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Jazz for Labour celebrated diversity, captured the mood for change and set cynicism aside. It began with a solitary Andy Sheppard strolling across the Barbican stage; circular-breathing a stream of perfectly articulated arpeggios. It ended with a comfortably-full house pogoing in unison to a multi-generation township mash-up orchestrated by Courtney Pine.

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In between, over a dozen acts, some put together just for the night, delivered jazz straight-ahead and jazz fused, without a hint of compromise. Tim Garland’s quintet (below with guitarist Phil Robson) romped through ‘Afro Blue’, powered by veteran drummer John Marshall and John Etheridge delivered a shimmering solo reading of Charles Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’. Liane Carroll, Ian Shaw and Claire Martin (above) harmonised brilliantly for an a cappella “You’ve Got a Friend’ and Soweto Kinch and trumpeter Jay Phelps combined atmospherically for the Dolphyesque ballad ‘Vacuum’.

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If the showcase format concentrated minds, the political context added purpose. Garland’s lovely rendition of McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace” had this evening in mind, as did Christine Tobin’s lilting rendition of Milton Nasciento’s “Morro Velho”. And Darius Brubeck dedicated his quartet’s classy reading of “You Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with Me” to “other parties”.

The event was inspired by the 2012 “Jazz for Obama” concert and billed as “a concert for fairness and diversity”. And diversity it delivered in abundance. The first set ended with a triptych of hip-hop, country soul and stirring Arun Ghosh anthems – “inspired by Bangladesh, written in South Manchester”, said Ghosh.

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But more than this, the musicians put corporate language to one side and spoke eloquently from the heart. Alex Webb pointed out that the first integrated nightclub in New York was opened by “a socialist businessman, the sort of person who would be here tonight”. Webb’s Café Society slot featured a stunning performance by vocalist Vimala Rowe (above), who first shimmied through ‘Wild Wild Woman’ and then made ‘Strange Fruit’ into a deeply personal statement. And Soweto Kinch made the letters of Labour the basis of an articulate freestyle rap. The audience chose the words. ‘Liberty’ and ‘Ambition’ were followed by ‘Beer’; R was for ‘revolution’. A great showcase for UK jazz, a great night out and as a rallying-cry for Labour, it worked a treat.

– Mike Hobart
– Photos by Tim Dickeson

Legendary jazz drummer Billy Cobham will be dispensing his unparalleled percussive wizardry at a sold-out Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club tonight. The ticketless among you may believe that this news arrives too late, but fear not! Ronnie’s will be providing a live stream in stunning HD of the entire performance to a global audience.

The broadcast follows on from the immensely popular debut live stream of jazz icon Wynton Marsalis in 2013, which over 25,000 viewed from across the world. Jazzwise is proud to offer an exclusive link to the live stream, direct from the player below. Set your alarm for 11pm, 27 February, log in, sit back and enjoy the show.

Indisputably the daddy of all world music festivals, WOMAD now exists in a variety of global incarnations, from Cáceres to Adelaide, yet there is always something special about returning to Wiltshire’s Charlton Park. Taking place from 24-26 July, WOMAD continues to welcome a strong jazz contingent from around the world, with past performances from Snarky Puppy, Roberto Fonseca and Mulatu Astatke among recent highlights.

Notable acts during this first announcement include Parisian quintet L’Hijâz'Car, whose diverse yet tightly-constructed blend of styles from Orientalist funk to Ethio-jazz impressed at last year’s Jazzahead! (see video below). Zimbabwean-born Londoner ESKA (pictured above)continues her rise with new track 'Rock of Ages', taken from her eagerly awaited eponymous debut solo album that’s released on Naim Edge Records on 27 April. Also look out for a unique collaboration between children local to the festival site and Tomorrow’s Warriors, who champion gifted and talented jazz musicians across the country.

New York hip-hop pioneers De La Soul have been confirmed as Friday headliners in celebration of the 25th anniversary of seminal debut 3 Feet High and Rising.

For tickets and more information visit womad.co.uk

– Ed Craggs

Watch  L’Hijâz'Car's performance from Jazzahead below:

With just 24 hours to go before the big Jazz For Labour: A Concert for Fairness and Diversity takes place at London’s Barbican on Friday 27 February, featuring one of the most stellar British jazz line-ups ever assembled for a single event, there is still a last minute chance to snap up the few remaining tickets left.

Inspired by the Jazz For Obama concert held during the 2012 American presidential campaign which featured a who’s who of top US jazz names, Jazz for Labour, which was exclusively announced by Jazzwise in November, takes place in the run up to the UK general election on 7 May and features Courtney Pine CBE, Claire Martin OBE, Arun Ghosh, Ian Shaw, Liane Carroll, Gary Crosby, Christine Tobin, Andy Sheppard, John Etheridge, Phil Robson, Jay Phelps, Tim Garland, Juliet Kelly, Kate Williams, Phil Meadows, Yazz Ahmed, Shane Forbes, Shirley Tetteh, John Marshall and Alex Webb’s Café Society, with transatlantic support from Darius Brubeck Quartet featuring Dave O’Higgins plus Freedom Sounds DJ slots Chris Philips and Jez Nelson. A number of the bands will feature one-off all-star line-ups put together especially for the occasion.

Talking about the concert, Courtney Pine says: “Jazz is the greatest music that allows human beings to describe their social environment. Many have adopted the philosophy of jazz music to unify people in sound, it is my belief that this event can do this to make for a better United Kingdom.”

Clarinettist and bandleader Arun Ghosh says: “Jazz embodies and has always been built on anti-racist and progressive principles, principles that I believe are essential for our society. I don’t want to live in a country where narrow-mindedness and bigotry are the norm. Jazz for Labour represents and calls for another way. Just like the music, we value and recognise the need for community, empathy, fairness and diversity, and that is why I am proud to be a part of this musical movement.”

The Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Harriet Harman, also adds: “I’m delighted that so many of Britain’s leading jazz musicians are showing their support for the Labour Party and the values we share, by staging a high profile concert at one of London’s top venues. It will be a great night out and make an important statement in the run up to the election.”

– Jon Newey

For more details visit www.jazzforlabour.org – tickets available from www.barbican.org.uk

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Building a regular fanbase form a monthly rather than weekly session is no mean feat, but it’s particularly impressive in the case of Jazz In The Round. Since launching in 2012 it has fostered its own scene by way of stylistically mixed bills that are as challenging as they are engaging.

Tonight the band that epitomises that in no uncertain terms is headliner Groundation (pictured top), a brilliant collective that brings together double bassist Gary Crosby and several generations of the players he has mentored: alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, drummer Moses Boyd and guitarist Shirley Tetteh. With Crosby’s 60th birthday marked by the presentation of a small cake and proud mention of his freedom pass, a precious tool for gigging musicians of every generation, there is a celebratory subtext to a performance that balances youthful energy and focused maturity.

Boyd’s polyrhythmic drive, enriched by the laser-like precision of his skipping rimshots, makes the ensemble sway frequently between groove and swing, and while there are surges into a freer, looser, less easily defined meter, the implication of dance in the music is always strong. Timbrally, the group has a fascinating canvas, with the combination of Facey’s bulky, muscular sound and Tetteh’s spiky single notes slightly suggesting what one of Chico Hamilton’s 1960s small groups might have sounded like had Eric Dolphy and Gabor Szabo been in the front line.

However, the essential raw materials that have always been close to Crosby’s heart, namely the music and folklore of Jamaica, come into their own on the highpoint of the set, ‘Anansi’, a tribute to the trickster spider who represents guile as well as bravado. With that root planted in fertile Black Diasporic terrain some lively rocksteady reggae bucks up against a New Orleans bounce and hearty, playful African vocalizations from Facey as heads and shoulders quickly start to loosen up down in the front row.

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Although this marks a contrast to the other quartet that started the evening’s proceedings – that led by alto saxophonist Sam Eagles (above) – there are nonetheless points of comparison. Again, timbrally, Eagles has a left of centre line-up, with Ralph Wyld’s vibraphone offering an airy, glassy chordal base that suits the subtleties of Eagles’ composing and offers a delicate foil to his improvising. Yet in Eric Ford the leader has a percussively inventive drummer who potently galvanizes the intricately boppish, often Latin arrangements. Double bassist Fergus Ireland locks in sharply with Ford to give the music as much ballast as fluidity and in its strongest moments the group offers a distilled but personal take on landmarks like Dave Holland’s ‘Prime Directive’ and David Binney’s ‘South’.

Stepping up for a solo performance thereafter is flute virtuoso Rowland Sutherland (below), who, like Crosby, also distinguished himself as a member of the Jazz Warriors back in the 1980s. His set is specifically based on a recent trip to Japan to study shakuhachi, the bamboo flute whose tone Sutherland nonetheless vividly evokes on a metal concert flute.

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As he explains to host Jez Nelson in a short interview prior to the performance what westerners deem ‘extended technique’ is very much part of the shakuhachi tradition and Sutherland’s adaptations of folk themes makes that abundantly clear. Rasping high notes, almost drummed into life by an aggressive ‘flutter tongue,’ along with gauzy mid-range melodies are among the stream of startling sounds produced, but it is Sutherland’s highly effective microphone technique – his precise leaning in and backing away from the bulb – that creates fine additional dynamics, and, aided by the sharp as a tack engineering of Nick Burkinyoung the performance practically feels like an intimate front room recital.

Hearing such an expressive instrument in optimal conditions that highlight the breath around the notes as well as the way phrases work against the silence is indeed a privilege, especially as this is by no means an obvious set to programme. Then again the adventurous nature of the bill reaches right back to the inaugural JITR session that featured Stuart McCallum playing solo guitar alongside Yazz Ahmed and Black Top. The latter two acts are also connected to Crosby via the Jazz Warriors and the Nu Civilization Orchestra, respectively, and, whether by accident or design, this overarching historical continuum gives JITR a real pedigree. Which is surely one of the reasons why people come back month after month.

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Roger Thomas

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