Jazz-folk singer, Melissa James, is performing a series of intimate church concerts on a tour of London and South England this month and into the autumn. Joined by guitarist Tom Gamble, the singer started the tour in the small community church – St Augustine, Thorpe Bay on 12 July and is set to next appear at St John’s Church, Fulham on 25 July.

Having enjoyed much success with her debut album, Day Dawns, and since performing at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival Fringe James has held a number of charity-fundraising ‘pop-up’ concerts. This latest project of hers hopes to involve a local artist of each church as support acts to her performances.

The singer commented on this series: “I grew up going to church as I come from a family of church-goers but it has been a while since I went to church myself. The idea of performing in a spiritual space and connecting with those in the local area… really appeals to me”.

Upcoming Church dates include: St John’s Church, London (25 July); St Bartholomew’s Church, Suffolk (16 Aug); St Mary’s Church, Fishponds, Bristol (27 Sep); and St Pancras Old Church, London (27 November).

For more information go to www.melissa-james.com 

Tom Wright

 

The Playtime team, who stage weekly jazz sessions at the Outhouse in Edinburgh, have announced an expansion of activities during the city’s Fringe festival.

Beginning with pianist Dave Milligan on Monday 4 August, guests including saxophonist Julian Argüelles, organist and former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year Pete Johnstone, and bassist Brodie Jarvie will feature in a programme that runs until 21 August in the Outhouse’s congenial, intimate loft.

Situated just round the corner from the city centre terminus of Edinburgh’s new tram system, the Outhouse has proved a popular Fringe jazz venue over the past few years, with American singers Barbara Morrison and Lillian Boutté among those who have enjoyed successful residencies there, and the Playtime series will supplement similar residencies this year with early evening and late-night concerts.

Saxophonist Martin Kershaw (pictured top), who launched the Playtime sessions with guitarist Graeme Stephen, bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Tom Bancroft as the resident band and who will also be appearing regularly during the Fringe run, said: “The loft is a really good space to play in and it’s allowed the regular team to develop new music as well as inviting people who happen to be in town to come and play. We had a memorable night with some visiting Ghanaian musicians and when one or more of the team can’t appear due to other work commitments, there’s a ready supply of players who are willing to step in and give the Thursday sessions continuity.”

The Fringe series also features Graeme Stephen directing new live soundtracks to silent films Nosferatu and Faust, keyboards player Paul Harrison and drummer Stuart Brown’s jazz-electronica project Herschel 36, and Stephen, trombonist Chris Greive and drummer David Harrison continuing the gleeful deconstruction of Led Zeppelin that Stephen and Greive began with maverick trio NeWt.

– Rob Adams

For full details of the programme go to www.playtime-music.com

 

The second annual Twickenham Jazz Festival, or TW12 Jazz Fest in its hip shortened form, features an impressively diverse one-day programme from 12noon-10.30pm Sunday 3 August. Things kick off on Saturday 2 August with a pre-festival jam session at The Bell Inn, with all festival performances taking place in the Hampton Hill Playhouse, Hampton Hill Twickenham.

Highlights of the bill include the award-winning pianist Gwilym Simcock and his trio of Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis who headline the evening concerts preceded with sets from vocalist Shireen Francis and her quartet and trumpeter Gabriel Garrick’s Quartet, plus daytime performances from the acclaimed MY Duo of pianist Andrew McCormack and multi-reedist Jason Yarde, a solo guitar set from guitar maestro John Etheridge and trumpeter Graeme Flowers’ Band.

For full listings and ticket info go to www.tw12jazzfestival.co.uk

alice-z1
Alice Zawadzki’s
highly original and eclectic debut album China Lane has already been well received on disc. Its launch at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club on Tuesday and Wednesday this week showed off Zawadzki’s performing panache, and confirmed that her lustrous vocal range is the real live deal.

This would be an extraordinary collection of songs from anyone; the fact that Zawadzki’s debut release combines accomplished original songs and adaptations of songs in Ladino, Polish and Sephardic gives her disc rare impact for a first release. Despite the historical and generic variety, these songs are united by Zawadzki’s ability to convey sorrow, loss and with a maturity and dark humour beyond her years.

Alternating between violin, piano, and vocals, with the composure to sing and play violin at the same time, Zawadzki is a commanding, intense performer, her classically-trained voice both powerful and delicate. The foreign-language adaptations – ‘Uti Mitt Hjärta’, ‘Dicho Me Habían Dicho’, ‘Troche Milosci’, and ‘Indome Para Marsilia’ (no, I don’t either, but they’re songs of heartbreak) – dominated the first set, their gliding, yearning, muscular lyrics managing to be both emotionally intimate yet culturally remote.

alice-z2

'Low Sun; Lovely Pink Light’ introduced yet another flavour combination, this time of Americana, with a sumptuous, sensual close harmony trio of Zawadzki, Emilia Martensson and Fini Bearman (all present on both recording and live gig, pictured above) accompanied by Alex Roth’s vivid and atmospheric guitar. The three singers together couldn’t help sounding a little like Wagner’s Rhinemaidens, transported to Texas or Tennessee. You could almost see the tumbleweed rolling down Dean Street.

The meaning of words, and not just the sound they make, clearly matters for Zawadzki too. Her own songs are characterised by frank, grainy social observation and In “You as a Man” she describes the relationship as “like cutting off your feet to pay for shoes”, and “China Lane”, about an area of Manchester where Zawadzki used to live, has the kind of poignant observational detail that would do Jarvis Cocker proud.

If there’s a criticism, it would only be of the set order, which placed the most controlled arrangements all together in the first set. Zawadzki dominated musically until “Cat”, which comes a more sensible second on the album, opened the second set. Her excellent band - Peter Lee, Tom McReady, Jon Scott and Alex Roth - accompanied expertly, of course, but it would have been fun to hear them stretched earlier.

Five years in the making, this collection deserves to launch Zawadzki’s career like a rocket. Though she’s playing for a jazz audience at the moment, and the band had moments in the second set when it could run riot, there are clearly elements of world, folk and indie music, stored up in Zawadzki’s ouevre. She has appeal beyond jazz, and has the stage charisma to support that promise. Expect to see her on the festival circuit soon.

– Matthew Wright (story and photos)

 

Iconic saxophonist Charles Lloyd is to headline the Barbican on 23 November, as part of an exciting double bill with the enthralling sax/trumpet-led Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Sound Prints band, at this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. This concert is part of the latest tranche of artists to be confirmed for this year’s 22nd edition of the festival that runs 14-23 November and is sponsored by Jazzwise, and reaches out across London’s myriad of jazz venues, concert halls, clubs and free stage performance spaces. Lloyd – who is the subject of an acclaimed new biopic, Arrows Into Infinity, released on ECM, as well as some newly discovered 1965 live recordings, titled Manhattan Stories (Resonance Records), and is interviewed in the upcoming August issue of Jazzwise – will be performing his ‘Wild Man Suite’ which sees him blend traditional Greek and Hungarian instruments with his own superlative jazz quartet with beguiling results. The Lovano/Douglas band performs their take on the music of Wayne Shorter with a stellar quintet that includes pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Joey Baron.

The influential French bassist and bandleader Henri Texier, whose highly distinctive sound blends hard bop classicisms with indigenous folk themes and North African textures, has just been announced as part of a series of intriguing Purcell Room concerts for the festival. Texier brings his quartet to the Purcell Room on Sunday 16 November with support from rising star saxophonist Tori Freestone’s Trio, while a special matinee show on the same day presents the sonic explorations of the newly formed Supersonics, featuring guitarist Chris Sharkey and saxophonist Petter Frost Fadnes. Coleridge Goode: A Celebration is at the Purcell on 21 November where Gary Crosby hosts a special night honouring the legendary bassist’s 100th birthday, while British rising star avant garde pianist Alexander Hawkins debuts his new duo with his Polish piano counterpart, 31-year old Warsaw-born Marcin Masecki, teaming up for what should be a high-wire, improv-fuelled meeting at the Purcell Room (14 Nov). Another leading UK pianist and composer is Nikki Iles and The Royal Academy of Music Big Band that play the Purcell on 22 November, and Juliet Kelly appears in a matinee show on Sunday 23 November with the Family Jazz All Stars paying tribute to jazz singers past and present.

Also just added to the festival is the extraordinary Paris-based pianist and movie score composer, Christophe Chassol who will be premiering his new Caribbean-inspired audio/visual work, Big Sun at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 16 November, while the fiery flamenco and jazz collaboration of Chano Domínguez and Niño Josele appear at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre on 17 November. Pianist Robert Mitchell performs a special matinee premiere of his new Invocation project at the QEH on 23 November: a large scale work which features his own quartet Panacea alongside the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Goldsmith’s Big Strings and the Avonbourne School Chorus.

The ArtsDepot hosts the Michele Drees Jazz Tap Project on 18 November as part of a series of concerts that also includes charismatic Afro-Cuban jazz violinist Omar Puente (16 Nov). Known for his explosive performances with Courtney Pine and latin jazz stars Tito Puente and Eddy Pamieri, he’ll performing music from his forthcoming album, Best Foot Forward, that’s the perfect rhythmically-charged modern-into-Cuban-jazz springboard for his fiery electric violin work to take flight. Another artist added to the ArtsDepot line up is soul-jazz vocalist Brendan Reilly (20 Nov), the London-based US singer is best known for his work with dance music band Basement Jaxx and he’ll be performing his music from his eagerly awaited debut album that promises to be a mix of his jazz roots and soul sounds. 

Two cutting-edge jazz concerts have also been confirmed for multi-arts hub Kings Place, in London’s Kings Cross, the first of which will be a piano-led double bill of Swiss trio Rusconi with an opening set from brilliant Belgian pianist Jef Neve (15 Nov). The genre-smashing trio are led by pianist Stefan Rusconi, with bassist Fabian Gisler and drummer Claudio Strüby, they have built a well deserved reputation for their adventurous mix of Jarrett/Moran style jazz and coruscating free-rock of Sonic Youth.  Classically influenced Neve will be performing music from his new album, his first solo project, which he’s currently recording at London’s Abbey Road studios. The second notable addition to the Kings Place programme will be another debut performance from rising star UK saxophonist Phil Meadows, winner of both this year’s Parliamentary Best Newcomer Jazz Award and the Peter Whittingham Award in 2013, which he’s used to develop his 20-plus piece Engines Orchestra project. The group features the cream of today’s young jazz talent including trumpeter Laura Jurd, keyboardist Elliot Galvin and bassist Conor Chaplin, all exploring Meadows’ love of strong melodies, raucous grooves and fiery improvisation with explosive results.

Tickets are on sale now for these new shows as well as all previously announced dates, highlights of which include Jazz Voice with the Guy Barker Big Band and BBC Concert Orchestra (Barbican, 14 Nov); Dr John (Barbican, 15 Nov); Dee Dee Bridgewater (QEH, 15 Nov); Abdullah Ibrahim (RFH, 15 Nov); Marilyn Mazur’s Spirit Cave (Purcell Room, 17 Nov); Snarky Puppy (Roundhouse, 18 Nov); Jane Monheit (Cadogan Hall, 19 Nov); John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension (RFH, 20 Nov); Marcus Miller (RFH, 21 Nov); Dave Holland/Kenny Barron Duo (QEH, 21 Nov); Robert Glasper and Jason Moran (RFH, 22 Nov); and John Stevens Tribute (QEH, 22 Nov).

– Jon Newey and Mike Flynn

For all ticket details visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.com

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