cafe-society-swing
Café Society Swing
– the acclaimed musical review about the true story of the pioneering multi-racial New York jazz venue, that opened in 1939 with Billie Holiday making her professional debut with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’ – returns to the Leicester Square Theatre, London this week for its second run from 17 to 21 June. First performed at the 2011 London Jazz Festival the work, which combines music and drama, was created and written by pianist/composer Alex Webb and features vocalists Vimala Rowe, Cherise Adams-Burnett and Ciyo Brown, alongside the Cafe Society All Stars band of saxophonists Jason Yarde and Denys Baptiste, drummer Shane Forbes, trombonist Winston Rollins and others.

The story traces the remarkable venue and its owner,
Barney Josephson, who strove to establish the first mixed race music venue against a backdrop of racism and deep social divides – yet in spite of this the nightclub hosted the likes of Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Joe Turner and many others. The show enjoys its first full West End run at the Leicester Square Theatre following two sold-out performances there last year and a 2012 residency at the Tricycle Theatre.

The show is also set to make its New York debut this year for three weeks from Tuesday 16 December at the 59E59 Theatre. This transatlantic version of the show has so far pencilled in three New York-based vocalists Allan Harris, Cherenee Wade and Cyrille Aimee, with a band featuring the Hot Tone record label's rhythm section of Mimi Jones (bass) and Shirazette Tinnin (drums) – both regulars with rising star saxophonist Tia Fuller. Pianist, arranger and MD Alex Webb will lead the otherwise all-American cast and musicians. The 59E59 Theater specialises in UK productions, and runs a yearly series called 'Brits Off Broadway'.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit
www.leicestersquaretheatre.com

 

joe-sample300With the piano trio enjoying a new golden age Ronnie Scott’s jazz club have announced their inaugural International Piano Trio Festival that will run from 4 to 10 August with a breathless series of double-headers that pitch rising and established names back-to-back on the same night.

The seven-night programme will see some significant debuts at the club including young guns such as German rising stars Tingvall Trio, twentysomething Cuban jazz hotshot Harold Lopez-Nussa while there’s an exciting pairing of an on-form
Jason Rebello paired against his sometime bandmemebr, multi-instrumentalist/piano prodigy Jacob Collier. Other notable highlights include Jazz Crusaders keyboard icon Joe Sample (pictured above) leading his trio as he celebrates his 75th birthday year, plus acclaimed French-American pianist Jacky Terrasson who makes his Ronnie’s debut on a double bill with fired up Scandi-Brit three-piece Phronesis.

The cream of the UK jazz piano scene are also featured including
Janette Mason, Gareth Williams, Peter Edwards, and Reuben James while resident piano-star James Pearson and his trio line up with the Skelton/Skinner All Star Big Band in a big band tribute to Oscar Peterson.

– Mike Flynn

For full listings and tickets go to
www.ronniescotts.co.uk

Shakespeare’s most musical work, As You Like It, will be transformed into a piece of renaissance-inspired jazz theatre this weekend under the baton of its composer, Scott Stroman. The musical, which has been six years in the offing, began as eight Shakespeare songs in 2008. Stroman was commissioned to write them by Robert Cecil, the earl of Salisbury, to mark the 450th anniversary of the coronation of Elizabeth I.

Now, a two and a half hour version of the play will feature an extended suite of 13 songs, interpreted by a jazz band featuring Tim Wells, bass, Paul Clarvis, drums and percussion, Pete Hurt, saxophones and woodwinds, Stuart Hall, guitar and Sonia Slany and Nick Cooper on violin and cello. A professional cast of five plus a 100-strong chorus of adults and children from Highbury Opera Theatre make up the ensemble.

Stroman (pictured below) commented on the work: “The original idea was to set these songs in a way which was modern, attractive and jazzy that still had a bit of the ‘sound world’ of Shakespeare’s own time... My starting point was to study William Byrd and imagine if I improvised on [his] songs, what would I come up with?”

scott-stroman-300The end result is modal jazz which draws upon the modal music of the 15th and 16th centuries, where much of the momentum is derived from variations between the major and minor scale rather than changes of key. The songs include a poignant setting of ‘All the World’s a Stage’, ‘It was a Lover and his Lass’, from the original play, and also ‘Crabbed Age and Youth’, originally from the The Passionate Pilgrim.

The songs have two to three levels – there’s the rhyme, what you’re actually speaking about, and then there’s the subtext. You can say the words in one way but set the words in another i.e. with harmony and rhythm. That’s what has been so attractive for me – trying to dig inside these poems and find out what the subtext really was” Stroman added.

Stroman is a multi-faceted musician: atrombonist and singer, working with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie; the director of the London Jazz Orchestra; and previously head of jazz at the Guildhall. He has also had a long association with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and has previous form setting Shakespeare’s poetry, having written arrangements of Shakespeare songs for Cleo Laine.

Stroman adds: “People can expect a clever story, a comedy with a life-enhancing, positive message, and uplifting, joyous, rich music – and some great jazz playing along the way.”

The play is directed by Bernie Moran and stars Grace Andrews (pictured top) as Rosalind, Robin Bailey as Orlando, Donna Canale as Celia, Robert Gildon as Touchstone and Jacques Verzier as Jaques.

Three performances will take place at Union Chapel on 13-14 June as part of the Shakespeare 450 celebrations marking the 450th year of The Bard’s birth.

– Hannah Crown

For more info go to unionchapel.org.uk

 


The presence of camera crews from the pioneering Franco-German television channel Arte, live-streaming each concert of the four day event and interviewing artists as soon as they come off-stage, is a sign of the stature of the Moers festival. Yet one might also point to the absence of the word jazz in its billing, possibly because its 43 year history makes it redundant, possibly because genre is not, and perhaps never was, the raison d’etre. Indeed the openness in the programme is best encapsulated in the first night, where the contrasts between the four artists on the bill could not be greater.

Sebastian Gramss’ BassMasse brings together no fewer than 42 double basses, with varying results, to the magnificently appointed Konzert Halle, then the orchestral gives way to the personal as Marc Ribot performs a solo set of protest songs that reveal a brilliant, wry voice and probing lyric writer in addition to the known guitar virtuoso. He is followed by a Dutch duo, drummer Han Bennink and pianist Oscar Jan Hoogland, whose funhouse ingenuity is rousing and grating in equal measure.

Things go macro again for the engaging Ricky Tick Big Band, who invigorate classic soul jazz scores by the presence of rappers and several strong soloists. The pattern of sizing up and down continues throughout the festival and obvious highlights are Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit (pictured above) and the Joey Baron-Robyn Schulkowsky duo. Both are linked by immense attention to detail and creativity with regard to instrumentation, the former proving that the tuba is a definitive source of surreal textures, the latter that the tympani is the ultimate in unplugged electronica.

Talking of which the meeting of laptop tyro Macus Schmickler and drummer Jaki Liebzeit proves one of the few damp squibs, with the Can legend labouring joylessly to loops and pitch shifts that meet dead ends in double quick time. Saving the day rhapsodically are two more brilliant big bands – Fred Frith’s Gravity, a free wheeling head spinning ensemble in which folk music from around the world feeds into a group sound so personal it can make Martha Reeves’ ‘Dancing In Street’ feel like a souped-up Lynch soundtrack. Lastly the Sun Ra Arkestra is the Lynch soundtrack, its hard swinging outer-galactic strangeness still wild at heart after all these many eons.

– Kevin Le Gendre

 

ReVoice! – the acclaimed vocal-festival curated by singer Georgia Mancio – celebrates its fifth edition in serious style across four venues (inside and outside London) in an expanded 12-night programme that runs from 9 to 20 October.

The event’s ethos of spotlighting a wide variety of British and international jazz vocal talent and kicks off at its first regional concert at Watermill Jazz Club in Dorking with renowned UK vocalists Claire Martin and Joe Stilgoe (9 Oct). Other highlights among the numerous artists appearing will be the duo of US soul-jazz-looping singer/percussionist Vinx and English tap dancer Lee Payne with their Hands, Mouth & Feet show, striking French/Cameroonian singer songwriter Sandra Nkake, and a rare four shows over two club nights from Grammy-winning US star Carmen Lundy (pictured above) backed by a trio led by revered keyboardist Patrice Rushen.

Georgia Mancio, as well as curating the event, performs each night on the opening set and has lined up another ambitious series of collaborations as she performs each night with the likes of Andrew McCormack, Tom Cawley, Michael Janisch and Gareth Lockrane among others.

The festival continues at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho for nine-nights with a double bill each night topped by: Rebecca Parris (10-11 Oct); Diana Torto/John Taylor/Julian Siegel (12 Oct); Liane Carroll/Ian Shaw/Georgia Mancio (13 Oct); Christine Tobin’s Deep Song (14 Oct); Vinx/Lee Payne (15 Oct); Sandra Nkake’s Shadow Of A Doubt (16 Oct); and Carmen Lundy with Patrice Rushen Trio (17-18 Oct).

The event then closes out over two nights with Belgian-born singer Gabrielle Ducomble at the Hunter Club, Bury St Edmunds (19 Oct) and then a trio of Georgia Mancio, Sara Colman and Randolph Matthews at the 606 Club, Chelsea (20 Oct).

– Mike Flynn

For full details and tickets go to www.revoicefestival.com

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