Graviton IMG 0641

The acoustic at Soho's iconic venue changes quite considerably according to one's position in the room. For the opening set I'm at a table within touching distance of the stage, while for the second space frees up at the bar. Back there things are more graduated, but right down front the sound explodes into earshot, underlining in no uncertain terms that Graviton is the first electric band led by pianist-composer Andrew McCormack. In the course of an eventful career he has developed an impressive modernist voice as a member of bands led by Denys Baptiste, as well as a trio leader and part of a brilliant duo with Jason Yarde. But this ensemble, which made its eponymous debut CD last year, is arguably the 'heaviest' of his career to date. In drummer Anton Eger and bass guitarist Robin Mullarkey McCormack has an outstanding anchor for his songs, with the former's propulsive patterns on the kick locking in sharply with the latter's hard-funk phrasing, which often gains added subsonic ballast by the use of a purring Moog filter. On vaulting numbers such as 'Breathe' the music freights a punchy Headhunters-like agitation-syncopation, with Mullarkey fitting the dynamic Paul Jackson role to a tee. Vocalist Noemi Nuti and tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson complete the frontline and are an assured presence, performing theme and counterpoint to enrich the overall fabric of the music. As for McCormack, he leads with aplomb and his rolling rhythmic lines, the arpeggios tinged by his grounding in classical music without being constrained by it, make for a solid harmonic pivot around which his colleagues liberally crisscross.

Graviton IMG 0447

Other highlights of the first set include the strikingly fraught 'The Waiting Game' and the bracing samba-led 'Fellowship'. One of the key marks of distinction of the band – the doubling of Nuti's vocal and Richardson's tenor – is perhaps overused at times and there are moments when the latter could play off, rather than with, the former in too uniform a way. The grace of those unison lines, an echo of Flora Purim and Joe Farrell in the first incarnation of Return to Forever, is appreciated all the more when they are not heard as often. With that in mind, the start of the second set is a fantastic curveball – a reprise of Björk's 'Army Of Me', which has a superbly eerie amount of space, a thunderous backbeat and stark, sinister chords that take the engagement with machine-based music heard in the first set to another level. In fact, McCormack's embrace of technology is impressive for its subtlety. The laptop and micro-synthesiser perched on the top of the piano are a far cry from the image of banks of keyboards hemming in a fusion head, but the moment in which he creates digital hiss and hum to blend with Nuti's own wordless distortions is powerful. Things go back uptempo on 'Escape Velocity', which is marked by all the expected polyrhythmic nouse, yet it is McCormack's solo piano piece, 'Dream Catcher', that makes the strongest case for the leader's talent. Remove the not insubstantial resources at his disposal and he still delivers something with a melodic and orchestral complexity that is not left wanting. It bodes well for his forthcoming solo album.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photos by Carl Hyde

 Jaimie-Branch

Texan Templars of outlier audio releases, Astral Spirits, have combined forces with fellow Austinite and double-bass phenomenon Ingebrigt Håker Flaten to help him curate and orchestrate his Sonic Transmissions Festival, which this year runs as a series of monthly performances.

The five shows, which take place at Austin's Beerland, Sahara Lounge and Barracuda venues, are scheduled for 1 March, 19 April, 14 June, 16 August and 14 September and will feature touring acts alongside local musicians, with names already confirmed including Rob Mazurek, Jaimie Branch (pictured), Matthew Lux's Communication Arts Quartet, Moor Mother, Jeff Parker, Daniel Carter and Dave Rempis.

– Spencer Grady

For more details and ticket information visit www.sonictransmissions.com

The first tranche of names to appear across the Love Supreme Jazz Festival weekend, which runs from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July, have been confirmed and include heavyweight jazz trio Crosscurrents (featuring Zakir Hussain, Dave Holland and Chris Potter), groove-titan George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic plus jazz-influenced singer-songwriting legends Elvis Costello and Steve Winwood.

Set to build on its biggest year to date in 2017, which saw 40,000 people attend the festival over the weekend, 2018's edition looks equally diverse. Once again featuring big name headliners on the main stage such as soul-funk stars Earth, Wind & Fire, the wider programme includes Afrobeat drum legend Tony Allen and gospel vocal diva Mavis Staples, while the new wave of young UK jazz is showcased again with Moses Boyd Exodus, Ezra Collective, Zara McFarlane, Nubya Garcia, Yazz Ahmed and Alfa Mist all set to appear.

Rising international names also confirmed include trumpeter Keyon Harrold, soulful vocalist Curtis Harding, Malian desert-rockers Songhoy Blues and renowned soul singer PP Arnold. Further names added are the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet, genre-hopping ex-Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Mr Jukes, LA neo-soul group Moonchld – and a very welcome appearance by soul-jazz vocal legend Dwight Trible with the Gondwana Orchestra. Additional names will be announced in Jazzwise, who are media partners for the event, in the coming weeks.

The popular Verve Jazz Lounge will once again host artist interviews, discussion panels and film screenings. There will also be a dedicated kids' area alongside swing dance lessons, a vintage funfair, the Lazy Bird long-table banqueting restaurant, family yoga sessions and many other on-site activities. Set in the picturesque South Downs in Glynde, there are full weekend camping and glamping tickets available now.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.lovesupremefestival.com

Roberts

US saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts, arguably best known for her confrontational series of Coin Coin releases, teams up with British sound artist/improviser Kelly Jayne Jones for a new live collaboration and tour, the first in an ongoing series organised by Outlands, a new national experimental music touring network.

Catch this exclusive alliance on the following dates: Cube Cinema, Bristol (4 May), Ghost Notes, London (9 May), De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (10 May), St Barnabas Church, Cambridge (11 May), MK Gallery, Milton Keynes (12 May), The House, Peninsula Arts, University Of Plymouth, Plymouth (17 May), Centrala Gallery, Birmingham (18 May), The Portico, Manchester (19 May) and Fuse Art Space, Bradford (20 May).

– Spencer Grady

For more details and ticket information visit www.outlands.network

Ella, Nina, Billie, Dee Dee – figures so distinguished that we can often get away with using first names only. If we're talking women in jazz, the powerful lyricism of these great vocalists is often the first thing on our minds. While some of these legends were also fine players, the instrumental side of female-led jazz would appear to be much more meagre. A somewhat distressing stat comes courtesy of Deirdre Cartwright, compere of this special night at 100 club: women constitute only 5-6% of jazz instrumentalists. It's an uphill struggle, and much more has to be done to get women engaged, in the crowd and especially on the stage.

That said, there are notable green shoots emerging from the UK landscape, aided by events like this and hopefully indicative of a new wave of female jazz artistry. To name but a few – Camilla George, Nubya Garcia, Yazz Ahmed and Nérija are some of the most exciting acts around, regardless of gender.

And it doesn't stop there. This event, organised by Help Musicians UK and Independent Venue Week, turned the spotlight to Helena Kay (above) winner of HMUK's Peter Whittingham award, and Jasmine Whalley (below), saxophonist for Leeds-born group 'Tête de Pois'. Kay leads her 'KIM Trio' assuredly – sharp, jaunty improvisation and telepathic interplay between sax, bass and drums. Tête de Pois have a Snarky Puppy-esque eclecticism to their approach. A rich sound emerges as seven talented musicians lob genres into the communal melting pot.

Tetes-de-pois-photo-Darren-Russell-011

One hitch was the absence of headliner Laura Jurd – afflicted by that uncommon but not unheard-of barrier to entry: food poisoning. She'll be back. Her band, led for the night by trumpeter Chris Batchelor, responded emphatically with a grooving run through some classic tunes. It's a shame that there weren't a few more female musicians performing, but those that did provided a great taster for what could, with more events like this, be a breakthrough year for women in jazz.

 – James Rybacki – @james_rybacki

– Photos by Darren Russell

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