jared-lawson

Two sold-out nights at an iconic British venue for an American artist, who barely six months ago, was a complete unknown says many things about the geo-commercial mechanics of the modern music industry. Firstly, as the Portland, Oregon vocalist-pianist Jarrod Lawson acknowledges, the support lent to him by media and audiences in London has been a significant factor in the upswing of his fortunes. Secondly, the act of putting music on iTunes can pay dividends in the long term. Thirdly, real talent will out. With the deafening buzz surrounding these gigs and the imminent release of Lawson’s eponymous debut album, he has to show and prove, and he does so and then some, pretty much from the downbeat.

The string of tracks from the album – ‘Music And Its Magical Way’, ‘Sleepwalkers’, ‘Together We’ll Stand’ and ‘Everything I Need’ – match if not top the beauty of the studio performance, and the heavily jazz-inflected soul, with myriad chord changes, shifts of tempo and melodic richness, has the audience on-side in no uncertain terms. Executed by a very able band [drums, bass, guitar, two backing vocalists] augmented by the impressive flugelhorn player Farnell Newton, the music comes alive by way of Lawson’s precise, well-measured lead vocal, which often works the falsetto range without cheap tricks and harmonises excellently with the other singers.

With refreshing honesty, Lawson name-checks Donny Hathaway, which makes perfect sense given the blend of intricacy and emotion in his material but the other legends that spring to mind are George Duke, for the piquant Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and Don Blackman, for the combination of subtlety and earthiness in the song structures. The use of the lower reaches of Newton’s horn as an effective counterweight to the high flutter of the vocals is an artistic choice that Blackman himself may have appreciated, but if Lawson fits neatly into this historical lineage then more recent references are also appropriate.

Some of the more ecstatic, edgy unison vocals recall a certain Lewis Taylor while the beauty of the writing makes a Frank McComb comparison also inevitable. In fact, Lawson was actually asked to fill in for the latter on a Capital Jazz cruise gig a few years ago, and given the fact that McComb, and Taylor, for that matter, have been maddeningly AWOL it goes without saying that the new singer on the block appears to be filling something of a gap. Talking of which, Lawson does one sole cover: ‘One Mo Gin’ by none other than D’Angelo. What price a D’Jarrodlo duet if the sugar man ever brings his voodoo back?

– Kevin Le Gendre

See the live stream of the gig below:

After the months of work that went into arranging charts, assembling musicians and arduously sourcing outmoded sounds to recapture the cold, ambient textures that underpinned David Bowie's Low and 'Heroes' LPs of '77, Dylan Howe's resulting, swing-licked Subterranean - New Designs On Bowie's Berlin album was a five-star success. Even Bowie himself went as far as to crawl out of hibernation to commend the drummer's efforts, deeming the record “top notch”. Then Howe pushed the panic button by booking a tour to road-test his raw, yet meticulously multi-layered record live, and the punishing work schedule resumed.

But here, all those rehearsals later, in an appropriately-arty venue, on a dim-lit stage, against a huge screen showing scratched-up visuals of '70s Berlin, tonight's band rolled out the record with ease. From the opening bars of the album's ghostly title track, Howe's faint, but fidgety swing feel appeared almost wired to a restless hook from double bassist Dave Whitford, leaving pianist Ross Stanley to plant gentle chords in the spaces unoccupied by Steve Lodder's sci-fi-style synth work.

Completing this A-list line-up for this Kings Place appearance, saxophonist Andy Sheppard played magnificently, slouched back into the dense, dry ambience on stage, concocting soft, scribbley lines away from the mic, or leaning in to max out melody lines with Stanley. A drum break-built ‘Weeping Wall’ (which was dramatically complimented with old, bleached clips of the Berlin wall behind the band), was trailed by a ruthless arrangement of Bowie rarity ‘All Saints’, throwing the band into a full-pelt swing out. With Stanley, Sheppard and Howe now firing on all cylinders, the piece could have passed for a passage from Coltrane's ‘Resolution’, had it not been for the some electrifying, laser-guided synth gymnastics from Lodder that prog-star Rick Wakeman would have approved of.

As the screen flickered and flipped to fuzzy films of German military camps, checkpoints and car factories, another frantic ride cymbal pattern sprung ‘Neukoln (Night)’ to life. Soon growling with low, strummed bass, the tune's dark, descending theme - a mess of soprano sax, strident piano and a ghostly, sustained celeste-style synth sound - swirled around the room.

Later, the familiar strains of ‘Art Decade’ and ‘Warsawa’ stirred real excitement amongst the Bowie nuts, the latter launched by Howe executing strong timpani-style tom rolls with mallets and Whitford clung to a single-note drone. Sheppard approached the bleak, repetitive melody here with long breathy lines against the flutter of brushes, presenting Stanley with a runway in which to slowly build what could have been the solo of the night.

By the time Lodder ushered in ‘Moss Garden’ mimicking the original with samples of running water and koto, the whole hall was hypnotised. This trance-like state from the off could account for some great solos tonight drifting by without applause, which for a typical jazz gig would appear atypical. But this was no standard jazz show. This was Howe's live eulogy to Bowie, his moment of glory, a great reading of a real rock standard, rolled out with such ease and conviction it should be seen to be believed. By both jazz heads and Bowie buffs alike.

– Mark Youll (review and photo)

Young drummer Moses Boyd (pictured above) and veteran bassist Dave Green have been announced as the winners of this year’s Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Jazz Awards following a ceremony and performance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London’s Soho on Sunday 21 September. Green became the first bassist to win the company's Medal for Lifetime Achievement, while Boyd scooped the coveted 2014 Young Jazz Musician Award. The drummer performed two sets of music alongside five other finalists; alto saxophonist Phil Meadows, trombonist Tom Green, tenor player Nadim Teimoori (who also made it to the finals in 2013), pianist Sam James and bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado, and was awarded the prize following a vote by the journalists, educators and paying members of the public who made up the audience.

The repertoire comprised classic standards, selected before the concert by the performers, along with arrangements and original compositions. The shortlist for this year’s final was drawn up by a panel of 12 judges, including musicians Tina May, Mark Armstrong and Tim Garland (winners of the Young Jazz Musician Award in 1992, 1996 and 1997 respectively), broadcaster Julian Joseph, educators Martin Hathaway, Nick Smart, Scott Stroman and Simon Purcell, and former Jazzwise columnist the late Jack Massarik. Boyd joins an exclusive list of former winners, among them pianist John Escreet, vibes player Jim Hart, bassist Mike Janisch and trumpeter Laura Jurd; while Dave Green follows in the footsteps of greats such as Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Sir John Dankworth, Stan Tracey and last year’s winner Digby Fairweather.

One of the livery companies of the City of London, the Worshipful Company of Musicians supports and encourages professional musical performance by working with musical trades and funding the education and promotion of young players.

– Thomas Rees

For more information on the WCOM and its annual jazz awards www.wcom.org.uk

The Neil Cowley Trio continue their autumn tour tonight at Bristol’s Colston Hall in support their latest album Touch and Flee, which was released on 9 June on Naim Jazz Records. The critically acclaimed album was described by Selwyn Harris in the June edition of Jazzwise as “a recording of hidden depths and on-the-pulse sonic values that signals a bright new chapter in the Neil Cowley Trio story…” and indeed reflects a more mature, expansive side to the band’s often riff-driven sound. The trio, which also features bassist Rex Horan and drummer Evan Jenkins, has just released a new video for one the album’s highlights, ‘Sparkling’, which can be seen below.

While the tour began at The Atkinson in Southport, this Friday 3 October sees the trio perform at London’s prestigious Barbican Hall in what is a huge achievement for any UK piano trio – further tour dates are: The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff (8 Oct); SJE Arts at St John The Evangelist Church, Oxford (10 Oct); CBSO Centre, Gateshead (11 Oct); RNCM, Manchester (18 Oct) and Derry International Choral Festival, Derry (23 Oct).

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.neilcowleytrio.com

Jazz on Film Records has announced the release of a new box set, Jazz in Polish Cinema (Out of the Underground 1958-67), a collection of classic soundtracks by celebrated Polish film composers such as Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzasokowski, which will be available from November. Its release will be accompanied by a launch at the Barbican Cinema as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival on Saturday 15 November which will feature a screening of Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water (pictured above) and a live set from young Polish pianist Marcin Masecki who will offer his interpretation of the film’s soundtrack, another Komeda classic.

The box set, which also contains previously unreleased material and rare recordings by musicians such as Michał Urbaniak and trumpeters Tomasz Stańko, Don Cherry, comes with an 80-page illustrated booklet with annotations by Jazzwise writer Selwyn Harris and an introduction by Polish jazz writer and composer Adam Sławiński. It was supported by the Polish Cultural Institute in London and follows the release of a critically acclaimed collection of French New Wave soundtracks that peaked at number five in Mojo Magazine’s best soundtrack CDs chart for 2013.

Fans of Polish jazz will also be interested in the festival programme at Jazz Café POSK in Hammersmith, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Among the highlights is a live set from revered violinist Urbaniak on Saturday 22 November and a tribute to the great guitarist and composer Jarek Smietana on 15 November featuring John Etheridge (click here for more info on both of these gigs). Celebrated Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko will also be appearing during the festival with a performance with his New York Quartet that features pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaverat the Barbican on 20 November.

– Thomas Rees

For more info go to www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

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