It was a hot night, and having just ripped the place apart with a long, brutal, fast-fingered solo to close Mingus' ‘Flowers for a Lady’, Tony Kofi stood centre-stage, his gleaming baritone sax positioned rifle-like across his shoulder, his other hand swabbing sweat from his brow. "Now, we're gonna take things up a little..." he joked, before counting off the first ballad of the evening, McCoy Tyner's ‘Search For Peace’.

Against the growl of powerhouse trio Pete Whittaker on organ, Pete Cater on drums and guitarist Simon Fernsby, Kofi had kicked open the first set with some killer swingers in the shape of ‘Solid’ by Sonny Rollins and Miles' ‘Nardis’, the latter welcoming a warm, lyrical presence from Whittaker that would sustain throughout the show, seeping from every groove, and blending well with the band's slick, 1960s modernist sound.

Out of the Tyner tune, the tempo fast flipped back to breezy for an urgent reading of ‘Milestones’. Over a dry, discernible tap of ride cymbal, Kofi's melody here beautifully intertwined with some clever picking from Fernsby, a player whose style and weepy tone recalled both a silky Wes and a funky Metheny, with equal aplomb.

At the back, rapt in his own seductive pulse, Cater remained reserved behind a high-tuned vintage kit, whipping the band along with finesse and conviction. His monstrous chops and skills around the set were spotlit with a volcanic solo into ‘A Night in Tunisia’, the latin-like groove to which, swung so hard and fast, the high-register runs during a busy break from Kofi resembled the din of screeching tyres in a high-speed chase.

This intensity spilt over into a rousing run through of Duke Pearson's ‘Minor League’, opening a more song-based second set that brought deft arrangements of Billie Holiday and Bacharach classics to the bandstand. It was here, arch-backed and eyes shut, that Kofi revealed a sweet, more soulful side to his typically-full pelt sax act, blowing long, breathy lines across soft-strummed chords, swirling Hammond and the scratch of distant brushes.

While performances of Pat Martino's ‘Cisco’ and Woody Shaw's ‘Moontrane’ resumed a spirited service, the sludge organ funk-fest of ‘Ode to Billie Jo’, which closed the show, raised the roof. For many here tonight, the show also raised the profile of one of the U.K scene's finest saxophonists, tonight pushed beyond his potential by a killer band with real bite, especially when the heat was on.

– Mark Youll

 

The Outhouse, which is home to the weekly Playtime series of Thursday jazz concerts and hosted Playtime’s first Fringe run this year, has been presenting jazz on the Fringe since 2009 and this year featured American singers Barbara Morrison and Lillian Boutté and Barbadian saxophonist Arturo Tappin as well as shows involving Scottish musicians including singer Alison Affleck and pianist David Patrick.

Its compact and bijou loft space has become a favourite among jazz audiences and is recognised for the quality of its music programme presented in an intimate atmosphere.

Now in their 20th year, the Herald Angels are awarded by Glasgow-based newspaper The Herald for excellence across the range of festivals taking place in Edinburgh each August. The awards are much coveted by performers, companies and event organisers and previous winners with a jazz connection include Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar and international musicians including the Bad Plus and singers Barbara Morrison and Christine Tobin.

Collecting the statuette Kim Finlay, whose family own and run the venue said: “This is a great surprise because I’m not sure we realised that venues could get awards like this. It’s a real boost to have something we’re doing – and the venue itself - recognised as being of a high quality, especially when you look at the fantastic standard of the other winners this year and over past years.”

Formerly the Bank of Scotland Herald Angels and with recipients of the distinctive Angel statuettes based on all five continents, the awards have a reputation that extends across the world. They were sponsored this year by Heverlee Belgian Beer and Edinburgh Napier University.

Picture credit:
Kim Finlay of The Outhouse (far right) with Outhouse staff and (centre) Dr Sandra Cairncross, Dean of Faculty of Engineering, Computing & Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University.

– Rob Adams

 

Sheila Jordan is a real nightclub singer. Though she hasn’t touched a drink since 1986, the clink of glasses at the bar at Ronnie’s is the natural ambience for a voice that makes you lean in to listen. Hers is a reserved art, calibrated to preserve precision and, aged 85, it’s hard to find a missed note or emotional nerve untouched.

This eternal bohemian would look hip any time from Louise Brooks’s to now, with her brunette bob and Chinese peacock-patterned, glistening-beaded dress. The singer who Charlie Parker complimented on her “million-dollar ears” made few recordings even in middle-age – a rare Blue Note vocal LP, Portrait of Sheila (1962), and Playground (1979) with Steve Kuhn on ECM stand out. Audiences took their time getting hip to her, but her second night at Ronnie’s is packed.

“Every year I get an inch shorter. I’ll be crawling…” she wisecracks as she slips on stage to join the Brian Kellock Trio. The good humour rarely lets up, nor the casual mention of icons of the bop era to which she’s a steely connecting bond. She begins with ‘The Bird’, recalling a time when you’d hear Parker’s name “every day”, her vocal a sort of musical speaking which name-checks Roy Haynes and her ex-husband Duke Jordan, too. Her exact contemporary Horace Silver, who she gave “a new piano” to one long ago day and died in June, gets a heartfelt send-off with his song ‘Peace’.

Jordan can be antic, and relishes the humorous, quickfire lyrics to her upstate New York neighbour Sonny Rollins’ ‘Pent-up House’. But she is straight, warm and close-up with ballads. When she eases back into Irving Berlin’s ‘How Deep Is the Ocean’ after the Trio’s solos, "How much do I love you?" is a quiet, serious question. “Why turn a dream to dust?” she asks on ‘If I Should Lose You’, holding us with her intimate inquisition of a lyric which fears a partner’s death. She snaps that into an up-tempo scat in which she takes the tenor sax role, before an improbable breeze into the upper register. Potential vocal crashes are pulled out of with a veteran bop pilot’s ease, rough throatiness deployed deliberately. Behind her, the band supply a bluesy bop base, John Rae all brushes and cymbal-taps. This is soft work, barely needing amplification.

‘The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress’ draws on Jordan’s Native American background, starting with a sort of sacred American scat. Kellock supplies tidal piano ripples as she bites on the word “harsh”, like something bitter. An autobiographical song takes her from life as a Pennsylvania coalminer’s granddaughter to the epiphany when Bird opened the door of a Detroit club so the 14-year-old, then known to her friends as Jeannie Dawson, could hear him in the alley outside. She gives the word “rarely” incantatory power here.

Jordan’s pushing the two-hour mark, having already led an afternoon vocal workshop, when she encores with a song-suite from her time with Steve Kuhn, weaving Gordon Jenkins’ ‘Good-Bye’ into ‘Anything Goes’. Jenkins wrote the song after the death of his first wife, and saw it immortalised on Frank Sinatra Sings For Only the Lonely. Jordan the heartbreaking torch singer holds the mic-stand with a lover’s familiarity as she sings, “kiss me as you go”.

Around midnight, wrapped in a fur coat and ready to hit the street from the club once again, she pauses to admire a tune from the late show’s Brandon Allen Quartet. “If it wasn’t for jazz music, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said earlier, and it was clearly the truth. Jordan’s still lost in and living the music as her next day begins.

– Nick Hasted

 

Czech-born pianist Vít Křišťan (pictured above right) will play Soho’s Spice of Life on 18 September with his usual trio counterparts drummer Roman Vícha and bassist Jaromír Honzák, as part of a national celebration of the ‘Year of Czech Music 2014’ organised by the London Czech Centre.

This commemoration recognises a number of anniversaries among important historical figures in Czech music, including those of Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, Josef Suk, Milada Šubrtová and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. The Vit Křišťan’s trio’s debut album Imprints, which features compositions by the classically trained pianist, was released last year to wide critical praise

­Bethany Roberts

For more info go to www.wegottickets.com

 

bobby-wellinsThe historic seaside resort of Rottingdean in Sussex is set to host a new four-day jazz festival over the bank holiday weekend 22-25 August. Programmed by Rottingdean Arts, the 11-concerts over the weekend will feature headline performances from Scottish sax great Bobby Wellins (pictured), the fiery post-bopping Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, led by pianist James Pearson, and legendary jazz bassist Herbie Flowers. Wellins will open the festival on Friday 22 August with a performance at The Plough Inn, Rottingdean, joined by his band featuring drummer Spike Wells, pianist Roderick Hart, bassist Paul Whitten and vocalist Imogen Mayall.

The festival continues with a lunchtime performance by the Roderick Hart Trio at the Queen Vic, followed by an evening concert at the Village Hall from the Dixieland Stompers, Bex Jazz Duo and Brighton Big Band all on Saturday 23 August. Further daytime gigs take place on Sunday 24 August with the Bex Jazz Duo at the Beyond Design Café and Julian Nicholas and Roderick Hart Trio at the Rottingdean Terraces Stage at 3pm.

Renowned bassist Herbie Flowers performs with his Music Box band at the Village Hall, presenting their take on the music of George Gershwin and Dave Brubeck. The bank holiday Monday sees the Mark Bassey Band plays Basie perform at the Terraces Stage from 3pm while the festival closes out at the Village Hall with the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars. Bandleader and virtuoso pianist James Pearson will present the Ronnie Scott’s Story through humourous stories and compelling music covering the club’s 50 years of history.

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to 
www.rottingdeanjazzfestival.ticketsource.co.uk

 

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