A new Courtney album is always a cause for celebration. Since his big-selling debut, 1986’s Journey To The Urge Within, he’s relentlessly pursued sounds of the Black diaspora (jazz, reggae, calypso, drum’n’bass, ska, hip-hop, soca) and also become a respected educator and broadcaster. And yet the London saxophone legend is still somewhat of a divisive […]

Music videos and jazz: they don’t make for natural bedfellows. A few record companies dipped their toes into the medium in the 1980s with predictably uneven results – Miles’s Tutu videos were ‘interesting’ and worth a look but Chick Corea’s ‘Elektric City’ is probably now an embarrassment to everyone involved, even the brilliant IDJ Dancers. But […]

Most jazz players don’t really seem to ‘get’ the music of Thelonious Monk. Decent cover versions are hard to come by, of course with some notable exceptions (Steve Khan, Kenny Kirkland, Lynne Arriale, Paul Motian and probably a few more). During the centenary of the genius’s birth, it seems as good a time as any to […]

It seems as if the second chapter of Tony Williams’ Blue Note solo career (1985–1992) has been rather forgotten. But listening back again after quite a few years, it’s striking how different those six albums sound to most acoustic jazz albums being made these days. Though no fan of the whole ‘Young Lions’ neo-traditionalist thing […]

As well as being a blues pioneer, Johnny Guitar Watson was steeped in bebop and swing; one listen to his version of ‘Witchcraft’ or brilliant guitar solo on ‘Telephone Bill’ should prove that. But there was a lot more to Watson, who died in 1996. Frank Zappa said that listening to ‘Three Hours Past Midnight’ […]

The trio is of course one of the staples of jazz. But legendary Art Ensemble Of Chicago/AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) co-founder, saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell has come up with an ingenious concept on his new ECM double album: he leads four separate trios, then mixes and matches them. Sometimes he […]

Jamaica-born alto saxist Joe Harriott was one of the UK scene’s most original, inventive and under-appreciated jazzmen of the late-‘50s and ‘60s. Although he died almost penniless in 1973 at the age of just 44, his work is now being reappraised and he’s being cited as a major influence on today’s younger players. Young UK jazz […]

Terje Rypdal has enjoyed a very long and varied career with ECM Records. His guitar style is an in-your-face mixture of Hank Marvin-influenced wang-bar melodicism and jagged, dramatic lines that would seem more likely to come from a cello or violin. And whilst probably too much of a mysterious presence to be described as a […]

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 […]