There are very few people who can without any fear of embarrassment at the sheer effrontery of coming up with a name be called a genius. One of these lucky few is certainly Django Bates, the English pianist and composer who, and this defeats me to write because he always seems so youthful, is 60 next month. This afternoon I've been listening to Tenacity, his new big band album, a studio album recorded in Sweden, the release of which chimes with this milestone of his birthday and the centenary of his childhood hero Charlie Parker.
It is a wonderful freewheeling affair that anyone into big band jazz will have to hear. With Django there is always a sense of mischief, intense, anarchic detail and a puckish joie de vivre combined with an almost Spike Milligan sense of humour. Over the years I've interviewed him several times and the last time caught up with him was five years ago when he was writing some music for a stage version of Around the World in 80 Days.
This new project has a whole collision of things going on with alongside him his acclaimed Beloved trio and for extra beef the Norbotten big band. The material is at once very familiar to Charlie Parker fans but at the same time full of signature Bates touches in the arranging that has the atmosphere of a raucous circus as much as a smoky 1940s jazz club and this is combined in terms of material with some of Django's fantastic writing including the beautiful 'Study of Touch'. Reasons to be cheerful? At least 60 or so. Tenacity is released in October on Django's Lost Marble label.