The unfeasibly warm November weather was matched by the heat generated by this small but perfectly formed festival 30km from Serbia’s capital Belgrade.

The opening night featured a blistering set from Gianluca Petrella joined for the first time by Italian compatriots Michelle Rabia (percussion, electronics) and the brilliant vibes player Pasquale Mirra. I saw Petrella and Mirra as a duo in the summer, which was great, but here with the added colouring and time keeping of Rabia, the set was on another level. Petrella is an ebullient player commanding the stage and coaxing the best from his band. However, Mirra almost steals the show: his solos are intoxicating, either playing unbelievably fast runs – his hands and mallets a blur over the vibraphone – or he can be subtle and soulful as he bends the notes around Petrella’s plaintiff trombone.

TD Rudresh Mahanthappa 35

Rudresh Mahanthappa also put in a huge shift. His current band the Indo-Pak coalition (above) featuring Rez Abbasi (guitar) and Dan Weiss (tabla) played songs from his Agrima album. For all the sweat and effort this trio seems to lack the fire and sheer power of his Bird Calls band and ultimately I left feeling a little disappointed, not in their individual playing but in the total musicality of the set.

The double bill of Ralph Towner (below) followed by the Oded Tzur Quartet left one in no doubt that jazz can still surprise and delight in spades. Towner, playing solo, is still the master of his instrument. At 78 his memory may not quite be what it was (he alluded to this in a pre-concert talk) but his ability to play and draw the audience into his quiet, delicate soundworld is undeniable. ‘Dolomiti Dance’ and ‘If’ were touching and ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ was just sublime. With the audience attentive and spellbound this was a beautiful concert.

TD Ralph Towner 17

The following performance was a real ‘wow’ moment. I knew nothing of the Israeli saxophonist Oded Tzur (below) but seeing that Nitai Hershkovits (former Avisahi Cohen sideman) was on piano one suspected it would be something special. Tzur has an incredibly different way of playing his sax – apparently stemming from his love and study of Indian music – he uses slow gentle blowing to generate a thin and ethereal sound which he can slide between notes – similar to a fretless bass glissando. Obviously a whole concert based on this one trick would be a little boring but Tzur is a master at bringing it in just at the right moment. The first song – slow and mournful introduces this sound – which Hershkovits took over on to the piano and the cross cultural marriage is made. Tzur can blow too, as can the rest of the band – Colin Stranahan on drums and Petros Klampanis on bass solid behind the two soloists up front. ‘Single Mother’ and ‘Whale Song’ are both beautiful and descriptive pieces - an ideal entry point for this fascinating music.

TD Oded Tzur 02

The last night of the festival brought together the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band and Cécile McLorin Salvant (picture top) as special guest. At the pre-concert talk John Clayton elaborated on how much work goes in shaping the music to fit the style of the singer and allowing room for them to ‘make the song personal’.

The first half of the concert gave the orchestra the chance to shine on their own but it was the latter part of the second half when Salvant took the stage that the evening really lit up. She’s a brilliant interpreter of the classics and with this excellent band behind her its not hard to see why she is probably the top female vocalist in the world today. Her choice of material is wide and refreshingly different - The Beatles ‘And I love him’, ‘Where Is Love’, from the musical Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘I hate a man like you’, Ruth Brown’s ‘I Don’t know’ and Judy Garland’s ‘The Trolley Song’ – this was a great set beautifully delivered.

For a small city just a stones throw from Belgrade this is a gem of a festival – the venue is compact and intimate and the tickets a few euros each. The festival consistently books top quality artists and never fails to entertain the sell out audiences. The Pančevo Jazz Festival is always the first weekend in November.

Story and photos Tim Dickeson

 

Blues1

The blues is a lived and living truth, as much as a genre. It may be coded in chord changes and rhythms, but what precedes and follows these sounds, namely how people talk, think and act, means something. This gig is a potent, provocative event that underlines the blues as a foundation for progressive black culture, and though billed as Elaine Mitchener and Jason Yarde co-leading a band on a set of Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant-Garde, the overriding impression is that the mercurial, experimental, wanderlust character of pre-war ‘Negro’ folk music still decisively shapes its modernist outgrowths.

When Neil Charles’ walking bass and Mark Sanders’ deep shuffle on the drums mark a climatic moment in proceedings there is a clear reference to centuries-old rights of swing, yet this ageless strategy packs a mighty punch because of the way it is framed by the invention and emotional charge of these players and their colleagues, trumpeter Byron Wallen, pianist Alexander Hawkins, saxophonist Yarde and vocalist Mitchener. They convincingly show the blues as an artery within the flexible, mutative body of black music, where sonic and metric bloodstreams are thrillingly unpredictable, with a pulse that smartly follows Beaver Harris’ ideal of ‘ragtime to no time’. 

Mitchener’s mixture of guttural, gravelly textures and crystalline articulation; Yarde’s braying, bucking alto, almost an evocation on the horn of reggae’s dread warning that "de fence cyan hold, too much bull inna de pen", and his seamless unison playing with Wallen; Hawkins’ splintered motifs and timbral escarpments – all these starkly vivid sounds move in and out of focus as the band changes shape, scaling down to trios and duos before coming back up to a quintet. The years of shared experience of the players in many British ensembles tells.

The music is rooted in the fertile U.S. soil of AEC, Shepp, Dolphy and Jeanne Lee, among others, but there is a gutsy earthiness to the performance that is contemporary and personal. From the joyous, jockeying funk of the opener to the strains of fiery anger and misty tenderness that follow the commitment is unbowed. The appearance of American poet Dante Micheaux, who does a fine reading of Joseph Jarman’s 'Non Cognitive Aspects Of The City' among several other pieces, brings more substance to the table. But the crucial moment of the night is the shift on to black British territory, through the intoning of words of wisdom from West Indian warrior intellectuals, Stuart Hall, Louise Bennett and Sam Selvon. It is uplifting and empowering to hear this ‘colonisation in reverse’ amid such a dubwise tapestry of sounds, and connect these sentiments to the word Haiti that is stamped on Mitchener’s t-shirt. The world’s first republique negre is still paying the price for daring to resist European rule. That’s the blues.

Other significant details reveal the ensemble’s literal and lateral thinking. Mitchener repeats the mantra "the maximum capacity of this room is 180", but that may not be recognition of the fact that this gig is sold out. She seems more interested in locking us into congregation and reflection on how many souls, or nations of millions, it takes to move us forward beyond simplistic notions of black and white.

The evening ends with Yarde playing a ghostly recording of his alto on the fly, so we can savour a homemade memory for the fire next time.

Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Dawid Laskowski

Belgium may be better known for its beer than its jazz, but an upcoming event in Edinburgh is out to change that. While Paris and Copenhagen are widely viewed as European jazz centres – where once the likes of Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Bud Powell used to live and perform – we often forget that Brussels has plenty of musical pedigree too. Belgium is, after all, the birthplace of Toots Thielemans, Django Reinhardt and Bobby Jaspar, and continues to produce outstanding jazz musicians. It is then of no surprise that Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival have teamed together with www.visit.brussels and Federation Wallonie Bruxelles to produce Thrill, a one-of-a-kind, three-day festival, featuring some of the hottest talent from Brussels.

Ten bands, featuring musicians from Belgium and Scotland will appear, offering a diverse range of bands, with varied instrumentation, styles and tone. From the Belgian side, artists include the Mâäk 5tet (above), unusually comprised of four horns and a drum – playing raw, interweaving melodic lines over a background of extended horn techniques and world music-influenced rhythms. Their bandleader, trumpeter Laurent Blondiau, describes Mâäk’s music as rich in its diverse influences, as the band have spent 15 years working with traditional African musicians from Mali, Benin and Morocco.

gig11 Aka Moon Danny Willems 2 copy

Trio AKA Moon (above) – famously inspired by the Aka pygmies of Central Africa – will also perform. The seasoned sax/bass/drums outfit makes the most of the freedom that comes from its chord-less line-up, with a focus on rhythmic interplay and powerful melodies. Among the Scottish contingent will be the Celtic folk-influenced Colin Steele Quintet and the up-and-coming STRATA. In the true spirit of collaboration, the newly-formed Thrill Sextet will amalgamate musicians of both Scottish and Belgian nationalities.

Thrill is a welcome new event, offering musical textures that are different from British and American jazz norms. As one of the festival organisers Fiona Alexander comments: “Belgian jazz offers a fresh approach, drawing on a huge range of world music influences. Thrill is a one-off, but we hope that the links between Belgium and Scotland will continue to grow and we are talking about future collaborations.”

– Gail Tasker

– Photos – Aka Moon © Danny-Willems – Mâäk Quintet © Klaas-Boelen

For more info visit www.thrill.brussels

Ra

The Sun Ra Arkestra – led by that indomitable intergalactic seer, Marshall Allen, who is 95 this year – touches down for their now traditional residency at Lewes Con Club courtesy of those enlightened folk at Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival. Catch the troupe performing cosmic classics in full astronomically-attuned attire on Sunday 21 and Monday 22 April.

Spencer Grady

For more details and ticket info visit www.dictionarypudding.co.uk

Southampton’s Turner Sims music venue has announced an impressive line-up of jazz concerts for the first half of 2019. There’s an Edition Records double-bill of young talent, namely sax newcomer Tom Barford and fast-rising guitarist Rob Luft (26 Jan), while Dutch daredevils Tin Men And The Telephone (above right, 8 Feb) perform their mischievously interactive audio-visual show in support of their recent album World Domination Volume 1: Furie, an acoustic-electro work using cut-up samples from speeches by various populist politicians.

The European theme continues with Norway’s biggest-selling jazz singer, Silje Nergaard (pictured top), and her trio (9 Feb), followed closely by fellow countryman and tuba star Daniel Herskedal and his band that features pianist Eyolf Dale (22 Mar). Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans follows this in a trio with accordionist Tuur Florizoone and cellist Jörg Brinkmann (29 Mar), while further bookings include Snarky Puppy-affiliated fusion-funk saxophonist Bob Reynolds’ Group (5 Apr), and a special collaboration between Scandi-Brit power trio Phronesis and the Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra (5 May).

The Steve Williamson Experience sees the revered UK saxophonist (pictured above left) line-up with bassist Hamish Moore, drummer Zoe Pascal and Tomorrow’s Warriors' string quartet, Stringting, for what promises to be a highlight of the programme (10 May). Two more notable nights complete the season, as jazz guitar maestro John Etheridge appears with his high-flying gypsy jazz group Sweet Chorus (17 May) and the equally starry PrintmakersNikki Iles, Norma Winstone, Mark Lockheart, Mike Walker, Steve Watts and James Maddren – play on 8 June. Jazzwise is media partner for the Turner Sims jazz programme.

– Mike Flynn

For full details visit www.turnersims.co.uk/eventcategory/jazz/

Page 6 of 264

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