John-ZornNick-Ruechel previewweb

Annual Lisbon jazz adventure, Jazz em Agosto, celebrates its 35th edition this year with a special programme, running between 27 July to 5 August, dedicated to the wonderfully esoteric soundworlds of New York composer, saxophonist and Tzadik label boss John Zorn. This will be the first time in Jazz em Agosto's history that the event will be devoted to the work of a single musician, celebrating this extraordinary artist whose eclectic and critically acclaimed output has left such an indelible mark on the music of our time.

The 18 concerts and five films featured at the host venue at Gulbenkian Foundation will capture the essence of Zorn's unique sonic universe, showcasing his own idiosyncratic material with performances from several of his own numerous and diverse projects, as well as by many of his regular collaborators and artists who continue to divine inspiration from his infectious and innovative creativity.

Kicking off with a special opening-night trio comprising of Zorn, Thurston Moore and Milford Graves, other highlights throughout the 10 days include showcases from Craig Taborn, the Mary Halvorson Quartet, John Zorn's Masada, Julian Lage, the John Medeski Trio, Ikue Mori, Kris Davis Quartet and Secret Chiefs 3.

– Spencer Grady

For more details and ticket info visit www.jazzemagosto.pt

Harpist Alina Bzhezhinska was one of the stars of last year's A Concert for John and Alice Coltrane at the EFG London Jazz Festival, and is set to release her new album Inspiration on 1 June on Ubuntu Music. She'll be supporting its release with an extensive series of live dates with a band of leading UK players including saxophonist Tony Kofi, double bassist/composer Larry Bartley and drummer Joel Prime, all combining with Bzhezhinska's atmospheric harp playing.

Drawing on her exploration of Alice Coltrane's music to mark the icon's 80th anniversary in 2017, Bzhezhinska has written four original pieces for the album, alongside her interpretations of songs by John and Alice Coltrane. Commenting on the album she said: "'Journey in Satchidananda' by Alice Coltrane is one of the most important pieces on my album. I discovered this music a long time ago and it took me on my own personal journey that I'm still experiencing and would encourage everyone to explore its beauty and depth. John Coltrane's 'After The Rain' strikes me by its beauty and I think it works wonderfully with the sound of the rain and a storm that can be imitated on the harp so naturally."

Tour dates are: The Crypt, London (23 March); Birmingham Jazz (27 April); The Verdict, Brighton (18 May); Toulouse Lautrec, London (1 June); The Vortex, London (album launch, 15 June); City Hall, Glasgow Jazz Festival (22 June); E15Jazz, London (20 July); The Basement Jazz Club, York (17 Aug); Ilkley Jazz Festival (18 Aug); Annie's Jazz, Southend-on-Sea (21 Aug); Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, London (27 Sept); Bear Jazz Club, Luton (17 Nov) and Wakefield Jazz (30 Nov). A Concert for John and Alice Coltrane has been nominated for a Jazz FM Award for Live Experience of the Year.

– Mike Flynn

– Photo by Tatiana-Gorilovski

For more info visit www.alina-harpist.com

This year's EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 16 to 25 November at venues across the capital, is starting to shape up with many newly confirmed headliners announced. Those already revealed in the April issue of Jazzwise, who are media partners for the festival, include dazzling vocalist Bobby McFerrin who will be joined by his ground-breaking a cappella 12-piece Voicestra, for a performance of his Circlesongs, which allows for spontaneously improvised sections from choir and audience (Barbican, 18 Nov).

Also added is jazz singer/actress/comedienne – and star of Netflix hit Orange is the New BlackLea DeLaria (Bridge Theatre, 18 Nov); ECM-signed Albanian singer Elina Duni appears in a duo with acclaimed guitarist Rob Luft (Clapham Omnibus, 18 Nov) and popular South Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah (above centre) will perform at the newly re-opened Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH, 20 Nov). The same venue hosts leading UK vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson's (pictured top left)  reworking of Van Morrison's totemic Astral Weeks, featuring a strong line-up of UK musicians including guitarist John Etheridge plus guest vocalists Zara McFarlane and Sarah Jane Morris (QEH, 19 Nov).

Loose Tubes' flautist Eddie Parker brings his 12-piece Debussy Mirrored Ensemble to the festival with singers Brigitte Beraha and James Gilchrist, in a jazz take on the composer's music in his centenary year (Purcell Room, 20 Nov). Distinctive US improvising pianist Myra Melford (above right) makes an overdue return to the UK with a top-notch band of trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Gerald Cleaver, playing music from her Snowy Egret album (Purcell Room, 23 Nov); while drummer Richard Pite's Jazz Repertory Company dive into pre- and early-jazz history with their show The World Gone Mad – 1899-1919 Jass, Ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and the Blues (Cadogan Hall, 24 Nov).

This year also heralds the start of a new partnership between the festival and the BBC Young Jazz Musician, with the 2018 final hosted at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the closing Saturday (QEH,24 Nov). Further shows and venues confirmed are: Jazz Voice (RFH, 16 Nov); Tord Gustavsen Trio (Cadogan Hall, 16 Nov); Bill Laurance and the WDR Big Band (QEH, 25 Nov) and Madeleine PeyrouxAnthem tour (RFH, 24 Nov).

Mike Flynn

For full details and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

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The last weekend of the 15th Portland Jazz Festival was a feast of jazz-rock/funk fusion, outstanding trumpets, guitars and piano jazz. Pianist Marcus Roberts' trio with nimble drummer Jason Marsalis opened a double bill opposite Russell Malone's trio at the Newmark Theater. Roberts is a classically infused player and the first recipient of the Monk piano prize; he's impressed but failed to move me in the past with scholarly surveys of vintage jazz. After flights through the canon, including Monk (Blues Five Spot), Coltrane (Bessie's Blues) and Mingus (a romp through Haitian Fight Song including deft eights with Marsalis), it was his gossamer Naima, with its impressionistic flurries and emphasis on feeling over flash that won over.

Wearing a quizzical countenance, Malone scoured the audience as if figuring out who on earth they were. Despite introductory encomiums – quotes from Kurt Rosenwinkel about his smooth and connected concept – the guitarist phrased like a horn player who tongues, pecking notes like Sonny Rollins. His technique has subtleties amid the bravura and he can flip 180-degrees from mainstream machismo to delicate soliloquy. Such was the case with 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', which Malone dedicated to boyhood hero Glen Campbell. The guitarist parsed Hank Marvin sans tremelo arm, bending the strings outrageously. During 'Lost in the Stars' Malone's micro tapping mimicked the firmament falling through God's fingers.

Malone announced the last tune when someone shouted "play some blues!" "Be careful what you say," he cautioned, "I'm from Georgia!" At that the band of Luke Sellick, Rick Germanson and Willie Jones III, launched into a filthy slow blues, the leader crossing the Delta via Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry.

Later at the Winningstad Theater, enigmatic organist Dr Lonnie Smith commenced with his trademark slow build alongside Jonathans Kriesberg and Blake. Smith, 76, notwithstanding the whirring horns of the Leslie speaker, embraces technology: juxtaposing Hammond swells with laptop and samples of strings and Harmon-muted trumpet. The Miles-like gravitas of his horn simulation incorporates grace notes and tonal niceties, and with it he transcends the role of organ grinder. The exoticism of 'Alhambra', featured on his latest live release All in My Mind (Blue Note) owed a debt to Gil Evans' Sketches of Spain with its Korg-generated orchestral sweep. Few entertainers beguile, phantom of the opera-like, better than the Buffalo-born B3 boss. Gorgeously eloquent, Kreisberg sketched Paul Simon's 'Fitty (sic) Ways to Leave Your Lover,' ignited by Blake's lean second line beats and purring snare.

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Classic Pianos, next door to the legendary Aladdin Theatre is a choice venue and it must have been a treat for multi-instrumentalist Rachel Flowers (above) to tickle a nine-foot Bösendorfer concert grand. Flowers, 23, also adeptly plays flute, guitar, Chapman Stick, ukulele – pretty much any instrument she touches. During a pre-show interview with festival director Don Lucoff, she enthused about guitar jams with Dweezil Zappa and her passion for the prog rock of Greg Lake. Other crushes included Rachmaninov, Kendrick Lamar and the Allman Brothers. Flowers was born fifteen weeks premature that led to blindness at three months; she's absorbed every sound around from her early get-go, much of it disarmingly retro. A fascination with Spinal Tap, a mockumentary released a decade before her birth, inspired 'Goes to Eleven', which features on the sweeping sampler of her talents Listen (2016). One composition was called 'Can't Stand Still' and Flowers hammered out 'Goes to Eleven' with apparent abandon tethered to precision. 'In the Middle of The Night' revealed that her mind rarely rests; after each focussed performance Flowers giggled, rocking back and forth ecstatically. There's scarcely a filter between her imagination and it's outpour but Flowers' expansiveness may prove hard to harness in a world where success is too often defined by stylistic restrictions.

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The legacy of Miles Davis still looms large yet there didn't seem an excess of tributes on his 90th in 2016. His gregarious nephew Vince Wilburn Jnr has kept the flame high with an all-star Miles Electric Band, even with shifting personnel. He, stereo pianists John Beasely and Baabe Irving III, tabla master Debasish Chaudhuri, veteran percussionist Munyungo Jackson, Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles and saxophonist Antoine Roney (above) convened at Revolution Hall. Intense, progressive guitarist David Gilmore stood in for sometime member Blackbyrd McKnight, or perhaps more appositely style-wise, Miles alum Mike Stern.

Anchoring the fun was moonlighting Rolling Stone Darryl 'The Munch' Jones (pictured top), who dropped those deep spongy basslines from Decoy and You're Under Arrest. It was Baabe Irving who nursed Miles back into the fray in the 1980s with The Man With the Horn and those synth stabs and galactic textures were instantly recognisable. When he'd be skeletal, Beasley would funk out on Rhodes stage right, then the spotlight would flip back to Irving who sketched 'Nerfertiti' and 'Seven Steps to Heaven', dusting Bill Evans' harmonies with arch nostalgia. The enveloping wallop of Joe Zawinul's anthemic riff from 'In A Silent Way' buoyed Roney's soprano and, sartorially snappy, Charles shot out volleys of chromaticism. Solo, Jones heralded the inevitable Jean Pierre but before that Jackson joined Chaudhuri front of stage for a cajón/tabla drum-off (pictured below). Badal Roy was the Indian percussionist most associated with Miles amidst his 1970s fusion along with Mtume, later Mino Cinelu, but Jackson and Chaudhuri were no disappointment. Jackson earlier announced 'dinner time!' with a triangle chime (then demonstrated how integral that humble item can be) and regaled with a chekere masterclass.

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The MEB crowd was decent but the house for Snarky Puppy, an octet comparable in instrumentation and ethos, was sardine-like at Roseland Theater. Soul'd Out Music were the joint presenters and for those who can't spell they weren't kidding, you couldn't swing a cat in the joint, let alone a pissed off canine.

Regrettably a concert clash didn't allow absorption of much beyond Cory Henry's protracted synth melisma before belting to the Winningstad for Charles Tolliver and New Music Inc. I recalled the veteran trumpeter/arranger's take-no-prisoners orchestra at the 2007 IAJE, commemorated on the explosive With Love (Blue Note, 2006). The quartet in Portland was a different story. Attended by a sparse but hardcore following, bassist Devin Starks seemed diffident and guitarist John Thomas was slow to sift through his sheaf of charts. The leader, without music, waited for Thomas to settle; somehow he'd know when his fellow beret-sporting cohort was ready and then the music would kick in. Flavourful Tolliver originals made the bulk, save for a reprisal of Round Midnight (featured on With Love) and a raggedy take on Neil Hefti's 'Repetition,' popularized by Charlie Parker. Tolliver relishes a rough'n'ready, thriving on risk, though my ears were feeling bourgeois and eager for poised, less obtuse noteplay.

The following afternoon seamless mastery over challenging material (be careful what you wish for), was presented by charming guitarist Yotam Silberstein, who navigated serpentine Brazilian and Argentinean melodies, including Carlos Aguirre's 'Milonga Gris' and Jaco do Bandolim's 'O Vôo da mosca' (both feature on his superb quartet date The Village). Local hero Dan Balmer, himself an excellent guitarist, opened with funky organ combo Trio Subtonic and the Portland team seemed set to give the 36-year-old from Tel Aviv a run for his money. However the headliner brought his A game to the informal Mississippi Studios, a relaxed bar in Portland's historical district. Silberstein's quartet featured gangly Israeli drummer Daniel Dor, bassist Dave Robaire and the brilliant accordionist/pianist from Rio, Vitor Gonçalves, known for associations with Hermeto Pascoal and Maria Bethânia. Silberstein and Gonçalves played incredible duos together and the band had a blast negotiating Pixinguinha's fiendish soccer choro 'Um a zero.' Silberstein's fluid technique and dexterity are clearly his suit but his compositions reveal a reflective side, including the Blade Runner-esque 'Night Walk' inspired by after hours strolls in Tokyo.

More youthful virility was salient at Revolution Hall for the the final bill as 17-year-old drummer Domo Branch fronted his fiery 'Domo's Delight' featuring mentor Devin Phillips on tenor. Branch may have been the youngest in the band but the tight quintet recalled an incarnation of elder Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

In contrast, Javon Jackson, a past Messenger himself (1987-90), had nothing to prove since he had a red-eye to catch. Still looking much as he did in his Blakey heyday, Jackson, 52, helmed a veteran supergroup 'Jazz by 5', and demonstrated accrued wisdom with chiselled soloing, deploying false fingerings and split tones redolent of George Coleman. A Berklee college alumnus, Jackson cracked to pianist Joanne Brackeen (longtime faculty there), 'Berklee, that's where they teach triads isn't it?' Lanky Brackeen, in polka dot shirt, stripy socks and spangly gold sneakers looked brittle but played anything but, generating maximum applause with her rambunctious, investigative intelligence. Randy Brecker's gleaming tone telegraphed Miles-isms too, since the group embraced 'So What', 'Freddie the Freeloader' and 'Flamenco Sketches'. Was the setlist deferring to Jimmy Cobb, a cornerstone of Kind of Blue 60 years prior? A feisty drum feature on 'My Shining Hour' proved any Cobb concessions entirely unnecessary. These sagacious legends, including Eddie Gomez, may have shared some grey hair, but there their ability to iron wrinkles out of dyed-in-wool material was indubitable. A defiant climax to this savvy, smartly programmed festival, and Jazzwise caught only a fraction of the action.

Story and photos – Michael Jackson

Concert venue Turner Sims Southampton, which is part of the University of Southampton, will receive over £315,000 from Arts Council England to launch Jazz South, a three-year talent development programme.

The only music project in the country selected within the final round of the ACE's Ambition for Excellence programme fund, the Jazz South initiative seeks to "significantly raise the aspirations of emerging and professional jazz artists, standards of performance, composition and promotion" for jazz musicians based in southern England. The scheme aims to work with established and emerging artists, as well as talented children and young people. It will also engage with promoters and leading UK and international jazz figures. New work will be commissioned, with talent developed through music masterclasses and artist residencies.

The funding further enhances Turner Sims' reputation for programming imaginative and high-profile artists across jazz, folk, avant-garde and classical music. Kevin Appleby, Turner Sims Concert Hall Manager, said of the award: "This is a hugely exciting moment for Turner Sims and I'm most grateful to Arts Council England for their support. This investment enables us to realise our aspirations for creating new opportunities for the jazz sector in the south of England. I know from the conversations we have had with a range of organisations and individuals across the region already that there is a great appetite for this, and I look forward to working with partners regionally, nationally and internationally to bring these opportunities to life."

– Mike Flynn

– Photo by Tom Askew-Miller (Binker & Moses with Evan Parker and Byron Wallen at Turner Sims)

For more info visit www.turnersims.co.uk

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