Pianist, keyboard player and composer Joe Sample, a founding member of jazz-funk giants The Crusaders, has died at the age of 75. He passed away at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas at 9.50pm local time on Friday 12 September after suffering from mesothelioma.

Sample first rose to fame in the 1950s as part of hard bop ensemble the Jazz Crusaders, which he founded alongside trombonist Wayne Henderson, tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper. The group released their first album Freedom Sound in 1961, building up a sizeable following from their base in Los Angeles. In the early 1970s they dropped the ‘Jazz’ prefix, becoming known simply as The Crusaders, and embraced jazz-funk, with Sample increasingly opting to play keyboards over piano, developing a gritty signature sound on Fender Rhodes. They greatly expanded their audience as a result, securing numerous chart hits, among them the Sample composition ‘Street Life’ – featuring vocalist Randy Crawford – which reached number 36 in Billboard’s Hot 100 chart following its release in 1979.

Meanwhile, Sample was enjoying a busy career as session player, recording with artists such as Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan and B.B. King, which continued following the breakup of The Crusaders in 1987. The end of the group also allowed him to focus on his solo career and he released several jazz-pop albums under his own name, including three collaborations with Randy Crawford and drummer Steve Gadd on the PRA label – Feeling Good (2007), No Regrets (2008) and Live (2012) – the latter featuring Sample’s son Nicklas on bass.

Shortly before his death, the pianist had been performing with his Creole Joe Band and was working on a musical entitled Quadroon. He was due to appear at Ronnie Scott’s in London’s Soho between 7 and 9 August 2014, but the performance was cancelled in late July due to his ill health. Sample’s death was announced on 13 September via a post on his Facebook page and was accompanied by a message from his wife Yolanda and son Nicklas thanking fans for their support. “Please know that Joe was aware and very appreciative of all of your prayers, comments, letters/cards and well wishes,” it read. A superb composer and outstanding pianist, he will be greatly missed.

– Thomas Rees             

The full programme for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 14-23 November and is sponsored by Jazzwise, has now been confirmed and will be available for download from the festival’s website from early next week. Newly announced details include the full line-up for the opening-night vocal gala, Jazz Voice. This year’s event will feature singers Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Emma Smith, Georgie Fame, Jacob Banks, Sachal, and Vula Malinga, who will be backed by a 40-piece orchestra arranged and directed by Guy Barker. Two shows from Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble (above), which are set to take place in Temple Church at 7.30 pm on Friday 14 and Sunday 16 November, have also been added to the billing, with tickets due to go on sale on 1 October.

Other additions include details of the festival’s film programme, which comprises three showings at the Barbican Cinema, beginning with Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, a classic 1962 film with a score by Krzysztof Komeda. This will be screened on Saturday 15 November at 3pm, following a performance of Komeda’s music by pianist Marcin Masecki. On Sunday 16 November Shirley Clarke’s controversial 1961 exploration of addiction, The Connection, will be screened at 3pm; while Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, a film about the life of a jazz drummer which won the Best Picture category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is due to be screened on Thursday 20 November at 8.40pm.

The 68-page brochure details the festival’s 21 Commissions Programme. Following the success of last year’s scheme, which was introduced to celebrate the festival’s 21st birthday, this year sees a further raft of commissions from artists including Marcus Miller, John Surman, The Bad Plus, Arun Ghosh and rising stars pianist Elliot Galvin and sax player Phil Meadows.

Free talks taking place at this year’s festival can also be found in the guide with highlights including an interview with Kenny Barron and Dave Holland on Friday 21 November at 6.30pm in the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. A talk entitled South Africa 20 years on and the Legacy of the Blue Notes takes place at 12.45pm and 3.30pm on Saturday 15 November in the Southbank Centre’s Front Room. Blue Note at 75 – Don Was meets Richard Havers at 6pm on Saturday 22 November in the Southbank’s Level 5 Function Room is also likely to draw a crowd as is, Jazz Rants: The Jazz Industry and The Creative Economy at 7pm on Wednesday 19 November in Club Inégales.

You can download a PDF of the programme following its release next week at www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/festival-brochure

For further details go to www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

 – Thomas Rees

jazzfm-logoThe Ronnie Scott’s Radio Show is due to return to Jazz FM as part of a series of changes to the station’s programming which will come into force on 15 September 2014. The show, presented by singer Ian Shaw, will feature backstage interviews as well as broadcasting live recordings and highlights from the club. It will be aired on Saturdays between 6–7pm.

Elsewhere on Jazz FM’s just announced schedule of specialist programmes (all for broadcast on weekdays from 6-7pm) is Monday night’s The Performance Series, featuring live material recorded exclusively for the station; James Tormé’s The Jazz Singers, to be broadcast on Tuesdays; TransAtlantic Jazz with Vinny Marino on Wednesdays, covering contemporary jazz-funk crossover acts such as Robert Glasper and Snarky Puppy; Bob Sinfield’s swing, big band and electro-swing focused Peppermint Candy on Thursdays; and the popular Jazz Travels with Sarah Ward, which has now moved to Fridays.

lynn-parsonsFurther changes to the programming include the arrival of Lynn Parsons (pictured left) who will present the station’s weekday breakfast show from 6–9am. A former presenter for Capital and BBC Radio, Parsons will take the reins on Monday 15 September, with the show’s current presenter, John Osborne, moving to the Weekend Breakfast Show.

Jazz FM is broadcast across the UK and is available on Sky Channel 0202, Freesat 729, via mobile and, in the London area, on DAB Digital Radio.

For more info go to www.jazzfm.com and www.mixcloud.com/RonnieScottsRadio

– Thomas Rees

 

gogo-polar

The shortlist for the 2014 Mercury Music Prize has been announced at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden and is set to feature two jazz artists for the first time in its 22-year history with both GoGo Penguin and Polar Bear in contention for the £20,000 prize. This is a marked contrast to last year when no jazz artist was nominated, and something of a repost to those commentators who insist the inclusion of jazz albums is ‘tokenistic’. The rest of the shortlist features a decidedly left-field selection eschewing big mainstream names, apart from Damon Albarn, in favour of emerging artists.

This will be drummer Seb Rochford’s third Mercury nomination for Polar Bear’s latest electronica-laden album, In Each and Every One, following the band’s previously nominated Held On The Tips Of Fingers in 2005 and Basquiat Strings eponymous debut album in 2007, while the inclusion of Manchester band GoGo Penguin’s V2.0 will firmly establish the beat-driven piano trio as one of the rising stars of the current scene.

Former Portico Quartet hang player Nick Mulvey is also nominated for his beautiful African and folk influenced singer songwriter solo album, First Mind. The other 2014 nominees are: JungleJungle; Bombay Bicycle ClubSo Long, See You Tomorrow; Kate TempestEverybody Down; East India YouthTotal Strife Forever; FKA TwigsLP1; Royal Blood Royal Blood; Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots; Anna Calvi One Breath; and Young Fathers Dead. The winner will be announced live on Channel 4 at 10pm on 29 October following the awards live show at the Roundhouse in Camden.

For more info go to www.mercuryprize.com    



 

Jazz was centre-stage this week in Berlin as famous Technics hi-fi brand returned after an absence of over a decade. Pianist Michiko Ogawa duetted with Japanese trumpet legend Terumasa Hino (pictured above), who had opened proceedings with a searing solo, and they were joined on stage by German quartet Echoes of Swing.

It was an appropriate re-launch for the brand, which will be back in the shops at the end of the year. After all, as well as being an acclaimed jazz pianist with 14 albums to her name, having started playing piano at the age of three and learning jazz from her father’s record collection, Michiko Ogawa is director of the entire Technics project.

Speaking to Jazzwise after the launch, she said that, having joined parent company Panasonic in 1986, she had considered giving up her work as an audio engineer when the Technics hi-fi brand was discontinued, to concentrate on music full-time. However, with this revival she is able to combine her two passions, with a mission to help people Rediscover Music, as the new Technics slogan has it.

Ogawa says there’s a move back from ‘quick fix’ low-quality music downloads to better sound, and people want to listen at leisure on high quality hi-fi systems. The initial Technics launch will include a £30,000+ reference system and a premium set-up at around £3,000 (see below).

– Andrew Everard (story and top photo)

 

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