rhythmaning: (Saxophone)
September saw me migrating to Islay, like the geese, though I was only there for three days: the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival. I give it its full name because I love this festival, and I doubt it could happen without the sponsorship of Lagavulin, one of the distilleries on the island. Also, at each gig, they hand out drama of Lagavulin, one of my favourite whiskies, so that's even more reason to thank them! I think Lagavulin deserve a lot of praise for supporting jazz in a pretty remote part of Scotland, so in case you missed it, it's the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival. (I should point that I have no connection with Lagavulin whatsoever. But should they wish to thank me for my support, a bottle would always be welcome...)

It is a very special event. Because it is remote - a two hour ferry trip from the mainland - and the ferry port is itself three hours drive from Glasgow, you have to want to get there. There is little passing trade. The islanders welcome the festival, both for the music and for the tourism, one of the mainstays of the economy. (The other being whisky - which also brings a lot of tourists.)

The gigs are put on in small, unusual venues: distillery visitor centres, the RSPB reserve, village halls, the Gaelic centre. The audience, too, is relatively small, and one sees the same faces at different gigs - and different years. People go back year after year; I think this is the seventh time I have made the trip in twelve years.

The small venues and audience mean that each gig has an intimate feel; and the sponsorship means that one can see internationally renowned artists in circumstances that are hard to imagine anywhere else. It is a privilege to go to these gigs.

Over three days I caught five gigs by four bands, two of which were really the same. The festival kicked off with Trio Libero, an improvising band costing of Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano sax, Michel Battina on bass and Seb Rochford on drums. I had seen Sheppard and Rochford play in a trio before; this outing was a much more rewarding experience. Sheppard's is necessarily the main voice, but both other players are central. Indeed, Rochford's minimalistic playing is key: at times it seemed as if he was barely playing, but he made every note, every space count. They moved from bebop tunes to free(ish) improvisation, a joy throughout.

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The artists on Islay frequently pay in a variety of ensembles, the programmers mixing them around in new settings. But this was the first time I saw something new: two different ensembles which comprised the same three people. Debuting first as the Callum Gourlay Trio and then playing the following day as the Kit Downes Trio, the tag team of Gourlay on bass, Downes on piano and James Madden on drums were a revelation. The first gig saw them playing mostly Gourlay's tunes with a couple of standards added in. Gourlay's writing showed real depth and maturity, with some beautiful tunes; his playing was excellent too - he played Charlie Haden's "Chairman Mao" as an exquisite solo.

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The mood changed a little under Downes' leadership, in a gig that featured mostly his tunes. I have seen him play several times in different bands, but I think this was the first time I had the opportunity to see him lead a trio. It was impressive.

Bassist Mario Caribe lead a trio with trumpeter Colin Steele and guitarist Graeme Stephen. Mario is the one musician - possibly the one person - who has been to every year's Islay jazz festival, in one guide or another. He played three trio gigs this year, and I caught the first. Featuring several of Steele's tunes, including excerpts of his Islay suite from his Stramash recording, a bunch of Mario's and some standards, this was a comfortable afternoon gig: it had a lovely relaxed feel about it. Stephen worked some guitar trickery with a bundle of pedals that balanced Caribe and Steele's unamplified instruments.

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The promoters had long wanted to get the Esbjorn Svennson Trio to Islay, and had discussed it several times with the band; Svennson's untimely death in 2007 stopped that from happening, but EST's drummer, Magnus Ostrom made the trip this year. Headlining two nights at different venues, the Magnus Ostrom Band were perhaps a curious choice for Islay. Their large amount of electronic equipment filled the two stages they played, and at times looked dangerously overloaded. A mixture of jazz, folk and prog-rock, they have quite a dark sound. Ostrom plays drums with a powerful intensity; he uses brushes unlike any other drummer. He looks pained as he plays, as if exorcising inner demons.

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Aside from Ostrom's insistent drumming, the major musical voice is that of guitarist Andreas Houdarkis. Bringing the main prog vibe, Houdarkis uses lots of pedals to create a rich sound, balanced by the jazz-oriented acoustic piano of Daniel Karlsson. It was a moving performance.

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rhythmaning: (Saxophone)
The first weekend of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, back in July, featured two outdoor events. First was the Mardi Gras, in the Grassmarket, followed the next day by the Carnival in Princes Street. These were both unexpected fun - unexpected because they didn't really feature my kind of music. But fun they were, helped by exceptionally good weather.

The Mardi Gras had another advantage - beer, the pubs and restaurants that crowd along the Grassmarket doing great business. It was a lovely afternoon, wandering around in the crowd - the atmosphere was great.

There were a mixture of bands spread across four stages: blues musicians, New Orleans marching brass bands, tags bands - and (I think) a Taiwanese jazz band, played on traditional instruments - worth it just to hear the sound produced!

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The Carnival the next day was on a different scale: along the length of Princess Street, and throughout Princes St Gardens as well, a wealth of marching bands, street dancers and performers from all sorts of styles and traditions gathered and performed. The choice was startling - so much to see! And everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives.

In part this was only possible because Princes St was closed down because of the on-going tram works. There is something joyous about being able to walk unmolested through streets that are otherwise busy: a feeling of reclaiming the street from the traffic. I doubt this will be possible next year - the work is complete, and I can't imagine the council being willing to close the street down to enable it.

Which would be a real shame! Everyone seemed to have a great time. The mood was excellent, the dancers impressive, and the best infectious - and this is music I didn't expect to enjoy!

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rhythmaning: (Saxophone)
July's Jazz Festival was understandably busy. Ten gigs in ten days, with a couple of extra, excellent outdoor events, too. It was a fun time.

I tried to balance newer and old music, musicians I knew (and knew I liked) with people I'd not heard before; and a range of styles and groups. I won't cover every gig I went to, but I'd like to cover those that worked well, or didn't.

The festival opened fire with the Brian Kellock Copenhagen Trio. Kellock is a great pianist, with a chimeric skill in mixing genres and styles whilst presenting an engaging whole. His music twists and turns as he moves from stride to Monk and references more modern, keeping the bass and drums in their toes - and there was clearly a fair bit of joshing going on between the three of them.

Kellock filled some very big shoes when he took the place of Stan Tracey, who had pulled out of his quartet gig with Bobby Wellins due to illness. So it became the Wellins Quartet, with Clark Tracey on drums and Andrew Cleyndert on bass. This was a fun gig, but Kellock seemed subdued - at least compared to his form earlier in the festival - and it felt a bit as of the band were going through the motions. Good, but not outstanding.

The festival was beset with illness, losing the last night headliner Pharoah Sanders as well as Tracey. This was a big disappointment, since Sanders is one of the remaining firebrands from the 1960s avant garde, and not having seen him live for many years I had been looking forward to seeing how he had settled into life as an elder statesman.

The Italian/Sardinian-Scottish connection in Stone Islands had been forged at last year's festival, when Scots trumpet Colin Steele and pianist Dave Milligan teamed up with reedsman Enzo Favata. That was one of the surprise hits last year, and their return with an extended band this year was eagerly awaited. My expectations worked against them, since I thought they were excellent, but I was still disappointed! Tinged with a folk feel and featuring saxophonists Martin Kershaw and Konrad Wisniewzski, this ten piece had some of the anarchy of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. They made a great sound, but didn't quite capture the magic or excitement of last year's debut.

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Despite the familiarity of a band I had seen four or five times in the last year, the Neil Cowley Trio put on such a high energy show that they couldn't fail to excite. Very much a band, each member is integral to the sound, from Evan Jenkins' powerhouse drumming, through metronomic Rex Horan's bass playing to Cowley's passionate piano. Their tunes move from subtle to intense to loud, and they do it all very well. This was just a superb gig, the power of a rock band with the intricacy and emotion of - well, a jazz trio.

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They were just beaten as highlight of the festival by the Festival Orchestra's performance of Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music. I had mixed feelings ahead of this gig. It was a must-see because it was a rare opportunity to here this music played live; but I was worried it would just be played note for note. And the involvement of a classical choir meant it might not sound like jazz at all. The Ellington recordings of his sacred music can feel like a missed opportunity, a little bit too sacred. This gig was, however, a joy from beginning to end. Directed by Clarke Tracey, the band and choir swung like the clappers, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus clearly enjoying the added freedom from their more usual classical constraints. Joined for several numbers by dancer Junior Laniyan, whose own percussive take added to the driving drums of Tom Gordon, the band were magnificent. The whole gig was like a hymn to Ellington and an earlier age. Absolutely wonderful.

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rhythmaning: (Default)
In September I made my bi-annual trip to the Islay Jazz Festival. The boat across was full of jazz pilgrims, many of whom recognised each other from previous years (many of whom I seem to be on a nodding relationship), and musicians (and many of whom I seem to be on a nodding relationship, too – it is always strange to be greeted by musicians). It was a rough crossing – the first trip over I remember the boat rocking (and I’ve been to Islay five or six times). The skipper’s docking was poor – I could have parked the boat better!

The highlight – well, highlights, since there were two of them – were the sets by the Neil Cowley Trio. Cowley plays big venues, usually – I last saw the trio play at the QEH in London in March which holds 900. On Islay, they were playing to 80 or so at each venue.

First up was an hour’s set at Lagavulin (the festival’s sponsors – without whom I guess acts of the stature of Neil Cowley Trio wouldn’t get as far as the Hebrides), the opening gig of the festival. I was sitting in the front row, just a couple of feet away from Cowley's high energy piano playing.

They crammed a lot into their hour, playing with great dynamics and covering much of their repertoire. Cowley is a very physical, percussive pianist, lifting himself off the piano stool with the force of his playing. Bassist Rex Horan and drummer Evan Jenkins are well matched to Cowley, whether they're rocking out a groove or adding sensitive texture.

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Their second gig the following evening was different: much longer, there was less urgency but an equal intensity. It was a more relaxed, less frenetic gig. But equally enthralling. I was again in the front row - strange that there are so often spaces left in the front of gigs! Cowley was more chatty than before - very affable and entertaining - but it is the music that really speaks: powerful and compelling.

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The first Cowley gig was followed by the Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet, loud modern saxophone. It had everything I like - fast saxophones, good bass, great drums - but after the intensity of the Neil Cowley Trio, I didn't have ears for the quartet. It wasn't their fault - but I felt as if I had spent all my energy for the night.

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Kronkvist's rhythm section made up a piano trio the following lunchtime. One of the things about Islay that makes it so interesting is way they make use of imaginative venues: in this case, the RSPB visitor centre. Though not a distillery, dramsLagavulin was handed around, making sure we were warmed up after a morning exploring the Loch Gruinard RSPB reserve.

The music was exactly what was needed for a lunchtime gig: pretty mellow, a bunch of standards and a couple of originals. And it was really fun - emphasising once more that it wasn't the band at fault the night before.

The lunchtime gig on Sunday was lead by pianist Brian Kellock playing (mostly) tunes by Ellington and Strayhorn. The first set was a trio with Kenny Ellis on bass and the ever-excellent Stu Ritchie on drums. Kellock spanned styles with panache, playing a great set. The second set added Colin Steele on trumpet and Laura MacDonald on alto - Steele's fiery trumpet sparking of MacDonald's more tempered, cool sax. Another fine lunchtime gig!

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For a small island, journeys on Islay can take a while. The afternoon session was at Sanaigmore: literally the end of the road. And in keeping with the adventurous choice of venues, this was an art gallery turned jazz club for the day. This was a performance by a one-off band, a trio of Mario Caribe on bass, Michael Buckley on tenor and Snorre Kirk on drums. An interesting line-up, ostensibly lead by Caribe (who is the only musician to have played at every Islay festival), and they played some interesting tunes: "Don't Cry For Me Argentina", for instance, and "Smile", which Buckley took pleasure in telling us had been written by Charlie Chaplin. This was a fun gig, the musicians trying things out in relaxed surroundings.

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The final gig featured Steele again - another tradition, apparently. His quintet were only excellent form, despite it being the first outing for pianist Euan Stevenson (Steele stalwart Dave Milligan had to cancel at the last moment). Steele has an affinity for Islay - he composed a suite performed there a few years ago (it appears on his album "Stramash"), some of which was played in this gig. With Buckley on sax, Ritchie on drums and bassist Calum Gourlay, Steele played a typically exuberant set to close the festival - this was barnstorming stuff, and a great way to close the festival!

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rhythmaning: (Default)
Suddenly it is nearly two months on from Edinburgh International Jazz Festival; so I really ought to get my thoughts down on this year's festival. (And in another week it'll be time for Islay, too...)

I thought it was a pretty good festival this year: ten gigs in ten evenings, and only one which I didn't really rate - most of the gigs were excellent, and one superlative that I'll be very lucky if it isn't my "gig of the year"; a mixture of local talent and international stars; small bands and big bands; and a range of styles.

Big Bands


The two big bands I saw were playing from the repertoire and, I think, both were essentially one-off projects for the festival - at least, neither seems to have much presence outside the festival.

The first up was the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra, playing the music of Gil Evans. The third such gig in a year (after Mark Lockheart's leading the Trinity Laban Contemporary Jazz Ensemble in the music from "Out of the Cool" and, on Gil's one hundredth birthday, his son Miles playing first trumpet with the London Jazz Orchestra performing music from "Miles Ahead") - all of which were wonderful gigs, not least because it is just such a pleasure to hear music familiar through recordings played live. The Edinburgh Festival Jazz Orchestra, lead by Tim Hagans, had wanted to play Evans' "The Individualism of Gil Evans", but they couldn't source the charts - instead they played a first set of Evans' early work - arrangements of bebop tunes for Claude Thornhill, mostly - and a glorious second set of "Sketches of Spain", complete, with Hagans taking the lead trumpet part. It was a pleasure all the way - the music sounded fresh and vibrant, the orchestra bringing the music alive.

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The second big band was the World Jazz Orchestra under local boy Joe Temperley playing the music of Duke Ellington. And, in his slipstream, Billy Strayhorn, too. Temperley also had some problems with the charts - they hadn't made it across the Atlantic (along with his suit and his wife!). This meant that the band leaned on standards more than they had anticipated - though Ellington produced enough of those. For the first couple of numbers it seemed as if they were coasting somewhat, and it wasn't clear what Temperley was bringing to the bandstand. But then he started playing - mellifluous baritone sax and bass clarinet - and it all clicked: his reeds made all the difference. The highlight was a gorgeous version of "Single Petal of a Rose" - quite magical.

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International Bands


The one gig that didn't work for me was the Jeremy Pelt Quintet's headlining show. It might have been because it was in a tent and there was a lot of spillage from neighbouring gigs; or because it was a windy evening - which, coupled with the tent, caused a lot of interfering flappage; or maybe because the band were jetlagged. Whatever, it didn't really catch. I don't think it help that the following first chorus was a long bass solo. It just felt like the show lacked energy.

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I saw the same band the following evening - and it felt like a different band: full of energy this time, they seemed excited to be playing, and that excitement spilled over. Which just goes to show that every band can have an off-night - but that might be the one chance that punters get to see you, and that is all they can go on...

I hadn't planned to go to the second night of Jeremy Pelt - though I'm glad I did. They were supporting the Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; I was going to see the Bad Plus the following evening and I have been disappointed by previous collaborations with the Bad Plus (their trio work makes for a very high hurdle), but since I had never seen Redman I decided to go along. This was a very good decision: this music played was the most engaging and exciting I had heard for a long time. The Bad Plus have been touring with Redman during the summer, and he fitted in seamlessly - it felt like he had been part of the group for a long time. His presence seemed didn't inhibit the trio at all, adding more depth. As a quartet they created marvellous music, by turns powerful, moving and humorous. (This video of one number from the gig is typical of their playing.)

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After such a superlative performance, the Bad Plus as a trio the following evening could only be disappointing. Their performance was very good, but it just couldn't match up. This was not the band's fault: if I felt pretty drained after the superlative performance of the night before, how must they have felt? Perhaps I shouldn't have gone to the gig; but then I'd always have felt I was missing out...

There were two gigs which mixed up Scottish and European musicians. First up was Laura MacDonald and Joakim Milder, together with Mattias Stahl on vibes. Stahl stole the show: the two saxophonists played some lovely music, but the vibraphonist stole the show. Without a pianist or drummer, much of the rhythm-duties fell on Stahl's shoulders.

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Trumpeter Colin Steele and pianist Dave Milligan - one of Scottish jazz's little known heros - played an all too short duet - just a couple of numbers, which left me feeling a little short changed (Steele and Milligan work very well together!). Before, that is, Enzo Favata and his trio took to the stage and opened the way for something more interesting still. With Danilo Gallo on bass and U. T. Gandhi on drums, the saxophonist lead an energetic exploration of the space between jazz and folk improvisation, with music with its roots in (he said) Sardinia and southern Italy. It got more interesting still when the trio was joined by Steele and Milligan for a full set of exciting jazz. Much of Steele's music is tinged with folk from the celtic fringes - his big band Stramash is active at the crossroads between jazz and folk - and Milligan has played in many folk settings. Together as a quintet, playing tunes from both their repertoire, they proved music as a universal language: each brought something different, to create an evening that felt unique. Steele and Favata had a natural ease together - their styles, though different, blended superbly. This was exciting because it was unexpected.

Scottish Bands


Steele's own quintet played a cracking gig on their own account. With Milligan on piano, Michael Buckley on tenor, Stu Ritchie on drums and Callum Gourlay on bass, Steele played his familiar, celtic post-bop with verve and panache. He is an exciting player - lots of high notes - with space for the contemplative, too. My one quibble is that the music was a bit too familiar - some new tunes would have livened up the mix even more.

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Supporting Steele was the Konrad Wiszniewski Quartet, with Euan Stevenson on piano and the powerhouse drumming of Alyn Cosker driving the quartet from behind. Wiszniewski has a full, powerful saxophone sound, with a very slight tendency towards saxophone-histrionics (as many tenor players have!). Stevenson played Tyner's role, supporting Wiszniewski with lots of block chords and rhythmic solos. Wiszniewski played tenor and a curved soprano, the saxophone looking almost toylike in his large hands.

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Altoist Martin Kershaw opened the festival with his quartet of Paul Harrison (excellent on piano), Doug Hough on drums and Euan Burton on bass. Kershaw's music is intelligent and thoughtful, his tunes often inspired by works of literature or art. Much of this show came from his latest album The Howness, with numbers based on his reaction to Mervyn Peake and Philip Larkin, as well as tunes from earlier projects like his reworking of Charlie Parker pieces.

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Coda


After ten nights at the jazz festival, the next bit of culture I went to was... a jazz gig! This was a one-off gig at Summerhall, opening their Fringe festival programme - though the rest of the fringe hadn't kicked off by then. Summerhall used to be the veterinary school, and the main space was formerly the dissection lecture hall. Former firebrand Archie Shepp has mellowed slightly, his music solidly based in the blues and much more accessible than his free-playing from the 1960s and 1970s. Playing both soprano and tenor, and with just Tom McClung on piano in support, Shepp played a couple of great sets in front of a very appreciative audience. This music felt rooted in the tradition - Shepp played a couple of Ellington numbers - but also completely modern. McClung's piano was unobtusive but solid, and he too summoned up the spirit of McCoy Tyner at times.

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rhythmaning: (Default)
Still trying to catch up with things I meant to post about - and getting further behind... - I spent a lot of time at the London Jazz Festival last November - something like fifteen gigs over ten days.

I took a lot of photographs.

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Here are my favourites... )

rhythmaning: (Default)
The London Jazz Festival finished last weekend, and seven days on, it seems like a good time to take stock. I went to nine paid-for gigs, two free gigs which I had planned to see, I caught a couple of free gigs which I hadn’t planned, and a couple of other free events. I had a busy ten days – possibly too busy: it felt like trying to cram six months’ live jazz into ten days – and many clashes: the curse of the festival. I had to chose what music to miss as well as what to see.

I deliberately experiment with LJF: whilst I go to some gigs where I know the musicians’ work (and expect to enjoy the gig), I also seek out people I haven’t seen before or who are doing things I haven’t heard before. I also seek out artists I’m unlikely to get a chance to see at other times of the year – this means that my selection is skewed towards foreign “big name” artists rather than London-based musicians. (Though I have long decided not to see artists just because I think they are likely to die: I saw Art Blakey the year before he died for this reason, and I wish I hadn’t – he was a shadow of his former self, and that’s not how I want to remember my heroes.)

All in all, then, it was an eclectic mix of musicians and styles over the ten days.

I started off with Manu Katché. Part of the festival’s French programme (there was a fair bit of jazz nationalism this year: there were French, Danish and Scottish streams – it somehow seems a bit against the grain to me, since I see jazz as an inclusive art form, encompassing peoples regardless of race or origin), he played with a quartet with saxophone as the lead instrument. Though Katché is a drummer, this wasn’t a drum-heavy sound, but it somewhat lacked the full balance of his recorded work. His drums sounded great from the back of the Royal Festival Hall – a rarity, since they are often mixed to mud in large halls. I enjoyed this set, but I didn’t think it was great music.

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After a fascinating session by musicians Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchins exploring the roots and evolution of jazz (part of the festival’s free education programme, they had two conversations over two days – these were a really interesting couple of afternoons), I ventured out to Kingston for Andy Sheppard’s Movements in Colour and Didier Malherbe’s Hadouk Trio. I wrote about this gig for the LondonJazz blog, so I won’t repeat myself here. This was very “world” tinged jazz. Malherbe’s band were interesting, lively and unexpected; Sheppard’s more – well, chilled. It is no surprised that they record on ECM – they have that very cool, European sound. Despite Sheppard’s excellent – though controlled – sax playing, the star for me was bassist Arild Andersen. I’d go a long way to see him play.

Which I did the next day, venturing across London to see him play with John Etherdige and John Marshall. This was just a brilliant gig. It covered a range of moods, from relaxed to energetic, whilst maintaining a cohesive voice. Both Andersen and Etheridge used electronic looping to construct tracks to play along to, building up the layers of sound. They were, frankly, great. Marshall added so much – playing without amplification (the Bull’s Head, though one of London’s foremost jazz venues, is still really just a pub…), he was simultaneously subtle and powerful. This gig was just wonderful – they played exciting, adventurous music. Exactly as I expected.

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Monday night was one where my high expectations weren’t fully met. It started with John Scofield in a trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, his regular rhythm section. (Last time I saw Swallow play, it was with Andy Sheppard…) They played a mixed set of standards and Scofield’s tunes – a couple of their standard ballads were exquisite – and all three were excellent. The disappointment came with the second set, which matched Scofield with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - and only because I was really looking forward to it! Playing arrangements of Sco’s tunes and some from his time with Miles Davis, it felt at times as if Sco and the SNJO were pulling in different directions – as if Sco’s loud guitar was fighting with the orchestra. Knowing both Sco and SNJO’s music, this seemed like such a waste: Sco’s record Quiet has some beautiful, haunting brass arrangements, and those commissioned by SNJO didn’t really match up.

There were some great moments – Ryan Quigley on trumpet, Martin Kershaw on alto and Alyn Cosker on drums all played good solos, and Tommy Smith, SNJO’s director, was on his usual fine form, but this was just a good rather than great gig.

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Next up was Frech pianist Martial Solal in a solo gig. This was one of my wild cards, and I’m very glad I went. In the refined setting of the Wigmore Hall, Solal played a fascinating set of standards. He took a theme, dissected it, and then took off in all sorts of new directions, time and time again, in ways which reminded me of his compatriot Michel Petrucciani in his approach to the music, if not his playing style. This was quite dense music – Solal filled all the space – and it was not easy to identify what he was playing: in the interval, the people sitting behind me ran off a list of tunes they had heard, none of which I heard! What I heard over the two sets included Autumn Leaves, My Funny Valentine, Autumn Leaves, Caravan, Round Midnight, Well You Needn’t, In A Sentimental Mood, Satin Doll and All The Things You Are. Solal barely spoke to the audience, and at times it felt a bit like a classical recital – perhaps because of the venue. But there was also something very personal about Solal’s music: it was like he was sharing some secrets with us. He was brought back for several encores, joking before the third “…I like to play the piano!” This gig was a joy as Solal explored these tunes for all he was worth leading us down unexpected byways. Marvellous stuff.

After a (well deserved…) night off, two more pianists featured in a double bill. I wrote this gig for LondonJazz, too. First came Curios, a British trio featuring pianist Tom Cawley. Curios’ music left lots of space; Geri Allen’s just the opposite, as she filled every moment with notes. She had name checked Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner, and the influences were clear. This was one of my “experimental” gigs – I’d seen Allen before, but never solo, and she was performing in collaboration with a filmmaker. It wasn’t wholly successful, but it was very interesting. The music felt very intense; the encore, based on music by Charlie Parker, was lighter and more playful.

Before the main gig, I caught a free duo set by Scots saxophonist, flautist and piper Fraser Fyfield and guitarist Graeme Stephen. Whilst their roots were clearly in traditional Scottish music, they were also improvising. Fyfield’s piping sounded like a heavily peated whisky – this was heady stuff. I liked it so much I bought the CD!

Another double-bill followed: well, Louis Moholo-Moholo followed by Louis Moholo-Moholo… Actually a triple bill: first was Jez Nelson interviewing Moholo about his experiences as a black musician in apartheid South Africa (alternately surreal and harrowing) and then as an exile in Europe, playing with the Blue Notes, the Brotherhood of Breath and a wealth of free-jazz players. This was followed a duet set by Moholo and pianist Keith Tippett – half an hour or more of imaginative, inspiring improvisation. The second set was Moholo’s septet commemorating his birthday, “Seven for Seventy”. This band made a glorious sound, mixing township rhythms with improvisation. Featuring Jason Yarde and Ntshuks Bonga on saxes, Henry Lowther on trumpet, free-jazz firebrand John Edwards on bass, Alex Hawkins on piano and Francine Luce on vocals, this was a great band. Moholo was pushing them forward from the drum-stool, full of energy – quite how he can keep up that force and power at 70 is beyond me. This was definitely one of my favourite gigs of the festival, together with the John Etheridge Trio – things that I was really pleased to have seen!

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I caught a couple of numbers by Brass Jaw in a free set at the Royal Festival Hall, but I was a bit passed it by that time. They sounded good, and it’s great they are getting recognition – they are fine musicians – but I had had enough for a Saturday night.

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The Bad Plus were playing a three-night residency at Kings Place, one of the more original bits of programming during the festival. They did one night on their own, one night with singer Wendy Lewis (which had excellent reviews on Twitter!) – and the night I saw them, with Django Bates. This was one of the gig I must post in the “good but disappointing category”: I’ve seen the Bad Plus play many times, and I was looking forward to hearing their augmented quartet tackling some of the tunes I love; what I got was ninety minutes of, I think, wholly improvised music. Some of it was inspired, some very good, but a fair chunk sounded self indulgent, too. A bit like they were trying too hard. Pianist Ethan Iverson seemed to take a backseat to Bates – Iverson seemed very reticent, as if he wasn’t wanting to get involved in the music. Bates pushed forward, with Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King being as inventive as I expected. I wanted more Iverson, though.

The last day I took advantage of more free music – in both senses of the term. There was a triple bill down at the Festival Hall – or, at least, I saw three bands... The first was a trio of Steve Lawson on bass, Otto Fischer on guitar and Tony Buck on drums. This trio didn’t grab me much – it seemed a bit like they were each playing their own thing without adding to each other; perhaps I couldn’t just make sense of it.

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They were followed by Shabaka Hutchins on clarinet, Tony Bevan on sax, Phillip Barre on bass and Tom Skinner on drums. This grabbed me much more – Bevan and Hutchins played some fiery solos, Barre and Skinner pushed things along. This was much more exciting.

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Best of all, though, was Orphy Robinson’s Cosmic Raw Xtra Four. I saw Orphy’s Cosmic Raw Xtra big band last year, and that was a brilliant gig. This quartet was quite different: with Lawson on bass and Fischer on guitar, and the great Steve Noble on drums, Robinson created some amazing music. It was a step above the rest – brilliant vibes and steel pan from Robinson, and energetic drums from Noble. They were all together: they played as a unit, not four individuals. It was a really exciting end to the festival.

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Islay is a special place. It is an island – so you have to really want to be there: it takes some planning and effort to actually make the trip. It is famous for its whisky – it now has eight distilleries, producing a wide range of spirits – and its bird life. And for one weekend each year, it is home to a jazz festival.

Which makes it a very special event indeed.

The island is large, but has a small population – 3,000 or so; and it has no ordinary venues – no jazz clubs or concert halls. Instead, concerts are housed in unconventional surroundings – previous years have seen gigs in the Round Church and the bottling room of a distillery (one of my favourite all time venues!); this year they went to several distilleries and the island’s bird sanctuary.

The festival starts on a Friday evening; but it really starts on the Friday lunchtime ferry across. The boat was packed with punters, musicians, and the festival’s organisers, waiting anxiously to make sure the musicians actually make it. There was a audible sigh of relief when, with moments to spare, the last musician on the list turned up. (Though one musician was stranded on the island for the return trip, having gone to the wrong port!)

Others fly to Islay, though they miss the grandeur of the trip, leaving the hills of the mainland, passing islands before the ferry sneaks through Caol Ila (the strait, not the whisky) between Islay and Jura. It is a wonderful way to travel.

The way it works – more or less – is that a couple of more famous musicians are booked – people from the London scene, Europe or the States – and then a load of Scottish musicians come across (usually from Glasgow or Edinburgh). The ferry is a bit of a jazz Ark, because essentially there are two of each instrument. The programme basically mixes everyone up: lots of scratch gigs, and by the end of the weekend one has seen most of the musicians several times. Musicians and punters hare around the island from venue to venue.

The first gig was a duo between (Scottish) pianist Paul Harrison and the visiting US alto player Jesse Davis at the Lagavulin distillery. Lagavulin were sponsoring the festival this year, which meant they handed out ample drams at each gig – this is a very good thing! (Though I’d have been as happy if it had been Bowmore, or Bruidladdich, or Buhnnahaven, or… well, they’re all good whiskies!) Davis and Harrison opened with “I Want To Be Happy”, which seemed like a pretty good philosophy for a jazz festival. Davis, who’s been to Islay before and seems to like it there, is an altoist in the bebop-Bird mold, bringing a soulful, bluesy feel to the slower numbers; Harrison can play in a lot of different styles (from funk to free), and his accompaniment was suitably bluesy, too. A great start to the festival!

The other “guest” was pianist Zoe Rahman, up from London. All her gigs were in the Bowmore gaelic centre, which housed a grand piano for the weekend. It seemed a bit like she sat there as a stream of some of Scotland’s best jazz musicians flowed through. First up later on Friday evening were bassist Mario Caribe, drummer Stu Brown, tenor player John Burgess and trumpeter Colin Steele. Caribe is a bit of an Islay fixture, the only musician to have been at every jazz festival – this was the twelfth. This quintet had only met an hour or so before the gig but they quickly built a rapport. Caribe and Brown became Rahman’s rhythm section for the weekend. Brown took a bit of warming up, but he got better with each gig. Caribe was excellent throughout, combining subtlety with energy – a great passionate player. Rahman was great throughout the festival, too. Burgess brought his muscular toned saxophone, whilst Steele added the pyrotechnics. They played several of Caribe’s numbers, including a couple from his Islay suite, written for the 10th anniversary of the festival. An interesting combination.

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Saturday lunchtime saw John Burgess leading a quartet at Lagavulin, with Harrison on piano, Caribe on bass (looking very cool in his dark glasses – the lights were pointing straight at him!) and Doug Hough on drums. Burgess played both tenor and clarinet. A set of standards with a couple of Burgess’s tunes thrown in, this was a fun, slightly light set. Harrison played some great solos, Caribe really swung, and Burgess tried the set the gig on fire – in a shirt to match.

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I skipped the afternoon gig, choosing to walk in the rain instead (not a great decision…) before getting to Bowmore for a trio gig with Rahman, Caribe and Brown. Playing a bunch of standards as well as Caribe’s and Brown’s tunes, this was a lovely gig. Caribe shone once more, and he and Raman worked really well together – there was real musical chemistry going on. A couple of the tunes came from a suite written by Brown for Islay last year (I wasn’t there…), about the birdlife – a drunken swan, a lonely egret. It was all lovely stuff.

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The late night show on Islay is a thing of legend. I’d not been before, but I decided to stay in Bruichladdich so I could sample Colin Steele’s Melting Pot. The gig started later than its usually late start because so many people were trying to cram into the village hall. It was packed until there were no more chair, and packed a bit more. It was wonderful to hear Steele and co in such a different vibe: this time they were playing the most soulful of soul jazz. Subie Coleman sang, and she’s got a really bluesy voice, way down low. Andy Sharkey’s bass was simultaneously solid and funky – his sense of soul-time was immaculate. Steele and Phil Bancroft were a fiery frontline. I left at the interval, missing out on the party as the space cleared by those heading to their beds was apparently filled by dancers.

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Sharkey was back on bass fort Davis’ quartet lunchtime outing at Ardbeg, another enjoyable set of standards.

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But it was the following gig, Caribe, Rahman, Steele and Bancroft back at Bowmore which was the highlight of the weekend. Caribe opened with an exquisite, slow solo piece bearing a melancholy beauty; I’d love to hear him play an entirely solo set. Then he was joined the other musicians in a variety of combinations – bass and piano, then trumpet added, then sax. Rahman played a couple of solo numbers, and then the quartet finished their session together. This was marvellous music making.

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There were two more gigs, a lively trio set by altoist Martin Kershaw with Andy Sharkey and Doug Hough, and a great tribute to Cannonball Adderley with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, featuring Steele, Kershaw, Caribe, Harrison and Hough. They make the musicians work hard at Islay…

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Last night found me at Ronnie Scott’s for the second night of their Brit Jazz Fest, a double bill featuring Phronesis and Led Bib. A full – and young - house for these two, very different bands bodes well.

Phronesis are a piano trio, but the dominant voice seems to be Jaspar Holby’s bass. Perhaps taking their lead from other European trios like EST and the Tord Gustavsen trio, they have an energetic yet subtle presence – drummer Mark Guiliana combining the difficult trick of playing softly but with power, at times just swishing the air with his brushes.

Their set was interesting but ultimately their complex music failed to work its magic on me: their use of quirky rhythms and jerky time signatures made the music feel spiky and angular, and I had to concentrate to keep up.

Led Bib were a very different prospect. From the very start, they had me grinning broadly: there is something infectiously fun about their music. Drummer Mark Holub seems to do most of the writing, but they felt very much a unit. An unorthodox line-up – two alto saxophones plus a keyboards, bass and drums rhythm section – they manage to create incredibly funky improvised punk-jazz. Maybe with a touch of heavy metal thrown into the mix, too.

Electric bassist Liran Donin is central to their sound, putting down line after line of danceable bass. Toby McLaren’s keyboards added a lot of flavour - he was getting some great sounds from his treated electric piano, as well as playing the grand piano - whilst Holub’s drums were pushing the whole thing along with a mixture of rock and jazz beats. Over the top the two altoists - Chris Williams and Pete Grogan – were given the space to improvise, sometimes together, chasing each other up and down, and sometimes in vivid, cascading solos.

The whole is like a funkier, danceable version of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, without the really out-there free phases. Watching the quintet, it felt like it shouldn’t work, but actually, it works very, very well. I’m not sure if it would be so good in the comfort of one’s own home – it felt like it needed the live setting – but it works brilliantly live. Now I want to see them somewhere where the audience could dance – that’d be some gig!
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I am aware I haven’t been writing on LJ much recently. It’s nothing personal, but I do think it would be healthy to write some more. I often have a running list of things won’t to write about, so maybe I should by catching up a bit… Also because I want to show off my photographs! (Why else do I post?)

Back in January, I saw the Alyn Cosker quartet play in London. I meant to write about it at the time, but it got lost in a trip away; and also – well, it was good, but really not my kind of music. It is harder to write about things I don’t like so much (but maybe a useful trick).

I know Cosker from his work with Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Tommy Smith; he can be a very loud brash drummer, but he can also be very gentle and delicate, too – a rare mix.

His own music is strictly jazz fusion – the bits fused being rock-funk. He plays in complex time signatures, with great energy – there wasn’t so much of the thoughtful, gentle Cosker here.

He featured Seamus Blake on saxophone – another forceful, muscular player. It sounded to me like he was playing what he would have played in any other setting – as if there wasn’t a natural fit to their music.

Mike Janisch was on bass – both electric and acoustic. I much preferred the sound of his acoustic playing – acoustic bass just seems so much more subtle.

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cut for length; and pictures! )
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I think I shall have to come clean right up front. This was my gig of the London Jazz Festival. I hadn’t expected it to be – I thought it would be good, and I like Carla Bley’s, Steve Swallow’s and Andy Sheppard’s playing – but I didn’t think it would be that good. And then better still.

So now I have to justify this: just what was it that made it so good? I think it was because Bley, Swallow and Sheppard – who with drummer Billy Drummod make up the Lost Chords (great name, great band…) – were all playing at the top of their game, and seemed to understand each other perfectly. Bley, Swallow and Sheppard have been playing together as a trio for many years – the lovely album “Songs With Legs” dates from the early 1990s – and this quartet has been playing together for five years or so. They seem to have developed a creative intuition, the whole very much greater than the sum.

In the pre-concert talk, Bley said that she didn’t think much of herself as a pianist. She did herself a disservice: she was excellent throughout this concert. Her playing is very understated: several times during the set, I was reminded of Thelonious Monk’s playing. The Lost Chords opened with a long, almost-suite based on (believe it or not) Three Blind Mice – but that that’s three blind mice as if imagined by Monk. Bley makes every space and pause count.

Later on, the band played an arrangement of Monk’s Mysterioso, where Bley had laid her own tune over the basic melody, producing a wholly new composition.

It was the first time in a long while that I had heard Andy Sheppard – indeed, I think the last time must have been with Bley and Swallow about ten years ago in Edinburgh. His playing was a revelation: his playing has great confidence. He plays with a very clean tone; Bley said earlier that she first worked with Sheppard because she wanted a saxophonist who didn’t try to sound like Coltrane, and whilst he must have been influenced by Coltrane, he has very much his own sound. He played tenor and soprano – he played lots of very long notes on soprano (circular breathing, I’d guess) when other sax players would have seen how many different notes they could squeeze. Sheppard’s minimalist approach was perfectly in keeping with Bley’s piano.

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Swallow is another of Bley’s long-time collaborators. His electric bass playing was very fluid and melodic, becoming a third lead instrument and duetting with Sheppard. Drummond did exactly what he needed to, sometimes being subtly sensitive, others energetic and driving.

There was another feeling I got throughout the concert: I kept hearing echos of Gil Evans. This surprised me, since Evans’ arrangements for big bands are on a very different scale to the Lost Chords quartet. But Bley has done much of her composing for many big bands – her own, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, way back to George Russell’s orchestra nearly 50 years ago. Seeing her big band play Hackney Empire in the early 1990s (I think this was an edition of her band called the Very Big Carla Bley Band), I recall she said that the arrangement of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat was borrowed from Evans. Swallow co-produced and played on John Scofield’s beautiful album Quiet, and Scofield’s horn arrangements on that always make me think of Gil Evans, too. Joining things up, Sheppard played in Evans’ European touring bands.

This concert was a joy from start to finish, the first finish being another short suite, Lost Chords, the second being a beautiful, slow and mournful encore Útviklingssang. Throughout the concert the music had depth, emotion and delicacy. It was simply gorgeous.

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Monday night at the London Jazz Festival saw saxophonist Branford Marsalis hit town, briefly.

He was preceded by award-winning pianist Robert Mitchell and his trio. They played a short but impressive set – I could have done with more, and I really want to see this band again.

When Branford hit the stage, though, the music hit a whole new level. The quartet started off at a cracking pace, pushed ahead by the hyper-active drumming of Julian Faulkner. Pianist Joey Calderazzo was really impressive too – Marsalis let him take long solos, and Calderazzo really shone: there was one ballard where his solo built and built. (I think Branford was off trying to mend his soprano which apparently suffered a prang with a drumstick...)

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But it was Branford's evening. With Faulkner's drumming, Calderazzo's supportive piano and Eric Reavis' bass, it was hard not to think of Coltrane's quartet – especially when Marsalis was on soprano. He played lots of long solos, and even though he was laying down streams of notes, his sound remained warm and creative – he didn't sound too “technical”, a trap some saxplayers fall into. He wasn't showing off, he was just playing the best he could.

For the encore, Marsalis brought on British pianist (and Radio3 jazz presenter) Julian Joseph for a great version of St Louis Blues. This is such a standard that it must be hard to pull off – everyone in the audience probably has their own, favourite version. (Mine is Gil Evans' from album “New Bottle, Old Wine.”) I had to stop myself singing along. The band brought their own style to this old number whilst simultaneously playing it straight. Branford's younger brother Wynton would have felt proud – this was new, exciting music but deeply in the tradition.

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First gig of the London Jazz Festival for me was Brass Jaw at the Barbican. A somewhat misshapen saxophone quartet - Paul Towndrow on alto, Konrad Wiszniewski on tenor and Allon Beauvoisin on baritone – they also feature Ryan Quigley on trumpet. I had seen all these musicians before, but I had somehow missed them in this line up before. Quigley was the man in the hat.

The Barbican was busy, lots of people waiting to hear the band play, so there was bemusement when saxophones were heard in the distance: we thought we were in the wrong spot. But the sound got louder, and I realised the band were coming to us. They came up the stairs and moved through the audience. People were surprised – it isn't often you come face to face with a trumpet bell, and a moving baritone sax isn't to be messed with!

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Climbing on stage, they proceeded to play a great set, especially that they had battled through stormy seas and a lack of sleep to get there. They mixed standards with originals – Beauvoisin featured on a fine version of Ain't Necessarily So; he did a great job of keeping the quartet together throughout the gig, taking the bass line and holding them steady.

Perhaps because he had a different sound, trumpeter Quigley stood out. He hits the high notes and plays the showman, too. All three saxophones played well – they all have different styles, so it meshed well.

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More trumpet – and another hat – in the evening when Tomasz Stanko took to the stage at the Queen Elisabeth Hall. With a young quintet featuring electric guitar, he had a wistful, ethereal sound – distinctly European, I'd say. The guitar invites comparisions to mid-1960s Miles – Stanko has a similar tone to Miles, too, and he plays similar runs. Also like Miles, he doesn't say a word – the music has to stand on its own. His tunes are impressionistic and abstract. His trumpet sound is very clear – European cool perhaps (in contrast to Quigley's fiery high notes).

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Stanko is the dominant voice in the quintet. The piano loses out a bit to the guitar, which is the second solo instrument, the piano being relegated to rhythm. The coolness in the music means they don't necessarily connect with the audience, and at times it appeared like they were on autopilot. They still created a lovely, fresh sound.

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I went to Spitalfields' jazz festival this weekend. I wrote a short review which was posted by the LondonJazz blog. I was going to post it here too, but frankly I might as well just post a link to it here. So I have.

What LondonJazz didn't do was take pictures from all the bands though - so I shall post those...

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I went to Ronnie Scott’s last night – the first time in, oh, over thirty years. OK, I lived out of London for a lot of that time, but when I have been living in London, Ronnie’s just wasn’t that attractive: expensive and late.

It has changed hands and been refurbished recently, and for the past couple of weeks it has been hosting an all-British programme. I thought this might be to fill some empty nights during the quiet summer season; given the popularity of this series of gigs, I couldn’t have been more wrong: there were four gigs in the series that I wanted to see, and three of them were sold out before I was able to book tickets. This says a lot about the audience for British jazz: for British acts to be able to sell out two weeks at Ronnie’s suggests the music is in very rude health indeed.

Last night was the one gig I was able to make. Like most of the series, it was a double bill: Clark Tracey, who I really wanted to see, and Lee Gibson, who I hadn’t seen before (and didn’t even know what they played).

After an entertaining but rather strange jazz quiz (the set times were clearly stated on the Ronnie Scott’s website as starting at 7pm – so why didn’t the music start until after eight?), Lee Gibson opened the evening. She is a vocalist in classic “cocktail jazz” Broadway-style “All American songbook” fashion. I don’t really like vocalists – they get in the way of the real action, for me – and whilst the audience was appreciative, I could have done without this set. Gibson had a fine band though, including Martin Drew on drums (…who I first saw play thirty five years ago – he gave me some drum lessons!), Andy Panayi on flute and alto sax (sorry, I didn’t catch the names of the pianist and bassplayer…).

By chance, I was sitting at the bar next to Sylvia Rae Tracey, the London scion of the Edinburgh jazz clan and herself a jazz singer; in between gossiping about the Edinburgh jazz scene and finding out what her errant brother was up to, we talked about jazz singing and why I didn’t like it.

Clark Tracey – billed as a quartet but appearing as a sextet (which means a 50% bonus!) – was excellent. It was a young band, Tracey taking on the mantle of mentor much as Art Blakey did with the Jazz Messengers, and energetic with it. Aside from Tracey, I’d not seen any of the musicians before: this was essentially the band on his latest CD, Current Climate, but with Leon Greening on piano depping for Kit Downes. The other players joining Tracey were Paul Jordanous (trumpet), Piers Green (saxes), Lewis Wright (vibes), and Ryan Trebilcock (bass).

Tracey’s drumming was energetic and subtle, and the frontline of Jordanous, Green and Wright produced some excellent solos. (Jordanous was complaining during the interval that he wasn’t playing at all well; I thought he was playing pretty well - so I really look forward to hearing him when he thinks he’s on form!) The vibes particularly worked well, meshing rather conflicting with the piano.

They played a variety of numbers, many off Current Climate, but also going way back in Tracey’s catalogue with Sliperstones – it had aged well – as well as (I think) One by One, by Wayne Shorter.

This was a really good set – I couldn’t stay for the second half, which was a shame: like I said, I’d have preferred an earlier start and less of the quizzing…
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I was down in London for the first half of the London Jazz Festival, and I went to four gigs.

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Read more... )
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I was down in London for the first half of the London Jazz Festival, and I went to four gigs.

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Read more... )

Islay Jazz

Oct. 1st, 2008 10:34 pm
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I have been to Islay three times now, each time for the jazz festival. Islay is famous for one thing really – whisky. And the combination of the island, the whisky and jazz makes for a very memorable weekend. Whisky flows: the jazz festival is sponsored by Black Bottle, and they give out (small) samples everywhere.

Islay is a small place: a population of 3,500 people spread over the island, and most of those are in Port Ellen and Bowmore. Much of the island is wild, and every time I go there, I think that I must spend more time exploring – I really must go for longer than just the jazz festival. Next year, perhaps.

The festival itself is a curious affair, because it largely consists of musicians from the central belt of Scotland who play regularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow playing to an audience which mostly consists of visitors from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Frankly, it shouldn’t work – because I can see these guys play any weekend.

But instead it is wonderful. Maybe it is the setting – many of the gigs take place in distilleries (the best being Bunnahabhain, where the concert takes place in the bottle room, surrounded by empty whisky casks and the air full of spirit); maybe it is the audience and the musicians – because you have to be really keen to make the 350 mile round trip from Edinburgh.

Either way, it is brilliant.
Getting there... )Dave Milligan & Colin Steele... )

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Jakob Karlzon & Tommy Smith... )

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A bit of walking... )Colin Steele Quintet )

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Mario Caribe and the Islay Jazz 10th Birthday Party... )

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Karlzon-Greene-Quigley Quintet... )

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More walking... )Sunday Jam Session... )

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Jakob Karlzon Trio... )Kevin Mackenzie Quartet... )

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Getting back... )

Islay Jazz

Oct. 1st, 2008 10:34 pm
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I have been to Islay three times now, each time for the jazz festival. Islay is famous for one thing really – whisky. And the combination of the island, the whisky and jazz makes for a very memorable weekend. Whisky flows: the jazz festival is sponsored by Black Bottle, and they give out (small) samples everywhere.

Islay is a small place: a population of 3,500 people spread over the island, and most of those are in Port Ellen and Bowmore. Much of the island is wild, and every time I go there, I think that I must spend more time exploring – I really must go for longer than just the jazz festival. Next year, perhaps.

The festival itself is a curious affair, because it largely consists of musicians from the central belt of Scotland who play regularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow playing to an audience which mostly consists of visitors from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Frankly, it shouldn’t work – because I can see these guys play any weekend.

But instead it is wonderful. Maybe it is the setting – many of the gigs take place in distilleries (the best being Bunnahabhain, where the concert takes place in the bottle room, surrounded by empty whisky casks and the air full of spirit); maybe it is the audience and the musicians – because you have to be really keen to make the 350 mile round trip from Edinburgh.

Either way, it is brilliant.
Getting there... )Dave Milligan & Colin Steele... )

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Jakob Karlzon & Tommy Smith... )

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A bit of walking... )Colin Steele Quintet )

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Mario Caribe and the Islay Jazz 10th Birthday Party... )

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Karlzon-Greene-Quigley Quintet... )

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More walking... )Sunday Jam Session... )

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Jakob Karlzon Trio... )Kevin Mackenzie Quartet... )

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Getting back... )
rhythmaning: (Default)
I missed out a set! Konrad Wiszniewski, one of Scotland’s growing number of young jazz musicians, played a quartet gig ahead of the disappointing Brian Kellock trio set.

I had seen Wiszniewski play in other bands, but I have not seen him lead his own band before. All four players (sorry, I forgot to write down their names, and there isn’t a list on Konrad’s website) were – well, young was the first thing I noticed; they were also very good, and passionate about their music. But I think they have a bit of a way to go before they really mature and grow into the music.

Wiszniewski himself played his tenor with a fervour – it was exciting to listen to, but at times it was like he was running through the tenor sax phrase book: a little Coltrane here, a bit of Rollins there.

So whilst I really enjoyed the set, and I thought the musicians were excellent, I also think that when they find their own voices, they’ll be superb.

I hope I’ll get to a lot more of their gigs to check on their progress…

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rhythmaning

June 2017

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