ggp-colston

GoGo Penguin have always had one eye on the dancefloor. Now they have the other fixed on film scores.

Versatility, though, is not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when considering the Mancunian trio, who've to date released three albums of decent but samey post-EST jazztronica. Their harshest critics doubtless claim they're a one-trick-pony who repeatedly match coffee-table jazz with laptop beats. But that's precisely why the band's live rescoring of cult movie Koyaanisqatsi is such an exciting prospect (on top of their recent inking to legendary label Blue Note) – this is a band with a lot to lose and a sizeable hill to climb in terms of proving their artistic scope.

Backing Koyaanisqatsi, a psychedelic trip into the dark heart of American civilisation, then, is a brave move. The hypnotic grandeur of Phillip Glass's (a composer to whom the band owe a huge debt) original soundtrack, with its shimmering arpeggios and ethereal chorals, could be tricky to measure up to. But opting to retrack this particular feature is, equally, a shrewd manoeuvre. Firstly, the rarefied spectacle on offer, jam-packed as it is with hallucinatory montages of crawling cityscapes, lends itself well to the band's club-ready electronics. Secondly, experimental disaster documentaries, a genre pioneered by director Godfrey Reggio, are currently hot with hipster audiences – Adam Curtis' uncompromising BBC essays and Leonardo DiCaprio's climate-change exploration Before The Flood, for example, are not only hugely popular, but follow devotedly in the footsteps of Reggio's impressive back-catalogue.

For the first quarter of an hour, with the trio shrouded in darkness, you might've been forgiven for thinking that Australian minimalists The Necks had supplanted them, thanks to the slow unravelling of lightly fingered piano, aerially suspended double-bass and bustling drums. But when the band fully took wing, there's no mistaking GoGo Penguin's classically inflected grooves. Atop breathtaking scenes of atmospheric turmoil and roiling seas, pianist Chris Illingworth and co laid down rippling rhythms slick with trembly arpeggios and danceable polyrhythms. So far, so GoGo Penguin.

But when the film took a left turn, cranking up the tempo with shots of aircraft dogfights, gridlocked cities and the runaway chug of munitions factories, the band broadened and deepened their well-trodden sound. Bassist Nick Blacka, both at the centre of the stage and the music, strapped on an electric four-string and fired out joltingly funky futurist riffs which seemed to shock Illingworth from his minimalist stupor. As chilling scenes of warfare and industry grew in intensity, they triggered a dizzying shoot-out of jaggedly free piano and tensely unstable low-end. All the while, drummer Rob Turner marshalled the crossfire with beats that, if played in a club, would've wrongfooted the most slick-moving partygoer.

The verdict? This dazzling sound-and-screen mash-up was inventive enough to silence the critics and offered a snapshot of the truly breathtaking musical vistas the trio are capable of conjuring.

– Jamie Skey

 Takase

Given the fact that Swiss record company Intakt has been one of the most adventurous outlets for improvised music for over three decades it makes perfect sense for a festival in its honour to run for no fewer than 12 nights. The scale of the label's achievement is reflected by the duration as well as the diversity of the programme, as stellar double-bills bring together artists often drawn from different generations as well as different countries. Intakt has always sought the cutting edge of players beyond borders, a case in point being the magical Swiss-South African axis of Irene Schweizer and Louis Moholo-Moholo.

In the initial days of the residency there was a 'first wave' of heavy artillery, such as the aforementioned as well other iconic veterans Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker, Howard Riley and Barry Guy, not to mention dynamic younger players such as Lucas Niggli. But one of the most pleasing aspects of the programme was the fact that many artists appeared in various permutations, the effect of which was to create a kind of workshop-cum-open house ambiance. 

Feldman

Given the abundance of duos and trios the change of partners served as an exciting catalyst, none more so than in the case of the remarkable Berlin-based Japanese pianist and composer Aki Takase. As she takes to the stage with tenor-soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, another sound traveller whose musical itinerary has taken her from Germany to New York via London, Takase seems a touch on the nervous side, possibly because she is not confident about addressing the audience in English, which might be her third language. However, there are no communication problems whatsoever once the two of them start to play and Laubrock's potent tenor lands to good effect on the rhythmically choppy, at times turbulent waters of Takase's piano, which impressively flows into richly melodic statements that are steeped in the kind of brash lyricism that binds Ellington to Monk and Taylor. In fact, as she shows on the rest of the set, Takase is fully bound to this modernist root as well as its avant-garde openings into more fluid metres and harsher resonances. Her meeting with German bass clarinetist-clarinetist Rudi Mahall the following night provides a point of both contrast and continuity. They equally touch on a strain of mischievous, jaunty romanticism that is nonetheless sharpened with an explosive quality that invites us to imagine not just Dolphy playing Waller's 'Jitterbug Waltz', but the two of them doing so with the express intent of blurring the line between seduction and confrontation, both emotionally and sonically. Mahall's tone is so startlingly loud and his projection so overarching that even to a patron at the back of the room he appears to be blowing right in your ear. Takase's brilliantly gymnastic runs from the mid to high register, where locked hands give added weight to constantly skipping, swirling motifs, are a perfect foil for Mahall's mosaic of multi-phonics which peaks with a series of ascending, impish sounds that imply an electric mouth organ or melodica. Such tonal ingenuity also marks a very strong performance from another duo a few days later: French pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and American violinist Mark Feldman. Both have an iron-grip on classical technique, particularly Feldman's crystalline articulation of presto phrases, but their harmonic imagination, improvisatory flourish and subversive approaches to their instruments do not go unnoticed, particularly Courvoiser's live looping by way of strategically placed and cleverly manipulated objects on the piano strings. The result is a kind of rhapsody in skews rather than blues.

INTAKT-FAVRE-TWO

Also providing adept at taking a road less traveled to originality is Pierre Favre. In many ways the veteran Swiss percussionist is another great emblem of Intakt as a label whose vitality is well rooted in history. The sprightly octogenarian has been active for seven decades and contributed one of the most original works to the ECM catalogue, 1984's Singing Drums, alongside Paul Motian, Nana Vasconceles and Freddy Studer. Favre's new 4 Drums project also has a quartet of players – Chris Jaeger, Valeria Zangger and Markus Lauterburg – stationed at four kits, with Favre acting as a centrifugal force. There is a lot of unison playing to create dense, low burrs that have the quality of African log drums, a sensation which is heightened by the extended breakdowns in which no cymbals are used at all. Toms and wood blocks feature prominently, but as his accompanists drop out to leave him to play unaccompanied it becomes clear that Favre really upholds the key principle of pioneering jazz drummers in the way he has entirely personalized his set-up. The gong may be a sly nod to Sonny Greer, but the sundry items of percussion, lengths of tubing and sticks of varying size and shape that decisively alter pitch on the drums is really quite mesmerising. As befits a man who played with Philly Joe Jones, Bud Powell and Louis Armstrong Favre carries an important heritage on his shoulders as well as in his hands, a reminder that what might be called avant-garde jazz has roots running all the way back to New Orleans and West Africa. The set ends with a djembe drum circle and for just a moment Dalston becomes a little Dakar.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photos by Dawid Laskowski

The fourth edition of the Jazz FM Awards, presented by broadcaster Jez Nelson at Shoreditch Town Hall on 25 April, highlighted the innovation and strength of the British and international jazz scenes, with a double hat-tip to jazz and blues loving legends The Rolling Stones, who were winners of Blues Artist of the Year and whose album Blue & Lonesome scooped Album of the Year. Three members of the iconic band made a surprise appearance on the night, with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood joining Charlie Watts to accept both awards.  With live performances from several winners – including International Artist of the Year and former David Bowie saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Soul Artist of the Year Laura Mvula and Lifetime Achievement winner Georgie Fame – the presence of Stones drummer Charlie Watts, recipient of the Gold Award for his lifelong commitment to jazz and the inclusion of Hollywood film director Damien Chazelle, winner of the Impact Award for his two jazz-centred films Whiplash and La La Land, ensured this was the highest profile edition of the awards to date. 

courtney-maxi-CW

Many UK musicians won big on the night. The Live Experience of the Year award went to vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson's All Stars' stellar tribute to Bobby Hutcherson; resurgent keyboardist Nikki Yeoh won Instrumentalist of the Year; revered Brit jazz singer Norma Winstone won Vocalist of the Year award, while irrepressible saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings won UK Jazz Act of the Year and jazzy drum'n'bass group Yussef Kamaal won Breakthrough Jazz Act of the Year. Other winners included imaginative US drummer/soundscaper Jaimeo Brown, who scooped the Jazz Innovation of the Year award for his multi-media approach to audiovisuals and influential DJ/label boss Gilles Peterson was awarded the Digital Initiative of the Year award for the global reach of Worldwide FM. There were plenty of high-profile presenters too on the night, with Van Morrison stepping up to present Georgie Fame with his award, as well as the likes of Cleveland Watkiss, Courtney Pine (pictured above with Maxi Jazz), Gina Miller, Tanita Tikaram and actor Adrian Lester.

The winners are as follows:

BREAKTHROUGH ACT OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Yamaha) – Yussef Kamaal

INTERNATIONAL JAZZ ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Oris Watches) – Donny McCaslin

VOCALIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by PRS for Music) – Norma Winstone

INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Rathbones) – Nikki Yeoh

BLUES ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by The Piano Bar Soho) – The Rolling Stones

SOUL ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by RCS) – Laura Mvula

JAZZ INNOVATION OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Mishcon de Reya) – Jaimeo Brown

DIGITAL INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Pollitt & Partners) –
Gilles Peterson for Worldwide FM

ALBUM OF THE YEAR (PUBLIC VOTE) (Sponsored by Arqiva) – The Rolling Stones - Blue & Lonesome

UK JAZZ ACT OF THE YEAR (PUBLIC VOTE) (Sponsored by Grange Hotels) – Shabaka Hutchings

LIVE EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR (PUBLIC VOTE) – Orphy Robinson All Stars – The Bobby Hutcherson Songbook at St James The Great, London

PPL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Georgie Fame

IMPACT AWARD – Damien Chazelle

– Mike Flynn

ob c607f8 ascenseur-pour-l-echafaud-br-1958

As part of the global celebrations for International Jazz Day on Sunday 30 April, the French Bureau Export, in association with 'Jazz on Film' events-organizer Offbeat, presents French director Louis Malle's mesmerising classic Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958) at the Lumiere, South Kensington SW7. 

The screening will be preceded by an entirely exclusive live set inspired by Miles Davis' improvised soundtrack for the film, performed by the French trumpeter Julien Alour in duo with Matt Ridley, one of the most oustanding new British bassists to come out of London in recent years. 

The live set will start at 4.10pm followed by the film screening and a Q&A chaired by broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre with Julien Alour and 'jazz on film' journalist Selwyn Harris on the panel.

Spencer Grady

For more info visit www.institut-francais.org.uk/cine-lumiere/whats-on/special-screenings/lift-to-the-scaffold/

To coincide with International Jazz Day, Leamington Spa-based promoters In The Moment are putting on an event featuring Norma Winstone on Monday 1 May at 7.30pm at the Restaurant in the Park, Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa CV32 4AA. Accompanying Norma is bassist Adrian Litvinoff's highly respected group, Interplay, featuring Alan Wakeman (sax/flute), Richard Baker (trombone), Neil Hunter (piano) and Dave Balen (drums/percussion).

There will also be a free public talk before the concert: 'Miles Davis and Doo Bop: Jazz meets Hip Hop' by Dr. Roger Fagge, Associate Professor in Comparative American Studies, University of Warwick. This takes place at 5.00pm in The Studio in Jephson Gardens Glasshouse. No advance booking is required, although places are limited.

– Matthew Wright

For more info visit www.wegottickets.com

Page 7 of 189

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