Christmas musical post(s) … aiding recovery

A pre-christmas tangle with the seasonal flu virus has pretty much halted any blogging and gig going over the last couple of weeks (although there was a weekend of delights to be reported on involving Andre Canniere at the BeBop and Andy Sheppard‘s valedictory show at the Hen Chicken just as the virus was revving up).

But enough of this self-pity.  Something that’s put a smile on my face and aided recovery has been the rash of musicians/ bands posting live christmas performances on various platforms. Is it just me or is there suddenly more of it?  I may just be paying more attention of course.  Below are some gems I’ve found myself playing more than once ( in no particular order… and I’m sure there a plenty more out there – do post if you stop by and know of one you think I’d like.

With the technology to string these together, it will make a world beating soundtrack to the cooking/ eating/ general festivities.  And you get multiple ‘In the Bleak Midwinter‘s (ItBMW)

London Vocal Project:  Four (count ’em) Pete Churchill arrangements  including ItBMW (1)

Jacob Collier   (ItBMW (2) )

Iain Ballamy and Jason Rebello‘s annual get-together   (includes ItBMW (3)

 I confess this shades it as my favourite selection – some deadpan cheese, total class and that Ballamy sound on tenor… I just melt.

Joey Alexander… looking like a teenager who just got out of bed (.. cos he is) .. sounding like… this.

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A Norwegian holiday – Petter Wettre and Jason Rebello, St James Wine Vaults, Tuesday 8th November

Bath has its share of tourists, but we can hazard a guess that it may not have been just the Georgian architecture that drew Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre to Bath.  His mate Jason Rebello lives here and lets face it, what are two long-time collaborators and fellow former Manu Katche sideman going to do when one comes a-visiting? Well, a gig of course and with Rebello’s son George pretty handy behind the drum kit, all that remained was to rope in another Bath resident, bass player Greg Cordez and the scene was set for vintage night down in St James’ favourite cellar.

IMG_1936.JPGThis was no stand on ceremony gig.  They were having fun, bringing some originals but plenty of familiar tunes appeared, but not always as we know them. After a gently grooving Wettre original Opportunity Fox  as an opener, sinuous phrases from the sax cueing a reflective solo from Rebello, Bye Bye Blackbird‘s sparked recognition. The phrases were soon distorted however, twisting harmony scripted by the vistor making us do a double take.  Autumn Leaves got similar treatment later in the set and both standards sparked  pulsating burn-ups.  This may have been an impromptu ‘pick up’ gig, but there was little sign of that as first Wettre and then Rebello senior shifted up through the gears.  Wettre’s sound walks line between classic throaty tenor and a more astringent edgy sound (he was Manu Katchu’s choice or replacement for Jan Garbarek in his band).  He dug into and traced mazy patterns all over the dense harmony.  Rebello was in his element piling up layers of rhythm  and glittering runs.  They were definitely de-frosting a chilly evening.

There were moments when they leapt beyond what would have been a merely exhilarating img_1938evening.  The deceptive simplicity and emotional directness with which they played the classic My Funny Valentine stopped the breath. It was hard not to hear echoes of Miles Davis era Herbie Hancock in some of Rebello’s instinctive flourishes on that tune, an impression reinforced as he took the band through one of Hancock’s funkier tunes Butterfly – the keyboard producing a fantastic squelchy Rhodes sound. Wettre produced a sizzling original in the second set Flavour of the Month that included some gravity defying unison playing between sax and piano with the drums somehow picking out all the accents.

The evening was full of implicit nods to heroes and influences and the finale of Joe Henderson’s Recordame was surely more than just fishing out a favourite jam session tune, Wettre’s fluency and groove over the familar harmony confirming his absorption of the master’s example.   That was a great finale to a fizzing evening of top class music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CD Round Up – Part 1: Held, Hersch, Rebello, Fort, Lundgren, Erev

If my blog has been a little neglected over the last few months, its not because the ears haven’t been full of great music.  I seem to have reviewed quite a few albums for London Jazz News and looking back at them some random connections have amused me so here’s a round up of a few which are all pianist led.

First a pair:  One by (Pablo) Held and one called Held (by Jason Rebello).  German pianist heldPablo Held leads a trio that’s recorded prolifically and toured all over the world in the last 10 years. Their album Lineage is dense, angular frequently abstract and alluring. My review is hereJason Rebello‘s album Held is, in jason-rebello-helda wide ranging career, his first solo piano recording. It bursts with melody and rhythmic fire, so characteristic of Rebello’s playing.  A really special and personal recording. My review is here.

 

Secondly, another pair: This time the connection is country of origin.  anat-fort-trio-album-coverPianists Anat Fort and Ari Erev are both Israeli. ECM recording artist Anat Fort teamed up with Italian reedsman Gianluigi Trovesi for  Birdsong, a set of her own by turns impressionistic, melodic and evocative compositions. My full review arierev_flow_ebis here. On Flow, Ari Erev leads his trio plus guest through a lively set of latin tinged originals – review here.

 

Finally a pair… with no connection other than that they are led by pianists  and I listened with pleasure and reviewed them.

Fred Hersch deserves a place in the jazz pantheon.  He’s played with everyone, taught influential figures in the current generation including Ethan Iverson whose fascinating herschsunday_night_at_the_vanguard_coverinterview/ discussion with Hersch can be found here .  He’s also in something of a purple patch in a long career releasing recordings annually (or quicker!) at the moment and there’s documentary film about him coming out.  I reviewed the latest live trio album, Sunday Night at the Village Vanguard here  – pretty much a straight recording of a gig at the legendary club.

the-ystad-cocnert-a-tribute-to-jan-johansson_teaser_550xLast but not least, Jan Lundgren is artistic director of the Ystad International Jazz Festival and recorded a tribute concert to Jan Johansson there in 2015. The release is a double treat; a fine recording its own right and a journey through the music of a seminal figure in Swedish and Nordic jazz. The review is here

 

 

The late list, my favourite moments and sounds of the last 12 months.

The ‘best of’/’highlights lists’ for 2015 have been and gone and there were a lot of them this year it seemed.  They are always entertaining. Jazzwise mag inveigled a huge cast list to each compile one with a complex point scoring system – always intriguing results.  I managed not to do one in December, or even early January (I just got busy… didn’t get around to it).  There is pleasure to be had in looking back however. So here we go.  It’ a very personal selection, dependent entirely on my idiosyncratic preferences and what may have appealed on a particular day or at different times.  Rules of my game are explained for Live thrills and recorded pleasures respectively.

Gigs & Live Moments  ( a small slice)

For a live gig or moment within a gig, the simple rule is  ‘Can I still conjure up the moment and the thrill?’, or maybe  it returns unbidden to give me a tingle of pleasure at the recollection.

Anthony Braxton at the Lantern, Colston Hall in Bristol for his only UK appearance. A unique and mysterious improviser I’ve remained haunted by the Ghost Trance Music

Julian Arguelles  at Cheltenham Festival with a septet playing inventive arrangements of his enchanting, exuberant music

When I looked back, I realised a trio of duos with Gwilym Simcock stuck out:

Gwilym Simcock/ Jason Rebello at Wiltshire Music Centre in the Bath Festival. Intergenerational? Maybe, but certainly interactive and plenty of fireworks alongside lyrical flights

Gwilym Simcock/ Brigitte Beraha at Falmouth University, an impromptu moment at the end of a solo concert, a moment of magic as piano and voice took flight together on I fall in love too easily

Gwilym Simcock/ Michael Wollny at a tribute to John Taylor, two former pupils of the maestro let fly on Ambleside Days, an extra ordinary moment.

Norma Winstone/ Ralph Towner Another tribute/ celebration and another duo.  These two slid into a version of Celeste that gave me goosebumps at an ‘Evocation’ of Kenny Wheeler’s music in London Jazz Festival.

Paolo Conte at the Barbican. Is it jazz? Cabaret? Pop?  Who cares – the veteran, unclassifiable  Italian crooner wove his spell and charmed everyone ( that’ll be me and what seemed like a significant proportion of Italian and Italian descended London residents)

Kamasi Washington at the Lantern again this time for one of two UK appearances(the Lantern had a good year for coups!) and demonstrating live with only septet (no massed choirs or orchestra on hand) why his debut deserved the title The Epic

I could list all those moments at my regular haunts (St. James Wine Vaults, Bath; BeBop Club; increasingly irresistible, The Hen and Chicken), however one each:

Iain Ballamy – at the Wine Vaults. Never knowingly miss an opportunity to hear him. Back in January last year at the Wine Vaults, just the theme from East of Sun was worth the trip.

Wildflower Sextet – at the BeBop Club early in the year. Any Wayne Shorter related outing is likely to get my but this sextet led by Matt Anderson were a particular delight.

Hotel Bristol –  at The Hen and Chicken. Fierce competition for this slot, but the Andy Sheppard orchestrated quartet has it with fierce blowing, delectable melodies and grooves and the inevitable top-drawer collaborators.

Recorded Music

In the case of  recorded music the question is ‘Do I still get the urge to play the CD/ Download?’     Memory can be deceptive and what happened most recently can loom larger than it should. Discovering that iTunes has sneakily logged a good proportion of my listening, reveals what have been the most frequent of my ‘just got to listen to that again’ or ‘I’m in the mood for..’ choices.  Taken alongside what has got stuck in my (old tech) six CD changer and picking a few faves from albums I’ve reviewed, generates a list that may reveal more about my preferences than anything else, but also looks pretty high quality to me.

 Heavily edited in the interests of not overdoing it –

Stuck in the CD changer

Kamasi Washington – all three discs of The Epic. It’s a throwback (whether jazz or dance music), its very current, its so the ‘next thing’, its irresistible.

Julian Arguelles – Let it Be Told,   Mining the South African repertoire and arranging for Big Band its fabulous (and coming to Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2016)

Babelfish – Chasing Rainbows was this piano, voice, bass and percussion quartet’s second outing. Understated, fizzing with energy, creativity and exquisitely twisted melody.

Reviewed with humility and repeating on the playlist

Andy Sheppard  –  Surrounded by Sea.  Trio Librero with the addition of Elvind Aarstead, whisperingly magical

Charles LloydWild Man Suite, a unique instrumentation. Maybe only Charles Lloyd would respond to the suggestion of adding strings by doing it with lyra and cimbalom, but its vintage Lloyd

The Printmakers – its been a bit of wait, but in Westerly at last we have a recording of this sublime and joyful music from Brit super group

Others, some reviewed some not, but high on the count of ‘plays’

Bebe Buchanan Tagel  – Gone . Danish outfit, featuring that Arguelles chap again. Euro? Yes, lyrical? Yes? Distinctive – oh yes.  Thanks Peter Bacon for the review tip-off

Drifter  – Flow An Edition Records orchestrated quartet with Alexi Tuomarila on piano. Vibrant, exciting contemporary jazz

Mads La Cour – Almuji  I keep returning to this loose limbed, weaving in and out of structures blowing from the Norwegian trumpeter’s quartet

Eyebrow  – Garden City hypnotic and uplifting slowly evolving grooves and hooks from this trumpet, drums and effects duo of Pete Judge and Paul Wigens

Indigo Kid – Fistful of Notes Not nearly enough fanfare around this second outing for Dan Messore’s quartet playing his enticing and quirky melodies

Veneri Pohjola Another Edition Records release, early in 2015, Finnish trumpeter Pohjola on a set of emotion packed originals and the leaders gorgeous, bang up to date trumpet sound kept calling me back

 

Double helpings of Rebello and an Edwards, St. James Wine Vaults, Thursday 9th July

IMG_1502“I’m showing off a bit tonight aren’t I?” said Jason with a rueful grin after a massive name drop in the course of naming the blistering latin tune with which the trio had opened the second set. The tune in question was Chick Corea’s Spain and if  you’re going to name drop, then it may as well be big.  So Rebello referred to the time he’d been out to Chick’s house (in Florida) for a jam.  In the first set, there’d been a reference to touring with Wayne Shorter in his 20s.  Nobody minded. They are reference points in the development of one UK’s foremost jazz musicians and its possible we’re blase about the frequency with which we get to hear him play locally.  It was certainly not his first visit to the Vaults and the second occasion on which he’d brought son George along on drums.  Resident bass man and organiser Wade Edwards had a deserved grin on his face as the sell out crowd squeezed in and just a bit of sweat on the brow as Rebello and Son put him through his paces.  Standing a couple of feet from the keyboard was a spine tingling experience as Rebello perceptibly went up through the gears during the first set. As he launched into Cantaloupe Island, the felt in the bones, expressed through the muscles earthy, funky groove with razor sharp timing was enough to make the blood fizz and he really let rip as   patterns spooled out and hooky riffs tweaked the ear over the cycling sequence. On other tunes like Sting’s La Belle Dame Sans Regrets or another Corea number You’re Everything, it was a fluid lyricism that emerged.   A sumptuous reading of Somewhere over the Rainbow reminded us of his ear for shifting and reworking harmony on the fly.  It wasn’t a one man show though.  IMG_1503George may have only just finished his GCSEs but there was a maturity and depth to the interplay with the keyboard. Some of the standout moments of the gig were the almost conversational exchanges of 4’s and 8s between keyboard and drums and repeatedly instinctive echoing and doubling of rhythmic flourishes and flexibility in the Jason’s soloing. They were at it again on Billy’s Bounce as a finale, fours bouncing back and forth between father and son, building to a great climax.  You have to hand it to Wade Edwards: his capacity to lure the best musicians around to the Vaults and keep them coming back means we are treated to nights like this –  a regular Thursday night at Jazz at the Vaults and  reliably exhilarating.

A Feast of Jazz for Bristol and Bath coming your way

There’s a dazzling array of gigs coming up in the Bristol/ Bath area at the bigger concert venues in the next few months. That’s on top of the regular club nights that are hosting  really top quality programmes. So for your regular consumption, check the now moved to Wednesdays and a new location in Clifton Village, Fringe Jazz: always excellent with Partisans visiting in February. On Thursdays look out for weekly gigs at Future Inns, increasingly with interesting touring bands as well as the best of Bristol and alternate Thursdays in Bath the Jazz at the Vaults sessions (already launched with Iain Ballamy and some great guests lined up. Friday night is Bristol BeBop Club with a reliably first class mix of local and touring band but keep an eye on Burdall’s Yard in Bath for occasional gigs, Friday 16th sees the Tom Green Septet young, outrageously talented and  already critically acclaimed. A roughly monthly series at the Hen and Chicken in Bristol brings a fantastic line-up starting with Andy Sheppard’s intriguing Hotel Bristol Quartet on 25th January. That’s without mentioning the slightly lower key and regular sessions at pubs all over the area and the odd residency (James Morton‘s at the Gallimaufrey always reliably groovy for instance).

But even without the Bristol International jazz and Blues Festival over the weekend of March 5th-8th, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was some sort of co-ordinated festival of international jazz in the area over the next three months. Colston Hall are leading the way in January. First on the 20th Anthony Braxton – NEA Jazz Master, bona fide legend and adventurer in music with his first gig in UK in over a decade and only UK date on a short European tour. The following night, genuine cream of the New York scene Larry Goldings‘ Organ Trio.  If that wasn’t enough, Saturday 24th sees The Impossible Gentleman at Wiltshire Music Centre, a UK/ US Quartet that’s taken the jazz world by storm over the last few years. Later in February, St. George’s, Bristol gets in on the act on 26th February with Tim Garland, UK based and another genuine international name who numbers Chick Corea amongst his collaborators. His quartet includes rising guitar star Ant Law who is at the Hen and Chicken with his own quartet on the 15th February.  The feast continues after the Bristol Festival with Sun Ra Arkestra at the Colston Hall and then Polar Bear in April, Nat Birchall at St. George’s and a duo of Courtney Pine and Zoe Rahman also at St. George’s in April.  Jason Rebello concludes his Artist in Residence spell at Wiltshire Music Centre again in April with a two piano gig with Gwilym Simcock.

Anyone taking in even half of these gigs will have sampled some of the best and wide ranging jazz anywhere. What a feast.

Bristol, Bath and nearby – Preview of an Autumn feast of jazz

There’s a simple message for lovers of live music  in the Bristol/ Bath area this Autumn (be it jazz tinged or the howling, red in tooth and claw variety you seek).  Whether you  habitually attend or catch an occasional, spur of the moment burst, there will something on very close by, whenever you seek it out. It will always be top quality, often world class and not infrequently in very intimate surroundings. Here’s a few places to keep an eye on. The regular club nights have eye -poppingly great programmes. Every Thursday you’ll need to decide how to split yourself. In Bristol, Jazz at Future Inns continues weekly with a  very classy programme of mainly  local players, including that man Dave Newton at least monthly, an on outing for Moonlight Saving Time in November and some interesting visitors. Look out for Dominic Marshall, young piano fiend now resident in Holland. Fringe Jazz is moving round the corner in Clifton to  The Mall and hosting Andy Sheppard in various line-ups at lease three time between October and mid November, with Ian Ballamy in between and rising stars, Dan Messore’s  Indigo Kid in November. In Bath fortnightly on Thursdays, Jazz at the Vaults continues, again with reliably excellent locals and stellar visitors (saxmen Tony Kofi in November and Simon Spillett in December for instance).  Sunday nights in Bath there’s a weekly programme at Gascoyne Place (catch the peerless John Paul Gard at least monthly here) and the Ring 0 Bells in Widcombe (multiple award winning pianist Dave Newton will be there 0n 26th October – intimate surroundings probably overstates the space for the band). More sporadic, Ian Storrer has programmed some mouth watering Sunday gigs at The Hen and Chicken in Bristol starting with the Jim Hart on vibes led Cloudmaker Trio on 28th September with more to follow before Christmas including Tim Richards Heptet and the experimental Lund Quartet. Every Friday The BeBop Club in Bristol continues to showcase the best of the local talent and visiting bands.  The rapturously received Tom Green Septet are back there in November and the critically lauded Laura Jurd Quartet are there in December and don’t miss Dakhla in early November if you can help it.  In Bath, keep an eye on Burdalls Yard, Bath Spa’s performance space. They’ve received a grant from Jazz Services/ PRS to support a jazz programme and have the impressive collection of tutors on the Uni’s jazz programme performing as BiggSound in October and the Philip Clouts Quartet in November.  Gigs at Bath’s Chapel Arts seem to pass under the radar sometime but here’s one not to miss: John Etheridge, bona fide legend who has performed with everyone including Dizyy Gillespie, Pat Metheny and Stefan Grapelli appears solo and in duo with singer Kit Holmes on 26th October.  The more formal concert spaces have plenty on too.  Former Sting and Jeff Beck sideman who started his career touring with the legendary Wayne Shorter, pianist Jason Rebello begins a year long artist in residence stint at The Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradord on Avon by teaming up with Empirical, the now firmly up and come group of still young stars who were last seen in Bath supporting Branford Marsalis in the festival a couple of years ago. That’s on the 27th September.   The Autumn programme at St. George’s Bristol has a handful of fantastic gigs through the Autumn (programmer Phil Johnson waxes lyrical about it here) It kicks off with an intriguing spin off from international wave making Snarky Puppy, The Bill Laurence Project on 3rd October, includes Gilad Atzmon‘s Charlie Parker with strings re-working and Scots Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock in duo and culminates with the adventuorous Swiss Vein Trio with former Miles Davis sideman another genuine legend, saxophonist Dave Liebman.  Taking in even a fraction of what’s on will be a feast for the ears and of course this little round-up as ever by no means covers everything.  It promises to be another fine season.