Multiroom wireless audio company Sonos has launched a limited-edition speaker to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Note record label, complete with dedicated Blue Note Internet radio channels – and it also sponsored this week’s lighting of the famous Capitol Records Tower in LA in blue to mark the label’s anniversary.

Sonos BlueNote 4The Sonos Blue Note Play:1 (left) limited edition speaker, which can play music from computers, Internet radio and online streaming services over a home network, is being made in an edition of just over 4,000 units, and will be available direct from the Sonos website www.sonos.com/BlueNote for £220.

It features a custom colour finish, created by a combination of hand-painted and automated processes, fading from dark navy to ‘cerulean blue’, comes complete with three Blue Note by Sonos Internet radio channels within its menus, including a unique Artist Selects channel available only on the Blue Note Play:1.

Curated by Blue Note president Don Was, Artist Selects is 125 tracks he’s selected from the company’s catalogue, including selections from the greats like Robert Glasper, Jose James, Terence Blanchard, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lionel Loueke, and Don Was himself.

The other two Blue Note by Sonos channels, available on all of the company’s products, are Born in Blue, bringing together Blue Note artists and those who have sampled them for mixes that celebrate the intersection of modern music and legendary jazz, and Blue Note 101, which covers the history of the label, and allows listeners tolearn about jazz and its evolution over more than 75 years.

In addition the Sonos products allow anyone with a wireless internet connection to stream music anywhere in the home, whether it’s stored on their computer on a home network; via Internet radio stations, of which there are some 1000 playing non-stop jazz worldwide; or via streaming services including Deezer, Spotify and Tidal. You can use a single Sonos speaker in a room, pair up speakers to create a stereo system, or even create a surround sound system for music from your TV and favourite DVD/Blu-ray discs.

The system can be expanded at any time simply by adding extra speakers and connecting them to the home network at the push of a button, and the whole system can be controlled using the Sonos app on smartphones, tablets or computers to play the same music throughout the house, group speakers into ‘zones’ or allow each room to access its own choice of music.

– Andrew Everard - www.andreweverard.com

Guitarists Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier have reunited for a second album and extensive tour of the UK in February and March. Chasing Tales, released on Meier’s MGP Records on 9 February, is the follow up to their 2011 collaboration Travels To The West, and finds them once again exploring a diverse blend of Turkish, African, latin, jazz and folk influences on a variety of instruments including nylon string, steel string, electric, 12-string, fretless, slide, synth and glissentar guitars.

Versatile and virtuosic by turns Oxley is a stalwart of the Oxford jazz scene and regular performer at the city’s Spin Jazz Club, while UK-based Swiss guitarist Meier is well known for his solo work as well as his recent world tours with jazz-rock guitar star Jeff Beck. The duo will launch the album next week on Wednesday 11 February at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London before setting off on an extensive series of concerts.

Dates are: St. Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton (19 Feb); Hazelwood House, Kingsbridge (20 Feb); Royal Clifton Hotel, Southport (22 Feb); Southern Jazz Guitar Society, Romsey (24 Feb); Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford (25 Feb); Oliver’s Jazz Bar, Greenwich (26 Feb);
The Collection, Danes Terrace, Lincoln (27 Feb); Milestones Jazz Club, Lowestoft (1 Mar); Jazz On Tap, Burton (4 Mar); Arts Centre, East Street, Ilminster (6 Mar); Meeting House, Ringwood (13 Mar); The Bear Club, Luton (20 Mar); The Duke Of Cornwall, Plymouth (27 Mar); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (31 Mar); and Swansea Jazzland, Swansea (1 Apr).

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to www.meiergroup.com/meiergroup

This year’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards take place on 10 March, nearly three months earlier than usual due to the general election on 5 May, on the Terrace Pavilion at the Houses Of parliament and are set to recognise a wide range of emerging and established names from the British jazz scene.

These include nominations for rising stars singer/violinist Alice Zawadzki and trumpeter Laura Jurd respectively in the Jazz Vocalist and Instrumentalist categories, jazz-rockers Partisans for Jazz Album Of The Year for Swamp, and saxophonist Phil Meadow’s newly formed Engines Orchestra and resurgent Brit jazz icons Loose Tubes are nominated for Jazz Ensemble of the Year.

Now in its eleventh year the Parliamentary Jazz Awards are the premiere awards in the UK jazz calendar and are voted for by the public online with a shortlist of nominations subsequently voted for by a selection panel of jazz industry figures. Judging members of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) then chooses the winners. The awards are sponsored by PPL and will be presented by well-known broadcaster Moira Stuart.

The nominations are:
Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Alice Zawadzki, Georgia Mancio, Norma Winstone MBE and Zara McFarlane; Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year: Jason Yarde, Laura Jurd and Phil Robson; Jazz Album of the Year: Partisans Swamp, Julian Argüelles Circularity and Tim Garland Songs to the North Sky; Jazz Ensemble of the Year: Engines Orchestra, Loose Tubes and Partisans; Jazz Newcomer of the Year: Blue-Eyed Hawk, Elliot Galvin Trio and Peter Edwards; Jazz Venue of the Year: Manchester Jazz Festival, Spice of Life and St Ives Jazz Club; Jazz Media Award: Jazz on 3, BBC Radio 3, London Jazz News, www.londonjazznews.com and The Jazz Breakfast, www.thejazzbreakfast.com; Jazz Education Award: Dr Tommy Smith, National Youth Jazz Orchestra and Simon Purcell; and Services to Jazz Award: Chris Hodgkins, Evan Parker and Mike Gordon.

The winners will be announced on the Jazzwise website on the night of the awards at www.jazzwisemagazine.com

Laura Jurd is often described in the press as a rising star, but Verdict boss Andy Lavender introduced her as ‘already risen’ to an eager sell-out crowd. Her seven-piece band crowded onto a stage already dominated by Mick Foster’s bass saxophone and launched into the first salvo of ‘Opening Sequence’ - the massed brass sounded impressive in the packed intimate venue, and Jurd’s imperturbable calm at the helm of this unusual ensemble indicated that the hype might be justified.

The follow-up, ‘She Knew Him’ featured her incisive, agile and controlled soloing through an electronic effect, power chords from Alex Roth’s guitar and a beautifully lugubrious solo from the bass sax; then ‘Brighter Days’ started with a duet between veteran trumpeter Chris Batchelor and vocalist Laura Kinsella in which the latter’s repertoire of vocal tics and effects strayed towards the area bordering between music and performance art associated with Meredith Monk, before veering off into a tight, off-centre groove – there’s an impressive range to Jurd’s musical vision which makes it impossible to guess what’s going to happen next, and her superb band nail the long, multi-faceted compositions and complex arrangements. As the set moved on, through a duet between clangourous drummer Corrie Dick and the vibrato-less clarion of Jurd’s trumpet, to the guitar employing rubbery, squelching acid-house effects, to impassioned solos from Batchelor and trombonist Colm O’Hara over ever-shifting rhythms, a certain pastoral, very British identity started to become apparent.

The band’s unusual textures and adventurous spirit was akin to contemporaries such as Sons Of Kemet or Roller Trio, but Laura Kinsella’s decisively English accented, clear but soft voice evoked memories of 1970s jazz-folksters Pentangle, while the odd-number time signatures and multi-part compositions were reminiscent of the same era’s experimentalists at the meeting point of jazz and rock, such as Ian Carr’s Nucleus or Soft Machine. A self-deprecating humour and quirkiness in the spirit of Robert Wyatt saved the performance from pomposity. Yet at first, for all its structural unpredictability, the music sometimes seemed a little too careful to really engage emotionally.

Jurd herself is an unassuming but convivial presence, and the second set warmed up considerably, with a beautiful duet with her former tutor Batchelor leading into triumphant versions of ‘More Than Just A Fairy Tale’ and ‘Closing Sequence’, and the crowd response indicating that this star had certainly risen to the occasion.


– Eddie Myer

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club continues its varied programming over the next couple of months with newly announced bookings including a triple bill of young Brit jazz rising stars and the return of drum hero Billy Cobham (above) with special guests Mark King and Mike Lindup of Level 42 from 23-28 February.

Two mid-month highlights include two nights of hard-hitting downtown sounds from some of New York’s finest with the very welcome return of saxophonist of the moment Chris Potter and his Underground band. Featuring an updated personnel of bassist Fima Ephron, drummer Nate Smith and regular guitarist Adam Rogers this unit is the perfect launch-pad for Potter’s ingenious solos to take flight (16-17 Feb).

This is closely followed by equally fiery Russian saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev (pictured left) who performs with his fusion-edged six-piece band Smiling Organizm (Wednesday 18 Feb) on a set drawn from their newly released second album, Robin Goodie, named after the unlikely combined themes of Robin Hood and boogie-woogie. The live incarnation of the band features a strong line up of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, pianist Liam Noble, a twin low-end attack from bass guitarist Linley Marthe and double bassist Matt Penman and in-demand drummer Eric Harland.

Ronnie’s also extends its programme out to include a triple bill of three young bands on 10 February that includes 2014 MOBO Best Jazz Act nominee Peter Edwards and his trio, irreverent punk-jazz-funk WorldService Project and Henry Spencer and Juncture who draw from jazz, rock and minimalism.

A heady brew of voodoo-swing, jazz and blues from Dr John and the high-flying improv of revered US saxophonist Ravi Coltrane are among the further highlights, as the former makes a rare club appearance over two nights on 13-14 March, performing his Louis Armstrong set from his latest album Ske-Dat-De-Dat The Spirit of Satch. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane returns to the club on 8-9 March as part of his UK tour, and is followed by another contemporary sax colossuses in the form of the Kenny Garrett Quintet (11-13 March).

US sax don Joe Lovano unleashes his exciting new Village Rhythms Band at the club with a stunning line-up of bassist Matthew Garrison, guitarist Liberty Ellman, percussionist Abdou Mboup, trumpeter Tim Hagans, drummer Otis Brown III and singer Judi Silvano (30 Apr-1 May) just ahead of their appearance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Other notable bookings for 2015 include Pat Martino Trio (11-12 May); Meshell Ndegeocello (13-14 May); Kyle Eastwood Band (20-23 May) and Marlena Shaw (25–30 May).

– Mike Flynn


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

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