Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hal Willner’s Freedom Rides @ Royal Festival Hall, 12th August 2012

Hal Willner has become a sort of ‘Zelig’ figure in the music world over the last 30 years, an unassuming but important arranger, producer and musicologist who assembles wildly diverse groups of artists to appear on his Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Kurt Weill tribute albums. In Willner’s world, there’s nothing strange about Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor or Chuck D […]

Mark King @ Ronnie Scott’s, 28th February 2012

Bass legend and mainman of pop/funk/fusion titans Level 42 for the last 30 years, Mark King has flirted with the J word intermittently throughout his career. Early on in their tenure, the band were seen as a kind of English Weather Report, marrying funky, rock-solid basslines and jazz/soul keyboards with danceable rhythms. But then King almost jumped ship […]

Gil Scott-Heron 1949-2011

Once heard, the voice of Gil Scott-Heron was never forgotten. His rich baritone could break your heart with its tenderness on ‘Your Daddy Loves You’ or ‘Did You Hear What They Said’ or seduce with power and passion on ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ or ‘When You Are Who You Are’. His words also had huge range, […]

fDeluxe @ The Jazz Cafe, 19th January 2012

In the funk, soul or jazz world, reunions are a far less risky business than in the world of rock and pop. Generally the standard of musicianship is higher (the old saying that jazzers get better as they get older), the body of work less likely to date and the musical chops more willing. And this […]

Jeremy Stacey @ 606 Club, 16th December 2011

For a jazz player growing up in the 1970s, fusion, funk and rock were pretty unavoidable musical companions. A generation of British jazzers including drummer Jeremy Stacey looked to Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, The Crusaders, Weather Report, Return To Forever and even Parliament/Funkadelic for their jazz ‘standards’ almost as much as they did Miles, Mingus and Coltrane. Although in […]

Album Review: Gregory Porter’s Be Good

It’s been said before, but you wait years for a great male jazz vocalist and then several come along all at once. Gregory Porter stands out, though – not just because of his strong, deceptively-simple singing style via Donny Hathaway and Nat King Cole, but also because of his insistence on writing his own quality […]

Album Review: Nicholas Payton’s Bitches

Here’s one out of left field. Despite his occasional flirtations with fusion, Nicholas Payton has hitherto been known as somewhat of a traditionalist, one of New Orleans’ best young straight-ahead trumpet players of the last 20 years or so. But now he’s produced the uncompromising Bitches, essentially a one-man-band concept album with special guest vocalists including […]

Liberation Music Orchestra Featuring Charlie Haden/Carla Bley @ Barbican, 22nd May 2011

Jazz has a long history of protest, from Max Roach‘s Dr King-inspired We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, through Charles Mingus‘s ‘Fables of Faubus‘, via the civil-right-affirming music of the Free Jazz movement. In 1969, legendary bassist (and major player on the Free scene with Ornette Coleman) Charlie Haden formed The Liberation Music Orchestra as a direct response to […]

Wayne Shorter @ Barbican, 8th October 2011

The sturdy saxophonist plays a rapid, angular five-note motif and then takes the soprano out of his mouth as if immediately reflecting on what’s just transpired. It wasn’t a blues lick or a ‘jazz’ lick. It sounded possibly Eastern or African. Japanese? It’s probably best to classify it as a Wayne lick. As the bass player […]

Roy Ayers @ St Saviour’s Church, 21st July 2011

The pupils of St Saviour’s C of E Primary in Little Venice, West London, were treated to an amazing 30-minute show at the local St Saviour’s Church by the legendary vibraphone player, singer and songwriter Roy Ayers. St Saviour’s Head Lindsey Woodford has long championed the importance of music in young people’s lives. She said before the show, ‘We […]

Sir George Shearing 1919-2011

George Shearing, piano master, composer of ‘Lullaby of Birdland‘ and hero to a whole generation of jazz fans and musicians has died at the age of 91. His quintet became world-famous in the ’40s and ’50s for its cool, sophisticated sound, and Shearing patented a much-imitated ‘locked hands’ piano style. Shearing’s life was an incredible […]

Paul Motian 1931-2011

Paul Motian, the drummer, composer and bandleader who has died aged 80, was one of jazz’s great listeners. He reacted to the most subtle changes in a soloist’s phrasing and altered his playing accordingly. Sometimes a simple backbeat was the first casualty of this approach, making him a very popular drummer in the free jazz/avant-garde […]

Book Review: Peter King’s Flying High

The swing kings Duke Ellington and Count Basie had The Cotton Club, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and the legendary US beboppers had The Five Spot, Birdland and The Three Deuces. But a certain generation of UK jazz greats learnt their chops in the likes of The White Hart in Acton and The Bun Shop in […]

Steinway Piano Festival @ Pizza Express Soho, 26 March 2011

Judging by the first night of the Steinway Piano Festival, British jazz piano is in good hands. This was the third annual celebration of the world-famous family of manufacturers, and although jazz piano duets have never particularly been in vogue (apart from some much-heralded ‘70s collaborations featuring various permutations of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett), the […]

Jim Mullen @ 606 Club, November 2011

Glaswegian guitarist Jim Mullen is a hero to a generation of Brit jazz/funk fans mainly thanks to his work with late great saxophonist Dick Morrissey. Morrissey Mullen had some success in the late ‘70s and mid-80s, giving The Crusaders, Ronnie Laws and Don Blackman (not to mention Shakatak) a run for their money. Since then, Mullen has […]

Book Review: Nile Rodgers’ Le Freak

Nile Rodgers has spent his musical life on both sides of the studio glass, recording and writing hits with Chic and producing the likes of Diana Ross, Madonna, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Johnny Mathis and Al Jarreau. Chic were to disco what Steely Dan were to rock – they brought jazz chords, complex arrangements and […]

Janek Gwizdala/Gary Husband @ Hideaway, 14th November 2011

Old-school fusion is alive and well and coming to a venue near you during this week’s London Jazz Festival. In the vacuum left after Tribal Tech‘s extended sabbatical in 2000, a number of units have emerged to take on the Miles Davis/Weather Report/Herbie Hancock template and run with it. The latest is this powerful group led by London-born, […]

Dr Billy Taylor 1921-2010

Dr Billy Taylor was one of the last in a generation of classic jazz musicians who thrived in the bebop era. A distinguished ambassador for our music, he was a recording artist for six decades and probably most famous for his stirring composition ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free‘. Written […]

Robert Mitchell @ Ray’s Jazz, 10th February 2011

Robert Mitchell is one of the most original pianists on the UK scene. Mainly known for his Panacea group, he has also worked with US saxophonists Greg Osby and Steve Coleman and in a duo format with violinist Omar Puente. But this solo gig was the first in a new series at Ray’s Jazz Cafe in Foyles bookshop on London’s Charing Cross Road, a delightful place […]

Kenny Wheeler @ Pizza Express, 18th February 2011

Kenny Wheeler is one of the most inspirational and treasured players on the world jazz scene. The Canadian-born, England-based trumpet and flugelhorn player has enjoyed a long and varied career playing in quintets, quartets, big bands and with strings. He’s probably best known for his classic solo albums Gnu High (which featured Keith Jarrett on piano) and Deer […]

Little Axe @ The Star Of Kings, September 2011

The death of Sylvia Robinson this week brought to an end the era of Sugar Hill Records, the groundbreaking label that showcased some of the key rappers and one of the hottest rhythm sections of the last 30 years. Ohio-born guitarist and vocalist Skip McDonald was part of that unit and has since forged a formidable career playing with […]

James Moody 1925-2010

Saxophonist, flautist and bandleader James Moody died on Thursday 9th December, 2010, in San Diego, California. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. He was 85. One of the last living masters of the bebop era, Moody was perhaps best known for ‘Moody’s Mood For Love‘, his masterful 1949 improvisation over the chord changes of ‘In the […]

Abbey Lincoln 1930-2010

Abbey Lincoln, who has died aged 80, was known for her earthy, passionate vocal style and glamorous image. She was sometimes called ‘the black Marilyn Monroe’, but in the latter stages of her career presented an dignified, earnest, almost sombre performance style inspired by her heroine Billie Holiday. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in […]

Brecon Jazz Festival 2010

Taking place in the intimate, rural atmosphere of Mid-Wales near Hay-on-Wye, the Brecon festival crams an amazing amount of world-class artists into such a small area. And this year the variety didn’t just apply to the music on offer (or, unfortunately, the weather) – it was also a treat to see such a wide range […]

Stevie Wonder @ Hyde Park, 26th June 2010

I parked the car behind the Albert Hall and set out across Hyde Park, almost bumping into Kate Middleton in dazzling red dress (yes, really…). What kind of omen was that for Stevie’s gig? The general consensus was that his last shows in London at the O2 a few years ago had been a bit long on […]