Piano trios, don’t cha just love ’em! Reports that the past decade’s deep infatuation with the format was beginning to fade would appear to be somewhat premature given the results of the Jazzwise Albums of the Year Critics Poll 2014, where three piano trios are placed firmly in the top five positions.

At number two, Phronesis’ highly kinetic live album of new material, Life To Everything, cements them as today’s preeminent Scandi-Brit piano trio as they continue to expand their horizons in Europe, America and beyond. But it was the Michael Wollny Trio’s dark, subconscious journey through dreamworlds, Weltentraum, that took pianist and composer Wollny’s increasingly inspired vision to a new level of performance and imagination, and grabbed a well deserved Album of the Year accolade in our annual poll, where 10 points are awarded to first place down to one point for 10th place.

Congratulations also to Christine Tobin and her superb interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s songs, A Thousand Kisses Deep, which nailed the number three spot. And for the second year running, Miles Davis tops the Reissues/Archive chart – but when Columbia turn out archive projects as magnificent as this Fillmore set, who’s to argue?

TOP 20 NEW RELEASES 2014

1 Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum ACT

2 Phronesis Life to Everything Edition Records

3 Christine Tobin A Thousand Kisses Deep Trail Belle


TOP 20 REISUES AND ARCHIVE 2014

1 Miles Davis Miles at the Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol 3 Columbia Legacy

2 Herbie Hancock The Warner Bros Years 1969-72 Warner Rhino

3 Sun Ra and His Arkestra In the Orbit of Ra Strut

To see all the results and the full New Release and Reissues/Archive Top 20s click here to subscribe, save money and get a great EST CD Free

The line up has been announced for the 11th edition of the Gateshead International Jazz Festival that takes place at the Sage Gateshead from 10-12 April 2015, and includes an impressively diverse bill topped revered UK big band Loose Tubes and US stars David Sanborn, John Scofield and Joshua Redman. The programme features a wide range of artists from the cutting edge to the likes of popular acid jazz Hammond crew James Taylor Quartet, soul-jazz singer Ruby Turner and rising star US singer/keyboardist Jarrod Lawson.

Anarchic 21-piece band Loose Tubes (above) made an emphatic return this year with a series of triumphant performances including dazzling headline concerts at Cheltenham and Brecon jazz festivals and a much-talked about week at Ronnie Scott’s. Their appearance at Gateshead goes some way to dispelling rumours that Brecon was going to be their last ever gig, and with the line up still featuring many founding members including Django Bates, Iain Ballamy, Ashley Slater, Chris Batchelor and Eddie Parker, and sounding better than ever, let’s hope 2015 sees more from them. The group headlines the closing night’s programme with support from Andy Sheppard and Rita Marcotulli.

Celebrated US saxophonist David Sanborn appears as part a double bill with American guitar guru John Scofield who is joined by British-born, New Orleans-based pianist Jon Cleary on a set of blues, gospel and jazz. Stellar sax man Joshua Redman also appears with his trio of Reuben Rogers and Greg Hutchinson, and superb hard-driving bebop septet The Cookers are another welcome addition to the programme.

alice zawadzkThere are plenty of top British names on the bill too with a performance of the late great Stan Tracey’s timeless take on Under Milk Wood led by his son Clark Tracey on drums and saxophonist Bobby Wellins, while virtuoso pianist Gwilym Simcock performs his ‘Move!’ suite with the Royal Northern Sinfonia. A new generation of leading female jazz artists also appear throughout the festival including rising star singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki (pictured), Northeast singer Zoe Gilby, a trio of saxophonists
Cath Roberts, Rachel Musson, Julie Kjaer and cellist Hannah Marshall.

There are experimental sounds too from cult Australian trio The Necks, compelling Norwegian saxophonist turned operatic tenor Håkon Kornstad and his new project, the brilliantly irreverent Dutch trio Tin Men and the Telephone and edgy powerhouse UK big band Beats & Pieces play music from their hotly anticipated new album.  

The full programme is as follows

FRIDAY 10 APRIL

Hall One, 7.30pm

Double Bill: David Sanborn plus John Scofield and Jon Cleary

Hall Two, 7.30pm

Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood

Hall Two, 10.30pm

Jarrod Lawson

Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 10.45pm

Tenor Battle: Jazz vs Opera with Hakon Kornstad

SATURDAY 11 APRIL

Hall Two, 2 pm

Gwilym Simcock and Royal Northern Sinfonia

Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 2.30 pm

Tin Men and The Telephone Family Show

Hall One, 7.30pm

Double Bill: Ruby Turner and James Taylor Quartet

Hall Two, 8pm

Joshua Redman Trio

Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 7.45pm

Women Make Music Double Bill: Zoe Gilby and Alice Zawadski

Hall Two, 10.30pm

The Necks

Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 10.45 pm

Beats and Pieces

SUNDAY 12 APRIL

Hall Two, 2pm

The Cookers

Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Jaleel Shaw, David Weiss, George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 2.30pm

Tin Men and The Telephone

Hall One, 7.30pm

Loose Tubes plus Andy Sheppard and Rita Marcotulli

Northern Rock Foundation Hall, 7.45 pm

Women Make Music 2 Sloth Racket & Musson-Kjaer-Marshall


– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.sagegateshead.com

Armenian piano sensation Tigran Hamasyan is set to make a dramatic debut for the Nonesuch label with his new album Mockroot, which is set for release on 26 January 2015 and sees him join the label’s roster that includes Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau (and his electronica duo Mehliana) and Pat Metheny. With a growing international fanbase thanks to the success of his pervious album Shadow Theater, which combined Tigran’s strong melodic ideas with a wide range of influences, early listens to Mockroot suggest he’s taken his folkloric roots further into fusion-edged dance and electronic territory.

He’s joined by bassist Sam Minaie and drummer/electronics man Arthur Hnatek on the heavy-grooving set that mashes up thunking Monk-into-fusion jazz-rock riffs with Hamasyan’s vocals floating on top along with vocals from Gayanée Movsisyan on 'The Roads That Bring Me Closer to You' and ‘Song for Melan’ plus Areni Agbabian on ‘Rafik’. His sixth album to date, Mockroot looks set to consolidate his position as one of Europe’s rising piano stars as he continues to tour extensively on the Continent, Russia and the US. T
he new album features a contrasting set of new material by Hamasyan, as well as his arrangements of traditional Armenian songs, ‘Kars 1’ and ‘Kars 2 (Wounds of the Centuries)’. See teaser trailer for the album below.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.tigranhamasyan.com


Birmingham’s Big Bear Music has announced the winners of the 28th British Jazz Awards with the likes of  Soweto Kinch, Alan Barnes and Steve Waterman coming top of some of the 12 solo instrument categories, alongside two band and two trade awards for record labels.

Drawn from a total of 53,738 votes were cast by 3,822 voters, with the most votes for a winning musician in any category going to Mark Nightingale winner of the Best Trombone category with 1,423 votes.


The winners are as follows:


TRUMPET
1. STEVE WATERMAN
2. Enrico Tomasso
3. Bruce Adams
4. Steve Fishwick
5. Freddie Gavita

ALTO SAX
1. SOWETO KINCH
2. Pete King
3. Alan Barnes
4. Derek Nash
5. Sam Mayne

TROMBONE
1. MARK NIGHTINGALE
2. Dennis Rollins
3. Roy Williams
4. Ian Bateman
5. Mark Bassey

TENOR SAX
1. KAREN SHARP
2. Simon Spillett
3. Art Themen
4. Robert Fowler
5. Alex Garnett


GUITAR
1. JIM MULLEN
2. Martin Taylor
3. Nigel Price
4. Dominic Ashworth
5. Remi Harris

MISCELLANEOUS
1. JIM HART [VIBRAPHONE]
2. Alan Barnes [Baritone Sax]
3. Chris Garrick [Violin]
4. Amy Roberts [Flute]
5. Gareth Lockrane [Flute]

BASS
1. ALEC DANKWORTH
2. Dave Green
3. Len Skeat
4. Andrew Cleyndert
5. Al Swainger

VOCALS

1. LIANE CARROLL
2. Tina May
3. Claire Martin
4. Anita Wardell
5. Lauren Kinsella

CLARINET

1. ALAN BARNES
2. Pete Long
3. Julian Stringle
4. Mark Crooks
5. Shabaka Hutchings

PIANO

1. DAVE NEWTON
2. Zoe Rahman
3. Nikki Iles
4. Gareth Williams
5. Reuben James

DRUMS
1. STEVE BROWN
2. Seb Rochford
3. Bobby Worth
4. Ralph Salmins
5. Clark Tracey

RISING STAR
1. REUBEN JAMES
2. Remi Harris
3. Laura Jurd
4. Alan Benzie
5. Ben Holder

BIG BAND
1. BBC BIG BAND
2. NYJO
3. Back To Basie
4. Beats & Pieces
5. SNJO

SMALL GROUP
1. DIGBY FAIRWEATHER'S HALF DOZEN
2. GoGo Penguin
3. Brassjaw
4. Tipitina
5. Polar Bear

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

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