The latest band to emerge from the tight-knit Liverpool jazz scene is The Weave, a two-trumpet + rhythm section-sorted six-piece that owe their roots to a residency in the city’s pub The Grapes.
Roaring down the motorway to play the Spice of Life in Soho on Thursday their new highly unusual album Knowledge Porridge features the core band plus a small number of guests, the title a nod to a line in a song by Salinger-esque Scouser Lee Mavers’ much adored 1980s band The La’s.
Released via Rufusalbino Records on Monday the album was recorded in the city’s Parr Street studios in January this year, just over two years on from the band’s self-titled debut. Tracks include ‘Evolve and Expand’ featuring guest singer Luciana Mercer who wrote this song. Most of the remaining compositions are by trumpeter/leader Martin Smith.
Expect a drizzle of spoken word on the engagingly theatrical title track (“we are but mist on a field full of riches/a wisp in a turbulence of water and air”), a healthy synthesis of melted-in mainstream jazz sounds plus a touch of Django-like gypsy-jazz buskery kicking off ‘Para Parrot’, assorted nods to Zappa and the Canterbury scene, occasionally a slight resemblance to Get the Blessing on ‘The Pogo’... and, yes, even a cello duet. Alarmingly fresh.
The Weave, above
- Category: New band radar
- Created: Fri 3rd Jul 2015 09:48:45
The climax of her latest run in the Dean Street club, this gig was a preview for the singer-pianist’s new album Seaside.
A late night set, the second house of the evening, a more intimate less crowded gathering, after a packed first house. With a little more air to breathe and just an hour or two before an electrical storm rocked the London area, sheets of lightning dramatically illuminating the city skies, Carroll generates her own 100 per cent human electricity as one of Britain’s finest jazz singers blessed with a huge bluesily gospel-based technique generously soaked in bebop.
Carroll began the set scatting imaginatively in the breaks between the lyrics to ‘Almost Like Being in Love’ the much loved Lerner and Loewe Brigadoon song that later became a jazz standard and that, like a lot of the songs in the set, appears on Seaside.
Switching sometimes to abandon the piano to leave the piano part to Mark Edwards, Carroll was also accompanied by the pinpoint accurate bass guitarist Steve Pearce and by super-classy drummer Ian Thomas plus on some numbers the addition of powerful trumpeter/flugel player James McMillan who also produced Seaside. Sometimes Edwards moved over to play gospelly organ cooked up on a Nord keyboard perched over by the drums on the other side of the stage playing opposite Liane on the Steinway.
Carroll was on boisterous form, loving every moment of it, cracking jokes to the audience and ad-libbing, later joshing as she tinkled a few notes of one tune she teased that she wouldn’t be singing: ‘Oh we do like to be beside the seaside’!
More seriously ‘Seaside’ the title track established the mood for the whole 70-minute set nicely, Joe Stilgoe’s bittersweet life-affirming lyrics somehow evoking a lost, practically Edwardian, era.
Other tracks from the upcoming album to get an airing included ‘Wild is the Wind’, ‘Bring Me Sunshine,’ the latter an audaciously slow and brooding remake of the Eric and Ernie theme tune. Liane introduced this song by reminiscing about having tea with her nan watching TV, eating “coleslaw sandwiches,” as the Morecambe and Wise show came on.
The big moment was reserved for ‘Mercy Now’ a brilliant two-pronged attack on the senses: sad and a tearjerker at the beginning and then a loud and proud anthem in the latter part of this winning interpretation of the Mary Gauthier song. SG
• Liane Carroll later this month joins the teaching faculty and performs as one of the headliners at the Sligo Jazz Project in Ireland
Late night audience vibe, above, at Pizza Express
- Category: Lives
- Created: Sat 4th Jul 2015 08:44:28
From Brooklyn, influenced by Sarah Vaughan at a young age, later a student at the Manhattan School of Music, singer Charenée Wade was a runner-up in the Thelonious Monk Vocal competition in 2010, and regularly sings at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
Offering was actually recorded at a studio in the J@LC complex over three days of mid-July 2013. And according to the label this is the first full-length tribute to Scott-Heron and Jackson by a female artist.
It’s less than two years since the release of Evolutionary Minded: Furthering The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron, also on Motéma put together by Kentyah Fraser, a more hip-hop grounded tribute, the two albums occupying different vantage points to view Scott-Heron and Jackson’s body of work, only Gregory Porter’s take on that album of ‘Song of the Wind’ coming closest to the approach of this new much more jazz-centric release.
Joining Wade on the album are pianist Brandon McCune, known for his work with Nnenna Freelon; guitarist Dave Stryker; distinguished Cassandra Wilson bassist Lonnie Plaxico; drummer Alvester Garnett, and vibist Stefon Harris. Guests are alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin; Cosby Show actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner delivering what amounts to an eloquent oration; and Marcus Miller on bass clarinet all on ‘Essex/Martin, Grant Byrd and Till’, plus the speaking voice, like a very hip preacher, tantalisingly briefly, of Christian McBride on the introduction to ‘Peace Go With You Brother’ from Winter in America. The album was produced by Chicago DJ and writer Mark Ruffin.
Opening with the title track ‘Offering’ (from The First Minute of a New Day) followed by ‘Song of the Wind’ (from 1977 album Bridges), ‘A Toast to the People’, on the earlier From South Africa to South Carolina, and ‘Home is Where the Hatred Is’ from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, ‘Aint’ No Such Thing as Superman’ like ‘Offering’ from 1975 album The First Minute of a New Day, is when Wade’s album simply lifts off: McCune superb, Wade soaring over the top of the inspired rhythm section’s funkily channelled energy, the singer’s Betty Carter-into-Sarah Vaughan sprit slipping and sliding into a freer space.
Lakecia Benjamin on sax testifies at the beginning of the big statement of the album ‘Essex/Martin, Grant Byrd and Till’ the deep tones of Miller on bass clarinet her sonic beacon the album taking on its most spiritual aspect. Jamal-Warner speaks of the “inner city blues” and “a cry for the new day” railing against police brutality, sadly nothing changes all these years on from when the song first appeared, before Wade then comes in like silk.
Bass takes the lead with Plaxico beginning ‘Western Sunrise’ (again from The First Minute of a New Day) as he does ‘The Vulture’ the latter taking on a head-bobbingly swung momentum to it Garnett taking up the reins. McBride provides the message on ‘Peace Go With You Brother’ like he’s delivering the Grace at a church service... “all the family must be together.” And there’s optimism by the end on ‘I Think I’ll Call It Morning’ from Pieces of a Man.
Poised and unhurried throughout, technically strong and in control at all times Wade is practically walking on water here, her interpretation of these great songs simply divine. SG
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Sat 13th Jun 2015 15:05:31
Two years on from Ballads singer-pianist Liane Carroll’s new album Seaside is to be released by Linn Records on 18 September.
The title track was written by singer-pianist Joe Stilgoe the album produced, like Ballads and the singer’s 2011 Parliamentary Award-winning predecessor Up and Down, by trumpeter James McMillan who will join Liane’s band at the Pizza Express Jazz Club for preview shows. McMillan told Marlbank: “I’m really pleased with the record, one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever been involved with... after 25 years of producing records.”
While Ballads was full of torch songs Seaside takes a different approach, its nautical theme including songs that match the concept in different ways with, as well as the title track, the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin classic ‘My Ship’, standard ‘I Cover The Waterfront’ and the hymn ‘For Those in Peril of the Sea.’
Beginning with an atmospheric practically Edwardian brass band-type introduction to ‘Seaside’ the lyrics concerning the protagonist waiting at the usual place and the request to look out for me: “just throw a stone and say a prayer/the skies will fade/to take the air.” The chorus with its plea to “come kiss me quickly/we might not have long/before all this is washed away” highly affecting.
Lerner and Loewe song ‘Almost Like Being in Love’, which featured in the 1940s musical Brigadoon, is the next song, Liane scatting exuberantly, moving to a swinging uptempo pace. The third track is the Arthur Kent/Sylvia Dee song ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, which became the theme song for Morecambe and Wise, is next, the quite slow and moody feel transforming the song from how we might immediately know it.
The fourth track is begun by throaty tenor sax, with a bluesy feel to the traditional ‘It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ sung back in the 1920s by Blind Willie Johnson.
The next track is the Gordie Sampson/Fred Lavery song ‘Get Me Through December’ Alison Krauss included on A Hundred Miles or More begun here by a short piano introduction, its message “faith can move mountains.”
Mary Gauthier song ‘Mercy Now’ above in a live version is a real tearjerker, prepare yourself, a brassy break eventually relieving the heavy emotion before Liane shows her power and returns with the line “Every living thing could use a little mercy now” as the song becomes more gospelly.
Track 7 is ‘Wild is the Wind’, the Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington song, lovely mournful brass accompaniment well into the song a feature in its north country poignancy. Track 8 begins with an acoustic Django Reinhardt-esque guitar opening to the 1930s Johnny Green-Edward Heyman standard ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, again the sea theme recurring, a tasteful guitar solo cropping up midway through.
The penultimate track opens with a piano introduction unfolding into 1940s song ‘My Ship’ by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin famously covered by Miles Davis in an instrumental version on Miles Ahead the following decade. Much later Liane scats as she takes the song uptempo against piano comping and thrusting, swinging drums. The final track is the beloved 19th century hymn associated with seafarers, ‘For Those In Peril of the Sea.’
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 2nd Jul 2015 09:53:14
Last we heard from Nils Økland was a radical departure with the Hardanger fiddler’s Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground-inspired trio album Lumen Drones.
This latest record, a more stately folk and chamber-jazz flavoured five-piece affair, bristling with sax, harmonium, bass and drums, was recorded in a church near Lena in Norway in the summer of 2012, the title track dedicated to Økland’s late father and to his mother.
The music is largely the fiddle player’s arranged by the band (improvisational range is actually limited, the room for manoeuvre relatively constrained), that’s Rolf-Erik Nystrom on saxes, Sigbjørn Apeland harmonium, Mats Eilertsen double bass and Håkon Mørch Stene on percussion and vibes.
There’s an incantatory appeal to some of the dense chordal legato phrases on ‘Mali’ a kind of a mantra if it were sung. ‘Drev’ later is texturally richer the dirge-like atmosphere blossoming into something more open and appealing, the force of the band’s improvising imagination hitherto largely under wraps flickering and flowering.
A much more typical Okland album than what we heard on Lumen Drones, the strength and beauty of his musical personality driving the album, of course more of a good thing than anything else although the band is often overshadowed by the luminously ancient sounding fiddle among Økland’s choice of instruments.
Of as much appeal to those who listen a lot to classical music or traditional folk music from Norway, maybe even more so than jazz, pick for me is ‘Amstel’, Eilertsen breaking free, the lilting melody pristine in its rural loveliness.
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Wed 24th Jun 2015 10:43:59
‘Going down to old, old Woodstock/Feel the cool night breeze.’ No, not that Woodstock, an ocean and half a lifetime away.
This was newly knighted Van Morrison’s headlining appearance on the massive stage set up in the Great Court of the 18th century English baroque palace, in yes Woodstock... Oxfordshire.
While ‘Old Old Woodstock’ didn’t make it on to the set list, ‘Wild Night’ from the same classic 1971 album Tupelo Honey did. And joining it in an extensive trawl through the singer’s sparkling back catalogue of great songs was the timeless ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ from 1967 now residing in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Mere weeks before the Belfast legend returns to his native city for 70th birthday shows on Cyprus Avenue, here with his Irish/American band of guitarist Dave Keary, bass guitarist Paul Moore, keyboardist/trumpeter Paul Moran, energised ex-Sam Butera drummer Bobby Ruggiero and superb backing singer Dana Masters, the hits kept on coming on a warm night as people got out of their seats to dance in the aisles.
From Them-era vintage songs ‘Here Comes the Night’ and ‘Gloria’, belted out at the end, to more recent songs such as ‘Open the Door (To Your Heart)’ from 2012’s Born to Sing: No Plan B, Van, inscrutable behind dark glasses, a striped trilby hat pulled down over his face set off by a matching pin striped jacket, opened playing tumbles of notes on the alto saxophone as the band strolled into gear. With strong rapport developed during the set between Sir Van and the South Carolina-born backing singer Dana Masters, who has been in Morrison’s band since the Harp bar show at the end of 2013, highlight for me was ‘Carrying a Torch’ originally on 1990s double album Hymns to the Silence and recently included to magical effect with Clare Teal on the new Duets album. Masters has a gospel-soaked voice of real character that blends beautifully with Morrison’s and she steps in and out of the backing singer role, soaring meltingly on ‘Sometimes We Cry.’
Gregory Porter opened with his band of pianist Chip Crawford, double bassist Jahmal Nichols, bow-tied shades-wearing drummer Emanuel Harrold and alto saxist/flautist Yosuke Sato. A set sprinkled with songs from the Californian’s superb Grammy-winning album Liquid Spirit, ‘Water Under Bridges’ still retains the capacity to put a lump in your throat particularly the lines “Somebody told me, Get over it/It’s like water under bridges/That have already burned.” But it was ‘Hey Laura’ that roused the crowd first off and Porter kept their attention delivering ‘1960 What?,’ one of his most meaningful lyrics from early album Water, right at the end, power and emotion united.
Van Morrison, top, on one of the Nocturne big screens stageside at Blenheim; and Gregory Porter, above
Photos: Marlbank/Jazz FM
- Category: Lives
- Created: Fri 26th Jun 2015 06:41:50