As this stylish unit gathered on stage at Surrey’s Watermill Jazz Club, and the tinny din of an old Oscar Peterson record was promptly faded out on the house PA, it was questionable what grabbed the hall's attention first: drummer Moses Boyd's crisp, sock-style hi-hat intro to 'Ornithology', or the band's natty suits.

Whatever it was merely lit the fuse to a two-hour show that packed in 20-plus of the 40-plus tunes Charlie Parker recorded for the Dial label between 1946 and 47. Each one freshly re-arranged and informatively introduced by pianist Alex Webb, and brought to life by a crack band fronted by the "man with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders", altoist Nathaniel Facey.

From the get-go the show swung hard throughout, but the first set was noteworthy in that it rolled out most of Bird's biggies first. 'Ornithology' was tailed by the ever-seductive sax melody to 'A Night in Tunisia’, which, over a clattering cowbell and tribal tom-tom rumba lick from Boyd, snaked across the beat in unison with trumpeter Freddie Gavita.

Completing the line-up was Alex Davis on double bass, and guitarist Jo Calee, who lent a heavy, finger-picked solo to the swing section on 'Tunisia', before resuming his light rhythm duties over house-favourites 'Moose the Mooch' and 'The Gypsy'. The latter was a lush ballad that heard Facey shine, effortlessly emulating the sluggish and breathy style on Parker's original, to mesmerising effect.  

While most focus fell on Facey, whistles and applause greeted solos from the whole band. Boyd, who for the bulk of the gig was satisfied to simply sit back and swing, dug his heels into 'Cool Blues', breaking out triplet licks around the kit with whipcrack accuracy, before laying an infectious second-line-style march under Davis during a bluesy 'Relaxin' at Camarillo'.

'Dexterity' (similar to 'Moose' in that its melody is stitched to the changes of Gershwin's 'I Got Rhythm') brought some equally potent playing from Allen and Webb. Trading fours and flexing their bop chops over the tune's busy theme, they remained fixed on Boyd's quarter-note ride cymbal pulse, which would drive them home, and eventually into a sassier 'Scrapple from the Apple'.

Playing a mellower Miles than blazing Diz to Facey's Bird, Gavita blew well throughout, particularly in unison with the saxophonist, or over sweet muted-horn ballads like 'Old Flame'. But he often lacked the fire and conviction that high-energy numbers such as 'Quasimodo' or 'Crazyology' demanded, struggling sometimes to cut through such ruthless accompaniment, especially when soloing.

All in all though, Webb's gig to honour Parker proved a continuously exuberant ride. From the side of the stage, when not occupied in his position tonight as leader, pianist and tell-all-tale-spinner, Webb resembled a proud dad, smiling, as he surveyed the fine young talent he'd brought together for this show. A more-than-befitting tribute to Bird, performed by a band as razor-sharp as those suits.

– Mark Youll

 

Following their triumphant headlining appearance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May and their subsequent sold-out week at Ronnie Scott’s, Loose Tubes are set to feature in a special edition of Jazz On 3 to be broadcast on Monday 9 June on BBC Radio 3 at 11pm. The programme features all four of their newly commissioned works for BBC Radio 3 – composed by Chris Batchelor, Eddie Parker, Steve Berry and Django Bates – all recorded during their recent residency at the club.

The programme, presented by Jez Nelson, will also feature new interviews with the band members reminiscing about some of their more interesting riders and the band's sometimes-questionable fashion sense.

Jazz On 3 recorded the Thursday night of their six-night Ronnie Scott’s residency and will be broadcasting much of it on Monday – there’s a taster of the music below in the form of Eddie Parker’s ‘Children’s Game’ (that first appeared on their third album Open Letter) – and the programme will be available for seven days after broadcast on the Jazz On 3 iPlayer Page here.

– Mike Flynn


 

Spitalfields Music’s Summer Festival, which runs 6-21 June, brings a vibrant international programme to East London in celebration of early and contemporary music and features two key performances by clarinettist, composer and associate artist, Arun Ghosh. He will be appearing with his expanded 12-piece ensemble the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, who will perform the world premiere of Ghosh’s Spitalfields Suite, a symphonic poem exploring the histories and experiences of immigration to Spitalfields (Shoreditch Church, St Leonard’s, 7 June).

He then performs in his ‘Tales of Tradition & Trade’, which will amalgamate the spirit of traditional work, music hall and pub songs for an evening of interactive communal music-making (Wilton’s Music Hall, London, 12 June). Other highlights include Brazen Hussies featuring Women sing East and their extraordinary leader, Laka D recreating some of their favourite jazz, punk and folk songs, and the Club Inégales band with special guests including Evan Parker and Byron Wallen improvising avant-garde, jazz and contemporary blues styles.

For full festival listings go to spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk


Were it not for the pink neon sign outside, or the hastily hung photographs of jazz greats on the walls, you would think that you were in the wrong place. With its mirrored pillars, mustard coloured paintwork and patterned wallpaper, Sala Clamores feels more like a neglected working men's club than a top draw performance space in a European capital city. But if this first experience of a Madrid jazz venue didn't quite match my expectations, the music – from veteran Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and pianist Dino Rubino – easily exceeded them.

Appearing as one of the headline acts in city-wide music festival Festimad, the duo have only been performing together since 2012, yet they displayed the kind of sensitivity and communication that usually comes from a far longer musical relationship. Trading ideas and basking in the warmth of Fresu's flugelhorn, they segued between playfully rendered standards, including 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Almost Like Being in Love', lilting Rubino originals, and the odd Breton folk song.

Improvisations displayed a similar blend of old and new. At times, Fresu's elegant lines were pure Chet Baker, yet they took unexpected turns with touches of dissonance and sudden leaps in intensity as they broke into the upper register. Accompanied by the click of Fresu's ringed finger on the side of the flugel, Rubino unfurled classic bebop phrases that whispered of the blues, unleashing cluster chords and fistfuls of notes on up-tempo numbers before slipping back into the groove.

Fresu's subtle use of electronics added another dimension to the performance, allowing him to layer and counterpoint his lines while decorating and rounding-off melodies with gentle reverb and puffs of air. Though at times a little clichéd, it provided a welcome change of texture and the only truly misjudged moment of the set was a guest feature from comic Hispano-Italian pop sensation Tonino Caratone who had been lurking in the audience. His strained, over-amplified, vocals on 'Guarda Che Luna' elicited grimaces from around the room, and there was audible relief when we quickly returned to the gently swinging melodies and rolling piano chords of the Italian duo.

Filing out in the early hours, there was a contented buzz among the audience and with my mind on the music I hardly noticed the frayed yellow curtains behind the stage, the crudely painted quavers on the air ducts, or the bewildering abundance of fire extinguishers. With acts of this quality, Sala Clamores can get away with it.

– Thomas Rees @ThomasNRees (story and photos)

 

trish-clowes-enulsion300Saxophonist Trish Clowes launches the third installment of her Emulsion mini-fest tonight as it takes over east London venue Village Underground for two nights from 28 to 29 May. First launching at the Vortex two years ago, then moving to Kings Place in 2013, this third edition continues Clowes’ mission to bring jazz and classical musicians together via a vibrant mix of high-wire improv and specially commissioned music from UK names and international guests.

With funding from Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation, Emulsion III features Food, the ECM-signed duo of saxophonist Iain Ballamy and drummer Thomas Strønen, Clowes’ own group Tangent, Luke Styles’ contemporary classical group Ensemble Amorpha, contemporary vocal group Juice, Dan Nicholls’ Strobes + ByramArt (that combines beat-heavy electronica and improv with projected visuals) and the Emulsion Sinfonietta.

The PRS funding has enabled two new commissioned works: one from guitarist Chris Montague and Clowes for the Tangent group, the second for Ballamy/Strønen’s Food, both of which will be premiered at Emulsion III. The event will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 for Jazz On 3 and Hear and Now programmes.

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to trishclowes.com/projects/emulsion

 

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