It’s getting near that time of year when one lucky jazz artist, or band, ends up warming in the glow of a Mercury nomination. Or not, as the case may be. It’s the unique chance to hang around and compare haircuts with bands that don’t as a rule play to phonebox-sized audiences, at least not for a few months. Last year the Mercury judges ordained that jazz was in for a bit of snubbing and so the mood was understandably downcast down the Dog and Duck for a day or two not that house band the Vindaloo Stompers were in the running, postmodern trad not being the judges’ thing at all.
This year, a little absurdly, even if the genre is unfairly snubbed again, there’s a strong chance among the ranks of the many landfill indie bands under consideration that jazz will creep in anyway, but only in the moniker of the must cooed-over Adult Jazz, whose album Gist Is has been described by that arbiter of indie taste and tactics The Quietus as “texturally ravishing and textually fascinating,” quite good in other words.
Here are some strong jazz contenders that should be in with a shout or might just as easily be preparing to be cruelly snubbed. Get the Blessing, Lope and Antilope (Naim Jazz), GoGo Penguin V2.0 (Gondwana), Zara McFarlane If You Knew Her (Brownswood), Black Top #1 With Special Guest Steve Williamson (Babel), and Neil Cowley Trio Touch and Flee (Naim Jazz).
The nominations come through on 10 September.
Token beard: in for a shout at the Mercurys, the Neil Cowley trio, above
- Category: News
- Published: Sat 30th Aug 2014 18:02:07
It sounds like a huge dare making a jazz version of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Well it is a considerable undertaking by anyone’s yardstick. Following in the footsteps of the Flaming Lips in tackling the ubiquitous 1973 classic album that has sold more than 4m copies in the UK alone, there have nevertheless been precedents as recently as this year of jazz artists tackling revered rock material, Dylan Howe, for instance coming off triumphant with his clever take on Bowie’s Low period. But this is a step up in terms of sheer scale. I’ve always quite liked Nguyên Lê although not all his albums quite cut the mustard in terms of sheer consistency and live he can be a bit erratic even though technically he is quite obviously a heavyweight player. Scratch deep and you’ll find a Hendrixian at heart, so by tackling Pink Floyd at least Lê keeps faith with the same historical era even if Jimi had shuffled off this mortal coil by the time The Dark Side came to be made. Teaming Lê with Mike Gibbs on Celebrating The Dark Side Of The Moon (ACT) makes a lot of sense and collaborating here with the NDR Big Band playing arrangements mainly by the French Vietnamese player with orchestrations by the great Gibbs, featured artists singer Youn Sun Nah, drummer Gary Husband, and bass guitarist Jürgen Attig, means there’s certainly lots of firepower. Tracks include songs from the classic album, and Nguyên Lê’s own compositions.
When The Dark Side of the Moon came out having taken something like a year to make in the studio, staggering in terms of how long it takes to make your average jazz record then or now, a Rolling Stone reviewer noted that the album resembled “a single extended piece rather than, a collection of songs”, continuing: “It seems to deal primarily with the fleetingness and depravity of human life, hardly the commonplace subject matter of rock,” or of jazz for that matter. But how have Lê and Gibbs managed to match the “grandeur” the Rolling Stone writer saw in the source material? Answer well, by both caressing and bombarding the material to hand. For grandeur Sun Nah’s contribution reaches the powerful emotions needed most successfully.
There will be, one would imagine, a strong range of reactions to this new work when it comes out in November: downright hostility, possibly. Intrigued acceptance, more likely; but even a non-committal shrug or two. The original album ran like this, a track order ingrained probably in the heads of millions of rock fans the world over: ‘Speak to Me’, ‘Breathe’, ‘On the Run’, ‘Time’, ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’, ‘Money’ (the opening track of side two), ‘Us and Them’, ‘Any Colour You Like’, ‘Brain Damage’, and finally ‘Eclipse.’ In Lê’s treatment ‘Speak to Me’ opens proceedings followed quickly by a new piece ‘Inspire’, then ‘Breathe’ with Youn Sun Nah superbly laconic and the WDR giving it a whole lot of well, Welly. Then it’s ‘On the Run’ and ‘Time’ from The Dark Side, new pieces ‘Magic Spells’ and ‘Hear This Whispering’ followed by the Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’, ‘Gotta Go Sometime’, then ‘Money’ and ‘Us and Them’ (both from the original album), new piece ‘Purple or Blue’ followed by ‘Any Colour You Like’, ‘Brain Damage’, and ‘Eclipse’ from The Dark Side complete what’s on offer here.
As ever with such classic rock archaeology you’ll want to immediately listen to the original material and to be perfectly frank you might just stop right there and never return to these particular Lê lines. That might be a shame though but I can’t help but feeling Colin Towns, say, could come up with a completely different way of tackling Pink Floyd that might resonate more. And who knows he might one day. SG
Nguyên Lê, the NDR Big Band, and Mike Gibbs, above. Photo: ACT/Patrick Essex
- Category: News
- Published: Sat 30th Aug 2014 14:35:07
It certainly won’t be televised but jazz journalism nonetheless has undergone a real revolution and huge upheaval in recent years in terms of how it’s consumed and how the media itself provides its content.
It used to be the case that to read anything about jazz involved three main options: the first two were looking to newspapers and magazines for short-form journalism; and the third to books for long-form writing sometimes journalism, sometimes not: whether biography, major critical analysis, extended thinkpieces, cuddly discographies, that sort of thing.
This hasn’t been the case for many years now since the birth of the web especially in terms of short-form writing as there is much more choice. But even things that long-form formats were good for, discographies say, have now migrated away from the printed page.
The way we consume short-form journalism has changed beyond all recognition since the 1990s. And this is because of the advent of jazz websites and blogs and just as importantly their sheer accessibility via phones and now tablet computers. It’s now possible to know in real-time in terms of publicly disseminated information what is pretty much going on in this specialist area, unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago.
But the role of newspapers covering jazz has changed for the worse. It seems there is less of it in papers even in the most jazz-friendly ones. And if you were to depend on newspaper coverage alone to fully serve your interest in the music properly you would be seriously under-informed. That’s quite a failure on the part of papers and it applies to many other specialist music areas, not just jazz, and across the arts.
Consider for instance that even in terms of something as basic as album reviews how poorly newspapers cover the subject with many newspapers not reviewing any new jazz releases at all and those that do only including reviews of a tiny fraction of the dozens that deserve coverage released each week.
Newspaper coverage and magazine coverage of jazz doesn’t respond quickly enough to the demands among the small jazz community of fans, interested concertgoers, and musicians for information about their subject. That’s partly because they are a prisoner of their format. But compare papers’ attitudes to the way they report sport or the way they cover popular music and film. It’s rare to read an overnight jazz review in a newspaper, whereas it’s easier to find instant reviews of gigs on jazz websites. In the case of magazines, waiting a month to read a gig review or album review or artist profile relating to a release months back isn’t serving anything more than a documenting purpose and often it’s not even that as there is a publicity agenda that effectively mothballs the piece, so it's topical but late!
A great many blogs and websites however don’t really replicate the quality you can glean from reading a considered well-written review in a newspaper or magazine. Reading sheer gush or ill-considered rubbishing of an album online is not that interesting. But remember with the grip the PR and marketing industry has even in niche areas and even in jazz, hype distorts on the printed page in often insidious ways mainly in terms of just who actually gets coverage in the first place. A pecking order exists that to some extent has been established by marketing people with ad spend as it does editors taking a stand for something they believe in.
Websites are more of a gateway to audio and video than magazines and newspapers can ever be. Even if a magazine comes in a 200-page issue providing huge quantity it can only operate in the domain of the printed word albeit with photographs and graphics to make a great look. But the format itself is limited. In a multimedia age this is a huge disadvantage and one of the reasons online media has become so powerful. For instance, if online a profile mentions previous albums of an artist’s or an issue that concerns them, perhaps something they themselves have even written, or if there are links to reviews of their previous work adding to the sheer depth of the content provided, there is no way a magazine can compete with this resource. Similarly if a reader wants to listen to the artist’s music as they read, a magazine can’t offer this, unless they provide a CD covermount, something that is now hardly ever an option, and if so usually unrelated to the main thrust of the content in the issue.
Magazine online offerings if they are just excerpts of the print offering rather than a unique product in themselves, are rarely satisfying because you as a reader know instinctively that the real content is elsewhere offline. So in effect the content you’re reading is only a flag-waver for that.
The other significant issue in terms of short-form reading about jazz now does not necessarily revolve around journalism at all. If you are an avid Facebook or Twitter user you can pick up a good deal about the subject via musicians and labels’ own postings even if most of these are just blatant sales pitches and often of limited value.
Ultimately we all need proper coverage of the subject professionally presented by media outlets with high standards and values. Sadly most media companies do not invest in journalism expecting journalists and amateur contributors to send their work in for nothing or for paltry fees. That’s a real problem especially for journalists who have to retreat from covering their subject for real reasons: who can afford to spend a day or more on an article on a regular basis interviewing people and covering events that is going to cost a whole load of significant expenses and not even bring in a reasonable fee even enough to cover bare costs? It’s demeaning and more than this actually redefines the role of the journalist. Instead of doing their job they are forced by having to ‘buy in’ to what they’re doing somehow to become an unofficial supporter, an advocate, that has different responsibilities more akin to the fan than that of the observer who has a responsibility to telling an as objective and engaging story as possible.
Of course many specialist music journalists are advocates to a certain extent or have particular enthusiasms. But they know that they have to carefully moderate their enthusiasms for reasons of fairness and not to bang on too much for fear of sheer boredom in the reader. Someone needs to keep a cool head and put what’s going on into context. Someone has to ask the tricky questions and make sense of reality beyond the blatant sales pitch. These questions aren’t going to be provided by the value-judgement heavy atmosphere of fandom.
The revolution in jazz journalism has left some areas relatively untouched (long-form probably most of all) but nothing will ever be the same and that’s a good thing. But when the dust settles jazz journalism will have to rise to the challenge. But it needs investment from media owners and from readers too. Otherwise the role of observer, critic, documentarian, storyteller even will simply become a quaint notion and everything will, in a fool’s paradise, just be awesome all of the time or march to an ever more militant marketing drum.
- Category: Interviews and features
- Published: Sat 30th Aug 2014 10:30:38
A generation comes in from the cold. That distorted voice intoning put your hands on it at the beginning drops a hint something new is up, the Fender Rhodes, a symbol of youth these days even though Moran is in his late-thirties, then underlines. After this anyone under, oh, retirement age, will be able to think of Fats Waller in a different way. If you’re being really honest with yourself nobody really bothered about the half forgotten probably too overly familiar music of Waller in the last few decades unless you were a died-in-the-wool traditionalist or just knew the best known tunes as standards that just happened to be there. Waller just seemed like an entertaining figure from the past whose tunes would occasionally pique a modernist’s interest, some times heard a long time ago through the filter of say someone like Eric Dolphy to eventually become putty in the hands of the Vienna Art Orchestra.
There was that anonymity and familiarity that some of the music handed down by jazz greats exudes that actually creates a huge distance between the music and performance. Moran’s knack is to retain the entertainment element but throw in loads of other stuff, like adding loads of herbs and interesting sauces cooked in a radically new way to stodgy old ingredients. He could have just taken the whole thing out into the wild avant garde. But in fact he goes the other way and fools about with the entertainment element.
The album takes plenty of detours including one from Leron Thomas, on the endearing Loesser/Carmichael song ‘Two Sleepy People’, who you might remember did a great turn singing on Zara McFarlane’s album last year. He manages to show why he might as well forget about the trumpet a bit as he’s one of the great new male jazz singers, post-Gregory Porter, to croon credibly in the Freddy Cole mould. Moran’s long running piano trio the Bandwagon is only part of the story here as Meshell Ndegeocello is in attendance at her jazziest shining through while retaining her typically sensual signature style. A song such as ‘The Joint is Jumpin’ with its marauding opening drum beat somehow takes on Baz Luhrmann proportions as the aural scenery opens up skyward, no visuals required, the arrangement taking on a Technicolor dimension. Moran is pretty funky in a kind of a dress down honky tonk sense say on ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ and elsewhere when he needs to be, scaldingly modern at other moments when he can’t be bothered, the horns finding a bit of space to blend and hunker down around him.
While the structures and rhythms don’t quite shout out “you can dance to this,” they make a pretty good go of it, the album accessible without being obvious, and each of the 12 tracks has a life force whether the momentum is overtly danceable or now. All Rise is certainly not a conservatoire-endorsed or ‘official’ kind of album with so much musicological respect for Waller generated to construct an impossible obstacle to enjoyment. ‘Jitterbug Waltz’, tender towards the end, is where bassist Tarus Mateen comes into his own pulsing like a light caught in the rear view mirror dimming in and and of view, a little like the way say Derrick Hodge manages to add that soulful ‘x’ factor to a Robert Glasper record. And it’s on this most idiosyncratic of waltzes that Moran shows his mastery of the balladic mood.
One of the best jazz albums of the year so far, Moran comes over for the Berlin Jazz Festival in the autumn to unveil the project to a European audience for the first time. Should be an event. SG
Released on 15 September. Jason Moran, above. Photo: Michael Nagle/Blue Note
updated with additional video 29/8
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Tue 26th Aug 2014 15:31:12
Bound to be an occasion, the first Charles Lloyd Dublin concert in a decade, has been announced by the National Concert Hall. No better time to turn on, tune in, and drop out all these decades on still courtesy of the saxophonist who convinced the hippies to stick with jazz.
There’s a live take of ‘Caroline No’, a Brian Wilson song that also appeared on Lloyd’s best album in decades, 2010’s Mirror, above. The concert is on 18 November.
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 29th Aug 2014 09:12:40
Courtney Pine, above, and Dennis Rollins are to top the bill at this year’s Lancaster Jazz Festival.
Also appearing are the Peter Edwards trio, Elliot Galvin, the Paul Edis sextet, and saxophonist Samuel Eagles whose debut Next Beginning is released later in the autumn. The Lancaster festival, which runs from 18-21 September, has also commissioned Leo Geyer to write a new piece, which is to be performed by the young composer’s ensemble Khymerikal.
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 29th Aug 2014 07:19:59
Dianne Reeves is to play at this year's Belfast festival at Queen’s, joining the already announced Neil Cowley trio on the bill. The jazz singer whose latest album is Beautiful Life is also playing this autumn’s Cork Jazz Festival and is to perform at south Belfast’s Elmwood Hall on 26 October, her first Northern Ireland appearance.
Also for Belfast the great Detroit soul singer Bettye LaVette plays the city for the first time. LaVette proved herself one of the best interpreters of Van Morrison songs on the planet on tribute album Vanthology which came out just over a decade ago with her take on ‘Real Real Gone’ from Van's early-1990s album, Enlightenment. Belfast fans will be even more ‘gone’ should Mr Morrison turn up when Bettye hits town for the first time. SG
Bettye LaVette, above. Photo: Stephen Fourie
- Category: News
- Published: Sun 24th Aug 2014 13:53:22
Louis Sclavis is one of the world’s great bass clarinet players performing in an improvised music and jazz context, his reputation long since secure particularly for such albums as Rouge and Napoli’s Walls and as a live performer of considerable artistry. This latest album from the 61-year-old Lyon-born composer featuring his use of both clarinet and bass clarinet was recorded in France back in March and features members of his Atlas trio, guitarist Gilles Coronado and pianist Benjamin Moussay, who appeared on Sources, joined here in something of a twist by Iranian percussionist Kevyan Chemirani playing zarb (goblet drum) among his choices. The concept of the album is for the music all composed by Sclavis sometimes utilising Iranian rhythms to take an imaginary nomadic central Asian route. It follows an incantatory and stimulating direction with at times challengingly stark themes that have a certain unselfconscious grandeur to them, take ‘L’homme sud’ for instance, that more than carry the listener along.
Sclavis can be simply still and mysterious with minimal accompaniment at his most effective, and he’s also tender in a John Surman-like manner on opener ‘Le parfum de l’exil’. Moussay conjures dreamy sad atmospheres in the beautiful beginning of ‘L’autre rive’, one of the most evocative passages of this superb album. Coronado is adept at adding little touches that illuminate ensemble lines or jut out enough to enhance solo work from the others in the ensemble, and adds great atmosphere in informal duo with Chemirani at the beginning of ‘Sel et soie’ (‘Salt and Silk’, the title track). It’s a quite intimate thought-provoking chamber-jazz style in general with a folk-y side to it hatching most obviously on later tracks, particularly ‘Dust and Dogs’. The sounds of cicadas, is it?, or birds mixed with what sounds like distant fireworks or thunder, possibly going by the track title recorded at Prato Plage, the lake near Pernes les Fontaines where the album was recorded, eases the album to an intriguingly restful close. SG
Louis Sclavis photo, top: Luc Jennepin / ECM.
Released on 25 August
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Mon 18th Aug 2014 07:07:00
Gilles Peterson unveils Moment of Hesitation featuring Herbie Hancock from new Flying Lotus album You’re Dead
“I'm so stoked for this album. He's making this thing in part to be a giant middle finger to the trend of easy listening ‘Starbucks jazz’ that he thinks has kind of taken over the genre in recent years. Sounds like it's gonna rip.”
That was one Reddit user’s reaction to Gilles Peterson’s scoop at playing the first track from Flying Lotus’ new record You’re Dead! (Warp) on his 6Music radio yesterday. The track is ‘Moment of Hesitation’ and features Herbie Hancock and Thundercat among others. Be warned blink and you might miss it! This clip above also has Gilles Peterson interviewing FlyLo, aka Steve Ellison, Peterson addressing the sleepy-sounding cult figure, in typical chummy fashion, as Steve.
- Category: News
- Published: Sun 24th Aug 2014 08:00:08
Previously unreleased Haden and Hall duo album to be issued in the autumn.
Duos have an intimacy jazz craves and desires. When the music loses two giants: Charlie Haden as recently as this month; Jim Hall last December, that sense of close contact with great practitioners of the art form listening to a record allows is especially pronounced in the setting of a duo, a process as here that now stirs memory, and especially gratitude for the sheer artistry and musicianship at play staving off any strong feeling of loss. This double bass and guitar album to be released in late-September, the first posthumous release featuring Haden, was recorded live in July 1990 a concert that marked the tenth anniversary of the Montreal Jazz Festival with an entire series dedicated to, and featuring, Haden at the festival that year.
Haden had recorded in Montreal the year before for ECM with the Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti but that would have to wait until 2001 for release, while Hall’s separate quartet album All Across the City had been released by Concord in 1989. The tracks here are Monk's ‘Bemsha Swing’ Haden on his own at the beginning with a solo the insistent descending refrain of which somehow summons an earworm of ‘Hit the Road Jack’, Hall gently trilling when he comes in, then ‘First Song’, Ornette Coleman’s ‘Turnaround’, ‘Body and Soul’, ‘Down From Antigua’, the longest of the eight tracks clocking in at more than 12 minutes, ‘Skylark’, ‘Big Blues’, and finally ‘In the Moment.’ Understated, quietly determined with a great deal of highly evolved and detailed duo interplay on all the tracks but especially on ‘Down From Antigua’, it’s an album to savour long into the night and in the years to come.
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Sun 27th Jul 2014 17:21:29
In this the centenary year of the Saturnian one’s birth, a mouth watering helping of 20 mainly infectiously groove-friendly Sun Ra pickings from the vaults chosen by Arkestra leader Marshall Allen, is set for release by dance label Strut in late-September.
More than a quarter century of music from Ra’s sprawling career is covered here on this double CD/vinyl issue with audio sound quality clean and crisp the tracks well sequenced, and there’s no annoying stop/start jumping about that a lot of scattergun compilations suffer from. There are also a number of unreleased tracks included as is the custom as a selling point with this kind of labour-of-love compilation, including an unheard Rome 1977 recording of ‘Trying to Put the Blame on Me’.
‘Plutonian Nights’, above, the Ra composed fifth track of the first of the two discs, is taken from the El Saturn Records LP The Nubians Of Plutonia recorded in Chicago at the tail end of the 1950s. You, too, can, once again, travel the spaceways.
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 22nd Aug 2014 09:21:09
Al Jarreau on My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke (Concord **** RECOMMENDED) honours the legacy of keyboardist George Duke who died last year and whose friendship with Duke went back to the mid-1960s when Jarreau was working as a social worker in San Francisco. With guest appearances by Gerald Albright, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Boney James, Kelly Price, and Dr. John, Duke also appears on the track ‘Bring Me Joy’. Stanley Clarke is also an important part of the album recorded mainly at the Village Studio in LA on a number of tracks (as well as co-producing some tracks) among some stellar names in the various band personnel configurations, including keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, and Patrice Rushen, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr, and percussionist Lenny Castro.
The title track ‘My Old Friend’ featuring saxophonist Gerald Albright Jarreau sang on early-1980s hit record Breakin’ Away a number that Duke appeared on while virtually all the other songs are Duke’s, including his Tutu ‘Backyard Ritual’ tune featuring Marcus Miller with Jarreau penning lyrics to become ‘Churchyheart (Backyard Ritual)’, candlelit rhymes chasing the blues away as the lyric has it, vocal against trumpet and formidable bass (later with a fine bass clarinet solo from Miller) that develops eventually into a loose scat rap by the end. Jarreau says in his liner notes in a letter to Duke that on this album he and his friends were there to make “some musical smiles”, and that’s really the album in a nutshell, a very sophisticated soul-pop-jazz hybrid that engages throughout. The gorgeous ‘Sweet Baby’ featuring a duet with Lalah Hathaway and finding Stanley Clarke on bass and backing vocals (the track was on 1981’s Clarke/Duke Project) is one of the easy standouts along with the joyous ‘Every Reason to Smile’ segueing into ‘Wings of Love’, featuring Jeffrey Osborne, the latter from Osborne’s self-titled solo debut, while Clarke is superb backing Dianne Reeves on ‘Brazilian Love Affair.’ SG
Al Jarreau, top. Photo: Marina Chavez / Concord
updated 1 Aug
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Mon 28th Jul 2014 13:22:51
Recorded over a two-year period in New York city this is the free improvising avant pairing of alto saxophonist Darius Jones and pianist Matthew Shipp. The duo released a 13-part song cycle Cosmic Lieder also on Aum Fidelity three years ago. Jones has a very authoritative sound on opener ‘Celestial Fountain’ that matches Shipp’s method here, by turns glassy, buoyant, and emphatic as Jones trills high in the instrument’s register an eerie calm already. Shipp’s sound still shares the sense of power Cecil Taylor has always harnessed, the shifting fluid metres, poetic astringency, and recalibrated tonality. But Taylor’s influence is an increasingly distant drum now, Shipp clearly an innovator himself. Maybe it’s more cinematic than Craig Taborn at his freest, and a step away surely from Marilyn Crispell these days, but all three players share a fundamental sound space and inventiveness in common. The Darkseid Recital is a very serious and satisfying album, lament-laden in its best parts (for instance at the beginning of ‘Life Equation’) Jones magisterial in his achingly contoured opaque legato phrases, Shipp inventive harmonically in poetic atonality beneath the abstract saxophonic confessional. The agony and the ecstasy, it’s all here. UK/Ireland release: 25 August
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Tue 29th Jul 2014 09:58:32
Always a pointer to future Nordic currents in jazz and improvised music the Young Nordic Jazz Comets showcase held this year in Finland this autumn features Elena and the Rom Ensemble from Finland itself, with Musik För Hemlösa, the Danish entry pictured above, the sax-bass-drums trio of Signe Emmeluth, Amadeus Wedberg, and Björn Petersson. The Swedish representation is the five-piece Intone, while Norway's band travelling to Helsinki is Krokofant, a guitar-drums-sax trio. The Icelandic band taking part is the quartet Aurora.
- Category: News
- Published: Wed 23rd Jul 2014 15:26:03
Laurie Antonioli, Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell, Origin Records ***
here isn't exactly a shortage of Joni Mitchell-inspired albums. But you can never have too many. This one, recorded in December last year in Fantasy studios in Berkeley, California, alights on early-period Joni, and material includes ‘Eastern Rain’ a song Fairport Convention recorded but the great Canadian never did. More familiar material including ‘Hissing of Summer Lawns’ and a slightly reluctant ‘Both Sides Now’ are included in case you were thinking this is just the obscurities. From the San Francisco Bay Area Antonioli whose jazz career goes back to the mid-1980s and whose performing credits include Pony Pondexter, Bobby McFerrin, and Joe Henderson, is accompanied here by her longstanding band of reeds player Sheldon Brown, guitarist Dave MacNab, bassist John Shifflett, and drummer Jason Lewis. Theo Bleckmann guests on the opener ‘People’s Parties’. Antonioli brings a bright engaged presence to the material better perhaps on the songs of light, than the songs of shadow. She shows great spirit on ‘California’ although it’s one of the more throwaway songs of the album, yet there’s plenty of more serious food for thought in Antonioli's lingering version of ‘Marcie.’ An album made with a lot of love for the songs.
Laurie Antonioli, above
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Thu 17th Jul 2014 06:38:32
itherto Dublin-based, Improvised Music Company director Gerry Godley will take up his new post as principal and managing director of Leeds College of Music in late-September. The chair of the board of directors, Libby Raper, said: “We are very much looking forward to working with Gerry and we are confident he is the right person to take Leeds College of Music forward. He will join our hugely capable executive team, bringing complementary skills and experience, which will ensure the conservatoire continues to deliver an innovative, relevant and excellent educational experience for our students.”
Gerry Godley commented: “It’s a great honour to be appointed to this significant role at Leeds College of Music. While I've worked with artists in many genres and at many stages of their life in music, my focus over the last decade has been at the early stages of career development, and it’s given me valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities for musicians and educators throughout Europe. As it marks 50 years, I'm looking forward to playing my part in the next stage of the conservatoire’s journey, and embracing life in one of the UK’s academic and cultural hubs.”
Gerry Godley, above
- Category: News
- Published: Thu 17th Jul 2014 05:52:04
here’s a new album on the way from The Cookers, the no-nonsense veterans, who, in recent years, have set high standards in consolidating heritage hard bop, and driving acoustic jazz.
They’ve been around some seven years, and Time and Time Again, their new Motéma release due in mid-September in the US, is their fourth album.
Billy Harper, tenor saxophone, Eddie Henderson, trumpet, David Weiss, trumpet, Donald Harrison, alto sax, recording with the Cookers for the first time, George Cables, piano, Cecil McBee, bass, and Billy Hart, drums, make up the band this time around playing originals by Harper, Cables, McBee, Hart, and Weiss.
Tracks include a tender farewell to the late Mulgrew Miller, led off by a gently undulating, lightly gospelised, Cables piano line met with aching horn ensemble response (the track also featured on recent Cables trio album Icons and Influences), and there’s a new version of Billy Harper tune ‘Sir Galahad’ that dates back to the saxophonist’s 1973 debut, Capra Black.
The Cookers are over playing some European dates next month with gigs at the Marciac festival in France on 12 August, the Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway on 13 August, Nisville jazz festival in Serbia on 14 August, and La Petite Pierre Jazz Festival in France on 15 August. SG
- Category: News
- Published: Tue 15th Jul 2014 06:15:08
Changing the face of jazz: Alarmist step up to the plate with OKO at Dublin double header
ashed in electronica and ambient dub OKO, the Irish band who are part of the prog-jazz Match & Fuse family, recorded I Love You Computer Mountain in Dublin in 2012 and play a double header with Alarmist at Whelans in Dublin on 21 July. This four-piece (Shane Latimer eight-string guitar/electronics; Darragh O’Kelly, keys, synths; Shane O’Donovan, drums/percussion/sampler; and DJackulate turntables/kaval/sampler/sax) open the album with ‘Shoehorns & Axelgrease’ sounding like a dubbed-up Floratone for a minute while ‘Totes Awky Momo’ moves the goalposts into more of an ambient space. ‘Under Over’ is more about the beat O’Kelly’s chord changes eventually opening up the tech-laden jam after an initial Indo-fusion and early Return to Forever-like foray. Out and out improvising in a blowing session style is not what OKO are about at all although the music has an open experimental feel to it where improvising progression is vital, the samplers and sheen of tech maybe blunting the message a little although it’s not aimed at the idea of people dancing around laptops, which would have been fatal. ‘Cell Cell Cell’ has more of an industrial feel at the beginning mutating into dubstep while ‘Axelgrease’ following lobs in overt dubby-bass and patches in a Steel Pulse-like reggae feel that then develops. Expansive Lonnie Liston Smith-like keyboards change the mood at the beginning of ‘What’s The Concept?’ an unfortunate bit of titling there although the mood shift is effective. ‘Oblong’ hovers a little on the edges of a trancey worldbeat sound while ‘Magnet Paste’ has a subdued drum ’n’ bass-like opening.
Sharing the night Alarmist, who played the recent Down with Jazz festival in Dublin, were the Irish representative at this year’s 12 Points in Sweden. Melding Tortoise-like rock and jazz flavours with skittering electronica and soukous-like sounds their second EP Pal Magnet, recorded at the Meadow Studios in County Wicklow in 2012, was released last autumn. The Dublin four-piece (Neil Crowley, drums/keyboards; Elis Czerniak, keys/guitar; Osgar Dukes, drums; and Barry O’Halpin, keys/guitar) first surfaced in 2011 with the release of their self-titled debut EP Alarmist.
- Category: News
- Published: Tue 8th Jul 2014 14:48:14
ere's a complete stream of trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Uri Caine’s upcoming album Present Joys, shared via the WYNC Soundcheck programme.
Drawn from the Shape Note Sacred Harp singing tradition Douglas and Caine interpret notation taken from shape-note tunebooks adding new matching Douglas compositions.
“I’ve always loved the Sacred Harp songs and started thinking about how to do them in the wake of Be Still,” Douglas says on the issuing label Greenleaf's website referring to his 2012 album.
The Shape Note tradition is American sacred folk choral music sung a cappella in four parts with the aid of a 19th-century songbook The Sacred Harp that uses shape notes. The ‘shape’ refers to the graphic representation of the notes on the page that connects directly to solfège, for a quick grasp of pitching.
Tracks are 'Soar Away', 'Ham Fist', 'Bethel', 'Present Joys', 'Supplication', 'Seven Seas', 'Confidence', 'End to End', 'Old Putt', and 'Zero Hour.'
Present Joys is released on 25 August in the US.
- Category: News
- Published: Mon 14th Jul 2014 15:47:56
he finalists competing at the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice competition streamed live on the web were Myriam Bouk Moun, Alita Moses, and Laura Perrudin. Interviewed here they discuss repertoire and their impressions of the competition so far. The winner just announced is Alita Moses from West Hartford, Connecticut, USA, a student in her senior year as a jazz vocal major at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She sang 'Four', 'Someone to Watch Over Me', and 'Amour T’es Là?'
- Category: News
- Published: Sat 12th Jul 2014 12:55:08
ne of the founding fathers of free-jazz Charlie Haden has died at the age of 76. In a statement the National Endowment for the Arts commented on the bassist/composer's passing: "It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of bassist, composer, and educator Charlie Haden, recipient of a 2012 NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, the nation's highest honour in jazz. Charlie Haden created a powerful collection of work during his long and productive career. Lyrical and expressive on the bass, he embraced a variety of musical genres, ranging from jazz to country to world music. His work as an educator led to the creation of the Jazz Studies programme at the California Institute of the Arts in 1982 where he focused on the spirituality of improvisation."
Tributes have flooded in on social media and will continue to. Haden's label ECM who released his chart topping duo album Last Dance with Keith Jarrett earlier in the summer commented: "It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Charlie Haden, born August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, passed away today at 10:11 Pacific time in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side."
Haden as a child sang on his parents' country and western radio show and began playing bass in his early teens. In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles, where he performed with Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Paul Bley, and Dexter Gordon and in LA first met Ornette Coleman, joining the saxophonist's groundbreaking free-jazz quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins.
From 1959's The Shape of Jazz to Come to 1961's This Is Our Music Haden with Ornette helped revolutinise jazz. A decade later he formed his own large ensemble the Liberation Music Orchestra and from 1967 to 1976 worked with Keith Jarrett's in both trio and quartet settings.
In the 1980s Haden formed Quartet West, a vehicle for more mainstream material grounded in the heritage of old Hollywood, and also duetted with Hank Jones, Alice Coltrane, and Pat Metheny among others.
His awards over a long and hugely influential career in music included the Montreal Jazz Festival's Miles Davis Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; and four NEA grants for composition.
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 11th Jul 2014 21:07:06
Clean sweep: Bobby Broom currently opening for Steely Dan
n the video below you'll find the soulful Bobby Broom talking about the making of new album My Shining Hour (Origin) due for release next month.
It's the Sonny Rollins veteran's trio playing choice standards, the guitarist with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven.
'Jitterbug Waltz', 'Just One of Those Things', 'My Ideal', and 'Tennessee Waltz', a tune Newk himself is often identified with, all crop up on the new album.
Broom is out on tour in the States at the moment opening for Steely Dan with his outfit the Organi-sation, gigging all over this summer.
Photo of Bobby Broom top: Todd Winters
- Category: News
- Published: Thu 10th Jul 2014 12:07:45
orking musicians are a strange breed. They complain bitterly that there aren’t enough gigs going around, and no one is quite as good as them, and really they should have all the gigs. And when they get a gig it’s fantastic. You know you’ve got a bit of work coming up on Saturday night, and even if there’s been nothing since Tuesday you’ve got that gig to look forward to. It might just be playing standards in the background, or it might be a wedding, but everyone looks forward to the gig. It’s a bit of me-time. And yet as soon as you’ve taken to the stage, you’re looking forward to the next break! Having spent all week looking forward to the gig, now that you’re on the gig you can’t wait to stop. Thankfully, there are distractions at hand to get you through that three hour set of standards you’ve waited all week to play. The biggest distraction: the phone. Nope, the musicians aren’t hustling for other gigs while already on a gig (although that has been known to happen). It’s easy access to Amazon, eBay, puzzle games, fashion websites. When it’s not your solo or you’re not playing the head, it’s downtime. Fire up Angry Birds for a few levels until after the drum solo and then you’re back in. Gone are the days of standing back enjoying the music and looking like you’re into it. With the phone on the music stand, you can watch TV, read a book, pick up some new gear online, or text someone about how their gig is going. Or maybe snap a quick photo and post it to Facebook and tell everyone how much you're enjoying this gig you're keen to get distracted from. Of course, phones are only a modern distraction. There’s a story going around about the drummer on the Sunday brunch gig who used to read the paper on his floor tom... For those able to leave the stage (i.e. horn players and singers) the bar can provide a lure too. It’s easy to slip off the stage suggesting you’re going out front to check the levels and return with a pint in each hand. A few of those will get you through the gig no problem, and you might even be convinced you sound better. There’s another story about the lead player who spent his fee at the bar and then some, having to actually pay to leave his own gig in the end. Yet speak to any working musician out there and they’ll say they have the best job in the world!
• Previously, while not trading fours with his phone, Crunk on... gigs from hell
- Category: News
- Published: Thu 10th Jul 2014 06:47:35
here can hardly be a more difficult, or personal, choice in music than to decide on the best studio to record an album in. Of course, no matter how good the kit and engineer are and even if the budget is big enough to blow gazillions on, if the charts and performance on the day aren’t up to scratch then a console the size of a spaceship and engineers with ears the size of a small moon won’t be enough.
So bearing that caveat in mind here’s a selection of popular choices to lay down that jazz masterpiece of your dreams in:
Bauer, Ludwigsburg, Germany
Sixty years of history, Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life was recorded there in 1975.
Practically synonymous with ECM, Rainbow was built by Jan Erik Kongshaug in 1984, and moved to a new location in the Norwegian capital in 2004.
Avatar, New York
Around for some 30 years this is one of Manhattan’s most popular jazz recording studios. Recent albums recorded here include Jakob Bro’s December Song, and Ralph Alessi’s Baida.
World music and jazz find a home-from-home at Livingston often to spectacular effect. Recent albums recorded here have included Incognito’s Amplified Soul.
La Buissone, France
Used by ECM and the Jazz Village label in recent years, Ahmad Jamal’s Saturday Morning was recorded here.
Real World, England
All sorts of music have been recorded here at Peter Gabriel’s famed studio with jazz musicians choosing the Wiltshire bolthole among them the Bad Plus and Neil Cowley.
Norma Winstone and Tingvall trio are among the jazz artists to make good use of this Fazioli-friendly facility recently.
La Buissone's Sony MXP-3000 series console, above
- Category: News
- Published: Mon 7th Jul 2014 10:09:49
The Gascoyne O’Higgins Quartet, The Real Note Vol 2, Jazzizit Records ****
year on from the release of the volume one sister set recorded the previous year here again are the former Jamie Cullum bassist Geoff Gascoyne along with hard hitting saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, Gascoyne’s Cullum rhythm section playing partner the swinging Sebastiaan De Krom and Stacey Kent pianist Graham Harvey.
Reconvening in February at the south London studio O’Hig runs with his wife, the place dubbed “Judy Van Gelder”, it’s a Englewood Cliffs-friendly album of Gascoyne and O’Higgins contrafacts seasoned with Duke Ellington’s ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and the Bird/McRae/Woods song ‘Broadway’, the last of these inspiring the inner Dexter Gordon in O’Higgins scrambling to get out.
Extremely classy high quality retro Blue Note-esque sounds where the minor blues, waltz-time episodes, Gershwin-derived rhythm changes, and even a new tune based on cheesy Andy Williams number ‘May Each Day’ jog along played down, congeniality and collegiality a given.
• The quartet play a pre-release late set at the Wigmore Hall, London on 25 July
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Thu 3rd Jul 2014 13:51:15
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, That’s It, Columbia ***
f you are allergic to trad-jazz even when it’s as authentic with a capital ‘A’ as here then That’s It is probably not for you, a lively old time warts-and-all traditional New Orleans record from this tuba, trumpet, and clarinet-flavoured outfit named after New Orleans’ trad citadel Preservation Hall, and now something of a rock star darling. Here with a complete set of original music, the album’s selling point for fans, the title track and opener is a rousing start and gospelly parading type tunes strut about. Not everything works, the touristy ‘Rattlin’ Bones’ not quite as much fun as the Preservationists make out, and with ‘I Think I Love You’ you might just prefer to stick with old Fats Domino records. Pianist Rickie Monie taps that Professor Longhair/Dr John style nicely at certain points but ‘Halfway Right, Halfway Wrong’ isn’t much of a song and the material really isn’t quite as catchy as it’s supposed to be unless you're absolutely mullered. The rudimentary vocals throughout are part of the point so that shouldn’t be a barrier but prove to be. ‘Yellow Moon’ has more depth than anywhere on this record (the banjo spin is different to the live version I've just linked to), so maybe head there first. Stephen Graham
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band play the 02’s Brooklyn Bowl in London on 21 July
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Fri 6th Jun 2014 07:15:57
Justin Clark The Tranzient Ensemble, Permanent Transience, Neuklang **
ot sure if using an oxymoron for the title of your album is really such a good idea. Being contradictory is however definitely a feature of Permanent Transience to be released in September. Clark is a bass trombonist and he and his ensemble of percussionist Didier Métrailler, vibist Loïc Defaux, violinist Fiona Kraege, bassist Shigeru Ishikawa, and pianist James Alexander get stuck in immediately on ‘Subzero’ a sort of a warm-up exercise (this contradiction business is catching). I’m not sure how much improvisation there is throughout (it doesn’t sound as if there’s much) but when the walking double bass breaks free on ‘Zoom Out’ there are nods in that direction. Really the atmosphere is a bit too stiff and stodgy and the choice of material jumps about a lot so suddenly we enter the baroque via Monteverdi on ‘Possente Spirto’ for no obvious reason, and then it’s Debussy’s ‘Syrinx’ written for flute here performed by Clark as a solo bass trombone piece. A case of back to the drawing board, surely. SG
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Sun 6th Jul 2014 06:55:48
Bobby Hutcherson, Enjoy the View, Blue Note **** Recommended
he first thing you hear on Enjoy the View is Joey DeFrancesco’s very laidback almost reedy Hammond organ on ‘Delia’, Billy Hart languid as he strokes and fills behind DeFrancesco then David Sanborn sounding very unsmooth, incidentally, as Hutcherson pours on a little salt, and then everyone accompanies the sax player.
It’s a pretty ballad, and Hutcherson eases through the swells of organ DeFrancesco adding some urgency. There are seven tunes on this new album, best heard live although frankly that’s not going to be really very possible given these players’ schedules, a bit of a surprise appearance on Blue Note by the 73-year-old vibes great returning to the label. Hutcherson hasn’t made an album for Blue Note since the 1970s (Knucklebean was the last one in 1977, a rarity not even on CD yet) and he’s the latest label veteran to return to the fold following Wayne Shorter’s example last year. Maybe they can entice Herbie Hancock back, wouldn’t that be something? (Don’t hold your breath.)
The album was recorded at Ocean Way studios in Hollywood but Sanborn hadn’t played with either Hutcherson or Hart before, making this record unique with that freshness that meeting new people and more to the point their playing music together allows. With more than 40 albums to Hutch’s name as a leader or co-leader the LA-born vibist began making records as a leader for Pacific at the dawn of the 1960s and was later, in New York, part of the New Thing with Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy. He appears on the Dolphy classic Out To Lunch and recorded extensively for Blue Note before changing direction with records of his own such as Head On (‘Hey Harold’ as in old amigo Harold Land, this number later issued as a bonus track on the reissue of that 1971 album in recent years) is the third track here.
Since the 1980s Hutcherson has returned to a more straightahead style. ‘Don Is’ the next track (Don as in Don Was, the album’s producer, and Blue Note boss) a Joey DeFrancesco creation, where Hart’s bombs are well, da bomb, cymbal smashes too, and the quartet really move, Hutcherson reaching up high. ‘Hey Harold' stretches out to just past seven minutes and has more drama well set out by exploratory chords from Hutcherson as if to say where do you want to go from here? And then it’s driving drums and arranged horns that ensue, the added trumpet overdub played by DeFrancesco who often plays the instrument at his own gigs. It might be a little too ponderous however, but ‘Little Flower’ doesn't lack for immediate impact and has less fat this Sanborn tune opening out like a book for Hutcherson to write all over in his first solo, which is very tender, the waves and small explosions of Hart’s rhythmic input keeping the ensemble sound vital.
There’s a lot of love on this record best pinpointed when the tune comes back to the head on ‘Little Flower’ where there’s a real vulnerability that isn’t fake at all. When Hutcherson harmonises with Sanborn it draws out a new dimension that DeFrancesco is then able to react to in his solo before everyone just decides to stop the tune because really everything has been stated and elaborated upon so well.
Towards the end ‘Teddy’ allows DeFrancesco to stretch out and groove, and Hutcherson sounds as if he is enjoying himself on this track Sanborn for once a little more uncomfortable almost trying to be a tenor player here. Imagine hearing Stanley Turrentine, if he was around, blowing on this number.
- Category: Reviews
- Published: Fri 20th Jun 2014 17:08:19
aul Horn died on Sunday at the age of 84 after a brief illness. According to the Hollywood Reporter the New Age pioneer died in Vancouver citing confirmation of his passing from Horn’s son Marlen.
A member of Chico Hamilton's quintet in the mid-1950s replacing Buddy Collette, Horn as a session player later worked with Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett among others and became known primarily as an alto saxophonist and especially as a flautist.
Horn found Grammy success with Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts in 1966 following earlier albums for Columbia The Sound of Paul Horn, Profile of a Jazz Musician, and Impressions of Cleopatra.
Yet it was Inside recorded towards the end of the hippie era at the Taj Mahal in India, a time that also saw Horn study transcendental meditation alongside the Beatles, that paved the way for what is now known as New Age music, a style of music and life discipline that exemplified and largely represented Horn’s later career and for which he will be chiefly remembered.
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 4th Jul 2014 06:26:39
The Brian Molley Quartet build on the release of Clock, the Glasgow-based saxophonist's lightly latin-inflected modal album stocked full of original compositions, with tour dates beginning this month. Molley has performed as a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and with drummer Stu Brown’s Sextet, and Brown joins Molley on tour following the studio work, the quartet completed by pianist Tom Gibbs and scene veteran Mario Caribé on double bass and guitar. Molley is one of the leading lights of the new generation of Scottish jazz players making their way, surely part of an elite to build on the achievements of the scene’s godfather Tommy Smith.
Dates are Manchester Jazz Festival (25 July, Thwaites Pavilion, 2.30pm); and The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (11-13 August), as part of the Fringe.
Brian Molley, above
- Category: News
- Published: Fri 4th Jul 2014 14:14:38