Hidden Orchestra and guests preach electro-jazz sermon @ Union Chapel

The soaring Gothic rotunda and hushed reverence amongst the creaking pews of Islington’s working church, The Union Chapel, make an inspiring pulpit for jazz-electro proselytizers, Hidden Orchestra, and their disciples: solo pianist, Poppy Ackroyd, and borrowed sounds trio, Origamibiro, at tonight’s thunder and light show.

Accompanied by moody video above her head, violinist and pianist Poppy Ackroyd’s classical-meets-loops compositions are mournful without feeling sorry for themselves. Next up, producer Tom Hill and instrumentalist Andy Tytherleigh of Origamibiro: a live radiophonic workshop using loops in the vein of the musique concrète school while visual artist The Joy of Box throws videos of fleeting words and images onto the screen behind them.

Conceieved as a solo studio project by producer, bassist and composer Joe Achelon, Hidden Orchestra is incarnated for live outings by a stable of musicians including regular members Poppy Ackroyd, double drummers Jaime Green and Tim Lane (also on occasional trombone), plus spotlights from clarinettist and electro-acoustic specialist, Florex (aka Tomas Dvorak)on ‘Hushed’ and trumpeter Phil Cardwell on ‘Seven Hunters’. Starting life in Achelon’s mixing desk, bass sounds worm their way into the ear as the band gradually develops an idea and piles on the layers, with Green’s hi-hat and snare-based groove work cutting through sympathetically over the texture laid down by Lane with mallets and beaters. The live performance is necessarily rich in detail, but it also injects some of the beating energy from 2010’s more upfront debut album Night Walks which is less in evident on the recorded version of 2012’s more contemplative follow-up album, Archipelago.

For this live AV show, as well as impeccable acoustics, the unique architecture of the building presents a majestic canvas for Leeds-based audio-visual collective, Lumen. Theroom is illuminated with phantasmal green light and the spectacular rose window behind the stage becomes a spinning kaleidoscope pulsating to the hypnotic beat like a giant sub-woofer. The impassive stone walls are continually bricked up and torn down again Tetris style, and the columns around the pews are carved and re-carved using forced-perspective light-work. By the end the congregation is full of the Spirit and stomps its feet in a gesture of supplication. But timeliness is next to godliness and stage times at Union Chapel run strictly to schedule; it is a somewhat nervous Achelon who is coaxed back to the stage for a seemingly unplanned encore of ‘Antiphon’.

In tonight’s contemplative performance space, the repetition and iteration of recorded sounds in the minimalist tradition combined with the awe-inspiring light show transubstantiated the night from gig to religious experience for the assembled masses.

– Steve Owen

Fire! Orchestra scorch and Youn Sun Nah swings at Skopje Jazz Fest

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Even with a slightly reduced festival (four days instead of the usual five) Skopje 2014 was a resounding success providing an excellently varied programme ranging from free improv to mainstream latin jazz.

Youn Sun Nah (above), who opened the festival, has been playing all over Europe this summer with her quartet but here it was just a duo with guitarist Ulf Wakenius – and in this paired down setting it is even more apparent what an incredible performer she is.

Her vocal range is astonishing – but her real talent lies in extracting so much more from her songs – her depth of understanding of how to use her voice as a multi-faceted instrument is her unique-ness. All of this of course would be wasted if it were not for Wakenius who is equally responsible for this amazing sound – his playing and writing is totally in harmony with Nah’s ability – the opener a haunting version of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ – was jaw dropping - the standing ovation at the end was thoroughly deserved.

Terri Lyne Carrington followed playing her tribute to Ellington’s Money Jungle – and sadly it felt rather ordinary after Youn Sun Nah’s opening set. The midnight show featured Obara International – Polish sax player Maciej Obara with fellow countryman pianist Dominik Wania joined by two members of Norwegian band Bushman’s Revenge, Ole Morten Vagan on bass and Gard Nilssen on drums – a hugely enjoyable set – Wania is a brilliant young pianist and his playing on Krzysztof Komeda’s ‘Kattorna’ was perfect – definitely someone to make the effort to go and see.

TD-Fire-15

The Fire! Orchestra (above) is saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s tour de force – the 24-piece orchestra featuring some of the best musicians from the Swedish music scene is a glorious mix of avant-rock players and vocalists. With a sound that can shift seamlessly from minimalist to out and out thrash metal the show is an endurance test for the ears and senses – akin to the sauna to ice pool experience so loved by these Scandinavians – full marks to the festival for being able to afford and having the foresight to put this on. The main act that followed – Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin Rhythm Clan – an expanded version of his usual ensemble – again suffered the fate of following the un-followable – as good as it was the ringing in the ears from the previous set dulled the experience just a little too much.

By the time the action had moved to the late night club the freshness and choice of material played by Belgium band Dans Dans was just perfect – their aggressive but very controlled treatment was very fresh and eye opening.

The most anticipated and certainly best sold artist at this years festival was Eliane Elias – with the audience crammed into every inch of the auditorium – Elias had the perfect ‘intimate’ setting for her very laid back latin-jazz show – a fantastic trio featuring Marc Johnson on bass and the excellent Graham Dechter on guitar – Elias is the master of this music and her little bossa nova dance at the end of the show was just sublime. Intense solo piano from Matthew Shipp (below) opened the show and this time the order of performance was perfect – Angel Eyes his stand out moment.

Red Snapper concluded the evening’s show at the jazz club and the incredibly packed venue was bouncing around to there infectious drum ‘n’ bass and trip hop sounds – nice to see Tom Challenger having a ball on sax and keyboards.

The closing day of the festival was a truly remarkable mix of music and styles. The Sunday lunch concert was a true ‘new’ experience – a duet featuring Ned Rothenberg on woodwind instruments and the incredible talents of Russian overtone singer Sainkho Namtchylak. Her vocal’s ranged from beautiful melodic blues singing (almost Billie Holiday style) to guttural roars and grunts, squeaks, screams and sometimes all at the same time – Rothenberg was her foil – the constant, in what was a very complicated equation – a sound bite of the show would be completely out of context – you have to see it all from start to finish to truly ‘get’ what this music is all about – a unique experience indeed.
TD-Wadada-Leo-Smith-08The two closing shows were as different as chalk and cheese. The first half featured Wadada Leo Smith (above) and Hardedge (sound design) – a set that never properly gelled – Smith tried very hard to create something but had no help at all from the effects and button pushing of his stage companion – his vain efforts to get something more tangible fell on deaf ears.

TD-Necks-13

This rather disappointing start was soon turned to mesmeric joy as The Necks (above) took the stage and blew the audience away – the slow build and patient construction of the set demanded absolute concentration and was rewarded by an immensely moving and subtly shifting soundscape that was build not on vast and complicated electronic equipment or computers, but by three musicians playing piano, bass and drums and was the perfect end to an extremely interesting festival

– Tim Dickeson (story and photos)

Percy Pursglove – Far Reaching Dreams Of Mortal Souls at CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Taking his texts from the diary of Anne Frank, interviews with Nelson Mandela and Charles Darwin, speeches from Aung San Suu Kyi and Malala Yousafzai, and suchlike sources, and then turning them into coherent vocal music was going to be a challenge for trumpeter Percy Pursglove, but these texts were the inspiration and the heart of this jazz suite.

While some of it flowed more easily, it was all strongly conveyed by the eight-strong choir. The vocal music ranged from incantation to lyrical song, much of it rich with the harmony that I associate with 20th-century English church music.

The band was no conventional jazz ensemble. It comprised Pursglove on trumpet, Julian Argüelles on tenor and soprano saxophones, Melinda Maxwell on oboe and cor anglais, James Allsopp on bass clarinet, Jim Rattigan on French horn and accordion, Helen Tunstall on harp, Hans Koller on piano, Michael Janisch on double bass and Paul Clarvis on percussion.

The composition fully exploited this wide range of timbre and texture, setting harp against accordion, or cor anglais with bass clarinet, or trumpet under voices. There were solo spaces – the lion's share going to Argüelles whose characteristic rich, rising tenor figures fitted just perfectly at the centre of the ensemble – but mainly this was about interactive, group playing. And yet it never felt over-written – it never felt unlike jazz.

The full integration of choir with band, both as a section and as soloists, was one of the richest rewards of the evening.Compelling moments included Pursglove doing an extraordinary circular-breathing sound full of breath and bubbles and white noise underneath a massed vocal line; the whole group making a rainstorm of finger clicks and claps; and the brief Central American sound of full, fruity trumpet against accordion.

Somehow Percy Pursglove created a completely whole musical world all of his own. That is a rare achievement.

– Peter Bacon

Verneri Pohjola matches beauty with bullishness at The Forge

Were it not for a smattering of concert-goers on the front row and a handful more who slunk in midway through the first number, ducking their heads beneath the bank of high-spec video cameras at the back of the room, the Forge in Camden would have felt like the meeting place of an exclusive club. Label executives, artists and jazz industry insiders were out in force and if it sounds like we were all privy to a secret that’s because we were. It’s a secret called Bullhorn, a new album by Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and, on the evidence of last night, it’s a secret you’ll want to be in on.

Pohjola’s first release on the Edition Records label, Bullhorn isn’t out until February, but that didn’t stop the trumpeter and his quartet, completed by pianist Aki Rissanen, bassist Antti Lötjönen and drummer Teppo Mäkynen, from playing it back to back as part of a preview and live recording that made it clear just what all the fuss was about. In part it’s the strength of Pohjola’s melodies; the tropical lilt of ‘Girls from Costa Rica’; ‘Another Day’, a gently swinging waltz with a soaring refrain; ‘Bullhorn’ and ‘The End is Nigh’ with their soulful, folkloric leanings; and the gleeful chaos of ‘Nano Machines’, a schizophrenic burner that was among the highlights of the second set. But there was more to it than that. Interspersed between numbers were poignant improvisations, the first – and strongest – of which saw the trumpeter playing softly into the piano, stirring up a celestial chorus of overtones, to a backdrop of rattles and textural kit playing.

Verneri-gig-1049

There were snatches of clever orchestration too, from stops and catches to precipitous drops in dynamic and riffs that emerged seamlessly from soloistic flights. And then, of course, there was Pohjola’s captivating, kaleidoscopic sound. A sandpaper rasp at one extreme, airy and flute-like at the other, it allowed his solos to be both vulnerable and bullish, adding new colours to the set. If anything was lacking, it was interplay with the rhythm section. At times it felt as if they were playing for, rather than with, Pohjola, leading to the odd one-sided exchange and a few wandering moments during passages of collective improvisation. But I’m splitting hairs. The secret’s out and if Bullhorn sounds this good on record, come February, it’ll be a worse kept secret still.

– Thomas Rees

– Photos by Aga Tomaszek

@ThomasNRees

Georgina Jackson Quartet takes requests at 606 Club

Fresh back from guesting with the BBC Big Band at the Lockerbie Jazz Festival on 26 September, Wigan-born jazz singer and trumpet player, Georgina Jackson, exuded a warm, down-to-earth stage presence as she spoke of her obsession with the Great American Songbook, from whence she’d selected the majority of the numbers for this Sunday lunchtime set.

Dave Chamberlain on bass, Matt Skelton on drums and Matt Regan on piano joined Jackson and her sonorous vocals on bouncy opener, ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’, after which she invited song requests from the audience, reminding us that this gig would be “a one-off thing: the music is never going to be played in the same way again.”

Next up came a song Jackson described wittily as a fusion of “jazz and nagging”, entitled, ‘Why Don’t You Do Right’ from her 2013 album, Peggy, Duke & Benny – Georgina Jackson and the Peter Long Quintet. It featured the fluidity of Regan’s discordant phrasing on piano, which lent to this standard a welcome piquancy. Chamberlain’s clean, long-tone pizzicato sound à la Duke Ellington double bassist, Jimmy Blanton, worked well on bossa nova, ‘Change Partners’, the title track off Jackson’s 2012 album, Watch What Happens.

Unfortunately sometimes the drums and tinny upright electric bass were slightly out of sync, and Skelton’s monotone hitting of the cymbals with sticks, too ‘big band’ in style for such an intimate venue. Jackson’s zesty vibrato on trumpet during Bunny Berigan classic, ‘I Can’t Get Started’, however, demonstrated exactly why she is a characterful force to be reckoned with in her fronting of large ensemble groups.

The introduction to ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ was rhythmically most unusual and interesting, with Jackson singing in tempo rubato accompanied by Skelton’s subtler drumming with mallets, and Eydie Gormé’s ‘I’ll Take Romance’ was performed with more energy, driven along by Chamberlain’s bass pedal point. Mixed in with the standards were some unexpected arrangements, including ‘Pure Imagination’ from the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Jackson’s heroine, Peggy Lee’s 1957 version of ‘The Folks Who Live On The Hill’ is backed by a rich string section. Likewise, Jackson’s vocals (particularly well-suited to ballad singing) on her takedown of this song for quartet, filled the room as effectively as any orchestra could, and judging by the many CDs she sold at the end, the audience left happy.

– Gemma Boyd

– Photo by Janet Lee

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Chris Mapp’s Gonimoblast and Arve Henrik…

Chris Mapp was one of three ‘Fellows’ (the other two...

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Rising sax star Melissa Aldana gets cooking at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Rising sax star Melissa Aldana gets cook…

It isn’t unusual at events such as the London Jazz...

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Filomena Campus’ spellbinding Monk homage at Theatralia Jazz Fest

Filomena Campus’ spellbinding Monk homag…

Curated by the award winning jazz vocalist, lyricist, lecturer and...

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Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company and Alex Garnett’s Bunch of Five & NYSQ swing London Jazz Fest out in style

Richard Pite’s Jazz Repertory Company an…

The EFG London Jazz Festival’s final day allowed the fleet...

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Kurt Elling, Get the Blessing and Ralph Towner ensure Pančevo punches above its weight

Kurt Elling, Get the Blessing and Ralph …

Hosted in the city’s Cultural Centre and featuring a line-up...

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 Cuban Mela fires up at Camden Forge

Cuban Mela fires up at Camden Forge

The Cuban Mela was inarguably the LJF’s most vibrant closing...

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Terri Lyne Carrington and Charenee Wade hit celebratory soulful groove down at Ronnie Scott’s

Terri Lyne Carrington and Charenee Wade …

If there is such a thing as the short straw...

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Liane Carroll Trio wraps up LJF in fine style at 606

Liane Carroll Trio wraps up LJF in fine …

  Consummate performer and every singer’s vocal idol, Liane Carroll, sidles...

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James Pearson and WordTheatre presents ‘And All That Jazz’

James Pearson and WordTheatre presents ‘…

WordTheatre, a company specialising in live readings of stories by...

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Sam Braysher, Nick Costley-White, The Dixie Ticklers with Johnny Mars set sail at Jazz Nursery

Sam Braysher, Nick Costley-White, The Di…

The Jazz Nursery, set aboard a magnificent replica of Sir...

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Simon Spillett plays up a storm for Foyles launch of Tubby Hayes – A Man in a Hurry

Simon Spillett plays up a storm for Foyl…

Last Thursday saw the launch of the Tubby Hayes documentary...

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Legends gather in somber tribute to Kenny Wheeler at Cadogan Hall

Legends gather in somber tribute to Kenn…

We were promised a smorgasbord of jazz royalty at this...

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Cécile McLorin Salvant draws on the past to captivate at Cadogan Hall

Cécile McLorin Salvant draws on the past…

After a lovely low-key opening set from Femi Temowo, featuring...

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Alto Sax Reigns Supreme At Belgrade Jazz Fest

Alto Sax Reigns Supreme At Belgrade Jazz…

The theme at this year’s Belgrade Jazz Festival was ‘The...

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Hiatus Kaiyote bring cutting edge future-soul to The Concorde

Hiatus Kaiyote bring cutting edge future…

There’s a crush of boho twentysomethings up against Brighton’s Concorde...

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Steve Smith grooves hard with Vital Information NYC at Ronnie Scott’s

Steve Smith grooves hard with Vital Info…

It was the early 1990s when this writer first discovered...

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Knoel Scott takes on tradition at the 100 Club

Knoel Scott takes on tradition at the 10…

If walls could talk then the 100 Club, squeezed between...

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Hypnotised by Hindi Zahra at London's Elgar Room

Hypnotised by Hindi Zahra at London's El…

Given the limitless ocean of music in which the world...

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Turning up the heat at the Tampere Jazz Happening

Turning up the heat at the Tampere Jazz …

Festival directors often have to unhitch hitches right in the...

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Elephant9 turn up the voltage at Electric Brixton

Elephant9 turn up the voltage at Electri…

While Elephant9’s recent studio sets might’ve inaugurated amassing embroideries of...

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Marcos Valle Makes Do At The Brooklyn Bowl

Marcos Valle Makes Do At The Brooklyn Bo…

When taking an evening to see a true legend of...

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Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Reunite With Jim Mullen At The Jazz Cafe

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Reunite W…

It had been forty years since the legendary Jim Mullen...

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Sheryl Bailey gets playful and virtuosic at the Bull’s Head

Sheryl Bailey gets playful and virtuosic…

Sheryl Bailey, one of New York’s foremost guitarists and now...

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Salzburg swings to Jazz & The City

Salzburg swings to Jazz & The City

Austria’s place in the jazz firmament has been well established...

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Vula Viel Launch Good is Good to a rapturous Rich Mix

Vula Viel Launch Good is Good to a raptu…

Last time Jazzwise took an evening to see Bex Burch’s...

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Sheryl Bailey Quartet get Swinging at 606

Sheryl Bailey Quartet get Swinging at 60…

There is a significant coterie of jazz fans that come...

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Leroy Jones Quintet get Soho swinging in style

Leroy Jones Quintet get Soho swinging in…

Three nights in to his five-night stay at Pizza Express...

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Liane Carroll dazzles with vintage performance at Celebrate Voice Festival

Liane Carroll dazzles with vintage perfo…

Liane Carroll celebrated, life, jazz and the unrestrained joy of...

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Huw V Williams’ Hon storms The Vortex

Huw V Williams’ Hon storms The Vortex

On a rainy evening in Dalston, 21 October – ‘Back...

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Bill Frisell bewitches with Strings at Ronnie Scott’s

Bill Frisell bewitches with Strings at R…

It’s a great recipe: take a string quartet line-up, dispense...

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Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet digs deep at Ronnie Scott’s

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet digs deep at …

For the first time in eleven years, leading US drummer...

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Joel Harrison Quartet get cooking at Pizza Express

Joel Harrison Quartet get cooking at Piz…

The advance billing might have suggested a Joel Harrison solo...

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Aaron Parks Trio goes Zen at Kings Place

Aaron Parks Trio goes Zen at Kings Place…

I’m writing this with one eye on an article about...

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Beat poetry meets backbeats with Barry Wallenstein and Mike Hobart’s Urban Jazz Collective at Vortex

Beat poetry meets backbeats with Barry W…

New York beat poet Barry Wallenstein joined Mike Hobart’s Urban...

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Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival blasts off with Birchall, Brand and more

Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival blast…

With its emphasis on adventurous programming and bids to redress...

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Dave Drake and Riley Stone-Lonergan offer an enthralling glimpse of the future

Dave Drake and Riley Stone-Lonergan offe…

 Anyone bold or foolhardy enough to essay a career in...

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Bobby Wellins brings bright-eyed energy to the Verdict

Bobby Wellins brings bright-eyed energy …

Bobby Wellins is unique; a near contemporary of Rollins, Shorter...

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Stan Sulzmann Quartet weaves wonders at The Vortex

Stan Sulzmann Quartet weaves wonders at …

Stan Sulzmann stepped in for an indisposed Bobby Wellins on Saturday...

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Phronesis, Tingvall and Marsalis power up at Palatia Jazz Festival

Phronesis, Tingvall and Marsalis power u…

The two evenings that we visited the Palatia Jazz Festival...

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Fletch’s Brew whip up an Electric Stew at the Vortex

Fletch’s Brew whip up an Electric Stew a…

As Fletch’s Brew steamed through two sets at the Vortex...

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Robert Glasper Trio digs deep at The Hub, Edinburgh

Robert Glasper Trio digs deep at The Hub…

As the audience waits for the Robert Glasper Trio to...

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Steve Fishwick Trio Out To Lunch at Cadogan Hall, London

Steve Fishwick Trio Out To Lunch at Cado…

I’m tempted to paraphrase the old musician’s joke about not...

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Mark Guiliana, Matt Brewer and John Escreet unlock jazz’s secrets in Siena

Mark Guiliana, Matt Brewer and John Escr…

Such is the quite breathtaking beauty of one of Italy’s...

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Bennett and Gaga, Snarky Puppy and The Bad Plus/Joshua Redman top triumphant Umbria Jazz Festival

Bennett and Gaga, Snarky Puppy and The B…

Umbria Jazz is a brand and like all brands it’s...

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Avishai Cohen and Marcus Miller burn in the heat of Jazz á Vienne

Avishai Cohen and Marcus Miller burn in …

  One of the biggest French summer Festivals enjoyed the hottest...

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Brad Shepik’s Trio explore a Changing Climate

Brad Shepik’s Trio explore a Changing Cl…

Guitarist and educator Brad Shepik’s compositions have attracted sufficient attention...

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Zara McFarlane stretches out at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho

Zara McFarlane stretches out at Pizza Ex…

Singer and composer Zara McFarlane played to sold-out crowds at...

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Nigel Price Organ Trio 25 July 2015, Kings Place

Nigel Price Organ Trio 25 July 2015, Kin…

  In Michael Chabon’s 2012 novel Telegraph Avenue, the fictitious jazz...

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A party atmosphere reigns supreme at Jazz à Vienne 2015

A party atmosphere reigns supreme at Jaz…

One of the biggest French summer Festivals enjoyed the hottest...

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Soweto Kinch and Kurt Elling hit the heights at the Malta Jazz Festival

Soweto Kinch and Kurt Elling hit the hei…

Soweto Kinch’s gig is nearing its climax when he finds...

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The cerebral meets the popular at the Rigas Ritmi Festival in Latvia

The cerebral meets the popular at the Ri…

As Ramon Valle explains, the Ritmi in the title of...

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Swanage Jazz Fest swings hard with Jean Tousaint’s Art Blakey Sextet

Swanage Jazz Fest swings hard with Jean …

Swanage’s format is well-established and well-understood. A marquee each for...

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Jason Moran, Justin Kauflin and D’Angelo shine at Montreux Jazz Festival

Jason Moran, Justin Kauflin and D’Angelo…

Thomas Rees is swept away by glamour, history and stand...

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Ant Law Quintet zero in at The Verdict, Brighton

Ant Law Quintet zero in at The Verdict, …

It’s been a scant 18 months since Ant Law played...

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Mammoth 36th Montreal jazz round-up with Lovano, Cullum, Mammal Hands, Abdullah Ibrahim among the highlights

Mammoth 36th Montreal jazz round-up with…

Each visit there are switcheroos at the goliath Montreal Jazz...

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Sly & Robbie with Nils Petter Molvaer create blissful ‘Nordub’ at Barbican

Sly & Robbie with Nils Petter Molvae…

A meeting of the world’s greatest rhythm section, two progressive...

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Average White Band Jarrod Lawson get the Rio funking at Glasgow Jazz Festival

Average White Band Jarrod Lawson get the…

Although the concert hall experience is a major part of...

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Manu Katché and Dado Moroni  get Bari in Jazz bopping

Manu Katché and Dado Moroni get Bari in…

This year’s edition of Bari in Jazz marked a transition...

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Black Top funk up Freedom: The Art Of Improvisation Festival

Black Top funk up Freedom: The Art Of Im…

“Yes… central heating.” These words from Cleveland Watkiss, closing Black...

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Joe Stilgoe goes Big Band at The Old Vic for album launch

Joe Stilgoe goes Big Band at The Old Vic…

A packed venue, atmospheric lighting, crystal clear sound and the...

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