP by young singer/songwriter Sasha Siem. Gearbox will also release a limited edition Pete Brown and Michael Horovitz jazz poetry vinyl box set to be ready for 20 April, UK Record Store Day, and the label is also planning to embark on the release of a series of previously unreleased live recordings from Ronnie Scott’s in the 1960s, featuring, among others, Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard.
Mark Murphy, top
More on Gearbox http://marlbank.tumblr.com/post/37899157492/2678
The Mingus Big Band’s Lauren Sevian, Jazz Jamaica All Stars’ Teresina Morra, and Céline Bonacina are just three of a new wave of young female baritone saxophone players to make an impression on the overwhelmingly male-dominated jazz band reed section scene in recent years. Now Bonacina, who in 2011 was part of the first wave of mentoring programme Take Five Europe, the Serious-backed initiative that spread out from a British base, returns with her latest album Open Heart. Bonacina began in Paris big bands during the late-1990s, and later made the unusual move to Réunion before returning to France to release her debut, Vue d’en haut. Released on 11 February, Open Heart sees ACT records keeping faith after the fine baritone stylist who plays in a Harry Carney-meets-John Surman way, won plaudits for her initial album for the label Way of Life and a nomination for a Victoire du Jazz award. On the new album it’s her playing that does the talking as the lively burbling momentum and spirit at work throughout goes some way to underline. With a trio featuring electric bassist Kevin Reveyrand and drummer Hary Ratsimbazafy, guests include former Miles Davis percussionist Mino Cinelu on a dozen-track set that also folds in a bonus live track featuring Michael Wollny, all more than going to show the bari player’s considerable mettle. SG
Céline Bonacina, top
Composer Adrian Johnston’s music for the Louis Lester Band, the fictional 1930s black British jazz band whose story is told in upcoming drama series Dancing on the Edge, has now been confirmed for release. The BBC2 drama written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff features original music by Johnston, a long time musical associate of Poliakoff’s. For this new collaboration they are in unchartered jazz, and, specifically Ellingtonian, territory. The soundtrack leads off with the ‘hit’ song for the band, ‘Dancing on the Moon’, followed by catchy ‘Dead of Night Express’, ‘Downtown Uptempo’ and ‘Lovelorn Blues’, while Duke’s ‘jungle’ period is conjured in ‘Dowager’s Delight’ written as the theme for Lady Cremone, played by the great screen actress Jacqueline Bisset making a rare appearance in a British television drama. There’s jaunty piano, and superb trumpet from jazzmen Jay Phelps and Chris Storr on this tune, representing a transitional phase in the plot of the mystery, one of the standouts, along with the medium-slow ‘Big Ben Blues’, and ‘Lead Me On’.
The vocalists who join the Louis Lester band, with the hero of the piece pianist/bandleader Lester, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (pictured on the CD cover), making its unprecedented way in the high society circles of the day, are Jessie played by Angel Coulby, and Carla (Wunmi Mosaku), with Jessie recalling the style of Ellington singer Ivie Anderson vocally, and Carla a little bit more like Adelaide Hall. The digital edition has extra tracks including the gospel version of ‘Lead Me On.’
The Louis Lester band’s singers, Carla (Wunmi Mosaku, top, on the left), and Jessie (Angel Coulby). Above right the CD cover of the original soundtrack of Dancing on the Edge performed by the Louis Lester Band. The soundtrack is released by Decca on 28 January. The first episode of Dancing on the Edge is now scheduled for Monday 4 February, beginning at 9pm. Read the February issue of Jazzwise for insights from the director
Tenor-of-our-times Chris Potter on his ECM debut as leader has come up with something very special indeed, make no mistake, on The Sirens (*****). Released in just under a fortnight, on 28 January, the album has a Homeric conceit, like streets in close proximity can be named after peaks in the same mountain range, so the tracks on this record have titles to match the legendary tale. You’re also by association supposed to say it is epic! Or heroic! In terms of technique it’s not just that Potter handles the saxophone like a rancher is able to tame the wildest horse; he can also charm, coax and caress.
It’s all about expression on The Sirens, and like a theatre play that suddenly makes you feel frightened, or anxious to know how the drama is resolved, whether it’s going to be happy, sad, or even tragic, the narrative of each tune manages this as well. The serious yet unpretentious tunes he’s written resemble the way Potter stands on stage in a club before he plays, looking ahead, presenting himself, at ease with what they call the fourth wall, although as improvisation gains traction he’s oblivious to it. Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland is at the kit and it’s a maelstrom of ideas he brings to the session, the way say Nasheet Waits can burn on a Jason Moran record, with Harland’s own customised input.
There is a tenderness at play that Potter is expert at, maybe the best interpreter of a ballad since, in a different idiom, Stan Getz. Larry Grenadier on bass sounds different here than the way he plays with Brad Mehldau, he’s actually sounding more like he does with Fly. As for brilliant pianist Craig Taborn, well he’s less abstract than he usually is say on a song like ‘Kalypso’ and he rows in to meet Potter somewhere close to a Monk sound after his solo here. The other pianist, David Virelles, is on hand with the role of adding prepared piano sounds, celeste and harmonium, so that’s a twist in the arranging and it gives the album a distinctiveness without being gimmicky. The title track, opening with Potter on bass clarinet, and the very moody and sensual seascape-like accompaniment then opens out to transport us the listeners into the middle of a dream. When was the last time a song did that? Chicago-born Potter, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on New Year’s Day, has been playing beautifully of late and in the Unity Band last year with Pat Metheny showed just one more aspect of what he can do. There’s something magical in the water with this release, an element as mysterious, dangerous, and vital as the best music.
Chris Potter top
Early next month leading improv percussionist Mark Sanders, and the Steve Tromans Trio, led by pianist Tromans with bassist Chris Mapp and drummer Miles Levin, are to travel to the US as part of an exchange between the cities of Birmingham and Chicago. It’s an initiative of Town Hall and Symphony Hall’s Jazzlines programme, in collaboration with Umbrella Music Chicago. The Birmingham musicians will spend a week in Chicago performing and rehearsing with locally-based musicians in a city renowned for innovation in improv. They will be playing gigs at the Hideout in a double bill, with the Tromans trio joined by an avatar of Chicago improv, reedsman Ken Vandermark, plus Mark Sanders and Jason Adasiewicz in duo on Wednesday 6 February. All four Birmingham musicians then hook up to perform with Dave Rempis, James Falzone and Josh Berman in small and large groupings at The Elastic Arts Center the following day, which leads to two days in rehearsal of a new Steve Tromans octet commission involving all the players. The piece will then be performed at the Hungry Brain on Sunday 10 February. SG
Mark Sanders above
Lineage made their London debut in Hideaway at the weekend. Only their second gig ever, the Streatham club had a busy Saturday night feel, as sleet fell softly outside.
With a front line of trumpeter Byron Wallen, and saxophonist Tony Kofi concentrating on alto saxophone and soprano sax, with a rhythm section of fine Mulgrew Miller-influenced pianist Trevor Watkis, bassist Larry Bartley, fresh from a date with Skydive at the 606 on Wednesday, and UK-based American drummer Rod Youngs, like Bartley and Kofi, a member of the great Abdullah Ibrahim’s band Ekaya.
The Collins Dictionary defines the word ‘Lineage’ as meaning in one primary sense “direct descent from an ancestor, especially a line of descendants from one ancestor”, and both as a diaspora band united in shared musical and cultural approaches, and as stylistic descendants of some of the giants of jazz from the hard bop years and their modern day counterparts, the band succeeds on both fronts as it does on its own terms as top class players. It’s also a meeting of old musical friends, as for instance Kofi and Wallen go way back to the heyday of 1990s hard bop band Nu Troop, and you can tell when two instrumentalists have a close understanding as they know each other’s moves and can read each other’s direction beyond the letter of the closely arranged often intricate material as here. Kofi said he couldn’t think of anyone better to play the trumpet part on his ballad ‘A Song For Papa Jack’, which appeared on Kofi’s acclaimed 2006 album Future Passed, the song dedicated to Tony’s father who died 15 years ago, and Wallen played it beautifully.
Talking to the audience later in the set Wallen made the astute comment: “Music is about relationships”. And that’s something audiences and musicians neglect to remember sometimes, but this band doesn’t in the broader sense even for one moment. Bookended by Woody Shaw tunes, opening with ‘Sweet Love of Mine’ and culminating at the end of the first set in Shaw’s classic mover, ‘Moontrane’ (Byron explained the title by saying amusingly: “Woody Shaw had a dream of Coltrane riding a bicycle on the moon”). Other set highlights were Tony Williams’ ‘Citadel’, heard on the much missed drummer’s 1980s Blue Note quintet album Civilization, here featuring Trevor Watkis on fine form as he was throughout, especially later on his own tune ‘With Substance’, which featured Larry Bartley and the deep throb of his bass was captured accurately by the club sound system, while Youngs’ cymbals were crisp and clear in the body of the big room. This band just has to be heard.
The Hideaway audience top relaxes before Lineage above make their London debut
The Legend of Mike Smith
Soweto Kinch Productions **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT RECOMMENDED
When Conversations with the Unseen came out in 2003, everyone on the British jazz scene just had to stand back and take note. After all a young player, a complete unknown then, had somehow come up with something that immediately ranked him as a significant player who in time I suppose will be thought of as one of the greatest alto saxophone players this country has ever produced. And his skills were picked up internationally as well, with Kinch collecting international plaudits at the Montreux Jazz Festival winning a hotly contested saxophone award, while going on to develop his dual saxophone/rapping concept to move him into a new space, in the process gaining the high profile backing of Wynton Marsalis. Contrast Kinch’s musical journey with another Wynton protégé of the time, the blisteringly impressive Italian Francesco Cafiso, a more conventional if equally celebrated saxophonist, who has taken a different more orthodox path. When Kinch won the Peter Whittingham award back in the UK he used the money to fund the much sought-after single ‘Jazz Planet’, a catchy rap about an imagined topsy turvy world where jazz is the commercial music, and rock is the art music that no one really listens to. It’s amusing but makes its point felt. Kinch was underlining his ability as a lyrics man and a freestyler, at concerts often asking audience members to lob words (often very difficult rarely heard fiendishly polysyllabic ones) to build an impromptu rap.
Concept album A Life In The Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block, his Birmingham album, was not so much of a success despite some good ideas, and was a bit of a curate’s egg, good in parts, but changing label and settling down into a better groove as his artistic direction changed The New Emancipation released in 2010 saw Kinch assert himself fully again and was met with positive reviews.
The Legend of Mike Smith is once more a concept release, this time a double album built around the idea of the seven deadly sins with many short tracks spread over the two CDs, lots of humour, and role playing featuring characters that include Soweto speaking as his inner voice, his brother Toyin Omari-Kinch as album hero Smith, and skits plus full blown instrumental burn outs. Mike Smith is a hopeful MC looking for a deal but he has everyman qualities and faces everyman temptations, trials and tribulations.
The core band is Kinch with Karl Rasheed-Abel on bass and Graham Godfrey drums with Kinch inviting in many guests to either speak, act, sing, or play. Tessa Walker is perfect as the blasé record company A&R Kate Advo for instance and the best musical cameos include one from Jay Phelps on the ballad ‘Vacuum’ set against an elegiac piano line from Julian Joseph, with Kinch playing a kind of tough guy romantic on alto sax. Kinch also plays quite a bit of tenor sax on the album, an instrument he’s less associated with. Cleveland Watkiss appears on ‘Avaritia’, with its baroque liturgical undertow, in one sense a scaldingly anti-capitalist protest song critical of the excesses of a violent society obsessed obscenely with profit. It’s also a post English-riots London fable, the city as Mammon, but also the place where as urban people we live, an engine of greed. That song leads on to the Sons of Kemet-influenced ‘Slam’ with Shabaka Hutchings duelling against Soweto as the two master reedsmen go head to head. It’s wonderful stuff the pair riffing against neat harmonies with Godrey coming into his own hard at the kit. There’s lots more on this superb double album, funny little songs such as the fast food restaurant parody ‘Gula’ and its companion ‘Escape the Vomatorium’ and a certain historic time shuffling stepping back centuries before The Pharcyde via beats, baroque classical music programming, and a Milton-esque narrative sense. And what’s that rattling Mr Benn-type marimba-sounding moment on ‘Gula’, old TV music, lost in the ‘vomatorium’, possibly, as well? Finally, listen out for Eska Mtungwazi on the well crafted song-of-the-spurned, ‘Better off Alone’, on the second disc. There’s no getting away from it: The Legend of Mike Smith is a triumph.
Released on 18 February. Soweto Kinch and friends top, with the cover of The Legend… above
In the studio with Empirical at the moment, bassist Tom Farmer can be heard on the talented guitarist Ant Law’s upcoming new album, Entanglement (***1/2), to be released on 33 records next month coinciding with a substantial tour. The former Edinburgh university and Berklee student, turned session player, makes his debut as leader at last with this album. With Farmer and Law, Kit Downes Quintet drummer James Maddren hitches up too and interestingly-vinegary former Round Trip saxophonist Michael Chillingworth plus pianist John Turville make up the complete band. Law equates improvising in the album title with quantum entanglement, when particles interact, apparently, but don’t let that put you off, as the improvising here is anything but coldly quantifiable. Law is deeply interested in the concept of a perfect fourths tuning system (tuning the low string to Eb allowing constant intervals between the strings) and is a published author on the subject, but combines the rigour of his academic thinking with instinctive playing of a high order here. His tunes have a holistic feel as the Binney-like Chillingworth runs take hold of the music in breakaway sections displaying well developed improvisational teeth. Not sure about some of the song titles (the otherwise engrossing ‘Entanglement 1 – Janus and Epimetheus’ is a bit of a tongue twister), but the playing is impressive throughout, and Maddren sounds as if he’s enjoying himself, as does the always switched-on Farmer. All the compositions are Law’s except for Trane’s ‘Satellite’, the sixth of the nine tracks. Hear Law’s band touring as a quartet on tour next month at Milestones, Hotel Hatfield, Lowestoft (3 February); Jazz Nursery, London SE1 (7 Feb); Jazz at St John’s, St John’s college, Cambridge (15 Feb); the Cellar, Southampton (18 Feb); Dempsey’s Cardiff (19 Feb); Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Birmingham (26 Feb); Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (27 Feb); and Art Club, Glasgow (28), with more dates in March and April. SG
Ant Law above
Empirical are to enter the recording studio on Friday for the first session of a recording stint that will see the award winning post-hardbop band laying down tracks for their latest album for the Naim label joined by a string section. Empirical late last year performed brand new material with the Benyounes Quartet at the London Jazz Festival, some of which is destined for the album, and they join them in the London studio for the session. Benyounes are an ensemble formed six years ago at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and find themselves with a key Brit-jazz band that made a huge impact when it appeared fully formed out of nowhere, as it seemed at the time, for a multi award-winning self titled debut album produced by Courtney Pine for his label Destin-e back in 2007. The band won both Jazzwise and Mojo album of the year, and has since gone on to build on its reputation recording for the Naim label.
The band’s alto saxophonist and co-founder, Nathaniel Facey, was in action last night playing quite superbly with new vocal star in the making singer-pianist Theo Jackson at the 606 club in Chelsea. Facey has been nominated in the UK instrumentalist of the year category of the inaugural Jazz FM Awards that take place at the end of January. The set’s standout was easily ‘A Bitter End For A Tender Giant’ with Facey in duo with Jackson. Facey also showed great poise and finely honed interpretative ability on Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Afro Blue’ near the beginning. ‘A Bitter End…’ composed by the saxophonist first appeared on Empirical’s acclaimed 2009 album Out ’n’ In, Facey’s evocative and unsentimental tribute to Eric Dolphy, who died young after his diabetes condition was left untreated at a Berlin hospital in 1964 on the erroneous assumption by doctors that Dolphy was a drug addict.
The duo setting was complemented by band performances featuring the Oxford-based singer joined by the Ahmad Jamal-influenced rising star, the 19-year-old Reuben James, who took to the piano stool for a bunch of numbers when Jackson sang, joining Facey, Jackson band bassist Shane Alessio and drummer Jason Reeve. Reuben James has been touring as a member of Jay Phelps’ quartet recently, the trumpeter who played so memorably on Empirical’s debut album, and who will shortly be seen playing the part of a fictional 1930s trumpeter in Stephen Poliakoff’s television drama Dancing on the Edge as a member of the Louis Lester Band. Empirical are touring following the recording sessions and should be on firing form. Catch them at the Terry O’Toole Theatre, Lincoln on 24 January; Hidden Rooms Cambridge 25 Jan; Pizza Express Jazz Club, London on 4 February; Seven Arts, Leeds, 7 February; and Millennium Hall, Sheffield, on 8 February. Naim say they’re aiming for an August album release.
Nathaniel Facey, pictured with Shane Alessio, at the 606, London, above
The line-up for next month’s 12 Points festival in Dublin has been announced. The bands, with related links are: OKO from Ireland http://breakingtunes.com/oko ; Sarah Buechi’s THALi from Switzerland http://www.sarahbuechi.com/pages/projects.html ; the Enrico Zanisi Trio from Italy http://www.enricozanisi.com ; Nikolas Anadolis from Greece http://nikolasjazz.com ; Cactus Truck from the Netherlands http://cactustruck.com ; Hanna Paulsberg Concept from Norway https://soundcloud.com/hannapaulsberg ; Mopo from Finland https://soundcloud.com/mopomopo ; Soil Collectors from Sweden https://soundcloud.com/soilcollectors ; Koenig Leopold from Austria http://www.koenigleopold.at/main.html ; Ozma from France http://ozma.free.fr ; Manchester’s Beats & Pieces Big Band from the UK http://beatsnpieces.net ; and the Olivia Trummer Trio from Germany http://www.oliviatrummer.de
Irish band OKO are on home territory this year after the festival’s trip to Portugal last year. This fairly new four-piece avant-folktronica band is on the radar of Matt Jacobsen’s Diatribe label, with a debut expected soon.
Swiss artist, singer Sarah Buechi’s quintet THALi, by contrast draws in world music flavours and particularly south Indian sounds to their jazz mantle inspired partly by Buechi’s studies in Bangalore.
The Italian band coming to 12 Points is a romantic piano trio, led by the multi-award winning pianist Enrico Zanisi, whose album Quasi Troppo Serio (‘Almost Too Serious’) has been issued to no small acclaim by leading Italian jazz indie label Egea.
Greek pianist Nikolas Anadolis, from the beautiful northern city of Thessaloniki, is another keyboards high flier, a player who won the Martial Solal piano competition in Paris two years ago, while Amsterdam sax/guitar/drums trio Cactus Truck, not long back from a tour of the States, should shake things up with their rumbustious free jazz and noisenik flavours.
The sax-led Norwegian band Hanna Paulsberg Concept only came together in 2010 but picked up a major accolade the following year by winning the Young Nordic Jazz Comets in Stockholm, the contest kudos always a strong indicator of a band on the rise. Their dreamy debut is called Waltz for Lilli.
Finns Mopo are another trio, this time with a quirky baritone saxophone attack and requisite free thinking attitude. Only around since 2009 they have a distinctive approach that could well make them ones to watch closely this year.
Another big hope is Swedish alternative impro-rock band Soil Collectors who have already toured widely, combining as they do in somewhat mysterious fashion, voice, electronica, and percussion to captivating effect, their signature sound infused with a Nordic sense of noir and littered with found sounds, one that is both vogueish, and also winningly atmospheric.
Austrian jokers-in-the-pack Koenig Leopold (taking their names from the surname of the band’s Lukas König, and part of bandmate Leo Riegler’s first name), summons dada, Zappa, and Monty Python with spectacular results served up over some characteristically reheated energy-laden beats.
French four piece prog jazz outfit Ozma are also strongly fancied for the festival, with guitarist Adrien Dennefeld already known on the London scene for his work joining forces with Kit Downes in the “shuttle" band Barbacana and his quintet. In Ozma Dennefeld is with saxophonist David Florsche, electric bassist Edouard Séro-Guillaume and drummer Stéphane Scharlé, and Ozma released their album Peacemaker just last year.
The UK’s Beats & Pieces need little introduction to close followers of all things jazz over the last two years. Simply Ben Cottrell’s Mancunians have become the Loose Tubes of the current scene, so their appearance following the success of World Service Project last year will be keenly gauged at 12 Points in 2013.
And finally Stuttgart pianist and vocalist Olivia Trummer comes to Dublin with her trio, a chance for the Irish audience to sample this seasoned classically-influenced musician who already has a strong collection of work as a recording artist.
Taking place at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar from 13-16 February the festival has built a hard won reputation as the key early adopter’s new band showcase of choice, with a broad range of the best progressive jazz talent from across the continent. This year’s crop of bands promises to build further on past accomplishments. SG
Soil Collectors top
Unveiling his hot new band The Vigil, one of the greatest jazz musicians on the planet, pianist, keyboardist and composer Chick Corea returns to Ronnie Scott’s on 5-6 March for a tantalising two-night run.
Corea will be joined on the stage of the Frith Street jazz shrine by Tim Garland, Hadrien Feraud, Marcus Gilmore, and Charles Altura completing The Vigil. The club dates come just under 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’.
With some 16 Grammys to his name the band Corea brings in to Soho in this coup for the club features fusion bass guitarist Hadrien Feraud, best known perhaps for his work with John McLaughlin appearing on such albums with the master axeman as Industrial Zen and Floating Point, while drummer Marcus Gilmore is no stranger to UK audiences, both as a member of Steve Coleman’s Reflex and Vijay Iyer’s trio. Guitarist Charles Altura, though, is the least known of Chick’s band, but has his own happening band in the States, in action just last week on the West Coast featuring the hotshot Blue Note trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. There are two houses each night for Corea’s Ronnie Scott’s shows, a fascinating new venture by a musician ever reluctant to rest on his considerable laurels. SG
Chick Corea above. Check www.ronniescotts.co.uk on Friday for remaining tickets
Live dates have now firmed up for José James whose album No Beginning No End, is released in just under a fortnight on 21 January. Heavily trailed since October, the album may well see the jazz singer become much better known to wider audiences, but for now he will in all likelihood retain his jazz audience. No Beginining, No End (****) has an authentic retro jazzed-out soul sound, not Gregory Porter’s way, say, although both singers profess much love for the music of Nat King Cole yet come at the tradition from a different angle. Each has a very different voice, and James is more alert to the club scene, ‘club’ as in the old acid jazz rare groove sense, and with James it’s one ear to Bill Withers, one ear to Flying Lotus and all ears to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, but a touch of Gil Scott-Heron for the freestylin’ generation comes in to the picture as well.
The new album of originals opens in bedroom fashion with JJ’s lyrics on ‘It’s All Over Your Body’ with a band featuring famed ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ bassist Pino Palladino, some retro horns, Robert Glasper and Chris Daddy Dave. World-jazz singer Hindi Zahra guests memorably on the next track ‘Sword and Gun’, yet it’s ‘Trouble’ blessed with a monster groove that really impresses. The Van Morrison band’s Alistair White on trombone makes his presence felt on this JJ-penned song, written with Scott Jacoby, and ‘Vanguard’ following is also excellent, Glasper helming it on Rhodes with Daddy Dave and Pino Palladino, the latter who played very well live with Glasper at the Roundhouse in October and is an album co-producer. Emily King adds lovely subtle touches on the seductive ‘Come to my Door’, the fifth track, and she’s even better on the second of her two album tracks ‘Heaven on the Ground’, which is track six. ‘Do You Feel’ and ‘Make it Right’ passed me by a bit, but ‘Bird of Space’ didn’t, it’s a stayer, while final tracks ‘No Beginning No End’ and ‘Tomorrow’, the latter with Monk prizewinning pianist Kris Bowers an appealing harmonic presence. A record this good hardly ever comes along. It’s for jazz and the wider world. SG
Live dates are: XOYO, London (9 April); Sugar Club, Dublin (12 April); and Band on the Wall Manchester (13 April). The cover of No Beginning, No End, above
Extra dates (15/03 update): Wednesday 10 April, Wardrobe, Leeds; and 14 April at Hare & Hounds, Birmingham