Now in its eighth year the Ystad Jazz Festival (not far from Malmo in southern Sweden) shows that with strong programing and excellent organisation new festivals can grow and create an audience (and future) for themselves. This year the festival featured 43 concerts at 10 venues over six days – a comprehensive musical programme featured most types of jazz from straight-ahead to free improv and many points in between.

There were back to back concerts from 11am to 11pm while being very varied it is also quite tiring – going from big band to avant-garde takes its toll on the ears and brain. Major artists who appeared this year included Joshua Redman (playing with his Still Dreaming band featuring the music of his father Dewey), Al Foster, Al Di Meola (in a duet with Sardinian guitarist Peo Alfonsi, below) and Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda (a remarkable duo with so much energy).

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Artistic director and pianist Jan Lundgren also played two major concerts – one with his Potsdamer Quartet featuring Jukka Perko (sax), Dan Berglund (bass) and Morten Lund (drums) and one duo concert featuring himself with trombonist/vocalist Nils Landgren (below). The latter for me was the better of the two concerts, with Landgren's laid back vocal style very enjoyable. His versions of Leon Russell's, 'This Masquerade' and Hoagy Carmichael's 'The Nearness of You' were sublime as was his trombone playing all night – the finale of Joe Sample's melancholic 'Same Old Story, Same Old Song' including audience participation to Landgren's hand written lyric sheet was just joyous.

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ACT label boss Siggi Loch was in town for his 77th birthday celebrations with a succession of his artists. Marius Neset, Lars Danielsson and Morten Lund (picture top) started the proceedings playing songs from their excellent Sun Blowing album. Neset in ebullient mood blew up a storm with Lund as manic as ever on drums. Next up were Dan Berglund's Tonbruket (below) who played a wonderful gig at the Ystad Saltsjobad – a beachside spa resort 10 minutes outside the town. The instrumentation of the band is extremely varied with keyboards, electronics, guitars, pedal steel, bass, percussion and violin – all of which allowed the music to ebb and flow like the sea outside the venue – at times pastoral and then heavy jazz rock, but always interesting and fresh sounding.

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Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala played solo in the Monastery a set that included Gershwin, Bizet, Lennon & McCartney and his own emotional composition, 'Tears for Esbjörn' written following the untimely death of Esbjörn Svensson. In the confines of the monastery this was a real 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment. One of the main joys of festivals such as Ystad is discovering new artists – often artists who have been around for years but who don't figure on the main European festivals and certainly not on UK festivals. Ystad has a modest budget so cannot afford the biggest names but what it lacks in big money US artists it more than makes up for by its programming of quality European artists.

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This year there were several excellent artists I had not seen before. The young Swedish flugelhorn player Oskar Stenmark (who lives and plays in New York) improvising on traditional Swedish folk tunes, German bass player Lisa Wulff (above) and her trio featuring the brilliant saxophonist Adrian Hanack. The Carsten Dahl Experience with Jesper Zeuthen (alto sax) who must have one of the most unique sounds around, his vibrato playing quite astonishing. The veteran Dutch pianist Louis van Dijk's solo performance (also in the Monastery) just oozed quality and class. The Greek trio, Magnanimus, were a revelation. Mixing Middle Eastern sounds created by Christos Barbas (who also played piano) on the Ney and Kaval (Arabic and Balkan flutes) with modern lyrical jazz and a little electronics to create something a little different and their CD, No Time, captures the music perfectly.

One of the highlights of the festival was undoubtedly Tommy Smith leading the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and featuring the singer Eddi Reader (below) playing the songs of Robert Burns. Fortunately the overwhelmingly Swedish audiences are mostly fluent English speakers so Reader's tales of Burns and the songs meanings (in her Glaswegian lilt) were fully understood which of course adds to the enjoyment of the music. Smith runs a very tight band and the arrangements were superb – 'Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, Ye Jacobites, Jamie Come Try Me', the slightly salty 'Brose & Butter' and a rousing and ever quicker and quicker 'Charlie is my Darling' left the audience breathless and giving Reader and the Orchestra a standing ovation.

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The festival sold more tickets this year than ever before (10,500) 18 concerts were sold out. The festival has minimal support from the state and some decent sponsorship (30%) ticket sales represent 30% of the total cost of the festival. Ystad relies on an army (or rather) a family of happy volunteers who control the venues, sell merchandise, provide the catering and generally look after the festival - this provides the other 30% of the cost and this is the Swedish way – Ystad has over 200 societies all run by volunteers. Before the final concert the festival's management committee came on stage and sang to the audience by way of a 'thank you' to the paying customers, by rights of course, it should have been the other way round.

While Sweden may not have the glorious weather of Juan Les Pins or Nice or the majesty of Umbria, it does have something almost more important; a heart and a soul and is probably one of the friendliest jazz festivals you can go to.

– Tim Dickeson (Story and Photos)

This year's edition of the London Festival of Korean Music – more snappily titled K-Music – features a wide range of sounds with contemporary twists on traditional Korean folk music across nine dates around the capital from 15 September to 25 October. Jazz-leaning gigs include vocalist Heemoon Lee and Berklee-trained jazz group Prelude, who join forces when they appear at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall (24 Sept), performing the theatre work Korean Men that combines comedy, folk music and jazz.

There's also an appearance by renowned blind harmonica player Jeduk Jeon whose virtuosic playing is as expressively versatile as that of Toots Thielemans, as he lines up with Juwon Park for a set of gypsy and flamenco-tinged jazz at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho (27 Sept). Completing this triumvirate of jazz nights will be a collaboration between impressive bamboo flautist Hyelim Kim and London-based acclaimed singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki (picture above) as the pair explore fresh interpretations of traditional Korean themes in a group also featuring young star guitarist Rob Luft and bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado at The Vortex, Dalston (2 Oct).

– Mike Flynn

For the full K-Music programme visit www.serious.org.uk/events/series/k-music

 

Clap your pies on this vid exclusive from award-winning London duo Binker & Moses performing 'Fete By The River', a prime cut from their celebrated sophomore long-player, Journey to the Mountain of Forever, recorded live at the Total Refreshment Centre in Shacklewell on 25 June.

– Spencer Grady

ThorEgilLeirtro-SteveLehman-Moldejazz2017

Flying north-west from Oslo on a propeller aeroplane, the first impression of Molde arrives via its surrounding terrain of misty, snow-topped mountains, dotted wooden inhabitations and sea-circled islets. The town of Molde is more conventionally concrete at its centre, but it takes only 10 minutes of uphill trudging to reach the surrounding wilderness. Here we have one of Europe's very oldest jazz festivals, first sprouted in 1961, and now Norway's leading, venerable institution.

For an old-timer festival, Moldejazz still retains a youthful sense of adventure, its programming boasting an emphasis on unlikely encounters, first time presentations and boldly variegated music forms. We could shake our bluesy hips, but we could also tremble under the full onslaught of free-squall. We could leaf through the standard Broadway songbook, but we could also nod cerebellums to the most advanced forms of avant-rap.

Gigs are plentiful over the six-day run, but most of the core sets can be caught by striding between the fairly close-proximity venues. Radical overlaps are few. The main Plassen library-cum-arts centre has a medium-sized theatre and a small jazz club, Storyville, which operates all year round. The big-name shows took place at the Bjørnsonhuset, and a couple of large-scale open-air gigs happened uphill in the grassy natural amphitheatre of the Romsdalsmuseet. As Molde is a relatively small town, most of its venues tended to fill up to near capacity, hosting artists that in bigger cities would have sold out spaces twice the sizes of these. A sense of communal intimacy, gathered.

On the first day, at 10pm in Storyville, the New York saxophonist Steve Lehman played to a smallish, unseated audience. Unseated in more ways than one! Word of Lehman's new hip-hop outfit Sélébéyone (top) has perhaps not fully spread, or its approach was deemed too extreme, upon a sample listen. Well, essentially, this five-piece delivered one of the festival's prime sets, supple and sleek, marrying rigorous twin-saxophone themes (alto/soprano) to an involved beat structure that combined electro-beats with Damion Reid's live twitch-drumming. The rappers are atypical types, HPrizm (of Antipop Consortium) adopting the US weird-hop stance, and the Senegalese Gaston Bandimic turning his Wolof tongue into part of the phonetically complex barrage. This is radical rap, forming the ideal fusion with radical jazz, providing a rare alternative to most of the previous stylish funkoid attempts, down the decades.

TerjeRypdal byOleBjornSteinsvik

On the second day, veteran Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal (above) rocked out! A front row press chair can be a dangerous place! Even though he remained seated throughout, not too easy on his feet, this had absolutely no effect on the immense power of Rypdal's axe-work. There were a few numbers that involved a more ECM-friendly spaciousness, but Rypdal mostly ripped out extended distorto-spirals, his evil partner-in-the-devil's-music being Hammond organist Ståle Storløkken, helping to reach the furthest corners of the cosmos. The music's tar-slow and dub-heavy, Rypdal rearing up to a howling strike, making a sludge-rock start, then developing a prog aura, with distorted bass, skipping drums, and a roiling Hammond solo. With this Conspiracy quartet, Rypdal seems set on re-visiting his most rocking roots in the 1960s and 1970s, bringing out his bleeding extremes. It's a reeling miasma, with each player periodically coming up for air, to solo, then dive back into the whirlpool once more. A quieter stretch involves a held organ tone, with Rypdal building shapes via wah-wah pedal, steadily increasing the bleed. Then, he whipped out a bottleneck, for some psychedelic blues, followed by an almost ludicrously gargantuan Hammond solo, almost hitting the Deep Purple patch.

Onsdag-19.07.17-Rasmussen.-Guy-Taborn.-Parkins

A perfect example of Moldejazz's unique programming was the Storyville set hosted by Mette Rasmussen, where this Danish alto saxophonist invited her preferred improvising partners, thereby creating a most unusual combination of Zeena Parkins (electric and acoustic harps), Craig Taborn (piano) and Barry Guy (bass, above with Rasmussen). An almost completely unfamiliar situation for all four players. An austere modern classical aura blooms first, until Parkins switches to her personalised electro-harp, bullying the improvisation towards a harder, louder rubble-spewing. This encourages Guy to adopt an equally aggressive stance, while Rasmussen works away at repeating phrases, doggedly inserting a spine into the midst of the surrounding amorphousness. Swerving away from her established free-bleating vocabulary, she wisely acts as the quartet's steely structural guru.

On the fourth day, at 2pm, another winning set: German veteran Alexander von Schlippenbach leads his absurdist virtuoso combo Monk's Casino (below), in a most sympathetic treatment of the Thelonious canon. Not many interpreters have managed to catch Monk's twinkling gleam of ambling humour, but this crew are masters of ironic clowning, armed with a severe scalpel of thematic editing. They barely pause for breath, as each tune careens into the next, gaps tiny, pace flat-out, wriggles at maximum. Monk's Casino play completely acoustically, except for (possibly) a very low level bass amplifier. Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dörner (trumpet) make odd steps, sharp segues, and sudden solos that are literally lonesome outbursts. Monk is discovered at his most lean and wiry, as these cantankerous misfits wander the stage completely at ease and informal, so intravenously infected are they by the great centenarian's music.

MonksCasino byOleBjornSteinsvik

A few hours later, the starry blues pairing of TajMo (Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo') packed the sunny uphill park, dividing their repertoires equally, and appearing to genuinely dig each other's songs. Mister Mahal might have mostly remained seated, but that didn't curb his dance moves, as he sang richly, playing guitar, banjo and harmonica, with his daughters on backing vocals, plus a fine horn section to lend even greater spirit. Their combination is winning!

I'd caught Herbie Hancock nearly a fortnight previously at the Gent Jazz Festival, where his set floundered around like a loose jam session, with much inward-looking noodling. The revered keyboardist's Molde set was way superior, the band by this time having locked much tighter, with its leader in an extremely energised and extroverted state. There were still abundant solos, but these sounded more directed out to the audience than within the band, Hancock stalking around with his keytar, possessing energy to equal that of Chick Corea. Both of these veteran greats seem to enjoy the marathon set, a tendency very well justified in this case.

The programming at Moldejazz is so exceptional that we haven't even had chance yet to mention the two artists who played a significant number of 'in residence' gigs, all of them in stretching settings. Vijay Iyer mainly repeated existing collaborations, mostly with fellow Americans, aside from the meeting with Norway's own Cikada String Quartet. The pianist played duo sets with Craig Taborn (piano) and Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), and was most disappointing when delivering his Holding It Down war veterans concept piece, in partnership with wordsmith Mike Ladd. Iyer made up for this latter failing with an astonishing set by his own sextet, delivering numbers from the new Far From Over album. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey worked at an unceasingly powerful level, matching force with polyrhythmic complexity, seemingly soloing without let-up, soloing as a naturally ongoing state. Meanwhile, the front line of Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman and Mark Shim produced a staggering crossfire of solos, with the latter saxophonic pair enjoying a particularly tussling ascendance.

Meanwhile, Pat Metheny jumped right in, collaborating with Norwegians, forcing himself to negotiate uncharted waters, and producing results that held a consistency of excitement. His trio set with bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Gard Nilssen had an easy, supple sense of enquiry, as they each staked out a generous patch of soloing space. Metheny met the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, passing through a country ramble, then being goaded towards a raunchier precipice by an orchestra that delights in jacking between serrated improvisation and organised, harmonious washes, mostly equipped with a conventional big band swing. Until Mette Rasmussen emerges with a bittersweet solo, singing in alternation between drum thunder and horn section stabs, epic in development and repeated climaxing. Even more remarkable was Metheny's midnight meeting with Jaga Jazzist, a less likely combination. This densely formed collective made ample space for the guitarist's searing, multi-faceted solos, and Metheny appeared to be ecstatic in this angular, math-jazz setting, as Jaga Jazzist matched his enthusiasm, acknowledging his long-held influence in their lives.

– Martin Longley

– Photos by Thor Egil Leirtrø (top), Ole Bjørn Steinsvik (second from top and bottom) and Geir Jartveit (third from bottom) and Moldejazz

Matt-Ahern-Joshua-Redman-1

Joshua Redman (top), looking super svelte in suit and dicky bow, is in a mischievous mood. "This is where The Beatles are from, right?" he enquires before introducing his quartet to a near-1000 capacity audience at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) theatre. It's a slightly awkward moment prompting more gasps than laughs, but it passes quickly as Redman's Still Dreaming quartet hit the gears with a breath-taking, genuinely world-class performance. The band is a tribute to a tribute: the mid-1970/80s Old and New Dreams quartet celebrated Ornette Coleman with a line-up of his band alumni, among them Joshua's father Dewey. This being their only UK performance, it was a scoop that entirely lived up to its promise. Redman Jr can sometimes come across as a little too slick in his effortless virtuosity and breezy persona, basically lacking that cutting edge. Not tonight though: there was a naked intensity and raw spontaneity about the playing, each band member navigating an inspired route through the open-ended harmonies, deep blues inflections and freed-up instrumental roles of early acoustic-era Ornette on memorable tunes written by the maestro himself, by Redman Sr, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell as well as the band's originals. Redman and the cornetist Ron Blake's phenomenally quick-witted exchanges, the superlative drummer Brian Blade's sonically mouth-watering percussive orchestration and bassist Scott Colley's biting rhythmic phrasing were just a few of the highlights.

David-McLenachan-Cottonolopis-3

The festival's annual Irwin Mitchell mjf originals commission, now in its 20th year, went to the local keyboardist-composer Andy Stamatakis-Brown (above), who took on an intriguingly ambitious concept that drew together two of the city's most pivotal working-class cultural epochs: the 1990s Madchester dance scene and its status as a pioneering industrialised city, over two centuries earlier. The scene perfectly set in Wellington Mill at a former cotton mill turned warehouse rave party venue near the Etihad, his episodic 80-minute suite 'Cottonopolis' (pictured below) connected up Balearic dance and St Germain-ish house with loops of the trance-like rattle of a loom machine sampled from the local Museum of Science and Industry and projected as images onto cotton sheets hanging from the walls. Stamatakis-Brown chucked in some smart-sounding ensemble jazz riffs, and if it was more an exercise in nostalgia than innovation for those old enough to remember, the newest generation of 24 Hour Party People lapped it up.

EJ-Trivett-Cottonopolis-

Elsewhere, the 2017 #Jazz100 forward-looking centenary campaign that peaked here with a marathon 100 bands in 100 hours, was already in full swing with artistic director Steve Mead's focus on programming new bands taking place in the main festival square, and for the first time in the charming ambience of the art deco Salon Perdu Spiegeltent. The rain in Manchester might be a well-worn cliché, but it bucketed down nearly all the first week leading to an inevitable drop in attendance and staff morale. The weather though thankfully picked up just previous to the last weekend for a Brexit-bashing Dutch contemporary jazz strand (that had earlier included the highly rated Kaja Draksler) with proggy fusion quartet Even Sanne, led by the Israeli guitarist Eran Har Even and the impressive singer-songwriter Sanne Huijbregts, whose animated folk-jazz scat-inflected vocal could have benefited from a more imposing presence at front-of-stage. One Million Faces Inwardness is a trio led by French percussionist Davy Sur, their subtly dynamic, ambient tone poems on themes selected by the audience interpreted entirely on-the-fly; a 'Polar Bear' was artfully illustrated by Polish guitarist Maciek Pysz's sliding bass growls and David Amar's haunting FX-laden, North African-influenced soprano sax. While the Nordic trio of Medbøe/Eriksen/Halle aurally decorated the towering spires of nearby St Ann's Church with wistfully improvised mood music, the highly experienced North west chamber duo of Impossible Gentlemen reedsman Iain Dixon and pianist Les Chisnall took a more direct yet exquisite 'classic' chamber route in Salon Perdu. The pick of the bunch though was trio Sawa that highlighted the vocals of the Iraqi, London based Alya Al-Sultani and a gripping dialogue between cellist Shirley Smart and German pianist Clemens Christian Poetzsch, drawing passionately on elements from middle-eastern folk, minimalism, improv and classical music. It was a quirkily adventurous genre-mix that's typical of this most untypical of UK-based jazz festivals.

– Selwyn Harris

– Photos by Matt Ahern (top) and David McLenachan (middle) and EJ Trivett (bottom)

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