Stan Tracey - Standard Time

Stan Tracey, after a period of some neglect, is now justifiably regarded as one of the UK’s greatest jazz musicians past or present. As he turns 80 this month Duncan Heining looks back on Tracey’s career with the man himself and talks to some of his musical colleagues over the years including Michael Garrick, Guy Barker and Keith Tippett. Michael Horovitz , who has collaborated with Stan ever since New Departures in the 1960s, has written a new poem to mark Stan’s birthday

EST - Polyphonic spree

EST return this month with their tenth album, their first since the live version of Viaticum was issued as a special package last year along with the original studio album. Such a remarkable record company response was indicative of the initial album’s popularity, with strong demand in the UK and many other parts of Europe. So much for the album’s title tease that the group was performing its last rites. The group over more than a decade has achieved extraordinary levels of success for a jazz trio on the international jazz circuit, especially in the last five years.

Even the notoriously insular American jazz community has responded warmly, if tardily, to pianist Esbjörn Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Öström. With their hi-tech light show, cranked up concert hall sound, and positive overtures to young rock fans – crucially without the lovingly honed but ubiquitous Radiohead covers – plus a finely honed post-Jarrett European group mentality, EST make perfect sense. It’s with a sense of the baroque that EST turns to as the backdrop to their new album, as Esbjörn Svensson tells Stuart Nicholson

Soweto Kinch - B Is For Birmingham

Multi-award wining alto saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch burst on to the jazz scene in 2003 when his album Conversations With The Unseen was released. It marked an updated twenty first century consciousness for a new generation of young black British jazz musicians who were in the process of identifying their own musical identity. The Birmingham-based player openly name checked and drew upon the pre-Windrush generation and beyond of jazz musicians who played in British clubs and dance halls in the 1930s and 40s.

The world of Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, and Coleridge Goode suddenly did not seem so distant. Joe Harriott, only known to a hip few, was now an aural role model. Since his groundbreaking debut and win at the Montreux jazz festival world saxophone competition and endorsement by jamming pal Wynton Marsalis, Soweto has became known internationally for his postbop style, and his rapping, particularly for the deliciously ingenious rap, ‘Jazz Planet’. For some time he has been preparing for a new two part follow up to Conversations. The first instalment of his two-part urban soundscape is out this month, the second next year. Interview: Andy Robson

Diana Krall - Little Girl Blue

Diana Krall hates labels as she detests the feeling of being boxed in. Embarrassed at being thought of as a new Ella Fitzgerald, she tells Jane Cornwell how she has moved on from the last, deeply felt album of songs many of which were co-written with husband Elvis Costello. It’s time instead to embrace again her roots, to explore richly satisfying jazz standards such as ‘Day in, Day Out’, ‘Exactly Like You’ and ‘From This Moment On’, the title track of the new album out this month, co-produced with Tommy LiPuma.

John McLaughlin - To the power of zen

John McLaughlin draws on the energy of the music he created with the Mahavishnu Orchestra to weld it on to everything that has gone since for his eagerly awaited “zen” project. With its hard driving, abrasive edge at times, it is hardly a fluffy product of some dreamy new age.

While there are respectful nods to esteemed colleagues such as Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, the spiritual strength of the Dali Lama informs McLaughlin’s concept as the guitarist hits new improvisational peaks and challenges the growth of conservatism in jazz. Exclusive interview: Stuart Nicholson

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