The weeklong Jazzwise 20th anniversary celebrations kicked off in spectacular style last night. The word genius is bandied about far too often these days, but in the case of John McLaughlin, the epithet is undisputedly warranted for one of the world's most influential and inspirational guitarists/composers.
The two-night stint at Ronnie's comes at the end of an intense 10-date European tour. McLaughlin wanted the Ronnie's gigs to be the climax of the tour since the club is so very dear to his heart. As he explained in his interview in Jazzwise: "Ronnie and Ronnie Scott's-where would I be without them?... it's thanks to Ronnie personally that when I got the invite from Tony Williams in 1968, it was thanks to Ronnie that I was able to get the visa". The rest, as they say, is history. From being a member of Ronnie Scott's house band in the late 1960s McLaughlin's rise to world stardom was truly meteoric. He's travelled along many different paths during his amazing 50-year career but whatever course he has chosen to take, his music always seethes with passion, humanity and spirituality. His music is yin and yang, fire and grace.
McLaughlin and his regular band, the 4th Dimension, of Gary Husband (keyboards and drums), Étienne Mbappé (electric bass) and Ranjit Barot (drums), were on fire as they took the sell-out audience on a breath-taking musical journey that lasted over two hours without a break. McLaughlin's guitar technique at 75 is just as terrifyingly mesmerising as it was all those years ago when he took the world by storm with those Mahavishnu masterpieces of the early 1970s.
It was fantastic to hear the band revisiting the incendiary Mahavishnu material, the band erupting with two classics: "Meeting of the Spirits" from The Inner Mounting Flame of 71 and 'Miles Beyond' from Birds of Fire from 1973. From then on the set was a gloriously potent mix of old and new material. It wasn't all fast and furious fusion. 'Gaza City' from his Backlight album of 2015 had me in tears. A quiet prayer for those who suffered intolerably in the Gaza bombardment in 2014, it reminds us that this was just one example of man's obscene inhumanity to man. Indeed, the horrors go on unabated.
We need "love and understanding" to repair our screwed-up world as Rangit pleads in Abbaji, the melody simple, anthemic and immensely powerful. The band were in joyous flamenco mood in 'El Hombre que Sabia'. This tune was to be recorded with Paco de Lucia but sadly the virtuoso flamenco guitar legend left us three years ago. Here, the duet between McLaughlin and Husband on keys was awesome. In fact, Husband was incredible throughout the entire evening, whether he was behind the drums or at the keyboard. I don't think it's an over-statement to call Gary a genius as well as John. Mbappé and Barot were stunning too. What a band! I felt honoured to have been there.
We mustn't forget clarinettist Arun Ghosh and his band for their wonderful contribution at the beginning of the evening. They put the audience in a joyous mood before the main event, and Alex Garnett and the guys who bopped away until the early hours to send everyone home in a swinging mood.
– Geoff Eales
– Photos by Tim Dickeson
Evan Parker draws back the veil on the challenges of improvisation during Awkward, a charming and revealing short film produced in 2014 capturing the iconic British saxophonist in intimate conversation and performance at The Vortex Jazz Club alongside John Russell (guitar), John Edwards (double-bass), Adam Linson (double-bass) and Matt Wright (turntables).
This is the first time Awkward has been made publically available by the film's director and producer Adam Brichto, and it has been kindly donated to us here at Jazzwise on the occasion of the magazine's 20th birthday celebrations this month.
– Spencer Grady
Awkward from Adam Brichto on Vimeo
Award-wining jazz development company Tomorrow's Warrior's launches its new music education initiative this month – The Jazz Ticket – marking the centenary of the birth of six jazz legends: composer Tadd Dameron, vocalist Ella Fitgerald, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, drummer Buddy Rich and percussionist Mongo Santamaria.
The project aims to give young musicians aged 11-18 throughout the country an opportunity to work with leading jazz professionals in developing their performance and improvisational skills, while exploring the history of jazz and the music and lives of six of its most pioneering artists.
Premiering at Turner Sims, Southampton on 16 March, The Jazz Ticket will then move on to Luton Sixth Form College (24 March) and Leicester's The Venue (28 March), before reaching out to over 50 schools across the UK, including Manchester, Brighton, Bristol, Hull and London, engaging almost 600 young people as performers and many more as audience members.
– Spencer Grady
For more details and ticket information visit www.thejazzticket.co.uk
Luaka Bop will dial up the divine with a first-ever official anthology of devotional music recorded by Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda at the Sai Anantam Ashram. Culled from four private press cassette tapes – Turiya Sings, Divine Songs, Infinite Chants and Glorious Chants – recorded between 1982 and 1995 and distributed exclusively inside her spiritual community near Los Angeles, this vital Vedic soul balm of sacred tracks will finally be made available to the wider public on 5 May via cassette, CD, digital and deluxe double-vinyl formats.
Remastered from original tapes located in the Coltrane archive, World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda showcases Alice's first vocal works, solo harp performances, small ensembles and a 24-piece choir, and is accompanied by extensive liner notes on the collection from Grammy-winning music historian Ashley Kahn, as well as a series of exclusive interviews.
World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda constitutes the initial instalment in a planned series of spiritual music from around the globe, to be curated, compiled and distributed by Luaka Bop.
– Spencer Grady
The nominees for the fourth Jazz FM Awards have been announced, with the final winners set to be unveiled at an awards show on 25 April at Under The Bridge, Chelsea. Spotlighting leading names from the UK alongside international talent there will be special awards for revered Brit-jazz singer Georgie Fame who will receive the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award, while La La Land and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle will receive the Impact Award for the 'impact his work is having on bringing jazz to wider audiences'.
Public voting is now open for three categories (see below) and will close on 31 March. The awards are produced in partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and with the support of Mishcon De Reya, Rathbones, Pollitt & Partners, Oris Watches, Grange Hotels, RCS, Denbies Wine Estate, Arqiva, Fever Tree, Yamaha and PPL.
The full list of 2017 nominees is: Breakthrough Act Of The Year: Ashley Henry; Nubya Garcia; Yussef Kamaal. International Jazz Artist Of The Year: Brad Mehldau; Donny McCaslin; Robert Glasper. Vocalist Of The Year: Carleen Anderson; Norma Winstone; Polly Gibbons. Instrumentalist Of The Year: Nikki Yeoh; Gwilym Simcock; Tim Garland. International Blues Artist Of The Year: Bonnie Raitt; Eric Bibb; The Rolling Stones. International Soul Artist Of The Year: Jordan Rakei; Laura Mvula William Bell. Jazz Innovation Of The Year: Darcy James Argue; Jaimeo Brown; Moon Hooch. Digital Initiative Of The Year: Dave Douglas – Greenleaf Music; Gilles Peterson – Worldwide FM; Jaimeo Brown – Transcendence: Work Songs. Album Of The Year (Public Vote): Anderson Paak – Malibu; Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now; Gregory Porter – Take Me To The Alley; Kurt Elling – The Beautiful Day; Madeleine Peyroux – Secular Hymns; The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome. UK Jazz Act Of The Year (Public Vote): Dinosaur; Shabaka Hutchings; Soweto Kinch. Live Experience Of The Year (Public Vote): Ashley Henry Trio at Jazz Re:Fest, Royal Festival Hall; Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles, Glee Club Birmingham; Orphy Robinson All Stars, St James the Great; Roberto Fonseca Trio, Sage Gateshead; Wayne Shorter Quartet, Barbican; Julian Argüelles with Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Django Bates & Steve Argüelles, Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
– Mike Flynn
For more info and to cast your votes visit www.jazzfmawards.com