Nils Petter Molvaer - The Chill Zone

Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer one of the first European jazz musicians to successfully harness jazz with dance music in the 1990s and in the process managed to take jazz to an audience it had never reached: the club generation. This month he embarks on a major UK tour for the first time as he supports the release of new album Hamada. Stuart Nicholson catches up with him in Berlin ahead of his UK visit.

Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer has redeye. He’s about to play the Fritzclub in what was the former east Berlin and then he’s on an early morning flight to Budapest, the last leg of a 22-date European tour that’s taken in 10 countries. It has been an exhausting schedule. “We’ve covered a lot of ground. Much as I like playing it’s too long,” he says gazing into the middle distance, and then turning with a smile adding, “It’s so long I can’t remember how I travelled from home to the airport. Did I take the car? Did I travel by train? I don’t remember!”

Tired he may be, but Molvaer is a true road warrior. One of a handful of European jazz musicians able to tour through Europe twice and three times a year with an entourage that includes band members, a road manager and his own sound and lighting engineers, he readily acknowledges that “It’s a privilege.” Ever since his 1997 album Khmer (ECM) became a bestseller notching-up six-figure sales, he has steadily built an audience for his music by taking it to the people. It’s a strategy that has served him well in today’s music scene.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Portico Quartet CD 'Isla'.

John Coltrane - Leap Of Faith

Less than a month after Kind of Blue was recorded in 1959, and largely unremarked upon in the glare of publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary of that momentous album, John Coltrane first entered the studio to make what in many ways was that mighty album’s equal: Giant Steps. As substantial as the other albums of that annus mirabilis, Mingus Ah Um, The Shape of Jazz to Come and Time Out were, Giant Steps on the one hand contains some of Coltrane’s best known compositions but equally importantly laid down the harmonic changes that Coltrane had been developing throughout the early part of his career. Ahead of the anniversary of its release 50 years ago Stuart Nicholson tells the full story of one of the greatest albums in jazz history while Peter Wettre unearths some lesser known facts about the album and Jon Newey charts the history of the album’s release down the years.

In October 1958, a strap-line on the cover of Downbeat magazine announced that John Coltrane was “a happy young man.” It came following a period where he confessed he had been “dejected and dissatisfied” with his playing, but now he was looking forward to the future with optimism. Things, he felt, were finally coming together after what the magazine described as a “frustrating past.” The interview, conducted by Ira Gitler in the Park Central Hotelin New York, discreetly avoided Coltrane’s recent recovery from drug addiction which had inflicted a heavy toll on his ability play.

Now he seemed transformed, as his performances on a broadcast from Café Bohemia in New York with the Miles Davis Quintet in May that year or on Jazz at the Plaza: The Miles Davis Sextet from 9 September, attest. His solos, bursting with notes, dubbed “sheets of sound” by Gitler, threatened to overwhelm his audience. The French critic Francois Postif, who saw him perform several times after his recovery, predicted that his influence on his generation would be, “As great as that of Charlie Parker.” He also reported that pianist Bud Powell was so impressed by the stepchange in his ability as a soloist that he was in the audience four nights in a row. Coltrane was on the up.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #136 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Partisans CD 'By Proxy'.

Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde - First Move

While Jason Yarde is better known as a prolific producer mainly for the Dune label and more recently for Empirical, as a saxophonist he is noted for a wide variety of work including the celebrated 1990s band J-Life and his own group WAH. Pianist Andrew McCormack on the other hand made an award-winning impact when he sprang from nowhere to release his debut Telescope and together with Yarde shares some basic improvising principles. This month they team up for their first album release together. Interview; Kevin LeGendre

As autumn leaves turned gold in the light of a particularly sunny morning, the crypt café in St Luke’s church, Clerkenwell, is quiet as an evening prayer. Andrew McCormack and Jason Yarde are sitting around a table, the former soberly dressed in a black sweater, the latter displaying a quirkier side by way of a cream T-shirt bearing the jowly smile of Pigsy, he of the cult 1980s small screen series Monkey. Yarde’s distinctive ‘Frohican’, a bundle ofdreadlocks piled high atop a freshly shaven head, probably wouldn’t have been out of place in a fantasy kung fu flick for that matter.

St Luke’s, in any case, is something of an appropriate setting to meet the pair given the fact that the spiritual home of the London Symphony Orchestra has seen a lot of saxophonist Yarde and pianist McCormack through their participation in the Panufnik Young Composer’s scheme. Through past endeavours, they have proved themselves to be mercurial improvisers. Now they are proving themselves to be masterly writers.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Partisans CD 'By Proxy'.

 

Cecil Taylor - Free As A Bird

Cecil Taylor shook the jazz scene up in the 1950s and has not looked back since. His early trailblazing days – including the 1956 album Jazz Advance and a startling six-week residency at New York’s Five Spot – were a prelude to a career that has proved individualistic, influential and highly controversial. Yet there is a strong case to be made for the pianist to stand alongside Ellington and Monk as pivotal figures who ushered in wholesale changes in the direction and language of jazz, heralding the age of free jazz. Taylor turned 80 earlier this year and rarely performs in Europe these days. But Jazzwise was there in Norway earlier in the year when the birthday champagne had still not lost its fizz. Interview; Marcus O’Dair

“Ornette? Ornette-i-pooh is very clever!” snarls Cecil Taylor, eyes ablaze through ruby shades, his usually soft mutter suddenly unnervingly intense. With its husky low volume and curious enunciation, syllables at times grossly protracted for emphasis, the voice is somewhere between a baddie in a Western and (a more sober) Rowley Birkin QC of the Fast Show. “Ornette-i-pooh doesn’t know what jazz is. I mean, Ornette could play the saxophone but...”

We are sitting on a private boat off the Norwegian city of Molde, at whose internationally renowned jazz festival the contrarian, and now octogenarian, pianist will perform the following evening.Yet although the largerthan-life Taylor turned 80 earlier in the year, his energy levels show no sign of dimming – as suggested by the above salvo, a response to a question about last summer’s Meltdown festival and the extent to which he shares common ground with its curator.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #137 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Partisans CD 'By Proxy'.

Tenor Of Our Times - Sonny Rollins

Take a minute just to contemplate the power and glory of Sonny Rollins and the sheer scale of his achievement. Whether it is getting completely inside the most tender of ballads or delivering the most audaciously fiendish bebop run imaginable, or even charming an audience with flavours of the Caribbean, he knows the perfect route. Right there when bebop was freshly minted and he was running around with Miles and the fast set, through his startling early flowering with stone classic Saxophone Colossus, to his London jazz club days in the 60s, and up to today when he steps up to the mark once again live and in the studio. Very few come near.

Rollins – Unique And Absorbing. No, not a celebration in advance of the great saxophonist’s top billing at this year’s London Jazz Festival, but the headline of a review in Melody Maker during his first visit to London in 1965. “His nightly sessions [at Ronnie Scott’s] are something which no serious student of jazz can afford to miss,” continued the review and it has remained that way ever since. A Rollins concert continues to be an event to be savoured, Rolling Stone magazine once saying that in the future people will boast of having seen Rollins perform much as the lucky few now boast of having seen the great bebop pioneer Charlie Parker.

Sonny Rollins, now 79, is one of the last of the titans from the great era of modern jazz. Noted for his bold tone, propulsive phrasing and buoyant lyricism, he is a master at blending the contradictory impulses of contemporary jazz. He swings even as he fragments rhythms and as he ranges through chorus after chorus of heated improvisation, you always feel the melody is a stone’s throw away. His playing imparts, somehow, a simultaneous sense of struggle and celebration that has helped make him a legend in his own lifetime.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #136 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE copy of the latest Partisans CD 'By Proxy'.

 

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