It seems like every time I pick up a great crossover album at the moment and there's a trumpet player on it that trumpet player turns out to be Keyon Harrold. The Missouri-born New York City-based musician is best known for his work on the Miles Ahead soundtrack (he was the trumpet double for Don Cheadle's Miles Davis and his young rival, Junior). But his list of credits is humbling. In the past two decades, he's worked with Jay Z, Maxwell, D'Angelo, Billy Harper and Gregory Porter. And he pops up on a slew of recent recordings, including Common's Black America Again, Chris Dave's long-awaited Drumhedz release and Terrace Martin's Velvet Portraits.

But Harrold is fast becoming a star solo artist in his own right. I enjoyed his major label debut, The Mugician (a nickname and portmanteau coined by Cheadle himself), when it was released last year. Robert Glasper and brilliant vocalist Bilal both feature and there's some gorgeous orchestral writing on there – slicing strings and sonorous bass clarinets. Performed live though, by Harrold's New York trio plus keys player Ashley Henry, a star of the London new wave, it was something else entirely. I didn't realise Harrold's sound was that bold, that his jazz chops were that good or that he could stretch out that far. There's so much feeling in his playing, whether he's crafting mellow lines or hammering out ear-shredding pyrotechnics, you know he means every note.

The set began the way the album does, with Harrold soloing around a voicemail message from his Mum, Shirley, telling him to never give up on his dreams. As an emotionally repressed Brit, I usually roll my eyes at heart-on-sleeve stuff like that. But Harrold played with such passion, I could feel a lump rising in my throat. Though he considers himself a jazz musician at heart, Harrold describes his music as a "gumbo" of different styles. The album's title-track brought skanking reggae; a version of 'In A Sentimental Mood', featuring singer Andrea Pizziconi, sounded like Ellington remixed by Slum Village – all lopsided beats and lowriding basslines; Pizziconi and China Moses added soulful backing vocals to 'Wayfaring Traveler'; and the dreamy 'Stay This Way' became a thrashing rock anthem, with a blazing guitar solo from Nir Felder.

The band were on fire. Henry's playing was more assured and more varied than ever before, and later in the set bassist Burniss Travis opened up, decorating a heavy arrangement of The Beatles' 'She's Leaving Home' with thrumming, high-register phrases that sounded like flamenco guitar. He lived up to his nickname, 'Boom', on fusion burner 'Bubba Rides Again', hammering out a one-note bass groove – a chest-shaking low-frequency piledriver pounding out of the subs. When his time came, drummer Charles Haynes exploded the beat, then brutally and repeatedly stamped on his bass-drum pedal. I love it when drummers play like that: when you know they're not even thinking about complex cross rhythms or related time signatures, they're just smashing things at random. Sometimes the moment demands it.

But this was more than just a great gig. It had impact. It felt important. Harrold is highly political. He runs a music non-profit called Compositions For A Cause with Andrea Pizziconi, and she joined him on stage to sing 'Circus Show', an ode to the ludicrous, terrifying times we live in. The emotional climax was the ballad 'MB Lament', written for Michael Brown, a black teenager who was gunned down by police in Ferguson, two blocks from Harrold's father's home. It was dedicated to all victims of law enforcement "debacles", because "nobody deserves to be killed just for walking down the street". Its mellow, reflective bassline morphed into the head-jolting groove of 'When Will It Stop' and the band, plus guest altoist Soweto Kinch who stormed out of the wings and bit down hard on his reed, unleashed more righteous fire.

On the journey home, I couldn't stop thinking about that photograph taken during the Black Lives Matter protests in Baton Rouge in 2016. Perhaps you remember it. It shows a young black woman in a flowing dress calmly making a stand, alone in the middle of the road. Two police officers in riot gear are closing in on her. She's about to be arrested. But in the split second that the photograph was taken, it looks as if the officers are falling back, overawed. It's like there's a forcefield around her. She looks devastating and untouchable – majestic, even – a beacon of non-violent resistance, radiating grace and power. 'My Queen Is Ieshia Evans'.

In the biggest moments, when Harrold was pouring his heart out, singing the blues through his horn, preaching pride and determination, this performance felt the way that photograph feels. If that picture were a scene in a film, Harrold's music would be playing.

– Thomas Rees

 

Seven-piece Austrian newcomers Shake Stew are set to release their second album, Rise And Rise Again on 4 May on the Traumton Record imprint. Led by dynamic 30-year old bassist/composer Lukas Kranzelbinder the band's unusual line-up includes a second electric/upright bassist Manuel Mayr, two drummers, Niki Dolp and Mathias Koch, and three horn players – Clemens Salesny on alto and tenor sax, Johannes Schleiermacher on tenor sax and Mario Rom on trumpet.

Collectively they create a driving, highly-melodic sound that's fuelled by frenetic Afrobeat grooves and fiery solos. Establishing themselves through a sold-out six-month residency at the renowned Porgy & Bess Jazz Club, Kranzelbinder invited UK multi-reed star Shabaka Hutchings to perform with the band there and subsequently to record two tracks on Rise And Rise Again. Ahead of its release Shake Stew have unveiled the visually stunning video (see below) for the first song on the album, 'Dancing in the Cage of a Soul', featuring dancers Zoé Afan Strasser and Vito Vidovic Bintchende. The band will be touring the UK in 2019.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.shakestew.com

Renowned expat US saxophonist Jean Toussaint makes an emphatic return with his eleventh album, Brother Raymond, which is set for release on 18 May on Lyte Records. The album is inspired and pays tribute to Toussaint's mentor and former boss Art Blakey, and marks the 25th anniversary of the great drummer's death.

Toussaint first came to prominence as a member of Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1982, subsequently moving to the UK in 1987 and going on to become a respected jazz educator and a highly regarded solo artist. Brother Raymond also features an extensive cast of young lions and experienced UK players including trumpeters Byron Wallen and Mark Kavuma; trombonists Dennis Rollins and Tom Dunnett; saxophonist Tom Harrison; pianists Jason Rebello, Andrew McCormack and Ashley Henry; bassists Daniel Casimir and Alec Dankworth; drummers Shane Forbes, Troy Miller and Mark Mondesir and percussionist Williams Cumberbatch Perez.

The album is launched at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London on 4 June, with an extensive tour on the following dates: Cambridge Jazz (27 Sept); Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Shrewsbury (28 Sept); Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea (6 Oct); Herts Jazz Festival (7 Oct); Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (12 Oct); Norwich Jazz Club (16 Oct); RWCMD, Cardiff (masterclass/concert, 19 Oct); Trinity Laban Masterclass (1 Nov); SevenArts, Leeds (15 Nov); London College of Music (masterclass, 16 Nov); Hull Jazz Festival(16 Nov); The Blue Room, Lincoln (17 Nov); NCEM, York (18 Nov) and Calstock Arts Centre (1 Dec).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.jeantoussaint.com

 Sloth

UK improvising quintet Sloth Racket – led by baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts, with Anton Hunter on guitar, Sam Andreae on alto saxophone, Seth Bennett on bass and Johnny Hunter on drums – take their forthcoming third studio long-player, A Glorious Monster (released on the Lumionous Label on 4 June) out for a test drive during the following dates: Hundred Years Gallery, London (26 May), Kelston Barn, Bath (27 May), The Peer Hat, Manchester (29 May), The Bless, Derby (30 May), The Basement, York (31 May), DJAZZ Festival, Durham (3 June), Traverse Bar, Edinburgh (5 June) and Wharf Chambers, Leeds (7 June).

– Spencer Grady
– Photo by Agata Urbaniak

For more details visit www.slothracket.co.uk 

With this year's edition of the Jazz FM Awards set to take place on 30 April, which is also International Jazz Day, the recipients of two special awards have been revealed. These include the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award which will be presented to revered British jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine (above left), now aged 90, in recognition of her extraordinary music career. This spans more than 100 albums (including working with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Ray Charles) as well as countless performances alongside her late great husband Sir John Dankworth and with the cream of UK and international jazz scene. Laine commented on the award: "It is an incredible honour to be the recipient of this year's PPL Lifetime Achievement Award. Jazz continues to amaze me every day and I feel privileged to have been able to spend my life performing around the world and sharing music with many wonderful people. Thank you very much to Jazz FM for recognising my work."

The second special award goes to US guitarist and singing star George Benson (above right) who will be honoured with this year's Impact Award, in recognition of his music reaching a huge audience across his fifty-year career that includes winning 10 Grammy Awards and selling tens-of-millions of albums. The fifth edition of these awards will be presented by Jazz FM DJs Chris Philps and Jez Nelson at a ceremony at Shoreditch Town Hall on 30 April.

The full list of nominees is as follows:

Breakthrough Act of the Year: Ezra Collective; Nubya Garcia; Rob Luft.

International Soul Artist of the Year: Jordan Rakei; Leroy Hutson; Moonchild.

UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote): Dinosaur; Ezra Collective; Kansas Smitty's House Band.

Digital Initiative of the Year: Esperanza Spalding: Exposure; Jacob Collier: I Harm U; Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club: Live Streaming.

Instrumentalist of the Year: Evan Parker; Theon Cross; Yazz Ahmed.

International Blues Artist of the Year: Lucky Peterson; Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo; Robert Cray.

Jazz Innovation of the Year: Carleen Anderson: Cage Street Memorial; Joe Armon Jones and Maxwell Owin: Idiom; Shabaka Hutchings: multiple projects.

Vocalist of the Year: Alice Zawadzki; Liane Carroll; Zara McFarlane. International Jazz

Artist of the Year: Cécile McLorin Salvant; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Thundercat.

Album of the Year (Public Vote): Blue Note All-Stars – Our Point of View; Cécile McLorin Salvant – Dreams and Daggers; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Diaspora; Denys Baptiste – The Late Trane; Phronesis – The Behemoth; Thundercat – Drunk.

Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote): An evening with Dave Holland – Ambleside Days Festival at Zephirellis Cinema (featuring Norma Winstone, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Nikki Iles, Mark Lockheart, Stan Sulzmann, Tim Garland, John Helliwell, Nick Smart, James Maddren and Asif Sirkis); CHICAGOXLONDON – Makaya McCraven at Total Refreshment Centre – 18 October, featuring Theon Cross Trio and Jaimie Branch Fly Or Die Ensemble; Ronnie Scott's presents Ezra Collective – EFG London Jazz Festival at Islington Assembly Hall; Jazz Re:Fest at the Southbank Centre; Pharoah Sanders Quartet + Denys Baptiste + Alina Bzhezhinska: A Concert for Alice and John – EFG London Jazz Festival at The Barbican and Randolph Matthews – Jazz in the Round at Love Supreme Festival.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.jazzfmawards.com

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