Since its beginnings in 2006, Brighton's festival of new music, The Great Escape has had very little jazz programming, so it was inspiring to see a selection of some of the best acts from the new wave of British jazz. Kicking off on Friday night at beachfront nightclub Shooshh with performances from Poppy Ajudha and Kamaal Williams, the main jazz highlight of the weekend was with a triple bill on Saturday night. This took place downstairs at Patterns and featured sets by pianist Ashley Henry (pictured top), drummer Yussef Dayes and group of the moment, Sons of Kemet.

Pianist Ashley Henry performed some of his latest music with double bassist Ferg Ireland and drummer Dexter Hercules, including a piece from his forthcoming album, the energetic and upbeat 'Sunrise', which demonstrated his ever-increasing maturity as a composer. The pianist followed this with his cover version of the Nas tune 'The World Is Yours', highlighting not just his skill as an interpreter and arranger but also his empathy and interplay with his trio. The formidable vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett joined the group for the track 'Pressure', from Henry's Easter EP, and gave the group a greater sense of urgency, singing impassioned words over a steady, soulful groove. The final tune of their set, the grooving samba title track of Henry's Easter EP, featured more impressive vocal work from Adams-Burnett, some fluid and lyrical solo lines from Henry and gave Hercules the chance to show why he's one of today's most in-demand drummers.

yusef-dayes

Fellow sticksman Yussef Dayes (above) continues to develop as a bandleader since the Yussef Kamaal split of last year. Here he displayed his impressive technical mastery of the kit but was clearly happy to also sit back and play simpler, more relaxed grooves that allowed the other members of the trio to take the spotlight. With well-chosen riffs, inspired timbre selection and perfect timing, former NYJO pianist Charlie Stacey brought something different, applying his virtuosity to a set of keyboards, creating layers of futuristic sounds on top of deep, grooving bass lines. Guitarist Mansur Brown also conjured up an impressive set of different timbres to introduce tunes with gentle, acoustic lines before interweaving rocking melodic lines as the intensity increased.

sonsofkemet

One of the best albums of the year so far, Sons of Kemet's Your Queen Is A Reptile, provided all of the material for their set, beginning with the grooving 'My Queen Is Ada Eastman'. The two drummers set up the groove, then Theon Cross' tuba entered with a pumping bass line, followed by Shabaka Hutchings' (above) melodic sax on top. Although very much a collective endeavour, Cross stood out, not just for playing an instrument rarely heard in a jazz context, but also for his hypnotic grooves, which were reliably on the beat, virtuosic and mesmerising.

– Charlie Anderson
– Photos by Lisa Wormsley

Released last month on Basho Records, Birdsong/Cân yr Adar fuses disparate elements – from jazz, folk and contemporary classical music – into something transcendent and utterly singular. Hearing the work at its London album launch, in the beautiful setting of St John's Downshire Hill, from the opening 'Birdsong Chorale' to the climactic closing bars of 'Owl Song/Can y Gwdihw', the joyous, almost ecstatic quality of the music-making was even more pronounced than on the recording. The octet featured co-composers Kizzy Crawford (voice, guitar) and Gwilym Simcock (piano), plus a group of stellar musicians drawn from the Welsh chamber orchestra Sinfonia Cymru – violinists Simmy Singh and Lucy McKay, violist Fran Gilbert, cellist Abel Selaocoe, flautist Helen Wilson, plus horn player Carys Evans. At its heart, the work celebrates a unique rainforest in Powys, Carngafallt, using the seasons to describe the lives of its birds, trees and flowers through a yearly cycle. Central to its soundworld is the bilingual text setting, reflecting Crawford's deep love for, and intimate knowledge of, the Welsh language. 

Kizzy-Gwilym1

Both structurally and harmonically, the individual song structures were anything but typical, each one being packed with ear-catching detail. Highlights included Simcock interrupting his powerful vamp during 'Wildlife/Bywyd Gwyllt' to play the inside of his Fazioli grand piano like a bodhrán, the gorgeous harmonic shifts of 'Rhododendron', the almost Ravelian sensuousness of the opening passage of 'Angelic Soul/Enaid Angylaidd', the stacked up vocal harmonies in 'Back to the Trees/Nôl i'r Coed' and the breathtakingly blissful highpoints of 'Into The Dark Mystical Beauty/Mewn i'r Harddwch Tywyll Cyfriniol'. The performance also included a visual element, with the artist Ruby Fox creating a kaleidoscopic projected backdrop, an interpretation of what she herself saw and experienced when she visited Carngafallt. The pleasingly cyclical nature of the piece was expressed by the musicians processing on one by one at the beginning, improvising sounds from the rainforest, then similarly processing off at the end, returning to the same rainforest soundworld. It's a passionate and, at times, overwhelming work, a stunning achievement that is, without question, one of the albums of the year.

Peter Quinn

Photos by David Forman

Chelsea's salubrious jazz den, the 606 Club, is to mark its 30th anniversary at its Lots Road locale with a starry 12-nights of over 30 Brit-jazz names strongly associated with the venue, including an extremely rare club appearance by jazz star Jamie Cullum on 22 May. Unsurprisingly, the latter night has already sold out, yet there are plenty more highlights to enjoy between 16 - 27 May, which include leading UK jazz singers Claire Martin, Liane Carroll, Jacqui Dankworth and Polly Gibbons, jazz-funk gents Hamish Stewart and Tony O'Malley, Kansas Smitty's saxophonist Giacomo Smith and drummer Clark Tracey's Quintet.

Further bookings include a Basho Music night (23 May) featuring Mercury nominated pianist Gwilym Simcock with top UK bassist Laurence Cottle, who appear before forward-looking contemporary jazz group The Printmakers (above centre) featuring pianist Nikki Iles, vocalist Norma Winstone, guitarist John Parricelli, saxophonist Mark Lockheart, bassist Steve Watts and drummer Tim Giles. There's also a Sisters of Soul night (25 May) that unites soul-jazz singers Imaani, Vanessa Haynes and Mary Pearce with a stellar band; and things conclude on Sunday 27 May with a packed line-up of afternoon and evening performances from the likes of Alice Zawadzki/Rob Luft Duo, Claire Martin/Jim Mullen Duo, the Rachael Calladine Quintet and Latin-jazz band Samara.

Opened by owner (and fine flautist) Steve Rubie on London's King's Road in 1976, and named after its 606 address, the club's increasing popularity necessitated a move in May 1988 to the larger space in Chelsea, which has proved a winning location for showcasing the best home-grown jazz talents ever since.

Mike Flynn

For complete listings visit www.606club.co.uk

Genre-defying London-based group Collective X, led by singer Alya Al Sultani, are set to launch their debut album Love & Protest this Friday, 11 May, at Stratford Circus, London. Exploring a diverse mix of jazz, funk, hip hop, grime and soul, the band includes many leading musicians from the capital's jazz and improv scenes such as vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson, pianist Pat Thomas, bassist Neil Charles, drummer Mark Sanders and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss MBE. Special guests featured on the night include singer Heidi Vogel and Indian dancer Maryam Shakiba, while there will be an opening set from scorching jazz-rock band Triforce whose soulful take on the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra has made them one of the most-talked-about young bands on the London jazz scene.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit stratford-circus.com

Watch the video for Collective X's 'Take A Moment' below:

Mr-Jukes 87A8142

A blazing afternoon sun, beer-drinking crowds, and smooth electronic beats suggested summer had arrived for Love Supreme at the Roundhouse, a one-day spin-off of the weekend-long festival. The EZH terrace stage drew a relatively young crowd to its bass-heavy beats and synth-led sounds, including keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones and electronic musician-producer Maxwell Owin. Additional instrumentalists, as in the duo's Idiom project, may have made for a more jazz-infused and engaging set, yet sliding between atmospheric spaciness and beat-driven dance, Owin's enthusiastic energy and Armon-Jones' improvisations clearly pleased listeners.

Inside, a Jazz in the Round-curated stage showcased a more jazz-focused line-up, including the Arthur O'Hara Trio (below), featuring O'Hara on electric bass, Chelsea Carmichael on saxophone, and drummer Ed Harley. The young group's sound suggested influences from more established ensembles, including fellow Londoners Sons of Kemet in their rhythmic use of driving saxophone riffs, nicely executed by Carmichael. The set contrasted explosive moments with a cooler minimalism, drawing on rock and funk structures. This trio is still developing, yet has exciting potential; my festival highlight, they are one to keep an eye on.

Arthur-O Hara-Trio 87A6450

On the main stage, sax-centric trio Moon Hooch contrasted starkly. The showy ensemble enthused the crowd with drums, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as synth, vocals, an EWI, a traffic cone, and abundant high-energy dancing and showmanship. They filled the stage and hall with relentless techno-dance rhythms, dipping into metal, playing on jazz phrasing. Perhaps lacking some depth, this was fun and entertaining.

Cory-Henry- -The-Funk-Aposties 87A7627

As the other stages closed, the audience packed the main hall for the remaining performances. Cory Henry's (above) crowd-rousing greetings were a sign of the energy to come; The Funk Apostles dove into smiling, dancing pop-funk that had heads nodding and hips shaking. On originals or a 'Stayin' Alive' cover, this show was driven by the familiarity of pop structure and melody, and charismatic energy. Instrumental solos and occasional electronic effects provided moments of cheeky playfulness, yet lack of deviation from conventional forms was disappointing for a 'jazz festival' headliner.

Mr Jukes (pictured top) followed, launching into upbeat, poppy soul-funk. Led by bassist Jack Steadman, typically short, snappy songs followed formulaic pop structures, with catchy, repeated horn and vocal melodies. The performance felt well-rehearsed, the group together, and the audience content. Improvisations enhanced the orchestrated delivery, but the whole lacked dynamic, heartfelt collective energy and communication.

Love Supreme at the Roundhouse was admirably diverse and intergenerational. Yet this Coltrane-honouring jazz festival emphasised crowd-pleasing dance-pop, obscuring the progressive and innovative with the overwhelmingly safe. The day's sounds lacked risk, the unexpected, the expressive rebellion of jazz. I found myself longing for a sound that was radical and underground: a sound that never arrived.

Celeste Cantor-Stephens

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