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

 

 RAM Hamish

There are some people, who I've never understood, who smirk at the mention of Steely Dan. "Oh," they say, "that's for people who like clever-clever chord changes, session musician name-dropping and impenetrable lyrics." So, the news that the Royal Academy Big Band was lined up to honour the 40th birthday of the classic album Aja (two years too late, by my calculations) may have caused this misguided segment of society to roll their eyes: "Of course, the Academy, the conservatoire... not exactly rock'n'roll is it." And, indeed, as the young big band assumed their places on stage they had an air of academic excellence about them, the trombone section resembling a particularly brilliant team off University Challenge.

But anyone with such suspect views would have been won over as soon as this magnificently talented unit kicked into 'Babylon Sisters', one of the greatest songs of the 20th century, no debate. With Hamish Stuart, the founder of the Average White Band no less, so comfortably stepping into the hard-to-fill shoes of Donald Fagen, the evening proved a revelation. I've never wanted to hear anyone but Fagen sing these sacred tracks, but Stuart met the challenge full on, bringing plenty of Fagen’s idiosyncratic slurring and whining, while adding his own phrasing and inflections to great effect. A trio of young singers complemented him impeccably: led by Sumudu Jayatilaka, often seen in Van Morrison's touring band, they clearly enjoyed delivering the sassy backing lines so important to the Dan thing – "so outrageous" ('Black Cow'); "you gotta shake it baby" ('Babylon Sisters'); "go to Las Vegas" (or is it "lost wages"?) ('Show Biz Kids') and "the girls don’t seem to care" ('FM').

This was largely the project of trumpeter and composer Reuben Fowler, who took on purely a conducting role. His arrangements proved a total success, never obscuring or competing with the essence of the music, a clever balancing act; with many twists and turns echoing some of the live renditions heard on Steely Dan gigs since the band resumed touring back in the mid-1990s. Given the harmonic possibilities embedded in this music, ‘over-arranging’ may have been a problem in some hands, but not here. It would be easy to see Tom Scott himself (horn arranger on Aja) applauding these luscious, imaginative charts, in which Gareth Lockrane’s flute and piccolo was often prominent in the voicings.

It’s far from the first time that Dan tunes have been heard in a big-band setting: in 1978 the Woody Herman band, in a collaboration with Chick Corea, released a really interesting album including 'Green Earrings', 'Aja', 'Kid Charlemagne' and 'FM'. Tom Scott was part of the sax section, alongside Joe Lovano, Gary Anderson and Frank Tiberi; Victor Feldman played keys along with Pat Coil and handled some of the arrangements with Alan Broadbent. And, only last month, drummer Jeremy Stacey took his outstanding Steely Dan big-band project to Ronnie Scott's, which also featured Sumudu. Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker were always jazzers in any case, often opening sets with bursts of Maynard Ferguson’s 'Fan it Janet' and performing their superb version of Duke Ellington's 'East St Louis Toodle-Oo'.

Possibly the most intricate, adventurous and challenging-to-play arrangement was for 'Gaslighting Abbie', an underrated tune from Two Against Nature that was given extra legs by Fowler, even featuring a cute scatting interlude.
There were more surprises in the song choices: 'Snowbound' from Fagen’s Kamakiriad album is a neglected gem, soulfully delivered here by Stuart. This was followed by 'Kulee Baba', an unreleased track from the Gaucho sessions with an intro reminiscent of Weather Report’s 'Birdland'.

The evening underlined just how extraordinary and timeless the Dan repertoire is; and how it connects through the generations. Amazingly talented young soloists like Alexander Bone (alto and soprano) and Harry Green paid homage to Pete Christlieb and Wayne Shorter respectively on 'FM' and 'Aja', and lovely guitar work on the latter did Denny Dias and Larry Carlton proud. And, yes, the Steve Gadd drum break was properly honoured.

For the encore we were treated to Stuart’s Average White Band classic 'Pick Up The Pieces'. At first the more straightahead in-yer-face funk was a refreshing change after the multilayered Dan chicanery, but this was the arrangement by the legendary Arif Mardin and soon, with clever breakdowns, beautiful wide voicings, trumpet battle and the like we were back in Dan territory.

Fagen’s in town next month on yet another Dan tour. There’s no doubt he would have fully appreciated Fowler’s arrangements and the Academy band. But maybe his Dan partner, Becker, who passed away last year, was a presence – and looking down with interest and pride.

Adam McCulloch (@mccullocha)

The second edition of Love Supreme at the Roundhouse takes place on Saturday 13 April and packs in a huge variety of jazz, soul, funk and electronica artists across multiple stages around the iconic venue. With main stage headliners including Mercury-nominated, MOBO-winning jazz-influenced vocalist Laura Mvula; fast-rising fusion-groove keyboardist Kamaal Williams; Pete Wareham’s fiery Afro-punk-jazz band Melt Yourself Down and soul-jazz singer Judi Jackson, this second instalment also features a vibrant cutting-edge line-up on the Jazz in the Round and Supreme Standards stages.

Artists confirmed for Jazz In The Round (who also host a monthly triple-bill at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone) include exciting Led Bib bassist Liran Donin’s acclaimed solo project 1000 Boats, plus appearances by spiritual jazz harpist Alina Bzhezhinska Hip Harp Collective, stunning solo vocal looper Randolph Matthews and hotly tipped latin-jazz-bop sextet Hexagonal. The Supreme Standards stage hosts emerging names such as French producer and DJ Neue Grafik, soulful Manchester rapper Layfullstop, French-Caribbean trio Dowdelin, and South East London duo Bad Honey. Running from 3pm until late, the programme will also include film screenings, Q&As and DJ sets.

The main Love Supreme Jazz Festival runs from 5 to 7 July in Glynde, East Sussex. Former Fugees vocal star Lauryn Hill is the latest artists to be added to the Mainstage programme, with other names announced so far including Snarky Puppy, Chick Corea’s Spanish Heart Band, Jamie Cullum, Gladys Knight, Kamaal Williams and Madeleine Peyroux. Jazzwise is media partner for the festival.

Mike Flynn

For more info and tickets visit www.lovesupremefestival.com/tickets

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