The iconic Blue Note label will celebrate its milestone 80th birthday in 2019, with a year-long spree of activity including two major vinyl-led release campaigns, alongside new artist albums, live dates and film screenings.

Founded in 1939 by Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion, the label’s catalogue is one of the most celebrated and sought after in jazz history. Extraordinarily, following the retirement of its long-time boss Bruce Lundvall in 2015, its future could have been in jeopardy. Current president, Don Was, revealed in a recent interview with Forbes magazine: “There was some talk about making it a website that just sold catalogue and Blue Note t-shirts.”

This was before Was serendipitously had a breakfast meeting with Capital Records President Dan MacCarroll, who, following Was’ suggestion that Capital sign Gregory Porter, offered him the Blue Note role. Taking the helm since 2012, Was has ushered in a fresh approach embracing the label’s illustrious past, while creating a vital, forward-looking present. He’s spearheading the 80th anniversary year with the Tone Poet 180g Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, which will initially include 18 titles spanning albums by Hank Mobley and Cassandra Wilson, as well as 36 titles in a Blue Note 80 series of mid-price vinyl releases with themes such as Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live and Drummer Leaders.

Plans also include festival showings and a theatrical run (plus a DVD release) for Sophie Huber’s film Blue Note Records: Beyond The Notes. There will also be special programming for the Blue Note at Sea Cruises, plus a US autumn tour for a Blue Note 80 triple bill featuring emerging stars Kandace Springs and James Francies, alongside the newly-signed sax firebrand James Carter

Mike Flynn

For more full details visit www.bluenote.com

Pianist and composer John Turville returns with a new album, Head First, released on 22 February on Whirlwind Recordings, ahead of a run of UK live dates. His first solo album since 2012’s acclaimed Conception, the new album features his Quintet (above) of renowned saxophonist Julian Argüelles, trumpeter Robbie Robson, bassist Dave Whitford and drummer James Maddren. See an exclusive clip of the group performing the track 'Fall Out' below.

The band head out for an extensive series of gigs, dates are: Blue Room Theatre, Lincoln (8 Feb); Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London (album launch, 25 Feb); Herts Jazz, The Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans (26 Feb); Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham (evening, 27 Feb); Workshop, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (afternoon, 28 Feb); Cambridge Modern Jazz Club at Hidden Rooms (evening, 28 Feb); The Fleece, Colchester (1 Mar); Royal Academy of Music, London (workshop, 2 Mar); Cedars Hall, Wells Cathedral (4 Mar); St Ives Jazz Club, Great Western Hotel, Cornwall (5 Mar); Purcell School, Bushey (workshop and concert, 6 Mar); Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham (7 Mar); Leeds College of Music, Leeds (workshop, 8 Mar); Crookes Social Club, Sheffield (8 Mar) and The Verdict, Brighton (9 Mar).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.johnturville.bandcamp.com

Erik Friedlanders Throw A Glass DSF3917 Ansgar Bolle 190105

Jazzfestival Münster is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but has only notched up 27 editions, having converted to a biennial existence in 1997. This January festival hasn’t got the high profile of other German weekenders such as Moers and Berlin. Nevertheless, its programme is bustling with variety and adventure, a largely Pan-European roster sprinkled with token Americans. All acts play at Theatre Münster, mostly in its main concert hall, although a few of the early afternoon sets took place in a smaller side-space.

The headlining Stateside band were Erik Friedlander’s Throw A Glass, probably the cellist’s jazziest outfit, featuring Uri Caine (piano, pictured top), Mark Helias (bass) and Ches Smith (drums). Caine had never seen a scarlet Steinway piano before, and its arresting hue doubtless had an influence over our sonic perception during the festival. ‘The Great Revelation’ had a surprisingly direct jazz-funk nature, with Caine in particular spinning out a lounge complexity. Smith ran off into hard, precise patterns, then ‘Seven Heartbreaks’ had quite a jazz bar nature, swingin’ forcefully. ‘Artemesia’ featured glum cello, coupled with deep-bowed bass, Smith using both ends of his brushes. Caine soloed completely alone, followed by a similar spot for Friedlander, pronouncing in a kind of mordant classical swing language. They unveiled a new, as yet untitled piece, with a waltzing feel, Caine offering a percussive solo against the leader’s bittersweet cello, whilst Smith introduced a fast bass drum tapping, with firm cymbal time.

Henri Texier’s Sand Quintet provided a double climax on the Saturday night. Old and new numbers were mixed up, the latter including ‘Sand Woman’ and ‘Hungry Man’, a guitar solo rising from Manu Codjia, as the reeds of Sébastien Texier and François Corneloup (below) were set riffing from their temporary position behind Gautier Garrigue’s drums. The leader chased with a talkative bass solo, always delivering with authority. A bluesy slog emerged on the second new tune, with a squint-eyed Texier solo, and a keen clarinet bite from his son. To finish, they brought out the 1975 classic ‘Amir’, uniting upright bass, alto and baritone saxophones in equal forcefulness.

Henri Texier DSF4263 Ansgar Bolle 190106

The surprise towering pinnacle of the weekend were new discovery LBT (Leo Betzl Trio, who are signed to the Enja label), who imposed all-nighter techno vibrations at 3pm on the Sunday, turning the smaller theatre into a throbbing party. A German piano trio, with effects extras, replicated repetitive electronic music via acoustic means, their closest cousins being Dawn Of Midi in NYC. LBT are more intent on actually sounding like hard techno, with the advantage of improvised trimmings, as upright bassist Maximilian Hirning bowed with a dragging savagery, Sebastian Wolfgruber snapped drumhead-echo, fast dub beats, and Betzl hand-dampened the strings of his grand piano. Pauses arrived, then the swell built up again, a disused hi-hat loaded with metal clutter, coupled with an active hiss from a working hi-hat.

Rhythmic divergences were allowed, in variations from mechanoid rigidity. Betzl’s piano was prepared on the hoof, turning into a buzzing kora, as the trio began to mess with the expected structure, halting and soloing, with gaffa-tape stuck across piano strings while the extended piece was still in full motion. Betzl had a special microphone, just for his reverb fingerclicks. Meanwhile, Wolfgruber hissed a spraycan rhythmically, hopefully not destroying his microphone in the process, then played a bass solo that sounded like it was emanating from an Indian sarangi. Folks were dancing in the aisles, and it felt like 4am someday in 1989, where improvised jazz enjoyed an alternate reality in the rave warehouse.

It was enlightening to witness Swiss-born trumpeter Erik Truffaz in the quiet duo zone, playing acoustically and softly beside the Polish pianist Krzysztof Kobyliński, eventually removing his clip-on mic and spraying fine dust lightly from a distance into the stage microphone. Truffaz set up a mass finger-clicking among the audience, as Kobyliński traipsed out a tiptoe melody, graduating to handclaps. This was creative crowd management. Truffaz played boldly throughout the set, his crisp sound to be savoured.

The trio of Hermia/Darrifourq/Ceccaldi also startled, with peculiar resonances between cello and percussion, and an inviting crab-crouching tenor solo. They moved from near silence to full intensity, savouring the acoustics of the theatre, with its ceiling initially looking like a forest of tiny sonic baffles, revealed upon closer observation as an upside-down carpet growth of numerous lampshade-looking lights…

– Martin Longley

– Photographs by Ansgar Bolle/Jazzfestival Münster

 

Much like in other recent editions of New York's Winter JazzFest, Afrofuturism pervaded this year's nine-day run, offering a palpable and much needed antidote for our country's political divisiveness. To paraphrase a line from Parliament Funkadelic’s ‘Children of Production’, it blew the many and varied cobwebs out of our minds. The British jazz Introducing... showcase on 9 January, was presented in part by BBC Music and the PRS Foundation’s global initiative, aimed at creating ‘50-50 gender balance’.

Celebrated progenitor of the UK’s Acid Jazz/rare groove movement, and latterly of his own Brownswood Records imprint, Gilles Peterson was a fitting host throughout the evening. He was quick to point out the rich and storied history of the music, even to the point of giving homage to the fact that Le Poisson Rouge was once the home of the Village Gate.

Vocalist Tawiah (above) kicked off the night with an intimate 45-minute set. Accompanied by rhythm guitarist Mike Haldeman, the Ghanaian’s voice was redolent of her varied influences. In a few notes, she captured the promise of Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album. An unpolished yet lyrically potent effort, at the time of its 2002 release, it was panned by critics and devotees, alike. But Tawiah commands both the stage and your undivided attention. Albeit fleeting, she warmly invited us into her life and experiences, from ‘Borders,’ an ode to the challenges of a long-distance relationship, to the achingly soulful ‘Mother’s Prayer’. An aural exploration of her Pentecostal upbringing, the latter song opened with a sample of the voice of her 103-year-old grandmother singing a traditional hymn, recorded on cassette tape during a family trek to Ghana just before she died.

2019WJF EmmaJeanThackray IMG 1748sm

Trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray (above) and her fine arsenal of players (Dave Drake on keys, Ben Kelly on sousaphone and drummer Tcheser Holmes) also drew from their influences – from the intersecting and complex rhythms of Fela Kuti, to an endless list of Freddie Hubbard’s CTI recordings. In their half-hour set, Walrus harnessed the sheer joy of listening to these now seminal records for hours and hours, just lingering inside the infectious loops with no end in sight.  

2019WJF FemiKoleoso IMG 2206sm

In-demand keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones put in serious overtime throughout much of the night. First gracing the stage as the accompanist for vocalist Yazmin Lacey, then later, closing out the night with the high-energy five-piece group Ezra Collective (pictured top). The latter group join the ranks of The Soul Rebels and Brownout here Stateside, injecting both a rebelliousness and spontaneity that (generally speaking) has been largely absent from the music. The interplay between Armon-Jones on Rhodes and another promising voice, drummer Femi Koleoso (above), had both Peterson and I dancing together in unison, on opposite sides of the stage. Their arrangement of Sun Ra’s magnum opus, ‘Space Is The Place’, was a timely reminder for all of us to have hope in the future – in spite of the present Administration.  

– Shannon J. Effinger

 – Photos by William B. Gray 

 

Reset Festival image2

For some there is a Holy Grail in jazz: to introduce new audiences and different generations to the music. This was much in the mind of leading jazz vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher when he launched the RESET Jazz Festival last year in his native Luxembourg City. As a percussionist and composer working with classical orchestras, jazz musicians and electronic producers his artistic energy is diverse and has informed the second edition of this festival. It returns from 17 to 19 January with a punch: with British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and Danish bassist Jasper Høiby alongside Belgian pianist Jef Neve; harpist Julie Campiche (CH), viola player Séverine Morfin (FR), sound designer Sven Helbig (DE), drummer Alfred Vogel (AT) and singer Claire Parsons (LU).

How this compelling line up-gels will be decided this week as they collaborate and improvise in neimënster, the cultural centre of Neumünster Abbey, before performing in three very different encounters. The first night on 17 January is literally a 'jazz crawl', with the artists jamming in four venues around the city, one after the other. Each event is free to encourage newcomers to jazz. On 18 January there’s a performance in the main concert hall of the Robert Krieps Room of Neumünster Abbey, while on 19 January, local artists are invited to improvise with the musicians at the Abbey's Brasserie Wenzel.

Two day passes are available as well as tickets for each night from neimënster. The free jazz crawl running order is: Julie Campiche with Sven Helbig (Abbey Cloister, 7.30) Yaz Ahmed with Jasper Høiby (Vins Fins Restaurant, 8.30pm); Séverine Morfin with Claire Parsons (Mesa Verde Restaurant, 9.30pm) and Jef Neve with Alfred Vogel (Café des artistes, 10.30pm).

Debra Richards

For more info visit www.neimenster.lu tickets are available here

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