Don Was 4 web optimised 1000 CREDIT Gabi Porter

Don Was, the President of the iconic Blue Note Records, has been announced as the recipient of the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Jazz FM Awards. Set to take place on 30 April at Shoreditch Town Hall, the ceremony will honour a wide range of artists from the UK and US jazz scenes. Was, besides being a renowned record producer, has been credited with reviving Blue Note since being appointed its CEO in 2012, with successful signings including Gregory Porter, GoGo Penguin and Trombone Shorty. He's also overseeing the label's 80th anniversary this year, with celebrations including an extensive vinyl release programme and Swiss film-maker Sophie Huber's cinematic tribute to the label's legacy, with her film Beyond the Notes getting a cinematic release.

Commenting on the Lifetime Acievement Award, Don Was said: “I’m incredibly grateful to Jazz FM for recognizing me and Blue Note Records with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Jazz is what inspired me to become a musician many years ago, and it is incredibly rewarding and humbling to serve as the caretaker for this historic and hugely important label. It’s a responsibility I welcome and one that I take very seriously. This honour is especially meaningful coming from Jazz FM, who not only keeps the jazz legacy alive but carries the torch forward by recognizing and supporting the great jazz that is being created today .”

The award's organisers have also confirmed that acclaimed British singer Beverley Knight will perform a tribute to iconic soul vocalist Aretha Franklin, who died in 2018. The awards will be hosted by Jazz FM presenters Chris Philips and Jez Nelson with the recipients of the PRS for Music Gold Award and Impact Award to be announced ahead of the ceremony.  

Nominees include jazz giants Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd and the late great John Coltrane (for his posthumously released best-selling Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album) alongside many names from the resurgent British jazz scene, including Sons of Kemet, Nubya GarciaEmma Jean-Thackray, Camilla George, Joe Armon-JonesMoses Boyd and Sarah Tandy, while live events such as Jazz Re:fest (Brighton edition) and The Cookers at Church of Sound, are also recognised.

For more details visit www.jazzfmawards.com 

The full list of nominees is as follows:

Breakthrough Act
 
Cassie Kinoshi
Emma-Jean Thackary
Sarah Tandy
 
The Digital Award with Oanda
 
Blue Lab Beats
Louis Cole
Moses Boyd – 1Xtra Residency
 
The Innovation Award with Mishcon de Reya
 
Orphy Robinson – Freedom Sessions at Vortex
Steam Down
Tomorrow’s Warriors
 
Instrumentalist of the Year
 
Camilla George
Jean Toussaint
Rob Luft
 
International Jazz Act of the Year with Lateralize
 
Jamie Branch
Makaya McCraven
Wayne Shorter
 
Soul Act of the Year
 
José James
Leon Bridges
Poppy Ajudha
 
Blues Act of the Year
 
Eric Bibb
Errol Linton
Roosevelt Collier
 
Vocalist of the Year
 
Cherise Adams-Burnett
Ian Shaw
Judi Jackson
 
UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote) with Cambridge Audio
 
Jason Yarde
Joe Armon-Jones
Nubya Garcia
    
Album of the Year (Public Vote) with Arqiva
  
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels and Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Jean Toussaint Allstar 6Tet – Brother Raymond
John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Various Artists – We Out Here
Wayne Shorter – Emanon
 
Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote)
 
Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters – Tour
Jazz Re:Fest 2018: Brighton Edition
Makaya McCraven and Nubya Garcia – EFG London Jazz Festival
Orphy Robinson presents Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks – Tour
Steam Down featuring Kamasi Washington
The Cookers – Church of Sound

 – Mike Flynn

Photo by Gabi Porter

Revered US pianist Brad Mehldau is set to release his new album, Finding Gabriel, on 17 May via the Nonesuch imprint. Following in quick succession from his two 2018 releases, Seymour Reads the Constitution! and After Bach, the pianist throws something of a conceptual curve-ball with this new nine-song suite inspired by his in-depth reading of The Bible.

Featuring Mehldau on piano, synthesizers, percussion, Fender Rhodes and vocals, the experimental mix of acoustic piano, synths, choral sections and free-flowing contemporary jazz and electronica is reminiscent of his 2014 Mehliana album, Taming The Dragon, with drummer Mark Guiliana (who also appears here), but stretches the stylistic palette far wider. This is also thanks to the numerous high-calibre guest musicians appearing on the record, including Ambrose Akinmusire, Sara Caswell, Kurt Elling, Joel Frahm, Chris Cheek and Becca Stevens, among others, on what is the pianist’s most wide-ranging collaboration to date.

Mehldau explains the roots of his religious inspirations in the album’s extensive press notes: “The Bible felt like a corollary and perhaps a guide to the present day – one long nightmare or a signpost leading to potential gnosis, depending on how you read it.”

Mike Flynn

– Photo by Michael Wilson

For more info visit www.bradmehldau.com

Watch the video for 'The Garden' here:

The world premiere of Norse Myths took place at Aberdeen Jazz Festival this week, and featured the colourful new offering from the project’s originator, Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith. From recent Marvel blockbuster films, to Neil Gaiman’s 2017 re-telling of Norse mythology, to the drama playing out as we speak by our present-day British gods, the theme feels topical.

Smith described choosing 12 beautiful Norwegian folk melodies, from an impressive 400 which he researched, as the basis for the four newly commissioned pieces which constitute Norse Myths.

Due to illness, Italian Paolo Vinaccia’s drumming role in the authoritative Arild Andersen Trio was taken by Frenchman, drummer and percussionist Patrice Heral. The latter’s playful vocalisations and Prevost-esque percussive style, synergised effectively with Andersen’s strikingly original and often minimalist bass. Meanwhile Smith’s versatile sax switched instantaneously from flamboyant roar to whisper.

The concert opened with US composer Geoffrey Keezer’s ‘Thor’, which, according to programme notes, is based upon three folk songs: a sad love story; a battle between Thor and a giant serpent; and a bar brawl. Opening atmospherically, an implacable wall of sound soon developed. Then, like a film soundtrack, a scurrying rhythm section prefaces beautiful harmonising from the orchestra’s pianist Pete Johnstone. Delightful duetting from Andersen and Heral heralded a fabulous final brawl involving Smith and the entire orchestra.

The second piece is American Bill Dobbin’s ‘Frigg’. This time the intriguing folk songs the piece is based upon, described a kidnapper troll, a fratricide and a tribal war. Initial lulling soon gave way to a gamut of emotions, from thrilling, rampaging full orchestra to stately, ruminative calm. Several orchestra members soloed, with drummer Alyn Cosker’s scorching contribution being especially notable.

Post interval is Norwegian Oyvind Braekke’s ‘Odin’, based upon songs concerning Valkyries, ghost armies and hunting. The familiar opening melody is that used by Edvard Greig in his piano version (Opus 17, No 5). Andersen and Heral segued from Latin American to fashionable modern rhythms, Andersen adding some lovely completing touches whence Smith recapitulated resoundingly. A brief apparent duel between Cosker and a cheek-popping Heral injected fun.

The final piece, ‘Loki’ by German Florian Ross, blended songs of a hero freeing a princess, a Christmas carol, and the story of a giant’s lovelorn distress. More gorgeous melodies from Johnstone’s piano, glorious duetting from Andersen and Heral and further Smith escalations, culminated in some of the hottest, loudest big band jazz sounds heard in this city this year.

– Fiona Mactaggart
– Photo by Derek Clark

David Sinclair, one of the most insightful and affectionately-regarded photographers to have chronicled jazz’s covertly vivid presence in Britain, died at his home in Melksham, Wiltshire, on 25 March, at the age of 84. For over a quarter of a century, David’s eloquent black-and-white images appeared in publications from The Guardian to Jazzwise, Jazz UK and France’s Jazz Hot (with which he had a particularly close relationship), and adorned the walls of such revered establishments as Ronnie Scott’s Club.

Friendships with jazz stars including Sonny Rollins, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Hugh Masekela, and an empathy with how musicians think, honed an alertness to jazz’s spontaneities that was all the more remarkable for its triumphs over disability – dating back to the childhood tuberculosis that later made a walking stick as essential a part of his kit as his camera bag. But if hampered mobility obliged David to take up a vantage point and savour the light from it rather than duck and dive, and his own stillness often seemed to establish a revealing relationship with the animation on stage.  

HUBBARD Freddie 6

David and his wife Kathy (who had bought him his first camera when he switched careers in his fifties) toured Britain photographing rural life in the 1980s, and she encouraged and assisted all his work as a jazz photographer from 1989 on, and was in turn tirelessly supported by him through debilitating chronic illness. But if you asked how things were going, David would issue a terse update and change the subject – to why newspapers were so tight with money, or why Heart of Midlothian (his team) or Tottenham Hotspur (mine) had to be serial underachievers. A devoted swing fan (he was listening to Artie Shaw in his last hours) David Sinclair nonetheless admired the creative spirit of the people who played all kinds of music – an accepting respect that fuelled his many special friendships with players. As Jazz Hot editor Yves Sportis wrote on the news of his death: ‘We deeply love David, whose personality is in the image of his art: finesse, sophistication, originality, loyalty, courage, generosity, humour’. 

John Fordham

– Photos courtesy of Malcolm Sinclair (David Sinclair, top, Freddie Hubbard, centre)

Ousted from its Colston Hall home by the builders, the seventh Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival relocated to the welcoming bars and venues of the Bristol University Students Union, as well as St George’s Hall. Thankfully fine spring weather meant wandering between was largely pleasant and, buoyed by some great crowd-pleasing performances, the general verdict was positive.

This year’s jazz trends would seem to be bass clarinets, vibraphones and suites, with vibraphonist Jonny Mansfield’s Elftet scoring on all three in their reprise of his ‘Armitage’ suite, setting five pieces by popular Yorkshire poet Simon. The composition fully exploited the diversity of an 11-piece line-up with adroit shifts in texture and style and George Millard’s bass clarinet and Ella Hohnen Ford’s remarkable vocals especially striking. They were preceded by Huw Warren’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ celebration of Dylan Thomas, a performance of extraordinary beauty in the suitably restrained atmosphere of St George’s. Warren’s elegant and emotional compositions ranged from the intensity of the title-piece to the jaunty calypso of ‘Organ Morgan’, with Iain Ballamy’s tenor a fine second voice to actor/singer Mark Williams.

TD Kate Westbrook 15 small

Prior to that Kate Westbrook (above) had opened a special programme organised by Jazz South with her Dartmoor-themed ‘Granite’ suite, scored by Mike Westbrook for jazz-rock sextet. Kate’s vocal trademarks were there – growling and howling one moment, stately declamations the next, while the jazz-rock music battled with sound issues to jump through Hendrix-flavoured metal to Weillian cabaret and free-jazz blowing. It was a blast from the past, as was Soft Machine’s much anticipated appearance, which clearly did not disappoint a largely veteran audience happily reliving the days of ponderous prog riffs, thunderous drum fills and bedazzling guitar fretwork.

Arguably the contemporary blending of modern dance music technology with jazz has parallels with that 1970s urge to fusion and the current style was exemplified by Bristol-based project Phantom Ensemble. Wrapping threads of electronic beats and samples in layers of acoustic flute, sax and vibraphone the quartet created ear-catching looping ambient jazz. Elements of a similar approach ran through ‘Redefining Element 78’, an electro-acoustic suite commissioned by the festival from pianist Rebecca Nash and performed by her group Atlas. This ambitious project relied on a balance between carefully written passages and inspired solo contributions, including those of guest saxophonist John O’Gallagher and Rebecca herself, elaborating the themes and variations that gave the piece its impressive unity.

But the doyen of contemporary fusion jazz has to be Soweto Kinch (above top), whose alto sax stormed through a set of laptop-enhanced tunes on hip-hop inspired beats from Nick Jurd on bass and Will Glaser’s drums. Despite the torrential approach there was a clear melodic logic to his playing, which was as imaginative as it was flamboyant, and the audience quickly bought into his subsequent call-and-response rapping thanks to the man’s amiable persuasion. His was an upbeat finale to a satisfying weekend, but the abiding memory would prove to be that of Julian Siegel’s quartet with Liam Noble’s piano, Oli Hayhurst on bass and Gene Calderazzo drumming. In their tenth year this is a collective of equals and from full-tilt opener ‘The Opener’ to the percussive snap of closing favourite ‘Room 518’ they played their individual socks off without ever getting in each others’ way. The bandleader, however, was exactly that and his authoritative tenor glided definitively through each number with, sadly, only one excursion for his bass clarinet: a treat that deserved second helpings.

Tony Benjamin

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