Sunday 31 October 2010

Ahmad Jamal - Spartacus Love Theme

A beautiful interpretation of the tune. Not too sentimental (it's a pretty sentimental tune), but one that captures an occasional mood. I also like the Bill Evans, Terry Callier and Frank Harrison versions but this one is new to me.

Gigs: Full Circle (Brighton) and Seamus Blake (London)

Another busy week in which I managed to catch a couple of gigs. Last Sunday was Joss Peach and Full Circle at The Brunswick in Brighton. The trio featured Joss on piano, bassist Terry Pack and Dave Trigwell on drums. Overall, the music has a relaxed feel, hooking into modern pop by reinterpreting the likes of Sting, Massive Attack and a haunting version of Tainted Love featuring vocalist Rachel Munro ("A song about a failed relationship. Maybe you've had one, or maybe you're sitting next to one now!"). There was plenty of space in the music and Dave Trigwell played sensitively with (to him) some unfamiliar arrangements. I liked the overall sense of space in the music - space to think, reflect, enjoy. Perfect for a Sunday evening. Interestingly, the largely groove-based set did not lend itself to any startlingly solos. The one standard they performed was Clifford Brown's Sandu. Joss played with a lovely, light Wynton Kelly feel and his solo deserved the applause it received. Overall, Full Circle has a distinct identity and, evidenced by the good turn out, quite a few fans. The climax was fitting - everyone in the room got to play percussion - it's great to be treated as a part of the music, rather than just a passive listener.

My first visit to the 606 club in London. A nice space to listen to jazz - the sound is good, you're physically  close the musicians. Leading NYC tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake was playing a guest spot with musicians he had only met that day. American band leader Michael Janisch, who I last saw performing with George Garzione, is a muscular bassist - fantastic chops, Mingus-like sound and beautiful note choices. Ernesto Simpson is a fine Cuban drummer who inhabits the beat, playing both sensitively and with intensity but never playing loudly. Seamus played with conviction and focus. A big tone, thoughtful choice of notes and and that ability to communicate directly to the audience through the horn.  That left Phil Robson on guitar and Alex Garnett on tenor. Alex provided most of the arrangement- broadly bebop in influence - but his playing suffered next to Seamus. He can play fast (as in lot of notes) but he didn't seem to have a lot to say. Phil Robson can also play lots of notes but I didn't get a strong sense of Phil as a person through his music. The Cuban-American trio definitely made the evening for me. I'd like to hear Phil Robson again, playing his own music perhaps. I would have loved to have heard Seamus play some of his own compositions (I've been listening to his Live in Italy record, which has some great tunes on). A minor niggle - I felt lucky to have caught him at all.

Monday 18 October 2010

Patronage in jazz?

A number of recent experiences and encounters have highlighted to me the sad fact that gigs for the jobbing jazz musician are currently in short supply. As one recently said to me, the regular pub and function gigs are few and far between, although the specialist jazz gigs, though few, are better than ever. My one regular jazz gig is now under threat because the pub has changed hands and the entertainment budget slashed. What's the motivation for a promoter to put on a jazz gig. A love of the music? Yes. A desire to make money? Most definitely not.

Perhaps we need to start thinking differently about how we support jazz through these hard times. Public arts spending is being comprehensively reviewed, but there are other ways of supporting the arts. . . old fashioned private patronage. In the 18th and 19th Centuries European aristocrats patronised composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. More recently, and closer to home, Geoff Simkins mentioned to me some BBC World Service staff up in Hampstead who used to club together and get jazz musicians to perform in their homes. Perhaps we need to see more private patrons of jazz.

I came across this video of of David Newton & Bobby Wellins playing "Out of Nowhere" in a private house concert earlier this year on the LondonJazz blog. If I could afford to live in a house with those beautiful windows, I would be tempted to fund my own jazz season. Some beautiful playing from both and perhaps some inspiration for an aspiring jazz patron. Any takers?

Friday 8 October 2010

Ken Peplowski, The Caxton Arms, 7th October

Last night's gig with US reeds player Ken Peplowski was "a swingin' affair", as Frank would say. Joined by top local players Steve Thompson (bass), Piers Clark (guitar) and Mark Edwards (piano) in an all-acoustic setting, Ken wowed the packed basement of the The Caxton Arms with a stream of swing classics. On his clarinet, the style was very much Benny Goodman. Beautifully executed heads and solos on tunes such as Moonglow, Avalon and Charlie Christian's A Smooth One. His tenor playing is very smooth and melodic, like Lester Young. I particularly liked his rendition of Ike Quebec's Jim Dawgs (based on I Got Rhythm changes) and Body and Soul.

Of the other musicians, Mark Edwards showed what a versatile player he is. Although I have heard him playing hard bop, modern jazz and gospel, he was equally at home playing in the pre-bop style of the Thirties and Forties. As an inventive soloist, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Ken throughout. Steve Thompson's bass was brushing the ceiling but this did not effect his bass playing in any way. He swung hard and played some lovely solos. Piers Clark has honed a rhythm guitar style that makes him sound as though he has been catapulted forward from the Thirties in a time machine. He played impeccable four to the bar throughout and, with no drummer, added a nice brushes and hi-hat feel to the sound. Ken was careful to give Piers a few solo choruses here and there and he filled them with some nice chord melodies.

It was great hearing a completely acoustic band. The ears get used to it in no time at all and the sound was rich, full and subtle. Ken sounded most beautiful on his solo version of Duke Ellington's Single Petal of a Rose.

Ken demonstrated a ready wit and shared plenty of banter and anecdotes with the audience. This crowd-pleasing style of swing is clearly his core repertoire, though there's an interesting profile here saying that he is equally at home playing Ornette Coleman and The Beatles.

The evening was a successful start to a season of jazz events with name musicians and a local rhythm section, the next being trumpeter Enrico Tomasso on October 21. The venue is called Smalls, like the Greenwich Village jazz club, but some thought needs to go into making sure it can fit the eighty odd audience comfortably. Standing through two sets can be tiring and getting to the bar was challenging!

Thursday 7 October 2010

First review of kineojazz gig with Liane Carroll and Luke Rattenbury

Great 5* review of last week's gig in the Brighton Evening Argus.

"The Basement is a great jazz venue"

"Liane Carroll certainly filled that space. Irrepressibly larger than life and with a wicked sense of humour, her personality came over with a voice that was consistently powerful and agile and held the whole audience – ranging from a 75th birthday to a surprisingly large following of guys in their 20s – spellbound."
 "[Of the LR Trio] There was musical playing from all three, including some notably lyrical bass solos."

Once again it was a pleasure to work with Steve and Ela in organising the event. Each one gets a little easier and we always learn plenty along the way . . .

Looking forward to the Latin Night with Ela's Remember April bossa nova band and Terry Seabrook's Cubana Bop on 17th November.

Friday 1 October 2010

Two great videos of guitarist René Thomas

With the The International Jazz Quintet on Belgian TV in 1962: Bobby Jaspar, tenor sax, flute; Amadeo Tommasi, piano; René Thomas, guitar; Benoît Quersin, double bass; Daniel Humair, drums. This is the band that toured and recorded with Chet Baker.

Great soloing from René - heavy strings, a thick pick and some wonderful sweep picking.