MatanaRoberts MG 3019

Matana Roberts (above) is so relaxed tonight her short opening set is almost a lullaby. Playing alto-sax unaccompanied, she investigates melodic wisps with leisurely calm, occasionally breaking off to chat informally to the audience: she tells us she’s annoyed to find herself thinking about Donald Trump while she’s trying to “play the blues,” and goes on to encourage all of us to stop watching the news if we want to improve our mental health. A few more simple fragments of melody and she ends with a series of spoken homilies read from a battered notebook. “Let that shit go,” she advises. It’s everyday wisdom from the most laid-back preacher in town.

MoorMother MG 3134

All of which makes Irreversible Entanglements (above) seem even angrier by comparison. Poet/vocalist Camae Ayewa, also reading from a notebook, pours forth scalding jets of furious hellfire rage. “What are you doing in my neighbourhood? You don’t have the training to survive here,” she mocks, conjuring an undeclared civil war ripping the heart out of American cities. The rest of the band, too, seem wound up in a state of militant tension and ready to blow. For over an hour, without pause, they navigate a shifting, spontaneous terrain. Upright bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Tcheser Holmes are the engine, locking into fierce, urgent grooves while trumpeter Aquiles Navarro directs the musical flow, blowing barbed hooks that flutter like pennants on the battlefield. Saxophonist Keir Neuringer holds back, reluctant to crowd the theatre of operations, adding splashes of chiming percussion like a warrior priest inventing new rituals.

For the encore, Matana Roberts joins them on stage, dropping abrupt phrases into the melee while Ayewa’s scorched lyrics focus to a diamond hard sharpness. I can’t think of anyone else making music this tough right now.

Daniel Spicer
– Photos by Roger Thomas

The London-based 17-piece Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are set to release their debut album, The Adventures of Mr Pottercakes, on 1 March on Spark! Records, with a live launch at the Queen Elizabeth Hall’s foyer space on the same date. The Peter Whittingham Award-winning band feature a whole host of fast rising twentysomething jazz talent that includes trumpeter James Copus, trombonist Tom Green, saxophonist Alex Hitchcock, guitarist Rob Luft and double bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado – all of whom can be heard on the track ‘Badger Cam’ below.

Generating a substantial buzz through their sold-out gig at last year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, the band are set to take the album on the road on the following dates: The Clarendon Muse, Watford (24 Feb); Junction 2, Cambridge (26 Feb); Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield (27 Feb); Seven Arts, Leeds (28 Feb); Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer, London (5.30pm, 1 Mar) and Tap Social Movement, Oxford (20 Mar).

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.sparklabel.com/patchwork.html

Hiseman Tribute1

As Jon Hiseman would say: “If you are going to do something, do it properly.” Certainly the tribute concert to the legendary drummer was done with all the skill and dedication his memory deserved.

Jon’s daughter Ana Gracey organised an event that presented an ever changing cavalcade of performers representing different facets of Hiseman’s career, from the days of Graham Bond, John Mayall and Colosseum to his work with Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia and NYJO. The result was a show full of surprises that drew cheers from the 800-strong audience at a packed 02 in Shepherd's Bush.

Technical feats were achieved by the use of a video wall and Jon himself seemed to come alive, talking, playing and even drumming, synchronised with the stream of ‘live’ performances on the crowded stage. Jon’s son Marcus emphasised proceeds from the show would be donated to the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Jon’s wife Barbara Thompson received an ovation when she recalled how she met her future husband at a NYJO rehearsal when she was a 19-year-old saxophone player. Ana sang songs from her new album, Wicked Games, with jazzy versions of popular songs ‘Stay With Me’ and the Prince classic 'Cream', backed by Peter Lemer (keyboards), Adrian Revell (sax), Phil Mulford (bass) and Tom Hutch (drums). 

Michael Robert Williams Colosseum Jon Hiseman Tribute Concert Shepherds Bush Empire London 2nd Feb 2019 I2654

JCM, the trio Jon formed last year with Clem Clempson (guitar) and Mark Clarke (bass and vocals) was reunited with drum meister Ralph Salmins. They blasted through numbers from their Heroes album, including 'The Inquisition' a terrifyingly fast Gary Moore-penned jazz-rock instrumental with Don Airey on organ. NYJO opened the second set with a powerful brass-and-reed section, Alex Temple Heald on drums and Billy Thompson back on violin.

A highlight was the hypnotic ‘Sax Rap’ with a synchronised video of Barbara playing tenor along with the band. More guest stars joined the party with Pete Brown singing ‘Morning Story’ and Chris Farlowe roaring into the Colosseum favourite ‘Walking in the Park’. Only Jon Hiseman himself could top the show, and the video of him soloing with double-bass drums and cymbals afire provided an astonishing climax.

Chris Welch
– Photos by Michael Robert Williams 

The programme has been announced the inaugural We Out Here festival. Running from 15 to 18 August at Abbots Ripton in rural Cambridgeshire, the event is curated by Gilles Peterson and the festival draws heavily from his Brownswood imprint’s roster, along with artists championed on his Worldwide FM radio station. These include the likes of US spiritual jazz multi-instrumentalist Idris Ackamoor, renowned former Jazz Messenger saxophonist Gary Bartz and UK rapper Kojey Radical.

Jazz-sampling maverick Matthew Herbert, Shabaka Hutchings’ bands Sons of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming, saxophonist Nubya Garcia and drummer Moses Boyd’s Exodus are also on the bill, joining Steam Down Orchestra, Kokoroko and Skinny Pelembe, plus numerous DJ sets and electronic artists – a salient nod to the current jazz scene’s close relationship with club culture.

Fresh leftfield UK talent will also be on display throughout the weekend, as various contemporary risk-takers strut their questing stuff on the Future Bubblers stage. Alongside the music are numerous family activities, music discussions and discovery sessions, as well as a wide range of food and drink stalls.

The event offers camping and glamping options included in the price of a weekend ticket.

Mike Flynn

For full details visit www.weoutherefestival.com

Tomorrow’s Warriors’ role as a springboard for emerging talent in Britain has long co-existed with an inventive take on the history of jazz. Tonight’s event is really a perfect illustration of as much. The support slot unveils a quartet of very impressive youngsters – pianist Sultan Stevenson, drummer Cassius Cobbson, bassist Menelik Claffey, alto-saxophonist Donovan Haffner – whose tender years belie their ability. Presenting original material that draws on the core vocabularies of swing and fusion they play a short but dynamic set, with a good balance between ensemble dynamics and solo improvisation, which bodes well for the production line of new musicians from the ever-expanding TW hothouse helmed by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons.

To a large extent the Nu Civilisation Orchestra is one of the most ambitious strands of its activity. The 14-piece unit duly upholds the legacy of the great big bands of which Duke Ellington’s remains a paragon, but it makes an astute foray into the world of 1970s electric fusion by celebrating the songbook of the feted CTI label. Crucially, the NCO has strings as well as horns and rhythm section to convincingly produce the all important sheen and silkiness that characterised the many scores written by Don Sebesky for George Benson, Randy Weston and Freddie Hubbard, among others.

Peter Edwards conducts engaging new arrangements, some courtesy of Ben Burrell. That said, the cohesion of the large amount of musicians on stage makes the venture come to life, as there is a clear understanding of the balance the original artists struck between funky accessibility and finely wrought artistry. Which means that, on one hand, there is a sensitive touch in the rendition of Weston’s quite gorgeous ‘Ifrane’ and, on the other, a crisp attack on Grover Washington’s ‘Mister Magic’ that is enhanced by a vocal from Cherise Adams-Burnet. Guitarist Shirley Tetteh, trombonist Rosie Turton, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi and bassist Jay Darwish all provide excellent solos, but it is really the melodies and grooves, having made such an impact on the rare groove and hip-hop scenes, which stand tall. If the evening opened on a high with Deodato’s ‘2001’ it didn’t come down on the closer, Hubbard’s ‘Red Clay’. It was recorded in the 1970s, sampled in the 1990s and is still rocking in the millennium.

Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo © Carl Hyde

 

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