Brecon was celebrating the 30th anniversary of its jazz festival in style at the weekend. After legend Burt Bacharach had officially opened the festival on Thursday night, the energy really ramped up starting with a tumultuous set from the Michael Wollny Trio in the Cathedral just as the shadows began to lengthen on Friday. The German piano master name-checked everything from twentieth century composers, hymns and psychedelic rockers as the source of tunes that built to thunderous rhythmic storms, drummer Eric Schaefer and Wollny pounding with equal ferocity, or switching to chorale like melodies buoyed by the singing bass of Christian Weber. If there were any ghosts sleeping in the crypt of the cathedral they were wide awake by the end of this exhilarating set. Friday also saw the wildly exuberant, celebratory farewell performance of Loose Tubes. Did every other performer on the programme finish their sets quickly so they could be there? It seemed that way! And the Tubes did their best too sweep the capacity crowd in the Market Hall up in the fun, finishing the set by roaming through the audience riffing on a stomping groove. They didn’t seem to want to stop playing and nobody wanted them to, but after two hours it was over. Until next time?

Just twenty-four hours later, the walls of the cathedral were trembling again as saxophone tyro Marius Neset took to the stage with his quartet. The collective roar of this band was near mind-blowing. When the joyous, dancing theme of the title track of his album Birds burst out of the maelstrom of rhythm and sound, I’ll swear my heart skipped a beat. Neset seemed inspired by the acoustics of the space and there were brain melting solo forays and a tumultuous duet with Anton Eger on drums that exploited it to the full. This is another awesome Scandinavian outfit with pianist Ivo Neame flying the flag for UK on piano.   Festival operators Orchard have done Brecon proud. The programme included plenty of variety with the Captain’s Walk stage offering a fantastic line-up for a single all-day ticket. On Saturday that included Denis Rollins’ Velocity Trio grooving like it was going out of fashion on a quirky repertoire that took in Bob Marley, Pink Floyd as well as plenty of Rollins originals. Elsewhere there was a strong Welsh theme with Burrum bringing their folk, gaelic and modal jazz brew, and artist in residence Huw Warren celebrating Dylan Thomas. There was plenty more to follow on Sunday with Gregory Porter bringing the curtain down on the weekend with his strong evening performance. With a showing like this the festival looks set fair for another thirty years.

Report: Mike Collins

 Photo: copyright Tim Dickeson

Calling all new and aspiring jazz writers, the latest Write Stuff new writers initiative returns for its 12th year in November at London’s Southbank Centre with a new series of workshops and mentoring sessions held during the EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 14-23 November. Founded and organised by Jazzwise and Serious, producers of the festival, the Write Stuff gives new jazz writers a free opportunity to work with professional journalists to improve their writing skills and develop an understanding of music criticism and the workings of the jazz and mainstream music press, as well as getting to see a bunch of concerts!

The Write Stuff will include sessions on feature writing and live reviews by Jazzwise writer and broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre; an insight into the history and development of the UK jazz and music press with Jazzwise editor and publisher Jon Newey; online journalism with Jazzwise’s deputy editor Mike Flynn and input from other writers and jazz industry figures.

Several Write Stuff participants have gone on to have pieces published in The Guardian, The Wire and Jazzwise as well as work within the wider jazz and broadcasting industry. This year’s participants will have their work posted on both the Jazzwise and festival’s websites and one review considered to be of particular merit will be published in a subsequent edition of Jazzwise.

If you are interested in participating in The Write Stuff there is still time as we have now extended the deadline until the end of this month – so please submit by email a 300-word review of a gig/concert that you have seen recently, together with a CV and full contact details by Tuesday 30 September 2014 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with ‘The Write Stuff 2014’ in the subject line. Applicants must be 18 years old or over and be available in London on the following dates: Friday 14 November (evening); Saturday 15 November, and Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 November.

Scottish 15-piece fusion collective Fat-Suit have announced their first European tour, beginning later this month. The band, which formed last year and has been likened to American funksters Snarky Puppy, has made a big impression at Aberdeen and Edinburgh jazz festivals this year and recently caused much excitement at the more mainstream music event, the Wickerman Festival in the Scottish borders.

Comprising past and present music students from Glasgow, including Yahama Scholarship 2014 winner, pianist Ustav Lal and saxophonist Scott Murphy, who also features in the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra, and finalists in both the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year and the Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the year competitions, Fat-Suit is due to release its second album, the follow-up to last year’s Kambr, later this summer.

Murphy, who composes much of the group’s repertoire, said: “This European tour will be the first time we’ve actually played outside of Scotland and we’re beyond excited at the prospect of taking our music to other countries and new audiences.”

The tour opens at CC Muziekcafe, Amsterdam on August 20 before heading to the Czech Republic, where dates include The Remarkable Festival in Loket on August 23, then Poland and Ukraine, finishing off at Budapest Jazz Club on September 1. See a video below of the band recording a song from their album Kambr.

– Rob Adams

For more info go to www.facebook.com/fatsuit

 

This year’s BBC Proms will be celebrating the hard-swinging jazz of the 1930s and 1940s at the Royal Albert Hall with a Battle of the Big Bands as part of a special Late Night Prom this Friday 8 August. The concert pays homage to the legendary face-offs held at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in the late 1930s, where the big bands of Count Basie and Benny Goodman would try to outdo each other with killer tunes and powerful arrangements.

Now, 80 years later, two specially commissioned big bands will be going head to head in a similar Battle of the Bands, with the Count Pearson Prom Band led by James Pearson, the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s, versus the Duke Windsor Prom Band, led by Australian pianist, composer and arranger Grant Windsor. While both pianists are in-demand sidemen and solo artists, they have also worked extensively on their big band projects, with Windsor’s Broken Big Band and Pearson’s upcoming collaboration with his trio and the Skelton/Skinner All Star Big Band to perform the music of Oscar Peterson.

This jazz Prom will also feature a guest appearance by Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, as well as acclaimed British jazz singer and Radio 2 broadcaster Clare Teal, who has previously performed with both Windsor and Porter. She will also compère the concert, and has commented “it will be a ‘Battle Royal’ with the duel-off at the end… if you haven’t heard a big band going full throttle, the sound is extraordinary”. The concert begins at 10.15pm at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, and will be broadcast live on Radio 3, while a recording of the event will be shown on BBC4 on 17 August.

– Bethany Roberts

For more information visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms/

 

A time when most large festivals are struggling for an audience and the necessary finance to run them Palatia Jazz Festival in the Palatinate region of Germany is certainly bucking this trend. The brainchild of Yvonne Moissl the festival is pretty much unique in Europe as it moves around the region choosing unusual locations for the shows – the stage and all the equipment is transported from gig to gig – including gourmet catering facilities. This limits the size of the performance space but also that of the audience – she is working on 250-350 tickets per show – most sell out in advance. The festival takes place over weekends during July and August, featuring top American and European jazz artists.

Over the weekend we attended we were fortunate to see two events – the new Charles Lloyd Quartet plus Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and Berlin-based vibes player Oli Bott – who was joined for his Vibratanghissimo quartet gig by Vietnamese guitarist Nguyên Lê.

The location for this concert was the ‘Oldest house in Hasslock’ (built c1599) – a quiet town surrounded by vines and agriculture. The venue a courtyard between the ‘oldest House’ and a new purpose built arts centre – a clever mixture of old and new. Oli Bott’s Vibratanghissimo project as the name implies is vibes meets tango meets jazz, with music by Bott and Astor Piazzolla – the added dimension – and a brilliant move by Moissl, was to bring in Nguyên Lê as special guest – known for being a ‘fusion’ player, his ability to turn his hand to any style and stamp his mark on it is remarkable.

Bott’s band features piano, viola and bass (no drums) and with Bott orchestrating the sound the interplay between Juan Lucas Aisemberg (viola) and Tuyet Pham (piano) and Arnulf Ballhorn (electric Bass, double bass and effects) was breathtaking. Latin American rhythms entwined with Vietnamese sounds weird – but it worked really well as did Bott’s composition Danza Tempestosa’ written for viola and vibes and Lê’s tunes, ‘Noihey Luz’ and the beautiful ‘Snow on a Flower’, which were brilliantly re-worked for the ensemble who also seemed be having a lot of fun.

The second night was in the town of Germersheim within the old military fortress. The doors opened at 6pm and everything was set out: tables and chairs in a grassy area for those who wished to eat, a bar stocked with only local wines and beers and a stage set, again in a courtyard with seating for around 350 people.

Christoph-Stiefel-palatia

Opening the concert was Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and his trio featuring Lisette Spinnler on vocals (pictured above) – a dark and brooding singer who wrenched every ounce of emotion from the songs – Stiefel is an inventive player, one who does not waste notes for the pursuit of show or speed. The perfect appetiser for what was to follow.

Lloyd, a sprightly 76 – now probably the legend of sax to see live now that Sonny Rollins is no longer touring – has a new band, again. A bit like Dr Who, Lloyd reincarnates himself through his sidemen – the pianists particularly – Keith Jarrett, Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, Geri Allen and more recently Jason Moran have all had their influence and been influenced by Lloyd. The new band is the Gerald Clayton trio – Clayton on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums (all pictured below). Clayton has some big shoes to step in.

Charles-Lloyd-palatia2

Actually the pianist is the perfect fit for Lloyd – he is young (of course) he is a four-time Grammy nominee and has played with some of the biggest names in jazz. Playing all but one Lloyd composition the band and Lloyd were brilliant – the saxophonist by no means taking the limelight, although his solos were as good as I have ever heard him play – he was visibly glowing when Clayton or Sanders took their solos – as though he was hearing his compositions for the first time (although he has probably played them all dozens of times before). These included ‘When I think of a Peaceful World’, ‘Bookers Garden’, ‘Horace Blues’, ‘Evanstide’ and ‘Passin’ Thru’ – while Justin Brown got his solo spot in ‘Rabo de Nube’ (by Silvio Rodrigues). I spoke to him afterwards and he told me: “You know, I look up from the kit and I see him there – I say to myself, woah! That’s Charles Lloyd”. You and me both Justin.

Lloyd has a new band and a new lease of life and for the moment at least – he is the hottest ticket to see live and Gerald Clayton has taken a massive step forward in his career. Palatia Jazz has three more weekends to run with Emil Brandqvist trio and Caro Josee Band (9 August); Heiko Plank and Nils Petter Molvaer (16 August); and Big Band Nights (30-31 August).

– Tim Dickeson (Story and photos)

For more info and ticket details go to www.palatiajazz.de

 

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