Lauren Kinsella and the Gorodi/Ingamells duo explore far away lands aboard the good ship Jazz Nursery

You’d be hard pushed to find a more eccentric or imaginative live music event than the Jazz Nursery, a monthly platform for young talent once held under a draughty Southwark railway arch but now stowed away on the lower deck of the Golden Hinde II, a replica of the vessel in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world in the late 16th century, moored on London’s Southbank.

As if in homage to the pioneering spirit of the galleon, this month’s Nursery event featured sets from two groups of sonic adventurers. Trumpeter Miguel Gorodi and drummer David Ingamells got things underway with an engrossing and unpredictable account of Dave Holland’s ‘Four Winds’, blurred by freewheeling lines and textural drum work, following it up with tunes by Thelonious Monk and trad jazz great Kid Ory. Most arresting of all was their treatment of the Hoagy Carmichael classic ‘Stardust’. After the rawness and strut of Ornette Coleman’s ‘When Will the Blues Leave?’, its lonesome melody was shocking in its tenderness and simplicity.

Amongst the varnished woodwork, the lanterns and the slumbering black cannons, rising star vocalist Lauren Kinsella and her trio, comprising former Loose Tubes trumpeter Chris Batchelor and keys player Liam Noble, pushed the boundaries still further. Their wholly improvised second half was one of shifting textures and bold new colours. Kinsella juxtaposed giggles and trills with tongue clicks and nonsensical strings of syllables that blurred and overlapped with the bullfrog croaks and trippy electronics at Noble’s fingertips. Switching between trumpet and cornet and experimenting with a range of different mutes, Batchelor offered rasps, squeals and moments of serene lyricism, once dropping out and rejoining the action in unison with a rising vocal line which he seemed to pick up out of nowhere.

The trio’s approach proved too much for some and there were audible snorts of laughter from a particularly mutinous group on the gun deck. But, they didn’t last long. By the end all but a handful were swept along by the creative intensity of the music, willing participants in a voyage of discovery that carried them into uncharted waters.

– Thomas Rees


Salzburg swings with Jazz and the City festival

In the city of Mozart and the von Trapp family (and you certainly can’t miss either anywhere you look) the surprise and delight of a jazz festival that ranks with the best in Europe is only surpassed by the fact that the gigs – dozens of them – are all free admission.

In most cities, in most countries, free entry would mean either badly paid musicians or dodgy local bands. But not in Salzburg – quite the reverse, as a string of unmissable names – Bjørnstadt, Pushnig, Frisell, Masekela, Surman, Scofield, Blanchard, Sheppard…. and on and on – play, wreathed in smiles and embraced by the enthusiasm of audiences who, one suspects, may not even realise just how utterly lucky they are.

Fifteen years ago, an enlightened city centre manager in this historic tourist-centred city (er, hello Cambridge, Bath, York, Oxford, Durham….?) grabbed ace festival director (and ex-Saalfelden boss) Gerhard Eder and initiated an event across a range of large and smaller venues in the heart of the old town that quickly grew into one of the autumn’s busiest attractions. Funded half-each by local government and business sponsors, Jazz and the City fills the gap at the end of a previous ‘down’ month for tourism with exactly one hundred gigs (and many of them double bills) over the five days Wednesday to Sunday. Take a taxi driver’s word for it (always the economic and cultural litmus test) – the place is fairly brimming over with people and activity in this otherwise quiet time of year.

And so to the music – or at least a taste of it in two days, since no-one, however enthusisatic, can get to every gig because there are so many. If reading the title ‘Big Band’ (say it in a phoney Austrian accent?) in the programme struck a note of apprehension, guitarist/vocalist/composer/leader Monika Roscher (above) defused it immediately with some wild guitar and far-reaching original compositions. In an Austrian premiere for this German project Roscher brought fresh thinking and uplift to big ensemble arrangements.

French clarinet maestro Louis Sclavis proved once again with his new Silk Quartet his unerring Ellington-like ability to bring phenomenally talented sidemen to the fore and foster their very best performances. His percussionist Keyvan Chemirani, for example, played hand drums that out-shone anything a full kit drummer might have done with Sclavis’ fluent, rhythmic, melodic twists and turns. Next evening, in duo with his co-maestro Michel Portal, Sclavis provided percussion and bass lines himself on bass clarinet along with soaring flights of improvisation in tandem with Portal in not just one but two genial, playful, intimate concerts.

England’s Sons of Kemet drove a capacity crowd of teenagers to grandmas to racous enthusiasm. Playful in their own inexorable, high energy way – and grinning ear to ear as groove after groove gave way to further excitement – Kemet fully deserved the crowd’s stomping calls for encore.

In the same large venue, Republic, Avishai Cohen’s trio played with delicacy and sophistication – sounding perhaps more Johann Sebastian than Wolfgang Amadeus. In the ridiculously baroque gilded rooms of the Mirabellschloss, the aptly named female voice/fiddle duo Kitsch and Glory played electronic loop-the-loop to underline at least one half of their name; whilst back in Republic loop veteran Nils Petter Molvaer’s band took many by surprise with Geir Sundstel doubling pedal steel with harmonica and (how times have changed!) banjo.

In a programme full of Gerhard Eder’s inspired musical choices, two newcomers stood out as particular revelations. In a relaxed, informal lunchtime set, the four-fifths-female and very young chuffDRONE (Austrian, no clue about the name though) soared and smiled and improvised with absolute confidence and empathy though their own fresh, open, not in the least conventional compositions – a band to watch if ever there was one. And the final smiling genial presence late on Saturday evening was 78rpm DJ Blue Flamingo – a brilliant curator and collector of shellac who not only knows how to grab audiences young and old with a masterly choice of pre-1960s dance music (jazz to world to early rock n roll) but surely also surely the only DJ in the world to carry an original pressing of the first ever jazz record, the 1917 Livery Stable Blues by the ODJB.

Salzburg – your hills (and tills) are certainly alive with the Sound of Jazz.

– Robert Beard

Mingus Big Band roaring again at Ronnie’s

Legacy, certainly in an Olympics-conscious world, has become something of an overstated principle. Yet ensembles such as the Mingus Big Band and, for that matter, the Sun Ra Arkestra, who were also at Ronnie’s back in August, are as important to the jazz world as any purpose-built stadium that survives a glorious summer of sport and genuinely serves the community thereafter. Rather than a static white elephant, the 14-piece ensemble that plays the music of Charles Mingus is a big beast of an orchestra that roars mightily but knows how to seductively purr when revealing the wry sensitivity that was also an integral part of the great bassist-pianist-composer’s psyche.  

His small groups always sounded like big bands such was the intricacy and hyperactivity of both rhythm and horn sections, so the orchestra assembled tonight, with its array of outstanding soloists such as baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, trombonist Conrad Herwig, trumpeter Lew Soloff, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffrey and pianist David Kikoski, renders the epic, baroque character of Mingus’ aesthetic all the more striking. While much is made of his ability to draw on all of the major schools in jazz history, from swing to bebop to Latin to avant-garde, Mingus took a firm root in gospel and the blues and added branch upon branch of harmonic and rhythmic finesse, so much so that the bulk of his songbook is like a prayer meeting in which the minister’s sermon, in its lengthy undulations and ecstatic invocations, acts as complex verse and chorus.

Rousing, galvanising titles such as ‘Invisible Lady’, ‘The Shoes Of The Fisherman’s Wife (Are Some Jiveass Slippers)’ and ‘Pinkie‘ make that clear in no uncertain terms while ‘Ysabel’s Table Dance’, with its startling strummed flamenco chords from bassist Michael Richmond, also shows how Mingus extrapolated Jellyroll Morton’s famous ’Spanish tinge’ and made it his own. Good as those moments are, the highpoint of the evening is the sterling vocal performance of trumpeter Philip Harper, who swoons his way Louis-like through ‘Baby, Take A Chance With Me’ and ‘Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me’, a piece in which, like a trusty preacher, he calls on heaven to save us from the hell of our own making.

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photo courtesy Carl Hyde

Lauren Bush Quartet bring sunshine, charm and Frim Fram Sauce to the Elgar Room


Perhaps it was the singer's setlist, which ranged from 'O Pato', a light-footed samba about a dancing duck, to Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile', or her left-field introductions to tunes like 'Love for Sale' and 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter', but there was something charmingly quirky about this late night appearance from Lauren Bush and her quartet. A young Canadian vocalist now resident in London, Bush's claim to fame is a performance of 'Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise' which has racked up over 100,000 views on YouTube, enough to land her a gig at the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room and a supremely talented new band comprising pianist Liam Dunachie, double bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (winner of the 2014 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize from the Royal Academy of Music) and drummer David Ingamells (a 2013 Yamaha Jazz Scholar).

Opening with a straightforward rendition of 'The Song is You', Bush sounded less assured that she does on her YouTube hit, but she found her stride on 'The Frim-Fram Sauce', a raunchy blues through which she scatted and growled to the delight of the audience. 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter' and 'O Pato' were further highlights and it was clear from the confidence of her delivery and the neatly resolving lines in her improvisations, that Bush knew the changes inside out.

More confident still were the rhythm section, who played with sensitivity and skill throughout, each player offering something different when it came to the solos. Ingamells kept things short and sweet, trading fours with the singer and livening up a rendition of 'Sweet Georgia Brown' with drum breaks and a New Orleans-style street beat. Dunachie contributed twisting lines and Simcock-like harmonic exploration, while Mullov-Abbado took inspiration from the tunes themselves, referencing and reworking their familiar melodies on the worn fingerboard of his bass.

It was when the group tried to experiment that they came a little unstuck. A version of 'My Romance' re-imagined as a waltz took a while to settle down while a 'funk' rendition of 'Love for Sale' was something of a stylistic no man's land until the head out. But, with 'You're Nearer', a wistful ballad on which Bush's voice was at its fullest, they recovered admirably, before closing with a cheery rendition of 'On the Sunny Side of the Street'. Described by Bush in another of her musings as being an antidote to British weather, it was a strong finish and a welcome one on a cold, drizzly night in west London.

– Thomas Rees @ThomasNRees

Hidden Orchestra and guests preach electro-jazz sermon @ Union Chapel

The soaring Gothic rotunda and hushed reverence amongst the creaking pews of Islington’s working church, The Union Chapel, make an inspiring pulpit for jazz-electro proselytizers, Hidden Orchestra, and their disciples: solo pianist, Poppy Ackroyd, and borrowed sounds trio, Origamibiro, at tonight’s thunder and light show.

Accompanied by moody video above her head, violinist and pianist Poppy Ackroyd’s classical-meets-loops compositions are mournful without feeling sorry for themselves. Next up, producer Tom Hill and instrumentalist Andy Tytherleigh of Origamibiro: a live radiophonic workshop using loops in the vein of the musique concrète school while visual artist The Joy of Box throws videos of fleeting words and images onto the screen behind them.

Conceieved as a solo studio project by producer, bassist and composer Joe Achelon, Hidden Orchestra is incarnated for live outings by a stable of musicians including regular members Poppy Ackroyd, double drummers Jaime Green and Tim Lane (also on occasional trombone), plus spotlights from clarinettist and electro-acoustic specialist, Florex (aka Tomas Dvorak)on ‘Hushed’ and trumpeter Phil Cardwell on ‘Seven Hunters’. Starting life in Achelon’s mixing desk, bass sounds worm their way into the ear as the band gradually develops an idea and piles on the layers, with Green’s hi-hat and snare-based groove work cutting through sympathetically over the texture laid down by Lane with mallets and beaters. The live performance is necessarily rich in detail, but it also injects some of the beating energy from 2010’s more upfront debut album Night Walks which is less in evident on the recorded version of 2012’s more contemplative follow-up album, Archipelago.

For this live AV show, as well as impeccable acoustics, the unique architecture of the building presents a majestic canvas for Leeds-based audio-visual collective, Lumen. Theroom is illuminated with phantasmal green light and the spectacular rose window behind the stage becomes a spinning kaleidoscope pulsating to the hypnotic beat like a giant sub-woofer. The impassive stone walls are continually bricked up and torn down again Tetris style, and the columns around the pews are carved and re-carved using forced-perspective light-work. By the end the congregation is full of the Spirit and stomps its feet in a gesture of supplication. But timeliness is next to godliness and stage times at Union Chapel run strictly to schedule; it is a somewhat nervous Achelon who is coaxed back to the stage for a seemingly unplanned encore of ‘Antiphon’.

In tonight’s contemplative performance space, the repetition and iteration of recorded sounds in the minimalist tradition combined with the awe-inspiring light show transubstantiated the night from gig to religious experience for the assembled masses.

– Steve Owen

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