Emerging Scottish saxophonist/bandleader Helena Kay (pictured) has been announced as the winner of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2017 of £5,000. Presented by Help Musicians UK (HMUK), the UK's biggest independent music charity, three further musicians were also awarded development funds: pianist Olly Chalk, saxophonist/clarinettist Faye MacCalman and saxophonist Jasmine Whalley.

Hailing from Perth, Scotland, and already winner of the 2015 Young Scottish Jazz Musician Of The Year, Kay commented on her win: "Recording, releasing and promoting my debut album is a daunting and expensive prospect, but the support and guidance that this award provides will be a massive help in making it possible. It means a lot to have been selected for this prestigious award, given the reputation of the panel and previous winners; I'm very grateful and excited to get started."

Previous recipients of the Peter Whittingham Award include Errollyn Wallen MBE, Andrea Vicari, Empirical, Phil Meadows and several Mercury Prize nominees including Soweto Kinch, Gwilym Simcock, Led Bib, and Roller Trio. This year's independent judging panel included chaired by Peter Whittingham's son-in-law Clive Shelton, alongside leading jazz musicians Zoe Rahman, Geoff Gascoyne, Issie Barratt and Noel Langley.

The HMUK charity will also celebrate Women in Jazz at a specially curated gig featuring Helena Kay's KIM Trio and Jasmine Whalley's Tȇtes De Pois, alongside leading young UK trumpeter Laura Jurd, all of whom appear at London's iconic 100 Club on Sunday 4 February.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.helpmusicians.org.uk

 

Camden Town's revamped Jazz Cafe presents series of album playbacks and related live shows under the auspices of Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy (pictured) and her Classic Album Sundays sessions banner.

Colleen-MurphyThe series kicks off on 5 February with trumpeter Yelfris Valdes (formerly of Yussef Kamaal) interpreting Donald Byrd's 1973 Blue Note release, Black Byrd. Things continue on 5 March with drummer/bandleader Jake Long, of emerging groove-led band Maisha, who appears with an expansive line-up of trumpeter Dylan Jones, saxophonist/flautist Nubya Garcia, bassist Mutale Chashi, keyboardist Amané Suganami, guitarist Artie Zaitz and percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono for a widescreen take on Miles Davis' epochal 1970 album, Bitches Brew. The series concludes on 17 April with electronic musician and composer Ben Hayes' interpretation of hugely influential electronica artist Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85–92.

Murphy first presented Classic Albums Sundays on BBC 6music and Worldwide FM, and has since held CAS listening sessions at The V&A Museum, Royal Albert Hall and The British Library, but the Jazz Cafe run will be the first to feature live performances of the records themselves.

Jazzwise spoke to Colleen Murphy about the series:

How will Classic Album Sundays work at Jazz Cafe?

Classic Album Sundays has always focused on full replays of albums, so we are excited to work together with the legendary Jazz Cafe on a series of live renditions that will shed new light on the records. With our usual events, we tell the story behind the album followed by an uninterrupted replay on our state of the art world-class audiophile hi-fi sound system so that the album is truly brought to life in the way the artist intended. With our series with the Jazz Cafe, we will focus on the great legacy of these classic albums. I will interview the guest musicians about the influence of the artist and album they are covering both on their own work and contemporary music in general. Then we will be treated to a live interpretation of the entire recording in which the musicians will bring their own personality into play and will sonically translate the music in a fresh, contemporary way. This series aims to show how classic albums can morph and change with the times and therefore have a life of their own.

Do you think the renewed interest in vinyl, as an analogue real-world experience, has had a positive effect on how people interact with music – specifically audiences listening to live music?

An analogue audiophile sound system is almost as good as hearing a band play live (sometimes it can be better if the band is having an off night and the venue has poor acoustics!). The aim of an audiophile reproduction is to get as close as possible to the live event of the actual recording. Having said that, sometimes there isn't an actual live recording event, as much of today's music is created with one or two producers working on computers and is more of an assemblage. The renewed interest in vinyl reflects an increasing interest in music and that is music to my ears. Music has been in danger of becoming a devalued commodity that can be accessed without much interaction or intent. It's so easy to stream music and then barely pay attention while you get on with your activities, allowing it to take on the role of aural wallpaper. The vinyl experience is interactive, as you have to physically engage with the record – putting it on the turntable and flipping it over just in time so it doesn't wreck your stylus. The fact one has to pay for a physical unit rather than a download or stream, means the listener will take more notice. It gives music more value both emotionally and economically and this can only be a good thing for both live and recorded music.

It's good to see Aphex Twin in the mix – do you think electronica artists share some of the uncompromising creative values jazz musicians do?

Absolutely! An artist like Richard D James has pushed boundaries and experimented with not only sound, but also with what actually constitutes music. John Coltrane expanded the possibilities of saxophone and, similarly, Aphex Twin widened the scope of potential of a keyboard and computer.

Do you have any plans for another season of these gigs and what albums may feature if you do?

We hope to continue as the programme seems to be very popular! Other albums I would personally like to feature are Joni Mitchell's Blue, Massive Attack's Mezzanine, Radiohead's Kid A, Portishead's Dummy, Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express, Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Björk's Homogenic and a dub version of one of the most classic albums of all, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

For more info visit www.thejazzcafelondon.com

– Mike Flynn

Pharoah-John-Sharpe

Vilnius Mama Jazz is the younger sibling of the three-decades-old Vilnius Jazz Festival, which has carefully built a reputation for adventurous, improvisationally-based programming. For some inexplicable reason, Mama Jazz takes place only a month after the VJF, but at least this maintains the momentum, as one excellent festival runs on to the next. On the surface, Mama Jazz has a more mainline orientation, but for this 16th edition there was no lack of extremity among its artists.

For the first three days, Mama's scene revolved around the international acts presented at the Tamsta music club, with its semi-circular stage and crow's nest balcony. Three or four bands played each night. Quite Sublime (a risky name) united four players from four European lands in spumy funk, with warm tenor saxophone, following Brecker and then Sanborn, when alto was selected. Jazzybit (Romania) exist on the crowded GoGo Penguin piano trio plain, but displayed a welcome toughness, with Teodor Pop switching between acoustic and Nord, both of these attacked percussively, as he impressively slid between piano and rippling organ sounds. 'Amor Moon' had a plodding boogie basis, but their third tune cut sharply to salsa, Pop flaying his virtual organ with bruiser abandon. The first night closed with Italian pianist Lorenzo De Finti's quartet, presenting 45 minutes of his slightly edited suite, a lyrical excursion, with pointillist keys and peppercorn trumpet, passing through many moods. A powerful combination of piano and bass notes produced deep resonance, and an emphatic chordal pounding climax.

The second evening had Quantum Trio (Poland) again stalking Bad-GoGo-Svensson-Plus territory, but one of their best pieces featured a piano/drums duo with a flamenco lilt, followed by 'Entanglement', which made a harder strut, developing a dub skip. Dogon (Switzerland) followed, improving as they got heavier, their guitar/bass/drums formation facilitating a Wayne Krantz complexity, with a stand-out, mildly distorted, Arabo-Andalusian-styled guitar solo from Eric Hunziker. Amazonas (Sweden) looked like a more experienced crew, creating a frisky bustle, with heavy bassline quake and lively alto/soprano exchanges. When Biggi Vinkeloe swapped saxophone for flute, joining the attractively disembodied bass, they started to sound like classic period Gong. H.Soror (Ukraine) are a tenor, electric bass and drums trio, dedicated to a 1990s-era rock influenced jazz, building a slurred slurry trough of slow groove that eventually graduated to slack dirge, barely destined to crawl out of their sacks in the morning.

On Friday night, the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre began its three days of headliner sets, but there was still one last session booked at Tamsta. Guitar power trios could be quite exhilarating, as an antidote to the continuing plague of piano threesomes! The Bodhisattwa Trio (India) made a rubbery slink with 'Cronos', their native ingredients comparatively subtle, but residing mostly in the sliding string-bends of their leader's guitar solos. A meaty bassline on 'Convergence' led to the introduction of space to increase dynamics, with a sudden heavy dub bridge leading to a crazed drum solo, infested by strafing guitar punctuations. Bringing a welcome climax, the ultra-confident projectile crew of Naked (Serbia) used tenor saxophone, violin, bass and drums at a high-energy setting, riddled with earthy toughness, their rhythm team's rapport elastically supporting a switch to clarinet, with grainy hardass fiddling creating a fresh genre called free gypsy, negotiated at a speeding punk rate. Audience communication reached profound levels, deep into the night.

Get-The-Blessing--John-Sharpe

On the main concert stage, Get the Blessing (Bristol) addressed 'Green Herring', the "least trustworthy of all the fish" (one of bassman Jim Barr's often profound observations). It's a groover, emanating electric extensions, relaxing the crowd for 'OCDC', and its speedy audience clapping-support, always integral to success. This foursome unite filmic roadster themes, effects trims, and strictly edited soloing, regurgitating the perfect combination of foot-and-bonce entwined majesty. Next, Norway's Jaga Jazzist continued to refine their headbanging pomp jazz complexity, nowadays becoming too much of a precision engineered juggernaut, leaving not much to chance, and demanding that someone open the windows. This hyper-evolved state is something that's still capable of giving pleasure, fortunately.

On the last night, the Neil Cowley Trio prepared the way for the Pharoah Sanders Quartet, laying down a complete contrast of mood, dwelling on the hyperactive side of town, and fuelled by their pianist leader's almost manic wit. Sadly, it must be said that Cowley's more recent tunes, deliberately simple and direct (compared to his old songbook), pale beside those original chestnuts. Sometimes the trio sounded a touch rigidly metronomic, but the loosening came via the verbal introductions rather than the music itself. Sanders (Los Angeles) was joined, as ever, by pianist William Henderson, plus the London team of bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo. At first, the tenorman was spreading out his impressionistic character, with waves of sound and feeling, but steadily, Sanders rose up out of the swirls with some bite, and once he began the heavier blowing, the soloing took on an epic scale, loaded with detailed accents and embellishments. The set eventually tipped over 90 minutes, which was well beyond the saxophonist's accustomed duration. Sanders merely hinted at 'The Creator Has A Master Plan', which was another very unusual move, to forgo playing his signature number in full.

– Martin Longley
– Photos by John Sharpe

British saxophonist and bandleader Shabaka Hutchings and two of the bands he's associated with – Sons of Kemet (above) and Shabaka & The Ancestors – have signed to the iconic Impulse! label. First formed in 2011, Sons of Kemet have released two albums and made a huge impact on the international festival circuit with their double-drums, tuba and sax attack. The current line-up includes founding members Hutchings on sax and Tom Skinner on drums, rising tuba star Theon Cross and powerhouse drummer Eddie Hick, all of whom feature on the new album, Your Queen is a Reptile, which is released on 30 March. Jazzwise understands Comet Is Coming may also be moving to the label.

See the March issue of Jazzwise for an exclusive interview with the band on their new album. Issue on-sale on 15 February – subscribe here to order your copy now - for more info visit www.sonsofkemet.com

– Mike Flynn

Roswell-Rudd

Trombonist Roswell Rudd, who lost his battle with cancer at the tailend of last year, will be remembered as a musician whose curiosity as well as virtuosity never deserted him. His final release, 2017's Embrace, was an absolutely beautiful record on which Rudd took equal billing alongside vocalist Faye Victor, pianist Lafayette Harris and double-bassist Ken Filiano. The quartet breathed new life into the music of jazz legends Monk and Mingus, as well as ageless folk songs such as 'House Of The Rising Sun'.

If that album underlined the glowing lyricism of Rudd's playing then its predecessor, 2016's Strength And Power, served notice of his deep immersion in the blues and, more interestingly, its confluence with both New Orleans and avant-garde traditions. Therein lay Rudd's importance. The Connecticut-born player, who arrived in New York in the late 1950s, saw, and indeed, became part of the interchange of mainstream and free jazz, and was happy to let his muse take him to whichever players shared the same openness of mind. His membership of the historic combo New York Art Quartet remains one of his most important credits, alongside work with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and Sunny Murray. Yet saxophonist-vocalist Archie Shepp proved to be one of Rudd's most enduring partners, with the pair collaborating many times over the years, occasionally with poet Amiri Baraka. Like the aforementioned, Rudd, whose deep, bassy growl and swooning phrases packed a great emotional as well as sonic punch, was also interested in non-western music, and his collaborations with players from Mali to Mongolia produced several fascinating and joyous recordings. Also noteworthy were Rudd's solo albums, the best of which are Flexible Flyer and Numatik Swing Band.

I was lucky enough to interview Rudd shortly before he passed and was struck by his generosity of spirit, and, even as he struggled under the effects of gruelling radiation therapy, his undimmed passion for life as well as the musicians who chose to celebrate it. He will be missed for his humanity as well as ingenuity.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Ilene Cooper

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