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Best rated albums on Marlbank since the beginning of the year

10 Joe Lovano UsFive (date of review 21 February 2013)
Cross Culture
Blue Note ****

9 Jah Wobble/Bill Sharpe (17 February 2013)
Kingdom of Fitzrovia
Storyville ****

8 Terri Lyne Carrington (6 January)
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue
Concord **** equivalent

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7 Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran (10 February)
Hagar’s Song
ECM ****

6 Liane Carroll
Ballads

Quiet Money Recordings **** RECOMMENDED (7 February)

5 Rudresh Mahanthappa (7 January)
Gamak

ACT **** RECOMMENDED

4 Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet (30 January)
Wisława
ECM **** RECOMMENDED

3 Soweto Kinch (12 January)
The Legend of Mike Smith
Soweto Kinch Productions **** NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT RECOMMENDED

2 Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, London Vocal Project (27 January)
Mirrors
Edition **** RECOMMENDED NEW SEASON HIGHLIGHT

1 Chris Potter
The Sirens (15 January)
ECM *****

Chris Potter top, Terri Lyne Carrington middle, and the cover of Wisława above

 

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There’s a growing collegiate atmosphere in UK jazz. That sounds odd, as ‘collegiate’ is a term you don’t hear as much here as in US academic circles. It’s unheard of at jazz gigs. Why I say that is the use of the word “fellows” and “fellowships”, in the wake of the announcement last night of the recipients of the first Jazzlines Fellowships in Birmingham. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while and musical instrument company Yamaha got there a while back with their jazz “scholars” scheme. One of the new fellows Lluis Mather was a scholar himself three years ago. The image of musicians, possibly monks, toiling over illuminated manuscripts springs absurdly to mind. There’s even a pun there somewhere.

The Birmingham fellowships offer mentoring, advice and masterclasses, a bit like Take Five that the promoter Serious runs and has extended to a wider European roll-out. But the Birmingham scheme is different, angled at the creation of new work and then the touring of it directly, with no residential element as far as I can make out involved, unlike Take Five’s annual sojourns in Kent. The Jerwood Charitable Foundation’s involvement means the scheme connects with the foundation’s work in other sectors of the arts. 

The three musicians selected are part of the Birmingham and increasingly national scene having graduated from the Conservatoire jazz course, and in trumpeter Percy Pursglove’s case have had an active involvement in running the Harmonic festival, one of the most imaginative new festivals to begin in recent years. Dan Nicholls reminds me in his setting up of magazine Green Chimneys and gigging with his band Strobes of the enterprise demonstrated by someone like World Service Project’s Dave Morecroft, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he isn’t on the talent-spotting Whittingham prize radar already for later in the year as WSP were.

Maybe the Jazzlines fellows will also be in the vanguard of the new jazz in the future. Tony Dudley-Evans of Jazzlines has a good track record working with Jerwood in the past at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and if the new music produced is of the calibre achieved in a festival commission such as the one that resulted in the formation of the band Food then it will prove to be of wider European let alone national significance. So collegiality might be as jazz a word in 2013 as ‘Congeniality’ even if the mortar boards might have to be ditched.   

Stephen Graham

Dan Nicholls (above left), Lluis Mather, and Percy Pursglove.
Photo: John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Ornette Coleman’s ‘Congeniality’ from The Shape of Jazz to Come: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNOzv2KuAAo

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The Manchester scene is a pretty loose term. Take Adam Fairhall who is very much part of it even if he lives 40 miles from the city: he even hails from much further afield, Cornwall. Jazz is not defined by location any longer as Stuart Nicholson first pointed out in his influential book Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved To  A New Address?) and dawned on everyone else despite protests from those with strong home town allegiances. Fairhall could have been part of the Leeds scene as he studied there but Leeds in jazz is different (it’s more punk jazz, no wave, and death-metal referencing) and I’m not making a glib comparison I hope. Leeds spawned Matthew Bourne, trioVD, Roller Trio, and now the intriguing Shatner’s Bassoon. Manchester has Stuart McCallum, Beats & Pieces at the cutting edge 12 Points new band Euro jazz fest in Dublin last week… and Adam Fairhall. Somehow he doesn’t fit in, composers of his distinctiveness and ideas rarely do. Think Django Bates: he’s not part of any place scene is he? Although you can note a geographical location for shorthand he’s usually referred to in terms of Loose Tubes or “his generation", but when you hear Django’s music influencing Norwegian musicians (as on Marius Neset’s new record Birds) or in Brooklyn feeding into Tim Berne’s ideas, you’ll realise that if people could live on the moon they’d probably play Earthling music and so calling it “Moon music” would be a bit ridiculous.

Fairhall plays a range of styles and he can do stride, say, or the rarely heard ragtime styles, but he’s attuned to mavericks in terms of piano, the uncategorisable talents of someone like the much missed Don Pullen. Still in his mid-thirties, a music boffin and academic who has a Phd (not that a doctorate cuts any swath at all on the bandstand), he plays his own music although he crops up as a sideman, and you might come across Fairhall in a Manchester scene place such as Band on the Wall. His records include Imaginary Delta, actually recorded at the Swan Street club, stemming from an original commission by the Manchester Jazz Festival. It’s a suite “celebrating American vernacular forms, early jazz, blues, rags and stomps, featuring unusual instruments”. A high powered gigging septet time travels back and forth with Fairhall, he’s written the music for players such as Golden Age of Steam’s reeds titan James Allsopp, and improv kingpin Paul Rogers who are in the band with him. The Manchester Evening News has written of Fairhall: “There is no jazz code he hasn’t deciphered and mastered.” Do a Bletchley, and hear him in Camden tonight playing music from The Imaginary Delta. SG

Adam Fairhall above

Tickets http://www.forgevenue.org/whats-on/eventdetails/22-feb-13-pianoled-jazz-the-forge/

Watch an interview with Fairhall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk5JsS35-PY

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Next month sees the return to the UK after her ReVoice debut in the autumn of singer Becca Stevens and her band. Known for her work with jazz luminaries who include Eric Harland and Brad Mehldau, the latter who happens to be in Birmingham tonight playing at Town Hall, Stevens, as well as singing in an improvising inclined Björk tribute band, is as attuned to Irish traditional folk music as she is to the latest improvising styles and progressive approaches. But inspirations as unexpected as Paula Abdul jostle in her list of influences as much as Joni Mitchell or even Michael Jackson. Brought up in North Carolina, where she began singing in a band called the Tune Mammals with her mum and dad, Stevens appeared last on these shores in Soho with her band featuring the accordion and keyboards of Liam Robinson; double bass and vocals of Chris Tordini who she knows from New School days; and the drums of Jordan Perlson, while Stevens herself plays guitar and ukulele in addition to singing. Her record Weightless came out in 2011 to favourable notices. Dates are Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (4 March); and Band on the Wall, Manchester (5 March). SG
The Becca Stevens band above

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Joe Lovano UsFive
Cross Culture
Blue Note **** 

It’s a coincidence that Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Star Crossed Lovers’, the fifth track of Joe Lovano’s latest by his two-drummer band UsFive, appears around the same time as Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran’s Hagar’s Song on which Lloyd interprets the song that famously featured on Ellington’s Shakespeare-themed 1957 album Such Sweet Thunder. The Memphis man, though, opts for the alternative title the tune is known for, ‘Pretty Girl’. The two versions are strikingly different: Lloyd’s the spaces between the notes, and the poetry of the song; Lovano’s the lovingly rendered ur-text of the melody there for the ear to tune into, and as natural as the rain in the evocative flow of his improvising. As writer Willard Jenkins in the liner note puts it: “There’s a very humane quality to his saxophonic pronouncements.” And it’s that sense Jenkins alerts us to that is at the heart of another fine Lovano album, his 23rd for the label, a staggering record of achievement over many years.
Stephen Graham

Out now
The cover of Cross Culture, above

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The University of Southampton music department has confirmed the conferring of a Turner Sims professorship on pianist and composer Dave Stapleton. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama piano graduate and co-founder of the jazz independent record label Edition last year released his eighth album to date, Flight, featuring his jazz quartet plus the Brodowski string quartet. In his new position Stapleton will mentor and lecture university music students. In the spring he appears with the Edition quartet at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of Connexions with a concert at the Parabola on 4 May. SG

Dave Stapleton pictured

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One of the most notorious and ill fated drains on the public purse in the late-1990s was the egregious waste of many millions of pounds poured into ill fated Hackney venue Ocean. Kitted out with a state-of-the-art sound system, and beautifully designed, its booking policy though was a disaster from the off, and it quickly became a beacon for Saturday night fighting and general mayhem combined with the frittering away of much new millennial period cash. But there were some notable gigs, and in those days the Arts Council of England’s Contemporary Music Network put on the best international big budget and elephant eared jazz and improv-related art-jazz national tours, and in 2001 at Ocean one of these featured an appearance by P.I.L. alumnus dub bass exponent Jah Wobble with his Solaris band that included bass genius Bill Laswell and drummer Jaki Liebezeit, a founder of the influential Cologne Krautrock band Can. The sound system at  Ocean captured the filthy underground rumble of this mighty music machine thrillingly to the nth degree.

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Forewarning you dear reader, to move you right up to speed with the imminent arrival of a slab of laidback audio pleasure, Kingdom of Fitzrovia (****) is on the horizon for an April release courtesy of the historic Danish jazz label Storyville not otherwise known for its commitment to post-Milesian funk. Teaming Wobble with keyboardist Bill Sharpe who was in late-disco funksters Shakatak beloved of the people who liked to ride around in Capri Ghias in the 1980s, and a band that also includes former Nu-Trooper Sean Corby here on trumpet and flugel plus Marc Layton-Bennett at the kit, house music singer PJ Higgins, and Sharpe-approved guitarist Fridrik Karlsson, the eight tunes written by Wobble and Sharpe take on the concept of the central London area of Fitzrovia as a framing device, and the album was recorded there in a Berners Street studio. Wobble mentions that Fitzrovia was where the forward thinking Chartists met in the 1830s, and during the counterculture of the 1960s was home to the psychedelic UFO club. In his notes Wobble also refers to 1982 Saul Bellow novel The Dean’s December (by way of Ian McEwan) whose character Albert Corde eats at a restaurant called the Étoile on Charlotte Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the area and now paradoxically at the heart of Adland. “Bill and I regularly dined at Étoile while recording KoF,” Wobble recalls. “During lulls in our conversation we would sense the collective spectral, bohemian spirit of the Kingdom of Fitzrovia.” What’s on the menu on this attractive album is a Milesian spirit courtesy of Corby, although the album is probably closer to Bob Belden’s approach, which is the right kind of lineage, and the rhythm section is consistently excellent. ‘Loquacious Loretta’ has a superb groove, for instance, and drummer Marc Layton-Bennett from the evidence of this track alone, won’t be under anyone’s radar for too long, while Sharpe’s album-stealing suitably laconic solo is a gem. 

Stephen Graham

Released on 15 April. The album cover top. Jah Wobble above and Bill Sharpe play the Islington Assembly Hall on 26 April.

UPDATE (20/2/13): Shakatak dates coming up include Gala Theatre Durham (1 March); Hideaway, Streatham, London (9 March); Nantwich Jazz Festival, Cheshire (30 March); The Robin, Bilston (5 April); Lighthouse, Poole (6 April); and Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (13-16 June)

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Kai Hoffman
Do It While You Can
Broad Reach Records ***1/2
Seize the day is the motto of the Kai Hoffman quartet’s first album Do It While You Can and not one but three versions of the smiling face of this livewire jump jive enthusiast extraordinaire and exponent of all things vintage on the cover is a sure indication of the singer’s preferred upbeat and positive approach. With arrangements by Twentysomething-period Jamie Cullum bassist Geoff Gascoyne, and plenty of zip provided along the way by his old Cullum rhythm section partner Seb de Krom on drums, as well as pianist Gunther Kurmayr in finger-snapping tow, Do it While You Can is a collection of predominantly feelgood swing-based songs.

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The familiar ones: ‘Pure Imagination’, ‘Make Someone Happy’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ (maybe done too much these days), ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’, ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’, and ‘The Masquerade Is Over’, jostle with the less familiar ones: Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace’s wryly in-the-know ‘Some Boys’, which promisingly opens the album, and ‘History Repeating’ by Alex Gifford of 1990s big beat outfit Propellerheads complete with what sounds like a take on the opening riff of Mingus’ ‘Boogie Stop Shuffle’. Hoffman has written the title track with Simon Whiteside, and there’s a fun Dave Frishberg song, ‘Long Daddy Green’, plus another Whiteside number ‘I’ve Never Met a Guy Who’s Perfect’ (think a variant on Edwyn Collins’ ‘A Girl Like You’), and a very hip choice in Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle’ from the singer/songwriter’s 1972 album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim issued posthumously as a single after Croce’s death in a plane crash the following year. There are plenty of double meanings, quite a few nudges and winks along the way from the Keely Smith and Peggy Lee-influenced Hoffman, and an insatiable joie de vivre rare in these cynical times. It’s an effective approach overall although not everything quite comes off (‘Moonlight’ drags a bit, but that’s but a small blemish). Precious time may be slipping away, but this album deserves to be heard for more than a day. Stephen Graham

Retro resurgence: Kai Hoffman top.  Released in March

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She’s been on the cover of both Downbeat and Jazz Times, and with the release of her latest album Claroscuro as recently as the autumn, the multi-award winning clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone player Anat Cohen, with a finely honed individualism in her extraordinarily burnished playing, here achieves maximum impact with her down home version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘The Wedding’. That version alone along with her reputation Stateside should whet the appetites of UK jazz fans sufficiently to draw the serious jazz heads down to the Soho basement club she’s to play when the Israeli-born musician debuts in the UK for a first appearance in London next month as part of a brief European tour. With a band on the album that includes the hip Jason Lindner on piano, skilled bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Daniel Freedman, all of whom are making the trip, there’s much to savour from the deep traditions of jazz clarinet onwards towards the modern global sound on an album that playfully uses the Spanish spelling of the Italian word ‘chiaroscuro’ in its title. Don’t forget to catch Cohen’s wonderful take on Artie Shaw’s ‘Nightmare’, with Paquito d’Rivera guesting, if you pick up Claroscuro. Stephen Graham  
Anat Cohen above plays the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London on 20 March with her quartet.
Tickets: www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

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There’s a jam session explosion at the moment with recently launched sessions at Charlie Wright’s, run by the Jazz Warriors, Hannes Riepler downstairs at the Vortex, and the continuing vibrant scene both upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s and downstairs there with the laidback Late Late Show programming. Across Soho at Pizza Express Jazz Club the Whirlwind Sessions is the latest to add to the London scene’s resurgent fecundity, and Friday 8 March from 11.30pm-3am sees the first of the Michael Janisch-helmed label sessions. It’s free to get in, and double bassist Janisch, with saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev, who used to host nights and jam at Charlie Wright’s, in association with Maggie Black Productions, have set up the jam session with a Whirlwind artist leading each running, choosing the format, either quartet or quintet, and then opening the bandstand up for invited guests later. The 8 March jam has Janisch and Strigalev, plus Partisans guitarist Phil Robson (just in action this past weekend with the Hans Koller Ensemble), and Robson’s Partisans bandmate Gene Calderazzo on drums. SG  

The wind’s whipping up: Michael Janisch top 

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EXCLUSIVE Although details are still to be further fleshed out and officially announced, this summer will see a major new festival series of concerts involving a number of symphony orchestras across Europe performing the music of the late great Esbjörn Svensson, the charismatic and influential pianist and composer who tragically died on 14 June 2008 aged just 44 as a result of a scuba diving accident in his native Sweden. Svensson changed the face of European jazz, and has influenced countless numbers of bands around the world including Trichotomy, GoGo Penguin, Tingvall Trio, Neil Cowley Trio, and not forgetting Brad Mehldau, to name just five, and who gained the appreciation and respect of jazz giant Pat Metheny who performed memorably with EST at the Jazz Baltica festival. Svensson was the most significant figure in Swedish jazz since Jan Johansson in the 1960s the revered figure 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 to do so. The Västeras-born Svensson unlike Johansson harnessed the power of rock, free jazz, and electronics allying them to his own virtuoso grasp of the music of the masters of jazz piano including chiefly Thelonious Monk in the early stages of his career and Svensson’s compositional strength rooted within the co-operative spirit of the trio as the band shared writing duties and credits. Following study at the University of Stockholm Svensson founded EST in 1993 with his childhood friend drummer Magnus Öström and bassist Dan Berglund. They together went on to become global jazz stars, releasing 11 albums during Esbjörn’s lifetime with another, Leucocyte, appearing shortly after Svensson’s death, and four years later the extraordinary 301 released in March last year. Further details are to be confirmed by the band’s management but work is understood to be well advanced on symphonic arrangements of Svensson’s music with partner symphony orchestras lined up across Europe for performances in the summer with a possible UK orchestra involved for concerts in the autumn. 
(UPDATE): 
The orchestral arrangements are by Uppsala-born conductor and arranger Hans Ek, known for his work as music director of the Polar Music Prize ceremony, where he has arranged and performed with the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra music by Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Björk, and Paul Simon among the winners of the prestigious prize, as well as orchestrating for theatre and film including Dogme director Thomas Vinterberg’s 2007 film A Man Comes HomeEST manager Burkhard Hopper says the festival details will be announced in April, and they will include some major European festivals this summer. “We will work with local pianists who have shown through their recordings/music/playing that they carry the torch of Esbjörn forward. There are no plans for an album yet.” 

Stephen Graham

EST above

Jazz would never be the same again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtEztYjk88s

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Jazz guitar legend Martin Taylor is to pair up with the Chet Atkins-influenced fingerstyle guitar star Tommy Emmanuel for new album The Colonel and the Governor and the duo embark on a big UK and Irish tour during the month of release. Taylor who has jazz chops to burn can play most things and the album beginning with ‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’ for the first few dozen bars could be in any style. Slowly but surely the jazz connotation comes through on the upbeat partially countrified song, but there are uncategorisable moments throughout the album and little blissful pleasures you wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at, such as the lovely ballad ‘Heat Wave’ redolent of an exile’s reverie. ‘Jersey Bounce’ could easily sit on one of those Woody Allen films long ago when an outside, slightly ambivalent, walking scene maybe involving Woody trying to avoid some girl friend or other would require a wry theme with a little pitch bending from Emanuel doing the trick and the trademark Taylor motion.

On ‘Bernie’s Tune’ (made famous by Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s) the musicians clearly let loose from the start with get-stuck-in laughs and a dash of gypsy jazz. Taylor whose Spirit of Django band brought gypsy jazz to a wide audience in the 1990s is in his element here, and for Emmanuel it’s to the manner born. Other tunes are ‘A Smooth One’, ‘True’, ‘Heat Wave’ referred to earlier, ‘One Day’, George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ with a sort of double staircase scale-melting introduction as the guitarists ascend and descend to meet on the shared landing of the melody, ‘The Nearness of You’, ‘Down at Cocomos’, a favourite of Taylor’s with the lilting Caribbean melody a live mainstay for the leading UK jazz guitarist in recent years, ‘The Fair Haired Child’, ‘Secret Love’, a solo for Emmanuel, ‘Wonderful Baby’, and Billy Taylor’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ finishing things off. Taylor and Emmanuel have known each other and played together since the 1990s. The tour begins in Belfast on 2 March at the Ulster Hall, continuing at the University Concert Hall, Limerick (3 March); Opera House, Cork (4 March, album release date); Helix Theatre, Dublin (5 March); Anvil, Basingstoke (6 March); Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury (7 March); Sage, Gateshead (8 March); Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (9 March); Robin 2, Wolverhampton (10 March); Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple (12 March); Corn Exchange, Exeter (13 March); Colston Hall, Bristol (14 March); Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (16 March); Leas Cliffe Hall, Folkestone (17 March); Hawth, Crawley (18 March); Corn Exchange, Ipswich (20 March); Winding Wheel, Chesterfield (21 March); Victoria Theatre, Halifax (22 March); Coronation Hall, Ulverston (24 March); Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (26 March); and Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (28 March). SG

Tommy Emmanuel above left and Martin Taylor. Photo: Allen Clarke