Arguably the unknown quantity at this year’s edition of Georgia Mancio’s excellent ReVoice! Festival, French singer Sandra Nkaké also has an uncommon stage presence. With a high auburn Mohawk figure, black halterneck and red trainers she recalls both the heyday of Neneh Cherry and Grace Jones, and certainly has much of the theatrical, choreographic prowess of the latter. Although stationed behind a keyboard-sampler with duo partner Jerome Dru, who also has the same electronic hardware as well as a flute, Nkaké extends long arms, tilts head and raises shoulder to visually underscore many of the songs and generally looks as much like an actress singing a script as a singer evoking the ways of an actress.

Interesting as this visual element is it in no way overshadows the wonder of Nkaké ’s voice, which has a weighty, full-bodied tone and an operatic upper register in which notes are thinned out and embroidered into existence like lengths of ornate silk. Generously, the singer gives a lot of space to Dru who takes several smart solos on the delicate woodwind instrument, often floating upwards in sync with Nkaké ’s voice. Among the original songs an untitled improvisation at the close of the evening is memorable but it is the string of covers that takes up the bulk of the set that really hits home. David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ is a touch on the flashy-cheesy side but enjoyable; Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women’ is harrowing and uplifting in equal measure; The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ slightly camp fun as the singer-keyboardists tuck into the slow moving backbeat with aplomb.

SandraNkake MG 3952

However the highlight of the evening is a brilliant reading of Terry Callier’s brave, uncompromising tale of prostitution, ‘Dancing Girl’, in which Nkaké’s subtle rephrasing of the melody gives the song a sunlit slant that is a vivid counterpoint to the sobering lyric. Musically all of the above benefit from good arrangements with the live playing and programmed beats working well against Nkaké’s delivery, though there are nonetheless limitations.

More variety in the drum sequencing and an expansion of the mostly minor chordal base would have been welcome. Yet there is sufficient character in the singer’s voice and enough chemistry between her and Dru to sweep along an audience more than happy to agree that the musique was magnifique.  

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Roger Thomas ©

The ReVoice! Festival continues until Monday 20 October – for more details go to www.revoicefestival.com

A memorial service for the legendary trumpet and flugelhorn player, Kenny Wheeler, is to be held at St. James Church, Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London W2 3UD on Friday 31 October.

The service, which is open to members of the public, commemorates the celebrated musician, composer, bandleader and educator who passed away aged 84 on 18 September, and will feature music by Wheeler’s big band and quintet, and contemporary vocal ensemble, The London Vocal Project.

In addition to readings and remembrances, there will be tribute performances by many long-standing collaborators and friends of the veteran player, including fellow trumpeter Henry Lowther, saxophonists Evan Parker, Stan Sulzmann and Julian Argüelles, singer Norma Winstone, drummers John Hollenbeck and Martin France, pianists John Taylor and Glauco Venier, and double-bassist Chris Laurence.

“Our family has been so touched by the outpouring of emotion and support over the last month.”, said Kenny’s daughter Louanne and son Mark, “We invite everyone who would like to come along to celebrate the life and music of our Dad, and say a final farewell to him in the company of a great number of his favourite musicians.”

The service will commence at 2.30pm and is free to attend.

– Steve Owen

Rising star bassist and bandleader Max Luthert releases his debut solo album, Orbital, on Whirlwind Recordings on Monday 27 October ahead of a five-day UK tour in January 2015. Known for his work with Zara McFarlane and for his long-running work with acclaimed trio Partikel, Luthert has brought together a strong lineup featuring Seb Pipe (alto sax), Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Matt Robinson (piano), Dave Hamblett (drums) and Partikel band-mate Duncan Eagles (tenor saxophone), and will launch the album at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho on Monday 20 October 2014.

The Orbital project features nine original compositions written for a sextet of flute, alto and tenor sax plus rhythm section. Building on his contribution to the success of Partikel’s two well-received albums – 2010’s eponymous debut and the follow-up Cohesion in 2012 – Luthert’s solo album reflects his strengths as a composer as much as a bassist. Following the launch of the album, which is released on 27 October, Luthert will kick off 2015 with a UK tour at the following venues: Ashburton Jazz Club, Devon (18 Jan); North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore (19 Jan); The Spotted Dog, Birmingham (20 Jan); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (21 Jan); SoundCellar, Poole (22 Jan); Sheffield Jazz Club (23 Jan); and Modern Jazz Club, Southampton (25 Jan).

– Steve Owen

For more info go to www.whirlwindrecordings.com/max-luthert/

Mercury Prize nominees Polar Bear are to make a rare West Country appearance when they top the Calstock Jazz and Blues Festival later this month alongside a special duo performance by Claire Martin and Ian Shaw. The festival, which is located in the pretty Cornish village of Calstock, runs from 23-26 October with main performances at Calstock Arts in the Old Chapel and events and workshops taking place around the village.

The festival opens with ‘Songs from a Small Train’ featuring local composers, singers and the Calstock Big Jazz Choir at St Andrews on 23 October. Claire Martin and Ian Shaw perform a special 70th birthday tribute show to Joni Mitchell in the Old Chapel on 24 October; Craig Milverton presents Jazz Piano Legends and guitarist Antonio Forcione plays in a duo with percussionist Adriano Adewale at the Old Chapel on 25 October and Polar Bear close out the festival on 26 October, also at the Old Chapel. The band will also perform at the Mercury Prize awards ceremony at the Roundhouse in Camden on 29 October when the winner will be revealed live on Channel 4 at 10pm.

– Jon Newey


For more information and ticket details visit www.calstockjazzfestival.co.uk

British improv sax giant Evan Parker is set to mark his 70th birthday year with a momentous week of gigs at two venues close to his heart, The Vortex and Café OTO, both in London’s Dalston. Internationally acclaimed for his boundary pushing saxophone techniques and his relentless creativity Parker will perform in seven different line-ups over as many nights beginning on 20 October at Café OTO in a unique meeting with renowned Australian improv trio The Necks. Things then move to The Vortex with a busy triple bill that sees Parker duet with saxophonist Joe McPhee, and a trio of US drummer Chris Corsano and UK bassist John Edwards, then a final quartet featuring all four musicians (21 Oct).

The rest of the week then features Parker with Eddie Prévost and John Tilbury (Café OTO, 22 Oct); in a trio with Black Top plus a trio with John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble (The Vortex, 23 Oct); a trio with guitarist John Russell and John Edwards (Café OTO, 24 Oct); with Trance Map featuring Matt Wright on electronics, cellist Hannah Marshall and bassist Barry Guy (The Vortex, 25 Oct); and finally Parker performs with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble (Café OTO, 26 Oct). A limited number of seven-day passes are available at £70.

­– Mike Flynn


For more info see www.vortexjazz.co.uk or www.cafeoto.co.uk

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