Glasper Gleans From Reservoirs Of Trust For Genre-Hopping Experiment

 

First came the visuals and DJ, then drummer Mark Colenburg, quickly followed on stage by Casey Benjamin, alto sax, and Burniss Travis II, bass. This combination could, in itself, represent a jazz/hip hop collaboration to tempt the predominantly young audience out to London's Koko on a Monday night. Next came Mike Severson, electric guitar and finally Grammy-winning jazz pianist, Robert Glasper. Together this five-piece electric band, The Robert Glasper Experiment, took us on a journey through different genres, beginning with hip hop and ending with disco, hitting on aspects of rock, jazz and psychedelia inbetween.

In this context, the abrupt changes of mood and tempo were appropriate. There was so much personality on stage that it was difficult to know where to focus. The group's roots grounded in contemporary jazz, they included plenty of solos to direct the attention. Benjamin's sax in particular had plenty to say. He made the notes float sweetly from under the brim of his hat or scream like a slaughtered lamb. The Experiment are all high-school buddies and with that connection comes trust. And, from that trust, freedom is born, exemplified by improvised versions of tracks like 'Find You', from new album ArtScience, which became far more expansive and spacy than the recorded versions.

When the audience reacts to each genre as if it were their favourite, you know you've made jazz cool again.

– Tina Blower

Applications now open for the Write Stuff 2016 – Here’s How To Apply

Aspiring jazz writers take note: this year’s edition of the Write Stuff, the new writers initiative, is back for its 14th year in November at London’s Southbank Centre with a series of workshops and mentoring sessions held throughout the week of the EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 11-20 November.

Founded and organised by Jazzwise and Serious, producers of the festival, the Write Stuff gives new jazz and improv music writers a valuable free opportunity to work with professional journalists to improve their writing skills and develop an understanding of music criticism and the workings of the jazz and mainstream music press and the blogosphere, as well as getting to see a bunch of concerts! The Write Stuff will include sessions on feature writing and live reviews by Jazzwise writer and BBC broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre; an insight into the history and development of the UK jazz and music press with Jazzwise editor in chief Jon Newey, and a workshop on how to run a jazz website, blogging and social media with Jazzwise editor Mike Flynn, alongside input from other writers and jazz industry figures. Several Write Stuff participants have gone on to have pieces published in The Guardian, The Wire and Jazzwise as well as work within the wider jazz and broadcasting industry.

This year’s participants will have their work posted on both the Jazzwise and festival’s websites, and one review considered to be of particular merit will be published in a subsequent issue of Jazzwise. If you are interested in participating in the Write Stuff please submit by email a 300-word review of a gig/concert that you have seen recently, together with a CV and full contact details by Monday 10 October 2016 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with ‘The Write Stuff 2016’ in the subject line. Applicants must be 18 years old or over and be available in London on the following dates: Friday 11 November (evening); Saturday 12 – Sunday 13 November and Saturday 19 – Sunday 20 November.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/the-write-stuff

Marcin Wasilewski Trio reign at Edinburgh’s Queen's Hall

Marcin-Wasilewski-Trio

The Marcin Wasilewski Trio have evolved since their early 1990s beginnings into one of Europe’s foremost jazz trios and, during this opening night concert of the 2016 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues festival, they presented a resoundingly varied and rich set, with the musicians’ exceptional levels of attunement being particularly noteworthy.

Beginning with gentle, precisely articulated melodies, the trio are quick to delve into a calm, receptive zone, with flashes of harmonic complexity signifying how this evening’s music will unfold. The gracefully ageing venue’s flickering wall lights barely distract. Wasilewski, a former pianist with Tomasz Stańko, is now most definitely his own man, leading his trio with accomplishment, juxtaposing western classical-style precision and sensitivity with muscular, in-your-face jazz chops. His multiplicity of variation is perhaps most obvious in his impressively extrapolated version of The Police’s 'Message in a Bottle'.

The pianist is supported with utmost sensitivity by bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewic. Their contributions, while often spare, are pitched just right, and both seize the opportunity to shine during brief solos, as on ‘Three Reflections’, one of several tunes aired from the trio’s 2014 ECM release, Spark of Life.

Wasilewski is clearly a lover of melody, who combines gorgeous chord progressions and harmonisations to stunning effect. In a jazz world where technical virtuosity has become an end in itself, such restrained sensibility is warmly welcomed.

– Fiona Mactaggart 

Nik Bärtsch gets rocking with his Rhythm Clan at Kings Place

This was a very slick band. From where I was sitting I could see the hands of drummer Kaspar Rast, reflected in the glossy sheen of Nik Bärtsch’s Steinway. These hands were always moving, countering the piano with a precision that implied a mystical symbiosis. A black film on the back skin of the bass drum, rippling in oily shudders, sucked in the light with each beat. Bärtsch is a clinical band leader whose movements have come to take on the mischievousness worthy of his Zurich home. His pale-faced, caricatured expressions and clinical hand gestures are a 21st century Zurich DADA distilled through the tightest of rhythmic prisms. With the fuller 8 piece canvass we were drawn through a broader range of soundscapes than the original Ronin line-up. Bärtsch himself is completely at home on the grand, willing to explore its sonic possibilities without ever being gimmicky. The brass section was neatly choreographed, obeying the solitary proffered index finger of bass clarinettist, Sha, who hulked front stage with all his exotic energy. Yet the playful authoritarianism was always being tempted off course by the individual musicians all fighting for their place in the groove. Generally controlled by the slick aesthetic, a memorable break came from Michael Flury’s rich and heady trombone. As a group they have moved beyond mere performance into trances of musical presence in distorted time – Zen-funk. Rhythmic polyphonies were ushered in either with dramatic impact, or via extended periods of simple against compound beats, an experience that felt as if the mind were being torn in two directions cell by cell, indistinguishable and leading to a state of indefinite focus: waves of heavy groove in a tidal drift of time signatures. Either way, this was an ensemble with real flexibility and musical charisma, which had its audience trembling for more.

      – Will Kemp

Lush Life – A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn, Cadogan Hall, London

There are many ways to remember the geniuses of jazz history: a biographical, documentary style reading interspersed with live big band arrangements and three alternating singers is how this evening’s mastermind, Alex Webb, chose to do it. His narrative, read vividly by Sirena Riley, made the case for Strayhorn as a foremost composer of the last century and rescued him from his over-bearing friend and collaborator, Ellington. The band was led by the unflappable Frank Griffith on tenor sax and clarinet, whose solos showed a well-developed sound on both instruments. Other band members were highly capable players, as a final round-table of solos proved beyond doubt.

The Cadogan Hall wasn’t sure what to make of the show at first. Despite Allen Harris’s natural stage-presence, rich vocals and masterly mic technique, which made for a fabulous opener, we were confused by the set up. Where did the music fit in this historical overview of Strayhorn’s career? It wasn’t until a few songs in, and the arrival of the excellent David McAlmont, that everyone relaxed. A further highlight came with the Fitzgerald number, ‘Imagine My Frustration’, performed with verve by Sandra Nkaké, who made up for occasionally ear-splitting amplification with excellent command of the voice in both pitch and tone.

That Strayhorn really is a standout composer in his own right was clear from any number on the programme, not least his hits ‘Take the A-Train’ and ‘Lush Life’, but with ‘Daydream’, it was impossible not to sense that we were remembering a musician of real quality. Here was a song that showed a genuine technical grasp of movements in 20th Century classical music, the ‘tone poems of Ravel and Debussy’, balanced perfectly with Strayhorn’s incredible, inimitable style. In all this was an excellent concert, with variety and solid performances all round.

      Will Kemp

The Write Stuff

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