August sees the dynamite debut album from newcomer Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies.
The young saxophonist launched the album at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York last month.
Lovell-Smith, her Twitter profile winkingly says she’s a “composer, soprano saxophonist, part-time publicist, vegetarian chef, and voracious reader”, is a US/New Zealander living for now in New York, but about to head off to begin studying for a masters in composition at Wesleyan University, where the great Anthony Braxton teaches.
Before beginning her studies Lovell-Smith has been working with another band called Common Wealth which she co-leads with saxophonist/composer Angela Morris.
Whether she will be able to juggle the demands of academia with the very different discipline of developing her band, playing with Common Wealth, and composing, remains to be seen in terms of direction, but the signs seem promising as the album Fortune Songs is quite a statement of intent.
Lovell-Smith studied at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, and graduated six years ago with a first class honours degree, majoring in jazz saxophone performance and composition.
Then in 2008 she took part in the high flying Banff international workshop in jazz and creative music in Canada, and two years ago moved to New York where Towering Poppies was formed, and is based.
The band, a chamber jazz collective with a melodic slightly astringent song-based direction at times with a Caribbean lilt, features Lovell-Smith with pianist Cat Toren, trumpeter Russell Moore, bassist Patrick Reid and drummer Kate Pittman.
The band has been going for a good couple of years and the music, she says on her website, is “informed by folk, impressionism and free improvisation.”
At times as a player with an agreeably winning tone Lovell-Smith resembles the significant but vastly underrated Jane Ira Bloom. A new compositional voice on the saxophone for sure going by early listens of Fortune Songs, watch out for this new name when the album hits.
Listen at http://jasminelovellsmith.bandcamp.com
Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies, pictured above
Type jazz into the UK version of Google News and what do you find today, Saturday 14 July just after midday on a rainy London day?
Well of course there are pages and pages of the stuff so trawling is going to take some time.
What do you mean you use Bing or Yahoo for your jazz news? Of course you do! But jazz news, is there actually any I hear some grumblers contend, as the music died in 1961?
Well up to a point (without stating the obvious), but may I suggest typing “jazz is dead" into Google? You’ll be fine and dandy in that cheerful, slightly spooky corner of the web.
So here goes, and bear in mind it is a Saturday, so some jazz news sites go to sleep this being the weekend.
First then, right at the top, the very newsy jazz entry from Wikipedia. In depth yes, but bang up to the minute, maybe not.
Ah, next, wait: a theatre show to close, from the Daily Mail website? Yes, interesting, but what a shame, it’s Chicago that well known jazz musical.
Moving swiftly on, Keith Chegwin at the Marlborough Jazz Festival… well fancy that? Celebs rule after all.
But the next story down with more than 300 stories on the same topic is the sad passing of Nat King Cole’s widow Maria, which was widely reported a few days back by other sources including The Hollywood Reporter.
The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is next to be mentioned in Google jazz dispatches on the first page and then an irrelevant Utah Jazz story, followed down page by the sad passing of Nova Scotia musician Bucky Adams, more Utah Jazz doings, even more, a review of Wynton Marsalis some two days old, and thanks to Wigan Today the first sighting of the day of the headline that’s daddy of them all: the venerable All That Jazz.
So all very salutary, and it certainly makes a change from reading sleeve notes, but in the midst of a busy festival season, and with more than 400 new or reissued CDs appearing every month, it’s not much to go on, is it? The inevitable trek back to print beckons for now.
Writing for guitar, a string section and percussion is a stretch, no pun intended, for any musician.
Add in the word ‘Chamber’ front loaded as the name of the project, the band, and the planned album to the title ramps up the stakes still more.
Nick Tyson was sanguine about the word as he talked about his plans just a few days before going in to record with producer Ben Lamdin, the in demand producer who has been working with Stonephace Stabbins of late (see Dreamjazz yesterday).
Chamber to him comes from his sense of baroque classical music, but cast half an ear and it’s clear there’s more to this than meets a first glance as is pretty evident from hearing Chamber live.
Bantering over a coffee on a sofa downstairs at the Vortex, only a few weeks earlier he and Chamber had packed out the place on a busy Friday night as he toured the music some of which will go on the album to be released by F-IRE with basically the same line-up from the gig. Only the cello chair is up in the air as he speaks.
Tyson, 27, picked up a prestigious PRS award to help him on his way as a composer, and Chamber due to be released in October with a string of dates around a launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho promises much.
Tyson, a Londoner, studied at the Leeds College of Music following secondary school at Pimlico School, a progressive comprehensive in its day with an influential music education reputation.
His passport to Pimlico as it were came after a spell living in a village in France where he attended primary school and began to play guitar.
Both his dad and brother played a bit and, says Tyson, as a youngster it was fun to pick up three chords and sing along as he plinked away.
With Chamber, the first fruits of someone who excelled as a student, it’s more than reclaiming the word, it’s a statement of intent.
Influenced by Ralph Towner and Jim Hall, and with classical Spanish music a factor arrived at through Towner and Oregon in the music of Albeniz, Chamber was greenlighted last year when PRS backed the project and with the music already written Tyson a keen DIY organiser, and amateur cyclist who also plays reggae in the ironically named Gentleman’s Dub Club where his old Leeds chum and If Destroyed Still True bandmate Tommy Evans share the stage with a bunch of players whose publicity shots make them look as if they’re card shark hustlers.
It’s a world away from Chamber the very adjectival conjuring historic pinging acoustics, old boys and gals togged out in their best clothes listening to Vivaldi or Bach.
For Tyson chamber music is not about neck ties or evening wear and the third stream but built on the potential of the guitar as a massive palette to let him compose for strings (he also likes playing as a guitar trio) and writing cinematically with the possibility of an electronics layer but the project he says matter of factly is an acoustic one.
Tyson likes to compose on guitar and record a prototype version of a new tune before sculpting it sonically in Logic or Garage Band before the final Sibelius coiffed version is ready for the band.
He expresses an admiration for the work of the likes of the Cinematic Orchestra and The Invisible but warms to his first real exposure to the jazz he could identify with in Wolfgang Muthspiel’s celebrated appearance when he was just 16 at the Old Vortex in Stoke Newington when the Austrian guitarist was part of a dream team with the great Marc Johnson of Bass Desires/Bill Evans repute and Wayne Shorter Quartet drummer Brian Blade.
Those influences are coming to fruition it’s surely clear and the album later in the year will be the best indication yet of a fine new jazz guitar talent it’s good to have around.
Nick Tyson (pictured above)
Check out a longer version of this article in the July issue of Jazzwise on sale until Wednesday
Larry Stabbins returns with his latest album Transcendental to be released by the Cornwall-based Noetic Records on 1 September.
It’s an organic twist on 2009 Tru-Thoughts album Stonephace (the moniker the veteran saxophonist and flautist is using nowadays) switching from the electronic laden drum sound of that well received album. Stabbins’ band features his colleague in Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA band, pianist Zoe Rahman, along with Galliano percussionist Crispin “Spry" Robinson, Soweto Kinch Band bassist Karl Rasheed Abel and drummer Pat Illingworth, well known for his work with clarinettist Arun Ghosh.
Recorded by Ben Lamdin at the Fish Factory studio in Willesden the main talking point of the album is a version of Coltrane’s ‘Africa’ clocking in at just under eight minutes, and songs from Stonephace plus ‘Soul Train’ from Working Week days along with new tunes.
Definitely in the spiritual jazz vein, it’s a welcome return for Stabbins and a shot in the arm for the Coltrane revivalist scene which has been lit up once again in recent years by the likes of Nat Birchall, as well as Rowland Sutherland and Orphy Robinson’s reimagining of ‘A Love Supreme’ last month.
Larry Stabbins, pictured above
When Carmen Lundy returned to the capital and Ronnie Scott’s with her trio launching brand new album Changes few people took note.
It’s the lot of many a jazz singer these days, even one as creative as Lundy (even Betty Carter suffered in her day).
Announcing the names of her trio like a boxing announcer might introduce the main event – so it was “Anthony Wonsey from Chicago, Illinois”, as a taster, Lundy was on suitably athletic form in the company of star pianist Wonsey (Roy Hargrove, Nnenna Freelon) who also switched to keyboards; Philly bassist Darryl Hall on both acoustic bass and later electric; and introducing young Floridian Jamison Ross on drums, a real find with a big recessed beat that made me think of Terreon “Tank” Gulley.
Appearing from behind the dressing room door to the left of the stage, Lundy with her bare shoulders draped in a fur with her fingers and arms covered by long crimson gloves, the singer soon controlled the stage with a dizzying array of gestures, gesticulations and knowing looks.
Half Betty Carter, half Grace Jones as she shoulder danced along to the trio, opening with her simmering Maya Angelou referencing ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ frequently grimacing as she scanned the decent sized Monday first set crowd, picking out the middle distance with her extended right hand. With her cropped hair, youthfully slim appearance, and riotous sense of abandon, she showed both her power and ideas on mostly original material new and longstanding.
Launching Changes, her twelfth album ahead of its US launch in February, Lundy was also content to reprise earlier material including the tour de force ‘You’re Not In Love’ which allowed her to reach out to long time fans and reminisce about Hoxton’s Bass Clef the club former Lennie Tristano bassist Peter Ind used to run. There were a few scenesters from that time in the audience as someone in the audience chatted back to Lundy as she recalled the jazz club scene of the time, and even Gilles Peterson could be seen emerging from backstage.
Best in the first set was the political ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ from the new album, a civil rights anthem all the more fitting as it was delivered on the evening of the Martin Luther King federal holiday in the States. Hall immediately drew you in on electric bass with a groove straight out of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Bottle’ period, a sound that makes you shut up and wait for the message of social toleration and respect in the lyrics.
By complete contrast and resuming the London theme ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’ was sweetly delivered later, and remarkably for a singer who can sing down to her baritone depths her variety is such that the different registers introduce a different characterful persona each time, again reminiscent of the much missed Carter.
Changing costume for her second set appearance during the break, gone were the fur and the gloves, instead Lundy had donned a black dress with a white formal cut away jacket and a stiff collar. There was a bit too much schmaltz towards the end, and the well worn ‘New Year’ song I could take or leave, but the more sensual second set songs added yet another dimension to this strong showing with ‘(I Dream) In Living Colour’ another highlight.
– Stephen Graham