One of my personal pleasures of 2014 was writing a bit for London Jazz News (mainly CD reviews) and more occasionally Jazzwise (website and print). I have linked to most pieces on websites during the year but purely for my own ‘keeping track’ purposes there’s a few more recent ones here and below for archiving purposes, a few reviews that appeared in print in Jazzwise originally
Recent Reviews for London Jazz News
Archiving Jazzwise reviews
Festivals: Bristol Jazz and Blues, Manchester
Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival, Colston Hall, March 2014
Andy Sheppard’s delightful, contemplative duo set with John Paricelli was the perfect palette cleanser at the start of the 2nd Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival. Gently throbbing washes of looped guitar chords mingled with the tenor’s breathy sighs and hoots as crowds thronged the building. An early highlight was Alan Barnes and Howard Alden re-kindling a longstanding friendship, leading a quintet including Dave Newton and revelation on drums, Parisian Julie Saury. A duet of furiously twisting, intertwining boppish lines had the room whooping and It Might as Well be Spring producing fireworks all round, had them skipping out of the door. Roars of appreciation greeted young Georgian pianist Beka Gochiashvili’s thunderous post bop, dial set to 11. An improvised duet with drummer Justin Tyson, Chic Corea’s Blue Miles, then a lump in the throat rendition of a ballad, Yellow Leaves, showed us his capacity for emotional range. This is a name we will hear more of. “Every festival should have funk” declared legendary drummer Ziagboo Modeliste before his band grooved their way through a chunk of The Meters’ back catalogue. And if that wasn’t enough, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley orchestrated a Saturday evening party with plenty of audience participation and raucous blowing. The capacity crowd lapped it up. The premier of Interplay, Kate Williams and William Goodchild’s Ravel, Debussy and Satie meet Bill Evans project offered a sharp contrast on Sunday. Arrangements that wove the French Impressionist source materials into pieces with Williams’ more dynamic trio were the highlights of an occasionally becalmed set. Later, Indigo Kid were a delight. The melodic, quirky originals were carried beautifully by the just so blend of Iain Ballamy’s sax and Dan Messore’s distinctive guitar work before Get the Blessing took to the stage. Trademark bass hooks and crackling grooves were still there but edgier new material and increased live use of effects added menace and energy. Another enchanting duo set from Andy Sheppard, this time with the shirt fluttering, bacofoil rustling, wild creativity of Italian percussionist Michele Rabbia took us back to where we started. Whether plotting a path through the ticketed gigs or just hanging out, soaking up the continuous, best Bristol had to offer, free foyer programme and late night jams, this weekend was a sure-fire winner.
Manchester Jazz Festival, Various venues, July 2014
On the last Friday of Manchester’s ten-day Jazz festival, not even the blazing July sunshine could discourage the buzzing crowd from packing into the Thwaites Festival Pavilion in the city’s central Albert Square. Beats and Pieces’ two storming sets lured them in, delivered with a celebratory verve featuring nearly as many whoops and cheers from the stage as from the audience. Explosive riffs, switch back shifts of mood and tempo, exhilarating soloing whether from Patrick Hurley at the keys, Anton Hunter on the guitar or incendiary blowing from Sam Healey on alto, it was spine-tingling stuff. The creative hubbub of this Mancunian, award winning outfit seems to be incubating leaders and composers giving the festival a strong local strand. On Thursday Anton Hunter had premiered a festival commission and on Sunday afternoon Sam Healey put his new quartet through its paces. A set of originals, delivered with the same intensity and passion as his Friday night blowing revealed another emotional and thoughtful side to this accomplished young player. The week’s packed, diverse and international programme had included Aron Ghosh and The Bad Plus, both delivering as expected. A big feature of this festival is the spotlight that fresh talent gets. Jazz on 3’s ‘Introducing’ show launched the festival at Band on the Wall, Wednesday’s set from newly crowned Young Scottish Jazz Musician Jonathan Silks’ big band was another hit. Tuesday’s return for Adam Fairhall’s Imaginary Delta Project collaborating with author Jackie Kay was still inspiring excited comment at the weekend. There was something for everyone. The London Afrobeat Project’s drum and percussion heavy grooves were an invitation to end the week by dancing at Band on the Wall on Saturday night before Sunday’s final series of sets at the festival hub in the square wrapped up this exciting, distinctive festival.
Phronesis, Colston Hall Bristol, Friday 23rd May
A quick flex of the shoulder muscles, a business like glance across at Ivo Neame settling onto the piano stool that seemed to say ‘…right, where were we?’ and Jaspar Høiby launched into the off-kilter, hooky bass riff that introduces ‘Urban Control’. The urgent clatter of Anton Eger’s drums locked with the bass, a tiny repeated melodic fragment appeared and the trio span off into a fierce, jostling, jousting passage of improvisation led by Ivo Neame’s piano. Staccato bursts of chords punctuated the seething groove, picked up and hurled back by the rat-a-tat of the drums provoking more surging runs or percussive responses, Høiby’s driving bass carrying them all towards a crunching halt. The near capacity crowd were lapping up the locked step explosive interaction that the trio have made their speciality. There was no sign of the after effects of a day off in Bristol that Høiby gently rued, the energy and propulsive momentum never diminished, but there was a comfortable ease about them on-stage, born of relentless touring and nearly a decade tuning their responses to each other. The first of Anton Eger’s bravura drum workouts was over the closing section of ‘Behind Bars’, his long fringe falling over his eyes as the intensity of the hail of rhythms was greeted with roars approvals. There were more meditative moments. Arco bass and rippling piano introduced ‘Phraternal’ and space cleared for a more flowing, pastoral solo from Ivo Neame. Then a hint of a repeated bass figure, a nod from Hoiby and snap! They segued seamlessy into Nine Lives and a jigsaw, fragmentary riff with racing drums skittering around to sweep them off in another wave of energy. This was Phronesis on top form with another thrilling evening of their distinctive brand of contemporary jazz.