Phronesis, Sons of Kemet, Keyon Harrold and Cory Henry light up Transition Festival 2018 – Photo Diary

3-Pronesis

This April saw the third edition of the Transition Festival take place at TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, Holland. This is one of the North Sea Jazz Festival's 'projects' and is organised in collaboration with TivoliVredenburg, with the festival providing a fresh look into developments within contemporary jazz and beyond, as well as highlighting some of the artists who have inspired the current wave of new bands within the genre.

1-Phronesis

Scandi-Brit band Phronesis (drummer Anton Eger, top, Ivo Neame anf Jasper Høiby above) during soundcheck with the New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra performing a beautiful rendition of their latest album, The Behemoth.

4-Sons-of-Kemet

Theon Cross (above) of Sons of Kemet providing some ground-shaking bass with his tuba.

5-Sons-of-Kemet

Fiery saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (above) playing melodic layers over a danceable blend of jazz, brass and dub with Sons of Kemet.

6-Dhafer-Youssef

Dhafer Youssef (above) mixing Arabic influences with contemporary western jazz.

7-Jaga-Jazzist

Hard-hitting Jaga Jazzist (above) proved they are still a live act to be reckoned with.

8-Lizz-Wright

Lizz Wright (above) singing material from her latest album Grace – a stunning vocalist, Wright is always a pleasure to listen to her warm and deep vocals.

9-Cameron-Graves

Pianist Cameron Graves (above) with his trio showing of their virtuosity on a set of jazz-rock fusion.

10-Mike-Mitchell

Drummer Mike Mitchell (also known from Stanley Clark's band, above) playing with Cameron Graves, going all-out as usual.

11-Cory-Henry

Cory Henry (above) and his Funk Apostles creating a party with a deeply soulful and funky set.

12-Keyon-Harrold

Trumpet player Keyon Harrold with his modern, electric take on jazz proved he is somebody to keep your eyes on for the future!

Photos and report by Peter van Breukelen

Sanborn Acoustic Band Sizzles With Brecker-Filled Bonanza At Ronnie Scott's

 

David Sanborn, who has perhaps the most distinctive and influential alto sax sound in contemporary jazz, R&B and funk, is now in his early seventies, but he's still full of surprises. As a sideman his CV is beyond stellar: names like George Benson, the Eagles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen pop out, and in the jazz world he's contributed mightily to work by Gil Evans, the Brecker Brothers, John McLaughlin, Ron Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Bob Berg just to scratch the surface. He's more than a unique player and a name-dropping exercise, however; his own albums down the years, often collaborations with Marcus Miller, are trailblazers of jazz funk, soul and blues.

But in his first set at Ronnie's he chose another direction. Gone were the regular Sanborn 'standards' like 'The Dream', 'Run for Cover', 'Lisa' etc, replaced by three Michael Brecker original compositions from the much-missed tenor sax giant's final Pilgrimage CD. Sanborn kicked off the set with Brecker's exciting 'Tumbleweed', trombonist Wycliffe Gordon taking Herbie Hancock's role in setting up the pensive half-step riff, and the band leader's squally timbre searing through the changes with his trademark chromaticism, split harmonics and blues references. The familiar face on drums was Sanborn and Dave Holland regular Billy Kilson, an electric, powerful presence throughout whose extended solo with its funk references, goofy facial expressions and exclamations, including a beautifully timed 'Really?' brought the house down. In fact the whole band played with a great sense of relaxation and humour; Sanborn even joking 'And I'm not even embarrassed' as he struggled to recall what was next on the setlist. It turned out to be Brecker's haunting 'Half Moon Lane'.

Billed as the Sanborn Acoustic Band, in place of regular electric bassist Andre Berry was double-bass master Ben Williams, whose touring profile took off notably when a member of Pat Metheny's Unity Band. His bounce, deep resonance and sheer funkiness meant Berry's slapping wasn't overly missed on the more groove-oriented tunes.
Sharing the frontline, the imposing figure of Gordon – a former Wynton Marsalis sideman – showed off great power and prowess on trombone, soprano 'bone, trumpet and one extraordinary almost sung solo purely on mouthpiece. His low-note facility and ability with cup and plunger mutes also grabbed the attention. On piano and occasional synths Chris Botti sideman Andy Ezrin added solos of great fluency and taste; and superb synth sounds on a West African take on Sanborn/Miller standard 'Maputo'. The set extended into overtime with a funky 'On The Spot'; Sanborn proving once again that in jazz, advancing years just means more time in which to have reaped the rewards of practice, not a decline in performance.

– Adam McCulloch

– Photo by Ben Amure

Greg Cordez Quintet bustle up at Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre

The backstory: having written the music during a personally difficult year Bristol-based bass player Greg Cordez decided to recruit some of his favourite New York musicians to record it over there. The inevitable economic constraints, however, only allowed a single day for the project. The resulting album, Last Things Last, is a fine set of tunes in Greg's lyrical contemporary style, with notable soloing from guitarist Steve Cardenas. It remained to be seen, however, how his regular Quintet would develop the material live.

The gig: a capacity audience with a sizeable presence of younger people reflected the popularity of both Cordez as a college tutor and his promising support act Harvey Causon (a tutee). Shifting between electronica and indie-rock arrangements the three-piece band's short set of tightly constructed songs' repetitions and broken vocal textures recalled James Blake and others.

Cordez's own set warmed up with a couple of older tracks before tackling 'Low Winter Sun', a tune written the night before that NY recording session. The empathetic brass pairing of Get The Blessing's Pete Judge (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Jake McMurchie (tenor sax) captured the sense of nervous anticipation, their ambivalent dialogue progressing over a deceptively relaxed rhythm. By contrast, post-rocker 'Cherry V Des Moines' came from a more confident place, with McMurchie's increasingly rough-edged exposition matched by explosive drumming outbursts from Matt Brown. Steve Banks' careful solo guitar introduction to 'Last Things Last' evoked a plaintive Metheny-esque lyricism in a simmering piece whose haunting flugelhorn elegy felt like an unspoken tribute to Hugh Masakela.

The emotional richness of the new music was well nurtured in the ensemble playing, with Greg's own understated contribution emphasising his preference for keeping things together while leaving space for others. By the time they reached 'Figlock''s feature solo, with Steve Banks wandering through the psychedelic end of Bill Frisell territory, the bassist's continuing development as an astute composer was more than evident, firmly underlined by the strength and consistency of his accomplices.

Story and photo Tony Benjamin

Hasidic New Wave and Yakar Rhythms at Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY

 

It's a treat to have the opportunity see a band who rarely play live. In the case of Hasidic New Wave, the anticipation that accompanies this rarity is amplified by the band's genre-crossing, convention-defying attitude and musicality. Hailing from New York's downtown scene, with already atypical roots in jazz and Jewish song, the quintet span experimental and more traditional sounds, written melodies and free improvisation, via spacey dub, Arabic dance, funky bass, avant-garde rock, and beyond.

And what else would one expect from a band fronted by jazz rabbi saxophonist Greg Wall, and trumpet player Frank London, whose roles range from Grammy-winning klezmer band The Klezmatics to collaborations with the experimentally diverse composer-improviser John Zorn? Drummer Aaron Alexander, bassist Fima Ephron, and guest keys player Brian Marsella are rooted in similar eclecticism, frequently marrying jazz and Jewish sounds, and each worth checking out in the context of their other projects.

The Brooklyn concert included great moments of improvised exchange between wind players London and Wall, and some fantastic individual soloing. London's heartfelt playing made exciting use of range, rhythm and his signature turns, trills and bends, crossing more traditional klezmer technique with exploratory jazz. Marsella's improvised passages also stood out, stretching into wild moments of note-bending frenzy, appearing to energise both band and audience.

Part-way through the set, and returning to the stage after their opening performance, Hasidic New Wave were joined by Senegalese sabar drummer trio Yakar Rhythms, led by Alioune Faye. In a stunning collaboration the ensembles performed material from their joint album From the Belly of Abraham, as well as new pieces. At times they swapped in and out, leaving space and respect for diversity of sound; at others they performed fluidly and energetically as one. The driving rhythms of Faye's griot legacy appeared to propel Hasidic New Wave's fervency, while Alexander masterfully worked in the sounds of his kit to the phrases of the sabar drums.

Bending notes, genre and 'rules', Hasidic New Wave and Yakar Rhythms both accentuate and defy traditions, questioning convention and preconceptions, musically and, more implicitly, socially and politically. Their playing was sweet and wild, with fantastic energy. My only criticism: that it doesn't happen more often.

– Celeste Cantor-Stephens

Scott Hamilton makes a big noise at Small's, Brighton

While it's gratifying in the extreme to see the amount of attention that's starting to coalesce around the current crop of young British jazz players, the bedrock of the music shouldn't be overlooked. Across the country a network of small clubs, often run by volunteers on miniscule budgets, exist to maintain the verities that underpin whatever it is that jazz is becoming as it evolves into the 21st century. Such qualities as immaculate swing, effortless flow of creative language and a sincere and passionate reading of the standards repertoire may not inspire excited headlines, but they are at the heart of what it's all about and deserve to be nurtured.

Such a club is Small's in Brighton (not to be confused with the venerable NYC institution, and held at The Verdict jazz venue), run for the last eight years by the indefatigable Dennis Simpson. It's a friendly and relaxed affair, running fortnightly in season, but like many of the best things in life it operates within a strict set of limitations. No-one uses amplification, not even the guitarists or bass players. The headline performers are drawn from an international pool of mainstream talent, adhering to the classic values of Golden Age jazz: Ken Peplowski, Matthias Seuffert, Rico Tomasso or Jo Fooks might be found leading the band, though you might also come across Alex Garnett or Freddie Gavita taking it back to the tradition, while the likes of Steve Brown, Craig Milverton and Charlie Watts' old schoolfriend Dave Green regularly appear in the supporting cast.

scott-hamilton2

Tonight it's the doyen of traditionalists, Scott Hamilton, playing to a packed room of appreciative connoisseurs. He cuts a picture of rumpled elegance, all silver hair and fine patrician profile. His tone is full, burnished and pure, his timing immaculate. His fund of perfectly turned phrases seemingly inexhaustible, whether on the classic easy lope of 'The More I See You', the boppish minor key swagger of Carl Perkin's 'Grooveyard', or the spacious, achingly sincere 'What's New', the writer Bob Haggart was a personal friend.

Despite the lack of any amplification, his big tone fills the room, and there's a perfect aural blend that shows the eminently simpatico Small's House Band to fine advantage. There are outstanding solo moments from Mark Edwards on the piano and Steve Brown on drums, but really it's all about the empathetic support they create, together with Steve Thompson on bass, allowing the leader to blow at will, pause, then blow some more, without any lessening of the cogency of his creative flow.

Benny Golson's 'Sock Cha Cha' gives an indication that the players are perfectly capable of ranging further afield in search of repertoire, but choose to set their own limits. Self-restraint may be said to define the gentleman, but there's no ignoring the emotional sincerity evident in every note, illustrating how this music still has much to say, even if it isn't shouting loud.

– Eddie Myer

– Photos by David Forman

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