Acclaimed saxophonist Seamus Blake releases his new album, Guardians of the Heart Machine, on 15 March via UK-imprint Whirlwind Recordings. His ninth album to date, and his first to be released on vinyl, the London-born, Vancouver-raised tenorist will launch the album at Kings Place, London on 8 March as part of a whistle-stop European tour.

Hailed as one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation, the 48-year-old Blake has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Dave Douglas, Antonio Sanchez, Michael Brecker and John Scofield. The high-energy album features three rising stars of the French jazz scene - pianist Tony Tixier, double bassist Florent Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrigue – all of whom will join Blake on the road.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.seamusblake.bandcamp.com

 

 Taborn

The large number of musicians at this sold-out show says a lot about the significance of the artist on stage. Craig Taborn is an American pianist held in the greatest respect by his peers, and whose tuition of younger European players, such as Kaja Draksler, has been important. With a body of work for labels like Thirsty Ear, Tzadik and ECM the 48-year-old has kudos, and has appeared in London many times as leader and sideman to the likes of Tim Berne and David Binney. But this solo gig gives a prized opportunity to really enjoy the breadth of his imagination and depth of technique up close and personal. It is a chance to hear a whole range of traditions within the broad church of improvised music filtered by a mind that is very contemporary in outlook.

Though he opts for one long set instead of two shorter ones, Taborn subverts the expected format of the uninterrupted suite. The performance is broken into several pieces that give the evening the feel of a live album instead of drawing room recital, and the downtime between tracks also releases the tension between artist and audience. It underlines Taborn’s affinity to a looser, modern pop culture as well as to the buttoned-up gravitas of high art. The highpoint of the set is a perfect example of these worlds colliding. A lavishly syncopated middle-register riff jockeys and jostles into life to the accompaniment of strikingly hard, curt right-hand stabs, the intonation so sharp and precise it feels as if the notes are being sliced by a cursor on the screen of a laptop rather than by hands on a keyboard. The metronomic push holding all the ugly beauty together implies house and techno in the most vivid terms, reminding us of Taborn’s serious engagement with the electronic dance music scene of Detroit, as well as his avowed interest in state-of-the-art audio software and Macbook arranging.

Prior to that piece there is a dazzling display of orchestral-like composition in which Taborn’s touchstones, from Andrew Hill and Jaki Byard to Cecil Taylor, are evoked and personalised so as to create intricate entwinements of phrases that go off on tangents without ever losing momentum. Many of Taborn’s chords are voiced with an eye-of-the-needle finesse, but he never relinquishes an edginess and awareness of how effective a relatively straightforward shift of harmony can be. In one very compelling moment a mischievously twisted latin number is boiled down to a jittery, hypnotic left-hand riff that is allowed to run for what seems like an age before Taborn jumps down an octave, and the stark surge of bass threatens to shake the piano on stage.

If the muscular rhythmic drive of the songs has everybody in the room rapt, there is also textural invention to admire. Taborn makes timbres hiss and crackle through a smart blend of foot pedal and overtone manipulation to suggest something close to an analogue synthesiser, a kind of unprepared prepared piano. And yet amid this endless stream of ideas there is another crucial episode when Taborn draws an ageless anthem from daringly spaced single notes left to hang in the air with a church bell reverence.

This is a solemn statement, broadening the emotional canvas of the whole evening by conveying vulnerability amid the virtuosity. Taborn ends with a diptych of two of his inspirations: Geri Allen and Sun Ra. It is a marriage made in heaven. Or on Saturn.

Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Roger Thomas

The full line-up has been announced for Cheltenham Jazz Festival, which runs from 1 to 6 May, at various venues around the picturesque Spa town. With a newly designed festival site in Montpellier Gardens set to include a larger 2,000-capacity Big Top, jazz vocal/piano star Jamie Cullum will appear there on the opening night.

Other concerts announced for the Wednesday and Thursday nights include emerging US vocal talent Charenee Wade (Daffodil, 1 May); and a Buck Clayton and Billie Holliday tribute featuring singer Julia Biel and multi-reedist Alan Barnes, backed by a high-calibre band (Daffodil, 2 May). Further early names are soul-jazzers Incognito, with guest vocals from Omar and Leee John (Town Hall, 3 May) and the popular Friday Night Is Music Night concert takes a nostalgic look at 'The Secret Life of Soho', featuring music inspired by Ronnie Scott’s and The Beatles (Big Top, 3 May). Friday night also sees the Parabola Arts Centre programme launch with über-trio Sunlight (comprised of alto-sax firebrand Soweto Kinch, Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima and Swiss vocalist extraordinaire Andreas Schaerer), followed by feisty jazz-rockers Partisans. Saxophonist of the moment, Nubya Garcia, brings her high-energy show to the opening night as well, in a ‘pop-up’ venue in the House of Fraser basement. This unlikely locale also hosts gigs by Joe Armon-Jones and Vels Trio (4 May). By contrast Brit-jazz sax icon John Surman celebrates his 75th birthday year with an epic performance of his renowned 1976 Brass Project album, with help from a 10-piece choir from Birmingham Conservatoire and collaborator/conductor John Warren (Town Hall, 4 May).

Further additions include leading US saxophonist Joshua Redman (Town Hall, 4 May); swinging jazz-soul vocal don Georgie Fame with the Guy Barker Big Band (Town Hall, 4 May) and recent Jazzwise cover stars Rymden, the new Scandi-jazz super trio featuring Nu-Jazz pioneer Bugge Wesseltoft and EST rhythm team Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström (Jazz Arena, 4 May). Chart-topping vocalist Gregory Porter will headline the Big Top (4 May), while the core-jazz Parabola programme hots up with a strong Saturday line-up of UK saxophonist Rachel Musson’s Nonet; Dan Weiss’ hard-hitting drum-led Starebaby from the US; a rare chance to hear Nikki Yeoh and Zoe Rahman duet on two grand pianos and top European bassist Michael Formanek leads his Elusion Quartet.

Sunday highlights include the warm soul-jazz vocals of Kandace Springs (Town Hall, 5 May); American sax man David Sanborn with his acoustic band (Town Hall, 5 May) and exciting UK trumpeter Yazz Ahmed premieres music from her new album, Polyhymnia, with her 13-piece ensemble performing a suite of music dedicated to inspiring women (Jazz Arena, 5 May). More stellar Sunday names include The Bad Plus making their festival debut (Jazz Arena); the high-intensity piano/violin duo of Omar Sosa and Yilian Canizares (Jazz Arena); and a rare chance to catch South African piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim with his percussively-charged group Ekaya (Big Top). Folk-jazz songstress Madeleine Peyroux (Big Top) and virtuoso US pianist Fred Hersch (Parabola) also appear. The Parabola showcases more emerging talents, including Norwegian saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg’s Concept; gyil player Bex Burch’s West African groove trio Vula Viel and young Swiss jazz harpist Julie Campiche. Jazzwise is media partner for the festival.

– Mike Flynn

For full programme details visit www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz/

The names for the 2019 Jazz FM Awards were revealed at a special nominees’ announcement ceremony on 12 February, with the wide range of artists selected reflecting a year which saw a significant resurgence for the music from its grassroots to the mainstream. Alongside the emerging names, jazz giants Wayne Shorter (above centre), Charles Lloyd and the late great John Coltrane (for his posthumously released best-selling Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album) also received nominations.

The resurgent British jazz scene, which has been making waves in the US and Europe, is reflected with nods to the likes of Sons of Kemet (above left), Nubya GarciaEmma Jean-Thackray, Camilla George, Joe Armon-JonesMoses Boyd and Sarah Tandy (above right), while live events such as Jazz Re:fest (Brighton edition) and The Cookers at Church of Sound, are also recognised.

The innovative use of social media platforms and digital technology was also highlighted, with nominations for extrovert LA drummer Louis Cole and tech-savvy UK sticksman Moses Boyd. Also featured across several categories were highly respected UK-based musicians Orphy Robinson, Ian Shaw and Jean Toussaint, as well as cutting-edge US artists such as trumpeter Jaimie Branch and drummer Makaya McCraven. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at Shoreditch Town Hall on 30 April.

Public voting is open now at www.jazzfmawards.com and will close on Monday 12 March 2019

The full list of nominees is as follows:

Breakthrough Act
 
Cassie Kinoshi
Emma-Jean Thackary
Sarah Tandy
 
The Digital Award with Oanda
 
Blue Lab Beats
Louis Cole
Moses Boyd – 1Xtra Residency
 
The Innovation Award with Mishcon de Reya
 
Orphy Robinson – Freedom Sessions at Vortex
Steam Down
Tomorrow’s Warriors
 
Instrumentalist of the Year
 
Camilla George
Jean Toussaint
Rob Luft
 
International Jazz Act of the Year with Lateralize
 
Jamie Branch
Makaya McCraven
Wayne Shorter
 
Soul Act of the Year
 
José James
Leon Bridges
Poppy Ajudha
 
Blues Act of the Year
 
Eric Bibb
Errol Linton
Roosevelt Collier
 
Vocalist of the Year
 
Cherise Adams-Burnett
Ian Shaw
Judi Jackson
 
UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote) with Cambridge Audio
 
Jason Yarde
Joe Armon-Jones
Nubya Garcia
    
Album of the Year (Public Vote) with Arqiva
  
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels and Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Jean Toussaint Allstar 6Tet – Brother Raymond
John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Various Artists – We Out Here
Wayne Shorter – Emanon
 
Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote)
 
Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters – Tour
Jazz Re:Fest 2018: Brighton Edition
Makaya McCraven and Nubya Garcia – EFG London Jazz Festival
Orphy Robinson presents Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks – Tour
Steam Down featuring Kamasi Washington
The Cookers – Church of Sound

 – Mike Flynn

 MatanaRoberts MG 3019

Matana Roberts (above) is so relaxed tonight her short opening set is almost a lullaby. Playing alto-sax unaccompanied, she investigates melodic wisps with leisurely calm, occasionally breaking off to chat informally to the audience: she tells us she’s annoyed to find herself thinking about Donald Trump while she’s trying to “play the blues,” and goes on to encourage all of us to stop watching the news if we want to improve our mental health. A few more simple fragments of melody and she ends with a series of spoken homilies read from a battered notebook. “Let that shit go,” she advises. It’s everyday wisdom from the most laid-back preacher in town.

MoorMother MG 3134

All of which makes Irreversible Entanglements (above) seem even angrier by comparison. Poet/vocalist Camae Ayewa, also reading from a notebook, pours forth scalding jets of furious hellfire rage. “What are you doing in my neighbourhood? You don’t have the training to survive here,” she mocks, conjuring an undeclared civil war ripping the heart out of American cities. The rest of the band, too, seem wound up in a state of militant tension and ready to blow. For over an hour, without pause, they navigate a shifting, spontaneous terrain. Upright bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Tcheser Holmes are the engine, locking into fierce, urgent grooves while trumpeter Aquiles Navarro directs the musical flow, blowing barbed hooks that flutter like pennants on the battlefield. Saxophonist Keir Neuringer holds back, reluctant to crowd the theatre of operations, adding splashes of chiming percussion like a warrior priest inventing new rituals.

For the encore, Matana Roberts joins them on stage, dropping abrupt phrases into the melee while Ayewa’s scorched lyrics focus to a diamond hard sharpness. I can’t think of anyone else making music this tough right now.

Daniel Spicer
– Photos by Roger Thomas

Page 3 of 266

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