Ambrose-Akinmusire-Live
Ambrose Akinmusire
begins with a strengthening trumpet solo, which becomes a woozily falling, bugle-like cry. A quick cymbal-shiver, and his high school friend Justin Brown brings in the rest of his quintet, newly including Charles Altura, a guitarist of meditative delicacy. Even lacking Muna Blake, the child who on its recorded version lists black Americans recently killed by cops and vigilantes, ‘Rollcall for Those Absent’ feels elegiac. Then it merges into ‘As We Fight’, and Akinmusire’s single-note screams into the stratosphere coalesce into combination-punches of clean, bright power. The rhythm section roils beneath him, Brown creative in the spaces between Sam Harris’ less busy piano. Akinmusire’s alternation between post-bop blitzes and soulful introspection makes this the sort of night Ronnie’s was made for.

The 32-year-old Oaklander writes back-stories for his tunes, made explicit by vocalists including Cold Specks on his second Blue Note album, The Imagined Saviour Is Far Easier to Paint. The complexity of thought suggested by this process, and by such floridly poetic titles, can fill his records almost to bursting. Watching him live makes it plain how much he also belongs in the small-group lineage that began in Blue Note’s pomp, and a trumpeter-bandleader roll of honour reaching back even further.

A private, intuitive duet sometimes seems at work between Akinmusire and Brown, as when the trumpeter makes his runs keep pace with the drummer’s beats during ‘Vartha’, while Harish Raghavan’s double-bass weaves between them. ‘With Love’ sees Akinmusire roll his eyes before launching into rapid, flickering trills over the rhythm section’s buzzing backdrop. A week earlier, at Cheltenham, he paused between musical thoughts, of which he has more than most. Here, he surges through the gears.

The sell-out crowd is mostly young, suggesting Akinmusire is becoming a figurehead. He’s at his strongest when he is most simply emotional, though, and his tone touches that of Miles. ‘Regret (No More)’ is an almost solo blues, with just Harris’s piano in murmuring support. Akinmusire is hushed, breathy and melancholy. He inspects his trumpet between each sally, as the exposed heart of his playing draws you in. Later, Altura’s slow, lucidly reflective phrasing leads to another elegy from the trumpeter of long, low notes. At such moments, the air seems to clear and the surroundings fall away from his potency in the spotlight.

There’s excitement to match the quiet power. Akinmusire takes a little jump as he launches into ‘Milky Pete’, named after Altura’s favoured milk-and-vodka tipple (“quite disgusting,” the trumpeter shudders). Akinmusire starts more snatched and percussive, while Harris switches to keyboard to stab Morse-code riffs. Brown grits his teeth to soar into hard-smacking, kit-roaming overdrive, and his leader’s fingers blur as they almost strum the valves to keep up with the staccato funk.

They finish with a slurred, soft-stepping blues stroll, with Raghavan on slowly walking bass and the tune sliding, like this is the last jazz band on the Titanic’s tipping deck. After a long day when plane delays barely let them make this gig, they play way over time. They still leave you feeling there’s more to come.

– Nick Hasted

– Photo by Tim Dickeson

 

anoushka-lucasThe Love Supreme Jazz Festival is fast approaching – taking place in the idyllic setting of Glynde in the Sussex countryside from 4 to 6 July – and the closing date to enter the festival’s Discovery Competition is this coming weekend on 18 May. The winner will have the chance to perform on the same bill as the likes of Dave Holland’s Prism, Christian McBride Trio, John Scofield’s Überjam Band, Jamie Cullum, Laura Mvula, Gregory Porter and De La Soul. They will play twice over the weekend, opening the festival on 5 July 2014 before playing a later show on the Matua Sessions Stage, a new stage debuting at Love Supreme 2014.

Solo artists and bands can enter via the festival’s Facebook page here. Those wishing to enter should submit: a YouTube (or similar) link of one track being played live; a SoundCloud link of an audio file of the same or a different track to demonstrate a higher quality recording; and 300 word 'covering letter' telling the festival about the act. The closing date for submissions is 18 May 2014.

A shortlist of the best acts will be chosen by a panel consisting of Jazz FM, Serious and Incognito frontman Bluey with the final shortlist open to a public vote via Facebook from 25 May to 7 June 2014 with the winner announced on 9 June 2014.

Last year’s winner, singer Anoushka Lucas (pictured above), explained how performing at the festival helped her: “Winning the Love Supreme Discovery Competition was a huge breakthrough, giving me immediate press coverage, as well as having my winning song played on Jazz FM.”

For more info and tickets go to www.lovesupremefestival.com

 

Rising star, Belgian-born London-based jazz vocalist, Gabrielle Ducomble, whose repertoire ranges from contemporary jazz to French popular song, plays UK dates commencing in May to showcase her latest album, Notes from Paris which launched at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in February.

Ducomble’s band features guitarist Nicolas Meier, accordionist Dan Teper, double bassist Nick Kacal and drummer Saleen Raman, and their performances will include new arrangements of well-known French classics by Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.

Dates are: Wakefield Jazz at Wakefield Sports Club, Wakefield (30 May); Fleece Jazz, Suffolk (6 June); North Devon Jazz, Devon (16 June); St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall (17 June) and Cleethorpes Jazz Festival, Cleethorpes (27 June).

– Gemma Boyd

 

moran-glasper
A spellbinding duo of revered bassist Dave Holland and jazz piano maestro Kenny Barron, top US vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and a stellar piano summit between Robert Glasper and Jason Moran (pictured above) celebrating 75 years of Blue Note records are among the latest tranche of concerts to be confirmed for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival that runs from 14 to 23 November at a multitude of venues across the capital.

This 22nd edition of the festival, which is sponsored by Jazzwise, continues to reflect the immense diversity of today’s international jazz scene at concert halls, clubs and free stage spaces around the city over ten busy days and nights. Bassist Holland recently returned with his impressive Prism jazz-rock quartet but here will show his dynamic all-acoustic side in a specially convened duo with pianist Barron (pictured below) and support from pianist Jeremy Monteiro (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 21 Nov). Three-time Grammy Award winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater also appears at the QEH (15 Nov), along with other newly confirmed QEH concerts including a rare appearance by the Dedication Orchestra big band (2pm, 15 Nov) that’s driven along by acclaimed South African drummer Louis Moholo Moholo and features the likes of Evan Parker, Keith Tippett and Jason Yarde; plus a hotly anticipated concert of global-jazz sounds from Beirut-born trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf (19 Nov).
Dave-Holland-Kenny-Barron-1

Legendary New Orleans singer/pianist Dr John is set to headline the Barbican (15 Nov), with his Tribute to Louis Armstrong show that’s featured on his forthcoming Concord album, while fiery fusion guitar icon John McLaughlin will rock the Royal Festival Hall with his hard-hitting 4th Dimension Band (20 Nov). Inimitable Italian singer-songwriter Vinicio Capossela brings his acclaimed mix of gruff Tom Waits’ style balladry and folk roots to the festival for the first time (RFH, 16 Nov). The Southbank’s Purcell Room has a strong series of concerts throughout the festival kicking off with a scorching improv duo of sax terroriser John Butcher with drummer Mark Sanders (14 Nov); continuing with gypsy jazz ensemble Hot Sardines (15 Nov); and two Purcell Room shows from mesmerising former Miles Davis percussionist Marilyn Mazur (pictured below) who performs a family matinee (2pm, 16 Nov) and her Spirit Cave set with Norwegian soundscapers Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset (17 Nov).

Sophisticated jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit brings her Julie Garland-inspired Hello Bluebird set to Cadogan Hall (19 Nov), while versatile UK keys man Steve Lodder brings his intriguing Tied Up With Strings project to The Forge in Camden (19 Nov). One of the most mouth-watering prospects of the busy jazz week has to be top US pianists Robert Glasper and Jason Moran’s imaginative double-piano tribute to Blue Note Records in the label’s 75th anniversary year (RFH, 22 Nov), which they premiered in New York in January this year. Glasper will later be joined by his band of bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave and guitarist Lionel Loueke who will be recasting the label’s iconic back catalogue in a new 21st century light.

– Mike Flynn


For more info and tickets go to www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

 

TD-KurtElling-11
With optimistic weather firmly in place and the Montpellier Gardens site festooned with flags, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival kicked off its weekend programme with a circus swagger as the massed pomp of the Guy Barker Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra pitched up at the Big Top venue for a special broadcast of BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night. This now traditional festival opener upped the ante this year with a triumvirate of three of the hottest contemporary jazz singers, Kurt Elling, Liane Carroll and Curtis Stigers, who tore into the prohibition era Hoods, Horns and Hooch theme with spirited individual and collective performances of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, ‘Stormy Weather’, ‘Someday You’ll Be Sorry’, ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and a rumbustious Louis Prima medley, suggesting that these three should step out again rather soon.

TD-Loose-Tubes-32
The
talking point of the weekend was of course the return of Loose Tubes, marking 30 years since their formation and more pertinently 24 years since their last gig together. What could have been one almighty disappointment was soon all too obviously a triumph, with the multi-coloured maverick monstrosity back in force. The 21 members sauntered on to the vast Big Top stage to be greeted by a 1,000-strong crowd, and proceeded to deliver in spades. Old favourites ‘Yellow Hill’, ‘Säd Afrika’ and ‘Exeter, King of Cities’ all sounded as resplendent and brightly hued as the band’s shirts, Ashley Slater’s disco-ball style shoes and Eddie Parker’s black and white striped trousers which must have been visible across most of the Cotswolds. Yet it was the new Radio 3 commissioned material that showed how the band have moved with the times as spiky themes, such as Parker’s cool-toned ‘Bright Smoke, Cold Fire’ and Bates’ ‘As I Was Saying…’ shimmered and darted with a steely modern edge. Still playing with an irreverence and self-confidence that fuelled much of the British jazz boom of the 1980s, Loose Tubes sealed things with a simply superb take on ‘The Last Word’, its militant reggae hits stamped with a ripping trombone blast from Richard Pywell. Long may they stay reunited.

TD-Michael-Wollny-04If Loose Tubes did complexity on a grand scale then German piano star Michael Wollny’s trio delved into the dark and enticing corners of his imagination on a thrilling set that was the weekend’s other outstanding performance. Playing music from his new album, Weltentraum, Wollny conjured wonders from the microtonal to the moving, magical and outright mesmerising as he and drummer Eric Schaefer set up a telepathic maelstrom. Viennese choral music never sounded so hip, given a pensively lyrical twist here by the trio on Alban Berg’s ‘Nacht’. Bassist Christian Weber did more than fill Tim Lefebvre’s absence (he’s on the album, but not on the tour) by corralling the white hot spikes of energy that were soon boiling up between piano and drums, Wollny often doubling and quadrupling rhythms over Schaefer’s blitzkrieg of beats. This performance echoed an early Cheltenham appearance by EST in 2002, that augured great things for the Swedish trio; surely bigger stages and much bigger audiences beckon now for Wollny whose trio is arguably one of the very best in the world today.

Cheltenham makes a virtue of diversity so it was Kurt Elling’s suave and swinging Hammond and guitar-fuelled band that found him exploring far more soul-rock directions in one of several gigs in the reinstated Town Hall venue. Denys Baptiste also played to a full house earlier in the afternoon with his Now Is The Time, a gospel inflected wide-screen prequel to Let Freedom Ring, that combines an impressive large ensemble, strings and choir conducted by Harry Brown and sharpened by polemical poetry projections from Lemn Sissay. Brooklyn funk fusioneers Snarky Puppy burnt the midnight oil with a blasting set that felt a little rushed and initially suffered from a harsh sound mix. Not that the largely twentysomething audience seemed to care – this was their gig and they loved it.

TD-Ambrose-Akinmusire-01
The star of Sunday’s programme was Oakland trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire – who linked in Blue Note Records’ 75th anniversary, along with fellow labelmate Gregory Porter, with whom he appeared as a very welcome guest in the Big Top later on. Akinmusire’s archly complex, slightly oblique composing style is sometimes a little too dense on record, but playing to a packed Jazz Arena his music was pushed along by the heavyweight grooves of bassist Harish Raghaven and outstanding young drummer Justin Brown, who added elasticity and great feel to the labyrinthine tunes. Yet it was new piece, ‘Milky Pete’, with its propulsive ostinato melody and densely packed structure that saw Sam Harris dig deep into his Rhodes and had the trumpeter weaving more golden threads on top with another eye and ear opening solo.

The Parabola Arts Centre is such a valuable space away from the headline grabbing artists and perfect for Iain Balamy’s Anorak XL to showcase his outstandingly whimsical themes – ‘Lobster Upgrade Mondays’ and ‘Chompin’ at the Saveloy’ among the highlights – all capped with some excellent solos from himself, Nathaniel Facey, Freddie Gavita and Kieron McLeod, while Dan Nicholls’ Strobes and Thomas Strønen’s Time is a Blind Guide, featuring Kit Downes, were vital components to this outer limits strand.

TD-Anorak-10
Back in the Big Top, drum demigod Billy Cobham made being 70 look easy, as he whipped up a fusion tornado with his Tales From The Skeleton Coast band – flashing around his kit like a man half his age.

Gregory Porter’s strutting soul-jazz love-in at a sold-out Big Top was given some welcome gravitas with the presence of trumpeter Akinmusire. He joined fiery altoist Yohsuke Satoh to create some sublime horn parts, while also stepping up for ‘Song For My Father’, Porter recalling the Horace Silver classic as a formative moment in his early introduction to Blue Note, the label that he’s now signed to. ‘Liquid Spirit’ was rattled off like the hit single it is, but Wayne Shorter’s ‘Black Nile’ from his 1964 Blue Note album Night Dreamer, was as dark and dangerous as you could wish for – Porter scatting with venom, Satoh and Akinmusire following suit on their solos.

In what could well be considered a vintage year the abiding memory will be the return of Loose Tubes, who emphatically seized the moment and made this theirs, and many others, jazz weekend of the year so far.

– Mike Flynn and Jon Newey
– Photos © Tim Dickeson

 

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