Sasha Berliner

Still in her teens vibist Sasha Berliner from San Francisco has won the LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award. A student of The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York as a consequence of winning Berliner will perform at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the D.C. Jazz Festival, the Blue Note Jazz Festival in New York City, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, and the Iowa City Jazz Festival next year. Read more

What sold most in Germany this year... according to the official charts.

1 JOHN COLTRANE’S lost album Both Directions At Once drawn from 1963 takes and heard in public in an official release for the first time was the biggest seller.

2 Glamour boy trumpeter Till Brönner and bassist Dieter Ilg and their album Nightfall sold next best. 

3 The AfroFuturism of Kamasi Washington with Heaven And Earth was the third biggest seller.

4 Pop-jazz singer Melody Gardot with Live In Europe was fourth.

5 Released a decade after the untimely passing of Esbjörn Svensson the Esbjörn Svensson Trio and Live In London also sold well weighing in back in fifth.

The Official German Jazz Charts were compiled by GfK Entertainment on behalf of the Bundesverband Musikindustrie e.V based on data from 2,800 retailers.

Paying tribute to the Skatalites DON DRUMMOND led by brilliant Swiss improviser SAMUEL BLASER on trombone and a band of all-stars who include Soweto Kinch and Alex Wilson, recently in action with the Bansangu Orchestra, Blaser explains the origins of the project in this exclusive marlbank interview preview

“I decided to form this band after a talk with Juhamatti Kauppinen, a ska, dub and reggae lover for whom I recorded some trombone for his latest release on Playground, at the Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland. I told him my dream was to pay tribute to Don Drummond. He booked the the idea right away and offered to perform at his festival in November 2019. I am still super-excited about it and can’t believe it’s happening! 
 

 
“At that time I was starting to perform regularly with bassist Ira Coleman who was by the way a member of Ernest Ranglin’s band. He’s the first member to have joined my group. Then Ira recommended me to get in touch with Dion Parson who will be on drums and Alex Wilson, a British keyboardist living in Switzerland who connected me to Soweto Kinch and Alan Weekes — Alex and Soweto were in Ernest’s band too. Michael Blake and I have been playing together for many years. We share the same love for that music. It was all natural for me to ask him to join the band.”  
Cosmic Don poster
This is quite a departure for you, isn’t it?
“It is in a way but not entirely. In fact, I have always played and listened to Jamaican music. I used to be a member of a well-known reggae band when I was 16-years-old. Since then I have been a regular session player for several productions with musicians like Spahni the LKJ, Lee Perry and Dennis Bovell drummer. I have always been dreaming about starting such a project but never found the right opportunity.” 

What was Don Drummond’s biggest contribution to the sound of the trombone?
“His playing was really unique and his music is still very mysterious to my ears full of imagination and tradition. What an incredible sound: Slightly out of tune; great lines and ideas; super melodic. Voted best trombone by Downbeat in the 1950s. Don himself used to think he was the best trombonist on earth although he never really travelled outside of Jamaica. Trombonists like JJ Johnson did travel to Kingston to hear him. I am not sure it’s true but I like to think that way.” 

What appeals to you most about paying homage to him?
“Right before moving to New York in 2005, a friend of mine in Switzerland gave me a tape and told me to listen carefully to Don D. I didn’t know who he was back then. Since then I have been listening to that tape a thousand times and I am still discovering new stuff in there. It’s amazing how rich this music is. To my knowledge I don’t think anyone else has really paid tribute to the trombonist except for Rico Rodriguez and that was right after Don Drummond's death. Rico, who was one of Don’s protégés and whom I unfortunately met only once, used to travel to my hometown very often — his dentist was there. He used to play with local bands too.”
 
If push were to come to show what would be your ultimate Don Drummond playlist topper and why?
“Well, I am still working on that and I am not really sure at this point which tunes we are going to perform. The problem is I like them all! I don’t really want to do what the Skatalites are doing. It wouldn’t make any sense. What actually interest me is to personalise Don’s music with the talent of my band members and deliver a different vision/approach. The sound is still in my head. I need to sit down and take the time to imagine the music. I am also considering including other people music like Count Ossie (Don D was going to the Wareika Hills to play drums with him) from an album called Tales Of Mozambique. Alex Wilson will be helping me to build a nice programme!”

Will there be a studio record as well as touring dates?
“Touring dates and a studio record are on the wish-list of course. All I need to do at the moment is launch the project and then see how much potential there is. With such a line-up I am not worried much but it’s the first time I am leading such a project and I am honestly a little nervous. As far as touring we are planning to get additional concerts in November 2019. My agency is currently working on this. Perhaps we could bring that music in the UK and Ireland! Hopefully we will tour more after that.” SG
 

THIS IS SUPERB... keep an eye out for People Are Fragile, out of Chicago, singer-songwriter Ashley Daneman combining a literary sensibility with a driving experimental jazz style where the heart of the song can find itself anywhere and always in a personal intimate space backed by a band with an open improvising set of skills who take it there.

Among the personnel the album, which contains both originals and spirituals (a beautiful version of 'Deep River’ for instance), features break-out drummer Makaya McCraven but above all Daneman’s voice conjures vast complex territory that embraces Joni Mitchell to Gretchen Parlato and far beyond with a soulful, powerful sense of truth hardbedded into it.

About resilience and recovery the singer states: “I’ve had a lot of grief and loss over the past few years and I was very in touch with my fragility. I realized that, to heal even further, I had to become vulnerable again.”  

“I was very influenced by two albums: Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, in terms of the role of the bass and pedal steel and the songwriting; and also Laura Mvula’s album Sing To The Moon, which is one of those albums that when you hear it, you feel it was made just for you and you want to absorb every piece of it. She has a lot of layering and vocal harmonies and that really spoke to me as well.” To be released by the Flood label in March 2019.

Mark Lockheart

Loose Tubes, Perfect Houseplants, and Polar Bear saxophone legend MARK LOCKHEART explains his “concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra” Days on Earth from his vantage point on the inside at the heart of the sound.

“So disregarding any commercial or logistical factors I’ve always been interested in writing music for large ensembles but once I started experimenting with some initial themes I soon realised this was going to be quite an ambitious project. 

“For 12 years I’d been enjoying making some amazing music with Polar Bear and over that time learnt so many things about texture, musical pacing and form. We would often play over a bass line for a long time developing textures and soundscapes I used to love this approach, the last album Same As You has a lot of this going on.  
 


“My 2013 adventures deconstructing Ellington tunes (Ellington In Anticipation) was all part of the journey leading up to this album and a lot of the writing techniques I discovered with the Ellington project were utilised here.  

“Two albums with my trio Malija with Jasper Høiby and Liam Noble were sandwiched in-between and the fun we had exploring quite a different sound world without drums I’m sure influenced the music on Days On Earth too.  

 

“With Days On Earth I wanted to explore some long expansive forms and let the music unfold gradually. I suspect this is maybe not such a popular idea nowadays with all the emphasis on single tracks and Spotify playlists but this was how I heard this jazz music unfolding — a sort of concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra.

“I guess I’m hoping people will listen to the whole thing a bit like I use to when I got a new record; I was always interested in the order of tracks etc and how the album unfolded and developed.

‘A View From Above’ is a bit like an overture to me introducing the sound-world I’m about to explore. It’s a little quirky in places and contains quite a lot of thematic material (fairly disguised I have to admit) that crops up later on.
 

‘Brave World/This Much I Know Is True’ is one of the most expansive and gradually unfolding pieces on the album and the bulk of the piece (after the long intro ‘Brave World’) is all based on a 3-bar bass pattern. The tenor solo unfolds gradually I like this solo which is rare for me! 

‘Party Animal’ the idea here was to have lots of fun in the studio and the piece is a bit silly in places. The core of the first half of this is the 4-way improvising dialogue between the saxes, flute and trumpet. I wanted the busy conversational feeling of people all nattering in the kitchen at a party.  

‘Believers’ is probably the most challenging piece in terms of playing and in form too. This piece gets more contrapuntal as it goes on I love the guitar solo by John [Parricelli] and the alto solo by Alice [Leggett]. 

‘Triana’ features the solo violin of Jackie Shave and the stillness and poise was important in this. 

Long Way Gone is built on three contrasting section and the form is just made up by returning to each section throughout for the power. This was very vibey when we recorded this and I like the way it grows and develops. Beautiful harp playing by Helen Tunstall in this.” 

Days On Earth will be released by Edition records on 18 January. Photo of Mark Lockheart: by Dave Stapleton. 

Off the super atmospheric Babylon Berlin soundtrack, ‘BITTER-SWEET’ by Bryan Ferry and his vintage jazz relatable orchestra. Loving this. Charting high in the US jazz chart. A musicologist writes: “We are transported to the Berlin of the Tacheles club and the Chamäleon, to the zeitgeist of that jazz-friendly metropolis in the young 20th century – the hedonistic world of Babylon Berlin.”

Does Double Bind stand out from the crowd? Second question if you forgive me: what crowd? Well, the “acoustic” “contemporary” “post-bop” one; or if you prefer small group straightatead-inclined, here featuring US tenor/soprano saxophonist Andy Middleton given an overly-generous “featuring” billing with the Joe Williamson-led Square One quartet who he toured with this year.

Guitarist Williamson along with pianist Peter Johnstone, double bassist David Bowden, and drummer Stephen Henderson, recorded this back in March, again I think albums are rushed out too soon and maybe the quartet should have waited to record a more mature version of themselves because this sounds under ripe.

On the plus side the selections are easy to navigate, the tunes have clear structures and there is a penchant for melodicism indulged that actually counterintuitively ups the stakes because the melodicism does not really translate into killer melodies and sinks into worthiness. To answer my question at the beginning, no not this time around let’s be completely frank. SG  

THE BUILD IS ON I guess we will be hearing more of Judi Jackson in 2019 with any luck. Before the new year dawns she is playing New Year's Eve at the Hampstead Jazz Club in leafy north London and while you can’t really place her voice, usually a good sign, it is true to say that she surrounds jazz, soul, and the gospelly blues in a big swoop, the way Amy Winehouse or Nina Simone did and there is plenty of feeling there in her very different quite vulnerable yet ultimately strong and by times tender voice rather than just a case of going through the motions.

From the US and now London-based she cropped up on Snarky Puppy album Family Dinner Volume 1 released five years ago and performs in Alex Webb’s Cafe Society classic jazz theatre shows. 

Signed to Lateralize, the co-owners of the Hampstead Jazz Club, the club owner Mayank Patel thrust her biggest statement to date her recent record Live in London into my more than receptive hands when marlbank dropped in to check out the club back in the autumn.

If you are in the north London area and want a “proper” jazz night out on the party night of the year look no further. Jackson might just restore your faith in stepping out to hear live music once again: Venue and details. SG

You simply need to know what “spang a lang” is, what’s good to go and what’s to avoid. Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr, famed for his work with Christian McBride, knows better than most how to play... and explain it. 

A couple of minutes is all it takes.

Theon Cross

New in 2019, Sons of Kemet tuba player Theon Cross has a monstrously sonorous album of his own as a leader on Gearbox. 

Scheduled for a 15 February vinyl release among the formats, Fyah tracks all written by Cross and recorded at London studio Soup are: ‘Activate’, ‘Offerings’, ‘Radiation’ and ‘Letting Go’ on the A Side; with ‘Candace of Meroe’, ‘Panda Village’ (above unveiled by The Quietus the other day), the Artie Zaitz-flavoured ‘CIYA’, which marlbank was completely blown away by on hearing the track in the label’s mastering studio back in the autumn, and finally ‘LDN’s Burning’ on the B. 

On most of the tracks the line-up features Cross with Nubya Garcia on tenor saxophone and Moses Boyd on drums while a bigger group featuring Wayne Francis on tenor saxophone, Theon’s brother Nathaniel on trombone, the soulful Grant Green influenced guitarist Artie Zaitz on electric guitar and Tim Doyle on percussion plus Boyd join the leader on a couple of others. photo: Andy Earl