There's a plethora of essential jazz nights lined up at The Vortex, as the Dalston-based bastion of cutting-edge jazz gears up for its busy autumn season. Among the many highlights is The Shape of Jazz to Come, the venue's monthly new talent series that's supported by the Dave Holland and Evan Parker Fund. This month's double-header features emerging ensembles Nima and Forj (24 Sept), with next month showcasing brilliant young trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (24 Oct), while her Nérija bandmate, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, leads her SEED Ensemble on 20 November. Other stand-out October gigs include an incendiary duo of iconoclastic New York saxophonist Tim Berne and powerful pianist Matt Mitchell on two rare UK shows (12 and 13 Oct); a dazzling collaboration between soul-jazz singer Chanda Rule and 81-year old piano legend Kirk Lightsey (22 Oct) and revered Brit-jazz vocalist Norma Winstone appears with the London Jazz Orchestra for a special Vortex fund-raiser (28 Oct).

In November international names visiting the club include acclaimed US bassist Stephan Crump with his group Rhombal (4 Nov) – featuring a killer line-up of Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Ellery Eskelin (saxophone) and Kassa Overall (drums) – and the club's EFG London Jazz Festival line-up gets a dose of scorching hip hop jazz courtesy of James Brandon Lewis Trio (24 Nov). Later in the month drummer Lorraine Baker launchs her new album Eden (29 Nov), while early December sees two mesmerising nights from ambient jazz guitar guru David Torn, who plays solo and appears with the band Sonar, which features Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner on tritone guitars, electric bassist Christian Kuntner and drummer Manuel Pasquinelli. There's another newly announced night under the banner of South African Jazz Fundraiser For the Vortex, featuring a superb band led by Jason Yarde and Adam Glasser with Chris Batchelor, George Crowley, Rob Luft, Steve Watts, and Tim Giles all appearing on Sunday 9 December.

– Mike Flynn

For more info on all these gigs and to book tickets visit www.vortexjazz.co.uk

The nominations have been announced for this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards, which take place on 16 October, and for the second time are held at Pizza Express Live's Holborn jazz club. With the nominees selected via an online public vote for the awards, the shortlist was then voted upon by a selection panel of jazz musicians and music professionals from a variety of backgrounds selected for their passion for, and knowledge of, jazz. The winners, chosen by judging members of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG), will be announced at the awards ceremony which will include live performances and guest presenters.

Kelvin Hopkins MP, Co-Chair of APPJAG, said: "These shortlists demonstrate the wealth of talent and commitment that exists in the British jazz scene. Now in its 14th year, the Parliamentary Jazz Awards honours the best of British jazz. MPs and Peers in the All Party Group are delighted to host another ceremony at Pizza Express Live and we are extremely grateful to PizzaExpress Live for supporting the event and for Peroni for sponsoring the event."

The nominees are:

Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Liane Carroll; Georgia Mancio; Zara McFarlane and Ian Shaw

Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year: Rob Luft; Arun Ghosh and Ross Stanley

Jazz Album of the Year: Arun Ghosh – But Where Are You Really From?; Denys Baptiste – The Late Trane; Gareth Lockrane Big Band – Fistfight At The Barndance

Jazz Ensemble of the Year: Ezra Collective; Dinosaur; ARQ – Alison Rayner Quartet and Beats & Pieces Big Band

Jazz Newcomer of the Year: Fergus McCreadie; Sarah Tandy; Shirley Tetteh

Jazz Venue of the Year: Jazz Re:Freshed; Jazz At The Lescar and South Coast Jazz Festival

Jazz Media Award: Richard Williams; Kevin Le Gendre and Lance Liddle for Bebop Spoken Here website

Jazz Education Award: Pete Churchill; Jean Toussaint and Nikki Iles

Services to Jazz Award: Blow The Fuse – Alison Rayner and Deirdre Cartwright; Jill Rodger – Glasgow Jazz Festival; Gary
Crosby and Gill Wilde.

For more info visit www.pizzaexpresslive.com/parliamentary-jazz-awards

Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski brings his acclaimed Quintet to the Jazz Cafe, London on Friday 21 September for the launch of their new album, Polka Worldwide Deluxe Edition, released on 3 August on Whirlwind Recordings. Since their 2014 album, Polka, the dynamic Polish bassist and his band have broken beyond the jazz genre's usual boundaries, gaining international recognition through appearances at some of the world's biggest rock and indie music festivals, as well in jazz and dance clubs, clocking up some 200 concerts across 21 countries in the last few years alone.

With success on mainstream Polish TV and the Polish Radio charts, they've also received support from DJ Gilles Peterson who placed Mazolewski's album Theme de Yoyo among his 50 best records of 2017. Now, all three of Mazolewski's albums – Polka, Theme de Yoyo and London – are presented together as Polka Worldwide Deluxe Edition and receive their UK launch at the Jazz Cafe.

Also appearing in support that night will be fellow Whirlwind artist and rising star saxophonist Josephine Davies, who also launches her new album, In The Corners Of Clouds, with her Satori trio, which features bassist Dave Whitford and drummer James Maddren.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.thejazzcafelondon.com

Watch the new video for Wojtek's cover of Art Ensemble of Chicago's 'Theme de Yoyo' filmed live on location in Lofoten, Norway, 300km inside the Arctic Circle

For this year's Ystad jazz festival the spotlight was on vocalists, as Cécile McLorin Salvant wove her magic in the Arena, which, sadly, can be a rather soulless place. She won over the crowd with a succession of brilliant interpretations of 'Wives & Lovers', 'If A Girl Isn't Pretty', 'Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before', her own song 'The Fog', and a great version of 'Wild Women Don't Have the Blues'. One of the best female vocalists around at the moment, the standing ovation she received at the end was thoroughly deserved.

TD-Lizz-Wright-15

Youn Sun Nah also had a strong show with an eclectic mix of material featuring Korean folk songs, Tom Waits, and Jimi Hendrix covers. Her version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah', sung almost unaccompanied, was stunning, with her emphasis on the words of the verses rather than the chorus bringing a totally different feel to the song.

There were also shows by Claire Martin, featuring songs from her latest Wes Montgomery album, Trudy Kerr, and an impressive set from Lizz Wright (above). Newcomer Ellen Andrea Wang (below) was a revelation, reminding me very much of a young Esperanza Spalding. The bass player/vocalist has a strong set of songs and a great band including drummer Erland Dahlen.

TD-Wang-06

For the male vocalists the best by a mile was Andreas Schaerer & A Novel of Anomaly. The band featuring Luciano Biondi (accordion), Kalle Kalima (guitar) and Lucas Niggli (drums) were all superb – Schaerer's voice skills are incredible and his writing top class.

Alongside the vocalists, other instrumental shows featured trumpeter Avishai Cohen who played with the Bohuslän big band; German drummer Wolfgang Haffner with the brilliant vibes player Chrisopher Dell; Phronesis, who had two phenomenal shows in the Art Gallery and Monty Alexander, who told us at the end of his sparkling late show that he had suffered a stroke only a few days earlier.

TD-Nils-Petter-Molvaer-Dawn-04

However, the biggest event of the festival was at 5.20am on the last day, which was a 35-minute drive from Ystad and brings you to Ales Stenar, an ancient collection of 59 stone boulders in the shape of a long boat. The stones are located on the top of a headland with panoramic views of the Baltic Sea one way and the almost flat landscape of southern Sweden the other. At 5am although the sun has not yet risen it is perfectly light. A short distance from the stone ship a small stage has been set up with a seat, a table and a sheet of Plexiglas to protect the microphone from the wind that blows gently across the headland from the sea.

Renowned Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer was sat on the edge of the stage doing his warm up exercises; the sky behind him turning pink. The crowd numbered around 550 people (this was a ticketed event) some in deck chairs, some laying out on the grass looking skywards, others sitting with their backs against the stones observing the stage – there were no fences or guards here.

At 5.18am Molvaer took to the stage with a a wash of sounds emerging from his laptop. A dawn chorus of effects and electronics and then he starts to blow – long low notes, coupled with a few higher shriller ones almost coaxing the sun to appear. Within moments the orange ball appears on the horizon to his right behind the stones and the whole scene was bathed in the golden light of dawn.

Molvaer's playing became more insistent and more forceful as the sun lit the entire scene, throwing long shadows of stones, spectators and the trumpeter across the grass and towards the sea. The concert lasted around 50 minutes –slightly disturbed by a squall that passed over in minutes, yet Molvaer never stopped playing and no one moved an inch. This was a truly magical moment – one that you had to be there to become fully immersed in.

Ystad is a fantastic festival of Jazz that works hard pushing the boundaries to attract younger audiences, but without loosing its core fans. Next year will be the 10th anniversary and artistic director Jan Lundgren is already promising great and innovative things – the dates will be 31 July to 4 August – so get it in your diary.

Story and photos by Tim Dickeson

As our world edges further into turmoil, the remote idyll of Kristiansand in southern Norway, seems increasingly like some special sonic paradise away from the maelstrom of daily life. The uncharacteristically heavy security at Oslo airport is a sign of the outside world encroaching on this usually most Zen-like country. Inside the Punkt bubble things remain beatifically balanced between full-blooded live performances and the most artful of remixes, spontaneously created with breath-taking skill. Yet, while last year's slight misfire of artist-in-residence Daniel Lanois' clumsy remix and slightly better live show, this year's focus was firmly back on song with two contrasting power trios, Now Vs Now (above) and Elephant9, topping the Friday and Saturday nights, and the presence of several visionary drummers, with, if anything, the remixes taking a backseat to some inspired performances. Among the star percussionists it was a little disconcerting to hear Paal Nilssen-Love eschewing his more brutal instincts for painterly layers of scraped drum skins, watery cymbal washes and volcanic tom rolls across his low-key but intense opening set. One of the joys of Punkt's stage design is observing the remixers, waiting eagerly on their own raised platform, discussing conspiratorially or brooding over a laptop, in preparation for their impending reinterpretation of the music. Such was the case for tuba-toting Heida Mobeck and Anja Lauvdal who made mischief with Nilssen-Love's beats. Rhythm became frequency in their hands, as they anarchically added an avalanche of samples mashed with mutant tuba dive bombs that rudely punctured some of Love's serious posturing.

Punkt Petter-Sandell---Time-Is-a-Blind-Guide-3

Rhythm revolutionary Thomas Strønen has always been a very melodic drummer – be it with his use of tuned percussion with Food or here with the surging sonorities of his fast rising quintet, Time is a Blind Guide (above). Fuelled by the thrum, hum and twang of a string trio augmented by piano and Strønen's urgent rumblings this is a chamber ensemble with a bittersweet bite. While Strønen's writing for strings may be the central motivation for TIABG, it was the fluidity of improvising that violinist Håkon Aase, cellist Leo Svensson Sander and bassist Ole Morten Vågan achieved that impressed most, as their billowing harmonic gales swept over the yawing oceanic swells of Strønen's kit and Ayumi Tanaka's piano.

It was probably a slight programming oversight to feature another string-led group immediately after, with Trio iXi augmented but not particularly enhanced by arch-Punktsters Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang plus Italian drummer Michele Rabbia, none of whom could gain significant purchase on the strings' continual bowings. It took the astonishing flute playing of Clive Bell on remix duties, with Punkt founder Erik Honoré, to elevate the previous set to the next level, with acres of space and the flautist's tremulous flutters usurping the density of the sampled material with chill-inducing results.

Punkt Petter-Sandell---elephant9-3

If Jason Lindner's Now Vs Now came over as a little more scripted, then it was the keyboardist's sonic architecture that was the compelling focal point, as they gave songs from their latest album, The Buffering Cocoon, a live pummelling. Thick wodges of Moog and industrialised Fender Rhodes were hitched to Lindner's potent distillation of the sound of multicultural New York, as this mesmerising trio ditched their chops in favour of heavy beat hypnosis. Sonically awesome as this was, one wonders if the next logical step would be to make an audience want to dance, and let the hips lead instead of the head? The following night's skull crushing onslaught from Elephant9 (above) proved that this is possible in emphatically retro fashion. There's no question E9's rhythm section are the culprits for the band's titanic sound, whipping up an instant wall of funky Motorhead-ish bass lines and head-smacking beats, Nordic keys legend Ståle Størløkken riding this rhythm beast by making his Hammond scream like a banshee slammed through a distortion pedal. They made head-bangers of young and old, male and female alike.

Punkt Petter-Sandell---Geir-SundstlErland-Dahlen-4

Yet, for me, the festival highlight was the breath-taking brilliance of pedal-steel guitar guru Geir Sundstøl (above), who showed that stealthily deployed effects can create a one-man sound-system of fjord-like depths. With notes sustained to infinity, Bowie's 'Warszawa' arose from the strings of his horizontal guitar, giving a taste of his latest indispensable Hubro long-player, Brødløs, in what's becoming the most seamless of personal soundtracks. This concert was in fact a duo with labelmate Erland Dahlen, the bell-banging drummer equally capable of whipping up his own timpani-typhoon from within his bell-festooned percussion cage. The drummer's latest album Clocks made for cinematic listening but live is more akin to a drum orchestra, as he triggered chugging synths while hitting out chiming melodies and whumping tom-tom patterns with adrenalin-soaked energy. With Sundstøl grabbing a National Steel guitar to throw shapes in the dramatic lighting, a sly grin accompanying his bottle-neck slide strafes, it all coalesced into another Punkt epiphany that could only happen in this rarefied setting.

– Mike Flynn

– Photos by Petter Sandell

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