Last November’s EFG London Jazz Festival concluded with a compelling double bill at the Royal Festival Hall to mark the 75th anniversary of the iconic Blue Note label. The evening featured an all-star band of the new generation of players on its roster with guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott.

But the evening began with a spellbinding double piano duet between Robert Glasper and Jason Moran – who began by playing a Fats Waller-esque stride blues before spiralling off into an inspired hour of continuous improvisation that concluded with a suitably ethereal take on Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage’. For many festival goers this was among the highlights of the ten-day event.

The hour-long duo performance was recorded by BBC Radio 3’s Jazz On 3 and will be broadcast on Monday 16 February at 11pm. The programme also includes an
exclusive interview with both pianists who were put to the MP3 Shuffle test: putting their iPods on random mode and seeing what tracks come up and using them as the spark for conversation, with some interesting musical choices cropping up from the likes of Drake, Kim Burrell, Gregory Porter and Otha Turner.

– Mike Flynn
– Photo by Tim Dickeson

The programme can be found here on the Radio 3 website and there’s a preview clip of the interview below

Hot on the heels of the launch of their album Old Fashion at the Vortex in January, singer songwriter Fumi Okiji and her Old Time Jazz Band continue their tour dates across England this month. Should you chance upon this promising new outfit in the agrarian backwaters, expect to hear Okiji’s finely measured, confident vocals eloquently and subtly fleshed out by her band of cellist Ben Davis, guitarist Stuart Hall, drummer Roy Dodds and clarinettist Idris Rahman.

With northern England and the Welsh borders under their gig-laden belts this brazenly retro outfit now bring their nostalgic flair to the south and east from Cornwall to Lincolnshire at the following venues: Village Hall, Charlton Horethorne (12 Feb); Commemoration Hall, West Coker, Yeovil (13 Feb); Curry Mallet, Taunton (14 Feb); The Village Hall, Nancegollan, Helston (24 Apr); Jubilee Hall, Warleggan, Bodmin (25 Apr); North Rural Community Centre, Muskham, Newark (7 May); Northwick Arms Hall, Ketton, Rutland (8 May) and North Thoresby Village Hall, East Lindsey (9 May).

– Tommie Black-Roff

For more info and tickets got to www.fumiokiji.co.uk/live/


The Love Supreme Jazz Festival returns to its idyllic location on the South Downs from 3-5 July for its third consecutive year with a bevy of hot names that look set to make this an essential summer visit. Located at the picturesque Glynde Place, near Lewes in East Sussex, the festival, which is presented by Jazz FM with Jazzwise as media partner, won huge acclaim following its launch in 2013, and saw a hefty 40% increase in audience numbers for its 2014 event.

With soul jazz-funk diva Chaka Khan lined up as headliner on Saturday 4 July, the iconic jazz-blues singer/songwriter Van Morrison topping the bill on Sunday 5 July and a strong jazz line-up of Hugh Masekela, Joshua Redman with the Bad Plus, Terence Blanchard, Dianne Reeves, Partisans, Get The Blessing, Christine Tobin and Ambrose Akinmusire among the first tranche of names announced, the festival hits a winning combination of major jazz artists, cutting edge bands, jazz-crossover acts and leading funk and soul names.

Also just announced are Candi Staton, Submotion Orchestra, GoGo Penguin, Bill Laurance Project, Dylan Howe’s Subterraneans, Elliot Galvin Trio, Chris Sharkey’s Shiver, Joe Stilgoe, Theo Crocker, Jarrod Lawson, Blue-Eyed Hawk, Gabby Young & Other Animals, The Vampires, Kneebody and the Hackney Colliery Big Band. The extensive greenfield site features the Main Stage, the covered Big Top and Arena stages and the Bandstand stage for newer names, as well as market areas, international cuisine stalls, bars and extensive camping areas, including glamping for those with deeper pockets.


– Jon Newey

Further names will be announced over the coming months and advance tickets and festival information is available from www.lovesupremefestival.com

For a brief moment, this well-established weekend of jazz at Southport’s Royal Clifton Hotel had looked to be in jeopardy, stymied by the need for new blood on the organising committee and the lack of same. Happily, rescue was at hand and in no time at all, everything was once again up and running. Good news for the sell-out crowd this year and for those of us who relish organiser Geoff Mathews’ record for picking bands and performers that one is unlikely to hear elsewhere.

Along with international soloists and up-from-London star turns there’s always room at this hotel-based festival for local performers and young emerging players. Jam Experiment and the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra [of whom more later] carried the flag for youth this time while the invigorating Main Street vocal quartet with veterans Dave Lynane on bass and the very authoritative Dave Hassell on drums represented the north. Theirs was a late night session, more mellow than most, with some well-worked replications of the Hi-Los, the Four Freshmen et al. All clever stuff, and made more so by the creativity of supporting pianist Tim Lapthorne.

Jam Experiment, a student-based group hailing from Manchester, boasted the presence of altoist Alexander Bone, the BBC’s Young Jazz Musician of the Year, and earned all sorts of spurs with their set. Bone is an increasingly authoritative player, with a cool Desmond-ish alto sound, even making good on the dreaded EWI, who can write decent originals. Bassist Sam Quintana and pianist Toby Comeau also impressed. Next up was the ever-popular Alan Barnes/David Newton Septet, re-visiting their own compositions with a three-sax plus trumpet line-up, which included the happy presence of Derek Nash on baritone and tenor.

On this hearing, Newton’s way with a tune is worthy of praise, his Scotch Blues redolent of his Caledonian roots, the pianist’s sparky keyboard touch a fine reminder of his grace under pressure, with Nash’s rousing choruses another standout. Of the promised special festival composition, there was no sign. Late on, the engaging pianist/singer Theo Jackson had to make do with a makeshift band, this apparent dilemma resolving itself surprisingly well with tenorist Binker Golding responding brightly, Jackson’s expert pianisms a pleasure to observe.

Tony-Kofi-Southport

Day two brought more rewards with Jump Monk, this led from the back by the Arnie Somogyi, a bassist who doesn’t just mark time but makes it sing, urging his fellows on in the most vital way on an array of Monk’s tunes [with extra Mingus] aided by Clark Tracy and the ever adroit pianist Liam Noble. Add in Jeremy Price’s trombone and the searing alto of Tony Kofi (above), with his flamethrower tone and vehement attack and you have music of real consequence. Haitian Fight Song had it.

Then came the initially puzzling duo of Marius Neset’s tenor (pictured top) and soprano saxophone with tuba virtuoso Daniel Herskedal. How could this pared-down ensemble work? Well, by allowing Neset to dip into his fecund imagination, his ethereal, folk-like sounds balanced by sudden, raucous eruptions, these much aided by the didgeridoo-like rumbles from his chum. A betting man might have laid odds on a muted response to this novel music, but the reaction from this open-minded audience was wholly appreciative. The reaction to the Dimitry Baevsky Quintet with US trumpeter Joe Magnarelli that followed was more guarded, divided between those who revelled in this one-off group’s hard-bop mannerisms and others who found the format all too predictable with the expected fireworks from top brassman Magnarelli largely missing. Still, there was nothing but praise for the diminutive Baevsky, a Russian altoist based in New York, whose command of the idiom pleased everyone.

Lower-key perhaps, Josh Kemp’s quartet also opened some eyes, mine in particular, this fine tenor saxophonist fusing disparate influences to create improvisations that breathed extra life into his intriguing originals. Still, with Tim Lapthorne bounding about the keyboard, the bass precision of Mike Hutton and the drive of drummer Mat Skelton how could Kemp go wrong?

Pete-Long-southportThe aforementioned BCJO directed by Head of Jazz, Jeremy Price, offered a demanding programme of pieces by Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and Maria Schneider, these generally pulled off well, with soloists Claude Pietersen on tenor, trumpeter Sean Gibbs and guitarist Gareth Fowler the names to watch. In a festival programme suffused with variety, it was Pete Long’s ‘Jazz At The Phil’ last-burst concert that set out to thrill with its expected no-holds-barred approach. And lo, reader, that is what happened, the audience rapturous with some prompted to stand for the final ovation.

Pianist Nick Dawson, guitarist Nigel Price and bassist Paul Morgan kicked off with Tenderly, drummer Ed Richardson soon alongside, with a massed front-line of trumpeters George Hogg and Ryan Quigley, trombonist Callum Au, tenorists Alex Garnett and Dean Masser, Long on clarinet and cheerleading. They jousted, they riffed, with Hogg and Quigley playing high-note chase while Garnett and Masser traded blows, high-revving on the final Lester Leaps In, Au similarly impressive, the rhythm section like a bludgeon, the swing palpable and hugely uplifting. Cue mass appreciation and smiles all round. Well done, Long, but very well done Southport, once more.

– Peter Vacher

– Photos by Robert Burns

A double bill of iconic Irish singer songwriter Van Morrison and Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter are the first names announced for the new Nocturne at Blenheim Palace concert series – both of whom will perform on 25 June. The concert is the first in several planned events to be produced by music promoters Neapolitan Live Events, the same company behind the successful Love Supreme Jazz Festival (back for a third time this July) and U-Live, the new live music division of Universal Music. With a £2.5million investment from the 12th Duke of Marlborough of Blenheim Palace, the series will bring large-scale live music events back to the historic venue’s Great Court for the first time in ten years.  

Both Morrison and Porter have recently released albums on the resurgent, now Universal-owned, Blue Note label with the former’s 2012 recording Born To Sing: No Plan B his most jazz-orientated for years, while Porter’s Grammy-winning third album (and first for Blue Note) Liquid Spirit has enjoyed global chart success and achieved platinum sales status.

Neapolitan Music’s Ciro Romano commented on the series: “It’s a huge honour to be entrusted by the Duke of Marlborough to bring music back to this unique palace. We are thrilled that we have secured Van Morrison to return to Blenheim for the first time since his historic performance in 2004 and also Gregory Porter, whose career I have personally followed since first seeing him perform in small clubs in London only a few years ago. Both acts perfectly realise our vision to bring the greatest talent to Britain’s greatest palace.”

– Mike Flynn


Tickets go on sale on Friday 13 February – for more info go to www.nocturnelive.com  

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