Category Live Reviews

Three Views of the Piano @ London Jazz Festival 2017: Monk’s Centenary, Nik Bärtsch and Kate Williams

The sumptuous Cadogan Hall hosted the fitting finale to this year’s London Jazz Festival, a recreation of Thelonious Monk’s famous New York Town Hall concert of 28th February 1959. Charles Tolliver, who had attended the original concert as a teenager, conducted and added occasional trumpet. In a neat touch, the band set up in the […]

Harvey Mason @ Ronnie Scott’s, 13th May 2017

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 […]

MCA Power Trio @ Cadogan Hall, 19th November 2016

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 […]

Jason Rebello Trio @ 606, 28th October 2016

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 […]

Cyrus Chestnut/Nikki Yeoh @ Ronnie Scott’s, 15th August 2016

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 […]

Phil Gould/Mike Lindup/Wally Badarou @ 606 Club, 11th January 2016

‘Pocket’ is hard to define but you know it when you hear it. Something akin to a drummer’s ‘feel’, musicians often say that you’re either in the pocket or you ain’t, and as such the expression is mostly used in association with great US groovemasters like Richie Hayward, James Gadson, Bernard Purdie and Andy Newmark. […]

Jarrod Lawson @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 14th November 2015

The vacuum left by North London genius Lewis Taylor’s virtual disappearance from the music scene has left space for various young blue-eyed soulsters (Bo Saris, Allen Stone, Mayer Hawthorne et al), but Jarrod Lawson has surely emerged as the pick of the bunch. His assured, ambitious and well-received 2014 debut album announced a major new talent, […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

George Benson/Christian Scott @ Royal Albert Hall, 28th June 2012

George Benson has managed to sustain a hugely successful career for over 50 years. His guitar playing has married Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery’s styles to spectacular effect while his vocals continue to combine the best of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Almost critic-proof, he’s equally at home in the soundworlds of Miles Davis and […]

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 sharing […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]