The final few tickets are now on sale for The London Art Collective’s tribute concert to Sun Ra and his 100th birthday year at London’s The House Of St Barnabas on Monday 7 July.

The collective includes the Black Top duo, Pat Thomas, Orphy Robinson, flautist Rowland Sutherland (pictured), saxophonist Rachel Musson, percussionist Maurizio Ravalico and others who will perform music from Sun Ra’s extensive repertoire.

This exclusive, and probably explosive, performance, in affiliation with The House Of St Barnabas charity for homeless people, is part of a series of three summer jazz evenings that will take place in The Chapel at The House Of St Barnabas, Greek Street, London, W1. For more info go to hosb.org.uk

– Tom Wright

 

Arts Council England have announced its funding plans for 2015-2018 and while funding for many National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) that support and promote jazz either remains stable or has been newly awarded, significantly Jazz Services has not been granted any money for this period, having previously received funds in the region of £340,000 per annum. John Norbury-Lyons of Jazz Services told Jazzwise that it’s “business as usual” until March 2015 and the organisation will be launching an appeal against the decision while this statement was posted on the Jazz Services website:

“The Arts Council England today released its funding portfolio for the period 2015-2018, and unfortunately Jazz Services has not been selected to receive NPO funding from April 2015 onwards. Jazz Services is obviously extremely disappointed with the decision. This is a huge blow to the UK’s jazz artists, promoters and audiences, as without Jazz Services’ extremely popular and successful funding schemes – the National and Rural Touring Support Schemes and the Jazz Promoter Awards among them – it leaves large portions of the country without provisions for funding and support for grass-roots jazz music.

One has only to look to the fantastic support we’ve received from the jazz scene itself to appreciate the worth of what Jazz Services offers. We are the only independent, impartial national organisation representing the interests of jazz across the whole of the UK, and we strongly believe that to cut our funding jeopardises the wellbeing of the music. We will be in talks with the Arts Council to appeal the decision and address a number of factors relating to their response to our bid, as well as continuing to explore alternative funding options as we have always done.

In the meantime, we have just accepted the latest round of National Touring applications for the October-December 2014 period, completed another brilliantly successful Made In The UK series in North America and Canada, and look forward to the latest crop of new artists releasing their debut albums funded through our Recording Support Scheme. With our current funding agreement confirmed until March 2015 we will keep providing for the music while we assess the situation, and Jazz Services will continue to do everything it can to ensure the entire jazz scene is fully and fairly represented on the UK’s musical landscape.”

Successful NPOs in this latest funding round for 2015-2018 include Jazz North who are awarded £190,000; the Manchester Jazz Festival, £90,500; Birmingham-based Jazzlines, £80,000; East Midlands Jazz stable, £77,000; National Youth Jazz Collective, £124,000; Serious, £453,000; and Bristol-based SoundUK, £100,000. New additions to the NPO list are Notting Hill-based Jazz Re:freshed who promote gigs at Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road, London who receive £95,000; the National Youth Jazz Orchestra will now be funded directly (instead of via Jazz Services) receiving £125,000; Café OTO affiliated OTO Projects receives funding for the first time; Brownswood Music, owned and run by DJ/producer Gilles Peterson, is to receive £89,000 per annum; and Tomorrow's Warriors see a 17% increase in their funding to £209,000 per annum.

Many musicians have reacted angrily across social media, and are dismayed at the decision by the Arts Council to cut all funding to Jazz Services – a petition has been et up on Change.org to have the funding cuts reversed - click here to sign the petition.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.jazzservices.org.uk and
www.artscouncil.org.uk

 

Birmingham’s annual Jazz and Blues Festival, which focuses on traditional and mainstream styles, celebrates its 30th anniversary from 18-27 July with 185 performances across 10 days in 70 venues – and most of it is free entry. In what the organisers have described as a city ‘take over’, performances will take place at Victoria Square, The Red Lion, The Kings Head, Berkleys Lounge, Garden House, Blue Piano and many more venues throughout the city.

Highlights include: Bruce Williams Quartet (18 July, Barber Institute of Fine Arts); Simon Spillett Quartet (pictured left, 26 July, The Mailbox); Lady Sings The Blues with Val Wiseman, Roy Williams, Brian Dee, Len Skeat, Bob Sydor and Bobby Worth (19 July, StarCity); Art Themen Quartet (23 July, St Paul’s Churchyard); Derek Nash (25 July, Garden House); Mike Sanchez Band (24 July, The Jam House); Digby Fairweather (25 July, The Kings Head); The Bratislava Hot Serenaders (Slovakia) (21 July, Electric Cinema); Budapest Ragtime Orchestra (24 July, All Bar One); The Magnolia Sisters (Louisiana, U.S.A.) (26 July, Botanical Gardens); and University of Southern Florida Jazztet (19 July, Victoria Square).

– Tom Wright


For more info go to www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

 

Love-Supreme-aerial
With the Love Supreme Jazz Festival about to open its gates this Friday from 4-6 July at its spectacular location at Glynde Place, in the lee of the South Downs near Lewes in Sussex, the running order of performances has been announced, while a partnership with Ronnie Scott’s club has seen the main covered venue renamed the Ronnie Scott’s Big Top. The festival, presented by Jazz FM, has been extended to five stages with the addition of the Matua Sessions stage featuring rising new groups on Saturday and a blues programme on Sunday curated by Jazz FM’s David Freeman. The Bandstand Stage, like last year, will be programmed by Brighton’s Verdict jazz club with a newcomers line-up due to be announced shortly.

The running order is: Friday 4 July – Jazz FM’s Funky Sensation DJs. Saturday 5 July – Main Stage: Jamie Cullum, Incognito, Laura Mvula, Earth, Wind & Fire Experience featuring Al McKay, Snarky Puppy and Natalie Williams’ Soul Family. Ronnie Scott’s Big Top: John Scofield’s Überjam, Dave Holland’s Prism, Lalah Hathaway, Derrick Hodge, Jaimeo Brown, Nikki Yanofsky, Matthew Halsall. The Arena: Omar, Phronesis, Melt Yourself Down, Natalie Williams, The Computers and Ollie Howell Quintet. Matua Sessions stage daytime: Mimika (Discovery Competition winner), J-Sonics, Theo Jackson/Nathaniel Facey Quartet, Georgia Mancio Trio, Miss 600 and Chavo.

Sunday 6 July – Main Stage:
De La Soul, Imelda May, Soul II Soul, Courtney Pine, Alice Russell, José James. Ronnie Scott’s Big Top: Gregory Porter, Christian McBride Trio, Curtis Stigers, Kris Bowers, James Tormé and Slowly Rolling Camera. The Arena: Polar Bear, Hidden Orchestra, Takuya Kuroda, Cecilia Stalin, Mama’s Gun, Laura Jurd, Chloe Charles and Mammal Hands. Matua Sessions Stage: Peter Boss & The Bluehearts, Lily Grieve and Eliot Wenham, Michael Messer, Antonio Forcione, Paddy Milner, Marcus Bofanit, Jawbone, Mark Harrison and Brooks Williams. Jazzwise is media partner for Love Supreme.

– Jon Newey

Final tickets are now on sale and limited numbers of tickets will be on sale on the festival days. For info and tickets see www.lovesupremefestival.com
– see stage times below

 

Marcus-Miller-Maalem-Mustapha
There was jazz: Afro-Caribbean pianist Mario Canonge, in a trio mixing mazurka, zouk and salsa. Lebanese trumpet virtuoso Ibrahim Malouf and an orchestra on everything from electric guitars to Middle Eastern percussion, delivering a you-should-have-been-there set that combined visceral bombast with moments of quiet introspection, outdoors, under a full moon, before a rapt Moroccan crowd.

Marcus Miller – bassist, multi-instrumentalist, one-time Miles sideman – turned in a two-hour performance that variously involving phat acrobatic lines, musings on the likes of Davis’s Tutu and Amandla and thumb-slapping funk excursions marred only by a couple of screechy lead guitar wig-outs.

And then there was jazz: as deployed by Morocco’s Gnawa, the funky hosts of a festival that is now in its 17th year. Having overcome prejudice and terrorism (in 2003 and 2007 it went ahead despite the bombings in Casablanca that devastated the country) and weathered the vagaries of sponsorship (this year the World Cup saw many erstwhile sponsors look elsewhere), the Gnawa Festival is now widely considered the Maghreb’s most exciting and progressive musical celebration.

Back in the 80s and early 90s the likes of Don Cherry, Bill Laswell, Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders saw the crossover potential in the pentatonic music of these Sufi musicians and healers, whose behind-the-scenes lila ceremonies use ritual, trance and colours to cure maladies and bash down the doors of perception.

Such experimental journeys by Cherry et al went down in jazz annals, helping to spark the onstage fusions that have been pivotal to the festival’s success: Pat Metheny, Maceo Parker, Omar Sosa and late greats, conguero Anga Diaz and keyboardist (and another one-time Miles’ collaborator) Joe Zawinul among them.

The Gnawa Festival has embraced its status as a musical laboratory, proclaiming itself the ‘greatest jam session on the planet’. “It’s a great musical rendezvous,” says director Neila Tazi Abdi, a graceful Muslim woman who founded the festival with a far-sighted aim to create an event that would safeguard and promote the music of the Gnawa, which was then dismissed and endangered.

“The festival is unique,” she says. “The music and history of Gnawa gives it a very powerful African anchor that allows us to bring together Gnawa groups and talented musicians from all over the world. They all say it is an unforgettable experience.”

That the Gnawa are now included on the oral heritage list at UNESCO is down to the hard work of Tazi and her all-female team at the Casablanca-based A3 Communications: even if the artists onstage are largely male – and it would be good to see the Sufi sisterhoods better represented – the festival is driven by women. Their accomplishment was further exemplified this year by the release of a long-awaited 9CD anthology – an initiative hatched with the association Yerma Gnaoua that presents the Gnawa as both as an ancestral oral tradition and a mighty musical force.  

The descendants of traders, craftsmen and freed slaves from the Sahelian region of West and Central Africa, the Gnawa were once shamefully marginalised in the way that, say, Romany Gypsies continue to be today. This annual gathering on the Atlantic coast – the most famous of many annual Gnawa gatherings in the Maghreb – is a meeting of clans, an opportunity to perform before a sprawling tens-of-thousands strong Moroccan crowd. A free, freewheeling festival laced with respect for the Gnawa Maalems, the masters of the guimbri bass lute, who perform their stand-alone sets with groups of musicians who beat side drums, clack giant metal cymbal/castanets called krakeb, and dance and leap like martial artists.

This year local hero Maalem Mahmoud Gania played the beach stage, shifting sand dunes and changing ocean currents with his low-toned guimbri vibrations and undulating chants in Arabic and Bambara (check 1994’s Trance of Seven Colours featuring Pharoah Sanders for a taster). Older now, and slower on his feet, his unofficial mantle as the King of Gnawa was challenged by younger pretenders such as Casablanca’s Maalem Hassan Boussou, whose turn over at the Bastion venue at Bab Marrakech included, unusually, a horn section.  

As the son of (late great) Hmida Boussou and the co-founder of the group Gnawa Fusion, Hassan Boussou is used to travelling between pure, traditional ‘tagnawit’ Gnawa music and the modern forms that are helping ensure its longevity. Boussou’s fusion concert with French electro-violinist Didier Lockwood on the main Moulay Hassan stage opened the three-day event and while impressive, lacked the punch of the previous year’s stunning collaboration with Haiti’s Jazz Racines.

The festival’s music programmers – Paris-based Algerian drummer Karim Ziad, French multi-instrumentalist Loy Ehrlich and Essaouira-based Maalem Abdeslam Alikane – have been rigorous in choosing guest musicians and bands (Will Calhoun, Nguyen Le, Wayne Shorter) on the basis of their risk-taking and openness to other musics. But the festival tends to suffer from an overabundance of French jazzers with a fondness for noodling keyboards and overly slick production – why are there not more British artists? Trumpet-player Byron Wallen, say,and vibraphonist Orphy Robinson are no strangers to Gnawa music.

There were lightning bolts, however, when Marrakech-based Maalem Mustapha Baqbou met Marcus Miller (above) in an encounter that saw guimbri and bass guitar recognise and reconnect. Miller – who, like Ibrahim Maalouf is EFG London Jazz Festival-bound in November – replaced the cover pic on his Facebook page with a photo of Baqbou’s Gnawa brotherhood soon after.

Even more powerful was the official closing concert, which brought together Hamid El Kasri, the country’s Maalem du jour, with the Grammy-nominated ngoni–lute player Bassekou Kouyate, over from Bamako in Mali with a band that included his singer wife Amy Sacko and their two sons, Madou and Moustafa.

Urged on by krakeb castanets, the frenetic cries of the tama talking drum and Sacko’s soaring, soul-griot voice (not for nothing has she been called the ‘Tina Tuner of Africa’), the instruments of both men meshed and duelled as if connected by an invisible silver thread. Spontaneous and spiritual, experimental and groove-laden, this was jazz returned to the source, to Africa, via a festival with peace and unity at its core.

Jane Cornwell

www.festival-gnaoua.net/en/ 

 

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