This year's edition of the Steve Reid Innovation showcase will take place on 12 September at Omeara, London SE1, and includes rising star saxophonist Nubya Garcia (above) who is gaining recognition for her work with her own 5tet, all-female septet Nérija, spiritual jazz ensemble Maisha and her high-energy hook up with tuba titan Theon Cross.

Other artists appearing at the showcase are flautist/singer/producer Ola Szmidt, singer songwriter John Elliott aka The Little Unsaid and emergent jazz drummer Femi Koleoso. The Steve Reid Foundation was set up by DJ/broadcaster Gilles Peterson after he witnessed late great drummer, Reid, suffering in terrible poverty after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2009.

The Steve Reid Innovation Fund is run by PRS Foundation and the Steve Reid Foundation, and offers "vital support to unsigned artists pushing musical boundaries", with each artist appearing at the showcase receiving development bursaries and mentoring from the Foundation.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.prsformusicfoundation.com

Watch Nubya Garcia perform a unique duo jam with keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones

Pianist and composer Tom Millar starts his autumn tour this month in support of his debut album, Unnatural Events, which is released on 15 September on emergent imprint Spark Records. Inspired by places and people that are important to Millar, the pianist is joined by the talents of bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado, guitarist Alex Munk and drummer Dave Storey, with acclaimed singer Alice Zawadzki featured on two tracks on the album.

Millar and his quartet play the following dates: Matt and Phreds, Manchester (7 Sept); Cafe Lento, Leeds (8 Sept); Lighthouse, Deal (10 Sept); Sproggit's, Leeds (18 Sept); Basement Jazz Bar, York (19 Sept); Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (20 Sept); Jazz at Future Inns, Bristol (21 Sept); Hot Number Cafe, Cambridge (22 Sept); Herts Jazz, Welwyn Garden City (24 Sept); Bull's Head, Barnes, London (27 Sept); Players' Theatre, Davenham (28 Sept); Kenilworth Jazz Club @ Kenilworth Rugby Club (2 Oct); Cafe Jazz, Cardiff (5 Oct); Burdall's Yard, Bath (6 Oct); Keble College, Oxford (19 Oct); Chichester Jazz (Oct 20 Oct); Jazz at the Spotted Dog, Birmingham (24 Oct); Swing Unlimited, Bournemouth (25 Oct); Ram Jam Club, Kingston (26 Oct) and Green Note, Camden (15 Nov, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.tommillar.com

 Stetson2

Colin Stetson has enough draw to fill this arthouse cinema on a Sunday night; his collaborative discography reads like the tracklist for a Starbucks compilation full of bands who make the sort of poignantly uplifting, evocatively progressive music often associated with hipster-indie movies, from Bon Iver to Arcade Fire to Feist to The National, so it's a fitting choice of venue.

A lone figure in jeans and white t-shirt, bearded and neatly coiffed like an urban lumberjack, he covers himself with contact mics in the mode of an undercover agent on a sting, then selects an alto-sax from the array of gleaming pipework before him, raises it to his lips and launches into 'Spindrift' from his most recent album, All This I Do For Glory. A glittering torrent of arpeggiated triads burst forth, delivered in a hard, skirling tone, amid a wash of cavernous reverb. His mastery of circular breathing is soon apparent as the streams of notes gush forth in an unyielding fortissimo, the enormous reverb causing the overtones to build into shifting, overlapping patterns, like a one-man Steve Reich ensemble, while the amplified clicking of the pads provides a rhythmic counterpoint. The ferocity of his electronically-augmented onslaught occasionally threatens to overwhelm the PA's capabilities; a pulsing major third in the low register sets up a driving bassline, and then Stetson simultaneously begins to hum a wordless melody from back in his throat, which floats spectrally over the hypnotic waves of sound.

Stetson3

After this first salvo, it's time to bring out the big gun - his trademark bass saxophone. The thunderous impact of its low-end draws whoops from the crowd, entirely filling the cavernous space. During 'Judges', from his 2011 release, Stetson sets up a harmonically simple bassline that cycles round a minor key chord progression, adding roars and yelps in the upper harmonics like a didgeridoo player, while the clicking of the pads add a driving percussion. The ability to play multiple parts at once, without recourse to loop pedals or other sampling technology, is Stetson's great discovery – all his compositions are cut according to the same template, with repeating bass figures marching under ghostly high-frequency melodies, and despite the occasional controlled outbreaks of skronking free-jazz chaos there's a simple, wistfully big-sky melodic sense going on that explains his fit with his indie collaborators, and which contrasts intriguingly with the undeniably macho demonstration of physical strength.

If the bass sax was low, the contrabass clarinet is even lower – 'Between Water And Wind' commences with a dense fog of low frequency enveloping the auditorium and continues with the unrelenting buzzsaw drone and hum of industrial machinery. It's fascinating and a little unnerving to see a man push himself to the limits of physical endurance in the name of art – "We usually get some fainters in the audience," says Stetson, and those susceptible to panic attacks should perhaps approach with caution. For the most part, the music arising from this unique performance style, utterly devoid of dynamic variation or any interspersion of silence, has an otherworldly, hypnotic power, but on occasion Stetson's yelping and hooting over the endless grind shades over into the cartoonish, like listening to the Clangers lost and adrift in a bottomless chasm. The Duke of York's was originally opened as a turn-of-the-century music hall and variety theatre, and one could imagine the watching spirits of it's vanished prestidigitators, quick-change artists and escapologists would have felt a kinship with this remarkable performer.

– Eddie Myer
– Photos by Agata Urbaniak 

 

UPDATE: Since this story was first published (here and in the October issue of Jazzwise) this event has been cancelled due to a deterioration Giovanni's health.  

Some of the UK's leading percussionists will be gathering at Camden's Jazz Cafe on 4 October for a special fundraising concert in aid of raising money for legendary conguero Giovanni Hidalgo, whose ongoing battle with diabetes has prevented him from performing live for the last two years. The evening will be hosted by Jamiroquai percussionist Sola Akingbolaas and feature top UK percussionists Sidiki Dembele and Will Fry in a night of explosive Afro-latin jazz-funk that will include Hidalgo's first UK performance since 2009.

There's also an additional online crowd-funder fund-raising auction sponsored Latin Percussion and GEWA Music, with prizes including LP Giovanni Signature Series instruments including Giovanni Hidalgo Galaxy Bongo, Giovanni Hidalgo Wood Djembe and other LP percussion instruments and accessories. Proceeds from the concert and auction will benefit his medical fund and help provide needed support.

– Mike Flynn

For full details visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/show-of-hands

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen may have been two against nature, but even Becker's lancet wit and Tele skills couldn't sidestep the Grim Reaper and he has passed away leaving behind a Cadillac-sized musical legacy and two sons. At the time of writing the cause of death is unspecified, but maybe we should have picked up the hint when gigs in July went ahead without him. Either way, in an age of loss, the passing of Becker remains oddly unbelievable: the great survivor who came through the death by drugs of his partner Kim Stanley, who struggled with and largely overcame his own drug demons, who fought off Stanley's would be litigious mother, who himself survived a serious car smash, and divorce from his wife Elinor; Becker the man behind Aja and Pretzel Logic and Gaucho has gone. Surely not, surely it's one of Becker's slick cynical jokes, he's gas-lighting us, driving us a little mad, taking his renowned reclusiveness – he made a home for himself for years off Hawaii when he and Fagen first parted ways – just one step further. He'll be back won't he?

If that sounds irreverent, well, Becker would probably approve: his was the ultimate über cool, never the sentimentalist, always the gimlet-eyed outsider that underwrote Steely Dan's panache. Some, Fagen among them, attributed this acerbic but precise as the surgeon's scalpel worldview to Becker's apparently tough, often distressing childhood. Getting attached to anyone was too risky, better to go for the wisecrack, the hyper-polished lyric and lithe melody. And if you can't control relationships, and age does wither you, then look for control through the studio: and this in a way was Becker's gift to music, to use the studio to nail down the most perfect sonic experience possible (whatever the cost in dollars and burnt out synapses).

In taking ultimate control of the sound he sought, Becker left many a guitarist on the cutting room floor (how's it hanging, Mr Knopfler?), so it's no surprise that the soul and proficiency of jazz artists appealed to Becker. Fagen once shared with this correspondent how they'd wanted more 'old school' jazz artists on board, recording sessions with the likes of Al Cohn, which Fagen described dryly as a 'learning curve' for all involved. It's interesting that Becker as a producer, once the Dan split, worked with the likes of Michael Franks and Ricky Lee Jones who also lived and worked in that hinterland between jazz and the singer-songwriter, artists who likewise employed a wry rhyme to hide the hurt.

The house of jazz has many rooms and it would be a parlous view of the jazz tradition that it couldn't include Steely Dan, especially in the golden years between 1972 to 1980. This isn't just because Becker and Fagen were lucky enough to meet at college in the heady days of the late 1960s when the boundaries between rock, jazz and folk came tumbling down; nor was it because they insisted on using the best of musicians, many of whom had impeccable jazz credentials, like Joe Sample, Victor Feldman (a Steely stalwart) and Wayne Shorter. The Steely jazz thing was that they loved the great traditions – the insight and wit of the Great American Songbook, the passion and prowess of bop (Horace Silver is embedded in the first song on their third album) – but never let them be their masters: Becker took all that material, Tin Pan Alley, rock's 'stick it to the man' attitude, jazz's cool and love of the unique and used it to express his own and our own humanity.

In a decade, the 1970s, which produced so many ground-breaking records, Becker helped craft albums and songs that were themselves, unforgettable; at once simple, yet complex, Becker's paradox was that he was deeply affectionate of a world that seemed limitlessly cruel, whose sanity he questioned even as he barely hung on to his own.

– Andy Robson

– Photo by Tim Dickeson

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