27 August 2021
Earlier this month the Musicians’ Union cautiously welcomed a UK government announcement on POST-BREXIT EU TOURING. The government said that it had discussed with every EU state the obstacles created for touring musicians by Brexit and that 19 states have confirmed UK musicians do not require visas or work permits for “short-term’ tours.
However, the MU points out that the announcement does not include important territories like Spain, nor does it mention crew, drivers, carnets or fees for moving equipment.
Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said: “There remains a number of very significant, outstanding issues and this announcement fails to account for many of the problems currently facing musicians touring in the EU.
“In fact, it remains unclear as to whether this is a result of recent negotiations or simply a clarification of measures that have been in place for some time. The MU has been pushing the Government to negotiate with member states to avoid the need for work permits and remove the barriers that currently exist around cabotage, customs and transport. Whilst this progress is welcome, there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The 19 countries listed are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.
Saxophonist Nubya Garcia is among those scheduled to perform live at the 2021 HYUNDAI MERCURY PRIZE ceremony on 9 September, which will be carried live on BBC4 TV 9pm-10.15pm. Garcia is nominated for her album Source. Other jazz interest in the shortlist includes the album Promises from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra (not scheduled to perform).
Bert Stern’s film JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY, shot at the 1958 Newport jazz festival, has been “beautifully and extensively restored in 4K from the best surviving vault elements by IndieCollect” say Curzon, who screen the result in UK cinemas 30 August and release it on limited edition Blu-Ray and DVD on 20 September. More: Curzon Cinema – curzon.com. Jazz On A Summer’s Day – homecinema.curzon.com/film/jazz-on-a-summers-day.
Among the attractions at the PIZZA EXPRESS IN DEAN STREET, Soho in the coming months are American pianist Bruce Barth Trio (3 September, w. Jim Gold; lunch, 4 September, w. Tina May & Nel Begley; evening 4 September, w. Jim Mullen), British keyboard player and former US-resident player and composer Benjamin Croft launching his album Far And Distant Things (lunch, 2 October), US saxophone virtuoso Chris Potter with James Francies (kyb) and Eric Harland (d) (21-22 October) and trumpet and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson and his quartet (13 November). Full Pizza listings are at https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on
Sandra Brunet, marketing director at Campari Group UK, says: “Modern BRITISH JAZZ IS INDEBTED TO THE JAZZ OF JAMAICA, where many of the scene’s biggest talent finds inspiration, or have their family roots.” This in the context of a promotion that for £30 a month brings subscribers Jamaica-related music on vinyl plus 20cl of Appleton Estate premium rum, a Jamaican-inspired cocktail and an Appleton Estate cup. South London drummer Moses Boyd oversees the musical component of the offer. More at: https://jamaicanjazzseries.com
In a new video, percussionist Mino Cinelu and publicist Sue Auclair relate their experiences in connection with the Miles Davis gig at Kix, Boston in June 1981 that gave birth to the seminal late-period fusion album WE WANT MILES, featuring Marcus Miller and Mike Stern. It’s free to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7dYitUa67w
12 August 2021
After being cancelled in 2020, the HERTS JAZZ FESTIVAL returns 15-17 October with a brimming lineup, amongst which are Darius Brubeck, Liane Carroll, Simon Spillett Big Band, Derek Nash’s Picanté, John Etheridge, Gilad Atzmon, Ingham-Davison Sextet and Art Themen.
Concerts take place once again at South Mill Arts (formerly Rhodes Arts Complex), 1-3 South Road, Bishop’s Stortford CM23 3JG. Simon Spillett’s 17-piece band will play the music of Tubby Hayes, who took the stage in that very Stortford in 1964.
Among the talented sidepersons, so often more important to know than the bandleaders, are Dave O’Higgins, Clark Tracey, Ross Stanley, Neil Angilley, Vasilis Xenopoulos, Freddie Gavita and Steve Fishwick.
Tickets can be booked online at hertsjazzfestival.co.uk and southmillarts.co.uk. Telephone bookings at 01279 710200. Or book in person at South Mill Arts, 1-3 South Road, Bishop’s Stortford CM23 3JG.
7 August 2021
NYJO’s office describes the late singer AMY WINEHOUSE as “undoubtably one of the greatest musical talents to come out of the UK. Her unmistakable character, vocal dexterity and masterful songwriting made her a pop icon”. She sang briefly with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra before fame beckoned, and the band now honours her with a fairly large tour, running from 10 September 2021 to 26 March 2022.
The concerts will be “reimagining hits and revisiting early works she sang with the 24-piece National Youth Jazz Orchestra as a promising 16-year-old singer, back in 2000”, say the organisers.
The musical director will be trombonist Winston Rollins, the arrangements by Olivia Murphy and the lead singer, effectively filling Winehouse’s shoes, will be NYJO lead vocalist Lucy-Anne Daniels.
The dates are: 14.10.2021 • Lighthouse, Poole. 04.11.2021 • Oxford Town Hall, Oxford. 06.11.2021 • St Georges, Bradford. 28.11.2021 • Cambridge Jazz Festival, Cambridge Junction, Cambridge. 14.01.2022 • Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden. 20.01.2022 • Garrick Theatre, Lichfield. 21.01.2022 • Royal & Derngate, Northampton. 10.02.2022 • The Fire Station, Sunderland. 11.02.2022 • Band On The Wall, Manchester. 20.02.2022 • Derby Theatre, Derby. 27.02.2022 • Leicester, TBC. 02.03.2022 • Truro, TBC. 10.03.2022 • Portsmouth Guildhall, Portsmouth. 13.03.2022 • RWCMD, Cardiff. 26.03.2022 • The Civic, Barnsley. More details at nyjo.org.uk/gig-calendar
Two new STEELY DAN / DONALD FAGEN albums are released by UMe on CD and digital 24 September, and on vinyl 1 October. Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live! was recorded at NYC’s Beacon Theatre, The Met Philadelphia and other venues and Fagen’s The Nightfly Live was performed live by The Steely Dan Band.
The group then begins its Absolutely Normal Tour ’21, playing Miami Beach, FL (5-9 October), Orlando, FL (12, 13), St. Petersburg, FL (15, 16), Jacksonville, FL (19), North Charleston, SC (20), Charlotte, NC (22), Richmond, VA (23), Baltimore, MD (25), Philadelphia, PA (27, 29, 30), Red Bank, NJ (1 November), Morristown, NJ (3, 4, 6, 7), Port Chester, NY (9, 10), Wallingford, CT (13), Bethlehem, PA (14) and Boston, MA (17, 19, 20).
On 12 August, East 126th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues in East Harlem, New York will be co-named “Art Kane Harlem 1958 Place” in honour of photographer Art Kane and his renowned photograph “Harlem 1958” (also known as a “A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM“).
Jonathan Kane, son of Art and author of the book Art Kane: Harlem 1958 (published by Wall Of Sound, 2018), will speak, and prepared remarks from Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins, the last remaining living subjects of the photograph, will be delivered.
The renaming occurs 63 years to the day after Arthur Kanofsky (Art Kane) got together 57 jazz musicians, including Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, at 10 a.m. at 7 East 126th Street to take what he called “a sort of a graduation photo or class picture” of the jazz players of New York.
Kane’s photograph was published in Esquire magazine in the January 1959 issue. John White thoroughly reviewed Jonathan Kane’s book in Jazz Journal in 2019, finding it good if flawed.
[Update, 12 August 2021: in the event the renaming ceremony was cancelled because of a forecast temperature of 107°F, but the new street sign is in place.]
Some jazz names are among the recipients of 20 awards of £25,000 from the The PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION this year. They include Yazz Ahmed, Tim Garland, Soweto Kinch and Cassie Kinoshi.
The Hamlyn awards, under the rubric “Awards for Artists”, have been given in varying amounts each year since 1994 to composers and visual artists, with no strings attached. In that time, 347 artists have received a total of £9.3 million.
23 July 2021
A little jazz appears among the albums of the year nominations for the 2021 HYUNDAI MERCURY PRIZE, namely Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra’s Promises and Nubya Garcia’s Source. The prize, originally supposed to be more alternative than the Brits and the like, has almost always made a gesture towards jazz, and popular jazz performer Jamie Cullum is among the judges. The double jazz representation may to some extent reflect the diversity dividend currently enjoyed by jazz, the Mercury PRs noting the shortlist shows “how diverse, vibrant and far-reaching British music continues to be”. The awards show is 9 September and will be featured on BBC radio and TV.
Jazz FM is broadcasting some of Les Tomkins’ interviews done for Crescendo and others and held and now supplied by the National Jazz Archive. Titled THE LOST TAPES (although the interviews were held by Tomkins until he donated them to the NJA on his death last year, where one may presume their existence was well understood) and presented by Helen Mayhew, the series will feature, from 9-10 p.m., Art Blakey (25 July), Oscar Peterson (1 August) and Sarah Vaughan (8).
“The most influential drummer alive” says the Jazz Café. A great one, no doubt, and the man in question, BILLY COBHAM, plays at the north London venue on 1 October with a British band featuring David Dunsmuir (guitar), Michael Mondesir (bass), Steve Hamilton and Nikki Yeoh (kyb). Tickets are £30, or £40-50 if you want a restaurant seat. More at thejazzcafelondon.com/event/billy-cobham-2/
The HERNE BAY JAZZ & SWING FESTIVAL returns 20-22 August thanks to the efforts of singer and organiser Kai Hoffman and the help of several sponsors. The attractions in a strong lineup include Ian Shaw; Louise Cookman with the Peter Long Orchestra; Enrico Tomasso; John Etheridge Organ Trio; and Juliet Kelly, Rachael Cohen, Kai Hoffman, Eliane Correa y La Evolución. More at hernebayjazzfestival.com
19 July 2021
PAT METHENY issues a new album, Side-Eye NYC, on 10 September, featuring various players connected to the contemporary New York scene, including James Francies (kyb) and Marcus Gilmore (d). The promotional video for the track It Starts When We Disappear, which appears to be issued as a single, has perhaps a slightly more urban flavour in parts, harmonically and texturally, than we are used to from the guitarist, notwithstanding that once the tune gets underway, the rhapsodic lyricism, the purring Latin groove and round guitar tone usually associated with the guitarist survive largely unchanged. The publicity says that on the album Metheny “seamlessly flows in his usual genre-defying way from post-organ-trio grooves to expansive mini-suite forms to simply Metheny at his most rocking”.
The 64-year-old Metheny also announces a world tour of extraordinary length, encompassing some 100 dates between September 2021 and June 2022, including Hammersmith, London on 12 June 2022.
Among upcoming events at the reliably jazzy 606 CLUB IN CHELSEA include Jason Rebello Trio (22 July), Samara feat. Liliana Chachian (23), Alex Garnett (24), Tina May (25), Paul Booth feat. Alex Ridout (29) and Dave O’Higgins (31). Full programme and contact details are at 606club.co.uk/events. The 606 also presents the Jazz on the Lawn at Fulham Palace weekender, featuring Polly Gibbons (14 August) and Wayne Hernandez (15).
Although WYNTON MARSALIS may to many have long seemed beyond his years, his 60th birthday is the focus of this year’s Jazz At Lincoln Center appearance at the London Barbican on 26 September. The band will play a selection of his music and music which has inspired him. The Barbican says the evening will always be “swinging”. Trumpeter Marsalis is himself artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
7 July 2021
DISCUS MUSIC, often reviewed in these pages, has, in common with many independent UK labels, seen its trade with the EU fall away to almost nothing in recent months due to EU customers’ fear of unexpected customs or VAT charges. Discus Music has circumvented the problem by supplementing direct mail-order with distribution via an EU-based company. It has partnered with Berlin-based record shop No Man’s Land, who will from now on service Discus’s EU customers without the obstacles caused by Brexit. Customers can still order as usual at discus-music.co.uk or at discusmusic.bandcamp.com but EU orders will be fulfilled from the German base. Customers can also order direct from nomansland-records.de. Discus remains fundamentally a mail order operation, and mail order sales to the rest of the world are unaffected.
The LEN PHILLIPS SWING ORCHESTRA WILL be joined by singers Matthew Ford (seen with the John Wilson Orchestra) and Nicola Emmanuelle (West End show The Rat Pack) to mark 100 years of the big band in dates around the UK. The audience can expect references to Basie, Miller, Ellington, Goodman and Ted Heath and tributes to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The dates are Congress Theatre, Eastbourne (22 August), Ashcroft Playhouse, Croydon (3 September), Cadogan Hall, London (12), Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth (25 October) and Dorking Halls (30 January 2022). More at lpswingorchestra.com/100-years-of-big-bands
28 June 2021
The test pressings used for Decca’s 2019 box set TUBBY HAYES: THE FONTANA ALBUMS 1961-69 are among items to be auctioned on 6 July to help fund the Decca Bursary, a scheme supporting budding classical musicians. The 11 white-label test pressings, remastered from the original tape masters, cover the albums Tubbs, Equation In Rhythm / Palladium Jazz Date, Tubbs In N.Y., Return Visit!, Late Spot At Scott’s, Down In The Village, Tubbs’ Tours, 100% Proof, Mexican Green, Grits, Beans And Greens and The Orchestra.
The mastering notes might give reason for excitement over the lot: “The recordings have been lovingly remastered at Gearbox Records’ Studios, London, directly from the original tapes, using a Studer C37 ¼-inch stereo tape machine. They were then equalised through an all-valve mastering desk built bespoke for Decca studios in the late 1950s, Vintage Lang Pultec EQ, Prism Maselec EQ and Telefunken U73b valve limiters from 1959. The LP lacquers were cut on a beautifully restored Haeco Scully Lathe from 1967 with Westrex (Western Electric) head and cutting amps: the same go-to lathe that Rudy Van Gelder used.”
Along with items including a signed dress from opera singer Katherine Jenkins, a signed commemorative frame from Tom Jones and Karl Jenkins’ signed Adiemus score, the auction will also offer a half-hour Zoom hang with soul-jazz heart-throb Gregory Porter.
Since its launch last year, the bursary has given £20,000 worth of awards given to schools and individuals across the UK and Eire, as well as supporting over 200 individual applications. The full list of lots and auction registration details are here: https://bursary.decca.com.
Woody Shaw has been recognised on the East Coast street map with the installation of the sign “WOODY SHAW JR. PLAZA” at the corner of Broad Street and William Street in Newark, New Jersey.
The memorial to trumpet innovator Shaw, at his most active and creative through the 1970s, was erected on 19 May 2021 and was effected through the efforts of Shaw’s son, Woody Shaw III and The Woody Shaw Institute of Global Arts, with help from the City of Newark.
Broad Street was the location of several jazz clubs frequented by such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as by local legends including Sarah Vaughan and James Moody. It’s also where the young Woody Shaw first began sitting in and became a teenage professional musician.
The sign can be seen at woodyshaw.com.
Manu Katché, Nils Petter Molvaer, Kenny Barron, Henri Texier, Shake Stew and Rymden are among the dozens of performers lined up for this year’s JAZZ SOUS LES POMMIERS, the 40th edition, 25-29 August, postponed from its usual spot in the spring. Unlike in earlier years, there appear, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be no performers from the UK. The festival takes place in Coutances in Normandy, about 50 miles south of Cherbourg and easily accessible from the islands to the north, pandemic restrictions allowing. More details at jazzsouslespommiers.com.
20 June 2021
EDINBURGH JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL returns to live performance this year, 16-25 July, with concerts including Davina & the Vagabonds, Stacy Mitchhart, Soweto Kinch, Tim Garland, Zoe Rahman, Laura Macdonald, Brian Kellock, Fergus McCreadie, Mark Hendry, Jacqui Dankworth, Hamish Stuart & The Tomorrow Band and more. The full programme can be seen at edinburghjazzfestival.com.
Singer MADELEINE PEYROUX plays eight UK dates in November – Edinburgh, Usher Hall (9), Gateshead, The Sage (10), Birmingham, Town Hall (11), Bexhill, De La Warr Pavilion (13), Cambridge, Corn Exchange (14), London, Palladium (16), Bath, The Forum (18) and Manchester, Bridgewater Hall (19).
15 June 2021
GLASGOW JAZZ FESTIVAL stays digital for its 35th edition, 18-20 June, with appearances by Ryan Quigley (showcasing Song For JC, a tribute to the late jazz promoter and Edinburgh man John Cumming), Fergus McCreadie, Laura MacDonald (who recently made it through to the final of BBC’s Masterchef – cooking stuff to be expected, one supposes), Anoushka Nanguy, Animal Society, corto.alto, Christine Bovill, and more. In addition, Seonaid Aitken will host a series of “Women in Jazz” interviews discussing experiences of female jazz musicians in a “male-dominated industry”. More details at jazzfest.co.uk.
An evening of improvisation takes place at Amp Studios, Old Kent Road, London SE15 1NL on 23 June, 18:45-22:00. This is Episode 5 in the MOMENT’S NOTICE series that began in London Fields in January 2020; it features a trio consisting of an unknown special guest (drums, tabla), Alice Zawadzki (voice, violin) and Elliot Galvin (multiple instruments) and a duo of Deji Ijishakin (saxophones) and Metta Shiba (drums). Tickets are available in advance only from Eventbrite & georgenelsonphotography.com. The event is organised by photographer George Nelson, whose book Scenes was reviewed by Jazz Journal last year.
12 June 2021
The Musicians’ Union and the Incorporated Society of Musician have expressed their extreme disappointment at the last-minute cancellation by BREXIT SECRETARY LORD FROST of his date with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 10 June.
It was hoped that the session would throw light on the impact of Brexit on musicians’ touring prospects and livelihoods, and the confusion which still surrounds the implications of the UK-EU trade agreement for the music industry. Frost has also declined to meet with MU and ISM representatives to discuss the impact of Brexit on musicians.
Horace Trubridge of the MU said: “Since the beginning of the year we have been promised that a deal would be done to remove the enormous barriers that musicians are now facing when performing in EU member states. What has become starkly clear is that this government cares not a jot for the UK creative industries, either at home or abroad, and the treasury will pay a heavy price in the future if ministers don’t wake up.”
The MU’s Naomi Pohl added: “It appears that he does not see addressing the concerns of the music industry, musicians and other freelance workers who rely on touring in the EU, as a priority. Our industry is worth £5.8bn to the economy, supports 200,000 jobs and generates £2.9bn in exports, whilst the creative industries secure an extremely valuable £111bn.”
The health benefits of jazz will be discussed in JAZZ, EQUITY AND BRAIN HEALTH, a Zoom-hosted symposium from San Franscisco on 15 June. The event will “explore key concepts of othering and belonging; community building; and the power of empathy, listening, and inclusion through the lenses of jazz music and neuroscience”.
Other topics to be discussed are “the ideas of resilience, empathy, improvisation, and equity – as well as the social and genetic determinants of brain health – and how they relate to jazz, a musical genre that welcomes and celebrates individual diversity and freedom”.
The event, which will will feature talks and performances from an interdisciplinary group of leaders in science, music, and social justice, is a collaboration between San Francisco Conservatory of Music, UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center and Global Brain Health Institute. Register for free at gbhi.org/events/jazz-equity-brain-health.
MICHAEL PARKINSON is to present a new six-part series on Jazz FM. The broadcaster, who has used his TV and radio shows to give a platform to such as Diana Krall, Jamie Cullum and Clare Teal, will host Parky – My Kind Of Jazz with Sir Michael Parkinson from 9-10pm, 13 June to 18 July. The show will feature Parkinson’s favourites from his collection plus performance and interview footage from his TV shows. In episode one he focuses on Buddy Rich, who gave his last interview (two weeks before he suddenly passed away) to Parkinson. The show will include unheard clips from that conversation.
1 June 2021
The name might suggest a Basie tribute band but while DOWN FOR THE COUNT is indeed at core a swing band its repertoire ranges through Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Nat Cole and more. Its director and principal arranger Mike Paul-Smith, who founded the band in 2005, is inspired by Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins. The band’s new album, At The Cold Stores, sets out to evoke the sound and spirit of the Capitol Studios recordings of the 1950s and is launched in two shows at Cadogan Hall in London on 6 June. Additionally this month the band plays The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury (4 June), Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne (17) and Merlin Theatre, Frome (20).
The EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL is back in live form 12-21 November, with performers including Julian Lage, Dave Holland, John Scofield, Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey, Cleveland Watkiss, Django Bates, Joey Alexander, Omar Sosa, Seckou Keita, Average White Band, Dianne Reeves, Bill Laurance & The Untold Orchestra, Stefano Bollani, The Necks, and Zakir Hussain. For more information, go to efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk.
The NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL, scene of so many triumphant jazz nights in the 1980s, returns 12-17 July. Over five nights three bands per night will appear in La Place Masséna, among them the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Catherine Ringer, Thomas Dutronc, Brad Mehldau Trio, Angelique Kidjo, Roberto Fonseca’s Cuban Symphony, Cecile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner, Kyle Eastwood, Gogo Penguin, Christian Sands Trio, Stefano Di Battista, and The Amazing Keystone Big Band. More information at nicejazzfestival.fr
The All Party Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) has commissioned a REVIEW OF JAZZ IN ENGLAND, which will be undertaken by APPJAG secretary, Chris Hodgkins and an advisory panel chaired by jazz educator Dr Kathy Dyson. To help illuminate its investigations the review invites musicians, administrators and fans to complete an online questionnaire.
25 May 2021
The COST OF BREXIT to British musicians is highlighted in a survey carried out by the Musicians’ Union and the Incorporated Society of Musicians. Published on Monday, the survey indicates that only 43% of musicians are still planning to work in the EU in the future, 42% would consider relocating to the EU in order to continue working, and 21% are considering a change of career.
The problems arise, says MU chief Horace Trubridge, from the UK government’s failure, when negotiating the Trade and Cooperation Agreement at the end of 2020, to protect performers from a sheaf of bureaucracy reintroduced by the UK’s departure from the EU.
He continued: “As a result, we may lose a large chunk of the talent that underpins our £5.8bn industry. The PM needs to step in and sort this mess out now, just like he promised to when questioned in the house some weeks ago. The damage done to the UK music industry if the government does not act is immeasurable.”
The impediments brought about by the so-called “free trade agreement” include work permits and visas for performers and customs documents for equipment as well as increased transport expenses due to new road-haulage requirements. Some of those surveyed expected the loss of free movement to add up to £15,000 to the cost of a European tour. One said “The current situation is a disaster for the UK music industry.”
ISM chief Deborah Annetts said “Musicians are cultural ambassadors for the UK around the world and make an enormous contribution to the nation’s health, economy and global reputation, so the prime minister must deliver on his promise to fix this crisis.”
The CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL – presented solely online earlier this month – plans a number of in-person events at the town hall in July. The headliners at the all-day weekend event, 9-11 July, are Nubya Garcia, Poppy Ajudha, Nitin Sawhney, Emma-Jean Thackray, Matthew Halsall and Penguin Café. In addition, 20 or so further bands will appear on the free stage. The festival has signed up to the PRS Foundation’s Keychange programme, so female representation is unusually strong at the event. Dr Sarah Raine of Birmingham City University conducted research at the 2019 festival which resulted in a report indicating that “there is much work to be done to transform the landscape of the music industry in giving equity to female jazz musicians.”
The 2021 HERTS JAZZ FESTIVAL takes place 15-17 October at South Mill Arts in Bishop’s Stortford and includes Darius Brubeck, Liane Carroll, Simon Spillett Big Band, Derek Nash’s Picanté, John Etheridge, Gilad Atzmon, Ingham-Davison Sextet, Art Themen and Dave Newton. “Early-bird” discounted tickets are available until 31 July: Weekend £120/£100 Herts Jazz Club members/£20 students. Saturday £50/£40/£10. Sunday £55/£45/£10. Individual gig tickets go on sale 1st August. More info and booking at hertsjazzfestival.co.uk and southmillarts.co.uk, by telephone to 01279 710200 or in person at South Mill Arts, 1-3 South Road, Bishop’s Stortford, CM23 3JG.
A POETRY AND JAZZ experience takes place at the Albany in Deptford, south London, 30 June – 3 July. Titled Cece’s Speakeasy, it imagines a 2050 underground speakeasy, when caffeine has become extinct and there is no more chocolate. The work undertakes to “inspire hope and action in a climate emergency while audiences indulge in the forbidden delights of an espresso martini or hot chocolate.” The evening is part of Season for Change, an arts programme that occupies itself with “platforming marginalised voices historically excluded from the climate conversation.” Tickets are available to purchase online via this link.
18 May 2021
The English language version of the European arts channel ARTE is streaming a number of free-to-view jazz concerts which can be seen at ARTE.tv, through the dedicated ARTE mobile app or the Smart TV app.
Part funded by the European Union, ARTE sets out to “bring Europeans together through our shared interests and concerns, cultural heritage and contemporary culture.”
New content is added every week, but among those streaming at present are Melody Gardot, Violeta Parra and the HR Big Band with Simon Oslender. For more concerts and arts programmes go to the ARTE.tv home page.
A previously unreleased MILES DAVIS album, Merci Miles! Live At Vienne, is to be released by Rhino Records 25 June to mark Black Music Month. In two-CD, two-LP and digital formats, the set captures Davis’s 1 July 1991 performance at Jazz à Vienne with a band including Kenny Garrett (as), Foley (lead bass) and Ricky Wellman (d).
The album includes songs by Prince (Penetration and Jailbait) and Michael Jackson and material from the albums Tutu (1986) and Amandla (1989). It was one of Davis’s last concerts before he died in Santa Monica on 28 September the same year, aged 65.
Black Music Month was introduced by US president Jimmy Carter as far back as 7 June 1979 when he decreed that black music would be honoured in June each year. In fact, since 2009 it’s officially been “African-American Music Appreciation Month” when Barack Obama renamed it so.
Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho reopens in late June with shows including Liane Carroll & Ian Shaw (21, sold out), Sarah Moule & Simon Wallace (30), smooth-jazz keys whiz Oli Silk (2-4 July), Harry Greene Organ Qnt (14), Omar Puente (17), Shakatak (19-24), Claire Martin w. Jim Mullen (29-30), Sam Braysher Trio (1 August), Mark Nightingale & Alan Barnes Quintet (12) and Scott Hamilton (27-30). More on the Pizza Express website.
8 May 2021
BBC Radio 4 Today (42:14) reported a Times article that said jazz can nudge people into healthier eating: “People were more likely to pick fresh fruit instead of a donut if they were played a bit of Dave Brubeck or Miles Davis.”
The article drew on a PhD thesis, “Sounds Healthy”, by Danni Peng-Li of Aarhus University in Denmark, who set out with others to investigate the effect of sound on food choices. The research recorded what food image 215 participants were most attracted to when played various types of music. It found that playing heavy metal or hip-hop caused study subjects to choose fattier and more sugary foods.
Reports on the study don’t mention that “jazz” encompasses a wide variety of styles, from the virtually static to the highly abrasive. For example, the popular imagination might today associate “jazz” (as did BBC News at 1pm the same day by illustrating the story with Bill Evans’ intro to MD’s So What) only with so-called “cool”. No account is given of the effect of jazz as diverse as Bessie Smith’s celebration of fast food Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer or John Zorn and Yamatsuka Eye on restaurant orders or digestion. Diana Krall’s Peel Me A Grape, fruity in every sense, might be a prime candidate for the jazz stereotype which seems to inform the findings.
Nor does there seem to be any account of the possible effects of cultural conditioning or predisposition: jazz fans in the modern period might anyway be more likely to be white middle-class foodies educated in and with more access to healthy eating.
As far as practical use for the research goes, an article in The Academic Times reporting the study said ”private companies are experimenting with using sound to augment the taste of food, hosting multisensory dining events that ask participants to listen to different sounds while enjoying a meal.”
Maybe I’m not alone in feeling uncomfortable eating pizza at Pizza Express’s Dean Street jazz room. The food and music are both the losers, each distracting from the other, never mind it seems an insult to good music to be chinking and scoffing while listening. The combination ought to work – double sensory hit – but music, especially jazz, is too important to be on the same plane as mere comestibles.
6 May 2021
Inspired by Wes Montgomery and long famed for his unison guitar and scat lines, guitarist GEORGE BENSON was to have done eight UK shows next month. Due to the pandemic, these have been rescheduled to June 2022.
Now aged 78, Benson is renowned for albums such as the 1977 Breezin’, which launched his smooth yet virtuosic crossover style. In his biography he described himself as progressing “from blues cat to blues-jazz cat … from blues-jazz cat to jazz cat … from jazz cat to soul-jazz cat … and from soul-jazz cat to R&B-jazz cat.”
Serious jazz followers may recall his appearance, soloing rather minimally, on Paraphernalia from Miles Davis’s Miles On The Sky (1968) and for his sterling playing alongside Herbie Hancock and Billy Cobham on a cooking Billie’s Bounce, included as a bonus track on the 2002 Polydor reissue of the 1968 album Giblet Gravy.
His June appearances next year may be of a different order, the press release talking of Benson performing “his Greatest Hits from his impressive back catalogue – which includes such classics as Give Me The Night, Lady Love Me (One More Time), Turn Your Love Around, Inside Love , Never Give Up On A Good Thing and In Your Eyes and more…”
The new dates for June 2022 are:
17th – Bournemouth International Centre
19th – Cardiff St David’s Hall
20th – Manchester Bridgewater Hall
22nd – Leeds First Direct Arena
24th – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
26th – London Royal Albert Hall
28th – Birmingham Symphony Hall
29th – Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Tickets issued for 2021 will remain valid. New tickets, priced £45-90, are available from www.ticketline.co.uk / 0844 888 9991 or from the venues direct.
30 April 2021
Just for today (International Jazz Day) the new documentary JAZZ IN CHINA is available free to stream.
The film traces the hundred-year history of jazz in China and is based on Professor Eugene Marlow’s 2018 book Jazz In China, which tells the story of how jazz, for some symbolising freedom, has thrived in the centralised, authoritarian state.
The film, which has been given IJD “official event” status, is available free-of-charge for 24 hours from 12:01 a.m. EDT on April 30 – in other words until 5:00 a.m. on Saturday 1 May in the UK. Click here – vimeo.com/539355636 and enter the password jic2021.
Guitarist JOHN MCLAUGHLIN releases a new album, Liberation Time, 16 July, on Abstract Logix. The press release observes that physical proximity is “no longer a prerequisite…” implying that the album was recorded remotely using online resources.
It features McLaughlin (g, gsyn, p); Gary Husband (d, p); Vinnie Colaiuta, Nicolas Viccaro (d); Ranjit Barot (d, konokol); Jean Michel “Kiki” Aublette (d, b); Julian Siegel (ts); Etienne MBappé, Sam Burgess, Jerome Regard (b); Oz Ezzeldin, Roger Rossignol (p).
Guitarist PAT METHENY plays the London Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on Sunday 12 June 2022 with his new band Side-Eye.
Part of a world tour, the show will feature pianist and keyboardist James Francies and drummer Joe Dyson in a setlist including music from across Pat Metheny’s career as well as new material.
Doors open at 7pm, with band on stage at 8pm. Ticket sales began yesterday at serious.org.uk/events/pat-metheny
The NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY has appointed guitarist Julian Lage, saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trombonist Marshall Gilkes to its jazz faculty from autumn 2021.
In the opinion of Ken Schaphorst, chair of the jazz department, each of the three has “a powerful and distinctive voice”.
Lage is a California-born New York-based guitarist marked by a conscious eclecticism, Aldana is a New York-based Chilean who won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 2013, 22 years after her father was a semi-finalist, and Marshall Gilkes is a trombonist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra and others.
The NEC Jazz Studies Department was founded by Gunther Schuller, who added jazz to the curriculum when he became president of the conservatory in 1967.
26 April 2021
“What’s deep is that God gave us 12 notes. It’s the same 12 notes that Duke Ellington had, Bach had, Nina Simone (had) …This moment is a culmination of a series of miracles. It’s so incredibly powerful to stand here and the lineage that we come from, the lineage in this film … I’m just thankful to God for those 12 notes.”
Thus the words of JON BATISTE on receiving, along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, an Oscar for the score to the Disney-Pixar animated film Soul, which portrays the experiences of schoolteacher Joe, who dreams of becoming a professional jazz musician, falls down a manhole and ends up bouncing around the Great Beyond and the Great Before.
Batiste is a pianist, so allowances should perhaps be made for him omitting to mention that exploitation of the zone between the notes – the blue notes, the microtones – has been key to jazz expression. Reflecting on the absence from the piano of the note-bending capabilities of stringed and wind instruments, quite a few jazz pianists have talked of attempting to mimic the bent note by leaning rhythmically into notes or blending two pitches.
Then again, jazz-style subversion and disruption of the well-tempered clavier might not have been high on the agenda of a relatively mainstream film such as Soul.
Batiste is credited with providing what producer Dana Murray calls “New York jazz”. That turns out to be principally very good bebop played by musicians including Harvey Mason and the 95-year-old Roy Haynes.
Visually speaking the producers went to considerable lengths to achieve musical authenticity. They filmed Batiste’s hands in action at the keyboard in order to inspect hand movement and articulation in detail. Animator MontaQue Ruffin said “This allowed the animator to create a first pass of general hand placement, and once that was tied down, the animator then layered in the fingers and other nuance details.” It looks more accurate than most human miming as a YouTube short on the film’s music shows.
The film’s title resonates only incidentally with jazz, the titular soul being of the ethereal rather than soul-jazz kind. The team were inspired to make Joe an aspiring jazzman when they discovered the old jazz bromide of Miles Davis making an outré chord from Herbie Hancock sound right. Hancock is reported to have said “I judged what I had played. Miles didn’t.” For director Pete Docter this was the perfect analogy for the film’s theme – don’t judge, make good of what you’re given.
A snatch of the film’s musical content can be seen and heard on YouTube.
23 April 2021
American jazz writer TED GIOIA, whose History Of Jazz is about to be published in its third edition, has launched an online newsletter which will attempt to address the shortfall in “honest, reliable guidance in matters of music and culture”.
Titled Culture Notes of an Honest Broker, the newsletter will, says Gioia, aim to be “a trustworthy guide to music, books, and culture – with a mix of longform essays, reviews, commentary, links, observations, and amusements.”
He observes that jazz and arts coverage in major newspapers has become an endangered species, noting “There once were full-time jazz writers at every major newspaper in the United States, but I doubt there’s even one left now.” UK journalists may recall the time in the early 80s when Melody Maker still had Max Jones and Brian Case wandering around IPC’s South Bank office.
Gioia, who has authored 11 books and has degrees from Stanford and Oxford, says “I’m committed to offering smart, expansive coverage that will go beyond what readers can find elsewhere. My main focus will be music, but all facets of cultural activity and innovation will be part of my purview.”
The newsletter is launched on the Substack platform at tedgioia.substack.com/about
Gioia has provocative form. The present writer reviewed Gioia’s The Imperfect Art in Jazz Journal October 1989, noting his observation – some would say more pertinent than ever in today’s jazz world, oversupplied with jazz graduates – that “the jazz world displays … an abundance of mediocrity, indifference, empty posturing, and empty music”. In the same book he called for critics to admit “that much – if not most – jazz is boring.”
Andy Hamilton reviewed Gioia’s Music – A Subversive History in Jazz Journal in July 2020, describing it as “both a history of subversion in music, and a subversive historical work – its subversive aim seems to be criticism of the academy and high art.”
DARTINGTON MUSIC SUMMER SCHOOL & FESTIVAL 24 July to 21 August 2021 and focuses on jazz in its fourth week with Peter Edwards and his Nu Civilisation Orchestra. The group and advanced jazz instrumentalists will workshop Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, which the orchestra presented at the 2019 BBC Proms, and which Gareth Thomas reviewed in Jazz Journal.
The instrumentalists will be joined by Dartington’s amateur choir, led by Carol Pemberton and Celia Wickham-Anderson (Black Voices) to prepare for a closing performance of the piece. Edwards and the NCO will also give a week-long courses on jazz improvisation and jazz standards.
The team from London’s avant-garde venue Café OTO will be in residence too for a course with Ryoko Akama in site-specific and situational performance. Participants will use “found objects and the abundance of natural phenomena within the Dartington estate to create a sounding space.”
Dartington Trust describes itself as “a centre for learning, arts, ecology and social justice based on a 1,200 acre estate near Totnes.”
21 April 2021
The KOKTEBEL JAZZ PARTY (founded 2003) returns to the Black Sea coast of Crimea 20-22 August. The programme is yet to be announced but previous participants have included Jimmy Cobb, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tom Harrell, The Jamal Thomas Band, Stefano Di Battista, Deborah Brown, Eddie Henderson and Incognito.
The organisers say it is “not just a tradition, but an incredible blend of music and nature that creates a united vibration of music, the sea, body and soul … a world of smiling faces and joyful people escaping from the stilted and the tedious, from limits and kitsch into the heady freedom of dancing waves and salty air that blend in with the music liberating body and soul.”
In 2017 Vladimir Putin made an address at the festival after being welcomed with a screaming reception worthy of that afforded the Beatles.
The Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 following military action by pro-Russian separatists and Russian forces. Officially, a 2014 referendum indicated more than 90% support for reunification with Russia, but the vote was boycotted by many loyal to Ukraine and declared illegitimate by Western governments and the UN.
Guildhall School of Music has a three-day summer jazz festival 4-6 May featuring “four of the most creative and exciting artists on the UK jazz scene”, namely Fini Bearman, Trish Clowes, Ruth Goller and Brigitte Beraha.
The school also presents “A HISTORY OF BIG BAND: THE DAWN OF MODERNISM” (14 May) featuring the Guildhall Big Band with guest director and trombonist Callum Au playing music associated with Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Gil Evans, Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson. The school say “Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca will provide the overture for this exciting journey through this multi-faceted age: the dawn of modernism, bebop and the golden age of the star vocalist, their arrangers and the great studio orchestras of Capital (sic) Records.”
It doesn’t end there. On 19 May the Guildhall Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Choir with ECM artist Iain Ballamy will play Ballamy’s 21st Century Pastoral suite and big band arrangements of some of Ballamy’s work from the last thirty years. The concert will feature arrangements by Malcolm Edmonstone, the school’s head of jazz, and direction from Scott Stroman and Kevin Fox.
CRAZY COQS (at Brasserie Zedel 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED) has a new jazz series from John Billet 24 June – 21 July, featuring Clare Teal, Jason Rebello, Derek Nash, Noel McCalla, Chris Ingham, Elaine Delmar, James Hudson, Trudy Kerr and Lizzie Ball.
CAMBRIDGE MODERN JAZZ CLUB expects to reopen 27 May with a concert by Trish Clowes’ band My Iris, featuring Clowes (s), Ross Stanley (p/org), Chris Montague (g) and James Maddren (d). It anticipates the truncated season running until July. The club is at St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, CB2 3AR, doors 7pm, tickets £20. Booking: cambridgejazz.org, 07827 012875, firstname.lastname@example.org.
17 April 2021
Britpop star LIAM GALLAGHER (sic) will be among the performers at a jazz festival in Stuttgart, 10-19 September. Other artists lined up are Imelda May, Ben Howard and “electro swing world star” Parov Stelar.
The jazzopen 2021 festival, describing itself as a “progressive mix of global headline power and fine, zeitgeisty curation”, was founded in 1994 and boasts “a strong focus on cultural diversity by means of bold booking statements.”
Previous bookings at the jazz festival have included Bob Dylan, James Brown, Joss Stone and Kraftwerk as well as some performers associated with jazz, including Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones.
The event takes inspiration from the sentiments of the song Life’s What You Make It by 80s pop-rock band Talk Talk and sports the slogan “Be Jazz, be Open!”
15 April 2021
An event to mark the 10th annual International Jazz Day, 30 April, is to take place in the UK. The World Heart Beat Music Academy, in partnership with the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy, is to present a concert titled TOGETHER WE GO FORWARD, featuring young jazz musicians from London. The concert will be live streamed on the big day from 7pm.
The organisers promise “wonderful jazz music of the late American composer Chick Corea, American jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker and much more!”
Among those involved in delivering World Heart Beat’s educational programme are pianist Trevor Watkis, saxophonist Tony Kofi and trumpeter Byron Wallen. Julian Joseph’s academy offers players 9-24 the opportunity to develop their skills though “exploring the American roots of jazz”.
International Jazz Day, co-chaired by Herbie Hancock, was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.” It comes at the end of Jazz Appreciation Month, introduced by the National Museum of American History in 2001 and in 2021 focusing on “Women’s Impact and Contributions in Jazz”.
Under the title “The future of the London scene” the Jazz Café offers various live events from late May, including the rather impressive, multi-skilled Rosie Frater-Taylor (24th). They say: “With a clear sense of purpose, Rosie blurs the lines between jazz, folk, pop & soul. Think Joni Mitchell meets Pat Metheny, Lewis Taylor teams up with Emily King or a female version of John Mayer.” Her March lockdown session from Ronnie Scott’s suggests at the least a fine update on George Benson’s guitar and scat unisons. Full story on Rosie Frater-Taylor
13 April 2021
Among the the jazz warriors hoping the reopening of British society holds and brave enough to schedule live gigs are JazzLeeds and Ipswich Jazz Festival.
Under the banner JAZZRESET21, JazzLeeds offers a three-month series 20 May to 22 July at Seven Arts, 31 Harrogate Road, Leeds LS73PD. Bookings include Malcolm Strachan, Ian Shaw, Liam Noble, Satori, Byron Wallen, Andrew McCormack, and Sound of 59. JazzLeeds boss Steve Crocker said “We were the only jazz club presenting live music in the UK last summer and have the opportunity to present an even more ambitious programme this year.”
The fifth IPSWICH JAZZ FESTIVAL is set to run 26-27 June 2021 at St Peter’s by the Waterfront Arts Centre, Ipswich and feature nine bands including Tina May, Enrico Tomasso, Chris Ingham, Kansas Smitty’s, Byron Wallen, Derek Nash’s Picante, Alina Bzhezhinska and Xhosa Cole.
In both cases concerts will take place in accordance with pertaining health and safety advice.
SWANAGE JAZZ FESTIVAL, on the other hand, is regretfully postponing until 8 -10 July 2022, citing the need for full houses to maintain viability and the proximity to the festival’s usual July slot of the projected removal of social distancing (21 June). A plan to move to September was shelved because simultaneous Swanage events meant accommodation would be limited and any Swanage jazz gathering would clash with Scarborough jazz festival.
Chair Paul Kelly said “We’re really sorry to have to postpone for another year. But better to do that and last another 10 or more years than to crash and burn in September and be gone for good.”
11 April 2021
Record producer BOB PORTER died 10 April, at home in Northvale, N.J., aged 80. He was especially associated from 1968 with new recording for the Prestige label and later oversaw reissues on Atlantic and Savoy. At Prestige he was known for his affiliation with so-called “soul jazz”, producing albums featuring Gene Ammons, Hank Crawford, Sonny Stitt, Pat Martino, Jimmy McGriff, Don Patterson, Charles Earland and more, including such as Don Patterson & Sonny Stitt, Brothers-4, exampled here.
The Discogs website shows Porter involved in the production of 518 albums, many cut at the renowned Van Gelder studios in New Jersey.
In 2016 Porter published his book Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975, which he said was an attempt to redress the neglect of what he saw as an essentially black American music, played predominantly by and for black audiences. As well as being a history of soul jazz, the book had chapters devoted to Illinois Jacquet, Ammons, Crawford, Grant Green and Grover Washington Jr.
In his preface Porter described soul jazz as “the music of the organ groups, funky piano trios, and tenor sax men of the fifties, sixties, and early 1970s.” Saxophonist Houston Person, whom he recorded, noted that Porter was devoted to keeping alive the R&B element of jazz.
From its foundation in 1979, Porter also presented shows on the New Jersey jazz station WBGO/Newark Public Radio, which – quite reasonably, many will say – declares that it broadcasts from “the jazz capital of the world.”
Linda Porter said her husband died from complications due to esophageal cancer.
9 April 2021
A new book sets out to shed light on the “artists who have engineered the cultural transformation of British jazz over the past four decades.” Among those it posits in this respect are Gail Thompson, Cleveland Watkiss, Claude Deppa, Arun Ghosh, Mark Kavuma and KT Reeder.
The book, by Irish writer David Burke, is titled GIANT STEPS: DIVERSE JOURNEYS IN BRITISH JAZZ and consists of 25 interviews with British jazz musicians, some of whom appeared in the 1980s, others more recently. Burke says “many of those figures who evolved the genre in the 1980s haven’t been accorded due recognition for their pioneering work.”
Burke, who says “the historical narrative around British jazz has tended to be predominantly mono-cultural,” has previously written on rockers Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison and folk singer Maddy Prior.
The full list of interviewees is: Courtney Pine, Gary Crosby, Gail Thompson, Julian Joseph, Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Dennis Rollins, Claude Deppa, Denys Baptiste, Mark Mondesir, Tony Kofi, Soweto Kinch, Arun Ghosh, Rod Youngs, Zoe Rahman, Peter Edwards, Zara McFarlane, Camilla George, Mark Kavuma, Theon Cross, Shabaka Hutchings, Ashley Henry, Shirley Tetteh, Yazz Ahmed and KT Reeder.
7 April 2021
QUINCY JONES made his name in jazz as trumpeter, arranger and leader and few would say he doesn’t come out of jazz, those credentials even evinced in the ingenious, sophisticated arrangements for his mega-hit as producer, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. He even cites jazz giant Duke Ellington’s famous bromide “good music is good music” in explaining that Qwest TV, the channel he launched in 2017 under the banner “Jazz and Beyond”, is expanding the “beyond” bit of its catalogue.
It’s still categorised (as “beyond” something) and the genres still named, despite Q’s vision of the future of music as “a multicultural melting pot, where categories needn’t exist at all”. The extended categories include hip-hop, electronic, pop, folk, rock, indie, classical and dance. There’s still an enormous focus on the channel on what we might call “jazz”, as detailed here.
Qwest TV is a Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) service, but available for free on Samsung TV Plus in France, Germany, UK, Italy, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.
Two leading players, CHUCHO VALDES and BILLY COBHAM, are offering online tuition. The Chucho Valdés Academy opened 15 March, offering piano and improvisation courses as well as lectures on Cuban music and Afro-Cuban jazz. Billy Cobham’s Guide to Stress-Free Drumming is a series of nine three-hour monthly workshops starting 11 April via Zoom in which Cobham and a group of hand-picked guests – Dennis Chambers, Gary Husband, Will Calhoun and Dom Famularo – undertake to teach the art of playing “simply but effectively.”
BERTRAND TAVERNIER, director of the 1986 jazz fiction Round Midnight (surely ripe for a BBC Four showing), died 25 March in Sainte-Maxime, France. Round Midnight, portraying the Paris jazz world of the 1950s, had a score by Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon in the lead role, and appearances by Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Higgins, John McLaughlin, Pierre Michelot, Ron Carter, Palle Mikkelborg, Mads Vinding, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton.
6 April 2021
RONNIE SCOTT’S JAZZ CLUB has announced a new tranche of livestreams through to mid-May, all available free on YouTube and Facebook, every Monday, Thursday and Sunday at 8pm.
Following the principle that the sessions must be free for as long as possible, the club is funding the #lockdownsessions entirely through donation. The club asks audiences to make a donation via ko-fi.com by “buying a Ronnie’s Scotch” for the musicians and thus help sustain the future of live music.
Ronnie’s live sessions
Thursday 8th April – W3 Funk Sessions
Sunday 11th April – NYJO Presents… Roella Oloro
Monday 12th April – The Scientists
Thursday 15th April – Doug Sides and Daniel Cano – music and interview pre-record
Saturday 17th April – Matt Ford sings ‘Intimate Sinatra’
Sunday 18th April – NYJO Presents… Karen Shiraishi
Monday 19th April – Rachael Cohen presents Dynamic Duo: the musical partnership of Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean
Thursday 22nd April – Ife Ogunjobi
Sunday 25th April – Anthony Kerr The Art of The Vibes – 20th Century Jazz from the Vibraphone Viewpoint
Monday 26th April – Dominic Canning presents Doom Cannon (TBC)
Thursday 29th April – Julian Siegel’s The Partisans
Sunday 2nd May – Empirical
Monday 3rd May – Jas Kayser
Thursday 6th May – Luke Smith
Sunday 9th May – Bukky Leo and Black Egypt
Monday 10th May – Sam Leak
Thursday 13th May – Nishla Smith
Sunday 16th May – NYJO Presents… Asha Parkinson
Monday 17th May – Dinosaur
Visit https://www.ronniescotts.co.uk to find out more about the #lockdownsessions and get updates on the programme as further acts are announced.
Donation link: https://ko-fi.com/ronniescotts
LIVE MUSIC NOW, a charity that “uses the power of live music to improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups”, has received a grant of £168,653 from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The organisation says it reaches over 85,000 people annually. Its CEO Janet Fischer said “As one of the UK’s largest employers of freelance musicians, we are delighted to be returning to live performance with our musicians who have had an exceedingly difficult year.”
2 April 2021
The latest arts hardship grants are in, and one of the first beneficiaries to announce their good fortune is the BIRMINGHAM, SANDWELL & WESTSIDE JAZZ FESTIVAL, which has received £25,033 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, whose fervour for national unity was underlined by the launch last week of the government’s flag-flying initiative, said the fund was assisting organisations “across the country” and helping “our cultural gems” reopen and thrive.
Since it began in 1985, the festival has welcomed such luminaries as Miles Davis and the Count Basie Orchestra. Last year there was only a summer virtual event and a scaled-down live festival in October. Now the event will be able to get on with organising its 37th edition for 16-25 July 2021.
The Birmingham funding is from a £400 million pot awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. Art Council England chair Sir Nicholas Serota thanked the government for “recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
30 March 2021
Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London has instituted a new award, the FELA ANIKULAPO-KUTI SCHOLARSHIP, to be given to a talented musician from African or of African heritage. It honours the late Afrobeat musician and political activist Fela Kuti, who studied composition and trumpet performance at Trinity from 1958.
The first awardee is Alex Polack from Birmingham, a first-year trumpet student on Trinity’s BMus Jazz degree. The award is funded by Partisan Records, who control Fela Kuti’s catalogue, and supported by his estate.
The scholarship announcement comes after a commemorative plaque was installed at the conservatoire’s Faculty of Music in Greenwich in November 2020 as part of the Black Plaque Project, which aims to get more black people on to blue plaques in London.
Trinity has also embraced Black Lives in Music, a campaign aiming to combat what it sees as systemic racism within the music industry.
29 March 2021
After 33⅓ years SLAM Productions is to release its last CD in May this year. The catalogue has included many recordings which otherwise would probably never have been made available – recordings by little-known musicians alongside those of established artists and including some of the biggest names – Max Roach, Mal Waldron and Steve Lacy, among others.
Having released over 250 CDs since it was founded by George Haslam in 1989, SLAM has been essentially a musicians’ label where the artists have had full control over the production.
SLAM’s motto has always been “freedom of music”. It has released mainstream, modern, Latin, big band and swing jazz but is mostly known for the improvised and free-jazz section of its catalogue. In deciding whether a recording should be released on SLAM there has never been any attempt to judge the “quality” of the music; where music has been declined it has been because SLAM was not felt to be the most suitable place and the recording would benefit more on a different label.
A number of factors have contributed to the decision to wrap up the label, including the reduced demand for CDs, more opportunities for self-release and the frustration of dealing with EU countries following Brexit. In addition George, now in his 80s, feels it’s time to pursue ventures new – in addition to his continued work on baritone sax and tarogato.
The catalogue of SLAM CDs will remain available through the usual outlets including the SLAM website, slamproductions.net. The label goes out on a strong note with that final release, Coxhill 85, a live solo concert by Lol Coxhill recorded in 1985. George says “It’s a very special recording and a fitting end to the SLAM story.”
26 March 2021
The ABERDEEN JAZZ FESTIVAL 2021, this year online, began last night and runs to 28 March. Tonight at 7.30pm it offers a concert by the Mike Stern Band with Leni Stern, recorded live in New York for the festival. Then it presents three concerts from the city’s Blue Lamp club: Tommy Smith & Pete Johnstone playing Chick Corea (27), Ali Affleck, Brian Kellock and Enrico Tommaso (28) and Aku! (28). Tickets are £10 per concert, but a full festival pass is only £20.
Twenty-fourth March Boris Johnson told a committee of MPs he was working “flat out” to remove the barriers to European touring introduced by BREXIT. Johnson said that challenges to touring and cultural exports “must get ironed out” as part of “a two-way street” with the EU. The Musicians’ Union says 2% of musicians think Brexit will have a positive effect on their work. Deborah Annett, chief executive of The Incorporated Society of Musicians, said “We urgently need the Prime Minister to deliver on these commitments and sort this mess out.” Horace Trubridge, MU general secretary, said “Now that the PM has spoken, we will be looking to hold the Government to deliver on his promise.”
The CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL returns this year with a free-to-view, two-day digital event drawing on “talent from across the jazz, pop and soul spectrum” over the May Bank Holiday weekend, 1-2 May. Among the attractions are Gregory Porter, Stevie Winwood, Soweto Kinch, Cleveland Watkiss, Zoe & Idris Rahman and Chris Montague. A physical follow-up programme is planned for July, its lineup to be announced in May. The festival is also working at giving “equity” to female jazz musicians.
The MARSDEN JAZZ FESTIVAL has declared in favour of the Black Lives in Music campaign. It plans to work with BLiM to improve opportunity for black musicians and “celebrate the history and achievements of black jazz musicians throughout the UK.” As well as presenting jazz since 1992, the festival says it has “brought a black art form to the heart of a predominantly white, rural community in West Yorkshire.” It expressed the view that “systematic black underrepresentation in the UK jazz sector can no longer be ignored.” The festival has also pledged to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in its programme.
22 March 2021
We might think that in jazz we have had an evolving, living music, passed from player to player and transmuted as it goes, noted for its individual variation and its location in a community where feedback among players and audience is the norm. But according to musicologist Michael Spitzer we could be honking up the wrong tree.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme (08:39, 22 March 2021) about his new book THE MUSICAL HUMAN, Spitzer said that in the West we are passive consumers of a fixed, unchanging music. For him “the West went wrong about a thousand years ago” with the arrival of the dots. Before that, everyone played or sang, but when notation arrived and music was no longer passed on orally performers became specialists, the music became static and the audience became a detached, passive entity.
He told Mishal Husain, who in typical mainstream BBC style when it comes to music offered no resistance: “We treat music as an object, not as an activity. And if you look at other parts of the world, like India and the great traditions of Hindustani music in the north or Karnatic music in the south, it’s much more improvisatory and active. It’s more natural to have what’s called an oral tradition where you hand music down across generations and that gives you a tremendous freedom in how to interpret it. In contrast to that, the West freezes music on paper in music notation or objects such as recordings or indeed streamed tracks.”
Aside from thus casting the massive creative advances in composed and arranged music of the late 19th and 20th centuries as mistakes, Spitzer, a professor at the University of Liverpool, made no mention of jazz – still, when I last looked, going on today. Nor was there any recognition for rock, blues, folk or any other music that is improvisatory, active and transmitted aurally (or orally). According to Spitzer’s logic the oral transmission of folk music ceased in the British Isles with the advent of notation around 1021. Yet awkwardly, the Copper Family of East Sussex were still doing it in the late 20th century. How many generations of jazz and rock players have learned and continue to learn through jamming, personal exchange and the lifting and dropping of needles on vinyl or its contemporary equivalents to get that last drop of inflection from a favourite player? The approach doesn’t differ except in medium from the Indian method.
Spitzer leads at Liverpool on classical music and is said to be an authority on Beethoven. Although it’s hard to imagine at this date and given modern communications, he may, given his immersion in 19th century classical, be oblivious to popular musical practice – in the West – of the 20th century and beyond. He might understandably be keen to escape the dry confines of the 200-year-old notated music that perhaps fills his day. But his escape seems to be into the Eden of the past and non-Western folk music, as if jazz and the rest never happened.
He also thinks “Covid has reminded us how much we miss music and we’ve tried to fill this music-shaped hole by using the internet to share music on TikTok or YouTube. What’s happened now is a restoration of this participatory democratic ethos.” YouTube was actually famous as a platform for grass-roots music-making, sharing and development long before the pandemic.
If the curious naivety of the discourse needs any more confirmation, Spitzer’s closing remark will do: “You don’t need to read music to get a technique in playing an instrument.” Indeed. Erroll, Django and Wes (and possibly Chet) showed most of us that over half a century ago.
The Musical Human by Michael Spitzer is published by Bloomsbury, 13 April 2021 and is BBC Radio Four book of the week beginning 5 April.
21 March 2021
The high incidence of black Americans in jazz, the relative rarity of white performers in R&B, soul and hip-hop and the low numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic performers in British classical orchestras are a few examples of how musical activity has tended to divide along social, racial and geographical lines.
A new organisation based in London, BLACK LIVES IN MUSIC (BLiM), has been formed to address one aspect of this diversified picture, namely black under-representation in the British music industry. Its Black Lives in Music survey (which it urges all black British people working in music to fill) will gather data on problems faced by black musicians in the UK in areas including “racial discrimination, mental health, well-being and economic disparity”.
BLiM will use the data to argue for more black involvement in the making and management of music. CEO Charisse Beaumont said her organisation was excited to be driving “positive and lasting change”.
One early adopter of BLiM’s mission is Trinity Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich, London, which has undertaken to diversify and “decolonise” its curriculum and increase the visibility of black students and personnel.
The bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, speaking in support of BLiM, pointed to music’s universal appeal. Calling for the dissolution of racial barriers that impede access to music, she said “Music takes on many forms from jazz to classical and speaks to us all no matter who you are or where you come from.”
However, the influence of cultural conditioning on musical preference together with the famous factional rivalries in jazz suggest that musical identity is complex and individualism of taste and style not easily subsumed into a homogenous unity.
18 March 2021
SPOTIFY, one of the music streaming services recently accused of not distributing revenue fairly to musicians, has launched a new site, Loud & Clear, which sets out to show how it disposes of income from streaming. It includes resources that allow players to see how its royalty system works.
The Musicians’ Union and the Ivors Academy are among British bodies that have campaigned for greater transparency and both today welcomed the initiative from Spotify, with qualifications. Horace Trubridge of the MU noted that while streaming is generating huge dividends most of the benefit goes to rights owners and not to the artists and performers on whom the service relies. He says they remain “at best the poor relations”.
17 March 2021
Singular, possibly paradigm-shifting guitar stylist WAYNE KRANTZ releases a previously unissued, recently rediscovered recording, Music Room 1985, on Abstract Logix, 19 March. The high-quality recording, on which he plays all instruments, predates his seminal Long To Be Loose of 1993 by eight years. A preview of the opening track, Cowboy, is on YouTube.
The recording was done in a garage studio in 1985 before Krantz had any label contract and he retained no copy of it. Last year he was reminded of the six-track session and managed to track down a copy in an “obsolete media format” from which a clean, high-resolution version has been extracted.
The signature Krantz harmonic approach, tone and technique are in evidence even if several structures bear more relation to mid-80s pop than the more individual style he developed by the early 90s. The primary sound – what appears to be the crisp quack of a Stratocaster in the in-between pickup notch – arguably had recent antecedents indeed in pop, such as the playing of Mark Knopfler. But in any event the mature Krantz style, suggested here, proved a new jazz-guitar style and new offshoot of so-called jazz fusion was still possible even as Western culture began the fall into the retrospection that has since held sway.
Krantz, perhaps speaking in a jazz context, said “It wasn’t based on anything happening at the time. I was already on a contrary path and Music Room 1985 was my version of ‘alternative’: jazz/instrumental music that worked more like pop, melody-centric with verses, bridges, hooks and few solos.” A later manifestation of the style in development is on YouTube, with the Leni Stern group in 1990.
The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz and jazzahead!, the German jazz-trade fair, are to cooperate on UNESCO INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY 2021. jazzahead! this year takes place under the banner “Close Together From Afar” and runs Thursday 29 April to Sunday 2 May 2021. The two organisations plan to mark International Jazz Day together on Friday 30 April.
International Jazz Day, run by the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, was launched in 2012, say jazzahead!, “with the aim of raising awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people, as well as an educational tool”. Year by year small events have occurred in various countries to mark the day.
15 March 2021
The BBC reports the 2021 GRAMMYS made history – but it wasn’t for voting a jazz record album of the year. Nor, indeed, does any jazz nomination feature in the BBC’s winners and nominees roundup, which doesn’t consider jazz a “key category”. Among genres recognised as key are rap and country. Seems not much has changed in the mainstream – or musical appreciation – since Buddy Rich took the latter genre to task.
The jazz winners in the 63rd edition of the US awards, held Los Angeles, 14 March, were:
31. Best Improvised Jazz Solo: Chick Corea, All Blues, from Trilogy 2
32. Best Jazz Vocal Album: Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez: Secrets Are The Best Stories
33. Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade: Trilogy 2
34. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Maria Schneider Orchestra: Data Lords
35. Best Latin Jazz Album: Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Four Questions
Jazz was accidentally recognised elsewhere, though. Three artists at least nominally related to jazz were among contenders for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (Axiom), Grégoire Maret, Romain Collin & Bill Frisell (Americana) and Snarky Puppy, whose Live At The Royal Albert Hall won the category.
Maria Schneider, Arturo Farill and Christian Sands were nominated in Composing/Arranging and John Beasley in Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. Alan Broadbent & Pat Metheny and Jacob Collier appeared in Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals, Collier winning the category. It’s usually when musical craft is required that jazz players make other categories.
Jazz did not appear in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, despite frequent critical comparisons between that classical format and jazz small groups styled after Bill Evans. Linda Ronstadt, who appeared on the cover of jazz magazine Downbeat in July 1985, won Best Music Film.
JAZZ NORTH says it’s delighted to announce the awardees of its open bursary, described as “a recent one-off initiative to respond to the ongoing challenging situation for the jazz industry in the north”. There were 81 applications, and 14 bursaries totalling £6381 were awarded to artists, promoters and educators. Details of how the money was allocated and what for are at Jazz North.
14 March 2021
The 18th SCARBOROUGH JAZZ FESTIVAL, originally rearranged to take place in February 2021, will now take place over its usual weekend of 24-26 September 2021 at Scarborough Spa. It will include pianist Fergus McCreadie, violinist John Pearce (with Dave Newton), vibist Johnny Mansfield’s 11-piece Elftet, gypsy jazz from Djanco, Nikki Iles’ 19-piece orchestra, Hans Koller and Julian Joseph.
John Billet is putting on a summer season at THE CRAZY COQS, Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED, 24 June – 7 July, featuring Clare Teal & Jason Rebello, Lizzie Ball, Trudy Kerr and Ruby Gascoyne doing Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, Chris Ingham doing Rodgers and Hart, Noel McCalla & The Derek Nash Band doing Stevie Wonder, and Elaine Delmar singing The Great American Songbook.
13 March 2021
The Musicians’ Union is keeping up pressure on government to save touring in Europe by tackling the bureaucratic obstacles created by BREXIT. General Secretary Horace Trubridge said: “We are now close to three months since the UK left the EU with no agreement to ensure the frictionless mobility of musicians as was repeatedly promised by this government.” The MU is urging negotiation of a bespoke visa-waiver agreement with the EU for the creative sector and bilateral discussions with key member states to sort out work permit rules.
Professor Eugene Marlow is editing a feature-length documentary about the hundred-year history of JAZZ IN CHINA based on his 2018 book Jazz In China, which tells the story of how jazz, for some symbolising freedom, has thrived in the centralised, authoritarian state. Marlow is looking for funding to get the work finished in time for International Jazz Day, 30 April 2021.
TUBBY HAYES – THE LIFE BEHIND THE TENOR comes out in paperback from Tangerine Press on 12 March 2021. Like the hardback reviewed in September it will be a limited edition of 100 copies, each numbered and signed by Mark Baxter, who compiled the book. The price is £39.95 which includes signed for delivery to the UK. To order, write Mono Media.
The JAZZ CAFÉ, London says it will be open, for now only as a fully seated venue, from 17 May. Its last live show was in autumn 2020. Not many jazz shows so far (a lot of soul, folk, gospel, pop, songwriters etc) but there’s Camilla George (2 June) and Zara McFarlane (5) and 12 September a tribute from Vince Vella All Stars and Rene Alvarez Portuondo to NY salsa legend Héctor Lavoe.