Guitar icon Pat Metheny and revered saxophonist and composer John Zorn were recently interviewed on Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone on 6Music - talking about Metheny's newly released album Tap: John Zorn's Book Of Angels Vol 20 – listen to the full interview here thanks to our friends at 6Music. To read the full review of this album in Jazzwiseclick here to subscribe and get our June issue plus a fantastic FREE CD and access to our branded App
The 35th annual Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which runs between 19-28 July at venues across the city, mixes up new names, tradition, and innovation with a line up which includes fast rising saxophonist Tia Fuller (pictured), funky fusioneers Snarky Puppy, The Three Bs (Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Keith Ball) in tribute to Kenny Ball, Jools Holland’s R&B Orchestra, plus the new Cross the Tracks strand featuring the beat-laden trip hop of Hidden Orchestra and Mercury nominated rapper Ghostpoet.
This year’s festival also includes Dinah Washington influenced singer/pianist Champian Fulton, and the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra performing works from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, while Muddy Water’s centenary is marked with a special concert featuring his eldest son, Mud Morganfield. The jazz festival also gets the city’s ‘festival season’ underway, bringing jazz to the streets and parks of Edinburgh for the Mardi Gras on Saturday 20 July and the second ever Edinburgh Festival Carnival on Sunday 21 July.
As the interval before the second set grows alarmingly long and concerned-looking staff vanish backstage, we start to fear the worst. It’s one of the wonders of the world, after all, that Roy Haynes (pictured left), the drummer who’s played with everyone – from Parker and Coltrane to Metheny, from a 1946 Southern tour with Louis Armstrong to Billie Holiday’s last club gig – is, aged 88, still on stage at all. And though his aptly named Fountain of Youth band all took long solos in that first set, when Haynes cut loose himself, it was ferocious, with nothing held back. Was that, finally, it? Is Haynes, though he must be supernaturally fit, lying exhausted backstage, incapable of anything more?
When he does emerge, the jury remains out as he chats at length, seemingly reluctant to drum. Alternately rambling and sharp, he’s on his own wavelength, much like Elvis’s 1970s gig soliloquies. “What did he mean?” he imagines us pondering. “What makes him special? Is his drumming really that good? The place was crowded…”
Finally, normal service is resumed, for a couple of songs. Then Haynes begins a solo, and sometime in the maybe 30 minutes that follow, his band realise they’ve become redundant. Haynes pulls every possibility from every inch of his kit: tapping and finely calibrating the hi-hat’s timbre and volume, while stilling its reverberation with his fingers; finding brittle tones on the kit’s edge, and placing an elbow on a drum to gently shift its sound. He appears to listen attentively as each element is tested, a showman letting us know he’s a scientist of the drum. Steady grooves regularly lead into thundering flurries so fierce his bass-pedal snaps. Faced with this handicap, he murmurs equably, “I’ll think up something else to play.” When someone breaks the spell with a gargling cough, he jokes, “I needed a rest anyway.” Twice he steps away for applause, then continues, and only in these final stretches does the solo’s resource start to flag. With no kit left unexplored, he plays himself, rapping on his leg, then tap-dancing.
I saw Art Blakey in his last year play similar tricks with his kit, and Antonio Sanchez is among the fine, younger drummers we’re blessed with today. But this was the greatest drumming I’ve seen. Was he any better at 28, or 68? A friend suggests that, for durability of genius, Haynes is giving Picasso competition.
And even then, that’s not it, as he leads a long sing-along on Kenny Rogers’ ‘The Gambler’. ‘You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em,’ it goes, ‘know when to fold ‘em…’ Not ready to fold, Haynes asks the band if there’s a third set. On nights like this, he isn’t drinking from the fountain of youth so much as handing out generous doses from it. Maybe we do need it more than Roy Haynes. He's still the best drummer in the room.
A rare UK appearance by the iconic trio of pianist and composer Carla Bley, bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard (pictured left), who first performed together in 1993, is among the latest names to be added to the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival, which takes place at all the capital’s major concert halls and jazz clubs from 15 to 24 November. Bley, who has a new album released by ECM in September, plays a special all-acoustic set with the trio at the Wigmore Hall on the festival’s closing night, Sunday 24 November. Also added to the festival, which celebrates its 21st birthday and is sponsored by Jazzwise, is a special three-concert performance by Phronesis at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone on 16-17 November, which will be recorded for a forthcoming live album on Edition Records.
There’s also a tribute to trumpeter, bandleader and educator Abram Wilson, who died in 2012, which will feature his band of pianist Reuben James, bassist Alex Davies and drummer Dave Hamblett, performing with Jason Marsalis, Jean Toussaint and saxophonist Keith Loftus at the Purcell Room on 20 November, while Gwilym Simcock plays a special solo concert at St Stephen’s, Hampstead on 19 November, and acclaimed Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjørnstad brings his Story of Edvard Munch project, with Kari Bremnes, to the Purcell Room on 21 November. These latest names are in addition to the headliners exclusively announced last month by Jazzwise, including Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Remember Shakti and Hugh Masekela.
Singer and bandleader Andrew Plummer, best known for his snarling Tom Waits style vocals with the likes of World Sanguine Report, Bilbao Syndrome and Fringe Magnetic, is spearheading a radical prog-jazz school band project featuring a group of talented 11-16 year olds from Tottenham, north London. Named Rhythm Sticks (pictured left), the band features students from Park View School, a mixed comprehensive secondary school in the borough of Haringey, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the UK, all playing adventurous progressive jazz-rock originals developed with Plummer and drummer Tom Greenhalgh over the last five years. The radical sound is matched in its creativity by a remarkable level of confidence among the musicians, all greeted with wild applause from their fellow students as seen on their YouTube live video from a school concert (see video below). It’s a bold ripost to the dull ubiquity of identikit post-X Factor style karaoke singing, as the band performs incredibly mature and engaging original music with a serious edge.
Entering the 2012 Music-For-Youth Festival, which enabled them to perform at various venues around the country, the group won two awards, and they’ve since decided to step things up a gear launching a Kickstarter crowd-sourcing project to raise funds for a professionally produced album pressed on to 1,000 CDs. Having generated a buzz online the band are already on target to have enough to record the album, and they plan to use any further funds to help pay for a five date UK tour in August 2014, and an album launch gig at a high profile London venue – the closing date for the Kickstarter campaign is 28 May.
Plummer, who leads the band on guitar, commented on the quality and high level of this project: “Even as a bandleader with other professional bands, this is truly one of the most exciting things I do!” The project also echoes some of the pioneering work late great British trumpeter Ian Carr did with his jazz workshop at the Interchange Arts Scheme, which helped mentor the likes of the Mondesir Brothers, Dave Okumu and Finn Peters – inspiring a young generation of musicians to experiment, improvise and embrace music from a wide range of sources, perform live and take risks musically.
The inaugural Royal Welsh College of Music & DramaJazz Festival in Cardiff was an outstanding success with seven big name concerts and 13 free concerts by the students of the college. The festival was launched on Friday by Nikki Iles’ Printmakers featuring Norma Winstone, who are on tour celebrating Nikki's 50th birthday, playing songs from the forthcoming Printmakers CD, with Ralph Towner, Joni Mitchell and Kenny Wheeler providing Iles and Winstone with really diverse material for saxophonist Mark Lockheart and guitarist Mike Walker to improvise around on an exhilarating opening set.
Saturday saw the Royal Welsh College big band take the stage in the large Dora Stoutzker Hall, under the direction of Teddy Smith, followed by the Kit Downes Quintet in the intimate Richard Burton theatre. Downes was playing material from his latest CD, New Light from Old Stars, joined by James Maddren (drums), Calum Gourlay (bass), James Allsopp (bass clarinet, clarinet and sax) and Lucy Railton (cello). The set opened with ‘Wander & Colossus’, a dark, brooding number perfect for Allsopp’s bass clarinet to growl over. The more lighthearted 'Two Ones' (a tune about his cats) and 'Jan Johansson' (for the pianist) led into the quirky 'Bleydays' a homage to Paul Bley and the children's TV show Play Away – obviously a favourite of the young Downes. Railton's cello is instrumental in holding this complex and at times chaotic music together, helping it move from dark to light and adding a new and very interesting sound into the mix. The evening concert was by the James Taylor Quartet, who proved extremely popular among the students from all parts of the college.
Sunday saw an opening double bill of the Neil Yates Five Countries Trio and Stan Sulzmann's Neon (again featuring Kit Downes, and proving once again just how versatile he is). Yates started off with his tone poem 'Rainy Harbour' a delightfully evocative piece complete with seagulls, waves and ropes tapping against masts. 'Frozen Forest' another very evocative piece conjuring images of ice, trees and stillness. Zsolt Bende (acoustic Guitar) and Cormac Byrne (percussion) are the perfect foil for Yates’ breathy and very fluid trumpet playing. Stan Sulzmann (pictured above) would be the first to admit that he has been around for a long time but would also add that there is nothing like playing with musicians half his age to keep him on his toes (Kit Downes on piano/Hammond, vibist Jim Hart, and drummer Tim Giles). With Neon Quartet he has the perfect mix of youthful exuberance and his own vast experience to create a highly enjoyable sound that is cultured but at the same time hip and edgy. ‘Mother Hen’, ‘Bye Ya’ and ‘New Balls’ (about tennis) all were excellent examples of this mixture working so well.
The last show in the series (excellently put together by Andrew Miller) featured Mark Lockheart and his Ellington in Anticipation project (pictured left) where the saxophonist has deconstructed some of the Duke's finest tunes and come up with his own highly original versions (this concert was recorded by Radio 3, Jazz on 3, for broadcast later this month). An excellent concert with no little humour, expertly played out by his very classy band. Let’s hope that the college can keep this an annual event and can build on this high quality of music for next year’s festival.
From a small stage bleached by flashing lights and a monster-sized projection of the band's 1974 debut album sleeve, it was left to the shake, sizzle and snap of the band's original drummer and percussionist – Harvey Mason and Bill Summers – to drive this latest model of Herbie's former fusioneers through a exhilarating two hour show. Through whistles and rowdy cheer, most of which honoured to the inspired interplay between electric bassist Reggie Washington, saxophonist Rob Dixon and synth-smith Rob Bargad, came a wish-list of tunes that, kick-starting with a Latin-like ‘Cantaloupe Island’, quickly gave in to a fetish for funk that would litter the rest of the set. Unveiled by Summers as the ‘first of three tunes from that first album we'll play tonight’ heard ‘Sly’ flip from its mellow Moog beginnings, into a fallout of frantic drumming, wah-wah clavinet and shrill alto sax, only to be cooled by the breezy ‘Butterfly’.
Along the way, possibly to drag back any of the audience lost to drawn-out displays of jazzy virtuosity during a shot at Shorter's ‘Footprints’, Summers shared stories and comical anecdotes, later reserving room to remind all of the group's heavy debt to the spiritual sounds of Africa with a raw, and momentarily moving, vocal and percussion showcase. With regular service resuming to room-rattling bass guitar and Dixon's crisp soprano sax scissoring into the bottle-blown bit to ‘Watermelon Man’, it was fair to declare this, and the instant-recall riff to ‘Chameleon’, clear highlights. Even an impromptu tribute to James Brown spitting out some of the most arresting playing of the evening managed to get most up dancing and make up for the shock-horror no-show of the band's biggest hit in ‘God Made Me Funky’.
One of the most talked about bands on London’s leftfield jazz scene since their formation two years ago, Sons Of Kemet release their debut album, Burn, on the Naim Jazz label on 9 September. Led by saxophonist/clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings (pictured), with tuba virtuoso Oren Marshall and drummers Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford – plus guest guitarist Dave Okumu (of electro-rock trio The Invisible) also on the sessions – SOK whip up a bewitching brew of African, Arabic and Caribbean sounds laced with dub reggae in the vein of cult Jamaican drummer Count Ossie and his band Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, via the transcendental sax flights of Pharoah Sanders.
Conceptually the twin-drummer set-up is inspired by polyrhythmic west African drumming, creating conversational percussive layers to hypnotic effect, which hooked to Marshall’s depth-charge tuba bass lines and heady live effects and Hutchings’ scything melodic lines on top, creates a wall of head-spinning sounds. Recorded with all bandmembers in the same room the intensely meshed recording also embraces electronics and club-style beats simultaneously referencing deep diasporic African music and a highly danceable street-level energy on one of the most exciting UK albums of the year so far. See the September issue of Jazzwise for an exclusive interview with the band.
Musicians, industry professionals and politicians packed in to the Terrace Pavilion at the Houses of Parliament for the announcement of the winners of the 2013 Parliamentary Jazz Awards, hosted this year by popular former BBC news reader, and ardent jazz fan, Moira Stuart. The awards, which are organised by All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) and music copyright company PPL and Jazz Services, featured several guest presenters including singer Ian Shaw, who provided a pithy dose of comedy, an emotional Keith Ball, revered ECM-signed singer Norma Winstone, and an effusive Gregory Porter who couldn’t help breaking into a song from his forthcoming album.
Among the notable winners was London venue, The Vortex, which took the Live Jazz Award of the Year much to the pleasure of the venue’s founder David Mossman who noted it was their first such prize in their 28 year existence; pioneering Manchester-based Jazz FM DJ Mike Chadwick picked up Jazz Broadcaster Of The Year; the Royal Academy jazz course leader Nick Smart was another popular winner as he took the Jazz Education Award gong; and Stan Tracey (pictured below) was given an equally rousing reception, winning the Services to Jazz Award.
Other winners on the night were: Jazz Musician of the Year – Guy Barker (pictured above); Jazz Album of the Year – John Surman, Saltash Bells; Jazz Ensemble of the Year – Impossible Gentlemen; Jazz Publication of the Year – Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert by Catherine Tackley; Jazz Journalist of the Year – Rob Adams and Special Award – Elaine Delmar.
If last year's bold move to a new, tented village locale had ended in a torrential downpour, then this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival will be remembered as the one when the sun shone and it got its mojo back. The bill had a new confidence about it too, albeit using accessible crowd-pleasing artists such as Dionne Warwick, The Noisettes and Van Morrison to shout out to a wider public that something interesting was happening here. And beneath this brightly coloured surface there was depth and substance aplenty, with the likes of Ravi Coltrane and Gary Burton showing off sophisticated American jazz at its adventurous best. Their bands spoke volumes too of the swathes of quality players around at the moment – pianist David Virelles and trumpeter Ralph Alessi shining alongside the saxophonist, drummer Antonio Sánchez and dazzling young guitarist Julian Lage both outstanding with Burton. Over at the big top former Miles alumni Mike Stern and Bill Evans gave it their all in a reunion quartet of considerable power, rocking it up in the Big Top to a rapturous reception.
The second only performance from Troyk-estra, originally put together for Jazzwise’s 15th anniversary at Ronnie Scott’s last year, with the fearsomely good three-piece joined by the current crop of Royal Academy brass hotshots, was also a genuine highlight. Fully grooved in now it’s almost unnerving to hear such mind melting music played at such high velocity by a big band. Highly detailed and highly charged, the ripples of rhythm and melody emanating from Chris Montague’s guitar were magnified through the swathes of horns to dizzying effect. This is a killer band in need of more gigs. As for Artist In Residence Gregory Porter it was a bit of a mutual love in between the festival, his fans and the man himself. His headline performance was one of adrenalin pumping thrills, in a turbo charged set that didn’t let up for a full hour and a half. Backed by his sublimely simpatico NYC quartet, complete with alto sax tornado Yosuke Sato, he included some new material but it was tumultuous 15-minute ‘1960 What?’ that brought the feverish crowd to an ecstatic high. If that wasn’t enough he stepped up too at Van Morrison’s acclaimed Monday night gig to sing ‘Tupelo Honey’, to close this event on the sweetest of notes.
– Mike Flynn
– Photo by Ruth Butler
Read the full review with exclusive photos in the June issue of Jazzwise
The Impulse! label tape vaults are about to deliver a rare bundle of joy with the news that the original three-track masters for John Coltrane’sSun Ship album have recently been discovered and will be released for the first time in full unedited form as The Complete Sun Ship Session. Although not originally released by Impulse! until 1971, four years after Coltrane died, the Sun Ship album was recorded on 26 August 1965 and was one of the final sessions of the classic Coltrane Quartet that featured, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones.
The album included five tracks edited together from different takes and overseen by Alice Coltrane. But with the discovery of the original masters all the unedited takes can now be heard for the first time as each piece of music evolved in the studio. The Complete Sun Ship Session is released on 21 May as a triple vinyl set on Mosaic Records and a two CD set on Verve/Impulse. The recordings will also include studio conversation and will be remixed from the three track master tapes for, what is claimed by the label, as a great improvement in sound over previous Sun Ship releases.