John McLaughlin 2

Kicking off this evening’s set with a high-octane crash through Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Trilogy’ from 1972 was always going to be a crowd-pleaser – and this quartet of astonishing virtuosi are more than up to the job: John McLaughlin, at 77, still maintains a luxuriant silver mane and considerable chops; Anglo-Indian drummer Ranjit Barot has an extremely loud and belligerent attack clearly informed Billy Cobham’s world-shaking muscle; black-gloved Cameroonian bassist Étienne M’Bappe is precise and funky; and keyboardist Gary Husband revels in pitch-bent synth solo madness.

Surprisingly, though (and despite McLaughlin’s introductory promise of a few oldies), this opening salvo is tonight’s only track from the 1970s heydays – unless you include ‘Echoes From Then’ from the 4th Dimension’s 2012 album, Now Here This, which deliberately evokes the early days of jazz-rock and fusion. There are breezy versions of two different tracks by Pharoah Sanders – ‘Light At The Edge Of The World’ and ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’, the latter providing a showcase for Barot’s soulful vocals – but other than that, the majority of tonight’s tunes are drawn from the 1990s onwards, with a healthy selection from the 4th Dimension’s own catalogue.

John McLaughlin 1

‘Abbaji’ (from 2008’s Floating Point), is dedicated to the great tabla player Alla Rakha, and highlights Barot’s ability to mix western jazz and rock stylings with complex traditional Indian rhythms, with the drummer engaging in lightning-tongued konnakol rhythmic vocals while Husband counts the complex tala with handclaps. Husband – who first came to McLaughlin’s attention as drummer for Allan Holdsworth – wastes little time getting behind the second kit and smashing out a heavy drum solo, later sending the energy rocketing with a furious drum battle with Barot.

Throughout all of the testosterone-drenched frenzy, McLaughlin remains calm and composed, a rather humble legend with nothing left to prove.

Daniel Spicer
– Photos by Tatiana Gorilovsky (www.TatianaJazzPhoto.com)

 

EFG LJF May

This year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, its 27th edition, runs from 15 to 24 November with a number of key additions now confirmed by organisers Serious. Chief among these will be a Kings Place residency from multi-Grammy Award winning drummer, singer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington (above centre) throughout the first weekend of the festival. Known for her work with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding, Carrington has also led her own Mosaic Project to huge acclaim. Her residency will feature her band of saxophonist Morgan Guerin, vocalist Debo Ray and drummer Kassa Overall who will collaborate with a range of UK-based musicians.

Concerts marking the ECM label’s 50th anniversary in the programme include a previously announced headline slot for Norwegian sax star Jan Garbarek at the Royal Fetstival Hall on 17 November, as well as new labelmate Joe Lovano (above left) who’ll be playing music from his ECM debut as a leader, Trio Tapestry, at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the same night. The US tenor titan is joined by the record’s line-up of pianist Marilyn Crispell and percussionist Carmen Castaldi. ECM-signed Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski also appears with his Trio (Cadogan Hall, 15 Nov). Elsewhere UK free-improv sax heavyweight Trevor Watts, marks a more personal anniversary with his 80th Birthday Celebration at the Purcell Room featuring a stellar line-up of bassist John Edwards, drummer Mark Sanders and his key collaborator Veryan Weston on piano (15 Nov). Also announced is highly-rated US pianist Christian Sands who tops a double-bill with London-based saxophonist Camila George (Cadogan Hall, 19 Nov); and renowned Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez brings his new Global Messengers band to town for its UK debut (QEH, 22 Nov).

Further concerts include Swiss jazz singer Lucia Cadotsch (above right) who performs music from her album, Speak Low (Purcell Room, 19 Nov), and the hard-swinging legacy of Art Blakey is fired-up over two concerts with former Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint delivering originals from his Blakey-inspired album, Brother Raymond, for a matinee show, while drummer Ralph Peterson brings a crack-troupe of fellow Messengers alumni – bassist Essiet Essiet, saxophonists Bobby Watson and Bill Pierce, trumpeter Brian Lynch and keyboardist Geoff Keezer – for an evening show (23 Nov). And there's a chance to see SEED Ensemble, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi's talent-packed 10-piece, at the Jazz Cafe (24 Nov).

These concerts join those already announced in Jazzwise (media partners for the festival) and include: Jazz Voice (RFH, 15 Nov); Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner (Barbican, 16 Nov); CrossCurrents (Cadogan Hall, 17 Nov); Lars Danielsson Group: Liberetto III (Wigmore Hall, 19 Nov); Makaya McCraven (Village Underground, 19 Nov); Marius Neset: Viaduct (QEH, 21 Nov); Eliane Elias, plus Vinicius Cantuária (Barbican, 22 Nov); Omar Puente and Friends (Kings Place, 22 Nov); BBC Concert Orchestra, Nu Civilisation Orchestra, String Ting, Misha Mullov Abbado (QEH, 23 Nov); Swingin’ With Strings feat. Claire Martin (Cadogan Hall, 24 Nov) and Dan Tepfer: Natural Machines (Kings Place, 24 Nov).

Mike Flynn

For full details and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

20190409 CullyJazz2019 StanleyClarkeBand loOrent 14

As Return to Forever bass legend Stanley Clarke (pictured above) opened his set at this village festival on the vineyard-laced shores of Lake Geneva with a stupendous flurry of notes, it was clear we were in for a treat.

Clarke’s young sidemen – Beka Gochiashvili (piano), Salar Nader (tabla), Evan Garr (violin), Shariq Tucker (drums) and Cameron Graves (keyboards) – kept up with Clarke magnificently, providing plenty of jaw-dropping moments with some wildly exciting playing.

But as dramatic as Clarke’s electric bass-playing was on 'Goodbye Porkpie Hat' and 'Schooldays', even more impressive was his total mastery of double-bass. The nimble, controlled power of his work on early RTF albums was evident on 'Dear John' and the epic 'No Mystery', during which he slapped and flicked the strings and body of the instrument to create a wall of bass and percussive sounds.

Finishing with two funk numbers from his days with George Duke, Clarke brought the sellout crowd to its feet, but nearly dented the vibe by falling off the stage. It could have been a nasty moment for the maestro now in his late sixties, but instead we were treated to a brief spot of crowd-surfing before the laughing bassist re-emerged. Phew.

Stacey Kent, the following night’s headliner, by contrast, played a highly controlled, intimate set – her playful voice breezing through originals such as 'Make It Up' and 'Bullet Train'. Every note was perfectly chosen and positioned by an impeccable quintet, with Kent’s Brit husband and co-writer Jim Tomlinson pure velvet on sax and flute, excelling along with pianist and former Incognito MD Graham Harvey. Songs rarely exceeded four minutes and Kent’s spiel, in fluent French, was very much appreciated by the crowd. The set finished with Tomlinson sharing vocals with his wife on a bossa and then a delicate, moving rendition of 'Stardust'.

20190410 CullyJazz2019 Antibalas loOrent 13

Among groups that really blew away the Cully crowds was outstanding Afro-beat ‘big band’ Antibalas from America, an 11-piece with echoes of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 outfit. They got the audience dancing from the get-go and never slacked off a hypnotic intensity. Founded by baritone sax player Martín Perna in 1998 and fronted by the vividly attired Nigerian-born Duke Amayo, Antibalas’s set boasted beautifully voiced hornlines and gritty sax solos, intricate rhythm guitar and percussion, all woven together seamlessly. 

UK quintet Ezra Collective quickly won over festivalgoers with their energy, spirit and sheer chops. Drummer Femi Koleoso’s power and precision sparked up opening track, 'The Philosopher', and outstanding trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi displayed a well-rounded tone across the range of the instrument on 'People in Trouble', featuring a cunning 'Someday My Prince Will Come' quote. It’s not hard to see why Kamasi Washington’s a fan.

Another fine young trumpeter was self-effacing, award-winning French-born player Shems Bendali, whose youthful quintet supported Stacey Kent. His mature post-bop compositions were melodic but accommodated plenty of unexpected twists and turns.  

Also French-born, drummer Anne Paceo’s sextet got a warm response from the large crowd awaiting Stanley Clarke’s gig with an eclectic set involving two beautifully blending vocalists (Ann Shirley and Florent Mateo) and ethereal soprano sax from Christophe Panzani who extracted maximum wistfulness from an effects rack. Paceo’s distinctive drumming exhibited a great sense of space and lyricism, but also real fire at times.

My penultimate gig of the eight-day festival took in charismatic guitarist/vocalist Thomas Dutronc, who enjoys a notably large female following. His six-piece band’s genre-jumping set took in jazz manouche, chanson, pop ballads, gypsy and straightahead jazz with virtuosic contributions from violinist Blanchard Pierre bringing to mind last year’s Jean Luc-Ponty gig here.

Opposite the main stage the Caveau des Vignerons wine cellar drew in people leaving Dutronc’s gig as blasts of hip jazz-funk wafted through the door. This emanated from young resident band KUMA, led by tenor player Arthur Donnot and Matthieu Llodra on keys. It would be easy to imagine this infectious quartet wowing clubs and bars in the UK with their dazzling groove-oriented playing, driven by drummer Maxence Sibille, a master of rhythmic displacement.

Adam McCulloch 

 Foto Runhild Heggem 2 XL

As a snapshot of the great charm of Vossa Jazz's weekender in western Norway no image is more apt than this: saxophonist Trygve Seim, one of the country’s consistently interesting artists harmonising with vocalist Sinikka Langeland and accordionist Frode Haltli just outside the small caravan-cum-sauna with which he travels from gig to gig. The backdrop is a stunning lake, shimmering in mid April-sunshine with snowcapped hills in the distance.

Visual beauty aside, that combination of instruments could be seen as a leitmotif for Nordic jazz with folk undertones, but that is far too reductive a summary. There are several other performances throughout the weekend that show how similar elements can yield music of vastly differing characters. Haltli leads his own avant-folk ensemble, whose clearly signposted intent is well met, while elsewhere artists do not so much look to create ‘fusions’ as engage in a kind of open sky experimentation that crosses many stylistic borders. The trio comprising drummer-percussionist Thomas Strønen, pianist Ayumi Tanaka and multi-reedist Marthe Lea produces one of the most intriguing sets of the weekend, shifting coherently between a kind of floating, gauzy sound, enhanced by the gossamer understatement of Strønen’s brushes, woodblocks and sticks, and withering bursts of tenor, recorder or two-horns-at-once in the style of Rhasaan. Lea’s vocal is an unexpected bonus insofar as it brings a haunting anthem-like quality to the uninterrupted suite in which Tanaka also makes an impression with ghostly countermelodies and drifting textures.

Spacemusic Ensemble is also a revelation. Led by saxophonist-composer Signe Emeluth, the sextet makes much of a rich electro-acoustic palette in which a hefty tuba and Ra-ish synths entwine vividly with the voice of Rohey Taalaj, here in a distinctly different mode to Gurls and Rohey. She performs some demanding wordless vocal lines that twist and turn through eerie chords enhanced by the engagingly sinister sonic web woven with smart precision and joyous abandon.

Both these gigs take place at Osasalen, an intimate space just a short walk from the Park hotel which has several venues, from the gym-like Vossasalen to the smaller Festsalen, Pentagon and Café Stationen, each of which is a stone’s throw from one another, and thus invite a steady stream of punters over the whole weekend.

Yet one of the highlights of the festival takes place in the evocative setting of Finnesloftet, a 13th century banqueting hall whose sturdy wooden frame might still be standing when camera phones have clicked to extinction. Sudan Dudan, consisting of two vocalist-instrumentalists, Marit Karlberg on the slightly cymbalom–like langeleik, and Anders Erik Roine on guitar and Jew’s harp, keep a small audience rapt with traditional songs whose deep melancholy is spiked with some invigorating modernist contours. A duo of a very different kind, the Swiss-Albanian vocalist Elina Duni and British guitarist Rob Luft, also makes a favourable impression with its mixture of pan-European folk, intricate comping and loop station counterpoint.

While this is enjoyable a moment of quite sublime beauty comes by way of another guitarist, Danish master Jakob Bro (pictured above), whose quartet featuring his compatriot, veteran flugelhorn player Palle Mikkelborg, gives an object lesson in how to create fraught but graceful elegies in which the leader’s whispery phrases and mist trails of effects are an effective canvas for the horn player’s concise, sometimes curt figures that often hang tantalisingly in the air. The result is music where stillness is anything but static. Which is sadly not the case with trumpeter Matthias Eick’s set of well-executed but nonetheless colourless themes. Also underwhelming is rock-edged guitarist Hedvig Mollestad who replaces her usual trio with an expanded line-up that includes Portugese trumpeter Susanna Santos Silva, and the result is a slightly ungainly layering of sounds, which don’t quite maximise the substantial individual talents.

In contrast, the glowing charisma and lordly tone of Malian vocal legend Salif Keita, backed by a superlative band, have the audience on its feet, though it feels as if a gig with such a high feel-good quotient should have perhaps closed, rather than opened, the festival. Having said that a handful of potent performances by Nordic artists also win over the crowd with a mixture of intensity and humour. Swedish baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s The End, featuring the extraordinary vocals of Sofia Jernberg, exudes the kind of fearsomely uncompromising energy that has defined his work from The Thing to Fire! Orchestra, while Danish drummer Kresten Osgood has a raucous, sometimes rampaging take on small group aesthetics that owes a debt to Ornette and Ayler, though the dodgy vocal is all his. Finnish band Gourmet, featuring saxophonist Mikko Innanen is in a league (and world) of its own. The tinder dry humour and quirky, appealing songs, which are largely instrumental pop with strong soloing, strike a chord with punters that aren’t sure what to make of six guys dressed as five-star waiters. The local sheep’s head is not on the joke-laden menu.

Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Runhild Heggem

 Mvula

Love Supreme continue to expand the brand by bringing an all-day jamboree of jazz-and-related-musics to London's Roundhouse, following their success last year. That event was dominated by the emergent New London Jazz scene – this year’s different, highly diverse line-up provides an interesting snapshot into where we are now.

Representing the old school, Hexagonal are in the packed upstairs bar for Jazz In The Round, showing the youngsters in the crowd how it’s done. It’s a tight, punchy 45-minute exploration of the inexorably grooving, powerfully melodic legacy of leader John Donaldson’s twin muses McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku, with Jason Yarde on alto leading the soloists in playing tag-team over Tristan Bank’s hyperactively flexible kit.

Supreme Standards fills up for Dowdelin’s super-soulful Kreol-inflected electro-pop, spiced with Caribbean flavours and rooted by Raphael Philibert’s Gwa-Ko drum.

Nobody would ever accuse Judi Jackson of understatement, but she certainly has plenty of star quality. She fills the big room with her personality, in fishnets and wispily draped scarlet gauze. Fortunately, she has ample vocal ability to back it up. Yet, despite her excellent young band’s best efforts, there’s a dearth of really memorable material to hang all the talent upon.

Layfullstop dispenses with the band to lay out a crisp, London accented singjay act, her agile delivery and stage presence drawing universal appreciation from the capacity crowd. 

Back upstairs in the bar, Liran Donin furnishes unfortunate proof of the old adage about everyone talking through bass solos. You have to push to the front to appreciate his virtuosic Avishai Cohen stylings, but with the help of some sterling work from drummer Ben Brown he ends up winning the day.

No such problems beset Melt Yourself Down; their punky art-skronk has one dynamic level – full-on – and their frontman Kushal Gayan is all infectious  passionate intensity. Leader Pete Wareham looks like a cross between a gaucho garage mechanic and an Inquisition-era cardinal in his boilersuit and signature hat.

Back at the Jazz In The Round, Alina Bzhezhinska has packed such a crowd in with her new trio that it’s impossible to move. Who would have thought that jazz harp could be such a draw? She lays out the Alice Coltrane/Dorothy Ashby moves with her usual aplomb to rapturous reception. New kids on the grime/jazz fusion block Neue Grafik delight with a set featuring the talents of Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and Vels Trio’s Dougal Taylor on drums. 

Kamaal Williams offers his customary four-to-the-floor jam session in the big room upstairs, but the low-end gets lost in the cavernous space and much of the vibe goes with it. Jay Phelps’ contributions as surprise guest on trumpet add some welcome focus.

Laura Mvula's engineer isn’t daunted by the challenge of the Roundhouse’s legendarily difficult acoustic and the sound is clear and massive. Her band is scaled back to an all-star trio of Oli Rockberger, Troy Miller and Yolanda Charles, and she stands well forward, a tiny figure in white, armed only with her keytar and her huge voice. The mass keyboard textures point out her music’s essential kinship to the ambitious pop of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. In between she chats to the crowd like a true pop star. We’ve travelled a fair distance from jazz as it’s often understood, but this broad church approach is what Love Supreme does best, and noone seems to be complaining.

Eddie Myer 
– Photo by Adrian Brown

Page 5 of 273

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