Tori Freestone’s Birthday Gig (Pizza Express, 13 February 2018. Review by Brianna McClean)
The audience was at capacity at Pizza Express Live, as saxophonist and flautist Tori Freestone celebrated her birthday in style with an evening of mellow jazz. Her soft-spoken and understated on-stage personality translates into music of a similar vein. The gig was in promotion of Tori’s new duo album, Criss-Cross, featuring Alcyona Mick on piano. Both these musicians, as well as members of Tori’s trio and special guests, performed with refreshing gracefulness.
The first part of the evening saw Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick on stage together, showcasing their new album. The set included mostly self-composed pieces which while melodically interesting, were perhaps at times a little too cautious and mild. However during moments where the pace and vigour picked up, the strength of Tori and Alcyona’s partnership was clear. Tori’s precise technical ability was clear on both the flute and saxophone. Alcyona is a sensitive pianist, both responding well to Tori and carrying solos with ease. The duo invited the vocalist who features on their new album, Brigitte Beraha, on stage for a few track tracks. The instant vivacity and interest contributed by this addition highlighted the issue so many duos face - a lack of texture and range. The breathy soprano vocals were a welcome layer and revealed a certain feminine character present in the duo’s album. The final piece played by the duo was their title track, Criss-Cross, by Thelonious Monk. It was in this finale which the potential of this duo was evident - watching them loosen up and enjoy this light-hearted tune was a delight.
Tori’s trio, with drummer Tim Giles and bassist Dave Manington, featured in the second half of the evening. Their bright tone and tight rhythms saw much more head-nodding and toe-tapping from the audience than the duo’s performance. Tori’s easy-going nature still shone through the trio’s set, perhaps quieting some of the tension and energy in the pieces. The trio are all accomplished musicians and performers; they carried more rhythmically complicated pieces without hesitation. The group have released two albums, In the Chop House (2014) and El Barranco (2017). Like the performance last night, both records are marked by apt musicality and a cheerful disposition.
When you think jazz, you probably do not think of the subtropical sounds of a steel pan. And yet this is the instrument of choice for Mark Cherrie, an accomplished musician who is sure to make waves in the London jazz scene. It is his sound and story which make his latest album, Joining the Dots, a success. Brianna McClean, on behalf of London Jazz News, asked Mark a few questions about his career and the recent record.
LondonJazz News:: Congratulations on the release of your new album, Joining the Dots. What can listeners expect from this record?
Marc Cherrie: There is a diverse selection of tunes, including some jazz standards, ‘pop’ tunes and some original compositions too. All with a steel pan-led jazz quartet. Joining The Dots meant several things to me. It described how I was able to make a connection, between music straight out of the jazz canon and non-jazz music – interpreting all of it with a jazz sensibility. It also described how the album physically came about. The very kind offer of some free studio time led to recording all the material, as well as shooting a video and taking a set of photographs, in one day!
I hope that listeners will be taken on a musical journey through various of my own personal musical landmarks and come away thinking that the steel pan can be a valid jazz instrument.
LJN: How did you get to this point? What has the journey to this record been?
MC: I guess my previous work is a bit of a mixed bag really. I have done a lot of work as a steel pan player, working in mostly Caribbean musical settings. I also spent a long time writing for TV & film – the experience that I gained from having done such varied work has helped me to develop my own voice in a jazz setting. My philosophy is really to be as open as possible as a human being and to allow these influences, both musical and otherwise, to inform my playing.
LJN: The steel pan is a bit of an unusual instrument in the contemporary jazz scene. What has your experience been of specialising in this instrument?
MC: To my mind, the steel pan can function perfectly well, much like the role of a vibraphone, in a quartet. The problem comes with how other people view it. From non-musicains, I still have to field questions like, “Are they still made from dustbin lids?” (That was from a gig I did last week!). I believe that I have a unique voice on the steel pan, particularly in a jazz setting. Very few people seem to have managed to pull it off.
LJN: Does this album have an overall story or shape to it?
MC: I wouldn’t say that there was a narrative threading throughout the album but there is definitely a musical sensibility – there’s a lot of improvisation throughout and not just with the melodic instruments.
LJN: Tell me a bit about the other artists featured on the album? What is your dynamic as a group like?
MC:John Donaldson is an amazing piano player, easily one of this country’s finest. Eric Ford is a drummer that came into my orbit a few years ago but instantly I loved the guy’s playing. He is one of a few drummers in my experience that really listens to what everyone is playing and contributes sympathetically. Mick Hutton is a first-call double bass player on the jazz circuit and I have known him for many years now. Again, his experience of playing at the top level is almost unsurpassed. Then the guests too have an impressive pedigree. Dominic Grant has a unique voice on the nylon string guitar, a beautiful player. Dave O’Higgins is a saxophonist whose career I have followed over the years – I remember buying his debut album way before I was playing any jazz music myself. Nigel Price is an unbelievable guitar player, I was pleased that he was available to record with me. Finally, Sumudu was actually a recommendation of Dominic’s and she was absolutely masterful in the studio.
Mark Cherrie is a rising name in the London Jazz scene and given the breadth of his experience, someone to keep an eye on.
Joining the Dots was released earlier this month and is available *here*
Birmingham Jazz has chosen a theme in tune with the zeitgeist for its 2018 Legends Festival: Celebrating Women in Jazz. Peter Bacon reports:
The small voluntary organisation Birmingham Jazz has grown steadily in strength in recent years, taking one small part of the city - the Jewellery Quarter - as its stamping ground, and building a reputation among listeners and musicians alike for its dedication to diverse programming united by high quality, mostly presented in intimate surroundings.
This year's Legends Festival, bringing together contemporary players to salute their illustrious forebears, takes as its focus Women in Jazz, with a programme stretching across two weekends in May with a preview show at the end of April. With a couple of exceptions all the bands are female-led and the two that aren't feature female musicians.
The programme states: "This year’s Legends Festival marks Birmingham Jazz’s contribution to the centenary celebrations of when some women first got the vote - after pressure by the Suffragette Movement.
"Society is still not equal and jazz is no exception so as a small contribution to recognising the impact of women we feature some of today’s women players who demonstrate their own musical journeys and feature their own music but also music by others. Each band is either led by a woman or strongly features women players. Some players are returning and some are new to us..."
Here is the programme of events:
27 April - Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet
11 May - Dave Mannington's Riff Raff feat. Brigitte Beraha
12 May - Gwyneth Herbert Duo; Andrea Vicari feat Yazz Ahmed
13 May - Franki Dodwell - Acid Body; Trish Clowes - My Iris; Denys Baptiste feat Nikki Yeoh- Late Trane
19 May - Alicia Gardener-Trejo; Wendy Kirkland - Piano Divas; Helena Kay; Kate Williams & Georgia Mancio - Finding Home
20 May - Joey Walter - Me & 3; Juliet Kelly - Nina Simone; Two of a Mind - Allison Neale & Chris Biscoe Most of the events are at 1000 Trades, Birmingham Jazz's regular venue, with a couple not far away.
Under the Surface Photo credit: Juan Carlos Villarroel
Under the Surface is the latest group to visit the UK as part of the Jazz Promotion Network’s Going Dutch project. The trio’s spokesperson and drummer is Joost Lijbaart, who has toured over here with saxophonist Yuri Honing and has been a prominent player on the Dutch scene over the past twenty-five years. The group also features guitarist Bram Stadhouders, whom some readers might know from his work with Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen and the Norwegian percussionist and ice concert maestro Terje Isungset, alongside a relatively new Dutch talent, vocalist Sanne Rambags. Five questions from Rob Adams:
LJN:How did Under the Surface come together?
JL: Beaux Jazz, a project that offers young musicians an opportunity to collaborate with more experienced players, selected our singer, Sanne Rambags, to be part of its Next Generation strand. The idea is that the younger musicians are given carte blanche to create something with players who are already established. So Sanne selected the guitarist Bram Stadhouders, who I knew a little bit, and myself, giving us three musicians from different generations.
LJN:What were your first impressions?
JL: The minute we started to play I felt we had something special. There was a review of our gig at Rotterdam Jazz International on London Jazz News that picked up very well on Sanne’s almost shamanistic style of singing, like’s she’s calling up ancient spirits. I thought she had something really interesting there and with Bram’s sense of space, we were creating something I’d had an idea of doing for quite a long time yet it was very natural, unforced.
LJN:Is the music you make completely spontaneous?
JL: It’s mostly spontaneous. Before we recorded our album I went walking in the forest near where I live and tried to imagine recreating the atmospheres in different parts of the forest. I also spent quite a lot of time in my rehearsal room working on rhythms and working out what percussion instruments, aside from the drum kit, would work best. Sanne sometimes brings a poem, like John Donne’s No Man is an Island or texts by American Modernist poet Wallace Stevens, that suggests rhythm and we’ll use these as a basis. It’s not free jazz, more spontaneous composition worked up from sketches.
LJN:What has been the highlight of the band so far?
JL: There have been a few but one that particularly stands out is being invited to play at the Festival on the Niger, in Mali. This led to festival appearances in Mexico, China and India but it also gave us the opportunity to play with kora player Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté, the younger brother of kora master Toumani Diabaté, and that turned out to be a very compatible group and a really enjoyable experience. World music promoters seem to have taken to what we do and that’s opened doors we never really expected to open.
LJN:We’re hearing quite a lot about Dutch jazz at the moment, especially with the Going Dutch project going on throughout this year; what are your impressions of the scene?
JL: It got a bit quiet for a few years but for the past five to eight years there’s been quite a buzz about the scene generally. There are a lot of young players coming through, people like Kapok, who I think toured over here recently, and there are a couple of pianists, Kaja Draksler and Dominic J Marshall, who are not Dutch but live in Amsterdam and are getting attention as Dutch residents. It’s good for someone like me because I might not have got to work with Sanne and Bram if there weren’t these young musicians and projects like Beaux Jazz and Going Dutch that bring them to the fore.
Rob Adams is consulting to the Going Dutch project, and has helped Jost Lijbaart to put the group’s short Scottish tour together.
Under the Surface Scotish Tour Dates The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen on Thursday, 22nd February Eyemouth Hippodrome, Friday 23rd February The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, Saturday 24th February
David Ferris is a familiar figure on the Birmingham scene at the keyboard in many different situations, from Ben Lee’s Quintet to Birmingham Jazz Orchestra and the funk-jazz trio Three Step Manoevre. In addition he co-promotes with Chris Young the weekly Tuesday night sessions at The Spotted Dog which have developed a reputation for great gigs. Now David has stepped out front to lead his own band, a Septet plus One. There’s an album and a tour. He spoke to Peter Bacon
LondonJazz News:You’ve been very active on the Birmingham scene for a good few years but with the Septet you really step out front as leader with your own name there in the title of the band. What took you so long? (Are you a more natural collaborator - as in Three Step Manoeuvre?)
David Ferris: I hadn't even thought of it like that to be honest! The idea of putting together some kind of larger ensemble had been kicking around in my head pretty much since I graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire in the Summer of 2015. I had some vague notions of some music I'd like to write in my head – things involving counterpoint and richer colours that would benefit from more voices in the band. It took a while to get going – I'm pretty awful at getting on with the writing without some kind of deadline – so eventually I booked a couple of gigs in Birmingham in October 2016 to force me to sort it out (if I remember rightly I wrote a tune on the morning of the first gig...)
They were great though – the band were a hoot to play with, the tunes seemed to bed in really well and the audience response was really positive. In my head I think I'd almost been viewing them as a trial run, and if I had a good time I'd keep doing it!
I guess you are right though – I am definitely more naturally inclined to be a collaborator, but I think my experience in these collaborative groups (Three Step Manoeuvre, Birmingham Jazz Orchestra, Ferris/Lee/Weir, etc) as well as doing a fair few projects as a sideman have hopefully made me a better bandleader now. I hope this band still works as a democracy though – with a group of guys in the band like I'm lucky to have, I'd be an idiot not to listen to them!
LJN: The Septet is a real showcase for your writing. How do you go about composing, from what do you take inspiration, and who are your chief influences as a composer?
DF: I always find this a really tricky question to answer! I don't think I really have a process to be honest – some things seem to just write themselves naturally and some require weeks of teasing in really technical and nerdy ways. However I find I'm rarely drawn to music for technical reasons, and I suppose what really inspires me is hearing some kind of human warmth? I've just had a look at the 'recently listened' on my iTunes for some suggestions of what that actually means, and it told me I've been checking out a lot of Wayne Shorter, The Beatles, John Scofield and Paul Simon – they all definitely fit the bill for me even though musically speaking they're pretty diverse. I don't think I write particularly complex music – I love old-fashioned song forms, riffs, and Blakey tunes too much I guess – but I feel you can get a lot out of the simpler things. Maybe part of this comes from playing funk music with Three Step Manoeuvre – James Brown taught us that if you've played one chord for five minutes, going to the next chord is going to feel massive, even if it's the 'most obvious' chord you could choose!
LJN: Tell us about the other seven musicians, how you chose them, what you value in their contributions (and maybe explain why this is an eight-piece septet)?
DF: I'm a pretty happy man about this – I feel like I've put together some kind of Midlands all-stars! I think what drew me to the other musicians was probably the same thing I talked about before – they are all such warm and beautiful communicators, in different ways. Take the horn players as a starting point – Richard Foote on trombone has this incredible extrovert excitement coupled with an absolute discipline in the ensemble playing, Vittorio Mura on tenor and bari has an incredible breadth of inflection and colour that sounds like a history of the instrument in one person, Hugh Pascall on trumpet has the most beautiful, elegant and melodic delivery I know, and finally Chris Young on alto is an absolute fireball of energy at all times.
Then Euan Palmer and Nick Jurd are the perfect rhythm section, equally happy laying down grooves as they are pushing the ensemble and soloists. Basically I've put together a band where I'm happy to just sit back and listen! For the upcoming tour and album the final crucial element was our special guest vocalist, Maria Väli. Maria is Estonian and is based in Tallinn, but I first met her as part of the exchange with Trondheim Conservatory whilst I was studying at Birmingham. We played together at Cheltenham and Molde Jazz Festivals, and, thanks to the help of Tony Dudley-Evans, we managed to get her back over for Cheltenham again the following year. Since then I've been looking for an opportunity to work with her again – she can sing literally anything (look up the group Estonian Voices if you want to see a thorough representation of what the human voice can do!) but she does it so beautifully and with such an astonishing versatility of approaches that I just knew she would be the perfect singer for just about any music I might throw at her!
LJN:The band has its first CD coming out and a substantial tour beginning soon. Give us an idea of what we can expect…
DF: Yes! A large part of the impetus behind the writing for this album came from my love of songwriters, and the craft of creating something that feels like it can be called a 'song.' This goes right back to the people who wrote the standards – Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Harold Arlen et al. I think it's easy to forget but next time you get a chance just have another listen to something we take for granted like All The Things You Are or My Foolish Heart and just see how perfectly it all fits together – the melody, the harmony, the words, the structure. There's something of that crystalline perfection in Lennon/McCartney as well – Can't Buy Me Love is barely two minutes long but says everything it wants to!
Then I think two of the biggest influences on me are probably Paul Simon and Donald Fagen – both of them have a way of taking a slightly oblique lyric and using the music to make it mean something to us, even if we're not sure what that is! I was desperate to tap into this with the music for the album but didn't trust my skills as a lyricist, so I turned to some of the most beautiful words I knew, and set to music poetry by Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, WH Auden and WB Yeats. The album's title, Alphabets, comes from a Heaney poem about him learning to write, and falling in love with words and letters. It felt relevant to my experience with music too! There are a couple of other things on there as well – Chorale is the result of some thoroughly unqualified messing about I did with classical counterpoint, and Fred is a tribute to one of my heroes, Fred Hersch. But hopefully it's all music that will make people feel good – I really want to channel that warmth all my idols have and communicate with the listener.
LJN: Any particular thank-yous, you’d like to make public?
DF: So many! Making a band like this work doesn't happen without lots of help. To Help Musicians UK/Peter Whittingham Award and Arts Council England for helping to fund the tour – it takes quite a lot to keep eight people housed fed and watered on tour. To the Estonian Embassy in the UK for helping us get Maria over – it's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Estonia this year and they're doing loads of great work to celebrate. To Alexis Ffrench at Uppingham School for letting us use their beautiful Recital Room and Fazioli piano to record on absolutely free of charge, Phil Woods at Symphony Hall for all his help securing funding and for putting up with me not ever understanding how to fill in forms, Luke Morrish-Thomas for capturing the vibe of the music so perfectly in recording, Carys Boughton for the stunning artwork (feels like a waste that it's just going on an album cover!) and finally to the musicians themselves for just being wonderful.
February 26 - North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore 27 - St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall 28 - Restormel Arts, St Austell, Cornwall
March 1 - NewGen Jazz, Cambridge 2 - Symphony Hall, Birmingham 4 - JazzLeeds 5 - Jazz at the Peer Hat, Manchester 6 - Jazz at the Spotted Dog, Birmingham 7 - The Flute and Tankard, Cardiff 8 - The Vortex, London
The new CD, Alphabets, will be available on the tour and on David's website, and on general release before too long.
Soul Family Sunday with Guests Hattie Whitehead and Beardyman (Ronnie Scott's Debut) (Ronnie Scott's. 18 February 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney) Natalie Williams has just clocked up 11 years of Soul Family Sundays at Ronnie Scott's. This show has therefore been running as a regular and successful fixture for almost all the time since the club changed hands in 2005. And yes, successful it is. The March session is already sold out, even taking into account that the club expands its capacity by removing the tables and the bar stools in front of the bar for a couple of dozen hardy folk to stand throughout the show.
There is the regularity and consistency of a residency – I don't believe the show has been reviewed for a year, since THIS – but the surprise of the night, the Ronnie Scott's debut of Beardyman (Darren Foreman), felt like a major, newsworthy event, particularly considering his particularly compelling brand of nowhere-to-hide authenticity.
Soul Family Sundays have a party vibe -– and a birthday vibe too. The tight pews in Ronnies don't allow many people to get up and dance, but towards the end a couple of bar staff who had served their seated customers and cashed in were starting to move to the music in an aisle, both brandishing their brightly lit remote credit card terminals and making circles in the air to the music with them.
Birthdays. There seemed to be no end of them in the audience to be celebrated last night, and from 18-year-olds to people in their 70s. And there were also birthdays on stage. Pianist Phil Peskett was celebrating one, and Natalie Williams will also be celebrating a significant one this week, which gave her cause to remimisce that when she started Soul Family (in her late 20s – do the math), "the point was to play my original music monthly".
The format is soul originals, soul covers, and guests. Both with the material and with the band there is a happy mixture of the tried, tested and trusted, and the completely new. "That's the way we roll," she said in her very own welcoming and utterly friendly way.
The soul covers started to emerge later on, and the ones that stay in mind are Sharleen Hector's infectiously driving versions of Otis Redding's classic Hard to Handle and Whitney Houston's I'm You're Baby Tonight. All of the members of the vocal quartet move seamlessly from lead to backing vocals. Nick Sherm was replacing Soul Family regular Brendan Reilly, but had clearly put in the hours to learn the repertoire, and was thoroughly impressive.
The band was a constant reminder of how high the bar in professionalism is set in London. Jamie Cullum's saxophonist Tom Richards is known in the role of arranger/composer, but last night was adding instantly composed backing figures and with trumpeter Tom Walsh was adding at the end of numbers to the inexorable sense of build, of letting the arrangements progressively grow in volume and intensity. Among the rhythm players there is a formidable tightness and springiness. I found my ear being caught again and again by the solid underpinning supplied by drummer Martyn Kaine. All I can say is the last drummer I heard playing with that same air of being in command was Peter Erskine in Germany a couple of weeks ago.
The guests brought different styles and vistas. Hattie Whitehead is a highly original singer/songwriter, Nick Sherm was joined by his brother and Goldsmoke co-conspirator Tom, but the main event was the Ronnie Scott's debut in the form of a mini-set from Beardyman. His set began with impressive beatboxing, and then he proceeded to show a far wider musical range. His original song Hindsight was like a cousin of The Lovin' Spoonful's Daydream. When he switched to piano for Nobody Does It Better, he gave a performance which revealed a musical, vocal and stage presence which will definitely stay in the mind for a long time.
Vocals: Vula Malinga, Sharlene Hector, Nick Sherm Trumpet: Tom Walsh Tenor sax: Tom, Richards Guitar: Al Cherry Piano: Phil Peskett Bass: Rob Mullarkey Drums: Martyn Kaine Vocals / Direction: Natalie Williams
Beardyman Hattie Whitehead and Laura Jane Hunter Tom Shirm
My Oh My Killer** Freeze Time** Butterfly Little Did We Know Start Walking
GUEST: Hattie Whitehead with Laura Jane Hunter
Nothing Compares to You (feature for Vula and Phi; Peskett) Would You Do That? **( feature for Sharleen Hector) Rocketship **(Feature for Nick Sherm)
GUEST : Beardyman (Loop / Jam) So Long Now Hindsight Nobody Does it Better
I'm Your Baby Tonight (Whitney) Someone Like You (Goldsmoke / Nick Sherm) Hard to Handle (featur for Shaleen Hector When You Come To Me NOTE: (**) Tracks included in Soul Family's most recent EP
Tom McCredie, Elliot Galvin and Corrie Dick Publicity picture
Elliot Galvin has released his third album, The Influencing Machine (Galvin keyboards & electronics; Tom McCredie bass & guitar; Corrie Dick drums), and is about to take the music on tour. He spoke to Sebastian:
London Jazz News:Tell us about the new album. It was inspired by a book you stumbled across, is that right?
Elliot Galvin: Yep, I was looking for material to inspire some new music and I stumbled across this amazing book by Mike Jay at the Welcome Collection in London. The book was called The Influencing Machine, it’s an historical account of the life of James Tilly-Matthews, born in 1770, a double agent at the time of the French civil war, tea merchant, political thinker, architect and first fully documented case of a paranoid schizophrenic who was committed to Bethlem psychiatric hospital in 1797.
Tilly-Matthews’ life was a web of espionage and delusion, coinciding with many of the key events of his time: the French revolution, the rise of mesmerism, and the change in societal thinking towards the mentally ill, to name just a few. He was the first documented case of someone who believed their mind was being controlled by a machine and was intelligent and articulate enough to describe this machine in incredible detail. There were so many parallels between his life and the times we live in now I felt I had to write something inspired by it.
LJN:So would you describe it as a concept album?
EG: To some extent I think of everything I write as a concept piece really. For me there has to be some grit of an idea holding everything together. It really helps focus my writing when I know what I’m writing about. I like to build rules and structures and then create freely inside them.
Elliot Galvin - Red and Yellow (Official Trailer) - YouTube
LJN:Some of the instruments you used on this album are very different from your previous albums; you even use circuit bending.
EG: It’s definitely the most electric thing I’ve made so far. I originally avoided using synths or electronics in my music as I felt it was a whole different world and I wanted to focus on the acoustic. But after playing synths and electronics in Dinosaur a lot I found it really inspiring to use electronic sounds and wanted to include it in my own work.
The circuit bending is a new thing I have been messing around with. I found some amazing little children’s toys in some charity shops near where I live and opened them up to play with the circuitry inside. You can make them produce some pretty radically different sounds and when you use them in a musical context they behave quite differently to how you expect them to. They keep you on your toes and always push you in a direction you didn’t exactly expect. I find that inspiring to play with and I felt the sound world they produced fitted perfectly with the subject matter of the album.
Tom (McCredie) plays electric guitar on the album as well as bass, and that also adds a much rockier dimension to some of the music.
LJN:I’ve heard there are some hidden meanings in the music; can you give any of them away?
EG: I quite like layering meaning when I write music, and so there are a lot of subtle references throughout the album. I don’t want to tell everyone everything I’ve put in the music as part of the reason they are hidden is because I don’t want to beat people over the head with what the pieces are about. But one reference I will give away is that the first track on the album New Model Army is pretty much entirely based on the communist anthem The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.
LJN: The artwork for the album is very striking, is that something that is important to you?
EG: Definitely, I’m probably equally inspired by visual art as I am by music. The artist who designed the album is a friend of mine called George Finlay Ramsay and he’s a really amazing individual. He works across a lot of mediums. I also think the way you present your music is very important; it’s an art in itself. It allows you to provide the right context for the music and enhance the overall effect of the album.
LJN:You’re just about to embark on a UK wide tour to celebrate the release, where are you playing?
EG: Well we kick things off with a two-night residency at the Vortex in Dalston on 21 and 22 February. Then we are heading all over: The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen, The Black Box in Belfast, Royal Welsh College of Music, St. Ives and the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, plus a lot of other places. We’re also playing at one of my favourite venues to play: The Lescar in Sheffield, run by Jez Matthews, a real unsung hero!
21 Feb - The Vortex - LONDON (Launch with special guests Lauren Kinsella + Tom Challenger)
22 Feb - The Vortex - LONDON (Launch with special guest Tom Herbert)
The small hours at Colston Hall, 2013 Photo credit: Ruth Butler
Jon Turney looks forward to the fifth Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival:
Five years after it began, Bristol’s festival already feels like a fixture. But there’s a slight end of an era ambience for the sixth edition, on 15th-18th of March. It’s the last one in the old Colston Hall, a jazz venue on and off since 1951. Next year, the Festival’s home will be closed for a multi-million makeover that’ll run until well into 2020. Artistic director Denny Ilett marks the transition with a programme that emphasises the Bristol-rooted projects that have give the festival its special flavour.
They include an intriguing collaboration in which Bristolians appear on screen as well as on stage. Get The Blessing kick things off in the main hall on Thursday 15th playing music for a film, Bristolopolis, that offers a new portrayal of Bristol created by award-winning film-maker John Minton from archive footage reaching back more than 100 years in the life of the city. The next evening guitarist Ilett co-leads his own big band in the now traditional evening of swing - Get the Blessing’s Jake McMurchie proving his versatility by joining the horn section.
Ilett is also behind another big band project, on Sunday, a re-working of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland fifty years on. This is an all-star affair including Laura Jurd, Yazz Ahmed, Iain Ballamy, Nathaniel Facey and Ashley Slater, and takes inspiration from Gil Evans’ Hendrix treatments and the guitarist’s own never-fulfilled ambition to work with a larger ensemble. The band are doing a couple of nights at Ronnie Scott’s as well, but if you can’t make those dates they alone will be worth a trip to Bristol.
Even larger ensembles feature in two characteristically family-friendly, good-humoured offerings in the main space on Saturday, with William Goodchild reconvening his 30-piece orchestra to extend last year’s film and TV music project with new arrangements of scores from cult TV of the 1960s onwards, and Andy Williamson leading his own big band and the 300 strong Bristol Festival chorus who will roar through a new selection of cartoon themes, egged on by guest vocalist Ian Shaw.
There’s more familiar fare, too, with Incognito, with Carleen Anderson, and the James Taylor Quartet featuring at the nearby O2, and Tommy Smith’s quartet enjoying the superior acoustic of St George’s on Thursday night. And the smaller Colston Hall venue, the Lantern, has a string of quality sessions including Arun Gosh, Asaf Sirkis and Sylwia Bialis, Martin Taylor in guitar duo with Ulf Wakenius and - in something of an Edition records special on Sunday - two bands with much talked about new releases, the engagingly unclassifiable Snowpoet and pianist Ivo Neame’s new quartet with George Crowley.
Add blues offerings including a half-centenary tribute to Cream’s 1968 Albert Hall concert, and masterclasses, and there’s already something for everyone. But if the ticketed gigs leave any gaps, there are also 26 free sets over five days in the generously proportioned Colston foyer. They feature such excellent Bristol-grown projects as bassist Greg Cordez’s quintet, altoist Sophie Stockham’s John Zorn-inspired Sefrial and the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, presenting a new jazz and spoken word reflection on recent European history pieced together by trumpeter and indefatigable Bristol organiser Dave Mowat. The organising team are working on a plan for a promised 2019 festival spread over other venues, but this year Colston Hall is the place to be during the third weekend in March.
The Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia, who has made seven albums for ECM in the years since 2005, will be making a very rare London appearance at Kings Place on 1 Mar 2018 (Hall Two, 7pm). In fact we understand it is his first visit here in a quarter century. He will be appearing with Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur and actor Anna Madeley in a programme entitled The Sea Opens. The Kings Place website has the following to explain the concept of the evening:
"Looking out onto the same Mediterranean Sea, but from opposite sides of the coast, Turkish-Kurdish poet Bejan Matur and Italian jazz pianist Stefano Battaglia have synthesised their art in an exploration of the recent refugee crisis. With the Mediterranean as their stage, Matur and Battaglia have created a one-off performance inspired by its culture, history and mythology, uniting their poetry and music to question the meaning of home for all of humanity, past and present."
LJN has an interview about this project with Stefano Battaglia in preparation