CD Round Up: Quercus/Wako/McCormack/Simkins/Baptiste/Latchin/Malija

I have been steadily listening and reviewing a few CDs for London Jazz News over the last few months (other distractions notwithstanding) – more than I thought looking back.  Here’s a round up.  The obvious thought is how much great music is being produced,  how varied it is and how much it deserves  proper attention (as well as being good for the heart and soul!).  The latter is a slightly coded mea culpa apology to slow response/ digestion time  for new offerings that come my way.

I’ve also noticed that four of the seven are trios, three of which are drumless.  Is a new trend quietly emerging? Here’s the list/ round up (oldest first). Clink on the links to see full review on London Jazz News

quercus_nightfallQuercus – Nightfall.  The latest offering on ECM from jazz-folk crossover trio of Tabor/Ballamy/Warren. Review here.

 

Wako_modes for all eternityWako & Oslo Strings – Modes for all Eternity.  A Norwegian quartet  and string trio thread a line through improv, through composed and jazzy pieces.  Review here.

McCormack_gravAndrew McCormack – Graviton.  The pianist explores more groove based/ electronica based turf with a stellar band including Shabaka Hutchings and Eska.  Review here.

Simkins_TrioGeoff Simkins – In A Quiet Way.  The Brighton based altoist weaves a bit of deeply jazzy magic with pianist Nikki Iles and bass legend Dave Green. Review here.

Baptiste_late traneDenys Baptiste – Late Trane. The British tenor man’s tribute to and exploration of Coltrane’s latter years output. Review here.

 

Gabriel Latchin photoGabriel Latchin – Introducing Gabriel Latchin. Debut release from (not-so) new-comer Latchin. A swinging trio out of the classic mould. Review here.

 

MalijaMalija – Instinct.  Another (drumless) trio, this time of Lockeart/ Noble/ Høiby. There’s plenty of melody, groove and imagination to spare. Review here.

 

 

 

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Album/ CD : Last Things Last, Greg Cordez

Greg Cordez has been heard to describe his music as ‘wonky Brooklyn jazz’.  He wentlastthingslast the whole hog with this album, recording in Brooklyn at Bunker Studios with some of Brooklyn’s most in demand, hardworking musicians.  Great move.  There’s a slew of remarkable music being produced all around us, locally and nationally let alone transatlantically,  but this set would stand out from any crowd.

Cordez forgoes double bass,playing electric, and supplies the tunes. It’s a collection that snaps into a driving groove with Chekov’s Gun and then steadily darkens and broods over the course of the eight originals, finishing with Junebug, a delicate, brief duet between Kirk Knuffke‘s cornet and Steve Cardenas‘ guitar, a kernel of optimism wrapped in the melancholic yearning of the dancing theme.

Chekov’s Gun and Cherry v Des Moines, have a guitar driven rocky edge to them that comes more from Alison Miller’s drums and the riffy bass; Cardenas plays a blinder doing just what’s needed the to add to the momentum and spice the atmosphere. Cordez’s writing gives Michael Blake sax and Knuffke chanting motifs to tweak the ear and space to solo.  Knuffke on Chekov’s Gun and Blake on Cherry v Des Moines particularly build on the themes and really fire things up.  With Figlock the mood darkens. An anthemic melody builds over the throbbing bass and this time Cardenas takes it out further. Last Things Last has an explicitly country-ish tinge, a swelling melody  another emotional solo from Blake, and beautifully balanced reflective flurry from Knuffke. Low Winter Sun slides into an easily flowing groove and skips along.  All That Is and Clementine have a looser feel and the group’s vibe ebbs and flows more.  Alison Miller is sublime on these pieces, seamlessly inserting racing pulses, colour and momentum . Junebug closes the set with that reflective moment.

Bath based Cordez’s pieces have produced a great performance from this group  of musicians who bring life and energy and passion to the music by doing just what’s needed at every moment. It’s beautiful as well as a bit dark.

The distance between Bath and Brooklyn may make it a bit tricky for Greg to do too many gigs with this precise line-up. An outing at The Fringe back in September was sounding great, playing some of this material. It suggested he may have some local partners to do the material justice. Then he had sax man Jack McMurchie, Pete Judge on trumpet and Matt Brown on drums with Steve Banks on guitar.  You can catch him again at the BeBop Club on November 24th, this time with Sam Crockatt instead of Pete and Mark Whitlam instead of Matt Brown.  The album has been quietly released – you can get it on Bandcamp. There’s a bit more of splash promised in the new year.

Nick Dover/Malcolm Edmonstone Quintet, The Fringe, Wednesday 18th October

It’s a great gag. The presence of the tenor man Nick (Dover), pianist Malcolm (Edmonstone) AND trumpeter Nick Malcolm on the stage allowed Malcolm (EdmonstoneIMG_2573) to try and persuade us the band was called Nick Malcolm Nick Malcolm (so good they named it twice). The real story was the music and the playing of course. This was the sort of happening in which The Fringe seems to specialise. A meeting of players who sound like an established band, look like one, but appear to only pop up at The Fringe. Prime Suspect:  ‘The Management’. Of course, sometimes the happenings become an established band and this one threatens to. It was their third appearance at the club, the line-up completed by the inconveniently named Matt Brown on drums and Will Harris on bass. Names aside, its probably harder to find a better rhythm section in these parts.

The theme of Broadway, Britain and Brazil, assayed by Edmonstone,  held as they played All the Things You Are, Iain Ballamy’s Strawberries and and an Ivan Lins piece.  It wasn’t so clear where Coltrane’s Cousin Mary  fitted, but who cares – they were roaring by that stage.  The Jerome Kern opener flowered as they each explored the familiar harmony and spiraled off in their own distinctive directions.  Edmonstone was an extraordinary presence, as he was in each tune, alert to every feint and flurry and spontaneously re-arranging the harmony and accompaniment in response. More than once, Will Harris’ or Nick Malcom’s eyes widened as he spurred and prodded them on.  In the Ivan Lins piece he picked up a phrase from Malcolm and wove a two handed counterpoint development of it round Malcolm’s own sinuously evolving line.  Was there particular electricity between the restlessly inventive Dover and Edmonstone?  They do go back a long way. Edmonstone grinned and burst into applause after Dover’s first solo on ‘All the Things You Are‘. Cousin Mary closed the first set, Matt Brown’s boiling rhythms erupting into solo spot to match the intensity cooked up in the rest of the band’s solos.

This evening was cut short for me by the shivers of the seasonal cold, but reports were that the second set was even better (of course).  It may soon be time for this formidable line-up to be seen beyond the confines of the Fringe. Until then, be sure to catch them next time they pop up.

 

 

 

My Bristol week: From Craig Handy to Thelonius

As if last Friday’s outing to see Entropi wasn’t enough, catching Craig Handy mid-tour with a mouth-watering quartet at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday was followed on Wendesday by Thelonius celebrating the centenary of their eponymous inspiration at The Fringe. Soaking up the music and earning a crust has meant I’ve yet to reflect on either gig here, so an edited highlights is what follows.   It’s hard to imagine any city in the world hosting anything better than these two gigs as part of the week’s routine fare. There was also a connection, in my mind, between them. Both transparently drew on an in-the-very-marrow familiarity with jazz from bebop onwards and everything that has flowed from it, coupled with dazzling improvisation, so that the most familiar of material had zest and IMG_2571life and freshness.  Yup, it’s been quite a week.

Handy toured with Herbie Hancock in the mid 90s playing the New Standards material, was in the legendary Betty Carter’s band, has been a fixture in the Mingus Big Band including stints as MD.  It shouldn’t be a surprising then if his sound, choice of phrase, instinct for a mischievous quote or reference sounds, whilst still being his own, as if it comes from a long line of greats, .  It was gripping, it just oozed out of him. He was clearly enjoying the company of Jonathan Gee on piano, Nicola Sabato on bass and Rod Youngs on drums.  This wasn’t a grab you by the throat and shower you with notes session, but oh my it was grooving. Cedar Walton’s Holy Land was an easy medium swing tempo and as Handy layered phrase upon phrase, building momentum the band stoked it with him. It was like sitting on a gradually swelling ocean wave; quite exhilarating.  Rod Youngs was a delight, much of that energy coming from pushy, minimal strokes of his cymbal.  The two sets were mostly standards with a couple of Handy originals and the easy fluency was a thrill.  As we crept out (a case of catching the last bus syndrome), What’s New was just fading. We’d hung on every swoop and flutter of the melody. It was easy to imagine echoes of Coltrane or Dexter Gordon playing the ballad, but that’s because they’re surely in Handy’s the musical bloodstream.

Thelonius were drinking from the same well, but restricting themselves exclusively to compositions by Monk himself as Calum Gourlay reminded the full to over-flowing Fringe  before a note was played (just in case we were there under false pretenses). They kicked of with Epistrophy and the easy swing and Monk’s instantly catchy but typically off-kilter theme grabbed the ears. Hans Koller was on keys for this tune (he played valve trombone for most of the evening) and assembled a solo that was like shards of glass, all angles and dissonant fragments. A great start. This band, with Martin Speake on alto and for this gig the peer-less Jeff Williams on drums, have been playing weekly at times at the Vortex exploring the Monk canon. There’s always the possibility of deconstruction and radical re-interpretation in a project like this, but they approach the tunes with great fidelity to the original compositions in tempo and feel. They are each formidable improvisers and composers in their own right and the exploration of the tunes is from the inside out. Williams threatened to steal the show early on with a riveting, melodic solo on Teo. For Gourlay, the band frequently just laid out and he gave a hint of why a solo bass set from him might be a treat somehow evoking the harmony and sounding like an entire rhythm section as he played off Monk’s themes..  Koller is a a top drawer pianist, so hearing where his mind takes him with just a single line to pursue on the trombone , without the added  harmonic possibilities of the keyboard was fascinating.  There’s a  muted, fragile air to his tone adding a vulnerable almost melancholic edge to his playing.  His trombone and Speake’s alto blended and interacted beautifully and gave Round Midnight a fresh twist.  It was, as Gourlay again, reminded us the day after Monk’s would-have-been 100th birthday.   It was a delicious homage.

Entropi, BeBop Club, Friday 6th October

A gale force blast of sax and trumpet pinned my ears back as I poked my head round the door of the BeBop club last night.  I don’t think it was a comment on my late arrival; the band where in the middle of an unstructured collective workout. My tardiness aside, venturing out on an inhospitable Friday was richly rewarded.  Entropi, led by alto player Dee Byrne have just released their second album, Moment Frozen and had touched down at the BeBop in the middle of a tour.  They sounded like a band who’ve played together a lot and Dee Byrne’s writing  like it’s been refined, the gold dust extracted and then refined again.  There was variety,  with pieces as likely to take off into one of those free excursions as groove over a jagged riff.

Entropi’s is a formidable line-up with most of the band leading projects of their own.  Andre Canniere on trumpet was at the club earlier in the year.  Rebecca Nash on keys, a Bristol native is well know here but well established on the national scene. Regular bass player Ollie Brice, a former Bath resident, was unavailable but it was hard to imagine a better dep than Will Harris. Matt Fisher on drums was dazzling with the flow of ideas and articulation of grooves.

The hubbub that had greeted me soon subsided and they were on to the next piece Cold Light of Day. It was cued in by an Will Harris’ expansive  bass solo that condensed to a cycling tone poem, creating palpable tension and anticipation in the room.  The band took up the rolling pulse and Canniere built an intense solo, shading between dark flurries and long arcing, austerely lyrical lines before passing the baton to Byrne.  The band goaded her on with snappy riffs.  The collective imaginations unpacked a lot of ideas from the deceptively simple source material. It was the pattern for the evening. Stelliferous Era got an evocative and thoughtful intro from Rebecca Nash, making the most of the sparkling Fender sounds from the Nord before Fisher lit fires and stoked the energy from behind the kit under a series of fine solos.  It’s Time bustled along and Leap of Faith’s stabbing riffs grabbed the attention.  There was a slightly dark, angular turn to much of the music.

It was all delivered with confidence, commitment and authority. There’s something special about this band.  Well worth the trip down to Bristol’s longest running club, now well into its third decade.

 

 

We are Leif – Forge Session, Wednesday 4th October

The funky environs of The Forge, tucked away in Colston Yard, was the venue for We are Leif‘s launch of their EP back in May, reviewed approvingly at the time by Tony Benjamin.    They were back on Wednesday  to record live and film, meaning waleifheadphones were supplied. Heads nodded and bodies swayed as the beautifully balanced grooves were fed direct to our ears. The band’s sound is firmly anchored in the tight grooves and lightly worn sophistication of R&B flavoured nu-jazz. If attention drifted for a moment we could have fancied we were in a hip New York loft.   The headphones may have invited comparisons to Snarky Puppy videos, but the  band headed these off with a few self- deprecating gags. The music however suggested only favourable reference points with the best on the scene.  Skip to Love  came first with with  layered rhythms from Chris Jones‘ bass and Mark Whitlam‘s drums under Louise Victoria‘s appealing chant- like vocal hook. Transition started with an infectious groove implied by an off-kilter vocal riff. Less is more with this band and Dale Hambridge’s tasteful soloing pulled of the trick of stoking the energy, bringing a smile to faces of the band without ever over-playing.  Louise Victoria’s vocal is naturally in the foreground. Her lines flow effortlessly across grooves with subtle shifts of meter and harmony.  There’s an emotive fragility to the sound, balanced by occasional shifts up through the gears.   We Are Leif are steadily building a buzz around themselves. Look out for gigs and get hold of the EP, satisfaction is guaranteed.

October Fest – Bristol: Be-Bop Club & Hen and Chicken gigs

I’m pretty sure no-one co-ordinated it, but if we all start saying it, maybe the word will get out. It’s October Fest! The Be-Bop Club’s every Friday gig schedule, combined with a for-one-month-only every Sunday flurry from the Hen & Chicken, makes a October a bustling month for gigs.  And you already know about every Wednesday at The Fringe.  No-one need to go anywhere, some of the best, hottest tickets on the UK (Europe/ World?) are coming to us.

Starting tonight at the BeBop Club, up and coming former local lad (somewhere near Frome again!), now based in Europe, Mark Pringle brings an International Quartet to the BeBop. LondonJazz News spoke to him. Next week it’s Dee Byrne’s Entropi touring on the back of their loudly praised album (Guardian 4* review here). That band features former local residents Olie Brice and Rebecca Nash.  With SW based Sam Massey following and Josephine Sartori rounding off the month (in case you missed her at the Hen and Chicken last week), its a bumper BeBop month.

Meanwhile over at the Hen & Chicken, Ian Storrer has cooked up a no less varied month. Sarting with Christian Garrick on Sunday, next week its Craig Handy (yes that Craig Handy, former Herbie Hancock sideman and…  book your ticket now). Following that up with Ollie Rockberger the month is rounded off by the sublime, uncategorisable Malija comprising Mark Lockeart, Liam Noble and Jaspar Hoiby.  I reviewed their album here.

And finally.. it’s not quite October, but don’t forget, Andy Sheppard is launching his new ECM album with Michel Benita, Eivind Aarset and Seb Rochford at St. George’s on 7th November (it’s not quite sold out. Yet)