The new Tigran?
Recorded in the summer in west Cork the Siggi Loch-produced Relaxin’ in Ireland is a bit of a tranquil beauty, check the video, certainly a magnet in the making for mainstream jazz fans for instance spooling out from a core Art Farmer or Duško Gojković type of sound with plenty of gorgeous chamber and folky touches factored in to discover.
Topical too as all eyes on the Irish jazz scene are currently largely smiling (although the terrible shadow of Brexit grows longer) because regular clubs in the bigger cities are putting down firmer roots and festivals attract the cream of the world scene on a regular basis and thoughts turn to the county for what is historically Ireland’s biggest and best jazz festival to be held in Cork city.
The brothers Wasserfuhr who hail from a village near Cologne back in the summer journeyed to a studio in county Cork where the trumpeter joined by cellist Jörg Brinkmann made the record and did some moon dancing of their own partly inspired by the place and yes featuring as well as originals an authentic treatment of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ and the irresistible charms by a son of Waterford Gilbert O’Sullivan and his 1970s sentimental classic ‘Clair’.
Twelve years on from their Chet Baker homage that launched their careers they have found their own season, and place, to shine.
TS Monk’s band confirmed by his manager for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival appearing on Saturday is: the former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra trumpeter Randall Haywood; and also in the three-horn player front line Willie Williams, who appeared on TS’ albums Changing of the Guard (1993); Cross Talk (1999) and Higher Ground (2003) on tenor saxophone; the Muhal Richard Abrams, Archie Shepp and David Murray legend Patience Higgins from Greenville, South Carolina on alto sax; Chris Berger, originally from Dayton, Ohio on double bass; and the elegant Danny Grissett, piano; + leader TS Monk on drums completing the sextet. Largely the band that celebrated the Monk centennial at Dizzy’s in New York, with one difference because it is Danny Grissett and not Theo Hill on piano, last time marlbank heard Danny Grissett live the pianist, who has tremendous swinging reflexes hurtling upwards at speed, was with the great Jeremy Pelt at Ronnie Scott’s back in 2016. The Cork gig is part of an afternoon double bill completed by the heavyweight UK Bansangu Orchestra. Details.
Racking up the first of two new EPs, a London Jazz Festival appearance imminent and a bigger pop-up tube station space lined up — now is the time for Empirical once again.
Off to IKEA yes jazz musicians shop — shock — there is nothing remotely flat pack about Tom Farmer ah except in a strictly off-the-shelf thought only in the folding department when he gets to collapse a handy touring bass down to 22kg, useful touring this year overseas with famed sitarist Anoushka Shankar. The double bassist tomorrow night, quick or you will miss him, is playing with Wave in Ronnie Scott’s. And his upcoming releases include a sideman appearance on the new Ant Law record Life I Know.
Ant, Tom refers to, speaking this morning on the phone, as a “legend”, someone who he has known since the perfect fourths theorising guitarist moved down from Edinburgh to London.
The bassist who is most renowned as one quarter of the hugely acclaimed international touring quartet Empirical above far left with beside him Shaney Forbes, Nathaniel Facey and Lewis Wright touches on yes Ant’s novel perfect fourths system that the guitarist has written theory books about and marvels at his “great musical palate,” going on to describe Ant generously as “a really eclectic musician.”
As for his own regular non-fold down double bass he says “it is not that old,” and fills me in on how a bunch of Hungarian “bodies” (for a spooky moment I thought he was referring to corpses) were then “put together” by British luthiers of which his is one. Tom uses it in London and gigs where he can get to by car.
Turning to Empirical first things first the clobber. Yes, Empirical are the best dressed hard bop band to be found anywhere from Land’s End to John O’Groats and marlbank can exclusively reveal that during their next pop-up in Old Street will see them dressed for a photo shoot in bespoke suits thanks to a deal with Shoreditch tailor Beggars Run. Tom says the quartet will be in a bigger unit than before so even more room for commuters to chill and possibly forsake the dubious pleasures of reading Metro and the Evening Osborne before moving along to check out the latest juice bar or cabling boutique nearby.
The band have two EPs on the way before their album is released. Listen to ‘Celestial Being’ from the first of these, above. The sessions were recorded at famed St John’s Wood studio RAK where the band’s vibist Lewis Wright who also is a drummer is a versatile in-house sessioneer.
We talk about Bobby Hutcherson a bit and Tom remembers flying down from Scotland to support the late great Out To Lunch vibist for a live BBC Radio 3 broadcast inside no 47 Frith Street. I happened to be there that night and witnessing the reaction the band were I think it is fair to say pretty gobsmacked to be there with one of their heroes.
“I can't remember what Nat said exactly,” Tom says. “But we were all gone in the air,” a thought that chimes literally with the thought and talk of Dolphy that I brought up looking ahead to some unheard Dolphy alternates about to surface on a tasty archival release to be put out on this coming black Friday by the deep catalogue jazz heads at Resonance.
Tom talks about bassist Ray Brown and his enjoyment a few years ago playing alongside the Carter-ian Gregory Hutchinson (Droppin’ Things) backing the singer Sarah McKenzie who references that Brown sound a little through her devotion to Diana Krall who was mentored by Ella Fitzgerald’s former husband on her own retro records. He also enthuses about Richard Davis again from Out To Lunch and not only but also Astral Weeks both for his incredible sound and his commitment to civil rights through his education work.
Empirical are a very democratic band and share stage announcements, there is no obvious leader. Nat and Shaney go way back to their school days together and Nat is the most formal dresser of the four of them — you read it here first, Tom says. He also is one of Britain’s finest ever alto saxophone players up there in the world class pantheon with Joe Harriott, Peter King and Martin Speake. And the band of course are more than the sum of their considerable parts SG
Check Empirical during the EFG London Jazz Festival at the Purcell Room on 16 November. Details.
Well this is quite moving in a year that sadly has seen the passing of Tomasz Stańko who revered and played with Krzysztof Komeda, the famed Polański film composer (Knife in the Water, Rosemary’s Baby)... listening to the Komeda inspired Wojtek Mazolewski quintet takes me back to 1997 and Litania to my mind the only, yet one of v. many, Komeda tribute projects available worthy of that name often very cult that I at least have heard.
In Poland Komeda is as revered by jazz musicians as classical people revere Witold Lutosławski, literary folk Jan Kochanowski, his spare romantic bittersweet highly poetic very humane themes and extraordinary abstract imagery especially on the masterpiece Astigmatic stirring the Polish and universal soul like few others since the 1960s.
Led from the bass with Wojtek [a diminutive for Wojciech] are Oskar Török on trumpet, Marek Pospieszalski, tenor saxophone, Joanna Duda, piano and Qba Janicki drums.
The Komeda piece that the quintet play is music from ‘Gdy spadają anioły’ which in English is known as When Angels Fall, a short 22-minute film that goes back to Polański's film school days in Łódź.
Ant Law surfaced first in 2013 with Entanglement, an album that certainly made scene-watchers at the time sit up and take note of the hitherto little known guitarist. His style is a cross between John Scofield’s and Phil Robson’s, and when it came to Zero Sum World a year later he was even more accomplished, particularly in the writing department, full of well shaped ideas, a little less oblique in the execution, and even bittersweet say on ‘Waltz,’ or the delightful ‘Leafcutter.’
Law, who has been mentored on the high flier Take Five scheme this year, is joined on the upcoming studio album Life I Know (Edition) once again by Mike Chillingworth on alto saxophone & bass clarinet; the Phronesis star Ivo Neame; Tom Farmer of Empirical on double bass; and the Kit Downes Golden trio drummer James Maddren.
You can now listen to a pared down very touching instrumental version of ‘Pure Imagination’ , aka the “Willie Wonka” Bricusse & Newley song that Gene Wilder sang in the 1971 movie, and the Law-making ‘Searching’ a pre-release track above that begins as a Noel Gallagher-like strum-a-long before gear shifting as Chillingworth introduces low down on his register a Joshua Redman sense of soaring emotive melody set flush to the choppy waters of Maddren’s compelling groove.