The Love Supreme Jazz Festival celebrates its fifth edition next year from 30 June to 2 July with the news that guitar legend George Benson is to appear as one of the main headliners. The 73-year-old, 10-time Grammy Award-winning virtuoso guitarist and singer's prolific discography includes his debut album The New Boss Guitar, which he released aged just 21, and an appearance on Miles Davis' 1968 jazz-rock influenced album, Miles in the Sky. Things then shifted up a gear with his 1976 album Breezin', featuring the vocal-led 'This Masquerade', which became a huge hit, while his move into emphatically R&B territory on Quincy Jones' Qwest label saw him release his crossover smash Give Me The Night (the title song written by legendary tunesmith Rod Temperton).
Benson continued to mix his love of both Nat King Cole and Donny Hathaway on further releases including a memorable version of Hathaway's 'The Ghetto', a standout cut from the guitarist's 2000 album, Absolute Benson. More recently his albums Guitar Man and Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole have seen him favour his formidable guitar work more prominently alongside his rich-toned vocals. Commenting on his debut at the festival, Benson said: "I'm looking forward to performing at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival in 2017. The UK fans are some of the best in the world and every show is a special experience."
Love Supreme has become a focal point of the UK summer jazz calendar and has established itself with a strong mix of credible crossover jazz artists such as Gregory Porter, Kamasi Washington, GoGo Penguin, Snarky Puppy, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, jazz legends such as John Scofield, Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller, and soul-funk artists such as Chic, Larry Graham, Chaka Khan and Grace Jones among many others. The festival has also made a point of featuring many emerging UK names such as Laura Jurd's Dinosaur and Beats & Pieces Big Band, as well as Brit-jazz sax great Courtney Pine.
Set in the idyllic, picturesque location of the South Downs, the festival site features a wide selection of bars, international food stalls, jazz record and merchandise stands, children's play area and fun fair. Day passes and weekend tickets, including on-site camping and luxury glamping options, are available.
– Mike Flynn
Early Bird tickets are on sale now and available from www.lovesupremefestival.com
Watching Mose Allison close-to during his many stints at Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club was always illuminating. He sat close to the keyboard, undemonstrative, the piano phrases clipped and succinct, the motion often crab-like but jaunty. He'd announce a song, perhaps a new one, play it and move on, keeping talk to the minimum, usually with just bass and drums for company. The set done, he didn't linger. Of course it was those songs that mattered, mostly self-composed and often wry, witty too, his beady eye cast on the bizarre ways of the world. He was unique.
Mose was born deep down in blues country, in Tippo, Mississippi, in 1927 and grew up aware of down-home blues and black music but was also hip to the smoother stylings of Nat King Cole and liked Dixieland too. After graduating he moved to New York and fell in with the likes of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, playing boppish jazz piano around the clubs, touring and recording with Stan Getz, and made good. It took the interest stirred by Back Country Suite, his song cycle recorded in 1957 for Prestige to set him on another and altogether different path.
He no longer played for others but for himself, with a trio, recording most notably for Atlantic and travelling widely, sometimes picking up local support but always delighting listeners with that softly-stated, blues-inflected nasal vocal style and innate feeling for swing. Fellow artists like Georgie Fame and Van Morrison [for whom he opened] knew his worth, as did some of our blues-rockers, often covering his songs which just kept coming, like 'Parchman Farm', 'Your Mind is on Vacation', 'Everybody's Cryin' Mercy', 'Middle Class White Boy' and most tellingly, as he grew older, 'Certified Senior Citizen'. Mose Allison died on 15 November at home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was 89.
– Peter Vacher
– Photo by Tim Dickeson
The Vortex, Dalston's go-to jazz venue, has an additional 14 gigs taking place as part of its already busy EFG London Jazz Festival programme – which began last Friday and concludes this coming Sunday, 20 November. Tonight sees acclaimed Mercury Prize nominated pianist Kit Downes perform with his compelling new Anglo-Scandinavian trio Enemy, featuring Norwegian bassist Petter Eldh and drummer James Maddren, all playing music from their forthcoming album on Edition next year. They play a double bill with fellow piano trio Medusa Beats, featuring Eldh once more on bass, French pianist Benoit Delbecq and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel.
Other forthcoming highlights include a Loop Club Night (Thursday 17 Nov), featuring danceable and experimental sounds from the likes of Fafoulah Sound System, Leafcutter John and Dan Nicholls/Alex Bonney, while Friday features a jazztronica double bill featuring trumpeter Rory Simmons' Monocled Man and Rae Forrest featuring singer Paula Rae Gibson (18 Nov). The latter group also features keyboardist Sam Leak, who appears for a special midnight gig later that night with his Big Band (pictured top), which includes leading London-based players Sam Mayne, George Crowley, Robbie Robson, Tom White, Calum Gourlay and Jon Scott among others (18 Nov).
The weekend continues with a triple bill of rising star pianist Eve Risser, the Phil Robson Organ Trio and adventurous piano virtuoso Brunon Heinen (19 Nov), while London's longest running improv music night Mopomoso rounds off the club's main programme in fiery, freewheeling style (20 Nov).
The additional shows announced take over the club's downstairs café bar and include performances at 6pm from: Some Things with Chris Dowding, Ben Higham (18 Nov); Niklas Winter/Henry Lowther/Dave Green/Paul Clarvis (16 Nov) and Thelonious featuring Hans Koller, Martin Speake, Calum Gourlay (19 and 20 Nov). There are further late-night sessions from 11.30pm: Bruno Heinen's Jazz2RockSteady with special guests including Rachael Cohen (19 Nov, free entry); Kindling Trio with guitarist Dan Messore (18 Nov); Loop Late including Wolf Off and more (19 Nov) and the Vortex Jam session led by guitarist Hannes Riepler (20 Nov, from 9pm, free entry).
– Miike Flynn
For more info visit www.vortexjazz.co.uk
The SFJAZZ Collective is a touring group these days, their roots in San Francisco now a matter of history, this Cadogan Hall appearance the final date of their current European tour, and their final chance to promote their album of Jackson's tunes.
A noticeably [and welcome] younger demographic may well have been attracted by Jacko's name check. Well, folks, they will have been disappointed by a first half devoted entirely to originals by band members, each of whom took it in turns to address the audience in cheerful fashion. Lined up alongside trumpeter Sean Jones and trombonist Robin Eubanks, were the Puerto Rican pairing of tenorman David Sanchez and altoist Miguel Zenón, both of whom added assorted percussion to the ensemble's powerful rhythmic drive. Counting in Haitian-born Obed Calvaire, thunderous at the drums, bassist Matt Penman, a New Zealander, the superb vibist Warren Wolf alongside the Venezuelan pianist Ed Simon, and it's easy to discern a multiplicity of influences at work in their music.
Ranged across the stage they looked like an augmented Blakey Messengers group and one might have wished for the clarity and directness of the late drummer's musical standpoint. Each of these men had contributed compositions that reflected their own stylistic preferences: their often stop-start pieces tightly written, the soloists unable to shake loose and fly. Still, on his own opening number, Eubanks took the bull by the horns, his trenchant solo riding roughshod over Calvaire's rock-inspired rhythmic charge, the band writing often fragmentary. Jones offered a more solemn view on 'The Hutcherson Hug', with Wolf, as he did throughout, revealing an exceptional degree of sensitivity in his solos and ensemble colorations. Calvaire's own 'One One One' gave Jones a longer run, its complexity underpinned by a winning groove.
The Jackson material took off with 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough', arranged by Sanchez, danceable, of course, Calvaire in control, and made me think of the Dirty Dozen's funky strut. It was Wolf's arrangement of 'Human Nature' that succeeded best, it had shape and coherence, with Wolf, his four-mallet control a blur of activity, heard at length, with Jones muted and Sanchez in gripping form. Zenón (above), the Collective's last founding member, introduced 'Blame It On The Boogie' as the encore, soloing at length for the first time in the show and excelling, his edgy tone a standout before the band came in to riff them and us home. In sum, a compelling if ultimately diffuse performance.
– Peter Vacher
– Photos by Roger Thomas
German pianist Michael Wollny has steadily built a formidable reputation for the dark duality of his playing – matching a ferocious technique with a wide ranging magpie-like imagination – resulting in music full of unexpected twists and turns. He's visited these shores over the last decade but it's been infrequent, far from keeping pace with his increasing prominence as a trailblazer among the best European jazz pianists.
It's been the development of his trio featuring longtime drummer and former [em] bandmate, Eric Schaefer and more recently recruited Swiss bassist Christan Weber that has enabled Wollny's insatiable imagination to dig deep into the corners of folk, film and classical music as well as alternative rock, to unearth some unusual and mostly beautiful music. Much of which can be heard on the trio's breakthrough album Weltentraum, which scooped Jazzwise's album of the year in 2014. A five-star performance at Ronnie Scott's and a brilliant mid-afternoon set at the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival number among Wollny's curiously low-profile UK skirmishes to date, so it was a long-overdue concert hall billing as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival that proved just why he and his band deserve all the praise, accolades and album sales they are getting back home.
Fast rising UK pianist Andrew McCormack setting the bar high with his inventive set of richly hued and technically-assured solo pieces, but the pianistic fireworks had only just begun. Yet there's nothing obvious about the way this three-piece approaches their material – a fluttering freeform dialogue of cymbal scrapes, pinched and bowed bass whinnies and strumming inner-strings on the piano, intro the set with a gossamer-light cloud of sound. Soon, however, it's a broiling ostinato that's passed back and forth between bass and piano, Schaefer always kicking at the heels with his ever-percolating snare. When things reach their peak Wollny's fingers are a blur, fluttering across rhythms and harmonies with incredible lightness, before literally digging his elbows and arms into the keys, smashing dissonance as the only answer to what he wants to say.
Weber is a delight on the bass, perfectly flexible as either foundation or fellow combatant, grabbing his bow to create throaty drones or high-pitched anguished cries; pizzicato-ing from low to high with a wry sense of timing. It's worth noting that for every studio album Wollny has released, a live counterpart soon appears, with both Weltentraum and Nachtfahrten getting a double release, as the live setting for this pianist and his trio is so different to the studio – the latter providing a deeply contemplative space for exploring the delicacies and nuances of his musical world – whereas live this is where this band flies free as birds. It was a privilege to hear them soar.
– Mike Flynn
– Photos by Tim Dickeson