Stretch-Trio-3

Leeds-based band Stretch Trio (pictured above) have been announced as this year’s winners of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Award, organised by Help Musicians UK as part of their Emerging Professionals programme. They will receive £4,000 prize money – and follow recent emerging talents who’ve won the prize including Phil Meadows, Reuben Fowler, Roller Trio and World Service Project. Stretch Trio are all recent graduates of Leeds College of Music the band feature Andy French on saxophone and EWI, Tom Higham on drums/sampler and Calvin Travers on guitar, they create an innovative mix of jazz-into-electronica via live loops, electronic textures and snapping beats. Birmingham-based pianist Mark Pringle also won a Help Musicians UK Development Award as part of this year’s awards.

Stretch Trio auditioned for the prize in front of an industry panel that included Velocity Trio trombonist Dennis Rollins, Melt yourself Down saxophonist Pete Wareham and Jazz Re:freshed promoter Justin McKenzie who unanimously voted them the winners. Early 2014 saw them win the Jazz North Introduces award that led to them performing at Gateshead International Jazz festival, which they followed with their independently funded debut album Antithesis. Judge Dennis Rollins said of the band: “Stretch Trio do just that. No ordinary guitar trio, they sonically push the envelope of the traditional jazz sound incorporating today's contemporary technology. Definitely one to watch!"

Winners of other recent high-profile awards also include keyboardist/composer Pat Thomas and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings both picking up Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards that are worth £50,000 each over three years. While influential Loose Tubes composer/keyboardist Django Bates has won the Contemporary Jazz Composition category in the PRS The British Composers Awards 2014 for his piece ‘The Study Of Touch’.
The awards are chosen each year by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and sponsored by PRS for Music.

– Mike Flynn

Mike-WilliamsBirmingham-based jazz promoters Jazzlines present three diverse concerts early next year beginning with a rare and eagerly anticipated from revered local alto saxophonist, educator and composer Mike Williams (pictured left) who performs his SAMA project with a strong line-up exploring music inspired by Williams’ life in the city and his Sufi beliefs (CBSO Centre, 9 January). Williams has brought together a strong line-up for the gig including hotly-tipped trumpeter Percy Pursglove, trombonist Jeremy Price, tenor saxophonist Alex Merrit, baritone saxophonist Chris Maddock, guitarist Gareth Fowler, bassist James Banner and renowned jazz/session drummer Troy Miller.

Another interesting concert in the series features multi-talented Troyka keyboardist Kit Downes as part of IN BED WITH, a high-energy electro-acoustic trio with French drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and guitarist Julien Desprez (pictured top, and video below), all appearing at the Hare & Hounds on 22 January. This gig is part of the Jazz Shuttle scheme that brings together British and French musicians for unique collaborations – the band will then play The Vortex on 23 January and are also part of next year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

The CBSO Centre then hosts a double bill on 30 January featuring multi-reedist Mike Fletcher in a trio with drummer Jeff Williams and bassist Olie Brice, before Williams then leads his UK Sextet with a heavyweight line up of guitarist Phil Robson, saxophonists Josh Arcoleo and Finn Peters and bassist Sam Lasserson. Further Jazzlines dates include the Kenny Garrett Quintet (10 February, Town Hall, Birmingham); Marius Neset Quintet with Jim Hart (10 April, CBSO Centre); Polar Bear (21 April, Hare & Hounds) and the Walsall Jazz Orchestra who celebrate their 40th anniversary with guests Julian Argüelles and Martin Shaw (26 April, CBSO Centre).

– Mike Flynn


For more info www.thsh.co.uk/jazzlines

BBC Radio 3’s popular Jazz Record Requests programme, which is currently hosted by Alyn Shipton every Saturday at 5pm, celebrates its 50th anniversary on 6 December with a special retrospective programme. First broadcast on 12 December 1964 with Humphrey Lyttelton in the chair, it has become the longest running jazz show in radio history and has seen a number of presenters over the years, including Ken Sykora, Steve Race, Peter Clayton, Charles Fox and Geoffrey Smith, who hosted the programme for over 20 years until 2012 when Shipton became the new presenter.

The special anniversary edition will feature a history of the programme, including excerpts from previous presenters shows, listener’s memories and a guest appearance by Geoffrey Smith. Shipton, who also writes for Jazzwise, prepared the programme with help from the National Sound Archive at the British Library where he was able to listen to many old episodes, some of which he heard when he was growing up.

“What I have learned from the postcards, letters and emails that come in every week is that I was not alone,” he says on his BBC radio blog. “There were listeners all over the county sharing this sense of discovery, and in the recent feature I have been running on the programme about how people first discovered jazz, many a listener has recalled it being through a track heard for the first time on JRR.”

– Jon Newey

For more info and to listen to the show go to www.bbc.co.uk

As in previous years, Linn is offering free Studio Master quality high-resolution music downloads in the run-up to the festive season, in its 24-bits of Christmas promotion. From 1 December, it’s running what it describes as an ‘online advent calendar’, with a new track available every day until Christmas Eve.

A wide range of genres will be available from across the Linn Studio Master catalogue, starting with Almost Like Being in Love from pianist/singer Joe Stilgoe, recorded at last year’s London Jazz Festival, and taking in folk, jazz and classical works. That track is available until 10am GMT on Thursday 4 December, and is taken from Stilgoe’s Linn Records release Songs on Film Live.

The tracks are available from a dedicated section of the Linn Records, at www.linn.co.uk/christmas, and the Studio Master downloads can be played on network music players including Linn’s own models, or using home computers.

– Andrew Everard

Jazzwise can exclusively announce that MOBO-winning contemporary jazz group Empirical is set to take a radically open approach to developing music for their next album over six-nights at iconic London bookshop Foyles from 26 to 31 January 2015. The shop’s move to a new architecturally stunning location at 107 Charing Cross Road, that opened its doors on 7 June this year, now features a 200-capacity Auditorium performance space that Empirical plan to use in collaboration with in-store record shop Ray’s Jazz for the project.

The new music takes inspiration from the idea of ‘connection’ – that has also influenced the way the spacious new design of the shop allows customers to engage with books and culture through events such as this. The band intends to explore this too, “both the personal and musical connection between the members of the band but more importantly the connection between band and audience.” The new music will feature on the band’s fifth album that will be recorded the week after the residency and follows their eponymous debut in 2008, Out ‘n’ In (2009), Elements of Truth (2011) and Tabula Rasa (2013). The group still feature the long-running line up of saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, vibist Lewis Wright, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes.

Also drawing inspiration from the way 1960s jazz bands would do a run of gigs – rather than single dates at a venue – the twist here will be that every gig is free entry with the audience invited to discuss and give feedback on the music to the band in the shop’s café after the gigs. The band has commented: “it is a great opportunity to directly contribute to the making of our new work, so come and connect!”

Empirical will perform brand new music everyday for six days in the Foyles Auditorium, from 6.30pm on 26-31 January 2015.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.foyles.co.uk/events

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