Packed with big name talent this premier date on the European jazz calendar also has an imaginative edge in its programming that resonates with Tampere’s own rich history. It was here in the early 20th century that there was a general strike that eventually resulted in universal suffrage for the Finns and greater room for manoeuvre under the Russian yoke. So the appearance of Linton Kwesi Johnson at Klubi proves something of a political-cultural coup de théatre.

It is fascinating to see the deep engagement the local audience has with the pioneering dub poet’s bulls eye strikes on the British establishment, in all its violent, racist infamy, which possibly marks a parallel with the misdeeds of Soviet rule in Scandinavia. This standing venue has a much more informal atmosphere than the large seated concert hall of Tullikamarin Pakkahuone – where the likes of Holland’s ICP Orchestra with special guest, American pianist Uri Caine, show how fruitful can be the union of artists from the Old and New World – and fully highlights Johnson’s ability to make people think and dance at the same time.

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At a press conference prior to the gig he had professed allegiance to Charlie Parker and the jazzier strains of a superb backing band led by bass legend Dennis Bovell lend weight to that declaration. With perfect serendipity Django Bates’ Beloved trio keep ‘Bird’ in flight with customary verve; the spooky, almost gamelan-like tones of a keyboard used in addition to the grand piano bringing a startling new colour to the harmonic enigmas. Other worthwhile British representation comes from the raucous and focused Partisans (Phil Robson, above), sharply extrapolating soul jazz and crunching fusion, while Sons of Kemet (pictured top) have their West Indian European folk art down pat.

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Having said that, the array of Finnish acts performing at the intimate Telakka restaurant opposite the main venue is a great advertisement for the country’s improvisers, with the three-drummer ensemble Kallio Slaaki greatly impressing. As for the captivating quartet Liberty Ship (above), led by experienced tenor saxophonist Esa Pietila, it brilliantly recasts the creeping, crepuscular ambiences of electric Miles and Milestone period Joe Henderson for the digital age. This is one of the highlights of the whole four-day event insofar as it keeps listeners rapt during a lengthy, often hypnotic suite that shifts seamlessly from tautly executed grooves to electronic hiss and crackle without ever losing its bold narrative drive.

The gifted multi-reed player Mikko Innanen also makes a strong showing with his large ensemble 10+, blending dense, freewheeling orchestrations with pithy melodic interludes, which again underline the strength of the Finnish jazz scene. This compares favourably to the international acts that had also appeared on the big stage before and after, and although Swedish-Norwegian trio The Thing, Norwegian saxophonist Karl Seglem and American trumpeter Terence Blanchard present moments of raw power and ornate virtuosity all three, diverse as they are, do not avoid sounding formulaic and clinical at times.

More invigorating is the Dutch-German-American quartet Perch Hen Brock & Rain, whose unusual line-up of two reedists, Ab Baars and Ingrid Laubrock, viola player Ig Henneman and drummer Tom Rainey, creates a wide textural palette due to the clever deployment of resources, with the tough little string instrument often playing a strikingly aggressive role as a percussive engine that fires away tirelessly while the horns engage in intricate dialogue. True to its name, the group also produces a spectrum of sounds that vividly evokes nature and the animal kingdom, above all in the shrill, stark bird calls of the tenor saxophones and clarinet and the undergrowth rustlings of the drum kit, which Rainey works with consummate dexterity, leavening his syncopations with off-centre manoeuvres such as dropping a bag full of sticks onto his snare.  

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If programming a jazz festival these days is first and foremost a question of representing the enormous diversity within the genre as well as showcasing its intersection with other forms then artistic director Juhamatti Kaupinnen is to be commended for his choices. Two inspired gigs by A-list international acts sum this up neatly: Indian percussion maestro Zakir Hussain (above) and Norwegian psycho-gypsy-pop mavericks Farmers Market. Both close the gap between extremes. In the former’s case 18-beat tala cycles and Morricone; in the latter’s 11/8 Balkan folk and Michael Jackson. Both get a whole lotta love.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photos by Maarit Kytöharju

Whirlwind Recordings is set to release three serious bass-led projects from rising star UK bassist/bandleaders Euan Burton and Max Luthert, plus a funk-laden set from renowned Headhunters bass man Paul Jackson.

Too Much Love is Glasgow-born Burton’s follow up to his first Whirlwind album Occurrences (2012), and features an all-Scottish band of alto saxophonist Adam Jackson, pianist Tom Gibbs and powerhouse drummer Alyn Cosker on a set of lyrical originals by the bassist. London-based Max Luthert also consolidates his position as an increasingly in-demand sideman, with the likes of Zara McFarlane and Partikel, and now bandleader with the release of his WWR debut Orbital, which showcases his wide harmonic and melodic ideas as a composer. The album’s stellar cast of UK players includes flautist Gareth Lockrane, saxophonist Duncan Eagles (from Partikel), altoist Seb Pipe, up-coming pianist Matt Robinson and drummer Dave Hamblett on nine originals from Luthert.

They join former Headhunters groove-meister bassist Jackson who also makes his WWR debut with Groove Or Die, a no-nonsense hard-funking set featuring his new trio of keyboardist/singer
Xantoné Blacq and drummer Tony Match set for release on 3 November. Jackson and his trio play one UK date this year at Hideaway, Streatham south London as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival on Friday 14 November.

Max Luthert is also set for a UK tour in January 2015 at the following venues: Jazz Club, Ashburton (18 Jan); North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore (19 Jan); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (21 Jan); SoundCellar, Poole (22 Jan); and Jazz Club, Sheffield (23 Jan).

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to
www.whirlwindrecordings.com

A new jazz-focused TV series, Jazz@Metropolis, is about to begin filming on 8 November mixing up live performances, interviews and features highlighting the influence jazz has had on shaping popular music and culture. Pianist Neil Cowley – best known for his internationally acclaimed piano trio – will be hosting the programme and he’s set to interview the likes of British-Asian clarinetist and composer Arun Ghosh and Danish pianist Carsten Dahl, while further artists include Kurt Elling, Kris Bowers and Get the Blessing among others. Commenting on Cowley’s skills as a presenter producer Fraser Kennedy commented, ”In addition, he has a vivacious personality and is a superb communicator. When he appeared on the pilot show, his warmth and enthusiasm for music shone though."

The programme makers have said each programme will feature live music from two new and established artists, alongside exclusive content and features, artists profiles and classics from the jazz archives. The production is a join venture between Metropolis Studios and FKMtv, the latter’s production team being behind the Channel 4 music series, Live From Abbey Road.

The
first of the live shows set to be filmed at Metropolis Studios, West London on 8-9 November, with subsequent shows filmed on 15-16 and 22-23November. Importantly any members of the public who wish to attend the live shows and be part of the studio audience should apply at www.jazzatmetropolis.com/#signup

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to
jazzatmetropolis.com

Ray-Gelato-RS

Bookended by performances that spanned several decades of the club’s history, Ronnie Scott’s celebrated its 55th birthday on Halloween night, drawing a spook-free packed house while outside Soho’s streets were a creep carnival of fake blood, spider’s webs and witch’s hats. Kicking off with the Ronnie Scott Quintet (below, second from bottom), featuring stalwarts John Critchinson, Dick Pearce and Mornington Lockett, the band summoned the easy swing and bristling bop of the guvnor’s final line-up, hitting a timeless groove on Horace Silver’s ‘Adjustment’, with Critchinson throwing in few Ronnie asides as the years melted away.

Carleen-Anderson-RS

Below a projection of the 1959 Melody Maker advertisement for the club’s opening night in Gerrard Street, managing director Simon Cooke hosted with copious warmth and no little juggling of numerous club favourites as this special members evening managed to evoke the deep spirit and legacy of the club, helped more than a little by some rare film footage. News reel clips of Ronnie and Pete King on the opening night of Frith Street in 1965; cameo shorts of Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins on the hallowed stage; and Ronnie answering punter’s phone calls while changing reeds and delivering time honored gags all bore witness to doing the impossible for over half a century – keeping a jazz club alive.

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And alive it most certainly was. Accompanied by James Pearson and the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, Ian Shaw sang blues and bawdy Melly with a little help from Guy Barker; Carlene Anderson (above) hit the soul-jazz spot that packs out her annual residences; Georgie Fame (below) stripped the years back to the Flamingo club-era of the early 1960s with a steaming take on Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’; while a roaring close-out by Hammond honcho James Taylor, Femi Temowo and saxophonist Ray Gelato (pictured top) set up the jam to follow, with violinist Nigel Kennedy waiting beer-in-hand by the bar.

georgie-fame-RSClub co-owner Michael Watt paid tribute to Cooke’s successful steerage of the club in recent years and delivered a heartfelt touch when he stated that really all he was doing was running the club for Ronnie, who he first met back in 1960. Things may well have been different if Ronnie and Pete had accepted the Kray Twins offer of a Knightsbridge venue back in the mid-1960s, as Cooke recounted the tale, but blind faith and assurances from another shadowy Soho capo Albert Dines saved the day. And Dines’ gift of champagne still sits behind the bar all these years later, defying anyone to open it. Even on the 55th!

– Jon Newey

– Photos by Carl Hyde

KennyWheelerMemorial MG 5184

The great and the good of the metropolitan jazz community came out in their droves to pay a final tribute to Kenny Wheeler on a bright October day at St James’s Church, Sussex Gardens in London, at one in their admiration for this hero of the music. Organiser Nick Smart had assembled a stellar cast, all of whom were happy to donate their services, the result a feast of music for ensembles large and small, in a setting whose magnificence fully matched the scale of the occasion. Of course, there were prayers and readings, but there were anecdotes and memories too.

Stan Sulzmann spoke of the essential humanity in Ken’s writing and his melodic flair while happily recalling his amusement at Kenny’s otherworldly persona, emphasising his modesty, his reticence and his self-effacement. “I knew Ken and yet I didn’t know him,” Stan mused.

Four hours of practice daily and then the rest of the day devoted to composition seems to have been Kenny’s norm. Meanwhile his devoted wife Doreen [too unwell to be present] kept the domestic ship afloat, Evan Parker describing how he suggested to Kenny he make a cup of tea when Doreen was unwell and watching Kenny floundering around the kitchen. “Doreen makes the tea”, Kenny explained.

KennyWheelerMemorial MG 5226

Trombonist Dave Horler spoke about their friendship, remembering trombone-piano duets at Kenny’s Leytonstone home, where Kenny turned the tables and they became piano-trumpet exchanges. John Taylor’s comments brimmed with emotion as he emphasised how much Kenny had inspired him. “He set himself the highest possible standards in the quietest way,” John reflected.

KennyWheelerMemorial MG 5251

But above all, there was Kenny’s music. From a sublime opening trumpet chorale through to the richly contoured big band pieces with Norma Winstone’s (above centre) vocal line soaring on top and on to a brass ensemble, followed by Norma’s quartet, a sextet piece and finally the great sweep of the London Vocal Project (above), master-minded by Pete Churchill, proper honour to its scope and range was done. Memories cherished and renewed, admiration expressed, every player at their heartfelt best, and too numerous to credit here. The last word? To Kenny himself, his trumpet echoing like a clarion call through this wonderful space on his recording ‘Solo One’. Timeless and eloquent, that’s Kenny’s music in a nutshell.

Peter Vacher

– Photos by Roger Thomas

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