Sounds for summer
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
5d ago
Tall enough to be unmissable in any environment, and with a truly remarkable fashion sense, Shabaka Hutchings had presence from day one of his career. To me, as an observer, that was the concert at the Royal Festival Hall in June 2009 at which he was one of several UK guests with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra (others included Robert Wyatt, Jason Yarde, John Parricelli and Andy Grappy). He had just one solo but when he stepped forward, the sounds coming from his tenor saxophone commanded everyone’s attention. Since then, we’ve heard him with Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, the ..read more
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Ishiguro, long ago
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2w ago
A typical day in the A&R department at Island Records’ London headquarters in November 1975. Four or five people coming in to play their demo tapes to me or my assistant, Howard Thompson, in the semi-basement office in a beautiful stucco house in St Peter’s Square, W6. A lunchtime meeting with Phil Collins, a familiar face from the early days of Brand X, before they went off to sign with Charisma. The early evening rehearsal of a band called the Rockits, evidently a Muff Winwood project. And a note to go and see the still-unsigned Roogalator, with their great American guitarist Danny Adle ..read more
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New sounds in the Round
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
3w ago
Mejedi Owusu (left) with his quintet at Jazz in the Round There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle at London’s music conservatoires in recent days over an email from a teacher claiming that white students in the jazz departments are disadvantaged by the preferences given to fellow students who are black. The teacher in question — and I won’t name him — is an eminent white musician in his sixties. He claims, in passing, that his own career has been hindered by discrimination in favour of black musicians, and it would not be hard to imagine that this sense of grievance may lie at the heart of his more ..read more
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Songs for a mother
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
When the painter Penny Marrows was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer in March 2023, her son, the London-based composer and guitarist Billy Marrows, began writing pieces for her. Some of them were recorded and played to her before her death five months later, aged 72. In the aftermath Billy carried on writing and recording, and compiled the pieces in an album, Penelope, for which one of his mother’s paintings provides the cover (you can see it above). One good reason for buying the album is that the proceeds will go to World Child Cancer, a charity providing help in countries that don’t hav ..read more
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‘Rhapsody in Blue’ at 100
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
The first public performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was given 100 years ago this week, on 12 February 1924, at the Aeolian Hall on West 43rd Street in New York City, by Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra, with Gershwin himself at the piano. Whiteman had commissioned the piece from its composer specially for the evening, which was billed as ‘An Experiment in Modern Music’. I first heard “Rhapsody in Blue” in childhood, played by the same Whiteman/Gershwin combination, on the 12-inch 78rpm record you see above, which my mother would have bought from a record shop in Barnsl ..read more
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At Peggy’s Skylight
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
Some jazz clubs are intimidating to the first-time visitor, and maybe that’s how they’re supposed to be. Not all of them, though. I’d been meaning to visit Peggy’s Skylight in Nottingham for ages, and on Saturday afternoon I walked in there for the first time and felt right at home. A Saturday afternoon might seem an odd time to visit a jazz club. But I’d just got off the train from London, with a couple of hours to spare in my old home town before the start of the football match I’d come up to see, so I walked from the station to George Street, just off Hockley, a narrow but always busy stre ..read more
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Son of a drum
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
Vinnie Sperrazza grew up in Utica, New York as the son and great-grandson of drummers. He’s played the drums all his life, while thinking about drums and drumming and drummers. We’ll get to his own playing in a minute, but what first alerted me to his existence were his Substack posts, which appear under the heading of “Chronicles”. They’re not always about drumming, but they’re always interesting. And the ones that are about drumming contain the most perceptive and eloquent writing about drummers that I’ve ever read. Sperrazza doesn’t describe the art of a drummer with the kind of literary e ..read more
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Semper Max
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
3M ago
Max Roach, a vital link in the chain of jazz drummers that stretches from Baby Dodds to Tyshawn Sorey, was born in North Carolina a hundred years ago today, on January 10, 1924. After moving with his family to New York at the age of four, he played the bugle and the drums in gospel ensembles in Brooklyn. He was still a teenager when he depped for Sonny Greer in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. At 21 he played on the Charlie Parker session that produced the eternally breathtaking “Ko Ko”. After that he was on many of Parker’s celebrated recordings, including “Parker’s Mood” in 1948 and the Massey ..read more
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Dalston rhapsodies
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
3M ago
There seemed to be an unusually high percentage of people in a sold-out Vortex last night wearing the sort of minimalist beanie hat long associated with Django Bates, who was there to give a rare solo piano recital. Bates talked about his brothers being present, and a son, so maybe it’s clan thing and they were all family. Anyhow, the rest of us could share a joyful evening in which the seriousness of the music was counterpointed by the impish humour of the 63-year-old pianist and composer. He began with some new pieces. “A Flurry in the Desert” was a rhapsody in blues in E-flat, followed by ..read more
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Sounds from silence
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
5M ago
Gerald Clayton, Charles Lloyd and Marvin Sewell at the Barbican 17/11/23 Charles Lloyd’s set with his Ocean Trio at the Barbican on Friday felt like a voyage into the core of jazz. Together they created music full of warmth, humanity, experience and spontaneity, ranging from the gently probing lyricism of Lloyd’s tenor saxophone, flute and tarogato through Marvin Sewell’s stunning essay in Delta blues bottleneck guitar to the brilliant pianist Gerald Clayton’s ability to reinvigorate familiar gospel and Broadway material, enriching it with his own personality. Lloyd is 85 now, and he wears tho ..read more
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