Mercury Prize nominees Polar Bear are to make a rare West Country appearance when they top the Calstock Jazz and Blues Festival later this month alongside a special duo performance by Claire Martin and Ian Shaw. The festival, which is located in the pretty Cornish village of Calstock, runs from 23-26 October with main performances at Calstock Arts in the Old Chapel and events and workshops taking place around the village.

The festival opens with ‘Songs from a Small Train’ featuring local composers, singers and the Calstock Big Jazz Choir at St Andrews on 23 October. Claire Martin and Ian Shaw perform a special 70th birthday tribute show to Joni Mitchell in the Old Chapel on 24 October; Craig Milverton presents Jazz Piano Legends and guitarist Antonio Forcione plays in a duo with percussionist Adriano Adewale at the Old Chapel on 25 October and Polar Bear close out the festival on 26 October, also at the Old Chapel. The band will also perform at the Mercury Prize awards ceremony at the Roundhouse in Camden on 29 October when the winner will be revealed live on Channel 4 at 10pm.

– Jon Newey


For more information and ticket details visit www.calstockjazzfestival.co.uk

British improv sax giant Evan Parker is set to mark his 70th birthday year with a momentous week of gigs at two venues close to his heart, The Vortex and Café OTO, both in London’s Dalston. Internationally acclaimed for his boundary pushing saxophone techniques and his relentless creativity Parker will perform in seven different line-ups over as many nights beginning on 20 October at Café OTO in a unique meeting with renowned Australian improv trio The Necks. Things then move to The Vortex with a busy triple bill that sees Parker duet with saxophonist Joe McPhee, and a trio of US drummer Chris Corsano and UK bassist John Edwards, then a final quartet featuring all four musicians (21 Oct).

The rest of the week then features Parker with Eddie Prévost and John Tilbury (Café OTO, 22 Oct); in a trio with Black Top plus a trio with John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble (The Vortex, 23 Oct); a trio with guitarist John Russell and John Edwards (Café OTO, 24 Oct); with Trance Map featuring Matt Wright on electronics, cellist Hannah Marshall and bassist Barry Guy (The Vortex, 25 Oct); and finally Parker performs with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble (Café OTO, 26 Oct). A limited number of seven-day passes are available at £70.

­– Mike Flynn


For more info see www.vortexjazz.co.uk or www.cafeoto.co.uk

Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, a rising star of the European jazz scene and winner of the Musician of the Year award at the 2004 Pori Jazz Festival, is set to release a new album, Bullhorn, his debut on the Edition Records label, which will be available in the UK from 2 February 2015. Pohjola will be previewing material from the release when he appears at the Forge in Camden on Tuesday 14 October and will be touring in April 2015, with dates soon to be announced.

The new album is his third as leader, following two highly regarded outings on the ACT label, Aurora back in 2011 and Ancient History the following year. Part of a three recording deal with Edition, it sees the Helsinki-based trumpeter join forces with fellow Finns bassist Antti Lötjönen, drummer Teppo Mäkynen and pianist Aki Rissanen, who will release an album of his own, featuring saxophonist Dave Liebman, on Ozella Music next year.

– Thomas Rees

For more info www.editionrecords.com/verneri-pohjola

Anglo-German quartet Paragon have set a release date for Cerca, their third album and their first on the Jellymould Jazz label, which will be available from 13 October, preceding a short UK tour.

The group, led by highly regarded German saxophonist Peter Ehwald and London-based pianist Arthur Lea and featuring bassist Matthias Akeo Nowak and MOBO Award-winning drummer Jon Scott (of Kairos 4Tet and Dice Factory), draw upon influences as diverse as bhangra and Venezuelan merengue over the course of Cerca’s 10 tracks, recorded over two days at a studio in Cologne.

The quartet will give the album its official launch on 31 October at The Crypt in London and will also be appearing at the Jazz Café in Newcastle (28 Oct), The Spin at The Wheatsheaf, Oxford (30 Oct), the Milestones Jazz Club in Lowestoft (2 Nov), the Jazz Café at the Clifford Arms in Teignmouth (3 Nov) and St Ives Jazz Club, at the Western Hotel, St Ives (4 Nov).

For more info go to paragonlikesyou.com

A globe-trotting celebration of all things improvised and alternative dreamt up by members of funky experimental jazz-prog band WorldService Project, Match&Fuse Festival ended its three-night run in suitably explosive style on Saturday night, with a total of nine bands playing alternating sets at east London venues Café OTO and the Vortex. After appearances from the likes of Shabaka Hutchings and James Allsopp on Thursday and Friday, it was down to young Norwegian improvisors Wolfram Trio to kick-start the finale. Alto player Halvor Meling hurled himself straight into the action, letting fly with scrambling lines and altissimo wails, as drummer Jan Martin Gismervik carved into his high-hat, leaving Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson’s bass to provide some warmth amidst the frostbitten sonic tundra.

From there, shifts in colour and intensity, twisted bass harmonics, broken swing and passages of nordic melancholy held the audience transfixed. There were new sounds too. Over the patter of Gismervik’s fingertips on the snare, Dietrichson used the heel of his bow to create trembling harmonics, before grabbing a cloth from behind the fingerboard and sliding it down the strings to make them shiver and scream. He broke his bridge in the process, to wild applause, and left Gismervik and an exhausted looking Meling to wrap things up.

Over at Café OTO the dream start continued with a performance from the Lana Trio and special guest John Butcher. Sparser and more brooding, their improvised set featured rasping drones from trombonist Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø and some superb contributions from Butcher that sounded uncannily like birdsong. But then the quality took a dip. Prog-outfit Twinscapes and Edinburgh-based trio Free Nelson Mandoom Jazz (no joke) favoured volume over interest and variety, an approach that wore thin pretty quickly. Jazz troupe Lunch Money were better, splashing dancey beats through puddles of electronics, and an improvised set from Monkey Plot and reeds-player Frode Gjerstad brought some nice moments, though the development felt a little forced rather than spontaneous and organic.

But when The Physics House Band (pictured top), an experimental trio featuring Adam Hutchison on bass, Sam Organ on guitar and an ear-defender clad Dave Morgan on drums, took the stage we were back in business. A series of thunderous hooks and apocalyptic drum fills left a room full of headbangers battered, bruised and elated. Ears ringing, I made it back to Café OTO for The Eirik Tofte Match&Fuse Orchestra, an improvising ensemble featuring performers from across the festival.

Their midnight march between venues was a highlight, largely because of the look of bewilderment and abject horror on the faces of passersby and the hilarity that ensued when the band – plus audience, plus enterprising Gillett Square alcoholics, some of whom had been swept up in the proceedings – had to force their way back into the Vortex despite the best efforts of the bouncer. It was an act that the last group of the night, the double trombone-wielding quintet Snorkel, couldn’t quite follow. A chaotic centre piece in a brilliant finale, it put a smile on my face that even a 3am night bus and the drunken antics of a man in immodestly low-slung sweatpants failed to extinguish, and it’s hard to think of a bigger compliment than that.

– Thomas Rees

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