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May 2018

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Elliott Galvin

Keyboard player Elliot Galvin photographed by Brian O'Connor. Elliot plays in the band Dinosaur led by trumpeter Laura Jurd as well as leading his own trio.



On A Night Like This,
The Story Is Told

We stopped in front of a house with three stories and a basement ... From the outside the house bore a rather gloomy aspect, the windows being absolutely dark, but within, it was a veritable house of mirth ... In the back room there was a piano, and tables were placed round the wall. The floor was bare and the centre was left vacant for singers, dancers, and others who entertained the patrons ...


Scott Joplin


There was a young fellow singing a song, accompanied on the piano by a short, thickset, dark man. After each verse he did some dance steps, which brought forth great applause and a shower of small coins at his feet. After the singer had responded to a rousing encore, the stout man at the piano began to run his fingers up and down the keyboard. This he did in a manner which indicated that he was a master of a good deal of technique. Then he began to play; and such playing! ... It was music of a kind I had never heard before. It was music that demanded a physical response, patting of the feet, drumming of the fingers, or nodding of the head in time with the beat.

The barbaric harmonies, the audacious resolutions, often consisting of an abrupt jump from one key to another, the intricate rhythms in which the accents fell in the most unexpected places, but in which the beat was never lost, produced a most curious effect ...

This was rag-time music, then a novelty in New York, and just growing to be a rage, which has not yet subsided.

From: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson (1912) and in King Of Ragtime - Scott Joplin and his Era by Edward A. Berlin.

Click here for a clip from the Scott Joplin Movie.


Name The Tune!

(Click on the picture for the answers)

Name the tune




Name the tune




Name the tune



Click here for our Name The Tune page



Jazz South Launch

Arts Council England has granted £315,000 to launch a three-year talent development programme for southern England. The Turner Sims concert venue, part of Southampton University, is to receive the grant for a project 'to significantly raise the aspirations of emerging and professional jazz artists, standards of performance, composition and promotion' for jazz musicians based in southern England. This was Turner Sims logothe only music project selected within the final round of ACE's Ambition For Excellence programme.

Through Jazz South, established and emerging artists, and gifted and talented children and young people, will work with promoters and leading UK and international figures. New work will be commissioned, and talent and excellence developed through masterclasses and residencies. Jazz South will benefit from Turner Sims’ strong track record in jazz promotion, development and commitment to broadening the reach and raising the profile of the sector. Talent development opportunities will be offered throughout the Arts Council’s South West region plus the central and southern parts of Arts Council’s current South East region, from Buckinghamshire to Kent.

Kevin Appleby, Turner Sims Concert Hall Manager, said of the award: 'This is a hugely exciting moment for Turner Sims and I’m most grateful to Arts Council England for their support. This investment enables us to realise our aspirations for creating new opportunities for the jazz sector in the South of England. I know from the conversations we have had with a range of organisations and individuals across the region already that there is a great appetite for this, and I look forward to working with partners regionally, nationally and internationally to bring these opportunities to life'.

Turner Sims will be announcing the details of the first tranche of programme activity in summer 2018. Click here for more details.



606 Club Birthday

606 Club sign




Congratulations to London's 606 Jazz Club which celebrates its 30th birthday in May. Located in a basement at 606 Lots Road, Chelsea, the club was originally opened in 1976 in the King's Road by its still enthusiastic owner, Steve Rubie. As it became more popular, Steve moved the club to Lots Road in May 1988 since when it has continued to feature a full programme of UK and international jazz talent in its relaxed, intimate setting.

The club will be celebrating its birthday with a series of gigs by UK jazz musicians from 16th to 27th May, including Claire Martin, Lianne Carroll, Jacqui Dankworth, Gwilym Simcock, Ian Shaw, Clark Tracey, Giacomo Smith and Jim Mullen.

Click here for details.






Passing The Baton - Investing in Jazz in the UK

Passing The Baton



One of our regular writers, Howard Lawes, has been exploring the current situation regarding support services for jazz music and musicians.

Since the passing of the Jazz Services organisation and the passing of the baton to its successor, JazzUK, and then the passing on again to MusicTank, what has been gained and what has been lost? What funding has been available for jazz? Where does it leave jazz musicians and those who want to hear them?

Click here to read Howard's findings.







Jazz Quiz

Just Give Me The Word

In the Quiz this month we give you a selection of words and phrases taken from the lyrics of fifteen jazz standards and ask you to identify the songs. How many can you name?


Alexander's Ragtim Band


For example:

Which song's lyrics include the words

: sweet and lovely lady : misunderstood : alone in this big city : babe in the wood :


Click here for the Jazz Quiz.





Jazz Pianist Competition

May 19th, 2018 is the closing date for jazz pianists to enter the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition. There is over $200,000 in cash as well as feature appearances at jazz festivals and clubs to be won. There is no age limit and there will be First, SecondEllis Marsalis and Third Place winners in the competition that takes place in America between June 22nd - 23rd, 2018.

'In partnership with Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia, U.S.A.) and The Nu Jazz Agency (New York, NY, U.S.A.) the Marsalis family is teaming up to discover the next great jazz pianist. If you have what it takes, you'll compete live in the inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition in Huntington, West Virginia (U.S.A.) on Friday, June 22, 2018 and Saturday, June 23, 2018. Up to six (6) finalists will be chosen to vie for First, Second, and Third place winners and to receive other special awards and prizes'.

'The Ellis Marsalis international Jazz Piano Competition is meant to be the most comprehensive, challenging, and in-depth jazz piano competition in the world. The purpose is to challenge, test, and evaluate each competitor against well established traits which means the difference between good piano players and those who shall go on to greatness. This competition highlights the best in modern jazz piano playing, from an emerging group of musicians who lack major or independent recording recognition'.

Click here for details.




Jazz FM Awards 2018

This year's Jazz FM Awards were presented at Shoreditch Town Hall on International Jazz Day - 30th April.

Jazz FM logo

Organisation of the Awards is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious with support from a number of sponsors and is becoming an increasingly prestigious event. Recognizing the best emerging new artists, contemporary jazz icons and established stars from across the worlds of jazz, soul and blues, the Jazz FM Awards are now in their fifth year and celebrate what has been a remarkable year for jazz which has seen the genre continue to enjoy widespread critical acclaim and a huge resurgence in popularity.

The presentation, hosted by Jazz FM presenters Chris Philips and Jez Nelson, featured an illustrious list of musicians receiving awards and playing for the audience. The winner of the PRS for Music Gold Award was million-selling US jazz guitarist and educator Pat Metheny and Dame Cleo Laine received the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award. Pat Metheny said: 'It is an incredible honour to be recognized by Jazz FM as the recipient of this year’s PRS for Music Gold Award.” Dame Cleo Laine said: 'It is an incredible honour to be the recipient of this year’s PPL Lifetime Achievement Award. Jazz continues to amaze me every day and I feel privileged to have been able to spend my life performing around the world and sharing music with many wonderful people. Thank you very much to Jazz FM for recognizing my work'. 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist and singer George Benson was presented with The Impact Award for his exceptional contribution to bringing jazz to wider audiences.

There were impressive sets from Nubya Garcia, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Esperanza Spalding supported by a 'house band' led by the equally impressive pianist Ashley Henry, but perhaps the most moving and unexpected performance was from Dame Cleo Laine. With John Horler at the piano, seated, she sang I've Got A Crush On You and deserved the standing ovation that followed.


The nominees and winners (shown in red) were:

Dame Cleo Laine


Breakthrough Act Of The Year - Ezra Collective : Nubya Garcia : Rob Luft
Digital Initiative of the Year - Esperanza Spalding (Exposure) : Jacob Collier (IHarmU) : Ronnie Scott’s (Live Streaming)
Jazz Innovation of the Year - Carleen Anderson (Cage Street Memorial) : Joe Armon-Jones and Maxwell Owin (Idiom) : Shabaka Hutchings
Instrumentalist of the Year - Evan Parker : Theon Cross : Yazz Ahmed
International Jazz Act of the Year - Cécile McLorin Salvant : Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah : Thundercat
Soul Act of the Year - Jordan Rakei : Moonchild : LeRoy Hutson
Blues Act of the Year - Lucky Peterson : Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ : Robert Cray
Vocalist of the Year - Alice Zawadzki : Liane Carroll: Zara MacFarlane
UK Jazz Act of the Year - Dinosaur : Ezra Collective : Kansas Smitty’s House Band
PPL Lifetime Achievement Award : Dame Cleo Laine
Impact Award - George Benson
PRS for Music Gold AwardPat Metheny
Album of the Year - Blue Note All-Stars (Our Point of View) : Cécile McLorin Salvant (Dreams and Daggers) : Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah  (Diaspora) : Denys Baptiste (The Late Trane) : Phronesis (The Behemoth) : Thundercat (Drunk)
Live Experience of the Year - A Concert For Alice and John: Pharoah Sanders Quartet + Denys Baptiste + Alina Bzhezhinska at EFG London Jazz Festival at The Barbican : An Evening with Dave Holland at Ambleside Days Festival at Zeffirellis Cinema : Jazz Re:Fest at Southbank Centre : Makaya McCraven featuring Theon Cross Trio and Jaimie Branch Fly or Die Ensemble at CHICAGOXLONDON Day 1 at Total Refreshment Centre : Randolph Matthews at Jazz In The Round at Love Supreme Festival : Ronnie Scott’s presents Ezra Collective at EFG London Jazz Festival at Islington Assembly Hall




Steve Day's Connection Blues

Steve Day The Edge Of England

Those of you who have read Steve Day's articles and album reviews on this website will know that he has a way with words. Some might have seen or heard him with his band Blazing Flame, or more recently the Blazing Flame Quintet, where he performs his words, his writings, with very talented improvising musicians Mark Langford (reeds); Peter Evans (electric violin); Julian Dale (bass) and Anton Henley (drums).

Steve has now published a collection of his poetry in a book The Edge Of England - Selected Poems Vol.1 (Grosvenor House Publishing). The book is available from Amazon (click here) and other retailers, and more details are on Steve Day's website (click here). As you might expect, several of the poems are about music. Steve has agreed that we might share one of them here. The poem I have chosen is Connection Blues - when you play the old, scratchy recording (which you can at the end of this piece), I think you will pick up the emotion that Steve describes in 'the connection'.


The Edge Of England book will be launched at The Greenbank Hotel, Bristol, BS5 6DP on Wednesday 30th May 2018 (8.00pm start) with a spoken word performance, plus music from Julian Dale, Peter Evans and Mark Langford. The evening will be joint hosted with another poet, Bristol's James Stallard.




Charley Patton


Connection Blues

I believe I have a connection with Charley Patton.
This may be considered an affectation. After all,
nobody knows my slide guitar or the whitey me
whine I've been scalding since birth. And 1950's.

Hackney, London is no freeway to the Mississippi
Delta; even Eel Pie Island is generationally outta
sync and with little leverage when it comes to my
non-existent American cousins. But when the blues

turns on my low-fi ears, Devil Sent The Rain floods
the senses leaving me stranded out in the estuary.
Put down the final bet, all I can do is only connect.
Tell me Honey, how come Charley Patton hurts me so?


Click here to listen to Charley Patton singing Devil Sent The Rain from 1929




Video Juke Box

*Click on the Picture for the Video



Click on the picture to watch the video.


Nick Costley White Detour Ahead video


Talented guitarist Nick Costley-White brings out his Quartet's debut album Detour Ahead with the launch due at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho on 31st July (click here). The other members of the Quartet - Matt Robinson (piano); Conor Chaplin (double bass); Dave Hamblett (drums) are musicians much in demand in the UK. Nick says: 'I'm really looking forward to this concert and to be able to finally release the album which I recorded with my quartet last year. It features my own compositions alongside arrangements of a few songbook standards, including Herb Ellis' tune "Detour Ahead", after which the album has been named'. Click here for another video of the Quartet playing Swing State Wig Wam and the Ram Jam club in Kingston.




Pat Metheny Girl From Ipanema


Guitarist Pat Metheny plays The Girl From Ipanema. The track is from the lovely solo acoustic album What's It All About. Pat Metheny says: '"People are often surprised to hear that this is one of the first songs I ever learned, but any beginning guitar student knows about the dreaded "F" chord; the first time you are asked to "barre" two strings together with one finger. For me, in that first week of playing the instrument, it was impossible to make my fingers do that. But by leaving the top string open and not doing the barre, you wind up with an F major seventh chord, which somehow I recognized as being the first chord of the tune I had just heard Astrud Gilberto sing with Stan Getz on TV around that time. I actually liked it better than the straight  "F" chord anyway!" This year Pat Metheny became one of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Jazz Masters, winning one of the most prestigious American awards, and he also received the PRS For Music Gold Award at the UK's Jazz FM Awards.




March Of Time video


Valuable archive footage from 1937 featuring the spread of 'Swing' music and the (Original) Dixieland Jass Band. The film comes from a documentary 'March Of Time' feature. '... Music publishers and songwriters, finding that Swing music is ordinary music played with impromptu variations, meet the ever growing popular demand by grinding out routine tunes adding 'Swing' to every title. As the nation's new musical fever rises, Swing is accepted at Manhattan's ultra formal Rainbow Room. It is indispensable at dark Harlem's hot and noisy Savoy ...'.





Loz Speyers Inner Space Life On The Edge video


Loz Speyer's Inner Space - this video was filmed at Fishmarket Studio by Ewan Bruce. The album Life On The Edge was released on Leo Records in 2017 and the band - Loz Speyer (trumpet, flugelhorn); Chris Biscoe (alto sax, alto clarinet); Rachel Musson (tenor and soprano sax); Olie Brice (double bass); Gary Willcox (drums) - take the album on the road, along with new compositions and collectively composed music, for an 11 date tour of the UK – it started at the Verdict Brighton on 12 April, and finishes at the Vortex London on 26 June 2018 - click here for dates and venues.





Fred Foskett video


Thanks to Brian O'Connor for suggesting this video of photographs by Brian 'Fred' Foskett. The music is a private recording of Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Colin Purbrook, Dave Green and Allan Ganley at the Farmers Club, Cambridge in 1986. Brian Foskett 1940-2017 was a professional industrial photographer who took his world class photos of musicians as a hobby.






Open Land Meeting John Abercrombie


Open Land - Meeting John Abercrombie. We are still waiting for details of the release of this film that we wrote about last month and which "... offers an unforgettably intimate portrait of it's protagonist, jazz legend John Abercrombie who died in August 2017. This wonderful encounter is as poetic and atmospherically dense as Abercrombie's music. A labor of love and deep admiration, "Open Land" is a subtle and very personal portrait that gives an insight into the life and work of this outstanding artist. To glimpse genius on such an intimate level is nothing short of revelatory". What we do have now is the captivating Trailer for the film - click on the picture.


Click here to visit the Video Juke Box choices from the past six months.




Jazz At The Proms 2018


Royal Albert Hall


Concerts for this year's Promenade Concerts are being announced with some of jazz interest:

Thursday 19th July: ‘Jacob Collier and Friends’  - Jules Buckley will conduct the Metropole Orkest with Britain’s young Jacob Collier and  special guests American folk artist Sam Amidon and acapella gospel sextet Take 6, with more surprise guests to be announced. Collier's style fuses elements of jazz, acapella, groove, folk, electronica, classical,sould and improvisation. Following the hugely acclaimed debut album “In My Room” in 2016, Collier was awarded two Grammys for his arrangements of "Flintstones" and "You And I", both from the album. The evening will showcase some unheard and soon to be released new material as well as music from Jacob’s debut album. (Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Four on 20th July).

Wednesday 8th August, Late Night Prom - ‘New York: Sound Of A City’ - Jules Buckley has curated an evening in which he will conduct the Heritage Orchestra, with guests from the Big Apple plus more special guests to be announced. An evening of eclectic sonic magic from New York City! Showcasing some of the hottest and most diverse artists the city has to offer, including Sharon von Etten and serpentwithfeet. They are joined by Hercules And Love Affair, who have pioneered and shaped the sound of the city in recent years. Genres will be defied, from punk, rap, disco, indie, gospel and more, the New York sound is impossible to categorise. (Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Four on 10th August).

As part of the Proms Chamber Music series, eight women, never previously commissioned by the BBC, receive world premieres, including Laura Mvula and Bushra El-Turk.

Click here for more details.





Tracks Unwrapped

I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My

Sister Kate


[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 some computers 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].


Shimmie Prohibited


I went to a dance with my sister Kate;
Everybody there thought she danced so great;
I realized a thing or two,
When I got wise to something new:
When I looked at Kate, she was in a trance,
And then I knew it was in her dance;
All the boys are going wild
Over sister Katie's style.

Oh, I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate;
She shimmies like a jelly on a plate.
My mama wanted to know last night,
What makes the boys think Kate's so nice.


The song was written in 1919 by Clarence Williams and Armand Piron and is usually associated with a shimmy dance move, but was there actually a 'sister Kate'?

Let’s unwrap ‘The Shimmy’ first. It roared outrageously into the 1920s along with the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Varsity Drag when a new dance seemed to come out every week.

How do you dance the Shimmy? The body is held still, except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth - when the right shoulder goes back, the left one comes forward. It may help to hold the arms out slightly bent at the elbow, and when the shoulders are moved, keep the hands in the same position. A description in words is not much use. You have to see it danced ... here’s a video to help – click here.

The dance was often considered to be obscene and was frequently banned from dance halls during the 1920s, more moderately it was described as ‘naughty’ and in the video you will see that one newspaper described it as ‘The ‘Shimmy Dance’ – Outlawed as a Dance but Highly Valuable as a Personal Boudoir Exercise to Beautify Shoulders and Neck’!


The Shimmy Dance exercise


The claims to the origins of the Shimmy, which was also named the ‘Shimmy She’ or descriptively the ‘Shimmy Sha Wobble’, are varied. There is a claim that the dance goes back to Haitian Voodoo movements. We read in Wikipedia: ‘Gilda Gray (the actress and dancer who popularised the Shimmy) attributed the origin of the 'Shimmy' to the American Indians in an interview published July 8 1919 in Variety saying "You may not believe it but the original shimmy dance has never been properly introduced in New York. I know, for I have studied the dancing characteristics of the Indians for a long time and they are really responsible for the shimmy which they labelled the 'Shima Shiwa'. There have been continual efforts on the part of this dancer and that one, with each declaring that his or her version is the 'original.' There is no doubt but that the shimmy dance as it was constructed by the American Indian... would have a greater popularity if done right."

However much they tried to ban the Shimmy, it opened the door to a number of other dances where people could ‘let themselves go’ completely uninhibited. Take a look at this clip of some of the dances of the 1920s – click here.

The video seems to suggest that it was mainly women who were the focus of the dances and there has to be truth in that. In the book Seeing The American Woman 1880-1920 (Katherine H. Adams, Michael L. Keene, Jennifer C. Koella), it is noted that: ‘...Mae West first saw the dance as she wrote in her autobiography, in two African American jazz clubs in Chicago: “They got up from the tables, got out on the dance floor, and stood in one spot, with hardly any movement of the feet, and just shook their shoulders, torsos, breasts and pelvises. We thought it was funny and were terribly amused by it. But there was a naked, sexual agony about it too”. ... Critics’ reaction to this new dance, and especially to Mae West doing it, resembled the strongly negative but evocative response to hooch coochers and to Salomés. Sime Silverman in Variety reviewed her shimmy as an unfortunate return to the bawdiness of cooching, but admitted that she ‘bowled them over’ and ‘stopped the show with it’... click here

Elvis Presley






It would be some years before Elvis Presley caused the same male sensation and by the time Michael Jackson did the 'crotch grab', people hardly batted an eyelid.










We won’t spend too long looking at the Hoochie Coochie dance, there are many interpretations, but here is a very brief clip of ‘Fatima’ dancing it in 1896

You can see how the Shimmy can be linked to the Belly Dance and that has a long history where, in the Ottoman Empire belly dance was performed by both boys and women in the Sultan's palace.

Now all the boys in the neighbourhood,
They know that she can shimmy and it's understood;
I know that I'm late, but I'll be up-to-date
When I shimmy like my sister Kate.
I mean, when I shimmy like my sister Kate.


Before ‘Sister Kate’ was published in 1919 by Clarence Williams and Armand Piron, Spencer Williams, had already written the tune Shim-Me-Sha-Wobble in 1917. There are a number of versions available but click here for it played in New York in 1928 by Miff Mole and his Little Molers - Red Nichols, Leo McConville (trumpet); Dudley Fosdick (mellophone);  Miff Mole (trombone); Frank Teschemacher (clarinet); Joe Sullivan (piano); Eddie Condon (banjo); Gene Krupa (drums).

Clarence WilliamsAlthough Clarence Williams published the song, it appears confusing as to whether he actually wrote it. As we have seen, it is 'variously believed to be based on a bawdy tune by Louis Armstrong (about Kate Townsend, a murdered brothel madam) or transcribed from a version performed by Anna Jones and Fats Waller.

As far as we know, Clarence did not have a sister called 'Kate'. He was born in Louisiana and ran away from home when he was twelve to join Billy Kersand's Traveling Minstrel Show. When he moved to New Orleans he worked shining shoes and doing odd jobs, but soon became known as a singer and master of ceremonies. By the early 1910s, he was a well-regarded local entertainer also playing piano, and was composing new tunes by 1913'. He did have a neice, Katherine Henderson, but it is perhaps more likely that the lyrics just 'scanned'. Another of his compositions was 'Shout, Sister, Shout'.


Clarence Williams


So was there actually a ‘Sister Kate’ who could shimmy?

If the song was based on a bawdy tune by Louis Armstrong, it was apparently about Kate Townsend - the murdered brothel Madam. There is a comprehensive account of Kate Townsend on the Storyville New Orleans website (click here), but in brief, she was thought to have been born Katherine Cunningham in Liverpool in 1839. At fifteen she was a barmaid at a dance-house on Paradise Street and became pregnant by a sailor, Peter Kearnaghan. He left, she gave birth to twins and abandoning them, sailed for New York, changed her name to Townsend and travelled south arriving in New Orleans in 1857. Initially, she worked in brothels but by the age of 24 she had made some influential friends and set up her own premises at 40 Basin Street.

'The fireplaces and mantles were of white marble, the furniture of highly polished solid black walnut was upholstered in damask, floors were covered with velvet carpets'. The sleeping chamber of the bordello mistress was extravagant, as described in the Storyville website. 'The cost was said to have exceeded a hundred thousand dollars ...'

A certain Treville Sykes became her 'fancy man' but later she became attracted to another man named McLern. Kate, Sykes, McLern and his partner, Molly, got into fights over the relationships and on November 3rd, 1883, a 'commotion was heard in Kate's room. The following morning, the Picayune paper carried the news: 'Carved to death! Terrible fate of Kate Townsend at the hands of Treville Sykes with the instrumentality of a bowie knife. Her breast and shoulders literally covered with stabs'.


The Kate Townsend Tragedy



Whether or not that was the ‘Sister Kate’ and whether she could shimmy, we shall probably never know.

If the song was transcribed from a version by Anna Jones and Fats Waller, that again is uncertain. We can listen to that recording from 1923 (click here), but the date seems too late to match the Clarence Armstrong composition:

Fats and Anna's version does give us all the lyrics, however, and to be more ‘up to date’ they also are here in this videod 2014 live studio recording by current vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant (click here)

The tune has been recorded countless times and one could spend all day on YouTube listening to different versions. The Beatles sang it in Hamburg in 1962; Judith Durham recorded a lively version after she left The Seekers, and here we have a video of the song by David Bowie - although the dancer in the video could benefit from some Shimmy lessons (click here).

So - how to end this article - Ottilie Patterson? Bunk Johnson? Muggsy Spanier? I have chosen this video with music by the Original Memphis Five from 1922 because someone has added posters and pictures showing how The Shimmy became an international sensation (click here). The Original Memphis Five was an early jazz quintet founded in 1917 by trumpeter Phil Napoleon and pianist Frank Signorelli. Jimmy Lytell, a member from 1922 to 1925, and Miff Mole were musicians in the group. Jimmy Durante played piano (with Ladd's Black Aces) while both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey were also members of the Original Memphis Five.


I realized a thing or two,
When I got wise to something new:
When I looked at Kate, she was in a trance,
And then I knew it was in her dance;
All the boys are going wild
Over sister Katie's style.





Experiencing Big Band Jazz - A Listener's Companion

This book by Jeff Sultanof is published by Rowman & Littlefield and is available as a hard back book or for Kindle (click here).

Experiencing Big Band Jazz



'The era of popular music from about 1918 through the early 1950s saw a veritable explosion of sophisticated songwriting that converged with a new sound from reed and brass players. Jazz was born, and the musical sophistication that accompanied this "newfangled" sound set the stage for the prominence of a relatively new class of musician: the arranger, whose role in big band orchestrations became as important as the composers whose music served as the foundation for Big Band jazz. The Big Band evolved as a unique phenomenon in American music history, and ever since with vintage recordings, both studio and live, readily available, and even the recent publication of original texts from the era, a look at how to listen to Big Band music is overdue.

'In Experiencing Big Band Jazz: A Listener's Companion, musician, music historian and score editor and publisher, Jeff Sultanof takes a fresh look at Big Band music, examining why the big band era started when it did, how pop music changed to meet the needs of big bands and the reverse, the role played by well-known band leaders and the bands they led, including the non-jazz ensembles often ignored by big band scholars, lists of must-hear recordings drawn from studio as well as live sources, all in context, as well as selected reading'.

Reviewing the book in Jazzwise, Peter Vacher says: 'Sultanof's text is lucid and clear, refreshingly free from over-complicated responses or high-minded viewpoints. Read it all the way through for its developmental benefit or dip in to taste. Either way, there are abundant pleasures in store'. Click here for a further review from Publishers Weekly.








Full Focus

Alan Benzie Trio

Sunken Ruins

from the album Little Mysteries




'Full Focus' is a series where musicians and others discuss a jazz track or tracks in detail. The idea is that you are able to listen to the track that is discussed as you read about it.

[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 some computers might ask you to allow the music to play on the page. Alternatively there is a link to the music on YouTube etc. in the article below].

This month, pianist Alan Benzie writes about the track Sunken Ruins from his 2018 Trio release, Little Mysteries. Alan is a talented young jazz pianist and composer from Scotland. He started his musical education on violin at the age of 8, with little interest in piano until he discovered jazz in his teens. Inspired by encounters with the Swedish trio, EST, he switched to piano and within a year he was a regular on both the Scottish youth and professional jazz scenes, appearing alongside established Scottish and visiting international artists. He won the BBC Scotland Young Jazz Musician Award when he was just 17. In 2007, he went to Berklee College of Music where he also won the prestigious Billboard Award. (Previous winners include Japanese pianist Uehara Hiromi, and saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Walter Smith III) - Alan is the first musician from the UK to win the award.

Little Mysteries is Alan's second album; Traveller’s Tales, his debut album was released in 2015 and recorded with his working trio of friends and long-time collaborators Andrew Robb (bass), and Marton Juhasz (drums). Inspired by his travels, the landscape of his native Scotland and his love of Japanese animation, the music has its roots in European and American jazz, with influences from impressionist piano music, Scottish and Japanese folk musics, and film music. Andrew Robb and Marton Juhasz join Alan again on his latest recording.

Little Mysteries was released in February 2018 and was followed by a European and UK tour. Here, Alan describes and discusses the track Sunken Ruins (you are able to listen to the music as you read the article on a separate page if you click here - recommended), otherwise


Click here to listen to the track.


Alan Benzie Trio Little Mysteries


Before I get into the tune itself, I just thought I’d write down a couple of thoughts. It’s actually quite an interesting challenge to write about your own music - not so much from a technical point of view, but rather in what to share and how to share it. Reading through what I have written, it’s hard not to feel a little pretentious about some of it, but I’m hoping that just comes from the somewhat self-critical and introspective nature of being a jazz musician… Despite loving the relative freedom of jazz and its surprising twists and turns, my personality definitely leans towards liking things clear and organised, and I think you can see that from the way I have put things down!

So, what to share and how to share it? All of my tunes have a wee story or image behind them, and so I’ve written about that. Then there are the more technical details of the process of writing the tune, how it is structured, etc. I’ve tried to keep jargon to a minimum while still leaving some insight into that side of things. And lastly, there are thoughts about how we actually bring the tune to life.

I might add that I struggled to pick a tune from all the ones on the album, so I ended up just picking one out of a hat - well, a box actually, not having had any hats to hand. The one that came out is called Sunken Ruins.


What is it about?

I think there is a fair amount of influence from the likes of Japanese animation legend Studio Ghibli, and possibly my love for video games like Legend of Zelda in this one. I love the idea of discovering things that have been secreted away, as well as the combination of man-made structures and the natural world, all with a decent helping of fantasy! I had the image of a serene but surprisingly large and deep pond in a forest clearing, and a ruined, but still magnificent old building (perhaps a castle or temple) under the surface. I wanted to capture the beauty and calm of that image, but also the gravitas and grandeur of the building, and the excitement of discovering something so beautiful and strange - how did it get there and what secrets does it hold?


How did I write it?

There is a very strong influence from Claude Debussy on this tune, and I think that may be fairly obvious to any fans of classical piano - in which, despite many kind comments to the contrary, I am actually not particularly studied! The tune is in 3 sections: an intro/outro; the main Claude Debussymelody; and a vamp (which is a repeating phrase/melodic fragment/groove/series of chords/combination of these).

Many of my favourite writers have the ability to generate a lot of material from just a couple of ideas, and to have little threads connecting seemingly disparate elements together (Maria Schneider springs to mind), and I like to aim for that in my writing too. I also like to have tunes that don’t just do the usual “tune - everyone solos on the same material - tune” format - not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s nice to have some variety! I wanted the opening section to conjure up an image of grandeur and solemnity, and though I’m not religious or anything, I found myself gravitating towards the sound of plainchant in medieval church music.


Claude Debussy


The first few chords are made of stacked-up perfect 5ths, recalling the sound of “organum” (a style of plainchant), but with a fuller, more modern sound. The little snatches of melody in between the chords use the sustain pedal to kind of blend the notes together - which gives an effect similar to the long reverb in spaces like cathedrals - or could also be an “underwater” kind of thing.

The second section (0:41) is the main melody. I think it would take pages to go into how I wrote all of it, but I wanted something bright, calm and warm, and went for a fairly straightforward melody in Ab major. This finishes with a wee pause before a key change and that upwards sweeping figure (very Debussy…).

I think the whole tune so far slowly opens out towards the landing point of that figure (1:04) and the subsequent richer sounds, and I added a bit of extra “oomph” to the sweep by staggering the entries of bass and drums, which really pushes towards 1:04. Around 1:08 - 1:12 is Aaln Bazieactually one of my favourite moments in tunes that I’ve written - there isn’t really anything clever or particularly special about it, I just really enjoy the feeling of that little run of sounds, perhaps especially in the context of the whole tune. That hasn’t faded even after all the practising, rehearsing, recording and 2 week tour!

The 3rd section (1:14) is the aforementioned vamp, which just came along as I was messing around with the tune. It is a little darker, perhaps just a suggestion of rock in there - and I think hints at the mystery and possibly strange or turbulent events that might lie in the past of the now serene and beautiful scene. This also happened to end up in 9/4, which can be a slightly tricky time signature. Many people enjoy tricky time signatures for their cerebral challenge, and practise and write tunes specifically to enjoy that (and why not?), but in my case it is usually just a quirk of how the melody turns out, not something that I enjoy in and of itself.

Alan Benzie
Picture by William Ellis

I then expanded and tailored the first two sections for the bass solo, which slides into a quick return to that upward sweep and subsequent melody, before a piano solo over the 3rd section vamp. This culminates in a deeper version of the upward sweep in a different key and a contortion of the subsequent fragment of melody which, in turn, fades away into a reprise of the very first section to end the tune.


How do we play it?

Marton Juhasz


Marton uses soft mallets for the opening section, and I use the left pedal on the piano for a slightly muzzier sound. This keeps things from being too bright or sharply defined, which I think really suits the vibe I wanted. Marton then switches to brushes for the main melody section, which allows for a bit more propulsion without too much low end or hard attack, and I release that left pedal for a clearer, fuller sound. Marton then switches to sticks, allowing us to really inject some energy into the 3rd section.


Marton Juhasz


For the bass solo, I play that opening figure much higher up the piano, and Marton is back to brushes again - this allows us to provide a nice texture for Andrew Andrew Robbwithout getting in his way. I love the space Andrew leaves and how he takes his time and allows the solo to develop, before pushing things a bit towards the end. I mentioned earlier that I sometimes like to write things other than the “tune - everyone solos on the same material - tune”, and while that is true of this tune, we are also trying to avoid the typical situation where each solo has a similar shape and intensity - starting off relaxed and building until it is burning, then the same for the next one. Instead, we are looking for one longer arc, where Andrew’s solo builds slightly, the little melody in between takes things up another notch and then the piano solo builds from there.

Andrew Robb
Picture by Ruth Ingamells


I like that the 9/4 of the piano solo doesn’t feel too “boxed in” - when we first played this it did feel quite rigid, so we made a conscious effort to practise it a little, separately and together, focusing on having more flow and variety of phrasing - needless to say, we had even more freedom by the end of the album release tour!

All in all, while there are always little niggles that only you, or only the band hear, I’m pretty happy with the way this one turned out.




Click here for Alan's website and details of the album Little Mysteries.
click here for Alan's Facebook page.



Alan Benzie Trio

The Alan Benzie Trio

Andrew Robb, Alan Benzie and Marton Juhasz







Jazz Remembered
Richard 'Dick' Twardzik


[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 some computers 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].


Dick Twardzik


American pianist Dick Twardzik was another of those who left the world too young. He died in Paris on tour with trumpeter Chet Baker at the age of 24 following a heroin overdose.

Richard Henryk Twardzik was born on the 30th April, 1931, in Massachusetts. As a child of two Boston artists, he trained as a classical pianist and was taught by Margaret Chaloff, the mother of jazz baritone saxophonist, Serge Chaloff. Dick made his professional debut at the age of 14. He played and recorded with Serge Chaloff who was eight years his senior and it was in his teens that Dick became addicted to heroin. Chaloff was also a heroin addict and although he successfully gave up drugs, he developed cancer of the spine and also died early at the age of 33.

Click here for Part 1 of an introduction to Dick Twardzik by Jez Nelson.

When Charlie Parker came to Boston in 1952, Dick Twardzik was just 21, but he impressed Parker enough to play with the saxophonist. Some radio broadcasts were recorded at the Hi-Hat Club at the time and were later released on the Uptown label as Boston 52. 'Symphony Sid' Torin was the radio announcer and he struggled to pronounce Dick's name. Richard Williams of wrote: ' ... listen to the wonderful inventiveness of the piano solo on a relaxed “Don’t Blame Me”, to the way he spins out his double-time lines, shaping them so beautifully, allowing them to float and curl and wind before moving into a passage of contrapuntal and parallel lines, followed by the lightest of block chords. By that time, he had already been using heroin for three years'.

Don't Blame Me is shared in Part 2 of Jez Nelson's introduction from around 6.14 - click here

As well as recording in Serge Chaloff's group, Dick also recorded with Charlie Mariano's Allstars. Click here to listen to Dick Twardzik, Charlie Mariano and Serge Chaloff playing The Fable Of Mabel in 1954.

Richard Williams continues: '... Twardzik made a brilliant set of trio recordings for the Pacific Jazz label in October 1954, half a dozen tracks first issued as one side of an LP called Trio which he shared with the group of Russ Freeman, his predecessor as (Chet) Baker’s pianist, who had brought him to the attention of the label’s boss, Dick Bock. The tracks, with one addition, were later released by themselves as The Last Set. There are three standards — “Round Midnight”, “I’ll Remember April” and “Bess You is My Woman” — along with three of his own compositions, all of them immediately striking, and not just for their titles: “Albuquerque Social Swim”, “Yellow Tango”, “A Crutch for the Crab”. They’re as full of playful character and unexpected twists ...'

Click here to listen to A Crutch For The Crab.

Marc Myers on JazzWax writes of how he: '... received an email from saxophonist and arranger Bob Freedman, who ... sent along his recollections of Twardzik... "In 1948, when I was 14, I joined the Tommy Reynolds band playing baritone saxophone, alto saxophone and clarinet. Dick Twardzik was on piano. He was a magician on the keyboard. One night we arrived at one of the seaside ballrooms where the piano was out of tune (as usual) and had a bunch of non-functioning keys. Dickie sat down and made the thing sound absolutely beautiful. Then I tried it and walked away after a few seconds of producing nothing but noise ... Dickie and I sort of gravitated to each other. He was 17 and became my jazz mentor. One weekend, he invited me to his parents house in Danversport, Mass., for a weekend. His parents lived in a large, old house that had been restored. It had some historic import, and they gave public tours there. At the house, Dickie introduced me to recordings by artists like Art Tatum (whose playing he could imitate magnificently), Bud Powell and many of the other bop pianists...."

"Dickie helped me understand some of what Charlie Parker was doing on the alto sax and taught me a few of Parker's licks, which I still use when playing or writing. I had my baritone sax with me and we jammed a lot ... It's memories like these that I think about, blocking out the evil turn his life took later on with drug addiction. ...

I think another possible reason for Dickie's crash is that he, like Chet Baker, started off so Chet Baker and Dick Twardzikpositively, discovering and developing his talents that brought him innocent pleasure and seemed to impress those who heard him play. .... As their popularity grew, they inevitably began to associate with other players who were into heavy drugs, and the hoard of hangers-on and dealers who are habitually drawn to new stars soon began to swarm around. Then there came the pressure of having their work get reviewed, in many (if not most) cases by people who were unable to understand the music and incapable of evaluating it. I can’t cite any specific reviews that Dickie got, but I do know that his extremely inventive style was often subject to editorial assassination, or at least to gross misinterpretation". (Click here for the full JazzWax article).


Chet Baker and Dick Twardzik




Click here to listen to Dick Twardzik and Chet Baker playing Sad Walk in 1955.

Jason Ankany in writes: ' ... When (Chet) Baker proposed an extended European tour to commence in the summer of 1955, his sidemen balked -- one by one they quit, but on his way out, Freeman recommended Twardzik as his replacement. Baker agreed, adding him to a revamped lineup that also included drummer (Peter) Littman and bassist Jimmy Bond. The drummer also suffered from heroin addiction, however, and Twardzik's's habit only intensified as a result. He overdosed regularly, at least once on-stage, but nevertheless pulled himself together for an exemplary October 11 date at Paris' Studio Pathé-Magellan, later released by Barclay Records as Chet In Paris. Three days later, the quartet returned to cut the World Pacific release Chet Baker In Europe, which proved Twardzik's' final studio session. A Stuttgart appearance alongside Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin followed, and on October 20 Twardzik made his final live appearance at Paris' Club Tabu. When the pianist failed to show up for rehearsal the next day, Baker sent Littman to check their hotel -- the drummer found Twardzik dead in his room, the needle still in his arm.....'.

Click here to listen to tracks from the album Chet Baker In Paris.

In the liner notes for the album Chet And Dick - The Chet Baker-Dick Twardzik Quartet, covering the 1955 tour where the recordings were made at the Pathe-Magellan Studio in Paris on October 11th and 14th, 1955, we read: 'When they started their European tour together, Dick Twardzik was 24, Jimmy Bond was 22, Peter Littman only 20, and the leader, Chet Baker, just 25 .....'

In his article, Jason Ankeny points out: ' ... there is much speculation that he (Chet Baker) was with the pianist at the time of his overdose and fled the hotel room in fear -- given the mysteries still swirling about Baker's own death in 1988, it's unlikely the official chronology of Twardzik's final hours will ever be known. (Click here for the full article).

Click here for Part 4 of Jez Nelson's introduction to Dick Twardzik (unfortunately Part 3 does not seem to be available).


Dick Twardzik with Chet Baker

Dick Twardzik with Chet Baker




Do You Have A Birthday In May?


Your Horoscope

for May Birthdays

by 'Marable'




Taurus (The Bull)

21st April - 20th May


The month ahead is looking positive but there could be some challenges along the way to keep things interesting.

Last month on the 20th the Sun entered your 1st house, and this usually signals a pleasurable time. Mercury is now moving forward, crosses your Ascendent, and enters your 1st house on the 13th. Look out for financial opportunities then.

On the 16th, Uranus moves into your sign. Taureans have a tendency to get stuck in their ways, but this movement in your sign could mean that change is on the way. That might well involve your career and the changes could be for the good. So the middle of the month is a time to be open to opportunity.

This is underlined by the fact that the Sun enters your money house on the 21st, Venus is there until the 19th too and Mercury enters on the 30th. That is not to say we are talking about 'money for nothing'; money comes as a result of your personal effort, your work, your family. If you are a musician, perhaps start thinking more about how you 'market yourself'.

For you, click here for a video of a young Joey Alexander playing John Coltrane's Giant Steps.





Gemini (The Twins)

21st May - 20th June


It's looking as though you could have a happy and prosperous month ahead. Mars is moving into alignment with you from the 16th and things can now seem achievable that previously might have looked as though they were out of reach.

Career opportunities are in flow, but it might be wise to research and ask more questions about your approach - focus as well on your inner life and your inner growth.

Uranus moving into your 12th house on the 16th can signal spiritual change and cause you to take a more considered approach while at the same time allowing you to be experimental and try out new things.

Venus remains in your 1st house until the 19th when she moves into your money house. The Moon is at her perigee on the 17th; the New Moon on the 15th and the Full Moon on the 29th all carry financial opportunities. The Moon is waxing during this time and that can give you more enthusiasm that in turn should reflect in your earning ability.

All that is helped by the Sun entering your sign on the 21st bringing a opportunity for a pleasurable period.

For you, click here for a video of Chris Barber's Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson T'aint What You Do It's The Way That You Do It from 1962.





Poetry and Jazz

Celebrating Martin Speake

by Robin Kidson


[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 some computers 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].


Martin Speake


Tempus fugit as they say. It seems like only yesterday that I was marvelling at the sound made by a young, up-and-coming saxophone quartet called Itchy Fingers. And now I learn that one of the founding members of that group, the alto saxophonist, Martin Speake, is celebrating his 60th birthday this year. 60! Where did the time go? - but here is an occasion to celebrate the saxophonist's work.

Speake is celebrating his birthday with the release of a new album, Intention, on the Ubuntu label. He is also embarking on a celebration tour.

Itchy Fingers was part of the re-flowering of British jazz in the early 80s which also brought us the likes of Andy Sheppard, Courtney Pine, Loose Tubes and a host of other fine musicians. The band had a great deal of success both in the UK and Europe. Click here to listen to them playing Yuppieville Rodeo from the album Quark in 1987.

Speake left in 1988 so he could develop his own projects. Since then, he has performed in a wide variety of settings and has released numerous albums both as leader and sideman, including Change of Heart in 2006 on the mighty ECM label with Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson and Mick Hutton. Speake is an interesting and accomplished composer and all eight tracks on Change of Heart were written by him. Speake calls Paul Motian “one of my main inspirations in music”, and the opportunity to play with the legendary American drummer was one of the highlights of his career.

Ethan Iverson


Another highlight came in 1990 when Speake studied at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada with the likes of Steve Coleman, Stanley Cowell and Kenny Wheeler. It was there that he met a 17 year old American pianist called Ethan Iverson. The two musicians formed a duo which toured in 2002 and released an album of standards on the Basho label called My Ideal. Iverson went on to find fame and fortune with The Bad Plus but left the band last year and has reunited with Speake on Intention.


Ethan Iverson



Speake cites Lee Konitz, Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman and Steve Coleman as well as Paul Motian as amongst his influences. However, listening to some of the tracks on Intention, there is often a classical feel to his playing so it comes as no surprise to learn that he originally studied classical saxophone at Trinity College of Music and that his back catalogue includes an album based on compositions by Béla Bartók (Duos For Trio – The Music of Béla Bartók on Pumpkin Records). However, “Guess The Influence” is not really a game you can play with Martin Speake. His playing – cool, wistful, lyrical with occasional, but always tasteful, forays into free jazz – is all his own.

Take a track from Intentions, for example: a version of Charlie Parker’s Charlie’s Wig. This begins as a straightforward piece of bop with Speake doing a great job of channelling Bird. However, it quickly turns into something very different - something much more contemporary and free with Speake sounding most un-Birdlike but with an intensity which the Master would surely have admired. For a live performance of Charlie’s Wig, click here. As well as Ethan Iverson on piano, Speake is joined (as on the CD) by Fred Thomas on bass and James Maddren on drums.

Martin Speake and Fred ThomasIntention also includes some Speake compositions from previous albums in his extensive back catalogue. The tracks The Heron and Magic Show, for example, first saw the light of day on the album Trust released back in 1996 on Danny Thompson’s The Jazz label. The Heron is Speake at his most lyrical making his alto sound like a flute at times with the music cleverly imitating the movements of said bird. Magic Show is a short piece with a complex but accessible theme.

Click here for a video of The Heron from Intention played live.


Martin Speake and Fred Thomas
Pizza Express Live




Hidden Vision, Blackwell, Spring Dance, and the title track, Intention, go back even further to the 1994 release, In Our Time, again on The Jazz label. “It is fascinating”, says Speake, “to see how my approach has developed since these albums and how the musicians on Intention interpret these pieces”. For a live performance of the title track, Intention, click here.

As well as composing and playing, Speake also teaches at Trinity Laban Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music. He also, interestingly, has a BSc in Nutritional Medicine and is a member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association. That hinterland, and the broader philosophy of life and well-being which it implies, translates into his music. The track Intention, for example, is inspired by Wayne W. Dyer’s book, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way.

And so, Martin Speake is 60, which is not really a big age these days. 60 is the new 40; tempus is not what it used to be. May Martin Speake go on making great music for many more years to come.

Intention was released on the Ubuntu label on 20th April. Click here for details and to sample the album.

You can read more about Martin Speake on his website here.

Martin Speake is currently touring with his quartet. Dates in May are:

1st May: East Hastings Sea Angling Association
3rd May: Hidden Rooms, Cambridge
4th May: The Lighthouse, Poole






Black British Swing

by Lionel King


[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 some computers 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].


Ken Snakehips Johnson


In this article we look back at some historical tracks that remind us about the highly significant contribution of black musicians to the development of dance music in the 1930s and 40s. For example, here is Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson (above) and his West Indian Dance Band on Tuxedo Junction (click here). Listed among the personnel are a few white musicians but the core of the band was from the Caribbean.

Originally from British Guiana, at the age of 15, Ken Johnson was sent by his parents to the United Kingdom, where he attended Sir William Borlase's Grammar School, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, before studying medicine at Edinburgh University. Having gained an interest in Leslie Jiver Hutchinsondance, he sought lessons from American choreographer Buddy Bradley. It was in dance work that Johnson earned his nickname, "Snakehips", from his "fluid and flexible style". He visited New York in 1934 and was inspired to become a bandleader. In 1936 Johnson was invited to lead Leslie Thompson's band, before going on to start his own - "Ken Johnson and his Rhythm Swingers" (later renamed "The West Indian Orchestra"), which played jazz and swing music and was composed largely of musicians from the West Indies.

In the trumpet section were Wally Bowen and Leslie “Jiver” Hutchinson from Jamaica and Dave Wilkins from Barbados. On clarinet was Carl Barriteau from Trinidad.  Bertie King was on alto sax, Panama-born but raised in Jamaica.  The bassist, Abe “Pops” Clare was from the West Indies but as in the case of several of these musicians mentioned in this article, I’ve not been able to trace which island they all hailed from.


Leslie 'Jiver' Hutchinson


This next track is one of four titles the band recorded for Decca in September 1938.  The personnel of the band was quickly evolving into a swing unit and their records were selling well to the growing number of fans who had heard of the new swing music fom the USA.  The musicians are the same as on the first track you heard.  Listen for the alto sax solo by Bertie King on Snakehips Swing - click here.


A handful of musicians from the Caribbean had been working in dance bands in Britain since the mid 1920s.  This fact has only become widely known to followers of jazz and swing, including myself, in comparatively recent years.  Among the first to arrive was a highly accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Leslie Thompson.  He played the trumpet, bass, trombone and cello.  Thompson had joined the band of the West Indian Regiment in World War I when he was only 16.  He settled in the UK in 1929 and soon found work playing in dance bands, attracting the attention of Spike Hughes, an early fan of jazz in Britain, who formed his own band to play and record this exciting new music from America.  On this track recorded in 1932, seven years earlier than the first two numbers you heard, Leslie Thompson is in form in the trumpet section of Hughes’s band on Buddy's Wednesday Outing (click here).

Thompson was the only black musician on that track but more talented Caribbean musicians followed him over to play in dance bands here in the early 1930s.  Thompson’s thoughts began to turn towards gathering them together to form an all-black band to play dance music with a definite jazz feel.  By the way, Leslie Thompson was for a time involved in black politics as a follower of Marcus Garvey who was active in London at this time.  In the early 1930s Thompson went on a European tour with the great Louis Armstrong.

In 1936 Thompson met Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, whose real name was Kenrick Reginald Huymans. He too had ideas about becoming a band leader, although he was only a moderate performer on the piano himself.  Johnson had been educated in England and originally aspired to be a doctor.  But he took up tap dancing instead and was talented enough to appear alongside child star Shirley Temple in the film Oh Daddy! made in Hollywood in 1935.  While in the USA, Johnson is said to have met the legendary band leader Fletcher Henderson and had been excited on first hearing ‘swing,’ a new development in popular music, highly influenced by jazz.  From their first meeting, Thompson began to recruit and rehearse musicians, while Johnson, who was more business-minded, looked for work for the band which was called at first The Jazz Emperors.  Their first major engagement was at the Florida Club, a fashionable London night spot.  Johnson took over the conductor’s baton when the band appeared in public and acted as the personality-man compère.  His gyrations on the bandstand earned him the nickname ‘Snakehips.’

Click here for a video of Johnson tap dancing in 1935.

Leslie Thompson left the band after a disagreement on policy before it had made any records and before it had made the big time, although he remained on the dance band scene for many years.  He had no financial stake in the band, unlike Johnson who had invested a lot of Leslie Thompson bookmoney.  Even so Thompson had been earning £20 a week playing with The Jazz Emperors and was also responsible for rehearsals.  That was big money in those days, compared with less than £5 earned by the average industrial worker.

Thompson is pictured on the cover of his book with Jeffrey Green Swing From A Small Island.

The band, renamed The Emperors of Jazz, played in dance halls and on the bill at variety theatres, all over Britain.  Dance music in the 1930s was all strict tempo and some hall managers, and BBC chiefs, were deeply suspicious of swing numbers.  Johnson used to open broadcasts by the band announcing they played what he called ‘ultra modern dance music.’  This cleverly avoided the danger words, jazz and swing.

Of course all the musicians you have been hearing were capable of playing extempore extended jazz solos.  Unfortunately they had to restrict themselves, at least on record, to ‘hot licks,’ very short passages which gave them little scope to show their jazz talents.  There were occasional private ‘jam sessions’ when the musicians showed their skills of improvisation. Johnson, the shrewd businessman, made sure the band always had an ample helping of commercial numbers and popular songs in its repertoire.  On this next track the boys in the band double up as singers to put some pep into Exactly Like You (click here).

By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, records by American swing bands, such as those of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington and Chick Webb, were selling by the tens of thousands in Britain and Glenn Miller’s particular style particularly appealed to dancers. When Miller recorded his big hit Tuxedo Junction, Snakehips’ West Indian Dance Band jumped in with their own up-tempo version that we played earlier in this article. It was recorded for HMV in January 1940..

By 1940, the band had experienced changes in personnel.  Talented pianist Yorke de Sousa from Jamaica had joined and he proved a valuable acquisition for he was also a gifted arranger.  There was no problem finding arrangements for the band to play.  Many enthusiastic young musicians in London at the time, including the great trumpeter Kenny Baker, added scores to the book. One of the leading popular singers of the 1930s in Britain was the South African, Al Bowlly.  A personal friend of ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, he joins the band as a guest on the next track, a setting of the Shakespearean verses, Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind (click here).

That track was recorded at the Café de Paris, in London’s West End in April, 1940, where Ken Johnson’s band had been in residence since late 1939.  The band was now becoming increasingly well-known through their regular radio broadcasts.  They were playing to enthusiastic wartime patrons, many of them officers in the armed services and their ladies, when a bomb fell on the Rialto Cinema above the Café de Paris during a Nazi Luftwaffe air raid on March 8, 1941.

Johnson, who was only 27 years old, and tenor sax man, David ‘Baba’ Williams were killed instantly.  Other members of the band were seriously injured.  Johnson’s passing was mourned by everyone.  The music world hailed him as a pioneer of swing music in Britain, the only band leader with a declared jazz policy.  The Melody Maker, the popular music weekly, described him as “one of the nicest men it was possible to meet.....intelligent, highly educated and courteous.” Yorke De SouzaContemporary photographs show him as strikingly handsome, slim and immaculately dressed.  Just before tragedy struck, Johnson’s rhythm section, Yorke de Sousa, piano, Tommy Bromley, bass, and Tommy Wilson, drums, had been in the studios making recordings of jazz standards.  These sides were not released commercially but they have happily survived as studio acetates. Click here for a sample of Sweet Georgia Brown from this session.


Yorke De Souza


By 1943-44 the war was reaching its climax.  Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, white and black, were over here preparing for D Day and they had brought their tastes in music with them.  The BBC had softened its attitude to broadcasting jazz and swing.  Dance hall owners had at last lifted their ban on jiving, jitterbugging, the lindy hop etc.  Surviving members of Johnson’s band regrouped under the leadership of trumpeter Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson, who adopted the name ‘Jiver’ to distinguish himself from the better-known cabaret star, pianist/singer, Grenada-born Leslie A Hutchinson.  Jiver led a 12-piece band which he called at first his All-Coloured Orchestra.  Members were ex-Johnson men Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, George Roberts, Yorke de Sousa and Joe Deniz, together with new-comers Joe Appleton from Jamaica, Frank Baker, Frank Williams, Coleridge Goode from Jamaica, Harry Roche, an Irish trombonist and Clinton Maxwell, a drummer from Jamaica.  There is a track on the CD Black British Swing (referred to below) of a recording of Swing Low Sweet Chariot made on July 31 1944 (you can sample it if you click here). It was never released commercially.  The sample pressings of the titles recorded at this session were kept safely for many years by ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson’s daughter, the celebrated vocalist Elaine Delmar.

We can listen to Jiver Hutchinson's band playing Rosetta in 1947. This was apparently recorded in Czechoslovakia. The Hutchinson band remained in business until 1949.



Black British Swing CD


Lionel King: In research for this article I have been greatly assisted by the comprehensive and scholarly booklet written by Andrew Simon of the National Sound Archive included with the CD Black British Swing issued originally by Topic Records on TSCD 781.  I have also found John Chilton’s indispensable Who’s Who of British Jazz published in 1997, very helpful with musicians’ biographies and by Coleridge Goode’s highly readable biography Bass Lines – A Life in Jazz.








Mike Pointon's Tea Break

Bass player Ron Drakeford writes after reading last month's Tea Break with trombonist Mike Pointon (click here):

'The 'Lounge Lizards'. This, initially anyway, was an ad hoc group of musicians put together for certain gigs. My involvement was for a New Year wedding up in Beighton near Sheffield, for Tom Stagg's wedding. His brother Bill got us together for the gig in the early sixties and it snowed all the way up from London to Derbyshire. We stopped off en route in West Bridgford, Nottingham for a break at my brother's house. Personnel  on the gig were, Mike Pointon (trombone),  John Defferary (clarinet), Jim Holmes (trumpet), Bill Stagg (banjo) and yours truly (string bass). Drums were provided courtesy  of Tom Stagg's father-in-law, Len. Several gigs were played over the few days up there including local pubs and clubs apart from the wedding reception itself. All went down a bomb! The Lounge Lizards name was coined by John Defferary according to Mike. As an aside, on New Year's Eve whilst awaiting for things to get underway, another local group got stuck in the snow with their bandwagon and we all helped give them a push to get them going. Group leader was Dave Berry. As far as I can recall it was Dave Berry and the Dingles, with Mike being quick off the mark saying the leader must be Dingleberry! Mike and I have kept in touch since the mid fifties when we used to frequent the Fighting Cocks and stand in with Bill Brunskill's band and learn the trade - so to speak. He also made an interesting choice of Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington from my perspective as I would have chosen them too! Great minds eh?'



Cleo Laine and John Dankworth

6.5 Special poster




Last month in our 'On A Night Like This' feature we shared passages from Cleo Laine's book You Can Sing If You Want To. We ended the piece with a link to some early footage of Cleo with John Dankworth from the TV show The 6.5 Special (click here) saying: 'The date is not clear, but this looks like a rehearsal'.


Geoff Leonard writes: 'The clip of Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth you linked to is actually from the film 'Spin-off', and would have been recorded in late '57 or early '58. The film was released on DVD/blu-ray 3 years ago, and although it's a bit, well, contrived, it does contain performances from some well-known names at that time -- albeit the Dankworths are the only jazzers. It's available direct from Network DVD (click here) at a very cheap price!'






The Girl From The Train

Momma Don't Allow


Michael Herbet writes: I showed “Momma Don’t Alllow” on my  history course today when we looked at women in 1950s, and the start of youth culture. We all enjoyed it, even though it’s not our era (we are mostly 1960s teenagers). We wondered who the young woman was (railway carriage cleaner) who danced like a wild thing, and what happened to her. Does anyone know?

Watch Momma Don't Allow - it is in 2 parts: Part 1 and Part Two.

Click here for our page on the Wood Green Jazz Club where it was filmed.





Jim Butchart

Several years ago, Tony Freer in Canada wrote asking whether anyone could help him contact members of the Art Wood Combo including drummer Jim Butchart. Jonathan Cocking has written to say: 'I just noticed that Jim Butchart's name appears on your website on a list of people you'd like to contact. I was at school (Haberdashers') with Jim and printed his first visiting cards advertising his services as a jazz drummer. We stayed in touch for a while after leaving, but eventually lost touch. I visited a one-man art exhibition of his in the West End and that was the last time I saw him apart from once when he appeared as a labourer in a 1982 episode of The Professionals (see IMDB). Sadly, according to, Jim died in Suffolk in 2004, aged 60 or 61'.






Sandy Brown Jazz Facebook and Mailing List

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Two Ears Three Eyes

The Laurence Hobgood Trio


Photographer Brian O'Connor went to this gig at the Watermill Jazz Club, Betchworth Park Golf Club, Dorking, Surrey on the 10th April where pianist Laurence Hobgood was joined by Matthew Clohesy (bass) and Jared Schonig (drums).


Jared Schonig

Jared Schonig


Brian says: 'I've only listened to Laurence Hobgood previously when he was with Kurt Elling.  This turned out to be one of the best gigs of the year, and this year has so far been very good. Apart from superb originals his arrangements of sometimes hackneyed standards brought them to life in entirely new ways.  A knockout.


Matthew Clohesy


Gerard Sands was also at the gig and adds:

'Prior to this gig all I knew about Laurence Hobgood was his long-standing position as arranger and accompanist of choice for singer Kurt Elling, so I was expecting an evening of polite renditions of the great American songbook, just right for the headache I had been fighting off all day. Well I was wrong about that!

With bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jared Schoning, who was often moved to shout from the sheer exuberance of playing, Hobgood has a piano trio of rare intensity: I was at times reminded of Brad Mehldau, but Hobgood has his own style. The material played came mostly from his 2016 album Honor Thy Fathers, which is a selection of tributes to men who have influenced his musical career - he was quick to say that an Honor Thy Mothers project is also in the works'.


Matthew Clohesy


'There were a couple of excellent Hobgood originals, dedicated to his father and to his former teacher Salvatore Martirano, but also a selection of covers from the repertoires of Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. The trio’s take on Wichita Lineman, dedicated to its composer Jimmy Webb, was particularly enthralling'.

'There were also previews of material from the forthcoming new album Tesseterra (meaning the fabric of the world) which was recorded with a string quartet. There was no string quartet tonight but they weren’t missed, at least not until I can hear the album to compare. I’m looking forward to that. Thanks are due once again to the Watermill Jazz Club in Dorking for arranging such a splendid evening’s entertainment.

And the headache ? Forgotten within minutes, such are the healing powers of jazz!'




Laurence Hobgood

Laurence Hobgood


All pictures © Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz

Click here for Laurence Hobgood playing piano with Kurt Elling on My Foolish Heart.

Brian O'Connor's hard back book, packed with hundreds of photographs is now available. It can be obtained from Brian at: Brian O’Connor, 48 Sarel Way, Horley, Surrey RH6 8EW. Tel: 01293 774171. Email: The book is priced at £25 plus £4.95 post and packing (UK).




Departure Lounge


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:



Cecil Taylor


Cecil Taylor - Classically trained legendary American pianist raised in New York City who was one of the pioneers of Free Jazz. Bartók and Stockhausen influenced his music. Interested in dance, he collaborated with dancer Dianne McIntyre in the late 70s and early 80s and in 1979 he also composed and played the music for a twelve-minute ballet "Tetra Stomp: Eatin' Rain in Space". Taylor was a poet, citing Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Amiri Baraka as major influences. He often integrated his poems into his musical performances, and they frequently appear in the liner notes of his albums. The CD Chinampas, released by Leo Records in 1987, is a recording of Taylor reciting several of his poems, accompanying himself on percussion (click here to sample). Click here for a video of Cecil Taylor playing from Ron Mann's 1981 free jazz documentary "Imagine the Sound".





Diz Disley and Bill Reid



Bill Reid - In the 1950s Bill Reid played double bass (and sometimes tuba) with Terry Lightfoot’s New Orleans Jazzmen, with a 17-year-old Ginger Baker on drums for a while, and Ken Colyer, before joining the Alex Welsh Band, one of Britain’s best jazz groups of the time. His full obituary in The Telegraph requires you to sign in to a free account with the paper that allows you to read one full article a week.






Nathan Davis



Nathan Davis - American saxophonist born in Kansas who played in Paris during the 1960s but returned to the United States in 1969 to become the founding director of the jazz studies program at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1970 he started an annual jazz seminar that continues today; its first edition featured performances and discussions from prominent musicians, including the drummer Art Blakey. (Mr. Davis had played in Blakey’s band in Europe.) He also founded the university’s Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives and its International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame. In the 1980s he formed the Paris Reunion Band, a midsize ensemble featuring heavyweight musicians who had played on the Paris scene in the 1960s, among them the saxophonist Joe Henderson and Mr. Shaw. Click here for a video of Nathan Davis playing I Thought About You.







Bob Dorough



Bob Dorough - American bebop and cool jazz vocalist, pianist, composer, songwriter, arranger and producer. He worked with Miles Davis, Blossom Dearie and his adventurous style influenced Mose Allison. During World War II, he participated in Army bands as pianist, clarinetist, saxophonist, and arranger. After that, he attended North Texas State University, where he studied composition and piano. Miles Davis liked the album, and in 1962 when Columbia Records asked Davis to make a Christmas record, he sought out Dorough to provide lyrics and vocals. Blue Xmas appeared on the compilation album Jingle Bell Jazz. During that session Dorough recorded another song for Davis, "Nothing Like You," which appeared a few years later at the end of the Sorcerer album, making Dorough one of the few musicians with a vocal performance on a Miles Davis record. Click here to listen to Bob singing The Yardbird Suite.



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.




Some Recent Releases



Dave Manington's Riff Raff - Challenger Deep

Dinosaur - Wonder Trail

Alyn Cosker - KPF

Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet - Brother Raymond

Enemy - Enemy

Ivo Neame - Moksha

Martin Speake - Intention

Trio HLK - Standard Time

Eyebrow - Strata



Peter Erskine and the Dr Um Band - On Call

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet - Clockworks

Bill Frisell - Music Is

The Nels Cline 4 - Currents, Constellations

Dafnis Prieto Big Band - Back To The Sunset



Kritjan Randalu - Absence

Joshua Trinidad - In November



Chet Baker - Three Classic Albums Plus

So Much, So Quickley - British Modern Jazz Pianists 1948 - 1962

The Tubby Hayes Quartet - A Little Workout - Live At The Little Theatre

Nina Simone - The Colpix Singles

Coleman Hawkins - The Middle Years : Essential Cuts 1939 - 1949






Dave Manington's Riff Raff - Challenger Deep
(Loop Records) - Released: 11th May 2018

Brigitte Beraha (vocals); Tomas Challenger (tenor saxophone); Ivo Neame (Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Hammond organ); Rob Updegraff (guitar); Dave Manington (double bass); Tim Giles (drums, percussion).

Dave Maningtons Riff Raff Challenger Deep


Long awaited follow-up to Riff Raff's 2013 album Hullabaloo although Dave Manington has been playing on many releases with other people's albums. Dave says of the title track: 'Challenger Deep is the deepest ocean trench in the world, nearly 11km down  at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. This is more of a mood piece, with the low bass riff and slow otherworldly melody trying to capture the strange beauty and calm of the deep ocean. Imagine all the weird fish and creatures unknown to science swimming past in the darkness. Tom was very pleased I wanted to name the tune and album after him, but it has nothing to do with his deep saxophone playing or the fact that he’s deeply challenging – although perhaps the HMS Challenger was named after one of his ancestors?!' The starting point for the music is collective improvisation but compositionally (and all the compositions are by Dave Manington) it draws on as wide a range of styles as possible - folk, electronic music and contemporary classical influences are added to the mix with complex jazz harmonies and rhythms.

Details and Samples : Video of Dr Octopus live : Video of Challenger Deep live : Website and details of May and June tour dates






Dinosaur - Wonder Trail
(Edition Records) - Released: 4th May - 2018

Laura Jurd (trumpet); Elliot Galvin (synths); Conor Chaplin (electric bass); Corrie Dick (drums)

Dinosaur Wonder Trail


After their highly praised 2016 release Together As One (given 5 stars in The Guardian's review), their second album 'plunders synth-pop of the 1980s for a new sound. But this is not gratuitous borrowing, or any kind of hipsterish, retro post-modernism. For one, these are very current sounds (Broen's an indie band with similar reference points that comes up in conversation. And for two, Jurd and Galvin use the poptastic-ness of the keyboard sound as a sort of tin opener to get into all kinds of serious musical areas - improvisation, vocodered strangeness, strutting rockishness, bucolic folkiness. But, as with any proper stylistic amalgam, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.' (Edition). This is an engaging and outstandingly produced album that deserves to be heard.

Details and Samples : Video for Quiet Thunder : Website and details of May, June and July tour dates.







Alyn Cosker - KPF
(NYLA Recordings) - Released: 7th March 2018

Alyn Cosker (drums, piano, percussion) and on various tracks - Steve Hamilton (keys and piano); Marcio Doctor (percussion); Davie Dunsmuir (electric guitar); Colin Cunningham (electric bass); Fraser Anderson (vocals); Adam Bulley (mandolin); Jim Cosker (piano); Laurence Cottle (electric bass); Fiona Hamilton (fiddle); Kirsty Johnson (accordion); Rachel Lightbody (vocals); Joe Locke (vibes); Tommy Smith (tenor saxophone); Paul Towndrow (alto saxophone); Chas Mackenzie (acoustic guitar); Eddi Reader (vocals).

Alyn Cosker KPF



Born in Ayr, Scottish drummer Alyn Cosker is the resident drummer with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. 'KPF is the follow up to Alyn's critically acclaimed album Lyn's Une. It features the drummer's core band of Steve Hamilton on keys, Davie Dunsmuir on guitar and Colin Cunningham on bass alongside a host of world renowned musicians/artists such as Tommy Smith, Joe Locke, Laurence Cottle and Eddi Reader and many more. Alyn's compositions reflect his love for artists such as Sting, Peter Gabriel, Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorius and Michael McGoldrick in a groove based album with challenging yet accessible time signatures. (Release information). Alyn explains that the track and album title KPF is named after his fiancee, Kirsty: 'Her grandad played a special part in her life (along with the rest of the family). When they were kids he had a car that contained KPF in the registration plate. He would always state it stood for 'Kirsty's Pretty Face'. Couldn't agree more'.

Details and Samples : Video from live album launch :






Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet - Brother Raymond
(Lyte Records) - Released: 18th May 2018

Jean Toussaint (saxophone, composer); Byron Wallen (trumpet); Mark Kavuma (trumpet); Dennis Rollins (trombone); Tom Dunnett (trombone); Tom Harrison (saxophone); Jason Rebello (piano); Andrew McCormack (piano); Ashley Henry (piano); Daniel Casimir (bass); Alec Dankworth (bass); Shane Forbes (drums); Troy Miller (drums); Mark Mondesir (drums); Williams Cumberbatch Perez (percussion).

Jean Toussaint Brother Raymond



'Brother Raymond, Jean Toussaint's eleventh album as leader, is made up of eleven original compositions. The Grammy award-winning saxophonist, composer and jazz educator recorded the music following extensive touring in 2015 and 2016 with his All-Star Roots & Herbs project that commemorated 25 years of the passing of his mentor, Art Blakey .... Like Blakey, Toussaint is renowned for nurturing new talent and the album features the Young Lions line up of his band as well as his All-Star Sextet. ... The title track, written for Toussaint's eldest brother who passed away in 2015, draws upon the influences of Toussaint's favourite composers, 'Duke' Ellington and Wayne Shorter ...' (Release information).

Details : Video of Brother Raymond from Roots & Herbs live gig :






Enemy - Enemy
(Edition Records) - Released: 25th May 2018

Peter Eldh (bass); Kit Downes (piano); James Maddren (drums)

Enemy album



'ENEMY is the vital new piano trio featuring bassist Frans Petter Eldh, pianist Kit Downes and drummer James Maddren. Described as ‘fiercely intense’ and ‘beautifully intricate’, ENEMY spotlights three brilliant and creative musical minds committed to the exploration of new worlds of performance and music: total music, with each musician contributing equally in an authentic aesthetic display. Each member of ENEMY has achieved personal recognition in the jazz and wider music world (including a Mercury Music Award Nomination, ECHO Jazz nomination, multiple Downbeat Critics Poll nominations and a BBC Jazz Award). “We want this music to be fierce, vital and to have and give energy – and to do so whilst never sacrificing its intricacy and its integrity.” (ENEMY). ''ENEMY's music fills me with a mix of wonder and fear. The compositions on this, their debut release as a trio, are fiendishly complex, but they're also exhilarating and infectious ... This is a formidable release from three musicians at the top of their game.' (Thomas Rees in Jazzwise).

Details and Samples : Brief introductory taste : Video of Prospect of K live :






Ivo Neame - Moksha
(Edition Records) - Released: 23rd March 2018

Ivo Neame (piano, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, Hammond, nord lead); George Crowley (tenor saxophone); Tom Farmer (bass); James Maddren (drums).

Ivo Neame Moksha



'An innately gifted pianist, composer and bandleader, Ivo Neame has demonstrated over the last decade that he is a musician of world-class quality with a powerful spirit of adventure and exploration. He is by any measure an original and a risk-taker. With Moksha, he returns to Edition Records with an album that will define a new era for him in his already illustrious career. With a new band, a greater use of electronic keyboards and an edgier rhythmical groove and band interplay, Neame has produced his most remarkable and boldest musical statement to date'. (Edition Records). 'Here there's a shift in direction that's not so much about style as a relaxation of the kind of tricky, airtight grooves at the core of Neame's compositions on previous CDs ...As ith Neame's recordings so far, it's a grower, but this one gets you hooked sooner rather than later. It's arguably his strongest and certainly his most directly lyric music so far'. (Selwyn Harris in Jazzwise).

Details and Samples : Video : Video of Vegetarians : Brief video of live performance of Laika : Review ****






Martin Speake - Intention
(Ubuntu Music) - Released: 20th April 2018

Martin Speake (alto saxophone); Ethan Iverson (piano); Fred Thomas (bass); James Maddren (drums).

Martin Speake Intention


'In 1990 alto saxophonist Martin Speake and Ethan Iverson met at Banff Centre for The Arts in Canada where they studied for a month with Steve Coleman, Rufus Reid, Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Cowell, Kenny Wheeler and many others. This began their musical relationship and they kept in touch for a while as Ethan moved to New York and eventually became the musical director/pianist with Mark Morris Dance Company. Since then he has toured with world with the critically acclaimed trio The Bad Plus and recently has recorded with Ron Carter and Lee Konitz amongst others. They eventually lost touch after Banff and both pursued their separate paths in music. Martin decided to contact Ethan after a ten year gap and they began playing together again and in 2002 performed as a duo in the UK and Scotland and released the cd My Ideal (Basho Records), a ballad album of standards. Now 15 years later they have recorded a quartet album of Martin's compositions for release on the Ubuntu Music record label in 2018. This band also features bassist Fred Thomas and drummer James Maddren'. (Release information).

Details and Samples : Article / Review by Robin Kidson Celebrating Martin Speake : Video of band playing Intention :






Trio HLK - Standard Time
(Ubuntu Music) - Released: 11th May 2018

Rich Harrold (piano, keyboards); Ant Law (eight-string guitar); Richard Kass (drums); Dame Evelyn Glennie (percussion); Steve Lehman (alto saxophone).

Trio HLK Standard Time



'The debut album for Trio HLK is driven by a single artistic concept- to deconstruct classics tunes and drastically rework them using contemporary classical compositional techniques. The album's two special guests emphasise the drawing together of these two languages- Alto Saxophonist Steve Lehman, one of the most important artists in contemporary Jazz, and Evelyn Glennie, the world's leading classical percussionist. This conceptual vision permeates every aspect of the album, right down to the artwork. The cover depicts a deconstructed clock whose components reference elements of each track. The result is a fully realised stand-alone artwork'. (Release information). 'Standard Time is coded language. The sources for five of the eight pieces on the British ensemble's Ubuntu records debut are well known standards, but they are comprehensively dissected and extrapolated in order to lead the listener into 'distant territory by a familiar thread.....'. (Kevin Le Gendre in Jazzwise).

Details and Samples : Video : Further Details :






American Releases

We are indebted to Filipe Freitas for details of many American releases . Filipe runs JazzTrail in New York City and to photographer Clara Pereira. They feature album and concert coverage, press releases and press kits, album covers and biographies. They are valued contacts for Sandy Brown Jazz in the United States. You can read more about Filipe and Clara in their 'Tea Break' item with us if you click here.



Peter Erskine And The Dr. Um Band - On Call
(Fuzzy Music) - Released: 6th April 2018

Bob Sheppard (saxophone); John Beasley (keyboards); Benjamin Shepherd (electric bass); Peter Erskine (drums).

Peter Erskine and the Dr Um Band On Call


'Consummate drummer Peter Erskine, a former Weather Report member, has always shown an inclination for electric jazz fusion. Commanding The Dr. Um Band with metrical depth and angular vision, he releases On Call, a new double album on his own music label ... disc one includes brand new material recorded in the studio whereas disc two encapsulates previously recorded tunes performed live in Occhiobello, Italy. All the members of the quartet ... penned compositions for the studio session ... The live session, filled with enthusiasm and excitement, opens with a couple of tunes by Erskine: the cerebral, blues-based “Hipnotherapy” and the funk-inflected “Hawaii Bathing Suit”. The former thrives with woody bass grooves decorated with wha-wha effects and concordant drumming, while the latter is a playful avant fusion that captivates through gorgeous unisons, apt improvisations, and an effusive drumming with strong Latin accents. After the soaringly atmospheric first section, Henry Mancini’s “Dreamville” combines bossa nova rhythms with balladic tones, whose silky textures result from mixing light funk, smooth jazz, and malleable R&B elements ... With the live recording surpassing the studio session, On Call sparks with tremendous rhythmic engagement as it shows Erskine’s productive modus operandi'.

Details and Samples : Full JazzTrail Review :






Patrick Zimmerli Quartet - Clockworks
(Songlines Recordings) - Released: 6th April 2018

Patrick Zimmerli (tenor saxophone); Ethan Iverson (piano); Chris Tordini (bass); John Hollenbeck (drums).

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet Clockworks



'Saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli penned an hour-length suite of new music to be played by the members of his quartet: former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, vigorous bassist Chris Tordini, and spectacular drummer John Hollenbeck. The album, Clockworks, is a breathtaking foray into metrics, temporal expressions and variations, cadenced movements, percolating polyrhythms, and mind-boggling patterns that make Zimmerli’s music highly contemporary, memorable, and unique ... This quartet of modernists allows us to discover new ways of looking at jazz through oblique angles and groundbreaking perspectives. The inviolable authenticity of the group is remarkable, and Clockworks is a preciousness that simply shines with a levitational synergy'.

Details and Samples : Full JazzTrail Review :






Bill Frisell - Music Is
(Okeh) - Released: 16th March 2018

Bill Frisell (electric and acoustic guitars, loops, ukulele, bass, music boxes).

Bill Frisell Music Is


'This is guitar master Bill Frisell’s first solo album since Ghost Town was released on Nonesuch 20 years ago. “Playing ‘solo’ is always a challenge,” Frisell says. “For me, music has all along been so much about playing with other people. Having a conversation. Call and response. Playing all by myself is a trip. I really have to change the way I think. In preparation for this recording I played for a week at The Stone in New York. Each night I attempted new music that I'd never played before. I was purposely trying to keep myself a little off balance. Uncomfortable. Unsure. I didn't want to fall back on things that I knew were safe. My hope was to continue this process right on into the studio. I didn't want to have things be all planned out beforehand.” All the compositions on Music IS were composed by Frisell, some are brand-new - Change in the Air, Thankful, What Do You Want, Miss You and Go Happy Lucky - others are solo adaptions of now classic original compositions Frisell has previously recorded - In Line, Rambler, Ron Carter, Pretty Stars, Monica Jane, and The Pioneers. The focus of Music IS is on the telling of musical stories from Frisell’s original and inimitable perspective. The end result is Frisell at his most distilled and fully realised'. (Release information). 'Frisell is an inveterate drifter whose musicality leans toward introspection rather than spectacle. He knows how to sculpt a candid melody and make it the pounding heart of a song. Very personal, this is a novelty act of pure Frisellian atmospheres'. (JazzTrail).

Details and Samples : Full JazzTraill Review : Video of Bill Frisell playing Rambler from the album.





The Nels Cline 4 - Currents, Constellations
(Blue Note) - Released: 13th April 2018

Nels Cline (guitar); Julian Lage (guitar); Scott Colley (bass); Tom Rainey (drums).

Nels Cline 4 Currents constellations


'Following the release of Nels Cline's expansive Blue Note debut Lovers which found him fronting a 23-piece ensemble arranged by Michael Leonhart, the Wilco guitarist pares it down to The Nels Cline 4 for his latest project Currents, Constellations. The album features Cline alongside fellow guitarist and frequent collaborator Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Tom Rainey on a set of seven Cline originals plus one piece by composer Carla Bley. It's a showcase of Cline's versatility that veers from rollicking rock energy to avant-garde explorations to ballads of serene beauty'. (Release information). 'Whether digging into glam pop songs, avant-jazz routines with punk attitude, or sophisticated garage-rock episodes, impetuous guitarist Nels Cline, a creative powerhouse in small group settings, always sounds unique and fetching ... There’s a deep sense of understanding among the musicians and that reflects positively in their nimble moves and sounds. The levels of abstraction in Currents, Constellations makes it more indisputably alluring than any recent project led by Cline, who has here one of his best albums since the masterpiece New Monastery'. (JazzTrail).

Details and Samples : Full JazzTrail Review : Video of Imperfect 10 : Video of Temporarily :






Dafnis Prieto Big Band - Back To The Sunset
(Dafnison Music) - Released: 5th April 2018

Mike Rodriguez, Nathan Eklund, Alex Sipiagin, Josh Deutsch (trumpet/flugelhorn); Roman Filiu, Michael Thomas, Peter Apfelbaum, Joel Fraham, Chris Cheek (reeds); Tim Albright, Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik (trombone); Jeff Nelson (bass trombone); Manuel Valera (piano); Ricky Rodriguez (bass); Roberto Quintero (percussion); Dafnis Prieto (drums) + Guests – Brian Lynch (trumpet); Henry Threadgill (alto sax); Steve Coleman (alto sax).

Dafnis Prieto Big Band Back To The Sunset



'Although I’m not a staunch fan of Latin jazz, there are a few records that stand out, whether due to its bold arrangements, vivid harmonic colors, or distinctive contagious rhythms and energy. This is the case of Back To The Sunset, a kaleidoscopic big band record by Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto, who employs a roster of reed titans and rhythm experts to shape up nine original compositions, each of them dedicated to influential mentors/musicians ..... The most grandiose moment of the record comes with the title track, coinciding with the second guest appearance. Acclaimed alto saxophonist Henry Threadgill kills it with a sensitive, sharp solo, beautifully developed outside the standard patterns while driving this ballad into his own musical realms. The tune was dedicated to him and genial pianist Andrew Hill .... Encompassing the worlds of Latin and jazz music, this 75-minute fusion tour is full-blooded and predominantly spirited'. (JazzTraill).

Details and Samples : Full JazzTraill Review : Video :





European Releases


Kristjan Randalu - Absence
(ECM) - Released: 6th April 2018

Kristjan Randalu (piano); Ben Monder (guitar); Markku Ounaskari (drums).

Kristjan Randalu - Absence



'With a knack for texture and improvisation, as well as a huge capacity to understand form and structure, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, a former student of John Taylor and Django Bates, establishes his own depth-charged dramatic stance on his ECM debut record, Absence. The work comprises nine rigorously structured originals for trio, combining jazz, avant-garde, classical, and modern composition with a carefully cultivated touch. Filling out the band are American guitarist Ben Monder, a mainstay in the New York scene, and Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari, whose temperate chops qualify in perfection to tone up the bottom layer ... This trio, whose members are no imitators but builders of their own language, embraces discipline and finds coherence in the assemblage of their musical aesthetics'.

Details and Samples : Full JazzTrail Review :







Joshua Trinidad - In November
(RareNoise) - Released: 23rd March 2018

Joshua Trinidad (trumpet); Jacob Young (guitars); Stale Liavik Solberg (drums).

Joshua Trinidad In November



'Joshua Trinidad, a virtuosic trumpeter based in Denver, joins forces with a distinctive Norwegian rhythm section composed of guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Stale Liavik Solberg. Boasting an entrancing sound, this bass-less trio gave the best treatment to Trinidad’s compositions ... Modest and reverent, the bandleader shapes the title track as a dim-lighted ballad suffused with aching pensiveness. He and his trio partners envelop us in the type of harmonious atmosphere that dominates the record, and the sensation is that we are hearing Enrico Rava exchanging points of view with John Abercrombie or Robert Fripp ... Brimming with endless enchantment, these are keen compositions we can easily relate to. Furthermore, the artists involved in this project have a special chemistry, delivering from the heart every time they are called to intervene'. 

Details and Samples : Full JazzTrail Review :








Chet Baker - Three Classic Albums Plus (2 CDs)
(Avid) - Released: 3rd November 2017

Chet Baker (trumpet); Herbie Mann (fulgelhorn); Marchello Boschi (alto sax); Bobby Jaspar (tenor sax, flute); Johnny Griffin (tenor sax); Pepper Adams, Gino Marinacci (baritone sax); Al Haig, Bill Evans, Amadeo Tommasi, Piero Umillani (piano); Franco Chiari (vibes); Kenny Burrell, Rene Thomas, Enzo Grillani (guitar); Paul Chambers, Benoit Quersin, Berto Pisano (bass); Connie Kay, Philly Joe Jones, Daniel Humair, Ralf Ferraro (drums) plus strings.

Chet Baker Three Classic Albums Plus


'Recorded between 1958 and 1962, AVID Jazz continues with its Three Classic albums plus series with a re-mastered 2CD release from Chet Baker, complete with original artwork and liner notes. 'In New York'; 'Chet'; 'Chet Is Back' plus three tracks from 'I Soliti Ignoti (Big Deal On Madonna Street)' (featuring the music of Piero Umiliani) Late 50s early 60s Chet at his best with three classic selections which find the trumpeter in the company of a cavalcade of jazz big hitters. And they don't come much bigger than tenor sax supremo Johnny Griffin who blows hard alongside Chet, Paul Chambers on bass, and Al Haig on piano on our first album 'In New York'. For 'Chet' our hero is joined by.. get this line up... Herbie Mann, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Philly Jo Jones and Connie Kay.... Over to Italy for our last two sessions, 'Chet Is Back' finds our man with superb Belgian sax and flute man Bobby Jaspar alongside some of the finest Italian jazz players of the era. Our last three tracks feature the film soundtrack music of Piero Umiliani where Chet is joined by the great composer himself for selections from I Soliti Ignoti (Big Deal On Madonna Street)'. (Release information). ' ... an essential and timeless document of one of the finest trumpeters in jazz'. (Aly Shipton in Jazzwise).

Details :





So Much, So Quickley - British Modern Jazz Pianists 1948 - 1962
(Acrobat) - Released: 3rd March 2018

Various musicians including George Shearing, Dill Jones, Stan Tracey, Harry South, Dudley Morre and Bill Le Sage.

So Much So Quickly album


'To those British jazzmen coming to terms with the Bebop revolution of the Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk during the late 1940s, there was one, hugely imposing barrier; harmony. The new, supersonic melodies and off-kilter rhythms were one thing but underpinning these and forming the very bedrock of the music was a very novel, very definite methodology, a new system of chordal building blocks that challenged the understanding of all but the most patient. Inevitably, it fell to the pianists those with a map of keyboard harmony laid out before them to try and discover just what were these new, at times mind-bogglingly complex routes towards the cutting edge. So Much, So Quickly charts the rise and development of British modern jazz piano during the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, charting a journey which moves from the hip stylings of the young George Shearing and Ralph Sharon through the classic Hard Bop of Terry Shannon, the wilful, unpredictable originality of Stan Tracey and onto the post-Bill Evans brilliance of Gordon Beck. Over 24 tracks, the music moves from bop to cool, from soul-jazz to free-improv and beyond, taking in the work of well-known names Dudley Moore, Victor Feldman and Harry South, together with rarities from such overlooked contributors as Damian Robinson, Stan Jones and Norman Stenfalt. Featuring a host of other famous British modern jazz icons Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Phil Seamen et al this release also includes an extensive booklet essay by award-winning saxophonist Simon Spillett, period photographs and three previously unissued tracks'. (Release information).

Details and Samples :




The Tubby Hayes Quartet - A Little Workout - Live At The Little Theatre
(Acrobat) - Released: 2nd February 2018

Tubby Hayes (tenor sax, flute); Mike Pyne (piano); Ron Mathewson (bass); Tony Levin (drums).

Tubby Hayes A Little Workout


'When the Tubby Hayes and his new quartet alighted on the Little Theatre in Rochester, Kent for two evenings' worth of performances during the winter/spring of 1966/67 both the leader and the bands music were in a period of transition. Drawing equal inspiration from both the recent innovations of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and the energy of his new, young and adventurous sidemen, Hayes was to turn these to-all-intents-and-purposes typical provincial club nights into definitive manifesto statements of his contemporary musical ambitions. Luckily, excerpts from both these performances were captured on tape. Occasionally bootlegged, the recordings made on these two gigs half a century ago illustrate everything the saxophonist had learned, experienced and pioneered up to that moment; from the blistering paint-off-the-walls bebop of Walkin, a solo to rank alongside any of John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins extended forays from the Sixties, through to the astonishing emotional denouement of a seventeen-minute deconstruction of Dear Johnny B. - this isn't Hayes merely on form; this is him on fire! This new Acrobat CD is the first ever release of these recordings and comes packaged with rare, hitherto unpublished photographs and a fascinating booklet note by award-winning saxophonist Simon Spillett author of The Long Shadow of The Little Giant: The Life, Work and Legacy of Tubby Hayes'. (Release information). 'Despite a few technical reservations surrounding these private recordings ... the collective performance by all concerned is nothing less than staggering ...' (Roy Carr in Jazzwise).

Details and Samples :





Nina Simone - The Colpix Singles (2 CDs)
(Stateside) - Released: 23rd February 2018

Nina Simone (vocals, piano) plus various personnel.

Nina Simone The Colpix Singles



'A child virtuoso whose piano recitals were local events, Nina Simone started her musical career as a classically trained pianist, strongly rooted in the works of Bach, and became a singer almost by accident. The rest is history. Her recordings, over the next five decades, earned her cult status, critical acclaim and reached the top of the charts on many occasions. Between 1959 and 1964, she was signed to Colpix, who relinquished all creative control to her, including the choice of material. Her voice at her finest, she worked her way through jazz and blues standards like ‘The Work Song’ and ‘I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, folk tunes like ‘Little Liza Jane’ and ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, her very own ‘Blackbird’ and ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’. This compilation gathers all the singles released by Colpix with their original edits, in mono*. *7 of these edits available for the first time since first released in the 1960s. (Release information). 'Traversing jazz, blues, folk, classical and more, this is an unmissable collection by one of the 20th century's most influential artists'. (Peter Quinn In Jazzwise).

Details and Samples : Details and Background Information :





Coleman Hawkins - The Middle Years : Essential Cuts 1939 - 1949 (4 CD box set)
(JSP) - Released: 6th April 2018

Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone) with various personnel.

Coleman Hawkins The Middle Years



'In 1939, after 5 years in Europe, the Hawk returned to the US, not as a faded star, but as a soaring monarch. This was a classic period for the tenor legend Coleman Hawkins. After he returned form Europe in 1939 he embarked on a stunningly creative and successful recording career both under his own name and with other bandleaders. The recording of Body & Soul was a particular milestone as well-a true gold plated jazz classic which is of course included here. This collection charts his progress through the decade, when he dazzled audiences and fellow musicians alike'. (Release information).

Details :






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Jazz Talks: Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Norwich Areas


Surrey and around:

Mike Forbes is a member of the Woking Area U3A and active in the Jazz Appreciation Group. He ha’s given presentations to other groups and is willing to travel in Surrey and surrounding areas to give his talks, which consist of music tracks with commentaries. Rather than focus on a particular jazz group or soloist he takes a theme and follows it chronologically from early to modern jazz. Topics include: Women in Jazz; Is There Less Improvisation In Jazz Than We Think?; Twelve Bars; Time After Time; Best of Buddies; and, as an exception to the rule, Unexpected Satchmo. No payment required although a little towards cost of travel would be appreciated. Just a CD player (and PA if it’s a very big room) is all that’s needed.




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


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:

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