Live review: James Copus quartet and Joe Downard sextet, Jazz Cafe, London

Picture the scene, around the corner from the Jazz Cafe a hare-eyed protester with a megaphone ranting anti-Lockdown conspiracy theories; a busy line of traffic crawling along Parkway closer to the Camden Town venue and then into the Jazz Cafe …

Published: 30 Sep 2020. Updated: 13 months.

Picture the scene, around the corner from the Jazz Cafe a hare-eyed protester with a megaphone ranting anti-Lockdown conspiracy theories; a busy line of traffic crawling along Parkway closer to the Camden Town venue and then into the Jazz Cafe itself, newly reopened after Lockdown with an all sit-down socially distanced gig and the first live jazz marlbank has experienced since the pandemic hit us disastrously in March.

A double album launch led by two Ubuntu label artists bassist Joe Downard and trumpeter James Copus marked the occasion, both bands welcomed to the stage by the voice of label head honcho Martin Hummel on the PA. Downard opened first with a sextet bristling with keyboards (two players playing two instruments each) playing from Seven Japanese Tales with Copus who would follow with his quartet here taking part in Downard's band in the front-line alternating flugel and trumpet with saxophonist Alex Hitchcock, the latter excelling later the more Michael Brecker-like he became. As for Downard he has a lovely tone and a beefy Jasper Høiby-like sense of attack.

Copus' quartet itself had more firepower and featured the great ex-Acoustic Ladyland keyboardist Tom Cawley who was superb throughout, his dirty electric keyboard attack tapping into a 1970s jazz-rock style that a young Chick Corea would have recognised. James Maddren on drums isn't on Copus' album Dusk and had a part to read from his stand but was powerful and quite loud (I always think of Jeff Ballard when I hear Maddren play) while as for Copus it was uncanny that he came over like Ian Carr who was one of the first English players with his band Nucleus to channel jazz-rock when the style was new and explored further by Miles Davis on, among other albums, Bitches Brew. Copus is a brilliant young player and live he had that tenderness and contrasting power that is stimulating to witness. He unveiled a new tune at the beginning before playing from the album. I liked 'Yearning' most towards the end. Live jazz again in Camden town? Bring it on. Stephen Graham

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Tingvall trio try a little tenderness

A treat from Tingvall trio this week on ''Dance'' by this original-sounding band that newcomers to jazz can nonetheless turn easily to if beginning a journey to the heart of the piano trio tradition because they are a band who live very much in …

Published: 29 Sep 2020. Updated: 14 months.

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A treat from Tingvall trio this week on ''Dance'' by this original-sounding band that newcomers to jazz can nonetheless turn easily to if beginning a journey to the heart of the piano trio tradition because they are a band who live very much in the here and now and yet whose roots go deep.

A great example of a trio that does not fall into the trap of being too ''classical-music sounding'' on 'Det Lilla' for example (Swedish I think for ''the Little One'' but don't shoot me if not) there is nothing dry about what is a tender ballad that begins with a romantic piano solo from Tingvall enhanced with knowing bass lines from Omar Rodriguez Calvo.

Hearing this Swedish-Cuban-German band once again is a reminder of how indebted we are, and may not even know that quite enough properly, to the Swedish jazz tradition. Jan Johansson, an influence on Kit Downes, the cult album Swedish Folk Modern, Bobo Stenson, the late Esbjörn Svensson, Tingvall, Daniel Karlsson, the list goes on but begins with Bengt Hallberg. Stan Getz was captivated by Hallberg's harnessing of folk on ‘Dear Old Stockholm’. It's a wonderful world ripe to discover and lose yourself in, full of reverie and sometimes poignancy.

For hardcore jazzers who sometimes cannot see the wood for the trees and can be a bit too quick to dismiss, the Tingvalls may not appeal because they are poppier and certainly more melodic than most but never simplistic. Trigger alert, the tune seems to come first, the improvisational impulse second rather than the other way round as to be fair some would maintain it should fall.

Tingvall himself in his soloing knows how to harness the specific characteristics of Swedish folk music to accent his melodic jazz style, which otherwise taps modern-mainstream flourishes, but you might not even spot the folk side to his compositional approach unless you are alerted to it and then start digging around: hint it is sometimes there in the gracenotes he deploys. That Swedish jazz tradition he belongs to surfaces on the more positive and yet bittersweet 'Flotten' where drummer Jürgen Spiegel is subtle on brushes, the tune blossoming into a lovely melody taken on by Tingvall with beautiful accompaniment by the consistently superb Calvo.

Dance on the Skip label, is released on Friday. Pictured from top left-to-right Jürgen Spiegel, Martin Tingvall, Omar Rodriguez Calvo. Photo: via Facebook.