Since the 1950s the principal venue for jazz in this country has tended to be the pub. This has been the case both in London and the provinces, and certain ones became established and well-known (see Jazzwise’s regular Brilliant Corners feature). Often at the whim or mercy of a landlord who hoped to generate income on rainy Tuesdays in February, those unsung heroes, the jazz club organisers, would show great determination and enthusiasm often against odds. One such person is Roy Stevens, who for a number of years successfully ran the Stratford-upon-Avon Jazz Club at The Chapel, Shakespeare Street. Although he will be on hand to advise the new regime, his final evening in charge saw Alan Barnes and Bruce Adams play to a packed house.

Starting with Jimmy McGriff’s ‘Motoring Along’, they quickly settled into a straightahead evening of mainstream/modern numbers, bringing in ballads and the occasional bossa nova, accompanied by Tom Hill on bass, Paul Sawtell, piano, and Neil Bullock, drums. The understanding between the two frontmen was immediately apparent, not surprising given their long-running association. Adams’ playing was forceful throughout, on both trumpet and flugelhorn, with a full, powerful sound. He showed what a good swing player he is, with lovely phrasing and time and appropriate use of mute and growl. Barnes swapped from alto to baritone with ease, displaying great dexterity on the bigger instrument, especially on Isham Jones’ ‘There is No Greater Love’. As professionals they tailor their choice of numbers to suit the audience and from their wide repertoire came Richard Rodgers’ ‘Little Girl Blue’ and ‘Spring is Here’; ‘Some Time Ago’ bySergio Mihanovich; and Earl Warren’s composition for Basie, ‘9.20 Special’.

Tom Hill’s fast fingers on the up-tempo numbers showed why he has played with Jaki Byard, Conte Candoli and George Russell in the past. Bullock kept steady rhythm throughout, busily filling in but with a penchant for doubling the tempo, which Sawtell and Hill coped with readily. The Studiologic Numa piano sounded good in acoustic mode, but to this writer sounds dated when used as an electric.

On ‘Funjii Mama’ by Blue Mitchell (from a 1964 Blue Note session) Adams’ forthright approach took him into the upper register. Barnes’ solo quoted from ‘Let’s Fall in Love’, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and even a hint of ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’, and while he can play with strength and speed, he doesn’t lose any of his lyricism. Towards the end of the evening Ben Webster’s ‘Did You Call Her Today’ saw Adams playing Harry Edison to Barnes’ relaxed Webster, the two combining well in their tribute to the great saxophonist.

Let’s hope Stratford finds someone to take Roy’s place and continue to present music of such a consistently high calibre: his humour and general bonhomie will be missed by an appreciative audience.

– Matthew Wright

Grammy-winning singer Cassandra Wilson has signed to Sony’s Legacy Recordings for her new album, Coming Forth By Day, which is set for release in the Spring 2015. A tribute to iconic singer Billie Holiday, the album is her follow up to 2012’s Another Country (eOne Records), and its release on 7 April 2015 marks what would have been Holiday’s 100th birthday.

Recorded in Los Angeles at Seedy Underbelly studios, Wilson worked with a team of producer Launay (Nick Cave), guitarists T Bone Burnett and Nick Zinner, string arranger Van Dyke Parks and rhythm section of drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey of The Bad Seeds. Drawing on material from across Holiday’s wide-ranging repertoire, Wilson hasn’t shied away from the darker side of Holiday’s life that is also reflected in the grungy sounds created by her edgy roots-rock and blues backing band, which also includes her longtime collaborators Jon Cowherd on piano and Kevin Breit on guitar.

  
Speaking about the album Wilson commented: “Coming Forth by Day is a homage dedicated to the beauty, power, and genius of Billie Holiday. A collection of musical spells, prescriptions for navigating the dubious myths surrounding her life and times, this record is a vehicle for the re-emergence of Billie’s songbook in the 21st century.”

The album’s track listing is as follows: ‘Don’t Explain’, ‘Billie’s Blues’, ‘Crazy He Calls Me’, ‘You Go To My Head’, ‘All Of Me’, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘Good Morning Heartache’, ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’, ‘These Foolish Things’, ‘Strange Fruit’, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ and ‘Last Song (For Lester)’.

– Mike Flynn

The Walsall Jazz Orchestra (WJO) will celebrate its 40th anniversary in style on Sunday 26 April with a special concert at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham. The ensemble, which continues to be led by founder and trombonist John Hughes, originated in 1975 as the Walsall Youth Jazz Orchestra (WYJO) becoming one of the UK’s leading youth bands (many renowned jazz musicians passed through its ranks). The WJO formed in 1994 around a nucleus of former WYJO musicians, some of which were in the very first edition of the orchestra.

The current ensemble is a 19-piece big band who have played at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and London’s Royal Festival Hall, as well as recording three albums: Watershed (1997); Devil in the Detail (2001) and Little Steps (2007). The WJO ethos is to focus on contemporary big band music and its repertoire places works by acclaimed musicians such as Pat Metheny and Chick Corea alongside original compositions by group members (most recently pianist Tim Amann and trumpeter Nick Dewhurst).

Birmingham Jazzlines plans to celebrate WJO’s achievements of the past 40 years with a concert – at CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 26 April – featuring past orchestra alumni, saxophonist Julian Argüelles and trumpeter Martin Shaw as guests. The WJO (minus Arguelles and Shaw) will also perform at Wasaley School, Birmingham (26 Jan); Bolehall Manor, Tamworth (9 Feb); The Feathers, Lichfield (15 Feb); Forest Arts Centre, Walsall (23 Feb); and The Feathers, Lichfield (24 May).

– Jamie Fyffe

For more info go to www.b13jazz.co.uk/wjo/

Laura-JurdRising star trumpeter and bandleader Laura Jurd, one of the founders of the Chaos Collective, releases a new album on 19 January, Human Spirit, and heads out for nationwide dates from 9 January. The new album, the follow up to her November 2012 debut Landing Ground, features vocalist Lauren Kinsella, trumpeter Chris Batchelor, trombonist Colm O’Hara, bass saxophonist Mick Foster, guitarist Alex Roth and Corrie Dick on drums, and fuses electric jazz with brass band and folk traditions.

Dates are: The Cube, Derby (9 Jan); The Forge, Camden (14 Jan); Hidden Rooms, Cambridge (15 Jan); Colston Hall, Bristol (16 Jan); Warwick Arts Centre (19 Jan); Harlington Centre, Fleet (20 Jan); The Verdict, Brighton (23 Jan); Jazz North East, Newcastle (27 Jan); TBC, Glasgow (28 Jan); The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen (29 Jan); and Wakefield Jazz Club, Wakefield (30 Jan).

– Jon Newey

For more info go to www.chaos-collective.com

Having dazzled jazz festival stages with his high-octane House Of Legends set for the last two years, leading British saxophonist Courtney Pine is set to get back to basics for his 16th solo album in a new duo project and extensive UK tour with acclaimed British-Bengali pianist Zoe Rahman.

The pair previously worked together on Pine’s 2011 Europa album and tour – which also saw Pine exclusively play bass clarinet – which he also uses throughout Song (The Ballad Book) their forthcoming album released on 23 February on Destin-E Records.

Speaking about the album, Pine commented:
"I have always wanted to record a collection of my favourite ballads and there is nothing like performing in a duet format for bringing out the intimacy of great songs.”

The duo set out on an extensive UK tour (with special festival appearance also to be confirmed) and will be playing at the following venues: Turner Sims, Southampton (20 Feb); Jazz For Labour, Barbican, London (27 Feb); St Mary’s Church, Kent (13 Mar); St George’s, Brighton (14 Mar); Kings Place, London (19 Mar); RNCM, Manchester (22 Mar); St Georges Hall, Bristol (9 Apr); St Mary’s in The Castle, Hastings (10 Apr); The Stables, Wavendon (22 Apr); Alnwick Playhouse, Northumberland (2 May); Woodend Barn Arts Centre, Banchory, Scotland (3 May); Town Hall, Middlesbrough (4 May); Arts Centre, Pocklington (5 May); Brewery Arts Theatre, Kendel (6 May); Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden (16 May); Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline (26 May); Key Theatre, Dunfermline (12 June); and Opera House, Jersey (31 Jul).

See the March issue of Jazzwise for an exclusive interview with Courtney Pine about the album.

– Mike Flynn

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