Revered bassist/producer Marcus Miller is set to embark on his first ever full UK tour this October with dates at major concert halls in England, Scotland and Ireland, in support of his newly released Blue Note album, Afrodeezia. One of today’s leading electric bassists, Miller is best known for his nine-year collaboration with Miles Davis and his role writing and producing what many consider to be the trumpeter’s last great album, Tutu, while his star studded CV as a sideman, producer and film composer includes work with Herbie Hancock, David Sanborn and Lalah Hathaway.

Miller performed the music from Afrodeezia at his blistering EFG London Jazz Festival gig last November, much of it inspired by his role as spokesman for UNESCO’s Slave Routes Project, drawing links between traditional African music and Afro-American jazz, soul and funk. The bassist has only played a handful of dates around the UK in recent years yet his band have headlined many major European jazz festivals.

UK dates are: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (19 Oct); Sage Gateshead, Gateshead (20 Oct); Usher Hall, Edinburgh (22 Oct); Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (23 Oct); Cork Jazz Festival, Ireland (24 Oct); Barbican, London (26 Oct); Corn Exchange, Cambridge (27 Oct); and Town Hall, Birmingham (28 Oct).

– Mike Flynn

This year’s annual Record Store Day is held on 18 April and will feature a number of special vinyl jazz albums which are being released as limited editions for the day. Now in its eighth year Record Store Day has done much to focus attention on independent record stores and also to drive the burgeoning interest in vinyl, which has seen sales grow dramatically since RSD began.

Among the special jazz releases is a double Carlos Garnett Anthology on Soul Brother Records compiled from his Muse recordings and three limited edition 10in LPs from acclaimed archive experts Resonance Records, including Hammond organ legend Larry Young Selections from In Paris – The ORTF Recordings featuring previously unreleased radio sessions from 1965; Wes Montgomery Selections from One Night In Indy from an unreleased 1959 Indianapolis jazz club, and Stan Getz and João Gilberto Selections from Getz/Gilberto ’76 featuring an unreleased show from San Francisco’s Keystone Korner in 1976.

Concord are releasing the second volume of Miles Davis The Prestige 10-Inch Collection, a special box set of five Miles Davis 10inch LPs on the Prestige label from the 1954 in original sleeves. Other vinyl albums being specially released for RSD include the Curtis Fuller Quintet Bluesette, Thelonious Monk London Collection Vol.2, Sun Ra Calling Planet Earth and Jaco Pastorius Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years. Record Store Day specials can be purchased from all official RSD independent stores.

– Jon Newey

For full store participants visit www.recordstoreday.co.uk

A blast of dry ice heralds Polar Bear are taking to the stage; they stand motionless amid the swirling smoke, as the Komedia’s low ceiling and dim lighting combine to give this the air of a proper underground event. “Last year’s album felt like night-time,” murmurs Seb Rochford with his characteristic mixture of authority and diffidence, “this one feels like daytime… but we’re playing it at night… so just ignore anything I say”

Then we’re off – an atmospheric wash of Leafcutter John’s electronica over which Mark Lockheart plays a stark, plaintive melody accompanied by ghostly effects from the heavily treated bass; the sound is at once mournful and epic and strangely reminiscent of the opening of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. An electronic pulse begins, and Rochford breaks into a loping groove, his kit augmented by deep-toned marching drums and trashy cymbals, sounding in sharp focus amidst the haze of reverb-drenched sonics; Tom Herbert joins in on bass, and the track takes shape into something like a spectral calypso, with the twin saxophones creating an echoing stereo attack, until it fades away into a blast of white noise while the band solemnly put down their instruments and the audience seem uncertain whether to applaud.

PB-komedia2

This set is a continuous, slow-builder; the next track to emerge from the sonic haze features both saxes playing folky pentatonic melodies over bowed bass, until the drums rejoin with a similar low-slung lazy pattern; there’s a hint of Weather Report at their most pastoral, coupled with the spirit of dub reggae at it’s most abstract. This latter strain is even stronger in the next piece, where the band join in a sombre chant of ‘Don’t let the feeling go’ that evokes memories of 1970s rare-groove mavericks Cymande, before Pete Wareham steps forward from the shadows and builds up a real head of steam with a sax solo that’s an accumulation of fragments of melody mixed with howls and shrieks, rising to a peak of intensity that draws roars of approval from the crowd, followed this time by an unstoppable tide of appreciation.

The merchandise table is selling specially made dog-tags with the proceeds to go to a charity promoting unity and understanding in the troubled US city of Ferguson, and the final track this evening is introduced as “all about unrelenting and unconditional love”; it’s flavoured with electronic jingles that recall the cosmic excursions of another musical prophet of unity, Pharoah Sanders, and propelled forwards by Herbert’s fat-toned bass.

All the material is from the new album, and played at the exact same tempo, to hypnotic effect; the audience demand an encore and are rewarded with a faster-paced track from the back catalogue that builds into a frantic skronk before dissolving into a sonic frenzy. Despite the host of echoes of other music, there’s no other band on the scene today delivering a show quite like Polar Bear.

– Eddie Myer
– Photos © Michael Putland www.michaelputland.com

The second Jazz FM awards are fast approaching on 10 June at Vinopolis, but there’s still time to cast your vote in three important categories: Live Experience of the Year; UK Jazz Act of the Year; and Album of the Year. The nominees in these public voting categories are:

Live Experience Of The Year

Which Live Experience do you think was the event of the year?

  • Loose Tubes at Cheltenham Festival
  • Blue Note 75th Birthday at EFG London Jazz Festival
  • Jamie Cullum at Love Supreme Festival

UK Jazz Act Of The Year

Who do you think deserves to be crowned UK Jazz Act of the Year?

  • GoGo Penguin
  • Sons of Kemet
  • Polar Bear


Album Of The Year

Which of these records do you think should pick up the Album of the Year Award?

  • Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint
  • Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities
  • D'Angelo – Black Messiah
  • Dianne Reeves – Beautiful Life
  • Polar Bear – In Each and Every One
  • Troyka – Ornithophobia


Click here to cast your votes

The winners will be announced at the awards, which are presented by Jazz FM and produced by Serious, and also include the following categories: Breakthrough Act, Instrumentalist of the Year, Jazz Innovation of the Year, International Jazz Artist of the Year, Blues Artist of the Year, Soul Artist of the Year, Vocalist of the Year and Lifetime Achievement – to be presented to Hugh Masekela. The South African trumpet legend will also perform at the awards with pianist Larry Willis, with other performances still to be announced.

The full list of winners will published here on the Jazzwise website.

Acclaimed pianist Keith Jarrett is set to celebrate his 70th birthday on 8 May with the release of two new albums on his longtime label ECM. The first is a live solo piano album, entitled Creation, which will be released on 11 May, and features highlights from 2014 concert performances in Japan, Canada and Europe. Rather than focusing on a single-evening’s improvisational process, Creation instead comprises of the musical highpoints of concerts in Tokyo, Toronto, Paris and Rome.

This album will be accompanied by the simultaneous release of a newly issued archival classical piano recording, Samuel Barber/Béla Bartók, from 1984 featuring Jarrett, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies and the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kazuyoshi Akiyama. The latter concert saw Jarrett return alone to the stage of the Kan-I Hoken Hall to play an improvised encore that is also featured on the album, which additionally includes liner notes by Keith Jarrett and Paul Griffiths.

Another ECM artist marking a significant personal milestone is Jarrett’s longstanding bassist Gary Peacock as he turns 80 on 12 May and also releases a trio album, Now This, the day before. Featuring pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron, the album was recorded last summer in Oslo and features new versions of Peacock compositions such as ‘Moor’, ‘Vignette’, ‘Requiem’ and ‘Gaya’ alongside new material, plus pieces by Copland and Baron and a version of Scott LaFaro’s ‘Gloria’s Step’.

Heading up this strong tranche of releases is a new album from influential New York saxophonist Tim Berne and his acclaimed ‘chamber jazz’ band Snakeoil, with You’ve Been Watching Me, released on 27 April. The core line-up of clarinettist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith are joined by new member, electric/acoustic guitarist Ray Ferreira, who adds atmospheric sounds and spiky interjections.

– Mike Flynn

For more info www.ecmrecords.com

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