Revered South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela has announced that, due ill health, he has now cancelled all of his scheduled concerts, including his appearance EFG London Jazz Festival concert Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya on 14 November at the Royal Festival Hall. The concert itself is still very much going ahead, albeit sadly without Masekela. In his statement Hugh Masekela said:

Dear Friends and media
I have been in treatment for prostate cancer since 2008 when doctors discovered a small 'speck' on my bladder. The treatment seemed to be successful, but in March 2016 I had to undergo surgery as the cancer had spread. In April 2017, while in Morocco I fell and sprained my shoulder. I began to feel an imbalance when I was walking and my left eye was troubling me. Another tumour was discovered and subsequently, in September 2017, I had emergency treatment, and the tumour was neutralised. It is a tough battle but I am greatly encouraged by the good wishes of family, friends and everyone who has supported my musical journey, which remains the greatest source of my inspiration. I have cancelled my commitments for the immediate future as I will need all my energy to continue this fight against prostate cancer. I'm in a good space, as I battle this stealthy disease, and I urge all men to have regular tests to check your own condition. Ask questions, demand answers and learn everything you can about this cancer, and tell others to do the same. This will be the only public statement I make on the matter, and I ask for privacy going forward, so that I may rest and heal.

Jazzwise joins Serious in sending Hugh our thoughts and in wishing him a speedy recovery.

In a statement festival producers said that they are Abdullah Ibrahim has agreed the concert should go ahead as planned with Ekaya as a "celebration of the music that he and Hugh created for the Jazz Epistles as a landmark in the evolution of jazz in South Africa, and in recognition of the extraordinary journey that these two icons of South African culture have taken since they created such ground-breaking and uplifting music together, in the dark apartheid days of 1960s South Africa." Serious are offering partial refunds to reflect the altered billing – and remaining tickets will be on-sale at a reduced price.

Mike Flynn

– Photo by Brett Rubin

For more info visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/

The opening night of Birmingham's new Eastside Jazz Club featured a strong selection, in the form of a duo between saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach. These two are old playing colleagues in the Quest combo, who debuted way back in 1981. For this gig, though, Liebman and Beirach remained firmly in purist acoustic mode.

Eastside is, unusually, a jazz club within a university campus, something which might be a good move, although supposedly not risking the possibility of enhanced seediness sometimes found in such environments down the decades. Instead, there's the supportive backdrop of Birmingham Conservatoire, with an indigenous pool of players, as well as a close-proximity audience base. Drinking is encouraged, and food is available, although folks need to catch on to the fact that this can be whisked in from the reception area's café bar. There's even a specially-brewed Conservatoire cask ale, which should be pleasing to certain factions within the jazz scene. The stage is floor level in the long space, with different tiers of seating reaching right back to standing tables at the rear. There's also a long row of tall chairs along the right-hand side, overlooking the stage area. The sound quality is high, hitting just the right volume level for this space.

Liebman-Beirach-EJC-5

The advertised duo of Liebman and Beirach played a set, but there was also the bonus surprise of an additional second half, where they were joined by bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Jeff Williams. The latter is an old sparring partner of Liebman's, their association stretching back over four decades ago to the mid-1970s ECM albums Lookout Farm and Drum Ode. Liebman was, of course, initially renowned for his time with Miles Davis, in the early 1970s. Amusingly, his chief mentioning of the trumpeter during this evening was to dismiss his involvement in penning tunes that many folks feel should arguably be attributed to pianist Bill Evans: 'Nardis' and 'Blue In Green'. Although, close to the night's climax, the quartet did play 'All Blues'!

The duo set concentrated on a mostly introspective mood, savouring the intimate dialogue between saxophonist and pianist. The first piece was an arrangement of a Bartók bagatelle by the pianist, whose theatrical flourishes at the Yamaha grand were well in keeping with such a classicist root. Beirach repeatedly curtailed his resonant gestures with a sharp pedal cut-off, as if he wanted to enjoy several worlds simultaneously. Liebman played soprano on 'Tender Mercies', his phrases ringing around the piano's interior, before Beirach commenced. Their reading of ''Round Midnight' emerged into a rolling elaboration, with a husky tenor closure. Beirach's 'Testament' followed, and the first set's only foray into fierceness acted as a nod to the coming quartet expansion of the second half. This was Wayne Shorter's 'Paraphernalia'(from Miles In The Sky, 1968), taken at a fast clip, scampering like a bull, so to speak!

The quartet set operated on a much more aggressive plane, particularly when the Liebman-Williams union was struck up, repeatedly involving vigorous exchanging of phrases. The saxophonist chose lively soprano for 'Nardis', with the following 'Blue in Green' beginning as a pensive piano trio. As the set began to build, its most exciting numbers were yet to come: John Coltrane's 'India', with its ascending and articulate soprano flood, Williams getting inside a heavy drum whirlwind, and then 'All Blues' topped the night, Liebman and Williams reaching their apex, magnetising with an explosive tenor-drum duel, Beirach yelling out his encouragement.

– Martin Longley

– Photos by Nick Brown

 James-Taylor-Quartet I1A3179 PressWeb

The Limerick Jazz Festival continues to spring surprises, and to find groups that succeed in impressing several categories of listener. For instance, the young Irish group Booka Brass initially sound like a cross between, say, the Dirty Dozen and a mariachi band. Consisting of four horns, bass (formerly a brass bass), drums and latin percussion, they featured short solos and short tunes – all of them in minor keys! – with no vocals but with musicianly choreography. 

In his element with a 100-strong club audience, organist James Taylor was grimacing like George Galloway, but with a better rhythm-section than George. Opening for Taylor, the locally-based guitar virtuoso Joe O'Callaghan's trio Electric Freeplay sported high-energy McLaughlinisms, but was perhaps more affecting in the slow and spacey 'Moments'. This year's programme by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra looked intriguing on paper, taking 1917 as its starting point for repertoire. After opening with 'Indiana' (the first pop tune covered by the ODJB), the highpoint was David O'Rourke's 'John McCormack Suite', adapting songs associated with Ireland's answer to Caruso. But missing a couple of key band-members, the DCJO stretched the parameters as far as 'I Got Rhythm' (1930) and 'Sing Sing Sing' (1935), which hardly made up for some unidiomatic vocalists. 

More than living up to expectations, however, was Soweto Kinch. In a late-night trio set (with bassist Nick Jurd and drummer Will Glaser), his engaging personality was matched by both verbal dexterity and fiery musicality. And his afternoon workshop even included an unaccompanied tribute to Johnny Hodges.

– Brian Priestley
– Photos by Salvatore Conte 

Jazz in the Midlands got a huge boost with the opening in September of a state of the art £57million premises for Birmingham Conservatoire, which is now home to the Eastside Jazz Club and will present the first gig of its autumn programme tonight with revered US saxophonist David Liebman lining up with longtime piano collaborator Richie Beirach (pictured), ahead of more appearances by stellar US and UK artists.

The first purpose-built UK music college in a generation, there is no less than five venues within the main building, with a large 500-seater concert hall, 150-seat recital room, 100-seat experimental 'lab' space, the 80 seat Eastside Jazz Club and a 100-seat organ studio. The top-spec technical facilities available also include a £2.5million audiovisual and lighting package, while the building itself features high-calibre acoustic treatment of all spaces, 100 practice rooms for students, a stage capable of accommodating a full orchestra, recording studio and a large public foyer space with floor to ceiling glazing over three floors.

The new venue will host the biannual BBC Young Musician competition, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year in March 2018. Head of Jazz at the Birmingham conservatoire, Jeremy Price said: "I lobbied hard at the planning stage to get our jazz club included from the outset. I took architects and designers down to Ronnie Scott's to help explain that very special space that jazz thrives on; where the audience are there to listen, but they can relax and have a good time, and where the feel is of one social it Eastside Jazz Club: Birmingham, and plan to programme music throughout the week. Monday to Wednesday will be student gigs, including the Jazz Orchestra and Ellington Orchestra alternating on Monday nights, and the best of student combos Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday nights will be 'guest nights' that we can also tie in with masterclasses in the afternoon before. For these we already have lined up Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, Gilad Hekselman, Mark Turner, Christine and Ingrid Jensen and Ben Monder. Friday is for commercial hire and Saturday is offered to the local scene. The students are going to be in jazz heaven!"

With some high-calibre international and UK names set to appear, each one preceded by an opening set from a local jazz group, the twice-monthly programme kicks off tonight with David Liebman & Richie Beirach (5 Oct) and continues with Oli Rockberger (13 Oct); Christine & Ingrid Jensen with Ben Monder (2 Nov) Jeremy Price Quartet with Rex Richardson (9 Nov); Gilad Hekselman Trio with Mark Turner (16 Nov) and Stan Sulzmann with Eastside Jazz Club Trio (30 Nov).

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.bcu.ac.uk

 JW-mike-gibbs-80th-birmingham-009-by-john-watson

In celebration of his 80th year, the composer and arranger Mike Gibbs took his big band out on the road, to play a select six-date UK tour. His actual birthday was 25th September, the night of the band's first of two performances at London's Vortex, but three days later at Birmingham's CBSO Centre perhaps this assemblage was drilled even deeper.

Gibbs is strangely borderless, actually born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but spending many of his years either in the US or the UK. As a result, his accent and demeanour are strangely without obvious geographic placement. His music also embraces characteristics found in the large scale works from Britain and America, as well as featuring a significant African influence. Gibbs has also been consistently open to funk and rock elements, the strongest model being Gil Evans, who remains his key colouristic guru.

The line-up of this big band is a testament to the respect that Gibbs commands, with a particularly impressive saxophone section, featuring Julian Siegel, Alex Garnett, Jason Yarde and John O'Gallagher. Gibbs is concentrating on his arranging side for this tour, chiefly using the works of other composers as a basis for painting his thoughtful layers, and strategically deploying the soloing ranks.

JW-mike-gibbs-bigband-musicians-017-by-john-watson

Opening with 'You Go To My Head', from 1938, it seems like the natural choice to have Garnett take the solo, with his expert command of vintage jazz voicings. Paying tribute to old colleague Kenny Wheeler, Gibbs offers his own ''Tis As It Should Be', with the trumpet section highlighted as each of them steps forward to take a solo, led by Henry Lowther. In actuality, it's their flugel horns that are chosen to deliver this glowing sequence. The acoustics of the CBSO Centre are particularly suited to this multi-faceted ensemble spread, and the low-level amplification reveals all players in equal measure.

Gibbs polishes his player-parts, crafting a burnished, carefully layered and regimented spread. Next come Bill Frisell's 'Throughout' and 'Las Vegas Tango', by Gil Evans, running into each other with Jim Rattigan's accordion playing a prominent part, in the Gil Goldstein manner. Guitarist Mike Walker sends keening strokes into the ether, which Siegel snatches, maintaining the tonal character with a voluptuous tenor solo. A rousing horn section punctuation develops, bringing the piece to its climax, as Garnett joins for added emphasis. It gradually becomes apparent that a favoured Gibbs technique is to prompt an initial solo, and subsequently trigger another player to enter the fray at a crucial point, emphasising and heightening the drama.

As if cheerfully embracing his senior status, Gibbs appears to reject the concept of a set-list, though he does have a neatly stacked selection of scores. He delights in questioning his players over this or that detail, almost as if he's exaggerating the abstract forgetfulness of the elderly. Pianist Hans Koller is a long-standing cohort, here acting as 'musical director', and filling in any pieces of missing information. Even so, there's absolutely no doubt when it comes to Gibbs and his sensitive hand gestures, riding each piece with precision sensitivity.

Eberhard Weber's 'Maurizius' has a dancing, loquacious alto solo from O'Gallagher, ending on a gradually fading ensemble repeat. Yarde solos on a new arrangement of 'Django', by John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet, with a two-part solo to follow (trombone and muted trumpet), Walker churning up a groove, locked together with drummer Andrew Bain and chief tour-assembler and bassman Michael Janisch. The final explosive run is provided by Yarde, with a writhing solo reprise, as the versatile Rattigan sends soft notes hanging via French horn resonance. Not surprisingly, John Scofield's 'Meant To Be' acts as a showcase for Walker, with strategic punches provided by the horn ranks. Once it's fully aroused, O'Gallagher weighs in with one of this extended single set's finest searing solos. Gibbs probably overran what might have been an informal curfew, encoring with 'Tennis, Anyone?', amorphous and quietly triumphant. Heading for the two-hour mark, this was a delicious adventure in tonal positioning, roughed up by each individual member's passionate soloing interventions.

– Martin Longley
– Photos by John Watson

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