Black-Spirituals-by-Mark-Mahaney preview

Admirers of the scorched earth strategies of Last Exit, Fushitsusha and Bushman's Revenge take note. Venerated Oakland guitar-and-drums duo Black Spirituals, aka Zachary James Watkins and Marshall Trammell, are going to bless us with their latest (and last?) cache of blazing improvisations on 29 June.

Following esteemed cassette dispatches on labels such as Astral Spirits and The Tapeworm, Black Access/Black Axes will be issued via the Sige imprint on double-vinyl and download only.

Spencer Grady
Photo by Mark Mahaney

For more info visit www.sige.bigcartel.com

Thespian punk-jazz troupe WorldService Project once more don the guise of post-Brexit buccaneers for their highly-anticipated fourth long-player, Serve, the flamboyant RareNoiseRecords follow-up to 2016's For King and Country.

The mutant militia take their album campaign to European stages this spring, with the following UK dates on the itinerary for April and May: Cobalt, Newcastle (27 April), Small Seeds, Huddersfield (28 April), Wharf Chambers, Leeds (29 April), The Cockpit Theatre, London (2 May, album launch), Glad Café, Glasgow (3 May), The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (4 May), Kardomah 94, Hull (5 May) and Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues Festival, Clitheroe (6 May).

Spencer Grady

For more details visit www.worldserviceproject.co.uk

This year's North Sea Jazz Festival, the world's largest indoor music festival, takes place in Rotterdam from 13-15 July with an impressive international line-up of jazz heavyweights, with Snarky Puppy bandleader and producer Michael League (above left) as its artist in residence. He appears with Snarky Puppy in a rare live hook-up with the Metropole Orkest (with whom they won a Grammy Award for 2016's Sylva), while also appearing with his Afrocentric new band, Bokanté. Singing sensation Gregory Porter (above centre) also links-up with the Metropole Orkest for a string-laden performance of his Nat King Cole & Me and Other Songs set, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza.

Rising British jazz stars are there en masse with Sons of Kemet, Moses Boyd's Exodus and Nubya Garcia (above right) all set to appear. The programme also includes US supergroup Hudson – Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Scott Colley – Pat Metheny Quartet with Antonio Sanchez, Linda Oh and Gwilym Simcock; Billy Hart Quartet with Joshua Redman; Charles Lloyd and the Marvels; Vijay Iyer Sextet and Maria Schneider with Ensemble Denada. Also booked are R+R with Robert Glasper leading a killer crew of Terrace Martin, Christian Scott, Taylor McFerrin, Derrick Hodge and Justin Tyson.

Other top names in attendance include Cécile McLorin Salvant, Mingus Big Band, Pharoah Sanders, Marcus Miller and the Carla Bley Trio. The festival will also host acts from a wide selection of soul and world artists such as Khalid, The O'Jays, Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Moses Sumney and Ibeyi.

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.northseajazz.com/en/tickets

Revered US guitarist Pat Metheny (pictured) has been confirmed as the recipient of the PRS for Music Gold Award at this year's Jazz FM Awards, which take place next Monday on 30 April at Shoreditch Town Hall, London. Widely acclaimed as one of the all-time jazz guitar greats, Metheny's extraordinary recording career began in 1974 on pianist Paul Bley's album Jaco, named after the iconic bassist Jaco Pastorius, who also appeared on the album and on Metheny's 1976 acclaimed debut on ECM, Bright Sized Life, which also featured drummer Bob Moses. The guitarist went on to win 20 Grammy Awards over a vast recording legacy that continues today with a new album scheduled for later this year. Metheny will be at the awards ceremony to present an award and collect the prestigious Gold Award. Previous recipients of this award include pianist Ramsey Lewis and The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

Also announced will be appearances two fellow Grammy winners – bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding and US vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant – who will join forces with fast rising British stars – saxophonist Nubya Garcia and pianist Ashley Henry – for a unique all-star performance. Spalding is nominated for the Jazz Innovation Award for her pioneering Facebook live streamed album recording session; Garcia is nominated for Breakthrough Act of the Year and Salvant is nominated in both International Artist of the Year and Album of the Year categories. This announcement follows the news that both George Benson and Dame Cleo Laine will be honoured with the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award and Impact Awards respectively.

The full list of nominees is as follows:
Breakthrough Act of the Year: Ezra Collective; Nubya Garcia; Rob Luft.
International Soul Artist of the Year: Jordan Rakei; Leroy Hutson; Moonchild.
UK Jazz Act of the Year (Public Vote): Dinosaur; Ezra Collective; Kansas Smitty's House Band.
Digital Initiative of the Year: Esperanza Spalding: Exposure; Jacob Collier: I Harm U; Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club: Live Streaming.
Instrumentalist of the Year: Evan Parker; Theon Cross; Yazz Ahmed.
International Blues Artist of the Year: Lucky Peterson; Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo; Robert Cray.
Jazz Innovation of the Year: Carleen Anderson: Cage Street Memorial; Joe Armon Jones and Maxwell Owin: Idiom; Shabaka Hutchings: multiple projects.
Vocalist of the Year: Alice Zawadzki; Liane Carroll; Zara McFarlane. International Jazz
Artist of the Year: Cécile McLorin Salvant; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Thundercat.
Album of the Year (Public Vote): Blue Note All-Stars – Our Point of View; Cécile McLorin Salvant – Dreams and Daggers; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Diaspora; Denys Baptiste – The Late Trane; Phronesis – The Behemoth; Thundercat – Drunk.
Live Experience of the Year (Public Vote): An evening with Dave Holland – Ambleside Days Festival at Zephirellis Cinema (featuring Norma Winstone, Gwilym Simcock, Mike Walker, Nikki Iles, Mark Lockheart, Stan Sulzmann, Tim Garland, John Helliwell, Nick Smart, James Maddren and Asif Sirkis); CHICAGOXLONDON – Makaya McCraven at Total Refreshment Centre – 18 October, featuring Theon Cross Trio and Jaimie Branch Fly Or Die Ensemble; Ronnie Scott's presents Ezra Collective – EFG London Jazz Festival at Islington Assembly Hall; Jazz Re:Fest at the Southbank Centre; Pharoah Sanders Quartet + Denys Baptiste + Alina Bzhezhinska: A Concert for Alice and John – EFG London Jazz Festival at The Barbican and Randolph Matthews – Jazz in the Round at Love Supreme Festival.
Mike Flynn
For more info visit www.jazzfmawards.com

MariaSchneiderOrchestra1

The middle period of the Savannah Music Festival featured most of its jazz shows, as the stylistic orientation shifted, throughout a 17-day run. This 29th edition celebrated the accustomed diverse blend of blues, country, classical, latin, cajun, flamenco, bluegrass and African musics. Down in Georgia, right on the Savannah river, the city's downtown historic center boasts a preserved criss-crossing of wooden-houses, only interrupted by numerous shaded squares, their droopy trees weeping moss. The pace is slower here, though doubtless much agitated from the norm by each day's prodigious flow of festival gigs, from midday to nearly midnight. The concept of the SMF can loosely be termed 'American roots music', although the classical concerts mostly featured old European music, and many of the traditional folkloric gigs included artists from Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Maria Schneider Orchestra appeared at the splendidly retro-preserved Lucas Theatre For The Arts, opened way back in 1921. The composer's anticipated regulars were lined up, including Scott Robinson, Donny McCaslin (reeds), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Ben Monder (guitar), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Gary Versace (accordion) and Johnathan Blake (drums), all of them on fine soloing form. Schneider displayed her distinctive conducting style, both in its physical language, and in the resultant sonic colourations. While still selecting a few old favourites, the leader was intent on highlighting newer works, often with a topical edge. Her older chestnuts frequently celebrate nature, but 'Data Lords', for instance, is more concerned with criticising the social media beast, cannily anticipating recent developments. A bristling beginning featured a muted Mike Rodriguez trumpet, heavily reverbed as swirling dark clouds gathered for this foreboding AI warning. This is a much darker Schneider universe. Steve Wilson took an alto solo, then both of these soloists responded, as their leader's signals became increasingly agitated and insistent, prompting a free-form strengthening. George Flynn's gruff bass trombone provided a deep undercurrent throughout. Robinson and McCaslin soloed vigorously during 'Arbiters Of Evolution', exchanging repeated blasts as this leviathan trucked along, the latter saxophonist reaching a monumental climax, Robinson then quite wisely taking it way down to a serene level.

TrumpetMasters FrankStewart

The festival's core venue was the Charles H. Morris Center, where three shows were presented on most days. This was the location for Trumpet Masters, a double-bill that looked back at the repertoires of Louis Armstrong and Lee Morgan. For the first set, the unfamiliar Alphonso Horne took the Satchmo role, hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, but currently residing in NYC. His octet made their entrance from the rear of the venue, New Orleans style, hopping onto the stage for 'Dippermouth Blues', getting into the vintage spirit. King Oliver's 'Weather Bird' followed, with a trumpet and piano dialogue, after Earl Hines. The set featured Louis-links with Sidney Bechet and Jack Teagarden, trombonist Corey Wilcox revealing a fine sideline in virtuoso whistling, then singer Brianna Thomas came on to invoke the spirit of Ella Fitzgerald, a part of the show that despite providing a climactic energy, concentrated too much on a specific part of the Armstrong story. The Terell Stafford Quintet moved on a few decades, investigating the starker, moodier realm of Lee Morgan. Saxophonist Tim Warfield Jr issued a robust solo on 'Stop Start', spilling guts at length, chased by the leader's sparky riposte. Morgan customarily closed out the night with 'Speedball', a blues with peppery parts. This was gifted with another verbose tenor solo, urging Stafford on to greater heights, with a cracked, slurred solo of his own, sledding along on the driving tempo.

Back in the Lucas, pianist Marcus Roberts (the festival's resident jazz music director) presented Stomping The Blues (titled after Albert Murray's 1976 book), a celebration of tunes from the early days of the music. Another all-star cast was assembled, sometimes working in smaller group permutations, rising up to virtual big band level. The garrulous Wycliffe Gordon made a significant impact, his rasping trombone sometimes being swapped for a slide trumpet. A returning Terell Stafford's solos were short and spunky, consequently packed with barely contained vim, a kind of micro-excitement. A bebop combo resided within the large ranks, and we don't often get the opportunity to witness a sousaphone in such a setting, as Gordon won our attention once again with a dribbling huff.

– Martin Longley
Photos by Frank Stewart

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