GaryCrosby60 MG 1935

Building a regular fanbase form a monthly rather than weekly session is no mean feat, but it’s particularly impressive in the case of Jazz In The Round. Since launching in 2012 it has fostered its own scene by way of stylistically mixed bills that are as challenging as they are engaging.

Tonight the band that epitomises that in no uncertain terms is headliner Groundation (pictured top), a brilliant collective that brings together double bassist Gary Crosby and several generations of the players he has mentored: alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, drummer Moses Boyd and guitarist Shirley Tetteh. With Crosby’s 60th birthday marked by the presentation of a small cake and proud mention of his freedom pass, a precious tool for gigging musicians of every generation, there is a celebratory subtext to a performance that balances youthful energy and focused maturity.

Boyd’s polyrhythmic drive, enriched by the laser-like precision of his skipping rimshots, makes the ensemble sway frequently between groove and swing, and while there are surges into a freer, looser, less easily defined meter, the implication of dance in the music is always strong. Timbrally, the group has a fascinating canvas, with the combination of Facey’s bulky, muscular sound and Tetteh’s spiky single notes slightly suggesting what one of Chico Hamilton’s 1960s small groups might have sounded like had Eric Dolphy and Gabor Szabo been in the front line.

However, the essential raw materials that have always been close to Crosby’s heart, namely the music and folklore of Jamaica, come into their own on the highpoint of the set, ‘Anansi’, a tribute to the trickster spider who represents guile as well as bravado. With that root planted in fertile Black Diasporic terrain some lively rocksteady reggae bucks up against a New Orleans bounce and hearty, playful African vocalizations from Facey as heads and shoulders quickly start to loosen up down in the front row.

SamEagles MG 1818

Although this marks a contrast to the other quartet that started the evening’s proceedings – that led by alto saxophonist Sam Eagles (above) – there are nonetheless points of comparison. Again, timbrally, Eagles has a left of centre line-up, with Ralph Wyld’s vibraphone offering an airy, glassy chordal base that suits the subtleties of Eagles’ composing and offers a delicate foil to his improvising. Yet in Eric Ford the leader has a percussively inventive drummer who potently galvanizes the intricately boppish, often Latin arrangements. Double bassist Fergus Ireland locks in sharply with Ford to give the music as much ballast as fluidity and in its strongest moments the group offers a distilled but personal take on landmarks like Dave Holland’s ‘Prime Directive’ and David Binney’s ‘South’.

Stepping up for a solo performance thereafter is flute virtuoso Rowland Sutherland (below), who, like Crosby, also distinguished himself as a member of the Jazz Warriors back in the 1980s. His set is specifically based on a recent trip to Japan to study shakuhachi, the bamboo flute whose tone Sutherland nonetheless vividly evokes on a metal concert flute.

RowlandSutherland MG 1866

As he explains to host Jez Nelson in a short interview prior to the performance what westerners deem ‘extended technique’ is very much part of the shakuhachi tradition and Sutherland’s adaptations of folk themes makes that abundantly clear. Rasping high notes, almost drummed into life by an aggressive ‘flutter tongue,’ along with gauzy mid-range melodies are among the stream of startling sounds produced, but it is Sutherland’s highly effective microphone technique – his precise leaning in and backing away from the bulb – that creates fine additional dynamics, and, aided by the sharp as a tack engineering of Nick Burkinyoung the performance practically feels like an intimate front room recital.

Hearing such an expressive instrument in optimal conditions that highlight the breath around the notes as well as the way phrases work against the silence is indeed a privilege, especially as this is by no means an obvious set to programme. Then again the adventurous nature of the bill reaches right back to the inaugural JITR session that featured Stuart McCallum playing solo guitar alongside Yazz Ahmed and Black Top. The latter two acts are also connected to Crosby via the Jazz Warriors and the Nu Civilization Orchestra, respectively, and, whether by accident or design, this overarching historical continuum gives JITR a real pedigree. Which is surely one of the reasons why people come back month after month.

– Kevin Le Gendre

– Photos by Roger Thomas

There’s little more than a month until Polar Bear’s upcoming sixth album, Same As You, hits the shelves, and here’s the first taste. Released online, ‘Dont Let The Feeling Go’ whets the pallet with an expansive and unhurried dub groove. Vocals from bandleader Seb Rochford and guest Hannah Darling are the core to the song with their life affirming words. Meanwhile the saxophones remain rebelliously unhinged, complete with Rochford's Sons Of Kemet bandmate Shabaka Hutchings joining in as a very welcome guest, atop an irresistible grinding bass.

It’s another departure from the past for the British innovators; all the more surprising given how quickly Rochford and the team have re-emerged since their Mercury Prize nominated In Each And Every One. Some of the thematic murkiness is retained, but in a far more transparent sonic setting. Mixed with Californian producer Ken Barrientos in the Mojave Desert, the new track has all the hallmarks of such a vast environment.

Same As You is available 30 March online, on CD and on vinyl. You can also catch them touring the new album in the UK from April: Village Underground, London (8 April); Komedia, Brighton (15 April); Royal Northern College Of Music, Manchester (17 April); Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (18 April); The Kazimier, Liverpool (19 April); Hare & Hounds, Birmingham (21 April); Broomhill Art Hotel, Barnstable (22 April); Colston Hall, Bristol (23 April); and Festival Of Firsts, Brighton (6 July).

– Tommie Black-Roff


Listen to the track here:



Renowned Norwegian record label Jazzland Recordings, which was founded by keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft in 1997, is set to showcase three of its most distinctive artists in a short series of concerts at the Kings Place music and arts venue in London. Things kicks off on 4 March with experimental singer Mari Kvien Brunvoll (pictured top) who makes a rare UK appearance with her highly individual approach to creating songs comprised entirely of live vocal and percussion loops, all performed seated in a semi-circle of effects pedals, zither and kalimba. Mixing jazz, soul, blues, hip hop and folk Brunvoll has been creating a buzz on the Scandinavian scene for some time but has rarely performed in the UK.  

This is followed on 25 March by saxophonist-turned-operatic tenor Håkon Kornstad, who performs his unique blend of live-looped sax soundscapes and operatic pieces. Pursuing this approach since he first discovered his passion for opera on a visit to the Met in New York in 2009, he went on to study opera at
Operahøgskolen (the Oslo National Academy of the Arts). Kornstad has since formed his own quartet of harmonium player Sigbjørn Apeland, bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Øyvind Skarbø. While he’s performed with many other leading Norwegian musicians including Bugge Wessletoft and Sidsel Emdresen, as well as with electronica/fusion group Wibutee, for this concert he’ll be performing completely solo on his ‘Tenor Battle’ set, exploring both sides of his musical personality in compelling fashion.

The series concludes on 22 April with what promises to be a fascinating meeting between revered cutting-edge Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen and electronics maestro Jan Bang. Endresen’s extraordinary extended vocal techniques often include haunting otherworldly phrases and wordless sounds, while Bang’s virtuosic use of sampling and effects technology is as fluid as any jazz musician, which together combines to a create a multi-layered vocal-electronica sound-world.  


– Mike Flynn

For more info go to
www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on-book-tickets/jazzland-recordings-presents



There was an innate generosity in everything trumpeter Clark Terry undertook in his long career. He gave freely of himself in performance, never failing to find a fast-moving, memorable phrase, with his own unique sound, his puckish sense of humour like a bubbling stream. He was also a born jazz educator, tireless in the cause, running workshops and mentoring aspiring players, including a very young Miles Davis.

Born in modest surroundings in St Louis, Terry started out early and worked his way through the area’s territory bands before making his way to the big time with Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet and Count Basie. But it was his eight-year [1951-59] stint with Duke Ellington that brought him true jazz prominence, his trumpet and flugelhorn solos an irresistible component during Ellington’s last great period. After performing in Europe with Quincy Jones, he was then absorbed into the highly competitive New York studio scene as the first African-American to gain tenure with NBC’s Tonight Show staff orchestra. Never strident in his [public] views on racial matters, he was all too aware that he was a role model for other aspiring black players and needed to perform consistently at the highest level. This he did to perfection.

Terry spent his summers playing the European festivals and toured here with Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP) and with his Big B-A-D Band and quintet, also appearing with George Wein’s Newport All-Stars and his own Spacemen. Unfailingly courteous and enthusiastic, invariably creative on both trumpet and flugelhorn, sometimes playing alternating phrases on the two instruments and technically flawless, Clark Terry was jazz happiness personified. His recorded legacy is immense and wonderfully worthwhile. Recognised as an NEA Jazz Master, his autobiography, written with his wife Gwen, was reviewed in Jazzwise 160.

– Peter Vacher

– Photo credit:
Clark Terry in 1958 [during the Ellington tour] sitting in with drummer Tony Kinsey's quartet with Dave Willis on bass and valve-trombonist Ken Wray – courtesy of the Peter Vacher Collection

It’s a busy three months ahead for tireless saxophonist/educator/bandleader Tommy Smith and his crew of Scottish jazzmen as he leads the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra on three tours to mark the ensemble’s 20th anniversary. The calibre of whichhighlights just how far the stellar big band has come, from unfunded pipedream to world-class ensemble tackling all manner of works frequently in collaboration with international star guests.

On this note, their celebratory program is no exception. This weekend sees the first of orchestra’s tribute concerts to Billy Strayhorn, perennial arranger for Duke Ellington, who quietly penned many jazz classic including ‘Take the A Train’ and the lush ‘Peer Gynt’ explorations. Then fast-forward to May where American vocalist Kurt Elling takes Sinatra for a spin in honour of the Rat Packer’s centenary on the SNJO’s ‘Swings Sinatra’ programme. This is followed shortly after in June by the premier of SNJO’s ‘Alba’, a suite of Scottish songs featuring singer Eddi Reader.

Strayhorn dates are The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (20 Feb); The Buccleuch Centre, Langholm (21 Feb) and Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow (22 Feb). SNJO and Kurt Elling dates are: Sage, Gateshead (20 May); Caird Hall, Dundee (21 May); Music Hall, Aberdeen (22 May); Usher Hall, Edinburgh (23 May) and City Halls, Glasgow (24 May). The ‘Alba’ concert tour with singer Eddi Reader takes place in June in the Highlands and Scottish Islands.

For more info go to snjo.co.uk/

– Tommie Black-Roff

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