Saxophonist Xhosa Cole has been announced as the winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018, following the final held on Saturday night as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. The grand final featured a sixteen-minute set from each of the five finalists, which included 18-year-old pianist Reuben Goldmark, 21-year-old Fergus McCreadie, 22-year-old bassist James Oston, 20-year-old bassist Seth Tackaberry and 22-year-old saxophonist  Xhosa Cole, with each finalist playing standards and at least one piece they had written or arranged themselves.

Xhosa played his original piece ‘Moving Ladywood’ as well as ‘I Cover The Waterfront’ (Johnny Green) and ‘Moment’s Notice’ (John Coltrane). All contestants were backed by a top-notch jazz trio led by Gwilym Simcock (piano) alongside Paula Gardiner (bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums).

Following his victory, Xhosa said: “It’s been amazing to represent and have been represented at this prestigious celebration of jazz music in the UK. The calibre of musicianship and passion for jazz music displayed on the stage today has been incredibly inspiring to be a part of.”

Xhosa1

Handsworth-born Xhosa has played saxophone in the Jazzlines Ensemble, Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra and Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra among others. While studying in sixth form, Xhosa attended courses with the National Youth Jazz Collective and National Youth Wind Orchestra. He performs and teaches regularly around Birmingham.

The judging panel consisting of leading jazz musicians Monty Alexander, Zoe Rahman, Gary Crosby, Zara McFarlane and Iain Ballamy. Of the winner, judge Iain Ballamy said: “Xhosa’s performance was so heartfelt, sincere and communicative. It’s easy to see he has such a deep and genuine love of the tradition that gave us such a convincing performance on the night. All five finalists were brilliant – I’d be happy to share the stage with any one of them – and hope to do so!”

Watch the ebtire final on the BBC website here www.bbc.co.uk

 

 Marclay

The UK premiere of Anthony Braxton's 'Composition No 103' (1983) and 'No 173' (1994) at this year's Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) was a reminder of his astute attitude toward the creative impulse. Standing in his own shoes as an African-American intellectual, Braxton reaches without prejudice toward the light, be it from Dolphy, Cage or medieval composer, Hildegard of Bingen.

As a renowned reeds player, Braxton effortlessly turns ideas sharply on their heels, or melts soft notes, mature in their humility, into marching band brass, squeals, bebop, hoarse abstract blows or bitter blasts. Brought here by the Monochrome Project, these works for seven trumpets are at base a tribute to the simple idea of in-breath and release. The choreography, absurd Star Trek-ish costume and instructions spoken at the audience through a loudhailer originated in the context of working with Living Theatre actors at New York's The Kitchen. They seem distracting and dated, but these Brecht-ian comments on performance and breaking down the 'fourth wall' gave the hcmf// audience a rare chance to consider Braxton's history and dedication to 'informance' and education.

Hudd

Also hydrated by New York and its scenes is Christian Marclay (pictured top). Experienced in working with sound, he doesn't write music in the traditional sense; his residency at hcmf// this year confirms a growing disregard of definitions that are past their sell-by date. While his installation 'The Clock' is currently housed at the Tate Modern, the world premiere of 'Investigations' had 20 pianos set out at Huddersfield Town Hall, each with a pianist including improvisers Steve Beresford and Liam Noble. In advance they had all been in receipt of the same 100 cropped photographs of a piano being played in a multitude of ways: with one elbow, reaching up to the keys from below, in a regular way or with four hands. These black-and-white images, often from some past time, rippled with story and each pianist had to write a few notes or chords they imagined came just before, during or after this shot.

The performers replicated the poses, played their notes and quietly asked others to join them for the pictures with four and six hands. There was control and risk, everything seemed still and yet people moved continuously, it was robotic and alert. I noticed Dan Nicholls await a noisy chord to die away before hitting his single note. Yet this landscape was strangely free of dynamics or drama. It was a meditation. Space and silences gave focus to the restricted notes and chords; sudden silvery shimmers or brooding blots. What stayed in mind as the hall cleared was the divine, elegant and emotive vibration; a deep sense of piano.

Marclay's work can appear as media archeology: old film clips precisely sewn together (Bette Davis being hugged, a swimming pool dive, comedy teeth chattering), or cuts out from magazines and comic books with their captioned 'Splat-Blams!'. But these are 'visual scores' for musicians and by having so many performed, hcmf// has blown the dust clean away to reveal the pumping heart. Steve Beresford had a ball playing the organ based on Marclay's pictures of found musical notes from adverts, logos, even a tie, while EnsemBle baBel interpreted 'The Bell and the Glass' with such skill that a spoken word recording of Marcel Duchamp seemed to sing. Improvising musicians are intent on 'reading' and responding to these images so they forget themselves, forget performing, they 'do' less and 'are' more. The result is explosive, continually morphing and wildly-fresh music.

 MG 1924-Reinier van Houdt performance

Another standout performance at this year's hcmf// was a beguiling take on Marclay's 'Ephemera 2', performed by Reinier van Houdt (pictured above) This man was born in a piano and there is no sound or impulse he could or would not convey. His late-night appearance was fierce; immersive, spirited and strange, it will echo in my mind for years to come.

Debra Richards
– Photos by Ivan Rérat (Christian Marclay) and Graham Hardy (Reiner van Houdt)

Bill Frisell isn't much of a talker. The music is the message – a sweet synthesis of country, blues and jazz coaxed from his single guitar and a selection of sound-shifting pedals. At times, such is his lack of showmanship, his concentration on the music alone, it seems as if the people behind the EFG London Jazz Festival have airlifted him, mid-home studio noodling session, and dropped him in the middle of Sloane Square without him realising entirely what's happened.

Often, Frisell appears to be playing his delay pedal as much as he is his guitar, an art he has mastered. Half-forgotten motifs ghost gracefully back into the present at the tap of a foot, sometimes transformed and dissonant, sometimes merging sweetly with the moment. It's an undeniably impressive skill, and one which helps to broaden the range of sounds beyond what a solo guitarist is usually capable of.

Even so, solo guitar can perhaps be of the more esoteric forms of jazz music, and the average punter may at times find Frisell's playing slightly abstruse. Indeed, it's likely that the most rapturous applause emanated from those in the room who were themselves guitarists. Then again, there were also clear moments when the entire room was collectively hooked on the mellifluous ordered chaos produced by Frisell's six strings.

As he left the stage, there was a sense that something more was in store, a tell-tale acoustic guitar lying as yet untouched on the stage. Sure enough, the American master re-emerged to whoops and cheers, addressing a few brief words of thanks to the audience before producing his delightful version of The Beatles' 'In My Life'.

It may not be the soaring, 'let's put on a show' jazz on offer in other parts of the festival, but it's thoughtful, big-hearted and, for just one man and a guitar, beguilingly multifaceted.

James Rybacki

The first artists have been revealed for next year's Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which runs from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 July.

These include top-selling British jazz piano/vocal star Jamie Cullum, who returns for the first time since his barnstorming 2014 headline slot on the mainstage. Also returning to Glynde will be multi-Grammy Award-winning fusion-funk band Snarky Puppy, who are expected to release a new album in 2019 and whose last UK tour saw them sell-out the 5,000 capacity O2 Academy in Brixton, London. A sizeable name is also in the frame for the festival's 'jazz legend' spot, which has been so successfully occupied by the likes of Herbie Hancock and Pharoah Sanders, in recent years and who will be revealed in the coming months.

And soul legend Gladys Knight is the first of many big name soul and funk artists to be announced, and who will perform on the main stage. The 2018 festival was its most successful to date with 45,000 people in attendance across the weekend. Jazzwise is media partner for the festival.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.lovesupremefestival.com

Archie Shepp Barbican 191118 038

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon Purcell's excellent Red Circle band of London jazz A-listers, augmented by the impressive presence of Cleveland Watkiss. Clad in a white tunic reminiscent of the most uncompromisingly old-school type of dentist, he negotiates the twists and turns of Purcell's adventurous compositions with skill and panache, and matches the strength and stamina of Chris Batchelor and Julian Siegel's frontline armed only with his clear, powerful voice, as drummer Gene Calderazzo sets off percussive bombs underneath.

Introduced, to knowing cheers, as "a music maker for the many, not the few", Archie Shepp delivers a professorial preamble on the link between the Art Song and the Spiritual before launching into his one-time mentor Coltrane's composition 'Wise One'. His voice on tenor remains as unique as it has for 50 years – a hoarse, watery, wavery tone, notes eliding and skimming around the melody, building up to a splintery peak and descending again in a tumbling blurry cascade, treading a pathway inside and outside the harmony that's all his own. 'Isfahan' gives space for pianist Pierre Francois Blanchard to let loose his florid but carefully controlled virtuosity, reminiscent of Shepp's long-ago collaborator Michel Petrucciani; Matyas Szandai on bass and Hamid Drake on drums show that they're slick operators too.

Archie Shepp Barbican 191118 394

Then it's down to business: enter a nine-strong choir, extra saxophone and trumpet, and Amina Claudine Myers, matching Shepp's trademark fedora with her fez as she takes her place at the Hammond organ. Shepp asks for a note from the pianist, then without further introduction leads the band in song – the old-fashioned uplifting gospel of 'All God's Children Got A Home In The Universe'. 'God Bless The Child' meanders somewhat before Shepp turns in a touchingly sincere verse in his impassioned, froggy baritone, but classic protest era 'Blues For Brother George Jackson' is as timely and powerful now as it was back in 1972, and gets a fittingly stirring rendition.

Each song is laden with significance, joyous or solemn, from Ellington's 'Come Sunday' (Carleen Anderson raises the roof) to Massey's 'The Cry Of My People', while Shepp's starkly personal tribute to his mother, 'Rest Enough', blurs the boundaries between the personal lament and the political voice. Overall though, despite the palpable sincerity of the performers, and the weight of context underscored by Shepp's carefully enunciated introductions, the impetus of the performances themselves tends to waver, and some of the warmth gets lost in the Barbican's capaciously austere space. There's a preponderance of slow tempos and long, slightly disorganised explorations, and sometimes not even the mighty Drake can really keep the fire blazing. Then comes 'Ballad For A Child' – beautifully sung at the Hammond by Myers, with the lush texture of the choir, the sensitive accompaniment from the musicians, and the leader's plaintively wavering saxophone all combining for a moment of real magic before the close.

– Eddie Myer

– Photos by Mark Allan/Barbican

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