One of the UK’s top conservatoires, London’s Royal Academy of Music, brings together its jazz students and well known teaching staff for two triple-bill concerts this week as part of the department’s jazz week.

Six ensembles, each led by a renowned player and pedagogue, are simultaneously rehearsing in preparation for Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 February performances to be held the Academy’s Concert Room starting at 6pm. For Nick Smart, Head of Jazz at RAM, excitement runs high for these group collaborations; “all these amazing band leaders are actually playing in the ensembles with the students.”

On 11 February evening the groups are headed by Michael Janisch, Martin Speake and John Taylor, while on 12 February Jim Hart, John Parricelli and Martin France take to the helm. The free admission concerts build on the institution’s healthy tradition of student concerts and are a fantastic opportunity to catch some of these esteemed jazzers live. The Academy is located at Marylebone Road, London NW1 5HT.

– Tommie Black-Roff

See the website for more details www.ram.ac.uk/whats-on

The chilly, terse and drummerless electronic instrumentals which made up the second sides of David Bowie’s ‘Berlin’ albums Low and Heroes might seem like not-terribly-fertile ground for a jazz musician, but nobody seems to have told Dylan Howe.

Drummer Howe made one of last year’s best jazz albums – Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin (Motorik Recordings) – from this difficult material, opening out the skeletal melodies to create something warmer, more filmic, more expansive. So there was a good deal of anticipation before this live presentation at the Purcell Room on London’s South Bank.

Working with a superb band – Dave Whitford on double bass; the outstanding, Tyneresque Ross Stanley on piano; Steve Lodder (synths); and, making his live debut with this ensemble, tenorist James Allsopp – Howe opened up the pieces still further, adding rhythmic power, tempi changes and the immediacy of live, improvised music to the recorded versions.

Presenting the Subterranean album in chronological order (with the addition of a touching rendition of Bowie’s 2013 ‘comeback’ single, ‘Where Are We Now?’ as the evening’s opener) to a backdrop of moody 1970s Berlin footage, the playing was immaculate and throbbed with a sensuality and pleasure in music-making which was at once both at odds with Bowie’s originals and entirely appropriate.

‘Art Decade’ was a cool modal waltz, ‘Subterraneans’ a meditation moving from gloom to liberation, ‘Moss Garden’ an ominous bubbling… and who’d have thought you could ever make Low’s famously austere ‘Warsawa’ swing? But swing this stuff did, and it’s telling that the first thing I did upon waking this morning was to put on Howe’s album, immediately followed by Bowie’s originals; the aim being not to compare, but to hear the dialogue between two musicians, the younger building upon the work done by the elder.

Jazz musicians reinterpreting rock (Radiohead especially) is something of a mini-industry at the moment, but Howe and co. have hit upon something genuinely different, and affecting, here. One looks forward to future interpretations of similarly challenging material – Can’s organic improvisations, perhaps, or the relentless motorik of Neu!; or maybe even Throbbing Gristle? In the meantime, if you get the chance to catch this band at a festival or in your town, make sure you do – they are phenomenal.

– Kevin Whitlock

– Photo by Clifford Slapper

Multiroom wireless audio company Sonos has launched a limited-edition speaker to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Note record label, complete with dedicated Blue Note Internet radio channels – and it also sponsored this week’s lighting of the famous Capitol Records Tower in LA in blue to mark the label’s anniversary.

Sonos BlueNote 4The Sonos Blue Note Play:1 (left) limited edition speaker, which can play music from computers, Internet radio and online streaming services over a home network, is being made in an edition of just over 4,000 units, and will be available direct from the Sonos website www.sonos.com/BlueNote for £220.

It features a custom colour finish, created by a combination of hand-painted and automated processes, fading from dark navy to ‘cerulean blue’, comes complete with three Blue Note by Sonos Internet radio channels within its menus, including a unique Artist Selects channel available only on the Blue Note Play:1.

Curated by Blue Note president Don Was, Artist Selects is 125 tracks he’s selected from the company’s catalogue, including selections from the greats like Robert Glasper, Jose James, Terence Blanchard, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lionel Loueke, and Don Was himself.

The other two Blue Note by Sonos channels, available on all of the company’s products, are Born in Blue, bringing together Blue Note artists and those who have sampled them for mixes that celebrate the intersection of modern music and legendary jazz, and Blue Note 101, which covers the history of the label, and allows listeners tolearn about jazz and its evolution over more than 75 years.

In addition the Sonos products allow anyone with a wireless internet connection to stream music anywhere in the home, whether it’s stored on their computer on a home network; via Internet radio stations, of which there are some 1000 playing non-stop jazz worldwide; or via streaming services including Deezer, Spotify and Tidal. You can use a single Sonos speaker in a room, pair up speakers to create a stereo system, or even create a surround sound system for music from your TV and favourite DVD/Blu-ray discs.

The system can be expanded at any time simply by adding extra speakers and connecting them to the home network at the push of a button, and the whole system can be controlled using the Sonos app on smartphones, tablets or computers to play the same music throughout the house, group speakers into ‘zones’ or allow each room to access its own choice of music.

– Andrew Everard - www.andreweverard.com

Guitarists Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier have reunited for a second album and extensive tour of the UK in February and March. Chasing Tales, released on Meier’s MGP Records on 9 February, is the follow up to their 2011 collaboration Travels To The West, and finds them once again exploring a diverse blend of Turkish, African, latin, jazz and folk influences on a variety of instruments including nylon string, steel string, electric, 12-string, fretless, slide, synth and glissentar guitars.

Versatile and virtuosic by turns Oxley is a stalwart of the Oxford jazz scene and regular performer at the city’s Spin Jazz Club, while UK-based Swiss guitarist Meier is well known for his solo work as well as his recent world tours with jazz-rock guitar star Jeff Beck. The duo will launch the album next week on Wednesday 11 February at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London before setting off on an extensive series of concerts.

Dates are: St. Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton (19 Feb); Hazelwood House, Kingsbridge (20 Feb); Royal Clifton Hotel, Southport (22 Feb); Southern Jazz Guitar Society, Romsey (24 Feb); Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford (25 Feb); Oliver’s Jazz Bar, Greenwich (26 Feb);
The Collection, Danes Terrace, Lincoln (27 Feb); Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft (1 Mar); Jazz On Tap, Burton (4 Mar); Arts Centre, East Street, Ilminster (6 Mar); Meeting House, Ringwood (13 Mar); The Bear Club, Luton (20 Mar); The Duke Of Cornwall, Plymouth (27 Mar); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (31 Mar); and Swansea Jazzland, Swansea (1 Apr).

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to www.meiergroup.com/meiergroup

This year’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards take place on 10 March, nearly three months earlier than usual due to the general election on 5 May, on the Terrace Pavilion at the Houses Of parliament and are set to recognise a wide range of emerging and established names from the British jazz scene.

These include nominations for rising stars singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki and trumpeter Laura Jurd respectively in the Jazz Vocalist and Instrumentalist categories, jazz-rockers Partisans for Jazz Album Of The Year for Swamp, and saxophonist Phil Meadow’s newly formed Engines Orchestra and resurgent Brit jazz icons Loose Tubes are nominated for Jazz Ensemble of the Year.

Now in its eleventh year the Parliamentary Jazz Awards are the premiere awards in the UK jazz calendar and are voted for by the public online with a shortlist of nominations subsequently voted for by a selection panel of jazz industry figures. Judging members of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) then chooses the winners. The awards are sponsored by PPL and will be presented by well-known broadcaster Moira Stuart.

The nominations are:
Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Alice Zawadzki, Georgia Mancio, Norma Winstone MBE and Zara McFarlane; Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year: Jason Yarde, Laura Jurd and Phil Robson; Jazz Album of the Year: Partisans Swamp, Julian Argüelles Circularity and Tim Garland Songs to the North Sky; Jazz Ensemble of the Year: Engines Orchestra, Loose Tubes and Partisans; Jazz Newcomer of the Year: Blue-Eyed Hawk, Elliot Galvin Trio and Peter Edwards; Jazz Venue of the Year: Manchester Jazz Festival, Spice of Life and St Ives Jazz Club; Jazz Media Award: Jazz on 3, BBC Radio 3, London Jazz News, www.londonjazznews.com and The Jazz Breakfast, www.thejazzbreakfast.com; Jazz Education Award: Dr Tommy Smith, National Youth Jazz Orchestra and Simon Purcell; and Services to Jazz Award: Chris Hodgkins, Evan Parker and Mike Gordon.

The winners will be announced on the Jazzwise website on the night of the awards at www.jazzwisemagazine.com

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