Olli

At least a couple of times a year I go out to see an unreconstructed blues-rock guitarist called Pat McManus who has incredible chops but does not play jazz, only getting close when he opens up on a Hendrix-like run. I often wonder standing in front of his power trio how it would sound if he played jazz. It probably would not work in the same way. However this guy Olli Hirvonen (photo: Luke Marantz) can do the sort of things I want with a guitar and this summer the guitarist who used to be on the Edition label and who has won a high profile Montreux Jazz Guitar competition judged by John McLaughlin switches to US indie Ropeadope returns with Displace. I have been listening to the album, which I must say is superb, this morning but cannot share anything for the time being: maybe something will turn up on YouTube or Bandcamp and if so I will add a track or two.

It is pretty compulsive stuff kitted out with gutsy McLaughlin-like jagged lines full of intensity and strength. The 30-year-old Finn is in a quartet setting with pianist Luke Marantz, bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell. Playing a Fender Jazzmaster solidbody electric guitar there is something completely organic about his sound, full of a very modern sounding jazz without being remotely avant garde but with that spiky sound going on that commands attention. Hirvonen started studying classical guitar in Finland when he was 9, studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at Manhattan School of Music in New York where his creative world opened up and he began to move away from bebop to the sounds of the likes of Nels Cline and Lee Ranaldo. Next time I hear Pat McManus I will be thinking of Hirvonen and wondering if when the Finn was into Deep Purple years ago he sounded anything like Pat. Look for the record in late-August. SG. 

Orphy RobinsonThe National Jazz Youth Orchestra has announced details of a new scheme called the NYJO Jazz Exchange which is a two-year national project which NYJO says is about “encouraging young professional musicians to take charge of their artistic voice.”

To begin next year ten musicians will be supported by mentorship, regular rehearsals, paid performances and masterclasses with the first ensemble to be coached by vibist Orphy Robinson MBE, pictured above.

The initiative is funded by Arts Council England and the Peter Sowerby Foundation. 

Austrian saxophonist, flautist, bandleader and educator Karlheinz Miklin died on Saturday afternoon following a stroke. He was 72. The Carinthian culture minister and governor Peter Kaiser expressed his deepest sympathy to Miklin’s family and said that Carinthia has lost an inspirational cultural ambassador.

Miklin appeared in numerous projects, including with Albert Mangelsdorff, Art Farmer, Mark Murphy, Horace Parlan, Mel Lewis and Barre Phillips and appeared at festivals all over Europe during a long career. From 1983 to 2000 he led the jazz department of the Graz University of Arts. 

I will be updating my pick of the year so far soon to add Carib. It is one of those albums where everything just gels.

To be frank I had forgotten about Sánchez in recent years. I used to like his gutsy, powerful, natural sound a lot in the 1990s and interviewed him once for a long forgotten magazine called Jazz on CD.

Somehow however contemporaries like Danilo Pérez have become much higher profile. The Puerto Rican taps his homeland and Haiti for inspiration that connects with his 1990s self on albums like The Departure. Sánchez also manages to make the connection between the Caribbean and the US a seamless one, Dizzy Gillespie knew how to do that years ago and that style still makes sense.

The album has its poignancy. Sánchez says: “This album is in memory of my father, Dimas and especially, my late wife Karla. After a great deal of research and listening to Haitian music, Karla encouraged and helped me take a trip to Haiti. It was an incredible and intense experience, seeing everyday people’s struggles. She felt like it was important that I had this direct contact with Haitian culture. I feel like this recording wouldn’t have bee possible without her wisdom, sensibility and love. Even if she wasn’t physically around when I was in the studio, she was constantly present in many different forms and definitely a key component of this album’s vibe.”

Check Carib out above: drummer Obed Calvaire, guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, and pianist Luis Perdomo who plays the Fender Rhodes on just under half the 11 tracks join the saxist. It is simply a thrill. SG