Great booking for the Soho Jazz Festival, back on again next month, with saxophone legend the 90-year-old Benny Golson who is also one of the most significant composers in jazz appearing, his work including ‘Whisper Not’, ‘Stablemates’ and ‘I Remember Clifford’. Dates are 12 and 13 July. Check out the rest of the festival running from 5-15 July too, Melissa Aldana and Joel Ross, Lew Tabackin and Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart also appear. Details.
This blasts out of the speakers. Worth saying, so much contemporary jazz is pretty quiet. A lot of production has gone into this record by trumpeter Theo Croker, samples and spooky echoes abound. Croker has great tone and a sense of attack on the track above and if you like Christian Scott you will probably enjoy his similar approach. Bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Kassa Overall are used well and Irwin Hall on alto sax gives the front line firepower, I’d prefer the album as fully instrumental my only caveat, none of the vocals contributions really connected with me. However, the Elew feature at the end on the pulsating ‘The Messenger’ really shows where Croker’s heart lies, beefy hard bop with a moody edge and if the whole album was as compelling as this then even better.
Interpretations of Brel crop up surprisingly often on jazz vocals album. This goes a step further and gathers a stellar crop of singers for a Larry Klein produced songbook album to mark the 90th anniversary of the great Belgian singer-songwriter’s birth. Melody Gardot, Madeleine Peyroux, Marianne Faithfull, Thomas Dutronc, etc etc are all included. Not everything hits the bull’s eye but Gardot steals the show. Out on Decca.
You may well search hard and long but may probably never find two more virtuosic musicians deliver a new album in a set-up which is so very unusual. Swiss-born harmonica wizard Grégoire Maret and Columbian harpist Edmar Castañeda however keep things loose and erect no barriers to listening and this is far from a showboating exercise because it is so bluesy and laidback from the off.
Tunes lean towards originals and gems like a stately version of ‘Our Spanish Love Song’ by Charlie Haden and the Brazilian standard ‘Manhã de Carnaval’ by Luiz Bonfá also make the cut. Guests are Béla Fleck, another once in a lifetime virtuoso, and fine singer Andrea Tierra do not crowd in too much. Maret has the unique ability to speak to you like a singer might and for instance on Tierra vocal track ‘Acts’ matches the singer in tenderness and kind. Castañeda keeps marvellous time and brings a gravitas to the record and when he opens up say on the Bonfá standard shows how natural an improviser he is. Tailor made for radio play this has a gentle easy listening appeal but there is more grit and meaning than a gentle, indulgent stroll and is a pleasure from beginning to end. SG. photo: ACT
He is the foremost jazz musician who writes for film, has picked up five Grammys along the way, and now Terence Blanchard has been named the first Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at the UCLA [University of California at Los Angeles] Herb Alpert School of Music. The chair according to UCLA is a key component of the school’s new global jazz studies programme. “Terence’s accomplishments are impressive and astounding for their range,” says school of music Dean Judith Smith. “His commitment to educating the next generation of jazz artists and his devotion to illuminating social justice issues through his music embody our UCLA values and align with the mission of our global jazz studies program.”
Blanchard says: “I’m looking forward to educating new generations of jazz artists, not only as performers, but as teachers, producers and jazz scholars who understand the power of music to transform the worlds in which they engage.”
Terence Blanchard above, photo: Henry Adebonojo
To produce his version of ‘Moon River,’ Jacob Collier recorded himself singing 5,000 times and asked more than a few Huckleberry Friends to send a video of themselves singing the word “moon” in the key of B-flat. Chris Martin, Charlie Puth, Tori Kelly, David Crosby, Kimbra, Daniel Caesar, Merrill Garbus, JoJo, Darwin Deez, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Hans Zimmer, Steve Vai, Ty Dolla $ign and Lianne La Havas were just some of the respondees. ‘Moon River’ is from Djesse — Volume 2 to be released in July.
A mouthwatering limited edition 2LP set featuring a bonus 7-inch single of the track ‘Paradise’ is being put out by Rhino. Rubberband dates back over 30 years but was never released. The entire 11-song Rubberband album will make its debut finished off by the original producers and Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., who played drums on the original sessions for the album in 1985-86. Vocals from Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi have been layered over Davis' trumpet and keyboard sessions. Look for the release in September.
1. Rubberband Of Life – featuring Ledisi
2. This Is It
4. So Emotional – featuring Lalah Hathaway
5. Give It Up
7. Carnival Time
8. I Love What We Make Together – featuring Randy Hall
9. See I See
10. Echoes In Time/The Wrinkle
A rather beautiful treatment of a number of Robert Schumann pieces, original material, and even that sentimental old favourite ‘Besame Mucho’ in the paired down setting of a duo: clarinettist Gabriele Mirabassi and pianist Enrico Zanisi who recorded in an Italian winery, part of a series close to their label’s heart.
A very delicate performance but containing plenty of life, the duo display rapport and sensitivity. It is all quite moving in a way. Go get this: it’s a surprise treat and a textbook example of how music from a number of sources can come together and make perfect sense. SG
More info at the CAM Jazz site.
Nérija — Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Cassie Kinoshi (alto saxophone), Rosie Turton (trombone), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), Lizy Exell (drums) and Rio Kai (bass) — are to release Blume on 2 August, having signed to Domino. Check out the woozy hard bop and Afrobeat-flavoured ‘Riverfest’, above.
Pretty fresh sounding new pianist Olly Chalk here, check him out, who with alto sax star John O’Gallagher, bassist Sam Ingvorsen and drummer Gwilym Jones launch their album Scathed Citizens this summer.
Chalk was a winner of the Peter Whittingham Development Award in January 2018. Scathed Citizens has an adventurous progressive outlook that sits well with the style of Matthew Bourne.
Hear Chalk at the Vortex on 21 August.
Joe Stilgoe does not take himself too seriously and that characteristic sense of humour and love for retro jazz surfaces once again this time as he tackles the dreaded 1980s, when pop did its very best to eat itself! The Heat Is On: Swinging the 80s with his big band arranged by Evan Jolly features songs you never really expected to be jazzed up such as ‘The Heat Is On’, ‘Glory Of Love’, ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ for goodness’ sake. Singer-pianist Stilgoe, son of witty That’s Life entertainer Richard Stilgoe, has already sold out Ronnie Scott’s for his 30 June show coming up when the album is released on the Silva Screen label.
A busy year of releases for bassist Mats Eilertsen 2019 is proving to be. I enjoyed And Then Comes the Night back in February and now the if anything even more hardcore release Reveries and Revelations on the folk-inclined Hubro label. To be frank I am not immediately taken by ‘Tundra,’ the heavily produced lead-off track but it is worth being patient with. Personnel includes a guesting Geir Sundstøl on guitar and banjo, Eivind Aarset guitar, Per Oddvar Johansen drums, Thomas Strønen, drums, and Arve Henriksen trumpet. Eilertsen provides the tunes and variously plays double bass, electric bass, acoustic bass guitar, guitar, harmonium, and keyboards. “An experimental score for some yet to be realised film,” the label suggests. Hmmm, wishful thinking no doubt but Eilertsen is worth spending quality time with in what is proving a bumper year of releases for him.
Impressive sounds from singer Quiana Lynell in an accessible mix that takes in Love Unlimited/Chaka Khan’s ‘Move Me No Mountain,’ Irma Thomas’ ‘Hip Shakin’ Momma’ and Donny Hathaway’s ‘Tryin’ Times’. Cyrus Chestnut on piano steers the band well and there is a heartland command of ‘Come Sunday/I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)’. If your tastes yearn for a jazz with a twist of soul then A Little Love is perfect listening among the current crop of releases.
Encounter Babelfish for the first time and you will be intrigued.
Landing somewhere in a jazz, folk, experimental space topped by the adventurous voice of Brigitte Beraha this is their third and most mature album.
Vocal jazz clichés there are none but their jazz roots are strong and Beraha gets great support from the Ian Shaw pianist Barry Green, veteran Chris Laurence on double bass and Paul Clarvis on drums.
Beraha has a big range of extra sounds, whether sighs, laughter or elaborate ornamentation that she dresses her lyrics with. Her style lands in the Norma Winstone heritage and like Winstone can stop you in your tracks with her quiet but devastating intent in the most unexpected places. Includes lots of originals plus a great version of the Ellington/Strayhorn standard ‘Pretty Girl (Star Crossed Lovers)’. SG
Babelfish, left to right above: Barry Green, Brigitte Beraha, Paul Clarvis, Chris Laurence. Babelfish launch the album at Kings Place, London on 29 June.
This is very tasty, the ever prolific Jamie Saft, the ever inspired RareNoise records, calling on the services of Dave Liebman for that extra slice of spiritual jazz inspiration on Hidden Corners, along with Bradley Jones on bass, and Hamid Drake on drums. Could well be the best thing you hear all day.
Meaty stuff from pianist Aki Takase, to be released by the Intakt label on 21 June, drawing inspiration from a Japanese painter, and part of a two day session of recordings at the Sendesaal Rundfunk in Berlin-Brandenburg. Alexander von Schlippenbach pops up on one track as a guest.
A big deal in Germany with his trio Martin Tingvall switches to solo piano once again with The Rocket due out soon which the Swede is touring extensively this summer. Pretty easy listening to be fair but Tingvall and his accessible compositional touch drawing on the lilt of Swedish folk traditions and the language of contemporary Eurojazz have a certain inescapable charisma that hook you in.
The guitar great Martin Taylor was presented with his lifetime achievement award by Suzanne Miller. Other winners included: Best band: SNJO; Best album: Turas by The Fergus McCreadie Trio; Best vocalist: Georgia Cecile.
Full list of winners:
Best Vocalist Award sponsored by Whighams Jazz Club
Best Instrumentalist Award sponsored by ESP Music Rentals
Best Band Award sponsored by Musicians’ Union
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
Best Album Award sponsored by Birnam CD
Fergus McCreadie Trio, Turas
Rising Star Award sponsored by The Blue Arrow
Services to Scottish Jazz sponsored by Ticketmaster
Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Help Musicians Scotland
See also: Scottish Jazz Awards site.
Well there you have it: the very antithesis of blandness and playing to formula. There is such a cram and collision of sound on Phalanx Ambassadors, a boisterous, uneasy sense of vitality, clawing at chords, rampaging off on mad solos... pianist, keyboardist, composer Matt Mitchell is as reliable as ever in his anarchic disregard for neat little solutions. Quite a band of star left-field bandleaders he has gathered with him on this new album from Pi records: Miles Okazaki on guitars, Patricia Brennan on vibraphone and marimba, Kim Cass on bass, and Kate Gentile on drums with producer David Torn in tow. Turn this mighty effort up loud.
Tasteful, inoffensive, a little bit too perfect in some ways there is nothing particularly disagreeable about Luxembourg’s globetrotting piano trio, the bafflingly monikered Dock In Absolute, as they return for a second album on the Cam Jazz label. Pianist Jean-Philippe Koch’s approach compares maybe to his fellow countryman Michel Reis as he sweeps in and out of lush involving tunes yet with all the rough edges smoothed out somehow redeeming himself by pulling a reliable rabbit out of his hat every so often: a thoughtful theme never far away. Bass guitarist David Kintziger and drummer Michel Mootz are reliably team spirited. File under: just that bit too neat and nice. SG
He is one of the most convincing and committed disciples of John Coltrane ever to come out of the UK. But these days hearing Alan Skidmore (a veteran of 77) is not that common a treat. Well, when better this summer on 17 July, dove tailing with the day that Coltrane died on in 1967, to hear Skid in a special 52nd memorial concert. Appearing with a quartet at Dalston club Cafe Oto plus special guest Ed Jones, Skidmore is no stranger to Oto having performed there a few years ago with Paul Dunmall. Tickets can be obtained here.
There is a certain simplicity at play with Arvoles especially the way tunes seem to build from the ground up via tiny motifs... but then layer complexity upon complexity into a remarkable confection that escapes category harnessing folk, bebop, rock and classical music flavours often delivered with extraordinary facility. The record was recorded in a studio in Sweden earlier this year. ‘Arvoles’, which means ‘Trees’ in the ancient Sephardic language Ladino, finds Cohen with the trio that he introduced to Ronnie Scott’s audiences earlier this year, featuring newcomer Elchin Shirinov from Azerbaijan on piano and Cohen’s old school friend Noam David on drums, plus Anders Hagberg on flute and Björn Samuelsson, trombone. The horns add a bright attractive flavour and fill out the tunes. “You could say I’m going back to basics,” Cohen has noted. “Nostalgia at its best is the strongest, most romantic, sincere, bitter-sweet feeling. And I agree it’s all over the record, with compositions like ‘Childhood’, ‘New York 90s’ and ‘Nostalgia’. Thoughts? Well, it is a solid record and the horn arrangements add an attractive flavour. I am not sure if the compositions are as strong as you will find on some Cohen albums but the bar is set high. I’d pick ‘New York 90s’ and the Monk-like ‘Wings’ as the stand-outs and most relevant to jazz listeners. Go there first. SG
Top quality free improv here from Shifa on Live at Cafe Oto.
Shifa is an Arabic word meaning “healing” and the group in question features three leading UK players: Black Top pianist Pat Thomas; saxophonist Rachel Musson and drummer Mark Sanders.
The record was recorded live at Dalston club Cafe Oto in London last year and is scheduled for a July vinyl release on New York label 577 Records.
There are so many albums around at the moment that you just do not want to listen to the end.
And then there is The Long Game: you listen to the end and then you start all over again.
It is a very different Liam Noble, the electric dare I say “prog” side emerging as if for the first time.
In the company of two ex-Polar Bear players Tom Herbert on bass and Seb Rochford on drums this is not the usual jazz trio. The tunes are Noble’s, there is plenty of mischief at play which gives the album a life and personality, and while on ‘Between You and Me’ by using piano a bit he is on more familiar territory the scenery changes quickly enough, just listen to the weird noises filtering up from the innards of the album.
‘Unmemoried Man’ is fun, the sound direction switching from left to right, a kind of a game, pin the tail on the pianist... and those odd little background hisses and fades adding peculiar seasoning.
‘Head of Marketing’ has a kind of slyly funky cod serious pisstake quality to it dressed up to sound like one of the many hundreds of Bill Frisell records that can it is rumoured even be found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench wrapped inside all those discarded plastic bags from Tesco.
‘Head First’ has a kind of heavy metal madness to it and Herbert piles in, with Noble as if kidnapped forced to keep up with Rochford’s hyperactive drums muttering as he tinkles no doubt about how much he likes Deerhoof because it would be rude not to.
‘Head Over Heels’ has a Django Bates type sense of mischief again, some crazy settings chosen on the keys to make the thing sound as if it is all under water. Some times I think of Billy Jenkins a little circa Blue Moon in a Function Room in the way Noble has fun say on the perky ‘Pink Mice’ but there is plenty to ponder too and ‘Flesh and Blood’ stops you in your tracks and ‘Matcha Mind’ has a pile of microscopic detail that succeeds in making the sound intimate and personal and probably the most significant piece of the whole thing. Definitely among the best albums that I have heard this year. Noble goes from strength to strength and pulls the rug from under us poor unsuspecting listeners yet again. SG
If anyone can keep bebop relevant and turn its twists and anarchy into a music still fit for the 21st century it is alto sax genius Zhenya Strigalev and guitarist Federico Dannemann, returning from Blues for Maggie, with a great bass and drums team in Luques Curtis and Obed Calvaire. Recorded in a studio in Russia The Change (Rainy Days) is the first since Strigalev moved back to his native Russia after a great spell in London where you could depend on him to enliven a jam session at the drop of a hat in places like the now defunct Hoxton club Charlie Wright’s where back in the day Strigalev first played with Calvaire and Curtis. Strigalev’s best album to date? Yes I think so. The tunes really stand up and the yin and yang of sax and guitar work well, Dannemann an expert at colour while Strigalev manages to inject extra tenderness to his wildly virtuosic saxophone expertise to elevate this beyond a showboating display of technique. SG
Photo of Zhenya Strigalev by Eugene Petrushanskiy. UK release 28 June.
A first listen to the latest from Graviton, pianist Andrew McCormack’s band, and the title track above drawn from their pulsating second album, The Calling released this week — McCormack with Noemi Nuti on vocals, Josh Arcoleo on tenor saxophone, Tom Herbert on electric bass and Josh Blackmore on drums.
You always get a spiritual frisson from listening to a Tori Freestone record and El Mar de Nubes is no different. With spare bass and drums accompanying the saxophonist, there is a stark stillness to the record and plenty of space for her striking style. Inspired by the Canary Islands’ “sea of clouds” tracks include originals, traditional material, and a version of Sam Rivers’ ‘Beatrice’. All eminently listenable, but I get a samey feeling following on from earlier albums. Time to throw caution to the wind next time around and shake things up? For sure. SG.
Tickets go on sale on Friday for the just announced Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club 60th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall to take place on 30 October. Van Morrison, Courtney Pine, Imelda May, Madeline Bell and Liane Carroll are among the line-up. Ronnie Scott’s managing director Simon Cooke said: “We are transporting the club, for one night only, into the slightly larger Royal Albert Hall, but have every intention of recreating the unique atmosphere we have here in Frith Street.” Royal Albert Hall, above. Photo: marlbank