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April 2017 – upcoming jazz & improv instrumental gigs, Midlands, West and East – Theo Travis’ Double Talk in Essex (21st); Birmingham Bass Night with Steve Lawson, Dave Clarke, Russ Sargeant and Kevin Buckland (24th); improv in Cheltenham with Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston/Hannah Marshall Improvising Trio, Han Bennink & Pat Thomas, plus Chris Cundy (28th)

9 Apr

I focus too much on London with these news posts, so it’s refreshing to get a chance to look further afield now and again. Two of the regular gig-engines that I keep an eye on are Cheltenham’s friendly and broadminded improve evening Xposed Club, and Birmingham’s self-propelled compulsive bass collaborator Steve Lawson – so it’s good to be able to feature a gig by each of them here, plus news on the only 2017 gig planned (so far) for Theo Travis’s Double Talk quartet.

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With Double Talk, saxophonist Theo Travis pulls together his diverse influences and drives – his lyrical Stan Getz-ish jazz approach, his taste for ambient experimentalism, and the push-pull strands of his beloved English art rock and prog strands (spanning the likes of King Crimson, Gong and Porcupine Tree through to the influence of Theo’s other main gig as a member of Soft Machine) – more successfully than with any of his other projects. Allying Theo with drummer Nic France, Hammond organist Pete Whitaker and the extraordinarily malleable guitar of Mike Outram, Double Talk produce a warm, thoughtful, textured and propulsive jazz – managing their fusion leanings without falling into the trap of electric sterility, expressing their irreverent Englishness without drowning in soapy tweeness; an exhibition of subtle, graceful and reflective muscle.

At this Fleece Jazz gig, they’ll be mainly (though not exclusively) concentrating on music from their 2015 album ‘Transgression’.

Fleece Jazz presents:
Theo Travis’ Double Talk
Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Keepers Lane, Leavenheath, Colchester, Essex, CO6 4PZ, England
Friday 21 April 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here


 
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Birmingham Bass Night, 23rd April 2017

Birmingham Bass Night: Local Heroes! (featuring Steve Lawson, Dave Clarke, Russ Sargeant & Kevin Buckland)
Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England
Sunday 23rd April 2017, 6.30pm
information

Another of Steve Lawson’s hometown low-end gigs-with-pals is coming up in the shape of this “all-West Midlands solo bass extravaganza” – more details below.

Steve Lawson is the UK leading solo bassist – a former Bass Guitar Magazine cover star, Steve has been playing solo for 20 years, everywhere from The Royal Albert Hall to the Knitting Factory in LA. His solo work has also lead to numerous collaborations, most recently with Divinity Roxx, Reeves Gabrels, Tanya Donelly and Beardyman amongst many others. He’s released somewhere in the region of 45 solo and collaborative albums, but lost count some time in 2012…


 
“Midlands bass legend Dave Clarke has been a regular on the scene for twenty-five years, touring with Surinder Sandhu, Alvin Stardust, The Contours and Chairman Of The Board, and gigging in pretty much every pop style imaginable. Dave returns to Birmingham Bass Night with his much-loved looping piano/bass experimental duo, the Rowberry/Clarke Project.

 
“UK bassist Russ Sargeant uses his instruments, along with technology and effects, to create beautiful, layered music. His work has been described as “wonderfully immersive” and “subtle layers of sound that emerge gracefully like cinematic soundtracks”.


 
“Solo bassist and soundscapist Kevin Buckland – a.k.a. An Ending Ascend – brings his beautiful laptop-powered, eBow-laden ambient textures to Birmingham Bass Night. Currently studying for a Masters in experimental composition and sound art, Kevin’s musical journey takes the listener on a rich and rewarding ride through a world of mellow organic electronica.”


 
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A rather longer entry now for the latest Xposed Club show, featuring as it does a stack of coalescing musicians with long solo pedigrees…

Xposed Club, 24th April 2017

Xposed Club presents:
Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston/Hannah Marshall Improvising Trio + Han Bennink & Pat Thomas + Chris Cundy (bass clarinet solo)
The Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England
Friday 28th April 2017, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Friends and collaborators for more than forty years (since meeting in Trevor’s Moiré Music Group, which pursued a unique combination of African rhythmic structures with the European musical tradition) saxophonist Trevor Watts and pianist Veryan Weston have been at the forefront of many innovations and developments within the jazz/world and improvisational areas of music.

Trevor is the only surving founder member of The Spontaneous Music Ensemble, began the Amalgam group in 1967 (with bassist Barry Guy and trombonist Paul Rutherford), and was a founder member of Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra. He also founded The Drum Orchestra which, over a seventeen-year span from 1980, combined the talents of musicians from North and South Africa and Latin America. Initially a collaborator with Lol Coxhill and Eddie Prévost in the early ‘80s, Veryan reveals new aspects of an ever-changing improvised music identity depending on who he is playing with: he spent much of the ’90 working with vocalist extraordinaire Phil Minton, and other collaborations have included Carla Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill, John Zorn’s Cobra and (more recently) Sol6 and the 2014 Lindsay Cooper memorial project. His work with Jon Rose on the ‘Temperament Project’ uses assorted acoustic keyboards and violins with “selected tunings derived from science, history and the imagination”, and his formal composition work with the ‘Tessellations’ project produces pentatonic pieces for choir, piano, string quartet and other formats.

Sharing musical interests (particularly in rhythmic ideas), the two have maintained a long standing improvisation-focussed duo, highly acclaimed for their recordings and worldwide live appearances. Having previously joined forces with drummer Terry Day and bassist Dominic Lash, they’re currently operating as a trio with the involvement of free improvising cellist Hannah Marshall – a force on the UK scene and beyond who continues to “extract and invent as many sounds and emotional qualities from her instrument as she can… influenced by environmental sounds, western classical music, jazz, noise, traditional songs and blues amongst many things…” As well as work with Veryan on the Tuning Out Tour, the Trio of Uncertainty and Haste (and with others including Rachel Musson, Julie Kjaer, and Tim Hodgkinson), Hannah collaborates on and scores many other performing-arts works within theatre, dance, storytelling, film and live art.


 

Last time he played at Xposed Club (nine years ago) Han Bennink packed the place out. At the age of seventy-five, the onetime hard-swing drummer retains the lifelong energy that’s made him a linchpin of the Dutch improvisational scene. From backing various American stars on their visits to Holland in the 1960s, Han went on to co-found the musicians collective Instant Composers Pool in 1967 with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker. With additional skills on clarinet, violin, trombone, piano, soprano saxophone and banjo (and a parallel career as a visual artist) he’s one of Europe’s most diverse improvisers, working with Derek Bailey, Misha Mengelberg and John Tchicai, amongst others.

Han’s also been in a number of trios, including the sax-cello-drums Clusone 3 (with Michael Moore and Ernst Reijseger, creating a “free-wheeling mix of swinging jazz standards, wide-open improvising, and tender ballads”) and a sax-piano-drums arrangement with Peter Brötzmann and Fred van Hove. His current main trios are his own Han Bennink Trio (with Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet and Simon Toldam on piano) and a piano-bass-drums alliance with Cor Fuhler and Wilbert de Joode. He remains a member of Mengelberg’s ICP Orchestra and the Tobias Delius Quartet. Throughout all of this, he’s also kept up his interest in non-standard/found object percussion, something which dates back to his first experiments with a kitchen chair at the start of his playing career (he still plays one whenever he had the opportunity).


 
Han also retains an active fondness for the spontaneous duo gig, and for this Xposed appearance he’s joined by pianist Pat Thomas. An improv festival veteran, Pat’s own history is one of mingling organic musical influences (jazz, reggae, classical) with electro-acoustic experimentation – when not playing piano, he’s working with programmable keyboards and with found-sound created by taping and editing random soundtracks from TV broadcasts. In the mid-’80s he played in Ghosts with percussionist Matt Lewis and wind/EWI player Pete McPhail, the latter of whom would also be a member of Pat’s experimental tentet Monads (which specialised in running a gamut of improvisational possibilities from saxophone-led pieces to others which foregrounded turntables, drum machines and computers). During the ‘90s Pat was a member of the intermittent quartet Scatter (with Phil Minton, Roger Turner and Dave Tucker). He’s also played extensively with Tony Oxley, Mike Cooper. Derek Bailey and Lol Coxhill, has a keyboard-and-percussion duo with Mark Sanders, and a trio with Steve Beresford and Francine Luce.


 

The opening act on the bill is extended-technique reedsman Chris Cundy: an Xposed Club regular and favourite with roots in Medway busking, a roving Cheltenham/Canada base, and a history that includes work with Fyfe Dangerfield (exploring both art pop with Guillemots and more avant-garde improvising terrain with Gannets), freak-folkers Timbre Timbre, doom-soul singer Cold Specks, florid transgender romantic Baby Dee, acclaimed indie/jazz/folk artist Devon Sproule and others. The master of a range of approaches (multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) and of assorted standard and unusual woodwind and reed instruments, Chris dips into everything from the philosophical experiments of Cornelius Cardew and John Cage to out-and-out improv to theatre work. For this particular gig, he’ll be concentrating on his bass clarinet work.


 

April 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet (8th), The Delegation (22nd), TEXTURE (28th)

3 Apr

Three upcoming jazz gigs this month – shimmering vibes-and-voice-led songwork; large-scale and purposeful big-band abstractions like a collapsing city; cartoon-coloured Weather Report-ish synth and drum grooves…

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MAP Studio Café presents:
Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 8th April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet, 8th April 2017“The unusual line up of bass, drums, voice and vibraphone adds to the unique sound created by the Ella Hohnen-Ford Quartet, a vibrant jazz/cross-genre quartet of passionate young players, currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall. With influences ranging from the jazz greats (such as Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Horn), to modern composers (including Kenny Wheeler and Marius Neset) and singer-songwriters such as Nora Jones and James Taylor, the group have a truly individual and confident sound. A debut performance not to missed, featuring arrangements of songs we love and compositions written by and for this specific line up.

“The band features Ella Hohnen-Ford (currently the only singer studying at the Royal Academy of Music’s jazz course), vibraphonist/composer Jonny Mansfield, drummer Boz Martin-Jones and bassist Will Sach (who currently holds the world record for playing the highest altitude bass line, at 40,000 feet). Ella and Boz also play in Johnny’s hotly-tipped Elftet band.”

I couldn’t find anything by the whole band, let alone any sneak previews of their original tunes, but here’s what sounds like Jonny and Ella at work on an old standard:


 
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MAP Studio Café presents:
The Delegation
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Saturday 22nd April 2017, 7.30pm
information

Gabriel ZuckerGabriel Zucker’s indie jazz orchestra The Delegation was founded in 2013, and has already broken new ground in New York’s dynamic music scene. Combining an array of disparate influences into a unique and emotionally immediate sound, The Delegation has performed throughout the Northeast and Canada, and Zucker’s compositions for the group have received awards from ASCAP and the American Composers Forum JFund grant. The group’s singular musical philosophy has been profiled at length by the Ottawa Citizen, Jazz Gallery, and the American Composers Forum.

“Last autumn, The Delegation brought its unique concept to life with the release of ‘Evergreen (Canceled World)’, Zucker’s maximalist 12-movement composition that serves as the band’s sprawlingly ambitious debut record. In ‘World Music Report’, Raul da Gama wrote “in Zucker’s almost confrontational writing I find the vision of one who is hugely expressive. Here is a young man with a profound sense of tone and colour and how it can be wrought from diverse instrumentation to be affectingly “cantorial”, expressive and hugely symphonic too.”

“‘Evergreen’ also received 4.5 stars in ‘Downbeat’ and 4 stars in ‘All About Jazz’. With protean production by Zucker and pop producer Chris Connors, the nearly-two-hour record features everything from angular rhythmic grooves to Radiohead-inspired soundscapes to jarring electronics-infused chamber music to enigmatic lullabies, and is one of the year’s only contemporary releases on the prestigious ESP-Disk label.


 

 

“Support comes from Introspection, a new seven-piece contemporary modal jazz and jazz-rock ensemble, soon to release their eponymous debut EP. The group plays the original compositions and arrangements of its bandleader and guitarist Julian Woods, which explore colourful modal harmony, open improvisation, dense textures, contemporary through-composition, and rock-like timbres.”

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IKLECTIK Art Lab presents:
TEXTURE
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 28th April 2017, 8:00 pm
information

TEXTURE, 2014“TEXTURE is an original drums/keyboards duo project of drummer, percussionist and composer Adam Teixeira, featuring Chris Pruden on analogue keyboards and synthesizers. Based in South London and Berlin, the two musicians began playing together in Toronto, Canada in 2012 and have since performed across North America and Europe collaborating with a variety of international musicians.

“Adam has recently released this music on his debut album (also called ‘TEXTURE’), which features hypnotic and infectious drumset grooves, kalimba melodies, atmospheric synth landscapes; exploring a unique blend of folkloric rhythmic traditions stemming from African, Caribbean and Indian classical roots with modern jazz and electronic influences, and providing the perfect setting for the musicians to launch into energetic improvisations.”



 

April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – “wonk rock” with The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion (3rd); Patricia Hammond & Matt Redman’s Edwardian pop (3rd); SOIF Soiree with Society Of Imaginary Friends, David Skinner, The Support Stockings, Cian Binchy, Millie George, I Am Her, Martin Wakefield, Jed Demochowski, Anne Corrigan etc. (7th)

27 Mar

I was moved to jam these three early April gigs together for a preview. On the Wednesday, it’s up to you whether you go for the tangled electric loom of wonky pop/jazz/punk noise or for the hundred-year-old pop hits with the Keep Calm And Carry On teatowels. Either way, you still get to attend the latest mixed-music-and-poetry SOIF cabaret on the following Friday…

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The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion, 3rd April 2017Bad Hedge presents:
The Display Team + A Sweet Niche + Ham Legion
The Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, Deptford, London, SE8 4RZ, England
Monday 3rd April 2017, 7.00pm
information

“A repulsive onstage three-way shocker! For one night in April, three heavyweights of the widely ignored wonk rock scene will spill off the stage in one of London’s best (and cheapest) small venues. And all for free! The Display Team: nob-bothering high-octave brutalitarians; like a small orchestra with big balls. A Sweet Niche: skronky honkies that bring an ominous twistin’ y’all can’t be resistin’. Ham Legion: kaleidoscopic power-pop rompers with more dinner ideas than you’ve had hot.”

For a little more on these people from back in the ‘Misfit City’ archives, have a peek here, here and here. Meanwhile, here’s the obligatory fistful of tunes.




 
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Patricia Hammond & Matt Redman - 3rd April 2017Wiltons Music Hall presents:
Monday Night Music: Patricia Hammond with Matt Redman
The Mahogany Bar @ Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Monday 3rd April 2017, 8.00pm – free event
– information here and here

“An evening of rousing Edwardian pop! Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman, world-renowned specialists in authentic historical performance, will play an assortment of pop songs from the Edwardian era, including some of the first songs ever written about motorised transport: Willie Had A Motor-Boat, In My Merry Oldsmobile, My Rickenbacker Car, Wait Till You Get Them Up In The Air, Boys, and many, many more delights. If you’re very nice to them, Patricia and Matt also promise some rousing singalongs to gems such as If You Were The Only Girl In The World and, for the WW1 Centenary’s sake, Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit-Bag.

 
Matt will be performing on piano, guitar, banjo and accordion, and will treat people to instrumentals of some of the new dance crazes of the 1900s and 1910s, such as tango, chorinho, ragtime, Hawaiian and blues. Of course, this being Wilton’s, songs of the great music hall era will also feature. All together now!”

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SOIF Soiree, 7th April 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:
Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “For Absent Friends” (featuring Society Of Imaginary Friends + David Skinner + The Support Stockings + Cian Binchy + Millie George + I Am Her + Martin Wakefield + Evie + Jed Demochowski + Anne Corrigan + Dj Onjdrew + others t.b.c.)
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 7th April 2017, 8.00pm – free event
information

The latest in Society of Imaginary Friends’ ongoing series of grab-bag gigs, featuring a number of faces which ought to be familiar from recent performances:

“A sunny spring park comes to life crowded with absent friends, friends turned imaginary, walking with the sun, singing and humming, playing rounders, turning summersaults, laughing with the children,climbing trees, smiling into the breeze and as the sun sets we gather round a bandstand at the centre of a green. Vegan ma-nah is brought out by sensual peace-loving Daleks… a gorgeous offering of sound and light a celebration of friendship.

“Performing on 7th is the virtuosic guitarist and velvety voiced singer David Skinner; harmonious vocal stylings from our choir The Support Stockings; fresh from his sold-out national tour, Cian Binchy; the fabulous young poet and star of the Round House and Young Vic Millie George; urban punk from the mighty Julie Riley‘s I Am Her; Martin Wakefield and Evie with inspiring poetry, music and verse; Jed Demochowski (of the VIPs) and his new band; Anne Corrigan delighting us with her poems; DJ Onjdrew, and a couple of super amazing surprise star guests. Plus us, theSociety Of Imaginary Friends.

“Please come and bring a memory, a line or two about your absent friend to say on the night. Looking forward to seeing you there. Don’t forget it is free entry and there is amazing vegan food and award-winning beverages to purchase.”





 

February to May 2017 – upcoming London jazz gigs – the LUME Lab season with Word of Moth, Julie Kjær, Craig Scott and Anton Hunter

31 Jan

News from London’s LUME jazz organization on their forthcoming season, featuring several of the performers who featured in last year’s LUMEFEST.

LUME Lab, 2017“LUME is back with something new for 2017: LUME Lab. Making a space for artists to create new work, four evenings of brand new composition and improvised music will be accompanied by the LUME Lab project blog, letting the audience in on the creative process.

“LUME Lab marks a change of direction for us: we’re moving away from being a platform for guest artists, rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in creating new music with the community of musicians who have gathered around LUME over the past three-and-a-half years.

“LUME Lab gigs will take place at IKLECTIK, the South London arts space that played host to our inaugural festival last summer and the LUMEkestra’s debut in November. The series opens in February with a new incarnation of our quartet Word Of Moth, then we settle down for the ride and get ready to enjoy new music from three of the most exciting artists on the UK scene right now. We invite you to join us. Tickets are available for individual gigs, and for slightly less you can purchase a season ticket for all four, or a ticket to use at two dates of your choice. Buy tickets now from our Luminous Bandcamp page.”

Word of Moth (photo © Tom Ward)Word Of Moth
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 8th February 2017, 8.00pm
information

Word Of Moth’s ‘spontaneous group explorations and tightly-scored, big-booted riffs’ were praised by Daniel Spicer in ‘The Wire’ magazine after their appearance at LUME Festival. The collaborative quartet explores the intersection of freedom and structure, with LUME founders Dee Byrne (alto sax) and Cath Roberts (baritone sax) joined by Seth Bennett on bass and Johnny Hunter on drums.”
 
Julie Kjær © David LaskowskiJulie Kjær
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Saxophonist Julie Kjær is firmly established on the European stage. Her acclaimed trio with Steve Noble and John Edwards released its debut recording ‘Dobbeltgænger’ on the Clean Feed label in 2016, and she tours with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love‘s Large Unit as well as being involved in many other projects in the UK and beyond.”


 
Craig Scott (photo © Josh Crocker)Craig Scott
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 19th April 2017, 8.00pm
information

Craig Scott’s music is ‘part human, part machine and revelling the glory and error of both.’ His studio project Craig Scott’s Lobotomy transforms recordings of improvisations by Craig and others using homemade equipment, re-constructing them with digital audio software. He is a member of formidable Leeds quintet Shatner’s Bassoon.”


 
Anton Hunter (photo © Mark Whitaker)Anton Hunter
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Wednesday 24th May 2017, 8.00pm
information

“Improvisation is at the core of Anton Hunter’s work. His Article XI project incorporates the personalities of eleven improvising musicians into the compositional process, exploring the relationship between composer and large ensemble. He leads his own trio with Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter, and co-founded the long-running Manchester free improvisation night The Noise Upstairs.”


 

November 2016 – upcoming London jazz gigs (28th) – Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet, Michael Janisch and The James Beckwith Trio at the Cockpit; Ping Machine Quartet at the Sitara

26 Nov

Two London jazz-hops for Monday…

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Cockpit Productions present:
Jazz In The Round: Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet + Michael Janisch + The James Beckwith Trio
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Monday 28th November 2016, 7.00pm
information

According to their own description, the Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet work with “repertoire (which)“fuses Mitchener’s unique way with both melody and abstraction, with Hawkins’ idiosyncratic compositional and pianistic world; as well as spotlighting re-imaginings of a small number of non-original songs which reveal the influence of precursors such as Jeanne Lee and Linda Sharrock.” The project’s still young enough not to have spawned either recordings or video clips, so you’ll have to imagine it from the existing pedigree of its players and movers.

Pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins (a onetime renegade lawyer and youthful church organist who evolved into a jazz keyboard explorer of rare brilliance) has already made marks as a noted collaborator with Louis Moholo, Shabaka Hutchings and plenty of others, plus previous leader/co-leader work with Convergence Quartet, Hammond organ funk-improv trio Decoy and his own de-/free-constructive Trio and Ensemble. He’s been hailed as an exceptional talent within his generation.


 
Vocalist Elaine Mitchener, though she’s been following a decidedly more outre path, is also exceptional: twisting and fusing (or placing in parallel) vocal approaches from jazz, gospel, sound poetry, free improvisations and contemporary classical, and where possible blending it with performance aspects of movement theatre. A collaborator with the likes of Phil Minton and Evan Parker (music), Deborah Warner (theatre) and Christian Marclay (both and neither), she’s as happy with pre-linguistic gabble and the esoteric libretti of David Toop operas as she is with a standard. At least as likely to be found performing in a gallery space as in a jazz club, she’s one of Britain’s most daring singers; balanced conceptually (though not necessarily tonally) between Lauren Newton, Abbey Lincoln, Dagmar Krause and the latterday Scott Walker (as well as the aforementioned avant-jazz vocal trailblazers Lee and Sharrock), but carving out a highly individual expressive space of her own. Below is just one example of what she does.


 
The quartet is completed by double bass player Neil Charles (from Alexander’s existing Trio) and by drummer Steve Davis, who appear to be considerably more than sidemen: “structurally, the group function as complete equals, veering radically from the traditional norm of ‘singer plus rhythm section’, instead treating this as only one possible dynamic amongst many.”

Reknowned émigré-American bass player Michael Janisch (once of TransAtlantic Collective, more recently a member of City of Poets, leader of Paradigm Shift and prime mover of both Whirlwind Recordings and the Whirlwind Festival) is playing a solo set as the middle act. Outside of master classes, this is an unusual scenario for Michael: he’s generally to be found at the hearts of ensembles, pushing them on with inspired work whether on double bass or electric bass guitar. There’s no details on which of these he’s using this time (it might be both).

As opener, pianist James Beckwith brings the trio of himself, rising jazz-pop drummer Harry Pope and bass guitarist Joe Downard (a protégé of the great Herbie Flowers, now one of London’s busiest cross-disciplinary bass players in jazz, blues, country, soul and hip hop). Together they present a London spin on “New York contemporary jazz harmonies, the piano trio lineage, Middle Eastern and Asian folk, to mould strong rhythmic tunes delivered with driving energy”, working from fragmented syncopation to tight funky knots.


 

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Ping Machine Quartet, 28th November 2016Some time ago, I was bemoaning the loss of Archway scratch-deli Forks & Corks (an up-and-coming London jazz venue) to buildings works and gentrification. While I’ve been grumbling, Archway local (and cheerily formidable double bass hero) Jonny Gee, who had some responsibility for the music there) has picked himself up undaunted, and moved proceedings a minute or so’s walk south to the Sitara restaurant. There he’s continued to build plans for an Archway jazz scene with an unfolding series of surprising blink-and-you’ll-miss-them meal-plus-music gigs, of which this is the latest.

Jonny Gee presents:
Ping Machine Quartet
The Sitara, 784 Holloway Road, Archway, London, N19 3JH, England
Monday 28th November 2016, 6.00pm
information

There’s not too much information on this one besides from the words “improv, bebop, jazz” tossed onto the poster like hasty clip-art, so (as with the Hawkins/Mitchener Quartet) you’ll just have to go by the reputations of the people in the band. Nothing to do with the similarly-named polystylistic French ensemble, they’re a more recent alliance of Jonny, Orphy Robinson and two other impressive London musicians.

Jonny’s sideman and MD work for King Salsa, Antonio Forcione, Ravi Shankar and Cleo Laine only scratches the surfaces of a thrillingly animated career on bass, which has stretched from jazz to Latin dance to baroque classical and back again in a ongoing arc of possibilities. Orphy, meanwhile, is a beloved veteran of the ‘90s British jazz boom. Once a Jazz Warrior, subsequently a Blue Note-signed vibraphonist, he’s now firmly fixed at jazz statesman status thanks to diverse work within education and curation as well as his host of ongoing projects as a player (including Nubian Vibes, Bruise, Codefive, Clear Frame and his Black Top duo with pianist Pat Thomas).

Regarding the remaining half of the quartet – drummer Andrea Trillo has played with both Herbie Hancock and Jerry Dammers, as well as with Dave O’Higgins, Jon Toussaint, Simon Purcell and Tim Richards. Long steeped in jazz and Latin music, Shanti Paul Jayasinha’s played trumpet for Brand New Heavies, Jason Yarde, Tim Garland and Buena Vista Social Club as well as leading his own ShantiJazzWorld ensemble. He also plays flugelhorn and, for this gig, might be toting the Slumpet (his custom valve/slide trumpet). In case he doesn’t, this is what it sounds like.


 

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Future Currents at IKLECTIK (15th), Rothko & Ghost Mind at Servant Jazz Quarters (17th)

14 Nov

A couple of instrumental or near-instrumental shows in London this week – intent and textural, electric and hidden, bubbling underground.

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EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
Future Currents
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 15th November 2016, 8.00pm
information

IKLECTIK/band press release below (tweaked and interfered with, as usual):

“Future Currents is the electric guitar ensemble formed by composer/improviser Alex Roth with the aim of exploring the full range of the guitar’s sonic potential and contributing to a redefinition of the instrument’s role in twenty-first century experimental music.

Future Currents: 'Future Currents' EP

Future Currents: ‘Future Currents’ EP

“Bringing together three of the UK's most acclaimed improvising guitarists – Alex himself, Chris Montague ( of
“Motorhead meets Mingus” jazz-rock trio Troyka) and Chris Sharkey (formerly part of both trioVD and Acoustic Ladyland, currently working solo as Survival Skills and as part of the Shiver trio) -the ensemble creates new music of extremes: expansive soundscapes informed as much by composers like Morton Feldman, Frank Zappa, Olivier Messiaen and Richard D. James as by pioneering guitarists such as Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Ben Monder, Marc Ducret and Bill Frisell.

“As its name suggests, Future Currents’ self-titled debut EP (featuring post-production by fellow guitarist Matt Calvert of Three Trapped Tigers), encapsulates a sense of existing in multiple tenses simultaneously (the “now” and a projected “then”); but ‘Future Currents’ also connotes electricity – one of the defining elements of the ensemble’s sound. Further extending this theme, the track titles reference scientists and mathematicians who have made significant contributions to our understanding in this (or a related) field.”

This concert is a launch gig for the EP, which will also include screenings of short films by Morgan Beringer, including his illuminated sine wave video for the track ‘Fourier’.


 
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On Thursday, there’s a repeat London date for the loomingly beautiful music of Rothko and the spellbindingly expansive improv trio Ghost Mind…

Trace Recordings presents:
Rothko + Ghost Mind
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Thursday 17th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

Rothko + Ghost Mind, 17th November 2016

Though anchored in every sense – musical, textural, timbral, compositional and organisational – by Mark Beazley’s strata-laying post-punk bass guitar tones, the lineup of Rothko has shifted and reshaped over the years; like a restless colony creature (or, indeed, a restless artist’s colony). Sometimes it’s just Mark, painting bleak but beautiful low-frequency soundpaintings in a hundred hues of grey and grit; sometimes it’s Mark and another bassist, or a small wall of bassists; sometimes it’s Mark plus appended art-rock or post-rock band, adding flute, guitar, violin, drumkit, glockenspiel or whatever.

Currently and confusingly, Rothko are managing to be two, but in three senses. There’s the project’s ongoing two-man lineup; then there’s the fact that there are two simultaneous and different versions of the lineup, operating in an amicable parallel. One of these is Mark plus recurring other-bass foil Michael D. Donnelly, instrumental and enmeshed; the other is Mark plus Band Of Holy Joy frontman Johnny Brown, who are releasing the first collection of their work next Monday as the album ‘A Young Fist Curled Around A Cinder For A Wager’.

It’s the Beazley/Brown lineup that’s playing at Servant Jazz Quarters, launching the record. From what I can gather, they’re a performative duo of Mark’s assertive, layered bass-scapes and Johnny’s spoken-word poetry; vivid, brutally honest evocations of childhood in a harsh, post-industrial rural community. Live, they’re augmented by the projected imagery of longtime Band of Holy Joy collaborator Inga Tillere, whose work taps into feelings of loss and dislocation, and whose photos of battered shacks and sheds (like ghosts of habitation) makes up the bones of the new album’s artwork. More is evolving at the current ‘…Young Fist…’ microsite.

(UPDATE – since I originally posted this, the album’s title track has surfaced on both Bandcamp and Soundcloud, so here it is…)


 
As for Ghost Mind, they’re a Cheltenham-based metaphysical quartet, a spin-off from long-running experimental group Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra. Three playing members – Jon Andriessen on guitar and effects, Pete Robson on assorted trumpets and horns and Stuart Wilding on allsorts percussion – join forces with a fourth, conceptual member collated from found sounds and field recording atmospheres (gathered from around the planet, many of them from centres of human habitation) and characterised, for purposes of both performance and communion, as a kind of world consciousness.

It’s a high-faluting idea, which would drift into worthy pomposity in the wrong hands. When explored by a trio of such particular sensitivity and skill in interacting both with each other and with the tapes, it’s revelatory: simultaneously bringing the world in through the window while summoning up three other ones from within via the gateways of unfettered musical exploration, and somehow managing to blend all four into the same flowing movement.

For a fuller exploration and expansive dip into the soundworld of Ghost Mind (plus sundry bits of Rothko background, music and history), have a read of my preview for their shared gig at IKLECTIK back in June of this year. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the Ghost Mind concert recording below.

 

October 2016 – upcoming gigs – this weekend’s Wakizashi music festival in Bristol – two days of underground allsorts (22nd, 23rd)

19 Oct

Wakizashi Festival, Bristol, 22nd & 23rd October 2016There may still be tickets left for the “glut of experimental and cross-genre artists” descending on Bristol this weekend for the two-day, twenty-band Wakizashi music festival.

The shared brainchild of two Bristolian gig engines – PROBO Titans (who incubate and deliver bi-monthly rock, pop and experimental gigs) and Harry “Iceman” Furniss (restless jazz cornetter and leading fringeman within the Avon jazz underground), Wakizashi offers an exciting, intimate and intelligent spill of psychedelia, noise, post-punk, math rock, jazz strains, electronica and much more.

PROBO Titans & Harry Iceman Furniss present:
Wakizashi Festival:
– Get The Blessing + Hysterical Injury + Twin + Iyabe + Iceman Furniss Quartet + Human Bones + Charivari + Luui + Saltings (Saturday)
– Knifeworld + Edward Penfold + Evil Usses + Milon + Halftone + Drone Soul + Rafael Dornelles Trio + Uther Modes + Perverts (Sunday)
The Old Malt House, Little Ann Street, Bristol, BS2 9EB, England
Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd October 2016 – starts 1.00pm, Saturday
– information here and here

Harry Furniss makes the most of his own involvement by appearing with his Iceman Furniss Quartet. His flowing cornet leads punk-art jazz moves over dogged springy bass rhythms and shuddering No Wave electric-curtain guitar (care of Danny Le Guilcher from Dynamite Pussy Club, whose other career as a printmaker seems to have literally rubbed off on his playing).


 
Further jazz directions are provided by Saturday’s headliners Get The Blessing (founded sixteen years ago over a mutual appreciation of Ornette Coleman,) provide rumbling, doomy trip-hop-tinged jazz-rock. They boast a rhythm section of art-rock/trip-hop/drum & bass go-to-men Clive Deamer and Jim Barr (who between them have kept the pulse going for Portishead, Radiohead, Hawkwind, Peter Gabriel and Roni Size) plus saxophonist Jake McMurchie (of Michelson Morley) and trumpeter Pete Judge (Eyebrow and Three Cane Whale), with another Portisheader, Adrian Utley, sometimes guesting on guitar. Their music brings along some of the flash and flair of jazz pioneers, but also the sense of being trapped in a small room with a lumbering, powerful inscrutable beast – with an equal chance of being either impressed or squashed.


 
Post-punk bass/drums/voice duo Hysterical Injury have a toe in the improv scene and a touch of folk. Their recent press tagging as some kind of “better version of Savages” belies the hovering thoughtfulness and the gentle dignity in their music beyond the softly roiling industrial bass textures. Singing bassist Annie Gardiner has a way with the writing and delivery of a surreal, conceptually suggestive lyric which baffles and entrances.


 
There’s something similarly compelling about the voice of Sophie Dawes, who sings for Iyabe further down the bill. As it was with missing-in-action Delicate AWOL singer Caroline Ross, Annie and Sophie’s voices and words are clear, weightless and elusive – keeping you listening while you try to figure out the messages and hidden narratives floating past in slow streams of isolated moment and fleeting detail.

Regarding Iyabe – considering that they’re a five-piece, they sound remarkably skeletal. Soft pings, drum clicks, bass shadows. At their most expansive, they’re a pencil-sketch ghost of Seefeel’s dub-rock dreaminess: other tracks are a hypnotic rain-drip of slowly growing consciousness. Recent moves towards alliances with remixers, further fleshing out the band’s sound, may point the way forward: but, as with Hysterical Injury, there’s already plenty in place.


 
Two more of Saturday’s bands provide further dispatches from rock’s dissolving, dreamier side. The mystery brainchild of Christelle Atenstaedt, Twin’s drawn-out one-woman Gothpop offers a wealth of detail in its hypnotic overlaid folk drones and its reverberant, tangled-roots guitar chug, which seems to reference both Cranes and Sandy Denny. With electric cello adding occasional extra texture to a droning, crashing armoury of blood-stained guitar fuzz, Bath-based post-rockers Charivari have a sombre lysergic depth; plus a repertoire of zurna-like Mediterranean melodies to add to their gloaming-murmurs, their evenstar twinkles and their post-Mogwai cascades of noise.



 
Begun as a solo project by Andrew Cooke (inspired by ancient ghost stories and the concept of the English eerie), Saltings has evolved into a three-piece drone collective. Andrew (plus string players Liz Muir and Caitlin Callahan) gradually unveil an occult soundtrack full of marine and maritime references, maybe as much inspired by Andrew’s origins in the port of Dublin as by the current trio’s Bristol harbouring. Sampler-moulded sounds (noise-grates, hull-knocks, whistles, water-throbs and motors) are enfolded with double bass and cello parts – whispered, minimal elegies for the undetermined; or baleful shadings; or queasy, discombobulated, John Adams-styled loops both shaken and slurred.



 
The sole hip hop representative on the bill, Luui, rolls out complex, constantly unfolding raps over seductively silky, time-flexed instrumental samples: slurred, narcotic Rhodes piano doodles, bits of glowing solo jazz guitar smeared into something blunted and sinister. Arced out in short, enveloping doses – most of his tracks are over and done in a couple of minutes – it’s both intimate and claustrophobic: a growing autumnal darkness, a slowly moiling confusion.


 
As Luui harmonises with himself (in subtle dischords), his flow folds over and over onto itself like piling lava, journeying from memories of childhood cheeriness into an increasing broody adult disaffection, shot with regrets, spiked with quick vicious jabs of obscenities and flashes of temper. As with the best, most unsettling confessional rap, you get a crooked window onto Luui’s unresolved world, see him wrestle with his conscience and his instincts and, though you see a little too much of him for comfort, for a while you’re matching breath with him too.


 
Initially known for upbeat Lou Reed drawls larded with guitar fuzz, Human Bones now seem to be moving towards a languorous cardboard-box take on Americana. Multi-instrumental looper Steve Strong, meanwhile, has set himself up as a one-man trip hop/math rock band, in which much of the emphasis seeming to be on the drum rhythm. See below for his Godspeedian live take on a grim, violent found story of road anarchy, in which his hopeful, orderly and dreamy guitar introduction gives way (under the growing brutality of the tale on tape) to the controlled heat of a drum beat through which he seems to be trying to slough off the increasing horror.




 

* * * * * * * *

It’s an odd festival indeed in which Knifeworld (Sunday’s headliners) are virtually the straightest act on the bill. That this is the case says plenty about Wakizashi, but it also says something about where Knifeworld are at the moment. Currently cruising on self-created, sunny psychedelic uplands, the London octet are enjoying a period of relative bliss and (for now) a more familial creative approach, as Kavus Torabi starts to share more of the writing with the crew of expert instrumental heads who make up his band. But if Knifeworld are the closest that the festival comes to pop, it’s still a zestfully spiked pop – brazen and crenellated, filled with monkey panache, their tunes still running exuberantly out of the ears with loopy spirals of melody and unexpected double-backs. If Henry Cow had woken up one morning and decided to steal a march on The Flaming Lips, they couldn’t have done much better than this.


 
More lysergic hints string through the day via the sleepy, lo-fi acidic pop of Edward Penfold, whose songs and instrumentals halo the everyday with a softly vibrating warmth. Sometimes they hint at a might-have-been Syd Barrett; one who ducked the madness and fled away to a healing West Coast hideaway, sending missives back to Cambridge in a rested, sprawling hand; faint blue ink on pale blue paper. On the other side of the coin are The Evil Usses – a deconstructive, fiercely humorous No Wave jazz-rock quartet, who share some of Knifeworld’s brassy exuberance but take it over the escarpment and down into a stomping, seven-league-booted Beefheart country.


As with Saturday, two fringe full-jazz groups will be taking the stage. Led by saxophonist Dino Christodoulou, Milon are a mostly acoustic quartet, edging into something more speaker-warping via Neil Smith’s electric guitar and Pasquale Votino’s judiciously over-amplified double bass: Eager Legs sounds like Charles Mingus being pursued down a stuck groove by a bounding ball of Sharrock/McLaughlin electric guitar grit, with Dino keeping one hand on the wheel by some riffling, ruffling Coltrane-ish sax lines. While the Rafael Dornelles Trio might have Brazilian roots, don’t expect samba or even Tropicália: electric guitar, bass and drums are aiming for somewhere far more heatedly lyrical and direct. Tunes like Slave’s Escape and Indigenous Mass grab you straight from the title and power off in muscular, quick-sprung directions, with a fierce and formidable vigour (plus a buccaneering hint of the knife).



 
Saltings’ double bass player Caitlin Callahan returns as one-quarter of part-improvising, part-compositional, female quartet Halftone, alongside two similarly-inclined Bristolians (violinist Yvonna Magda, flautist Tina Hitchens) and a London ally (cellist Hannah Marshall). Formed earlier this year, the foursome play an unsettling, absently beautiful post-classical music evoking wind in the trees, unresolved conversations and difficulties around corners.


 
Drone Soul boast about their “sheer bleak nihilism” and stake a claim to the abrasive post-punk heritage of The Pop Group. At least part of that’s true – the post-punk bit, anyway – but I’d bat away the nihilistic posturings. This music might be on the dark and cavernous side, but it’s illuminated with a vivid energy which belies the band’s collective grizzliness. If they’re bringing you news of falling buildings or collapsing people, they’re doing it with an exuberant dark snarl. Think of Iggy Pop in-yer-face, think Suicide’s assault-by-sine-wave; and also give a little credit to a lost Bristol band, Lupine Howl, whose gonzo millenial motorik finds a fresh echo here.


 
Rhodri Karim – the Welsh-Arabian heart of Uther Modes – used to be a mournful pop scientist, making his name with sepulchural computer-pop songs which bobbed gently at the juncture of philosophy, physics and bedsit soul. More recently he’s swapped this for a new kind of songcraft, strapping up a bass guitar and pulling in other musicians. Now he reels out shifting part-sombre part-jazzy mutters, winding slate-grey but sensual vocals around echoing guitar curlicues; like a fresh breed of post-rock which refuses to stagnate and instead flexes its muscles and goes haring around the park.


 
While he can sometimes be found paddling around in the warm, shallow pools of downtempo electronica, Traces will shake the drips off his feet once he’s warmed up enough. His studio recordings are fine, but it’s his live improvisations that show him at full strength. They’re heart-warmingly intimate and cheery stretches of pick-you-up synthery – like an enthusiastic half-drunken 2am conversation between Max Tundra and Guy Sigsworth, following which they track down Jean-Michel Jarre, drag him away from his pyramids and lasers and force him back into a kitchen full of analogue keyboards. From tabletop synth noodles to Pong blip and cheekily squirting techno, a cunning wonkiness prevails without diminishing the music’s straightforward ambition. Traces sometimes labels it “devotional”, and I’m not entirely sure that he’s joking.


 
Finally, there’s the fall-apart electronic gagpunk of Perverts, with their squalling songs about angry muppets and guilty onanists; their one-finger clickstab of synth drums; their beady-eyed sampler-shreddings of lachrymose film music. I guess that they’re there to remind musicians and punters alike not to take it all too seriously. It’s just that they’re staring me out a little too intently. On record, at least, Perverts deliver their spoofs and squibs with a crazed and chilly eye: a brattier Residents with a crappier laptop; a young digital Punch waiting to knock everything down.


 

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