In this centenary year of the end of the First World War, a project addressing the horrors of the conflict as well as literary responses to it is welcome. Vocalist Jessica Radcliffe handles the subject artfully on her debut Remembrance and this sold-out performance, on the back of good radio play and press, makes it clear that her interpretation has struck something of a chord. Backed by a band that includes her Trinity alumnus Sam James on piano as well as two of its current esteemed staffers, saxophonist Mark Lockheart and trumpeter trumpeter Laura Jurd, Radcliffe has notable poise for a twenty-something tackling a not insubstantial theme.

The presence of the horn players, lending a wealth of experience to the ensemble, is a considerable bonus, but Radcliffe and the rhythm section acquit themselves very well, moving through original songs that have a lithe, slightly Methenyesque finesse to them, well-wrought swing bolstered by scat vocal, and bursts of lively Music hall.

Radcliffe’s adaptations of poetry from Laurence Binyon and Wilfred Owen are impressive but occasionally she struggles a touch with the alternation of spoken word passages and sung verses, with ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ needing more distillation and breathing space to do justice to the weight of the text. Bringing material with such gravitas to life requires a certain amount of role-play that is by no means easy to sustain, and she has to find exactly the right moments of emphasis for these very involving narratives. Which she does strikingly on ‘Jack Jack’, an arrangement of a letter written to private on the western front by his sweetheart, which vividly conveys all the breathless urgency of love unfolding in the most extreme circumstances. The sharp clicking of drummer Will Glaser’s rimshots and steady prodding of Joe Downard’s bass enhance the sense of a clock ticking towards a tragic conclusion.

Throughout the evening Radcliffe crystalline tone combines effectively with the unison lines and solos of her musicians, making it clear that she is on an exciting road in her development. Her tour next year should offer further confirmation of that.

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photo by Emma Perry

The Barbican's foyer is still resounding to the tumultuous multi-horned attack of the Don-qui Five, part of the Nordic Jazz Comets take-over, but in the main hall an atmosphere of calm prevails. Abdullah Ibrahim’s tall, frail figure is greeted with rapturous applause as he walks onstage and sits at the piano. After a moments pause, he starts to play; a quiet, meditative solo, with hints of gospel voicings and simple, township melodies, moving imperceptibly into darker sonorities and out again. It’s like sitting in the next room, listening to the man strumming at the piano, lost in his own intimate musical reverie, and it comes almost as a surprise as the band filter quietly onstage and join in. Hesitantly at first, then with growing presence, they unite in a unison riff, building like clouds until Keyon Harrold bursts forth with a solo that’s like a dazzling ray of sunshine.

The five horns take turns in a tag-team exchange of solos, finishing in an almighty bass statement from Noah Jackson; Ibrahim barely touches the keys until the conclusion, then starts again in the intervening silence with a solemn church ballad that draws a stirring performance from trombonist Andrae Murchsion. Then come dark, cinematic chords from the horns, voiced like a miniature Gil Evans band, out of which drums and bass burst with a super-fast blazing bop tempo. Section leader Cleave Guyton steps forward with, of all things, a piccolo, and lays down a wild solo, setting the scene for Harrold to take flight over the headlong rush of the rhythm section. Ibrahim has dropped out again – as each player takes to the mic, he announces them with a single chord dropped into the racing pulse, his energy turned totally towards the band, overseeing and digging the proceedings.

Jackson ducks behind the piano then reappears, seated, his impressive form encircling a cello, and he and Guyton on flute join the leader for a chamber recital of the kind of major-key South African folk melody that Ibrahim is known for. There’s another solo piano interlude, as a limpid pool of calm, before the band swagger into a boppish mid-tempo line like something from Monk At Town Hall – as Monk was wont to do, then Ibrahim drops out altogether under much of the soloing. There’s a supremely musical drum solo from Will Terrill, and a slow Township march with Keyon Harrold tearing down the walls with his powerfully down-home solo.

Throughout not a word is spoken to the audience – Ibrahim almost seems like a spectator at his own show, watching with an approving nod of the head, quietly guiding proceedings, adding a soft piano commentary in the breaks. The quality of the musicianship is really outstanding, with superb soloing from everybody (special mentions for Lance Bryant on tenor and Marshall McDonald on bari) and the horn section breathing as one on the unison sections; but there’s still no doubt who’s boss onstage, and the closing trio recital, with Jackson back on cello shows why he was described by Mandela as ‘South Africa’s Mozart’. The crowd give a standing ovation, and then as quietly as he came, he’s gone back into the waiting darkness of the wings.

Eddie Myer
Photo by Tim Dickeson

Maishaonline

Scrolling down the posts on Facebook, from people pleading for spare tickets, you get a sense of just how in-demand tonight’s headliners really are. This evening, Londoners from all over, converge on Peckham’s newest venue, Ghost Notes, for the launch of There Is A Place, the highly anticipated debut album from South London seven-piece, Maisha, and you’d go as far as to say, it’s a roadblock. Led by drummer and composer Jake Long, Maisha’s brand of long-form, spiritual jazz has further broadened the lexicon of the UK’s well-documented rising jazz movement and sought to enthuse its more meditative and outernational roots.

Following the release of the group’s expansive live EP Welcome To A New Welcome on Jazz Re:Freshed in 2016, Maisha went on to open the trailblazing nine-track We Out Here compilation before joining back up with Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint for their debut full-length LP. Alongside an impressively-sized guest chamber ensemble, Long pulls in a heavy cast of UK jazz luminaries including guitarist Shirley Tetteh and multi-reedist Nubya Garcia, and it's Garcia whose tender and journeying flute intro that calms the bustling room to a hush. The group channel the delicacy and dynamism of Pharoah’s ‘Thembi’ on the album’s title track and on ‘Osiris’, their tribute to Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey In...’, yet tactfully balance it alongside the rhythmic ferocity and Afro-futurist weight of fellow Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni Sons of Kemet and Ezra Collective, on ‘Eaglehurst / The Palace’.

Garcia and guest trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom’s eastern-influenced melodic phrases wander across Long’s reflective and lifting compositions that feel just that bit more thrilling with an accompanying string section, while percussion, provided by Tim Doyle and Yahael Camara-Onono, is meaningful and seeks to reconnect and give thanks to the music’s early forbearers and origins in Africa. Tetteh’s intricately crafted guitar lines dazzle throughout and Twm Dylan’s long and winding double bass riffs are greeted with ecstasy from tonight’s crowd. However, it’s clear Maisha’s genius begins and ends with Long. Not only is Long aware of its vast history, but seeks to actively engage with the legacy of spiritual jazz, and place this group of musicians in its future-facing continuum.

Fabrice Robinson

Legendary jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin has just announced a return to the live arena for a show at London’s Barbican Hall on 23 April 2019. This will come as very welcome news to fans of the guitar icon following his last two UK concerts at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in March 2017 as part of the Jazzwise 20th Anniversary Festival, and his farewell tour of the US late last year.

He’ll be joined by his powerful virtuoso group The 4th Dimension, featuring electric bassist Étienne M’Bappé, pianist/drummer Gary Husband and drummer Ranjit Barot all of whom are featured on McLaughlin’s most recent album Live in San Francisco, alongside Jimmy Herring & The Invisible Whip, as both groups revisited the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra on that final US tour.

Mike Flynn

For more info and tickets visit www.serious.org.uk/events/series/mclaughlin

 Nov 15 Dave Douglas UPLIFT 11

Guimarães is Portugal’s birthplace. Surrounded by verdant hills, this quiet, small city where independence was forged feels separate even by the standards of what the Guimarães Jazz programme calls “semi-peripheral” Portugal. The festival is bracketed by big international guns, opening with Dave Holland’s Aziza, and closing with trumpeter Avishai Cohen and the Mingus Big Band. But at its heart, it nurtures local musicians and listeners.

It mostly takes place in the Vila Flor cultural centre, where audiences materialise shortly before each show to smoke outside, then vanish to leave the square empty, each night ritualistic and discrete. My stint begins with the Pablo Held Trio’s prismatic European bebop. Their roots in Minton’s lie in a knotty mix of abrupt rhythms and stately prettiness, reconfigured by German classical explorations. Drummer Jonas Burgwinkel shows remarkable textural variety, especially in his sometimes glassy, shivering touch on the cymbals. Later on this Saturday night, Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra play hot New Orleans sounds with New York punk dishevelment, a hybrid he’s explored for decades. The easy, sweet sinuousness of white-haired clarinettist Doug Wieselman feels like the real Crescent City thing, and singer Catherine Russell’s debut with the band helps them slip into Bessie Smith’s sultry sling-your-hook blues, ‘You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon’. A middle-aged woman’s exultant grin as she abandons her partner to dance down the aisle confirms the good times.

Nov 11 Guimares Jazz Porta Jazz 2

The annual Guimarães Jazz/Porta-Jazz collaboration between musicians and a visual artist involves entering the Black Box venue’s intimate, inky dark, symbolic of a descent into the Portuguese underground worth the trip on its own. For a dislocating hour, video artist Miguel C. Tavares improvises with footage from his globally shot films, in response to the music of pianist João Grilo’s newly created quartet, glimpsed aglow in the gloom. An initial surge of urban imagery shifts to tree-lined snowfields, where snowdrops meet petal-falls of piano. Hushed beauty in turn shatters into astringent introspection soundtracking Hong Kong streets, where Tavares loops and lingers on commuters staring at phone screens. Restless music falls silent, the projection itself audible, John Cage-like, forcing uncomfortable contemplation. It’s a mesmerising trip, wholly jazz in its high-wire conception: Norwegian bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen and Danish drummer Simon Albertsen only met local talent including atmospheric saxophonist José Soares days before. Chicagoan bassist Matt Ulery’s band Delicate Charms, including Snarky Puppy violinist Zach Brock, are meanwhile in residence for a week of masterclasses and barroom jams, with Ulery also leading an orchestra of students from Porto’s leading jazz college, ESMAE, in a concert of his cinematic compositions. With such committed collaborations, Guimarães makes its own music.

Austrian David Helbock’s Random/Control are a trio of one-man bands (Johannes Bär ranging from tuba to busker-friendly knee-percussion), playing heavily treated versions of favourite pianists’ compositions, from a lovely modal meditation on Keith Jarrett’s ‘My Song’ to, appropriately, Brazilian omni-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal. Portuguese accordionist João Barradas pulls similar, keyboard-like versatility from his instrument, leading his band in a spare sort of fusion. With M-Base veteran Greg Osby guesting on alto they are a beautifully balanced quartet, driven hard by drummer Naima Acuña. Brazilian Letters, Felipe Senna’s symphonic treatment of Lèa Freire’s songs for the Guimarães Orchestra, is enlivened by the hearty charisma of flautist Freire herself, who leads her jazz quartet into sunken caverns of heartache made lush by strings. This is restorative music, borne on the orchestra’s swell and sway.

Dave Douglas brings up the American heavy ammunition on my last night, but precedes his Uplift band’s debut with this disclaimer: “We want to assure you that we’re not the Americans who vote for that President...” In a star-heavy line-up, Bill Laswell’s bass Buddha presence, and ectoplasmic aural tendrils emanating from newer downtown luminary Mary Halvorson and Rafiq Bhatia’s guitars, both intrigue. And if only a sudden soul-jazz blast easily meets this project’s inspirational intent in devolving times, that suits 10 days of cerebral and diverse jazz, which could only happen in exactly this way in this modestly magical place.

Nick Hasted
– Photos © Paulo Pacheco, Guimarães Jazz 2018 

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