Stroud’s reputation as the alternative hippy hub of the Cotswolds is just fine with many of the locals, and naturally when they have a jazz festival it’s on their own terms. The posters offered ‘jazz influenced music’ and 2019’s eclectic four day programme ranged from electronica and dance-oriented grooves to classic acoustic jazz. Being Stroud, audiences might include tumbling toddlers, barking dogs, miscellaneous sketching artists and the occasional passerby from the town’s Steampunk weekend.

For opening night Polar Bear electronics doyen Leafcutter John found himself corralled by random sofas in the middle of the Goods Shed’s cavernous barn. The intimacy was enhanced by the need for near darkness in order to deploy his self-built light operated synth interface. Like some kind of cosmic conductor he waved and swooped torches and bike lights to release a soundtrack that shifted startlingly from cascading birdsong to throbbing analogue techno and gripping avant-dub. As a showcase for the specially installed d&b audiotechnik soundsystem PA it could hardly be rivaled.

jazz stroud vels 1

(Jazz)man of the match had to be livewire drummer Dougal Taylor, however, who featured at two of the weekend’s high points: behind trumpeter/producer Emma-Jean Thackray in the Goods Shed and keeping a packed SVA bar dancing with the Vels Trio (above). Barely 40 minutes separated these two gigs – a testament to his energy. Emma-Jean’s performance was an especial revelation, with Ben Kelly’s harmonised sousaphone bass adding grit to tunes like ‘Ley Lines’. Shorn of its high production vocals and with ramped-up drumming Thackray’s (below) sharp trumpet and easy singing gave the number real feeling.

Sam Rapley’s Sunday afternoon performance was an impressive surprise, too. With his regular Fabled quintet reduced to a saxophone trio he bore the melodic weight of his own compositions with impressive ease. That said, having Conor Chaplin’s bass and Will Glaser drumming meant the work was well shared and each tune nicely characterized. Trumpeter Paul Jordanous’ Ensemble also benefitted from imaginative rhythm contributions thanks to drummer Ted Carrasco and nimble-fingered bass man Kevin Glasgow. The latter’s 6-string solo on the Metheny-esque ‘Summation’ was a nicely-judged showstopper, as was Paul’s trumpet coolly coasting through Blue Note tribute ‘Latin Vase’. Even more adroit use of the six-string bass via a packed pedal board and laptop enabled Forrest’s Mike Flynn to create complex tapestries of layered loops for Matt Telfer to add lyrical saxophones. Their combination of low down grooves, rich sonics and upbeat melodic phrasing was the perfect pick-me-up for an attentive (if jaded) Sunday SVA lunchtime audience.

jazz stroud emma jane t 2

While not officially twinned with South London there was a definite linkage, with strong showing from smokily poised poet/singer Cil, vigorous modal grooving from Roella Oloro’s young quintet and a great Friday night party set from Deptford’s Steam Down (pictured top). With Ahnanse’s Ethio-sax and Wonky Logic’s grinding synth bass meshing like Sons of Kemet behind epic vocals from And Is Phi it was intelligent, evolutionary music with a big sense of fun. Bristol’s excellent Snazzback had earlier established a similar mood with their more cosmic ensemble sound. Embracing flamenco, rhumba, Blaxploitation and House styles yet smuggling in off-kilter time signatures, they deployed a rich percussion mix and unforced solo playing while the d&b PA system to whirl around the room. That effect was deployed the following night for Ishmael Ensemble’s more measured approach to spiritual jazz, with producer Pete Cunningham’s sinuous tenor sax an organic ghost in the machinery of cinematic mood pieces like 'The River' and 'Lapwing'.

Stroud being Stroud, for all the ear-catching visitors there was a fair showing of local talent, too, with renowned bass clarinet improviser Chris Cundy unveiling the lyrically neo-classical Triofolio in the atmospheric St Laurance’s Church, followed by the incongruously playful duo Mermaid Chunky’s willful (and skillful) blend of layered electronics and ridiculous noise-toys with sax and vocals. Equally upbeat, the nine-piece latin-swamp-blues outfit Albino Tarrantino rammed out the Ale House venue with impeccably precise grooves and a Tom Waits-recalling loucheness that nonetheless blew out the house PA.

It was a fitting climax to a successful weekend that had brought an entertaining cross-section of the current UK jazz scene to a very receptive slice of the local community. And their dogs.

– Tony Benjamin (Story and photos)

 

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack storms back with the second volume of music from his Graviton project, with new album The Calling, released on 7 June on the Ubuntu Music imprint.

The pianist’s band now features Brit-jazz rhythm section kings Tom Herbert on bass and Joshua Blackmore on drums, alongside vocalist Noemi Nuti and saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, who both appeared on the group’s eponymous 2017 debut. Initially inspired by the complex rhythms and hook-laden harmonies of Arminian piano star Tigran Hamasyan, this second album features a tighter, more melodic sound, with the new music underpinned by an overarching concept of a hero following ‘the calling’, and staying on that path no matter the cost or consequences.

The title track is released as a single on Friday 24 May – see the video below – with the album getting its official launch at The Vortex, Dalston on 13 June. The band then play the following dates: NQ Jazz, Manchester (1 Jul); The Flute and Tankard, Cardiff (2 Jul) and 606 Club, London (1 Aug).

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.mccormackmusic.com

 

Following its successful inaugural run last year, the London Saxophone Festival returns with an expanded line-up from 23 May to 16 June at venues across the capital. There’s a post-bop spiritual jazz blow-out to kick things off with some serious saxophone talent lining up at Camden’s Jazz Café on 23 May. Groups appearing include Tamar Osborn with her Afrobeat and Indo-jazz inspired septet Collocutor, alongside Denys Baptiste Quartet, Binker Golding Quartet and Nat Birchall Band.

The rest of the programme runs the gamut of jazz styles from new-fusion stars Kneebody (Jazz Cafe, 30 May) to acclaimed virtuosos The Yellowjackets (14 June) and Soul Women Unite, a collaborative concert featuring leading female musicians Terri Walker, YolanDa Brown, Ayanna Witter Johnson, Judi Jackson and Carleen Anderson (8 June), both at Cadogan Hall. The festival’s free access Sax Village and family day also returns on Saturday 8 June from 11am to 8.30pm in the Cadogan Hall foyer space, for newcomers and pros to share knowledge and participate in instructional and gear demonstrations.

Mike Flynn

Full details and dates available at www.londonsaxophonefestival.com

jazzkaar bobby mcferrin gimme

The second half of Tallinn’s 10-day Jazzkaar festival was particularly loaded with starry Americans, including the Joshua Redman Trio, Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music and John Scofield’s Combo 66, but the most anticipated gig of this 30th edition was that of vocalist Bobby McFerrin’s Gimme 5, the only show presented at the voluminous Alexela concert hall. New Yorker McFerrin (pictured above) doesn’t play so many dates nowadays: the joint was sold out, the show unusually featuring an a capella overload collaboration with the six-piece Estonian Voices, led by Kadri Voorand.

The two groups had only met in the afternoon, but an instant bond was apparent, with the best section of the set having McFerrin gently guiding all of the singers with his arcane hand signals, gestures of subtle coercion. The singers sat in a curved row, males to the left, females to the right. These early, long songs had the aura of improvised creation, as McFerrin built up patterns and layers with his humanoid looping pedals. McFerrin operates in very high and very low ranges, sometimes adjacent in spacing, or mingling simultaneously, as if operating twin vocal cords. Male bass raindrops joined in what began to sound like an Afro-Brazilian chant, then the Gimme 5 dudes introduced their snare and cymbal impersonations, this instant song building and intensifying.

A pair of more familiar numbers presented a different slant, with solo vocal opportunities distributed around male and female members, interpreting ‘Wade In The Water’ and ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’. When Estonian Voices stepped forward to present a pair of their own songs, the sonics were much thicker, either using effects, or even digital vocal extras. While in the context of their own shows this is impressive, in this surround of soft subtlety, their pyrotechnics seemed shockingly brash by comparison with all of the delicate improvisational weaving of the preceding and following pieces. In this instance, Estonian Voices were best used under the direction of McFerrin, ably responding to his unfamiliar promptings. He sat in the middle, a wise lama of sonics, listening, ear cocked, then responding to find the next growth, often motioning for a volume drop, or a group-within-the-group embellishment of a particular recurring phrase.

jazzkaar Kirke Karja

The Estonian pianist Kirke Karja (pictured above) is one of the country’s most exciting and adventurous artists, and she usually reveals a new band, and a new musical path, during each Jazzkaar edition. This time, Captain Kirke & The Klingons featured the powerful Lithuanian reedsman Liudas Mockūnas in a quintet line-up. Okay, so that’s not the ideal bandname for such a severe outpouring of loquaciously arranged extremity, but it might give we Trekksters a certain quiver of cosmic anticipation. Karja played in the smaller Punane Maja alternative space, though this area has undergone an impressive expansion since last year, with stage placement improved, and milky lighting creating an atmospheric environment.

The Klingons also included a pair of French players, Pierre Lapprand (saxophones) and Etienne Renard (bass). Mockūnas and Lapprand combined sopranos to begin, mewling in harmony, with the former graduating to monster contrabass clarinet, hacking up substratum sputum, and indulging in industrial overblowing. Vistas of mordant meditation were unveiled. Mockūnas delivered a glottal soprano solo, closely partnered by the Lapprand tenor, in a crawling march, as Hans Kurvits used mallets on his drum skins. There was an abrupt jolt into a scintillatingly spiky jitter, Karja’s piano to the fore, as Mockūnas barked “less reverb!” (twice), and finally “no reverb!”, before a full icepick-in-the-forehead double tenor throttling alongside Lapprand. This is Karja’s best band so far, her swift evolution seemingly demanding no restrictions.

Martin Longley
Photos by Rene Jakobson 

 

 

The line-up for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is hotting up with the news that revered US pianist Herbie Hancock (pictured centre) is now confirmed as part of the citywide programme that runs from 15 to 24 November. The show at the Barbican on 17 November will feature Hancock’s high-calibre touring band as a precursor to his milestone 80th birthday celebrations in 2020 – and perhaps, preview material from his long-awaited new studio album! Hancock is also set to perform a special orchestral collaboration with the LA Philharmonic under the baton of acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudame (Barbican, 19 November).

Former Hancock band alumnus and multi-Grammy winning drummer/producer Terri Lyne Carrington (above left) is also added to the programme for a Kings Place residency on the first weekend of the festival (16 Nov). Featuring her Social Science band, Carrington will collaborate with a wide range of UK-based musicians under the banner of 'Experiments in London', preceded by a performance of music from her new album Waiting Game, which is due for release in October. Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah returns to the capital to play music from his latest electronically-charged album, Ancestral Recall (EartH, Hackney, 16 Nov) with support from vocalist Madison McFerrin (daughter of Bobby), while avant-jazz bass heavyweight Barry Guy premieres his stunning large ensemble suite The Blue Shroud, which is based on Picasso’s iconic painting ‘Guernica’ (Purcell Room, 16 Nov). There's also a chance to witness the full sensory splendour of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (above right) as they mark their 50th anniversary with an 18-piece formation at the Barbican (23 Nov). 

Further shows include the all-star Ozmosys band of Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Linley Marthe and Kurt Rosenwinkel (QEH, 16 Nov); ECM-signed Julia Hülsmann Quartet (Purcell Room, 17 Nov); Blow The Fuse’s 30th Birthday (Kings Place, 15 Nov); Swiss 'zen-funk' pianist Nik Bärtsch's audiovisual project, When The Clouds Clear, with visual artist Sophie Clements (Barbican, 15 Nov); Chicago-based spiritual jazz singer Angel Bat Dawid (Kings Place, 16 Nov) and jazz-influenced singer songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae (QEH, 18 Nov). Also now on-sale are concerts from fast-rising vocalist/violinist Alice Zawadzki (Kings Place, 19 Nov); YouTube jazz sensation Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox (RFH, 20 Nov) and renowned flautist Rowland Sutherland's celebration of the 50th anniversary of legendary folk band Pentangle's 1969 album Basket of Light (Purcell Room, 24 Nov). These shows join those already announced in Jazzwise, who are festival media partners.

Mike Flynn

For full details and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

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