Apply for The Write Stuff 2019 and get into print

Budding music writers listen up! This year’s Write Stuff music journalism course will return for its 17th edition, with workshops held at the Southbank Centre during the EFG London Jazz Festival’s opening and closing weekends, on 16-17 November and 23-24 November.

Founded and organised by Jazzwise and festival producers Serious, The Write Stuff gives new jazz and improv music writers a valuable free opportunity to work with professional journalists to improve their writing skills, develop an understanding of music criticism and the workings of the music press and blogosphere, as well as getting to see a bunch of great concerts! We’re on the hunt for a new generation of younger writers aged 18-25, who will attain an Arts Award qualification following a successful completion of the course.

The workshops will include sessions on feature writing and live reviews by Jazzwise writer and BBC broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre; an insight into the history and development of the UK jazz and music press with Jazzwise editor-in-chief Jon Newey; and a workshop on online journalism and career development with Jazzwise editor Mike Flynn and a special guest, alongside input from other writers and jazz industry figures.

Several Write Stuff participants have gone on to have pieces published in The Guardian, The Wire and Jazzwise, as well as work within the wider jazz and broadcasting industry. This year’s participants will have their work posted on the Jazzwise and festival websites, and one review of particular merit will be published in a subsequent issue of Jazzwise.

To apply to take part, applicants should please submit by email a CV and completed application form (downloadable from the following web page: www.serious.org.uk/what-we-do/learning-and-participation/access/the-write-stuff) which should contain a 300-word review of a gig/concert that they have recently seen, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line ‘The Write Stuff’. Applicants must be aged 18 to 25 and be available in London on the following dates: Friday 15 November (evening); Saturday 16 – Sunday 17 November and Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 November.

(Photo by Emile Holba for the EFG London Jazz Fetsival)

Billy Martin and Fay Victor lead Creative Music Studio in Catskill, New York

Creative Music Studioin Catskill

In June, deep in the idyllic wilderness of the Catskill Mountains, upstate New York, improvising musicians gathered. Founded by Ornette Coleman, Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, the Creative Music Studio  (CMS) is arguably one of the improvising world’s most esteemed and formative structures, devoted to exploring and expanding on improvisation and music as a universal language. This was the 2019 CMS summer residential workshop, with around 25 participants of different backgrounds, ages and origins, who spent five intensive days engaging, exploring, collaborating and growing musically.

Since its inception at the beginning of the 1970s, CMS has featured an incredible cohort of artists, advisers and participants, including Gil Evans, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, John Zorn, Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Mary Halvorson, Lester Bowie among many others. This summer’s workshop continued the tradition, with masterclasses from vocalist Fay Victor, drummer Allison Miller, bassist Ken Filiano, Pilates instructor Savia Berger, percussionist, CMS President and one-third of Medeski Martin & Wood, Billy Martin, co-founder and vocalist Ingrid Sertso, and co-founder, pianist-vibraphonist-composer Karl Berger.

Based in holistic philosophy, emphasising spontaneity, vitality and emotion, the workshop covered a vast amount of ground. In addition to the abundant vocal and instrumental playing, the week included body awareness sessions, listening meditations, and generous sharing of experience and advice from an outstanding team of Guiding Artists.

Each session offered a complementary approach, and the opportunity to explore diverse aspects of improvisation through discussion and exercises. They provided rare insight into an artist’s personal journey, and even-rarer opportunities to work directly with some of the most progressive players of today’s creative music scene: whether as part of Karl Berger’s improvising orchestra, via Billy Martins Point Ilism improvisation system, or duetting with Fay Victor in the late-night jam. In itself worth the trip to NYC, each day was capped with intimate faculty performances, demonstrating exceptional expression, fervour, clarity, humour, honesty and generosity.

“Music is about giving”, say the wondrously profound teachings of Ingrid and Karl, who live, perform and teach by their word. The CMS artists and organisers demonstrated this principal in the most generous, visceral, beautiful, enriching way, creating a space for music to express and explore the ineffable, and supporting students to continue beyond the week.

The next workshop took place at New York’s New School from 18 July, with sessions by Matana Roberts, Steven Bernstein, Chris Corsano, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Ken Filiano and Billy Martin.

- Celeste Cantor-Stephens

More information is available at creativemusic.org

Tomorrow’s Warriors’ Legacy Real Winner At JazzFM Awards 2019

Jez Nelson and Chris Phillips open proceedings in time-honoured fashion by asking the sponsors’ tables to keep the noise down, and we’re off into the JazzFm Awards’ annual summation of the nexus of art and commerce. Perhaps the exigencies of the latter have dictated the absence of a house band for this year’s entertainment – instead Eric Bibb and Cherise Adams-Burnett duet on a piece of polished pop-acoustic balladry. Then we’re down to business as Keyon Harrold presents the International Award to forward-thinking drummer/bandleader Makaya McCraven. Bibb, perhaps predictably, wins Blues Act, and Jean Toussaint gets the Best Instrumentalist plaque from a stately Julian Joseph, with an accompanying round of heartfelt acclaim from the floor. Elsewhere evidence of the consolidation of the ‘Sound of Young London’ dominates.

Jacob Collier vaults onstage to collect the PRS Gold award, then bounds to the piano to deliver a dense thicket of musical exposition, through which he leaves the listener to search for a negotiable pathway of melody. Next up Cassie Kinoshi acknowledges her Breakthrough act award win via video link from Connecticut, whence her burgeoning compositional career has taken her. Back in the room, Nubya Garcia has returned from tour to bag the UK Jazz Act, while Poppy Adjudha is all glamour picking up Best Soul Act, and Adams-Burnett looked poised as she returned to collect Vocalist Of The Year in a golden dress.

Sons Of Kemet get Album Of The Year, with front man Shabaka Hutchings murmuring into the mic: “We can only go as far as our imaginations can take us”, and his imagination continues to take him further each year. Young America is represented by an engagingly humble Louis Cole, looking every bit the hipster geek in faux leopard fur and sneakers. Classic American jazz was represented by Blue Note supremo Don Was, who embellishes the enduring mystique of his Music Biz Elder tropes of hat, shades and gravelly voice and a video endorsement from world-famous non-jazz drummer Ringo Starr.

Further entertainment comes in the diverse forms of Beverly Knight and her scaled-down band delivering a tribute to Aretha Franklin, while the Dead Ringers crew created a scarily convincing comedy double-act between Jools Holland and Donald Trump. Each recipient pays tribute to their inspirations and supporters, and as the evening progresses a theme starts to emerge as act after act cites the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation as a crucial factor in their musical development, and Jazz Re:Freshed for helping spread the word. So it’s fitting that Gary Crosby and Janine Irons take to the stage alongside Steam Down, the latter clad in vivid Afro-print fabrics to collect the Live Experience trophy. By Janine’s reckoning 19 of the 39 nominees are ex-Warriors; surrounded by their youthful cohort, she and Gary resemble proud parents at a school prize-giving. Steam Down play us out, all vibe and visceral excitement. Let’s hope this remarkable flowering endures, resisting chilly political and economic predictions, to bear further fruit into next year and beyond.

– Eddie Myer

Cherise Adams-Burnett, Elgar Room – EFG London Jazz Festival 2018

Jazz vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett’s gig in the Elgar Room of The Royal Albert Hall was a tale of two halves. The performance began as a piano quartet with Olly Sarkar on drums, Louis van der Westhuizen on double bass and Gabriel Piers-Mantell on piano with Cherise displaying her expressive scat style in this intimate setting. Then after the interval more instruments were incorporated with a small string section, backing vocalists and trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi (who plays in Moses Boyd's Exodus).

Cherise contributes flute, and this bigger sound gives the songs a richer harmony reminiscent of Kamasi Washington’s spiritual jazz. Furthermore, the music has a freer, driven and imperfect approach almost straying into prog-rock territory on tunes like ‘Fickle Feelings’. The soon-to-be-released original material clearly comes from a range of inspirations and was well received in this sold-out room. The songs have a heartfelt honesty to their lyrics and come with some smart hooks. The only standard of the night was ‘Skylark’, with which Cherise pays homage to her jazz forebears with this melancholy tune.

Later, the ensemble performs a response to ‘Skylark’ entitled ‘Felicity’, which is well thought out with beautiful vocal harmonies and subtle string melodies. Cherise’s vocal style can be described as confident and exuberant with an inquisitive innocence and curiosity. She’s clearly been well-trained during her conservatoire studies and rarely a bum note is heard, but the vibrancy of her timbre makes it all feel a little inauthentic and forced. It’s particularly noticeable when she slips in to her local Lutonian accent from something akin to the American masters Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. However, this delivery is not required on tunes like ‘Fickle Feelings’, which has a reggae off-beat rhythm and Cherise gives a more conversational pop performance much like Lily Allen is known for. She cites more contemporary artists like Lauryn Hill and Whitney Huston as well as 'golden age' legends but not much here is grooving neo-soul as was expected. The closest the set gets to this is the funky ‘Undercover Dreamer’, but it never really captures the imagination of the audience.

Fred Neighbour

Empirical, Purcell Room – EFG London Jazz Festival 2018

It was a phenomenal start to the EFG Jazz Festival in the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre. Empirical returned to the festival for the first time in two years, and it was indeed an honour to experience their performance.

With the release of their new EP, Indifference Culture, the ‘cool’ contemporary quartet were able to flawlessly dictate their views on societal ills without uttering a word during their songs.
Considering the intimacy of their music, the Purcell Room did not accurately convey this. However, their ability to communicate such important messages with smoothness, rawness, and ease felt within the title track, was astounding. Nathaniel Facey (alto sax) and Shaney Forbes (drums) both embodied a unique swagger that added to the already captivating performance. They all complemented each other perfectly, but allowed time for each to shine.

The audience reception was slightly lacklustre during the first half of their performance, especially with such impassioned songs being performed. However, this picked up quickly during the second half as the audience finally loosened up and interacted with the band.

The contrast between the different tracks on their EP such as ‘Non-Verbal Language’, which was filled with hypnotising fury and passion, was matched by intense red lighting. However, tracks such as ‘Persephone’ and ‘Celestial Being’, which heavily featured Lewis Wright on the vibraphone, were calmer, more melancholic, with a twinge of noir and an 1980s soul ballad.

‘No Service’ by bassist Tom Farmer, accurately conveyed the feelings associated with not having a mobile phone on you in such a technology-reliant society. It was almost comical. The sheer anxiety and sense of impending doom replicated by a booming double bass, comparable to having no signal. It was brilliant to see a return to more political or protest jazz, we definitely need it right now.

Audrey Owusu

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The Write Stuff

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