The great Trane died 50 years old today. John William Coltrane (23rd September 1926 – 17th July 1967)

Pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen, who has died at the age of 60, had her own sound. Just a few bars gave her away. Her close-interval chord voicings and soaring single-note lines couldn’t be anyone else. Influenced by Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Monk, Tommy Flanagan, Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor, she explained her style […]

The podcast revolution shows no sign of letting up, and its effect has been felt in the jazz world too. I’ve come across a couple in the last year or so that I return to on a regular basis – The Jazz Bastard features two ‘strikingly-handsome, middle-aged men’ kvetching very amusingly about their musical peccadilloes […]

Fans of over-the-top piano playing: this album’s for you. Richie Beirach should probably be a far bigger name than he is. A classically trained virtuoso, he has worked with Stan Getz and Chet Baker and also enjoyed fruitful collaborations with guitarist John Abercrombie and saxophonist Dave Liebman, whilst also focusing his own deeply personal solo […]

Who’s the most-recorded drummer in music history? Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Jeff Porcaro and Hal Blaine would make pretty good bets, but I’d raise you Harvey Mason. He’s played on some of the all-time-great jazz/funk sides: ‘Westchester Lady‘, ‘Chameleon’, ‘Some Skunk Funk‘ and ‘Breezin‘; played pure jazz with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan and smooth […]

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a fascinating recent documentary about the writer and activist James Baldwin. In 1979, Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent outlining his next project, ‘Remember This House’, a personal account of the lives and assassinations of three close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. At […]

It’s always a treat when an established ‘jazz’ band makes its artistic and/or commercial breakthrough after years of service. Weather Report of course did it with Heavy Weather, and Yellowjackets did something similar with their 1991 release Greenhouse.  Greenhouse was their eighth studio album. After several lineup changes – though always sticking to core unit […]

It’s a conundrum: how to preserve for all time something as quintessentially ephemeral and improvisatory as a jazz performance. So-called ‘red-light fever’ – the terror of preserving a take for eternity when the ‘record’ button goes on – has haunted the careers of a fair few jazz masters. And yet the music is littered with […]

Every serious jazz fan seems to have a favourite Sonny Rollins story. One whose origins I forget – but it may be recited in Ken Burns’ ‘Jazz’ documentary – concerns a late-night Carnegie Hall New Year’s Eve concert sometime in the 1990s. Rollins embarked on a typically Herculean solo at around 11:30pm. This went on […]

On 8th November 2016, the day after America voted to make Donald Trump the next president of the US, guitar legend Larry Coryell – who has died of heart failure – told Downbeat magazine’s Bill Milkowski: ‘Now that Trump is in, we’re going to make good on our promise to move to either Germany or […]

Steve Khan is one of jazz’s most underrated and distinctive guitarists. His unique chord voicings, intriguing melodic sense and subtle use of effects have illuminated work by The Brecker Brothers, Steely Dan, Billy Cobham and Joe Zawinul. Khan’s many solo albums across a 40-year career showcase his enormous versatility, from overdubbed guitar tributes to Thelonious […]

I’ve just had the pleasure of writing the liner notes for a new Tony Williams 3-CD collection, focusing on the mid-to-late 1970s, a period when the jazz/rock drum legend made some of the most electrifying music of his career. The albums Believe It, Million Dollar Legs and The Joy Of Flying showcase some brilliant drum […]

‘Round Midnight’ turns 30 today, and its status as one of the great jazz movies was confirmed at a birthday screening last night at the Cine Lumiere in South Kensington. Whilst the recent ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Miles Ahead’ were moderate commercial successes, they were subject to withering criticism in some quarters – I was with the […]

The ‘cry’ takes many forms – you can hear it in Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Miles, Albert Ayler and reedsman David Murray too, and it was very much in evidence during Saturday’s electrifying London Jazz Festival gig at the Cadogan Hall. What initially seemed a strange choice of venue for this bass-less supergroup turned out […]

Mention the name Bennie Maupin to a certain generation of jazz fans and you’re likely to get a raised eyebrow followed by a sharp intake of breath. He’s pure class. His baritone, soprano and tenor sax work on seminal Miles Davis albums Bitches Brew and Big Fun as well as Herbie Hancock‘s Head Hunters would be […]

What makes a good jazz club? Clear sightlines, decent acoustics, a varied program and cosy atmosphere are surely required. The 606 in the heart of Chelsea has always scored highly on these and a few more too, and the club is currently celebrating its 40th birthday with a fortnight of triple-headers featuring an impressive line-up […]

They were one of the bands who, along with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and John McLaughlin‘s Mahavishnu Orchestra, took Miles Davis‘s late-’60s jazz/rock blueprint and ran with it, progressing from playing nightclubs to concert halls and football stadiums. Their famous credo – ‘we always solo and we never solo’ – was […]

Drummer/percussionist Andrew Cyrille has been busy mapping out his own musical territory during an illustrious career spanning over 50 years. Across a dozen solo albums and in collaboration with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Geri Allen and Charlie Haden, he has been one of several key players who freed the jazz drummer from the […]

Going solo is never a clear-cut thing for a ‘jazz’ bassist. And if you play electric bass, the issue becomes even murkier. Do you go the chops-infused ‘fusion blowout’ route, or put composition first and place yourself in a variety of group environments a la Victor Bailey, John Patitucci, Jaco et al? By and large, […]

The pianist has a whole orchestra at his or her fingertips – that’s the theory, anyway. And therefore the jazz pianist has the potential to make the unique sound of an orchestra in ‘spontaneous improvisation’ mode. Duke Ellington was famous for approaching the keyboard in this way, and now Zoe Rahman’s sixth solo album Dreamland […]

The piano trio form is expanding in all sorts of directions these days, from the metric perambulations of Vijay Iyer to the deep Zen grooves of The Necks. At last night’s opening gig of the International Piano Trio Festival, a neat bit of programming juxtaposed two bands at the opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum […]

There’s an alternative, fantasy version of the BRITS Lifetime Achievement award where true artists like Allan Holdsworth get the recognition they deserve from their native music industry. There would also be gongs for Courtney Pine, Gary Crosby, John McLaughlin, Django Bates, Julian Joseph, Gary Husband, Bill Bruford and a few others. Of course that’ll never happen, […]

For a great British musician, pianist Jason Rebello has had one of the more intriguing careers than most. A key figure in the late-’80s jazz revival with his blinding licks and clean-cut looks much to the fore, he released a superb Wayne Shorter-produced debut A Clearer View (much more on that soon) in 1990, then followed […]

Either a new Geri Allen or David Murray album would be a cause for celebration, but now the pianist and saxophonist have got together and released Perfection with the very welcome addition of Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. And if that wasn’t enough, the title track is a previously-unrecorded composition by the late great Ornette Coleman. […]

I’ve just had the absolute pleasure of writing the liner notes for a brand new Steve Khan 2-CD reissue featuring his three classic albums of the early ’80s, Eyewitness, Modern Times and Casa Loco, just released on BGO Records. It was an honour to work with Steve on this project. He couldn’t have been more generous […]