Bass master Dave Holland made a rare appearance in the Houses of Parliament last night, Wednesday 21 January, when he played as special guest with the National Youth Jazz Collective at the Youth Jazz concert: an annual event organised by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group in the House of Commons’ Attlee Suite, situated in Portcullis House.

British born but New York-based since he moved to America to join Miles Davis in 1968 after Davis had spotted him playing at Ronnie Scott’s Club, Holland has built a formidable career as a much-in-demand bassist and bandleader with over 20 solo albums, starting with Conference Of The Birds on ECM in 1972, over 19 albums as co-leader and dozens of dates as featured bassist on albums by Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Kenny Wheeler and Anthony Braxton among many others. Holland had been in London for the past week as International Artist in Residence for the Royal Academy of Music’s jazz course: a long standing relationship and commitment to helping up and coming musicians, which this year included a Masterclass and a special performance of his ‘Monterey Suite’ with the Royal Academy Big Band.

Run by artistic director Issie Barratt, the National Youth Jazz Collective is made up of young musicians who are about to or have just started jazz courses at conservatoires across the UK. The standard of musicianship is already praiseworthy and featured in the large ensemble at Portcullis House were trumpeters Alex Ridout and Jake Labazzi; alto saxophonists Alexander Bone and Tom Smith; tenor saxophonist Ash Parkinson; guitarist Nick Fitch; pianist Stephanie Wills; bassist Daisy George; drummer Adam Woodcock; vocalist Ella Hohnen and Jessica Mistry on Indian flute.


Following an opening set by the NYJC, Dave Holland took over on double bass as the ensemble tore into a brisk, often latin flavoured set with captivating arrangements and a lively confidence that belied their junior years. Among the highlights were Asha Parkinson’s anti-war ‘Battles’ and Stephanie Wills’ ‘July’, which provided a surge of summer heat on a freezing winter night. The performance wrapped with a scorching blow through Horace Silver’s ‘Nica’s Dream’ with Holland’s assured melodic depth anchoring and driving the youthful exuberance, particularly a whiplash alto solo from Alexander Bone – a name already recognised by the BBC as the 2014 Young Jazz Musician of the Year. Judging by some of last night’s impressive performances, he won’t be the only one.

– Jon Newey

– Photo by Hayley Madden featuring Dave Holland and the National Youth Jazz Collective together with NYJC director Issie Barratt, Michael Connarty MP, Jazz FM's Helen Mayhew and Jonathan Morrish and Keith Harris of sponsors PPL

The London A Cappella Festival, the first of its kind in the capital solely dedicated to all-vocal groups, runs from 28 to 31 January at Cadogan Hall, The Spice of Life and Kings Place. Its diverse programme ensures that there’s a decidedly jazz flavour to some of its artists, among them are six-piece group Accent (above) whose bandmembers are based across five different countries. Meeting online in 2011 the band were drawn together through shared musical interests, initially arranging music collectively through a private Facebook group and recording individual parts separately (uploaded as a group video). The members finally met in person at the Swedish Umea Choral Festival in June 2014, transforming from a ‘virtual’ group into a live act within three days of intense rehearsal. The group perform two dates, including an intimate warm-up gig at The Spice of Life, Soho (28 Jan) before headlining at Kings Place on a double-bill with MICappella (30 Jan).

Other jazz-orientated highlights include Helsinki-based Club for Five (Kings Place, 30 Jan), a vocal quintet founded in 2001 that have performed alongside the likes of Manhattan Transfer and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In contrast, Countermeasure is a 14-piece vocal group from Canada, led by composer/arranger Aaron Jenson, who perform as part of their first UK tour (Kings Place, 31 Jan). Other groups at the festival include Straight No Chaser (Cadogan hall, 28 Jan), The King’s Singers (Kings Place, 19 Jan), The Swingles (Kings Place, 31 Jan) and Anúna (Kings Place, 31 Jan).

– Jamie Fyffe

For more go to www.londonacappellafestival.co.uk

AlexGarnet MG 0612

Alex Garnett’s Bunch Of Five have an album to plug, a tour underway and a collective sense that they’re on to something very worthwhile. And so it proved at the 606, three dates into the launch of Andromeda, newly out on Mike Janisch’s Whirlwind label, this fast becoming the source of choice for the brightest and best in current jazz-making.

There’s something about the 606 that seems to concentrate minds, for there are no hooray sideshows, and it’s not the setting for the glitterati to strut their stuff. The food is good, the look plain Jane but above all it’s a place centred on the music and this band knew that. With Tim Armacost, his American co-star alongside Garnett, it was a two-tenor affair throughout, the rhythm section of pianist Liam Noble, bassist Janisch [of course] and drummer James Maddren busting a gut to propel these front-liners [and themselves] to jazz heaven.

Club gigs mean players can stretch out, enabling Noble in particular to captivate the onlooker with his very distinctive keyboard ruminations, while Janisch seemed about to fall into mortal combat with his bass at times and Maddren thought up an infinite variety of percussive interjections. Better than the album? Well, yes, but that’s the way of live gigs, isn’t it?

AlexGarnet MG 0550

Inevitably with a Garnett appearance, there was humour in abundance, Armacost confessing that however many times he heard the gags they were always different. That said there was no tenor coasting from AG, or TA, for that matter. Chunky lines like ‘So Long’, the two heard as one kicked hard, the American taking the motorway route, running fast but going straight, while Garnett looked to go off-road, taking in rhythmic bumps and diversions, his tone darker, as the spirit built.

Each title had its story, Garnett explaining that his compositions reflected the 20-year span of his association with Armacost, this taking in ‘Charlie’s World’ for his son and ‘Delusions of Grandma’, for a malapropian friend [you had to be there!] the latter the ultimate in ferocious, two-tenor shout-ups, yet almost eclipsed by ‘This Will Be’, a Chris Potter piece, which revealed yet again Maddren’s inventiveness and Noble’s enigmatic, sometimes Monk-ian touch.

This was stirring, virtuosic music by masters of the art, up on their toes and going for it. A case of the right music in the right place and I’m glad I was there.

– Peter Vacher
– Photos by Roger Thomas

The band continues its tour this month and next at the following venues: St James Social Club, Swansea Jazzland, St James Crescent, Uplands, Swansea (21 Jan); The Coronation Tap, 8 Sion Place, Clifton, Bristol (22 Jan); Wakefield Jazz Club, Eastmoor Rd, Wakefield (23 Jan); The Cube Deda, Chapel St, Derby (6 Feb); and The Progress Theatre, The Mount, Christchurch Road, Reading (2 April).

Click here to pre-order the album from the Whirlwind Recordings website

Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco returns to the UK at the end of January for concerts in Glasgow, London and Edinburgh. He appears with his Blue Lamp Quartet at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, plays a duo concert with last year’s Parliamentary Jazz Award winning Singer of the Year, Christine Tobin, and opens with a gig at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar.

Blanco’s gig at Celtic Connections on Sunday 1 February reunites the Venezuelan with three of Scotland’s finest musicians – the Brazilian-born bassist Mario Caribe, alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow, of horn quartet Brass Jaw, and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s drumming powerhouse, Alyn Cosker – who formed the Blue Lamp Quartet with Blanco to great acclaim and five-star reviews from The Scotsman and The Herald newspapers at Aberdeen Jazz Festival in 2007.

A musician who particularly enjoys working with singers (he has recorded and performed with Grammy-winning vocalist Luciana Souza as well as featuring alongside Dave Liebman, Donny McCaslin and Lionel Loueke), Blanco was so impressed with Christine Tobin’s vocal quality and her recent, award-winning album of Leonard Cohen songs, A Thousand Kisses Deep, that he invited her to join him at the Vortex on Wednesday 4 February in a programme of duets and solo piano pieces. He will also play with Caribe, Towndrow and Cosker at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on Friday 30 January.

– Rob Adams

For more info go to www.leoblanco.com/en/

William Blake once wrote, “Energy is Eternal Delight”. This aptly describes the feeling after hearing this quartet here last May and audience expectations this week would have been high. They weren’t disappointed. These musicians have played together now for some time and right from the outset they settled in with ease. Not to say that things can be taken for granted. On the contrary, there is an edge and a feeling that they want to take chances – move, prompt and cajole each other into new areas, while retaining a common bond throughout.

It has always been a joy to watch and hear Louis Moholo-Moholo play – fast cymbal work, trademark African rhythms, free touch drumming – both gentle and aggressive, and the unmistakable urgency of the snare drum. All are here. His relationship with pianist Alexander Hawkins appears to have reached a higher level where they visually direct the music, through eye contact and nuance; saxophonist Jason Yarde alert to the changes. And in the centre stands bassist John Edwards, a pivotal figure capable of playing in all styles, around whom the proceedings revolve, whether in the role of maintaining the pulse, laying down a walking bass line or descending into a rapid flurry of notes, plucked or bowed, often with a smile on his face, and no wonder in this company. His solid platform seems to allow the others the freedom to explore, taking the music out before the snare explodes or a shuddering piano chord reins in the proceedings and signals a change of direction or momentum. This time the freeform cries and soulful lyricism of Yarde’s alto and soprano were augmented by trumpeter Byron Wallen, giving it a slightly different dynamic without losing any of the beauty, eloquence, energy and urgency the quartet are capable of. What was impressive was the range of reference points, from hard bop to free improvisation, via Africa, Hawkins’ percussive approach fitting in with this particularly.

The first set was largely one piece, recognisable by the theme of Louis’ ‘For The Blue Notes’, but like improvised jazz should be, seamlessly morphing into other areas, some structured, some not; the looseness allowing interaction and musical conversation but belying a self-discipline that surfaced with the urge to change. There were passages where the musicians listened and quietly responded, before being drawn together, as in the direct, slightly Coltranesque, ‘Khwalo’. The rhapsodicMark of Respect’wasin the great tradition of Blue Notes/Brotherhood material. Some veered towards the anthemic, as if the spirit of Ayler was in the room. It possibly was. Last year Richard Williams (Blue Moment, May 2014) wrote of the quartet, “personal freedom and group interdependence achieve a perfect unity.” This time it appears to have achieved spiritual unity as well – spirits rejoice!

After showing their approval the audience left, some no doubt to return the following evening, others perhaps to see visions, like Blake, of angels on Peckham Rye. Certainly heavenly bodies were
abroad that night.

– Matthew Wright

– Photo by Tim Dickeson


Music by the Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet can be heard on Hazel Miller’s recent Ogun release OGCD 043 entitled 4 Blokes

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