It is with huge sadness that we report the death of Tony Hall, one of the UK music scene’s greatest unsung heroes, and one of our longest standing and much-loved writers, who died peacefully in his sleep on 26 June 2019 aged 91.

From his earliest days as compere at the Feldman and Studio 51 jazz clubs in 1949, to host of the BBC Jazz Club on the Light Programme and working as NME’s jazz columnist, then joining Decca Records in 1954, where he relaunched the Tempo jazz label, producing 15 key UK jazz albums, and becoming the co-host of Jack Good’s Oh Boy pop TV show on ITV, Tony became a pioneer of black music in the UK. He was also the first Brit to produce an album for the iconic Blue Note label, Dizzy Reece’s Blues in Trinity (Hall is pictured above on these very sessions).

He became the go-to-guy in the early 1960s for jazz, soul and R&B, subsequently working on promotion for the Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Ike and Tina Turner, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix, as well as helping bring the Tamla Motown and Atlantic labels to the UK in the mid-1960s. Many other notable achievements followed, including the launch of respected record labels such as Deram and Fresh Air, Brampton Music publishing and managing and producing acclaimed bands such as Arrival, The Real Thing and Loose Ends, who all achieved major charts hits.

In 2002 he returned to his first love jazz and joined the team here at Jazzwise reviewing albums every month, where his keen enthusiasm and deep knowledge were widely respected on both sides of the Atlantic. We miss him madly.

Jon Newey

A full appreciation of the life and work of Tony Hall will follow shortly

 

DBeckett

Unexpected pleasures are the best, even for jazz fans, and what could be more unexpected then to climb the stairs to a function room above a Rottingdean pub on a dark blustery evening and find George Colligan sat at the upright piano? The New Jersey-born, Portland resident has established a formidable reputation; alongside his other gigs as an educator, drummer and trumpeter he’s built up a recorded legacy over the course of 20 albums as a leader, demonstrating his chameleonic ability as the kind of contemporary uber-pianist who’s equally at home playing bop, free, classical fusion or funk. His latest trio release featured heavyweight veterans Lenny White and Buster Williams; sadly they aren’t here at The Plough tonight, but their vacancies are ably filled by a pair of outstanding players from across the Irish sea. Dave Redmond wrestles manfully with a borrowed bass, and the man behind the borrowed kit, Darren Beckett (pictured), is the mastermind behind tonight’s unexpected treat; leaving his native Ulster for Manhattan as a New School student he played with Colligan when they both worked as busy faces on the city’s notoriously competitive jazz scene; as a new resident on the South Coast he’s brought his old mates over, and here they are tonight, smashing out some high-octane post-bop to a handful of lucky aficionados as the pub’s regulars enjoy their midweek pints downstairs. 

Colligan strikes up the line of ‘Take The Coltrane’, the rhythm section answer the call, and we’re off on a rollercoaster musical journey, with the whole band delivering on the bebop verities while sedulously avoiding cliches. Colligan’s right-hand speed and sureness are exemplary – a favourite trick is to double the time, then double it again into effortless waterfalls of notes; the language pushing at the harmonic frontiers but always logically rooted in the bop heritage. The hits on ’Alter Ego’, by one-time mentor and pianist’s pianist James Williams, are delivered with accuracy; jam-session chestnut ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ is creatively reimagined as a ballad, with a nicely judged melodic feature for Redmond, while Shorter’s ‘Yes And No’ is a vehicle for Beckett to show his mettle in a prodigious solo that rattles the windows. After a brief break we’re back for a set of Colligan originals; ‘Again With Attitude’ swings like the clappers in 4/4 and a new number grooves just as hard in 5, there are ingenious contrafacts and an affecting paternally themed ballad (‘Daddy Go Bye Bye') before the final flourish; ‘Usain’ is dedicated to Mr Bolt and captures both his speed and his flamboyance in a frenetic drums-piano duel. Such a sparely attended, under-the-radar session might engender a casual approach, and the vibe in the room is naturally relaxed and informal, but the minute the music starts all three players are utterly committed, delivering with the focus and intensity you’d expect from a festival stage or hallowed jazz club, rendered all the more special by its modest setting.

Eddie Myer
Photo by David Forman

 

Twenty-two-year old saxophonist Alexander Bone (above) has been announced as this year’s recipient of the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize, the award run by the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and Edition Records. The altoist’s star has been in the ascendant after he won the inaugural BBC Young Musician Jazz Award in 2014 aged 17, and with the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize will release his debut album on Edition in 2020.

Bone has recently formed a new electro-fusion band, Said Skeleton, which have already played a handful of live dates in London including a Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s. The judging panel for the prize included Edition CEO Dave Stapleton, RAM Head of Jazz Nick Smart and revered British saxophonist Evan Parker, who said of the winner: “Alexander Bone impressed me not just in his writing, arranging and playing abilities, but in his giftedness in all three aspects of music performance. The added quality, which was decisive in his winning the prize, is his keen sense of how to project all these skills.”

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.editionrecords.com

Virtuosic LA jazz-fusion band Spirit Fingers are set for a whirlwind run of London live dates from 23 to 27 July in support of their 2018 debut, Being. Formed by jazz keyboardist Greg Spero, the band features rising star electric bassist Max Gerl (Cameron Graves, James Francies) and fast-rising drum star Mike Mitchell (Stanley Clarke, Cameron Graves) alongside fleet-fingered guitarist Dario Chiazzolino, the group match lyrical melodies and high-wire unison lines with dazzling solos.

The whistle-stop week will include a late show at Ronnie Scott’s and two nights at Hampstead Jazz Club, the first with guest vocals from UK-based vocalist Judi Jackson. Dates are: PizzaExpress Live, Holborn (23 Jul); Boisdale, Canary Wharf (24 Jul); Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s, Soho (25 Sep) and Hampstead Jazz Club (26 and 27 Jul).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.spiritfingers.live/music

Jeroen Van Herzeele copyright olivier lestoquoit

The annual Brussels Jazz Weekend operates on a gargantuan scale. There is nothing like it in the UK. For three days, virtually every music venue in the Belgian capital is filled with freebie performances, from dedicated jazz clubs to general music bars or theatres. Most of the acts are jazzed, to some extent, but there’s also an abundance of fringe musics, from blues to African, electronica to latin, pop to rock. Besides the indoor proliferation, many of the main sets happen outdoors, on stages placed in different city zones. The biggest of these is situated in the absolute core of Brussels, its golden-hued Grand Place.

The Sunday programme on the Grand Place stage was presented by Les Lundis d’Hortense, one of the city’s chief jazz promoters, with strong links to the Jazz Station venue. Taking chances, the first set at 2.30pm featured the Erik Bogaerts Quartet, delivering their uncompromising free jazz charge. The leader is an alto-saxophonist, but he was partnered by tenorman Jeroen Van Herzeele (pictured above), one of Belgium’s most prominent (and ubiquitous) players. Brice Soniano (bass) and Steven Cassiers (drums) completed the line-up. The square was full of tables, waited on by the surrounding bar-staff, with few audience members being scared away by the hard-blowing. The majority appeared to be transfixed by this potentially quite challenging racy jazz roiling. 

This scenario changed quite considerably when helicopters threshed up above, and a heavily armed riot police battalion entered the square. At first, some folks stood up, and moved quickly to the perimeter, as the armoured vans, horseback wedge and shield-wielding foot-cops promenaded from right to left, literally across the front of the elevated stage. Thoughts of a terrorist attack came first, but it later became apparent that there was yellow vest unrest, and a brief scuffle presumably led to arrests. The most impressive aspect of this initially worrying incident was that the Bogaerts foursome didn’t pause for a moment, continuing to blow fiercely, in the true spirit of freedom and jazz power. It was an extended number, soundtracking this invasion. Tension was intensified, feeding the music. Soon, a marching jazz band almost continued playing as they entered Grand Place, adding to the heavy distractions of this set. A mournful piece followed, a lament with a Charlie Haden aura.

Gradually, the atmosphere resumed its relaxation, with the acoustic guitar duo of Fabien Degryse and Joël Rabesolo. ‘Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise’ was followed by an easy-chair blues, and the sensitivity continued with the next set, by a trio of Steve Houben (saxophones), Diederik Wissels (keyboards) and Jan De Haas (drums). ECM compatibility was high, as they produced coasting, evocative soundscapes, Wissels (pictured below) employing gentle electronics, Houben sensitively attuned to melodic savouring, De Haas providing the most ‘alive’ element. Wissels introduced consistent bass tones underneath the refined peacock displaying, as the afternoon’s mood changed yet again, the wind whipping up, clouds darkening.

Diederik Wissels by olivier lestoquoit

In the early evening, Punk Kong erupted down in the stony cellar of Le Cercle De Voyageurs, blessed with a threesome of baritone saxophone barkers. Giotis Damianidis played drone guitar with spatulas, and alto or flute widened the horn tones, a cycling distortion amassing, arranged with power, via a sensitive route of cocked-ear attention to attack and decay. Punk Kong celebrated their new album release on the mighty el Negocito label, and formed part of the final evening’s heavy climaxing.

A compatible combo of tonal layering and untoward melodic investigations came up next, for the second part of the evening. Synestet played two sets at the nearby Roskam bar (most of the BJW venues were nearby), which has a regular Sunday night session of bands that tend towards the adventurous. Hélèné Duret is the leading figure of this quintet, her sombre bass clarinet soloing, or working sleekly beside the saxophone of Sylvain Debaiseux. The Roskam vibe was busy, but most of the folks down the front were attentively attuned, as the compositions moved from serene waves to agitated expression. The joy of the Brussels Jazz Weekend comes via the unpredictable, self-tailored routes taken, from Grand Place to Roskam, for instance, with crowds of hundreds, right down to gatherings of dozens.

Martin Longley
Photos by Olivier Lestoquoit

 

Page 3 of 278

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