Composer, conductor and sampling-supremo Matthew Herbert is set to release his Brexit-inspired album, The State Between Us, on 29 March, the day Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. Herbert began the project two years ago on the day Article 50 was triggered, writing and developing music for his catchily-named United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band, motivated by the ideals and ideas of what represents Britishness as well as subjects such as ‘immigration’ and ‘home’.

This potentially colossal shift in British-European history is also reflected in the size of the project, which includes over 1,000 musicians and singers from across the EU. The album features leading jazz soloists such as trumpeters Enrio Rava, Sheila Maurice-Grey and Byron Wallen, trombonist Nathanial Cross, as well as singers Arto Lindsay, Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, Merz and Patrick Clark who give voice to words by poets Percy Shelly and John Donne, revered British playwright Caryl Churchill and “various abusive members of the public and the secretary general of UKIP”.

The album also features a dizzying array of samples from such apposite sources as a Ford Fiesta being dissembled; a deep fried trumpet; a lonely cross-Channel swimmer; a factory being demolished and a cyclist riding around Chequers. See video below for more.

The band will perform at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg on 16 February and two shows at the Royal Court Theatre, London on 29 March.

For more info visit www.matthewherbert.com

Mike Flynn

Watch The State Between Us trailer below:

 

 Joseph Jarman 996x515 996x515

The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante Micheaux at last month’s stellar performance by Elaine Mitchener and Jason Yarde at Cafe OTO in London was as poignant as it was prescient. A few days later Joseph Jarman, the author of that poem that evoked profound urban alienation and the "hell of where we are", passed away in New Jersey at the age of 81. As he was about to meet his death the coming to life of his words on the other side of the Atlantic symbolised his ability to affect audiences beyond his homeland and lifetime.

Jarman actually read the piece himself on his 1967 solo debut, Song For, but he was really known as a highly-gifted multi-reed player who was proficient on numerous instruments that included the bassoon and recorder, as well as alto and soprano saxophones. Like his peers Anthon Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, he was wholly dedicated to the principle of fully exploring sound to induce new sensations amid daring, involving narratives that drew on a wide range of subjects.

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jarman moved to Chicago as a child in the 1940s, played drums in high school, then saxophone in the army. One of the earliest members of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Music (AACM) Jarman, who also studied drama, joined the Art Ensemble Of Chicago (AEC), and was largely responsible for bringing many striking elements of theatre into the group’s aesthetic. He left AEC in the early 1990s, and became more involved in spiritual practise, eventually becoming a Buddhist priest. Jarman’s excellent work, both as a collaborator and bandleader, have earned him a rightful place in the pantheon of artists whose great strength of imagination boldly collapsed the boundaries between sound, text, movement and ritual.

Kevin Le Gendre

Bass-led progressive jazz group Wandering Monster are set to release their eponymous debut album on Ubuntu Music on 25 January 2019. Firmly established on the northern music scene, the band features Sam Quintana on double bass (above centre), Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, Calvin Travers on guitar, Tom Higham on drums and Aleks Podraza on piano and keyboards.

Exploring evocative moods, heavy-grooves and hook-laden melodies the band launch their album with an accompanying video for the Quintana-composed 'Samsara' – see the video below – and catch them on the following live dates: Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside (12 Jan);  Sofar Sounds, Newcastle (15 Jan); The Butterfly and Pig, Glasgow (16 Jan); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (17 Jan); Small Seeds, Huddersfield (18 Jan); Sela Bar, Leeds (album launch, 20 Jan); The Whiskey Jar, Manchester (21 Jan): The Spotted Dog, Birmingham (22 Jan);  Servant Jazz Quarters, London (24 Jan); The Be-Bop Club, Bristol (25 Jan); Kenilworth Jazz Club (4 Feb); The Gallimaufry, Bristol (6 Feb); Café Jazz, Cardiff (7 Feb) and Refu-jazz festival, Leeds (9 Feb). 

Mike Flynn

More info at www.samquintana.co.uk/wandering-monster

Watch the video for 'Samsara' here:

 

The unfeasibly warm November weather was matched by the heat generated by this small but perfectly formed festival 30km from Serbia’s capital Belgrade.

The opening night featured a blistering set from Gianluca Petrella joined for the first time by Italian compatriots Michelle Rabia (percussion, electronics) and the brilliant vibes player Pasquale Mirra. I saw Petrella and Mirra as a duo in the summer, which was great, but here with the added colouring and time keeping of Rabia, the set was on another level. Petrella is an ebullient player commanding the stage and coaxing the best from his band. However, Mirra almost steals the show: his solos are intoxicating, either playing unbelievably fast runs – his hands and mallets a blur over the vibraphone – or he can be subtle and soulful as he bends the notes around Petrella’s plaintiff trombone.

TD Rudresh Mahanthappa 35

Rudresh Mahanthappa also put in a huge shift. His current band the Indo-Pak coalition (above) featuring Rez Abbasi (guitar) and Dan Weiss (tabla) played songs from his Agrima album. For all the sweat and effort this trio seems to lack the fire and sheer power of his Bird Calls band and ultimately I left feeling a little disappointed, not in their individual playing but in the total musicality of the set.

The double bill of Ralph Towner (below) followed by the Oded Tzur Quartet left one in no doubt that jazz can still surprise and delight in spades. Towner, playing solo, is still the master of his instrument. At 78 his memory may not quite be what it was (he alluded to this in a pre-concert talk) but his ability to play and draw the audience into his quiet, delicate soundworld is undeniable. ‘Dolomiti Dance’ and ‘If’ were touching and ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ was just sublime. With the audience attentive and spellbound this was a beautiful concert.

TD Ralph Towner 17

The following performance was a real ‘wow’ moment. I knew nothing of the Israeli saxophonist Oded Tzur (below) but seeing that Nitai Hershkovits (former Avisahi Cohen sideman) was on piano one suspected it would be something special. Tzur has an incredibly different way of playing his sax – apparently stemming from his love and study of Indian music – he uses slow gentle blowing to generate a thin and ethereal sound which he can slide between notes – similar to a fretless bass glissando. Obviously a whole concert based on this one trick would be a little boring but Tzur is a master at bringing it in just at the right moment. The first song – slow and mournful introduces this sound – which Hershkovits took over on to the piano and the cross cultural marriage is made. Tzur can blow too, as can the rest of the band – Colin Stranahan on drums and Petros Klampanis on bass solid behind the two soloists up front. ‘Single Mother’ and ‘Whale Song’ are both beautiful and descriptive pieces - an ideal entry point for this fascinating music.

TD Oded Tzur 02

The last night of the festival brought together the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band and Cécile McLorin Salvant (picture top) as special guest. At the pre-concert talk John Clayton elaborated on how much work goes in shaping the music to fit the style of the singer and allowing room for them to ‘make the song personal’.

The first half of the concert gave the orchestra the chance to shine on their own but it was the latter part of the second half when Salvant took the stage that the evening really lit up. She’s a brilliant interpreter of the classics and with this excellent band behind her its not hard to see why she is probably the top female vocalist in the world today. Her choice of material is wide and refreshingly different - The Beatles ‘And I love him’, ‘Where Is Love’, from the musical Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘I hate a man like you’, Ruth Brown’s ‘I Don’t know’ and Judy Garland’s ‘The Trolley Song’ – this was a great set beautifully delivered.

For a small city just a stones throw from Belgrade this is a gem of a festival – the venue is compact and intimate and the tickets a few euros each. The festival consistently books top quality artists and never fails to entertain the sell out audiences. The Pančevo Jazz Festival is always the first weekend in November.

Story and photos Tim Dickeson

 

Blues1

The blues is a lived and living truth, as much as a genre. It may be coded in chord changes and rhythms, but what precedes and follows these sounds, namely how people talk, think and act, means something. This gig is a potent, provocative event that underlines the blues as a foundation for progressive black culture, and though billed as Elaine Mitchener and Jason Yarde co-leading a band on a set of Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant-Garde, the overriding impression is that the mercurial, experimental, wanderlust character of pre-war ‘Negro’ folk music still decisively shapes its modernist outgrowths.

When Neil Charles’ walking bass and Mark Sanders’ deep shuffle on the drums mark a climatic moment in proceedings there is a clear reference to centuries-old rights of swing, yet this ageless strategy packs a mighty punch because of the way it is framed by the invention and emotional charge of these players and their colleagues, trumpeter Byron Wallen, pianist Alexander Hawkins, saxophonist Yarde and vocalist Mitchener. They convincingly show the blues as an artery within the flexible, mutative body of black music, where sonic and metric bloodstreams are thrillingly unpredictable, with a pulse that smartly follows Beaver Harris’ ideal of ‘ragtime to no time’. 

Mitchener’s mixture of guttural, gravelly textures and crystalline articulation; Yarde’s braying, bucking alto, almost an evocation on the horn of reggae’s dread warning that "de fence cyan hold, too much bull inna de pen", and his seamless unison playing with Wallen; Hawkins’ splintered motifs and timbral escarpments – all these starkly vivid sounds move in and out of focus as the band changes shape, scaling down to trios and duos before coming back up to a quintet. The years of shared experience of the players in many British ensembles tells.

The music is rooted in the fertile U.S. soil of AEC, Shepp, Dolphy and Jeanne Lee, among others, but there is a gutsy earthiness to the performance that is contemporary and personal. From the joyous, jockeying funk of the opener to the strains of fiery anger and misty tenderness that follow the commitment is unbowed. The appearance of American poet Dante Micheaux, who does a fine reading of Joseph Jarman’s 'Non Cognitive Aspects Of The City' among several other pieces, brings more substance to the table. But the crucial moment of the night is the shift on to black British territory, through the intoning of words of wisdom from West Indian warrior intellectuals, Stuart Hall, Louise Bennett and Sam Selvon. It is uplifting and empowering to hear this ‘colonisation in reverse’ amid such a dubwise tapestry of sounds, and connect these sentiments to the word Haiti that is stamped on Mitchener’s t-shirt. The world’s first republique negre is still paying the price for daring to resist European rule. That’s the blues.

Other significant details reveal the ensemble’s literal and lateral thinking. Mitchener repeats the mantra "the maximum capacity of this room is 180", but that may not be recognition of the fact that this gig is sold out. She seems more interested in locking us into congregation and reflection on how many souls, or nations of millions, it takes to move us forward beyond simplistic notions of black and white.

The evening ends with Yarde playing a ghostly recording of his alto on the fly, so we can savour a homemade memory for the fire next time.

Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Dawid Laskowski

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