Robert Mitchell’s Invocation sets sail at Bournemouth Arts By The Sea Festival

Although Bournemouth Arts By The Sea Festival is bringing many charming open-air events to the historic seaside town over the next fortnight [until October12], the interior space of St. Peter’s Church was the scene of a superb opening night concert. London-based pianist Robert Mitchell has always been a formidable improviser whose composing has the sort of baroque, multi-layered character that lends itself to bigger orchestral settings so the collaboration between his longstanding group Panacea, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and young students from Avonbourne and Harewood colleges made perfect sense. The ambition of the concept was matched by the beauty of the result.

Invocation is a tribute to, in Mitchell’s own words, ‘life-changing teachers’, and the suite in five movements made specific reference to such iconic figures as Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr as well as quoting ancient Chinese proverbs and Sumerian riddles, which had the effect of placing the general concept of education, or perhaps the gift of wisdom, within a kind of timeless, dare one say, ageless context. 

In its most inspired moments the performance vividly created a deeply ancestral, almost primeval atmosphere, that resonated with the nature of the subject, as if the act of passing on the most vital of lessons in life could only be done with a knowledge of and respect for history of the most far-reaching kind. The inherent drama of Mitchell’s writing was skillfully rendered by Deborah Jordan’s operatic, gymnastic vocal that negotiated wide intervallic leaps, dissonant thematic lines and stark shifts of harmony with impressive poise. Rather than overload the score with the added power of the 100-strong Chorus, Mitchell spread out their interventions with a fair amount of economy, yet they reinforced the numerous counter-melodic subtexts of the composition and provided a gauzy, string-like texture to Jordan’s many daring flights into the soprano range. The singers had a delicate power.    

Chorus master Gavin Carr, who often opened each piece with a short melodic rendition of one of the proverbs with his mighty baritone, was sufficiently precise in his conducting to harness the vocalists as effectively as possible, yet the changing landscape of the choir did not detract from the rhythmic volcano of the band. Indeed the surgical percussive precision of drummer Laurie Lowe, bassist Tom Mason and Mitchell himself on piano, skipping through lopsided meters as if every bar was a straight 4/4, was as impressive as it has been whenever the group has performed in the past few years. The leader’s distinctive composite of post-M-Base funk, Afro-Cuban son and McCoy Tyner-stamped swing is well and truly patented, and if there was the slightest crack in the otherwise impressive edifice of the performance it was the mixing of Lowe’s drums, which too often veered from flat to harsh.

At the end of the show Carr applied the term genius to Mitchell and it did not seem like a case of over-emoting in the heat of the moment. There was a conceptual richness to Invocation that would be beyond even the most creative of beings and if the immense intricacy of the composing was commendable then so too was the real soulfulness, the humanity, at its core. The piece will be performed again at the London Jazz Festival and could well be a highlight of the ten-day celebration.

– Kevin Le Gendre      

– Photo by Gerry Walden – www.gwpics.com

Robert Mitchell performs Invocation at the EFG London Jazz Festival on 23 November at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
– go to www.southbankcentre.co.uk for more info

      

Jason Rebello with Empirical bring fireworks to the Wiltshire Music Centre

empirical-rebello-live

There were a few sharp suits on stage at the Wiltshire Music Centre on Saturday. If anyone thought that meant it was going to be a solemn evening, the look on pianist Jason Rebello’s face was more ‘kid let loose in a sweet shop’ after the first scorching solo from Empirical’s alto man Nathaniel Facey. Rebello’s career went into orbit 25 years ago touring with Wayne Shorter, then saw him replace Kenny Kirkland in Sting’s band and subsequently tour relentlessly with Jeff Beck. Empirical have maintained their status as one of the hottest, most adventurous young jazz groups in the UK and Europe for nearly a decade now. The pianist’s decision to make the one off collaboration his inaugural gig of a year long artist-in-residence stint at the newly re-furbished Centre in Bradford-on-Avon, brought a near capacity crowd out and they were thrilled by the fireworks it produced.

It was a varied programme starting with that blistering take on ‘Whole in One’ from Rebello’s 1999 release Next Time Around. There was a sharing of back catalogues as Empirical dusted off tunes from their last album to feature a piano, Elements of Truth. ‘Ying and Yang’andCosmos (for Carl Sagan)’ evoked different moods, making the most of the moody wow of the vibes combining with chiming chords from the piano. There was more from Next Time Around including another burner to finish, ‘Justin Time’.

In between there were some delightful duos. Piano and alto on ‘Soul Eyes’hadNathaniel Facey evoking the spirit of Coltrane at his most tender. Vibes and piano on Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’ raised the roof, Rebello laying down a viscerally exciting funky gospel tinged groove driving Lewis Wright onto another dazzling solo. Despite a streaming cold, he nearly stole the show a few times.

It was the evident delight of Rebello and Empirical in each other’s company that lifted this beyond what was always a sure fire jazz feast. Empirical found themselves grooving deliciously on Herbie Hancock’s Chan’ Song and etching out a lyrical flowing melody on Rebello’s own Closeness. Jason found himself in the middle of a dense tumult on Empirical’s ‘In the Grill’ and pulling out a wildly inventive solo on bass man Tom Farmer’s zany piece ‘Card Clash’. The grin on drummer Shaney Forbes’ face barely dimmed all evening. He had one of the moments of the evening with a ghostly drum solo using hot rods on ‘Ying and Yang’.

 This was a reminder, if we needed it, of the world beating quality of the UK scene and a mouth watering start to the programme at the Wiltshire Music Centre. The next in the series is a duo with Ola Onabule in November.

– Mike Collins

Talo’s Festival 2014 – A People’s Music Celebration

Devoid of McDonalds, billboards, militarized police and security cameras, the social tranquility that breezes through the ancient town of Ruvo di Puglia in southern Italy proved an idyllic setting to present a mostly free festival celebrating both the regions boisterous Banda brass & wind orchestras, and a bounty of beautiful jazz and improvised music making. It’s thanks to the vision and energy of artistic director Pino Minafra (think Instabile Orkestra) that nary a single event fell short of the highest standard for concert presentation and performance. Britain was represented by Keith & Julie Tippetts, alongside Louis Moholo-Moholo in their deeply moving tribute concert ‘For Mandela’.

Augmented in simpatico with a bevy of Italian players the Minafric Orchestra brought to life the magnificent compositions of Keith Tippett, the legendary South Africans, and their glorious national anthem. Keith also gave a solo piano concert that organically unfolded a highly impressionistic musical journey. Old lion Louis Moholo-Moholo met the extraordinarily talented young tiger, pianist Livio Minafra for an improvisation on built on a foundation of intimacy. Individually their creativity and technical wells were deeply resourceful, and the results of their meeting proved resplendent with dynamical drama and emotional joy. And Britain’s Ogun Records was the subject of a small conference celebrating the label’s 40th anniversary. Otherwise the trio of saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano presented the compositions of Steve Lacy, with all their Monkish wit, to the delight of enthusiastic audience. The soprano, bass and drum sounds hung with bold purity unamplified within the acoustics of the town’s wine refinery.

Under the night sky Holland’s ICP Orchestra won over the local audience from an outdoor stage, set up in the center of Ruvo’s breathtaking beautiful old town. They also generously developed and delivered a workshop concert with local young musicians. Theirs is the spirit that informs Talos Festival, rooted in the people, their music, with cooperation trumping commercial concession. It’s a deep breath of fresh air from the dominant culture that remains either indifferent or hostile to higher socialist ideals. Bravo Talos!

– Michael King

Gregory Porter raises spirits at iTunes Festival

Gregory-Porter-itunes

For all the hype surrounding Gregory Porter, there’s a lot that's concerning about his band. Don’t get me wrong, the man in the hat is flawless, as good as all the Grammy plaudits make him out to be, and if you haven’t seen him live you really ought to. On stage, he’s every bit as charming and charismatic as his lyrics suggest and his voice is like nothing else. It’s a voice of warmth and mellow fruitfulness that crackles like a log fire and sounds even better up close than it does on record.

Appearing as part of the month-long iTunes Festival at the Roundhouse in Camden, the singer was on typically magisterial form, launching straight into a rendition of Donny Hathaway classic ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ with the crowd already in the palm of his hand. From there, he strolled through ‘On My Way To Harlem’, exploring gentle dissonances and freeing up the melody, and followed it with the heartache of ‘No Love Dying’. One of the highlights of the set, it finished with a bittersweet cadenza on which Porter’s vocal was as dark and rich as mahogany.

Gregory-Porter-mvula

Tracks from all three of his albums showcased the full extent of his musical and emotional range. A duet with Laura Mvula on ‘Water Under Bridges’ was a nice touch and ended with both singers riffing on the words “London Bridge is falling down”. A fiery rendition of ‘Musical Genocide’, the smouldering ‘1960 What?’, prefaced by falsetto improv, and the dirty blues of ‘Work Song’ whipped up the crowd, with the sonorous bass-notes and wistful melody of ‘Wolfcry’ and the melancholy charm of ‘Be Good’ rounding out the set. But, while Porter could do no wrong, when he stepped back from the mic it was sometimes, depressingly average.

The singer has been with his group since the beginning. They met during jam sessions at St Nick’s Pub in Harlem, they’re his musical comfort blanket and his loyalty to them is commendable. But at times it feels like he’s outgrown them, with the mismatch in quality plainly apparent in a live setting. Though alto sax player Yosuke Sato, pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James and drummer Emanuel Harrold never quite ruined things, they came dangerously close. Outside of the groove, all four men have shaky time and seemed intent on playing showboaty lines that weren’t fully under their fingers. The result was a gratuitous blur of haphazard noodling, a splurge of high-energy licks and tasteless patterns.

Though it’s encouraging to see improvisation being brought to a mainstream audience, it could be so much better. As it is, the group are at risk of alienating their more discerning listeners and, for the sake of the music, it may be time for Porter to move on. Just imagine how good he could sound if he did.

– Thomas Rees

@ThomasNRees

 

Joshua Redman, Gwilym Simcock and Wolfgang Muthspiel: Three giants of contemporary jazz join forces at Wigmore Hall

redman-simcock-trio

When American saxophonist Joshua Redman, British pianist Gwilym Simcock and Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel took the stage in front of a packed Wigmore Hall on Thursday night, they had never played together as a trio, save at a rehearsal the day before the concert. According to an excitable Redman, even that was brief. “I knew it was going to be cool,” he said, describing his delight at being able to work with two musicians he had long admired, “but, after about 10 minutes we didn’t need to rehearse any more. It was more than cool!” As was their set, the final part in the saxophonist’s three concert jazz series at the hall, which had all the freshness and excitement you’d hope for from a first encounter.

Simcock’s ‘Shanty’ provided a gentle start to the proceedings, opening with an icey wash of piano and guitar that made way for Redman’s soprano. The tune’s simple melody launched solos of increasing intensity, with Redman scanning the changes and nodding approvingly, his bottom lip thrust out, as Simcock moved things up a gear. ‘Double Blues’, a Muthspiel composition with a cat-and-mouse unison head, came next, featuring a blistering solo from the guitarist that juxtaposed choppy chordal work with fluid bop lines and thrillingly long holds that floated above Simcock’s walking bass notes, resolving in the nick of time.

A smoky tenor sax introduction became Redman’s ‘High Court Jig’, its reel-like groove drifting towards dissonance before shying away, as Simcock turned the time signature inside out and Muthspiel contributed percussive backings on the muted strings of his guitar. Two standards followed: ‘’Round Midnight’ was brought to life by electronic swells from the guitarist and Redman’s reworking of the melody, which curled upwards towards pitch-perfect altissimo before finishing in the mud of his lower register; while Brubeck’s ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ was prefaced by a piano segue of exquisite beauty – a filigree of intricate lines and glistening harmonies.

The remainder of the set brought further displays of frightening virtuosity, spontaneous risk-taking and masterful control, as the musicians continued to sound one another out, with Redman unleashing funk-tinged riffs and treacherous screes of notes. And in the end it took two encores, a break neck rendition of ‘The Eternal Triangle’, which pushed all three men to the edge, and the tenderness of ‘I Hear a Rhapsody’, to silence the crowd. Were this one-off collaboration to lead to something more regular (it should), it would be fascinating to watch it develop. But if it does, let’s hope it can retain some of the thrilling uncertainty and sense of adventure that made this first outing such a pleasure to watch.

– Thomas Rees
@ThomasNRees

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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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