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Human’s Steve Davis and sound artist Paul Stapleton next week direct a band that might well have been beamed down from Saturn, appearing as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast. The QUBe Myth-Science Space Arkestra perform the music of Sun Ra following hard on the heels of Ra-influenced Alexander Hawkins and his organ trio Decoy’s appearance at the Brilliant Corners festival in March. Davis, also a member of improv trailblazers Bourne/Davis/Kane who were announced last week as artists for the 2014 New Music Biennial, debuted with his own band Human on Being Human earlier this year to acclaim, a band and record that also includes Alexander Hawkins.  

Paul Stapleton from Southern California, now based in Belfast, designs and performs with a variety of modular metallic sound sculptures, custom made electronics, found objects and guitars, and has been lecturing at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University where he teaches and supervises postgraduate research in performance technologies, interaction design and site-specific art.

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QUBe, which riffs on the university’s name, is a 16-piece band of improvisers and experimental musicians, who take the Afro-futuristic sound of Sun Ra as their cue. Born Herman Blount in 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama, known as Sonny in his early career Graham Lock in The Wire has written: “Certainly the name Sun Ra derives from Ra, sun god of ancient Egypt, one of the poles of the Ra cosmology.” But after the keyboardist, pianist, bandleader and composer left the planet in 1993, headed presumably for Saturn, a new generation of heavily influenced improvisers refer to him these days invariably as Ra, and play his music to ever bigger audiences with deep affection.

The Sun Ra Arkestra under former Ra associate Marshall Allen continue to carry the flame playing concerts around the world, and with Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra also keeping Ra’s cosmic sounds alive over the last seven years, QUBe follow in their footsteps. For this concert they have reimagined material such as ‘Space is the Place’ (title track of the eponymous 1973 album), ‘Enlightenment’ (from 1959 album Jazz in Silhouette), as well as the devastating call and response of ‘Nuclear War’ from the 1980s album of the same name. Drawing on hip hop, New Orleans brass, lower east side experimentalism, electronica and noise, also expect unusual stage clothes and instruments, and maybe a little dancing thrown in for good measure. MB
Sun Ra top and Steve Davis above
Thursday 9 May, www.themaclive.com

Michel Camilo
What’s Up?
OKeh ****
It’s a decade since Live at the Blue Note the superlative trio album Michel Camilo recorded at the New York club, and where the pianist returns to perform for three nights from Thursday. That release justly went on to win a Grammy for best latin jazz album, but since then even though he’s released a number of albums Camilo, from the Dominican Republic who’s made a highly successful career in the United States since first moving to New York to study in the late-1970s, has dipped from view. That is until now. Returning to Sony but his first for their recently revived OKeh label, solo piano album What’s Up? is pretty special. By the time I got to the beautifully yearning ‘Sandra’s Serenade’ via the New Orleans flavours of the title track, the Jarrett-esque ‘A Place in Time’, and an unstuffy take on the overly familiar ‘Take Five’, I was well and truly hooked. I hear quite a lot of Oscar Peterson in the back story of Camilo’s sound early on here but really these are echoes to muse on, nothing more. Camilo has a lovely bespoke touch and a top-class technique that compares to Monty Alexander’s but it’s more rhapsodic in essence.

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When the son flavours really open up on ‘Island Beat’, even though the tune is crying out for congas, Camilo’s left hand compensates completely. It’s not really about volume but register, and the personality he brings to the song sections make them become like characters in a novel and together people What’s Up? It’s pretty joyous at times with rococo flourishes here and there but isn’t at all wearing. Camilo’s approach on ‘Alone Together’, the 1930s Arthur Schwartz / Howard Dietz standard, is a harmonic whodunit, elliptically modern by the end with voicings that would do Jason Moran proud. ‘Paprika’ is really powerful at the beginning of the tune and you can imagine this with a strong drummer really moving the trio along after the opening theme. Other tracks are an understated take on Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’; a banging, wonderfully-timed version of the late Compay Segundo’s classic ‘Chan Chan’, one for the Buena Vista Social Club generation definitely; and two more Camilo originals: ‘On Fire’ a contrafact of Cole Parker’s ‘Too Darn Hot’; and the airy ‘At Dawn’. So, all in all a very welcome return to form by a piano master. Stephen Graham

Michel Camilo top and the album cover above

Released on 13 May. Michel Camilo appears with his trio at Ronnie Scott’s in London prior to release on 10-11 May  www.ronniescotts.co.uk

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Jazz composers and performers Anthony Braxton, Billy Childs, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Myra Melford, and William Parker have been selected by the Doris Duke charitable foundation in the States among a selection of 20 artists drawn from contemporary dance, jazz and theatre as the foundation’s 2013 recipients of largesse. Designed “to empower, invest in and celebrate artists by offering flexible, multi-year funding in response to financial and funding challenges that are both unique to the performing arts and to each artist”, each recipient receives approximately £145,000, plus up to £16,000 for audience development and up to £16,000 towards their future retirement fund.
Anthony Braxton above

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The stellar Miles Smiles band appearing at Ronnie Scott’s this week for two nights will now feature original Weather Report drummer Alphonse Mouzon in place of Omar Hakim, previously announced. 

The band’s appearance marks the return of Wallace Roney to Frith Street, the trumpeter above who famously was mentored and performed extensively with Miles Davis late in the great East St Louis man’s career. Miles Smiles now a quartet is completed by organist Joey DeFrancesco (Live Around the World), and ex-Herbie man Ralphe Armstrong on bass. The band’s core material is based around the Second Great Quintet album Miles Smiles released in 1967.

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Already this year fans of Wayne Shorter who wrote several tunes on the album have warmed to his new take on ‘Orbits’, the lead-off track Wayne wrote for Miles Smiles, and which appears on the brand new Wayne Shorter Quartet album Without a Net that signalled a significant return for the saxophonist to Blue Note records, brought back to the fold by Don Was. Mouzon goes way back with Wayne, and besides appearing on Weather Report released in 1971 is also on Wayne’s record that year, Odyssey of Iska.

Miles Smiles originally recorded at the 30th Street Studio in New York city and produced by Teo Macero, besides ‘Orbits’ features ‘Circle’, plus Wayne’s most famous piece ‘Footprints’, and on side two of the original vinyl: ‘Dolores’, Eddie Harris’ ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’, and Jimmy Heath’s ‘Gingerbread Boy’. MB
Friday and Saturday www.ronniescotts.co.uk

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Adam Waldmann of Kairos 4tet

Jazz Day is tomorrow, an international celebration of jazz around the globe organised by UNESCO. If you’re going to be out and about then here are some events to catch the music live. MOBO-winning Kairos 4tet whose latest album Everything We Hold is released in June are appearing at the Emmanuel URC church in Cambridge (8pm) www.cambridgejazz.org; and kicking off at the same time in Glasgow at the Old Fruitmarket tabla master Trilok Gurtu is in trio with fine Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and hypnotic Cuban pianist Omar Sosa (www.glasgowconcerthalls.com).

In Wales saxophonist Alan Barnes plays with BBQ at the Royal British Legion in Wrexham at 8.30; while clarinettist Ken Peplowski is on stage at the same time in the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London (www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk). Also in the capital there’s an Ode to the Human Spirit concert (great title) with Marc Cary, Liane Carroll and many more fine musicians south of the river in Brixton (www.sgi-uk.org).

If you’re online tomorrow evening then don’t forget the international jazz day global concert at 7pm UK time by visiting http://live.jazzday.com

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The Bib get on the case for their tenth anniversary

One of the highlights of last summer’s Match & Fuse festival in London was the appearance of Led Bib, that’s the out-there free jazz band that initially shot to prominence in London led by American drummer Mark Holub (above, second left) who’s now based in Vienna.

At the festival, which combined club sets and an outdoors stage in Dalston’s Gillett Square centred around the Vortex, before Holub took to the kit to unleash slabs of new material to a standing-room-only club, as I reported for downbeat.com, speaking in his dressing room Holub said the freer end of the scene was tough out there. “Support is dying and opportunities are drying up,” he explained. But undaunted and with the place packed out, Led Bib’s set laid waste to any pervasive doom and gloom with the sprawling, anthemic swell and two-alto-sax attack of Chris Williams and Pete Grogan, whose energising, jabbing lines were contoured by Liran Donin’s painstaking bass guitar.  

Next year Led Bib are 10 years ago and they’re still way ahead of the game as that appearance clearly showed.

It’s remarkable that such an edgy band was ever nominated for the Mercury as the really edgy jazz produced in these shores generally doesn’t get a look in, and in 2009 their debut for Cuneiform Sensible Shoes got in there and helped open doors for the band. But it’s never easy and after the “token” jazz appearance excitement melted away and the media circus moved on it’s been very much business as usual despite the boost.

As Match & Fuse showed Led Bib are really where it’s still at in terms of the post-Ornette sound, and at Meltdown three years earlier when the great man himself curated the prestigious festival they appeared in one of the best free-jazz shows I’ve ever seen from a Generation X or Y band anywhere albeit in the hostile environment of the Clore Ballroom on the Southbank, a venue with all the acoustic charm of a leaky gymnasium.

Led Bib in their Kickstarter fundraising drive plan to do things properly with the money by releasing a new album plus limited edition live vinyl. You have until 25 May to help the band achieve their target and it’s definitely worth your while, with special goodies available for those who contribute.

They’ve never put out vinyl before and having roadtested the material think that recording in a specially equipped studio that allows them to dispense with headphones will produce optimum results. Here’s more on the project http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/432642331/led-bib-new-studio-album-and-live-vinyl-release

Stephen Graham

Led Bib above