GoGoP .LWorms 9

The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club nights. Tonight it's completely sold out for an acoustic piano trio. GoGo Penguin walk onstage like rockstars to John Carpenter style atmospherics – Chris Illingworth plays one repeated note from the piano amid the swirling sea of haze and reverb. There's a surge of excitement from the crowd as they recognise the intro to the latest release, A Humdrum Star – good market penetration there, guys. Then Nick Blacka on bass and Rob Turner on bass kick in with a rushing, tumbling rhythm and we're instantly caught up and carried away.

GoGo Penguin have been working towards their vision of jazz music as spectacle since their inception, and bigger stages and more financial clout have brought their design closer to fruition. The band have a level of togetherness, telepathic communication, and control at high volume that come with years of touring at a level that affords decent monitor systems. While both Blacka and Turner play with a shade more freedom than on the record, each move is still carefully plotted around the matrix of Chillingworth's repetitive piano figures to achieve maximum impact, and nothing is left to chance. The M.O. has remained basically consistent throughout their five releases to date; plangent minor chord progressions over Blacka's rock solid, powerfully accurate bass and Turner's busy, restless drum figures, ever building towards the big final reveal.

The dominant mood might be described as euphoric melancholy – a big-sky emotional uplift that perhaps has it's closest parallels in the indie-rock of artists like Bon Iver. But everything has gone up a gear since their last release; added lights, pulsing strobes and extra sound gear are deployed to such overwhelmingly immersive effect that it's hard to remember that the band we're watching has the same basic line-up as, say, the Bill Evans Trio. Tuner's kick-drum now has the sub-bass impact of the proper club music – Blacka's bass retains it's natural tone, with audible clicks and growls, to function as the articulate voice at the centre of the sound, and is granted most of the improvisational space – Chillingworth's piano is enhanced with massive reverbs to mimic the electronica that inspire the band's vision. They have successfully mined the seam of wistful ambient hipness personified by such emblematic post-millennial artists as Bonobo and Nils Frahm and added a level of muscular virtuosity to deepen the appeal; the audience ranges from young twenty-something urbanites to grizzled jazz connoisseurs, and their absorption in the music's shamelessly direct emotional manipulation is total.

'One Percent' from their last v2.0 release is something of a mission statement, and the eerie reproductions of electronic data glitches that the band play in the closing moments have been expanded to an almost supernatural degree of tightness – this is a truly unique musical language that the trio have developed. Blacka has an unaccompanied solo spot that reveals an unexpected Celtic tinge to his phrasing, and also takes on the role of compere, breaking the tension with carefully timed announcements of unassuming Northern matiness. The final track, 'Transient State', takes the formula and refines it to the extent that the strobes are pulsing in and out in perfect sync with the opening and closing hi-hat. The next step is surely some kind of VR-enhanced, all-out sensory assault as GoGo Penguin take their unique vision out across the world, as far as it can take them.

Eddie Myer
– Photo by Lisa Wormsley 

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her debut album, Moon Palace, on 7 December on Ubuntu Music. Kay's trio features bassist Ferg Ireland and drummer David Ingamells on originals inspired by the leafy streets of Muswell Hill, north London on 'Strawberry Terrace' and the sights and sounds of New York's Greenwich Village on 'Perry Street', alongside a solo rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's ballad 'Stardust' and a quirky arrangement of Charlie Parker's 'Kim'.

The album is launched at The Vortex, Dalston on 12 December with further dates at the following venues: Whiskey Jar, Manchester (10 Dec); Flute and Tankard, Cardiff (11 Dec); Jazz at the Future Inn, Bristol (13 Dec); The Verdict, Brighton (15 Dec); Ashburton Live (16 Dec); North Devon Jazz Club (17 Dec); Ronnie Scott's Late Show, London (18 Dec); Cherry Reds, Birmingham (19 Dec); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (20 Dec); St Matthew's Church, Perth (21 Dec); The Blue Arrow, Glasgow (22 Dec) and The Lescar, Sheffield (9 Jan 2019).

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.helena-kay.com

Jazzwise is pleased to share the video for 'L and D' here:

BLG-2

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by a quip about the 'Windy City'. Ben LaMar Gay describes the latter, Chicago, as 'country' to the former, London, the urban sprawl. He then invites the audience at an impressively full matinee to be part of an ongoing transatlantic exchange that has already seen him and fellow Chicagoans Makaya McCraven and Jamie Branch work with young Brits in the past year or so.

The cornet player-electronicist-vocalist is here with his own quartet rather than local guests and there is a crackle of anticipation in the room at the prospect of him playing material from Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun, an album compiled from seven previously unreleased sets of music. All of which makes the point that the Chicagoan is nothing if not productive, but the sound palette he creates with a very cohesive band shows that quality matches quantity. Sat at a table with a couple of consoles for effects and beats, Gay, his distinctive red cap and dark blue jacket giving him the allure of an industrial revolution factory worker, channels the resources around with impressive aplomb. The combination of the digital drone and drag of his programming, the brooding rumble of Matthew Davis's tuba and the understated but penetrating flicker of Tomasso Moretti's drums makes for an enticing canvas upon which colours can be splashed. Will Faber's guitar is a vivid pastel in the mix, its precise, aqueous arpeggios enhancing the flow of the arrangements without flooding the upper or middle range. Gay's brass pierces the air with a stark, melancholic beauty steeped in a far-reaching lineage of significant horn players that would include anybody from Roy Eldridge to Don Cherry. Yet, as the set unfolds, there is a more distinct resonance of Chicago in the 1990s and millennium, typified by Tortoise, that permeates the music, which builds a solid bridge between the dark undercurrents of dub and hip-hop and the light-and-shade of improvisation. Lines loop and motifs mutate, as the 21st century artist's border crossing and time travelling gain steady traction, pushing Gay to the AEC axiom of 'Great black music: ancient to future'.

His understanding of that heritage comes into focus in a few thrilling moments that send a notable tremor of excitement around the room. Firstly, he reaches for a melodica and plays the most charming, chugging riffs that vaguely recall the great Hermeto Pascoal's singular Afro-Brazilian meta-modernism. The child-like brightness makes for a fine contrast to the breathy moan of Sirotiak's bansuri flute. Secondly, Gay launches into a funky hybrid of rapped and sung choruses over a riveting, zigzag cowbell beat that underlines the Latin subtext. There is a spark in this sign-off that confirms Gay as 'country boy' who is more than a match for the big city.

Kevin Le Gendre

Photos by Jim Aindow

Archie Shepp06

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, presenting gigs between three main cities in south-western Germany. It's an extended season that usually begins in early October, stretching until mid-November. Each night features a show in either Heidelberg, Ludwigshafen or Mannheim, sometimes with simultaneous happenings in each location.

This year's artist-in-residence is the veteran saxophonist Archie Shepp, and his first showing was at the Mannheim National Theatre, with an expanded crew revisiting his Fire Music album, from way back in 1965. Being his second release for the Impulse! label, a certain amount of free jazz was surely promised, rather than the more mainline style that Shepp has favoured during recent decades. We were not disappointed, as this eight-piece crew (including Hamid Drake on drums) set out to capture the essence of the original contents with a surprising closeness of spirit and style.

Drake (bells, mallets) and bowing bassist Darryl Hall laid sparse improvised terrain for Shepp's recital of 'Malcolm, Malcolm, Semper Malcolm', followed by a pointed, overblowing solo on soprano saxophone, precise spikes driven in. The old LP's key track, 'Hambone', wasn't quite as complicatedly careening, here, but Shepp's four-piece horn section certainly made a dynamic negotiation. He ripped straight into a tenor solo at high velocity, and Shepp's hornmates looked visibly enamoured of their grand master's inflamed efforts. Drake made lightning snicks and clatters, and regular sideman Carl-Henri Morisset issued a forceful piano statement. Trombonist Sebastien Llado led a bluesy slowing down, and 'Los Olvidados' didn't take long before letting Shepp fly again, with a tough, racing tenor solo. This is an 81-year-old who's not short on stamina.

As with the album, following the three more adventurous pieces, the set's remainder inhabited standards-land, but still involving a few quirks. The reading of 'The Girl From Ipanema' was one of its free-er outings, and Shepp wasn't rationing out his solos. He sang with a croaky, vulnerable tone on 'Prelude To A Kiss', and ended the show with an extra tune, 'Syeeda's Song Flute', a Coltrane number covered on Shepp's Impulse! debut.

In Heidelberg, there were two contrasting gigs at Karlstorbahnhof, an intimate arts venue. The Vincent Peirani Quintet adopt a jazz-rock fusion attitude, though without too much over-electrification. The leader's significant left-hand man is soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien, who pretty much qualifies as a co-leader, so profound is his contribution. For a while, during 'Bang Bang' and 'Unknown Chemistry', he was restrained, but then embarked on his first soprano salvo of the session, swiftly escalating, feet beginning to pixie-prance and side-kick uncontrollably. Peirani's first significant solo was on a chunky chromatic harmonica, but his accordion spotlights would be saved for later in the night. The quintet gave 'Kashmir' a slow build-up, initially unrecognisable, then releasing its full riff, following a snaking Parisien solo. Fractured Rhodes hacks followed, and then a transition was made into 'Stairway To Heaven', this Led Zeppelin celebration being among the most exuberant parts of the performance.

On a more internalised level, The Necks pleasingly offered two sets (and therefore two extended improvisations) at the same venue – often, if appearing at a festival, they'll only play one, so this was a good chance to hear alternate manifestations of their epic-form extemporising. The first set was almost traditionally jazz piano trio in nature, until Chris Abrahams snagged onto a two-note repeat, with snail elaboration, Tony Buck limited to cymbal and small gong, softly resonant, until he added a scrunching metal texture. A blurry shimmer loaded up, Lloyd Swanton's bass alternating between bowed murmurs and sensitive finger-strums. The sombre, blood-red lighting was sympathetic, with slow growth into a saintly white glare. The second Neck-ing began obsessively, Buck deciding on a repetitive hand-drumming figure, on floor tom, fast and unbroken, until he clutched first one shaker, then another. Abrahams had both hands in the middle of his keyboard, amassing a Reichian blur of adjacent sonorities, a sonic mirage shaping, and the number finishing with him alone, as if his delayed entrance gave him some bonus time to conclude.

Over in Ludwigshafen at Das Haus, another well-sized arts haunt, the guitar, bass and drums trio Radian visited from Vienna, though they've been well-schooled in Germanic electro-rock approaches for around two decades. Their basic structure blooms outwards and across via a stack of processing boxes and pedals, splintering, fracturing, glitching and dispersing. Their edges were often brutal, but they also paused to release gaseous clouds of contemplation.

Enjoy Jazz continues until 16th November...

Martin Longley
Photo by Manfred Rinderspacher/Enjoy Jazz 

 LorraineBaker

Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases with her Eden project, dedicated to exploring the unique legacy of maverick New Orleans drum supremo Ed Blackwell. As Blackwell was a relatively infrequent composer, she's picked selections from the back catalogue of his many illustrious employers – in particular artists like Mark Helias and Don Cherry, whose work explores the interface between groove, melody and freedom. Tonight's set kicks off with a solo intro from bass guitarist Paul Michael that bears a faint family resemblance to Stanley Clarke's 'School Days'; Baker leans into the kit, absorbed in the complex polyrhythms that were a Blackwell speciality, drawing all the colours out of the toms and cymbals, and Binker Golding lets fly with the first solo of the evening, his brawny tenor mixing some R&B inflections in among the hip modern language. Next it's guest John Turville on keys, showing why he's the first call for so many unusual cross-genre projects; his playing awesomely fluent, sensitive and imaginative, unbounded by cliche. Helias' 'Thumbs Up' gets a lively reading, and Cherry's 'Guinea' sees the band really getting into their stride, with Golding absolutely tearing it up and a wonderful, fleet-fingered solo from Michael full of elegant phrasing.

LorraineBaker 3.LWorms

The second set starts with Charlie Haden's 'Chairman Mao' – a pulsing one-note bassline sets the stage for wide-ranging explorations from Golding and Turville, before evolving into a groove akin to Herbie Hancock's 'Butterfly' – Karl Berger's 'Dakar Dance' features more bubbling polyrhythms with Michael assisting on extra hi-hat to allow Baker to roam free on a complex, melodic solo. This is a vision of groove-based jazz that doesn't feel obliged to eschew either melody or occasional forays into harmonic depth; the clattering, chattering drive of the kit, locked in with Michael's bass guitar, is at the heart of each track, but Baker is also a sensitive player and never swamps the soloist. Golding is best known for his commanding, strident duo act with Moses Boyd; a ravishing duet between him and John Turville on Helias' 'Pentahouve' shows his rarely revealed lyrical side, and his breadth and depth as a player is evident throughout.

All the band play the eclectic, unfamiliar material with total commitment and aplomb and Baker's playing, and her vision for the project, show a distinct personality. It's all the more unfortunate that the attendance on this dark, rainy November night is so skinny, and all the more impressive that the band still manage to deliver this exciting music with such conviction. The set closes with another joyous Cherry composition – 'Mopti''s uplifting Afro lilt sends those lucky enough to attend out into the night well satisfied.

– Eddie Myer
– Photos by Lisa Wormsley 

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