Monthly Archives: July 2015

My Favourite Jazz Books (Of The Last Few Months…)

‘But Beautiful’ by Geoff Dyer Geoff Dyer is probably best known as the witty, urbane writer of ‘Jeff in Venice’, ‘Paris, Trance’ and ‘Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It’, but he started off his career with this stunning series of vignettes based on the lives of jazz greats including Chet Baker, […]

Steve Khan On His Classic 1983 Album ‘Casa Loco’

  Drummers and bassists: this album’s for you. And it’s for guitarists/percussionists/fans of great music too. Put simply, Steve Khan’s hard-to-track-down Casa Loco has enthralled me and a whole generation of jazz and jazz/rock aficionados for over 30 years. The compositions and performances of guitarist/leader Khan, bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Steve Jordan and ex-Weather Report […]

Ornette: Made In America

Ornette Coleman’s sad recent passing reminded me of an amazing, almost totally forgotten ‘documentary’ that is begging for a DVD re-release (though it may be available in the US). Shirley Clarke’s 1985 film ‘Ornette: Made In America‘ centres around Coleman’s 1983 return to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, to receive the keys to the city from […]

Billy Cobham @ Ronnie Scott’s, 6th February 2014

If 1959 is generally considered jazz’s annus mirabilis, you could make a pretty good case for 1973 as fusion’s apogee with key releases from Mahavishnu, Santana, Zappa and Herbie’s Headhunters. But for sheer energy and wow factor, drum master Cobham’s Spectrum might just trump them all, and he celebrated the classic album with this vigorous […]

Book Review: Gil Scott-Heron’s The Last Holiday

‘I admit that I never had given much thought As to how much of a battle would have to be fought To get most Americans to agree and then say That there actually should be a Black holiday…’ The death of Gil Scott-Heron in May 2011 silenced one of the most potent social commentators of […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Weather Report’s Mr Gone

Dateline 1977: After seven years of hard work with a serious album/tour itinerary and drummer issues to rival even Spinal Tap, Weather Report, the legendary jazz/rock band led by keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, finally hit gold. They had a dynamite new bass player in Jaco Pastorius, a US FM radio community that […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Lewis Taylor’s Lewis II

Soul music has a pretty rich tradition of ‘one-man bands’, musicians who have chosen to play the lion’s share of the instruments themselves thanks to liberal use of studio multi-tracking. Sometimes it’s a time-and-money-saving device, sometimes it’s a bid for creative freedom in the face of record company pressure and sometimes it’s a combination of […]

Book Review: Nica’s Dream by David Kastin

Interviewer: What is jazz? Thelonious Monk: New York, man. You can feel it. It’s around in the air… If the ‘Jazz Baroness’ Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter hadn’t existed, would the great beboppers have had to invent her? The benefactor and friend to the stars was an important figure in the jazz lexicon but […]

Album Review: Jazz Soul Seven’s Impressions of Curtis Mayfield

Soul legend Curtis Mayfield may not seem like the most obvious candidate for the jazz tribute album. Though his music occasionally used swinging rhythms and horn sections, his self-imposed harmonic strictures (he famously composed on an electric guitar tuned to an F# chord) didn’t readily embrace jazz and blues songforms, rather leaning on gospel, Latin […]

Wynton Marsalis @ Ronnie Scott’s, 17th August 2011

He’s one of jazz’s most controversial and iconoclastic figures, a thoroughbred trumpet player with chops and opinions for miles; keeper of the pure jazz flame since his emergence as part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1980, guarding against Fusion, Nu-Jazz, Acid Jazz, Jazz/Funk, Avant-Garde Jazz and all post-1967 developments; an erudite educationalist, a natural, […]

Album Review: Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/Motian’s Live At Birdland

The ECM label has always prided itself on the sonic detail of its recordings, but the Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Paul Motian/Charlie Haden Live At Birdland CD may be its most impressive technical achievement yet. Birdland is a very small jazz club in Midtown Manhattan, famous for its dry acoustics and intimate setting, yet a tantalising, almost […]

Album Review: Soweto Kinch’s The New Emancipation

Soweto Kinch’s The New Emancipation, released on his own Soweto Kinch Recordings label, is a stunning album which fulfills all the promise this Birmingham-based saxophonist, composer and rapper showed early in his career. It distills blues work songs, classical motifs, spoken word, gospel, challenging modern jazz and wonky hip-hop into a thrilling, kaleidoscopic and totally […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist

  The 1970s were made for such an eclectic and open-eared musician as guitarist John McLaughlin. As blues, rock, free jazz, Eastern scales and psychedelia merged at the end of the previous decade, McLaughlin was perfectly placed to cash in with his distinctive brand of fusion and the world was ready to listen. Cutting his […]

Kurt Elling @ Ronnie Scott’s, 18th April 2013

What makes a jazz singer a jazz singer? It surely goes way beyond performing jazzy material and dressing in a suit. It must be about phrasing and ‘instrumental’ ability. Gregory Porter, Jose James and Milton Suggs are hitting their straps and there have been strong recent recordings from octogenarians Mark Murphy and Tony Bennett. But […]

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

Amy Winehouse will be remembered as the songwriter of her generation, a gifted but troubled singer and composer whose music touched on jazz, soul, R’n’B and hip-hop. She emerged in the early 2000s when jazz was enjoying one of its frequent ‘comebacks’, and was seen by the mainstream media as part of the new crop of […]

The Love Supreme Festival 2013

An all-jazz residential UK festival – who’d have predicted it? Spread over an idyllic estate in rural East Sussex, Love Supreme’s USP was reflecting the music’s broad church and it certainly delivered on that score with barely a whiff of smooth jazz. Jazz’s liberation from club and concert hall also seemed to liberate audiences; Go […]

The Malta Jazz Festival 2013

The Maltese are very proud of their jazz festival and with good reason; now in its 23rd year, the three-day event features some prime artists in a beautiful setting by the sea where the harbour lights twinkle, yachts are moored close by and kids sit on the cliffs high above. The acoustics are superb, the […]

Pat Martino @ 606 Club, 22nd May 2013

With minimal bluster from MC and owner Steve Rubie, the treasured London jazz institution kicked off its 25th anniversary week with a real coup – a relatively rare UK visit from influential American guitarist, educator and players’ player Pat Martino. A contemporary of George Benson, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell and a big influence on […]

The Steinway Two Pianos Festival @ Pizza Express, 21st March 2013

To paraphrase Keith Jarrett, the piano perhaps isn’t the most natural instrument for playing jazz, so conquering the beast with 88 teeth remains a huge challenge and this annual festival of duets always throws up an intriguing potpourri of styles. Jason Rebello and Dave Newton kicked things off with an engaging if slightly conservative set, […]

Abram Wilson 1973-2012

Trumpeter, composer and educator Abram Wilson died on Saturday 9th June 2012 at the age of 38 after a short battle with cancer. Just 14 days ago, Abram posted a message on his website saying how much he was enjoying a UK tour with his quartet performing ‘Philippa’, a jazz theatre project based around the […]

Tribal Tech @ Ronnie Scott’s, 15th July 2013

An apposite Facebook comment in the run-up to fusion superband Tribal Tech’s first ever London gig suggested that guitarist Scott Henderson had now overtaken Jeff Beck as blues/jazz/rock’s go-to man. Certainly Henderson pushed his claim as one of the greats at Ronnie’s, but what really marks Tribal Tech out is that each of them is […]

Gwilym Simcock: Tribute to Jaco @ Pizza Express, 19th August 2013

It’s a sobering thought that bass master Jaco Pastorius would have turned 64 this December had he not tragically died in 1987. Whilst he has since been rightfully acknowledged as the Charlie Parker of electric bass, his compositions have arguably never really been given enough recognition, partly due to his ‘sideman’ roles with some of […]

Patrick Clahar/Julian Joseph @ 606 Club, November 2011

Tenorist Patrick Clahar is an important though somewhat unsung figure on the Brit jazz landscape. He’s appeared on some of the key jazz and jazz/funk albums of the last 20 years including Incognito’s Tribes, Vibes and Scribes, Jason Rebello’s Keeping Time and Omar’s Music and he was also involved in incarnations of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks and The Jazz Warriors. Early indications suggested he […]

Joe Morello 1928-2011

Joe Morello‘s modest, bespectacled demeanour belied his role as the go-to man in the world-famous Dave Brubeck Quartet, the crisp thwack of his snare drum and relentless ride cymbal frequently lighting a fire under that most organised of ensembles. Aided by Teo Macero‘s widescreen production, his famous solo on ‘Take Five‘ was heard around the jazz world, a masterpiece of […]

Ray Bryant 1931-2011

Ray Bryant, the gifted gospel-tinged pianist whose work straddled many different jazz styles from Dixieland and hard bop to blues and R’n’B and enjoyed some chart success, has died aged 79. Whilst working as house pianist at the Blue Note club in his native Philadelphia in the ’50s, he played with an astonishing lineup of […]