Multi-faceted Brazilian vocal stylist Flavia Coelho releases her second album, entitled Mundo Meu, on 11 May. This follows her debut release of 2011, Bossa Muffin, which successfully fused Brazilian and Caribbean styles with other contemporary sounds such as hip-hop and jazz.

For Mundo Meu Coelho continues in this vein, this time returning to her Brazilian roots in a more assertive way after almost 10 years living in France. Coelho is accompanied by a host of top musicians, including drummer Tony Allen and the German singer-songwriter, Patrice. Two live dates follow the release: the first takes place at Norfolk & Norwich Festival on 17 May; the second date is on 18 May at Rich Mix, London.

– Marlowe Heywood-Thornes

By the early 1980s the word on Dave Weckl was out. His virtuosity at the drums had propelled him from playing club dates in New York City with pro-fusioners Nite Sprite, to sessions worldwide with the likes of Paul Simon, George Benson, Chick Corea and Madonna. These days, the notoriously-nimble drummer drives his own band, and tonight this killer quartet stressed both his strengths as a leader, and an unquestionable versatility that's landed him gigs with some of world's greatest musicians.

As if to go full circle, this recently assembled acoustic outfit – Gary Meek on tenor sax, Tom Kennedy on double bass andJapanese pianist Makoto Ozone – returned to the music of Weckl's formative fusion years for a set that bridged bop, blues, Latin and crisp funk to breathtaking effect. A warm welcome from a packed house kicked things off with the absurdly-stamped swinger ‘What Happened to My Good Shoes’, where bluesy horn riffs and occasional swerves into samba were swept along by swift sock-style hi hat and the clattering of timbale-like tom breaks.

A funkier ‘Stay Out’ brought some sludgy organ from Ozone to the mix. Doubling busy lines from Kennedy and Meek, a sweep up to a higher register initiated a whistling, gospel-style solo that Weckl only intensified, burying his stick into the bell of his ride cymbal, leaving his left hand to roll over the rumble of his double bass drum. Whether it be beats like this, his metronomic timing or astounding ability as a soloist, Weckl was a joy to watch throughout. Particularly inspiring though was the support he gave to his sidemen: rhythmically-matching motifs, deploying feel-altering dynamics or accentuating main themes smack in the middle of a solo or complex cut like ‘Koolz’.

Despite the drummer's confession that rehearsals for this tour had been few, the band was water-tight. Their skill in shaping tunes from scratch was also confirmed with a long improv section in which a lone, classical-style intro from the classically-trained Ozone was met with a whisper-soft brushes beat that brought to mind Spanish Heart-era Corea, more noticeably when the jam wandered into a cowbell-thumping Mozambique feel, fleshed out with muscular bass and honks of raw tenor.

The show would close with a groovy, horn-heavy rendition of Jaco Pastorious' ‘The Chicken’, but not before a lengthy break from Weckl rattled every bit of his kit, leaving the house slack-jawed, nearly forty years since he first made his mark.

– Mark Youll

– Photo by Carl Hyde

GP-interview

Grammy-winning vocalist Gregory Porter spoke to Jazzwise exclusively and talks about his his performance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival with Laura Mvula this bank holiday weekend on Monday 4 May, as well as his big headline concert on 25 June at Blenheim Palace on a stellar double bill with jazz-blues singer songwriter Van Morrison, and about his eagerly awaited new album

You are set to appear with Van Morrison at Blenheim Palace – a hugely historic venue – what does it mean this to you?

Wow! The view facing away from Blenheim Palace is amazing and then just the Palace itself is amazing; I think this will be the most beautiful venue I have ever done. I grew up listening to Van’s music and so to be billed with him is extraordinary, to have recorded with him and developed a friendship with him – I’m still pinching myself quite frankly. This is a catalyst to something, which is quite extraordinary to me.

How do you think the audience will respond appearing alongside Van Morrison?

I think they will respond quite favourably. The interesting thing with Van’s music is that he straddles across several different genres. He comes across to me as a singer, songwriter, jazz man, blues man, soul man and probably the connection has been made between the two of us – artistically. Even from a promoter’s standpoint, the connection has been made because – I’m not at all putting myself in the same category as Van – but artistically we probably think the same way about music.

Will you be singing with Van Morrison?

It may happen, that’s up to Van – the man. I’m definitely game to do it. But we shall see.

We’ve heard that you have a new album in the works – will it be released later this year?

What kind of material will be on it?

They could release it later on this year; it may be the beginning of next year. I’m not certain when exactly the release date will be. I’m definitely in the formulation of process and we are going into the studio very soon to get it down. I have been writing the material. There will be more writing before the record date which is generally what happens to me once I get a deadline in terms of being in the studio, maybe four or five days before the studio date. Ideas of songs come to me; the feeling of what I want to say comes to me. The record forms as I am in the studio; I don’t go in with a pre-planned idea of what it’s going to sound like or what’s it’s going to be, what the political energy or love energy is going to be on it, it just happens when it happens. I’m organically going to let it be that way again – I look forward to just keep moving that wave.

Will there be any collaborations?

That is yet to be finalised – I’m just going to say maybe! [laughs]

Or covers (or both) on it?

There will be jazz standards. I’m in love with the book of standards and also more obscure songs that have been performed before.

You’re also performing at Cheltenham jazz festival with Laura Mvula performing the music of Gershwin – could you tell me about that project came together?

That project came about when it was proposed to me by some people that were involved in the programming at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. I have come with my band to the festival three times at Cheltenham and they wanted to mix it up. I have several projects that I could have brought to the festival, but this was one that I think we’re going to be joined with the orchestra, it made perfect sense. The Gershwin songbook is deep and long, so there’s plenty of great music to do there. It’s one of the ‘why nots’; like when in your career are you gonna do it? Not why, just when.

Are you looking forward to working with the Orchestra and Laura Mvula?

I am. Laura Mvula she’s a great voice, sensitive voice of unique character. And anytime I get to perform with an orchestra is always exciting to me, because the sound, it’s like, I don’t know, I’ve never been surfing on like a grand scale – but it’s got to be like surfing in front of a giant wave which is kind of just pushing you along – it’s always exciting to be with a big orchestra.

You are booked to play Glastonbury – how do you think that crowd will take to your music?

The audiences are extraordinary. They always come up to me and express themselves and show some appreciation. I’m here in Blenheim and two or three people have already come up and shake hands and say how much they like my music. I’ve had a great time with audiences, even back in New York with people, so I’m sure the audiences will respond well.

And when will you be heading back to the UK to perform?

I’m sure it will be very soon and I’m almost sure it is my calendar already. I don’t keep a faithful knowledge of my diary, I go from day to day and week to week.

– Liv Fernandes

For more info and tickets go to www.nocturnelive.com/tickets and www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

The fourth UNESCO International Jazz Day saw a meeting of incandescent spirits at the Union Chapel in Islington, London, where the stellar talents of The Human Revolution Orchestra performed with special guest trombonist Robin Eubanks. This was the third outing for the Orchestra and their Ode To The Human Spirit, hosted by the socially engaged Buddhist movement SGI-UK. According to Sean Corby, the Orchestra’s founder, the collective “seeks ways by which we can demonstrate the power of music in the transformation of our communities and ourselves.”

RobinEubanksHRO MG 1557

The “power of music” was certainly present in the Union Chapel as British tenor magician Denys Baptiste set the bar high for all subsequent solos, blowing up a storm over the opening piece, ‘Divine Revelation’. Exploring the full range of the tenor, he layered complex, harmonically suggestive lines over a tight straight-eight groove. His solo wound down with a trill, fading into the wall of massive horn backings that emanated from this joyous 22-piece Orchestra. It’s just a shame that one had to strain to hear the soloists, in the process missing many subtle nuances of such a rare line-up. The natural acoustics of such a cavernous hall make it very hard to achieve a balanced sound, and last night was unfortunately no exception; in spite of US drummer Rod Youngs’ subtle style, he ended up overpowering the group in places.

RobinEubanksHRO MG 1636

However, if the sound wasn’t balanced, the set list certainly was. A varied mix of originals and fresh arrangements kept energy levels high and showcased the individual compositional talents of the Orchestra. Eubanks kicked off the second half with an impromptu duet with vocal sculptor/beatboxer Jason Singh. Utilising a full range of effects pedals, the trombonist exhibited his phenomenal technique and unique musical vision from the get-go. Over a looped trombone riff, Singh throws down the gauntlet with sophisticated humourous responses to Eubanks’ lines, followed by hip-hop and drum & bass beats cleverly adapted to rhythmically coincide with the underlying loop. Later, Eubanks has a chance to stretch out over pianist Simon Purcell’s up-tempo swing number ‘Nabatar’, which works as an excellent solo vehicle owing to its spaciousness and sparse backings.

HRO MG 1512

The standout original was up and coming trumpeter Yazz Ahmed’s ‘Al Emadi’, characterised by a dramatic middle-eastern tinge with fluid harmonic minor themes. This also came across as the most coherent piece, exhibiting a memorable solo from Ahmed and some beautiful horn textures in the outro. Other highlights include the consistently engaging Jason Yarde (above) who conducted and played on his intensely driving tune ‘Tall Call’; some potent solos from altoist Christian Brewer tenor Nadim Teimoori and trumpeter Byron Wallen.

Ode To The Human Spirit emphasises a positive philosophical goal of togetherness with a melting pot of distinctive individual voices to execute it, and one might wonder whether a musical project of this size could possibly work. There were some disappointments, especially in terms of sound balance and general tightness of the band, but these are to be expected from such a monster gig, which probably had scant rehearsal time. Overall, The Human Revolution Orchestra presented a deeply thoughtful and exciting concert, and as Sean Corby aptly put it, demonstrated “optimism in the face of adversity”.

– Marlowe Heywood-Thornes

– Photos by Roger Thomas

Ahead of his headline appearance this weekend at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival at the Parabola Arts Centre on Sunday 3 May, acclaimed British saxophonist Julian Argüelles talks to Thomas Rees about the music of the South African exiles, being an ‘elder statesman’ and playing what feels right

Your latest album, Let It Be Told (reviewed in Jazzwise May issue) is a collaboration with the Frankfurt Radio Bigband, playing your arrangements of the music of the South African exiles. Tell us about it.

It was a labour of love for me because I was connected with the South African scene back in the 80s. I was in Chris McGregor's band and I played with a bunch of other people – Dudu [Pukwana] and Louis [Moholo Moholo].

That was around the time you were playing with Loose Tubes, along with Django Bates and your brother, Steve Argüelles (both of whom feature on the album, on piano and drums/percussion respectively).

There was quite a South African connection. My brother was in Dudu's band, Django was in Dudu's band. Me and Dave DeFries were in Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Chris Batchelor was involved and so was Steve Buckley. It was one of the many influences on that band [Loose Tubes].

Was Dudu’s sax playing an influence on you?

It wasn't a direct influence. I loved his playing. I used to go and see him play a lot and I always really enjoyed it, but I think the way I heard it was very different. The geographical thing is quite important. He's South African and I wouldn't really feel like I wanted to copy that. But he also liked the American Jazz tradition and I heard a lot of Ornette in him, a bit of Charlie Parker and freer things as well. We had common interests.

And that’s what attracted you to his music?

He was unique. That's what I loved about his playing, it was just very distinctive. It felt honest and sort of dangerous. It was quite soulful in the same way Ornette was, or Albert Ayler. I found his compositions totally hip. They were accessible to people who didn't really like jazz, people who were new to the music. His music was groovy but it also had an element of that free jazz wild thing. There've been a whole bunch of musicians who've had the polar opposites of the free thing and the groove thing. Miles did it, Sun Ra. I would say Mingus did it. Even Ellington had elements of very 'in' and very 'out'. I've always enjoyed that balance between free things and structured things, stuff that's challenging but accessible as well. I like that mixture.

Why did you decide that now was the right time for this project?

In 2010 it was 20 years since Chris and Dudu died. I put this idea to the Frankfurt Radio Bigband and they commissioned me to write the arrangements and get it organised. We did it three or four times as little tours and then the manager said 'why don't you record it' so I went over for a week with Django and my brother.

Why the Frankfurt Radio Bigband? Did you feel they'd be particularly well-suited to the music?

I was a member of the band for a while (c.2006 – 2010) so I knew the musicians and the managers there. They were interested in finding new music that was connected to the tradition. I think South African music was quite new for them. A lot of people know the American big band tradition but don't really know other sides of it. They were open to it.

How did you approach the arrangements?

When I'm arranging other people's compositions usually I try and put a lot more of my own character into it, but I didn't with this. I don't think it needed it. I love this music so much and I don't think it had the air time that it should have done, so I wanted to keep a lot of the original flavour of the music. I studied Chris McGregor's writing. I was such a fan of it and I was up close so I saw how he worked. He was an amazing writer – unusual and detailed. There were some beautiful things going on in the orchestration. That's why I didn’t rearrange the one Chris McGregor tune in there, ‘Amasi’. That's the only one I didn't arrange. That's Chris' arrangement.

What challenges did the project involve?

I was aware that I was writing for a radio big band in Germany, I wasn't writing for 1970s Brotherhood of Breath. If I had been, perhaps the music would have been a bit freer – there might have been more open spaces. But as an arranger I feel it's important to write for the musicians performing, not for imaginary musicians.

Did you feel a sense of responsibility given your personal connection and the historical importance of the exiles and their music?

I put some pressure on myself. I didn't want to bugger it up because I love the music so much!

There are some great solos on the album, including an alto feature by Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn on ‘The Wedding’ and a Tony Lakatos tenor solo over some Tyner-esque piano work on ‘Mama Marimba’.

That's the good thing about knowing a band; you can choose the right person for the right line. ‘Mama Marimba’ has got quite a modal vibe to it. For me, to go to that Coltrane Quartet feel in the middle felt quite natural and I knew Tony would be the right guy for that.

julian-arguelles-band

You're appearing with your new septet at Cheltenham Jazz Festival this year. Have you considered adapting any of these arrangements to play with them, or is the exiles project a one off?

The septet is going to be new arrangements of my own music, some quartet music that I've been writing. That's been recorded [for quartet] and it's going to come out later in the year as well, in September on Whirlwind Recordings.

Talk us through the line-up of the septet. You’ve got some fantastic young players on board, including pianist Kit Downes, drummer James Maddren and bassist Sam Lasserson (above).

It’s like I'm the elder statesman. They're all in their late twenties/early thirties. I played with Kit in a couple of other situations and we got on very well musically and I played with James Maddren with Gwilym Simcock. The energy was really good. I was ready to have a regular UK band. I had a quartet in the '90s with [guitarist] Mike Walker, [drummer] Martin France and [bassist] Steve Watts and we did a lot of gigs but then we drifted apart. Then I had a trio for a number of years with two guys from New York, Tom Rainey and Michael Formanek. Working with these new guys feels so comfortable and easy. They sound great but they're also very quick. Young musicians are very quick at getting things together, perhaps a little bit quicker than my generation. They're a bit quicker at reading and playing tricky music.

Why do you think that is? Is it down to conservatoire training?

It might be to do with that but also because music has changed. The American tradition was a huge thing when I was coming up and then there was a kind of sea change. Everyone was looking for something new. There were a lot of European classical influences, there was the M-base thing with Steve Coleman, which was odd metre stuff – different languages. Because of the nature of the scene you had to play in lots of different bands and often you had to get things together really quickly. You might have a three hour rehearsal to play two hours of music for a gig that night. You've got to be quick. And then the next day it'll be a different band with a completely different vibe. Just out of necessity people have to be quite versatile. You have to be adaptable.

What about the horn players, trumpeter Percy Pursglove, saxophonist George Crowley and trombonist Kieran McLeod?

The first time I did a gig with Percy he was playing bass and he sounded great. I thought, bloody hell that's ridiculous and people said, 'well, you should hear his trumpet playing'. After that he asked me to be on a project of his in Birmingham. When I wanted to get this septet together I knew he was the guy I wanted to get.

I've known George Crowley for a long time and I really like his playing. He plays bass clarinet which is important to me because I love the sound of bass clarinet. Kieran I've known for a long time as well, because of the Scottish connection. He was involved in a National Youth Orchestra of Scotland thing I did and we met at the Royal Academy when I was teaching there.

You’re admired for your lyricism and your playing is often described as being ‘free from cliche’. Is that something you're conscious of and something you work on?

It's always hard talking about your own playing! No. I love melody but I wouldn't say that I love melody any more than I love harmony or rhythm. For me it's about getting the balance of all of those things. I think some musicians are but I don't see that in myself.

I'm not massively into cliche. I like all sorts of styles but what I don't like is when it's recreated or rehashed. So if I hear someone playing in a bebop style I don't really want to hear them playing Charlie Parker language because that doesn't feel right to me. Or if someone's into a modal sort of thing I don't really want them to be sounding like a bad imitation of Coltrane. I like people to be honest and to improvise so they're not playing language, they're actually making it up. That's why I love Lee Konitz, for example, because he seems like a total improviser. The same with Chet Baker. That's what I'm really after and once you stop letting yourself regurgitate a lot of known language, licks or patterns then you're forced to play what you hear and to develop something of your own.

Chet Baker, for a long time when I was a kid, was my favourite musician. I absolutely loved his lines. I've been influenced by a lot of musicians who are not saxophone players and I think that helps as well. Coltrane and Parker and maybe Dewey Redman are my biggest saxophone influences – I don't know how obvious that is – but I've been equally influenced by Kenny Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, Bill Frisell and Miles, of course.

It's interesting you mention Kenny Wheeler. You both both have very distinctive time feels. Yours has a lovely slippery quality to it. Is that something you’re aware of?

Kenny is so lyrical. The lyrical thing is a real focal point for his playing. But I don't see myself as like that. I would like to be and I've tried to imitate Kenny on saxophone and I just can't make it work at all, but I know what you mean about the slippery thing. People have noticed that before. In fact Kenny used to say he thought I sounded like Warne Marsh, which is interesting because he was never an influence on me at all.

I try not to think about other musicians and I certainly try not to think about styles or putting different hats on – thinking this one's a groove piece so I want to sound like Wilton Felder and this one's a free thing so I'm going to try and sound like Evan Parker. You just don't do that. Well, I don't. It's a soup of influences and you're right in the middle of it and you're not really thinking about it, you're just playing what you feel is right, what feels good.

– Thomas Rees @ThomasNRees

Let It Be Told is out now on Basho Records. For a full review of the album see Jazzwise issue 196 May 2015 – go to for tickets and info

www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

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