Capetown-born pianist-composer Philip Clouts (pictured above right) is set to take his new quartet to Scotland for the first time on a tour that begins on 1 November. Clouts is steeped both in the music of his native South Africa and in a diverse range of world music which he has explored to critical acclaim with his larger outfit ZubopGambia (featuring BBC World Music award winner Juldeh Camara) and which continues to inspire his compositions.

His quartet, which features saxophonist Tom Ward, of the Madwort Saxophone Quartet and Porpoise Corpus, former Yasmin Levy bassist Tim Fairhall and Yamaha Jazz Scholarship-winning drummer Dave Ingamells, plays uplifting melodic jazz in moods ranging from lilting calypso to driving latin American grooves, hypnotic swirling melodies, klezmer, township rhythms and gospel-fired hymns.

After living in London for many years and building a career that has included appearances at Ronnie Scott’s, Symphony Hall, and Glastonbury and Womad festivals, Clouts, who is the son of respected South African poet Sydney Clouts, moved to Dorset where he has added music reflecting the sights and sounds of the area to his canon.

He issued the first fruits of this new phase on the album Sennen Cove in 2010, attracting airplay on BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM, UK Jazz Radio, and Radio Bremen. A further album, The Hour of Pearl, followed in 2013, receiving enthusiastic reviews from leading UK jazz magazine Jazzwise and The Guardian and wide exposure on radio. The album, which takes its name from American author John Steinbeck’s description of “the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself,” will form the basis of the new quartet’s repertoire on this tour.

Tour dates are: Auchenblae Village Hall (with special guest, singer Cindy Douglas 1 Nov); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (2 Nov); The Inn at Lathones, St Andrews (3 Nov); Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (4 Nov); Woodend Tennis & Bowling Club, Glasgow (5 Nov); and Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline (6 Nov).

– Rob Adams

For more info go to www.philipcloutsquartet.co.uk

The Berlin Jazz Festival has announced the acclaimed British music writer, Richard Williams, is to become artistic director of the festival from 2015. He will succeed current artistic director, the critic and broadcaster Bert Noglik, who will conclude his curatorial duties with the festival’s 50th anniversary edition this October.

Williams was editor of Melody Maker and Time Out in the 1970s, during which time he was also the inaugural presenter of the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test. He was head of A&R at Island Records from 1973-76 and subsequently went on to write for many national British newspapers and magazines, including The Times and The Guardian, as well as writing a number of books including the noted jazz book The Blue Moment.

Williams said of the festival: “I ask myself not what jazz was but what it is, and what it can become. For me, the Berlin Jazz Festival has always represented a platform for possibilities and provocations. The festival has a duty to continue that work by bringing the public into contact with the artistic vitality and diversity of the present day.”

The director of the festival, Thomas Oberender, said of Williams: “When it comes to the evolution of jazz, Richard Williams has kept an eye on the most varied paths of musical development over the past decades. His attitude is fresh and cosmopolitan. He comes to Berlin as a specialist who is familiar with all the jazz conventions but has nonetheless remained unconventional himself.”

– Steve Owen

The Berlin Jazz Festival runs from Thursday 30 October to Thursday 2 November.
For further details go to www.berlinerfestspiele.de/jazzfest

 

Local jazz promoter and benefactor Liverpooljazz is set to mark a decade of supporting the Merseyside music scene when it celebrates its 10th anniversary in Liverpool on Saturday 18 October.

As well as continuing to promote the local scene through its long-running listings and musician database, Liverpooljazz works with local venues to promote a range of events, as well as the Capstone Theatre’s annual jazz festival, and this year expanded to sponsoring a showcase of three local bands at the Wigan International Jazz Festival.

The organisation also supports a range of initiatives to benefit emerging talent including making awards to promising jazz students at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, and sponsoring special projects aimed at young people, such as Rare Studio’s performing arts academy.

– Steve Owen


For further details of gigs and other activities happening in Liverpool visit www.liverpooljazz.org

Renowned tabla player, Zakir Hussain (pictured), Norwegian pianist, Tord Gustavsen, and South African composer and pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, are each set to perform as part of an eclectic Autumn programme at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds.

Known for his prodigious talent and a long list of genre-crossing collaborations including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, and guitarist John McLaughlin, Hussain has teamed up with Indian wood flautist Rakesh Chaurasia – son of bansuri guru Hariprasad, another of Hussain’s previous collaborators - and a cast of other guest musicians for tonight’s rare UK performance.

Meanwhile, leading Cape jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim plays a special concert to celebrate his 80th birthday, and Gustavsen returns to the UK with his Norwegian quartet that includes Tore Brunborg, Mats Eilertsen and Jarle Vespestad, following a recent worldwide tour of their latest album, Extended Circle, which was released earlier this year.

Howard Assembly Room dates are: Zakir Hussain (Friday 17 October); Tord Gustavsen (Saturday 8 November), and Abdullah Ibrahim (Thursday 20 November).

– Steve Owen

For info go to www.operanorth.co.uk/howard-assembly-room

Arguably the unknown quantity at this year’s edition of Georgia Mancio’s excellent ReVoice! Festival, French singer Sandra Nkaké also has an uncommon stage presence. With a high auburn Mohawk figure, black halterneck and red trainers she recalls both the heyday of Neneh Cherry and Grace Jones, and certainly has much of the theatrical, choreographic prowess of the latter. Although stationed behind a keyboard-sampler with duo partner Jerome Dru, who also has the same electronic hardware as well as a flute, Nkaké extends long arms, tilts head and raises shoulder to visually underscore many of the songs and generally looks as much like an actress singing a script as a singer evoking the ways of an actress.

Interesting as this visual element is it in no way overshadows the wonder of Nkaké ’s voice, which has a weighty, full-bodied tone and an operatic upper register in which notes are thinned out and embroidered into existence like lengths of ornate silk. Generously, the singer gives a lot of space to Dru who takes several smart solos on the delicate woodwind instrument, often floating upwards in sync with Nkaké ’s voice. Among the original songs an untitled improvisation at the close of the evening is memorable but it is the string of covers that takes up the bulk of the set that really hits home. David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ is a touch on the flashy-cheesy side but enjoyable; Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women’ is harrowing and uplifting in equal measure; The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ slightly camp fun as the singer-keyboardists tuck into the slow moving backbeat with aplomb.

SandraNkake MG 3952

However the highlight of the evening is a brilliant reading of Terry Callier’s brave, uncompromising tale of prostitution, ‘Dancing Girl’, in which Nkaké’s subtle rephrasing of the melody gives the song a sunlit slant that is a vivid counterpoint to the sobering lyric. Musically all of the above benefit from good arrangements with the live playing and programmed beats working well against Nkaké’s delivery, though there are nonetheless limitations.

More variety in the drum sequencing and an expansion of the mostly minor chordal base would have been welcome. Yet there is sufficient character in the singer’s voice and enough chemistry between her and Dru to sweep along an audience more than happy to agree that the musique was magnifique.  

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Roger Thomas ©

The ReVoice! Festival continues until Monday 20 October – for more details go to www.revoicefestival.com

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