Roswell-Rudd

Trombonist Roswell Rudd, who lost his battle with cancer at the tailend of last year, will be remembered as a musician whose curiosity as well as virtuosity never deserted him. His final release, 2017's Embrace, was an absolutely beautiful record on which Rudd took equal billing alongside vocalist Faye Victor, pianist Lafayette Harris and double-bassist Ken Filiano. The quartet breathed new life into the music of jazz legends Monk and Mingus, as well as ageless folk songs such as 'House Of The Rising Sun'.

If that album underlined the glowing lyricism of Rudd's playing then its predecessor, 2016's Strength And Power, served notice of his deep immersion in the blues and, more interestingly, its confluence with both New Orleans and avant-garde traditions. Therein lay Rudd's importance. The Connecticut-born player, who arrived in New York in the late 1950s, saw, and indeed, became part of the interchange of mainstream and free jazz, and was happy to let his muse take him to whichever players shared the same openness of mind. His membership of the historic combo New York Art Quartet remains one of his most important credits, alongside work with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and Sunny Murray. Yet saxophonist-vocalist Archie Shepp proved to be one of Rudd's most enduring partners, with the pair collaborating many times over the years, occasionally with poet Amiri Baraka. Like the aforementioned, Rudd, whose deep, bassy growl and swooning phrases packed a great emotional as well as sonic punch, was also interested in non-western music, and his collaborations with players from Mali to Mongolia produced several fascinating and joyous recordings. Also noteworthy were Rudd's solo albums, the best of which are Flexible Flyer and Numatik Swing Band.

I was lucky enough to interview Rudd shortly before he passed and was struck by his generosity of spirit, and, even as he struggled under the effects of gruelling radiation therapy, his undimmed passion for life as well as the musicians who chose to celebrate it. He will be missed for his humanity as well as ingenuity.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Ilene Cooper

The current wave of young UK jazz is showcased on a new compilation, We Out Here, released on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label on 9 February 2018. Artists featured from the heavily spiritual jazz, fusion and Afrobeat-fuelled scene include Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective, Joe Armon Jones, Triforce, Moses Boyd, Kokoroko and Maisha (pictured).

While some of the newer names are still finding their feet in the studio, it's on the live circuit where they've been generating the biggest buzz. So with perfect timing several of the featured artists are appearing on two launch gigs for the album at the Hackney-based Total Refreshment Centre, with the first of two triple-bills featuring Joe Armon-Jones, Kokoroko and Theon Cross on 25 January, followed by Maisha, Nubya Garcia and TriForce on 26 January.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.brownswoodrecordings.bandcamp.com

Filmmakers Canvas captured tuba virtuoso Cross performing a rare solo piece as part of their ongoing collaborations with all-consuming label/promoters Jazz re:freshed – see the video below.

The absolute highlight of the Vilnius Mama Jazz festival was a meeting between two-thirds of the Ganelin Trio and the 13-piece Lithuanian Art Orchestra, presenting a very rare chance to witness these revered Russians in action. Drummer Vladimir Tarasov has been living in Lithuania since 1968, and alto-saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin followed him in 1971. Both of them hit 70 in 2017. Tarasov formed the LAO 26 years ago, as a vehicle for his large-scale compositions, often film or theatre scores. The Mama Jazz line-up featured trumpets, saxophones, trombones, bassoon, guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion (these last pair in addition to Tarasov himself).

The concert opened with Jones Jones, a curious name for a trio featuring Tarasov, with his longtime US collaborators Mark Dresser (bass) and Larry Ochs (saxophones, below). Their mission was to improvise, often leaving sensitive spaces between each other's contributions. The timpani provided a major voice in Tarasov's extensively augmented kit, its foot-pedal allowing ample bending of pitches. The blurred noir tenor of Ochs stalked around Dresser's self-hampered walking bass, turning into a linear ramble when Larry switched to sopranino. Tarasov provided a highlight, with an expansively scaled avalanche solo on timp, gongs and his multitude of tuned drumheads.

Larry-Ochs

For the main set, each of the Vlads led the LAO through their latest work, with Chekasin striking first. Initially, he looked like some interloper stagehand, with a microphone strapped to his cranium, barking instructions at the ranks, and then, as Chekasin upped the supreme aggression quotient, a rampant staccato craziness escalated. The verbal directions became part of the music, as our ears started to adapt to his speech patterns existing within this real-time sketchbook session. Chekasin managed to direct the players with a manic precision, the violent jolts always appearing to be on the verge of anarchy, creating a wonderful tension, a tension that looked like being shared equally with artists and audience. We have never witnessed a band being led in quite this fashion before, with a superbly maverick overload.

Prime Lithuanian saxophonist Liudas Mockūnas (pictured top)was caught unawares on a few occasions, so speedy were his leader's signals, but once alerted, he leapt in with a growling enormity. Guitarist Juozas Milasius had a bullring all to himself, working in an escalating independence from the horns, mangling scrapped metal like Arto Lindsay. Chekasin eventually grabbed his alto, racing through a complicated thicket, chewing and ripping. He seemed like a more agitated incarnation of Hermeto Pascoal, as he prompted three horns at stage frontal, arms waving with abandon, the music tumbling into a Nino Rota circus tent.

Tarasov's own portion of the set ('Tapestry Part 3') was necessarily more cultivated and with a settled composure, but as the drummer stood out front conducting, he possessed an impatience of his own, briefly sitting on his stool, before being called inescapably (and repeatedly) to direct some minutiae of the performance. Tarasov's music was more precisely sculpted, using tonal washes and layers of colouration, with poetry periodically intoned from the wings. Towards the end, Tarasov called back Chekasin, Ochs and Dresser, and the leader sat at his kit, guiding some of the set's finest passages with percussive sensitivity, skittering inside his imaginative soundworld.

Doubtless programmed in sympathy with the expected out-there sounds of the evening, the afternoon freebie foyer showcase sets displayed the state of young Lithuanian jazz: hardcore blowing and free-storming! Ku.Piece formed specially for the festival, although featuring key players from existing local combos, not least saxophonist Klaudijus Stuopinis and guitarist Dominykas Norkūnas, both members of the mind-blowing TDT. Their compositions had a strong improvisatory feel, the set starting with small sounds, then hitting with baritone saxophone and growling bowed bass. Even so, Ku.Piece were strangely restful, before graduating to a heavier manifestation, complete with behemoth forest-crashing.

Shinkarenko Jazz 4N had a jazz rockin' sound, with drums, electric bass and twin saxophones, heading towards a bounding, forceful Coltrane-ised climax. Dziazlaif have been together for a year, power-thrusting with soprano and baritone saxophones, alternating quiet spells with heart-attack eruptions, Sabbathy doom riffs and heavy slamming.

Perhaps the increasingly established reputation of Liudas Mockūnas has influenced the Lithuanian love for baritone saxophone. Following his powerful showing as part of the LAO, Mockūnas fronted a trio to close the evening, again on the freebie stage, joined by Arnas Mikalenas (piano) and Håkon Berre (drums). Their set ranged from classicist filaments down to low-end roaring (with Mockūnas now on bass saxophone), vibrantly concluding this energised day of primarily Lithuanian explosiveness.

– Martin Longley
– Photos by John Sharpe

Santa

Jazzwise daily news will return January 2018.

Wishing all our readers and contributors a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all the team at Jazzwise.

john-critchinson

If popularity could be measured in monetary terms, then John Critchinson would have died a millionaire. 'Critch' always brought an irrepressible zest and a smiling persona to every gig he played. And there were many for he was a surefire performer, whose keyboard dash and boundless creativity proved attractive to any number of bandleaders and performers. When it became known that his bladder cancer had returned and was inoperable, the eagerness of fellow jazzers to contribute to a benefit concert at the 606 Club in London was almost overwhelming. Notable among them was bassist and long-term friend Dave Green who tended to him every day and was with Critch when he died at home on 15 December, just nine days before his 83rd birthday.

Best known as the pianist with Ronnie Scott's quintet for some 15 years, John was born in London in 1934 but started his musical journey in the West Country, playing piano with local dance bands and dipping a toe into the jazz mainstream while working as an apprentice electrician with Westinghouse Brake and Signal in Chippenham. He helped start a jazz club nearby, backing visiting soloists including Scott and spent two happy years as a semi-pro with the Avon Cities Jazz Band. It was Bill LeSage who persuaded to him to make his way to London in 1978 and to substitute freelance jazz work for the security of his day job. John prospered, working with Scott until shortly before the latter's death in 1996, and backing visiting US stars like Chet Baker, James Moody and Johnny Griffin before forming a quartet with tenorist Art Themen, drummer Dave Barry and bassist Green. He later fronted his own trio and often accompanied the vocalist Jacqui Hicks who remembered him as, "A lovely, lovely man and very dear to me".

Critch gained further recognition when he formed the Ronnie Scott Legacy Band with Pat Crumly on saxophone, this allowing him to hone his comedic skills as he ran many of Scott's more memorable one-liners. In more recent times, he had played regularly with tenorist Simon Spillett. He recorded quite often, notably under his own name or with the likes of Morrissey-Mullen, Scott of course, and latterly with Spillett. It's a truism but he will be sadly missed. RIP John.

– Peter Vacher

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