Verb or noun, certainly energy-laden as a word, Smash, Patricia Barber’s latest record is an outside sort of album, the energy inherent rather than overt. The singer/pianist is among street lights and car headlights on the cover, and touching the paving stones of a deserted, night-time city street inside. Barber, as long time fans will of course know, is also of the outside. Her first for Concord, the dozen songs contrast highly with one of her best albums to date, the sublime Ovid-inspired Mythologies from 2006, with the added advantage of not having to live up to a grand conceptual scheme. Rather than concern herself with myth, instead she immerses herself in real-time life, the here and now using images of the seasons and natural elements as a backdrop.

With her band of guitarist John Kregor (whose big power rock solo on the title track is a defining moment), bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Jon Deitemyer behind her vocals and piano parts, they made Smash in Chicago with Barber producing. A city she’s strongly identified with, especially at the Green Mill club, the title track’s lyrics conjuring noise ‘the sound/Of a heart breaking’, ‘the sound of/The red on the road’. It’s not despairing though as a whole, just real, and devices like the bossa feel scaled down on ‘Redshift’ let the anger Barber sometimes boils up evaporate yet however it’s contained a sentiment such as ‘by degrees I see/You are leaving me’ is cold comfort. The piano opening to ‘Spring Song’ ‘talks’ Bill Evans a bit, and Kohut could even be channelling Eddie Gomez to his side, a fitting approach given the song. First impressions are of a strong return here by Barber. A deep album, not a precious one, nor one to act as a balm, or to make you “feel good”. You would find it hard to discover a singer in this idiom, and certainly you’d search long and hard in rock or pop, to find lyrics as freighted with meaning as here. They’re not about home truths, Barber is beyond delivering crap homilies. Yet her voice is both a prisoner to the song, as well as its keeper: a unique burden. Highlight? I’d go for ‘Missing’, a love song of impossible inspiration framed within the cycle of the seasons, with its drifting guitar and the utterly unique Barber voice. SG

Patricia Barber, above. Photo: Jimmy Katz


Zoe Rahman, directing the Guildhall Jazz Ensemble; Ian Shaw guesting with the Guildhall Jazz Singers and Ensemble; saxophonist Tom Challenger; Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts and Paul Dunmall (the Dartington Improvising Trio); plus Iain Ballamy and the Guildhall Jazz Band, are all now finally confirmed to appear at this month’s Guildhall Jazz Festival, the full line-up of which has just been published. The festival runs from Saturday 23 March-Thursday 28 March. SG
Zoe Rahman, above

Full line-up and booking information:


Well the word’s out and Monday 22 April is now confirmed for the release of Light From Old Stars, the Kit Downes quintet album first revealed in these pages on New Year’s Day.

Featuring members of the London-based, Norwich reared, award winning pianist’s trio: that’s bassist Calum Gourlay (also on crooner Anthony Strong’s Stepping Out to be released a fortnight earlier by Naïve), and drummer James Maddren, with Golden Age of Steam’s James Allsopp on bass clarinet, and cellist Lucy Railton.

The album was recorded at Fishmarket Studios by Robert Harder who produced The Cherry Thing.

Light From Old Stars combines a variety of elements from chamber jazz signifiers in the arranging style through to free improv on a track such as ‘Owls’ and the more cinematic “road movie” conception of ‘Outlaws’, or the remoulded ‘jam’ blow-out feel of ‘What’s the Rumpus.’


Recorded on a special Steinway sourced from Beccles in Suffolk Light From Old Stars is to be released as reported previously by London-based indie jazz label Basho, home to The Impossible Gentlemen, and follows Downes’ Basho albums the Mercury nominated trio album Golden (2009), and Quiet Tiger (2011).

Tracks are ‘Wonder and Colossus’, ‘Bley Days’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘What’s the Rumpus’, ‘Two Ones’, ‘Falling, Dancing’, ‘Owls’, ‘The Mad Wren’, and ‘Jan Johansson’.


The cover of ‘lost leader’ Jan Johansson’s masterwork, above

‘Bley Days’, which the quintet played live on selected dates last year, is Downes’ homage to Paul Bley, and the final track is clearly named as a tribute for the lost leader of Swedish jazz, pianist Jan Johansson who died at the young age of 37 in 1968.

Johansson is best known for his classic album Jazz på svenska (‘Jazz in Swedish’), which used European folk music as an ingredient for jazz improvisation, one of the first so to do.

‘Jan Johansson’ is a quietly yearning dream-like track that begins with a scamperingly laidback Maddren rhythm, a low piano rumble, and a lovely melody line that Downes and cellist Railton state in unison before the softly unfolding melody line ascends. SG

Updated quintet tour dates include: The Verdict, Brighton, tomorrow (8 March); The Hive, Shrewsbury 13 April; Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham 18 April; and Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, London, on 29 April, with more dates in May and June

The Kit Downes quintet top (courtesy Basho records); and Kit Downes, pictured in London, with St Paul’s, and Blackfriars bridge in the distance behind him (photo: Yamaha)


So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday; the Little Theatre club towards the end of the 1960s, perhaps. Or Kansas City, when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought. Dave Douglas’ latest, Time Travel (**** recommended), has a “businessman’s bounce”, which might raise a few eyebrows. That’s hard bop swing essentially, a phrase the Dizzy Reece and Tubby Hayes record producer and writer Tony Hall sometimes talks knowledgeably about when he hears the sound. If you’re in a jazz club a tune such as opener ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo, though, would bounce sense into any executive.


"I was really interested in what David Toomey wrote in his book The New Time Travelers. How the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backwards, forwards, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect." 
- Dave Douglas

Jon Irabagon’s tenor saxophone solo might make the exec dwell by the bandstand to listen a bit, and you know the suited-and-booted might just think: 9-5 is for losers. But don’t hold your breath.

In terms of Douglas’ output, think The Infinite a bit, but there’s no Fender Rhodes. Or the band with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist who will appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival inside the quintet for the spatown exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when he was with Terence Blanchard, and this quintet compares strongly to Blanchard’s latest aggregation, although the way the News Orleansian leaves space for Brice Winston is different to Douglas’ approach to harmonising with Irabagon. Both approaches share that salt; and swagger. Time Travel is almost the same band as Be Still but it’s without a singer, although vocalist Heather Masse (not Aoife O’Donovan who’s on Be Still), will join the quintet in Cheltenham with quintet changes as well as saxophone applying also to drums.

‘Law of Historical Memory’ has a superbly ominous atmosphere courtesy of Mitchell, and then some admirably sour horn lines accentuated by drummer Rudy Royston that allow plenty of deliberately uneasy modulating for mood purposes. ‘Beware of Doug’ opens like something out of the Treme soundtrack, while ‘Little Feet’ is where Douglas can ‘speak’ to us listeners with that personal sound of his. ‘Garden State’ referring to New Jersey has a jauntiness again that recalls Tony’s thing about the “businessman bounce”, although, thinking of another Tony with New Jersey connections who’s not a vocalist: it’s none of my business! Finally, the album to be released by Greenleaf in April flutters to a halt with ‘The Pigeon and the Pie’, and in these 10 minutes Douglas, who turns 50 a fortnight on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. SG   

Dave Douglas, above

Listen to the title track via this link to NTS jazz show Babel Babble


So it’s 2013 and the second night of Chick Corea’s The Vigil playing Ronnie Scott’s.  

It’s also 1969. Kind of.

Why? Well this remarkable video clip, which Twitter user @AdrianDeliu has just posted, tells part of the story:

And that’s not all. As the quintet on the road made these recordings just released by Columbia. 


Fast forward to this very day and keeping the Vigil tonight at Ronnie Scott’s before the band moves over to the Blue Note in Milan, Corea will be joined on the stage of the Frith Street jazz shrine by Tim Garland, Hadrien Feraud, Marcus Gilmore, and Charles Altura.

The club dates come just less than 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’.

The terminology ‘third great Miles Davis quintet’ is just starting to be used by the record company guys and fans. But you can understand why if you’ve heard the triple album/DVD set even if it’s lesser known than the second great quintet, which Wayne Shorter was also a member of; and the distant, but equally acclaimed, first great quintet with John Coltrane.

Of the five musicians making the recording, well Miles is Miles: the next big thing will be a new re-imagining of his screen image via the vision and determination of Don Cheadle with the score written for the film by Herbie Hancock. After Tavernier’s Round Midnight everyone thought of the individual personas of Lester Young and Bud Powell (via the fictionalised persona whose story the film told) differently. Hancock was there at the time acting a little, and wrote the music, which would win him an Oscar. How will we view Miles when eventually we get to see the film and hear the music? The Davis legend will without a shadow of a doubt move to a different level entirely no matter how successful or otherwise the film turns out to be.

As for Wayne Shorter well, he’s on fire with ‘Pegasus’ and much else (the rest all live) on Without a Net, and was last in this country playing in Birmingham with the quartet towards the tail end of last year.

[Without a Net background]

Jack DeJohnette put out a fine album late last year [more at], but Dave Holland has slipped off the radar a bit, although he is expected to release a record by the Prism band at some stage following some non-UK touring last year with the stellar outfit. Details are very scarce.

And lastly Chick Corea won two Grammys last month. Birthing The Vigil means for him it’s all about 2013 no matter how brightly 1969 still burns. SG

Chick Corea, top, yesterday, inside Ronnie Scott’s
Photo: via @Chick Corea


Last year TUM Records released the immaculate Ancestors by Wadada Leo Smith and Louis Moholo-Moholo, their first recording together, and the label has continued its valuable work of seeking out influential musicians whose music does not comfortably sit with commercial or even critical trends despite their renown. With the release of The 3dom Factor (****) Barry Altschul, who turned 70 in January, the Helsinki label has again come up trumps. Altschul, best known for 1971 album A.R.C. with Chick Corea and Dave Holland and on Chick’s The Song of Singing as well as Arista-period Anthony Braxton, is joined by ex-Wadada bassist Joe Fonda, and Jon Irabagon, the Mostly Other People Do The Killing avatar, here playing tenor saxophone. It’s adventurous free jazz in the Ornette Coleman sense, its freedom, alphanumerical or not, in the way it leaps bar-lines and lets rhythms simply flow. It’s never about the ‘one’. Tracks include Altschul’s  ‘Irina’, ‘Natal Chart’, ‘Oops’, and Carla Bley’s ‘Ictus’. TUM has risen to the challenge of doing justice to this special release, Altschul’s first as a leader in more than 25 years, making it into an event, by adding insightful portraiture, a scholarly essay, and signature Marianna Uutinen paintings. The drummer says in his own introductory note that he looks at free jazz in terms of Beaver Harris’ phrase ‘from Ragtime to No Time’ so there’s no fear, he explains, to “know, and not be afraid to use, the music’s history as well as newer concepts in spontaneous improvised music.” Altschul’s idea that “to be free, one needs choices” is more than borne out on The 3dom Factor. It’s quite meditative at times; and, alternately, illuminated with a wildness that the three channel wonderfully making the music that bit more substantial. Irabagon is like the commentator on the rhythm; while Fonda is the wise observer occasionally stepping in as the music demands as he does experimentally on ‘Be Out S’cool.’ It’s all cool.  

Stephen Graham

Out now

Barry Altschul, above. Photo: Dmitry Mandel


Nestled between James Dunn’s fascinating archive collage show and The Arts Desk’s “folkadelia, psychtronica and afro-prog" extravaganza, I found myself spinning a few tunes for an hour on Babel Babble, sitting in for resident DJ Oliver Weindling, this afternoon. I thought before it’s available as a download from NTS I’d add a playlist and associated artist links/photos/videos/tracks as jumping off points where possible. Most of the tracks played are from new albums destined for immediate or spring release with a classic archive track slotted in as well, as Chick Corea is in town with The Vigil. So here goes:

Rokia Traoré
Beautiful Africa

Link to the title track here: & marlbank story today (scroll down)

Dave Douglas Quintet
‘Time Travel’
Time Travel
Greenleaf Music

Album cover


Aaron Diehl
‘Single Petal of a Rose’
The Bespoke Man’s Narrative
Mack Avenue

Three tracks from the album streamed here:

Alex Wilson
‘Remercier Les Travailleurs’
Alex Wilson records

The trio Alex Wilson (below, left), Frank Tontoh, and Davide Mantovani


Robert Hurst
‘Indiscreet in da Street’
Böb A Palindrome,

Detroit jazz fest video

Goran Kajfes
The Reason Why, Vol 1


Chick Corea
‘What Game Shall We Play Today’
Return to Forever


Circular Dreaming

Album cover top

Terri Lyne Carrington
Rem Blues/Music’
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
News piece

Bobby Avey

Be Not So Long To Speak
Minsi Ridge Records

Video of Avey with Miguel Zenon

You can listen again and download the Babel Babble hour when the show is archived in a few days. SG

Updated (playlist order and link): You can now listen via this link at


Please note that this is not a seated event.” That’s one of the things the venue points out about the fast approaching appearance of Mehliana. And be upstanding too for some intriguingly offbeat support worthy of the heyday of the old New York club the Knitting Factory, in a rare Shoreditch sighting of the Oren-o-phone. No, not something that comes with 4G, but a customised tuba.

Mehliana, Brad Mehldau going electric in a rocketscience duo with cult ex-Avishai Cohen drummer Mark Guiliana, are set to hit Village Underground, which last year hosted the frequently riotous collaboration between Neneh Cherry and The Thing, with some wallop. The cavernous old industrial building near the train tracks that early summer’s night was packed to the gills with loads of old punks and free jazz nuts. Tessa Pollitt of the Slits spun some dub reggae before Cherry belted out Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’, and The Thing would have set about dismantling the place if it hadn’t been already left to rot in the post industrial pre-digital age that laid waste to the area.


There’s no ex-Slit billed this time, but the Oren-o-phone played by the must-hear Oren Marshall (the Mehliana entourage equivalent of Colin Stetson to Arcade Fire) should wet the crowd’s whistle to begin with. But maybe a few of those who heard Mehldau at the Barbican during the London Jazz Festival delivering his take on Paul McCartney’s ‘Great Day’ might be just as aghast at the thought of what he’s plugging in for as curmudgeonly Dylan fans were when his Bobness scandalised Newport way back when.

Mehliana finds Mehldau on Fender Rhodes and a bunch of old synths, while Guiliana’s style brings together judderingly-jagged sounds, Afrobeat flavours, hand tooled Cobham-esque patterns, and a post-Vinnie Colaiuta sense of bar-line abandon in a formidable maelstrom of boulder-melting proportions. After all that, and all the standing, everyone’s going to need a real good sit-down.  SG 11 March

Brad Mehldau, top and with Mark Guiliana, as Mehliana, above


A baker’s dozen of tracks, the majority written by Julia Hülsmann, and Marc Muellbauer, In Full View, the pianist/composer’s latest album, a quartet release this time, sees Hülsmann joined by trumpeter/flugel player Tom Arthurs whose superb album Postcards from Pushkin with Richard Fairhurst was released last year. In Full View has multiple points of entry, and one of the main talking points comes at the end with a nuanced take on ‘Nana’ by Manuel de Falla, the twentieth century Spanish composer’s lovely melody based on an Andalucian lullaby. Hülsmann also demonstrates just what she can do without artifice as an interpretative artist on the beautiful Mehldau-esque introduction to ‘Sealion’, the song also known as ‘See Line Woman’ made famous by Nina Simone and covered more recently by Canadian indie folk singer/songwriter Feist. Arthurs’ ‘Forgotten Poetry’ is another firm highlight of an album on early listens that as a quartet extends the ambition of Hülsmann’s writing that bit further, and shows the acute sensitivity of Arthurs on melancholic ballads and mood pieces.

In Full View was recorded over three days in June 2012 by the Bonn-born Hülsmann, a former pupil of the late Walter Norris who famously appeared on Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary debut Something Else!!!!.

The Hülsmann trio was founded in 1997, has changed personnel a little over the years, and now with the addition of Arthurs, who first burst on to the scene just under a decade ago with the remarkable Centripede, moves to an adventurous if more settled-sounding fresh phase, its essence intact. As well as collaborating with singer Rebekka Bakken for ACT, with Scattering Poems, Hülsmann has also released The End of a Summer, a trio record for ECM featuring half a dozen of her own tunes, along with co-operatively written band material, and a version of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. Summer was followed by Imprint, but In Full View reflects some of her very best work to date, heard in a clear new light with Arthurs. SG
Released in April by ECM. Julia Hülsmann, above


Youn Sun Nah
ACT ***
There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom. At her first UK concert that year, singing in Portuguese, French on Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, as well as a knowing version of Jim Pepper’s ‘Witchi Tai To’ and Esbjörn Svensson’s ‘Believe Beleft Below’, Sun Nah greatly impressed a jazz club audience at the Vortex with superb melismatic control and dynamic poise especially in the softer passages. Follow-up Same Girl was a big seller for the South Korean singer in France, and Lento on paper has plenty of possibilities. However, this latest album, released later this month lacks the spark of Voyage and charisma of Same Girl, although with her fine band of guitarist Ulf Wakenius, illustrious bassist Lars Danielsson, the added accordion of Vincent Peirani and the percussion of Xavier Desandre-Navarre, the framework is there. Lento can be overly dramatic and the singer’s self-penned ‘Lament’ is certainly in that category, while the awful cowboy song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I could do without entirely. Navigating material from Nine Inch Nails to Scriabin and back is clearly adventurous, but Youn Sun Nah’s latest requires a leap of faith from even the most fearless listener to work on any significant level. SG

The cover of Lento, above


Goran Kajfeš / Subtropic Arkestra
The Reason Why Vol. 1
Headspin ***1/2
Into the spring bulbs will be sprouting to this one given half a chance. The Swede first surfaced in 2001 with the very alert Home, and while Kajfeš has remained an unknown since, at least in terms of more Eeyore-like potting shed-inclined jazz fans, The Reason Why should tempt people away from the garden and on to the dance floor or at least fairly near one. Opener, the trowel friendly but bafflingly titled ‘Yakar Inceden Incedan’ by Edip Akbayram, is an infectiously mighty vamp, and there’s progpsychedelia-into-Afrobeat later, and some unstuffy big band lifts on ‘Badiboom’ (like a Gondwana Mancunian take on Alice Coltrane via Roy Budd), and Soft Machine. By covering Tame Impala (‘Desire Be, Desire Go’) a continuity is established, the torch passed on historically from Soft Machine. Fourth track ‘The Nodder’ from the Softs’ Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris is an interesting choice with a Zawinul Syndicate-type link under Kajfeš’ trumpet and electronics. I’d love to hear the Arkestra plus Anthony Joseph joining as guest vocalist. With support by Sons of Kemet. That would be a night to remember. SG

Update (5/3/13):UK release confirmed for late-April


Bassist Steve Rodby will be joining The Impossible Gentlemen when the acclaimed band tours again this year.

Dates have still to be announced for the full tour, but the Brecon Jazz Festival in Wales has confirmed that the band will be appearing on the closing night of the festival on 11 August with besides Rodby in the line-up new drummer, the Chicagoan Mark Walker from the jazz and new age band Oregon, taking Adam Nussbaum’s place.

Rodby has produced the latest Basho Records album expected this year, The Impossible Gentlemen’s second outing for Basho records, the north London based label that’s also home to Kit Downes, whose quintet release is a priority in early-2013

The bassist in the Pat Metheny Group for long periods during the last 30 years, Rodby, 58, who was born in Joliet, Illinois, has produced records for Oregon, Eliane Elias, the Jim Hall & Pat Metheny duo album, and  Pat Metheny Trio albums among many others.

The new IG album was recorded last summer in Sussex following a four-night club residency at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in June.

During that lengthy stint The Impossible Gentlemen unveiled new songs from the album they were about to record.

Just three years old now the Gentlemen on their debut were five-string electric bass legend Steve Swallow, distinguished former Sco drummer Adam Nussbaum, piano star Gwilym Simcock, and north west jazz guitar cult hero Mike Walker.

Steve Swallow added new material to the band book performed at the Soho club with an untitled ballad on one night, and other tunes included Walker’s ‘The Slither Of Other Lovers’ and ‘Modern Day Heroes’.

Swallow said at the time, reported exclusively on, the tunes for the record “have very asymmetrical structures but keep their integrity. We have eight new tunes that we’ve worked up in the last eight to 10 days. I have to go through that door so they seem natural like they’re in 4/4 even if they’re not. Moving ahead, it’s a conscious decision to extend.” SG

Steve Rodby above

Update (6/3/13): The Impossible Gentlemen tour dates in the autumn are now understood to be 10-25 October. Founder member Adam Nussbaum will be on drums again for the October dates.