Having recently reviewed her gritty new album, Currency of Man, as well as interviewing her in Soho the day she launched her salutory single ‘Preacherman’, I was very much looking forward to seeing Melody Gardot perform live. It was the final night of her two month European tour, and after some large stadium gigs, she’d chosen to play to just a hundred or so people at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London.

Her eight-piece band, which included an energetic horn section (Irwin Hall on tenor, James Casey on baritone sax and Shareef Clayton on trumpet) created an engaging sound to complement Gardot’s sultry radio-mic vocals, as they toured us through their new material. It’s a dynamic mix of bluesy, North African-infused songs that dwell on the human condition and our purpose in life. Drawing the audience in with a question or a snippet of philosophy, Gardot effortlessly went on to reproduce what on the album comes across as tasteful post-production, making it abundantly clear that her abilities as a live performer easily match her song-writing and arranging skills. She also plays a mean guitar and piano, providing the crux of each song’s arrangement with elegance and ease, while her voice stretches out into coolly improvised territory.

MelodyGardot2

Aware of her audience’s jazz expectations, early on in the set she teasingly dispelled any idea we would be hearing her do jazz standards. She did however pay tribute to Charlie Haden, with whom she performed on several occasions, and later treated us to a fabulous medley dedicated to Charles Mingus, expertly introduced by Edwin Livingston on double bass, with a Roland Kirk-style double saxophone solo from Irwin Hall and Gardot accompanying on piano. I loved the backing vocals and percussive contributions throughout from guitarist Mitchell Long and the subtle and sometimes whistled interjections from Devin Greenwood on keys. But drummer Chuck Staab almost stole the show, providing a deadly kick to every number.

MelodyGardot1

‘Preacherman’ which Gardot co-wrote with Staab turned into something of a cosmic invocation as Gardot invited her audience to leave a vibrational trace of the evening in the room by singing along with her. ‘Bad News’ felt like a bar-room brawl brewing, ‘Morning Sun’ by contrast was deliciously delicate and pared back, and for the encore, the band flared up into full-on funk as they launched into ‘It Gonna Come’ by which point the lyric ‘see dat man’ took on a whole other meaning as she re-introduced her fellow musicians.

By the end of her 100 minute set, Gardot pushed the gig into an intense jam-like territory with everyone up dancing, including the bar staff and the septuagenarians in the front row, making it hard to believe it was a Tuesday night in a pizza restaurant. It will no doubt go down as one of the real highlights of the club
s 50th anniversary celebrations.

– Sarah Chaplin


– Photos by Roger Thomas

London’s favourite Gypsy jazz guitar club, Le QuecumBar, located in Battersea, is facing difficult times following harsh increases in rent and rates. The club has now launched a crowd-funding initiative to move forward as manager Steve Tennison explains:

qyuecumbar2"Le QuecumBar – The Hot Club of London – is the only club in the world dedicated to the Belgian Gypsy guitar maestro Django Reinhardt and has been showcasing his genre of Jazz Manouche for 13 years now, with some of the finest world class musicians regularly performing there. But Le Q now faces an uncertain future following the drastic increase in rent and a subsequent raise of business rates. The rent for the property has been raised by over 50%, and what started out as a hobby for the love of the genre and traditions of the Gypsy music is under threat.

But in the usual Le Q style of pigheadedness and tenacity, we are responding victoriously by embarking on a crowd-funding initiative that doesn’t seek to fund the rent but sets out a vision of moving forward, refocusing and reenergising not only the Gypsy jazz scene but other forms of jazz, including vintage swing, 30s/40s Anglo/American swing and New Orleans jazz too.”

The crowd funding project will run through to early September and if successful will see a programme of changes over the coming years to generate further interest in Jazz Manouche.

Click here to back the crowd funding project and for more information about Le Quecum Bar's ambitious project

Please contact Steve Tennison at Le Que, on 0207 787 2227 or visit www.quecumbar.co.uk

dr-john-live

This year’s Brecon Jazz Festival, which kicks off this Friday 7 and across the weekend until 9 August in the picturesque setting of the Brecon Beacons, promises a diverse line up of international names and top UK talent. Among the big names so far announced are Grammy winning pianist Robert Glasper and New-Orleans jazz-roots guru Dr John.

Glasper returns to Brecon for the first time since 2011, this time with his trio of bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid, performing material from their forthcoming new album, Covered, which is set for release on Blue Note on 15 June. Other notable names include powerful Anglo-Scandinavian trio Phronesis; Courtney Pine/Zoe Rahman duo at Brecon Cathedral; Mercury Prize nominated trio GoGo Penguin; award-winning Neil Cowley with his special tribute to Dudley Moore show; revered UK singer Norma Winstone with pianist Glauco Venier and reeds player Klaus Gesing; and the heavyweight pairing of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland.

Leading Brit-jazzers appearing include the Stan Sulzmann/John Parricelli/Chris Laurence/Martin France band with special guest Gwilym Simcock; saxophonist Julian Argüelles with Tetra, his new band featuring pianist Kit Downes; Gareth Williams Power Trio; and recent Parliamentary Jazz Award winners Partisans. Emerging UK names include the powerful Sons Of Kemet; HON featuring trumpeter Laura Jurd; singer Nia Lynn’s Bannau Trio with a 16-piece Big Band Capital City Jazz Orchestra; and resurgent jazz singer/songwriter Julia Biel.

International sounds on the bill include the frenetic gypsy jazz of Taraf de Haïdouks, Helsinki-based Timo Lassy Band and Barcelona-based Andrea Motis and Joan Chamorro. Welsh musician in residence Huw Warren leads his World Wide Wales and Wales Meet Brazil strands that will feature percussionist Adriano Adewale and bassist Dudley Phillips, as well as Huw Warren’s Tails of Wails with Mark Lockheart, Mara Lamburn and a rhythm section duo of Huw V Williams and Zoot Warren. The Jazz Guitar show features a line up of great guitarists Remi Harris, Martin Taylor (solo) and Deidre Cartwright Band & Friends.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to official Brecon Jazz Festival website

Now in its 30th year, the Ealing Jazz Festival was first instigated and is still directed by drummer-bandleader Dick Esmond. Early beginnings were small-scale and stressed local musicians and that bias in selection largely applies to this day, albeit in more imposing surroundings, the top acts now performing in a vast big-top, with a smaller marquee for the experimenters and a piano bar for the drinkers.  Allocated its own special compound in Ealing’s spacious Walpole Park the festival runs to five band-packed days, sundry food outlets and merchandisers adding to its easy-going atmosphere, myriad families and die-hard fans in happy accord.

My night was Friday night with the long-established Matt Wates band given the early-evening slot and how well they delivered, stretching out, the energy level high, with altoist Wates [much given to between songs humour these days] in fighting form, his improvisations edgier and more potent than his recordings might always suggest, a good grand piano giving that one-man energy force Leon Greening the opportunity to dazzle and so he did.  At times, Leon can seem to embody the entire history of jazz piano in a single solo, fingers flashing, bassist Malcolm Creese keeping a watchful eye lest it all get too much.  As usual, the band concentrated on Wates’s own pieces, skilfully voiced, trumpeter Martin Shaw in commanding form and Wates at his exultant best on ‘Gin and Bitters’, Greening interpolating quotes from ‘Moanin’ in his solo before the bluesy ‘Dark Energy’ brought out his best.  The Blue Note-ish ‘Mojito’ then replicated a mini-big band while ‘Night-time’ allowed Wates to show off his ballad credentials.

Wates done and dusted, the stage was re-populated with the Griffith Nonet making their 15th EJF appearance, the leader kicking off with a version of ‘C-Jam Blues’ that swung as hard as anything I’ve heard in ages.  This came courtesy of a pick-up rhythm section of pianist Tim Lapthorn, master bassist Paul Morgan and drummer Andy Ball, the latter a late replacement and boy, how well he played, picking up every cue and lifting everyone.  As Down Beat used to say, a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, for sure.  Alison Neale was first up to solo, her alto phrases short and punchy before Lapthorn moved into a higher gear.  Here he was harmonic diversity personified and full on, before he calmed down for ‘It Could Happen to You’, this given West Coast-ish feel in a chart by band trombonist Adrian Fry, the piano lyrical and understated. 

A set highlight followed in another Fry arrangement of Strayhorn’s ‘Snibor’, Griffith forceful on tenor, with Neale echoing Norris Turney, and Lapthorn propulsive before trumpeter Robbie Robson’s lengthy pass through the harmonies. Then it was ‘Gone’ from the Evans-Davis Porgy and Bess score featuring Morgan, Fry and Henry Lowther, all to advantage.  On came Tina May, late in the set and somewhat rushed as she battled to make herself heard through the banked-up sound.  Still, her version of ‘An Occasional Man’ exuded both charm and that knowing vocal artistry that is her trademark.   All too soon, to name yet another song, the carousel had turned and another band was champing at the bit.  Two great bands for a fiver: bravo Ealing!

– Peter Vacher  

Jazzwise photographer Tim Dickeson managed to get a rare interview with multi-Grammy Award winning guitar legend Carlos Satana who was performing at the Jazz á Juan festival last month

In 1973 I purchased my first Santana album – Abraxas – the decision was partly influenced by the amazing cover art (the painting ‘Annunciation’ by German artist Mati Klarwein) and partly by the version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Black Magic Woman’ – at the time I was a huge blues fan and specifically of Peter Green. That album introduced me to a completely new sound – congas, bongos & timbales. This percussive and infectious music was highlighted by the closing track on side one (we are talking LP’s here) ‘Incident at Neshabur’, which opened my eyes and ears to a new world of music. The follow up album, III featuring the classic ‘Toussaint L’Overture’, and the fourth, Caravanserai, cemented this new love affair. ‘Welcome’ (1973) was a watershed album – featuring John McLaughlin, Alice Coltrane and Flora Purim – which was undoubtedly my first exposure to jazz-rock.

TD-Santana-29

Fast forward to 10 July 2015 and I am sitting in Santana’s dressing room before his concert and the opening night of Jazz á Juan 2015. I am with long time Santana friend, Yasuhiro Fujioka (the curator and owner of the John Coltrane museum in Osaka) and Santana’s European tour photographer Adriano Scognamillo. Santana is casually dressed and wearing his trademark Fedora hat – on the table in front of him are an iπad and his phone, which is plugged into the iPad. His guitar is lying on the sofa next to him.

“You’ve got to watch this” he says, pointing at the iPad, “this is just incredible – I would like to do something with this and put it on in Times Square on a huge screen and invite everyone to come along to watch and listen.” I ask him what the music is. It’s Alice Coltrane ‘World Galaxy’ and the video is a shifting vision of beautiful waterfalls and wooded glades with a small shimmering star shaped light dancing across the perfect landscapes. We gather round as Santana talks, but more accurately – wants to tell us – how his vision and purpose are focused on how: it only needs small things change in the world – belief, attitude & trust, it is possible for change to be made to the benefit of everyone – and that the change has to come from all: religious groups, governments and ordinary people.

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He is so sincere and so compelling to listen to, that for a brief half an hour in his company the world was put to rights and the future appeared much brighter. He is no stranger to philanthropy in 1998 he founded the Milagro Foundation, which benefits underserved and vulnerable children throughout the world and he is passionate about its work. The foundation recently donated $20,000 to Unicef for children in Nepal. He also talked briefly about his desire to work again with John McLaughlin, he has a project in mind that he is very excited about. The time for the show was upon us and we left his dressing room – five minutes later the show hit the stage with ‘Soul Sacrifice’ – the archetypal Santana tune, his guitar sound is as recognisable as a London bus on Regent street.

The show had sold out virtually as soon as it had been announced and the packed crowd were on their feet cheering wildly. As the show progressed you could see the audience were made up of two groups – the pre-Supernatural and the post Supernatural. ‘Maria Maria’, ‘Smooth’ & ‘Corazon Espinad’ were cheered by the younger members of the audience, whilst the oldies eased themselves up when ‘Jingo’, ‘Europa’, ‘Evil Ways’ seguing into ‘Love Supreme’ were teased from his guitar.

Santana told the audience a story about Michel Delorme, who as head of A&R at Columbia Records in the 1970s when he first came to the south of France had given him a pile of jazz records – in particular John Coltrane & Miles Davis, and this music had a profound affect on his music and career ever since. Michel was leaving Carlos’ dressing room when I arrived – clutching a signed copy of The Universal Tone, Ashley Khan’s biography of Santana.

TD-Santana-28

The show ended much as this piece had started ‘Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen’, ‘Oye Como Va’ and ‘Toussaint LOUverture’ – a story spanning 47 years and these songs still sounding as fresh as they did the first time. Through Santana I discovered John McLaughlin, then the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, Return to Forever and the list goes on.

Carlos Santana may not be the most instantly thought of jazz musician but throughout his career he has innovated and changed with the times – he still has the passion and fire that he showed at Woodstock in 1969 and although the hair may be thinner and the body older his belief and sense of purpose have never been stronger. Alice Coltrane’s 1971 World Galaxy LP is dedicated to ‘That great Cosmic Unseen’ and I think that she would be very happy that Santana has taken that sentiment and run with it ever since.

– Tim Dickeson (story and pictures)

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