TD-Abercrombie-03

The final two recordings by guitarist John Abercrombie for the Munich-based ECM label – the tranquil and reflective 39 Steps and Up and Coming – seemed to provide a kind of peaceful resolution to his life that had been shattered on 7 December 2003 by a fire that destroyed his Putnam Valley, N.Y. home, together with a priceless archive and a collection of 13 guitars, including an old Gibson 175.

A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Abercrombie was a founding member of the jazz-rock group Dreams in 1969 that included tenor saxophonist Mike Brecker and drummer Billy Cobham in its line-up, two musicians with whom he formed a lasting musical relationship. Signed by the Columbia label, Dreams helped put Abercrombie's name on the map, and stints with Chico Hamilton, Jeremy Steig, Barry Miles, Gil Evans and Gato Barbieri followed. In 1974 he joined Billy Cobham's Spectrum whose popularity brought his name before a wider public. In the summer of 1974 he made his first recording under his own name for ECM, Timeless, with Jan Hammer on keyboards and Jack DeJohnette – a lifelong friend – on drums. It marked the beginning of an association that would last the rest of his life.

The ECM website indicates that he appeared on 51 albums either as a leader or sideman. During that time, he consolidated his musical philosophy which centered around small, intimate ensembles, with an ethos that embraced both open and closed forms and an interactive approach to improvisation. His albums with Jack DeJohnette's New Directions and the Gateway Trio, with Dave Holland and DeJohnette, saw him consolidating this tactic.

Often overlooked, but genuine jazz classics in their own right, were Abercrombie's albums Night (1984) and Getting There (1988), which were both graced by Abercrombie's long-time friend Mike Brecker. Yet these albums represent only a small part of his ECM legacy, which attests to his remarkable range as a musician, for example the duets with Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek's Eventyr, Charles Lloyd's The Water Is Wide and Hyperion with Higgins, Collin Walcott's Grazing Dreams, Enrico Rava's The Pilgrim and the Stars and the Kenny Wheeler classic Deer Wan with Jan Garbarek, Ralph Towner, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette.

John Abercrombie died peacefully after a long illness at Hudson Valley Hospital, outside of Peekskill, NY, with his family present.

– Stuart Nicholson

– Photo by Tim Dickeson

Rising star guitarist Mansur Brown and exciting drummer Yusef Dayes are teaming up to explore the mind-expanding music of Jimi Hendrix for a special one-off concert at St James the Great Church, Lower Clapton, East London on Friday 8 September.

Prodigiously talented 18-year old Brown's scorching guitar work has been a key part of Triforce, his Mahavishnu Orchestra-inspired four-piece who've been creating buzz through incendiary performances in London and at Jazz in the Round at this year's Love Supreme Jazz Festival. Frenetic drummer Dayes has also earned widespread acclaim with his now-disbanded drum'n'bass partnership, Yusef Kamaal, with keyboardist Kamaal Williams and their album Black Focus.

For their improv-fuelled Hendrix-inspired first set the pair will be joined by bassist Rocco Palladino plus a special guest vocalist still to be announced. Following this Brown and Dayes will also present a second set of brand new original material, which will get its public premiere this evening, with keyboardist Charlie Stacey and a guest vocalist joining the ensemble.

– Mike Flynn

For more info and tickets visit www.churchofsound.co.uk

The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival has been successfully putting on a free weekend of concerts since 2007 and its 11th incarnation featured a host of jazz, latin and crossover acts. An appreciative audience had already gathered at Canada Square Park to hear bop pianist Rob Barron, accompanied by virtuoso vibraphonist Nat Steele and guitarist Colin Oxley.

By contrast, young singer Poppy Ajudha began her set with her tribute to Billie Holiday in the form of an R&B version of 'Speak Low', followed by a selection of original tunes and her version of Solange's 'Cranes In The Sky'. Cuban violinist Omar Puente (below) had the crowd dancing to his infectious Afro-Cuban grooves while Norfolk's Mammal Hands provided the ambient chill-out music, starting their set with their now familiar tune, 'Quiet Fire'.

OmarPuente6tet LWorms 1

Saturday's programme was completed with a fiery and energetic set by Riot Jazz Brass Band who created a party atmosphere in an otherwise corporate enclave of East London, with MC Chunky getting the crowd moving, and drummer Steve Pycroft and sousaphonist Pete Robinson laying down a steady groove to Riot Jazz originals such as 'Checkmate'.

WildCard LWorms

Sunday began with Brazilian vocalist Luna Cohen and British guitarist Rob Luft performing mellow latin grooves while talented guitarist Clement Regert's Wild Card (above) played an eclectic mix of well-known tunes such as Mongo Santamaria's 'Afro Blue' and a unique version of 'Fever' with vocalist Annabel Williams, with an all-star band that included trumpeter Graeme Flowers, saxophonist Jim Knight and drummer Sophie Alloway.

CometisComing LWorms 12

The staff at Canary Wharf were on hand to dispense free waterproof ponchos for the many who braved the rain to hear the grooving, ethereal sounds of Shabaka Hutchings and The Comet Is Coming (above) before Pete Wareham's Melt Yourself Down (pictured top) brought the festival to a close with some intense and upbeat grooves.

Charlie Anderson

– Photos by Lisa Wormsley

 Jason-Rebello

(Pianist Jason Rebello guests on the Talking Heads stage with Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra, led by Dan Mar-Molinero on soprano sax)

 

Eighteen months ago the Talking Heads was a small pub on the outskirts of Southampton, presenting local jazz bands once a week in a gloomy back room. Today, having relocated to plush premises twice the size in the centre of town, it has established itself as one of the city's most popular jazz venues, and is attracting the top UK players. It also means that, taken in conjunction with the city's other venues, there is now jazz available somewhere in Southampton almost every night of the week.

Pianist Dave Newton says it's among the best UK jazz clubs he's played in: "I like it very much. The main room is a nice size to play to and it has a really good stage, a tremendous sound system, an excellent bar and a really comfortable backstage room. There aren't many local jazz clubs that can supply all that. Long may it continue."

In fact the pub boasts two concert rooms, each with a full bar. The larger of the two has a wide stage with state-of-the-art lighting and PA, and it's here that the volunteer-run Southampton Jazz Club presents the likes of Alan Barnes, Gilad Atzmon and Liane Carroll on Tuesdays once a month.

In the smaller adjacent bar, the city's other voluntary-run club, the Southampton Modern Jazz Club, presents more contemporary jazz free-of-charge every Sunday and alternate Thursdays, in an intimate setting in which the audience is no more than four metres from the band.

Two local jazz musicians, tenor saxophonist Lizzie Bennie and drummer Ted Carrasco, help to run the venue, and they have tried to make the venue the kind of place which they, as musicians, would like to play in themselves. Bennie says: "We've both been on gigs where we've found ourselves stuck in a corner of a bar with barely a reachable power socket or decent lighting available. Here we provide all these, plus lights for music stands, spare stands as well, and a decent baby grand piano. And with candles on the tables and real ales on tap as well, it gives all the benefits of your local bar with a top quality jazz club vibe."

– Ian Gilchrist

For more details visit www.thetalkingheads.co.uk

 

When Get the Blessing call for audience participation, they're startled almost to the point of incapacity by the reaction. British audiences can need cattle-prods to clap along, but around midnight in the Gaume festival's final minutes, its still packed big tent rallies together in collective, thunderous rhythm. With fellow Bristolian Matt Brown depping on drums – due to Clive Deamer's Radiohead job-share – the band's ability to play with placid melancholy like a pond's decreasing ripples then jolt into absurdist jazz-funk ends the weekend on a high.

Two-hundred kilometres south of Brussels, Belgium empties out. The Gaume region is a different, deeply rural world, with the vast Ardennes forest between it and the capital, and southern Europe's sense of time embraced amid the space. The village of Rossignol has little to recommend it except a beautiful church and chateau, and the dream of a fine jazz festival which Jean-Pierre Bissot has sustained for 33 years. It's homely in the very best sense, with fine local food and beer, a handpicked, high-quality, largely Belgian and Luxembourgian bill, and a tangible sense of community. The lifeblood of Europe's jazz and far corners flows in such gatherings.

Dhafer Youssef (pictured top), perhaps sensing this isn't the place for big gestures, headlines on Friday in exploratory, meditative mood. He's like a bluegrass picker, his oud locking in time with drummer Justin Faulkner till it perceptibly slows. When Faulkner finally explodes in a flurry of high-hats and rim-shots, he's hitting a different spot in the rhythm of an otherwise spare, skipping groove. Afrobeat, high-life and calypso flit through a single tune, yet there's so much hard bop to Youssef, elevated by his sense of understated ceremony.

This becomes literal with French saxophone quartet Quatuor Machaut, whose sets in the crepuscular village church freely improvise from the pioneering, polyphonic mass of 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut. When they spread into its four corners, their giant shadows looming on the walls, a mantric, mind-loosening, quadrophonic hum surges heavenward to a single, sky-piercing note.

YouSunNah

Korean singer Youn Sun Nah (above) is one of ACT's biggest names in France and the festival's largest draw. With a crack, swinging quartet, including Brad Jones on bass, she begins with a daring attempt on an Al Green Everest, 'Take Me To The River'. Her tiny voice and vanishing meekness between songs contrasts with her vocal persona's swaggering span. She paws the air as she scats with octave-spanning, leonine prowess, taking the storm-lashed prow of the Fairport Convention-popularised folk song 'A Sailor's Life' during its shivering crescendos, her throbbing baritone rising to high, fading cries. Peter, Paul and Mary's 'No Other Name' is sung in the richly emotional vein of 1960s folk divas such as Joan Baez then, on Tom Waits' 'Jockey Full Of Bourbon', Youn is all gravel and grit. Was it just mimicry, someone wonders afterwards. No – her pleasure in the voice was true.

The festival is still Mediterranean-sunny in early evening on the Sunday, but at its truest during Saturday's constant rain, when uncomplaining middle-aged Belgians in anoraks troop to more jazz in the gloom. Swiss Florian Favre's Trio play a tribute to John Taylor, 'Mr. Taylor', pinned by ice-pick piano stabs, and find elegiac, mysterious moments. French tenor man Sylvain Rifflet's Mechanics also climax on a potently strange wavelength. They seem to play in parallel unison, each musician separated in a misty space. Then a swirling repetition subtly builds in speed, gaining power with each pass, drummer Benjamin Flament pumping up the energy and wanting more. Just that tune was worth the trip.

– Nick Hasted
– Photos by Christian Deblanbc

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