This year’s BBC Proms will be celebrating the hard-swinging jazz of the 1930s and 1940s at the Royal Albert Hall with a Battle of the Big Bands as part of a special Late Night Prom this Friday 8 August. The concert pays homage to the legendary face-offs held at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in the late 1930s, where the big bands of Count Basie and Benny Goodman would try to outdo each other with killer tunes and powerful arrangements.

Now, 80 years later, two specially commissioned big bands will be going head to head in a similar Battle of the Bands, with the Count Pearson Prom Band led by James Pearson, the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s, versus the Duke Windsor Prom Band, led by Australian pianist, composer and arranger Grant Windsor. While both pianists are in-demand sidemen and solo artists, they have also worked extensively on their big band projects, with Windsor’s Broken Big Band and Pearson’s upcoming collaboration with his trio and the Skelton/Skinner All Star Big Band to perform the music of Oscar Peterson.

This jazz Prom will also feature a guest appearance by Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, as well as acclaimed British jazz singer and Radio 2 broadcaster Clare Teal, who has previously performed with both Windsor and Porter. She will also compère the concert, and has commented “it will be a ‘Battle Royal’ with the duel-off at the end… if you haven’t heard a big band going full throttle, the sound is extraordinary”. The concert begins at 10.15pm at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, and will be broadcast live on Radio 3, while a recording of the event will be shown on BBC4 on 17 August.

– Bethany Roberts

For more information visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms/

 

A time when most large festivals are struggling for an audience and the necessary finance to run them Palatia Jazz Festival in the Palatinate region of Germany is certainly bucking this trend. The brainchild of Yvonne Moissl the festival is pretty much unique in Europe as it moves around the region choosing unusual locations for the shows – the stage and all the equipment is transported from gig to gig – including gourmet catering facilities. This limits the size of the performance space but also that of the audience – she is working on 250-350 tickets per show – most sell out in advance. The festival takes place over weekends during July and August, featuring top American and European jazz artists.

Over the weekend we attended we were fortunate to see two events – the new Charles Lloyd Quartet plus Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and Berlin-based vibes player Oli Bott – who was joined for his Vibratanghissimo quartet gig by Vietnamese guitarist Nguyên Lê.

The location for this concert was the ‘Oldest house in Hasslock’ (built c1599) – a quiet town surrounded by vines and agriculture. The venue a courtyard between the ‘oldest House’ and a new purpose built arts centre – a clever mixture of old and new. Oli Bott’s Vibratanghissimo project as the name implies is vibes meets tango meets jazz, with music by Bott and Astor Piazzolla – the added dimension – and a brilliant move by Moissl, was to bring in Nguyên Lê as special guest – known for being a ‘fusion’ player, his ability to turn his hand to any style and stamp his mark on it is remarkable.

Bott’s band features piano, viola and bass (no drums) and with Bott orchestrating the sound the interplay between Juan Lucas Aisemberg (viola) and Tuyet Pham (piano) and Arnulf Ballhorn (electric Bass, double bass and effects) was breathtaking. Latin American rhythms entwined with Vietnamese sounds weird – but it worked really well as did Bott’s composition Danza Tempestosa’ written for viola and vibes and Lê’s tunes, ‘Noihey Luz’ and the beautiful ‘Snow on a Flower’, which were brilliantly re-worked for the ensemble who also seemed be having a lot of fun.

The second night was in the town of Germersheim within the old military fortress. The doors opened at 6pm and everything was set out: tables and chairs in a grassy area for those who wished to eat, a bar stocked with only local wines and beers and a stage set, again in a courtyard with seating for around 350 people.

Christoph-Stiefel-palatia

Opening the concert was Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and his trio featuring Lisette Spinnler on vocals (pictured above) – a dark and brooding singer who wrenched every ounce of emotion from the songs – Stiefel is an inventive player, one who does not waste notes for the pursuit of show or speed. The perfect appetiser for what was to follow.

Lloyd, a sprightly 76 – now probably the legend of sax to see live now that Sonny Rollins is no longer touring – has a new band, again. A bit like Dr Who, Lloyd reincarnates himself through his sidemen – the pianists particularly – Keith Jarrett, Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, Geri Allen and more recently Jason Moran have all had their influence and been influenced by Lloyd. The new band is the Gerald Clayton trio – Clayton on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums (all pictured below). Clayton has some big shoes to step in.

Charles-Lloyd-palatia2

Actually the pianist is the perfect fit for Lloyd – he is young (of course) he is a four-time Grammy nominee and has played with some of the biggest names in jazz. Playing all but one Lloyd composition the band and Lloyd were brilliant – the saxophonist by no means taking the limelight, although his solos were as good as I have ever heard him play – he was visibly glowing when Clayton or Sanders took their solos – as though he was hearing his compositions for the first time (although he has probably played them all dozens of times before). These included ‘When I think of a Peaceful World’, ‘Bookers Garden’, ‘Horace Blues’, ‘Evanstide’ and ‘Passin’ Thru’ – while Justin Brown got his solo spot in ‘Rabo de Nube’ (by Silvio Rodrigues). I spoke to him afterwards and he told me: “You know, I look up from the kit and I see him there – I say to myself, woah! That’s Charles Lloyd”. You and me both Justin.

Lloyd has a new band and a new lease of life and for the moment at least – he is the hottest ticket to see live and Gerald Clayton has taken a massive step forward in his career. Palatia Jazz has three more weekends to run with Emil Brandqvist trio and Caro Josee Band (9 August); Heiko Plank and Nils Petter Molvaer (16 August); and Big Band Nights (30-31 August).

– Tim Dickeson (Story and photos)

For more info and ticket details go to www.palatiajazz.de

 


This year’s Brecon Jazz Festival kicks off this week, running from 7-10 August, with headliners including Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, songwriting legend Burt Bacharach and iconic Brit-jazz big band Loose Tubes (pictured above), who share a 30th anniversary year with the festival this year.

Song writing icon Bacharach opens the festival on 7 August with a rare UK appearance, performing at the town’s Market Hall with his band and singers, while the anarchic, hugely influential Loose Tubes also appear at the venue (8 August), which if their riotous gigs at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Ronnie Scott’s in May were anything to go by, will be one not to be missed. Dynamite jazz-soul vocalist Gregory Porter has already taken Cheltenham, Love Supreme and London’s Calling Festival by storm and will headline Brecon’s closing night with his killer US band (10 August), before returning in the autumn for a full UK tour.    

Other names on this year’s programme include the barnstorming Beats & Pieces Big Band, Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio, Jean Toussaint Quartet, a special tribute to Stan Tracey, gypsy jazz guitar star Fapy Lafertin, swing and trad stars Chris Barber and Don Weller, and leading Scottish jazz pianist David Newton.

A host of leading contemporary British and European jazz artists also appear and include top UK bands Polar Bear, Kairos 4Tet and Troyka, alongside newer names such as Zara McFarlane and Ollie Howell Quintet, while continental stars appearing include Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset (9 August) and phenomenal German piano-led group the Michael Wollny Trio (8 August).

Also performing are US trumpet veteran Warren Vache with a group featuring top UK multi-reedist Alan Barnes, while renowned Welsh jazz musician Mike Harries also appears with his popular band The Root Doctors.

– Mike Flynn

– Photo by Tim Dickeson


For the full programme and ticket details go to www.breconjazz.org

 

This year’s Kings Place Festival runs from 12-14 September, and boasts an array of high calibre jazz artists scattered throughout an eclectic weekend of music, talks, workshops and family events. A highlight of the festival, taking place in and around the independent multi-arts hub at King’s Cross, will be the acclaimed Beats & Pieces Big Band, winners of this year’s Parliamentary Jazz Award for Ensemble of the Year 2014. Influenced by the likes of Loose Tubes and Radiohead as well traditional big bands, this in-demand ensemble will culminate a busy summer of festival appearances with their show in Hall One at 9:30pm on Saturday 13 Sept.

Other featured jazz artists include renowned pianist/composer Andrew McCormack, a British-born New York resident known for his innovative and expressive compositions, who will be performing music from his new album First Light alongside Chris Hill (bass) and Troy Miller (drums) in Hall Two at 6:15pm on Friday 12 Sept. Multi award-winning quartet Empirical will headline Hall Two later that evening (10:15pm), featuring Nathaniel Facey on alto sax and Lewis Wright on vibraphone. Also appearing in Hall Two are forward-looking quartet Blue-Eyed Hawk (5:45pm, Saturday 13 Sept) and Live Junction, a showcase of jazz, classical, world and folk music from around the globe presented by Palestinian singer Reem Kelani (2:45pm, Sunday 14 Sept).

All of these concerts are ticketed at a special festival price of £6.50 per gig, alongside free events running throughout the weekend on the Box Office Stage, including the National Youth Jazz Collective (8:15pm, Friday 12) and Orchestra Elastique (7:45pm, Saturday 13).


– Bethany Roberts

For more information visit www.kingsplace.co.uk/festival

 

Jazzwise July cover star Orphy Robinson leads an exciting new Jazz on Film project on 13 September, performing a ‘live’ imaginary soundtrack to accompany an outdoor screening of D.W. Griffith’s 1919 silent classic Broken Blossoms.

Presented in association with the Vortex, Hackney Cooperative Developments and Reel Islington, the vibraphonist/
multi-instrumentalist Robinson, who has previously composed for film, TV and theatre, has formed a quintet that will feature a mix of high profile musicians from the experimental jazz and world music scenes including Byron Wallen, Corey Mwamba, Emi Watanabi and Beibei Wang, playing in front of the screen in Gillett Square, home of the Vortex Jazz club in Dalston.

A story of forbidden love and racism, the film is set in the Limehouse
district of the east end and is about a young Chinese man who has just arrived in the East End slums. The American film maker D. W. Griffith, who also made the pioneering yet controversial Birth of a Nation and Intolerance has been revered by filmmakers from Alfred Hitchcock through to Orson Welles.

– Selwyn Harris

– Photo - Alex Bonney

For more info go to www.gillettsquare.org.uk

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