You simply need to know what “spang a lang” is, what’s good to go and what’s to avoid. Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr, famed for his work with Christian McBride, knows better than most how to play... and explain it. 

A couple of minutes is all it takes.

Theon Cross

New in 2019, Sons of Kemet tuba player Theon Cross has a monstrously sonorous album of his own as a leader on Gearbox. 

Scheduled for a 15 February vinyl release among the formats, Fyah tracks all written by Cross and recorded at London studio Soup are: ‘Activate’, ‘Offerings’, ‘Radiation’ and ‘Letting Go’ on the A Side; with ‘Candace of Meroe’, ‘Panda Village’ (above unveiled by The Quietus the other day), the Artie Zaitz-flavoured ‘CIYA’, which marlbank was completely blown away by on hearing the track in the label’s mastering studio back in the autumn, and finally ‘LDN’s Burning’ on the B. 

On most of the tracks the line-up features Cross with Nubya Garcia on tenor saxophone and Moses Boyd on drums while a bigger group featuring Wayne Francis on tenor saxophone, Theon’s brother Nathaniel on trombone, the soulful Grant Green influenced guitarist Artie Zaitz on electric guitar and Tim Doyle on percussion plus Boyd join the leader on a couple of others. photo: Andy Earl

A cover a day from Jamie Cullum in the 12 Days themed run-up to the big day: “These performances are unpolished in the extreme. No edits, no separate piano, vocals, no comps, no auto tune! Also none of the confidence of hours and hours of practice. The songs are chosen the either day before or often just at the session. It’s normally something I’ve been humming to myself, an ear worm from the radio, or an old song I’ve loved for years and never tried to play. I hope listeners will enjoy the rawness and the sense of danger and exploration that goes into these.”

Easy pick of the raft of new ECM releases scheduled for the early part of 2019 is Imaginary Friends by Ralph Alessi

A huge year in prospect for the great label as it celebrates 50 years since Manfred Eicher founded the company, what to expect about this latest album from one of the US’ finest avant jazz trumpeters whose skeletal oblique and deeply poetic sound has lit up our imaginative inner lives for years? 

Well, few real details so far beyond sleek but bland words on a press release but significantly it is the “This Against That” band, who a dozen years ago were active on the Between the Lines label, and which once again finds Alessi with his long time collaborator Ravi Coltrane joining him not only on tenor but also the pretty unusual sopranino saxophone. 

The ex-Steve Coleman pianist Andy Milne is there too plus one of the great avant bassists Drew Gress (known for his work with John Abercrombie, the Claudia Quintet, and Tim Berne) who made a memorable impression on Alessi's masterpiece Baida and the still too underknown drummer Mark Ferber.  

According to ECM the quintet has not recorded since 2010. For this they decamped far from home in America to La Buissonne in France, the “Saturday Morning” studio where Ahmad Jamal made one of his greatest late-period albums. Look for Imaginary Friends in February.

At the Moers festival in Germany in 2018, above: This Against That in scintillating form including on ‘Fun Room’ a composition which is included on the album as the fifth track. The concert in the video took place just before Imaginary Friends was recorded in June. Other tracks, all Alessi compositions, are Iram Issela’, ‘Oxide', ‘Improper Authorities’, ‘Pittance’ [also in the video following on from ‘Fun Room’], ‘Imaginary Friends’, ‘Around The Corner’, ‘Melee’, and ‘Good Boy’. 

Julian Argüelles, above left, John Turville, James Maddren, Robbie Robson and Dave Whitford
Very Wheeler-esque the tantalising pre-order track just up from the choice new John Turville album Head First which is to be released by Whirlwind in late-February 2019.
With a two-horn front line featuring UK sax great Julian Argüelles on tenor and soprano saxophone and Robbie Robson on trumpet, Liam Noble bassist Dave Whitford joins the modernistic John Taylor influenced Turville in the rhythm section along with Britain's version of Jeff Ballard, James Maddren on drums. 
As for the sound quality the album boosts engineering by probably the best living jazz recording engineer of his generation Stefano Amerio who operates out of his own studio in Italy and is widely used by a host of top international jazzers. 
The Turvillians will be on tour all over the place next year: check into nearer the time. 

Nancy Wilson died last night at her home in California aged 81 multiple sources in the US report. A star in the 1960s with 8 albums that made it to the higher reaches of the Billboard charts, her hit with the Jimmy Williams/Larry Harrison song ‘(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am’ won her a Grammy in 1965 for best R&B performance. Later she would win jazz Grammys and a National Endowment for the Arts jazz masters fellowship for lifetime achievement.

More: New York Times report.