Jazz in Australia has a very long history; back to the 1920s when the country fell for the many visiting Americans. Today jazz is alive across the country, but with a distinct focus on the population centres of Sydney and Melbourne. Here the best-known venues are The Basement near the quay in Sydney and Bennetts Lane in Melbourne. Although making a living is difficult, there is a thriving network of labels, co-operatives and venues. Rufus, home of the late Bernie McGann, Jazzhead, Newmarket, Jazzgroove and New Zealand’s Rattle Records, to name but a few, are all releasing and promoting excellent, and often innovative, jazz. But most notably, there is vitality and a thirst for new directions, evident in the following albums.

– Michael Prescott,
Jazz Presenter 5MBS, Australia


Anton Delecca Quartet
The Healer
Jazzhead Head 192

Anton Delecca (ts), Luke Howard (p), Jonathon Zion (b), Daniel Farrugia (d) Rec. Date not stated

Anton Delecca has been a working musician for over 20 years and in that time has played with Odean Pope, Arthur Blythe, a host of popular and rock artists and has also been a member of many jazz groups. Despite a relatively long career, “The Healer” is only his third as leader.

Although the Luke Howard Trio (see below) provide the backing, this is Delecca’s album with the leader composing seven of the ten tracks featured here. Delecca possesses a mature expressive tone and on this album he deservedly gives himself plenty of space to explore and he uses this to show considerable improvisational skill.

The album kicks off with a Klezmer sounding “The Ark” and from there presents two standards, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Love For Sale” and one from bassist Zion. The interest is not the standards but the new works. “Hectic” is up-tempo featuring an excellent Luke Howard solo and so proving that although best known for his spacious approach, he can also play faster and fuller, whilst on the ballad “Hokusai Says” Delecca delivers a sensitive, thoughtful solo.

The album would probably have been that much better if Delecca had the courage to forgo the standards. With tracks like “The Lake” there is simply no need to revive old well worn works.

Nonetheless, an impressive and enjoyable album.

Click here for more info and samples

Andrea Keller Quartet With Strings
Wave Rider
Jazzhead    Head 191 

Andrea Keller (p), Eugene Ball (t), Ian Whitehurst (ts), Joe Talia (d), Erkki Velthiem (v), Helen Ayres (v), Matt Lang (viola), Zoe Knighton (c). Rec. 6 & 7 December 2012

Let’s get one thing clear from the start, the description “with strings” is misleading, there’s absolutely nothing saccharine about Keller’s scoring. Here the strings, in the form of a classic string quartet, are an integral part of Keller’s compositions; they perform with and almost inside her quartet.

This takes talent and it is obvious that Keller has that in abundance. This is totally original music; by that read no one else composes anything like this. If you have heard Keller’s previous discs, this is no surprise, especially her previous album of solo piano; “Family Portraits” another superb album.

This is something else again, complex with themes weaving in and out and Keller’s often dark and foreboding piano evident throughout. Her talented quartet handles this difficult music with aplomb, Ball and Whitehurst are exceptional while Talia adds rich tonal colour. The absence of bass is not an issue, so expertly are Keller’s tunes composed and arranged.

There is great variety here, with 15 tracks varying from just 49 seconds (the title track) to over 10 minutes (the brooding “Patience”) but nowhere does the interest flag, a true indication of the album’s success.

Andrea Keller should be known throughout the jazz world, one can only hope that this album raises her international profile to where it should be.

Click here for more info and samples

LukeHowardTrioDoveALoinACoastLuke Howard Trio
A Dove, A Lion, A Coast, A Pirate
Which Way  WWM 018  ★★★

Luke Howard (p), Jonathon Zion (b), Daniel Farrugia (d). Rec May 2012

This album never really gets above mid-tempo. Normally that could be a negative, but not here, Luke Howard is so in command that anything thing else would disturb the whole fabric of this superb CD.

From the sublime opener, “Oslo” this music utilises space as a musical instrument with Zion and Farrugia, listening intently to their leader adding colour and depth throughout.

Recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studios with renown engineer Jan Erik Konkshug this disc does evoke, but definitely does not imitate, another well known visitor to that studio, Ketil Bjornstad. Zion’s three tunes blend in seamlessly to the other nine tunes, all penned by Howard.

What stands out here is the beautiful lyricism of Howard’s piano, a reflection of his excellent compositions and almost hummable tunes, the title track being a case in point.

As you would expect with Konkshug at the helm, the recording is so natural that at times one is tempted to look toward the speakers to confirm that the band really is in your living room.

This album works on all levels, the enthusiast will love the sheer musicality and invention whilst the casual listener will fall for the simple beauty of this music. This is an album that not only can withstand repeated listens, but calls the listener back again and again.

Click here for more info and samples

HannahJamesGroupEffigyHannah James Group
Effigy
Self Release

Hannah James (b), Ed Rodrigues (d), Casey Golden (p), Tim Clarkson (s) Dave Rodriguez (g)

Rec 20 July 2011

It can be difficult for young artists to get a break no matter how talented. Hannah James was lucky, as the winner of The Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for promising female jazz musicians, she was able to record this album at the ABC’s studios. Even so she still had to release the CD herself.

But, despite her youth, this is a mature group album with the leader, aside from a few thoughtful solos, for the most part taking a back seat to Golden, Clarkson and Rodriguez.

James has said that she has been influenced by the New York scene, referencing Aaron Parks and that is certainly a good reference point, especially on Casey Golden’s ”When The Talking Stops” evoking Parks’ 2008 album, “Invisible Cinema”

For her debut, James has assembled a crack band with guitarist Dave Rodriguez and Casey Golden on piano being particularly impressive. Rodriguez possesses fine technique, delivering intelligent and interesting solos. Hannah James also proves to be a fine composer, particularly the opener, “Morning Glory” and the title track.

This is a very strong debut and points to a bright future as a bassist, composer and leader. It will be interesting to follow her development as she further defines her own voice.

Info with sample www.hannahjames.com

JulienWilsonTrioSwailingJulien Wilson Trio
Swailing
lionsharerecords LSR 20142

Julien Wilson (ts, b cl, ss), Stephen Magnusson (g), Steve Grant (acc)

Swailing is a very Australian concept, a controlled burn of the bush aimed at promoting regrowth. In spite of the title, the music on this CD has a very European feel, at times reminiscent of an ECM recording, no doubt as a consequence of the unusual composition of the trio, no rhythm section but with an accordion.

But there are important differences mainly flowing from song selection. After a delicious Wilson penned opening track, with the marvellously titled “I Believe This Belongs To You” comes Hermeto Pascoal’s “Little Church”, most famously heard on Miles Davis’s “Live Evil”. A little later, Gabriel Faure’s “Meditation”, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, even Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and finally, Ornette Coleman’s “Chanting”, plus several originals.

The trio benefits from having performed together over many years (their first CD, “Live” dates from 2007) as they weave in and out with a beautiful precision that only experience can bring. All three members both solo and provide accompaniment, the resulting music ebbs and flows producing a gorgeous sound. The occasional overdub fills out the music, most notably Wilson’s bass clarinet.

Although mostly subdued, it is a strangely uplifting and enjoyable music. Grant is just fabulous throughout; Magnusson demonstrates that he is an all-round guitarist and in places squeezes out very un-guitar like sounds. All the while Wilson is sublime, at times his breathy tenor is reminiscent of Ben Webster.

What makes this all the impressive is that this was released together with a completely different album and band, the mainstream balled collection, “This Is Always”, also on lionsharerecords. On this album his Websterisms come to the fore.

Click here for more info and samples

 

Hiromi250Japanese piano star Hiromi Uehara hits London’s Cadogan Hall from 13-15 April for a rare three-night stand along with US bass guitar legend Anthony Jackson and revered jazz-rock drummer Simon Phillips. Dubbed The Trio Project the dazzling pianist’s technically brilliant but equally high spirited and passionate style is powered along by these two rhythm section veterans – Jackson’s CV including iconic recordings with the likes of Paul Simon, The O’Jays (providing the classic bassline to their hit ‘Money, Money, Money’), Steely Dan and Chick Corea among many others – while drummer Phillips has recently worked with Toto, Ray Russell and Jack Bruce but shows off his virtuoso jazz skills with Hiromi.

The group’s two albums Voice and Move add to Hiromi’s varied output since her frenetic 2003 debut Another Mind, which also featured Jackson on bass. She toured with her regular trio of bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora for six years, expanding the band to include David ‘Fuze’ Fiuczynski for her Sonic Bloom group, while she has also recorded a duo piano album with Chick Corea, Duet, and a 2009 solo album Place To Be. These three nights will showcase her dynamic, highly virtuosic material that takes in everything from electro-jazz funk through to post bop, classical and burning jazz-fusion.

– Mike Flynn

For more info go to www.cadoganhall.com/event/hiromi-the-trio-project

 

sonny-rollinsLegendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins is set to release the latest installment of his compelling live album series, Road Shows Vol.3, on 5 May on his Doxy Records imprint through a new distribution deal recently signed with OKeh Records and its parent company Sony Master Works. The 83 year old is in ebullient form on these recordings backed by his band that features longstanding bassist Bob Cranshaw, trombonist Clifton Anderson and other band members from the 11-year span of the music on offer including pianist Stephen Scott, drummer Perry Wilson, guitarist Bobby Broom and percussionists Kimati Dinizulu and Sammy Figueroa.

The album features six live cuts including ‘Biji’, ‘Someday I’ll Find You’, ‘Why Was I Born’, ‘Solo Sonny’, ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ and a new Rollins composition ‘Patanjali’ (whose title refers to the author of the Yoga Sutra) – with guitarist Peter Bernstein providing spirited backing for some spectacular sax fireworks. All of these performances were captured at various concerts between 2001 and 2012 from Saitama, Japan; Toulous, Marseille and Marciac in France; and St. Louis, Missouri.

For more info go to www.okeh-records.com and www.sonnyrollins.com

– Mike Flynn

 

RichardBono MG 9691wAfter its successful inaugural run last year the Thump Festival is back from 26 March to 29 March 2014 with another diverse programme of up and coming and international rhythm section talent at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho. Foremost of these is Cameroonian bass/singing sensation Richard Bona (pictured) with his Quartet, of Etienne Stadwijk (keyboards), Ludwig Alfonso (drums) and Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), who will closing be out the event with two shows on two nights (28-29 Mar) with support from the Jungle Drummer and fusioneers Mind The Baby on each night respectively.

Slamming Manchester piano trio GoGo Penguin headline on 27 March, bringing their intense post-EST beat-laden sound to this cool Soho basement. Playing music from their firecracker of a new album, v2.0, which is the perfect showcase for the hip drum 'n' bass grooves of drummer Rob Turner and bassist Nick Blacka who power the piano riffs of Chris Illingworth.

Sophie-AllowayThings kick off on 26 March with a showcase double bill opened by brilliant young drummer Sophie Alloway (pictured left) – a London-based session and jazz player who's toured internationally with rap star Roots Manuva and plays with many of the capital's leading jazz musicians. She appears with the talented all-female group, Quintette, which also includes rising star trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, saxophonist Josephine Davies, pianist Naadia Sheriff and bassist/singer Charlie Pyne. Drummer and percussionist Chris Draper headlines the evening in a genre-hopping duo, Zetta, with hugely versatile UK-based Autralian keyboardist Grant Windsor, known for his work with singers Gregory Porter and Clare Teal, here on keyboards and synths.

– Mike Flynn

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

 

The 10th edition of the Gateshead International Jazz Festival, which runs from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 April, has confirmed its full programme that now includes exciting double bills from cutting edge tyros Polar Bear and Chris Sharkey’s Shiver (6 Apr), plus the hard-blowing post-bop of the Jean Toussaint Quartet (JT4), with support from the Jason Yarde/Andrew McCormack MY Duo with the Elysian String Quartet (5 Apr). The festival, which runs across various stages at Sage Gateshead, also includes big name headliners Robert Glasper Experiment Band, The Spring Quartet – featuring Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese – and Django Bates featuring saxophonist Joakim Milder and the Norrbotten Big Band playing the music of Prefab Sprout and Charlie Parker (4 Apr).

Also featured are rising stars GoGo Penguin (5 Apr, pictured), Brazilian jazz-funk singer/instrumentalist Ed Motta (4 Apr) and soca, ska and reggae jazz from Courtney Pine’s House Of Legends band (5 Apr). Guitar guru Bill Frisell’s Beautiful Dreamers trio (6 Apr), and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with guest vocals from Jacqui Dankworth complete the headliners. There will be a live presentation of Jazz Record Requests with Alyn Shipton (11am, 5 Apr), family-friendly music workshops, Jazz Lounge multi-media space and Way In To The Way Out music seminars.

– Mike Flynn

For full details go to www.sagegateshead.com

 

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