Much like in other recent editions of New York's Winter JazzFest, Afrofuturism pervaded this year's nine-day run, offering a palpable and much needed antidote for our country's political divisiveness. To paraphrase a line from Parliament Funkadelic’s ‘Children of Production’, it blew the many and varied cobwebs out of our minds. The British jazz Introducing... showcase on 9 January, was presented in part by BBC Music and the PRS Foundation’s global initiative, aimed at creating ‘50-50 gender balance’.

Celebrated progenitor of the UK’s Acid Jazz/rare groove movement, and latterly of his own Brownswood Records imprint, Gilles Peterson was a fitting host throughout the evening. He was quick to point out the rich and storied history of the music, even to the point of giving homage to the fact that Le Poisson Rouge was once the home of the Village Gate.

Vocalist Tawiah (above) kicked off the night with an intimate 45-minute set. Accompanied by rhythm guitarist Mike Haldeman, the Ghanaian’s voice was redolent of her varied influences. In a few notes, she captured the promise of Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album. An unpolished yet lyrically potent effort, at the time of its 2002 release, it was panned by critics and devotees, alike. But Tawiah commands both the stage and your undivided attention. Albeit fleeting, she warmly invited us into her life and experiences, from ‘Borders,’ an ode to the challenges of a long-distance relationship, to the achingly soulful ‘Mother’s Prayer’. An aural exploration of her Pentecostal upbringing, the latter song opened with a sample of the voice of her 103-year-old grandmother singing a traditional hymn, recorded on cassette tape during a family trek to Ghana just before she died.

2019WJF EmmaJeanThackray IMG 1748sm

Trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray (above) and her fine arsenal of players (Dave Drake on keys, Ben Kelly on sousaphone and drummer Tcheser Holmes) also drew from their influences – from the intersecting and complex rhythms of Fela Kuti, to an endless list of Freddie Hubbard’s CTI recordings. In their half-hour set, Walrus harnessed the sheer joy of listening to these now seminal records for hours and hours, just lingering inside the infectious loops with no end in sight.  

2019WJF FemiKoleoso IMG 2206sm

In-demand keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones put in serious overtime throughout much of the night. First gracing the stage as the accompanist for vocalist Yazmin Lacey, then later, closing out the night with the high-energy five-piece group Ezra Collective (pictured top). The latter group join the ranks of The Soul Rebels and Brownout here Stateside, injecting both a rebelliousness and spontaneity that (generally speaking) has been largely absent from the music. The interplay between Armon-Jones on Rhodes and another promising voice, drummer Femi Koleoso (above), had both Peterson and I dancing together in unison, on opposite sides of the stage. Their arrangement of Sun Ra’s magnum opus, ‘Space Is The Place’, was a timely reminder for all of us to have hope in the future – in spite of the present Administration.  

– Shannon J. Effinger

 – Photos by William B. Gray 

 

Reset Festival image2

For some there is a Holy Grail in jazz: to introduce new audiences and different generations to the music. This was much in the mind of leading jazz vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher when he launched the RESET Jazz Festival last year in his native Luxembourg City. As a percussionist and composer working with classical orchestras, jazz musicians and electronic producers his artistic energy is diverse and has informed the second edition of this festival. It returns from 17 to 19 January with a punch: with British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and Danish bassist Jasper Høiby alongside Belgian pianist Jef Neve; harpist Julie Campiche (CH), viola player Séverine Morfin (FR), sound designer Sven Helbig (DE), drummer Alfred Vogel (AT) and singer Claire Parsons (LU).

How this compelling line up-gels will be decided this week as they collaborate and improvise in neimënster, the cultural centre of Neumünster Abbey, before performing in three very different encounters. The first night on 17 January is literally a 'jazz crawl', with the artists jamming in four venues around the city, one after the other. Each event is free to encourage newcomers to jazz. On 18 January there’s a performance in the main concert hall of the Robert Krieps Room of Neumünster Abbey, while on 19 January, local artists are invited to improvise with the musicians at the Abbey's Brasserie Wenzel.

Two day passes are available as well as tickets for each night from neimënster. The free jazz crawl running order is: Julie Campiche with Sven Helbig (Abbey Cloister, 7.30) Yaz Ahmed with Jasper Høiby (Vins Fins Restaurant, 8.30pm); Séverine Morfin with Claire Parsons (Mesa Verde Restaurant, 9.30pm) and Jef Neve with Alfred Vogel (Café des artistes, 10.30pm).

Debra Richards

For more info visit www.neimenster.lu tickets are available here

Composer, conductor and sampling-supremo Matthew Herbert is set to release his Brexit-inspired album, The State Between Us, on 29 March, the day Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. Herbert began the project two years ago on the day Article 50 was triggered, writing and developing music for his catchily-named United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band, motivated by the ideals and ideas of what represents Britishness as well as subjects such as ‘immigration’ and ‘home’.

This potentially colossal shift in British-European history is also reflected in the size of the project, which includes over 1,000 musicians and singers from across the EU. The album features leading jazz soloists such as trumpeters Enrio Rava, Sheila Maurice-Grey and Byron Wallen, trombonist Nathanial Cross, as well as singers Arto Lindsay, Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, Merz and Patrick Clark who give voice to words by poets Percy Shelly and John Donne, revered British playwright Caryl Churchill and “various abusive members of the public and the secretary general of UKIP”.

The album also features a dizzying array of samples from such apposite sources as a Ford Fiesta being dissembled; a deep fried trumpet; a lonely cross-Channel swimmer; a factory being demolished and a cyclist riding around Chequers. See video below for more.

The band will perform at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg on 16 February and two shows at the Royal Court Theatre, London on 29 March.

For more info visit www.matthewherbert.com

Mike Flynn

Watch The State Between Us trailer below:

 

 Joseph Jarman 996x515 996x515

The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante Micheaux at last month’s stellar performance by Elaine Mitchener and Jason Yarde at Cafe OTO in London was as poignant as it was prescient. A few days later Joseph Jarman, the author of that poem that evoked profound urban alienation and the "hell of where we are", passed away in New Jersey at the age of 81. As he was about to meet his death the coming to life of his words on the other side of the Atlantic symbolised his ability to affect audiences beyond his homeland and lifetime.

Jarman actually read the piece himself on his 1967 solo debut, Song For, but he was really known as a highly-gifted multi-reed player who was proficient on numerous instruments that included the bassoon and recorder, as well as alto and soprano saxophones. Like his peers Anthon Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, he was wholly dedicated to the principle of fully exploring sound to induce new sensations amid daring, involving narratives that drew on a wide range of subjects.

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jarman moved to Chicago as a child in the 1940s, played drums in high school, then saxophone in the army. One of the earliest members of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Music (AACM) Jarman, who also studied drama, joined the Art Ensemble Of Chicago (AEC), and was largely responsible for bringing many striking elements of theatre into the group’s aesthetic. He left AEC in the early 1990s, and became more involved in spiritual practise, eventually becoming a Buddhist priest. Jarman’s excellent work, both as a collaborator and bandleader, have earned him a rightful place in the pantheon of artists whose great strength of imagination boldly collapsed the boundaries between sound, text, movement and ritual.

Kevin Le Gendre

Bass-led progressive jazz group Wandering Monster are set to release their eponymous debut album on Ubuntu Music on 25 January 2019. Firmly established on the northern music scene, the band features Sam Quintana on double bass (above centre), Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, Calvin Travers on guitar, Tom Higham on drums and Aleks Podraza on piano and keyboards.

Exploring evocative moods, heavy-grooves and hook-laden melodies the band launch their album with an accompanying video for the Quintana-composed 'Samsara' – see the video below – and catch them on the following live dates: Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside (12 Jan);  Sofar Sounds, Newcastle (15 Jan); The Butterfly and Pig, Glasgow (16 Jan); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (17 Jan); Small Seeds, Huddersfield (18 Jan); Sela Bar, Leeds (album launch, 20 Jan); The Whiskey Jar, Manchester (21 Jan): The Spotted Dog, Birmingham (22 Jan);  Servant Jazz Quarters, London (24 Jan); The Be-Bop Club, Bristol (25 Jan); Kenilworth Jazz Club (4 Feb); The Gallimaufry, Bristol (6 Feb); Café Jazz, Cardiff (7 Feb) and Refu-jazz festival, Leeds (9 Feb). 

Mike Flynn

More info at www.samquintana.co.uk/wandering-monster

Watch the video for 'Samsara' here:

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