Tim Armacost is here tonight on one of only three UK dates as part of a Europe-wide tour promoting his new record, Time Being. His last visit to London was as part of the New Standards Quartet, the ideal showcase for his awesome technique and deep familiarity with the classic language of the Great American Music. His latest project is an exploration of the wider-ranging freedoms possible within the sax-plus-rhythm format pioneered by Rollins in the 1950s – a real test of stamina and imagination for the frontman.
After a typically effusive welcome from host Andy Lavender, the trio stampede into 'Alawain' – Austrian drummer Klemens Marktl sets up the kind of loping waltz groove that Elvin Jones deployed so effectively with Coltrane, and Armacost takes flight over the top. His tone light and clear, his articulation amazingly clean and precise, he rides Marktl's boiling polyrhythms, circling round a single repeated note like a predator stalking its prey, suddenly swooping and diving into peals of rippling phrases. Michael Janisch's accompaniment on bass has the solemn, drone-like quality of Jimmy Garrison's work, and there's even a 'Love Supreme' quote from the leader, but where Coltrane's music had the urgent, yearning quality of the unresolved seeker, Armacost offers a contrasting display of almost academic poise and restraint in his controlled tone, clean articulation and the precise confidence of his ideas. It's a bravura start – "Marktl doesn't mess around" says Armacost – and there's no mistaking the powerful musical intelligence on display from the whole trio.
'Time Being' introduces a sombre theme played in unison with the bass – Marktl colours on the kit whilst simultaneously fixing an errant cymbal stand. The tune features Armacost's experiments with multiple tempos, and though the device is used as a brief bridging device rather than the main component it's still an impressive feat to pull off as naturally as the trio make it sound. '1 And 4' has an extended solo intro from Janisch, demonstrating the breadth of his musical imagination with all kinds of extended techniques, slides and whistling harmonics – Armacost switches to soprano, his tone still rounded and mellilfluous and Marktl's brushes solo descends imperceptibly into silence, so that for a split moment he's playing the air. "We love the real acoustic atmosphere", Armacost says appreciatively.
'Darn That Dream' receives a stately treatment benefitting from another typically adventurous statement from Janisch, and the full glory of Armacost's burnished tone. '53rd Street Theme' simply flies, Armacost delivering a Joycean stream-of-consciousness of bop language, never descending into cliché, while the rhythm team perform time-stretching miracles behind him. They end with a display of protracted musical high-jinks that shows that you can take the music as seriously as your life but still retain a sense of humour. 'Teo' is a bop swaggerer, with Marktl on coruscating form and Janisch delivering a tremendous performance, worrying at a phrase and picking it apart, always in flawless time. Kenny Wheeler's 'Mark Time' is played on soprano and with reverence, with Marktl demonstrating an effortless four-way independence on drums.
This is muscular, impressive, impassioned and intense music, hard swinging and fiercely intelligent, but the good-humoured interplay between the three participants in the conversation, and the leader's relaxed confidence, make this a warm affair. They even return to encore a gut-bucket blues, though it's hard to imagine such a clean-cut, urbane trio playing anywhere remotely insalubrious.
The final names have been confirmed for the momentous Jazzwise 20th Anniversary Festival, which takes place from 13 to 18 March, at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London. Powering up the Late Show slots across the week, all held in the main club space from 11pm onwards, are club regular and tenor sax titan Alex Garnett (13 March) and incendiary US sax groove merchant James Brandon Lewis and his Trio (pictured centre), who'll unleash tracks from their album No Filter (14 March).
Rising star saxophonist Phil Meadows (above left) brings his new Quartet of guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Flo Moore and drummer Will Glaser for an appearance on 15 March that serves as a warm-up gig for their impending appearance at the B-Jazz Festival in Belgium, while Thursday (16 March) sees powerful latin-jazz septet J-Sonics take the stage, featuring saxophonist Matt Telfer, trumpeter Andy Davies (top right) and vocalist Grace Rodson. The Friday 17 March Late Show will feature BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, saxophonist Alexander Bone and his band.
The stunning line-up of headliners includes John McLaughlin's 4th Dimension (13-14 March); Soweto Kinch's Nonagram band (15 March); Julian Siegel Big Band + Nick Smart's Black Eyed Dog (16 March); Omar Puente Sextet (17 March) and Phronesis with Julian Argüelles and Tim Garland's One double-bill (18 March).
Opening slots include Arun Ghosh Quartet and Nikki Yeoh solo (13-14 March), and a specially convened line-up of Yazz Ahmed's Hafla Band with vibist Ralph Wyld, bassist Dave Manington, drummer Martin France and 'vocal sculptor' Jason Singh performing on cuts from Ahmed's new album La Saboteuse (15 Mar), and fast-rising all-female groove-jazz ensemble Nérija (17 Mar).
Scandi-soul-jazz rising stars Rohey are set to release their debut album, A Million Things, for the iconic Jazzland label later this year. Comprised of lead vocalist Rohey Taalah – after whom they are named, and whose surname aptly translates from Arabic as 'my soul' – plus keyboardist Ivan Blomqvist, bassist Kristian B. Jacobsen and drummer Henrik Lødøen the band fearlessly embrace heavy grooves and delicate harmonies all wrapped up in a hip urban attitude akin to the likes of Eska, Zero7 and Cinematic Orchestra.
Ahead of the album release Jazzwise is proud to present an exclusive first-look at a kicking live version of the first single from the album, 'I Found Me', which was also featured on the covermount CD with the October 2016 issue of Jazzwise.
Many of those with their digits usually found firmly on exotic pulses weren't so familiar with the achievements of Basil Kirchin, prior to the announcement of this extensive Mind On The Run tribute weekender. Even some of its participating musicians confessed ignorance, until being invited by Hull's UK City Of Culture organisers. Perhaps this ultra-low profile was due to Kirchin's passing relationship to multiple musical forms, including jazz, electroacoustic, free improvisation, movie soundtracking and easy listening (though often faintly sinister and surreptitiously experimental) library music. Kirchin was fully fluent in all of these languages.
Although born in Blackpool, Kirchin grew up in Hull, returning to that city periodically, and finally settling there during the last years of his life, until his demise in 2005. At age 13 Kirchin played drums in his father Ivor's big band, soon moving on to play with Ted Heath and Harry Roy. A couple of decades later, Kirchin was employing the talents of Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, developing his powers as a composer. It's rare to observe Parker and Alan Barnes chatting together in a hotel bar, but here they were, during this weekend, swapping notes about their time playing for Kirchin.
Parker occupied a prime Saturday night position, reviving a partnership with the Spring Heel Jack duo, augmented by Matt Wright and bassist Adam Linson. All except Parker were cloaked with electronic effects, their individual sonic output often hard to untangle. Parker was originally approached by Kirchin to help sculpt film scores, so it's appropriate that this quintet's extended improvisation amassed a sense of pictorial development, nodding to the original Hullster's love of environmental birdcall capturings. Back in the day, Kirchin had challenged Alan Barnes to discern the individual contributions of Parker and a whooping swan. He failed! Parker rippled his soprano saxophone through the wash of intensified turntable surface scurf, as Linson bowed his bass, its sound finally being recognisable as such, through his veil of electronic transformation. Parker receded for a spell, then returned, leading the structural way, as heavy bells tolled through the Hull fog, his chirruping repeats welcoming a lighter patch. This was a lesson in finely-crafted restraint and long-distance atmospheric pooling.
Late on the Friday night, a screening of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (a 1971 British horror flick) was accompanied by Alexander Hawkins on the mighty pipe organ of Hull City Hall. A kitsch classic, this Vincent Price vehicle also possesses a genuinely unsettling sense of terror, as Phibes triumphs over all in his drive to discover ever more imaginative murder methods. The presence of Hawkins didn't rule out an airing of Kirchin's original ensemble score, as the organist was used sparingly, only during the parts of the film where Phibes is actually sitting at his own instrument. This was a canny strategy, as Hawkins suddenly and sporadically became visible, lit up in a crimson glow, behind and below the frontal screen, draped in his silken cape. Like the movie, this was at once dramatic and amusing in its spectacular thrust.
Since 2003, the raising of the Kirchin presence can almost single-handedly be attributed to the informed efforts of Jonny Trunk and his Trunk Records empire, as he's gradually worked through a self-admittedly meandering album reissue schedule. Here was Jonny, right down on the front table at the early Sunday afternoon Jerry Dammers DJ session, calling out facts and exchanging anecdotes with the vinyl-spinning Spatial Special. This two-hour set was an excellent display of mood-altering library music exotica, with Dammers rambling verbally between each selection, a mixture of erudite historian and absurdist comedian.
Sunday afternoon's Musical Modernism concert brought this bountiful weekend to a close, with Will Gregory (half of Goldfrapp) leading the BBC Concert Orchestra through a maze of Kirchin and Kirchin-inspired works. A virtual jazz big band swelled the usual ranks, with Parker, Barnes, Raymond MacDonald, Eddie Parker, Dudley Phillips, Ralph Salmins and Martin France.
Matthew Bourne opened up with a solo performance, sitting cross-legged at his synthesiser, forming a multi-tiered drone foundation for the triggering of snatched Kirchin dialogue. A deep bass pulse grew, eventually turning higher and higher in pitch, making a strange alternative to the hall's own organ. Bourne talked about the autistic kids that Kirchin's wife Esther had taught, bending his own pitches in sympathy with the sounds of those children, as recorded and utilised by Basil. Bourne added Moog oscillations to the recipe during his second piece, freed up to fly over them on his keyboard.
Matthew Herbert's 'Primitive 5 Remix' sampled rustling-of-plastic-bag, tooth-brushing, torn newspaper, cello, and then further orchestra instruments, built up on the spot, as the composer arranged these sonics from the back of the hall, a plexiglass water tank at side-stage, with a brick-weighted plunger taking a platform down to its depths. Herbert was inspired by the possibly apocryphal tale of Kirchin's early tapes being lost at harbour. Despite this weight of construction, the actual piece was pleasingly impressionistic rather than strikingly bold.
Barnes was back, remembering his duet with the voice of Adolf Hitler, prompted by Kirchin as an alternative to the whooping swans. "He would have loved this," says Barnes, of the weekend's celebration (Kirchin, not Hitler). The next Basil barrage married the feels of Colin McPhee and Arthur Lyman, moving into fragments of Philip Glass and Ealing comedy pastoral scenes. A particular highlight of the programme was 'Abstractions Of Holderness', a pictorial documentary set to music by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs (of St. Etienne). Kirchin dwelled in this remote zone during the 1970s, the Holderness images strolling by, mixing zoom-grain with further-away scenes, always perfectly framed, toned and textured in lovingly miserable monochrome. Jim O'Rourke's '12 Dollars Is A Lot' featured MacDonald's spiral soprano, then Parker spoke of Kirchin calling himself, Bailey, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Holland his "paranoia boys". Kirchin's 'L'esprit d'Amour' closed the set, spotlighting Barnes in a loungey latin trotter. On a riser up at the back of the stage stood an empty drumkit, reserved for the doubtless smiling spirit of Kirchin himself.
Renowned fusion guitarist Larry Coryell died on Sunday 19 February aged 73. He was staying in a New York hotel and, according to his publicist Jim Eigo, passed away due to natural causes – the news coming just days after his last two concerts at the city's Iridium Jazz Club.
One of the most individual guitar stylists in jazz, Coryell's career spanned over 60 albums, incorporating elements of rock and blues with the finesse of a bebop virtuoso. Born in Galveston, Texas in 1943, he played piano from age four, but switched to guitar in his teens and had an early love of rock music. He studied journalism but his move to New York from his family home in Washington in the mid-1960s saw his reputation as a musician grow on the NYC jazz scene, eventually going on to replace Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton's band, with whom he made his debut recording on the drummer's 1966 album, The Dealer. His status as a gifted guitarist was consolidated through his solo albums Lady Coryell, Coryell and 1969's Spaces, which also featured preeminent fusion maestro John McLaughlin on a guitar-heavy summit.
Coryell was to make an indelible mark as a pioneer of jazz fusion with his 1970s band Eleventh House, which pre-dated Return to Forever and Weather Report, the group also featuring keyboardist Mike Mandel and the earth-shattering drumming of Alphonse Mouzon. The success of his fellow fusioneers eluded him, yet Coryell changed tack and explored acoustic territory in a wide range of high-level collaborations with the likes of Phillipe Catherine, John Scofield, Joe Beck and notably a memorable trio with McLaughlin and Paco De Lucia. He also recorded with such luminaries as Stéphane Grappelli, Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins, while his later years saw a return to his fusion roots with several new line-ups alongside players such as Paul Wertigo, Chester Thompson, Victor Bailey and Lenny White, and even a reformed Eleventh House with original bandmate, trumpeter Randy Brecker.
He is survived by his wife, Tracey, his daughter Annie, his sons Murali and Julian, and his daughter Allegra, as well as six grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned on Friday 24 February 24 at the S.G.I-USA Buddhist Cenre, New York at 7 p.m.