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Birmingham Gig Listings
Producing regular gig listings is quite a challenge. Jazz In London's longevity was a real accomplishment and the capital will miss it since it ended in April. It is good to see that Jazz In Birmingham is to produce a bi-monthly listings publication that is being distributed to venues and commercial outlets and can be downloaded if you click here.
They say: 'Jazz in Birmingham is produced by Birmingham jazz promoters to make sure the vibrant jazz scene in Birmingham continues to grow. We are producing a printed gig guide every two months. Check out all the great gigs and venues on offer across Birmingham. There's jazz in pubs, clubs and restaurants as well as in a range of concert venues.' Jazz in Birmingham is produced on a voluntary basis and paid for by all the major jazz promoters in the city.
Louis Armstrong Recording Video
In the first of two Louis Armstrong news items this month, we thank trumpeter Miguel Gorodi for bringing this to our attention:
The Louis Armstrong House Museum has acquired the only known film of the great jazz musician in a recording studio, recording the 1959 album Satchmo Plays King Oliver. This exclusive video depicts Armstrong and his All Stars recording the master take of I Ain't Got Nobody, as well as silent footage of them listening to the playback. Also featured in the clip are Trummy Young, trombone, Peanuts Hucko, clarinet, Billy Kyle, piano, Mort Herbert, bass and Danny Barcelona, drums. The original album was produced for Audio Fidelity records by Sid Frey, who commissioned the film to be made. It was discovered in a storage facility in 2012 and was brought to the Armstrong House Museum with the help of Frey's daughter, Andrea Bass.
Click here for the video.
Fun things to look out for:
* There's no sheet music, forcing Louis to make up a few lyrics ("hot mamas!")
* Watch for Louis breaking himself up after quoting "Pennies from Heaven" during the opening trumpet chorus.
* Armstrong often said that when he scatted, he'd move his fingers as if he was playing the trumpet; watch the dramatic hand gestures during the vocal!
* We can't hear the playback, but Louis looks satisfied. (That's Dukes of Dixieland manager Joe Delaney sitting next to Louis.) And dig those shorts!
* This was all filmed at the famous Radio Recorders in Los Angeles, a great glimpse into a world-renowned studio.
For more on the discovery of this treasure click here.
Les Tomkins's Archives
Les Tomkins, the UK singer and journalist started recording gigs at Ronnie Scott's Club in 1963. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and British Library, this archive of 242 historic recordings is to be restored and made available through a digital archive with 20 of the best issued on vinyl. Gearbox Records is licensing selected items from this catalogue on the basis of its important cultural and heritage value.
Click here for details. They say: 'The heritage is valuable and significant insofar as the live recordings are a true record of jazz performances by celebrated musicians and artists during the height of London’s jazz era. During the 1960s, British musicians were unable to travel to the US to perform with their American contemporaries due to a visa restriction enforced by the American Musicians’ Union. As such, London became a centre for jazz ensembles to congregate and perform without restrictions based on their nationality ...'
' ...The British Library have provided a letter confirming the archive’s heritage value. The project will have outputs on tape, insofar as the archive tapes will be conserved, in digital format hosted by a number of sites including that of the British Library, and true-to-period vinyl records that will provide an authentic listening experience. The project includes a programme of heritage activities to facilitate public engagement with the heritage material.'
Click here for more information from the National Jazz Archive about Les Tomkins.
Clear Louis Armstrong Recordings
Thanks to Dom James from The Dixie Ticklers for bringing to our attention this news item from the offbeat.com website:
'An astonishingly clear recording of Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra performing Ain’t Misbehavin' has surfaced on YouTube (click here). According to the video’s description, the track comes from a metal “mother record” that New York City’s Okeh Records sent to Germany’s Odeon Records for their pressings. Another similar recording of Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five performing Knee Drops in Chicago in 1928 was also posted a few days later (click here). Evidently, both of these new versions were transferred to a digital format by sound engineer Nick Dellow.
Considering the poor quality of most early jazz records, these tracks are a rare treat for any fan of the pioneering New Orleans trumpet master. Dellow has transferred another crystal clear, classic jazz recording to a digital format, this time from Duke Ellington playing Hot And Bothered (click here).
The new film about Miles Davis, Miles Ahead, was released in the UK in April to mixed reviews. I respect Mark Kermode's opinion and his review in The Guardian says: 'Having lost his muse and succumbed to years of medicated silence, Davis is rumoured to be on the brink of a comeback. But an attempted interview soon descends into a caper chase of drug deals, shootouts and stolen tapes, interspersed with flashbacks to Davis’s once-inspirational relationship with Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), amid rasping declarations that “it takes a long time to play like yourself”
' .... Like Davis’s music, the film’s structure is modal, with (Don) Cheadle getting the legend’s changing stance spot on, as we slip on a cymbal splash between his incarnations as the sharp-suited epitome of cool and the coke-addled “Howard Hughes of jazz”. (Ewan) McGregor fares less well, saddled with a dopey Kurt Cobain haircut and a dopier storyline that strives to capture the “original gangsta” aspect of Davis’s career, but instead drags it into the realms of Grand Theft Parsons tomfoolery. Still, there are some nice directorial flourishes (a hallucinatory appearance of musicians in a boxing ring), and a neat conceit in which Davis effectively confronts his younger self in the form of rising star Junior (an impressive Keith Stanfield) strikes less of a bum note than you’d expect.'
Aine O'Connor in The Independent is more complimentary: '... far from following traditional biopic rules, the film channels the improv spirit of jazz, or "social music" as Davis preferred to call it, and the blaxploitation movies of the era in which it is set. The official description of the film as "impressionistic" is accurate, and the overall result does leave an impression. Although it doesn't always hit its mark, it's an interesting, well-acted portrait of a moment in an icon's life .... In delivering a piece of Davis's life, the film does give an overall impression of the man and Cheadle, with those amazingly expressive eyes, has clear affection for his subject. McGregor relishes his role as the anything-for-a-story hack and Corinealdi is good in the kind of role that is often written into the background. Anyone looking for a complete life story will be disappointed, but that's what Wikipedia is for. This is a brave and interesting piece of film.'
Click here for the film Trailer.
I had really wanted to like this film, but it wasn't until the end credits that it confirmed for me why I was disappointed. The great band that was brought together at the end of the film (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding ...) allowed time to be spent on the music and that was largely what I found missing throughout the film.
I found the narrative chaotically disjointed and although Don Cheadle must have dug deep into researching Miles the man, I didn't come away feeling I had any convincing understanding of him; OK, there were few moments now and again when it felt real - e.g. the brief discussion at the piano with Junior towards the end. The background soundtrack was often lost under the dialogue and action, and the scenes where Miles was playing with a band, whether current to the action or retrospective, were far too brief and always cut off to give way to the storyline. In doing so, I think, Don Cheadle missed an opportunity to celebrate the music, sacrificing it for, as others have mentioned, the 'Hollywoodisation' of the film. I think that was too big a sacrifice for what was supposed to be a tribute to the musician.
I too would have preferred a straight biography; many people will no doubt come away thinking Miles was all about drugs and shoot-outs.The one scene where Miles is picked up by the police seemed to me to be simply a courtesy nod to squeeze in the racism issue. Somehow, I think Clint Eastwood did better with Bird, and Searching For Sugarman was better storytelling. Surprisingly, the relationship between Dave (Ewan McGregor) and Miles (Don Cheadle) did work for me although I felt sorry for Ewan at times having to deliver his script. I saw Miles years ago at the Hammersmith Odeon (now Hammersmith Apollo) when my ears were not as accustomed to the music as they are today, sadly I cannot revisit that occasion, and Miles Ahead did not replace it for me.
Click here for an interview with Don Cheadle about the film. Miles Ahead is in cinemas now.
Confessions Of A Jazz Promoter
Annette Keen has successfully run the Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne monthly jazz gigs for approximately fifteen years. Internal politics has finally ended this run. However we rarely hear about what it is like to run a jazz club. Annette tells us:
So this is the scenario: jazz lover with time to spare and good organisational skills, eager to get more involved in the music scene (me), meets small, intimate performance space with great sound potential, an impressive lighting rig, and the willingness to put up the necessary money for jazz gigs. Obviously a marriage made in heaven – so what could possibly go wrong? Well, for fifteen years nothing much did go wrong.
Now anyone who's run a jazz club will testify that it's hard work, not only getting it started but finding an audience and then keeping both going. I was a complete rookie and mostly just followed my gut instincts, booking local bands at first, which worked OK, but then making a huge leap forward with Ian Shaw (and barely sleeping the night before – how much money could I actually lose, and the venue? Would they ever trust me again?). It was a gamble that paid off, Ian was marvellous and did everything he could to get the creaky sound system and speakers right for him, and the venue got the biggest house they'd had in years.
After that I had enough street cred for the venue to give me my head - and the sound system was hastily updated. Audiences grew, the venue started to get a reputation for jazz, everyone was happy.
I had to work on three seasons at any one time:
§ the current season – organising payments, being there on gig nights, looking after the musicians and getting to know the regulars;
§ the next season – writing press releases, resumés on flyers, advertising, establishing contact between musicians and sound engineers;
§ and the following season – deciding who to get, contacting musicians, negotiating deals, juggling dates, drawing up contracts.
After fifteen years a new management team swept into the venue with different ideas and I gave it a year before filing for divorce. Someone else took over as promoter and kept things running sweetly for another two years. Then the new broom swept past again and decreed that no fees were to be paid, only a percentage of door money, which effectively cut out professionals and left the venue with no jazz promoter. And here's the irony: I'm not a promoter now as I don't have a venue.
When I look back on my promoting days it's with great affection for a job well done, and still now a little nugget of regret that it's all over. But I've moved on and into artist management, working with Sue and Neal Richardson, Andy Panayi and now the Paul Richards Trio, and I help out with the admin of Splash Point Jazz Clubs in both Seaford and Brighton. Different challenges and a new 'family' – much like most second marriages.
Sue Richardson from Splash Point tells us: 'Annette is wonderful - I don't know what I'd do without her! Jazz survives on the generosity and passion of people like Annette. We, the musicians, couldn't make our living without them. She loves jazz so shares the passion but understands the weird mentality of musicians from all her promoter work. All that experience means she really understands how different clubs work. She's a gem!
[You are able to listen to the music at the same time as reading this article and without leaving the page if you click here. This will take you to the article on another page on our website where your computer might ask you to allow the music to play on the page. Alternatively there are links to the music on YouTube etc. in the article below].
Dizzie, he was screaming
Thelonious Monk first recorded In Walked Bud in 1947. It was dedicated to his friend and fellow pianist Bud Powell. Bud was born and raised in Harlem and close as he was to Monk, Bud's primary influence was Art Tatum. Bud was born on September 27, 1924 ; Monk was his senior by seven years (born October 1917).
Click here to listen to In Walked Bud from Thelonious Monk's 1958 Misterioso album with Thelonious Monk (piano), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone) and Roy Haynes (drums). When this recording was made, Bud had just another eight years to live.
Bud's father was a pianist and it is not surprising that Bud was taking classical piano lessons by the age of five. By ten, he was showing an interest in Swing and it is said that the first number he got to grips with was James P. Johnson's Carolina Shout. Bud's older brother played trumpet, and by the age of fifteen, Bud was playing in his brother's band. He heard Art Tatum and began to listen to the pianist whenever he could in local venues. One of the places he frequented was Uptown House and there he heard the beginnings of bebop and met Thelonious Monk. Bud was actually underage for Uptown House, but this didn't seem to stop him being there. Monk took Bud under his wing and introduced him to the musicians at Minton's Playhouse. They became good friends and Bud would develop Monk's ideas on piano.
Bud, Richie and William Powell
Bud Powell played piano on some of Cootie Williams's Swing Orchestra recording dates in 1944, the last of which included the first-ever recording of Monk's 'Round Midnight. His period with Cootie ended with the now well-known incident in January 1945 when Bud was separated from the band after a gig in Philadelphia. Apparently, Dexter Gordon told the story that Bud was found wandering around Broad Street station drunk, arrested by the railroad police, beaten and handed over to the city police who locked him up. Ten days later, with continuing headaches, he was admitted to Bellevue hospital and then to a state Psychiatric hospital sixty miles away where he stayed for two and a half months.
Other biographies claimed that In Walked Bud was written by Monk as a 'thank you' to Bud following a raid on the Savoy Ballroom in 1945. According to Monk biographer, Thomas Fitterling, the police raided the venue and singled out Monk, who refused to show his identification and was arrested with force. Bud tried to prevent the police from the door and yelled, "Stop, you don't know what you're doing. You're mistreating the greatest pianist in the world." According to this account, Bud was struck on the head by a police officer with a nightstick, and it was this injury that led to his future hospitalisations and behaviour. Other accounts vary yet again. Apparently Miles Davis said Powell was beaten by a Savoy Ballroom bouncer after walking into the club without any money. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between, or has elements of all of these accounts.
Bud went back to Manhattan after his release from hospital and soon became in demand on the club scene making a number of recordings during 1945 and 1946 with people like Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Stitt and Fats Navarro. He was an excellent sight-reader, could play fast, and reflected the influence of musicians like Charlie Parker. In 1946 he recorded the jazz standard Bouncing With Bud (originally called Bebop In Pastel). In May 1947, Charlie Parker enlisted Bud to his Quintet with Miles Davis, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. You can hear him, particularly, on the third take of Bird's recording of Donna Lee (click here).
Click here to listen to Bouncing With Bud from 1949 with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Fats Navarro (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Tommy Potter (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums).
But by 1947, Bud was generally playing less. This was not helped by an incident that again led to him being hospitalised. It seems that in November, he had an dispute with another customer at a bar in Harlem. A fight ensued and Bud was hit over the eye with a bottle. He was taken, incoherent and argumentative, to Harlem Hospital and then back to Bellevue. They had records of his previous admission and sent him to Creedmoor State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Queens. He was there for almost a year. On one occasion, he was apparently visited by his girlfriend who told him she was pregnant with their child. A period of electroconvulsive therapy followed over the next three months, possibly because of an outburst by Bud after hearing this news. He was discharged in October 1948, but he was emotionally unstable for the rest of his career. Drinking had a profound effect on his character, making him aggressive or depressed. He was back in hospital for a brief time in early 1949 but despite all this, continued to play. Some say that he made his best recordings between 1949 and 1953.
However, he was back in psychiatric hospital from late 1951 to early 1953 after being arrested for possession of cannabis. He was prescribed Largactil (for the treatment of schizophrenia) and this would gradually affect his playing. He was discharged into the responsibility of of Oscar Goodstein, owner of the Birdland nightclub.
In 1956, Bud's brother Richie was killed in a car crash alongside trumpeter Clifford Brown. Richie, Bud's younger brother, was also a jazz pianist whilst Bud's older brother, William Jr, was a trumpeter and violinist.
Although far less well known than Bud, Richie played in Johnny Hodges's band from 1952 to 1954 before joining Clifford Brown and Max Roach. It seems that 'one account of why Richie took up the piano is that he pestered drummer Max Roach, who lived nearby, for drum lessons, and Roach, eventually fed up, suggested that he play the piano instead. Bud did not assist his brother at all in his musical endeavors; instead, according to a biographer of saxophonist Jackie McLean, "it was an excellent but now forgotten pianist named Bob Bunyan who taught Richie Powell chords on the piano. Richie would study with Bunyan, and then go home and watch his brother practice. [...] Richie and Jackie became tight friends and used to rehearse together". Richie, his wife, and Clifford Brown were killed in a car crash when traveling overnight from Philadelphia to Chicago. Sadly, through his work with Brownie and Max Roach, Richie was just beginning to achieve recognition at the time he died.'
Click here to listen to the Max Roach / Clifford Brown Quintet playing Daahoud in May 1956 recorded live at The Basin Street Club, New York City with Clifford Brown (trumpet),
Sonny Rollins (tenor sax),
George Morrow (bass), Willie Jones (drums) and Richie Powell (piano) - listen to the encouragement given to Richie during his solo.
Monk recorded In Walked Bud many times. The first occasion was in the autumn of 1947 from a series of sessions during 1947/1948 that were released in 1951 on the album Genius of Modern Music - Vol. 1. It is worth noting that in the autumn of 1947 Bud himself was playing less and was admitted to hospital in November. The Savoy Ballroom incident, Bud's hospitalisation and the recording all occurred over a period of about 2 years.
It is difficult to find a version of the original recording on YouTube, but the Overjazz Channel offers this - click here.
Bud Powell died in 1966. In 1962, he moved in to live with his friend Francis Paudras in Paris. Paudras was a commercial artist and amateur pianist. Click here for a video of Bud playing Anthropology in Paris in 1962 with a young Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Jorn Elniff, drums.
In 1963, Bud contracted tuberculosis, but in 1964 he was back in New York for a return gig at Birdland accompanied by drummer Horace Arnold and bassist John Ore. Although the plan had been for Bud and Francis to go back to Paris, Paudras returned alone. In 1965, Bud played only two concerts: one a disastrous performance at Carnegie Hall, the other a tribute to Charlie Parker on May 1st with other performers on the bill, including Albert Ayler. Bud Powell was hospitalized in New York after months of increasingly erratic behavior and self-neglect. On July 31st, 1966, he died of tuberculosis, malnutrition, and alcoholism. Several thousand people viewed his Harlem funeral procession.
Thelonious Monk Underground
Two years later, Thelonious Monk made a further, and final, recording of In Walked Bud for his album Underground - that album with a sleeve that is worth an article in its own right - from a distance it looks Renoir inspired but look closer and we have a different story going on here. This time, Jon Hendricks wrote lyrics for the tune which have been associated with In Walked Bud ever since. Presumably, Jon Hendricks interpretation is his, rather than Monk's. Although they do not reflect the stories about the Savoy Ballroom, they do capture the scene of Bud Powell's contribution to the bebop story - click here to listen to the track with Thelonious Monk (piano), Larry Gales (bass), Ben Riley (drums) and Jon Hendricks (vocals).
Oscar played a mean sax
Coming up to date, click here for a live video from 2016 of the Final Frontier Quintet featuring Aisling Iris on vocals, Tony Kofi on saxophone, Rod Youngs on drums, Jonathan Gee on piano and Andrew Robb on double bass filmed at the Crypt in Camberwell in association with Jazzlive.
Every hip stud really dug Bud
Dizzie he was screaming
We end with this compilation video of Bud Powell in Paris in 1959 with various illustrious musicians including Clark Terry and Kenny Clarke (click here). Is it my imagination or does saxophonist Barney Wilen reference In Walked Bud in the the second clip, No Problem?
A remastered version of Monk's The Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1 album which includes the track In Walked Bud is available - click here.
Click here for our other Tracks Unwrapped.
Sussex Jazz Festival Gains A Companion Event
News received from Rob Adams on April 1st.
Sussex’s Love Supreme jazz festival will have a companion event running in tandem close by on the weekend of July 1-3 this year. Based fifteen miles away, in a tented village just along the coast from Brighton, Hove Supreme will also celebrate the works of the great saxophone master John Coltrane with many leading artists interpreting this hugely influential artist’s work.
The Big Chris Barber Band will present a new orchestration of Coltrane’s Africa/Brass with banjo player Joe Farler playing a specially modified instrument to replicate pianist McCoy Tyner’s famous stacked fourth chords. Cornetist Digby Fairweather’s Half Dozen will re-interpret Coltrane’s famously challenging Live in Seattle album and vocalist Clare Teal has been commissioned to provide new lyrics to Coltrane’s 1965 recording Kulu Se Mama.
There will also be thematic novelties and catering available linked to the event’s seaside location including specially designed saucy jazz postcards, delicious seafood by local restaurateurs Charlie ‘Gil’ Evans and Dave Pike and sticks of jazz rock.
A spokeswoman for the organisation behind the event, Asif Productions, noted that, rather than going head to head with Love Supreme, it was expected that Hove Supreme would complement the Glynd-based festival, with care having been taken to avoid any duplication of repertoire and personnel.
“Jazz is in rude health right now. Musicians’ diaries are full of dates and we are confident that audiences will flock to both of these fantastic celebrations of this wonderful music,” confirmed April F Hurst.
JazzFM Awards 2016
Jazz Awards and the presentation events that go with them are intriguing. The ‘general public’ is usually only involved in making nominations and seeing the results. The processes and the impact for most remain somewhere unseen.
I have always argued that Jazz Awards are important and I continue to believe that's the case. The nomination process causes us to think about the musicians and music we have heard, and the venues where we listen to jazz. In making a nomination, more often than not we don’t let the nominee know that we have put their name forward and that is a shame – it is encouraging for that person or venue to know that we rate them. For a nominee or winner of an award it is encouraging for them to know that their work is acknowledged.
Acclaim and the resulting publicity is worth having. Being able to put ‘Nominated for the JazzFM Awards 2016’ or ‘Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2016’ is great to put on your publicity and people will want to know why you were selected. It also means that the media (like me) get to share their work with others (like you). We wrote about Jacob Collier last month and will feature other award winners in the future - particularly Binker and Moses who received two awards (Breakthrough Act and UK Jazz Act) at the JazzFM Awards and are nominated in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards that take place this month.
If I wore a hat, I would want to take it off to those groups or organisations that arrange Awards; it isn’t easy. At a ‘local’ level, in a College or local area it is difficult enough to make choices, but at a national or international level, it must be a real challenge. One thing is pretty much certain, not everyone will agree with your choice of winners.
The radio station JazzFM arranges Jazz, Blues and Soul Awards each year. The nominees can be international and the awards are presented at a prestigious event in the Spring produced by the organisation Serious. This year they took place on the 26th April. To ensure that the awards and the event receive optimum recognition, the venue is up-market with cocktails and canapés served, and presenters and performers for the night have to be people with some standing.This year the event was organised by the PR company Air MTM and held at London’s Bloomsbury Ballroom.
Invitees come from a mix of backgrounds associated with the music industry, and initially they gather in a large bar area before moving into a larger event area where the awards take place. I don’t know how many attended this year, perhaps 200 – 300. In 2015, the event was hosted by actor John Thompson and this year by Glaswegian Sikh writer, actor, broadcaster and jazz enthusiast Hardeep Singh Kohli. There was a nice touch as Kansas Smitty's House Band paraded into the Ballroomto start the proceedings and later played for the guests at the end of the evening (click here for a video of the band to give you a sense of the mood).
As with most award ‘ceremonies’ the names of the nominees are read out and the person making the presentation takes a slip out of the envelope and announces the winner who then comes to stage to collect their trophy. From time to time the process pauses for music - there were impressive performances at the Bloomsbury Ballroom by Liv Warfield (filmed here in 2014) and the amazing Kandace Springs (filmed here singing Soul Eyes from her forthcoming album). Liv Warfield was selected as the newest member of Prince's New Power Generation back in 2006 and dedicated her performance to her mentor and friend. Kandace Spring's career was apparently also boosted by Prince when she was invited by the late legendary musician to perform at the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain.
The homage to Prince was also there with Hiatus Kaiyote whose album Choose Your Weapon was voted by the public as Album Of The Year. In choosing the band as one of his 'five best rock and pop gigs' for the coming week, Tim Jonze in The Guardian of 30th April says: 'When a band describes themselves as "multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit" they kind of make a journailist's job redundant. But here's some more information anyway: the Australian quartet deal in the kind of futuristic soul that won plaudits from the late, great Prince, as well as inspiring more mainstream stars such as Jack Garratt. Certainly you expect their set to bend the brains of Cheltenham jazz festival's regular attendees.' Click here for a video of the band playing Breathing Underwater.
The event faces a number of challenges. It is a valuable time for invitees to meet up and make or re-make contacts. That process starts in the bar but continues in the presentation area so there are a number of people at the front listening to the awards and the music and many at the back continuing their conversations. The host is constantly saying ‘shhh!’ to make himself heard and I wondered if that frustration this year was shown in the increasing use of ‘fu**ing’ in Hardeep Singh Kohli’s introductions as the evening progressed. At one point he said ‘I see one person in the front here is interested – I can work with that!’. Part of the problem is that if you have a large rectangular room with a stage at the front, inevitably there will be a large part of the audience at the back who continue to chat despite being encouraged to use the bar room for conversation.
Hardeep Singh Kohli
Another major problem, particularly with international award winners is being able to ensure that the winners are able to attend the event. It must have been particularly frustrating for JazzFM this year that despite their best efforts, a good number of the winners were ‘unfortunately unable to come tonight’ and their award presentation speeches were shown on video. How you deal with this I don’t know; Quincy Jones gave his award speech on video; Gregory Porter had been asked to perform on the Jools Holland TV show; Lauren Kinsella and Jacob Collier were on gigs abroad … and so on. If you know you have been nominated but not whether you have won, would you cancel the gig you have booked for America or for television?
The organisers also have to work within a budget and these events are usually funded through sponsorship organisations - this year thanks were due to Grange Hotels, Mishcon De Reya, PPL, RCS, 7digital, Yamaha, Arqiva, and Denbies Wine Estate. Presumably, the budget is governed by the amount of sponsorship you receive. If you are trying to organise a substantial high quality event, hiring a PR company is essential to manage the logistics, choosing a suitable venue, paying for a good host, supplying ‘refreshments’, meeting expenses, etc. is all a pressure on your budget.
And so I take my imaginary hat off to JazzFM and Serious for producing this important event, it must give a few people more than a few headaches, but I still believe that the end results are valuable. Long may they continue. So, who were this year’s winners of the JazzFM Awards? Open the envelope, count to 30 ... 'and the winner is ... '
Sony's Jazz Connoisseur Series
Sony Music has released a number of previously deleted jazz albums as part of their Jazz Connoisseur series. So far, 25 albums have been released at a budget price with original artwork and liner notes. Titles include; Sonny Rollins's What's New?, George Russell's The RCA Victor Workshop, Duke Ellington's The Far East Suite and Bud Powell's Strictly Powell. The albums are between £4 and £6 each from Amazon.
Click here for details and the list of albums available.
Misha Mullov-Abbado - No Strictly Dancing
Andrew Lawson has filmed bass player and bandleader Misha Mullov-Abbado's first professional band video at Riverhouse Arts Centre. It is one of his Misha's more recent pieces called No Strictly Dancing and you can watch it if you click here.
This excellent band are: James Davison (trumpet); Matthew Herd (alto sax); Sam Rapley (tenor sax); Liam Dunachie (piano); Misha Mullov-Abbado (bass) and Scott Chapman (drums)
Calum Gourlay (Bass)
Calum Gourlay is one of the UK's top bass players. Born in Glasgow, Calum first played cello in primary school and started playing double bass at fourteen. He was spotted by Tommy Smith and invited to join Scotland’s first Youth Jazz Orchestra and in 2004, he went to the Royal Academy of Music in London graduating with first class honours with a B.Mus. (Jazz) degree in 2008. Since then he has become a leading bass player on the UK jazz scene performing with the Kit Downes Trio (Kit and James Maddren were his flat-mates at college), The Tommy Smith Group, Will Vinson, The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and many other groups. His debut solo album Live At The Ridgeway was released in 2015. Much sought after as he is, we invited him to take time out for a tea break:
Hi Calum, tea or coffee?
Milk and sugar?
What have you got coming up in the next couple of months?
Brit Jazz Triple Bill
Thursday, 7th April and the main performance at Ronnie Scott's Club in London's Soho is sold out. Not for an international star, but for an evening of three up-and-coming UK jazz groups. By the end of the evening the audience is showing its approval. Partikel's String Theory; Henry Spencer and Juncture; Dinosaur. If you have not heard any of these three bands, you should catch them if you can.
The bands are quite different, but that evening they had one thing in common - bassist Conor Chaplin. It could not have been expected that Andrew Robb and Max Luthert were unable to play with their respective bands, but Dinosaur's Conor Chaplin picked up the bass for both of the other groups. In his Tea Break article above Calum Gourlay names Conor Chaplin as someone we should listen out for, and the audience at Ronnie's could hear why. To play well all evening across three bands shows his professionalism and his solo work is impressive.
Saxophonist Duncan Eagles fronts Partikel with Eric Ford on drums and here in String Theory they are playing a set with violins, viola and cello. The result can be heard on the album Partikel String Theory. We reviewed the album when it first came out saying: 'String Theory manages to be both accessible and innovative at the same time, a trick which much contemporary jazz often finds difficult to pull off. It is constantly interesting and holds the attention from beginning to end.'
That still applies as the band plays live. It is somewhat embarrassing that we also said: 'Benet McLean often takes a solo and has all the makings of a superb jazz violinist.' Benet, as we found out, is already a recognised 'superb jazz violinist', even though he has mainly been playing piano in recent times. (Click here for a video introduction to the album. Click here for our review).
Partikel have combined strings very effectively with their trio and the occasional use of the pedal with the sax results in some winning electronic textures.
Juncture and Dinosaur both have albums due out in the future and on the evidence of their sets, the recordings are worth waiting for. Henry Spencer continues to move me with the emotion he literally squeezes out of his trumpet from time to time and Nick Costley White (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano) and David Ingamells (drums) make for a cohesive unit with Nick taking some great solos that evening. (Click here for a short video teaser for Henry and Juncture's new album The Reasons Don't Change, out later this year).
Dinosaur are Laura Jurd (trumpet), Elliot Galvin (keyboard), Conor Chaplin this time on bass guitar, and on this evening the exceptional James Maddren depping for drummer Corrie Dick.
Dinosaur was first formed in 2010 and was formerly known as the Laura Jurd Quartet, the band has appeared at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Jazz Sur Son 31 in Toulouse and 12 Points Festival 2015. (Click here for a video of Dinosaur playing Laura Jurd's composition Hardanger).
They finished the evening demonstrating that Ronnie Scott's Club can showcase three outstanding young British bands, fill the Club and inspire an audience.
Do You Have A Birthday In May?
Arild Andersen Trio on Tour in May
Norwegian double bass master Arild Andersen brings his trio featuring Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia to the UK for a series of concerts during May that will see Norwegian pianist Helgie Lien expanding the group to a quartet on the final two dates in Oxford and London. Andersen is respected around the world as one of the chief contributors to top European jazz label ECM Records, having featured on over forty albums for the label, and has worked with many of the great American jazz players, including Chick Corea, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield as well as fellow Scandinavians Jan Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvaer, and Bugge Wesseltoft.
In the 1960s Arild learned jazz from the masters, by listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane on record but also by playing, as part of a local rhythm section, with visiting soloists such as Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin and Stan Getz, with whom Andersen worked many times on his frequent tours of Scandinavia.
“That was great experience, learning on the bandstand from the leading American players of the time,” he says. “You were really put on the spot and had to respond instantaneously or take a solo that you had to make sure kept up the standard of the music.”
Paolo, Arild and Tommy
Towards the end of the 1960s, with the encouragement of another American, trumpeter Don Cherry, Andersen and his contemporaries, saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jon Christensen created a form of jazz that was based partly on folk music and partly on the flowing style of interaction between the musicians.
Click here for a video of Arild playing at the Kongsberg Festival in Norway with Sonny Rollins, Bobo Stenson and Jon Christensen in 1971.
This Nordic style fed into the ECM Records catalogue, with players such as American pianist Keith Jarrett forming his Scandinavian Quartet, and has remained popular through the decades. Its influence can still be felt in Andersen’s trio with Smith and Vinaccia, which became an instant success on its formation in 2007, earning rave reviews worldwide for its ECM debut, Live at Belleville.
“In the trio everyone is equal,” says Andersen. “It’s like the way we played in Norway in the late 1960s in that Tommy might play the melody instrument but he can also be an accompanist and Paolo and I are the rhythm section but either of us can also be the lead voice.”
Click here for a video of the Trio playing in 2010.
A second album, Mira, released by ECM in 2013, captured this approach in a more reflective way than its full-on predecessor but, for Andersen, the group’s success is down to how the three musicians react onstage in the moment. “We’ve toured all over the world now,” he says, “and we’ve developed a real camaraderie and understanding. It’s all about trusting each other and knowing that we’re all there for each other when the spontaneous sparks start to fly.”
Click here for a video of the Trio playing Mira featuring Arild's beautiful bass introduction.
The Arild Andersen Trio featuring Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia plays:
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on Thursday, May 12;
The idea behind our Full Focus series is to let the reader listen to a track from an album at the same time as reading the concepts behind the track as seen by the composer and the musicians involved.
[You are able to listen to the music at the same time as reading this article and without leaving the page if you click here. This will take you to the article on another page on our website where your computer might ask you to allow the music to play on the page. Alternatively there are links to the music in the article below].
Born in 1957 in Bad Godesberg, Germany, multi-instrumentalist and composer Gebhard Ullmann studied medicine and music in Hamburg and moved to Berlin in 1983. Since then he has recorded more than 50 albums as a leader or co-leader for prestigious labels such as Soul Note (Italy), Leo Records (UK), Between The Lines (Germany), CIMP (USA), NotTwo Records (Poland), Clean Feed (Portugal) Unit Records (Switzerland) and others.
He is considered to be one of the leading personalities in both the Berlin and international music scenes and has received numerous awards for his work including the Julius Hemphill Composition Award in two categories ('99), the Deutsche Phonoakademie award ('83), one of the first SWF Jazz Awards ('87) and the nomination best-jazz-CD-of-the-year by the German Schallplattenkritik for his CD Tá Lam in 1995.
If you put Tá Lam into Google Translate looking for a meaning, you won't get very far. Translate suggests that the words are Vietnamese, but Gebhard Ullmann says: 'No, Tá Lam has been a sound, words that seemed to fit both the painting and the music or vice versa, and since it was the title of an original long composition and the first CD with this music it seemed to be a good idea to use it as the name for the project as well.'
When I started as a professional musician in Berlin in 1983 I was not sure if I would be able to live on music and so I tried to play with as many woodwinds as possible to create work. In Berlin, it didn’t take long and I would play in about a dozen bands with concerts almost every other day plus studio work, work in theatres etc.
Gebhard Ullmann Clarinet Trio.
Gebhard Ullmann, Michael Thieke, Jürgen Kupke
Starting from the mid 80s I concentrated on overdubbing woodwind arrangements with up to how many instruments anybody would ask for and use these abilities for my own music as well. I performed in those days on instruments ranging from piccolo to bass flute, soprano to tenor sax, clarinet and later bass clarinet. 9 instruments total!
Of course I did have my favourites but I wanted to create a certain result by doing this - pretty vague in my mind - and looking back, this resulted in the Tá Lam recording. After doing this recording I scaled down significantly and concentrated on what are now my main instruments.
In 1991 I got the offer to use the beautiful old chamber music studio at the radio in Berlin (built in the early 20th century). All wood, one huge hall with very high ceilings - incredible. I got the offer to use it for, if I remember correctly, 2 weeks. I came in and started with bass flute or bass clarinet - sometimes with a click, sometimes without - and longggggg scores. I needed several music stands. I built up all the voices that you hear, no post production, editing, electronics or such. All acoustic, all played live.
Click here to listen to Tá Lam
The piece Tá Lam itself is based on a series of 12 notes in half time in the bass with a 9/4 melody in double time on top plus a rhythm line in 3/4 (double time) in the middle. You get the idea.
Starting from this I go through all kinds of variations during the arrangement. While most of the thematic material is written I sometimes improvised lines inside the melodic material.
When I was done with everything I listened to some bass clarinet sections and thought this sounds like an accordion! So I invited the incredible accordionist Hans Hassler from Switzerland to play on top, inside, below, everything. Hans is a good friend of mine and we met at the European Radio Jazz Orchestra. I gave him parts to play, told him to improvise on top of certain lines - we went crazy for a day or two.
The recording was released on a small Berlin based label the owner being a real record lover. Now - he went crazy with the CD cover. A digipack that unfolds 4 times to all sides using a painting from my wife that unfolds inside like a puzzle depending on how many parts you unfold. I asked Dave Liebman to write the liner notes, Bob Moses came up with a poem on the music - everybody was very helpful and enthusiastic and I would like to thank them for all their support.
The band Tá Lam that came out of this production lasted for 21 years and went through many stages. It started as a 6-piece, later 8, 10 and finally 11-piece. We toured all over the world played an enormous number of concerts, put out 3 more CDs and finally it was time to let it go in 2014. It wouldn’t have worked without the dedication of all the incredible musicians who played permanently or at various times in the Tá Lam ensemble.
As a last statement I would like to mention when I recorded the piece Tá Lam I was not sure if this would work musically, completely new ground in many ways. Even more I would have never thought that this music would or could be performed live - and it has been - for 21 years. What an incredible journey!
Click here for a video of Gebhard Ullmann and the band Tá Lam 10 playing Charles Mingus's Fables Of Faubus.
Click here for details and to sample the album Tá Lam.
Since 2005 Gebhard Ullmann has been listed in the Downbeat Critics Poll and in 2015 for the first time in three categories. His CDs Final Answer (2002) The Bigband Project (2004) New Basement Research (2008) News? No News! (2010) Mingus! (2011) Clarinet Trio 4 (2012) were all listed in Downbeat Magazine among the best CDs of those years. The CD Transatlantic received the Choc award fromthe French Jazz Magazine in 2012. He has toured with his music throughout Europe as well as Africa, the Middle East, Canada, New Zealand, the USA, South East Asia, Mexico and China and performed at many of the world's top jazz festivals.
Photograph Exhibition by Brian O'Connor at Keswick Jazz Festival
Coinciding with this year's Keswick Jazz Festival, there will be an exhibition of Brian O'Connor's jazz photographs at the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick from 12th April to 15th May. Copies of the photographs will be available to buy with discounts on five or more.
Bruce Adams © Brian O'Connor
Keswick Jazz festival brings together many of the world's best exponents of mainstream and traditional jazz. American and European stars will rub shoulders with a glittering array of Britain's top jazz musicians. The programme will see over 100 jazz events hosted by a dozen different venues, all covered by the Festival's pass.
Claire Martin © Brian O'Connor
There are also be a number of free jazz events in Keswick. Click here for the Festival website.
Some while ago, Steve Fletcher in Spain wrote to us asking us if we could track down another musician. Luckily we were able to help. Steve also suggested that we might take time out to remind ourselves of the Harry Parry Sextet.
Steve points us in the direction of this video from 1947 and the Sextet playing Honeysuckle Rose (click here). The band members are not listed, nor is the singer, but I am sure someone will recognise them?
Clarinettist Harry Owen Parry was born in Bangor, Wales in 1912. He was a natural musician who started out playing cornet, flugelhorn, drums and violin but settled on clarinet and saxophone in the late 1920s. He trained to become an instrument maker at Bangor University and then moved to London in 1932 when he was 20 and played with a number of dance bands before forming his own sextet. In 1940, his became the house band at the St Regis Hotel and he led the BBC's Radio Rhythm Club show.
Click here for an excellent video where 'Harry Parry and his Radio Rhythm Club Sextet play cool swing music' in 1942. I am not sure whether the tune is Hot Dogs or whether that is the title of the series - again can anyone name the musicians?
His sextet recorded over 100 titles for the Parlophone label. His style has been compared to that of Benny Goodman and his band included at various times vibraphonist Roy Marsh, pianists George Shearing and Tommy Pollard and trumpeters Dave Wilkins and Stan Roderick.
Click here for a video of the band playing You Are My Lucky Star with complementary dancers in 1943.
After the War, during which his band entertained the troops, Harry continued to work for radio and television and toured internationally with the sextet during the 1940s and 1950s and for a brief period formed the resident band on the BBC's Crackerjack children's programme.
Harry died in London in October 1956.
There are a number of audio tracks on YouTube you can listen to (click here), and a number of albums are available (click here), including Parry Opus, one of Harry's best known numbers, although I have not been able to find that track for you to listen to here.
Family Memories of Trombonist Tony Milliner
Patricia Adams writes from Ontario, Canada:
Thank you so much for the lovely article you wrote on my cousin Tony Milliner (click here). Tony was nephew to my late father, Charles Milliner, and although we kept in touch over the years I never had the fortune to meet him in person on too many occasions as we lived in Bristol, followed by Bridgwater, Somerset. Then, in 1972, my husband and I and our two children emigrated to Canada where we have lived since then with my parents joining us in 1979, so meeting up with each other was even more difficult, and letters had to suffice.
My father was a great jazz fan and taught me to appreciate the music so I followed suit, although we both had a tendency to enjoy Traditional Jazz and perhaps some Mainstream far more than Modern, but we always loved to hear Tony play and well remember the time he came to Bristol to play at the Colston Hall. I still have my EP of the Fairweather – Brown All Stars EP record with my favourite track of “September in the Rain”, although have nothing to play it on, these days, unfortunately! (The tune is on the album Fairweather Friends new copies of which are not currently available but it is on a 3 x CD box set with September In The Rain amongst many other tracks here - Ed).
I remember times prior to Tony’s successful career, when Uncle Sid (Tony’s father) had a Bakery in Oxford and my parents, my brother and I went to spend Christmas with them – I was 9 years old - 3 years before the birth of my youngest brother. I was fascinated by the music and was sorely upset when I had to go to bed. There were so many people there who were family members and friends that many people had to sleep on the bread racks in the bakery! Something I have never forgotten. There was another houseful on another time when we went up to Lordship Lane, Wood Green for another Christmas. Lots of music and fun. Then, when Tony made a name for himself, we did not see so much of him as he was so busy, plus Mum and Dad had a Grocery Store in Whitehall, Bristol, to run, so time-outs for us were usually down to Weston, Weymouth or Lyme Regis, etc., and so the years rolled away.
This photograph is of Tony (left) with my Mum and Dad at Heathrow airport. As you can see there is a distinct family likeness! Dad was almost 11 years older than his nephew. This was taken in 1992.
We tried to get over to see Tony when in England, but he wasn’t well and so we only got to talk to him on the phone, as we did from here, although not as often as I would have liked.
Again, thank you, it was great to read about just how good he was – we always thought so, but of course, we were biased!
Since we first shared Neil Millett's brother's request for information about Neil, we have received an increasing amount of information about the clarinet player and I am considering setting up a separate Profile page for him, so any other information from readers would be useful.
Martin King says: 'Originally from Bournemouth myself, I met Neil in the mid to late 70’s. We both worked as Technical Illustrator’s and whilst working on a contract for IBM in Hursley, Neil, myself and two others shared a house in St Thomas Street, Winchester. The house was originally the servants' quarters to the big house next door and was well positioned close to several pubs which we all used to enjoy. The owner of the house was horrified upon our arrival due to the quantity of musical instruments being carried into the house.'
'My next meeting with Neil was in Germany. I was at work one day when the telephone rang. It was Neil phoning me from Wolfsberg (The home of VolksWagen) telling me of a job opportunity. I took him up on it and he kindly put me up for a few days until I got myself sorted. Neil played at many venues around the Wolfsberg and joined a local band called the Saratoga Seven (I think). I remember they made an LP and I think I still have a copy in the attic. Neil was friends with Acker Bilk and he used to go and meet up with him if he was touring in the area.
I know Neil was estranged from his family at the time but I do remember him talking with pride of his son and daughter who I believe attended Slade School of Art.
Neil was talented and always great fun to be around and I was sorry to hear about his sudden death.'
An item about Marion Williams and Eddie Thomson on our Information page (click here) prompted Mike Forbes to write:
'David Van Der Gevel mentions the Anchor pub at Brighouse, West Yorkshire, where Rod Marshall was landlord. At the time Eddie Thompson was playing there on Thursdays I was on banjo with John Pashley's Treasure Island Jazz Band, at Sunday lunchtime. I've played banjo in 'trad' bands for many decades and now enjoy our local U3A Jazz Appreciation Group where I have given several presentations. I still have the Wally Fawkes and Sandy Brown Quintet No 1 EP from 1956 - one of the first jazz records I ever bought. It's still such a fresh and wonderful sound!'
Jonathan Plumb writes having seen our page on the Dancing Slipper (click here): 'My dad, Carl Plumb used to play bass guitar for 'The Teenbeats' at the Dancing Slipper Nottingham and I wondered if you may have some recordings of them?'
I have replied that the band sounds more like a pop band than a jazz band, but if anyone remembers them, please contact us.
Steve Lane Recording
Kate Turner has seen our page on Steve Lane (click here) and writes: 'I was wondering whether you might be able to advise me where I could purchase a copy of Steve Lane and Rusty Taylor's Red Hot Peppers album Azure AZMG17 please?'
Please contact us if anyone can help.
Follow Us On Facebook
Thank you to those people who have liked our Sandy Brown Jazz Facebook page and who have commented on posts. I hope that you have found the items there of interest. Using Facebook gives us a chance to share information that arrives between issues of What's New Magazine. If you do visit our Facebook page, please Like us and Share us with your friends. (If you are not on Facebook, please tell your friends about us anyway!).
Information has arrived about the following musicians or people connected to jazz who have passed through the 'Departure Lounge' since our last update. Click on their names to read their obituaries where we have them:
Graham Tayar - UK pianist who led the Crouch End All Stars with with John Keen (trumpet), Ken Blakemore (trombone), Graham Tayar (piano), Hilary Graham (banjo), Don Smith (bass), Ken Pring (drums) and Ian Christie on clarinet. Ian took over from Wally Fawkes who had played with the All Stars for seven years. Graham told me about setting up the jazz club at New Merlin's Cave not far from London's Kings Cross Station (click here for our page on New Merlin's Cave where there is a picture of Graham at the club standing by the bar). Graham's daughter, Imogen, tells me that 'All are welcome to the funeral which is on Friday 6th May midday at Golders Green Crematorium, followed by a celebration in the Bull & Gate pub in Kentish Town afterwards from about 1.30. (details here).
Martin Guy writes: Sorry to hear this. Many memories of Sunday lunchtimes at New Merlin's Cave with John Chilton and George Melly and also of being an occasional Crouch End Allstar. RIP Graham
Getatchew Mekurya - Ethiopian saxophonist, (his name is pronounced GET-a-chew Me-KUR-ya) who worked predominantly in Ethiopia for decades before being embraced by a worldwide audience. His playing produced an original sound, and was compared to that of Albert Ayler, whom he claimed at the time never to have heard. 'Rather than a cosmopolitan form of jazz with Ethiopian influence, Mr. Mekurya made a music of gruff, earthy incantation, rooted in folkloric custom.'
Click here for a video of Getatchew playing in 2009.
Gato Barbieri - Argentinian saxophonist who helped expand the audience for Latin jazz, and whose music for the film Last Tango in Paris won a Grammy Award. Influenced by John Coltrane, he 'was a prominent member of the jazz avant-garde, making records with the trumpeter Don Cherry, the pianist and composer Carla Bley and others that challenged the music’s harmonic and rhythmic conventions. He later developed a more melodic approach that acknowledged his Latin American heritage, and that won him a large and loyal worldwide audience.'
Click here for a video of Gato playing with Carlos Santana in 1977.
David Baker - American trombonist and cellist who in 1968 founded Indiana’s jazz studies program - one of the first of its kind at an American university. He played in the ensembles of Quincy Jones and George Russell and with Gunther Schuller was an original artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. David Baker was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000 and a Living Jazz Legend by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2007.
Click here for restored footage of David Baker with a schools orchestra in 1976 (the sound only starts as the orchestra begins to play).
Not all jazz musicians who pass through the Departure Lounge are reported in the national press, so if you know of anyone's passing that we should mention, please contact us with a few words about them, or a local obituary if one is available.
One From Ten
We spend time with an album from our list of new and reissued recordings below.
Shez Raja Collective
Howard Lawes talks to Shez Raja at Bar Luciano, London SE12, and reviews the new album Gurutopia:
Shez chose the venue, which adjoins a highly regarded restaurant, where we were both made to feel really welcome. Shez now lives in London but was born in the Wirral, which he carefully explained is a peninsula between the rivers Dee and Mersey in northwest England and close to Liverpool. His mother is English but his father was born in the Punjab, famous for Bhangra music and Shez has fond memories of the traditional raga songs his father used to sing at home. Shez's musical journey began with classical violin at junior school and made good progress until, as a young teenager, he discovered rock music, switched to bass guitar, joined a band and gigged around the clubs in nearby Liverpool. Although he now plays guitar, Shez still retains a lot of affection for the violin.
On leaving school Shez gained a place at the prestigious Leeds College of Music where he studied advanced music theory and played tabla, a traditional percussion instrument from the Punjab area, playing folk / rock / world music in bands such as "Elephant Talk". On graduating from Leeds College of Music Shez moved to London, resumed his guitar playing and worked as a session musician and sidesman with many different bands. Shez's own playing was inspired by great guitarists such as jazz-fusion pioneers Stanley Clarke and Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorious, founder member of super-group Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and slap bass master, Marcus Miller. Shez also much admires John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and the jazz violin played by Jerry Goodman and Jean-Luc Ponty.
Shez recalls that he played with many musicians during his early years in London but in particular he met up with the young jazz violinist, Pascal Roggen, from New Zealand, recently graduated with a Masters degree from London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama and in 2007 the Shez Raja Collective was formed with the vision of creating exciting multi-genre music. Collaboration with Pascal has led to far flung tours to New Zealand and elsewhere. Gurutopia is Shez Raja's fifth album and continues in the indo-jazz-funk vein of his previous work bringing highly accessible and likeable music to a potentially wide audience.
For Gurutopia the core band is Shez Raja on guitar, Monika Lidke, voice, Chris Nickolls on drums, Pascal Roggen on violin and Vasilis Xenopoulos on saxophone. Alex Stanford and Steve Pringle share keyboard duties with the latter also playing Fender Rhodes while Randy Brecker on trumpet and Mike Stern on guitar feature on two tracks each. These latter two are highly lauded American musicians with extensive experience in both rock and jazz music but that is to take nothing away from all the other band members who are all excellent in their own fields - Shez Raja clearly knows how to construct a band and stellar musicians are more than willing to participate, both in studio sessions and in upcoming live performances which are to include John Etheridge on guitar at the London 606 Club album launch and Arun Ghosh and Soweto Kinch at subsequent gigs (for details click here).
Gurutopia has eight tracks starting with Rabbits featuring Mike Stern in which the initial and final groove consists of repeated rhythmic phrases which set the scene for Stern's lovely solo improvisation. Track 2 called Maharaja introduces some very recognisable and catchy South Asian rhythms, syncopated electronics from Alex Stanford, fascinating violin from Pascal Roggen and exactly right alto saxophone from Vasilis Xenopoulos; all of which is very good to dance to. Song For John has Monika Lidke vocalising what could well be a lullaby and Pascal Roggen plays some beautiful Gaelic tinged violin in a tune written by Shez for his 4 year old son who is himself an aspiring musician. My Imaginary Friend is a bouncy tune, heavy on the wah-wah pedal and includes a drum solo. Sketches of Space introduces the trumpet of Randy Brecker in a series of anthemic sections followed by a solo with perhaps a nod to Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain.
Click here for a video of the band playing Sketches Of Space at the Hideaway in 2014.
Track 6 starts fairly calmly, again with repeated melodic phrases, before Mike Stern's guitar takes the listener back to the rock band guitar solos of a previous era justifying the title RocknRolla and named after the Guy Ritchie film of the same name.
Click here for a video of the band playing RocknRolla at the Hideaway in 2015.
Track 7 brings back the trumpet of Randy Brecker and the title Prime Time gives a clue to the time signatures of the piece which involve prime numbers. Shiva Mantra heralds the return of Monika Lidke singing a lilting melody in a faintly Latin style together with a great saxophone solo from Vasilis Xenopoulos; a tune written by Shez following a trip to his father's homeland.
The Gurutopia album was launched at the 606 Club in London on 21st April 2016 and although Randy Brecker and Mike Stern were missing the band included a special guest in the person of guitarist John Etheridge. Much amusement ensued after Shez claimed John Etheridge was being paid by the note as anybody who knows Etheridge's extremely enthusiastic playing will know that he plays a great many notes! Shez Raja has a great rapport with his audience, cracking jokes, prancing around the stage and playing the guitar like a showman. In his introduction Shez asked the audience if they were ready for an Indo-jazz-funk fusion experience, they were, they got it and really enjoyed it.
The Shez Raja band is a great live act and well worth catching at a gig if possible but if you can't get to a gig then the album is a very good alternative. To some people today's jazz might typify music that is outdated and boring, but Shez Raja's jazz is anything but; it can make you dance and laugh and like the big, yellow sun on the album cover really brightens up your day.
You can catch Shez at:
10 May - Pizza Express, London featuring Soweto Kinch and John Etheridge
Gurutopia was released on 15th April 2016 on Dot Time Records. Click here to sample the album.
Ten Recent Releases and Re-Issues
Jazz Book Club Books
There are still a number of Jazz Book Club books looking for a good home. Sandy Pringle has asked if we could pass on his collection of books from the Jazz Book Club. Several have been taken, but there are others that might still be of interest to readers.
The Jazz Book Club (JBC) was a publishing project of Sidgwick & Jackson, a London-based publisher. Herbert Jones, the editor, and a distinguished panel, selected the works. Sixty-six issues, and various extras were published from 1956 to 1967.
Sandy Pringle's books are all hard back editions and the jackets - the paper covers - have gone. They are some fifty years old and so some have a few brown age spots on some pages.
Although the books are different thicknesses, to make life easy for me, if anyone is interested in any of the books I will post them out individually within the UK at £5 each to cover costs. Click here to see the list of books still available and how to go about obtaining them.
Jazz Talks: Buckinghamshire and Norwich Areas
Dr Bob Moore has contacted us saying:'I am a member of the U3A (University of the Third Age) Jazz appreciation section. I now have given four talks to them on each of the following: Louis Armstrong, US swing bands of the 40's, Modern Jazz Quartet and Stan Kenton. I should say that I am not a profession speaker but I have reasonable knowledge of the subject. Now that I have given the talks, it is most probable that they will gather dust in a cupboard but if anyone local to me in High Wycombe is interested, I would be prepared to repeat the talk for free with possible expenses for petrol if far away.''The talks mainly simply require a good audio system plus someone to put on the CD's but the Kenton talk does included some excerpts from Youtube on the internet but these could be edited out. If I use the Internet it would require screen plus associated equipment. The talks take about 90 min and the usual format is general background on the artist or group followed by tracks from CD's.'If anyone would like to take up Bob's offer, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Similarly, Roy Headland who gives occasional talks to Norwich Jazz and Blues Record Club is offering to give talks with music to other groups in the Norwich area. A recent talk 'A Jazz Tour of Norwich and Norfolk' to an audience of 60 had the organiser saying: "Thank you for giving us such an informative and enjoyable evening,full of musical stars.The feedback was good and we hope to see you back with part 2." Other talks Roy has given include: Condon Jam Sessions; Clarinet Kings of Swing; Tommy Ladnier -"Mandeville to New York "; and a talk to Rotary on "The Winter Solstice" (their request) on Dec 21st which I managed to link in with Artie Shaw and called "The Shawtest Day"!
Roy's email address is: email@example.com.
© Sandy Brown Jazz 2016