Kenny Wheeler Quintet - East Side Jazz Club, London, 03/03/09

Neatly tucked away in the east end of London, the Lord Rookwood pub may not seem like the obvious place for such a reputable group of musicians to meet. However, this pub houses the East Side Jazz Club, a somewhat hidden gem, which was well worth battling ‘the UK’s worst snow in 18 years’ to find.

Kenny Wheeler, who was in the spotlight with his own quintet, has worked with an array of jazz greats including Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett and Steve Coleman to name just a few.

Django d’Or Festival - Various Venues, Paris, France 21/01/2009

Celebrating Django d’Or astounded Parisian audiences at jazz clubs including Duc des Lombards, Baiser Salé and Sunset Sunside on January 21. Reviving the music of Django Reinhardt, this event was chiefly driven by the quest for new jazz musicians.

At the Duc des Lombards, the audiences listened to Rhoda Scott, the world’s most prodigious female jazz organist performing with her Lady Quartet. Sunset Sunside presented Christian Escoudé with his Trio Gitan and Megaoctet featuring Andy Emler and Médéric Collignon. At the Baiser Salé, the public appreciated Patrice Caratini’s Latinidad Quintet.

Zed-U – Concrete Bar Hayward Gallery, London – 21/01/2009

As a bastion of defiant contemporary art, the Hayward Gallery provided optimally suitable conditions for this paradigm of post-jazz expressionism. With Z-U’s Tom Skinner en route to Kenya, drummer Shane Forbes, of Empirical fame, injected his bravura and intimacy with electric bassist, Neil Charles into the proceedings. The product was purposively dazzling.

Kammer Klang - Charlie Wright's, London 27/01/09.

Kammer Klang’s objective, to explore the “ever blurring boundaries at the edge of contemporary classical music” seeks to challenge existing musical forms with a progressive intention. Their success lay in the delivery as much as the product.

Scott Lygate’s performance of Harald Genzmer’s bass clarinet solo sonata communicated the vitality and inexhaustible imagination of its composer. Lygate expressed Genzmer’s distinctive representation of elegance touched by an illustrative compassion.

 Steve Riech’s Grammy Award winning composition, Different Trains, received a penetrating recital by the Kammer Klang string quartet. Reich’s distinctive looped tape recording bore hypnotically into the audience’s consciousness as train whistles, pistons, screaming breaks and human dialogue combined to intense and harrowing effect. The melodic lines, though sharp, tangential and leaden with harmonic tension, were executed with sensitivity to the emotional undercurrents woven into the composition.    

London Jazz Orchestra The Vortex, London, 13 January 2009

This Sunday afternoon performance at the Vortex showcasing the work of longstanding LJO member Henry Lowther was about one thing and one thing only, a love of music. Featuring a line-up including long-time members Pete Hurt and Martin Hathaway on saxophone, alongside high calibre musicians such as bassist Alec Dankworth, alto saxophonist Martin Speake, drummer Paul Clarvis, and of course composer and trumpeter Lowther himself, the gig pulled in a packed house.

Despite starting late, Alec Dankworth turned up just before kickoff, MD and composer Scott Stroman quickly got things underway. Beginning with Wayne Shorter tribute ‘WS’, with exceptional tenor saxophone by Josephine Davis, the band soon found their feet. Particular highpoints included Lowther compositions ‘Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe’ a musical fanfare that segued into a blinding ‘Veneer of the Week’, a new composition written especially for the performance in the form of a musical palindrome, and a second tribute and set highlight, ‘Divine Revelation’ by Andrew Hill. Played with passion and spark, this mixed bunch of musicians and composers, both young and old, thrilled regulars and new comers alike. As first performances go, despite being standard big band bebop fare, this was the perfect way to introduce a LJO Sunday residency over the coming months. Next stop, Pete Hurt on 1 February.

Review - Paul Reaney

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