Christine Tobin joins Soweto Kinch among Sligo Jazz Project festival headliners at the Hawk’s Well theatre this summer, the theme for her concert shaped around the poetry of W. B. Yeats.
The New York-based singer/composer’s Sailing to Byzantium in 2012 featured Tobin settings of music to Yeats. The Dubliner made judicious use on it of spoken word contributions by the great actor Gabriel Byrne, a former teacher of the singer’s, and his recorded voice was a flickeringly sonorous presence.
Ireland’s national poet is nowhere more belovèd than in the hearts and minds of the citizenry of Sligo town and the county, his work celebrated every year in fond regard – “joy is wisdom/Time an endless song.” 27 July: Tickets
Stimulating one, this. Day After Day (Babel) is from bassist Olie Brice, freshly streaming. A quintet affair – completed by Human cornetist Alex Bonney, alto saxist Mike Fletcher, tenorist George Crowley and veteran Lee Konitz drummer Jeff Williams – last anyone much heard of Brice whose style straddles Henry Grimes and William Parker was back in March on Of Tides in duo with pianist Achim Kaufmann.
Video of the quintet playing the second of the six tunes on the album
Day After Day is a lot more gripping. I liked its sense of free bop from the first few notes. I suppose loosely it swims, however slipperily or absurdly like a fish might clamber on to a bicycle, on a tide that first rose with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.
Very open, there is no info about the six tracks on the label site, Brice however, according to the annotation on YouTube wrote Red Honey Yellow Honey.
Crowley is playing much more free than you’d hear him on other recent albums (for instance on Can of Worms).
There is nothing particularly daunting about the wildness of what is on offer here although this is certainly adventurous experimental jazz.
Williams is disciplined and he and Brice manage to shape all the jaggedness of the beat and rhythm around the horn players to draw out scraps of melody that they then can run away with. Check Brice's slithery vital bass solo explorations on Interruptions No 1 at the heart of the album.
The Right To Love, a new studio album recorded and to be launched in her home town of Hastings, is on the way in late-July from singer Liane Carroll.
Produced again by James McMillan two years on from the release of the highly touching Seaside, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Skylark, If You Go Away, I Get Along Without You Very Well, The Right To Love, In The Neighbourhood and Lately are among the songs selected.
Musicians participating on the recording sessions joining Carroll included pianists Mark Edwards and Malcolm Edmonstone, guitarist Mark Jaimes, saxophonist Whalum, bassists Loz Garratt and Roger Carey and drummers Ralph Salmins and Russell Field, the recording completed in March this year.
The title track, Liane refers to in the video above of which there is a short snippet, was suggested by Chip Crawford who is the long term pianist of Gregory Porter. The melody of the title track was written by Lalo Schifrin and as ‘Reflections’ was debuted by Stan Getz on the Ogerman/Schifrin-arranged 1964-released Verve album of the same name. With added words written by Gene Lees drawing on the subject of inter racial marriage and more broadly forbidden love it then became what we know as ‘The Right To Love,’ early vocals versions of which were recorded by Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett.
With a big band and strings on home ground in Hastings Liane launches The Right to Love at St Mary in the Castle on 22 July. Tickets
There is change in the air, a feeling of unease, a warm sensation in the questing flute of Idris Rahman that is loose and open rising up against the quietly insistent bass of Leon Brichard, while Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner on drums taps and cajoles rather than goes to battle. Some wars are won by an outbreak of peace after all.
Bookended by two versions of ‘Flute Song’ Rahman is better known for his work with the reggae and Afrobeat-influenced Soothsayers as well as his compelling explorations of Bengali folk and jazz with his sister pianist Zoe Rahman most compellingly delivered on Kindred Spirits. This might be his most impressive showing to date in an already distinguished career as he swells to a Yusef Lateef-like power and sense of repose.
The initial tiny run of vinyl isn’t released until the autumn, for now Wildflower (**** RECOMMENDED) is streaming. Rahman alternates between flute and sax while Brichard, who has played with Pete Wareham’s band Melt Yourself Down, the least known of the three players drifts too about, seamlessly switching from double bass to bass guitar.
There is a quiet strength in the Wildflower way of making music and plenty of concise deep thought, a simple spiritual experience achieved in some ways without being too fanciful that draws around all three players an expansive aura that thrives on a whole spread of influences built in layers underneath that spans India, Africa and the achievements of 1960s free-jazz. Endearingly humble the results speak louder than any words and moves the body as well as the mind. It’s a revelation.
There are worse insults than having “too generic” hurled in your direction.
For record company A&Rs, the formerly pony-tailed ones, this is a big weapon in their arsenal, however and after the sting of it, yes, you can see the point of the rebuke. Because they know if they are listening and assessing your records with a view to signing you up that you can play, they know your image is good but they want to understand and convince themselves that you have wider appeal. Of course “record company A&Rs” only formally exist as an exotic job title in big rock and pop record major labels or their carefully liveried boutique often recently revived vintage marque imprints. On a small jazz indie level they exist too, usually the person who runs the label and does everything bar the tap-dancing, although occasionally that too as well as the ability to do the necessary paperwork fandango, or farms it all out to a few trusted assistants.
If you are looking for someone to put your record out and are turned down because you are too generic in jazz, or any line of the arts if you make the leap, it means you are too jazz. That may sound absurd but isn't.
Overly generically-guilty is slightly different than falling down on playing a style too closely or better being a deliberate stylist. Being a stylist can be a good thing and a compliment to you yet it can also be like becoming a character actor and then typecast. If this is looking like it is an issue and bothers you then you need to move on from being a stylist and that usually comes in jazz after many, many years when you turn a corner artistically, shed some of your ego, learn how to live somehow like a grown-up person, lose a few bad habits, and suddenly shed your undying reverence for the original style that you have long since cherished and tried foolishly to emulate in all obsession.
With generic there is a lot of baggage. And the problem is when you exhibit the effects of this virus then no one outside your small world can really get what you are about and can only see the style trappings that restricts their perception of you as an artist. It is not quite, or at all, as traumatic as belonging to a cult. Give it time.
You may contend that an acquisition of all-pervasive genre style attributes is the case in all jazz and is inevitable and all clinging but that is not strictly right and fatalistic. It also makes genre seem more fixed than it is and there is fluidity there beyond the orthodox notions of sub-genre identification. A good example of someone who stopped being generic or maybe never ever was is Norah Jones (as likely to dabble in country or retro Babyboomer Americana as her recent return to heartland jazz) or any other artist who has crossed over... Jamie Cullum, Melody Gardot, Lizz Wright... and they are not just singers and not just pop-jazz artists but rather anyone who can connect beyond a jazz public but still retain some of the trappings of the style even when they have made all these concessions to an outside world. John Coltrane can and did connect beyond jazz and never made any concessions artistically I ought to hastily and properly point out. And neither did Ornette Coleman who means as much to avant rock and art rock fans as he does to jazz fans. Note the present tense.
How do you become non-generic? Ah, difficult. Short answer: know the rules and break them all. Think like a listener, be an artist and not only a performer, and not only love the idea of being a jazz musician who loves to play jazz but communicate that love that bit better, no need to explain, no need to apologise, to everyone.
It is not surprising that many jazz musicians release their own albums. The label alternative is not necessarily any better.
Deals vary but what labels genuinely want is the finished audio product in their hands at no or nominal cost to themselves. It is not a secret but not all jazz fans realise this although it is grim reality to musicians who soon know not only are they musicians but they are also themselves unofficially entrepreneurs. Labels are not benefactors or exist to dispense their expertise or assistance in any sense when they do deals like this. In fact as labels their role is more facilitators towards their own distribution channels if these actually even properly exist beyond a small network of shops and mail order. At the other end of the chain shops take little non-pop product, distributors’ bigger clients now tend to be the likes of Amazon.
Labels yes release the album, press the CDs (more costly vinyl is not usually a format of choice) pay the mechanicals (the publishing fees they are legally bound to pay that then flow to bodies like MCPS) and do a little publicity. Generally they do not do very much of the latter and leave it to their distributors who will only go the extra mile if the label pays a fee for them to do this. Enhanced marketing which is important but rarely executed because of prohibitive cost involves an extra push with ads and farming out publicity to often eye wateringly expensive specialists. Not every deal is the same but musicians who do ‘pressing and distribution’ deals with labels in this manner should attend to significant detail and retain or limit failing that if they can the rights of their masters otherwise not only will they get small royalties even if the album is getting sold but they will also not have control of the music that they released via the label in the future to put out themselves or offer for reissue to others long after they have left the label.
What do musicians get out of all this? Typically the runs of the album are small, so royalties no matter how generous via the label are small too and upfront advances on them slim. Labels won’t with the best will in the world be intent on making endless repressings although that prospect is a carrot often dangled to dreamers dreaming of big sales who think the first run will sell-out in a few months. Do a deal by all means with your label so you have physical product to sell directly at gigs but that is not always quite as good as it sounds: how awkward is it without help when you are going on stage at 10pm far from the M25 and need someone to stick around long into the night to sell a few dozen albums? Very.
In a sense the label gets more of a piece of the action, profile for its brand at minimum investment and the chance to build up a roster relatively easily and then do distribution deals abroad. In an ideal world, and it does happen with proven big selling artists who have signed grown-up deals via their professional management companies, labels fund the studio costs because they have to and they do not put the artist in hock for these although that sometimes happens and can be disastrous. Labels should rethink the way they work. Would it really hurt to pay for a few days’ studio time or the mix and mastering? They are not charities and yet to be fair often go above and beyond what is expected of them because they believe in the music and yet the burden on musicians is heavy. If labels do not or cannot reassess their business models at least musicians should realise and be less naive about what it means to ‘sign’ to one especially if they are astute enough to shop around having created the product in the first place. Rather than moaning or taking a less than satisfactory deal the DIY option might be more ramshackle but may be better long term although it takes organisation and a plan. After all the labels can come knocking on your door in the future and might be a bit more generous when they know you aren’t going to be a mug as you have done the job yourself and are a bit more clued up about what is involved. Photo: Wikimedia