Amidst the sweeping glass curves of the Sage Gateshead, the weekend-long festival got off to a strong start on Friday night with the irrepressible Django Bates at the helm. Backed by his Belovèd trio and Swedish sparring partners the Norrbotten Big Band, the pianist led a tribute to the music of Charlie Parker which received its UK premier at last year's BBC Proms. Subversive and unrestrained, this was Parker taken through a hall of mirrors, hand-in-hand with an impish Bates. Bebop heads were bent and buckled, emerging in the brass before melting into passages of rhythm section-led free improvisation. It had the audience on the edge of their seats (read full review here).

Myduo11

As if to hammer home the festival's commitment to variety, what followed was a blistering performance from the Robert Glasper Experiment, who brought their unique blend of jazz, hip hop, funk and electronica to a packed Hall Two. Virtuosic and immaculately paced, Glasper improvisations soared above visceral bass grooves and whirlwind drum breaks as the group powered through covers, including Daft Punk's ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lovely Day’ by Bill Withers, alongside tracks from their new album, Black Radio 2 (read full review here).

Informally dubbed the Day of the Saxophone, Saturday saw horns aplenty, with matinee sets from Jason Yarde and Andrew McCormack (pictured above) followed by former Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint. Supported by pizzicato flurries and delicate counterpoint from collaborators the Elysian String Quartet, Yarde and McCormack performed a beguiling set of originals. With energy and spirit that recalled Coltrane, Toussaint freed things up and gave the audience a taste of burning, post-bop swing – the first of the weekend.

Later that night, young tenor saxophonist Marius Neset and tuba player Daniel Herskedal brought to bear astonishing technique and youthful exuberance with marching band grooves and nostalgic Scandinavian folk melodies.

SpringQuartet17
Before a crowd pleasing set from Courtney Pine, the icing on the cake would have been a stellar performance from headliners the Spring Quartet (pictured above), featuring Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, and her pianist of choice, Leo Genovese. But while there were some scintillating moments of free improv, much of the set felt aimless, not least when DeJohnette's announcements on the mic descended into groans and streams of fragmented sentences that seemed out of place.

Overdriven rock and experimental electronics characterised the final afternoon of the festival, with a double bill featuring local group Shiver and a rhythmically inventive set from Seb Rochford's Polar Bear. Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra kept the party going with a swaggering Ellington tribute, but performances from Bill Frisell and the breathtaking Pablo Held Trio proved that the best had been saved until last.

Eschewing pre-arranged forms, the trio, led by Held on piano, displayed masterful sensitivity and interaction, playing richly varied originals that glistened with arco bass harmonics, subtle grooves and twisting melodies. Lilting folk tunes, standards, and country music melodies from Frisell, accompanied by Eyvind Kang on viola and drummer Rudy Royston, were equally captivating and assured – a superb conclusion to a festival turning 10 in style.

– Thomas Rees (@ThomasNRees)
– Photos © Tim Dickeson

Deep in the heart of Brixton, located on Kellett Road, a side street just minutes from the bustling centre, the Effra Hall Tavern, better known locally as The Effra has been a public house since 1881, and has always been a part of the area’s multicultural social scene. For the last 15 years it has also been the home of one of London’s best-loved jazz jam sessions, run by SoFF Music and hosted by irrepressible singer Lauren Dalrymple (picture) every Sunday night from 8.45pm, it’s set to mark its 15th anniversary with a black tie jazz jam on Sunday 13 April.

Dalrymple has played a vital role in nurturing many of today’s leading London-based musicians including Robert Mitchell (who was the resident pianist for four years), Matt Telfer, Jay Phelps, Nathaniel Facey, Chris Jerome, Daniel Crosby, Neville Malcolm, Miles Danso and Karl Rasheed Abel. MOBO-winning Empirical drummer Shane Forbes noted: “In our early days we had no gigs, Lauren's jam session was our gig.” The vibrant mix of local and international talent who play each week rubs shoulders with domino-slapping West Indians in a relaxed atmosphere; with the draft Red Stripe and fine home cooked food adding to the jam’s welcoming appeal.
– Mike Flynn

Listen to Lauren talking about the SoFF Music jam and her involvement with the London jazz scene on the podcast link below:
 

For more info go to www.laurendalrymple.com 

 

Building on the success of last year’s Thump Festival, Bence Bolygo and Andy Chapman of Bolygo Music Productions have done themselves proud this year with sellout performances on three of the four days at Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club. Last year's Thump ethos was a focus on drums and rhythm. This year it seems the ethos has been extended based on the choice of headline acts.

SophieAllowayQuintettethump
Day one showcased the all-female group Quintette (above) featuring Sophie Alloway, a young drummer whose playing has been steadily gaining attention as has trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, saxophonist Josephine Davies, pianist Naadia Sheriff and bassist/singer Charlie Pyne. This collective brought to the table, not so much a thump, but a refined almost straight-ahead offering evinced through the subtleties of compositions such as Sheriff's 'A Light Heart Lives Long' here Alloway applies a hint hip-hop to the rhythm, or 'Jamil Jamal' where Eastern melodies receive an urban treatment allowing each soloist to paint their own interpretation of the songs structure. This protean collective shows signs of interesting things to come.

Day two saw Manchester-based GoGo Penguin (above) headline, the band featuring drummer Rob Turner, pianist Chris Illingworth and Nick Blacka on acoustic bass. Any Thump quota left over from the previous day was quickly consumed as this tightly woven piano trio got energised. Drawing on material from both their latest album v2.0 and previous album Fanfares, the driving piano riffs and anthemic pulses they generated at times, created an atmosphere of almost being at a rave. Blacka made a point of apologising to those at front of stage for the loudness but with a wry smile said there was nothing he could do about it and which did not seem a problem for the now-hyper audience. The overall sound was clear with brittle sparkle, crafted no doubt by their sound engineer Joe Reiser who Blacka referred to as the ‘fourth Penguin’, a major component in making the night a thumping success.
GoGoPenguinthump1

Days three and four featured Cameroonian bass player/singer songwriter Richard Bona (below). Tasked with rounding off this year's festival, Bona took it in his stride, having honed his craft working with the likes Joe Zawinul, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny and George Benson to name a few, his jovial demeanour suggesting it was just another day at the office for him. With double performances on both nights Bona shows great technique and mastery of nuance, with dynamics ranging from sotto voce to a resounding thump.

RichardBonathump1


















With fellow musicians Etienne Stadwijk (keyboards), Ludwig Alfonso (drums) and Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet) they created excitement as well as soulful depth displaying their technical prowess through songs such as Jaco Pastorius’ ‘Teen Town’ and the great party spirit of ‘Please Don't Stop’ (from his album Tiki with the original featuring vocals from John Legend).  Exquisite compositional skills were evident in ‘M'Bemba Mama’. Sung in the Duala dialect, and though not many in the audience understood the words its form and musical delivery was strong enough to render the room into contemplative silence. Such was the band’s potency that Bona fearing the audience would not go home after the second encore he thought it prudent perform a lullaby not so much to calm but to put everyone to “sleep, sleep… please sleep…” – perhaps until Thump 2015.

– Roger Thomas (Story and photos)

 

wayneHendersonAlthough trombonist Wayne Henderson will be forever remembered as the founding member of the hugely successful Crusaders, one of the key exponents of jazz-funk in the 1970s, he was a musical all rounder of the highest order. Composer, arranger and producer, he collaborated with the big leaguers - B.B. King, George Benson, Jean Carne, Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan and Roy Ayers, to name but some - and was also a mentor to up and coming artists like Side Effect, whose gorgeously soulful sound he helmed with consummate skill. Their signature piece ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling’ remains a much loved ‘rare groove’, and demonstrates just how imaginatively Henderson could blend strong melodies, state of the art keys and dreamscape electronics.

Bigger, commercially speaking, was the Crusaders’ 1979 single ‘Street Life’, a beautiful song with a fine vocal from Randy Crawford and a string arrangement to die for. Playing the Rhodes was Joe Sample and it was he, drummer Stix Hooper, and saxophonist Wilton Felder who, along with Henderson, formed the band’s classic line up. Initially named the Jazz Crusaders, the group started in the early 1960s as purveyors of soul jazz and instrumental R&B, though a sharp take on Coltrane’s 'Impressions' convinced cynics of the strength of their chops. To their great credit Crusaders also played Sly Stone with the groove down pat.  

Henderson, a soloist with a burly, barreling sound that seemed to mirror his imposing physique, was, like his bandmates, from Houston, Texas, and the blues sensibilities of his heartland pervaded all the music he ever made. While the vast discography of the Crusaders, selected highlights of which include Southern Comfort, Scratch and Tough Talk, ensure that Henderson will be hailed as part of a seminal group in black music, it is the one-off project he launched in 1967, The Freedom Sounds, that remains something of a jewel in his artistic crown. On the album People Get Ready, the band’s mix of smart covers and smarter originals made the point that the trombonist knew all about the funkadelica to be found in old socks and new shoes.

– Kevin Le Gendre 

 

The 28th Glasgow Jazz Festival, which runs from 25 to 29 June just ahead of the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in July, has announced an eclectic line up featuring new and established jazz names. Emerging talents set to appear include jazz-soul singer Zara McFarlane (pictured), trip-hop influenced guitarist Stuart McCallum and last year’s Jazz MOBO winners Sons of Kemet. The Neil Cowley Trio perform music from their new album Touch and Flee, while acclaimed guitarist Martin Taylor and charismatic trombonist Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio also appear.

There’s a strong Jamaican flavour to the programme in celebration of the Commonwealth Games and this will see the likes of Courtney Pine’s House Of Legends, Jazz Jamaica, Black Star Steel Band and a Jamaican-jazz themed Classic Album Listening Session all featured at this year’s festival. Other names announced include Jacqui Dankworth and Todd Gordon, James Tormé, Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band plus the festival will also hosts the final of Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year. Concerts are held at venues across the city including Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the City Hall Recital Rooms, The Old Fruitmarket and the basement Rio Club, which will also host the festival’s official late night jam sessions.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.jazzfest.co.uk 

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