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November 2020

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Anoushka Nanguy

Congratulations to young trombonist and singer Anoushka Nanguy who is in her fourth year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and who recieved the Scottish 'Rising Star' Jazz Award this year. Anoushka from East Inverness plays with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, her own band Astronax and others. Click here for a video compiled during Covid-19 of Anoushka as part of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra playing Joe Locke's arrangement of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Going To Come with vocals by Kenny Washington.

 

 

The Queen's Birthday Honours 2020

Roy Williams

Many congratulations to trombonist Roy Williams who has been awarded the OBE for services to Jazz.

[Click here to listen to Roy playing Like Someone In Love with the Eddie Thompson Trio]

 

Roy Williams

 

Jazz FM and former KISS presenter Jez Nelson has also been awarded an MBE in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours awards. Jez is the founder of production company Somethin’ Else and is recognised for services to radio.

Also Station Director of Premier Gospel, presenter and Gospel singer Muyiwa Olarewaju picks up an OBE for his contribution to Gospel music.

PPL chairman John Smith also becomes an OBE. “I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded an OBE for services to music," said Smith. "Over the past 50 years, I have dedicated my career to working in, working for, and representing a sector that I truly love and have a great deal of passion for. It has been a privilege to represent the rights of musicians and performers around the world on so many occasions and to work with so many wonderfully talented colleagues down through the decades. I would like to thank them all for their support. "Covid has dealt a nasty blow to the careers of so many in the music sector and I will continue – along with my colleagues at PPL, FIM and other organisations – to do all I can to safeguard their future prospects and the future of music.”

The Birthday Honours are usually awarded as part of the Queen's Official Birthday celebrations during the month of June but were delayed until the Autumn because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The honours list was released on 10 October 2020.

 

 

 

The EFG London Jazz Festival 2020

EFG London Jazz Festival poster

 

This year's Festival had been scheduled to take place over ten days between November 13th and November 22nd with a number of socially distanced intimate recitals and virtual online concerts.

In view of the Prime Minister's statement on 31st October announcing a month's 'lockdown' for England, the arrangements for the Festival are uncertain at the time this site 'went to press'.

For news about the Festival, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Songs From Life For African Caribbean Elders - 14th November

Juliet Kelly is presenting this interesting project to be streamed on 14th November at 2.00 pm. Songs From Life is a new programme for African Caribbean elders, produced by Juliet KellySerious and Three Shades Creative. It focuses on providing music for reminiscence. Singer Juliet Kelly takes her audience through a variety of songs, exploring African and Caribbean cultural history through music.

Click here for a video clip of Juliet singing Many Rivers To Cross from the project ....

Songs from Life has been created by Nubian Life and Serious. Nubian Life is a charity providing adult social care to African Caribbean elders. Serious and Nubian Life will be working together to take Songs From Life to the widest audience nationally. Songs From Life launches in the EFG London Jazz Festival with this free stream at 2.00 pm on Saturday 14 November. After that, it will be made available free at serious.org.uk/SongsFromLife to all carers and care homes across the UK.

...... and click here for a video clip from My Baby Just Cares For Me.

'Songs From Life is a therapeutic singing for the brain activity, aimed at people from African Caribbean communities; particularly those living with dementia. In a time of social isolation and closure of day centres; due to COVID19; it is vital that older people are engaged in cognitive and stimulating activities. Songs From Life forms part of Nubian Life's Reminiscence in Action online platform.' (Jazz Browne, CEO, Nubian Life)

 

 

 

Sold - Louis Armstrong's Trumpet - Worth It?

Louis Armstrong Selmer trumpet

 

Last month we reported that Christie's Auction House in New York was selling a Selmer Model 19 trumpet which was custom made for Louis in 1948 and given to a family friend in 1953. The trumpet is made of gold plated brass, is inscribed with his nickname "Satchmo" and accompanied by a signed cotton handkerchief. Click here for a short video about the trumpet.

It is likely that the Selmer trumpet was used for Louis Armstrong's The California Concerts, a live album which was recorded in 1951. The trumpet was expected to reach between $60,000 and $80,000 when it went on sale on October the 14th. It actually sold for $275,000!

As 'devil's advocate' I have talked with friends before about why people set so much nostalgic value on instruments. At the end of the day, this is just a trumpet. It was only special when it was being played by Louis Armstrong and the way that he played it. Does it really hold w ithin it some innate spirit that Louis left behind? If someone else plays it, they don't become Satchmo ........

 

 

 

 

 

Video Juke Box

*Click on the pictures to watch the videos..... or Click on the picture of the Juke Box and see what comes up.

 

 

Juke Box

 

 

Tom Green Septet Kaleidoscope

 

Here is the Tom Green Septet playing Kaleidoscope from their 2020 album Tipping Point. [Tom Green (trombone & compositions); James Davison (trumpet / flugelhorn); Tommy Andrews (alto / soprano saxophones); Sam Miles (tenor saxophone); Sam James (piano); Misha Mullov-Abbado (double bass); Scott Chapman (drums)], reminding us of just what we are missing and the talent of so many of our musicians. This is probably my favourite track from a very enjoyable album - a memorable theme, nicely constructed arrangement and fine solos from Misha and Tom with Scott driving the tune to its close.

 

 

 

Whistlers Jug Band

 

 

I'm not sure whether Jug Bands are still around but here's Whistler's Jug Band playing Foldin' Bed filmed for a Fox Movietone newsreel (date not given). Click here for the lyrics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua Elcock Big Band The Last Hill

 

 

 

This really enjoyable video from the Joshua Elcock Big Band playing The Last Hill by Dan Brown was recorded and videod in sections and I think works really well.

 

 

 

 

Anachronic Jazz band

 

 

My thanks to Peter Maguire who suggested that I check out the French Anachronic Jazz Band. Here they are with their version of Around 'Bout Midnight filmed during La grande parade du jazz, Nice, on 16th July 1977. [Parrick Artero (trumpet); Daniel Barda (trombone); Marc Richard (clarinet); André Villeger (tenor sax); Daniel Huck (vocals, clarinet, alto sax); Philippe Baudoin (piano); Gérard Gervois (brass bass); Patrick Diaz (banjo); Bernard Laye (drums)]

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Hamilton Between The Lines

 

 

 

This is the video for Scottish pianist Steve Hamilton's track Ae Fond Kiss from his new album Between The Lines [See Recent Releases]

 

 

 

 

 

Toddler and band

 

 

This video, from a post on Classic FM's site, first appeared in 2018, but as the notes say: 'Bravo to this animated young musician. As Beethoven once said, to play a wrong note is insignificant – but to play without passion is inexcusable…'. One year old Boone Anthony had no inhibitions stepping out and joining the Where Ya At Brass Band. (Scroll down the Classic FM page to play the video).

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNT band Cherokee

 

 

Here's a fine swinging version of Ray Noble's arrangement of Cherokee by the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band featuring trumpeter Sean Jones and the alto sax of Howi Dietz.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Billie movie poster

Billie Holiday Movies Coming Our Way

 

A few months ago we reported on a new film about Billie Holiday - The United States vs Billie Holiday - starring Andra Day as Billie, and at the time we were unable to give a date when it would be released in the UK. The release date for UK cinemas has now been announced for March 12th, 2021, and I hope the Covid 19 situation will have improved by then for people to go and see it - make a note in your diary. The movie is inspired by the novel Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari and stars Andra Day as Billie Holiday. 'The legendary Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe, all while federal agents targeted her with an undercover sting operation aimed at prohibiting her from singing the controversial song, Strange Fruit, a timeless call to action that would herald the modern Civil Rights Movement.' 

But before then, another film about Billie Holiday - Billie - is released in selected cinemas this month and scheduled for streaming in December. This is more of a documentary - 'In 1971, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl set out to write the definitive biography of Billie Holiday. Over 8 years, she tracked down and tape-recorded over 200 hours of interviews with the extraordinary characters that populated the iconic singer's short, tumultuous life. However, Linda's book was never finished and the tapes never heard -- until now.' Directed by James Erskine, the film is 'Raw, emotional and brutally honest, Billie is filled with never-before-heard interviews from musical greats like Charles Mingus, Tony Bennett, Sylvia Syms and Count Basie.'

Click here for the Trailer. Click here for a review from Variety.

 

 

 

 

Jazz FM Awards 2020

Postponed from earlier this year, the Jazz FM Awards took place on 27th October in a closed ceremony live-streamed from Ronnie Scott's Club in London. The Awards this year have been sponsored by OANDA. The various awards presented are sponsored by further agencies. The full ceremony is available to watch here.

Yazz Ahmed

 

Hosted by comedian Marcus Brigstock, the categegories and nominees are shown below with the awrad winners shown in bold type:

Blues Act Of The Year: Keb' Mo'; Gary Clark Jr.; Jon Cleary
Breakthrough Act Of The Year: Rosie Turton; Xhosa Cole; Yelfris Valdés
Instrumentalist Of The Year: Binker Golding; Mark Kavuma; Shirley Tetteh
International Act Of The Year: Branford Marsalis; Charles Lloyd; Kris Davis
Soul Act Of The Year: Anderson .Paak; Celeste; Philip Bailey
The Digital Award: Chiminyo; Jacob Collier; Jazz re:freshed
The Innovation Award: Jazz re:freshed; Moses Boyd; Sarathy Korwar
Vocalist Of The Year: Alice Zawadzki; Georgia Cécile; Judi Jackson
PRS For Music Jazz Act Of The Year: Joe Armon-Jones; SEED Ensemble; Yazz Ahmed

 

Yazz Ahmed

[Listen to 2857 from Yazz's Polyhymnia album - click here]


Venue Of The Year: Band on the Wall, Manchester; Church of Sound; Love Supreme Festival; Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club; The Verdict, Brighton; Vortex, Dalston
Album Of The Year: Yazz Ahmed (Polyhymnia); Ashley Henry (Beautiful Vinyl Hunter); SEED Ensemble (Drift Glass); Jazzmeia Horn (Love and Liberation); Binker Golding (Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers); Branford Marsalis Quartet (The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul)
Impact Award: Norah Jones
Gold Award: Orphy Robinson
PPL Lifetime Achievement Award: Herbie Hancock

 

 

 

 

 

Count Basie Through His Own Eyes

Count Basie Through His Own Eyes

 

We reported on this documentary film a couple of months ago and its availability as a download. However, on 23rd October it was shown on television (BBC Four) and so is still available to watch free for just over a month on iPlayer.

Reviewing the programme in The Observer, Euan Ferguson wrote: 'Some rather marvellous insights in the life of Billy James 'Count' Basie snuck unheralded on to our screens, courtesy of a remarkable little film, Through His Own Eyes, from Jeremy Marre.'

'It told the story of the boy from Red Bank, New Jersey, who went on to become one of the most famous people on the planet, yet who managed to keep his private life remarkably unrevealed .... Above all, we got a measure of the man, a bugger for gambling and the ladies yet unfailingly unpompous, controlling the band with a whip hand, yet a subtle and steady one, immensely popular with all his musicians to the end, I could have watched eight hours of this.'

Click here for a short preview. Click here. to watch it on iPlayer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Grid

Our version of the popular panel game 'Only Connect'. The task is to sort the 16 words in the grid below into four groups of four connected words. Some words might seem to fall into more than one group, but there is only one complete solution.

 

 

Stan Getz

 

Zoot Sims

Hot Lips
Black Bottom

Astrud Gilberto

Slow Drag
The Lion
Serge Chaloff
Bossa Nova
Herbie Steward
Antônio Carlos Jobim
Camel Walk
Stan Getz
Sweets
Lockjaw
Ipanema
Cake Walk

 

Click here for the answers

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Jazz book

The Art Of Jazz by Alyn Shipton

Explore the influence of jazz on the pictorial arts!

A new book by well-respected journalist, writer and broadcaster Alyn Shipton was published in October. 'Jazz: energetic, spontaneous, vital. For over a century, this powerful musical style has been synonymous with innovation. It has also inspired sheet music, album art, concert posters, promotional photography, and many standalone works of fine art, leaving an indelible mark on visual arts as a whole.

Each chapter in this vivid, compelling collection covers a key period in jazz history. From the earliest days of the twentieth century to the world of postmodern jazz today, The Art of Jazz presents over 300 images and a suite of authoritative essays on jazz imagery. Perfect for music lovers, art history buffs, students of design, and anyone whose coffee table needs a little jazzing up.'

Click here for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish Jazz Awards 2020

Fergus McCreadie

 

The Scottish Jazz Awards are produced as an independent event by the organisers of Glasgow Jazz Festival and supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland. The Awards celebrate Scotland’s vibrant jazz scene and recognise its standout musical talent. A panel of industry specialists, including media, press and promoters from across the UK, carefully selected the shortlists for five coveted awards. The winners were announced during a virtual ceremony on Sunday 18th October which included special guests and exclusive live performances.​ The award winners were:

Rising Star Award – Anoushka Nanguy
Best Vocalist Award – Kitti
Best Instrumentalist Award – Fergus McCreadie

Fergus McCreadie

Click here for a video of Fergus McCreadie's Trio playing just before 'lockdown' this year.


Best Band Award – corto.alto
Best Album Award – corto.alto Live From 435 Vols 1, 2 & 3
Services To Scottish Jazz AwardRob Adams
Lifetime Achievement – Ken Mathieson

 

You can watch the Virtual Ceremony back on the Glasgow Jazz Festival My Player channel.

 

 

 

 

The British Jazz Awards 2020British Jazz Awards 1987

Sadly, it has been decided not to proceed with the 2020 edition planned for this Autumn.

It has been announced that the award, organised with Big Bear Music, "is always based on a musician’s performances in the year in question. To make an award in a year which gave pitifully few opportunities for musicians to perform would be a mockery of the integrity of these well respected awards."

"2020 will be the first time that the awards have not taken place in a history dating back to the launch, by Humphrey Lyttelton and Benny Green, in 1987."

"We look forward to the awards resuming in 2021 - follow this Facebook page for news of nominations and online voting."

 

 

 

 

 

On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ....

[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 (recommended). 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].

 

Censoring Ellington

'An odd instance of the thirteen (Friday or not) superstition in the Ellington make-up comes to mind. It was the year that he was writing, with the collaboration of Henry Nemo and others, the entire score for the Cotton Club show. He had completed twelve songs, but he decided that unless he turned out thirteen, it wouldn't be lucky.'Duke Ellington Broadcast

 

'So he composed a thirteenth song .... It was called I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart.'

'Speaking of song titles reminds me of the amusing go-around we experienced with radio censorship about fifteen years ago, when we were celebrating Duke's tenth anniversary in music business (and his birthday) with a matinée party at the Cotton Club and a special broadcast to England through the facilities of the BBC.'

'We had cleared the numbers for the broadcast in customary fashion when this worried girl assistant 'phoned from the station. They were in serious doubt about, it seemed, about the propriety of two of the titles scheduled, Hip Chick and Dinah's In A Jam.'

Click here to listen to Duke Ellington's Orchestra playing Dinah's In A Jam.

'My efforts to assure her (and the censor board) that the Hip in the first title had nothing to do with hips, and that the jam version of Dinah was not even remotely connected with pregnancy were unavailing. Since both were instrumental numbers, we switched the titles to more innocuous ones and played them anyway.'

'I've often wondered since about the condition of the wigs of the busy radio censors if they ever learned the truth about the significance of such recorded titles as The Skrontch, T.T. on Toast, Warm Valley, and others.'

Click here to listen to T.T. On Toast.

Ned E. Williams (Downbeat Magazine) in Hear Me Talkin' To Ya edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

 

 

 

 

Take Two

Here's That Rainy Day

 

[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 (recommended). 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].

Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke's 1953 standard Here's That Rainy Day started out in the Broadway musical Carnival In Carnival In Flanders posterFlanders. Since then, it has been sung, played and recorded countless times.

Carnival in Flanders was based on a 1934/35 French film La Kermesse Héroïque set in 1616. A review reads: 'A classic of French pre-War cinema, Carnival in Flanders by the great Jacques Feyder is the most devious and cruel satire you might ever come across. Set in early 17th-century Flanders, which had previously been under Spanish rule, the story opens with shots of a busy village preparing for the yearly carnival when the news breaks that the Spanish Duke Olivares and his troops plan to stay in town. At the prospect of looting and raping militia men, the flabby mayor of the well-to-do provincial nest called Boom volunteers, as he puts it, "to sacrifice" himself: his plan to pretend he has just passed away, thus hoping to convince Olivares to bypass the mourning town, is eagerly adopted by his timorous menfolk. But while the males go about staging the mock funeral, the women, led by the mayor's energetic wife, take over the action and, in turn, decide to "sacrifice" themselves to the soldiers......although you should not expect a formidably audacious experiment in film-making, you will be treated a deliciously immoral chamber piece on sexual banter and other not so politically correct behaviour.'

Largely funded by Bing Crosby, the stage production ran into various difficulties. Wikipedia tells us: 'Carnival in Flanders opened on September 8, 1953 at the New Century Theatre, where it ran for only six performances. ... Critics were enchanted by Oliver Smith's sets and Lucinda Ballard's costumes, inspired by Brueghel paintings, and (Dolores) Gray's lively performance, but universally panned every other aspect of the production. In his review for The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote "As an actress [Dolores Gray] is authoritative enough to bring down the house with some of the maudlin songs... In the version prepared for the stage by Preston Sturges it is laborious and banal... As usual, the theatre has lavished a lot of wealth and talent on this hokum. Lucinda Ballard has dressed everybody to the nines... Although Oliver Smith's scenery is cluttered and rather desperate, there is certainly a lot of it"... If remembered at all, it is primarily as the source of the Van Heusen-Burke standard "Here's That Rainy Day."

 

 

Maybe I should have saved those left over dreams
Funny, but here's that rainy day
Here's that rainy day they told me about
And I laughed at the thought that it might turn out this way

 

Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1959, but rather than share the lyrics from Dolores Gray or Frank's version, we can watch Sammy Davis Jr sing the song in this video from a concert in Germany in 1969 where he couples the song with My Funny Valentine. It reminds us of just how good he was - click here.

 

Jon Faddis

 

 

The two versions chosen for this month feature quite different instrumental interpretations of the song. The first is by trumpeter John Faddis playing here with the Dizzy Gillespie Sextet in 1977. The event is from Norman Granz's Jazz In Montreaux.

Faddis is using a trumpet similar to the one Gillespie used. Apparently in 1953, Dizzy threw a party for his wife at Snookie's, a club in Manhattan, where his trumpet's bell got bent upward in an accident, but he liked the sound so much he had a special trumpet made with a 45 degree raised bell and it became his trademark. I think this is an outstanding interpretation of the song and there are notes here that 'give me the shivers'. Click here.

 

 

 

 

Where is that worn out wish that I threw aside
After it brought my lover near
It's funny how love becomes a cold rainy day
Funny, that rainy day is here

 

Take two is by the saxophonist Archie Shepp with Horace Parlan (piano), Wayne Dockery (bass) and Steve Mc Craven (drums) Archie Shepp videofrom 1994. The notes that go with the video tell the story:

'Last year (2019) on June 25 The New York Times Magazine listed Archie Sheep among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. So many musicians mourned the fiery destruction of their mastertape recordings.'

'We are so glad to have this beautiful memory in our archive. .... The day Archie Shepp entered our little studio in Amsterdam back in 1994 we were aware of the fact that he was, beside a legendary saxophone player, also a pianist, a poet, and a playwright. And during his early years in New York, he participated in Amiri Baraka’s circle and recorded with major figures, such as Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane. We were so exited. Also because Horace Parlan was playing along, known for his contributions to some Charles Mingus recordings.'

'Archie Shepp was a bit grumpy that early morning of the TV recording and wanted a chair. He acted like an old man but he was only 57. Nevertheless his playing had a great impact on us. His sweet, breathy tone could suddenly turn into a massive sound with heavy vibrato and little yelps in the upper register. So tasteful...... in May ... Archie Shepp will be celebrating his 83rd birthday'. Click here.

 


Funny how love becomes a cold rainy day
Funny, that rainy day is here

 

 

 

 

Rez Abassi's

Django-shift

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 (recommended). 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].

 

Rez AbASSI

 

Until the late sixties, jazz at its highest level was an all-American affair. Of course, musicians from other countries played jazz but the technical masters, the innovators, the stars were almost exclusively American. There were some exceptions, the greatest of which, arguably, came in the unlikely form of a Belgian born, French speaking Romani guitarist with only two working fingers on his left hand – Django Reinhardt, who, in a relatively short life became the acknowledged master of the jazz guitar. Mercer Ellington described him as “the most creative jazz musician to originate anywhere outside the USA”. “It was upsetting to hear a man who was a foreigner swing like that!” said Doc Cheatham.

Django Reinhardt died in 1953 but his legacy lives on and many of today’s jazz (and rock) guitarists owe him some sort of debt. And now, one of the most interesting of contemporary guitarists, Rez Abbasi, has released a whole album dedicated to Reinhardt’s music. It’s called Django-shift and it’s out now on the ever excellent Whirlwind label. More of Django-shift later but, first, it’s worth taking a closer look at the extraordinary life and work of the master himself.

Jean Baptiste (Django) Reinhardt was born in 1910 in a caravan in the Belgian town of Liverchies near the French border. (“Django” Django Reinhardtis a Romani dialect name for “Jean”). His father was an entertainer and musician in travelling shows. Django learned to play both violin and guitar and became something of a child prodigy good enough to perform in Parisian cafés and music halls from a very early age. Living in Romani encampments on the outskirts of Paris, he developed such a reputation on guitar in his late teens that British bandleader, Jack Hylton, signed him up to play with his band in England. However, just before he was due to travel to London in 1928, the caravan in which he was living with his wife caught fire. Django was seriously injured and, at one time, it looked like his leg might have to be amputated. A less serious injury but one potentially ruinous to his burgeoning career was to his left, fretting hand. Two fingers were crippled leaving him with only the remaining two as usable. Determined not to let this disability prevent him playing the guitar, he spent the next two years teaching himself how to play again developing an innovative and dazzling technique which more than compensated for his physical limitations.

 

Django Reinhardt

 

Django began playing again in the early 1930s utilising his new skills and becoming increasingly influenced by the jazz of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and guitarist Eddie Lang. In 1931, he met Stéphane Grappelli, a French pianist and violinist also interested in jazz and they started playing together. At around the same time, a group of French students formed the Hot Club de Hot Club QuintetteFrance to promote jazz, particularly the New Orleans traditional “hot” variety. In 1934, the Club started presenting concerts featuring a new group formed by Grappelli and Reinhardt which became known as the Quintette du Hot Club de France. The Quintette’s line up of violin (Grappelli), lead guitar (Reinhardt), two rhythm guitars and bass was revolutionary. The music, too, was something new – jazz with a distinctive European feel, driven by the astonishing virtuosity of Grappelli and Reinhardt.

Between 1934 and the outbreak of war in 1939, the Quintette toured and recorded prolifically, sometimes with visiting American jazz musicians. Its music became internationally popular and Django Reinhardt became a bona fide star. Even in America, which had become resistant to the idea that any non-American could play proper jazz, he was recognised as something special – an innovator on his instrument to be enjoyed, studied and eventually copied. A whole generation of US guitarists including the likes of Charlie Byrd and Barney Kessel have testified to his influence.

The music he played introduced a new palette to jazz with a range of influences from Romani folk songs to European light classical music, Spanish flamenco, and French chanson. His technique was breathtaking. According to Whitney Balliett, he “turned the songs he played inside out, decorating them with his winging vibrato, his pouring runs and glisses, his weaving and ducking single-note lines, and his sudden chordal tremolos and off-beat explosions. All these sounds were controlled by his adventurous rhythmic sense.”

Click here for some old film of Django playing J'attendrai Swing with Grappelli and the Quintette in 1939, illustrating his two-fingered technique on the frets.

 

Django was touring with the Quintette in England at the outbreak of war in 1939. Grappelli stayed in England but Django returned to France where he survived the war, playing, recording, wandering, always somehow keeping clear of the Germans. After the war, he was reunited with Grappelli and recorded with a revived Quintette. In 1946, he briefly toured in America with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra but his reception was disappointing. Back in France, he experimented with amplification and bop. He died of a stroke in Fontainebleau in France in 1953 at the age of only 43.

Click here for a post-war recording of Django in all his unadorned glory playing St. Louis Blues.


 
Django Reinhardt’s fame as a performer is well established. What is less well known is that he was also a prolific composer and it is this facet of his talent that Rez Abbasi explores in Django-shift. He plays versions of seven Reinhardt compositions on the album  plus two numbers which Django often played but did not write. But if hard core fans are expecting Django pieces to be played like Django, then they are going to be disappointed for Abbasi has done something much more interesting. His objective, as set out in the liner notes is:  

“... to recontextualise Django’s music in a personal way, as opposed to presenting it in a conventional style. My aim was to honour Django’s compositional character while infusing it with my own compositional voice. Thus I kept his melodies intact, utilising them to serve as the foundational identity for each piece. From there, I had the freedom to add my own voice through harmonic content, rhythmical cadences, meter changes, textural development as well as improvisation. I also composed introductions, transitions, solo sections, and applied a diversity of grooves.”

Click here for a video trailer for the album.
rEZ aBASSI tRIO

Abbasi plays fretted and fretless acoustic guitars throughout and is accompanied by Neil Alexander on organ, electronics and synthesisers, and Michael Sarin on drums. Quintette du Hot Club de France it is not! Django-shift is 55 year old Abbasi’s 15th album as a leader so he is confident and experienced enough to allow his colleagues their head. Neil Alexander, in particular, is given plenty of space to shine, and one of the many appealing features of the album is the contrast between his sometimes otherworldly electronic sounds and Abbasi’s acoustic guitar.

Rez Abbasi’s approach is clear right from the very first track of the album, an arrangement of Django’s Diminishing. The theme is played relatively straight, but is then followed by solos, riffs and improvisations which are a long way from anything Django might have envisaged. The rhythms are complex and there is an engaging spikiness to the piece. It’s not surprising to learn that, when working on Django-shift, Abbasi was also studying the music of Thelonious Monk, and there is something very Monkian about Diminishing.

Although living and working in the US, Abbasi was actually born in Karachi. He moved to America with his family when he was four. An important influence on much of his work has been the music of the sub-continent and he has worked extensively with other US jazz musicians of Indian or Pakistani heritage such as Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer. That Indian influence comes into play on the second track of Django-shift, Swing 42. As with Diminishing, the beat is intricate, driven along by Michael Sarin’s drumming, and changes as the piece develops. It includes rock beats and a rhythm derived from the Carnatic music of Southern India. The solo work by Abbasi and Alexander is particularly but attractively free. 

 

It is even freer in this live version from January 2019 - click here.

Heavy Artillery has a simpler and stronger beat with a very bluesy vibe. Alexander’s solo moves through various phases and is full of ideas. Abbasi’s solo has a Spanish tinge and gradually hits a most compelling groove.

Django’s Castle is a wistful ballad on which Abbasi plays a fretless guitar. This has a beguiling sound, almost like a sitar at times. Beguiling sounds of an electronic but still warm nature also emerge from Alexander’s keyboards. The whole piece is kept together by Sarin’s soft, unobtrusive drumming. Click here for an impressionistic video of Django’s Castle which nicely captures the spirit of the piece.

Anniversary Song is one of the non-Django compositions on the album. It was originally written by the nineteenth century Romanian Rez AbaSSI dJANGO sHIFTcomposer, Ion Ivanovici and was one of Django’s favourite tunes. Abbasi gives it a very contemporary makeover with, once again, a complex and changing rhythm. “I wanted to capture the forward momentum of classic swing”, says Abbasi, “but not with a straightfour-to-the-floor feel”. Even so, a foot tapping groove is generated. All through the album, Abbasi demonstrates his complete mastery of the guitar but he excels himself on Anniversary Song with some quite breathtaking virtuosic playing.

More virtuosity is shown by all three musicians on Cavalerie which begins on a gentle dreamy shuffle but soon shifts to a swinging, contagious beat. Solos from Abbasi and Alexander sound like conversations which move seamlessly from one topic to another. Douce Ambiance was played by Django as an upbeat, very French sounding foot tapper. Abbasi turns it into a ballad with touches of both Spain and the blues. Hungaria is a particularly catchy fast tempo Django tune which Abbasi plays relatively straight albeit with some characteristic rhythmic complexities. Michael Sarin takes a short drum solo.

The best is left to last. The final track is Kurt Weill’s September Song, another favourite of Django. Alexander sets up an atmospheric electronic wash – “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” - against which Abbasi plays the most splendid fretless guitar. He sticks pretty close to the familiar tune but adorns it with all sorts of frills and trills, weaving in and out of the notes, teasing, swirling, with just a touch of the East, achieving a sort of heartfelt intensity. It is a most satisfying reworking of an old standard.

Rez Abbasi says that “approaching Django’s music from the mindset of a composer helped me to resonate with his compositions on a profound level. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that when playing this music with the trio, it feels like our own”. What Abbasi has done is not pastiche or impersonation and it’s more than just an update for a contemporary audience; it’s nothing less than a comprehensive taking apart of Django’s compositions then a putting back together with added bits. The result is far more Abbasi than Reinhardt. That’s not a criticism, far from it, for Abbasi has achieved something joyous, original and utterly absorbing, made and played with consummate skill by all concerned. It is also a marvellous advertisement for Django Reinhardt’s music, reminding the listener of what a great tunesmith he was and making us want to return, and appreciate even more, the originals. Django would have loved it. 

 

Click here for Rez Abbasi’s website. Click here for details and samples of the album.

 

Rez Abassi

 

 

 

Jazz Quiz

Brain Workout

This month we challenge you with 15 questions to exercise your little grey cells. How many can you work out?

 

Who is this

 

Click here for the Jazz Quiz.

 

 

 

 

Two Ears Three Eyes

Dave O'Higgins

 

Photographer Brian O'Connor took this picture of saxophonist Dave O'Higgins in 2015.

 

Dave O'Higgins

 

Dave O'Higgins is usually a busy musician. He toured and recorded with the Brubeck family on The Brubecks Play Brubeck project celebrating Dave Brubeck's centennial this year and he recently released the His 'n' Hers album with his wife, Judith.

But going back to an album that he recorded with guitarist Rob Luft, here is a video of I'll Wait And Pray from the album O'Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane released in October last year - click on the picture.

 

Dave O'Higgins video

 

Main picture © Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz. 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: info@imagesofjazz.com. The book is priced at £25 plus £4.95 post and packing (UK).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah Tea Pot

Tea Break

 

[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 (recommended). 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].

 

Tom Smith

 

Tom Smith

 

 

Tom Smith plays saxophone, clarinet and flute and even before graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in 2019 he was making a strong impression on the UK jazz scene, but then he did start playing jazz when he was eight.

Hailing from London, Tom has been the lead alto in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra until this year (2020).  He was twice finalist of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year programme both in 2014 and 2016, and in 2018 he won the Peter Whittingham Tom SmithDevelopment Award from Help Musicians UK.

In 2018 he was also the only UK musician selected to join the international Generations Festival Big Band in Switzerland, where he performed with Grammy Award winner Maria Schneider and American saxophonist and bandleader Donny McCaslin. He has performed and toured around the world including playing at festivals and venues such as the BBC Proms (Royal Albert Hall), Love Supreme Festival, Jazzinec Festival (Czech Republic), Generations Festival (Switzerland) and the Luxembourg ‘Blues ‘n Jazz Rallye’ and his arrangements have been broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night show and for Beverley Knight’s BK25 live orchestral album, performed at the Royal Festival Hall. Tom’s big band compositions and arrangements have also been performed by the London Gay Big Band, NYJO, and the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra where he currently plays lead alto.

As part of other bands Tom plays with Billy Marrows’ Octet; Jonny Mansfield’s eleven piece band Elftet; and the trio Gecko.

Tom has been taking part in a documentary film directed by Phil Nash – How To Make A Living In Jazz. A challenging documentary in itself, the Coronavirus epidemic has added another dimension to the subject. The initial publicity for the now deferred release of the film said: ‘Join 3 brilliant young musicians as they take the leap from full-time education to making a living doing what they love and have worked so hard for: Playing Jazz. They have been practicing and performing for up to 8 hours a day for more than half of their young lives  .... Hear from many of the leading lights in Jazz as they describe an art form in constant change. From Bandleaders, club owners, record labels and multi award winning artists, the art form has rarely been opened up for all to see in this behind the scenes, access all areas, film....’

 

 

In the meanwhile Gecko with Tom (saxophone and bass clarinet), Jonny Mansfield (vibes) and Will Barry (piano), are releasing their self-titled debut album this month (6th November).

Judging from my advanced review copy, the album is well worth hearing. Opening with Flamenco Carlos, the solo saxophone soon Tom Smith Gecko albumrides over a full soundscape from vibes and piano so that the absence of bass and drums goes unnoticed. Tom’s bass clarinet brings a mellow touch, opening and waltzing throughout the catchy John and Alex with a nice solo from Will Barry’s piano. House In The Clouds, another catchy, swinging number floats high with the piano beneath and with a touch of fun from the sax.

 

(Click here to listen to House In The Clouds).

 

The romantic Every Day Epic is another catchy track and Anthem moves from solo piano to interaction between each of this empathetic trio. As you would expect from the title, Steampunk Tendencies ups the tempo a bit with the piano providing the underlying riff for the vibes and sax. Curiosity takes us down a different path; Jonny Mansfield’s vibes set the atmospheric mood for the saxophone’s lyrical theme and then pick up a lovely solo above the piano with Tom and following on with more good vibesrations – a track worth feeling. The next track has solo bass clarinet carrying a hesitant beginning that is built upon by the others and the title Bluish explains why this comes across more hopeful than a blues. We leave on Viking Dance, a gentle lyrical theme – did Vikings start dancing slowly and then trip the light fantastic to vibes, piano and sax? Possibly not, but they might have done if they had heard Gecko.

This is a very enjoyable album with some inviting themes and some fine solos and arrangements. It is well worth discovering and is available to download from Bandcamp when it is released on 6th November or you can pre-order here.

 

 

 

Tom stopped by for a Tea Break

Hi Tom, good to see you. It’s hard to believe that when we saw each other in February the London City Big Band was playing at the Spice of Life, that I was sitting well within reach of the sax section and in the break the bar was packed with mask-less people who hadn’t heard of ‘social distancing’ and the ‘rule of six’.  And here we are eight months later in this crazy Covid world ........Can I get you a tea or coffee?

Hey Ian, lovely to see you too! Wow that has to be one of the last gigs before lockdown, what a thought…I think a coffee for me please.

 

Milk and sugar?

I’ll have it black, au natural!

 

How have you been keeping? I notice you have kept busy. I particularly like your ‘House Party sax quartet’ video. Was that difficult to co-ordinate? How did you do it?

Well it’s been an uncertain time to put it mildly…on the whole I’ve been keeping well, I think like most musicians I’ve had ups and downs with motivation, but generally I’ve found that when I have a project or aim to keep me busy I feel a lot more fulfilled and ‘viable’. So I’ve tried to fill this year with fun projects, mostly doing remote recording from home, and one of those was giving myself the challenge of Tom Smith Hoyse Party videowriting, recording and mixing a saxophone quartet track – it was a real journey, I learned a lot by doing it!

Click here for the House Party video.

The first step was of course writing and arranging the piece for saxophone quartet, not a line up I had tried before. It was a fascinating experience to write something that could swing without a regular jazz rhythm section, I had to put myself in the shoes of a drummer to make sure there was enough going on to keep it buoyant.

For recording the song I wanted to do it in such a way that it didn’t feel like I was just recording myself alone in a room, I wanted it to feel like I was part of a real band playing all live in a room together! I set up a metronome part so that as I recorded each saxophone I could be sure to stay in perfect time, and I then recorded incredibly rough single take versions of each part. This meant that when I went to record final versions of each saxophone part I could actually place myself inside the ensemble – this made the whole experience a lot more organic! It also made it very easy to go back and edit any mistakes I made (believe me I had to fix a fair few things!)…Then learning the video editing process was a whole extra challenge on top, but I enjoyed learning how to do this, I think it’s going to be a very valuable skill for the future.

Putting together this track pushed me to finally form a big band and record a remotely recorded song with them, which is something I’ve wanted to do for YEARS!

 

Another thing you have done in lockdown is that great Girl From Ipenema video with Mike Higgins, Ted Carrasco and Terence Collie. How did that come about?

Click here for the Girl From Ipenema video.

Terence Collie has been doing some pretty wonderful things over the lockdown, he’s put out a whole series of multitracked arrangements with a load of different musicians, and since gigs have become (sort of) possible, he’s worked so hard to put on live performances, having to navigate all the regulations and restrictions – hats off to him!!

I’ve performed with Terence a bunch of times at gigs that he’s organised and promoted in London, including a really fun duo concert at Café Yukari in Kew – a lovely intimate venue with a beautiful grand piano. I am very grateful he asked me to contribute to the music he has been putting together, and I’d keep a keen eye on whatever he does next, he always attracts massive audiences!

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra The Light That Shines

 

Have you been able to keep in touch with other musicians? Are people helping to support each other?

Yes, the community has really banded together this year, we’ve all been supporting each other and looking out for each other. Some musicians have been booking in jam sessions, some have been putting on gigs where possible within the rules, and there have been meet-ups and Zoom quizzes organised to make sure we don’t all go stir crazy.

As I mentioned earlier, the ability to do remote recording has been a really fantastic way to stay connected with my friends in a musical way. At the beginning of lockdown in April, the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra decided that we should do a remotely recorded album (‘The Light That Shines’, out now), and the experience of organising this and actually finally playing together again made me feel incredibly supported, and helped me feel connected to other musicians again.

Right now I am jumping on any opportunity to see my friends, see gigs, record music, etc. as I think we all need that experience of feeling supported and feeling connected to music.

 

 

Do you know what has happened to Philip Nash’s film that featured you ‘How To Make A Living In Jazz’? Has the release been put on hold because of Covid-19?

Yes, this has been a really fun project to be involved with! Philip has been talking to a whole host of jazz musicians from different backgrounds about how it is that the jazz life works, and how you can turn it into a career. I think this will give a lot of people a fantastic insight into the life of a working musician! It has also followed some of the projects and pieces of work I’ve been involved with over the last few years, including my debut album recording. Keep your eyes peeled, but I’m hoping it will be ready for release next year

It was initially set to be released this year, but with Covid-19 hitting when it did, the release got delayed. This has turned out to have a silver lining in that the documentary is now going to have a segment in it which deals with how musicians have had to react to the pandemic. We have recently filmed some more interviews and Philip has spoken to a whole host of UK musicians to hear their experiences, and it will be so interesting to hear how different musicians have reacted to the situation. The documentary is going to be all about how to remain adaptable and survive, so I think Philip is in the perfect position to record how we’ve all dealt with things!

I am also looking forward to recording and collaborating with some of the writing for the score for the documentary! It will feature myself, Benjamin Appiah and Christos Stylianides, friends of mine and fabulous musicians also featuring in the documentary, and piano maestro James Pearson.

Click here for an early trailer.

 

Chocolate brownies

 

 

 

Here, I’ve got some biscuits in the tin – Hob Nobs, chocolate digestives ... help yourself ... or my wife has made these sugar-free brownies ... I’d like to think brownies were named after Clifford Brown, or that Brownie had a particular hankering for them ... I guess we’ll never know.

Ooooh I couldn’t possibly resist homemade brownies, what a treat!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we talked last you suggested I check out Gecko and here we are with you releasing your first album on the Basho label. I’ve got the trailer here on YouTube. Who chose the name Gecko and where did that come from?

Yes I am thrilled to be finally getting this album out there! So I’ve always had a working title in my head for this band from the first moment I came up with the idea. I thought that as the band doesn’t have a drummer I could call it ‘Get Your Kit Off’….but on reflection I thought maybe we wouldn’t get any radio play with a name like that! Jonny Mansfield then had the fab idea of turning it into an acronym – GYKO, then that morphed into Gecko. I love that it also fits with the British tradition of naming jazz bands after animals (Polar Bear, Dinosaur…).  

Click here for the Gecko album trailer.

 

It is an unusual line-up with you on sax, Jonny Mansfield on vibes and Will Barry on piano, and congratulations on winning the Peter Whittingham Award that has helped you to fund it. I see that Marlbank has already given the album a nice review although they describe it as ‘chamber jazz’. In a way I think that’s a shame – do you think it is difficult putting labels on jazz as they can conjure preconceived ideas? I see you have described what the band play as ‘improvised music with an immensely joyful heart, dipping into the areas of folk music, percussive Latin music, free jazz and minimalism’ do you think that’s nearer the mark?

I agree with you, I think giving labels to music is fraught with danger – on the one hand it’s helpful to steer the right audience to music they’re likely to enjoy, but on the other it can create assumptions about the content and the character of the music in question. 'Chamber jazz' is a label that I think is loaded with negative connotations! It suggests the music is polite, mild-mannered, stuffy and suited only for concert halls or churches. I think Gecko is none of these things - this music is raw, unapologetic and filled with rhythm, dialogue and energy, I want people to experience it and give their own label to it! Just because there’s no drummer it doesn’t mean that the music is un-rhythmic.

 

Perhaps it is best if people can just listen and make up their own minds. Here you are in a great video from The Vortex playing This Is It – is that one of your compositions?

‘This Is It’ is a piece that I wrote inspired by the music of Kenny Garrett. He’s long been an influence on me and my playing, his saxophone sound and improvisations are stunning and fantastic, but his composing has also been a huge influence. He writes fantastically catchy melodies, they have such a perfect balance of simplicity and complexity, and they reach across so many genres. They are also perfectly built for improvising and creating dialogue within a band. ‘This Is It’, is my attempt to capture some of this simplicity, and the title is about being present in the moment and not being caught up in your head.

Click here for the video of Gecko and This Is It

 

Is the Gecko album just being released digitally at the moment?

Yes indeed, the album is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify from the 6th November, we may eventually release CDs but for the moment we are sticking to digital!

 

It is only a couple of years ago that you were selected to join the international Generations Festival Big Band in Switzerland, where you played with Grammy Award winner Maria Schneider. What was that experience like? 

That was a very unreal experience; the Generations Festival happens in the town of Frauenfeld in Switzerland bi-annually and brings together a big band of musicians under the age of 30 selected from around the world to perform at the final concert of the festival. Maria SchneiderWhen I took part there were phenomenal musicians from Germany, America, Japan, Spain, Italy, and all sorts of other countries, none of whom I’d met before! We spent a week rehearsing Maria’s music, working with Donny McCaslin’s band, and going to watch gigs every night of the week – Ari Hoenig’s trio played 4 nights in a row and I went to every single one! There were a lot of inspirational teachers and I felt completely rejuvenated musically by the experience.

 

Would you say that Maria has had an influence on your music?

She’s an influence unlike anyone else! I’ve loved her music ever since I got into big band and the more I have listened to it and studied it the more I’ve loved it and the more I’ve got out of it. She has mastered the art of writing moving and simple melodies, with a deceptive complexity which only reveals itself after 5 or 6 listens! I have often tried to imitate her orchestration in my own arrangements; her trombone writing in particular I think is some of the richest and most sonorous of the entire big band canon and I would love to be able to understand how she does it. I am also amazed at how she has managed to make an entire career out of being a jazz composer – she’s one of a small handful of musicians who have managed to make that work!

 

If she were to drop in for a Tea Break, what would you ask her?

I would ask her what she does when she doesn’t feel inspired. I would ask her if she’s got any strategies for forcing yourself to be inspired, I think learning how to get the juices flowing is perhaps the most important skill I could learn!

 

What plans have you got in mind for post-Covid? Presumably you would like to tour with Gecko and the album?

My main plan is to jump back into performing and playing gigs as enthusiastically as possible, I have missed it so much and it will make me feel normal again! I would love to tour the album with Gecko, we’ve had to cancel a number of gigs we were meant to play this October, but I am hoping to reschedule these and get on the road as soon as we are allowed. I also am thinking about some other projects I would like to pull together, other musicians I would like to play with, maybe some thoughts about what I might do for a second album…

 

How about your big band? Do you have any other plans for that?

Well I am hoping to record some more remotely co-ordinated songs with the big band. It’s very rare to have access to all of these fabulous musicians, so I am applying for funding to record some more music over the next year. I would also very much like to play some gigs with this band live and in person! 

Click here for Tom's Big Band playing a remote Swansea Uproar featuring Alex Garnett, Alex Ridout and Trevor Mires.

 

Do you fancy another quick coffee before you go, Tom? Perhaps you could choose something for us to listen to while I put the kettle on – something you have been listening to recently, perhaps? 

Go on, one more coffee for the road then. Here’s a fantastic live track by the Cannonball Adderley Sextet from the album ‘Nippon Soul’, recorded in Tokyo. Cannonball is one of my favourite saxophonists and this track is 4 minutes of absolutely storming playing, it makes me so so happy!

 

On its way (Click here).

Thanks for dropping by, Tom. Good luck with the album, it’s certainly one people should hear and enjoy. Let’s hope we can meet up again at one of your gigs soon.

 

Tom Smith

 

Click here for Tom's website. Click here for details of Tom's Gecko album.

 

 

Utah Tea Pot

 

 

 

 

Name The Tune

(Click on the picture for the answer)

 

Name The Tune

 

Click here for other challenges to 'Name The Tune'

 

 

 

Poetry and Jazz

Martin Pyne's

Spirits Of Absent Dancers

by Howard Lawes

 

[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 (recommended). 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 Pyne Spirits Of Absent Dancers

 

A recently released album by percussionist Martin Pyne called Spirits of Absent Dancers is essentially a lament for the loss of dance in particular and performance arts in general during the restrictions imposed in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Like many musicians and composers Pyne has turned his hand to a variety of musical styles ranging from freely improvised music Martin Pynethrough jazz to some really exquisite original song structures, but his 'day job' (in a manner of speaking) is working with contemporary dancers during training and rehearsal by providing arrangements that fit a particular piece of dance. 

Having graduated from Royal Holloway College, Pyne became interested in the three dimensional nature of ballet and attended the prestigious International Course for Choreographers and Composers which elucidated for him the special connection between music and dance and provided the basis to develop his skill as an accompanist. It is almost impossible to have dance without music of some sort (even deaf dancers who can't hear music can feel it) and for many the form of music is of great importance. Classical ballet is danced predominantly to classical music and while Martin Pyne does not restrict himself just to jazz he must be one of very few jazz musicians accompanying ballet dancers.

 

Martin Pyne

 

 

Jazz has influenced so many forms of ballet and dance and this article can only touch on some of them. Jazz itself in its early forms was very much accompanied by dance in the black communities of America, as we all know, but it is worth looking back for a moment to see how it has also been reflected in other dance forms.

Classical ballet has its roots in the royal palaces of France and Italy with the first ballet school established in the 17th century but it was perhaps in Russia during the 19th century with ballets such as Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake and music by Tchaikovsky that classical ballet achieved its zenith. The Russian, Sergei Diaghilev, established the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909, and not only brought ballet to a wider audience but also, with the help of some wonderful choreographers and composers, began to move away from the prescriptive regime of classical ballet.  Early examples from the Ballets Russes repertoire, both choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky included L'Apres-midi d'un Faune with music by Debussy and in complete contrast The Rite of Spring with music by Stravinsky.  In 1917 Eric Satie was commissioned to write the score for a ballet called Parade which epitomizes the avant-garde and verged on surrealism;  the music included elements of Dixieland jazz and ragtime while the costumes and sets were designed by Picasso. In this clip we cannot see the Dixieland element, but the avant-garde, the move away from classical ballet and the use of percussion is clear - click here.

Ballets Suedois, another ballet company based in Paris at the same time, performed a ballet called La Creation du Monde in 1923, with music by Darius Milhaud very much influenced by the jazz music Milhaud fell in love with during a visit to New York. During his all too short career Diaghilev worked with Russian emigré George Balanchine who subsequently travelled to America before having a huge impact on ballet and dance in the USA, and two women - Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois - who between them foundedBallet Russes poster the best ballet companies and schools in Great Britain, Ballet Rambert (now the Royal Ballet with a sister ballet company the Sadlers Wells Theatre Ballet). Diaghilev had started a revolution in dance at about the same time that Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington started a revolution music ... but none of this would have been possible without the contributions of the brilliant artists and composers of the time.  

Actually Ballets Russes had little impact in the USA where another type of dance revolution was taking place and this quickly spread to Europe and beyond.  At the turn of the century ragtime dancing had begun the process of change from formal to informal social dancing but the pace of change quickened considerably during the Jazz Age as dance bands playing jazz and then swing saw huge popularity.  Big bands such as those led by Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman and many others played to huge crowds of dancers in halls and clubs.

 

Stage shows on Broadway and in London and then on film had a huge impact with stars such as Fred Astaire and his sister Adele starring in Jerome Kern's 1922 show, Bunch and Judy and the 1924 Lady Be Good by George and Ira Gershwin. Around the same time many of today's ballroom dances such as the upbeat Charleston and Quickstep as well as the smoother Foxtrot were codified so that a consistent pattern of steps became established for teaching and competition. The Jazz Age was  truly a period of amazing dance music and song and one of the best composing / songwriting teams was George and Ira Gershwin. In 1924 Paul Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin to write a jazz concerto, Rhapsody in Blue, and although the piece included elements of ragtime and Afro-Cuban rhythms it was was not initially intended to be danced to which allowed Gershwin to incorporate frequent changes of tempo unlike another outstanding piece inspired by a journey, in the opposite direction to Darius Milhaud, to Paris and called An American in Paris composed in 1928.

Here's a clip from An American In Paris with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron - click here.

 

The social dance phenomenon continued from the 1920s into the 1930s driven by advances in music recording technology, theatre Gene Kelly Vera Ellnand films although economic recession at that time would take its toll.  The first talking picture was The Jazz Singer released in 1927, famous also for featuring the white Al Jolson playing a black jazz performer. In the 1930s, musical films such as Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers released in 1933 which had incredible sets influenced by German Expressionism; and the 1936 films Swing Time with music by Jerome Kern and outstanding dance from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Born To Dance with music by Cole Porter and star dancer Eleanor Powell, entertained the population during the Great Depression and provided material for the Great American Songbook which in its turn became an invaluable resource for jazz bands everywhere. 

Another 1936 Broadway musical, On Your Toes produced by Rodgers and Hart featured two ballets choreographed by George Balanchine called La Princesse Zenobia and Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Balanchine had also been busy founding the American School of Ballet.

 

Click here for a video of Vera-Ellen and Gene Kelly dancing Slaughter on Tenth Avenue from the 1948 movie On Your Toes.

 

In the UK, social dance was equally popular with London being very much the centre of the scene; featuring orchestras rather than bands such as Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra, Geraldo and his Orchestra and Victor Silvester and his Ballroom Orchestra and with dancers eagerly adopting American dance imports such as the Conga, Swing, Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug.  A very popular home-grown dance was the Lambeth Walk which featured in the 1937 musical, Me and My Girl with the song performed by Lupino Lane. The Lambeth Walk had the distinction of being the subject of a headline in The Times in October 1938: "While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk." (Nicholson, 2009).  The tune was covered by Duke Ellington in 1938 as the A side of a 78rpm record with A Prelude to a Kiss on the B side. 

Click here to listen to Duke Ellington and his Orchestra playing The Lambeth Walk.

 

In the ballroom Latin American music became popular with first the Rumba and later the Samba, Tango and Cha Cha Cha being recognised by the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing.  Film star Carmen Miranda, famous for extravagant headwear laden with fruit, had a lot to do with the popularity of these dances and although what her films portrayed was something of a pastiche of Latin American music and dance, this mattered little to her many fans in America and Europe.  Dancing continued throughout wartime Britain when London and other cities were being bombed, with one of the many casualties of bombing being a jazz and swing band called the West Indian Orchestra led by Ken "Snakehips" Johnson.  In a paper called  "The dancing front: dancing, morale, and the war effort in Britain during World War II" (2016), James Nott discusses how  dancing and dance halls proved to be vital in helping the British population endure the hardships and turmoil of war – providing an important means of escape, relaxation and sociability.

 A style of dance called 'jazz dance' became popular, particularly in Broadway musicals and night clubs in North America. While the style has origins that are contemporary with early jazz music and steps that also occur in tap dancing, the popularity of the style in later years was mainly due to a choreographer called Jack Cole who worked on Broadway and in films during three decades from 1940. He is perhaps most famous for his work with film stars such as Rita Haworth and Marilyn Monroe. As a theatrical dance style it became the foundation for very many stage and screen productions although in many cases there was no jazz music involved, however it was adopted by choreographer Alvin Ailey who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and reintroduced the jazz element. In 1963 the company performed with Duke Ellington and in 1974 Ailey created his dance tribute to Ellington using Ellington's own music.  In 1980 Alvin Ailey choreographed a classic jazz dance called Phases with the music from each of five sections composed by significant African American jazz musicians.  

Click here for a video of clips from Alvin Ailey's jazz-influenced ballet works.

 

Dance and jazz influences had been evolving. The choreography of Astaire and Kelly, of Hermes Pan and others moved on and it is worth just mentioning Bob Fosse whose choreography (All That Jazz, Sweet Charity) has become part of many forms of dance - he Snowboy UK Jazz Dance bookinfluenced Michael Jackson and you will still see the hunched shoulders, the hands to the hats and splayed hands in Strictly Come Dancing today. Here is a video from Fosse, The Musical where the dance is percussion-based at 1.46 minutes before moving into Bye Bye Bye Blackbird - click here.

 

In the UK a different style of jazz dance evolved and has been described in a book "From Jazz Funk and Fusion to Acid Jazz" by Mark 'Snowboy' Cotgrove.  The dance was called UK Jazz and involved individual dancers attempting increasingly complex and athletic moves egged on by their companions and with a DJ playing the music. Initially the mostly black dancers would dress in clothes reminiscent of the 1930s and the music was from the bebop era and beyond stretching into jazz fusion with bands such as Azymuth, Dizzy Gillespie with Chano Pozo and Herbie Hancock’s disco-funk. The most successful DJs included Gilles Peterson and Paul Murphy. The dance style soon reached a wider audience and diverged into various forms of street dance that have become extremely popular today.

Click here for a video documentary looking at UK Jazz Dance introduced by Snowboy (45 mins)..

 

The dance companies and schools founded by Rambert, de Valois and Balanchine have prospered and they in their turn have trained and inspired others to establish more dance companies. The style has come to be known as 'contemporary dance' and in some ways it has similarities to jazz music, although choreographers use a wide range of music from classical through avant garde to pop for their dances.  Contemporary dance places the emphasis on movement rather than narrative, following the lead of Balanchine and Frederick Ashton, and the dance pieces often use contrasting rhythms, directions, relationships and postures.  Some contemporary dance has been choreographed using jazz music either existing or specially written, examples from the New York City Ballet include NY Export Opus Jazz (1958) with music by Robert Prince and choreography by Jerome Robbins, Modern Jazz : Variants (1960) with music by Gunter Schuller and choreography by George Balanchine and Six Syncopated Movements (1993) with music by Wynton Marsalis and choreography by Peter Martins.  In the UK productions have included It's a Raggy Waltz (1986) with music by Dave Brubeck, arranged by Nicholas Carr and choreographed by Lucy Bethune, Four Elements (1990) with music by Gavin Bryars and choreography by Lucida Childs and Goat (2017) with music by Nina Simone and choreographed by Ben Duke.

 

Percussionist Martin Pyne's album is accompanied online with videos for two of the pieces. Click here for a video of Eidolon featuring choreography by Abigail Attard Montalto.

Spirits Of Absent Dancers album

Martin's album is a very personal statement, while some of the 19 pieces are titled with words for spells or enchantments, others are named with various words for spirits and ghosts. Pyne says, "As I was playing, each piece was in fact not a solo, but a duet with a dancer in my head. The album as a whole is dedicated to all the dancers I’ve ever played music for before, and there are also some specific personal dedications to people who have helped along my way". 

He goes on to say, "The majority of my professional life is spent working with dance: it’s something I love deeply, in all its many forms, and I remain in constant awe of the dedication of dancers. When the 2020 lockdown kicked in, I felt the loss of the time usually spent in dance studios very keenly. I found myself imagining a lone musician in a deserted theatre, like a kind of medicine man, throwing sounds into the space in an attempt to conjure up the ghosts of dancers no longer present, to breathe movement into stillness. I set about creating a sequence of music based around this idea, and ended up with this set of nineteen largely improvised short pieces."

"The music begins with a simple theme (played on Japanese temple bowls and toy piano) which featured in a ballet score I made for choreographer Mikaela Polley and Images Ballet Company for a tour in 2019."

Click here to listen to the opening track, Conjure.

 

"The pieces that follow include seven vibraphone solos, effectively variations on that original theme, and ten other percussion pieces, all played sitting at a small drum kit (though they don’t all sound like that). The sequence closes with a return to the toy piano. I’ve named the vibraphone pieces using various words for spells or enchantments, and the other pieces after words for spirits or ghosts. Much of the music is very quiet and mysterious but there are plenty of more energetic and playful episodes"

Here is a video of Banshee choreographed and performed by Jordan Ajadi - click here.

 

Having recorded the pieces Pyne continues, "The wonderful dance company, Yorke Dance Project, called me and we figured out a way of playing company class online, everyone scattered. The first one was very emotional for me I have to say. They have thrown their support behind this project and have been filming a number of dance films using music from the album." 

Listeners to Spirits of Absent Dancers will make of each track what they will, maybe they will imagine a dancer or maybe the music will suggest a colour or emotion, each piece differs from the next in terms of rhythm and type of percussion instrument, vibraphone (mallets and bow), drum kit (hands, sticks and brushes) and gamelan all used and while the music may not readily fall into a jazz category Pyne says "it could not have existed without jazz".

Exactly the same sentiment can be applied to dance with Tap, Jazz Dance, Ballroom, Latin, Broadway, UK jazz, Neoclassical ballet and Contemporary dance all indebted to jazz music and yet both jazz and dance continue to develop and grow. Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts at the BBC, said of dance, "Dance is merging traditional notions of high art and popular art, and attracting mixed, diverse, multi-generational audiences".  Exactly the same is happening in jazz and Martin Pyne's album is a poignant and eloquent link between two dynamic art forms, dance and jazz music, that have much in common.

Click here for details of the album Spirits Of Absent Dancers and to listen to the music : Click here for Martin Pyne's website

 


Martin Pyne Spirits of Absent Dancers

 

 

 

 

 


Directory of Alternative Musical Definitions

Zebra

African anmal that inspired the design of pedestrian crossings and piano keyboards.

 

Zebra

Click on the picture

 

Click here for more Alternative Definitions.

 

 

 

 

Black Mountain wall2wall Festival - October to November 2020

Black Mountain Jazz (BMJ) started in 2006, with the aim of bringing good live jazz to Abergavenny in Wales.  Their Club Archives page highlights some of the past great club gigs. You do not need to be a member to come to the Club and everyone is welcome. Black Mountain Jazz festival imageThey do have an optional Friends of BMJ membership. For most of their programme they use the Melville Centre at Pen-y-Pound, Abergavenny,  NP7 5UD. The Melville Centre includes a comfortable theatre which is an excellent music venue.  The club also has use of the bar, which it runs itself so as to ensure affordable prices.

Mike Skilton writes: ‘In 2013, we launched our first annual wall2wall Jazz Festival.  Now in its 8th year, we have been taken down the 'virtual road' due to the Covid pandemic. At the outset of this virtual venture, we took several key but fundamental decisions: To try and counter the loss of the 'live buzz' by adding additional interest to videos to supplement the music. To record in the summer months and stream during October and November. To engage high quality technical teams for sound, film and edit needs.'

'Most importantly - to pay all musicians up front the full fee they would expect for a live performance. To ticket the event to meet the costs but keep the price as low as possible.'

'Something of a challenge for a small group of amateurs.  However, we have produced nine videos on time (just), of which one was made in Argentina for us.  The full programme is on our festival website page and there are trailers for all of the videos.'

The videos are streamed between 12th October to 28th November.

 

 

 

 

 

The December Guitar Fest

Nicolas Meier Guitar Fest

 

 

Guitarist Nicolas Meier has organised a Live Streaming Guitar Fest for December.

Nicolas says: "I have been doing weekly Live Streaming Concerts since April from my Garden/Studio. It has been great fun with decent audience and donations. It also kept me sane playing with lots of musicians/friends, so I thought before Christmas (December 3rd -13th), I wanted to share my experience with all the jazz guitarists I know living around London... So I decided to make a LIVE STREAMING GUITAR FEST with 15 guitarists /over 12 concerts.

The guitarists involved include a variety of styles and some top names in jazz such as Ant Law, Maciek Pysz, Chris Montague, Carl Orr, Dave Preston and of course, Nicolas Meier.

Click here for a video introduction for the festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lens America

Fred Hersch

 

Fred Hersch

 

This composite image of pianist Fred Hersch was taken by JazzTrail photographer Clara Pereira at the Village Vanguard in New York City in July last year. Fred was playing a gig with his Trio (bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson) and JazzTrail's Filipe Freitas wrote: "The thoroughly chosen repertoire involved a variety of styles and moods, incorporating covers as well as some of the pianist's finest original creations. The trio took us to nice, soft, and comfortable places with renditions of popular songs such as Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners”, buoyantly delivered at a fast 3/4 tempo and immersed in a groovy graciousness, and Harry Warren’s “You’re My Everything”, marked by a piano solo upfront. Hersch’s single-note contours, manifestly alluding to the beautiful melody, were occasionally split into two distinct harmonious lines separated by pitch contrast."

Fred Hersch has a new album out - Songs From Home is released on 6th November through Palmetto Records. On the album, Fred explores 'nostalgic pop songs, heartfelt originals and resonant jazz classics with his inimitable expressiveness and rich invention in the intimacy of imposed isolation.' Details will be here when it is released but click here to listen to When I'm 64.

 

Fred Hersch Songs From Home

 

 

 

 

Free Zoom Presentation - The Evolution Of The Jazz Organ - Sunday 22nd November

Joey DeFrancesco

 

 

Join world-renowned American Jazz Organist Joey DeFrancesco live on November 22, 2020, as he discusses his 30+ years on the jazz scene, sharing his musical experiences as well as an extensive look into “Jazz Organ” the music, the musicians, its history, and evolution. Musical guests will include drummer Billy Hart, who played with Jimmy Smith and Shirley Scott, and tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon. Both have performed and recorded with Joey and other master jazz organists over the years. 'This program is sure to be a fun and informative session for the real music enthusiast.'

You need to register to watch the presentation, but the programme is free of charge.

Click here for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forum

 

Beryl Bryden

Eric writes following our Jazz Remembered article on Beryl Bryden last month (click here): 'My memories of Beryl go back away to 1953 when a visit to the Vieux Colombier to see Sidney Bechet resulted in an evening with Beryl Brydon. Apparently the great man headed to Antibes in the Summmer months. My last sighting of Beryl was at a lunch time session at the 100 Club when she turned up at a session headed by trumpeter Alan Elsdon and needed help to get on the stage. She was not a well woman at that time and died very soon after. As can be seen from the picture in your article Beryl is an imposing presence and appeared in Wally Fawkes' newspaper strip as 'Barrel Broaden'. These strips included thinly disguised figures from the scene at that time particularly 'Moses Maggot' (Max Jones in beret) and a band bus for 'Utter Bilge and his Paramount J B' (Acker Bilk). Be nice if someone was able to locate  Wally's newspaper strips!

[There are images of Trog's (Wally's) newspaper strips online but they are mainly of politicians and other subjects and none I can find of the jazz musicians Eric mentions - Ed]

 

 

Pic and Mix Up

 

 

Per-Ola  Anderstedt in Sweden questions a picture we have in Jeff Duck's article on Jack Payne in our 'Jazz Remembered' series (click here).

Per-Ola is of course correct, this is not Jack Payne, and I'll change it by next month, but do you know who it actually is?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miles Davis

Have They Started Yet?

 

One reader wrote last month saying "Just a note of thanks for running this site and newsletter in these strange times, it really is a joy to read, although my wife thinks it is detrimental to our bank balance, as I tend to buy more CDs following your reviews! Long may you continue. Sadly my wife doesn't have a favourite band or artist, she tolerates (mostly) what I play in the house! When we could go to concerts (pre Covid) she would usually always come along. One of the first concerts I took her to was Miles Davis at the Royal Festival Hall in the late 1980s I guess. Once after Miles had walked on stage and the applause had died down, he started an improvisation and she whispered to me, " Have they started yet?"

 

[As you might expect, the reader's wife doesn't look at this website each month, but I thought it might be nice to dedicate this lovely version of Miles Davis playing Blue Room to her - click here - it does has a clear beginning and an end. Thinking about personal dedications, would any reader like to dedicate a tune to a friend or a family member? - Ed]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy Brown Jazz Facebook and Mailing List

Thank you to those people who have liked our Sandy Brown Jazz Facebook page and who have commented on posts. I hope that you have found the items there of interest. Using Facebook gives us a chance to share information that arrives between issues of What's New Magazine. If you do visit our Facebook page, please 'Like' us and 'Share' us with your friends - Since a recent Facebook 'update' I have been experiencing problems with being able to post items on the page and I am trying to resolve this. (If you are not on Facebook, please tell your friends about us anyway!). Facebook


Click here

 

There is no charge for the Sandy Brown Jazz website.
You can join our Mailing List - click here - and I will send you an email each time a new issue of What's New comes out.

 

 

 

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 more about them.

When this page first started, links to newspaper obituaries were free. Then increasingly advertisements were added and now many newspapers ask for a subscription to read a full obituary. Where possible, we initially link to a Wikipedia page which is still free of charge, but we also give links to newspaper obituaries in case you want to read them.

 

 

Jon Gibson

 

Jon Gibson - American flautist, saxophonist, composer, and visual artist, known as one of the founding members of the Philip Glass Ensemble and as a key player on several seminal minimalist music compositions. His mastery of circular breathing techniques made him crucial to the development of Glass's sound. Gibson performed in the premieres of In C by Terry Riley and Drumming by Steve Reich, as well as Reich's 1967 composition Reed Phase, which Reich wrote especially for him. For a time in the 1960s, alongside Philip Glass & Steve Reich, Gibson performed the music of Moondog during weekly sessions with the composer, recordings of which were made by Reich. Obituaries: New York Times : Washington Post : Click here for a video of Jon Gibson playing Facades with the Philip Glass Ensemble :

 

 

 

 

George Galway

 

 

George Galway - Peter Maguire writes: George Galway passed away peacefully at home on October 4th, 2020 aged 79 years. More than just international flute star James Galway's brother, George, was a melodic and lilting saxophone, flute and clarinet player in his own right!! George Galway was born in Belfast, the second son of a musical family. He took up the clarinet at the age of 13 and later progressed to the saxophone and flute. Before long, his talent was noticed by local band-leaders and he was soon in demand as a player. George was offered a position with the well known Jimmy Compton Jazz Band which had a great influence on his playing and was the start of a professional career. Spells with some of the Show Bands ie: Melotones, Clipper Carlton and the Witnesses took George out of the jazz arena for a time, but before long he made his home in Manchester and was playing in local jazz clubs. A ten year residency in Manchester's premier jazz venue 'Ganders Go South' saw George working with players such as Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Kenny Baker, Jiggs Wigham, Roy Williams, Humphrey Lyttleton and Digby Fairweather to name just a few. One of the highlights of George's was to play with Bob Wilbur in London at the Barbican Centre in a concert 'A Tribute to Benny Goodman'. Until recently George freelanced in Jazz clubs all over the UK and frequently appeared in jazz festivals. Obituaries : Jazz North West : Click here for a video of George playing Give Me The Simple Life in 2013.

 

 

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

 

UK

Monocled Man - Bernabe Jurado

Rick Simpson - Everything All Of The Time: Kid A Revisited

Tom Smith - Gecko

Jeff Williams - Live At The London Jazz Festival: Road Tales

Simon Deeley's Blue Haze - Afan's Dance

Steve Hamilton - Between The Lines

 

America

Matthew Shipp Trio - The Unidentifiable

Gregg August - Dialogues On Race Volume One

Trio Grande - Trio Grande

 

 

Re-Releases

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - The Singles Collection 1956-1962

John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio and Quintet - Four Classic Albums

Charles Mingus - Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975

 

 

 

 

Monocled Man - Bernabe Jurado
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 17th April 2020 [EP & 7", 45 rpm and download]

Rory Simmons (trumpet, keyboards, electronics and processing); Chris Montague (guitar); Jon Scott (drums)

Monocled Man Bernabe Jurado

 

'Bernabe Jurado is the third release from Monocled Man, the boundary-crossing project assembled by trumpeter/programmer/producer Rory Simmons to realise his idiosyncratic musical vision that marries the freedom of improvisation, steeped in the European jazz tradition, with the powerful atmospheric affordances of contemporary digital sound manipulation. Guitarist Chris Montague (Troyka, Squarepusher) and drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4Tet, Sons Of Kemet XL) provide the perfect complement for Simmons’ matching of comprehensive musical chops and fearless imagination, and the resultant EP glues together the atmosphere of Massive Attack inspired dub and Fourtet influenced ambience with freewheeling improv amongst the trio itself. Simmons’ wide-ranging cultural curiosity provides the inspirations behind the evocative, cinematic quality of Monocled Man’s music: Bernabe Jurado is inspired by the curious true story of William Burroughs’ murder of his wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken game of William Tell, and the subsequent defence offered by his enigmatic lawyer Bernabe Jurado: the macabre stories of Katherine Dunn and country singer Steve Earle’s Southern Gothic novel ‘I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive’ further set the tone and provide the imagery for Simmons to pin his project to. For this latest iteration, four tracks of delay drenched trumpet, jagged guitar lines and chewed up drum patterns unfolded in the studio around melodies penned by Simmons, only to be chopped and reassembled by him into new ever-evolving forms. For ‘Bernabe Jurado’ Simmons created layers of ambient textures, influenced by contemporary producers like Brian Eno and Thom Yorke, over which his trumpet playing moves between Arve Henriksen/Nils Petter Molvaer inspired introspection, the twisting improv of Dave Douglas and the glassy rawness of Tomaz Stanko. The otherworldly ‘Sero Max For Joan Vollmer’ is based around multiple cut up rhythm parts from Scott and cumulates in a fearsome shred from Chris Montague....... Impossible to categorise, equally impossible to forget, Monocled Man continues the exploration into half-glimpsed worlds at the fringes of creative imagination.' (album notes).

Details and Samples : Listen to The Raw, Mineral Blue :

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Simpson - Everything All Of The Time: Kid A Revisited
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 23rd October 2020

Rick Simpson (piano/arrangements); Tori Freestone (tenor saxophone & violin on track 4); James Allsopp (baritone saxophone); Dave Whitford (double bass); Will Glaser (drums)

Rick Simpson Everything All Of The Time

 

'Rick Simpson’s impeccable technique and restless imagination have earned him a place at the forefront of contemporary UK music. He’s equally at home exploring the tradition or pushing fearlessly against the boundaries, and now his unique creative voice is back in the spotlight with a typically idiosyncratic project: a re-framing of Radiohead’s Kid A album, featuring ten original arrangements of the source material played by an all-star band of like-minded musical mavericks. Whirlwind recording artist Tori Freestone joins James Allsop to form the twin-saxophone frontline, and Simpson is joined in the rhythm section by by the universally respected veteran Dave Whitford on bass and upcoming young hotshot Will Glaser on drums. The project was created to mark the 20th anniversary of the original album’s release, as part of a series of sell-out shows curated by Simpson at London’s Vortex club featuring non-jazz records rearranged with an improvisational focus. The original show was such a success, drawing in listeners from beyond the club’s regular audience, that Simpson re-assembled the band in the studio and recorded the entire album in a single afternoon session “I think the time pressure contributed to the performances. It’s really punchy and to the point, but a lot happens – it captures the energy so well”. There’s a wealth of detail to discover, and surprises at every turn. 'Everything In Its Right Place’ sets the scene, with the horns framing a beautifully constructed solo from Simpson, leading into the hushed piano intro of ‘Kid A’ that builds and builds towards a dramatic finale of controlled chaos.... ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ ends the journey with a hushed, contemplative ballad reading. Simpson’s imaginative, free-flowing arrangements give his superb band space to unleash their own individual voices. Sometimes sticking closely to the original melodies, sometimes re-purposing elements as the jumping-off point for radically new explorations, he leads his creative cohort to create a thrillingly uncategorizable musical experience. This record takes the listener on a journey through an ever-changing landscape of powerfully emotive moods and textures, while still preserving the concise, focused energy and emotional directness of the original. (album notes).

Details and Samples : Listen to Everything In Its Right Place : Listen to Morning Bell :

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Smith - Gecko
(Basho Records) - Released: 6th November 2020 [digital release]

Tom Smith (alto sax and bass clarinet); Will Barry (piano); Jonny Mansfield (vibraphone)

Tom Smith Gecko album

 

 

'Gecko is the debut album from award winning young saxophonist Tom Smith, a rising star on the London jazz scene. Gecko brings Tom together in a unique collaboration with pianist Will Barry and vibraphonist Jonny Mansfield, and features Tom’s energetic and joyful new compositions, which allow this special band to shine.' (album notes). :

Details and Sample : Introductory Video : Tom Smith's Tea Break article for Sandy Brown Jazz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Williams - Live At London Jazz Festival: Road Tales
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 20th November 2020

Jeff Williams (drums); John O'Gallagher (alto saxophone); Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone); Sam Lasserson (double bass)

Jeff Williams Road Tales

 

'Ohio native Jeff Williams cut his teeth playing with the likes of Stan Getz and Dave Liebman in the febrile atmosphere of 1970s New York, but London is now his second home and his free-ranging creativity both as drummer and as composer, coupled with his dedication as a teacher and bearer of the tradition, has embedded him deep into the UK scene. This recording features an all-star cast of his longtime collaborators, with altoist John O’Gallagher and Josh Arcoleo on tenor making a ferocious twin-horn frontline and virtuoso bassist Sam Lasserson completing the rhythm section. With all the compelling immediacy of a live concert recording, 'Road Tales' documents how the shared experiences of being a band on the road for a decade or so has shaped a musical narrative, as each member tells the story of those experiences, and shows how they established their own identity within the compositions. “Some of these tunes go back many years, but I think what’s special here is the way that band works together, adding things that aren’t on the paper. So many things were completely unplanned - it’s pure interaction, the sound of a band taking risks together.” Williams’ compositions give his band a wonderfully diverse span of moods and colours to work with, and they rise to each occasion magnificently ... 'Road Tales', his sixth release for Whirlwind, marks the latest stage on a continuous musical journey for Williams and his musical partners. “I love to have a band that is able to take chances – It’s wonderful the way this group can develop my compositions, with their ability to take things as far as possible without going over the cliff. There aren't many actual on-going bands in jazz anymore. The fact that this is one is something I'm proud of. That's the only way a performance of this type becomes possible.” (album notes)

Details and Samples : Introductory Video : Listen to The Interloper :

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Deeley's Blue Haze - Afan's Dance
(Self Release) - Released: 31st May 2020

Simon Deeley (piano, keyborads); Ian Cooper (bass); Charlie Russell (drums)

Simon Deeleys Blue Haze Afans Dance

 

 

'The music recorded for Afan's Dance shows the full stylistic range of Simon Deeley's writing at this time: from powerful, driving Jazz-Fusion numbers to groove-driven, blues-infused tracks, and on through atmospheric film music style compositions, to reflective, evocative ballads. Simon Deeley performed for many years on the Birmingham/Midlands jazz scene. In recent times Simon's focus has been on composing. Since his move to the Welsh Borders in 2014, his career has centred on writing and performing his own music, which has led to the production of three albums - Crossing Borders (2016), From the Blue Hills (2017), and Afan's Dance (2019), the later two recorded by current band Blue Haze. (album notes).

Details and Samples : Listen to Hey CC! : Inroductory Video :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Hamilton - Between The Lines
(Self Release) - Released: 21st August 2020

Steve Hamilton (keys, mixing & mastering); Martin Taylor (acoustic guitar); Don Paterson (guitars, arranging & programming); Paul Booth (saxophone); Davie Dunsmuir (guitars)

Steve Hamilton Between The Lines

 

'Scottish pianist and keyboards player Steve Hamilton has used the enforced inactivity of lockdown to record his first solo album, Between the Lines, with friends including guitar virtuoso, Martin Taylor MBE dropping by to guest on selected tracks. The album’s release coincides with a period of recuperation for Hamilton following surgery to remove his right kidney after a tumour was found during a CT scan for another problem that has since cleared up. “I went into hospital on September 25th and had the kidney removed along with the tumour and hopefully any traces of it from my body,” he says. “It seems we found it early enough to hope for a clear outcome moving forward.” As the Covid-19 pandemic began to take its effect on live music, Hamilton had tours with his regular employer, drumming legend Billy Cobham, as well as all his other bookings, cancelled. Having appeared on more than forty recordings by luminaries including drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, saxophonists Peter King and Tommy Smith and guitarist Tony Remy, he felt this was an ideal opportunity to release an album of his own. Most of the material was written, often on the spot, by Hamilton alone or with his guests. Opening track Awakening explores the textures and tones available with the latest keyboard technology. The ballad Ealasaid, dedicated to Martin Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth, was created spontaneously by Hamilton and Taylor. For the powerful, atmospheric In a Flash of Light, Hamilton invited Davie Dunsmuir to add electric guitar to his keyboard and rhythm track, and Paul Booth’s tenor saxophone brought out the yearning quality of From the Embers. “I really enjoyed the process of making the album,” says Steve. “I didn’t set out with any particular aim or sound in mind. Of course, I didn’t expect to be undergoing life-saving surgery once the recording was finished but I’m beginning to do some exercise, like slow walking, and I’m looking forward to getting back into some kind of musical action again. I’m just so grateful to my NHS consultant and the whole team who looked after me. They were all amazing.” (Rob Adams).

Details and Samples : Listen to In A Flash Of Light : Listen to Ealasaid : Video :

 

 

 

 

America

We are indebted to Filipe Freitas for details of many American and some other releases. Filipe and photographer Clara Pereira (see the 'Lens America' article in What's New) run JazzTrail in New York City. 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.

 

 

 

Matthew Shipp Trio - The Unidentifiable
(Esp-Disk/K7/Other) - Released: 18th September 2020

Matthew Shipp (piano); Michael Bisio (double bass); Newman Taylor Baker (drums)

Matthew Shipp Trio The Unidentifiable

 

'Starting in the bebop era, the piano-bass-drums lineup has been the most classic jazz format in which the piano is featured, accumulating the weight of history and critical expectations. In this setting, a non-mainstream player such as Shipp can infiltrate Newport Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and other Establishment bastions in a familiar format and then unleash his ideas on audiences that might not normally be exposed to his style. Thanks to hearing it in the communal language of the piano trio, they can better understand the message the Matthew Shipp Trio has to deliver – “Mr. Shipp’s predilection for finding fertile ground between accessibility and abstraction,” as Larry Blumenfeld wrote in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Shipp says, "The piano trio is such a basic configuration in jazz, and it is an honor to take a well-explored area and apply my imagination to it to see where we can go—it helps that my trio mates are great." Shipp, Bisio, and Baker convened at Shipp's favorite recording venue last year looking to pursue a new direction. The result is both distinctively Shippian yet a further evolution of the group’s sound.' (album notes). 'The phenomenal pianist Matthew Shipp leads one of the best trios currently at work. Relying on the acute, sensitive responsiveness of bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker, Shipp creates freely with a broad aesthetic range that goes beyond the expected. The three musicians are mavericks of the rhythm and texture who cultivate an exemplary balance between discipline and abandon. Wonderful, lyrical moments are extracted from the new album, The Unidentifiable, starting with “Blue Transport System”, which, possessing that kind of slow, seductive rhythmic flow that keeps us engaged, also pulsates at a quiet boil. Bisio’s melodious bass helps to cultivate this trance-like penchant for reverie, and the lovely finale is worthy of a film-noir score.....The charm and energy are palpable throughout the album’s 11 tracks. This is such an elastic trio, whose immense resources take them wherever they want.' (JazzTrail).

Details and Samples *: Full JazzTrail Review : Listen to Blue Transport System :
* Recordings in Bandcamp Dollars convert to £ Sterling if you choose to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

Gregg August - Dialogues On Race Volume One
(Iacuessa Records) - Released: 21st August 2020

John Ellis (soprano sax); Bruce Williams (alto sax); JD Allen Tenor sax); Ken Thomson (bass clarinet); John Bailey (trumpet/flugelhorn); Rafi Malkiel (trombone/euphonium); Marcus Rojas (tuba); Luis Perdomo (piano); Gregg August (bass/composer); Donald Edwards (drums); Mauricio Herrera (congas/shekeré/castanets); Frank Lacy, Shelley Washington, Forest VanDyke (vocals); Wayne Smith (narrator); Leah Asher, Lena Vidulich, Yuri Namkung, Johnna Wu (violin); Wendy Richman, Brian Zenone (viola); Madeline Fayette (cello).

Gregg August Dialogues On Race Volume One

 

'Raising awareness of the racial problem in America, bassist/composer Gregg August, a fundamental pillar in the acclaimed trio led by saxophonist JD Allen and also a respected member of Arturo O’Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, releases his fourth album as a leader. Featuring a 12-piece big band, Dialogues on Race Volume One is a mature two-disc jazz opus composed and premiered in 2009,  that only now is released on record. Motivated by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights movements, it's a reflection that urges us to combat racism and all the injustices derived from it. The bassist, being white, was not discouraged by black fellow musicians and friends to present a sonic meditation largely centered on Emmett Till’s cruel assassination by lynching in 1955. The titles “Your Only Child” - inspired by Marilyn Nelson’s poem and presented in three distinct parts, the second of which shaping up as a lonely arco bass dirge - and “Mother Mamie’s Reflections” - where Emmett’s mother’s poignant words resonate atop of the brooding low sounds emitted by bowed bass, tuba and bass clarinet - are powerful musical statements imbued with troubled historical context....... Equally dynamic, “The Bird Leaps” encompasses head-to-head dialogues, smooth tempo shifts and compellingly articulated statements from saxophonists John Ellis, Bruce Williams and JD Allen on soprano, alto and tenor, respectively. August matured into a talented leader and composer; this is a quite colorful work with a lot to absorb and reflect upon.' (JazzTrail).

Details and Samples * : Full JazzTrail Review : Listen to Your Only Child Second Statement : Listen to Mother Mamies's Reflections : Listen to The Bird Leaps :
* Recordings in Bandcamp Dollars convert to £ Sterling if you choose to buy



 

 

 

Trio Grande - Trio Grande
(Whirlwind Recordings) - Released: 13th November 2020

Will Vinson (saxophones and electric piano); Gilad Hekselman (guitar); Antonio Sanchez (drums)

Trio Grande album

 

'Trio Grande is the debut statement from a brand new project that unites three of the most inventive, exciting and accomplished musicians working at the interface of New York’s contemporary musical culture, where the city’s rich tradition of jazz meets crosscurrents blowing in from across the world. British-born saxophonist Will Vinson, Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman and Mexico City native, longtime Jackson Heights, Queens resident Antonio Sánchez first came together at one of the city’s legendary club residencies at the Cornelia Street Café, and the chemistry and excitement was immediate. Each brings their own formidable reputation as bandleader and composer in their own right, but when they started playing together, following their impulses with all the freedom afforded by the bassless trio format, they found the music taking on its own creative directions that surprised and delighted them all. Says Vinson: ‘We’re all grounded in jazz but all of us are also looking for other sounds and influences to bring in: that’s what we have in common, and what sets us apart is that all our sounds and influences are so different!’. The album’s magic lies in the way that so many disparate musical elements are woven together to create such a coherent whole. ... Texture and dynamics are as important as melody and improvisation, all brilliantly captured by engineer Mike Marciano’s warm, crystal clear studio sound. The music will be available on CD / DL and Limited Edition 180g Double LP with gatefold artwork. The LP contains three bonus tracks: an original by Vinson, a loving deconstruction of John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ and a reverent reading of ‘Silence’ by Charlie Haden. The selection of tracks shows the scope of the trio’s no-limits influences and underlines the spirit of openness and unity of purpose that defines this remarkable collaboration.' (album notes).

Details and Samples : Listen to Northbound :

 

 

 

Re-Releases

 

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - The Singles Collection 1956-1962
(Jasmine) - Released: 2020

Dave Brubeck (piano); Bill Smith (clarinet); Paul Desmond (alto sax); Bob Bates, Eugene Wright (bass); Joe Dodge, Joe Morello (drums); Carmen McRae (vocals)

Dave Brubeck Quartet The Singles Collection

 

 

'Dave Brubeck is one of very few artists to cross over from the jazz world to the pop charts. The versions of his recordings issued as singles often had unique performances or edits created for them which have rarely been reissued until now. This compilation features A and B sides from both the UK and USA issued between 1956 and 1962, including all UK chart and Billboard hits. This includes versions of 'It's a Raggy Waltz' and 'Blue Shadows in the Street' that were specially recorded for single release and not issued on LP, the original single version of his international hit 'Take Five' and many 45 rpm edits issued here in stereo for the first time. Includes collaborations with singer Carmen McRae and clarinettist Bill Smith, along with his classic quartet featuring saxophonist Paul Desmond. The set features what could be described as "Bite-sized Brubeck" in comparison to some of his long-form 10-minute performances. It serves as a great introduction to his genius as a pianist/composer for those new to his music, but also as a Rarities set for his fans.' (album notes). '....This compilation of singles released by the Dave Brubeck Quartet actually begins in 1951 ... Jasmine have also muddled the personnel - Brubeck and Desmond were joined by Bryan Ruther (bass) and Herb Barman (drums), not Bob Bates and Joe Dodge ...' (Philip Clark in Jazzwise ***)

Details, Samples and Reviews:

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio & Quintet - Four Classic Albums
(Avid Jazz) - Released 2020 [2 CDs]

John Coltrane (tenor sax); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Red Garland (piano); Paul Chambers, George Joyner (bass); Arthur Taylor (drums)

John Coltrane Red Garland Four Classic Albums

 

'AVID Jazz continues with its Four Classic Albums series with a finely re-mastered 2CD release from John Coltrane with The Red Garland Trio & Quintet complete with original artwork, liner notes and personnel details. For this set, our fourth featuring John Coltrane and second featuring The Red Garland Trio & Quintet we have selected four more albums that bring together, arguably the greatest ever tenor sax player and one of perhaps the greatest unsung giants of jazz piano. Given the massive drawing power of the name John Coltrane we have cheated a little by placing his name first on this release as we genuinely feel it will lead more jazz fans to discover the genius of Red Garland who was actually the leader on three of our releases. 'John Coltrane with The Red Garland Trio', 'The Red Garland Quintet featuring John Coltrane & Donald Byrd: Soul Junction', 'The Red Garland Quintet with John Coltrane & Donald Byrd: High Pressure' and 'The Red Garland Quintet with John Coltrane: Dig It!' As the story of John Coltrane is pretty well known we thought we would just focus a little more on Red Garland on this occasion. A word about Red Garland... How many jazz pianists can say that they went a few rounds with the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson? Well certainly our next artist can! Red Garland began his career as a boxer, fighting over 30 bouts including an exhibition match with the aforesaid legend! Calming things down a little, Red began his musical career on the alto sax and clarinet before moving to the piano. In the period directly after the Second World War, Red Garland appeared to be playing with just about everybody who was anybody in the jazz world including Billy Eckstine, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker and Lester Young. Actually the more we check out Red's resume the more staggering it becomes when you start to consider that he hadn't even met Miles and Trane yet!! And thus Garland's career continued until Red was invited to play on the legendary recordings by The Miles Davis Quintet (recently released by Avid - AMSC1376) and John Coltrane joins his Trio and Quintet alongside the likes of Paul Chambers, Arthur Taylor, George Joyner and Donald Byrd. We strongly urge you to listen to this release and you will discover a great pianist in Red Garland alongside some classic early Coltrane playing with a fine band of jazz brothers.' (album notes). ' .... Avid's budget-priced two-fers such as this edition are fast becoming the way for new listeners to encounter the music's past ..... theirs was a teaming that thrived on contrasts .... full of character individuality and charm. Recommended (Simon Spillett in Jazzwise ****)

Details and Reviews :

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Mingus - Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975
(Sunnyside Records) Released: 2020 [4 CDs]

Charles Mingus (bass); Johnny Coles (trumept); Eric Dolphy (alto sax, flute, bass clarinet); Clifford Jordan (tenor sax); Jaki Byard (piano); Dannie Richmond (drums)

Charles Mingus at Bremen

 

'The great bassist and composer Charles Mingus had his diehard supporters and detractors. His explosive intermingling of devil may care attitude, imposing character and aggressive music was sure to rub some listeners the wrong way and was just as likely to attract adventurous fans. But his genius could not be denied; it just may have taken some time to break down barriers. // A good way to examine this change in listener attitudes is to investigate the differences in critical appraisals from two performances in the port city of Bremen, Germany, a decade apart. The initial performance in 1964 introduced Mingus's firebrand ways to an unsuspecting audience while his 1975 appearance was met with the expectancy of jazz royalty. The performances appear in their first official release remastered from the original source tapes on Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975. // Both of Mingus's performances in Bremen are incredible marathons of brilliance from the top musicians of two decades. The performances don't show a wilting in the passion of the leader. A decade apart, the performances are every bit as cutting edge. The only thing that seems to have changed was the attitude of the critical mind, as ten years of achievement had cemented Mingus's legacy in Europe.' (album notes). 'Twolive sets performed 11 years apart, not only give an excellent summary of Mingus' very individual approach to composition, they also constitute excellent accounts of two of his most outstanding bands ... this reissue uses the original tapes from Radio Bremen.' (Brian Priestley in Jazzwise ****).

Details :

 

 

 

 

 

Some Other Pages on this Website:

Jazz As Art : Listen to a track while looking at a range of paintings we have chosen to go with the music.

The Tea Break : A musician or someone in the Jazz world generally takes time out to chat over a cuppa.

Jazz Venues Near You: Venues hosting live jazz in the UK. Please let us know of other venues together with their website addresses, or please also let us know if you discover any of the links on the page don't work.

Jazz Talks : People willing to give talks about Jazz to community groups. The geographical areas covered include Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Norwich.

 

 

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multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer.-

 

 

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