Saxophonist Tommy Smith takes his latest project home this month with a concert on 11 November in Craiglockhart church, Edinburgh, just two miles from where he grew up on the outskirts of the Scottish capital.

Back in the summer Smith stepped onstage at Rochester Jazz Festival in New York to play his first ever "naked saxophone" concert, an experience he found "scary but exciting", even though he's played solo onstage several times before. In the early noughties he toured his Alone at Last project across the UK and further afield, playing soprano and tenor saxophones and integrating recordings of his late friend and collaborator Edwin Morgan's poetry with samples of natural sounds and special effects. He has also recorded alone, on his 2001 album Into the Silence, which saw him working with what was at one time the longest echo in the world in Hamilton Mausoleum in Lanarkshire.

The Rochester concert, however, was his first time "playing with no help", as he puts it, in front of an audience and the response in the church-like ambience of Rochester's Lyric Theatre, and in later reviews, told him his approach was on the right track. "I've seen some great saxophonists playing completely solo and even someone like Michael Brecker, who used awesome virtuosity and fantastic technique to prolong his compositions in that setting, played too many notes," he says. "It's a really big challenge and there's the temptation to fill the space available because you're exposed by the silence, but to me space is important. It gives you time to reflect on what you've just played and what you're about to play. It lets the music breathe. If you just play constantly, for the audience it's like listening to someone talking non-stop, twenty to the dozen, and that can just get annoying."

Smith has since played another successful solo concert, in the aptly named 'round church' in Bowmore on the whisky island of Islay in the Hebrides, and is planning more. When the minister at Craiglockhart offered his church as a venue, Smith jumped at the chance to play solo in his home town. "It wouldn't suit every venue," he says. "But churches, particularly the older ones, were built to accommodate acoustic music and I really enjoy working with the room. I concentrate on melodies, some of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's, some from Scottish folk music and some of my own, and although it is like walking a tightrope, playing without a band, it's really satisfying."

As well as his solo concert, Smith has a tour in the south of England this month with his old friend and "personal orchestra", pianist Brian Kellock, their dates are: St George's, Bristol (16 November); Cathedral School, Wells (17 November) Pizza Express, Dean Street (as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, 18 November); Arts Centre, Colchester (19 November) and Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham (20 November).

– Rob Adams

Richard-Bona-Mandekan-Cubano-Credit-Christian-Gaier

Some festivals cram everything into a single weekend, but Enjoy Jazz, in the south west of Germany, is an epic affair, beginning on 1 October, and still in progress now, until 11 November. There are one or two concerts each evening, divided between three reasonably proximate cities: Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg. This is its 19th year, and though springing from a jazz source, Enjoy includes a well-chosen selection of satellite acts, including Oren Ambarchi, Gonjasufi, and Lapalux. Its jazz reach is also broad, embracing artists such as Archie Shepp, Vijay Iyer, BadBadNotGood and the Hot 8 Brass Band. Much of this good taste emanates directly from festival director Rainer Kern.

While your Jazzwise scribe was in town, most of the gigs happened in Ludwigshafen, a chemically-orientated city which is home to the BASF industrial colossus, one of Enjoy's principal supporters. We might primarily recall them as manufacturers of cassettes and reel-to-reel tape, but they also have other substances bubbling out of their cooling towers. Like Bournville, in Birmingham, this company has a spreading influence over its home city, but it's not chocolate aroma we're inhaling. Your scribe's room boasted one of the best full-wall hotel artworks ever experienced, a vast impressionist portrait of the BASF chemical works. Indeed, all three venues visited in Ludwigshafen are operated by this company, and they're all impressive, in their different fashions.

Egberto-Gismonti-u-Maria-Joao-credit-Christian-Gaier

Egberto Gismonti (guitar/piano) and Maria João come together from Brazil and Portugal, appearing at Das Haus, to a capacity crowd. We don't get too many chances to catch Gismonti, so this was a valuable opportunity to witness these two, collaborating on their short European tour. The set opens with Gismonti playing solo on 12-string acoustic guitar, bending, plucking and twisting the notes within his serpentine phrases, but in a softly sensitive fashion. He's causing string-distress, but in an open-strumming, harp-like, or zithery way, naturally scintillating. Gismonti's fingers make a mobile spider-splay on the guitar neck, sliding gracefully up and down, in fixed position, gently pressing down on the tautness. Next, he moves to the piano, creating swells and ripples, dancing rivulets that are not particularly smooth, but often quite violent, as they make their scampering, headlong rush.

Gismonti is wearing a red tea cosy on his head, with an electric blue shirt, but he is perhaps upstaged by Maria João's blooming skirts, puffed sleeves, stack heels, big hair, and certainly by her possessed energy levels. Actually, perhaps 'upstaged' is not the word, but more 'distracted', as her ebullient personality, displayed in visual and aural modes, frequently forces the audience to focus on her, somewhat obscuring the actions of Gismonti, now back on guitar. He plays, she responds, mostly using a scat-cum-free improvisation vocabulary, and often directly mimicking or continuing his lines. They jape and frolic, as the seated João rides her imaginary steed, taking it down to a whisper, then rattling her skull-chompers like a marionette. João has a very expressive theatricality, usually having fun at the expense of herself, her straight man Gismonti, or the world in general. Her voice sometimes reveals a vibrato-ed operatic training, concealed in its depths, but she's also well into raunchy cabaret. As the set progresses, and João rarely ceases vocalising, it's necessary to avoid looking at her, homing in on Gismonti, which lends a peculiar change of emphasis in the musical perception. Back at the piano, with João now standing, the bastard mix of jazz, opera, fado and music hall continues, as she mocks the conventions of a formal speech-address, while Gismonti leaves the stage. As the set crept towards the 90-minute mark, there were inevitably some repeated moves, but this was a fine opportunity to make a rare sighting of Gismonti, even if he could have had a touch more time to himself.

In another BASF concert hall, Feierabendhaus, the South American vibration continued with Richard Bona's Mandekan Cubano, which combines the sound of Havana with traces of the bassman leader's Cameroonian roots. It's a story of the continuing feedback between latin and West African musics. Being a formal, and impressive, concert hall, perhaps this wasn't the best choice for a gig that was guaranteed to prompt dancing, but from an early stage, a certain proportion of the seated audience relocated to the raised sides of the hall. Each number revealed varying ratios between Africa and the Caribbean, with some of them being almost completely over one side of the Atlantic, or the other. One minute there's a ripping trumpet solo, riding high above the theme, the next, it's crisply muted and perfectly restrained. Strong solos also rotate between the trombone and piano, with room for sedate balladry too, as Bona himself solos with a flutey sound, imparted by his transformational effects pedals. Pianist Osmany Paredes penned 'Santa Clara', a dazzling acid salsa, bustling and lusty, featuring a 1970s-fuelled guitar solo. Bona has such magnetising powers that he can confidently wave goodbye to his band, at what could be almost set's end, slowing things down for a solo showcase of tall tales, bass-loop construction and songbird vocalising, keeping the audience gripped. He then engages in some of the most successful audience participation routines ever heard, actually conducting the crowd to constructive end, as he shapes hummed tones and male/female chorus divides, ending up building an elaborate 'proper' song experience.

Amok-Amor-mit-Christian-Lillinger-Credit-Christian-Gaier

The Enjoy Jazz festival has a fine approach towards contrasting styles, so the next evening, it's back to another BASF venue, the smaller, but still refined, Gesellschaftshaus, an unlikely home for an Amok Amor gig. Normally, we'd expect to catch this extreme-density math-jazz quartet in a DIY converted slaughterhouse, but here they are in a recital hall that probably mostly houses chamber classical ensembles. This is the last chance to catch them in their original form, as trumpeter Peter Evans is departing soon, and it's not clear whether the band will continue. The other players are Wanja Slavin (reeds), Petter Eldh (bass) and Christian Lillinger (drums). Evans rattles out a free military bugle scatter, a scramble of acupuncture notes, whilst Eldh's bass acts as a monomaniac fulcrum, insistently standing its ground. Riffs are on the run, constantly, slamming into new patterns with each resolution of loaded tension. Slavin plays an accelerated bebop alto solo, cloned into something way beyond, the lightning horns duelling frenetically. Evans envelops the microphone with his bell, plunging deep, with Slavin traipsing off on clarinet. Lillinger is in constant rummaging motion, flabbergasting in his continually inventive constructions. The entire set is compacted into not much more than 50 minutes, including the encore, but Amok Amor pile in so much ultra-detail that this was three hours of material, when judged by conventional combo notational rules. We'll sorely miss them if they cease!

– Martin Longley

Photos by Christian Gaier

The third edition of the Brewin Dolphin Cambridge International Jazz Festival, runs from 11-26 November with over 80 gigs and workshops at 25 venues around the city. Packing in established names such as Andy Sheppard's Beyond the Dancing Sun Quartet with Michel Benita, Eivind Aarset and Sebastian Rochford; jazz-rock pioneers Soft Machine; bass-led Alison Rayner Quartet; noisy thrillers Get the Blessing and drummer Clark Tracey's Hexad, who mark what would have been the 90th birthday of his revered father Stan. Stellar forward-looking big band Beats & Pieces appear on 24 November as part of three UK datesthat also include Deaf Institute, Manchester (16 Nov) and Rich Mix, London (17 Nov, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival) – ahead of their tenth anniversay celebrations throughout 2018.

The defining strand of the festival will be a 'New Gen Jazz' all-day event on the closing Sunday 26 November running from lunchtime to encourage younger jazz fans to check out a vibrant bill of the new wave of bands that have come to the fore in the last couple of years. These include Native Dancer, Resolution 88, Blue Lab Beats, The ElecTrio, Camilla George Quartet, Alex Hitchcock Quintet, Nérija, math-rock-electronics trio Strobes (Nov 25) and the improv-crossover boys Binker & Moses with Friends (Nov 26).

Other highlights on the extensive festival bill include bassist Michael Janisch's groove-heavy Paradigm Shift band with a hefty line-up of saxophonist John O'Gallagher, trumpeter Jason Palmer, Pakistani/American guitarist Rez Abbasi and superb US drummer Clarence Penn – plus a concert from Mercury-nominated pianist Zoe Rahman. The latter also leads a workshop with other high-profile musicians, such as classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, the London Vocal Project performs Jon Hendricks' Miles Ahead workshop led by Pete Churchill, and UK-based Swedish singer Emilia Mårtensson leads a vocal workshop ahead of her Trio gig.

– Mike Flynn

For full listings and tickets visit www.cambridgejazzfestival.info

 Coleman

As Britain attempts what seems like an ungainly improvisation out of Europe, American artists more adept at the art are thankfully still finding a way into the old continent. With his residency at La Petite Halle (a well-appointed restaurant in the vast cultural centre of La Villette in Paris) extending for no less than two weeks, Chicago alto saxophonist-composer Steve Coleman appears a cipher of a more worthwhile politics against the backdrop of Brexit and Great Britannia, be it an ally of rulers or an enemy of rules.

The double-bill this evening features two very different groups that flag up both the breadth of Coleman's output and the depth of his artistry. Yet the intensity of the audience reaction reflects the substantial impact he has made in France since the late 1980s, which was duly enhanced by the memorable Hot Brass sessions of the mid-1990s. He is very much a known quantity here. Numerous workshops and master classes have strengthened his ties with local musicians and the fact that there is more or less a French version of one of his latest ensembles, Natal Eclipse, underlines as much. As the new album Morphogenesis makes clear the band is both a departure from and reinforcement of core Coleman principles. The absence of drums lightens the overall palette, yet there is a momentum and intricacy in the horn scores that bear the hallmarks of the leader's approach to writing and arranging. Melodies are often very rhythmic with phrases that move from lengthy, fluid undulations to more contained, terse lines, that underline the long-held love Coleman, whose alto solos throughout the set are as pithy as they are potent, has of all things staccato as well as allegro. There is both a beauty and austerity in the work, but the input of the French players joining Coleman, and fellow Americans trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and electric pianist Matt Mitchell, is sadly marred by a mix that leaves their contributions close to the edge of silence. The clarinet, in this instance played by Catherine Delaunay, is virtually swallowed whole by the other reeds, which is a great shame as the instrument has a key timbral role on Morphogenesis insofar as it brings a gauzy, malleable character to the ensemble voice. Having said that, Selene Saint-Aime's often spare, distilled basslines, sometimes hingeing on no more than two pitches, are very effective insofar as they lend a pleasing floating, gliding quality to the music.

ColemanRap

If Natal Eclipse is air then The Metrics are earth and fire. The group with close to three decades of history has seen personnel changes, yet its conceptual substance remains unchanged: an exploration of rhythm with a hard edge in terms of sound, particularly low frequencies. The combination of Sean Rickman's drums, with those tinder dry offbeats on the snare and Anthony Tidd's imperious drive on the bass, is not so much a solid foundation as a kind of endlessly revolving, if not rotating floor for material whose structural complexities are not incompatible with the ability of the band to move the crowd. Originally The Metrics toured with a dancer called Laila and within minutes of their arrival those hovering at the bar are loosening up and getting down. In odd meters. The head spun numbers games or difficult-to-spot start and endpoints in the life cycle of a phrase may stem from Coleman's artful, mathematical mind yet there is no absolute break with what might pass for popular culture. Whether you call it blues, funk or hip hop, the inventions of black music beholden to Coleman's hometown of Chicago and his adopted city New York are really a part of his wider vocabulary insofar as these genres present priceless raw materials in both rhythm and timbre. We hear the ghosts of James Brown and Maceo Parker and, most importantly, the living spirit of Kokayi, one of the three MCs from the original Metrics ensemble, who frankly steals the show on many an occasion. Largely unknown beyond his work with Coleman and Andy Milne's Dapp Theory, Kokayi is arguably one of the most dynamic and creative rappers in contemporary hip hop, yet to assign him solely to the genre would be a mistake. His brilliance lies in the unforced ease with which he shuttles between rapping and singing, so that his voice becomes a mighty, all-terrain vehicle, which is particularly effective for Coleman's music given its tendency to cross the line between what might be called swinging and grooving. The sound soars upward to gospelised soprano and also dives deep into burly baritone sub-sonics, a dark, dense wedge of tone that commands the whole venue. Coleman ends the evening singing a few lines, which, in turn, act as a springboard for the rest of the band. The building blocks are gradually, but decisively, assembled and enriched. As with many Coleman pieces counterpoint is prominent, and the interlocking, weaving and criss-crossing of patterns, their hypnosis engineered by the metronomic precision of the drums and bass, in particular, once again elicits a new burst of energy from the dancers. All of which makes for a fascinating debate about music for head, heart and feet. The dividing lines between the serious and the funkulous are brilliantly blurred.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photos by Dimitri Louis

 cory-henry-roundhouse

With this year's annual event having drawn its biggest audience to-date, with over 35,000 people attending over the weekend beginning 30 June 2017, the organisers of Love Supreme Jazz Festival are presenting a special one-day mini-fest at the iconic Roundhouse venue in Chalk Farm, London on 5 May 2018. The event will take over every area of the venue – which includes its large multi-level foyer space, the Studio Theatre, as well as the 3,000 capacity main live room – while hosting a wide variety of forward-looking acts including multi-Grammy-winning US singer and keyboard sensation Cory Henry (pictured) and his band The Funk Apostles, jazz-step trio Moon Hooch and neo-soul artists Mr Jukes and singer Elli Ingram. Two additional stages, one programmed by music website EZH will feature beat-focused newcomers Tenderlonious and Soccer 96, among others, while Jazz In The Round – one of the huge successes of the 2017 Love Supreme programme – will also present its own cutting edge line-up, to be announced soon.

Love Supreme festival director Ciro Romano commented: "We're excited to be bringing the Love Supreme vision to London. The UK jazz scene is thriving at the moment and London in particular continues to be a fantastic hotbed for innovation and creativity within the genre, so branching out into the capital was a logical next step for us."

– Mike Flynn

For more info and tickets visit www.lovesupremefestival.com/tickets

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