A year on from the release of Indo-jazz record Leave the Door Open Joel Harrison has a very different record on the way featuring his quintet the Joel Harrison 5.
With unusual instrumentation on Spirit House the Washington DC-born guitarist-leader is joined by former Pat Metheny Group trumpeter Cuong Vu, Béla Fleck bassoonist Paul Hanson, ex-Bill Frisell bassist Kermit Driscoll and the Wayne Shorter Quartet drummer Brian Blade on this Whirlwind release to be issued in July. Listen to the Harrison 5, above
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 22nd May 2015 13:48:51
Guitarist Jeff Richman’s considerable pulling power on this new studio album has roped in contributions on a par with his own musicianship.
Fluent jazz-rock fusion with a narrative drive to it and a rhythm section unity the equal of many’s a Steely Dan record, it’s bustling guitar and synth-flavoured developmental improvisation with an edge to it at times, the programming not getting in the way too much, plenty of improvisation yes but shaped around manageable lengths, with most of the tracks clocking in around the four or five-minute length.
Recorded in California all the tunes are Richman’s and he’s a good writer you soon discover because there are plenty of cleverly shaped episodic and mood-conjuring bluesy rock facets to his style. Rather than bristling with horns, a little decorative trumpet or flugel from Jeff Beal and a sprinkle of saxophone from Brandon Fields notwithstanding, it’s tracks like ‘Oh Yeah?’ – Colaiuta plus Yellowjackets bass guitar legend Jimmy Haslip, who stamps out the beat quite superbly, smooth jazz tsar Jeff Lorber on synths, Jimmy Branly on congas joining Richman – that amount to what you might most take away from this album, a sense of flow and sheer enjoyment in the absorbing playing. Despite a few lulls when the energy level drops off and changes in the drummer means a certain thread is lost there is plenty to lap up here and I can certainly imagine radio shows like Linley Hamilton’s Jazz World playing Hotwire as well as US fusion stations jumping onboard particularly online as word of the record spreads. If it has a fault, Hotwire is too much of a rhythm section group-hug and could do with more of a signature topline but thankfully the record completely lacks the brutal noodly navel gazing or glossy over-production that some less imaginative fusion records are dogged by.
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Fri 22nd May 2015 11:25:48
Last we heard from Aaron Diehl, above, was two years ago when the pianist took a prominent role on Cécile McLorin Salvant album WomanChild and released his own album The Bespoke Man’s Narrative.
Diehl has a new album out called Space Time Continuum featuring five new songs among the selections the bandleader joined by David Wong on bass and Quincy Davis on drums plus guests including jazz masters saxophonists Benny Golson and Joe Temperley.
Diehl, according to issuing label Mack Avenue, met Golson six years ago when Juilliard School of Music, where Diehl had studied, commissioned Golson to compose a new piece. Expect a release in mid-June.
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 22nd May 2015 08:01:43
Even in specialist areas what’s selling doesn’t relate much to what jazz fans are really listening to.
Charts (the sales variety not the sheet music) don’t take on board new jazz much in the sense of jazz produced by brand new artists and certainly styles from beyond the mainstream don’t get a look-in at all. As you can see from the graph above to put specialist charts in context jazz as a percentage of all albums sold is quite small.
A tale of two current and very different specialist charts says something else entirely. Take the latest Billboard jazz chart in the States. What does this sales list (a ranking) say about popular taste translating to people actually buying records as opposed to simply going to gigs or listening to the radio?
Well it’s not a uniform picture, and this analysis is only a snapshot, but it is a shocker for new jazz.
At the top, and at number nine there are two Sinatra compilations, the first Ultimate Sinatra this being the centenary year of Sinatra’s birth even if the anniversary actually doesn’t fall until December and at number 9 the similarly-titled Ultimate Sinatra: Centennial Collection. Child prodigy Joey Alexander shoots straight in to number two, there is smooth jazz, increasingly an endangered species but Boney James is still selling, at three, Diana Krall’s pop album Wallflower, the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga record that has been kicking about for months and months at four, and the chart is completed by an Annie Lennox standards record, Keith Jarrett’s brand new Creation, the Kamasi Washington sensation The Epic and a Wes Montgomery archive release.
Contrast this with the top 10 of the current UK jazz chart, a list albeit distorted by the inclusion of blues genre records. At no.1 is a record that was released in the autumn of 2013, Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit, an album that unusually briefly broke through into the main UK albums charts top 10 itself. The Porter album is followed by a best-of by bluesman Seasick Steve next and his new album third (how’s that for marketing?) while reality star Rebecca Ferguson’s Billie Holiday tribute is after that. And then it’s the turn of the late BB King’s Live at the Regal. The remaining records are another King entry, the only similiarity with the US chart, Keith Jarrett’s Creation next, tradsters The Hot Sardines, a long released Caro Emerald album and finally blues rocker Wilko Johnson’s collaboration with The Who’s Roger Daltry propping up the list.
Observations? Well the UK chart folding in blues means there is less room for jazz. Neither chart (with the exception of Joey Alexander and Rebecca Ferguson) reflect the output of artists made by anyone under the age of 30, quite a shocker. Both charts are vocals-driven. It’s only one week of the year but it is something of a wake-up call to compare the two.
It’s clear that what’s selling, with a few exceptions, is at quite a remove to what most jazz fans are really listening to and enthused about. Maybe the charts reflect the buying habits of jazz fans and non-jazz fans together as a lump which is one reason why it is different to more specialist taste or that these records are marketed more effectively so that record buyers know about them more via advertising and social media. Contrast the US Jazz Week radio chart stacked with records that are much closer to what jazz fans at the moment are talking about and closer to what you’ll find written about in the pages of Downbeat or Jazz Times the main US jazz magazines. The Jazz Week chart shares only one record in common with either the Billboard or UK chart.
What sells isn’t necessarily going to be what you like to listen to. Take a look at comparable book charts, you probably don’t want to read airport best sellers too often although you might from time to time. Why we need to know what’s selling is maybe more interesting than what actually is doing the business. Do we just want to listen to albums that we think other people are listening to? Perhaps there is something in this, a natural curiosity about what actually is popular provided by the blunt tool of a basic non-judgmental metric, although it might say more about your taste than you might care to admit if you just buy a record because it’s at the top of the chart. If the contents of Top Tens as a complete entity are what you think is really exciting jazz fans out there at the moment however think again. SG
- Category: Commentary
- Created: Fri 22nd May 2015 06:09:56
A late-summer highlight once again at Ronnie Scott’s this year is the club’s now annual piano trio festival.
Robert Glasper, above, is the big draw this year, playing the club for three nights with his reunited trio whose live album Covered is about to be released. Featuring bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid the Glasper trio appearing in Frith Street is the Canvas and In My Element line-up going back to Glasper’s early days.
Galvin’s trio record Dreamland, taking its title from an iconic amusement park in Margate, was released last year, featuring, appropriately given the theme, toy piano as well as piano itself. Galvin is in the company of bassist Tom McCredie and drummer Simon Roth, who appeared at Sligo’s recent Bright Side of Life festival with Lauren Kinsella, a trio who have been together for a couple of years and who made their recording debut on this record. Galvin’s method and style are to an extent reminiscent of equally dazzling Polish pianist Marcin Masecki. SG
The festival begins on 10 August and runs for six evenings and features double bills each night. Details: here
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 21st May 2015 11:52:35
The ‘song’ may remain the same. When you have a song as ‘singable’ as JD Allen’s this then makes perfect sense.
I loved Bloom last year, one of the very few five star accolades on Marlbank in 2014, and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with Graffiti released this week, in the meantime checking out a clip from it, added above. This new release on HighNote/Savant has more in common with Allen’s greatest record to date I Am I Am with its piano-less trio line-up resuming catnip particularly to Sonny Rollins fans, Allen joined once more by bassist Gregg August and Beautiful Dreamers drummer Rudy Royston.
- Category: Listen
- Created: Thu 21st May 2015 07:50:04
Two years since the release of What’s Up? next month sees a Southbank Centre concert by Michel Camilo, above, billed as the pianist’s first UK solo piano show.
What’s Up won a Latin Grammy and proved a very welcome return to form by a piano master, the beautifully yearning ‘Sandra’s Serenade’ via the New Orleans flavours of the title track, the Jarrett-esque ‘A Place in Time’, and an unstuffy take on the overly familiar ‘Take Five’, just some of the best bits of this solo piano affair. And when the son flavours really shine on ‘Island Beat,’ even though the tune might be crying out for congas, Camilo’s left hand compensates completely. Camilo’s approach on ‘Alone Together’, the 1930s Arthur Schwartz / Howard Dietz standard, is a harmonic whodunit, elliptically modern by the end with voicings that would do Jason Moran proud. Other tracks include an understated take on Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’; a banging, wonderfully-timed version of the late Compay Segundo’s classic ‘Chan Chan’, one for the Buena Vista Social Club generation definitely; and two more Camilo originals: ‘On Fire’ a contrafact of Cole Parker’s ‘Too Darn Hot’; and the airy ‘At Dawn’. The concert, at the QEH, is on 13 June. For tickets click here
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 15th May 2015 13:56:25
1 Dave Holland
Nearly 50 years since being discovered by Miles Davis Holland’s global influence cutting across a swathe of post-bop styles remains immense.
2 Esperanza Spalding
Breakthrough bassist/vocalist Spalding has rewritten the rulebook in terms of what a 21st century bassist can do.
3 Marcus Miller
Fusing jazz, soul, and African music Miller’s sound whether heard as far back as Tutu with Miles Davis or more recently on his current album Afrodeezia is instantly recognisable.
4 John Patitucci
With a solo reputation for leading his own bands and making his own records nonetheless it’s for his role in the Wayne Shorter quartet that has defined the technically accomplished US bassist’s career over many years now.
5 Reid Anderson
As a member of one of the leading small groups in contemporary jazz in The Bad Plus bassist Anderson has an eclectic approach influenced by jazz, rock and classical approaches that appeals to a new generation exploring jazz often for the first time.
6 Larry Grenadier
Best known for his work with Brad Mehldau and the Fly trio Grenadier thrives on a riff, his impossibly woody sound cornering tricksy rhythms with consummate ease.
7 Palle Danielsson
The Keith Jarrett Belonging band bassist has a tonally rugged heart-on-sleeve reputation. No wonder he is seen as the cornerstone of the modern Scandinavian jazz sound.
8 Ron Carter
Elegant and refined, the heir in some ways to Ray Brown, Carter was the bassist in the Miles Davis “second great quintet” fact enough to be included in this list. He is still leading bands to this day, and is a regular visitor to Ronnie Scott’s.
9 Ben Williams
Pat Metheny’s greatest bass-player discovery since Steve Rodby Monk prizewinning player Williams also has a blossoming solo career coming to the boil right now.
10 Stephan Crump
The Vijay Iyer trio bassist, also making a name for himself with the Rosetta trio, Memphisian Crump has a tonally rich Melodic sensibility as attuned to avant jazz as it is more Americana-aimed material
11 Richard Bona
The Cameroonian with the jaw-dropping bass guitar technique and unique vocal style, jazz, African music and a sense or improvisational adventure all roll into one
12 Reuben Rogers
The Charles Lloyd and Joshua Redman bassist has some of the best chops in jazz as at ease with free-jazz as straightahead.
13 Gary Peacock
Avant gardist by reputation, the ultimate standards bassist for many years now with Keith Jarrett, Peacock turns 80 in May.
14 Lars Danielsson
Tonally strong, compositionally varied in his interests, the Swede is one of northern Europe’s most influential players
15 Dan Berglund
He reached a huge global fanbase with EST and now leads his own group Tonbruket. Berglund harnesses electronics as well as rock and metal influences in the interests of his own highly distinctive sound
16 Thomas Morgan
Big toned US bassist known for his work with Tomasz Stańko, he’s a revelation on Jakob Bro’s latest album Gefion.
17 Richard Davis
As well known as an educator as for his appearance on some classic records Richard Davis’ big sound has decorated albums as influential in very different ways as Astral Weeks and Out to Lunch.
18 Christian McBride
Straightahead heaven from the Oscar Pettiford-influenced James Brown-loving Philadelphian.
19 Avishai Cohen
Hugely athletic bassist Cohen thrives on leading from the back.
20 Marc Johnson
From his time playing with Bill Evans and later Bass Desires to his role with his wife Brazilian piano-vocals diva Eliane Elias the US player has always displayed remarkable grace under pressure.
- Category: Interviews and features
- Created: Sun 19th Apr 2015 10:41:15
The crediting might be a bit confusing at first blush. But the effect certainly isn’t.
Fans of Stan Tracey and Mike Osborne “alone and together at Wigmore Hall, 1974” will surely see the release next month of some hitherto unheard music by the pair as something of a moment.
To be released by Cadillac Records in early-June part of what is here, the Live at Wigmore Hall 1974 element makes its CD debut more than 40 years after the concert took place.
The entirely improvised set finds the former Ted Heath and Ronnie Scott’s house pianist revered for Under Milk Wood and for many years before his passing in 2013 as the “godfather of British jazz”, to use John Fordham’s much used phrase, in performance at the famous central London concert venue at a time when jazz wasn’t dignified by the classical community in anything like the way it is however grudgingly regarded today. Tracey would himself return later in the year to Wigmore Street and the hall, originally built 73 years earlier by piano firm Bechstein, to participate in T’n’T duo performances with Keith Tippett. Appearing on CD for the first time is one thing. The issuing of new music for the first time, some 45 minutes or so within this 2-CD set, particularly with such a cult figure as Osborne involved, quite another. SG
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 21st May 2015 14:36:05
Listen to the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Kurt Elling on a track from Elling’s upcoming Passion World album
Here you can listen to another Passion World track fitting in a way as Kurt Elling continues his Scottish tour at the moment as the guest singer with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra who also feature on the new album.
The charming traditional piece, composed by Annie C. MacLeod with lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton Loch, features the SNJO and Tommy Smith on tenor saxophone, with an arrangement written by Florian Ross.
The SNJO and Elling play Dundee tonight with more Sinatra-themed dates to follow over the next few days.
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 21st May 2015 10:06:44
Artists like Jerry Granelli never play the fame game. They strive to keep it real and are in music for all the right reasons.
They know, to use Valerie Wilmer’s oft quoted but no less true maxim, this journey to the urge within is as serious as your life. It’s a pity that some uninspired jazz radio DJs use the disparaging term, in their use, that this is simply creative music as if that is a put down (!) (deconstructed: too avant to be played) when they encounter this music but really they need to examine their own lack of creativity and how they set musical boundaries. The listeners should be the judge not the gatekeepers who refuse to let them hear it, and it is an indictment of mass media and even specialist radio that music as good as this is gains so little exposure beyond supporters and those who are really up to speed somehow keeping informed.
I do hope What I Hear Now gets widely heard: it certainly deserves to. The veteran San Francisco-born drummer (surely Bobby Previte, in recent years, must have been copped some of Granelli’s style) a half century ago played with Charlie Brown pianist Vince Guaraldi and by complete contrast embraced psychedelia, opening for Lenny Bruce, joining Light Sound Dimension and sessioning with Sly Stone.
In his seventies now Granelli is still cutting it as a first few listens to this terrific new record definitely show. Two years on from Nowness, the drummer’s duo album with the Gandalf of the keys Jamie Saft, there are seven tracks here moving on past an opening prologue this new record is very free and spiritual yet with a highly layered compositional feel, the rhythm maker at ease and playing loose joined by horns increasingly chamber-jazz like as the album enters deep waters but capable of wildly sprawling touches that know no limits as the album progresses. SG
What I Hear Now (****) is released by Addo Records next week. Jerry Granelli, above. Photo: Addo
- Category: News
- Created: Tue 19th May 2015 18:09:30
Very sad to hear of the passing of saxophonist Bob Belden who died yesterday in New York at the ege of 58. He had suffered a heart attack at home but died in hospital.
Belden’s albums included the acclaimed Black Dahlia and Miles From India and as a record producer he won Grammys for his work on beautifully meticulous box set reissues of Miles Davis’ work.
I only heard Belden play once memorably back in 2012 his first gig in London since 1980 and his long ago days with Woody Herman. Performing a special Ambisonic surround sound set that night with live video projections at the Tabernacle in Ladbroke Grove with his band Animation, Belden opened up on flute before switching to saxophone later revved up by the blindingly propulsive energy of a young band. I had grabbed a few words with him in his dressing room earlier when he spoke engagingly of his admiration for Blue Note producers such as Duke Pearson. Belden had a restless musical imagination and a passion for the music. He had been playing until recently even touring as far afield as Iran earlier this year. SG
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 21st May 2015 06:45:25
Singer Aoife Doyle is touring with her trio this month and into June.
Think an Irish Silje Nergaard, pianist Johnny Taylor her Tord Gustavsen, Doyle, top, formed the band five years ago drawing on classic jazz and way beyond delving into the interstices that ellide folk into alt country. A former student of the Newpark Music Centre the singer’s performance credits include appearances with Tommy Halferty, Phil Ware, Louis Stewart and a certain Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor.
Besides Taylor in the band, Andrew Csibi is on double bass, and Dominic Mullan, drums. Doyle and her band debuted two years ago with the starkly compelling This Time The Dream’s On Me an album that includes songs by Bob Dylan, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen. SG
‘Farewell Angelina’ from This Time... is above. Doyle’s tour, which visits Wicklow, Dundrum, Belfast, Omagh, Enniskillen, Derry and Carrick-on-Shannon, begins on Friday in Wicklow town, full details: here
- Category: News
- Created: Wed 20th May 2015 14:43:22
Eyes of a Blue Dog return this month with the release of Hamartia less than three years on from their sparkling debut Rise.
The band’s Rory Simmons, the trumpeter/guitarist (above left) known for his work with Monocled Man and Fringe Magnetic who once again joins singer Elisabeth Nygård and Spin Marvel electronicist Terje Evensen, both also pictured above, comments on the new album: “It’s kind of an alt-pop, experimental cross between Massive Attack/Little Dragon and Portishead.”
Hamartia includes a moody noir-ish duet between Nygård and the Guillemots’ Fyfe Dangerfield on ‘Before the Night Ends.’
- Category: News
- Created: Wed 20th May 2015 08:15:35
The former president and chief executive officer of Blue Note records Bruce Lundvall died yesterday at the age of 79 following surgery.
Blue Note have issued a statement: “It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of beloved music man and longtime president of Blue Note Records, Bruce Lundvall. The cause was complications from a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease. Born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1935, Bruce was a lifelong jazz lover whose passion for the music was ignited by Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker and the other beboppers he heard as an underage teenager at clubs along West 52nd Street in New York City in the 1950s.”
Lundvall began his career in the record industry at Columbia Records at the beginning of the 1960s and rose to head up its North American division. In the early-80s he launched Elektra/Musician and left to revive the then EMI-owned Blue Note Records in 1984 partnering with producer Michael Cuscuna. He stepped down from the label in 2010.
During his career Lundvall served as chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America and as a director of the National Academy of Recoding Arts and Sciences (the record industry body who run the Grammys) among other positions. He received a Downbeat lifetime achievement award in 1998.
Bruce Lundvall above. Photo bluenote.com
- Category: News
- Created: Wed 20th May 2015 07:47:39
Late-June sees the release of Tricko, Kit Downes’ new duo album with cellist Lucy Railton.
Pianist Downes, who also plays organ on the album, and Railton first met while students at the Royal Academy of Music, and the cellist has since appeared in the Troyka player’s quintet album Light From Old Stars (2013), contributing memorably on the highly effective tribute to a lost leader of Swedish jazz on the track ‘Jan Johansson.’
The pair are playing a concert together at Kings Place in London on 6 June ahead of release as part of a double bill that is completed by the appearance of Downes’ trio.
Tricko is issued by the Coup Perdu label and you can view a video, above top, which further relates some of the background to the album.
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 15th May 2015 20:15:36
A broad sweep of titles from Don Schlitten’s 1970s-era Xanadu label are to be reissued, many on CD for the first time beginning in the summer.
The Xanadu Master Edition Series, reissue producer Zev Feldman of Elemental Music explains in brochure marketing material “is a collection of 23 highlights from the Xanadu catalogue on CD and LP, including several out-of-print titles being reissued for the first time since their initial LP release and others having been primarily available only digitally since the late-90s by way of eMusic and The Orchard acquisitions.”
The first six releases are Albert “Tootie” Heath’s Kwanza (The First) recorded in June 1973; the second a 1975 trio session Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron; next Jimmy Heath’s Picture of Heath again from a 1975 session; Al Cohn and Jimmy Rowles’ Heavy Love from 1977; Sam Most’s From the Attic of My Mind dating to 1978, the flautist leader joined by Kenny Barron on piano, George Mraz bass, Warren Smith percussion, and Walter Boden drums; and, finally, the 2-CD Xanadu All-Stars Night Flight to Dakar/Xanadu in Africa recorded in Senegal drawn from recordings made on a tour of West Africa coordinated by the US State Department that included Al Cohn, Billy Mitchell, Frank Butler, Leroy Vinnegar, and Dolo Coker. SG
The cover of Kwanza (The First), above
- Category: News
- Created: Tue 19th May 2015 07:35:03
Here’s ‘Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)’, the Björk song from 2004 taken from the Medúlla album that Kurt Elling interprets on his soon-to-be released album Passion World.
Set for June Elling’s label Concord sees the new album as Elling's “most ambitious” to date, the singer joined on Passion World by his quintet of keyboardist Gary Versace, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Guests include Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, singer Sara Gazarek, German trumpeter Till Brönner, French accordionist Richard Galliano, and not one but two big bands in the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the WDR Big Band featuring pianist Frank Chastenier.
Elling’s fifth album for the label after a long stint on Blue Note he takes a few risks in material notably covering popular material in U2's ‘Where The Streets Have No Name,’ and by contrast tackling literary fare by singing the words of a James Joyce poem on ‘Where Love Is’ set to music by Irish composer Brian Byrne as well as singing in languages other than English. The singer comments in pre-release publicity material: “Part of my joy as a singer is to give gifts to people, and one way I try to connect to them is to add something in French, or German, or whatever. It’s the one time during a performance where people see me being very vulnerable in their context, instead of them feeling vulnerable in ours. And if I mess it up, they seem to appreciate that I tried.”
The full track listing is:
1 The Verse (1:38) Music by John Clayton, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
2 After The Door (3:55) Music by Pat Metheny, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
3 Loch Tay Boat Song (7:02) Traditional, Composed by Annie C. MacLeod, Lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton
4 Si Te Contara (5:35) Music and lyrics by Félix Reina Altuna
5 La Vie En Rose (8:12) Music and lyrics by Edith Giovanna Gassion and Louis Guglielmi, Additional lyrics by Kurt Elling
6 Bonita Cuba (6:37) Music by Arturo Sandoval, Lyrics by Kurt Elling and Phil Galdston
7 Where The Streets Have No Name (4:51) Music and Lyrics by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
8 The Tangled Road (7:18) Music by Richard Galliano, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
9 Você Já Foi à Bahia? (2:18) Music and lyrics by Dorival Caymmi
10 Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht (Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52, No. 17) (7:00) Music by Johannes Brahms
11 Who Is It (Carry My Joy On The Left, Carry My Pain On The Right) (4:49) Music and lyrics by Björk Guðmundsdóttir
12 Where Love Is (5:13) Music by Brian Byrne, Lyrics by James Joyce
- Category: Listen
- Created: Mon 18th May 2015 16:47:55
Prashant Bhargava, the director of Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi, a film that featured music by Vijay Iyer released in the autumn of 2014, has died in New York.
A film that included footage taken during the Holi festival in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh marking a journey of devotion for the goddess Radha, Omer Mozaffar on film website rogerebert.com paid tribute to Bhargava referring to Radhe Radhe as a work “synthesizing East and West into a way that embodied his own life experiences”. The Chicagoan was 42. His feature film debut was Patang, a work that followed the fortunes of six people during India’s largest kite festival in Ahmedabad.
- Category: News
- Created: Mon 18th May 2015 14:48:48
It’s interesting when you hear comments along the lines of that’s the best, the greatest.
Depending on who’s making such a claim and whether a bandwagon begins to roll this can eventually end up transformed into an album becoming critically acclaimed. How does this happen in the first place?
Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is influenced by other people’s comments and recommendations. At its most basic this involves pointing someone to an album they haven’t yet heard. At its most complex it is deciding, given numerous examples of roughly the same style, the work that happens to rise head and shoulders above it all and might, just might, be an album we will all be listening to for a long, long time in the future. It might even change music itself.
Joe Bloggs in the street knows if a thing is good or bad so why should that be different for music writers? It certainly helps to have really detailed knowledge so the reader accepts what you’re saying. But critics often go for qualities that actually don’t matter to their readers. In a Facebook age when ‘likes’ say everything, critics may have dumbed down a little to justify their enthusiasms in response. Certain media only operate, in terms of reviews anyway, along similar lines on whether item X or Y is any good or not. By contrast if most critics had their way they would much prefer to justify their “don’t likes” in the spirit of constructive comment perhaps unless they are just being offensive.
If a specialist rates a certain record only in the context of its specialist or microscopically inclined sub-genre then that really is the only narrow value of that rating and actually this should be pointed out in explaining what is being judged. Lists that overclaim just distract or muddy the waters.
Jazz criticism operates on a number of levels. And critics come in different guises contributing to an overall body of opinion, not just from the pages of newspapers, magazines, and increasingly blogs. Even though DJs, radio presenters, and festival promoters aren’t critics they contribute too as judges in a practical sense particularly to do with taste and what gets played or presented live. A DJ might not make judgments on air about the records he or she is playing. Yet by playing what they choose to they are making a statement so this, especially if it is consistently interesting and new, can become an endorsement and in the case of a groundbreaking style a platform for someone no-one at all in the mainstream has heard but who will eventually be taken on by. That’s a judgment call and our consumption of media and critical response will lead us in a direction that might change our own listening more than any of us would care to admit. But the next time you hear yeah that’s simply the best or ‘brilliant’ take a moment to consider how they have explained their claim or is it just sheer charisma that carries you into agreeing in the end.
- Category: Commentary
- Created: Sun 17th May 2015 12:50:06
If you’re looking for as many toe-curling moments served up with a coating of misty-eyed nostalgia as insights then this is definitely the show for you.
Nicky Campbell as you can see in the clip above of the programme broadcast on ITV last night isn’t just a walking and talking presenter. He sings along and even manages to get to play Cole Porter’s piano at the Waldorf Astoria. But the cheesiest most contrived moment has to be the presenter asking a passer-by to join him on the words of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ as Campbell talks to David Lahm, the son of Dorothy Fields who wrote the lyrics of the classic song Fred Astaire sang in Swing Time.
Michael Feinstein, looking as if he is embarrassed by Campbell’s questions; Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, still on a Nostalgia trip of her own; and an energised Michael Mwenso indulging Campbell’s harmless ravings about Fats Waller; are some of the interviewees. Songs catching Campbell’s ear include ‘The Man I Love’ and ‘Night and Day.’ But the presenter gets in the way too much. Stephen Graham
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Mon 18th May 2015 06:55:46
Heading up the E-Collective Breathless is the new album from jazz trumpeter and film composer Terence Blanchard, a quintet affair to be released in late-May.
The title refers to “I can’t breathe,” the words of Eric Garner adopted by the pro-racial equality anti-police brutality protest movement in the States.
Breathless includes originals of the Grammy-winning New Orleansian’s and treatments of compositions by Les McCann/Eddie Harris, Hank Williams (‘I Ain’t Got Nothing But Time’), and Coldplay (‘Midnight’ featured on Ghost Stories Live 2014).
Blanchard’s E-collective finds the trumpeter heading up his largely new band of guitarist Charles Altura, pianist/keyboardist Fabian Almazan (the only survivor from 2013’s Magnetic and who also contributes some material), bass guitarist Donald Ramsey and Chicagoan drummer Oscar Seaton with guest PJ Morton of Maroon 5 singing on McCann and Harris’ ‘Compared to What’ and ‘Shutting Down’ written by Blanchard’s son JRei Oliver who also features on the album as does Dr Cornel West a previous collaborator of Blanchard’s. Breathless (Blue Note) arrives two years on from Magnetic.
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 23rd Apr 2015 08:20:40
If the title of chief contender to Jamie Cullum in the classic jazz singer crooner department actually existed, singer-pianist Anthony Strong would fill the role perfectly.
Accompanied by Cullum’s former drummer Sebastiaan De Krom and Empirical’s Tom Farmer on bass plus a big band stocked with well known players plucked from the modern mainstream scene whose ranks include flautist Gareth Lockrane and saxist Nigel Hitchcock this is far better than 2013’s overly mannered Stepping Out.
Strong’s voice has matured more into his own style and rather than sounding like a younger, more bashful Cullum as he did unavoidably on the earlier album but not so here (his voice is a little higher than Cullum’s with a different timbre) there is a confidence here that translates live too as witnessed last year at the city of Derry jazz and big band festival where he delivered an excellent show in the Spiegeltent. The Croydon born 30-year-old is also a fine piano player although that side of his musicianship is overshadowed here by the emphasis on vocals.
This new album was co-produced by Curtis Schwartz, known for his work with Stacey Kent, and is bookended by the Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner song ‘On A Clear Day’, first performed by another Cullum, actor/singer John Cullum in the mid-1960s, and Strong’s co-written song with Guy Mathers, ‘The Outgoing Admininstration.’
The big band sounds like it is an old fashioned sometimes swaggering unit of some power and it is even more retro in the arranging than the style favoured on the big band tracks of Joe Stilgoe’s new album. But there are some lighter touches in the set-pieces and the odd flourish or two, with for instance a little quotation from George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ sewn into the rip roaring lining of ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ adding a touch of magic. The horns are boppy and bright throughout.
A mix of Great American Songbook-type classics and more contemporary material, hoary old tunes such as ‘As Time Goes By’ and ‘Unforgettable,’ the latter done as an airy samba, are placed alongside Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and Elvis Costello’s ‘Baby Plays Around’. Strong’s co-written song ‘That Kind of Guy’ is the best of his original songs (although ‘When It Moves You’ comes close), the rapport between singer and exuberant big band full of spirit, and the originals contribute heavily to the success of the album.
Increasingly a draw on the festival circuit both in Europe and the Far East Strong’s career trajectory is clearly on the rise, and that process of growth should receive an extra boost with the release of On A Clear Day on 18 May as it is made to measure for fans of classic jazz vocals with just enough of a contemporary twist to keep it real. Stephen Graham
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Fri 24th Apr 2015 06:58:10
Sarah Tandy, who was one of the brightest sitters-in at the hard bop weekly jam at Ronnie Scott’s where she has been a regular for some time, studied at the Royal Academy of Music and has performed at numerous venues around London picking up slots playing with Jazz Jamaica notably along the way.
With a highly promising classical background as a young player – Tandy is a former winner of the piano final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year – her jazz future already seems bright if this tiny glimpse of her performance inside 47 Frith Street with her vaulting sense of modal abandon and keen bop acumen is any indication. Recently Tandy has been gigging with her trio at Dalston venue Servant’s Jazz Quarters, a unit that features drummer Femi Koleoso of the Ezra Collective (also in action at the jam) and Australian bassist Huntly Gordon who appears on singer Theo Jackson’s new album Shoeless and the Girl.
Sarah Tandy, above. The trio’s next gig at Servant’s Jazz Quarters is on Friday 22 May. Details: here
- Category: New band radar
- Created: Sat 16th May 2015 08:37:23
Kenny Barron, Jason Moran and Randy Weston are among the winners at the 2015 Jazz Journalists Association awards. Selma composer Moran was named musician of the year while The Art of Conversation, by Dave Holland and Kenny Barron, was named album of the year. Pianist and composer Randy Weston is honoured for lifetime achievement in jazz.
Barron was also named pianist of the year and won his third 2015 JJA award for duo of the year with Holland. Released last September what’s on The Art of Conversation are originals and standards, four of Holland’s compositions, including a sumptuous waltz dedicated to Kenny Wheeler, and three of Barron’s plus a very jaunty take on Monk’s ‘In Walked Bud’, Bird’s ‘Segment’, where Barron himself practically takes flight, Holland tucking himself in tidily in the slipstream, and the Ellington/Strayhorn tune ‘Daydream’ just gorgeous.
A list of more 2015 JJA winners, plus those mentioned above, can be found here
Kenny Barron, above. Photo: Verve
- Category: News
- Created: Sat 16th May 2015 06:35:56
Two years on from Sun, an album that found Mario Biondi with Incognito and stellar guests including Chaka Khan and Al Jarreau, the grizzly down low tones of the Italian crooner are now to the fore once more on a brand new, much poppier, album called Beyond.
It’s not a jazz album at all but like a lot of Biondi’s work is of direct appeal to many jazz listeners particularly people who like to dance to his blend of soul, funk, and disco. Tracks include ‘Open Up Your Eyes’, which begins in cheesy Europop style with an Air France flight announcement signalling a final call departure, (hint hint at a new route ahead?), the Biondi style blending energetic funk, soul and disco loading in the sounds of Bary White, Chic, and at his most tender Luther Vandross.
The ballad ‘All I Want Is You’ has been written by Dee Dee Bridgewater, and among the guests the Dap Kings crop up on the Staxified ‘Heart of Stone’ written by Bernard Butler, who made his name with Britpop band Suede. Quite often a fast and furious dance-driven affair the album intermittently comes alive with an injection of real pace and abandonment and ‘Blind’ is one of the obvious standouts of intial listens, the Chic influence cleverly folded in and moulded to suit the Biondi sound. SG
It’s time to write your story... you can listen to the lyrically strong ‘Love is a Temple’ from Beyond, above
- Category: Listen
- Created: Fri 15th May 2015 16:30:36
There is extensive coverage already of news of the death of BB King. The BBC refer to the passing of “the king of the blues.” To Time magazine he was an ‘icon’ of the blues. Variety chooses, simply, ‘legend.’
King was 89 and died in Las Vegas. A 15-time Grammy winner who came from Mississippi he was as familiar to rock fans as he was fans of the blues, collaborating with U2 at the end of the 1980s bringing him a new rock audience. If there is one song he is generally known for it has to be ‘The Thrill Is Gone’, above in the video, the Rick Darnell/Roy Hawkins song King recorded many times first achieving success for King in 1969 and which won him his first Grammy. King recorded more than 50 albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. One of the very greatest guitarists, according to Rolling Stone, he played a Gibson ES-344 better known as ‘Lucille.’ Other honours included the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to King in 1990.
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 15th May 2015 07:11:47
Five tracks in all, mostly quite long, each clocking in at between nine and 17-and-a-minutes, the New York Art Quartet drummer Milford Graves, whose recording career goes back to working with Montego Joe in 1964, here in empathetic duo with prolific prog jazz bass guitarist Bill Laswell.
Recorded in a New Jersey studio in the latter part of 2013, included in the sleeve notes is a poetic reaction by Umar Bin Hassan to each piece. For instance ‘Another Space’, the centrepiece of the album, warns with no small degree of weight: “The voice of defiance becomes my strongest voice.”
An inner resolve and a stillness are both important throughout this compelling album but particularly the beginning of ‘Sonny Sharrock’ (named for the guitarist who was a member of Laswell 1980s band Last Exit), the bass slipping and sliding through pitch bends while the rapid reverb clouds to speckle with electronic shrieks, Graves coming in like thunder.
The drummer, whose work in the last 15 years has included album spots with Anthony Braxton as well as his own solo drum albums, has a masterful way with bells and their adoption sometimes adds a pastoral dream-like quality to some of the improvisations, their shimmer cicada-like on ‘Another Time’. SG
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Wed 13th May 2015 06:44:46
There are all sorts of jazz reissues out there. Some of them are genuinely exciting. Some just aren’t. But what do we as listeners want from a reissue? Is it a set of requirements, or just one significant factor? What format should we go for? Why do labels take shortcuts and just how do we read the signs that suggest we might just as well be better occupied in walking away and spending our hard earned cash on something else?
OK, firstly what do we want from a reissue. That’s tough and maybe personal. But general factors apply. Above all, stating the obvious, we want something we can listen to properly. The sound needs to be good particularly if it wasn’t that good in the first place no matter how great the music was. If it is incredibly familiar music, of the order of a classic album, the reissue has to come with remastered sound. It if doesn’t have this then it’s just a re-release, all well and good, but if it were a book nobody would get over excited about a reprint as reprints are there only to satisfy demand, would they?
Ideally the reissue has to become an artefact, something that you must have because it looks and sounds good. It might contain something that is actually rare or has never come out (technically an archive release as you can’t reissue something that is actually new even when it is old).
It should enhance the sheer quality of the music in the first place. If it is a set of requirements in addition to top sound that we are looking for rather than one thing try these qualities.
- Reissues should always have striking artwork.
- They need intelligent liner notes, not necessarily musiciological in nature, but just something interesting to read that might actually make you think.
- They must have all the salient details: personnels, recording details, dates, and where applicable information about provenance.
- And when a lot of packaging is involved the album should be easily opened up. Origami is another art form entirely!
In terms of format, this is easy: digital downloads do not lend themselves to the reissue treatment. Yes you can reissue what was originally an LP as a digital download but there is no tactile value in this. People who like reissues like formats they can hold in their hands (and easily store), with artwork they can admire and don’t have to look at on a computer, tablet or phone. Best formats for reissues are vinyl and CD.
How do labels take shortcuts, well, where do you want to start? With public domain releases they often fail to annotate the source material or add rubbish new notes full of typos and mistakes, furiously lifting photos in a mad dash to get the music out. They copy the tracks from less than pristine source material (even CDs rather than master tapes as source!) and then claim all sorts of things to make the thing sell. They add irrelevant material as extra tracks and pretend you’re getting a good deal but really you will be confused or at best distracted by the sheer abundance of what you are listening to. That’s for starters.
Some labels give their reissues the deluxe treatment, which actually is just a way of getting people to buy the same thing twice lured by an extra DVD or maybe one or two tracks. And “previously unissued” tracks is often used as a tactic, these only amounting to one or two tracks plus everything else you already have. One of the worst reissue vices is to release an album that first came out less than five years before.
The last decade or so has been a really bad time for jazz reissues and only a few labels do justice to the process. That may well change as more and more music gets lost down the digital rabbit hole and labels with huge catalogues realise they need to curate it better on physical formats. Money of course talks most and proper reissuing costs a lot of money with no guarantee of returns. But jazz is all about the long game. All the canniest practitioners in record land know this (they also crave kudos) and you can’t buck the system.
If a reissue doesn’t sound and look good then labels might as well pack it in and diversify to sell tins of beans piling them high and selling them cheap as there is a lot more money in that game if that is all they are after. SG
- Category: Opinion
- Created: Wed 6th May 2015 05:51:06
Opening with the title track you get the distinct feeling that something is going on. You’re slap, bang in the middle of a conversation.
And it’s one with plenty of contributing voices: jostling trumpet from Andre Canniere, duelling saxophone from leader Dee Byrne, Rhodes-y keys from Rebecca Nash emerging from the swelter of improvising and a busy ensemble sound scrunched up tight and then released. The quasi-martial drumming of Matt Fisher hustling the sound eventually back towards the Blakey era, yet the hints are this is a more modern sound. Later (spoiler alert) that is borne out. And when alto saxist and leader Dee Byrne’s solo comes it’s faraway-sounding, double bassist Olie Brice’s accompaniment pulsing and pinking like low octane petrol, the keyboards relaxing.
Eight tracks in all, each one written by Byrne with titles quite scientific in character, lots of orbiting and space references part of the track-titling conceit.
Entropi is a five-piece surfacing here on an album for the first time. Byrne has studied linguistics and holds a masters in jazz performance from Trinity College of Music where she was tutored by, among others, Martin Speake, Julian Siegel and Jean Toussaint. She has also collaborated with Cath Roberts in the weekly Lume nights and is touring with Roberts’ band Quadraceratops this month.
Interesting, stimulating music that is quite hard to pigeonhole gripped by a strong group instinct that moves from hard bop and structured modal sounds into more improv-soaked free-bop (the latter side heard for instance on ‘Orbit’).
Recorded at London studio Fish Factory in April 2014 by the well-known London scene jazz recording engineer Ben Lamdin second piece ‘Mode for C’ was inspired by Coltrane’s ‘Miles’ Mode,’ according to the liner note, while other tracks speak of influences that include “the ever changing and insecure nature of existence” and two separate journeys “into the cosmos.” (In case you were wondering there is a certain amount of humour in some of these annotations just in case you were thinking it is all a bit earnest.)
The playing is of a high standard and spreads its wings liberally across styles inclining towards collective explorations that don’t waffle in a musical sense at all but retain their power as much in atmosphere as in bulldozing impact. Byrne’s alto sound is a little like Eric Dolphy’s.
‘Crippled Symmetry’ has a slow almost hymn-like opening played by Nash on piano this time, which is quite haunting, alto and trumpet then slightly out of step haltingly expressive before the tune goes up-tempo. Final track ‘Space Module’ is experimental, more about fractured textures and electro-acoustic harmonics, entering more of an Evan Parker world temporarily.
Worth discovering and going out to hear live if you’re near any of the venues when the band are on tour. Where they succeed best as a unit is when they are more relaxed-sounding and spread out, for instance on ‘New Era’ and ’Space Module.’ SG
Released on 1 June
- Category: New band radar
- Created: Wed 6th May 2015 12:02:35
The winner of the 2014 Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Young Jazz Musician Award Moses Boyd led his four-piece Exodus for this largely standards-based winner’s gig that began with the young drummer’s composition ‘Axis Blue.’
Boyd told the audience later that he first played the Dean Street club as a 17-year-old with trumpeter Abram Wilson. Since then besides Exodus – in which the drummer was joined by tenorist Binker Golding, tuba player Theon Cross and by guitarist Artie Zaits – Boyd has become well known for drumming in MOBO-winning singer Zara McFarlane’s band, having studied at Trinity Laban, appearing on McFarlane album If You Knew Her and on pianist Peter Edwards’ Safe and Sound and the drummer clearly has plenty of poise and power whether working with singers or instrumentalists.
With a stick in his right hand and a small hard mallet in his left during the first number soaked in spiritual jazz and scaled in a Coltranian Locrian modal frame Boyd’s approach is an amalgam of modern jazz drummers, in the more orthodox passages like Elvin Jones perhaps but certainly in the big duo feature with Golding on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’ going more free into Rashied Ali territory.
The pair have recorded a mainly free-jazz album, Dem Ones, recorded for Gearbox at Mark Ronson’s Kings Cross studio, a LP that is about to come out, and with the right wind blowing should put them firmly on the map. It’s as exciting a sound as you could dream of hearing at the moment in terms of new jazz records. Yet it was interesting to hear them here in a standards setting, the evening’s set list dominated by Ellington and Monk classic material. The river runs deep no matter how wild and free after all.
In the first set, ‘Perdido’, and best of all ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ came off best, Golding overcoming pre-gig teething problems with his saxophone just back from the repairers. And he showed what a fine interpreter of melody he is. ‘Epistrophy’ was more of a chance for Zaits to shine, his style willing to push beyond the strictures of the harmonies, and sometimes during the set the buzzy guitar lines channelled early rock ’n’ roll with a bluesy lilt to his playing, his use of pedals in his judicious deployment of distortion contributing to a fairly edgy sense of attack. With Cross after a while you actually forget that it is a tuba player and not a double bassist playing given the role in the music and most people now are only dimly aware that early jazz used bass brass rather than string bass even though Exodus don’t play early jazz at all. Cross’ contrapuntal nimble presence and strong harmonic sense deep down despite the potential unwieldiness of the instrument was striking in extended play and his main feature arrived with a fanfare on the gently insistent strains of Monk’s ‘Green Chimneys’. The master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, Kathleen Duncan, presented Boyd with his winner’s medal and the evening was compèred by Nigel Tully. Stephen Graham
Moses Boyd, above
- Category: Lives
- Created: Mon 11th May 2015 08:17:54
Drummer Mark Mondesir – well known for his work with John McLaughlin and Julian Joseph – joined Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Steve Beresford, Caroline Kraabel and a host of musicians at the latest running of Freedom held in east London club the Vortex.
The monthly night relocated to the Dalston jazz club earlier this year from its previous home at Charlie Wrights in Hoxton. With an experimental vibe that draws on the traditions of an eclectic range of free improvising strands including the Chicago AACM traditions and the 1970s New York loft scene, Freedom is organised by Black Top vibist Orphy Robinson and singer Cleveland Watkiss. DJ input, flavoured by spiritual jazz and dub reggae, is from renowned Straight No Chaser magazine editor Paul Bradshaw pictured at the deck above. In the summer a two-day Freedom festival will feature Tony Kofi and Black Top among a constellation of jazz talent on 27-28 June. SG
- Category: News
- Created: Tue 12th May 2015 06:16:53
Keith Jarrett Standards trio bassist Gary Peacock turns 80 on 12 May, and Now This is released the day before in Britain and Ireland. It is endowed with fabulously thunderous sound, the doyen of European jazz recording engineers, Jan Erik Kongshaug, responsible, and the 11 tracks were recorded at Rainbow in Oslo, with Manfred Eicher producing.
Peacock goes back almost to the beginning of ECM, appearing on an early label classic Paul Bley with Gary Peacock. And earlier in the 1960s he played a good deal with Albert Ayler. In the intervening years before the Standards trio came along 20 years later Peacock had worked with some of the cream of the avant garde scene performing, recording with Barry Altschul and Bley extensively. Bringing the story up to date recent releases featuring his work include the gorgeous Azure released in 2013 and reviewed below.
Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell Azure ECM **** If friendships and musical associations are about the ‘now’ and the ‘then’ Azure draws this sharply into relief with a burning intensity. The ‘then’ may have been the pairing of Peacock and Crispell with the late Paul Motian; the ‘now’, a music of risk-taking adventure and contemplation in equal measure. It’s also quite a moving album at times, and Crispell’s tune ‘Waltz After David M’ is just beautifully conceived within a post-bebop piano timeline that journeys back to Bill Evans but also reveals a significant compositional voice at play. There are goodbyes and lullabies, colours and dances on Azure, the duo performing tunes they each composed individually or in three cases, together. Crispell used to be a somewhat severe pianist – I’m thinking of the marvellous Kitchen Concert trio set for Leo recorded in the late-1980s – but Azure taps an elegiac sense with some tenderness on the lovely ‘Goodbye’. Listening to Peacock here is a wholly different experience to hearing the bassist with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, as on the recent Standards trio Lucerne live album Somewhere. The anti-grammar of the tunes on Azure, the role of Peacock as an equal soloist, and the radical conception of musical freedom they share make the experience of listening to him very rewarding. Azure challenges the listener with an accessible familiarity or so it seems; but it’s above all an album that values the mystery of experience, the seeking and the sought.
For this new release, recorded last summer, instead of a duo, and appearing with a very different pianist to Marilyn Crispell who is more of an obvious avantist than Marc Copland even if he is still acutely attuned to a highly abstract sensibility, with Joey Baron sounding at maybe his most Paul Motian-like ever, the tunes have a brittle stateliness to them, the tonal qualities of the instrument almost exaggerated, progress never overhurried: the three in solemn contemplation.
All three contribute compositions, the only non-original is Scott LaFaro’s ‘Gloria’s Step’. Even though it is a piano trio in the sense that it is factually piano-bass-drums the album doesn’t sound like one at all. The bassist-leader’s role is robust and convincing even if the planets don’t always completely align on every piece. However, the monumental pendulum-like movement of Peacock original ‘Vignette’ towards the end would be the piece to turn to for some small proof of Peacock’s majestic power and where the trio knit best of all, the shadowy interplay of the deep noble tones of Peacock drawing out Copland that bit more even though his diffidence and poeticism is appealing throughout. ‘Requiem’ has a vastness to it at the end only belied by its brevity and indeed Now This thrives on succinctness, no note is wasted: the tolling opening piano notes of ‘Shadows’ much earlier providing an ominous atmosphere that the trio know how to project in all their uncertainty and mystery of suggestion. SG
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Mon 4th May 2015 15:44:12
The death of free-jazz drummer Jerome Cooper on 6 May has been noted by fans and friends in the States. Cooper had been fighting cancer. The last surviving member of the Revolutionary Ensemble, an influential 1971-1977 trio that reunited in the noughties Cooper was 68.
His late-1960s work included appearances with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre before he moved to Europe where he played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Steve Lacy, and others. Back in the States in the early-1970s the Chicago-born player joined the Revolutionary Ensemble alongside Leroy Jenkins and Sirone, and later in the decade played with Sam Rivers, and George Adams. Cooper was the last of the Revolutionary Ensemble to pass away preceded by violinist Leroy Jenkins, who died in 2007, and bassist Sirone who died in 2009. An exponent of what Cooper termed “multi-dimensional drumming” he appeared on Anthony Braxton’s New York Fall 1974 and six years later Cecil Taylor’s live album It is in the Brewing Luminous. His own records include For The People.
Jerome Cooper top performing in 2014 at a festival in Denmark, and in the audio with The Revolutionary Ensemble on their 1975 album The Psyche
- Category: News
- Created: Fri 8th May 2015 06:07:16
M-BASE – Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporisation – is one of the most influential jazz styles to have emerged in recent decades, and this compilation serves a useful purpose 30 years on from its first stirrings.
A style that drew on hip-hop, bebop, and funk and identified above all with the advanced compositional ideas of Steve Coleman, record producer Stefan Winter was one of the first to harness its potential and offered Coleman a record deal in 1984 who then debuted with Motherland Pulse the following year (‘Irate Blues’ and ‘On This’ from that album are both included here). Winter’s label JMT released some 20 albums featuring musicians linked to the Brooklyn-based M-BASE Collective.
On this excellent 24-bit remastered collection of 15 tracks the main figureheads of the movement are here, including vocal tracks from Cassandra Wilson, gutsy aggressive post bop from Gary Thomas, and tenderness too from the saxist on the affecting ‘Chelsea Bridge’ in a little trio with Kevin Eubanks and Dave Holland.
One of the suprising things about M-BASE is that it isn’t as homogeneous as you might think and often much more conventional than its reputation suggests and the compilation reflects his. Surprises include the surfy reggae feel to Jean Paul Bourelly’s ‘Drifter’ while Geri Allen’s contributions to the style seemed at a stylistic remove, here represented by a track from In the Year of the Dragon that practically conjures the benevolent musical vision of Mary-Lou Williams, tapping a musical line that existed long before hip-hop emerged in the late-1970s. Actually the compilation plays down the link to hip-hop, its impact not as pronounced as bebop (Steve Coleman was at that stage of his career still heavily influenced by Charlie Parker).
There is a grandeur to Cassandra Wilson’s vocals on ‘I’m Going Home’ (and she looks so young in the group photo in the artwork) the context so different here, bluesy electric guitar courtesy of Kevin Bruce Harris and shouty vocals giving a youthful energy to the way the tune unfolds. For the heart of the sound turn to the Coleman tracks and particularly the Strata Institute track ‘Micro-Move’ with Coleman joined by the other alto sax pillar of the sound, Greg Osby.
Released on 18 May
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Sun 3rd May 2015 07:38:29
5 Just One Of Those Things performed by Bryan Ferry
Before you scroll down to see what is number 1 it might be worth pausing to take a wild stab at what is and what isn’t over-familiar in jazz today. Some material after all is just so hardwired into the jazz consciousness it never will be removed or cease to provide inspiration for new artists coming through.
Becoming too familiar isn’t necessarily bad (as the inclusion of the sublime version of ‘Skylark’ by Gregory Porter goes some way to show). But it can be a bit wearing especially if the song or tune ends up in other less than subtle hands. When you’re sick of hearing a song and never ever want to hear it again then obviously something has gone wrong with the version you are listening to.
One of the things I love about jazz is that musicians and singers don’t cover a tune or a song in a pop sense no matter how awkwardly they tackle it unless they happen to be a pop or rock singer and there are one or two examples here.
Yet however randomly and relentlessly jazz-friendly buskers, a hardy breed, the world over tend to play some of these indestructible earworms, or coffee shops seek to claim ownership by playing Kind of Blue a few too many times for comfort, their memory never quite palls.
List continues from above
4 Round Midnight performed by Amy Winehouse
3 Skylark performed by Gregory Porter
2 The Way You Look Tonight performed by Rod Stewart
1 Take Five performed in the Sachal Studios version
- Category: Interviews and features
- Created: Thu 7th May 2015 16:55:29