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'Crossover' is a word much employed by critics when talking about the current crop of young UK jazz artists, but tonight's event reminds us that cross-fertilisation has been quietly going on in the background of the scene for some time. Both the protagonists have strong jazz credentials – Mark Edwards, for instance, was longtime pianist for the late lamented Bobby Wellins, and you can find Ben Castle providing saxophone for countless recordings with the likes of Lianne Carroll, Jacqui Dankworth and Geoff Gascoyne. The setting is the impeccably jazz-centric Verdict club, and the audience is drawn largely from its pool of devotees. Yet both men can also be found, equally and effortlessly at home, roaming freely across the wider territories of pop and rock, from Radiohead to Katie Melua, and the simply uncategorisable creations of such as Matthew Herbert.

Tonight the stage is festooned with garlands of cables, banks of keyboards, blinking digital displays and dusty analogue effect pedals, giving fair warning that we're not in for an evening of hushed, reverent duo renditions. A typically effusive introduction from host Andy Lavender is immediately sampled and warped into a filtered, pulsing loop – synth arpeggios and streams of electronic bubbles sketch out an open landscape through which Edwards and Castle wander at will, scattering handfuls of half-familiar melody, alternately lushly romantic chords and dark clusters of notes from the piano, squelchy sequenced basslines and scraps of found sound. It's briefly reminiscent of the kind of territory explored by The Orb – but in this MIDI and Ableton-free environment, the tempos shift up and down at random, creating a far more unpredictable climate. All sorts of aural flotsam swirls around in the sonic maelstrom, briefly surfacing before submerging again – bits of 'Autumn Leaves' and 'Pent Up House', what sounds like the theme music to Blankety Blank and a twisted mash-up of Miles Davis and Status Quo. Suddenly everything comes together in an upsurge of ascending chords, and Castle seizes the moment, and demonstrates what a fine player he is, with a wonderful clear tone and clean articulation, as a flood of melodic ideas tumble out over a wash of Vaughan Williams chords, providing an oasis of real beauty.

Set two brings the added delight of Castle on clarinet, dropping fragments of 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love' over a pulsing balearic groove – the pair visibly relax and exchange smiles as Edwards manipulates recordings of Trump speeches into horror-movie monster tones over dark synth textures. The magesterial, declamatory melody of Coltrane's 'Resolution' morphs into a nightmarish version of The Archers theme tune, an incident that instigates regrettable outbreaks of onstage corpsing; as if to make amends, 'Coronation Street" is twisted into 'Acknowledgment'. The set finishes with shards of 'Darn That Dream' drifting over spacious, otherwordly electronic tones. There's no encore, of course – "It would take another three hours," explains Edwards – but the rapturous reception to this wholly unpredictable, entirely improvised journey through sound shows how many different sonic avenues can be successfully explored while still carrying the banner of jazz forward.

– Eddie Myer 
– Photo by David Forman     

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Jazz Middelheim is a great jazz fest situated in front of an old mansion in a park just outside of Antwerp – a gathering small enough to provide an intimate atmosphere, but big enough to book some stellar names. This year's artist-in-residence was Mark Guiliana. The drummer opened the festival with his quartet – comprising of Jason Rigby (sax), Fabian Almazan (piano), Chris Morrissey (bass) – their set energetic, yet subtle, leaving no doubt about the abilities of these musicians to deliver an exciting example of modern jazz. Guiliani's Beat Music performed the following day, with Morrissey reappearing on electric bass and Jason Lindner on keyboard. This was a superb, highly adventurous and contemporary showing, one of the band's best (though I still prefer the more improvising original line-up with Tim Levebvre).

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Back to day one, where Joshua Redman was dealing in deep finesse with his quartet of Ron Miles (trumpet), Scott Colley (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). This Still Dreaming unit put the spin on historic cuts by the Old and New Dreams quartet from the 1970s and 80s. Redman's men more than did the music justice, with his poised tone leading from the front and the passion of percussionist Blade always a pleasure to hear.

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The closing heavyweight act on day one was Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. Their set saw the legendary saxophonist accompanied by Bill Frisell (electric guitar), Greg Leisz (steel guitar), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). It was great to hear Lloyd play a more electric set and the country flavours that Frisell and Leisz brought to the stage somehow gave the music a fresh relevancy. 

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Far less reliant on harkening back to past traditions, their collective eye on the future (no matter how bleak) were Matthew Herbert with his Brexit Big Band. Despite the seriousness of the subject, this was decidedly playful music. A concept that's fun to experience: rare indeed. Slapstick and surprisingly soulful. 

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Tony Allen on day three was simply a joy to hear. His performance with Jean-Philippe Dary (piano), Matthias Allamane (bass), Irving Acao (sax) provided a polyrhythmic wake-up call for all those who seek to elevate technical excellence above emotion. Allen's grooves wound straight for the soul. 

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As did Randy Weston's African Rhythms tribute to Thelonious Monk. What can one say? A deep bow to this 91-years-old pianist, a living legend in his own right, who led Alex Blake (bass), Neil Clarke (percussion), TK Blue (alto saxophone and flute), Billy Harper (tenor saxophone), Vincent Ector (drums), Robert Trowers (trombone) with a spirit that belied his age. Never missing a beat, these guys did Monk more than proud.

– Peter van Breukelen (story and photos)

Now in its eighth year the Ystad Jazz Festival (not far from Malmo in southern Sweden) shows that with strong programing and excellent organisation new festivals can grow and create an audience (and future) for themselves. This year the festival featured 43 concerts at 10 venues over six days – a comprehensive musical programme featured most types of jazz from straight-ahead to free improv and many points in between.

There were back to back concerts from 11am to 11pm while being very varied it is also quite tiring – going from big band to avant-garde takes its toll on the ears and brain. Major artists who appeared this year included Joshua Redman (playing with his Still Dreaming band featuring the music of his father Dewey), Al Foster, Al Di Meola (in a duet with Sardinian guitarist Peo Alfonsi, below) and Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda (a remarkable duo with so much energy).

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Artistic director and pianist Jan Lundgren also played two major concerts – one with his Potsdamer Quartet featuring Jukka Perko (sax), Dan Berglund (bass) and Morten Lund (drums) and one duo concert featuring himself with trombonist/vocalist Nils Landgren (below). The latter for me was the better of the two concerts, with Landgren's laid back vocal style very enjoyable. His versions of Leon Russell's, 'This Masquerade' and Hoagy Carmichael's 'The Nearness of You' were sublime as was his trombone playing all night – the finale of Joe Sample's melancholic 'Same Old Story, Same Old Song' including audience participation to Landgren's hand written lyric sheet was just joyous.

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ACT label boss Siggi Loch was in town for his 77th birthday celebrations with a succession of his artists. Marius Neset, Lars Danielsson and Morten Lund (picture top) started the proceedings playing songs from their excellent Sun Blowing album. Neset in ebullient mood blew up a storm with Lund as manic as ever on drums. Next up were Dan Berglund's Tonbruket (below) who played a wonderful gig at the Ystad Saltsjobad – a beachside spa resort 10 minutes outside the town. The instrumentation of the band is extremely varied with keyboards, electronics, guitars, pedal steel, bass, percussion and violin – all of which allowed the music to ebb and flow like the sea outside the venue – at times pastoral and then heavy jazz rock, but always interesting and fresh sounding.

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Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala played solo in the Monastery a set that included Gershwin, Bizet, Lennon & McCartney and his own emotional composition, 'Tears for Esbjörn' written following the untimely death of Esbjörn Svensson. In the confines of the monastery this was a real 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment. One of the main joys of festivals such as Ystad is discovering new artists – often artists who have been around for years but who don't figure on the main European festivals and certainly not on UK festivals. Ystad has a modest budget so cannot afford the biggest names but what it lacks in big money US artists it more than makes up for by its programming of quality European artists.

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This year there were several excellent artists I had not seen before. The young Swedish flugelhorn player Oskar Stenmark (who lives and plays in New York) improvising on traditional Swedish folk tunes, German bass player Lisa Wulff (above) and her trio featuring the brilliant saxophonist Adrian Hanack. The Carsten Dahl Experience with Jesper Zeuthen (alto sax) who must have one of the most unique sounds around, his vibrato playing quite astonishing. The veteran Dutch pianist Louis van Dijk's solo performance (also in the Monastery) just oozed quality and class. The Greek trio, Magnanimus, were a revelation. Mixing Middle Eastern sounds created by Christos Barbas (who also played piano) on the Ney and Kaval (Arabic and Balkan flutes) with modern lyrical jazz and a little electronics to create something a little different and their CD, No Time, captures the music perfectly.

One of the highlights of the festival was undoubtedly Tommy Smith leading the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and featuring the singer Eddi Reader (below) playing the songs of Robert Burns. Fortunately the overwhelmingly Swedish audiences are mostly fluent English speakers so Reader's tales of Burns and the songs meanings (in her Glaswegian lilt) were fully understood which of course adds to the enjoyment of the music. Smith runs a very tight band and the arrangements were superb – 'Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, Ye Jacobites, Jamie Come Try Me', the slightly salty 'Brose & Butter' and a rousing and ever quicker and quicker 'Charlie is my Darling' left the audience breathless and giving Reader and the Orchestra a standing ovation.

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The festival sold more tickets this year than ever before (10,500) 18 concerts were sold out. The festival has minimal support from the state and some decent sponsorship (30%) ticket sales represent 30% of the total cost of the festival. Ystad relies on an army (or rather) a family of happy volunteers who control the venues, sell merchandise, provide the catering and generally look after the festival - this provides the other 30% of the cost and this is the Swedish way – Ystad has over 200 societies all run by volunteers. Before the final concert the festival's management committee came on stage and sang to the audience by way of a 'thank you' to the paying customers, by rights of course, it should have been the other way round.

While Sweden may not have the glorious weather of Juan Les Pins or Nice or the majesty of Umbria, it does have something almost more important; a heart and a soul and is probably one of the friendliest jazz festivals you can go to.

– Tim Dickeson (Story and Photos)

This year's edition of the London Festival of Korean Music – more snappily titled K-Music – features a wide range of sounds with contemporary twists on traditional Korean folk music across nine dates around the capital from 15 September to 25 October. Jazz-leaning gigs include vocalist Heemoon Lee and Berklee-trained jazz group Prelude, who join forces when they appear at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall (24 Sept), performing the theatre work Korean Men that combines comedy, folk music and jazz.

There's also an appearance by renowned blind harmonica player Jeduk Jeon whose virtuosic playing is as expressively versatile as that of Toots Thielemans, as he lines up with Juwon Park for a set of gypsy and flamenco-tinged jazz at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho (27 Sept). Completing this triumvirate of jazz nights will be a collaboration between impressive bamboo flautist Hyelim Kim and London-based acclaimed singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki (picture above) as the pair explore fresh interpretations of traditional Korean themes in a group also featuring young star guitarist Rob Luft and bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado at The Vortex, Dalston (2 Oct).

– Mike Flynn

For the full K-Music programme visit www.serious.org.uk/events/series/k-music

 

Clap your pies on this vid exclusive from award-winning London duo Binker & Moses performing 'Fete By The River', a prime cut from their celebrated sophomore long-player, Journey to the Mountain of Forever, recorded live at the Total Refreshment Centre in Shacklewell on 25 June.

– Spencer Grady

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