Live And In Living Colour - Jan Garbarek

As a brand new double live album is released and ahead of a tour by his newly constituted group early next year the great Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek looks back to his early years before Afric Pepperbird, the definitive album that changed the face of European jazz forever and launched a new sound identified with his label ECM. Therein lie the roots of his appeal, its Nordic essence in a nutshell but also deep within the sonorous Garbarek tones there’s an important side to his playing informed by the early pioneers of jazz saxophone like Coleman Hawkins, his great hero as a teenager the hard blowing Dexter Gordon, and above all John Coltrane. As Stuart Nicholson discovers, there’s much more to Garbarek than meets the eye

He’s been called a “poet of sound” and the late George Russell called him “the most original voice in European jazz since Django Reinhardt.” Yet he calls himself a “reluctant saxophonist” even though his albums have sold in five and six figure sums. Jan Garbarek, of course, whose every album release now creates a buzz of anticipation in the jazz world and beyond. But it’s more than just the music that’s special on Dresden: In Concert. Not only is it is the first Jan Garbarek Group recording in 16 years, but it’s also Garbarek’s first-ever live album on the ECM label.

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'.

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man - Gwilym Simcock

Meteor-like, Gwilym Simcock hit the jazz scene with a vengeance when he made an assured debut with Perception two years ago, devastatingly belying his newcomer status. Since then he has made giant strides in both the jazz and classical world but will he be able to justify the oceans of praise he has received with follow-up album Blues Vignette? If anything the stakes have been raised still higher on the double album with a brand new trio, a version of the Grieg piano concerto, vocal standards ‘Black Coffee’ and ‘Cry Me a River’ and even a tribute to Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorius and Joe Zawinul. Selwyn Harris catches up with Simcock on tour in south east Asia

“I do feel guilty to have had quite a lot of recognition and I’m sure they’ll be people out there who’ll resent me for having so many opportunities,” concedes the UK’s most upwardly mobile young jazz musician for decades. It’s important to Gwilym Simcock that he pays his dues like any other jazzer. Yet such a remarkable start to a career as this Welsh-born pianist-composer has experienced could easily go to a young man’s head. But not this one as Simcock is a very unassuming young gent; he comes across with the same kind of genuine humility in conversation as when Jazzwise first caught up with him back in 2004 having just graduated with first class honours from the Royal Academy of Music. That’s in spite of Simcock since becoming the most fêted jazz musician of his generation. And by a long chalk too. Of course he’s had more than a few assists along the way.


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'.

Ronnie Scott's - Street Of Dreams

On 30 October Ronnie Scott’s is fifty years old, a remarkable feat for a jazz club set deep in the heart of a great, throbbing, constantly changing, capital city. Since 1959 when the club opened its doors for the first time in a tiny basement in Gerrard Street, Chinatown before moving six years later to bigger premises in Soho, the world has come to Ronnie Scott’s and kept on coming back. While Ronnie himself died in 1996, Pete King, the constant presence by his side and heart and soul of the club faced up to the responsibility of running the club until his retirement, eventually handing over the torch to the current keeper of the flame, Sally Greene, who embarked on a new phase with a major refurbishment three years ago. To mark the milestone, Jack Massarik remembers the good, the bad and even the ugly times, on Gerrard Street and Frith Street, and celebrates an institution musicians and fans can call their very own.

To run a jazz club, indeed any stable enterprise, for half a century is something to marvel at. Governments topple by the dozen in that time. Countries change names and even populations. Certainly Britain has changed immensely in the last 50 years. Back in October 1959, when the Queen’s head was not yet on banknotes, London had no supermarkets or fast-food chains. Bombsites, used as car parks, still reminded people of the war that would keep Britain in debt for decades. But that year a £500 runabout, the Mini, was launched in Birmingham and Britain’s first short stretch of motorway opened. The Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, told voters they’d never had it so good and they believed him. In October his Tory party was re-elected with an increased majority. That month Eamon de Valera also became the Irish president, singer Mario Lanza and film actor Erroll Flynn died and the Soviet spaceprobe Luna 3 sent back the first pictures of the far side of the moon. Bobby Darin, giving his Sinatra impression on ‘Mack the Knife’, was top of the pops. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, TV pundit Simon Cowell, bluesman Kelly Joe Phelps, singers Kirsty MacColl, Youssou N’Dour and Marie Osmond all drew their first breath. Nottingham Forest held the FA Cup and Burnley (an omen?) were reigning league champions. A Chicago publisher named Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club, and in a small basement in Soho’s Chinatown, two jobbing saxophonists, Ronnie Scott and Pete King opened a jazz club. They called it Ronnie Scott’s.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #135 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE Blue Note CD

Keith Jarrett - Down But Not Out In Paris And London

Towards the end of last year and without much notice Keith Jarrett announced that he would perform two solo concerts in Paris and London. They were very special appearances charged with heightened emotion and both were recorded and have now been released less than a year on, in a special three-CD package. What audiences in France and England had no means of knowing at the time was that Jarrett was going through a personal crisis in his life and these concerts took place amid considerable turmoil for the great pianist following the break-up of his marriage. They also came less than 18 months after the huge controversy that surrounded his outburst at a concert at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy which caused considerable offence at the time. In a remarkable interview Jarrett bares his soul to Stuart Nicholson.

At 64 years of age, Keith Jarrett has embarked on journey of self discovery. But he didn’t exactly plan it that way. After a series of solo concerts in Japan in 2008 which, in his own words, “Seemed to hit a technical high-note in the history of my solo events,” he admits he wasn’t sure what might happen next. He didn’t have to wait long to find out. His wife of 30 years, Rose Anne, left him for, “the third time in four years.” Divorce proceedings are currently underway.

It had a profound effect on Jarrett. “A lot of people thought I would fold into a little ball,” he says. “There was such a team thing going on with Rose Anne and me and it was pretty hard to imagine not being with each other, so that was a crisis, it still is.” By his own admission he “scrambled to stay alive.” His manager, Steve Cloud managed to book two solo concerts, one on 26 November 2008 in Paris and another on 1 December in London at short notice.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #135 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE Blue Note CD 

Empirical - Take It Out

Empirical burst out of the gate just two years ago when out of nowhere and featuring a group of complete unknowns, their debut album won the coveted title of Jazzwise album of the year and a clutch of other awards. Gaining respect in America following some successful early appearances and with a tide of word of mouth approval the world was Empirical’s oyster. But with high profile departures last year and fears at one stage that the group would simply implode, success could have been the ruin of Empirical. However, the reverse has proved to be the case and this month the group releases its second album. A carefully measured tribute to Eric Dolphy which sees Empirical extend the very concepts and musical motives that started the band in the first place. Kevin Le Gendre picks up where Empirical last left off and with them goes out to lunch.

Opening up for the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Bath Music Festival earlier this year, A group that had until Jeff “Tain” Watts’ recent departure been together for over a decade, was the young British ensemble Empirical. They struck an immediate and obvious contrast given the fluctuations that they have had in their line-up during their relatively short existence. Within the past year pianist Kit Downes and trumpeter Jay Phelps have departed to be replaced by George Fogel and Freddy Gravita respectively, two young, largely unknown but impressive quantities. Double bassist Tom Farmer came on board as Neil Charles exited in 2007 after the debut album was recorded, leaving alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey and drummer Shane Forbes as the two constants in the outfit, their presence reaching right back to its genesis a year prior to that.

There is an argument that says that Empirical might possibly have benefited from a lack of reshuffles, the stability of the Marsalis unit being one of the key tenets of jazz, namely that a band can achieve a great deal creatively by way of the advanced understanding between members that may arise from long hours logged in the studio and on the road. Perhaps the contemporary jazz industry doesn’t favour this scenario.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #135 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE Blue Note CD 



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