Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Radio review - Freeness, BBC Radio 3

So where were we…? The last time we checked out Freeness was a couple of years ago. You know what to expect so that's why we haven't been in a while. It's like that with a lot of jazz shows on the BBC right now, that says a lot for their strong …

Published: 9 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

So where were we…? The last time we checked out Freeness was a couple of years ago. You know what to expect so that's why we haven't been in a while. It's like that with a lot of jazz shows on the BBC right now, that says a lot for their strong identities - but also given huge choice away from the Beeb all are gazumped by online non-radio action given a need for topicality and less of a need for magazine type presentations. (Solution? Have a live to air jazz show more regularly freshly researched and nimble enough to pick up on actually what's happened in the week prior to broadcast). Nevertheless Freeness like all jazz shows on the BBC hampered by a lack of marketing and very low presence within their overall promotional music show profile is the best jazz radio show not just for avant-gardists (it's in a constituency of one in that regard) mainly because it reminds us of the Derek Drescher produced Brian Morton presented avant-garde show Impressions which has never been bettered on Radio 3. More broadly if you think of the spectrum of jazz radio shows on the BBC in terms of a popular taste vs avant garde esoterica diagram it lies left field acres of graph paper space away from its complete opposite over at the crossover nu jazz ravey davey DJ culture end where Gilles Peterson on 6 Music holds court. And yet by his hipster standards the devoted Gooner is changing taste wise - and yet don't hold your breath though that Gilles will be Stoked by spang-a-lang just yet or giving ''Amazing. Killer. Monster'' feedback as he sets aside a special programme shaped around Alan Barnes' Sherlock Holmes Suite quite yet. Ah, the hush puppy years surely beckon soon. The modern mainstream of J to Z tape measures the bulging middle, aided alongside by the ever bubbly Jamie Cullum catering for a 30, 40 and 50-something listenership attuned to jazz vocals on Radio 2 dipping their toes into jazz maybe for the first time. And then completely away from this sizable range on another spreadsheet entirely a host of heritage tastes dictated by the penchant of got-in-touch listeners in the show's still game pensioner demographic - a different kind of freedom pass operating there - on Jazz Record Requests, a satisfied & scarily well informed nod to jazz long before a time the parents of most DJs on Radio 1 have even been thought of let alone born. Corey Mwamba's academic rigour as a presenter and don-like cajolings also benefits the deep discussions Freeness delves into and insouciantly revels in. The show began in November 2019. This latest sampling has a giant shadow cast upon it given the recent passing of German free jazz icon Peter Brötzmann. Saxophonist and flautist Zoh Amba also features in this episode interestingly. The show includes a slice of classic Evan Parker that we reviewed last month. Tune in here

Tags: Reviews

Jalen Baker, Be Still, Cellar Live ****

With 'Lexi's Lullaby' a previous marlbank track of the week and easily the best track this is a stirring album. Other big pick is the absorbing 'There's Beauty in Fear'. Clean, sleek tunes that have a certain gravity to them credit surely must go …

Published: 8 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

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With 'Lexi's Lullaby' a previous marlbank track of the week and easily the best track this is a stirring album. Other big pick is the absorbing 'There's Beauty in Fear'. Clean, sleek tunes that have a certain gravity to them credit surely must go for the clarity of production direction to Jeremy Pelt guiding the less is more thinking and execution exhibited by US vibist Jalen Baker. Sonically it is odd in a way and not just because the vibraphone as an instrument is always capable of throwing a curveball given the blanket of scattergun vibrations it throws out. Curious more because the overall levels of resonance seem to have been toned down a bit and that ''flatness'' of sound gives this a very unglossy patina and a crisp edge to the shell of the ensemble. And you get a concentrated hub of sound whether it's the vibes or the supporting Paul Cornish on piano, Gabe Godoy on bass and bash-'em-hard Gavin Moolchan on drums who are all among the far more crowded personnel on earlier Baker album This Is Me, This Is Us. Baker is not as obviously dazzling as say Bobby Hutcherson de nos jours Joel Ross. But if anything Baker's composer and interpreter personality and individuality shine through just as much. Godoy's woody riff introducing the title track is a moment to savour but it's really immediacy of the thematic vocabulary that draws you in, even more interesting than the efficient cover of JoeHen material and treatment of 'Body and Soul'. There's humility, passion, and ideas here - maybe some of these pieces could have been extended even more in some extended improvisational flurries is the only caveat. It's over too soon.