Heavyweight Dutch jazz bands Quartet NL and Under the Surface (an adventurous trio led by drummer Joost Lijbaart, above right), make their UK debuts with gigs in London and Scotland on 19 and 22 February respectively as part of the Jazz Promotion Network's Going Dutch project.

Formed by drummer Han Bennink (above left), bassist Ruud Jacobs, saxophonist Benjamin Herman and pianist Peter Beets to play a New Year's Eve gig in 2013, Quartet NL brought together two generations and two very different musical approaches – Bennink being an internationally acclaimed master of free improvisation, as well as having featured with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon; his bandmates having followed a largely more straightahead jazz path. They were an instant success, resulting in a chain of bookings. Later, in 2016, a series of concerts featuring the music of Dutch pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg brought further acclaim.

Jacobs, who followed a career that included gigs with Louis Armstrong, Cannonball Adderley and Hank Mobley by becoming a record producer with numerous million-selling albums on his CV, has recently suffered from ill-health. His place at the quartet's gig at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho on 19 February will be taken by Ernst Glerum. The latter recently toured England and Ireland with the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra alongside Bennink and has performed with luminaries including Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz, Teddy Edwards, and John Zorn.

Under the Surface met in 2015 when the Dutch Foundation Beaux Jazz, which offers young talents artistic support, invited the young singer Sanne Rambags to choose more experienced musicians to work with for its Generation Next strand. Rambags, an improvising vocalist who uses texts and poems to build rhythmical phrases, selected Joost Lijbaart, best known for his work with saxophonist Yuri Honing, and guitarist Bram Stadhouders, who had previously worked in electronic music and with Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen, and the trio struck up an immediate understanding.

Within a short time, their mixture of jazz with elements from unspecified folk traditions had found particular favour with world music festivals, resulting in appearances in Mali, Mexico, China, Norway, and India, and since releasing their first album, Under the Surface, last year they have also appeared at major jazz events including Jazz International in Rotterdam and the Sound Of Europe in Breda.

The band play the Blue Lamp, Aberdeen (22 Feb); Hippodrome, Eyemouth (23 Feb) and the Blue Arrow, Glasgow (24 Feb).

Rob Adams

For more info on this series of concerts visit jazzpromotionnetwork.org.uk/goingdutch/

GoGo Penguin, the Blue Note-signed Manchester piano trio whose fusion of acoustic jazz, glitchy rhythms, rock dynamics and dance-like loops earned them a Mercury Prize nomination for their 2014 album V2.0, launched their fourth album, A Humdrum Star, with a sold-out gig at London's Roundhouse.

Against black-and-white penguin outlines spotlighted above the stage, 'Raven' opened the set with Chris Illingworth's sparse, plangent piano chords and Nick Blacka's scratchily-bowed doubled bass. GoGo Penguin recently produced their own score for the experimental dialogue-free film Koyaanisqatsi, originally soundtracked by Philip Glass. Their cinematic credentials were immediately evident, as was the influence of Glass' mesmeric minimalism. 'Strid' and 'Reactor' combined polyrhythmic melodies with tricky time signatures to progressive effect. At times the repetitive bass loops and piano patterns engendered a build-and-drop effect that more closely resembled EDM (electronic dance music). 'Bardo' was closest to a rave-ready trance-track, its staccatoed piano stabs propelled by strobe lighting and restless, driving beats.

GGP-RH18-Rob-credit-Fabrice-Bourgelle

With Illingworth's piano melodies anchoring the music, Rob Turner's drums often acted as the lead instrument. Indeed, it sometimes seemed Turner (above) was playing to a different track altogether: take his drums out and it's easy to imagine a standard four-to-the-floor EDM beat. On 'To Drown in You' from V2.0, hyper splurges of snares and hi-hats splintered an initially simple melody into fits and starts, creating rhythms so busy and jittery they appeared the creation of a neurotic, four-armed drummer-bot. Perhaps this glitchy, mechanical feel is unsurprising given that many of GoGo Penguin's compositions began on computers.

Though Turner recreated beats with drum-machine-esque precision, GoGo Penguin grooved like humans. 'A Hundred Moons' brought repose in the set's otherwise relentless intensity with a looser, swaying rhythm, while penultimate song 'Protest' broke the minor-key mood that seems the band's default as insistent bass riffs and swaggering, triumphant piano chords crashed into a cacophony of riotous energy. With hypnotic hooks underpinned by virtuosic rhythms, GoGo Penguin are far more likely to get you dancing than you'd expect from listening to their records. What a shame then to turn the Roundhouse into an all-seater venue – the audience's itchy, happy feet remained regrettably cold.

– Sam Taylor
– Photos by Fabrice Bourgelle

photomorel-29                                                                                                                                                                                    RAM. Credit: Daniel Morel

Two words: bon bagay. That's 'good thing' in Haitian Kreyòl, a phrase you hear everywhere in Port-au-Prince. It's a compliment and an expression of joie de vivre, which, in spite of all they've had to endure, Haitians have in spades. A lot has changed in Haiti's capital since my visit last year. The process of rebuilding, following the devastating earthquake of 2010, continues apace. The crippled National Palace has finally been demolished, ready for reconstruction, and all around the Champ Mars, the city's main square, new structures are rising from their foundations.

PAPJazz, the city's jazz festival, now in its 12th year, is going from strength to strength too – flying the flag for Haiti's underrated music scene and doing its bit to challenge the toxic, reductive view of the country peddled by vulgar man baby presidents and the global ill-informed. It's a very good thing. It's not-for-profit and most of the gigs are free. They also do a huge amount in the way of outreach. Visiting artists give free masterclasses and they've recently set up a music school programme, to train the next generation of Haitian musicians.

There's a wealth of talent in the current generation and this year's line-up had even more Haitian acts on the bill (18, versus 12 visitors). One of the standout performances came from brilliant Haitian drummer Johnbern Thomas, who was presented with a special award for services to jazz in Haiti. On the open-air stage down at Quisqueya University, where most gigs took place, he delivered a blazing set of standards and post-bop originals, drawn from 2017 debut Mèsi, Merci, Thank you, Gracias. The highlight was an insanely syncopated whip through 'Scrapple From The Apple', which brought switches of feel from calypso to latin and racing swing to swaggering half-time funk. Thomas unleashed rim shot hail storms and a trio of superb American guests – pianist Aaron Goldberg, alto player Godwin Louis and trumpeter Darren Barrett – raised the intensity further, vying with one another in epic joint solos.

gtr                                                                                                                                                                        Wesli. Credit: Josué Azor/PAPJazz

Goldberg was on fire again that night, at the afterhours jam. These intimate sessions, held at bars around the city, are a PAPJazz signature. They're a chance to chat to the musicians and they give the festival a sense of community that I haven't experienced anywhere else. The crowds are great here too. They're always so warm and appreciative and there were huge receptions even for less obviously crowd-pleasing acts. A magnificent Spanish trio comprising veteran bassist Javier Colina, guitarist Josemi Carmona and percussionist Bandolero got a well-earned standing ovation for their fusion of bristling flamenco and jazz. They stepped things up a gear for the finisher, Carmona's 'Tangroove', which opened with a theatrical guitar introduction, worked in bluesy solos and climaxed with a storm of sharply-accented chords and cajon wingbeats.

Though it had a core of jazz tradition, this year's bill was also noticeably broader, and did an excellent job of representing the diversity within Haiti's music scene. One of the best crossover sets came from Wesli, a Port-au-Prince born vocalist/guitarist now based in Montreal. Playing tracks from his latest release, ImmiGrand Deluxe, he mixed Afrobeat grooves and silvery soukous guitar riffs with jangling Haitian troubadour styles, funk horn lines, reggae, rap kreyòl and riotous rara carnival music. It was an intoxicating mashup, enhanced by Wesli's boundless on stage charisma.

Follow                                                                                                                                                                  Follow Jah. Credit: Josué Azor/PAPJazz

RAM, perhaps Haiti's best known band internationally and pioneers of the Haitian magpie approach, were better still. Their Friday night headline performance, at Place Boyer, a public square in the suburb of Pétion-Ville, was a tour de force – fusing hypnotic vodou drum patterns, rara horn blasts, yowling rock guitar riffs and enchanting vocals. The atmosphere was electric, with a capacity crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. Rara marching band Follow Jah were there too, stilt-top dancers in tow, hammering their drums, blasting their konet (vuvuzelas made from beaten metal) and buzzing their bass bamboos between sets.

NormanBrown                                                                                                                                                           Norman Brown. Credit: Josué Azor/PAPJazz

Rara is fast becoming an obsession. It's joyful, intoxicating and raw, like the best Balkan brass music or the marching bands of New Orleans. There was a lot more of it on the final night, when the festival moved to Royal Decameron, a resort on an exquisite stretch of coastline north of Port-au-Prince. After an hour of flawless funk from an ultra-tight band led by US guitarist Norman Brown, who vocalised his own lightning fast blues licks and jerking bends, Follow Jah led a delirious rum-fuelled dance party on the beach. A closing DJ set from Port-au-Prince born EDM star Michael Brun, wound up the same way. In the dying minutes, vocalist Steeve Valcourt and rara band Lakou Mizik stormed the stage to play collaborative party track 'Gaya', leading a final rara-driven rave down on the sand when the clattering beats and shuddering beams of sub bass had subsided.

It's moments like that that make PAPJazz one of my favourite jazz festivals anywhere. It has so much character – you couldn't replicate it anywhere else – and it's so much fun. The Haitians say it best: bon bagay.

– Thomas Rees

PAPJazz will return 19-26 January 2019. For more info: www.papjazzhaiti.org/fr/

Taku

Phantasm of fragmentary restraint, Japanese guitarist Taku Sugimoto, jostles with new modes of melodic languor on his forthcoming album, h, as well as guesting in collaboration on Bruno Duplant's forthcoming collection, Chamber and Field Works 2015-2017, both dropping imminently via the Another Timbre imprint.

Catch Sugimoto performing live with vocalist Minami Saeki and others including Ryoko Akama (sinewaves) and Ecka Mordecai (cello) on a brace of rare UK dates: Cafe OTO, London (28 March) and Over The Top, Sheffield (29 March).

– Spencer Grady

For more details visit www.anothertimbre.com

What do Swaledale in North Yorkshire and Western Ghana have in common? It's not a rejected pub quiz question – both are in fact sources of inspiration and spiritual affirmation for Vula Viel's core songwriter, Bex Burch (above). Admittedly, the sounds that this trio produce are much more Africa than Swaledale, centred as they are on the entrancing tones and rhythms of the Gyil, a Ghanaian variety of xylophone.

Burch, originally from Yorkshire, spent three years living in Ghana – a period from which she emerged as a skilled player of the Gyil, complete with a real enthusiasm for the instrument. We see this in the small bounds she performs while playing, an extra outlet for the vibrant energy that builds up during the set. For this event, in the plush Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall, Vula Viel were joined by singer Gwyneth Herbert for a preview of their upcoming album, Do Not Be Afraid.

MSJ 7970

Vula Viel have a masterful grasp of dynamics, easing from the hypnotic, harmonic bass solos of Ruth Goller into the polyrhythmic ordered chaos that defines their sound when they're in full flow. The Gyil occupies that sweet shade between tonal and percussive instrument, allowing maximum scope for kaleidoscopic interaction with both bass and drums. Jim Hart provides a poised and inventive performance on percussion, producing additional African traditional instruments that add yet more texture to these compositions.

Many of their songs are rooted in spiritual sentiment – exhortations to not be afraid of what we believe, hope and love. Elsewhere, they can be heard straying into more jagged, almost punky territory. Other compositions draw from traditional Ghanaian funeral songs and ballads, though this is the most rousing and rhythmic funeral music you're ever likely to hear. As Burch drily notes midway through the second half of the set: "you may want to close your eyes for this one, though it is mainly loud drums."

– James Rybacki - @james_rybacki
– Photos by Monika S. Jakubowska

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