A globe-trotting celebration of all things improvised and alternative dreamt up by members of funky experimental jazz-prog band WorldService Project, Match&Fuse Festival ended its three-night run in suitably explosive style on Saturday night, with a total of nine bands playing alternating sets at east London venues Café OTO and the Vortex. After appearances from the likes of Shabaka Hutchings and James Allsopp on Thursday and Friday, it was down to young Norwegian improvisors Wolfram Trio to kick-start the finale. Alto player Halvor Meling hurled himself straight into the action, letting fly with scrambling lines and altissimo wails, as drummer Jan Martin Gismervik carved into his high-hat, leaving Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson’s bass to provide some warmth amidst the frostbitten sonic tundra.

From there, shifts in colour and intensity, twisted bass harmonics, broken swing and passages of nordic melancholy held the audience transfixed. There were new sounds too. Over the patter of Gismervik’s fingertips on the snare, Dietrichson used the heel of his bow to create trembling harmonics, before grabbing a cloth from behind the fingerboard and sliding it down the strings to make them shiver and scream. He broke his bridge in the process, to wild applause, and left Gismervik and an exhausted looking Meling to wrap things up.

Over at Café OTO the dream start continued with a performance from the Lana Trio and special guest John Butcher. Sparser and more brooding, their improvised set featured rasping drones from trombonist Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø and some superb contributions from Butcher that sounded uncannily like birdsong. But then the quality took a dip. Prog-outfit Twinscapes and Edinburgh-based trio Free Nelson Mandoom Jazz (no joke) favoured volume over interest and variety, an approach that wore thin pretty quickly. Jazz troupe Lunch Money were better, splashing dancey beats through puddles of electronics, and an improvised set from Monkey Plot and reeds-player Frode Gjerstad brought some nice moments, though the development felt a little forced rather than spontaneous and organic.

But when The Physics House Band (pictured top), an experimental trio featuring Adam Hutchison on bass, Sam Organ on guitar and an ear-defender clad Dave Morgan on drums, took the stage we were back in business. A series of thunderous hooks and apocalyptic drum fills left a room full of headbangers battered, bruised and elated. Ears ringing, I made it back to Café OTO for The Eirik Tofte Match&Fuse Orchestra, an improvising ensemble featuring performers from across the festival.

Their midnight march between venues was a highlight, largely because of the look of bewilderment and abject horror on the faces of passersby and the hilarity that ensued when the band – plus audience, plus enterprising Gillett Square alcoholics, some of whom had been swept up in the proceedings – had to force their way back into the Vortex despite the best efforts of the bouncer. It was an act that the last group of the night, the double trombone-wielding quintet Snorkel, couldn’t quite follow. A chaotic centre piece in a brilliant finale, it put a smile on my face that even a 3am night bus and the drunken antics of a man in immodestly low-slung sweatpants failed to extinguish, and it’s hard to think of a bigger compliment than that.

– Thomas Rees

The music of the jazz greats – from Scott Joplin and Benny Goodman to Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock – is celebrated at four special shows this autumn at London’s St James Studio, located in St James Theatre, Palace Street, London W1. Hosted by JBGB Events, the ‘Wonderful Music of the Jazz Greats’ series follows the successful four Jazz Divas concerts presented earlier this year and will feature the music, stories and anecdotes of these jazz legends. The Wonderful Music of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw is on Saturday 18 October featuring clarinetist Mark Crooks with guitarist Colin Oxley, pianist John Pearce, bassist Dave Chamberlain and drummer Matt Home.

Herbie Hancock’s music is honoured on 1 November with pianist Simon Browne’s Beyond Cantaloupe including trumpeter Fredie Gavita, saxophonist Kevin Flanagan, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Lewis Wright, while Scott Joplin and the Ragtime Masters is celebrated on 15 November by pianist and ragtime expert Keith Nichols with clarinetist Trevor Whiting and guitarist/banjoist Martin Wheatley. The series finishes with a triple-hit on 29 November when music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley is in the capable hands of pianist Chris Ingham’s Rebop, including trumpeter Paul Higgs, saxophonists Colin Watling and Kevin Flanagan, bassist Arnie Somogyi and drummer George Double.

– Jon Newey

For more details visit www.stjamestheatre.co.uk

carmen-lundy-new

Now an essential part of the capital’s jazz calendar, this year marks the fifth birthday of Georgia Mancio’s acclaimed ReVoice! Festival as it runs over 12 nights from 9-20 October. Kicking off this Thursday at its first regional concert at Watermill Jazz Club in Dorking with renowned UK vocalists Claire Martin and Joe Stilgoe (9 October), this year’s festival features the inimitable Carmen Lundy (pictured top), the dance-oriented duet of Vinx and Lee Payne, a film noir-inspired show from singer and actress Sandra Nkake, Christine Tobin, Claire Martin, Ian Shaw, Lianne Carroll and more.

It also extends beyond London for the first time, taking in Dorking’s Watermill Jazz Club and The Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds while it concludes at the 606 Club in Chelsea. Mancio explained the reason to reach out beyond the festival’s usual Dean Street locale: “They’re about the people who run them and the people who go, and the fantastic atmosphere they create. They’re so up for listening and engaging, and they’re so warm – like a wave of energy you get back.”

Highlights this year also include US soul-jazz-looping singer/percussionist Vinx and English tap dancer Lee Payne with their Hands, Mouth & Feet show, striking French/Cameroonian singer songwriter Sandra Nkake, and a rare four shows over two club nights from Grammy-winning US star Carmen Lundy backed by a trio led by revered keyboardist Patrice Rushen.

Georgia-MancioAs well as curating the event Mancio (left) performs each night on the opening set and has lined up another ambitious series of collaborations as she performs each night with the likes of Andrew McCormack, Tom Cawley, Michael Janisch and Gareth Lockrane among others.

The festival continues at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho for nine-nights with a double bill each night topped by: Rebecca Parris (10-11 Oct); Diana Torto/John Taylor/Julian Siegel (12 Oct); Liane Carroll/Ian Shaw/Georgia Mancio (13 Oct); Christine Tobin’s Deep Song (14 Oct); Vinx/Lee Payne (15 Oct); Sandra Nkake’s Shadow Of A Doubt (16 Oct); and Carmen Lundy with Patrice Rushen Trio (17-18 Oct).

The event then closes out over two nights with Belgian-born singer Gabrielle Ducomble at the Hunter Club, Bury St Edmunds (19 Oct) and then a trio of Georgia Mancio, Sara Colman and Randolph Matthews at the 606 Club, Chelsea (20 Oct).

Of all the international artists that Georgia has programmed at ReVoice!, two in particular have stood out. “Jhelisa Anderson, because her performance skills were so immense. Something in me changed because of seeing her - she made me feel braver. She and Beady Belle, or Beate (Lech), both have it – they’re just so brave on stage, so totally immersed in the music, but in such an honest way. They’re both fantastic singers, but I think it was as much the performance. Everything was so well executed but it didn’t seem contrived in any way. The other thing about Beate were the levels, the gears that she had. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that – she just kept pulling out more and more expertise. We all talk about jazz and why there is not more of an audience for it. Well, I think that’s a lot to do with it, the performance – the way it’s presented and the way you put it across with confidence and really believe in it.”

– Peter Quinn and Mike Flynn

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

jared-lawson

Two sold-out nights at an iconic British venue for an American artist, who barely six months ago, was a complete unknown says many things about the geo-commercial mechanics of the modern music industry. Firstly, as the Portland, Oregon vocalist-pianist Jarrod Lawson acknowledges, the support lent to him by media and audiences in London has been a significant factor in the upswing of his fortunes. Secondly, the act of putting music on iTunes can pay dividends in the long term. Thirdly, real talent will out. With the deafening buzz surrounding these gigs and the imminent release of Lawson’s eponymous debut album, he has to show and prove, and he does so and then some, pretty much from the downbeat.

The string of tracks from the album – ‘Music And Its Magical Way’, ‘Sleepwalkers’, ‘Together We’ll Stand’ and ‘Everything I Need’ – match if not top the beauty of the studio performance, and the heavily jazz-inflected soul, with myriad chord changes, shifts of tempo and melodic richness, has the audience on-side in no uncertain terms. Executed by a very able band [drums, bass, guitar, two backing vocalists] augmented by the impressive flugelhorn player Farnell Newton, the music comes alive by way of Lawson’s precise, well-measured lead vocal, which often works the falsetto range without cheap tricks and harmonises excellently with the other singers.

With refreshing honesty, Lawson name-checks Donny Hathaway, which makes perfect sense given the blend of intricacy and emotion in his material but the other legends that spring to mind are George Duke, for the piquant Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and Don Blackman, for the combination of subtlety and earthiness in the song structures. The use of the lower reaches of Newton’s horn as an effective counterweight to the high flutter of the vocals is an artistic choice that Blackman himself may have appreciated, but if Lawson fits neatly into this historical lineage then more recent references are also appropriate.

Some of the more ecstatic, edgy unison vocals recall a certain Lewis Taylor while the beauty of the writing makes a Frank McComb comparison also inevitable. In fact, Lawson was actually asked to fill in for the latter on a Capital Jazz cruise gig a few years ago, and given the fact that McComb, and Taylor, for that matter, have been maddeningly AWOL it goes without saying that the new singer on the block appears to be filling something of a gap. Talking of which, Lawson does one sole cover: ‘One Mo Gin’ by none other than D’Angelo. What price a D’Jarrodlo duet if the sugar man ever brings his voodoo back?

– Kevin Le Gendre

See the live stream of the gig below:

After the months of work that went into arranging charts, assembling musicians and arduously sourcing outmoded sounds to recapture the cold, ambient textures that underpinned David Bowie's Low and 'Heroes' LPs of '77, Dylan Howe's resulting, swing-licked Subterranean - New Designs On Bowie's Berlin album was a five-star success. Even Bowie himself went as far as to crawl out of hibernation to commend the drummer's efforts, deeming the record “top notch”. Then Howe pushed the panic button by booking a tour to road-test his raw, yet meticulously multi-layered record live, and the punishing work schedule resumed.

But here, all those rehearsals later, in an appropriately-arty venue, on a dim-lit stage, against a huge screen showing scratched-up visuals of '70s Berlin, tonight's band rolled out the record with ease. From the opening bars of the album's ghostly title track, Howe's faint, but fidgety swing feel appeared almost wired to a restless hook from double bassist Dave Whitford, leaving pianist Ross Stanley to plant gentle chords in the spaces unoccupied by Steve Lodder's sci-fi-style synth work.

Completing this A-list line-up for this Kings Place appearance, saxophonist Andy Sheppard played magnificently, slouched back into the dense, dry ambience on stage, concocting soft, scribbley lines away from the mic, or leaning in to max out melody lines with Stanley. A drum break-built ‘Weeping Wall’ (which was dramatically complimented with old, bleached clips of the Berlin wall behind the band), was trailed by a ruthless arrangement of Bowie rarity ‘All Saints’, throwing the band into a full-pelt swing out. With Stanley, Sheppard and Howe now firing on all cylinders, the piece could have passed for a passage from Coltrane's ‘Resolution’, had it not been for the some electrifying, laser-guided synth gymnastics from Lodder that prog-star Rick Wakeman would have approved of.

As the screen flickered and flipped to fuzzy films of German military camps, checkpoints and car factories, another frantic ride cymbal pattern sprung ‘Neukoln (Night)’ to life. Soon growling with low, strummed bass, the tune's dark, descending theme - a mess of soprano sax, strident piano and a ghostly, sustained celeste-style synth sound - swirled around the room.

Later, the familiar strains of ‘Art Decade’ and ‘Warsawa’ stirred real excitement amongst the Bowie nuts, the latter launched by Howe executing strong timpani-style tom rolls with mallets and Whitford clung to a single-note drone. Sheppard approached the bleak, repetitive melody here with long breathy lines against the flutter of brushes, presenting Stanley with a runway in which to slowly build what could have been the solo of the night.

By the time Lodder ushered in ‘Moss Garden’ mimicking the original with samples of running water and koto, the whole hall was hypnotised. This trance-like state from the off could account for some great solos tonight drifting by without applause, which for a typical jazz gig would appear atypical. But this was no standard jazz show. This was Howe's live eulogy to Bowie, his moment of glory, a great reading of a real rock standard, rolled out with such ease and conviction it should be seen to be believed. By both jazz heads and Bowie buffs alike.

– Mark Youll (review and photo)

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