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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

ray-carless-vortex

The Windrush Scandal has been one of the biggest stories circulating in the UK media in 2018 – a litany of bureaucratic errors and ugly policies that have made life here unbearable for many people of Caribbean origin and descent. As Jamaican-born Ray Carless and his band enter full swing during The Vortex jazz club's 'Windrush Jazz' night, any thought of Theresa May's 'hostile environment' seems faintly absurd, a strangely antagonistic policy when contrasted with music that is so unabashedly welcoming and joyous.

Carless leads a five-piece band, each one of them introduced as a "Windrush baby", brought together for the night to tear through a set of ska, reggae and calypso-infused jazz. It's undeniably foot-tapping stuff, if not more, shown by the dance-floor of sorts that has formed at the back of the room by the end of the night.

Event organiser DJ Sapphire makes sure that no momentum is lost at the half-way stage, spinning smooth jazz and soul before gearing up for an impressive cameo on vocals in the second half.

The music is by turns skittery and deep in the pocket, always irresistibly lively and essentially happy. Even normally languorous bossa nova tunes such as Tom Jobim's 'Desafinado' are transformed by this Caribbean juggernaut of a band into the sort of upbeat jam that could be prescribed as an anti-depressant. Guitarist Cameron Pierre often comes within an E-string of stealing the show, mixing blues licks with Wes Montgomery-style octaves and spiky, all-out-jazz runs.

As the final bars of a rendition of Fela Kuti's 'Colonial Mentality' fade away, many in the crowd are reluctant to leave, wanting to hear more music. Like many small music venues, The Vortex is beleaguered by near-constant financial pressure. Nights like this, imbued as they are with a genuine sense of community, underline how important it is that the such venues should continue to exist.

– James Rybacki 

 ShabakaHutchins 0033-13

Though Jazzfestival Saalfelden might not nestle between the likes of Montreux or North Sea in terms of high profile, it's now up to its 39th edition, and has a significant reputation for adventurous programming. Its spiritual siblings are fellow uncompromising festivals such as Moers and Vilnius. Saalfelden is set amid the Austrian Alps, in what is effectively a holiday resort. Fortunately, most of this four-day festival was housed in various indoor venues, as the weather conditions involved a heavy three-day downpour, with flooded villages and snowy summer peaks. The misty vistas were almost as evocative as Sunday's eventual sunny revelation.

The free outdoor shows were held under a large street-square marquee, rain waterfalling around its edges, as beer and sausages comforted the crowds. Mokoomba (Zimbabwe) and La Chiva Gantiva (Belgium) were fine choices for the opening night's Afro-psychedelic-latin double-bill. Artistic director Mario Steidl selected a high-powered programme of acts from Austria, the USA, and the rest of Europe, beginning with Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim's smouldering Ecstasy for the Thursday late set in Nexus. This is a small arts theatre alternative to the nearby Main Stage at Congress Saalfelden.

On these latter boards, NYC guitarist Marc Ribot Euro-premiered his Songs Of Resistance repertoire, flanked by Jay Rodriguez (reeds/flute), Nick Dunston (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums). The leader's crackling, semi-acoustic solos cut through, but an entire set of Ribot protest-vocals was not so enticing, as he's neither a conventionally tuneful singer, or an arresting talk-tone narrator. A particular highlight was the climatic exchange of guitar solos with Rodriguez, escalating via his soprano saxophone intensity.

TomasFujiwara lores 0013

Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double involved twinned drums, guitars and trumpet/cornet, with Brandon Seabrook (pictured above, extreme fragmentation, unlikely shapes), Ralph Alessi and Gerald Cleaver joining the leader's accustomed team with Mary Halvorson and Taylor Ho Bynum (extroverted dazzle, seated with dancing legs). A Haden and Ornette miasma-feeling sometimes grew.

Communicative Munich-based singer Jelena Kuljic fronted Kuu!, her agile lines weaving between the spiky guitars of Kalle Kalima and Frank Möbus, while drummer Christian Lillinger revealed his more linear groove-keeping side. Another striking guitar act was the Schnellertollermeier trio, making strings and drums sound like a single breathless robo-entity, with suggestions of Dawn Of Midi or The Necks, but arriving from a precision math-rock direction. The Swissmen cut and clipped with a determined momentum.

Elliott Sharp maintained the guitar focus, in duo with Austrian drummer Lukas König, both of them using pedals and electronics to explode their vocabularies. Rapport was attained, with no lack of swift idea-stamping. Sharp's later set with a quartet that included French singer and harpist Hélene Breschand was lacking on the vocal front. The wafty Breschand rarely opted for silence, and Sharp is not the greatest singer, though his bluesey numbers were still the best on offer. If we wanted an Austrian Billy Jenkins, who better than Christian Kühn and his Kuhn Fu combo. Manic in terms of guitaring, puppet-dancing and mention-the-war humour, he roughed up the festival with a bucketload of zany humour, in the guise of avant speed-jazz.

Chicagoan flautist Nicole Mitchell presented Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds, with an unusual palette of shakuhachi, taiko drum, cajon, theremin, cello (Tomeka Reid doubling on banjo) and acid electric guitar. The first section savoured an introverted south-east Asian aura, but the second jarringly shifted into an avant-gospel showcase for frothing singer Avery Young. There appeared to be little connection.

Jaimie Branch (a Chicagoan trumpeter in NYC) led a subdued set from her Fly Or Die, struggling to discover energy during an early-day showing. Lester St Louis chose an unpleasantly buzzing cello sound, impersonating a tuba, while Chad Taylor introduced a sprightly drum-skip, but when sparseness returned, all was strangely lifeless.

Late at night in the Nexus bar, London Afrobeat combo Kokoroko gave a spirited close to the Friday and Saturday, blessed by their three female singers on the frontline, who also injected hardcore jazz horn soloing and riffing into the stream. Or should that be the other way around, horners as vocalists? Our man in Saalfelden, Shabaka Hutchings, fronted the Austro-German party-complexity ensemble Shake Stew, though he became part of the fabric rather than dominating as a big-name guest. Many of his Kemetian toons were negotiated, and this was a superbly suitable combo for interpretation, with bullish electronics, friction baritone and twinned basses, acoustic plus electric. Hutchings was freed up to stretch out loosely in his solos, rather than needing to monitor the rhythmic-thrust side too closely.

Martin Longley
– Photos by Matthias Heschl/Jazzfestival Saalfelden

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