The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival has been successfully putting on a free weekend of concerts since 2007 and its 11th incarnation featured a host of jazz, latin and crossover acts. An appreciative audience had already gathered at Canada Square Park to hear bop pianist Rob Barron, accompanied by virtuoso vibraphonist Nat Steele and guitarist Colin Oxley.

By contrast, young singer Poppy Ajudha began her set with her tribute to Billie Holiday in the form of an R&B version of 'Speak Low', followed by a selection of original tunes and her version of Solange's 'Cranes In The Sky'. Cuban violinist Omar Puente (below) had the crowd dancing to his infectious Afro-Cuban grooves while Norfolk's Mammal Hands provided the ambient chill-out music, starting their set with their now familiar tune, 'Quiet Fire'.

OmarPuente6tet LWorms 1

Saturday's programme was completed with a fiery and energetic set by Riot Jazz Brass Band who created a party atmosphere in an otherwise corporate enclave of East London, with MC Chunky getting the crowd moving, and drummer Steve Pycroft and sousaphonist Pete Robinson laying down a steady groove to Riot Jazz originals such as 'Checkmate'.

WildCard LWorms

Sunday began with Brazilian vocalist Luna Cohen and British guitarist Rob Luft performing mellow latin grooves while talented guitarist Clement Regert's Wild Card (above) played an eclectic mix of well-known tunes such as Mongo Santamaria's 'Afro Blue' and a unique version of 'Fever' with vocalist Annabel Williams, with an all-star band that included trumpeter Graeme Flowers, saxophonist Jim Knight and drummer Sophie Alloway.

CometisComing LWorms 12

The staff at Canary Wharf were on hand to dispense free waterproof ponchos for the many who braved the rain to hear the grooving, ethereal sounds of Shabaka Hutchings and The Comet Is Coming (above) before Pete Wareham's Melt Yourself Down (pictured top) brought the festival to a close with some intense and upbeat grooves.

Charlie Anderson

– Photos by Lisa Wormsley

 Jason-Rebello

(Pianist Jason Rebello guests on the Talking Heads stage with Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra, led by Dan Mar-Molinero on soprano sax)

 

Eighteen months ago the Talking Heads was a small pub on the outskirts of Southampton, presenting local jazz bands once a week in a gloomy back room. Today, having relocated to plush premises twice the size in the centre of town, it has established itself as one of the city's most popular jazz venues, and is attracting the top UK players. It also means that, taken in conjunction with the city's other venues, there is now jazz available somewhere in Southampton almost every night of the week.

Pianist Dave Newton says it's among the best UK jazz clubs he's played in: "I like it very much. The main room is a nice size to play to and it has a really good stage, a tremendous sound system, an excellent bar and a really comfortable backstage room. There aren't many local jazz clubs that can supply all that. Long may it continue."

In fact the pub boasts two concert rooms, each with a full bar. The larger of the two has a wide stage with state-of-the-art lighting and PA, and it's here that the volunteer-run Southampton Jazz Club presents the likes of Alan Barnes, Gilad Atzmon and Liane Carroll on Tuesdays once a month.

In the smaller adjacent bar, the city's other voluntary-run club, the Southampton Modern Jazz Club, presents more contemporary jazz free-of-charge every Sunday and alternate Thursdays, in an intimate setting in which the audience is no more than four metres from the band.

Two local jazz musicians, tenor saxophonist Lizzie Bennie and drummer Ted Carrasco, help to run the venue, and they have tried to make the venue the kind of place which they, as musicians, would like to play in themselves. Bennie says: "We've both been on gigs where we've found ourselves stuck in a corner of a bar with barely a reachable power socket or decent lighting available. Here we provide all these, plus lights for music stands, spare stands as well, and a decent baby grand piano. And with candles on the tables and real ales on tap as well, it gives all the benefits of your local bar with a top quality jazz club vibe."

– Ian Gilchrist

For more details visit www.thetalkingheads.co.uk

 

When Get the Blessing call for audience participation, they're startled almost to the point of incapacity by the reaction. British audiences can need cattle-prods to clap along, but around midnight in the Gaume festival's final minutes, its still packed big tent rallies together in collective, thunderous rhythm. With fellow Bristolian Matt Brown depping on drums – due to Clive Deamer's Radiohead job-share – the band's ability to play with placid melancholy like a pond's decreasing ripples then jolt into absurdist jazz-funk ends the weekend on a high.

Two-hundred kilometres south of Brussels, Belgium empties out. The Gaume region is a different, deeply rural world, with the vast Ardennes forest between it and the capital, and southern Europe's sense of time embraced amid the space. The village of Rossignol has little to recommend it except a beautiful church and chateau, and the dream of a fine jazz festival which Jean-Pierre Bissot has sustained for 33 years. It's homely in the very best sense, with fine local food and beer, a handpicked, high-quality, largely Belgian and Luxembourgian bill, and a tangible sense of community. The lifeblood of Europe's jazz and far corners flows in such gatherings.

Dhafer Youssef (pictured top), perhaps sensing this isn't the place for big gestures, headlines on Friday in exploratory, meditative mood. He's like a bluegrass picker, his oud locking in time with drummer Justin Faulkner till it perceptibly slows. When Faulkner finally explodes in a flurry of high-hats and rim-shots, he's hitting a different spot in the rhythm of an otherwise spare, skipping groove. Afrobeat, high-life and calypso flit through a single tune, yet there's so much hard bop to Youssef, elevated by his sense of understated ceremony.

This becomes literal with French saxophone quartet Quatuor Machaut, whose sets in the crepuscular village church freely improvise from the pioneering, polyphonic mass of 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut. When they spread into its four corners, their giant shadows looming on the walls, a mantric, mind-loosening, quadrophonic hum surges heavenward to a single, sky-piercing note.

YouSunNah

Korean singer Youn Sun Nah (above) is one of ACT's biggest names in France and the festival's largest draw. With a crack, swinging quartet, including Brad Jones on bass, she begins with a daring attempt on an Al Green Everest, 'Take Me To The River'. Her tiny voice and vanishing meekness between songs contrasts with her vocal persona's swaggering span. She paws the air as she scats with octave-spanning, leonine prowess, taking the storm-lashed prow of the Fairport Convention-popularised folk song 'A Sailor's Life' during its shivering crescendos, her throbbing baritone rising to high, fading cries. Peter, Paul and Mary's 'No Other Name' is sung in the richly emotional vein of 1960s folk divas such as Joan Baez then, on Tom Waits' 'Jockey Full Of Bourbon', Youn is all gravel and grit. Was it just mimicry, someone wonders afterwards. No – her pleasure in the voice was true.

The festival is still Mediterranean-sunny in early evening on the Sunday, but at its truest during Saturday's constant rain, when uncomplaining middle-aged Belgians in anoraks troop to more jazz in the gloom. Swiss Florian Favre's Trio play a tribute to John Taylor, 'Mr. Taylor', pinned by ice-pick piano stabs, and find elegiac, mysterious moments. French tenor man Sylvain Rifflet's Mechanics also climax on a potently strange wavelength. They seem to play in parallel unison, each musician separated in a misty space. Then a swirling repetition subtly builds in speed, gaining power with each pass, drummer Benjamin Flament pumping up the energy and wanting more. Just that tune was worth the trip.

– Nick Hasted
– Photos by Christian Deblanbc

Emerging UK sax talent Sam Braysher releases his intimate new duo album, Golden Earrings, with US pianist Michael Kanan on the Fresh Sound New Talent label on 1 September. In an under-stated kick against the frenetically competitive and chops-driven approach of many today, Braysher and Kanan offer some highly melodic simpatico sounds on the following UK dates: Cafe Jazz, Cardiff (7 Sept); The Verdict, Brighton (8 Sept); Norden Farm, Maidenhead (9 Sept); Seven Jazz, Leeds (afternoon) and Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec, London (evening, both on 10 Sept); Late Show, Ronnie Scott's, London (11 Sept); Anteros Arts, Norwich (12 Sept) and The Vortex, London (13 Sept).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.sambraysher.com

Watch Sam Braysher with Michael Kanan's new video for their piece 'Dancing In The Dark' - in this Jazzwise exclusive:

soweto-sligo

The combined festival and summer school in Sligo have had the town buzzing since 2005. The Hawks Well Theatre hosts larger concerts while venues around town cater for smaller gigs. In addition to performances, 21 tutors hold daily masterclasses and lead ensembles for 120 participants at the Institute of Technology.

Soweto Kinch's Friday talk was cogent, contextualising the influences of politics, race and religion on the great river that is jazz. His concert on Saturday mixed spoken word, intense, plaintive and authoritative alto sax, and sampled sound, making compelling music with bass master John Goldsby (who daily played everything from fusion to mainstream, with his calm consummate ease). Drummer David Lyttle steered a course of deft inventiveness laying down the groove. Kinch playfully included the audience in chanting some of his hip hop tunes, but his music transcended any need for genre pigeonholing. Saturday's first half, a tribute to recently-deceased guitarist Allan Holdsworth, saw Australian drummer Virgil Donati lead a fusion offering of assured technical complexity, with Anton Davidyants (bass) Steve Hamilton (piano) and Mike Nielsen (microtonal guitar).

The week opened with a stellar frontline of singers, Liane Carroll, Emilia Mårtensson and Sara Colman, joined by the earthy tenor sax of Meilana Gillard and ethereal trombone of Shannon Barnett (pictured above). Such was the emotional power of these musicians that their performance brought tears to many an eye, while Dublin-born, New York-based Christine Tobin revisited her Sailing to Byzantium set, an enthralling response to W.B. Yeats' poetry, accompanied by a quintet of piano, cello, bass, guitar and flute.

A new festival initiative, pianist Kieran Quinn's Theme Night, gathered a top-line big band backing local solo singers, all of whom acquitted themselves admirably. Here was a typical example of the warmth and inclusivity of the festival, on which the visiting musicians commented at every opportunity. Other standout performances, for instance by Paul Clarvis, Malcolm Edmonstone, Matt Halpin, Mike Walker, Stephen Davis and Cathal Roche, led to high expectations of next year's festival.

– John Philip Murray
– Photos by Lieve Boussauw

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