BlackTop1
As much an ever changing live workshop as a band, Black Top chronicles each appearance with a number. Tonight chalks up 10 and provides a clear historical base to the event. Core members, pianist Pat Thomas and multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson have been at the helm for the best part of two years and the list of collaborators, from Steve Williamson and Cleveland Watkiss to, latterly, Evan Parker, has given the whole venture considerable gravitas.

The Black Top ‘series’ essentially provides a creative platform for different generations of cutting edge players. Tonight’s incoming personnel, percussionist Ansuman Biswas and flautist Emi Watanabe fit seamlessly into the established framework, and from the outset there is a freedom of expression that brings a welcome thrill factor to the performance. Literally, sound spreads out across the room as Biswas crashes chiming temple bells while walking through the audience to take his place on stage at a customised percussion rig that includes kick and frame drums, bows, cymbals and tablas. Multiplicity of instruments is indeed the guiding principle for each player. Thomas has a keyboard with myriad samples next to the piano, Watanabe ryuteki, nohkan and shinobue wood flutes and Robinson keys, marimba and digital effects.
BlackTop2

All of which means that the quartet has the sonic range of a much bigger ensemble, and the first set is largely centred on the richness of textures that arises from the careful deployment of assembled resources. Although Thomas’ string plucking gives the shifting canvas of sounds a rhythmic drive that is reinforced by Biswas’ tablas, moments of great beauty come from long held ascending single notes, particularly when Watanabe’s piercingly sharp pitches are sensitively cushioned by synthesizer chords coming from both sides of the room.

The impression of stereo lift-off is both unsettling and exhilarating. In contrast, the gurgled beats triggered by Thomas introduce an altogether more danceable energy into the room as some of the lines have a lopsided latin flavour. While there are more percussive responses from Biswas the music stays interesting precisely because not everybody sees this as the ‘hands in the air’ techno moment. Robinson, in particular, remains admirably restrained, throwing minimal flashes of marimba into the equation when one might expect a player of his ability to be more expansive. The understatement works.

BlackTop3
Nonetheless the ‘groove’ climax does arrive, and, subversively, it is after the players have switched off the programming. Joined in the second set by another special guest, trombonist John Harborne, the ensemble probes patiently at the fragment of a phrase that gradually curls out into a rhythm, and with great stealth, Robinson sneaks in a hypnotic staccato bass line on the giant thumb piano on which he is perched. As we know, there was once a dance called the ‘Black Bottom’.

– Kevin Le Gendre    

– Photos © Roger Thomas  

ornette-albumA rare Ornette Coleman album, To Whom Who Keeps A Record, featuring outtakes from the period covering Change Of The Century in 1959 and This Is Our Music in 1960, is amongst the latest batch of 50 Warner Jazz reissues released on 6 May from the Japanese ‘Jazz Best Collection 1000 yen’ series, originally launched last summer with 100 reissued titles. Selling in the UK at mid-price (£5.99) these albums come in the original Japanese jewel-box packaging with replica artwork and Obi strip.

Chico-HamiltonSo far this welcome and substantial reissue programme has included a number of hard to find items and the latest batch keeps the standard high. In addition to the Coleman album above, which was only previously released in Japan, there are hard to find gems such as Joe Harriott Double Quintet Indo Jazz Suite; Chico Hamilton A Different Journey (pictured); Miroslav Vitous Magical Shepherd; Chico Freeman Tradition In Transition; Pat Martino Joyous Lake; Yusef Lateef The Gentle Giant; and Alice Coltrane Eternity as well as titles from Mose Allison, Hank Crawford, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Eddie Harris, Herbie Mann and many more.

For more info go to www.warnerjazz.co.uk/jazz100 

 

Tori-FreestoneBusy UK-based jazz indie label Whirlwind Recordings is set to showcase two double-bills featuring four artists from their increasingly eclectic roster with shows at The Forge in Camden and The Pheasantry, Kings Road south west London. The first of these at The Forge on 22 April features a double album launch from rising star saxophonist Tori Freestone (pictured), who plays music from her new trio album, Chop House, alongside bassist Dave Manington and drummer Tim Giles, plus a second performance from trumpeter Rory Simmons’ Monocled Man who launch their debut album, Southern Drawl. This burgeoning trio also features adventurous Troyka guitarist Chris Montague and exciting Kairos 4tet drummer Jon Scott all tearing it up on free flowing mix of jazz-rock-into-electronica sounds.

Monocled Man also head out for several more dates following the launch gig also playing at the Amersham Arms, London (29 April); Hare And Hounds, Birmingham (26 June) and Jazz In The Round at the Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, London (30 June). The Tori Freestone Trio also play a series of UK dates at the following venues:Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft, Suffolk (6 July); St Ives Jazz Club, St Ives, Cornwall (29 July); and Sound Cellar, Poole, Dorset (31 July).

Patrick-CorneliusThe second Whirlwind double-header takes place at
The Pheasantry on 29 April and opens with a set from the jazz-folk-edged Bannau Trio, which features vocalist Nia Lynn alongside virtuoso flautist Gareth Lockrane and versatile keyboardist Ross Stanley, performing music from their recent album Points Of View. Also appearing that night will be New York-based altoist Patrick Cornelius (pictured) who leads his powerful Quartet that includes Whirlwind label boss Michael Janisch, New York-based drummer Paul Wiltgen and pianist Ross Stanley. Saxophonist Alex Garnett will be guesting with the band for some the set, which will feature music from Cornelius’ two Whirlwind albums, Fierce and Infinite Blue.

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to www.whirlwindrecordings.com 

 

Roger-BeaujolaisVenerable vibes veteran Roger Beaujolais sets out for UK dates with his longstanding quartet this month following the release of his Mind The Gap album last year that drew on Brazilian influences as well as Wes Montgomery and Chick Corea tunes. The Beaujolais Quartet includes pianist Robin Aspland, bassist Simon Thorpe and drummer Winston Clifford, all who played on the album, and will appear with him at the following venues: The Woodman, Sevenoaks (7 May); The Eagle, Rochester (11 May); Grimsby Jazz Club (14 May); Jazz North East, Newcastle University (15 May); Wakefield Jazz Club (16 May); Capstone Theatre, Liverpool (17 May); The Cast, Waterdale, Doncaster (18 May); Riverhouse Arts Centre, Walton-on-Thames (30 May); Harrow Arts Centre (6 June) and Cheltenham Jazz Club (13 May).

 

charlotte-glassonContemporary jazz and fusion multi-instrumentalist, Charlotte Glasson and band, embark on a Jazz Services supported UK tour to promote their sixth album, Festivus, at the end of April. The band features Charlotte on saxes, flutes, violin and saw, Mark Bassey on trombone, Chris Spedding on guitar, Mick Hutton on bass and steel pans and Sam Glasson on drums / percussion, and repertoire will comprise of Charlotte’s originals which embrace a broad spectrum of influences, from New Orleans and ska to world music.

Glasson has performed all over the world and received the Best Newcomer Award at the 2009 Marlborough Jazz Festival. Dates at: The Verdict, Brighton (29 April); Cambridge Modern Jazz at Hidden Rooms, Cambridge (4 May); Live Jazz At The Crypt, London (16 May); The Woodman, Sevenoaks (21 May); The Red Lion, Birmingham (23 May); The Jazz Cafe, Newcastle Upon Tyne (28 May) and Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea (30 May).

– Gemma Boyd

For more info go to www.charlotteglasson.com

 

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