Printmakers leave their mark at Wiltshire Music Centre

Nikki-Illes-PrintmakersStan Sulzman’s solo on the Kenny Wheeler 's Enowena reached a peak of flowing lyrical phrases over a bustling, multi-layered accompaniment from the band; drums, bass, guitar and piano combining to urge him on over a samba-ish latin groove. Then a dying fall of a phrase gave Nikki Iles a hook and the baton was passed to launch the piano solo. Her improvisations all evening, like this one, emerged from within the mood established by the piece or a previous soloist and then took the ideas somewhere else. This time she dug in, really grooving with James Maddren’s pulse from the drums and Mick Hutton’s driving bass and the energy levels rose until Norma Winstone’s wordless vocals returned with the quintessential Wheeler melody, all interval leaps and chromatic sidles.

The Printmakers, well into their first set at Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon, were giving the west country audience a taste of why they’ve forged such a reputation over the last few years. In 2010, they were nominated for a Parliamentary Jazz Award on that word of mouth buzz alone. There’s still no released recording, but they’ve been in the studio, so early next year it's rumoured there may be merchandise.

On Saturday, the delight was in the moment. With regular bass and tenor, Steve Watts and Mark Lockheart, on Loose Tubes duty, Mick Hutton and Stan Sulzman were formidable deps. The set had begun with Mediatation, from Nikki Iles’ 2012 album Hush, a loose stately chord progression quietly announcing their presence, before it morphed into Fred Hersch’s Stars, the tempo accelerating and the layers of sound gradually enveloping us with Winstone’s vocal threading through.

 

With tunes by John Taylor, Ralph Towner, Steve Swallow alongside more by Iles and guitarist Mike Walker a pallete of rich, shifting harmony and flowing rhythms was explored. The inspiration of Kenny Wheeler’s genius seemed never far away. When the Canadian’s now virtually standard tune, Everyone’s Song But My Own emerged towards the end of the second set, it was a special moment as soloist on the original recording, Stan Sulzman, sighed, fluttered and soared over the familiar changes with Norma Winstone nodding approvingly, leaning on the piano. 

Sheparded by the peerless Nikki Iles, The Printmakers never shout, but sweep an audience along with waves of musical energy. And they have a lot of fun. They finished first with Iles’ High Lands, with more than a hint of skirl and plenty of skip followed by Steve Swallows laconic country-ish City of Dallas to wish us good night.  The refurbished and re-energised Wiltshire Music Centre was echoing to the cheers and whoops satisfied punters.

– Mike Collins

@jazzyblogman

Slowly Rolling Camera take trip hop to Rich Mix

slowly-rolling-camera
The melding of musician and machine at Shoreditch’s unpretentious arts venue, Rich Mix, which last night played host to Slowly Rolling Camera supported by Future Dub Orchestra, represents the creative détente which seems to have been reached between the dinner jazz your parents like, and the electronica that the youth of today appreciates.

Produced from Coach House Studios in Bristol, which gave rise to bands such as Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, Future Dub Orchestra sound like what it says on the tin. The creative leader of the band stands behind a desk of wires and equipment playing strings and brass and assorted bleeps and bumps, while a straightforward line up of bass and drums on stage help move the sound from the deep dub of the sound-system through the languid ‘teenth notes of funk – all accompanied by the dark vocals of Michelle Denny which provide a soulful counterpoint to the more frenetic moments of Bristol trip-hop. The philosophy behind this computer-led band is ‘doing it live’. To be truly convincing as a live electronic outfit they should find themselves a drummer – someone in the mould of Jojo Mayer – who is more (drum) machine than man.

With a more accomplished line-up of musicians, Slowly Rolling Camera are like the grown-up version of Future Dub Orchestra; the sound is no less frenetic in the hippier-hoppier moments but more dignified and complex, preferring expansive movements to syncopated breaks, with producer Deri Roberts’ contribution on the computer adding texture rather than providing the rhythm or over-powering the nuance of the upright bass.

There was a tendency for the subtle inflexions of vocalist-lyricist Dionne Bennett’s voice to get lost during her more restrained moments, as sometimes did Mark Lockheart’s improvisation on soprano sax, and the burble of Dave Stapleton’s synth. But perhaps that was merely their finesse at work – eventually the layered ensemble sound and portentous Merry Clayton-esque vocals swell into something complicated and powerful yet restrained and funky. If Slowly Rolling Camera lend themselves to dinner listening it is only because it is unassuming and thoughtful music, the nuance of which is easily overpowered by a rambunctious dub crowd at the bar off to stage right.

The philosophy of the night’s promoter, Soundcrash, is to programme music that often has a jazz sound to it and may encompass soul, world, and even hip hop, but which is always genre-pushing, edgy and exciting. The dinner jazz crowd who like their jazz puréed before consumption might need to put their dentures back in.

– Steve Owen

Cassandra Wilson, Edmar Castaneda and Pat Metheny shine at Jazzkaar Festival


edmar620
The Baltic states might be a long way behind their Nordic neighbours in terms of the kudos of its major jazz festivals, but Estonia’s Jazzkaar is undoubtedly the exception. This year was its special 25th anniversary edition set in the capital Tallinn, a chic coastal city that’s an unassuming yet fascinating mix of the medieval and contemporary. A Silver Jubilee would have been no more than a pipe dream after the Soviets banned the city’s jazz festival in the late-1960s with the petty excuse that, “you do not need any jazz here, you have your singing festivals, that’s enough.” But Jazzkaar, under the shrewd stewardship of artistic director Anne Erm, has become the go-to festival of the entire Baltic area as well as a genuinely high profile fixture on the Tallinn arts and entertainment calendar.

Earlier events included US saxophonist Greg Osby as guest of Swiss trio Vein, the Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen, and Marius Neset quartet. But everybody was talking about the Colombian improvising harpist Edmar Castaneda Trio (pictured above), a new star in the making. The final weekend welcomed jazz superstars and blossoming local – as well as more exotic – talent. Vocal diva Cassandra Wilson (pictured below) was in retrospective mood at the new Nokia Concert Hall, celebrating the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking Blue Light Til Dawn album. The 58- year-old jazz siren, with a head of Medusa-like dreads, held the audience spellbound. At once both barmy and shamanistic, Cassandra has a rare gift that makes you feel like you’re listening to her in her living room rather than on a big concert stage. She told a full house it was her first time in Estonia but she already loved the people and was catering to their vibration. The band, featuring longstanding guitarist Brandon Ross and her Swiss musical director/harmonica player Gregoire Maret, wonderfully evoked the heady, blues-soaked jazz ambience of Blue Light.
casandra-wilson620

Jazzkaar seems to have something for everyone and the younger generation were getting their kicks from bands such as Portico Quartet. From folky hang drum-based London buskers to electro minimalists; nowadays they’re offering a mix of trance dance anthems and ethereal Steve Reich-like jazzy post-rock, the latter the far more challenging option. They went down a treat as did the crowd-pleasing Spanish female flamenco group Las Migas. Then an authentic Estonian Sax legend, the pianist Tõnu Naissoo recreated a trio recording he released in 1967, the first Estonian jazz album to be released in Soviet-controlled Estonia. Naissoo’s playing was intriguing with its darkly hued modal Paul Bley-like touches, and influences from east European romanticism through to its influence from the folky Nordic jazz of that period.

chris-potter-unityg620
Pat Metheny Unity Group
closed the festival with a typically long two and a half hour set. Covering many aspects of his career, he incorporated his Orchestrion, from wailing jazz-rock numbers through to brief tracks from his Ornette Coleman collaboration, and played duets with every member of his high level band, the standouts being Antonio Sanchez and Chris Potter. Potter turned up to the afterparty jam without his sax, but at least part-compensated with an unexpectedly impressive display on the piano. ‘Positively Surprising’ as is the motto of the Estonian Tourist board and it’s something that could equally be applied to its world class, home-grown festival.


– Selwyn Harris

 

Vein and Osby get the Vortex spinning

GregOsbyVein MG 2918-620The title of Swiss trio Vein’s new release, Vote for Vein!, sounds like an offbeat TV satire. The sleeve, with three garishly suited, grinning men who look as though they’re about to present Match of the Day, is also boldly ironic. Fortunately, the musicians who appeared at the Vortex on 24 April, for one of their rare UK appearances, looked much more like ordinary jazzers. And they sounded like extraordinary ones; playing with an intense and intricate togetherness few bands can match.

They were joined by American alto player Greg Osby, who has returned to playing more structured music much like his years of peak involvement in New York’s radically free-spirited M-Base collective. The four were mid-way through a blizzard of gigs from Tallinn, Estonia, to the Mediterranean island of Menorca, and UK appearances are rare. Osby is one of three distinguished soloists (the others are Dave Liebman and trombonist Glenn Ferris) with whom Vein has a regular partnership.

But Osby’s presence clearly didn’t make this a quartet. There was an interesting tension on the boundary between the trio’s integrity and Osby’s freelance role, as the reeds man would sometimes take control, skirmish menacingly with his angular, quick-shifting alto phrases and bursts of Coltranesque epiphany, while at other times he stood back completely and observed the trio’s painstaking work.

GregOsbyVein MG 2916-620They played a combination of Osby’s earnestly titled compositions (you can’t imagine ‘Dialectical Interchange’ being much of a hit at The Cotton Club) and the Swiss players’ gnomically witty pieces, such as ‘No We Can’t (But Vote For Us Anyway)’. Perhaps most typical of their approach was the medley of the trio players’ compositions played towards the end of the first set: bassist Thomas Lähns’ ‘Eat the Rich’, drummer Florian Arbenz’ ‘Moving Towards the End of a Counter-Trend’, and pianist Michael Arbenz’ ‘Love the Difference’. Movement between pieces, and between band members, was beautifully fluid.   

In general, Osby’s pieces gave him the scope to solo freely, with the band in support, while solos within the trio were a kind of whirling, grappling display of playful interrogation, less about individual freedom, more a kind of sublime conversational high. Drummer Florian Arbenz would respond to a solo on bass or piano by dropping the volume, but often increasing the complexity of his beat, and teasing the soloist with his feathery rhythms. Bassist Thomas Lähns, though classically trained, often played his upright, acoustic bass like a bass guitar, with fast-fingered runs covering several octaves, and edgy, plucked chords. Pianist Michael Arbenz often sounded a little like Liam Noble, with a striking, percussive control of rhythm. There were moments of light rhythmic playfulness to match his brother on drums, and a passage in their medley of pieces when the ripples of sweet piano harmony began to sound like Debussy.

Towards the end of the second set they brought the audience, reeling by this point at the blistering development of musical ideas, gently down to earth with a version of ‘Summertime’ that was almost conventional. Osby began noodling fragments of the tune over a typically spiky Florian Arbenz drum patter, while Michael Arbenz gradually asserted control with piano. When the tune was returned to Osby at the end of the piece, it was shredded to slivers of nostalgia.

In the end, it would be a waste to vote for Vein, or Osby; they’re much too talented musically to run the government. They’re not here much, but they’re well worth the journey.

– Matthew Wright

 – Photos © Roger Thomas

Moonlight Saving Time Flying High at Bristol’s BeBop Club

Moonlight-Saving-TimeIt was a hometown gig at Bristol’s BeBop Club for Moonlight Saving Time to launch the long Easter weekend. A standing room only crowd turned out to hear their distinctive take on an eclectic group of songs and tunes, blending tight grooves with breezily handled, layered arrangements and fluent improvising.

They were straight into their re-working of ‘Afro Blue’ to set the tone. The odd meter groove and funky bass riff gave the familiar standard their typically individual twist as Emily Wright’s vocal line blended effortlessly with Nick Malcolm’s trumpet. A shift of harmony, a cute little turnaround here, a catch your breath bass riff there from bass player Will Harris, and familiar material was finding new life. ‘Skylark’, ‘Footsteps in the Dark’ (an old Isley Brothers hit), ‘Goodbye Porkpie Hat’ all had the treatment and were warmly received. 

There was new material too and the sense of an established band maturing and stretching out. Keyboard player Dale Hambridge’s ‘Desire for Nothing Known’, had an as yet wordless vocal line with a rich harmony underpinning it, providing a platform for some great soloing and then a real climatic moment as voice, trumpet and bass were soloing and grooving collectively. Some of the most affecting moments were when they stripped things right back. ‘Tide Moves’ provided an electrifying moment as voice and bass locked and implied a much bigger sound. Piano and voice launched the second set with ‘Sea Fever’, their version of John Ireland’s setting of the Masefield poem, every movement in the room stilled by the intensity.  

The excitement ramped up as the end approached. A storming arrangement of Calvin Harris’ 2009 hit ‘I’m Not Alone’ with a singing emotional solo from Nick Malcolm had everyone sighing. They were whooping as the set closed with a cover of Chick Corea’s ‘Open Your Eyes You Can Fly’. Lloyd Haines on drums, depping for the night, was a revelation, skittering and driving the pulse all evening and pulling out a delightful melodic solo on the closer. 

There are plans for another album and plenty of gigs in the book, including a London Jazz Festival appearance in the autumn, so expect to hear more from this cracking band.

– Mike Collins

 

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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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