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

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

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‘I’ll play it again’: Sam Lasserson

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

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Cool school: Jeff Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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

On the horizon


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

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

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

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

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

and from Marlbank yesterday:

Jazz festival 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESKA, top

www.thealbany.org.uk

 

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

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

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

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

Label activity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report: Stephen Graham

 Diatribe artist ZoiD, top

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

Anthony Strong above

 

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

Bassist Don Thompson made such a discovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Shearing, top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gregory Porter, Courtney Pine and Portico Quartet top

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Jarringly miscued at time, of all the sometimes lamentably misinformed reaction to Dancing on the Edge, which tonight has an extra programme, a quirky set of fictional interviews with the band conducted by Stanley (Matthew Goode), the journalist modelled on Spike Hughes), the only writer who really understood the essence of this Poliakoff work as television, writing even as he did at the half way point, was Clive James. What a lot of people missed, but not James, who picks up on a then and now comparison about society and prejudice, is that Poliakoff isn’t interested in some sort of churning momentum. And even if you thought episodes dragged (I think the third was most guilty in this respect), the characters were given depth and the actors did the writing justice although I thought Julian’s portrayal could have been handled better as it wasn’t clear if he was a chinless wonder, or just cruel. Maybe he was both. Poliakoff does leave you hanging at times and that’s why I think the series worked as a whole.  

Anyway, a lyricist as well as a television reviewer of genius James, had this to say, which went to the heart of the matter:

‘Languid or not in its writing and direction, however – Mr Poliakoff is in charge of both departments the show’s treatment of race prejudice is a proof that British culture has come a long way. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, both of them theoretically advanced, casually took it for granted that a social acceptance for black entertainers was a sure sign of national decadence.

Times have changed, although one thing will probably never change. As long as a British series is up for sale to the Americans, two people of different races, even if they are as beautiful as Janet Montgomery and Chiwetel Ejiofor, will never be allowed to go to bed together without a carefully interposed sheet.

Mind you, if the couple were both of the same race, the sheet would still be there. That’s the way the Americans want it, so they must have it. Poor them, though: did they ever deserve something as wonderful as jazz? It was 1969 before President Nixon honoured Duke Ellington with the Medal of Freedom, and yet jazz was recognized as a miracle forty years previously by the future Duke of Windsor, in almost all other respects a total idiot.’ 

(telegraph.co.uk)

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

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Most euphonious name on the circuit, Ballydehob Jazz Festival, has unveiled its line-up with, in a coup for the village, the Neil Cowley Trio headlining for 2013.

The Cowley Trio, about to release their first live album and DVD, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, were the biggest selling UK jazz artists in 2012 with their ‘hit’ album The Face of Mount Molehill, and drew in ever larger audiences live, with the band playing the Barbican in London for the first time, and touring in the US.

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Also for Ballydehob, a still fairly new festival in West Cork, Ireland (the jazz version of Other Voices?), set this year for its seventh running, are Kitten and the Hip, that’s ex-Freak Power/Loose Tubes trombonist Ashley Slater and singer/songwriter Kitten Quinn’s band; with Mongoose; Earthship; and Camilla Griehsel / Maurice Seezer, all to appear. MB

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Ballydehob Jazz Festival runs from 3-6 May http://www.ballydehobjazzfestival.org

Festival time in Ballydehob: pictured top at the festival club; the Neil Cowley Trio middle; and Kitten and the Hip, above

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With more than six months to go, the organisers of the Herts Jazz Festival have not let the grass grow under their feet, and have announced this year’s full programme.

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On paper it’s looking like the best yet, with the Stan Tracey octet,Tony Kofi, Georgie Fame, the Jason Yarde/Andrew McCormack Duo, Django Bates Beloved Trio, Kenny Wheeler Quintet, Iain Ballamy, Don Weller, and a tribute to JJ Johnson and Kai Winding included in the stellar line-up.

The festival runs from 20-22 September at the Hawthorne Theatre, Campus West, in Welwyn Garden City. SG

Tony Kofi, top; and Georgie Fame, above

http://www.hertsjazzfestival.co.uk