Fresh from their second Mercury Prize nomination for last year’s In Each And Every One, Polar Bear are to release their sixth album, Same As You, on 30 March on the Leaf Label. Such was the fast turnaround between the projects, when the band was announced as part of Mercury shortlist last September, bandleader and drummer Seb Rochford was already mixing the album in the Mojave Desert with LA-based producer Ken Barrientos.

Early listens to the album confirm that the unusual desert location has leant Same As You a bigger, spacier edge, with the previous album’s electronica somewhat replaced by dub basslines from Tom Herbert and tough beats, which fuel lengthy sax improvisations from Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart.

The more percussive sound also sees the band dipping into Afro-Caribbean influences on the tune ‘Unrelenting Unconditional’. Rochford and singer Hannah Darling both add chant-like vocals to the tune ‘Don’t Let The Feeling Go’ while Sons Of Kemet saxophonist (and regular Polar Bear dep) Shabaka Hutchings also makes a guest appearance.

The band follow the album’s release with a series of gigs at the following venues: Village Underground, London (8 April); Komedia, Brighton (15 April); Royal Northern College Of Music, Manchester (17 April); Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (18 April); The Kazimier, Liverpool (19 April); Hare & Hounds, Birmingham (21 April); Broomhill Art Hotel, Barnstable (22 April); Colston Hall, Bristol (23 April); and Festival Of Firsts, Brighton (6 July).

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.polarbearmusic.com

Double Septet. That’s what Tom Green’s band became for a few a minutes at the end of an exhilarating first set at Burdall’s Yard, Bath Spa University’s performance venue in a vaulted cellar beneath a pavement in central Bath. Students from the music degree were the on-stage guests to double the numbers and deliver an anarchic version of award winning Green’s New Orleans inspired 'DIY', the product of an afternoon workshop. This latest in a series of gigs bringing great bands to what must surely be Bath’s best appointed cellar for the benefit of students and the public alike, provided a great start to an epic mainland UK tour for the septet promoting their debut album Skyline.

Tom Green’s Septet is packed with exciting players but it’s the leader’s writing and arranging that is as much of a star turn as any of the frequently exciting and always fluent soloists. Ear worm like melodic fragments get developed and filled out with the four horns somehow sounding like a big band, complementary lines and rhythmic figures weave in out as likely to come from a locked in bass and piano as closely harmonised horns. There’s an instinct for drama and attention grabbing swerves, making each piece seem like an epic. The opener Peace of Mind evolved a flowing, even quavered groove after an opening of sweet piano chords and one of those catchy fragments articulated by Green’s warm-toned trombone sound.

tom-green-septet2

A blistering solo from Tommy Andrews on alto was given an extra lift by the horns surging in with a twisting riff, then one of those sudden switches left Sam Miles’ tenor building an atmospheric solo with a sparse rhythm section nudging him. A great moment. ‘Mirage’, had constant changes of pace after a stately theme, bursting into exuberant swing for another breathy emotionally charged tenor solo. ‘Skylark’ was a delightful reworking of the standard, stretching and colouring Irving Berlin’s melody Miguel’s Gorodi’s flugel horn soaring over the band before a glorious flowing solo from Sam James on piano, full of lyrical flourishes and swooping runs.

After 'DIY''s anarchic whoop up, the second set saw features for rhythm section of Misha Mullov-Abbado on bass and Scott Chapman on drums in more extended Green compositions and Mullov-Abbado in particular created another magic moment with a singing grooving solo on the encore Kaleidoscope. This was a great start to a national tour that will be well worth catching.

– Mike Collins – @jazzyblogman 

Photos by Ruth Butler – www.facebook.com/jazzfineartphoto

A heady brew of voodoo-swing, jazz and blues from Dr John and the high-flying improv of revered US saxophonist Ravi Coltrane are among the highlights of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club’s programme in the early part of 2015. ‘Mac’ Rebennack, aka Dr John makes a rare club appearance over two nights on 13-14 March following his sold-out performance at the Barbican in November, once more performing his acclaimed take on the music of Louis Armstrong.

Just ahead of this leading US saxophonist Ravi Coltrane returns to the club on 8 and 9 March, closely followed by two more contemporary sax colossuses in the form of the Kenny Garrett Quintet (11-13 March) and Chris Potter’s incendiary Underground band (16-17 March). Super-cool Italian singer/producer/guitarist Nicola Conte unleashes his effortlessly hip jazz-into-bossa crew the Free Souls (30-31 Jan), former JBs sax man Pee Wee Ellis brings the funk on 5-7 Feb with special vocal guest Huey Morgan, violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy also makes a welcome return with his Hendrix Project (4-7 March) and gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso Biréli Lagrène also appears with his Gypsy Project (24-26March).

US sax don Joe Lovano brings his exciting new Village Rhythms Band to the UK for first time, appearing at the club with a stunning line-up of bassist Matthew Garrison, guitarist Liberty Ellman, percussionist Abdou Mboup, trumpeter Tim Hagans, drummer Otis Brown III and singer Judi Silvano (30 Apr-1 May) ahead of an appearance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Other notable forthcoming bookings include Pat Martino Trio (11-12 May); Meshell Ndegeocello (13-14 May); Kyle Eastwood Band (20-23 May) and Marlena Shaw (25–30 May).

– Mike Flynn


For full listings go to
www.ronniescotts.co.uk

Since the 1950s the principal venue for jazz in this country has tended to be the pub. This has been the case both in London and the provinces, and certain ones became established and well-known (see Jazzwise’s regular Brilliant Corners feature). Often at the whim or mercy of a landlord who hoped to generate income on rainy Tuesdays in February, those unsung heroes, the jazz club organisers, would show great determination and enthusiasm often against odds. One such person is Roy Stevens, who for a number of years successfully ran the Stratford-upon-Avon Jazz Club at The Chapel, Shakespeare Street. Although he will be on hand to advise the new regime, his final evening in charge saw Alan Barnes and Bruce Adams play to a packed house.

Starting with Jimmy McGriff’s ‘Motoring Along’, they quickly settled into a straightahead evening of mainstream/modern numbers, bringing in ballads and the occasional bossa nova, accompanied by Tom Hill on bass, Paul Sawtell, piano, and Neil Bullock, drums. The understanding between the two frontmen was immediately apparent, not surprising given their long-running association. Adams’ playing was forceful throughout, on both trumpet and flugelhorn, with a full, powerful sound. He showed what a good swing player he is, with lovely phrasing and time and appropriate use of mute and growl. Barnes swapped from alto to baritone with ease, displaying great dexterity on the bigger instrument, especially on Isham Jones’ ‘There is No Greater Love’. As professionals they tailor their choice of numbers to suit the audience and from their wide repertoire came Richard Rodgers’ ‘Little Girl Blue’ and ‘Spring is Here’; ‘Some Time Ago’ bySergio Mihanovich; and Earl Warren’s composition for Basie, ‘9.20 Special’.

Tom Hill’s fast fingers on the up-tempo numbers showed why he has played with Jaki Byard, Conte Candoli and George Russell in the past. Bullock kept steady rhythm throughout, busily filling in but with a penchant for doubling the tempo, which Sawtell and Hill coped with readily. The Studiologic Numa piano sounded good in acoustic mode, but to this writer sounds dated when used as an electric.

On ‘Funjii Mama’ by Blue Mitchell (from a 1964 Blue Note session) Adams’ forthright approach took him into the upper register. Barnes’ solo quoted from ‘Let’s Fall in Love’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and even a hint of ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’, and while he can play with strength and speed, he doesn’t lose any of his lyricism. Towards the end of the evening Ben Webster’s ‘Did You Call Her Today’ saw Adams playing Harry Edison to Barnes’ relaxed Webster, the two combining well in their tribute to the great saxophonist.

Let’s hope Stratford finds someone to take Roy’s place and continue to present music of such a consistently high calibre: his humour and general bonhomie will be missed by an appreciative audience.

– Matthew Wright

Grammy-winning singer Cassandra Wilson has signed to Sony’s Legacy Recordings for her new album, Coming Forth By Day, which is set for release in the Spring 2015. A tribute to iconic singer Billie Holiday, the album is her follow up to 2012’s Another Country (eOne Records), and its release on 7 April 2015 marks what would have been Holiday’s 100th birthday.

Recorded in Los Angeles at Seedy Underbelly studios, Wilson worked with a team of producer Launay (Nick Cave), guitarists T Bone Burnett and Nick Zinner, string arranger Van Dyke Parks and rhythm section of drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey of The Bad Seeds. Drawing on material from across Holiday’s wide-ranging repertoire, Wilson hasn’t shied away from the darker side of Holiday’s life that is also reflected in the grungy sounds created by her edgy roots-rock and blues backing band, which also includes her longtime collaborators Jon Cowherd on piano and Kevin Breit on guitar.

  
Speaking about the album Wilson commented: “Coming Forth by Day is a homage dedicated to the beauty, power, and genius of Billie Holiday. A collection of musical spells, prescriptions for navigating the dubious myths surrounding her life and times, this record is a vehicle for the re-emergence of Billie’s songbook in the 21st century.”

The album’s track listing is as follows: ‘Don’t Explain’, ‘Billie’s Blues’, ‘Crazy He Calls Me’, ‘You Go To My Head’, ‘All Of Me’, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘Good Morning Heartache’, ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’, ‘These Foolish Things’, ‘Strange Fruit’, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ and ‘Last Song (For Lester)’.

– Mike Flynn

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