If ever gravitas was needed to close an event with a profile as high as that of the EFG London Jazz Festival then this was it. Tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd in the second set and trumpeter Dave Douglas and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano in the first was more a case of stellar double bill than headliner and support. Perhaps more importantly the combination provided fascinating food for thought on the way in which key historical figures in improvised music pervade the contemporary scene without stifling the creativity of their genuinely progressive scions.

Soundprints, the name of the Douglas-Lovano ensemble, a brilliant quintet driven by the incisive drums-bass twin engine of Joey Baron and Linda Oh and competed by pianist Lawrence Fields, is a thinly veiled reference to Wayne Shorter’s legacy. The mutation of the word ‘Footprints’, a signature piece of one the most tantalising minds of jazz, captures something of the shape-shifting character of he who Miles Davis called “the ideas man”, and fully translates into the music. Lovano and Douglas, intrepid and prolific post-modernists with careers reaching back to the 1970s and 80s when they emerged with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Horace Silver, respectively. They convey all of the structural elasticity and narrative wit beholden to Shorter in their originals and interpretations of new pieces he himself wrote after hearing the group, above all ‘Destination Unknown’, a charged, playfully episodic voyage built on a hovering rhythm and slanting unison lines that break up into all manner of dot dash motifs in a loose 4/4 before tightening into a sharply skipping 6/8. The joyful, dancingly seductive implications of that time signature give way to an atmosphere of profound contemplation when Lloyd, projecting the aura of a kindly yet charismatic sage, launches into his set after the break.

TD-Charles-Lloyd-L-03If the Soundprints group highlighted Shorter’s [and its own] ability to write songs as suites in miniature with abundant harmonic detail packed into a single box of tricks, then this was a suite that was given its full glorious realisation by an artist whose rise to fame in the 1960s, after catching the ear of the rock crowd, was followed by a hiatus in the 80s and triumphant reemergence in the 90s as the ECM icon to match Keith Jarrett, his erstwhile sideman.

On the one hand there appears to be something of a paradox in the work’s title Wild Man Dance insofar as so much of the music hinges on the absolute sensitivity of an ensemble comprising Americans, drummer Eric Harland, double bassist Joe Sanders, pianist Gerald Clayton, a Greek lira player Socratis Sinopoulos and a Hungarian cymbalom virtuoso Miklos Lukacs. Lengthy fanfares in which the whole group teases and massages notes into being rather than pushing them into life are the order of the day, and on many an occasion the beautifully liquid quality of Clayton’s chording allied with that fluttering, feather-in-the air character of Lloyd’s ascending phrases recalls both the saxophonist’s own late-60s landmarks such as ‘Forest Flower’ and the proto-ambient sound of Pharoah Sanders and Lonnie Liston Smith.

Everything seems to be a meditation. Harland releases soft showers of quarter notes from the cymbals and drizzles of percussion from the snare while Sanders alternates short scalar lines and expansive flurries of swing. Yet as the energy levels rise there is never a chance of the rhythmic whirlpool bubbling over. What furthers this sense of the sound simmering is Lukacs’ superb touch on the cymbalom. His high, bell-like pitches often sound intriguingly close to a kind of Delta finger picking guitar that infuses a tremulous bluesiness into the whole performance, and as the suite unfolds he starts to raise the intensity of his attack and act as the other preacher in the metaphorical house of praise that Lloyd brought to the stage.

Lloyd’s engagement with musical traditions from around the world is deeply rooted but so to is his embrace of popular culture, exemplified by collaborations with the Beach Boys and early gigs in R&B combos. So somewhat fittingly the evening concludes with a startling stylistic twist: a crisp, sharp hip-hop groove in which the backbeat is heavy rather than leaden and the very physical sensation of the two beat bass drum pattern hard to resist. Heads are nodding in the second row. The spirits of Robert Glasper and Chris Dave, particularly when Harland fizzes his hi-hat into treble time, float across the room, which is another shot of irony given that Lloyd, like the former, is now a Blue Note artist. If the label is celebrating its 75th birthday this year then it surely has a right to feel energised by the irrepressible youth of the saxophonist of the same age. 1939 was a very good year.    

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Tim Dickeson

First up, it was the intertwined grand pianos of Jason Moran and Robert Glasper, their virtuosic recitative running for something over an hour. From where I sat, Moran had the edge, initiating a boogie line to recall Blue Note’s earliest recordings, as Glasper, his more madcap behaviour under wraps, responded before setting up a series of repeated ‘free’ motifs. Moran is another like Italian pianist Stefano Bollani in having rhythmic energy to spare, tapping and clapping and then erupting thunderously at the keyboard as Glasper underpinned the harmonies. I thought the performance compelling and rewarding; others missed any possibility of duelling and thought it lacked bite.

Any such doubts must have surely been dissipated by the second half arrival of today’s Blue Note players, all bandleaders in their own right, and greeted with a whooping reaction by this packed audience. Lit in stadium fashion and stretched out over the wide RFH stage, they hit hard from note one, tenorist Marcus Strickland and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire leading off on Wayne Shorter’s switchback ‘Witch Hunt’, their melodic projection momentarily recalling Horace Silver’s label days. This was my first live sighting of Akinmusire and it proved to be a hugely impressive introduction to his playing, each improvisation considered yet hot, poised yet adventurous, while Strickland appeared less audacious, always tonally sure and inclined to single note passages before moving into a higher gear.

bluenote-band

Rhythmically, this band was a mover, with drummer Kendrick Scott laying down a carpet of cross rhythms and quick-witted variations. His solo feature was a triumphant display of percussive ingenuity, the twin bass drums setting up a fusillade as bassist Derrick Hodge kept things on an even keel. Akinmusire contributed ‘Iliad’, Strickland more solemn here, its subdued dynamic in pleasing contrast before guitarist Lionel Loueke performed his ‘Freedom Beat’, described by Glasper as like ‘hearing three guitarists and two vocalists at once’; a true tour de force of guitar effects, tapped routines and gritty wah-wah shouts, before he settled into a straight sequence of pure jazz guitar. Strickland’s ‘The Meaning’ gave Glasper a showing, always harmonically pleasing and surprisingly calm. Hodge’s ‘Message of Hope’ was a serene finish, its hook like a balm. Needless to say, this crowd loved every minute. Me too.

– Peter Vacher

– Photos by Tim Dickeson

Norwegian prog-jazz-rock-electronica behemoth Jaga Jazzist are set to celebrate their 20th anniversary with a European tour in late November that includes two rare UK appearances at London’s Union Chapel on 29 November and Bristol’s Colston Hall on 30 November.

The band first emerged in 1994 with a feverish blend of drum and bass, rock, electronica and Zappa-esque jazz brought together by prolific multi-instrumentalist/bandleader Lars Hornveth, alongside his drummer brother Martin and tuba-playing sister Line, while the band (who all play multiple instruments) have also featured other Nordic jazz talents such as guitarist Stian Westerhus and trumpeter/bassist Mathias Eick.

The 20th anniversary tour also visits the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark, while the UK dates will be their first since their barnstorming night at the Barbican in 2012, which resulted in last year’s orchestral tour de force Live with Britten Sinfonia.

The band also mark this milestone anniversary with a stonking limited edition box set (pictured below) featuring a special reissue of their acclaimed debut album A Livingroom Hush, along with four previously unreleased demo tunes, available as an exclusive download to accompany the vinyl set.



Also featured on the set are new remixes of music from Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia by the likes of
Clark, Machinedrum, Teebs, Jonathan Bates aka Big Black Delta, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Moiré, Illum Sphere; and Stockholm's Invader Ace. The box set also features a 28-page booklet of sleeve notes and stunning archive photography charting this renowned group’s 20-years of hugely creative music making. Listen to a stream of Bananfluer Overalt (Clark Remix) below.

– Mike Flynn

For tickets go to Union Chapel and Colston Hall websites and to pre-order the box-set go to www.ninjatune.net

Jazzwise can exclusively announce the full details of a special high profile event, Jazz For Labour: A Concert for Fairness and Diversity to be held at the Barbican on Friday 27 February, which will include names such as Courtney Pine, Claire Martin and Arun Ghosh (pictured above) who are among many major British jazz artists set to perform at this special concert. Inspired by the groundswell of American jazz musicians who appeared at the Jazz For Obama concert at New York’s Symphony Space during the 2012 US presidential campaign that included Roy Haynes, Joe Lovano, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ravi Coltrane, Christian McBride and Geri Allen, Jazz For Labour will take place in the run up to the general election next May.

Other names so far scheduled to appear are: Soweto Kinch, Ian Shaw, Liane Carroll, Gary Crosby, Christine Tobin, Andy Sheppard, John Etheridge, Phil Robson, Jay Phelps, Tim Garland and Dave O’Higgins, with transatlantic solidarity from Darius Brubeck. More artists are still to be confirmed. Former Labour MP and now Parliamentary Candidate, Bob Blizzard of Jazz For Labour says: “It’s great that so many of our best jazz artists want to come together and, through their music, express support for Labour’s values of fairness and diversity that need to prevail at the next general election.”

For more details visit
www.jazzforlabour.org with tickets available from www.barbican.org.uk

jarrett-hamburg72ECM are releasing for the first time on 21 November a previously unissued 1972 live recording, titled Hamburg ’72, featuring the stellar trio of Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian captured at the NDR Funkhaus in Hamburg in 1972. This band, who first played together in 1966, was Jarrett’s first great trio and features him on piano, soprano sax, flute and percussion on a programme that stretches from ballads and bop to free improv and includes an emotional performance of Haden’s ‘Song For Che’.

With such a highly creative rhythm section – Haden fresh from his work with Ornette Coleman, and Motian coming to prominence with Bill Evans’ groundbreaking trio – Jarrett explores his full musical range from exquisite balladry to wild free improv on soprano sax. The tour was set up by ECM and included this concert, which was recorded for German radio. Producer Manfred Eicher returned to the original tapes, remixing the music for this edition in Oslo in July 2014, together with Jan Erik Kongshaug, andwill be available online and in-store in the UK from Monday 24 November.

 
– Mike Flynn

For more info and to order the album go to www.propermusic.com

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