Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra saxophonist/flautist, a founder member of legendary 1970s street funk Afrojazz pioneers Cymande Mike “Bammi” Rose, joined by Cymande pianist Adrian Reid on Nord keyboards continued their regular residency in the congenial and relaxed surroundings of the House of Tippler on London’s Lordship Lane in East Dulwich as World Cup fever began to grip the capital.

Performing after the Portugal v Spain game (a Portuguese supporter at the bar who had watched the match on television compared Ronaldo understandably to Eusébio) Bammi, you might remember hearing him for instance on Charlie Parker’s ‘Barbados’ from Jazz Jamaica’s excellent 1990s album Skaravan got into his stride when he switched from flute to tenor as the pair performed with a backing rhythm that introduced a light Caribbean twist on such early set numbers as Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ and Billy Taylor’s joyous ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free’ and then with more of a carnival feel the classic ‘St Thomas’ synonymous with Sonny Rollins. Reid’s own album Nyanza Street I enjoyed a few years ago and it was somehow fitting even if completely by chance to hear the pianist south of the river. Photo + text: marlbank.
Mike Bammi Rose above left and Adrian Reid at the House of Tippler. 

Angélique Kidjo plays the Belfast international arts festival on 29 October.

Remain in Light, her dynamic, rippling, compellingly effective Afro flavoured Talking Heads themed album has just come out from which the track above is taken.

1 From a heavyweight champ

2 Pulling no punches

3 In the ring 

4 Seconds out

5 Unknown challenger 

Playing in duo with well travelled highly tasteful and scandalously underknown Derry guitarist Tommy Halferty the great English jazz singer Norma Winstone is to play a couple of gigs in Ireland next month.

First up the duo will appear at the Irish Times jazz critic drummer Cormac Larkin’s Sofa Sessions in Kilkenny City pub Billy Byrnes on 5 July; and then in the plush Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel the following night in Killiney, south county Dublin.

Winstone’s latest album Descansado: Songs For Film was released back in the winter in a familiar reeds and piano trio that the singer has favoured in recent years on a studio album recorded in Italy, the film composers selected including the work of The Godfather composer Nino Rota, Michel Legrand (les Parapluies de Cherbourg), and the Alfred Hitchcock composer, Bernard Herrmann.

Winstone has the uncanny gift of singing standards, or what sound like standards given her craft, often her own lyrics decorating her or others’ songs (famously Jimmy Rowles’ ‘The Peacocks’ for example) and yet in the process creating an experimental world of her own, more a poetic completely sealed in artist and listener environment, a forensic calm and sense to her singer-as-observer meditations at play.

Kenny Wheeler above left, Norma Winstone and John Taylor. Photo: ECM

In her early career Winstone played in groups led by pianist Michael Garrick and avant composer Mike Westbrook. In the groundbreaking Azimuth, with her late former husband John Taylor and the late Kenny Wheeler, she came to international attention and achieved sustained acclaim. A winner of best vocalist at the now defunct BBC Jazz Awards she was Grammy nominated for her beautiful 2009 album, Distances. SG

Further reading see a marlbank 2014 Norma Winstone interview. Top: from Songs and Lullabies (Sunnyside, 2003) accompanied by Fred Hersch, who will play the 2018 Cork Jazz Festival.

WBGO logo

WBGO and NPR are where it is at in terms of jazz radio. Big claim. Here is how and why.

If push were to come to shove it is NPR on top of the two because they premiere new albums and which is the best bit about what they are doing.

Ex-New York Times writer Nate Chinen who had earlier in his career worked closely with George Wein on his must read autobiography at WBGO injects a writer’s sensibility and sadly that is now ultra rare on English language jazz radio particularly in the UK where most jazz presenters now tend to be musicians who are not jazz writers and the show just relies on their brand.

You might think that is a good thing however I disagree. I would say that wouldn’t I? My argument? There is one! It boils down to this: I am pretty unaware of what instrument top writers John Fordham, Richard Williams both of The Guardian or Kevin Le Gendre of Jazzwise and BBC Radio 3 play or bands they lead if any but I much prefer to listen to both any day of the week on the radio rather than a multi tasking musician who may know how to present and uses the airwaves as the extension of the bandstand but whose chat and the script such as it is amounts basically to extended natter, lots of superlatives and a few carefully slipped in plugs for the next gig or for their mates. Sad to say sometimes but true. Also and this is less arch and if anything more serious: a certain amount of distance is needed in terms of a referee behind the mic rather than a centre forward or player manager.

Radio has changed a lot and as I have written before and reiterate here that there is better choice and usually sad to say it is not on UK or Irish stations. That is not surprising given the huge size of radio offerings coming from America which we can access properly online all the time.

To drill down. The best jazz stations now for jazz are in the US, specifically WBGO and NPR. Why well they make better use of radio combined with blog, internet and text features. None of the BBC jazz shows beyond very basic show details (sometimes local shows do not even put up playlists at all which is shoddy given their extensive payroll) do this so my point is and it really can be addressed somehow is why bother going to BBC shows when for new releases you can find them yourself most satisfactorily?

There is thankfully change in the air at the BBC and I am pleased that J to Z is there and far better than the old Jazz Line-Up which ran out of steam at least three years ago and was very slow to react to new jazz beyond its often narrow remit. Geoffrey Smith I think has had a hugely long run at BBC Radio 3. I certainly think his show needs a rethink or better still mothballing. I like new presenter Jumoké Fashola who I used to listen to on local London BBC radio and occasionally caught her hosting spoken word shows upstairs at Scott’s.

Further musing applies to local BBC jazz as well because if you are playing, which some broadcasters do, releases either non-topical or from say two months before then unless you really like the presenter's voice (is that enough to tune in for? You may say yes! Surely less so for a magazine show) curating your own choices is a less frustrating option.

As for Jazz FM in London it is far better nowadays and there is lots of good stuff there (fairly new recruit radio mogul Jez Nelson who left the BBC when his Jazz on 3 show was replaced by Jazz Now but whose production company is back at the reins for Jez, oops ditch the vowel quick, J to Z) but I find the ads more intrusive than the US shows so again prefer to organically source the jazz I want to listen to. I am sure I am not alone in moving away from jazz radio especially as personal tastes deepen and widen in certain areas often way way beyond the mainstream or time allows on air. Podcasts I am hopeful about as an extension but unlike in comedy, talk, politics, and news have not found a must listen-to jazz podcast yet. The search continues. SG


The beginning of a new proper understanding of the music of Albert Ayler beyond the faithful for many including myself in the digital age began to accelerate partly thanks to Ribot, the great Waitsian guitarist. 

Back in 2011 at the height of the Occupy movement ages after the release I at last managed to hear Ribot play although his trio had been in London before around the time of release or not long after.

On the occasion it was in the city of London itself, not far from Liverpool Street station. The Vortex was doing one of its free-jazz “away days”, as it were, puttering off in the venerable charabanc or in clumps of penny farthings as the regulars might be imagined to have once chosen as their preferred means of transport because the club is such an enduring fixture of life in east London thanks to the foresight of David Mossman and Oliver Weindling. There were about 300 people present, a lot for most jazz gigs, like a Wembley crowd in terms of free-jazz.

The spirit of Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and the blues was there. Henry Grimes, in the trio, who played and recorded with Ayler, was at the centre of everything they did that night at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Chad Taylor’s excellent multi-directional drumming summoned up the style of the much missed Rashied Ali, who Grimes performed with not long before Ali’s death two years ago.

I remember sitting in a small restaurant in the Finnish city of Pori listening to Ali and talking to him later at the bar. It was one of those nights etched on the memory. The Finnish president, the much loved Tarja Halonen, was also present as a member of the audience, not just to shake hands and do official things. Imagine our great and good forsaking the opera for an evening of Shatner’s Bassoon? It ain’t going to happen. Habits and social niceties and what is deemed appropriate for not so much rigorous exposure to new music but consensual acceptance of it among the most Wagnerian of arts legislators and their entourages at large die hard.

Ali told me, as I expressed I guessed breathless admiration for what he was playing in a quick snatch of a chat, to go hear Interstellar Space which I immersed myself in for ages afterwards. That sound now say played by Binker and Moses is familiar to many jazz goers. It was mostly vilified in its day and apart from on the avant circuit was hardly heard of even within jazz for decades after. 

As for the Ribot 3, Trane’s ‘Sun Ship’ near the end that night in 2011 in the jarring City as office workers rushed for trains many after a quick catch-up at one of the local taverns and brief wetting of the whistle was unbelievably potent and earlier what sounded like ‘Truth Is Marching In’ was another highlight.Truth comes in many guises and we all heard it that night I was convinced and is documented in its augmented studio incarnation laid down years before at the outset for endless listening, above, and, particularly, never forgets the Ghost of the East River.

Michael Janisch’s hard bop and new Cool indie jazz label Whirlwind has signed Seamus Blake’s acoustic quartet The French Connection. 

A record the label say will be released by the band in the first quarter of 2019.

Before that first dates featuring Blake, who Whirlwind describe as “one of the world’s most distinctive voices on saxophone,” and band members Tony Tixier on piano, Florent Nisse playing double bass and Gautier Garrigue on the drums include club and festival dates in France in early July and one in London at the Pizza in Soho on 10 July.