Galling when your former student outshines you in terms of global pop superstardom.
But Joanna Eden wears it well.
The former student of hers in this regard, Sam Smith – also in the past her very occasional songwriting partner – and currently blasting it out in cinemas everywhere on the theme song for latest Bond movie Spectre.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang finds Saffron Walden-based singer Eden, whose earlier records include A Little Bird Told Me and covers album Moving Shadows, in the company of reedist Mark Crooks, pianist and MOJO jazz columnist Chris Ingham, jazz cleric Rev Andrew J. Brown on double bass, and George Double on drums.
Opening with Crooks’ sinuous clarinet playing on Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Prelude’ this is less a psychologically wrought or dark album and rather more a comfortable swinging stroll, Eden’s honeyed vocals dominating (her sound lands somewhere close to Jacqui Dankworth and she is also blessed with great diction and innate jazz timing) ringing out clear as a bell on Agatha theme ‘Close Enough For Love’ next.
The only Bond link in the title track incidentally, ‘Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, was a song turned down for Thunderball.
Jazz at the movies is a familiar sub-genre of album – Terence Blanchard did a fantastic instrumental one some years ago, for instance – and the knack is in the selections, some here well off the beaten track, others very familiar. The album also includes the Grusin/Bergmans Tootsie theme ‘It Might Be You’ that Norma Winstone has covered brilliantly in recent years, the treatment here dressed in much more casual swinging mainstream jazz clothes. SG
Released in January. The Jazz at the Movies band, above, play Dereham in Norfolk on 5 December, Ronnie Scott’s, London on the 6th with full dates coming up detailed here
- Published: Mon 30th Nov 2015 10:36:36
By contrast another new song has been put up by Dana’s management on Soundcloud this last month, presumably another song among the possible selections for her debut album, the gospellised ‘I Can’t Love Anybody Else’ shouter – plenty of joy and spirit here lifting the mood right up.Add a comment
- Published: Mon 30th Nov 2015 17:12:47
I managed to get to more gigs this year but still not quite as many as I would have liked. Mostly they were in small clubs and venues, hardly any festivals at all. It’s always great to see artists for the first time in a small club and chief in this regard this year was hearing Melody Gardot at the Pizza Express Jazz Club and by complete contrast Archie Shepp at Ronnie Scott’s (club interior, above).
My main live tip in terms of new singers has got to be Dana Masters who unveiled some new songs in a City of Derry jazz festival appearance back in May. This builds on her incredible way with standards and pop material as heard on her live EP recorded in Belfast last year and released back in the spring. The other new names to look out for in the future are double bassist Daniel Casimir who I was lucky to catch appearing with drummer David Lyttle and saxist Tom Harrison in one of my favourite places, Jazzeys in Enniskillen, now known as the Devenish Lounge; guitarist Artie Zaits a member of Moses Boyd’s Exodus also to be heard jamming at the Ronnie’s Late Late show; and the most exciting pianist I’ve heard in ages, the hugely virtuosic but completely natural Sarah Tandy, a regular at Ronnie’s hard bop jam and in monthly residence at Dalston dive Servant Jazz Quarters. SG
5 Cécile McLorin Salvant, Ronnie Scott’s, London, 3 June
This was the second of the singer’s sold-out nights at the famous Soho jazz club.
Two years on from WomanChild, which was just about the best thing about 2013 in terms of jazz records, Aaron Diehl once again McLorin Salvant’s pianistic muse especially effective in an intimate duo in the first set on ‘Don’t Explain’. The singer’s skilful theatrical manner and commanding stage presence puts you at ease, her piercing look willing to communicate every word of every song: she can curl a syllable to sculpt it from serious to a smile with the greatest of subtlety that still manages to convey surprise, one of the key elements of jazz performance.
The audience began to respond to her in the first set when she sang ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and the singer showed her playfulness on a range of material that journeyed to the 1920s and forward up to the 1950s and beyond.
Miami-born, a previous winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk prize in the States, the singer has Haitian and French roots and spoke French as a child and even moved to France as a teenager where her jazz journey began, and she sang a song in French briefly doing the evening. In her trio besides Diehl, whose feathery sometimes baroque touch and range of voicings illuminated the singer’s every move, McLorin Salvant was accompanied by the supple double bassist Paul Sikivie, excellent in duo with her on the encore ‘Lonely Town’ (‘The crowds rush by, a million faces pass before your eyes’ so atmospherically delivered), and drummer Lawrence Leathers whose style reminded me of Clarence Penn’s, his rhythmic impetus always on the verge of some molten build into exuberant swing.
The vocal acrobatics, Betty Carter-like sometimes, were kept under wraps to a certain extent as the singer seemed more interested in teasing out every nuance from the lyric, sometimes bawdy and sensuously playful for instance on the Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith songs, going in and out of the note as she explored the size and space and tonal complexity and meaning that she needed: her daring improvisational sense is also very pronounced.
McLorin Salvant also had news for the band: letting them know ever so gently that the new album will now be released in September as she’d just heard that it had been pushed back from August. It’s called For One to Love her label announced yesterday and some of the songs that will be on it McLorin Salvant sang on this occasion: a winningly mischievous take on ‘Stepsisters Lament’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella; Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘Wives And Lovers’, a song the singer told us she found ‘funny’ when she heard it first (the song’s lyrics remaining quite controversial); ‘The Trolley Song’ where Leathers came into his own with his ding-ding-dings and multiple percussive effects; and ‘Something’s Coming’ from Westside Story an interpretation that had a number of tempo changes and became a huge vehicle for improvisation near the end. A superb show: superlatives are somehow inadequate.
4 Vein + Dave Liebman, Vortex, London, 28 May
Piano trios sometimes arrive on a wave of curiosity and acclaim, a word of mouth created somewhere else first.
This was definitely the case with Swiss trio Vein, the piano player and drummer Arbenz brothers Michael and Florian joined by bassist Thomas Lähns still very much unknown in the UK when they released Vote for Vein last year.
Following quick fire touring with former MBASE saxophonist Greg Osby and then Jazz Talks their lively highly virtuosic most recent album featuring their guest here at the Vortex former Miles Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman they’re now becoming very big cheeses indeed among the new wave of piano trios striking out internationally.
What’s their secret? Well that’s hard to say on a first listen live. But above all they gel as a unit driven by the amazing pianism of the baseball cap-wearing Michael Arbenz. Liebman was on superb form and highlights for me included ‘Negative Space’ and when the NEA Jazz Master Liebman switched at one point from wooden recorder deliberately overblowing and squalling at the top of its register to step down to mould to the key of the soprano saxophone it was one of those moments that lifted the music into new areas folding an ancient Eastern mysticism into a modern jazz setting. Tonally magnificent particularly on tenor saxophone there was plenty of energy in the two sets emanating both from Liebman and the trio.
Of the original new album material ‘Black Tortoise’ an easy highlight was definitely the pick here too and towards the end of the evening the flat cap-wearing Florian Arbenz came out of his shell a little more and this was good to witness as more space was clawed back by him at the kit. An abiding overall impression was the sheer athleticism and joy in Michael Arbenz’s vaulting sense of abandon and his punchy left hand vamps did much to hold the big turn-out at the Vortex rapt for long spells.
3 Pigfoot, The Bright Side of Life, 5th on Teeling, Sligo, 10 April
In a build-up to the Pigfoot appearance at new Sligo comedy and music festival The Bright Side of Life the action began for me at the tongue twisting bar restaurant Shenanigans.
There comedian Christian Talbot was previewing his wry ‘Shite at Being Irish’ show, a mild and gentle run through some carefully crafted “anti-craic” jokes, the audience participation element not especially cruel featuring a quiz with a volunteer plucky enough to indulge Talbot’s penchant for a little light Cork-centric and socially conscious banter. Talbot teased out a few belly laughs from some of the demurely Guinness-sipping punters encouraging him on.
Over at the McGarrigles pub on O’Connell Street the bar staff trying not to be too frazzled by an electrical fault that had plunged the bar into darkness for a little too long the programme resumed with lit-up Galway-born Aindrias de Staic’s The Man From Moogaga providing zany and imaginative machine-gun delivery and yes ingenious fiddling.
More violin at the Hawkswell with multi-talented Nick Pynn perched among a battery of instruments on stage joined by keyboardist/percussionist Kate Daisy Grant, Pynn’s homemade ‘cocolele’ stealing the show the Allman Brothers’ ‘Jessica’ just about reclaimed from J*remy Cl*rkson and co.
Over on O’Connell St later this time at literary pub Hargadons, where during Yeats’ 150th celebrations this year a Yeats poem is read each day and the walls are decorated with the photos of great writers often to be depicted holding pints of the black stuff smiling a little sheepishly, Sligo Jazz Project director bassist Eddie Lee joined by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra’s saxophonist/clarinettist Ciaran Wilde, Brian Priestley on keyboards, impressive classic jazz singer Sinéad Conway and drummer Ken “Tonto” McDonald tucked away, for a trip down memory lane with ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ and ‘God Bless the Child’ some of the highlights of a swinging set.
Over at 5th on Teeling Abandoman thrived on audience participation but there was a delayed start to main jazz draw Pigfoot until the comedy rapper’s often hilarious routine was over and the youthful audience dragged themselves over to the adjacent room, so the London band didn’t go on until well after midnight. It was worth waiting that bit longer for the four-piece who were kicking off the festival club programme at The Bright Side with a riotous mix of traditional jazz, even a little Wilson Pickett and in a shift, not as bizarrely as it might sound, opera. Tuba player Oren Marshall powered the band from the depths as Loose Tubes trumpeter Chris Batchelor led from the front displaying aggressive technique and a pure tone. Drummer Paul Clarvis keeps immaculate time and was very responsive towards the twists and turns of the antique material but steered the audience’s ear fodder remorselessly in new directions to keep things simmering along.
Pigfoot likes to “desecrate” a wide range of material and it’s an interesting spectacle to observe: Liam Noble, whose new solo piano album A Room Somewhere is about to be released by Basho, playfully pummelling the upright piano as he tinkered with the chordal intricacies of a spread of material. Highlights for me were the treatments of Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ and ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee,’ while ‘March of the Toreadors’ was a cheeky diversion wading not at all gingerly into the world of Carmen. Against the odds this somehow worked.
A surprise unannounced addition to the late-night programme was the welcome appearance of singer Lauren Kinsella who unleashed a no-holds-barred free improv set, Kinsella’s vocal acrobatics underpinned by her troupe’s brassy trombone and saxophone bravura, drummer Simon Roth rattling the rhythmic structure of the material to within an inch of its life as the set went ever wilder.
2 Ravi Coltrane, Ronnie Scott’s, London, 8 March
Beginning a two-night Frith Street run, the 49-year-old US saxophonist here with his quartet of pianist David Virelles, double bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Johnathan Blake, spoke engagingly with the audience from the outset explaining that he had been coming to play at Ronnie’s since 1991.
He clearly felt at ease, Coltrane even name-checking pianist Virelles’ brother Alejandro a principal dancer at the English National Ballet who was watching the band from the vantage point of the bar, smiling back. As for David Virelles, whose own album Mbókò was a revelation last year, he provided highly abstract largely modal support while the Philly-born Blake on drums was the star in the band on the night, an explosive presence full of ideas. Douglas’ face was a picture to watch, a megawatt smile, sheer ecstasy in his expression as he closed his eyes and provided little three-note phrases time and time again that pulsed like the ever changing tide throughout. Coltrane switched to soprano saxophone after the first long Ornette Coleman number, his tone sometimes delicate and probing, dazzling at speed.
After a short delay at the beginning of the second set when Virelles got locked out of the dressing room and needed to get a few things from there before playing (Coltrane quipped to the audience as they waited for someone to let him in: “any old groupies got the code for the door?”) the band moved up a gear particularly on Ralph Alessi’s ‘Who Wants Ice Cream’ a tune featured on Coltrane’s 2012 Blue Note album Spirit Fiction.
And at the very end of the second set Coltrane even played the more rarely heard sopranino sax on a squawkingly effective take on the Charlie Parker tune ‘Segment.’ A flying version of Monk’s ‘Epistrophy,’ Virelles at his best, and a tender version of a 1976 tune Charlie Haden wrote for Ravi’s mother Alice Coltrane, ‘For Turiya,’ were also second set treatments to store in the memory banks for years to come.
1 Melody Gardot, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, 4 August
Out on the street the truck with the German number plates was opening up. The roadies were springing into action. “Is there a jam inside?” someone asked the young woman with the nose ring standing by the lorry’s steel doors.
It had been a different scene entirely in the basement club earlier. Pizza Express, founded by Peter Boizot in 1965, has been putting on a raft of special music events this year to celebrate the 50-year anniversary. On this latest occasion it was the turn of the glamorous US pop-jazz singer/songwriter Melody Gardot with her kicking band wrapping up a European concert tour. The main surprise here was the fact that Gardot was playing a club at all. In heels, dressed in black, sunnies even in the gloom of the darkness when the lights cut out at one atmospheric point, guitar strapped on as she and the band tore into ‘Same To You’ from fine new album Currency of Man followed by edgy streetwalker anthem ‘She Don’t Know’ to kick things off.
She was backed by the paddling glissy keys/organ of Devin Greenwood plus three horns swinging side to side as they signalled their presence: Irwin Hall on tenor saxophone, later doing a Roland Kirk and putting his alto sax in his mouth at the same time as the tenor; James Casey on baritone sax; and the diminutive figure of lively trumpeter Shareef Clayton picking up a cup mute for a more New Orleans trad-type passage; with, on bass guitar or alternating double bass, Edwin Livingston; and rounding out the band the resolute lead guitar of Mitchell Long scoring especially later on bottleneck and, finally, the riotous drums of Chuck Staab the co-writer with Gardot of ‘Preacherman’ on the new album, a song that also made it on to the set list.
The stage crew had earlier taken the house Steinway out and replaced the piano with a tuned down-low upright (432hz instead of concert pitch A440) from the innards of that slumbering truck parked up on Dean Street. Gardot began the sole set playing a red electric guitar but later would sit down to tinkle the keys of the brought-in piano, certainly living up to the introduction that Pizza music manager Ross Dines made complimenting the audience on their gaining a “golden ticket.” The place was packed, intrepid punters had stumped up £65 each. Even at that price they’d got lucky. Gardot called for vodka after a while (might as well join you, chatting to the audience, her thinking was out loud). Singing towards the end directly to a couple in love, gig-goers Karen and Gareth sitting in the front row, as she asked them their names, the place came alive with ‘Baby I’m a Fool’ a Gardot signature song that would melt the hardest heart, epic in its tenderness and intimacy.Add a comment
- Published: Fri 27th Nov 2015 08:06:21
As regular readers know the piano trio is an enduring obsession in this neck of the woods.
There’s something positively primeval about that short circuit from piano, bass and drums via the cerebellum into... well jazzers’ delight. How is this ecstasy achieved year in year out?
Well, maybe it’s the simplicity, the acoustic sensory overload, the individual lines that we can hear tangled up in blue and not always blasted into oblivion by electricity – and after all any more than three instruments no matter how well defined our poor brains can only process bits of what we’re hearing when we’re listening in real time. Surely we want the whole story. With more than three instruments we’re only getting an impression and we’re forced to pick out details we like which throws everything up into the air.
But the really exciting thing is since the emergence of people like Brad Mehldau, the much missed EST, and the Bad Plus roughly from the late 1990s and early 2000s, the whole tradition of jazz piano trio has been turned on its head.
On the one hand you get the retro whiz kids who do amazing virtuosic things with say the music of Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson, on the other you get a jazz sensibility and new compositional flair drawing on pop and rock or dance music. Take GoGo Penguin for instance, who should be even bigger in 2016 when their first album for Blue Note gets to more people than hitherto.
My 10 piano trios this year are topped by an underdog. I only fluked a copy of Untold Stories by chance and it’s remained on my playlist since. If you’re wondering why I like it best it is the way it channels emotion, that old thing about being moved by something, and it has melody as well as jazz sensibility to cling on to. Burt Bacharach quoting the composer Darius Milhaud is worth taking on board in this regard: “Never be afraid of something that is melodic and can be remembered.”
The other trios I’ve enjoyed this year have been: Alexander Hawkins’, Giovanni Guidi’s, Vijay Iyer’s, Plaistow, Scott Flanigan’s, Justin Kauflin’s, Aaron Goldberg’s, Bourne/Davis/Kane and Kari Ikonen’s.
As for Untold Stories this is from the US-based Israeli pianist Maestro who is still best known for his work with bassist Avishai Cohen (in the same remarkable trio as Mark Guiliana) although that’s increasingly distant now as his own imprimatur as a player asserts itself.
The trio Maestro – with Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder and Israeli dummer Ziv Ravitz – have put out two earlier albums since coming together four years ago. Recorded live and in the studio in New York and in Paris during 2014 this is mostly Maestro’s music with the opening track ‘Maya’s Song’, like a lullaby to begin, is a band collaboration.
Overall there’s that same sense of urgency retained from Cohen days and a tremendous authority stamped on proceedings from the outset. The trio bustles along, this no dreamy minimalist effort, all three players ready to joust among themselves and propel their energy on to the listener. That said there is room for tenderness and reverie say on the bittersweet ‘When You Stop Seeing’ a plea on one level for basic humanity in the perennial Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Maestro’s musical themes keep melody intact and band interplay high on the agenda the three instruments intersecting naturally allowing plenty of width in the playing. ‘Looking Back’ is beautiful, the effect at the beginning like someone cracking open the ringpull of a can of beer and then, helplessly, a poignant piano-led nocturne that floats into a space that almost recalls the melody of kd lang’s ‘Constant Craving’ in the swirl, hook and nag of plaintive voicings paced out by the drag of drums and implosion of bass.
In many ways a very contemporary trio, any notion of swing is largely absent for instance, yet there is a post-bop EST-like energy to it that runs in parallel and a metrical complexity that adds to a certain elasticity in the flow of the trio. I’d compare Maestro’s work here with the sound of Yaron Herman say or the Belgian pianist Jef Neve.
The dark moody parts of the album found on ‘Endless Winter’ above seem to give an extra air of gravitas to Maestro’s compositional method and this side of the album is really its best part Maestro navigating Mehldau-like journeys into the night. SGAdd a comment
- Published: Sun 29th Nov 2015 08:51:22
Here’s the marlbank top 20 UK + Ireland jazz releases of 2015. Many congratulations to the Whirlwind label for an amazing year, picking up five mentions including top spot, and clearly the jazz label of the year in terms of local output. Original reviews can be accessed by clicking on each album title below
20 Anthony Strong On a Clear Day
19 Troyka Ornithophobia
18 Laura Jurd Human Spirit
17 Zhenya Strigalev’s Smiling Organizm Robin Goodie
16 David Lyttle Faces
15 Gilad Atzmon The Whistle Blower
14 Steve Davis/Ralph Alessi/Kris Davis Sugar Blade
13 Emily Saunders Outsiders Insiders
12 Polar Bear Same as You
11 Liam Noble A Room Somewhere
10 Binker and Moses Dem Ones
9 Julia Biel Love Letters and Other Missiles
8 Alex Garnett’s Bunch of 5 Andromeda
7 Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio Symbiosis
6 Julian Argüelles Tetra
5 Partikel String Theory
4 Alexander Hawkins trio Alexander Hawkins trio
3 Richard Fairhurst and John Taylor Duets
2 Loose Tubes Arriving
1 Ivo Neame StrataAdd a comment
- Published: Thu 26th Nov 2015 10:27:07
Interesting one this on paper, The Bell is looking like a mid-January release and is the work of a new heavyweight improv trio featuring Ches Smith, Mat Maneri and Craig Taborn (above l-r) to be released on ECM.
Drummer Smith, pianist Taborn and viola player Maneri debuted at Winter Jazz Fest in New York last year (see video).
Very much a Vortex kind of band these are all top rank avant players, Smith’s credits including stints with John Zorn and with Marc Ribot and he’s also in Snakeoil too with Tim Berne. One of his recent appearances I really enjoyed was with Matt Mitchell, reviewed here.
In this new trio he has picked out formidable avant soul mates in Taborn and Maneri, both featured heavily on ECM already in recent years. This new album has Smith compositions and is packed with plenty of free improv.Add a comment
- Published: Wed 25th Nov 2015 15:57:02