Genre-defying London-based group Collective X, led by singer Alya Al Sultani, are set to launch their debut album Love & Protest this Friday, 11 May, at Stratford Circus, London. Exploring a diverse mix of jazz, funk, hip hop, grime and soul, the band includes many leading musicians from the capital's jazz and improv scenes such as vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson, pianist Pat Thomas, bassist Neil Charles, drummer Mark Sanders and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss MBE. Special guests featured on the night include singer Heidi Vogel and Indian dancer Maryam Shakiba, while there will be an opening set from scorching jazz-rock band Triforce whose soulful take on the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra has made them one of the most-talked-about young bands on the London jazz scene.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit stratford-circus.com

Watch the video for Collective X's 'Take A Moment' below:

Mr-Jukes 87A8142

A blazing afternoon sun, beer-drinking crowds, and smooth electronic beats suggested summer had arrived for Love Supreme at the Roundhouse, a one-day spin-off of the weekend-long festival. The EZH terrace stage drew a relatively young crowd to its bass-heavy beats and synth-led sounds, including keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones and electronic musician-producer Maxwell Owin. Additional instrumentalists, as in the duo's Idiom project, may have made for a more jazz-infused and engaging set, yet sliding between atmospheric spaciness and beat-driven dance, Owin's enthusiastic energy and Armon-Jones' improvisations clearly pleased listeners.

Inside, a Jazz in the Round-curated stage showcased a more jazz-focused line-up, including the Arthur O'Hara Trio (below), featuring O'Hara on electric bass, Chelsea Carmichael on saxophone, and drummer Ed Harley. The young group's sound suggested influences from more established ensembles, including fellow Londoners Sons of Kemet in their rhythmic use of driving saxophone riffs, nicely executed by Carmichael. The set contrasted explosive moments with a cooler minimalism, drawing on rock and funk structures. This trio is still developing, yet has exciting potential; my festival highlight, they are one to keep an eye on.

Arthur-O Hara-Trio 87A6450

On the main stage, sax-centric trio Moon Hooch contrasted starkly. The showy ensemble enthused the crowd with drums, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as synth, vocals, an EWI, a traffic cone, and abundant high-energy dancing and showmanship. They filled the stage and hall with relentless techno-dance rhythms, dipping into metal, playing on jazz phrasing. Perhaps lacking some depth, this was fun and entertaining.

Cory-Henry- -The-Funk-Aposties 87A7627

As the other stages closed, the audience packed the main hall for the remaining performances. Cory Henry's (above) crowd-rousing greetings were a sign of the energy to come; The Funk Apostles dove into smiling, dancing pop-funk that had heads nodding and hips shaking. On originals or a 'Stayin' Alive' cover, this show was driven by the familiarity of pop structure and melody, and charismatic energy. Instrumental solos and occasional electronic effects provided moments of cheeky playfulness, yet lack of deviation from conventional forms was disappointing for a 'jazz festival' headliner.

Mr Jukes (pictured top) followed, launching into upbeat, poppy soul-funk. Led by bassist Jack Steadman, typically short, snappy songs followed formulaic pop structures, with catchy, repeated horn and vocal melodies. The performance felt well-rehearsed, the group together, and the audience content. Improvisations enhanced the orchestrated delivery, but the whole lacked dynamic, heartfelt collective energy and communication.

Love Supreme at the Roundhouse was admirably diverse and intergenerational. Yet this Coltrane-honouring jazz festival emphasised crowd-pleasing dance-pop, obscuring the progressive and innovative with the overwhelmingly safe. The day's sounds lacked risk, the unexpected, the expressive rebellion of jazz. I found myself longing for a sound that was radical and underground: a sound that never arrived.

Celeste Cantor-Stephens

During its unlikely spell as the post-war capital of West Germany, Bonn was the butt of numerous jokes about its size. Its nickname, the Federal Village, says it all. Nowadays it's still too sleepy and provincial to have much of a music scene. But it has history. Beethoven was born here and the ailing Robert Schumann spent his final years in an asylum just outside the city. It's also the base for Germany's national youth jazz orchestra, the BuJazzO, which has been bringing through future stars for the past 30 years. And, if you follow the River Rhine a little way north, you're in Cologne – home to one of Europe's oldest and most highly-regarded university jazz courses; the WDR Big Band; and excellent venues the Stadtgarten and the Loft, whose organisers are doing great things with minuscule budgets.

Numerous players from the Cologne scene, including pianist Pablo Held, were on the bill for this year's JazzFest Bonn, which was founded by dynamic saxophonist Peter Materna in 2010. As were international stars John Scofield, Django Bates and Ed Motta. Not that the festival does headliners. Materna knows how hard it is to build a profile as a musician and one of his philosophies is to give all the acts equal prominence in the marketing material. For the same reason, each concert in the festival's two-week run is a double-bill, and Materna has tried to programme unlikely pairings, to introduce audiences to something new.

Huelsmann-Dell c Walter Schnabel

That's a nice idea in theory. I think the crowd at the Beethoven-Haus, an airy 200-seat recital room adjoining the composer's birthplace, enjoyed local vocalist Inga Lühning and bassist André Nendza's mix of jazz pop covers and originals (complete with groovy beat-boxing and the odd kazoo solo) more than I did. But it was worth it for the second half: a meeting between pianist Julia Hülsmann and phenomenal vibraphonist Christopher Dell (pictured above), two key figures on the Berlin scene playing for the first time as a duo. Piano and vibes is a challenging combination and, with both musicians playing chords and trying to keep on top of the time, the early numbers felt a little rigid. But there were some gorgeous, disorientating moments when the sound of the two instruments blurred and you couldn't tell whose scrambling lines and fractious, close harmonies were whose. And from the balladic 'Weit Weg' onwards everything was freer and more relaxed. Hülsmann cut through the brightness of Dell's vibes on 'Hundert', by damping the piano strings with her hand and playing wiry, percussive figures. And Dell scattered notes like hundreds-and-thousands on his own abstract solo composition, 'Plötzlichkeit', taking tennis swings at the bars and throwing his limbs around like a second set of beaters. For sheer invention there aren't many contemporary vibraphonists who can match him.

Two nights later, after another divisive set of jazz pop (from UK vocalist Julia Biel this time, pictured below), he sounded equally comfortable shredding over minimalist rock grooves with charismatic drummer Wolfgang Haffner and his quartet in the theatre of the Haus der Geschichte. Haffner is a showman and he worked the crowd like a pro: cracking jokes, leaping to his feet in time with the final cymbal whack of each tune, and closing his set with a feature-length version of 'Concierto de Aranjuez', as heard on his latest release Kind Of Spain. It opened with a theatrical bass solo for Christian Diener, incorporated a snare drum feature, and climaxed with bruising chords from Dell and pianist Roberto Di Gioia, as Haffner gave it everything on kit. Cue two standing ovations and two encores.

The most satisfying double concert pairing was also the least surprising – a night at the Brotfabrik cultural centre, which opened with a set from Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund (pictured top). There's an easy-going weirdness to Lund's compositions that distinguishes them from run-of-the-mill post-bop, and a thoughtful air to his playing that I like. He stared into space as he played, cloaking the uneasy melody of 'Brasilia' in a complex nexus of chords and puzzling, unexpected resolutions on 'Suppressions'. 'California' was a balmy feature for bassist Matt Brewer, whose upper register blended beautifully with Lund's guitar. While Justin Faulkner, a prodigious drummer who gave the Branford Marsalis Quartet a new lease of life, tore up a Metheny-ish unnamed composition with a solo full of thundering rolls and crash cymbal cuts. His explosive energy was the perfect foil for Lund's glossy, unhurried calm.

The second half was a gentle, musical conversation between Belgian guitar great Philip Catherine and bassist Martin Wind. They traded melodies and choruses on 'How Deep Is The Ocean', 'But Beautiful' and 'Why Can't You Behave?'. And Wind (a wonderfully melodic player) added some glistening bowed phrases to lesser-known Hoagy Carmichael tune 'Winter Moon'. These three days at JazzFest Bonn felt genteel and both sets perfectly suited that mood.

Thomas Rees 

– Photos by Walter Schnabel (Hülsmann/Dell) and Lutz Voigtländer (Biel/Lage)

For more info visit www.jazzfest-bonn.de

 

Founded in 2004 by 'choreopoet' Jonzi D and still curated by him, this annual celebration of hip hop dance takes a startling turn towards jazz this year. And that makes perfect sense given the longstanding entwinement of the genres. The sight of a 15-piece live band commissioned by Jazz Re:freshed, MD'd by saxophonist Jason Yarde and packed with an array of talent – Orphy Robinson, Jay Phelps, Nubya Garcia, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Ayanna Witter-Johnson (above) to name but some – brings an added surge of excitement to the succession of international crews that take to the stage, which, on the final night of the weekend-long event, has the audience amped with roof-raising energy.

bcsundayboyblue  0261

The aesthetics of each differ considerably, with perhaps the UK's acclaimed Boy Blue (above) being the ensemble whose style has a residue of the slick and seamless 'hoofers' and lindy-hoppers of the swing era, while Holland's The Ruggeds are a brilliantly experimental blend of breakdance and contemporary. As for the other British ensemble, The Locksmiths, they crackle with life. Ditto France's Mufasa, a large company with a vigorous, exuberant African character. In each case, the music provided by Yarde's big band is powerfully appropriate. The hefty stabs of horns, often tightly synced with the movements on stage, particularly for a Jonzi D solo piece where his arm extensions are punctuated by the brass and reeds, impart a fantastically vibrant quality to the performance that underlines the great lineage of orchestra-dancer unions exemplified by the likes of Cab Calloway-Nicholas bros. However, there is also much subtlety elsewhere, and the down tempo, dub-inflected pieces, where guitarist Shirley Tetteh's deft finger-picking is prominent, are a perfect foil for the more sensual routines, in which bodies arch and glide with real grace. 

bcsundayboyblue  023

Most importantly, the band (visible above with Boy Blue) is able to adequately harden its attack as the evening builds to a climax, and as all of the dancers shuffle joyously on stage the sheer weight of numbers finds a striking parallel in the depth of the Afro-funk that galvanises them.

Kevin Le Gendre

Photos by Belinda Lawley

The line-up for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival, which takes place from 16 to 25 November, is starting to take shape with some heavyweight additions now in place. Chief among these will be the powerful UPLIFT group led by eternally questing US trumpeter Dave Douglas (above centre), the band's cutting-edge personnel including iconoclastic electric bassist/producer Bill Laswell, guitarists Mary Halvorson and Rafiq Bhatia, renowned saxophonist Jon Irabagon and rising star drummer/percussionist Ches Smith (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 16 Nov).

Another genre-smashing highlight will be a rare UK appearance by Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar who leads his 17-piece Rivers of Sound ensemble through his impassioned Middle Eastern-tinged vision of contemporary jazz and the musical heritage of his homeland (Kings Place, 16 Nov). With 1970s fusion enjoying renewed popularity, bass hero Stanley Clarke (above left) heads up his feisty young electric band in a double bill with jazz-funk icons the Headhunters, who appear with key original members Bill Summers, Paul Jackson and Mike Clark (Royal Festival Hall, 20 Nov). There's also a mouth-watering reunion of imperious Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen's (above right) epoch-defining Trio with pianist Shai Maestro and drummer Mark Guiliana. They join forces at the Barbican to celebrate a decade since they unleashed their Gently Disturbed album which spawned a new generation of acoustic power threesomes, not least Phronesis (24 November).

Further new additions include bluegrass stars Punch Brothers (Barbican, 16 Nov); composer Bramwell Tovey in collaboration British-Iranian turntabalist Shiva Feshareki and the BBC Concert Orchestra (QEH, 18 Nov); cool piano-led jazz from the Darius Brubeck Quartet (Kings Place, 21 Nov); the creole/folk duo of cellist Leyla McCalla and guitarist/singer Melissa Laveaux (Cadogan Hall, 20 Nov) and the exuberant Jamaican jazz of virtuoso pianist Monty Alexander (Cadogan Hall, 25 Nov).

These artists join those already announced in Jazzwise, who are media partners for the festival, including: Jazz Voice (RFH, 16 Nov); Tord Gustavsen Trio (Cadogan Hall, 16 Nov); Bobby McFerrin (Barbican, 18 Nov); Lea DeLaria (Bridge Theatre, 18 Nov); Elina Duni/Rob Luft (Clapham Omnibus, 18 Nov); Youn Sun Nah (QEH, 20 Nov); Orphy Robinson's Astral Weeks (QEH, 19 Nov); Eddie Parker's Mirrored (Purcell Room, 20 Nov); Myra Melford's Snowy Egret Band (Purcell Room, 23 Nov); Richard Pite's Jazz Repertory Company (Cadogan Hall, 24 Nov); BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 Final (QEH, 24 Nov) and Madeleine PeyrouxAnthem tour (RFH, 24 Nov).

Mike Flynn

For full details and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

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