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As expected, the Gent Jazz Festival performs its characteristic trick of balancing hardcore jazz with outside forms, though this year the splitting of these types into two separate long weekends was less marked. Instead, there were infiltrations: Grace Jones snuck into the first weekend, and the second stretch was fully populated by the Kamasi Washington/Robert Glasper/Shabaka Hutchings posse. This didn't seem to matter, as this fest's audience is noted for its open-mindedness (though the second weekend's Einstürzende Neubauten nite did bring out an avant-goth element, for one evening only).

The first weekend's major event was an appearance of the Wayne Shorter Quartet (above) with Belgium's own Casco Philharmonic, to perform the ambitious 'Emanon', which will make up the forthcoming album on Blue Note. They rehearsed in Gent, and also played a show at the North Sea jazzfest. Shorter is seated yet commanding, as he incrementally leads his quartet towards an intense state, over 25 minutes, which is when the Casco players begin to make their presence felt. Shorter has come up with a palette that's reminiscent of Aaron Copland: very American pastoral, and quite accessible. Following Casco's territorial establishment, the quartet enters stealthily, and suddenly they're out in the open. The brass section is aroused, the strings swipe with vigour, and Shorter begins to solo near the close of the first section, continuing with just his quartet. The re-entry of Casco tends to add a hint of swollen blandness, and it soon becomes apparent that the most stirring parts of the new piece feature the quartet in a prominent position.

Shorter is the absolute leader, among this throng of players, the parts that claw into the audience psyche being his soprano issuances, made with a darting hardness, as if he's so intent on his own expression that the orchestra almost becomes a sidelined entity, supporting his own sharp vision. This is how powerful this 83-year-old legend still remains. Shorter has made the score's mood a touch too cheerful for what is intended to be a science-fiction concept narrative, accompanied by comix art for the album's packaging. Perhaps this tale represents the optimistic side of SF? Nevertheless, Shorter is immune and uncompromising, right at the core of his new work.

Over on the smaller Garden Stage, it's often the preferred strategy to present a band playing a trio of sets, sliced and diced to fill the spaces between three of the main stage performances. Sometimes this can visibly freak out a crew, but some artists can take such a platform in their stride, throwing back to the old format for club jazz: multiple sets presented with their own micro-dynamic. The Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven (above) is one such dude. On the first night of the festival's second long weekend, he sharply drove upwards with each 40-minute segment, uniting a tough funk motion with an uncompromising freedom-edge. The music vibrates with the sense that it's being negotiated for the very first time, even if this isn't actually the case. McCraven wants improvisation to possess beats, however involved and complex these might be, topped with blistering trumpet strafes, sinewy basslines, rawk guitar solos and extreme-retro, post-Bernie Worrell cosmic keyboard textures. McCraven and crew are already steaming during the first set, and by the time we reach the third, matters are getting quite out of control..!

On the more local front, there were fewer Gentian groups making a significant mark this year, following 2016’s explosion of indigenous excellence.A pair of the best Belgian acts were Daau (a long-running Antwerpian collective) and Compro Oro, a much younger multi-directional posse from Gent, fronted by the vibes and marimba of Wim Segers. The latter fine-tuned their style as three sets unspooled, beginning with slinky exotica, then ranging into Ethiopian lands, but still rooted in the 1970s. Daau are celebrating their 25th anniversary, reconvened after a sometimes sporadic existence, following some departures of founding members. They too changed emphasis over a troika of sets, opening with a modern classical, accordion-dominated sound, then introducing increased electronic elements later in the evening, including samples of singers, storytellers and screamers, with their clarinettist increasingly doctoring his phrases via a laptop. Daau were an impressive part of the final night, which was certainly one of the festival's best.

DAAU-c-Geert-Vandepoele

The French-Belgian Trio Grande played three sets, with the evening's fourth expanding into the Reve D'Eléphant Orchestra, which features two of the threesome, Michel Massot (trombone/sousaphone) and Michel Debrulle (drums/percussion). The trio adopt a dislocated parading approach, their compositions on the short side, to facilitate the accommodation of their abundance of often romping motifs. Laurent Dehors has the benefit of a rack that includes jaw harp and various clarinets, including bass and contrabass. At one stage he stuffs two clarinets in his mouth at once. Grande's 'Bamako' number has contrabass clarinet, euphonium and a front-marching big bass drum, just to keep us confused, alert and bouncing! Massot hurls his euphonium in the air, then fortunately catches it again. The orchestra features a pair of vocalist-narrators, and has a much more modernised funky rock'n'rap sound compared to when they played here in 2011.

The French duo of Emile Parisien (soprano saxophone) and Vincent Peirani (accordion) illustrated how an intimate sound could exist on the main stage. Opening with some Sidney Bechet, Parisien soon revealed his trademark pixie footwork, which is an integral part of his delivery, helping to power his darting phrases, adding a general vigour to the performance. Even Peirani starts to softly dance as he plays, matching the fluidity of the duo's music. Between the two of them, we've never seen fingers flit so fleetly, the tunes packed with pauses, false endings, calm respites and sudden awakenings, as Peirani occasionally sings, adding to the potential for increased high velocity simultaneity.

In the headlining spaces, there were another pair of crucial sets: a rather lewd Grace Jones, searching for her mislaid dildo (an unusual onstage complaint), and the industrially extreme Einstürzende Neubauten, from Berlin, with frontman Blixa Bargeld as a completely compelling alternative cabaret singer (and castrato screamer!). Both of these acts are somewhat sideways from the usual Jazzwise territory, but illustrate the great imaginative breadth of the Gent fest's booking policy. To close, at midnight, the Fire! trio delivered a relatively brief set, treading the line between minimalist, ritual repeats and the enraged, ripping expression of Mats Gustafsson's tenor saxophone and electronics, returning to the jazz furnace.

– Martin Longley
– Photos by Bruno Bollaert and Geert Vandepoele

There's said to be a minor resurgence in swing in the metropolis, with new bands popping up, and that's all to the good. Still, for the real thing, you needed to be on hand to hear the mighty Buck Clayton Legacy Band storm into 'Outer Drive', its opening piece for this Soho one-off. Arranged by band trombonist Adrian Fry, this had all the ensemble cohesion and rhythmic certainty that its original composer, Basie trumpeter Buck Clayton himself, would have relished. Clayton knew how to give his pieces an inbuilt propensity to swing, but as band altoist Alan Barnes said to me, "I can think of plenty of bands who'd still miss out." Happily this one, propelled by the peerless Bobby Worth, our finest swing drummer, who formed a tight rhythmic bond with bandleader-bassist Alyn Shipton, never put a foot wrong.

Even more to the satisfaction of the late Mr Clayton, were he to be still with us, it boasts an array of on-form soloists. Take Barnes on alto and clarinet, straining every sinew to find a new line on such old favourites as 'The Jeep Is Jumping' or the equally perky 'Broadway Babe'. Then again there's his fellow-saxophonist Robert Fowler, whose robust tenor sound and direct style made me think of Illinois Jacquet, another swing-era hero. Add in the near-boppish trumpet of Ian Smith and the trenchant trombone of Adrian Fry and you have quite a line-up. And that's not to overlook Martin Litton intent at the Steinway, sprinkling every piece with his own personal brand of gold dust, his light touch and lightening runs a joy to observe.

For all this emphasis on the virtues of mainstream, the meat of the night came with the 'guest' appearance of vocalist Lady J, whose role was to evoke and emulate Billie Holiday, especially on songs with a Clayton association. Given her prominence in the mix, it's not surprising that some of the band's intensity dipped with a touch here and there of 'after-you- no-after you', her vocals sometimes struggling to be heard amid the band tumult. Greater familiarity and more rehearsal will sort that out. Any singer, and there have been many, who seeks to tackle the Holiday repertoire is self-evidently a hostage to fortune and unsurprisingly Lady J took a while to settle, coming off best the nearer she got to replicating Billie's sound and behind-the-beat phrasing. Her second set excelled, the confidence building, the backing scaled-down, as on 'God Bless The Child'. For this combination to work as a concert show, it needs a stronger narrative and a more precise sense of purpose: for now, it's best described as a work in progress, even if the band itself is very definitely the finished article.

– Peter Vacher

While the venue's refit, which considerably extends the standing area downstairs, is not unwelcome – especially as this gig draws a good crowd – there are changes immediately noticed by musicians who grace the stage. The old Steinway is gone. Its absence is really felt in the second set when Nikki Yeoh's keyboard plays up a bit as the Denys Baptiste Quartet is in full flow. But there is also a sharp whiff of nostalgia for the missing 'STFU' sign, an acronymic rendering of a forthright request for silence, when some punters just would not stop talking for the upset of others.

Anyway, the first set by double bassist Gary Crosby and tenor saxophonist Steve Williamson is a fine opening to proceedings. Two players with a 40-year musical relationship, they display the requisite chemistry to triumph in a high risk setting. Then again their strength of character really shines through. Williamson's stately, solid tone, its lack of vibrato grippingly stark at times, is entrancing, while Crosby's swing and playfulness with time, resulting in more than one catcher's catch can pause, works very well. A brisk walk through Miles' 'Nardis' and a jaunt through Monk's 'Blue Monk', where the bassist holds the tune and the saxophonist twists and tugs at countermelody with gymnastic turns of phrase, are notable. As for the reading of 'Body & Soul' it is a grand moment of drama, as both men wring exactly the right torrent of sentiment, the longing, ecstasy and agony, from a standard that has challenged all comers since Coleman Hawkins claimed ownership in 1938.

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Tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste, who in the 1990s picked up the baton from Williamson, Crosby and other Jazz Warriors, is enjoying a very good year, having returned to the spotlight with his album The Late Trane, which offers an astute reading of some of the key moments of the closing chapter of John Coltrane's epic journey through sound.

With double bassist Neil Charles, drummer Rod Youngs and the aforesaid keyboardist Yeoh he has an accomplished group at his disposal and it skillfully negotiates the central premise of Baptiste's re-imagining: the beauty of the sometimes simple themes is drawn out and cast against accessible, often danceable rhythmic backdrops that are very British. Young's use of a second snare drum produces all the whiplash thrust of drum & bass throughout the evening while his bouncing kick and hi-hat lines are mildly Latin-calypso, with Charles providing a steady anchor as the energy picks up. From pieces such as 'Ascent' to 'Peace On Earth' the songs are indeed heavenly, and Baptiste's statement of melody and ensuing improvisations, their vaulting course given a misty shadow by his pedal board and octave divider, are highly effective.

The electro-acoustic sound palette is vaguely Joe Henderson circa Power To The People but the cheeky quotes of Miles' 'Jean-Pierre' spread the references further. Having said that, the sparkling streams of single notes produced by Yeoh when she 'unplugs' on 'After The Rain' fully captivate, before Crosby and Williamson return for a rousing finale in which the doubling up of bass and horns brings forth all of the stormy density that marked Coltrane's valedictory musical statements. Baptiste's take is as personal as it is respectful to that spirit.

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Roger Thomas

This year's Manchester Jazz Festival marks jazz's centenary with a 100 hours of live music. Yet while commemorating 100 years of jazz may seem a decidedly nostalgic step, as Selwyn Harris discovers, those behind the #Jazz100 campaign, such as WorldService Project's Dave Morecroft, are definitely and defiantly looking to the music's future

What is it about jazz and anniversaries? Any excuse for an endless surge of good old media retrospectives, social media postings, extortionately-priced box sets, desperately obscure track releases, not to mention tribute albums and concerts. It might seem that way too with hashtag #Jazz100, a pop-up campaign created to commemorate the centenary of the birth of jazz in 1917. As ambiguous as that date might sound, it's exactly 100 years since the birth of the likes of Ella, Diz and Monk, as well as the first ever jazz-labelled recording release, 'Livery Stable Blues', by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. But instead #Jazz100 has an entirely refreshing outlook on how to celebrate an anniversary. According to them, it's all about the next rather than the previous 100 years. 2017 as year zero. Dave Morecroft (below), the man behind the band WorldService Project and the exciting pan-European tour/festival organizers Match and Fuse, is the mastermind behind #Jazz100, which he emphasises is a 'campaign' rather than a 'project'.

Dave-Morecroft

"Of course, it's fantastic to look at the story so far and how far things have come," he says. "But I think because of the work that I've done ever since I came into this industry I always wanted to look at things very progressively and look to the future and at bringing new audiences to new music, to support new music and creative, innovative musicians from across the UK, Ireland and also Europe. So we had a moment last year when it all just came together and I was thinking, well why don't we talk about the next 100 years of British and Irish jazz? Because the fact of the matter is that the UK and Ireland scene right now is incredibly vibrant and innovative and it's in a really great place. There's a kind of resurgence going on, especially in the last five years or so. What we're trying to do is create a new atmosphere within the industry in this country. So there's an outward-facing side in which we're trying to reclaim or rebrand a word. To most audiences, in fact, there is some jazz that they would like. A lot of the time audiences are going to see jazz, even interacting with jazz groups. Let's talk about Snarky Puppy or The Comet is Coming, Zara McFarlane or Shabaka and the Ancestors, all these very exciting bands right now. They might even be interacting or listening to that music, but just not really aware or labelling it as 'jazz'. And then the inward-facing side is jazz as a sector, as an industry. Jazz has always, at least in this country, been towards the more disparate end of all the cultural sectors. So this is a way to celebrate this new momentum that jazz is finding, but also to look at the narrative of how the next 100 years will unfold."

salon-perdu-by-ShotAway-web

The #Jazz100 mission kicked off in April on International Jazz Day at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, followed up by related events at Glasgow and Love Supreme festivals. There's #jazzvirgins, a ticketing scheme for those who haven't, as yet, popped their jazz cherry, various digital and educational initiatives, as well as collaborations with organisations such as Jazz Promotion Network. Besides London Jazz Festival's 'Next Generation Takes Over' strand in November, #Jazz100 reaches a climax at Manchester Jazz Festival this month with "100 gigs in 100 hours". This includes composer Dave Maric's commission piece 'Decade Zero', that's already been performed by Phronesis/Engines Orchestra (pictured top - photo by Tim Dickeson) at Cheltenham, with a rendition at London's Barbican to follow in November.

"It was really exciting for me to see our three festivals investing in one project," says director Steve Mead of the Manchester Jazz Festival that has one of the most forward-looking, youth-orientated programmes in the country. "I really wanted to capitalise on the #Jazz100 campaign and look at how we could lend our own slant to the initiative. I've always known that the 10-day festival structure and spread of gigs throughout the day has equated to roughly 100 hours of music. We usually present 80-85 bands in each festival, but with some additional venue partners this year and some additional hands-on family morning shows in our Salon Perdu Spiegeltent (pictued above), the total coincidentally came to 98 gigs by the time I finished the programme. It was our way of joining in with the #Jazz100 campaign – the main objective is to get people's attention and encourage them to try something new out of curiosity."

For Dave Morecroft though, "it's as much a social mission as a musical one, which I think is very important to all the musicians that you see paving the way in the UK and Ireland right at this moment. It's a collaborative thing, it's about community, and it's become about politics again. It's all these things, it's not just musical genres and tastes. We all have these common goals, but they're very rarely put under one banner and I think there's a tendency in the UK sometimes for people to very much focus and work on their own goals and work in their corner if you like. But I think together we are stronger and that's something we really want to do, unite the sector. That's when you can take the case to the mainstream media, government or the private sector and that's when you can show something is worth investing in. The message is a bit of a cliché but it is very much relevant to the sector."

As someone directly involved in negotiating collaborations between UK and other European bands for his Match and Fuse festivals and tours, Morecroft seems as good a person as any to ask about the effect of the current Brexit plans and arts funding cuts on this kind of work?

"That picture is increasingly blurring and it seems to change week by week, depending who you listening to. But one thing is cultural initiative. Producers and people who work around culture and who are incredibly passionate about it have always found ways to endure. The mechanisms that they are working with, or trying to promote, survive irrespective of political situations, of administrative difficulties or logistical problems. If you see all the work that's being done by UK members of the EJN (European Jazz Network), of course there'll be things that need to be addressed regarding Brexit and challenges that need to be overcome, but I think the commitment of all of those members of the European Jazz Network, just as an example of cultural producers working at very high levels in their field, all of them remain completely committed to transmitting stuff across borders. It will survive and it will continue and I think that's the positive message that we have to believe and transmit because it's too important not to."

For full details of the Manchester Jazz Festival visit www.manchesterjazz.com

Listen to a podcast with Steve Mead from MJF talking to Nigel Slee from Jazz North

 lab small

Montreux Jazz Festival has a special place among all jazz festivals. Throughout the 51 years of its existence it's gathered an impressive collection of great names from the history of music. From jazz giants sich as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie and many more, to rock legends Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple and many others – have all played here. This year the three main stages hosted 105 concerts across different genres: Auditorium Stravinsky presented pop, jazz and world music, Montreux Jazz Club focused primarily on Jazz, and Montreux Jazz Lab – on different experiments with electronic music.

For two weeks this small beautiful city on lake Geneva transformed into a firework display of sound, rhythm and musical styles. Music was everywhere: musicians and entertainers performed on the streets, waiters sung and tap danced, the free program presented in the park and in the clubs gathered excited crowds.

The festival comprised not only the concerts in the three main venues, but also various workshops, talks and competitions. One of the workshops is going to have a great impact on all jazz lovers around the world. The main guest of the workshop was Quincy Jones (below) who is connected to the festival since 1991. He and TV producer Reza Ackbaraly announced the first ever subscription video-on-demand platform named Qwest TV. The purpose of this new project that launches this autumn is to introduce jazz to new generations.

 Quincy-Jones small

Jazz train gathered music lovers several times during the festival and carried them up to the mountains treating them to the sounds of New Orleans style bands. Jazz boat was another great addition of the festival. It provided the opportunity to see the beautiful city of Montreux from a different point of view.

 Train page small

There were many great concerts during Montreux Jazz Festival this year but the most unusual and unexpected one for me was the Surprise concert created by Quincy Jones, Jacob Collier and Jonah Nilsson (below). Starting at 1.30am and finisishing at 4am, it was perhaps the latest jazz gig I've ever watched. The excited audience enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of this gig and the way young musicians improvised and easily supported each other, inventing and developing musical themes.

I must confess that at first I was rather surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of pop music at major jazz festival. However, strolling past the statues of legendary musicians of the past lined up neatly on the embankment, it struck me that this is in fact the essence of the sprit of this charming vibrant city. Various musical genres coexist well here, each style of music finds its own audience and together they create one great festival of music!

Although I only had the pleasure of joining for seven out of 16 days, and many fabulous gigs were missed, I hope that my small photo gallery will help you to immerse yourself into the atmosphere of the marvelous Montreux Jazz Festival 2017.

– Tatiana Gorilovsky (story and photos)

 Arta Jekabson small

 Cinematic orchestra small

 Erikah Badu small

 George Benson small

 Jacob-Collier small

 JoeyAlexander small

 Lee Ritenour small

 Mavis Staples small

 Mike Stern movem small

 Olli Hirvonen small

 Randy Brecker small

 Sax summit small

 Shabaka small

 TheBloody Beetroots small

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