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March 2021 – single & track reviews – Dope Sagittarius’ ‘Define Love’; Makandi’s ‘Dum Dum’; BassLord’s ‘Elephant Talk’

19 Mar

Dope Sagittarius: 'Define Love'Backed by cloudy saxophone and slow-jam beat, Dope Sagittarius – a.k.a. Luqman Brown and various New York cohorts – are meditating on meaning and commitment. Their previous fistful of punky Afro/electro/funk numbers hasn’t been noted for its love songs; and while ‘Define Love’ might indeed be a love jam, and an unexpected one, it’s also a subtly introverted one, a song of return and re-evaluation, a big change of course. Luqman himself was temporarily felled by a stroke in between recording this and bringing it to the world, and had to spend a year learning how to walk, talk and live again. That might not have anything to do with how the song came about, but it has a heck of lot to do with how we frame it now.

Timing provides a chance to make changes, and plenty about ‘Define Love’ places it as a way of adjusting matters of the heart, of focus. “How to define love? that moment? that flame?” muses Luqman, while making it clear (via plenty of gospel confessional) that defining it in the past was an unmet challenge. “I made many mistakes and done so many wrongs. / I beg you’ll forgive me for my ignorant shortfalls / and now I’m living anew, conscious of what came before. / Girl, I’m coming to you again, trying to stand tall.”) Classic prodigal smoochery aside, this is mostly about righteousness, doing the right thing, being courageous. “It seems I stealed away to safer harbours and safer lands. / Love is treacherous, so dangerous, unfair – / so ride with caution and try to play fair.”


The video revels in sinous jazz chiaruscuro; the song itself simmers delicately but decisively in a deep vat of sophisticated New York black broth, drawing not just on jazz and soul but also on the musculature of the Black Rock Collective and on Afro-American classical (the last via saxophonist Mica Gaugh). It peaks with a pealing, meditative slowhand solo from fusion guitar giant Ronny Drayton, a gift from his last years before lymphoma took him from us in 2020. As with so much black pop, there’s more than just the surface meaning here, and this is coming at us during a time when we’ve all been sorely tested by pandemic and bereavement; by questions about how we conduct our lives, unthinking, unquestioning, maybe unproductive and full of worthless, passive choices. Live and contribute while you can.

Makandi’s ‘Dum Dum’ lives very much for the moment, and its sincerity is of a much more clipped, matter-of-fact kind. Musically, this is deep house with a riffling blue-seas tropicalia tinge; fluttering synth melodies like inquisitive hummingbirds; a relaxed cool-mood/wise-child female vocal.

A flicker of lyric lets us know what’s going on. This is about a no-strings hook-up as natural as an incoming tide; a gentle warning-off; a temporary joining. She comes like a glamorous thief in the night. A hand softly, sensuously scratches your back. You collude without questioning. You gain from it.

Some of the fans tuning in to King Crimson’s 1981 resurrection had their cages thoroughly rattled to hear that the new, leaner version of the former grand English prog giants appeared to have gone urban New York and funky. There always was more than a touch of go-go dancing to ‘Elephant Talk’; its effervescent minimalist cyclings and Adrian Belew’s post-Talking Heads yelp given some more meat and waggle by Tony Levin’s monstrous itchy-rubbery Stick basslines. Forty years later, this BassLord cover (all layered bass guitars bar the drum track and voice) allows a fresh group of people to rediscover ‘Elephant Talk’ without the baggage.

As much YouTube video joker as he is virtuoso, Basslord waggles and glares at us, and lectures us like a neurotic affronted shock jock. Cameos from Ganesh, newscaster and op-ed loudmouths set against swirling squadrons of busily working hands, third eyes, skimpy shorts and a pair of giant tropical hardwood earrings prove that we’re in a different, fruitier and more indulgent world from the clipped post-punk era into which Belew and co. first brought the song; although BassLord’s linking of Belew’s whimsical yap about rhetoric and word babble to the current world of online news fakery, video hucksters and rabid opinionators reminds us of the turbulence and aggression that’s barely even hiding beneath the window-dressing.

Otherwise, it’s pretty true to the original version… and why shouldn’t it be? Those exorbitant multi-stopped bass riffs (simultaneously galumphingly funky and faux-prissy) are ageless and compelling, a grand applecart-kicking romp both then and now. Enjoy.

Dope Sagittarius: ‘Define Love’
Buddhabug Records (no catalogue number)
Download/streaming single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, YouTube, Vimeo, Deezer, Apple Music, Spotify Amazon Music

Dope Sagittarius online:
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music

Makandi: ‘Dum Dum’
Epic Tones Records, ETR276S (no barcode)
download-only single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
Epic Tones store, Soundcloud, ‎Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Beatport

Makandi online:
Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Beatport

BassLord: ‘Elephant Talk’
self-released (no catalogue number)
video/download single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
YouTube, Spotify

BassLord online:
Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram

 

June 2019 – more Woodburner soul, jazz, folk, hip hop, acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – The Dylema Collective, Alxndr London, Boadi and Lex Amor (4th June); Dizraeli, Intaya and Charlotte Algar (11th June); PYJÆN, Brothers Testament, Jelly Cleaver and DJ Stephen Vitkovitch (18th June); The Breath, Alice Zawadzki and Lunatraktors (25th June)

1 Jun

Outdoor summer gigs from Woodburner are resuming at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden – as usual, I’m passing on the message…

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The 4th June launch event features Dylema Amadi’s Dylema Collective, Alxndr London, Boadi and Lex Amor.

The Dylema Collective is a poetry-music project with sounds combining neo-soul, contemporary jazz and floaty R&B carefully blended with a cross-over of funk, latin and poly-rhythmic grooves and spoken-word poetry. Thematically, Dylema’s feminist poetry addresses head on matters of race, gender and individuality, values reiterated by the hidden message within their lead vocalist’s name’s acronym: “Do You. Let Every Man Adapt”. In short, they love sharing music and poetry that shakes the mind, soul and body.


 

“Effortlessly blending lyrical soul, R&B and electronic music whilst subverting it into something completely his own, the enigmatic and intriguing “Afro-Ronin” Alxndr London has returned with his new EP ‘2023’. Inspired by the sounds of UK Funky, London’s Garage sound, Yoruba spirituals and electronic soul, it’s an experimental project rooted in a genre-less space that balances spiritual conflict and Afrocentric themes, with unconstrained fantasy and spectacular science-fiction.


 

Boadi is a twenty-three-year old soul/R&B singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist originating from South London, with a jazz-influenced sound combined with a dash of hip-hop for authenticity. Growing up his musical influences were legendary artists such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Marvin Gaye. His mother migrated from Ghana and he spent a year living there when he was a child: when he was younger, he listened to a lot of traditional Ghanaian music which taught him about different rhythms and harmonies. Coming from a family of instrumentalists and singers, Boadi was instantly surrounded by music and developed his musical talents further when attending church, and perhaps this is where his heavy use of gospel-inspired backing vocals and harmonies stemmed from.


 

“London-based lyricist Lex Amor’s monthly dip into musical spices for Reprezent Radio’s addictive Mellowdic Show champions vibes upon vibes, from artists near and far. Consistently a treat for the soul; and the same can be said for the blissed-out hip hop of Lex’s own musical output. Such is the ease and natural cadence of her delivery, you find yourself hanging off her every word. Lex has the effortless ability to translate her full self in her music, with beats and rhymes you won’t be able to keep off repeat.”

 

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The 11th June gig features resurgent rapper Dizraeli, Latin psychedelic group Intaya and jazz-soul singer Charlotte Algar.

“Poet, producer, MC and multi-instrumentalist Dizraeli is a genre all of his own, building himself a cult following around Europe and playing to audiences of thousands around the world. Now, after three years studying percussion in Senegal, immersing himself in the world of London grime and bass music, working with refugees in Calais and finally, living through a mental breakdown, he’s back with ‘The Unmaster’, his first self-produced album and an electrifying new sound. ‘The Unmaster’ speaks of madness and collapse, struggle and redemption with searing honesty, surreal humour and a soundtrack unlike anything you’ve heard. A dark, fierce hybrid of hip hop, grime and West African percussion, it is music to make sense of an insane world.


 
Intaya‘s sound is a combination of electronic music, jazz, hip-hop, future soul, Afro-Latin influences and psychedelic elements – electronic ethereal groove music. Formed by singer/producer Pao Pestana and multi-instrumentalist/producer Dom Martin, the band is half Venezuelan (singer and drummer) and half Londoner (guitarist and keyboardist) and the music reflects this combination. Expect Latin roots, electronic groove and space-age sonic lushness.

 
Charlotte Algar is a twenty-three-year-old singer-songwriter from north-east London (and the assistant editor of ‘Songlines’). Charlotte draws on her classical training to create undulating, delicate guitar accompaniments. Paired with soulful vocals and pensive, poetic lyrics, this makes for a unique and compelling style.”


 
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The 18th June event mines the fervent south London jazz scene with sets from PYJÆN, Brothers Testament and Jelly Cleaver, and DJ work from Stephen Vitkovitch.

“Described by ‘Jazz Wise Review’ as having “a groove propelled with dynamism and formidable technique”, the PYJÆN quintet seamlessly melds funk, afro-beat and contemporary sounds with nods to hip-hop and disco, whilst acknowledging the traditional era of 1920s jazz and dance music. Having met at Trinity Laban, they aspire to create a culture that others can relate to and feel represented, and to help other young musicians carve out their own space. Self- motivated and driven by a DIY ethos and interdisciplinary approach, PYJÆN believe in building connections, supporting and collaborating with other artists to build communities and create culture in which everyone feels represented. Coming from diverse backgrounds, but united over a shared aim to connect with each other and their audiences, PYJÆN are burgeoning onto the London jazz scene.

 
Brother’s Testament are a groove-based jazz fusion band from London. Consisting of Munashe-Caleb Manyumbu, Mark Mollison, Hugo Piper and Jack Robson, their sound amalgamates powerful grooves and stirring melodies whilst also rooted in the jazz tradition. Brother’s Testament perform from the heart and emphasise and embrace improvisation so that the set manifests organically on stage, differently each time. Last year saw the release of ‘Ascent’, their debut EP, which slowly gained traction and garnered acclaim from the wider jazz community in London.


 
Jelly Cleaver is a guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer based in South London. With an eclectic taste in music, Jelly is heavily involved in both the jazz and DIY scenes in London. She’s also an activist, and a strain of political dissent runs through her music.

 
Byrd Out label head Stephen Vitkovitch (who’s supervised releases from Andrew Weatherall, Evan Parker, Philou Louzolo and more, and is the brains behind the Walthamstow Jazz Festival) will play some tracks between the acts. Check one of his Netil shows here:”


 
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The final June show, on the 25th, takes a folkier turn with The Breath, Alice Zawadzki and Lunatraktors.

The Breath is guitarist Stuart McCallum and singer Ríoghnach Connolly. Based in Manchester, their unique take on alt-folk journeys from lush, beguiling storytelling to uplifting punch-the-air anthems. For The Breath, it’s all about the song. Connolly writes the only way she knows how; a stream of poetic consciousness giving rise to honest, personal, heartfelt songs as likely to touch on childhood summers and first love as cultural dislocation, post-colonial injustices and grief. But it’s her deeply soulful, utterly engaging, stop-you-in-your-tracks voice – whether delicate and hushed or powerful and gutsy – coupled with Stuart’s understated brilliance and their exquisitely crafted, personal songs, that give The Breath such emotional depth. The duo share a remarkable connection on stage which make The Breath’s live performances utterly compelling.


 
“Vocalist, violinist, and composer Alice Zawadzki is a distinctive presence on the European creative scene. Her rich musical background and “whimsical hyper-creativity” (‘MOJO’) draw upon her early exposure to New Orleans jazz and gospel after years on the road as a teenager with the legendary Lillian Boutte, an extensive classical training as a violinist, and a continuous exploration of improvisation, poetry, and folk music from diverse traditions, “all propelled in a voice of velvet suppleness and gutsy emotional power” (‘The Arts Desk’). As an interpreter of new and unusual works, she has premiered several large-scale works both in the UK and abroad. Alice brings a stripped back and intimate performance to Woodburner, weaving ancient, modern, and invented folklore into a set of delicious pieces to share.


 
“What’s left when everything is taken away from us – our tools, technology and libraries, even our homes, communities and citizenship? What’s left is what we have learned by heart and we can do with our bodies: our voices, hands and feet. Using techniques from body percussion, tap dance, overtone singing and physical theatre, performance duo Lunatraktors explore a set of British, Irish and Australian ballads to rediscover folk music as a queer space of personal and political transformation. Weaving the tragedy and comedy of these traditional tales with hypnotic acoustic percussion and harmonies, Lunatraktors create a genre-defying, “spellbinding” performance on the borders of music, theatre and live art.

“Combining the percussive and choreographic talents of ex-Stomp member Carli Jefferson with the four-octave range and haunting overtones of trans folk singer Clair Le Couteur, Lunatraktors use the basic ingredients of body and voice to conjure up expansive, unexpected spaces. The duo are equally at home improvising with hands, feet and voices on a station platform, or electrifying a festival stage with custom drum kit, live loops and analogue synth. Lunatraktors strip folk down and rebuild it with influences from clowning, cabaret, art punk, flamenco and trip-hop. The tales they unearth of bravery in the face of forced migration, political unrest, and abuse of authority find particular resonances today.”


 

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All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England on Tuesday evenings. Dates below:

  • The Dylema Collective + Alxndr London + Boadi + Lex Amor – Tuesday 4th June 2019, 7.00pm – information here
  • Dizraeli + Intaya + Charlotte Algar – Tuesday 11th June 2019, 7.00pm – information here
  • PYJÆN + Brothers Testament + Jelly Cleaver + Stephen Vitkovitch – Tuesday 18th June 2019, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • The Breath + Alice Zawadzki + Lunatraktors – Tuesday 25th June 2019, 7.00pm -information here and here

 

April/May 2019 – upcoming English gigs – soul, folk, hip hop, poetry, glimmer pop and more on Lilith Ai’s Bare Radical tour through Cambridge, Bradford, Nottingham, Bristol, Reading and London (9th/14th/19th April, 1st/3rd/9th May) with her assorted support club of singer-songwriters, performance poets, folksters and dream/garage rockers

8 Apr

If you just took Lilith Ai at her word as being the possessor of a “pretty mouth and a dirty tongue”, and you’d also heard that she rapped, you’d be expecting a London version of Nikki Minaj.


 
Not the case. A more accurate parallel would be a latterday Joan Armatrading, or perhaps a lower-key Lauryn Hill; Lilith’s an accomplished and intimate singer-songwriter drawing subtly on folk, soul, hip-hop and R&B and pulling them onwards. Comparisons will only get you so far, though, since Lilith bypasses Armatrading’s discreet ’70s reticence and instead owns a lippier and punkier streak; and although she shares Hill’s love of a street beat, a bent note and a woke stance, she lacks the latter’s self-righteous, self-sabotaging chippiness. Dirty tongue claims notwithstanding, she’s also less of an out’n’out cusser than she might suggest. The occasion f-bomb strike is part of the no-nonsense, “you-can-stop-right-there-boy” feminism which provides the steely core to what she does: offset by the engaging warmth of an artist who is as much interested in people as in stances.

The British music biz isn’t always kind to talented black girls with guitars – Joan might have done OK, but whatever happened to Peppercorn? – but Lilith isn’t the sort to be eaten alive. Untangling her past provides some interesting complexities and clashes. There’s some fine material for legend-building here – her mingled Afro, Chinese and Indian ancestry, and the fact that she spent part of her early twenties sleeping rough and near-penniless in both Tottenham and Queens (at one point in a wrecked car, later towed away in a scenario that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Tom Waits song). Set against that is her additional background as a music school grad who can hang with and work alongside a surprising breadth of allies, from fearsome bluespunknoise grrlforce Skinny Girl Diet to rising fashion aristocracy in the shape of Georgia May Jagger.



 
The key to understanding how this all fits together is in how Lilith structures her approach to art and community. With artistic roots in comic-writing geekery, she’s always had a strong sense of mood and detail. Later along the line, as a developing songwriter, she’s allied it to a fervent desire to create a mostly female (and queer-friendly) movement which rejects counterproductive competitive bitchery in favour of an ethic of sympathy and mutual support, stepping up to political solidarity. All of this also needs to be seen through the arty barrier-trashing lens of punk spirit, which explains her Fight Like A Girl crew. A loosely-defined friendship-in-art arrangement, F.L.A.G. is a feminist/LGBT+ art/music collective inspired equally by late ’70s summers of Britpunk, by the political ferment of ’90s Olympia and by latterday movements like #TimesUp. It involves zinework, recording and enthusiastic intimate gigs in makeshift scratch locations, all within a fearless female atmosphere allied to a sense that rigid genre (and rigid gender) boundaries are less important than constructive intent and political engagement.

While Lilith’s upcoming Bare Radical mini-tour isn’t explicitly a Fight Like A Girl event, it bears all of the hallmarks. It’s packed with other female artists (plus assorted sympathetic male players and a hefty proportion of non-binary artists) and takes place in a dissimilar scatter of formal venues and found spaces in bookshops, community centres, cafes and co-operatives up and down England. Lilith will also be laying off on her beats and concentrating on the acoustic/unplugged side of things as she performs and promotes her new ‘Bare Radical’ EP. She’s still budding, still climbing, poised on the lip of the excellence her early work promised. Now is a perfect time to join the event, while she’s still in venues close enough to share breath.



 
* * * * * * * *

Along for most of the dates is the delightfully energised craft-popper Myles McCabe (generally best known as guitarist for London pop punkers Fresh), who’s playing at Cambridge, Bradford and Nottingham with his Me Rex project. On the surface Myles has got a pretty high tweeness count. All of his Rex albums and EPs are named after prehistoric creatures from mammoths to stegosauri, most of his pet sounds are cheap ones (synth parps, guitar clunks, snatches of bedroom rave, a little piano), and his voice is sweetly vulnerable, bending under a little rhotacistic twist and folding like paper on the high notes.

On the other hand, there’s a blazing articulate passion to what he does, his songs volcanoing out of an initial small hotspot and expanding into broadening emotional tapestries in which simple ideas link inexorably to others like agitated mercury blobs, layering into a gorgeous pop outburst. He describes himself as “kind of like a cross between Art Brut and Kraftwerk. That started off as a pun about arts & crafts but then I really liked the way it sounded.” It’s a good gag, but self-deflating indie jokes aren’t really what he’s about.


 
At Cambridge, a couple of singer-songwriters are hoppping on board. There’s local girl Helen Robertson, an enthusiastic music homecrafter and constant collaborator who (although she seems to have been a bit quiet recently) released a twelve-month sprint of EPs across 2014. Hers is an unfussy, chameleonic, DIY hobby-table approach which embraces strummy-or-noisy kitchen-sink indie, blobby instrumental synth pop, pub gig comedy, and various overdubbed a cappella work from solo folk-pop chorales to patter songs. There’s also Sophie Foster, the self-professed teenaged “lever harp megababe” who usually lurks behind the name of The Sunday School. To be honest, I’m baffled about her: this brief appearance on YouTube and the couple of Soundcloud demos below suggests that rather than harping she blip-pongs away on a little keyboard and murmurs reflections on uncertainties and diary notes; while other Soundcloudings suggest a lo-fi guitar trudger, and there’s something else on Spotify which I don’t know about thanks to my still holding out on the platform. Her Twitter presence suggests someone fierce and grrly behind the whispering.

I’m guessing that Sophie’s someone whom you have to discover and to follow live for quite a while, picking up scraplings before you get the full story. As for Helen, attempting to pick a key track seems to be a waste of time, so I’m just throwing three together at random here.

 
It’s the same at Bradford, where self-propelled onetime busker-for-a-bet Liam Jarvis joins the bill, alongside gently punk-oustic Leeds folkie Sarah Carey (whose music is divided between disaffected urban acoustica and committed folk baroque instrumentals, groping between them for a doorway to somewhere better). I’ve got nothing for Liam, but here’s Sarah:


 
In Nottingham, Lilith’s supported by both Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something and Matt Abbott. Once the guitarist for heavy dream-rockers Landshapes, Jenna now offers up sardonic psychedelic glam-rocking with a band featuring Furniture/Transglobal Underground drummer Hamilton Lee, moonlighting producer/bassist Mark Estall, and Krupa on synth and backing vocals. Wakefield wordsmith Matt runs the spoken word label Nymphs & Thugs and both writes and performs poetry for kids and adults replete with “socio-political commentary, human struggle and kitchen sink realism” (plus, for the kids “playful rebellion (and the) challenging (of) societal stereotypes”).




 
Matt and Me Rex both resurface for the London date, which also features a pair of junior traditioneers in the shape of “teenage lo-fi soul singer” Charlie Mburaki (who sang with Lilith on the latter’s recent Warrior Queen) and drawling junior-Dylan-esque folk rocker Oliver Rodzianko

 
There are more fierce, plangent words at the Bristol gig. It’s a free event in a bookshop in which punk and slam poetry have an equal presence to musicin the shape of Bridget Hart (teller of tough, gritty tales and compiler of a poetic “love-letter to women and female solidarity”) and in the sliding, pulsing genderqueer cadences of Aiysha’s accounts and explorations of “mental illness, love, trauma and gender identity”.

Also on hand is the slow, sad, beautiful “shimmer pop” and voiceloops of Georgie Biggins, a.k.a. GINS, who from one angle sounds like a lo-fi gender-swapped bedsit Blue Nile passed through an a capella dream-pop filter and from another like f.k.a. Twigs morphing into ’90s goth-wispers Cranes. Don’t be entirely misled by the soft and introverted textures, though. Underneath Georgie’s apparent mournfulness, the gossamer delicacy and the blurred, haunting visuals there’s both resistance and outright challenge, just framed in a different way; the secret thought that’s a couple of steps away from a marching flag.



 
GINS is also onboard for the Reading show, where Lilith is joined by the fluttering acoustic pop-soul singing of Amya-Ray; by the sometimes-psychedelic, sometimes-instrumental acoustic-indie-folk of Colours & Fires (who’ve placed themselves firmly on the gender-equality frontlines); and by the mysterious, frankly undocumented RIYA (who could be punk or poet, first-person singular or group, for all the info they’ve provided… but the open-ended mystery’s at least in keeping with the rest of the Bare Radical openness).

 

* * * * * * * *

Full Lilith Ai ‘Bare Radical’ tour dates:

  • The Blue Moon, 2 Norfolk Street, Cambridge, CB1 2LF, Cambridgeshire, England – Tuesday 9th April 2019, 9.00pm (with Me Rex + Sophie Foster + Helen Robertson) – information here and here
  • The 1 in 12 Club, 21-23 Albion Street, Bradford, BD1 2LY, England – Sunday 14th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Me Rex + Sarah Carey + Liam Jarvis) – information here and here
  • City Arts, 11-13 Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 1FH, England – Friday 19th April 2019, 7.00pm (with Me Rex + Jemma Freeman & the Cosmic Something + Matt Abbott) – information here and here
  • Hydra Books, 34 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EZ, England – Wednesday 1st May 2019, 7.00pm (with GINS + Bridget Hart + Aiysha) – free event – information here and here
  • Reading University Students Union, Whiteknights Campus, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6AZ, England – Friday 3rd May 2019, 7.30pm (with GINS + RIYA + Amya-Ray + Colours & Fires) – information here and here
  • VFD, 66 Stoke Newington Road, Shacklewell, London, N16 7XB, England – Thursday 9th May 2019, 8.00pm (with Me Rex + Matt Abbott + Charlie Mburaki + Oliver Rodzianko) – information here, here and here

 

January 2019 – upcoming London jazz gigs – the Sound of 2019 with Chelsea Carmichael, Nihilism and Vertaal (9th January); Alexandra Ridout in the first part of the next installment of Jazz Herstory (17th January); Steam Down invite you to be on their debut album (26th January)

6 Jan

Jazz Refreshed: Chelsea Carmichael + Vertaal + Nihilism, 9th January 2019

On 9th January, tenor saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael (from SEED Ensemble/NYJO Jazz Messengers) jumps into a bigger spotlight at the Jazz Cafe, as part of Tastemakers Jazz’s ‘Sound of 2019’ evening. At twenty-five, the time’s right for her to step out; with recent apprenticeships with Terence Blanchard, Courtney Pine, and Etienne Charles (as well as work with Indo-jazz fusioneer Arun Ghosh and as right-hand reedswoman for SEED’s Cassie Kinoshi) helping to shape whatever she does now. This will apparently be the debut of her first project under her own name: so new that I don’t know who else is in it yet, nor anything bar the fact that it’ll be influenced by Chelsea’s “love of groove and intricate rhythms”, and probably isn’t the Mingus-flavoured quintet she brought to the City Beerfest last summer.

Meanwhile, here’s Chelsea blowing tenor with SEED…


 
In the middle of the bill is electro-acoustic quintet Nihilism – a tuneful cluster of post-bop hip hop, Grapelli hot jazz, funk, grime and Mahavishnu fusion flickering around a median age of twenty. At the core of it (but not restricting it) is a classic acoustic sound revitalised by latterday British dance music, bedrocked by soprano saxophonist Shango Ijishakin, Berklee-trained pianist Lorenz Okello-Osengor and drummer Benjamin Appiah. Lorenz also dabbles in synths, while bassist Christopher Luu juggles his time between acoustic upright and a batch of electronic devices. Their debut EP ‘Exposition’ surfaced in November 2018, a couple of years after they’d formed and honed themselves with frequent gigging.

Despite Lorenz’ Berklee crown, Nihilism’s true secret weapon appears to be their electric violinist and occasional singer/rapper Saskia Horton, a twenty-one-year-old ball of energy and onetime fiddler for FKA Twigs. With an extra double life in theatre and dance, she choreographs and performs in a variety of street and dance-club styles (including krumping and waacking), and brings an assertive physicality to the band’s music every time she bows a string.


 
Toting a “spiritual jazz-funk” tag, Vertaal are an open-socketed duo (keyboard player Theo Howarth and drummer Ajit Gill) perpetually plugging in a rich turnover of guest players. Here’s a taste of them, with the core duo augmented on that occasion by bassist Warren Woodcraft, saxophonist Loren Hignell and percussionist Simon Todd. Who knows who’ll be joining Ajit and Theo on the night?


 
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On 17th January, Jazz Herstory resume their staging of female-led jazz concerts over at Poplar Union. It kicks off this year with a performance by trumpeter and bandleader Alexandra Ridout – still only nineteen, but already packing awards for BBC Young Musician of the Year (in 2016) and as 2017 runner-up rising star in the Jazz Awards, as well as hirings by Clarke Tracy and Dave Holland and time spent with her two-generation family jazz band The Ridouts.

Jazz Herstory presents: Alexandra Ridout, 17th January 2019

She’s bringing along a quintet of fellow teenagers. Pianist Noah Stoneman and guitarist Miles Mindlin are each a fresh-faced seventeen, while bassist Freddie Jensen and drummer Luca Caruso are both nineteen: fresh-faced they may be, but they have equal facility in classic swing, contemporary post-bop, funk and balladry. (Expect an audience with its fair share of middle-aged jazzers with mingled expressions of inspiration, chagrin and vague – or in some case, actual – parental pride.)

Here’s the quintet at work – admittedly with a Stoneman original rather than the sheaf of Ridout tunes which will be played on the night. Also attached is Alexandra’s Young Musician performance from three years ago.



 
Jazz HerStory continues over the next couple of months with performances by Rosie Turton and Ms. Maurice, but more on that nearer to February…

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On the 26th, interactively-minded Deptford crew Steam Down have invited everyone down to the Albany to help them record their first album. It’s going to be a live one, caught in full audio-visual with attendees and responders on an equal footing to the band. “There is no audience, we are all the music, everyone’s participation matters. The collective’s sessions are a co-creative experience between the audience and musicians. A mutual exchange of energy and vibes between the groovers and movers, the band and the crowd.”

Steam Down, 26th January 2019All of this is in keeping with Steam Down’s African-inspired collective ethos. One-and-a-half years old now, the project was founded by saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Ahnanse and they’ve already reached out beyond their south London base to light up gigs in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Oslo. They’re a simmering pot of phuture soul, West African rhythms and cheerful Afrofuturism, the rapid offset breakbeat-splash and electrophonic edge of grime and broken-beat, and (in particular) spiritual jazz.

That said, they’re well aware that they should steer clear of romantic oversimplifications about roots. As Ahnanse remarked in an interview with ‘The Vinyl Factory’ last year, “the roots of what we are creating starts outside of that context, jazz is not the only source of improvised music in the world. It happens in many forms and many cultures, we all come from different spaces and cultures, and it isn’t black American culture, none of us were born there, so actually we are bringing all of those other experiences into this… In a society that is so hegemonic and monotonous it’s nice to surprise yourself and be surprised, by people that you know well.” More than anything else, Steam Down work is inspired by the interlocking of Afro-diasporan culture with week-by-week London life – the information-rich bustle and challenges of a world city made up of people from everywhere, many of them sometimes pushing (or knocking heads) against half-invisible restrictions and oppressions as well as providing broad-mindedness and opportunity. Occasionally the words “church” and “spiritual warfare” are used.

Steam Down’s shifting but family-loyal cloud of membership has included tuba boss Theon Cross, Maisha/Nérija saxophonist Nubya Garcia and keyboard player Dominic Canning (the latter also contributing at ‘Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant-Garde‘ on the 7th). In the rhythmatist corner are Sons Of Kemet/Nok Cultural Ensemble’s young drum-sage Edward Wakili “Nache” Hick and beatmaker Tilé “D’Vo” Gichigi-Lipere. There’s also a bevy of integral singer-poet-rappers in the shape of CarLi Adams, Norwegian-Philipino And Is Phi, Brother Portrait, sometime DJ/illustrator/maker Alex Rita, and the Afro-liminally-minded polymath Nadeem Din-Gabisi (DJ, artist, poet and broadcaster). Multiple talents are at play, with many members teaching and plenty of them producing. They’re a diverse, voluntary hive mind, their individualities fused and encouraged by common purpose, and there are sub-groups, independent familial endeavours and more (for instance, And Is Phi and D’vo work together as Sawa-Manga in a lineup including Saskia Horton from Nihilism).

This particular gig features a Steam Down line-up of Ahnanse, Alex, Dominic, Portrait, Theon, Nadeem, Nache and Sawa Manga plus Nihilism drummer Benjamin Appiah, singer Naima Adams and crunktronic Leeds beatmaker Wonky Logic. Also in the frame are a ton of integrated name guests from up and down the UK jazz scene – no details yet on who they’ll be, but rest assured they’ll be committed to their seat at the table..


 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

Jazz re:freshed & Jazz Cafe present:
The Sounds of 2019 featuring Chelsea Carmichael + Nihilism + Vertaal
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Wednesday 9th January 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Jazz Herstory presents:
Alexandra Ridout
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Thursday 17th January 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here


Steam Down: ‘The Live Album’
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, London, SE8 4AG, England
Saturday 26th January 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

August 2018 – upcoming hip hop and dance gigs in London – ‘Ear Shots’ with Brother Portrait, Shunaji, Paul White, Confucius MC and Chris P Cuts (30th August); resistance worldbeat ladygrooves, grunge-soul, grigri and more with GRRRL, Sounds Of Harlowe, Bamako Overground and DJ Hot Bread (31st August)

28 Aug

Notes on two imminent beats-and-words gigs in south London…

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Peckham’s Ghost Notes offers up an end-of-August hip hop evening “bringing together lyricists from all corners to create something positive” – all available for free, it’s strictly a “no bad vibes” evening. It’s hosted by Irish/British/Grenadian-rooted rapper and Con+Kwake member Confucius MC (whose London-toned post-Wu Tang/Tribe/Dilla approach has been keeping him occupied and appreciated for the last few years, most recently via his EPs ‘The Highest Order’ and ‘The Artform’) and by busy DJ Chris P Cuts.

 
This particular show features two rapper/writers. The first – Brother Portrait – is a member of Deptford’s Steam Down collective and one-third of Black/Other, a mood creator and wordsmith positor who (according to this ‘Gal Dem’ interview from two years ago) is primarily interested in “identifying what those boxes are [that make me, me]: community, diaspora, family… a process of opening them to start going inside and see what’s in there.” The second – Lagos-born, London-living, Rome-raised Shunaji – is a protege of beat-talent developers Future Bubblers, whose assured, slinky, cinema-inspired and code-switching flow ranges between the varied languages and dialects of her upbringing and travels, embracing multiplicity of perspective personae and while maintaining a muscle-solid sense of self.

Also on hand is music producer and Golden Rules member Paul White (whose contemporary broken beats and synths have backed and illuminated the likes of Open Mike Eagle, Obongjayar, Jamie Woon and Jamie Isaac).





 
‘Ear Shots – A New Kind of Cypher’: featuring Brother Portrait + Shunaji + Paul White + Confucius MC + Chris P Cuts
Ghost Notes, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, London, SE15 4ST, England
Thursday 30th August 2018, 9.00pm
– free event – information here and here

* * * * * * * *

The following night, Woodburner (responsible for all of those Dalston Eastern Curve gigs I’ve been posting about over summer) hits Brixton with the following:

“Woodburner is proud to present an all-night party at Hootananny Brixton, featuring global females GRRRL, Bristol power-unit Sounds Of Harlowe, and London-based Afro-inspiration from Bamako Overground.

GRRRL is an electronic music collaboration between revolutionary women, brought together by In Place of War (a global organisation that supports artistic creativity in places of conflict as a tool for positive change). GRRRL is directed by Brazil’s Laima Leyton (Mixhell, Soulwax), and features an exhilarating mix of influential artists including Zimbabwe’s rapper queen Awa Khiwe, queen of Brazilian dancehall Lei Di Dai, the Ghanaian lioness of Africa Noella Wiyaala, UK/Bangladeshi vocalist Sohini Alam, and Caracan DJ/ percussionist María “MABE” Betania. GRRRL fuses together sounds of dark techno, ghetto bass, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae, soul and electronica.



 
“Dubbed “incendiary live hip-hop/soul rabble rousers packing deep lyrics, subterranean grooves and stratospheric brass” by ‘Sounddhism’ (and as “an almost erotic experience.” by ‘Yack Magazine Fat City’, Sounds Of Harlowe are a grunge-soul collective with a wide range of influences who blend elements of soul, hip-hop, metal and jazz to create their own signature brand of music. The Bristol-based group’s infectious live performances have allowed them to headline shows around the UK, as well as perform at a variety of festivals from the likes of Boomtown and Bestival, to Soundwave Croatia and Nozstock. This culminated in their first UK tour at the end of 2016 after a limited release the debut EP ‘Change Of Disposition’ which, after having some finishing tweaks made, received a full online release in January 2018.


 
Bamako Overground bring grigri grooves and rocking desert blues from London via Bamako. The trio are irresistibly seduced by the music of West Africa, blending its influences overtly and covertly with their own carefully-selected flavours. Deep and soulful rhythms meet soaring melodies, while crunching three-part vocal harmonies speak of pilgrimage and placelessness to complete a brew that’s compelling and utterly unique.


 
“In between, DJ Hot Bread will spin afro and tropical bangers, nice and fresh.”

 
Woodburner & GRRRL present:
GRRRL + Sounds Of Harlowe + Bamako Overground, DJ Hot Bread (Woodburner)
Hootananny Brixton, 95 Effra Road, Brixton, London, SW2 1DF, England
Friday 31st August 2018, 8.00pm
(free before 9.00pm) – information here and here
 

September 2018 – more Woodburner world/acoustica/pop sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Rum Buffalo Trio, Joe Corbin and Lorkin O’Reilly (4th September); M w S, Boe Huntress and Equal Echo (11th September); The Age Of Luna, Marine and Desert Rain (18th September); Choro Alvorada, Max Baillie and Li Alba (25th September)

27 Aug

More outdoor summer Woodburner gigs at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, as the season moves into its final month: holding autumn at bay while it can.

* * * * * * * *

The 4th September show features festival legends Rum Buffalo, bluesman Joe Corbin, and touring NYC artist Lorkin O’Reilly.

Rum Buffalo fornicate with forgotten songs. They mingle in many genres but feed off the rich antique roots of swing and moody blues infiltrated with hip hop beats and filthy synth lines. It’s a surreal, vaudevillian show with outrageous costumes, twisted vocal harmonies, powerful beats and outrageous horn sounds. On the night expect a stripped-off trio show, revealing the core of their beastly natures.


 
Joe Corbin is a blues and soul musician from South London. An accomplished guitarist, powerful singer, and true performer, watching Joe play is bound to blow you away.


 
“Since arriving in Hudson, NY from his native Scotland, Lorkin O’Reilly has been making a name for himself on the New York folk scene with his delicate guitar technique and deft lyricism. This year has seen him share stages with the likes of Charlie Parr, Nadia Reid, Willy Mason, Mick Flannery and Ciaran Lavery. His debut album ‘Heaven Depends’ was released on 24th August on Team Love Records.”


 

* * * * * * * *

The 11th September gig features R&B/soul collective M w S, North London songstress Boe Huntress, and new electronic collaboration Equal Echo.

M w S is a London-based duo formed in Italy in 2013. Their musical influences are artists from soul, R&B and nu-soul (such as Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill) mixed with contemporary neo-jazz artists like Tom Misch and Masego and electro-influenced artists like Vallis Alps and Louis Matters. Their first EP ‘Swim’ is a mix of pop, contemporary R&B and nu-soul with lyrics that sometimes recall their home country; their latest release, Island, produced by Grammy-award winning London producer Aamir Yaqub (Rihanna, Ne-yo) is a soulful chilled track full of tropical and summery vibes. M w S are currently working on their next EP, due out in 2019.


 

Boe Huntress grew up in Kent, playing and writing music from an early age. Her first job was writing songs for an online magazine, reviewing video games in song-form: a crash course in the art of songwriting, recording and producing, as well as in receiving immediate response to her work online. Studying Literature at university, Boe was inspired by both myth and feminism: beginning to play live, she was soon chosen by the IC Music Network as one of twelve up-and-coming artists to tour across Europe.

“Boe’s debut EP, ‘A Female Power’, is an earthy, epic debut reminiscent of both Kate Bush and Bjork. The EP is inspired by four female mythological figures (“we’ve been deprived of certain ways of seeing woman – this EP is an exploration of the darker, more unexplored aspects…”) and Boe’s taken it one step further by creating an immersive audio-visual show alongside the record. The EP is brought to life onstage by Aletta Dina on drums and Melanie Powell on synths and electronics, while Boe fronts the band with her raw, ethereal vocal and electric guitar.


 
Equal Echo is a new collaboration from Londoners Hector Plimmer (DJ and producer/creator of last year’s acclaimed ‘Sunshine’ album of broken beat, trip hop, instrumental soul and field recordings) and Alexa Harley (fellow producer, songwriter and collaborating singer for Hybrid Minds, Tom Misch and Mt. Wolf). The pair initially started working together with a one-off collaboration in mind: however, once they started, it soon became clear this would be more than just a feature project. For the last year-and-a-half Harley and Hector have been meeting two days a week, almost every week, creating music that shares an equal input of musical ideas from one another.

The amalgamation of styles and musical backgrounds blend together to make a sound unlike either Harley or Hector produce alone, whilst still retaining the best attributes from both. Not only are they musical partners, they are also best friends. Over the last two years the dynamic live show has been previewed at Archspace and Ghost Notes, with their premier festival appearances at Brainchild and Glastonbury Festivals.”

 
* * * * * * * *

The last show, on 18th September, features London-based hip hop/R&B trio The Age Of Luna, sensual pop mythologists Marine and atmospheric Finnish world-folkers Desert Rain.

The Age of Luna – “average joes with powerful minds” – number Butch Arkas, his schoolmate Kyote Noir and singer/saxophonist Daniella Wizard. Each brings their own influences and sensibilities to the table, and the end results reflect not just the four different musical personalities but the blend of tradition and technology that saw them get together in the first place. Despite their relative youth, the band has played over a hundred shows with festival plays at the likes of Glastonbury, Wireless, Secret Garden party and Live At Leeds. Their debut, self-titled album was released earlier this year to great acclaim and the band are busy working on new music due for release later this year.

 
“London-based Marine – formed in 2014 by Cara Sebastian (vocals and guitar), Beth Dariti (bass) and Kaja Magsam (drums), and described by ‘The Line Of Best Fit’ as “the musical equivalent of a creamy post-coital blush” – have just released their debut album ‘Fable Electric’, via The Vinyl Factory (following the beguiling singles Mount Olympus and Sirens).

“Produced by Rob Ellis (Anna Calvi, PJ Harvey, Cold Specks), ‘Fable Electric’ is an album that brims with exploratory wonder and bridges the gaps between spectral pop, dreamy grunge and ambient folk. Both wild and elegant, it is framed by intuitive beats, bass hypnosis that playfully counters melody, and a deep love of contrast. The vocal lines braid together over hooky guitar lines in a complex plait of old and new, understated and operatic, light and dark. The songs of Marine crystallized from mythology and fables, mingling with personal words and emotions to form tales of the ordinary and extraordinary. Their songs reference the underworld, seal demons, mighty Kraken, werewolves, witches and Gods, and even question the very nature of storytelling itself.


 
“Jyväskylä quintet Desert Rain are songwriter Ville Lähdepolku on guitar and vocals, Alex Lee on drums, Farshad Sanati on santour and vocals, Petri Pentikäinen on tabla and darbouka, and Ville Määttä on bass, keyboards, voice and a cluster of international wind instruments including Armenian duduk. They play hypnotic world-folk music that tends towards the mystic. From Finland to Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, just for you.”

 

* * * * * * * *

The last show, on 25th September, features choro band Choro Alvorada, international violin virtuoso Max Baillie, and the Latin-inspired songwriter Li Alba.

Choro Alvorada is a London-based group who play Brazilian choro music of all styles, including lesser-known works and original compositions. Choro emerged in Rio de Janeiro in the late nineteenth century as a mixture of European harmony with African rhythm and improvisation, in a similar way to jazz and ragtime. The name comes from the Portuguese verb “chorar”, which means “to cry”, and indeed choro music certainly has its fair share of tear-inducing laments. But choro is mostly known for its lively, playful and syncopated melodies in the traditional setting of a “roda”; that is, with musicians playing informally around the table (drinking plenty of beer – provided by the loving fans, of course!).

“Choro Alvorada have the traditional instrumentation of the ‘regional’ choro ensemble: clarinet (played by Andrew Woolf), flute (played by Rachel Hayter), 7-string guitar (played by Luiz Morais), cavaquinho (played by Jeremy Shaverin) and pandeiro (played by Alua Nascimento). They play a wide variety of styles of choro, exploring influences from all over Brazil (and London). They play with the irresistable swing of samba from the south and baião from the north-east, and even in the style of frevo, a carnival dance from the north-east! Many of the choros they play are their own compositions, so you may find a Cockney twist to them. They famously continued to play through a thunderstorm at the Curve Garden in Summer 2017, bringing a portion of the audience onto the stage with them in the style of the traditional roda.


 
“Maverick violinist and violist Max Baillie is truly one-in-a-million. Born to the sound of his twin sisters practising scales and argeggios, raised by his concert-cellist father and violin-teacher mother, before travelling the world and gaining a first-class degree from Cambridge University in… Politics. Apart from that short sabbatical, Max’s whole life has been music. Yet when you watch and listen, there is a spontaneity in his playing that makes you realise that in spite of all the history, education, and practise, a Max Baillie has to be born rather than made. Max-in-a-million is an international artist, having performed in Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, France, Australia and many other corners in the last twelve months, both as a concert soloist and with other projects including ZRI, who fuse sounds of Brahms with gypsy and Hungarian folk. Witness.


 
“Singer. Linguist. Lover of Latin, jazz and folk traditions. Voice of velvet and force of nature. Li Alba grew up in London, listening to traditional Spanish and Greek music whilst training as a classical singer. Graduating from Guildhall juniors in music and RADA in acting, she fell away from opera and into wild Easter European theatre arts, as a professional member of the Gardzienice Theatre Company. Partaking in independent arts projects around the world she has worked through music and staged mediums with global practitioners including Katie Mitchell, Mark Ravenhill, James Brennan and Julian Maynard Smith.

“Li has contributed to London’s night life scene by supporting in the launches of two venues, Kansas Smitty’s and Juju’s Bar & Stage, and is now embarking on her solo career with a plethora of musicians with global flavours and feels. She is accompanied by guitarist Telmo Souza who has played for Rhythms Of The City and Ines Loubet (amongst many others), and who leads the astonishing Afro-samba ensemble Caravela.”


 
* * * * * * * *

All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England on Tuesday evenings. Dates below:

  • Rum Buffalo Trio + Joe Corbin + Lorkin O’Reilly – Tuesday 4th September 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • M w S + Boe Huntress + Equal Echo – Tuesday 11th September 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • The Age of Luna + Marine + Desert Rain – Dalston Curve Garden – Tuesday 18th September 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Choro Alvorada + Max Baillie + Li Alba – Dalston Curve Garden – Tuesday 25th September 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

August 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – a few young women’s shows – Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline (29th August); Romarna Campbell Trio (29th August); B L A N (C) A N V A S (30th August)

23 Aug

Following up the Jazz Herstory post last month, here’s a little more brief word-spreading about young female jazz action in the capital:

Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline developed out of the award-winning Tomorrow’s Warriors Emerging Artist Development Programme based at the Southbank Centre. This youthful all-women ten-piece jazz ensemble embodies the Warrior spirit in more than just serious musical talent. Playing a selection of upbeat jazz standards, funk and contemporary versions of some well-known classics from the likes of Kenny Garrett, Roy Hargrove and Freddie Hubbard, the Female Frontline is led by saxophonist Aleksandra Topczewska under the tutelage of Gary Crosby OBE.

“The rest of the Frontline is Loucin Moskofian (vocals), Kasia Kawalek (vocals/flute), Lettie Leyland (trumpet), Beth Hopkins (alto saxophone), Jelly Cleaver (guitar), Roella Oloro (keyboards), Izzy Burnham (bass guitar and double bass), Caroline Scott (drums) and Alana Curtis (percussion). For this evening they will be joined by special guest vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett, who also went through the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme.”

TWLive presents:
Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline
The Spice Of Life, 6 Moor Street, Soho, London, W1D 5NA, England
Wednesday 29th August 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here



 
* * * * * * * *
With that crucial first year of study at jazz hothouse Berklee College of Music now under her belt, emerging young Birmingham-born drummer, composer and bandleader Romarna Campbell is home for a while, but isn’t resting. Instead, she’s taking out two different ensembles (both led from the drum set, and drawing strongly on the Birmingham jazz talent base) to pursue her own current musical vision of “explosive moments, combined with quiet thoughtfulness inspired by a deep-rooted influence of bebop, hip-hop and neo-soul.”

Of these, her Romarna Campbell Trio also includes Ed Riches on guitar and Kokoroko bassist Mutale Chashi, and provides compositional space for all three. Her larger quintet B L A N (C) A N V A S features two tenor saxophonists (Xhosa Cole and Scottish sometime-looper Harry Weir), pianist David Austin Grey and bass guitarist Wayne Matthews.

Dates:

  • The Romarna Campbell Trio – Ghost Notes, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, London, SE15 4ST, England, Wednesday 29th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Live at Jazz re:freshed: B L A N (C) A N V A S – Mau Mau Bar, 265 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1LR, England, Thursday 30th August 2018, 7.45pm – information here and here

Sorry that I’m short on much in the way of musical examples, since Romarna hasn’t recorded much on or off camera (though, if you like, you can take a listen to the tribal-house-influenced dance music which she records away from her main jazz work); but I do have this footage of a previous version of the Trio taking on a Miles Davis tune, and a few very murky videos of B L A N (C) A N V A S at work.




 

August 2018 – upcoming London pop & rock gigs – Loop Pedal Lunacy with Steve Strong, Fetherstone, Alex Taylor, Sam Martin and She, Robot (8th August); plus a rare free Silvery acoustic show (10th August)

3 Aug

An evening of pop-looping at Paper Dress; and the return of some London art-pop rascals…

* * * * * * * *

First, the loopfest…

Loop Pedal Lunacy, 8th August 2018

Steve Strong is a one man arsenal of beats, tapped guitar and lush textural melodies. His music is as witheld as it is grandiose, as skeletal as it is layered, equal parts shimmering and pulsing. It glimmers, swings and explodes in all the right places, sliding gracefully from one section to another, played as tightly as it is loose and free. Steve’s ability to bridge the gap between technical ability and captivation is completely instinctual, tattoed onto his musical consciousness like the art on his body. His music seems to encompass many different styles without feeling contrived or forced; every strand of inspiration in Steve’s music is carefully placed and melted. This music will not be held down!


 
“As She, Robot, award winning loop artist Suzy Condrad is a seasoned performer and authentic underground artist who has written and self-produced three albums and established herself as a leader in her field, winning the title of Boss Looping UK Champion in 2011. She effortlessly juggles instruments and genres with a dynamic and arresting one-woman show which has amazed and delighted audiences from Shambala to Boomtown Fair, Bearded Theory to Beautiful Days. Dancehall, ska, doo-wop, folk and electro collide with blistering beats and haunting, sublime vocal gymnastics to take you on an ever-looping journey which balances real-time loop juggling against timeless songwriting. Edgy, raw, beatbox and bass driven sensual sounds, layered to perfection, create a mesmerising performance which is powerful yet ethereal. Woman meets machine in a musical maelstrom that will make your head spin, your spirit lift and your feet move.

 
“Already compared by reviewers to the likes of Bill Withers, John Martyn and Jeff Buckley, Bristol-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumental loop pedal artist Alex Taylor is one of the shining lights of the acoustic scene and a troubadour of world-class standing. Drawing on varied influences from a wide musical spectrum, Alex’s style splices elements of soul, nu-folk and electronica to place his shape-shifting voice and dextrous, original acoustic guitar playing firmly in the spotlight. Touring extensively, Alex has notched up hundreds of gigs, sharing stages with such luminaries as Jack Savoretti, Roachford and Michael Kiwanuka: a festival favourite, he recently headlined the BBC stage at Bristol’s Harbour Festival, and has played many other stages including Cambridge Folk Festival and Cheltenham Jazz Festival. His critically acclaimed debut album features performances from members of The Invisible, Newton Faulkner’s band, Portishead and Massive Attack.


 
“Heavily influenced by her ninety-four-year-old artistic grandmother, Aussie-born Fetherstone brings together the quirky sounds of electronic pop and the swooping melodies of folk, and combines them with her emotive reflective story-telling. Based in London since 2015, 2017’s ‘Debut’ EP was produced and engineered by London native Harry Tarlton (Kobalt, Union J, Stooshe, WarnerUK), with the last single Two Hands On Deck hand-picked by Newton Faulker to feature on the Richer Unsigned record store day Vinyl compilation, April 2018. Fetherstone’s live shows captivate audiences using a loop/effects pedal, percussion and electronic drums. Recent performances include The Camden Assembly (supporting for Frida Sundemo), Richer Unsigned Live at Melomania, TV Nights Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, The Servant Jazz Quarters (supporting Ella Janes), Live at The Bedford and The Troubadour (supporting The Modern Strangers).

 
“Since an early age, Sam Martin has written and performed his own music around the UK, both supporting and headlining on nation wide tours. In 2010 he recorded his first independent solo EP and has since recorded three studio EPs which have gained a mass following in the UK and Europe as well as Australia and North America. With a vocal/guitar/loop-pedal musical style incorporating blues, jazz and alternative soul, Sam’s vocal and instrumental ability is testament to both his inspirations and musical evolution.”


 
Loop Pedal Lunacy – A Night of Live Looping (featuring Steve Strong, Fetherstone, Alex Taylor, Sam Martin and She, Robot)
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique,, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Wednesday 8th August 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the coming week also sees the first gig in a year for London art/glam/pile-on rockers Silvery. Snatching an early night slot before the late-night jazz funk at Jazz After Dark, they’re going for a repeat performance (of sorts) of last year’s free Soho acoustic gig: this time, in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their debut album ‘Thunderer & Excelsior’.

Simultaneously effete and rowdy, Silvery are a wonky London pop sense made flesh, sounding as if they’ve sprung from the same zigzagging suburban allotments-of-weird which also brought up The Kinks, The Monochrome Set, Cardiacs and The Stranglers. They’re more urchin-esque than Franz Ferdinand, but less leery than Blur. They’re an erudite and wayward Carnaby Roxy; the Dodgers to Bowie’s Fagin; and as rocking goes, they’re only “garage” if said garage had started life as a spooky Victorian stable block.

In their live heyday, Silvery would dress up as Bow Street Runners and fill the capital’s little venues with sweat and joy; these days, their gigs are few and far between, so make the most of this one. If it’s anything like the last time, it’ll be just the two Silveries – Simon Harris and front guy James Orman – thwacking out the old stuff on 12-string acoustic guitar and piano. Below, to get you in the mood, there’s a couple of full-bore electric ‘Thunderer…’ excerpts plus a teaser for a forthcoming film they’ve been making.




 
Silvery: Live Acoustic
Jazz After Dark, 9 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4DQ, England
Friday 10th August 2018, 8.00pm
– free event – information here
 

August 2018 – more Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Solomon’s Garden, The Hungry Mothers and Miranda Joy (7th August); Sannie Fox, Harvey Causon and Gus Harvey (14th August); Whiskey Moon Face, Meïkhâneh and Tommy Ashby (21st August); Gnawa Blues All Stars, James Riley and Michael Sebastian (28th August)

2 Aug

More outdoor summer Woodburner gigs at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, as the season moves into its third and penultimate month.

Here’s what they say they’re offering…

* * * * * * * *

The 7th August show features neo-soul collective Solomon’s Garden, Brighton-based Americana band The Hungry Mothers, and the singer-songwriter Miranda Joy.

Solomon’s Garden is a collective of three university friends who came together to make music with cleverly worded and thought-provoking lyrics, and soulful, catchy, head-bopping beats. After spontaneously releasing their first song ‘Sand Dunes’ in January 2016, the group had an incredible reaction from the general public and within a short period of time the song hit its first thousand plays. It was then that the group knew they were on to something special. Two years, one hiatus and three EPs later the band continues to thrive as a dynamic four piece. Between landing a slot at Latitude festival ‘17, being chosen for BBC Introducing’s record of the week, and becoming a favourite with Sofar Sounds London; the band are fast becoming a name to be recognised on the emerging music scene, with a distinct and resonant sound that continues to evolve.


 
“Producers of feelgood Americana residing within the south-east of the UK, The Hungry Mothers immediately began winning fans since their birth last year as a four-piece comprised of warming harmonies, laid-back roots and country blues. Their debut single Tiger Song (released on At The Helm Records) is the confident and mature start for a band who are inviting everyone on their journey.


 
Miranda Joy is a twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter currently based in London. She performs her meaningfully-written songs with a powerful and soulful voice with moving piano accompaniment. She has performed at many venues, festivals and events, including the Vortex Jazz Club, The Village Underground, Rye International Jazz and Blues festival, the Great Escape Festival and Nasty Women UK. Last year one of her original songs, The Fall, was featured on BBC1’s coverage of the NFL Super Bowl highlights. Currently, she is continuing to perform at venues across the UK and working on releasing her first EP.”


 
* * * * * * * *

The 14th August show features South African blues artist Sannie Fox, electronic/jazz from Harvey Causon, and trip hop act Gus Harvey.

Sannie Fox is a singer and guitarist who has released two critically acclaimed albums and will release her third studio album ‘My Soul Got Stranger’ this year. With her voracious voice, and her fingers to her electric guitar, Fox sways across an evolving sonic tapestry of desert blues, soul and psychedelic rock sounds. Last decade, Fox formed the blues-rock 3-piece Machineri and released a self-titled album in 2010; in 2015 she released her debut solo album ‘Serpente Masjien’. She has toured South Africa, the UK and Asia and is currently based between the UK and South Africa.


 

“Calm and understated, Bristol’s Harvey Causon is turning heads with his deft take on contemporary R&B and percussive electronica, and with the powerful, brooding vocal that sounds far more world-wearied than his twenty years. After moving to Bristol last year, Harvey quickly released his ‘Introspect’ EP’, a collection of songs that he had been sitting on for a while. Eclectic but polished, the stand out song from the release, ‘Systems’ was given a remix from rising hip hop duo Cabrakid (earning Harvey an appearance at Cabra’s support slot with Loyle Carner after the rapper heard the track).

“In October, Harvey released his single ‘Frisson’ with local Bristol label Leisure Records: ‘Worn You’, his most recent release with production collaborator Gabriel Gifford, was playlisted by Radio 1 as the BBC Introducing Track of the Week and added to the Burberry and Radio 1 Spotify playlists. With nods to other contemporary artists the ambient piano ballad has a nervous energy but its dub tinged rhythm, clever lyrical content and fragile yet soothing vocal set it apart. Having already played sold-out shows supporting Tokio Myers, Puma Blue and Porches as well as Dot to Dot and 2000 Trees festivals, the summer bookings are shaping up to be just as imposing with The Great Escape, The Downs Festival and All Points East all in the pipeline. His impressive live set features both Gabriel Gifford and drummer Ben Toon.


 
Gus Harvey is a London-born soul singer with roots in hip hop and jazz. This August she releases debut EP ‘? History (1 of 4)’ on her own label. Her first single – Witches – was pure hip hop and received radio acclaim from DJs including Lauren Laverne and Nemone on BBC Radio 6 Music, as well as being Clash Music’s Track of the Day. The new EP exhibits four different styles; acoustic soul, jazz-hip hop, trip hop and bi gbeat (from collaborations with Audiobullys’ Tom Dinsdale). ‘? History’ is Harvey’s self-portrait and DIY protest against an industry squashing emerging artists into one genre. As sole mistress of all her ships, Harvey creates her visuals with close friend and London visionary Netti Hurley. Tonight she performs a unique, stripped acoustic soul set especially for Woodburner.”


 
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The 21st August show features transcontinental jazz-folkers Whiskey Moon Face, Persia/Mongolia/Eastern Europe-influenced folk trio Meikhaneh and sessioneer-turned-ancestral-folkie Tommy Ashby.

“The result of a thousand drunken nights, countless dreamy days, and years of musical adventuring, Whiskey Moon Face take you on a voyage into a bohemian underworld which you never knew existed. Born into a puddle of whiskey beneath a stark winter moon and raised by cold winds, schooled in the warming spirits and hungry for more, Whiskey Moon Face manage a natural, graceful sound built from many ports. Always innovating and improvising with stark originality, Louisa Jones’ troupe of underground musicians play with a virtuosity you could never expect. Songs which speak of the unspeakable, with understated humour, captivating storytelling and a transcendent spirituality. ‘Folk Radio UK’ compared them to “having been at one of those wild and joyous youthful parties in somebody else’s parents’ house that you’ll remember for years.”


 
Meïkhâneh’s compositions are fed by imagination, improvisation and traditional music from Europe, Mongolia and Iran. The luminous and captivating voices carry the power of East European singings, the aerial melodies of the great spaces, as well as the depth of the khöömii, Mongolian overtone singing. One can hear traveling cords recalling the steppes of Asia and Andalusia. The chiseled rhythms of percussion draw on the Persian tradition. Meïkhâneh takes us to the heart of a music without borders that caresses the soul. Its name borrowed from Persian poetry means the «House of Intoxication». We let ourselves be carried…


 

Tommy Ashby’s childhood was always going to be musical. Travelling the country playing guitar in his father’s traditional blues band and raised on the Scottish pub singaround culture, his initial musical experiences were immersive and natural. His teens were spent pouring over his parents record collections of American songwriters such as Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and Jeff Buckley. The eclectic mix of American roots, blues and country, combined with his Scottish folk roots, all seeped into his music.

“After acquiring a PhD focussed on studying and modelling the human perception of sound, Tommy cut his teeth behind the scenes as a session musician for the likes of Nina Nesbitt and Holly Macve, toured the UK and Europe as support act for Rhodes and Tom Speight as well as playing a number of headline sell-out shows in London this year including events curated by Communion, Never Fade and the Southbank Centre. His debut EP, produced by Chris Bond (Ben Howard) was self-released in late November 2016 and entered at No.5 in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. His new EP, Restless Love, was recorded and mixed with Grammy award winner Sam Okell in his home studio near the wild North Cornwall coast.”


 
* * * * * * * *
The 28th August show features Moroccan guimbri sensations Gnawa Blues All Stars, Anglo-American guitarist James Riley, and improvisation/loop wizard Michael Sebastian.

“Simo Lagnawi is an ambassador of Gnawa culture in the UK. This charismatic creator is the leader of Gnawa Blues All Stars and has featured on BBC World service, CNN World, BBC 3, Vox Africa, & many more radio shows and magazines around the world. He has performed at a host of festivals including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Latitude and Boom Town. Playing traditional Gnawa music from Morocco, this sacred trance music forms the core of his work with his bands Electric Jalaba, Gnawa Griot, and Gnawa Blues Allstars. Simo continuously pushes new boundaries fusing Gnawa with music from countries such as Gambia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, India, Japan, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Look out for special guest musicians playing with the band!


 
Born of a transatlantic relationship, James Riley grew up in south-east London listening to the folk and soul sound of ‘70s America and wrote his first melody at the age of four. His first guitar, acquired at the age of nine, became the tool for surviving the tumult of a nowhere place, and helped James find somewhere he felt he belonged. In his early twenties, he took off, alone once again, hitchhiking and busking through Europe from Amsterdam to Istanbul, writing songs along the way. Back in the UK, these songs became a band, but eventually James had to shed another skin, and disembarked in Nashville, Tennessee. Here he found his producer and they set about making the album which had travelled with him to his maternal homeland, where it could finally get free.


 
South African-born, Edinburgh-educated, and living in London, Michael Sebastian is a musician and loop-artist who improvises to uplift the capital. Whenever possible, Sebastian is on the streets of London, improvising with a loop-pedal, a mic and a bright pink guitar. He will attest that this has been the most important part of his musical education, and has taught him to speak to people through his instrument. he creates music from a broad range of experience and styles. His affinity for groove and feel allows for conflicting styles to fluidly co-exist, feeling human and natural. His most recent album, ‘Kayanda’ demonstrates him harnessing live, improvised looping onto record. After developing the recording software himself, Sebastian went into a shed in the country for two weeks to improvise an album, and came out with fourteen tracks. The album is written with the sensibilities of modern dance and electronic music, and retains the freedom, rawness and depth of world music and jazz, while still creating melodies that are hard to forget.”


 
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All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England on Tuesday evenings. Dates below:

  • Solomon’s Garden + The Hungry Mothers + Miranda Joy – Tuesday 7th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Sannie Fox + Harvey Causon + Gus Harvey – Tuesday 14th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Whiskey Moon Face + Meïkhâneh + Tommy Ashby – Tuesday 21st August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Gnawa Blues All Stars + James Riley + Michael Sebastian – Tuesday 28th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

July-September 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – part three of the Jazz Herstory series at Poplar Union with Shirley Smart (22nd July), Francesca Ter-Berg (16th August, with Poppy Edwards, Ashley Paul and Simon Roth) and Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble 5tet (20th September)

16 Jul

More shows for jazzwomen as the third set of gigs for Jazz Herstory come up at east London’s Poplar Union (following the Nerija, Laura Jurd and Yazz Ahmed gigs at the start of the year, and the Ruth Goller, Cath Roberts and Alison Rayner shows during spring and early summer).

* * * * * * * *

“The July gig is provided by Shirley Smart, one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists, and a rare exponent of jazz cello. She draws on a unique background that incorporates classical music, jazz and world music from North Africa, the Middle East, Balkans, and South America. As well as original compositions, she presents a fresh, new approach to the cello. Originally trained in classical cello Shirley subsequently moved to Jerusalem, where she stayed for ten years, studying and performing a wide variety of world music from the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as being highly involved with the jazz and improvised music scene. Since returning to the UK, she has quickly become known as one of the most creative cellists on the music scene and has worked with many leading jazz and world music groups, including Antonio Forcione, Gilad Atzmon, Neil Cowley, Julian Ferraretto, Robert Mitchell, Kosmos Ensemble, Shekoyokh, Maciek Pysz, Maurizio Minardi, and Alice Zawadski, as well as leading her own projects.

For this concert (a late afternoon performance), Shirley’s bringing her own trio with pianist John Crawford and Demi Garcia Sabat on drums and percussion.


 
“For the August gig, cellist Francesca Ter-Berg (one half of Fran & Flora) takes influences from Eastern Europe (including Klezmer, Transylvanian and Romanian music) and blends them with experimentation in order to explore a world of sound, improvisation and live electronics. Her collaborative experience and diverse musical background has led Francesca to be one of the most versatile and in demand session and studio musicians in the UK. She has collaborated and performed with artists including Sam Lee, Talvin Singh, Floating Points, Portico, Sophie Solomon, Cosmo Sheldrake, Tanita Tikaram, Roger O’Donnell, Riz Ahmed, Hejira, Katy Carr, Lisa Knapp, Gerry Diver, The Unthanks, Kate Young, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Frank London, London Klezmer Quartet, Soumik Datta, Jyotsna Srikanth, Ahmed Mukhtar, Maverick Sabre and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

“Francesca will be inviting some musical friends on to the stage to perform two sets for this Jazz Herstory special. For the first set, she’ll meld her cello, voice and electronics in an improvisation with London-based songwriter, sound designer and Poppy Edwards on electronics, voice and keyboard (Poppy’s own main project, CRØM/LUS, should be releasing its own debut EP ‘Altered States’ shortly). For the second set, Francesca will be joined by jazz drummer Simon Roth (Sephiroth, Land Of If) and by American émigré and free-form wildcard Ashley Paul on saxophone, guitar and vocals.


 
“For September’s Jazz Herstory performance, Cassie Kinoshi brings the quintet version of her SEED Ensemble to Polar Union. A London-based composer, arranger and alto saxophonist also known for her work with all-female jazz septet Nérija and Afrobeat band Kokoroko, Cassie uses SEED to combine jazz with inner-city London, West African and Caribbean-influenced groove, exploring a blend of genres through both original compositions and arrangements.

“Usually performing as a ten-piece, SEED Ensemble presents a stellar line-up featuring some of London’s most up-and-coming young jazz musicians and has been making waves in the contemporary British jazz scene. The quintet lineup is Cassie on alto saxophone, Sheila Maurice Grey on trumpet, Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Rio Kai on bass and Patrick Boyle on drums.”


 

All concerts are at Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England. Dates as follows:

  • Shirley Smart – Sunday 22nd July 2018, 4.30pm – information here and here
  • Francesca Ter-Berg – Thursday 16th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • SEED Ensemble 5tet, Thursday 20th September 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

July 2018 – more Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Laura Perrudin and Garance & The Mitochondries (3rd July); Muntu Valdo, Dahlia Sleeps and O Matæus (10th July); David Keenan, Lilla Vargen and Stephen James Smith (17th July); Rachel K. Collier, Marble Empire and Alexander Carson (24th July); Roscius, Three Laws and Zoë Phillips (31st July)

27 Jun

With the June sessions of the summer Woodburner season at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden now complete, here’s details on the upcoming July set (bringing further doses of world/international music, acoustic singer-songwriters and bubbling-under internet music sensations to the London summer nights).


 
Occasionally-tweaked official blurbs below.

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“The 3rd July show features sensational French harpist, singer and composer Laura Perrudin, and London’s eccentric genius Garance Louis & The Mitochondries.

“Seeing her harp as both an orchestra and a drum kit, Laura Perrudin creates a powerful personal universe in her compelling live performances utilizing an arsenal of laptop, sound-effect pedals and multitrack loops. Using her voice like an instrument, she believes that harp and voice are each an extension of the other. Brought up on a diet of jazz, she studied classical music in addition to composing and producing music using her home studio (influenced by a wide array of genres including electronic and traditional music, soul and hip-hop), and trained with many musicians from her birth region of Brittany to New York and Paris. A harpist from childhood, her mission became to open up the possibilities of the instrument to a richer harmonic language: she plays a custom-built electric chromatic/pedal-less harp with a single row of strings, constructed by harpmaker Philippe Volant and allowing her to give free rein to the sinuous harmonies and rich soundscapes of her unclassifiable compositions.​

“Upon the release of Laura’s debut album ‘Impressions’ in 2015, ‘Les Inrockuptibles’ proclaimed her a “young iconoclast blends jazz (playing) the thousand games of a tightrope artist (with) cheerful and spontaneous radicalism, definitely modern.” while ‘France Inter Paris Radio’ wrote “it’s rather as if Björk had chanced upon Herbie Hancock in a Dublin pub. Laura Perrudin is only at the beginning of her artistic career, but she has already redefined the framework of the harp and we are sure that her singular universe will become an example.” Laura recently released her sophomore album ‘Poisons & Antidotes’ on Volatine Records.


 
“Since moving to London from Perpignan in 2010, extrovert, eccentric composer, singer and accordionist Garance Louis (now usually seen fronting Garance & The Mitochondries) has established herself as a powerhouse of the underground live music scene. Her surreal performances have featured bizarre costumes and otherworldly themes, perfectly complementing songs about absurd abstraction, procrastination, star-crossed open relationships; intoxicating love, plus rebirth in the Amazonian forest. The playful Garance always wears a smile, finding humour in physical theatre, funny faces and the clown inside us all.

“Growing up in the independent ‘Cinémaginaire’ in the South of France, Garance spent her childhood travelling the world, her head filled with the sights and sounds of the movies. The nomadic spirit stays strong with her, with an impulsive trip to New Orleans on the cards, and her past history of running away with the circus. Continuing the creative journey, her current record ‘Balance L’Aurore’ shows off Garance’s discovery of music production, bringing a new vitality and direction to her sound, while staying rooted in French chanson, psychedelic folk and old Venezuelan mambo.


 
* * * * * * * *

“The 10th July concert features Cameroonian blues-and-jazz player Muntu Valdo and melancholic electronic group Dahlia Sleeps, plus the moody electric guitar stylings of O MATÆUS.

“Hailed as “the prince of Sawa blues”, Muntu Valdo says “my passion is African history; its past glory, present fragility and diverse riches. My ambition is to increase awareness, enlighten, empower people and invoke a positive future for Africa with the rest of the world. My music is a result of all of this; rooted in the blues, mixing African traditions with striking modernity and technical mastery.” The Cameroonian is indeed a master and his performance will be a rare treat for those present to experience his music.


 
“Over the last couple of years Dahlia Sleeps have risen from being Soundcloud sweethearts with over half a million plays on the platform to the UK’s next big pop band, stacking up almost 1.7 million Spotify streams and three million YouTube views in that time. Their second EP ‘After It All’ showcases their increasing pop sensibilities whilst retaining the intimacy and endearing fragility of their original Soundcloud demos. They continue to show a willingness to tackle difficult subject matter with grace and poise. Lucy Hill’s song writing is even more poignant than ever before, with the record covering deep and personal themes from grief and loss, to love and homophobia.

“Despite the EP’s tough subjects, the band delivers some of its most upbeat efforts to date. Rise – a future LGBTQ+ anthem saw success on Spotify when released as a single last year, which has as much to do with its addictive chorus and epic guitar melodies as its important message. Only You, an intoxicating fall into luscious synth arrangements and furiously catchy vocal samples, shows a band hurtling full speed towards mainstream success.


 
“Operating as O Matæus, Mat Roberts is a young singer-songwriter from Canterbury, an ex-chorister and classically trained cellist, exploring and developing his emotional connection to a life surrounded by music. Influenced by the likes of Daughter, Ben Howard, Marika Hackman, Lucy Rose, Enter Shikari, Bring Me The Horizon and a wide range of classical composers, O Matæus wishes to create a unique style of material to hear, whether it be heard in a small bedroom or echoing concert venue, music is his life, and he wants to share it with the rest of the world. Dark undertones and words filled with passion and trouble rule his creative style with every note being connected to a moment in time that has passed. He wants to make you feel what he has felt, and with soaring falsetto lines, simple yet intricate guitar licks and raw intensity he brings those feelings back to life in the short time-span a song gives.

 
* * * * * * * *

“The 17th July concert features an all-Irish lineup featuring rising star David Keenan, electronic/acoustic songwriter Lilla Vargen, and poet Stephen James Smith.

“An obsession with words and melody took hold of David Keenan at a very early age. Exposed to the writings of Behan, Yeats and Wilde (with a soundtrack of Dylan, Buckley and The Dubliners), his formative years were inspired by the storytelling and character creations of his grandfather. Later he took the boat over the water and gathered tales and tunes of his own, learning his craft and to express his love of language. Having been asked to play alongside the likes of Mick Flannery, Hothouse Flowers, Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard, David is fast becoming one of Ireland’s most talked-about young artists.


 
Lilla Vargen is a singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland. Her name means “little wolf” in Swedish – an alias which encapsulates both her strong, soulful, evocative voice and the vulnerability in those honest, minimal songs of love and loss. Two years after her first couple of demos emerged online, she returned with her debut EP – the three-track ‘Hold On’, including an astonishing cover of Downtown (by Majical Cloudz) and the quietly memorable torch song title track (which showcases her beautiful vocal, offset against producer Nick Rayner’s warm, gently-building production). The critically acclaimed EP racked up just under a million listens online in a month, alongside plays from KCRW and further support from BBCR1. Live, she plays as a two piece alongside Derry composer and electronic musician Ryan Vail. Recent shows include supports for Lisa Hannigan and Newton Faulkner, with her debut UK dates happening in February 2018.


 
Stephen James Smith is a Dublin poet and playwright central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word scene in Ireland today. His poetry videos have amassed over 2.5 million views and he has performed at high profile events and venues such as the Oscar Wilde Awards in Los Angeles, Electric Picnic, other voices, Glastonbury Festival, the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Barbican in London, Vicar Street and the London Palladium (alongside Oscar winner Glen Hansard). Stephen facilitates poetry workshops in schools around Ireland and is artist in residence with Dunamaise arts centre & Laois arts office. His poetry is included on the syllabus at Western Connecticut State University and his work has been translated into multiple languages. His debut collection, ‘Fear Not’, is published by Arlen House and will be launched on 14 June 2018 in Dublin at Poetry Ireland on Parnell Square.


 
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“The 24th July show features singer/producer Rachel K. Collier, synth collective Marble Empire, and downtempo songwriter Alexander Carson.

“A one-woman electronic production machine and die-hard Ableton enthusiast, Rachel K. Collier is known for using a multi-instrument technical setup to enable her to perform her song-focused, high-energy studio productions in a live setting. Performing on stage together with a live percussionist and interactive visuals, Collier has built and refined her live show throughout 2017 including sold-out shows at KOKO, Camden and 93 Feet East, headlining the Beats For Love Festival in the Czech Republic and participating in the Ableton Loop event in Berlin. With a string of high profile shows line up this year (including SXSW and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend as well as The Great Escape) Collier will follow up with her debut album, set for release in autumn 2018.


 
Marble Empire is twenty-one-year-old singer/songwriter/producer Matt Berry from north London: a multi instrumentalist who writes and produces all his own material, which he describes as a blend of “gritty bass-lines, jazz harmony and guitar lines soaked in effects.” Influenced by the likes of Ben Khan, Jungle, SG Lewis and Frank Ocean, tentative early single releases last year quickly gained him much attention. He invites you to celebrate the upcoming release of ‘Marble Empire & Friends’ a seven-track compilation mixtapes written and produced by Marble Empire himself with six featured artists. He will be welcoming many collaborators onstage with him and his band throughout the evening, including Katya DJ, KarimThaPeasant, Milo Gore, Kate Lomas, Tchengiz and Natalie Green.


 
Alexander Carson is a neoclassical/downtempo composer and songwriter, based in London, who has spent the better part of seven years as the lead singer, and songwriter for genre-fluid quintet Wooden Arms. Since Wooden Arms went on Hiatus in March of 2018, Carson has embraced solo work, with his debut single ‘Lovers’ being released on 4th May and being hailed as “a perfect blend of modern songwriting and classical musicianship” by ‘The Line Of Best Fit’, as “sounding at times like an Irish prayer and others a bit Bowie-ish, but never dull or less challenging” by ‘Where The Music Meets’, and by ‘Outline Magazine’ as possessing “a distinctive timbre and delicate working of the keys that always reminds slightly of Anthony and the Johnsons… the fragile vocals and piano playing are unmistakably Alex.”


 
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“The 31st July show features live producer Roscius, electronic/classical ensemble Three Laws, and singer/pianist Zoë Phillips.

“French-born/London-based underground composer, producer and live performer Roscius has spent the last year building an enviable reputation with the release of his debut EPs ‘WMD#1’ and ‘WMD#2’, as well as successful tours in France, the UK, the Middle East and Asia. Composing through improvisation, personal recording, live vocal sampling, bass looping, special percussion and piano skills, Roscius creates a unique and absorbing soundscape, genuinely innovative and emotional; a mixture of acoustic and intelligent dance music, organic techno and ethnic deep house.


 
“An electronic band from the Big Smoke, Three Laws draw inspiration from the city, art, science, nature and the people they meet. Their first EP, ‘Convalescence’, combined haunting female vocals with classical piano, cinematic/military percussion and electronica. Three Laws have been compared to outfits such as Daughter, The XX, and London Grammar.


 
“Distinguished by haunting vocals and emotive sounds, Zoë Phillips is a vocalist and songwriter from Hertford. Her music is hard to box up, as she has dabbled in dance music but her ambient piano-based approach can nod towards the likes of Birdy and Rae Morris. Now gigging live with a full backing band, her music has previously been supported by BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music, whilst live performances include Glastonbury Festival.”


 
* * * * * * * *

All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England on Tuesday evenings. Dates below:

  • Laura Perrudin + Garance & The Mitochondries, Tuesday 3rd July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Muntu Valdo + Dahlia Sleeps + O Matæus, Tuesday 10th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • David Keenan + Lilla Vargen + Stephen James Smith, Tuesday 17th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Rachel K. Collier + Marble Empire + Alexander Carson, Tuesday 24th July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Roscius + Three Laws + Zoë Phillips, Tuesday 31st July 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

June 2018 – the first of the year’s Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Faith Mussa and Jally Kebba Susso (5th June); Blue Lab Beats, The Dylema Collective and DemiMa (12th June); K.O.G, Bamako Overground and Eckoes (19th June); Meadowlark, Only Girl and Amy & The Calamities (26th June)

1 Jun

Adding to the long list of London things I’ve previously missed…

For five years, acoustic music promoters Woodburner have been regularly hosting a summertime session in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Each year they strive to “(capture) the essence of a weekend rural festival in the centre of Dalston… The phenomenal surrounds of the garden combine with delicious pizzas from David Latto, and a supreme and ever-evolving roster of acts, to create a magical atmosphere which brings people together in a friendly and welcoming space. It’s a community of music-lovers, summer-lovers and life-lovers, brought together to celebrate the warm months in a carefree and supportive atmosphere, with a compelling live soundtrack.”


 
This happens every Tuesday evening between June and September – here’s details on the June shows. All blurb is from Woodburner and the artists themselves; all inevitable judicious and finicky edits are mine. If you sometimes tire of the art-rock cubbyholes, peculiar modern classical or experimental sounds covered in here, or just find the entire damn blog too white (I feel that way sometimes myself), some of these gigs might appeal to you a little more.

* * * * * * * *

“The 5th June launch show features Malawian superstar Faith Mussa, and London-based kora master Jally Kebba Susso.

Faith Mussa is an Afro-soul singer, songwriter and guitarist, currently Malawi’s first and only “electronic one-man band” combining traditional African vibes with modern sounds. He is an energetic music performer and excellent music writer who has performed at some of the world most respected festivals, earned several awards (including the prestigious Malawi Special Achievers Award in the UK) worked with a variety of charity initiatives and is currently an ambassador for Oxfam and music writer for Girl Effect Malawi. His second album is set to be released early this year, and will contain music recorded from all over the world with some of the best talent he has collaborated with along the way.


 
“Gambian kora master Jally Kebba Susso expands on West African griot musical tradition, whether solo or with his band Manding Sabu. Jally comes from a very long line of Manding griots from the Gambia. He started playing the kora, the emblematic instrument of the griots at the age of seven, learning its delicate flowing intricacies from his father and older brothers. By the age of thirteen, Susso was touring Europe with a number of Gambian stars including Baatou Askan Wi, Maslabii and his sister Sambou Susso’s group. Over recent years Susso has been experimenting with blends of traditional griot music mixing hip hop, jazz, blues and now funk.”


 
* * * * * * * *

“The 12th June concert features London-based production duo Blue Lab Beats, love-jazz sensation The Dylema Collective and spoken word songstress DemiMa.

Blue Lab Beats is the brainchild of NK-OK and Mr D.M, who met at the WAC weekend arts club in Belsize Park and began making music in the now Infamous Blue Lab Studios. Many production rooms that produce a lot of good music historically are tiny – Motown in Detroit was one, Sun Studios was another such studio and Blue Lab boasts a shortage of space that would leave scratch marks on many an elbow. Still the music is hot – and that’s what counts. It’s the musical mishmash of Mr DM’s instrumental wizardry and a whole lotta NK-OK bottom end and programming knowhow (from a production journey which started with grime) that gives Blue Lab Beats the edge and takes it out of straight jazz format, whilst paying full respect to the art form (with influences including Mad Lib, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Knxwledge, J. Dilla, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and A Tribe Called Quest).

Blue Lab Beats are now the engine room behind many of the freshest new acts (Age Of Luna, Ruby Francis, Louis VI) and also remixers for Jodie Abacus, Dua Lipa, Rag’n’Bone man to name a few. Their production style is raw but also sophisticated – musical but not introvert. Their recent ‘Blue Skies’ EP intro video caught the attention of ‘Dazed and Confused’ and has been clocking up views ever since. They’re currently in the process of making their own album.


 
“Sweet spoken neo-soul. Dope-ass funk. Multi-sensory killa jazz. The kinda music that makes your brain and booty dance. This is the infectious blend of groove, swag and often disarming fragility that confronts you as The Dylema Collective oozes their way through their young yet hypnotic set. Drawing on a smorgasbord of musical influences (inevitable, considering the diverse backgrounds of its members) you find Russian classicism and Nigerian Afrobeat meeting Latin-American rhythms and old-school soul, all woven into London’s contemporary jazz sound. The inspiring, empowering poetry that flows from Dylema’s lips and effortlessly between these poly-rhythms and sounds makes for an overall magnetic experience: one full of trembling crescendos, tingling intimacy and simpering sexuality.”


 

(Um… “simpering”? Anyway…)

“Demi “DemiMa” Mseleku is an Anglo-Zulu word and sound artist from south-west London – a singer, songwriter and poet – who creates soulful multi-sensorial performances to provoke conscious dialogue. Inspired by themes of identity, spirituality, social dynamics, divine femininity and Afrofuturism, DemiMa’s passion for improvisation enables her to freely channel sounds as a canvas for her poetry.She is the co-creator of A L C H E M Y (a monthly event honouring the art of word, sound, soul).


 
* * * * * * * *

“The 19th June concert features spoken word dynamo K.O.G, Afro-folk from Bamako Overground, and electronic songstress Eckoes.

“Born in Ghana, resident in Sheffield, K.O.G. (Kweku of Ghana) is a prolific writer and virtuosic performer, comfortable across a wide range of styles from house and Afrobeats to Afro-funk, dancehall and jungle, electrifying live audiences with his wildly energetic stage presence. Though known for his incredible vocal performances, K.O.G is also a talented arranger and percussionist, from balafon and djembe to his trademark dinner tray!

“As well as being the frontman for much-loved eight-piece Afro-funk outfit K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade, Kweku is the front man for the new Onipa project (with Nubiyan Twist MD Tom Excell) and is working on collaborations with Afriquoi, Congo Natty, Umoja, iZem, Jus Now and The Busy Twist. On the night, he will be joined by Tom Excell himself for a very special duo performance.


 
“Born in the inspired mind of London’s own Malian rhythm buff Hans Sutton, Bamako Overground have been busy forging a new sound. The trio are irresistibly seduced by the music of West Africa, blending its influences overtly and covertly with their own carefully-selected flavours to settle into mystical dance grooves and desert blues. Deep and soulful rhythms meet soaring melodies, while smooth three-part vocal harmonies spin allegories in Bamanakan and English to complete a brew that’s compelling and utterly unique. Hans plays his distinctive hybrid drum kit (which has previously brought Mandé styles to artists such as Nick Mulvey and Cocos Lovers), while at his flanks are the sparkling guitar of Yaaba Funk co-founder Tobias Sturmer and the hypnotic, heavy bass of folk maestro and Woodburner impresario Theo Bard.


 
“British musician Eckoes merges cutting-edge textures with soulful hooks to entice you into her sublime and unmistakeable sonic world. Possessed of a voice that will “make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up” (according to BBC Radio) she’s one of the most intriguing and emotive new outpourings to emerge from the London circuit. Naturally, tastemakers’ praise has come in thick and fast from BBC 6 Music, Clash Magazine, Q, Wonderland, BBC Introducing, Indie Shuffle, Afropunk, and the MOBO Awards amongst others. A prolific songwriter outside of her solo project, she has penned songs for many other artists, hitting #13 in the UK Club Charts last summer with Deeper (a track she co wrote and featured on, produced by Le Visiteur). At the helm of her project she stands, a six-foot statuesque weaver of hypnotic sounds taking the industry by storm.


 
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“The 26th June show features “viral songwriters” Meadowlark, rising star Only Girl, and blues champions Amy & The Calamities.

“Delicate, emotional, yet current and powerful songs, delivered beautifully from the minds of two extraordinary musicians, Meadowlark are nothing short of incredible. Their debut single ‘Eyes Wide’ in 2015 was added to BBC Radio 1’s Introducing playlist, XFM’s evening playlist and featured on Hype Machine’s Top 20. This led to sessions on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show, playing Glastonbury’s Introducing stage as well as the Alt Escape, the MAMA festival in Paris, and Dot to Dot. The song also appeared on episodes of ‘Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’.

“In 2016 Meadowlark were embraced into the UK touring circuit to support the release of their second EP ‘Paraffin’ and the incredibly well received most recent single Headlights. Their summer Bushstock performance in 2016 received a glowing review from ‘Popped Music’ who said “their vocals never ever miss a note and you could hear a pin drop.” The band’s debut album was released this year through Believe Records and their recent tour across the UK sold incredibly well, with sellouts in Bristol and London.


 
Only Girl is the pseudonym of Ellen Murphy, a soulful young artist emerging from the DIY music scene of south-east London. To date she has released several independent singles, gaining widespread support across BBC Introducing, Spotify, BBC Radio 1 and 2, BBC6 Music and online tastemakers including ‘The Fader’, ‘Notion’, ‘Clash’, ‘Mahogany’ and Red Bull Music.
The past eighteen months have seen her feature on releases with Zero 7, Kultur, Kitty Cash’s ‘Love The Free’ mixtape, her debut performance on UK TV on ‘The Nightly Show’ (ITV), and playing sold-out headline shows in London at the Courtyard Theatre and The Borderline.

“Her debut EP ‘Bittersweet’ (produced by long term collaborator Henry Binns of Zero 7) was released in early April – a swirl of soulful R&B harmonies with heart-aching lyrics set over a warm bed of rich organ sounds and bassy beats. She’s currently working on new music for release later on in the year.



 
Amy & The Calamities is the vehicle for Amy Wawn, a musician and singer-songwriter from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. As a solo performer, Amy’s style ranges from lively foot-stomping folk rhythms to the dirty-delicious sounds of delta blues on the slide guitar, accompanied by a dark, brooding vocal range, lilting melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Amy studied piano from a young age, and began learning guitar and violin in her teens. After being accepted to the University of Cape Town for a music degree, she decided to take a break from classical training and instead studied a degree in languages and translation whilst focusing more on the guitar and songwriting. She began performing in her hometown of Bulawayo after a brief stint of travelling on her own and working her way around Europe in 2014.

“Over the last three years, Amy has performed at several major festivals and events around Zimbabwe and is now living and performing full time as a solo artist in Camden Town, London. She released her debut EP ‘The Suspects’ in February 2018, in collaboration with exquisitely talented violinist, Georgina Leach.”


 
* * * * * * * *

All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England. Dates below:

  • Faith Mussa + Jally Kebba Susso, Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Blue Lab Beats + The Dylema Collective + DemiMa, Tuesday 12th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • K.O.G + Bamako Overground + Eckoes, Tuesday 19th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Meadowlark + Only Girl + Amy Wawn, Tuesday 26th June 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

April-June 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Patchwork Jazz Orchestra and Pillow & Kase (7th April); part two of the Jazz Herstory season at Poplar Union with Ruth Goller (19th April), Cath Roberts (17th May) and the Alison Rayner Quintet (28th June)

4 Apr

Briefly boosting the signal for some of the season’s jazz shows…

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Patchwork Jazz Orchestra + Pillow & Kase, 7th April 2018

Balabam & Woodburner presents:
Patchwork Jazz Orchestra + Pillow & Kase + DJ Hot Bread
Balabam, 58-60 High Road, South Tottenham, London, N15 6JU, England
Saturday 7th April 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are a London-based millennial big band that has no leader but a variety of composers using the ensemble as a platform for fresh sounds and ideas. A factory of sound, materialising the musical fantasies of a new generation of jazz musicians. With such a melting pot of influences and characters, the music ranges from luscious and sweet melodies to broad walls of sound, from drum and bass to funeral marches, from fairytale ballads to calypso. The musical glue binding it together are the seventeen musicians that power the vibrations and their universal passion for improvisation. Drawing on the wealth of history of the big band format, PJO have revamped it into a well-oiled machine that embraces a modern day philosophy of music making.

“Having already met through other smaller ensembles and subgroups, many members of the band had a desire not only to play more large ensemble music, but to have the opportunity and environment to write for it. Ideas for the band began forming in early 2014, and in November that year the seventeen-piece group made its debut to a sell out audience at the London Jazz Festival. After winning the Peter Whittingham Award in 2015, the band have hosted their own “Patchwork” nights, engaging new audiences at unusual spaces in London and turning heads with the sound of fresh original compositions written exclusively by its members. They have just finished recording their first album at AIR Studios, scheduled for release in early 2019.


 
Pillow & Kase are a London based duo born out of the not-so-usual yet distinctive combination of a singer and an electric bass player. Creating a variety of textures using the delicate paring of these instruments with electronic effects, loops and percussion, this duo (featuring Clara Serra Lopez on vocals, electronics and hand percussion and Matt Gedrych on electric bass and electronics) plays original music and improvisations based on the sounds, rhythms and expressive nature of jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul, Latin and African music.”

 
Despite the early start, the live music itself kicks off at nine o’clock with DJ Hot Bread filling all of the gaps before, in between and after.

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Just north of Docklands, the impeccable feminist jazz initiative Jazz Herstory continues its rolling series of gigs at Poplar Union featuring top female jazz talents. For information on the previous set of shows, click here; for news on who’s going to see us through spring and into summer, read on…

“In a sudden change of plan, Ruth Goller will be fronting the fourth episode of Jazz Herstory Presents (replacing the originally scheduled Emma-Jean Thackray). Grooving through so many of the greatest bands in London (including this one and Vula Viel), Ruth Goller is one of London’s best bass players.

“Agile Experiments is a project curated by Dave De Rose (Jazz Herstory’s favourite drummer), based around – but not limited by – eight combinations of fourteen musicians based in London, which come together in a genre-defying free improv setting. Initially formed from one-hour concerts in Brixton Village courtesy of The Agile Rabbit Pizzeria (from where the project got its name), the group have just released Volume One of their collective efforts on 12″ vinyl.

“For this concert Agile Experiments presents Ruth Goller (bass guitar), George Crowley (Can Of Worms, Corrie Dick’s Band of Joy, Vula Viel) on saxophone and Dave De Rose himself on drums.



 
Cath Roberts is a saxophonist, jazz promoter, record label manager, producer and composer. She has toured across the UK and Europe, contributing a huge amount to the production of music in and around London. Her music is very spontaneous, drawing on repeated phrases, pulled in all directions by various members of the band at different times, shared and passed around and developed. The music seems to grow out of nowhere and submerges you in a musical journey.

“Her bands (as leader or contributor) include Sloth Racket, Ripsaw Catfish, Favourite Animals and Madwort Sax Quartet; and she’s half of the LUME project (with Dee Byrne) championing fresh improv in a series of gutsy dates and all-dayers. For her Jazz Herstory concert, Cath will be leading a drumless trio completed by double bass player Otto Willberg and trombonist Tullis Rennie (one of Cath’s Favourite Animals collaborators).

 
“Double bass player and composer Alison Rayner has been on the British jazz scene for many years and is well known for being a proactive member of the jazz community, running gigs and touring internationally with the band Guest Stars, as well as being known for Blow The Fuse. As a leader, Alison ties together many of the strands of her numerous musical influences: a long-time Charlie Haden admirer (as well as being a Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke fan), Alison is supported by some of the most accomplished musicians in the UK today.

“Alison’s Quintet (her Blow The Fuse partner Deirdre Cartwright on guitar, The Casimir Connection/Giant Steppes’ saxophonist Diane McLoughlin, Steve Lodder on piano and Buster Birch on drums and percussion) is “purposeful, full-toned and melodic, a beautifully integrated band”. The influences are diverse, with traits of funk, folk and Afro-Cuban dance music. Expect terrific grooves, poignant melodies and fluid improvisation.”


 
All concerts are at Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England. Dates as follows:

  • Ruth Goller/Agile Experiments – Thursday 19th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Cath Roberts – Thursday 17th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Alison Rayner Quintet – Thursday 28th June 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

 
As I did last time around, I’d recommend the burgeoning Jazz Herstory Facebook page as a great place for finding out more – much more – about undersung and/or unfairly neglected female jazz artists in history.
 

March 2018 – upcoming London gigs of various kinds – folk-jazz and loop-tinted songcraft from Gabriela Eva and Yasmyn Hendrix (20th March); post-blues and wakeful dream-pop from Cavey and Moon Panda (26th March)

16 Mar

Woodburner presents:
Gabriela Eva + Yasmyn Hendrix
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here


 
On video, Gabriela Eva is a colourful explosion of appropriated and deftly spun images. In many respects she’s a tourist, but the kind who pulls off her acquisitive magpie business to perfection – a keen eye for the fabric she can repurpose, the hairstyle she can adapt, the body-paint or tattoo that can be repositioned. A globetrotter and a photographer’s darling even before she dropped her debut EP last month, she’s a natural at the subtly chameleonic star act; the dance of other people’s veils illuminated, assimilated and penetrated by her own charisma.

Gabriela Eva + Yazmyn Hendrix, 20th March 2018I’m hoping that this translates well to the stage once Gabriela’s tucked under the stairs at Servant Jazz Quarters – belatedly launching that selfsame EP, trapped behind her guitar without access to the self-edit suite, the quick-change boudoir screen and the magical boxes for makeup and jewels. That’s when it’ll either all fall apart or show its core roots. She doesn’t lack courage: previously part of Colchester duo Passive Passengers, she’s busked alone, braved the stage at Ronnie Scott’s and she’s certainly thrown her meme-anchors down (while “future organic” could mean bloody anything from cottage-industry world-changers to rich hippies with busy self-aggrandising Snapchat accounts, “driven, dyslexic, dreadlocked” is as good a packed’n’loaded personal tag as I’ve heard recently).

As for the music, there’s skipping rhythmic and harmonic footwork from jazz, some rhythmic echoes from hip hop, some party looseness from the breezier end of soul and R&B. You can trace your fingers through Gabriela’s songs and tease out strands from clear forebears – Erykah Badu, Astrid Gilberto, Van Morrison, Minnie Riperton (for her part, she claims Nina Simone, Little Dragon, Alanis Morrisette and Incubus) – yet her prime musical descent (probably through accidental parallels) seems to be Eva Abraham, the acoustic London jazzfolksoul luminary who, despite having boiled up cauldron after cauldron of superb transfigured rootsiness for twenty years now, seems doomed to remain a perpetual (though beloved) secret.

Setting aside the quick visual fix of a memorable video, though, that’s not a bad place to be, musically. Close your eyes and you’re still left with Gabriela’s rolling carpet of songcraft: just picking three, there’s her conversational, hip-hop storytelling cover of Estelle and Kanye’s American Boy, the airborne soul-jazz of Sailing Over The City and the twinkling Rise Up (heading that first EP – a light-touch groove salute to advance-and-reclaim, flickering through a clutch of delicate psychedelic changes and nodding to the short-lived but renewable hopes of the Arab spring).




 
In support is Yazmyn Hendrix, whom I last saw four-and-a-half years ago providing guest-vocal accompaniment to What?! (a long-dispersed jazz-rock trio). Nowaday’s she’s still most visible for further collaborations (with Euro-soul act Retrospective For Love and with jazz-rapper Mrisi) plus a smattering of Soundcloud cover versions (including Laura Mvula’s Green Gardens, John Legend’s All Of Me, Adele’s Chasing Pavements and Massive Attack’s Teardrop). By herself – armed with a microphone, a loop station, and assorted live percussion and beatboxing – she creates layered a capella choirs and vocal ensembles out of herself: either simple classic sounding pop songs, the cover versions mentioned above, or assorted vocalese experiments.


 
So far there’s not much direct evidence of the harnessed synaesthesia which Yazmyn claims shapes her music-making (and which means that she “associates each song, each word and each instrument with colours and textures”). Let’s assume that the full breakthrough in that direction is still working its way through development and caution, and that one day she’ll be giving us her own ear-boggling parallel to ‘Medúlla’ or ‘Starsailor’ or Todd Rundgren’s ‘A Capella’. Given her tunes-over-weirdness tastes, I’m guessing that we can rule out a head-to-head with Mike Patton in more tangled territory. For now, she stands as a capable one-woman Manhattan Transfer (or a sleepier, slowed-paced Grace McLean) for contemporary pop songs; and that’ll do in the short run.



 
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Cavey + Moon Panda, 26th March 2018

Decave Discovers presents:
Cavey + Moon Panda
The Waiting Room, 175 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoek Newington, London, N16 0LH, England
Monday 26th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Young post-blues singer-guitarist Luke Cave – a.k.a. Cavey – is already known as half of stoner-fuzz rock duo Rad Frü. He’s already engaging in some solo wing-stretching, parking the Zep-happy Rad in favour of collaborating with Blaenavon bassist/producer Frank Wright, laying down songs with junior Wrecking Crews full of heavy-duty young session dudes. Not far out of his teens, it’s as if he’s trying to echo Robert Plant’s career development, while simultaneously crushing it down from fifty years to a mere decade.

Perhaps that’s a bit glib of me, as well as overstating the classic rock thing. Similarly, I’m not sure if he’s the same Luke Cave as the one who sprang (literally) from Nick Cave’s loins back in 1991, but even if he is, there’s not much trace of Cave the Elder here. Cavey himself cites Jim O’Rourke, T-Bone Walker, Hamilton Leithauser and Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen as influences; and in his light-touch songs I can also hear a dash of Gomez. Here’s a live performance of his recent Living Room Parade single, plus the studio take of its predecessor Day And Night.



 
Born in Boston but currently London-based (and sporting members coming in from Denmark, Sweden and Scotland), dream pop band Moon Panda will inevitably always ring Californian, not least because of the sheer sun-kissed San Diegan beauty of frontwoman Maddy Myers. A blonde, delicately-freckled photographer’s dream on honeyslide vocals and soft dots of bass guitar, she probably finds this kind of objectivifying attention a damn nuisance. For one thing, it distracts from the thoughtful, intricate details of the songs she writes: just as there was always more to Stevie Nicks than posturing and chiffon, there’s more to Maddy than blank-canvas prettiness or swoony lashes.

Let’s be honest – most dream pop bands think it’s enough to deliver blank blocks of navel-gazing noise and dirty snowplough billows: retrodden, remasticated sub-Lushness. Moon Panda don’t. Their songs are constantly, carefully changing beasts: encapsulated within their yearning melodies and taffy-stretched hooks, they have finely honed choral a capella parts, strange and revelatory key changes, sudden pauses and unorthodox shifts of time and dynamic. As with Gustav Moltke’s carefully-placed, only-there-when-you-need-them tidal smooshes of guitar, Maddy’s keen awareness of structure – of spectral drama, of just how softly and subtly you can make a jump-cut work – has a tendency to shatter the mood from within with a hard-hook shift in rhythm and intensity.



 
The lyrics too, eschew the cough-syrup blankness and drunken, dissolved sensual dazes of the genre; in effect, avoiding its copouts. Instead, Moon Panda are dream pop on the verge of waking up, or of piecing together the dreamwork. Shades of vulnerability, disquiet and suspicion run through these words: I’m still processing them, in the way that one works over the puzzling gristle of a dream, but I’m suspecting that these are songs for the gaslit, the fearful, the unwittingly immured: that they’re the etchings of the beginnings of an escape kit. Their videos, too, have an awareness to them – the disassociative motion, fall and sleep-roll of severed doll parts, ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Todd Haynes’ ‘Superstar’ and its Barbie-puppet retelling of the Karen Carpenter story; the road trip photography with its trapped, continuous-loop feel; Maddy’s own blank-faced ballet moves in which limbs stretch or a back twitches into restless determination.

It’s a shame that ‘Twin Peaks’ appears to be over and done now, and that Moon Panda are a year or two behind its production curve. In some respects they’d have made an ideal Roadhouse band. On the other hand, perhaps I’ve missed the point. Perhaps they wouldn’t have fitted the bill: not quite suited to the seamless and ominous cool, nor enigmatic enough for us to project our hungers, our apprehensions and confusions onto. From here, Moon Panda seem more like a measured curious hand rippling the waters or testing the surface of the mirror, fingertips uncovering and assessing what would otherwise been smoothed away. A band and a songwriter to keep a woken eye on, I think.
 

February 2018 – upcoming London folk etc. gigs at the Magic Garden – Emma Lohan and Lánre (4th February); Echo Trails and Alba&Leo’s Elsewhere Quartet (8th February)

27 Jan

Riffling through the music schedules at Battersea’s Magic Garden pub reminds me of my incurable habits and hopes as regards raiding the CD racks in charity shops. Though it’s not the place for tribute bands, per se, there’s a lot of cover and tribute music being played there – straight evocations of New Orleans funk, Latin jazz, folk-blues or Celtic sessions – but picking out something I really personally want, something a little more original or eclectically fused, is more hit-and-miss.

Thankfully, the Magic Garden’s a place I keep checking back on, since a few of those more original gems tend to show up and flourish there.

* * * * * * * *

Emma Lohan, 4th February 2018

Sunday Folk: Emma Lohan + Lánre
The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England
Sunday 4th February 2018, 9.00pm
– free event – information here and here

February’s first Sunday sees the Magic Garden hosting the lovely bubbling folk-pop of Galway globetrotter Emma Lohan – her debut appearance at the venue, but one of an increasing number of recent wanders across the Irish Sea. Though she’s been billed variously as “Atlantic-folk meets ethno-pop” or “folk fusion that lies somewhere between sean nós and surf pop”, neither description quite does justice to what she creates: beautifully-constructed cloud-tossed songs imbued with the flicker of constant motion, which effortlessly blend together jigs, jazz, acoustic dreampop and palm-patter drawing on a palette of petal-skittering guitar, strings, kalimba, gently glowing hornwork and glockenspiel.

As to where it all comes from… well, there’s Irishness in the curve of her accent (and in some of the sessional lightness and fluidity to how everything fits together on the records), but in its wholeness her music embraces world funk, beach pop, psychedelic Balearic haze and uncoiling rhythms from South America, West Africa and Asia. Emma’s clearly the rolling stone which softly gathers everything.




 

In support is London-Afropean singer-songwriter Lánre, presenting an unplugged take on material from last year’s ‘Human’ EP and from nearly a decade of music making (including the band GK Real and songs which have seen her invited to perform in Paris). In the studio, she layers her simple, direct spiritual songs (many of them touching on the healing of black-girl wounds – beauty and worth, the straining for a sense of home) with rich blankets of ambient, post-gospel and choral-soul arrangement, sometimes stirring in a little country guitar or traditional Yoruba walking song. Live, whether playing solo or working with a band, African-American rootings show more clearly, seeming to touch on similar turf to Odetta or Erykah Badu, but also Toni Morrison and Arthur Lee.





 
* * * * * * * *

Echo Trails + Alba&Leo Elsewhere Quartet, 8th February 2018
Echo Trails + Alba&Leo’s Elsewhere Quartet
The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England
Thursday 8th February 2018, 9.00pm
– free event – information here and here

Selling Echo Trails as being some kind of hopeful mashup of “epic groove and post-rock” is a massive undersell. Just because they’ve got a little Godspeed string thunder in them on occasion (and know a thing or two about old-school jazz’n’R&B propulsion) doesn’t mean that they’re one of those bands that milk the juice out of other genres and feed it into papery approximations.

A well-honed acoustic band is like a set of unhindered precision muscles, able to flex rhythms on the fly and dance in unexpected curves, and this is just such a band. Fronted by Dimitra Tzanakaki (a ballsy, smouldering Greek blend of Beth Gibbons, Tori Amos and Bette Midler) they’re a supple alliance of guitar, voluble double bass, viola and drumkit, the song undercarriage slipping easily from Mediterranean folk to psychobilly to a salsa set-to or to shedbashing Led Zeppelin thrills. Since their arrival in 2014 they’ve phased out keyboard and phased in pedalwork, enriching texture even as the instrumentation shrank: hence the post-rock tag, but there’s Schönberg, Piaf, Korn, Temper Trap, bebop and Hidden Orchestra tucked into their bag of influences along with Godspeed.




 
Back in their home country of Croatia, Alba Nacinovich and Leo Škec – trading as Alba&Leo – are already reknowned for being one of the best jazz-folk duos in the country. Having relocating to London last year from their hometown of Rijeka, they’re in with a good chance of getting the same reputation over here. Initially and deceptively a childlike presence, Alba turns out to have fiery focus, flexible tone, eclectic tastes and a laser-guided skill at everything from vocalise to pure pop; Leo is a dizzyingly skilled, mostly-acoustic-and-pedals guitarist with a mastery of percussive fingerstyle, quicksilver jazz runs and subtle electronic soundshaping. Tossing around terms like “augmented reality” like magicians’ scarves, they dip with equal verve into cover reinventions and original songs in both Croatian and English; while they’re still finding their feet with the latter, the music and the pattering, driving skills are already there. The quickest, laziest comparison is a junior, Slavic Tuck & Patti, minus the cheesecloth and cuddliness… but Alba&Leo won’t be junior for long.

For this gig, Alba&Leo are appearing in expanded and augmented form as The Elsewhere, a new quartet in which they’re bolstered by broad-based percussionist Sass Hoory (a specialist in Middle Eastern sounds) and polydisciplinary cellist Natalie Rozario (who’s drawing on a skillset that crosses theatre, jazz and opera). The show is part of an explosion of early-2018 Alba&Leo activity which includes a free evening with slow-jamming folk/R&B singer Breantonia and “love child of Sting and Edith Piaf” Miri at Borough’s Gladstone Arms on 3rd February, a duo gig upstairs at Ronnie Scott‘s on 30th January, and the actual debut of The Elsewhere at Harringay’s Jam In A Jar the following day on the 31st. I’ve got no Elsewhere clips, but here are some of Alba&Leo in assorted action…




 

January/February 2018 – upcoming London jazz gigs – Where Pathways Meet (17th January); Laura Jurd, KIM Trio and Têtes de Pois at a celebration of women in jazz (4th February)

9 Jan

Quick news on a couple more London jazz shows – a free-entry cosmic jazz performance in Peckham, and a woman-centric triple bill in Soho.

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Where Pathways Meet, 17th January 2018

Peckham Levels and Ghost Notes present:
Where Pathways Meet
Ghost Notes, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, London, SE15 4ST, England
Wednesday 17th January 2018, 7.30pm
– free event – information here and here

“Ostensibly, a Where Pathways Meet performance serves as a latter-day tribute to the outergalactic sounds of Sun Ra. In actuality, the collective are as just as forward-facing as the great cosmonaut himself and, rather than revisiting the sounds of decades gone by, epitomise everything that’s exciting about the community of young South London musicians they call friends. As with immediate peers like Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd and Ezra Collective, Where Pathways Meet draw as much from the contemporary sounds that surround them as they do from the art form’s traditional conventions; amid all the intricate arrangements and the cosmic interplay there are as many nods to West London’s Broken Beat scene and as anything attributable to the Arkestra.

“Headed up by trumpet player and bandleader Axel Kaner-Lidstrom, the double-drumming ensemble features an extensive cast of musicians who are each involved in their own South East London based projects. As such, Where Pathways Meet serves as what the band themselves describe as an open conduit to the area’s underground scene. Having recently smashed the stage at their Jazz Re:Freshed debut we’re delighted to welcome WPM for something of a homecoming show in Peckham this January.”

For the curious – the strongest of Where Pathways Meet’s links seem to be with Tomorrow’s Warriors and SE Dub Collective, with the group members apparently a nucleus of tenor saxophonist James Mollison (SEDC, Ezra Collective, Akua Naru), drummer Jake Long (another SEDC member and leader of Afro-spiritualists Maisha), trombonist Rosie Turton (SEDC, the TW-affiliated Nérija and her own quintet) and guitarist Mark Mollison, augmented by second drummer Sam Jones (Binker Golding Quartet) plus a shifting talent pool including bass players Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko, Idiom), Michael Shrimpling and Mick T Shirt and keyboard players Amané Suganami (Maisha, etc), Sara Tandy (Watertight Group etc) and Dominic Stephen Canning (Steam Down).


 
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Celebrating Women In Jazz (Laura Jurd + KIM Trio + Têtes de Pois), 4th February 2018

Independent Venue Week and Help Musicians UK present:
Celebrating Women in Jazz: IVW18 – Laura Jurd + KIM Trio + Têtes de Pois
The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, W1D 1LL, England
Sunday 4th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“Independent Venue Week in partnership with Help Musicians UK, present a special event celebrating women in jazz at the 100 Club London, featuring some of the UK Jazz scene’s most dazzling artists.

“Internationally-acclaimed Mercury-Prize-nominated trumpeter Laura Jurd headlines with a formidable new quartet. This is an unmissable opportunity to witness a stellar group of players improvising together.” (NOTE – the quartet is probably Laura, regular drummer Corrie Dick, bassist Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, The Invisible) and her fellow trumpeter and Trinity Laban mentor Chris Batchelor of Loose Tubes, Big Air and many more. Laura will also playing a longer evening set at Poplar Union’s Jazz Herstory season on 15th February, leading a trio completed by Corrie and Tom.)


 
KIM Trio is led by tenor saxophonist and Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2017 winner Helena Kay, and features Misha Mullov-Abbado on double bass and David Ingamells on drums. Inspired by greats such as Sonny Rollins and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and by contemporary names like Melissa Aldana and Larry Goldings, the trio enjoy performing a varied mixture of Helena’s originals and tunes from the jazz canon.


 
Têtes de Pois (a tight genre-bending seven-piece ensemble fresh out of Leeds College of Music) fuse jazz, hip-hop and neo-soul. Featuring alto/baritone saxophonist Jasmine Whalley, tenor saxophonist/singer Harry Fowler, , guitarist Ben Haskins, keyboard player George McDonald, bass guitarist Owen Burns, drummer George Hall and percussionist Josh Ketch (plus, until recently, Eloise Oates Lidar on trumpet), they’ve recently been awarded an additional development fund as part of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award.”


 

August/September 2016 – upcoming gigs – an English tour for Sage Francis & B. Dolan’s ‘Strange Speech, Famous Development” (Aug 29th-Sep 3rd); The Four Owls, Virus Syndicate, Mr Woodnote and Lil Rhys, Bellatrix, Divinity Roxx and Steve Lawson variously mix it up in London (17th, 29th).

26 Aug

Here’s some info on various upcoming shows from London to Leeds, with hip hop as the binding element in common. (Though what you’ll actually get stretches as far as ambient bass guitar soundscapes, spoken word and – on one occasion – some suspect sweary bird impressions.)

* * * * * * * *


 
Following a stint at the Edinburgh fringe, left-field rapper-poets Sage Francis and B. Dolan start to take their ‘Strange Speech, Famous Development’ spoken-word show on tour around selected venues in England. Roll the blurb:

“Sage Francis and B. Dolan are two internationally renowned hip-hop lyricists & spoken word poets – dynamos touted for their lyricism, activism, humour & performance art – with oddly parallel stories. Without prior knowledge of each other, both were born & raised in Rhode Island, where they developed an unlikely love of hip hop music. Although they grew up only one town apart from each other, they didn’t cross paths until 2002 via the Providence Poetry Slam. Each moved to New York City in search of the art-form, stumbled into the spoken word scene and developed a knack for razor sharp lyricism and stagecraft.


 
“Noted as one of the most articulate and broad-focussed of underground MCs, Sage came to widespread media attention in 2001 after his song ‘Makeshift Patriot’(which critiqued the behaviour and language of American media during, and immediately following, the September 11 attacks) became an internet hit. Though he’s released records on labels including Epitaph and Anti, he’s also seen his own Strange Famous Records grow from a late-’90s tape label releasing his own less obviously commercial material to a full-fledged fifteen artist independent.


 
“B. Dolan has made his own name via more than a decade’s worth of continually shapeshifting presentation, outsider perspective, and masterful execution. He enjoyed wide-spread attention for his activism in addressing homophobia in hip hop, and notably for his video single/campaign ‘Film The Police’ (which Russell Brand explored in a highly entertaining episode of ‘The Trews’.


 
“Although B. has been releasing records on Strange Famous since 2008 – when he made his career breakthough with the lo-fi, apocalyptic concept record ‘The Failure’ – he and Sage were working on music together as early as 2005. Several world tours later, their platonic life partnership was made official by forging a rap group called Epic Beard Men. ‘Strange Speech/Famous Development’ is the debut show that brings two legends of underground rap together on a very intimate stage. They’ll trade poems, songs, vivid stories and their now signature blend of offensive and insightful content. From personal to political and back again, the duo promise an inspiring performance.”


 

And here they are, drumming up business in Edinburgh…


 
Dates below:

* * * * * * * *

Mid-month, various spurs and outcrops of British hip hop make a showing in London at the Underworld for a night of rhymes, beats, and gimmicks-turned-triumphs.

Four Owls, 2016

Nightshift Promotions presents:
The Four Owls vs Virus Syndicate + Mr Woodnote & Lil Rhys + Bellatrix
The Underworld, 174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 0NE, England Saturday 17 September 2016, 5.30pm
information

Headlining London crew The Four Owls might look like trim, slightly self-conscious lucha libre wrestlers lurking behind bird masks, but come out bating and striking. More lairy, scruffy hawk than owl, they certainly make a racket. A supergroup of High Focus Records solo rappers Leaf Dog, Fliptrix, BVA & Verb T, they specialise in souped-up, combative, old-school-cum-gang-surreal battle flow, echoing tumbling Wu-Tang semi-sequiturs and arcane/profane Kool Keith gabble, with additional British street lip and humour.


 
For the Owls, a shot of bad taste just adds to the juiciness of a spit. If you’ve got the stomach for the occasional nasty switchback, check out the outrageous braggy stack-ups and lyrical misbehaviour on ‘Much Too Much’ from back in 2011 (though its dips into shockery and the tacky sex-horror-in-the-woodz video ain’t for all tastes, to put it mildly.) But if it gets you riled up about hip hop misogyny squashing or sidelining women, the presence of Bellatrix on the bill provides a fine corrective. A onetime Boxette and award-winning world-champion beatboxer, she’s since been revealing multiple further talents – fine, jazz-inspired double bass playing; off-the-wall singer-songwriter tactics which make her sound like a West Country Björk; a knack for burbling textural synth loops and choral layering. All done live and solo, interwoven in real time, without a net. And she’s still talking about it as if it’s baby steps. What’ll she have proved herself capable of once she feels she’s fully up to speed?



 

Elsewhere on the bill, Manchester provides the dubstep/grime collective Virus Syndicate, who deliver claustrophobic, compelling narratives across chilly isolationist beats. In turn, Bristol offers the irresistibly peppy partnership of Lil Rhys and Mr Woodnote (the former a freestyle rapper who chatters like an engaging dancehall singer; the latter a saxophonist, EWI player and beatboxer who creates a smart-stepping one-man-band via loops and timing).



 

* * * * * * * *

A few weeks later, just down the road from the Underworld, Divinity Roxx will be slamming it out at the Jazz Café.

Divinity Roxx + Steve Lawson
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Tuesday 27th September 2016, 7.00pm
information
 


 

If I were to say that Divinity was Beyoncé’s bassist and musical director for two world tours, some might think that was the most interesting thing about her. I think that it isn’t. Being taken seriously as a player is good; for a female player, even more so. Being handed the MD-ship on one of the biggest shows in the business is even more of an honour – but there are plenty of yo-cat session players around who can handle that kind of thing, including plenty of female ones. Biz-wise, Divinity might be a bass player’s bass player, but there’s more to her than that, and it rolls out best in her solo work.


 

Playing flexible and diverse basslines, leading bands, delivering complex and confident live raps on top of her grooves, and possessing generous star quality of her own, Divinity can own a stage every bit as well as her erstwhile employer. With a repertoire already mining jazz, R&B, fusion, rock and hip hop, she can even deliver potential hits. In 2012’s ‘Get Here’, she swung old-school MC braggadocio around funk rock and a raw look-at-me stance; in last year’s ‘We Are’ she changed tack to wrap some flower-child hippy optism and civil-rights march vibes up with slick CCM-friendly gospel pop. Live, however, is where to catch her; and this month you can see her up-close before more people really start to cotton on to her. It’s only going to be a matter of time now.



 

For the Jazz Café show, Divinity will be joined by her musical buddy and fellow bass ace Steve Lawson. Steve’s otherworldly cinematic soundscapes, improvised live with nothing but a bass guitar, a MIDI controller and a bewildering array of pedals, have helped make him the most celebrated solo bassist in the UK. Since he’s also willing and eager to chat the legs of a fieldful of donkeys, it’ll be interesting to see what his daffy, teasing wit (and glammy dress sense) bring to the occasion. It’ll probably be like Ross Noble crashing a Neneh Cherry gig… assuming that Ross then went on to treat you to a set of tunes like Bootsy Collins, Pat Metheny and Boards of Canada all playing a convivial pass-the-parcel with Robert Fripp’s stage rig.



 

Steve has another couple of British gigs earlier in the month, which I’ll plug during the next jazz gig update in a few days’ time. If you can’t wait until then, click here to get the info direct from the source, and click here to read more about Steve from what’s been splashed across this blog over the years. Meanwhile, here he is busking in Frankfurt – in a jazzy mood, and without his usual wall of effects.


 

August 2015 – tonight in Brooklyn – Michael Chinworth & The Rudder Group perform Trevor Wilson (with Will Stratton and Jonah Parzen-Johnson)

21 Aug

I’m sorry that this is another last-minute posting, but if you’re reading this in or around New York, there might be some tickets left for this concert.

Michael Chinworth, 2015

Michael Chinworth & The Rudder Band + Will Stratton + Jonah Parzen-Johnson (Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY, USA, Friday August 21st 2015, 7.30pm) – $10.00

Part of the generation from the liberal arts Bennington College which also fostered Trevor Wilson (Anawan, Vocal Ensemble), Tavo Carbone (Horse’s Mouth) and J.J. Beck, Michael Chinworth maintains that group’s indifference to musical boundaries, keeping up a New York tradition of playing (like latterday Arthur Russells) across genres. Exploring his Bandcamp page throws up assorted experiments in cut’n’paste electro-acoustic collages and vocalese plus assorted various college-classical chamber pieces in various contemporary Romantic, minimalist or post-Ligeti forms. On this occasion, he’s following his well-established alternative pop side, performing his own lustrously tuneful take on a Trevor Wilson song cycle – 2013’s ‘Rudder Songs’ – which he’s due to release on album the following day.

‘Rudder Songs’ is in keeping with much of Trevor’s work – simultaneously vague and pointed, obscure and lovely, and often subtly provocative. While never being so obvious as to make a straightforward point, it suggests a unsettled fluidity of sexual identity and choices of vision; providing off-kilter, stream-of-consciousness hymns to unorthodox friendships and the possibilities of city life that nonetheless wilfully and regularly flees to open countryside or the solitary road life. Familiar elements from folk, torch song, soul jazz and psychedelia float alongside each other, recombining at odd intoxicated angles; or explode from straightforward beginnings into thought patterns too complicated for a simple frame to contain.

If you want to compare the Chinworth versions to the Wilson originals (sung and recorded solo at Meredith Monk’s piano, no less) you can find the latter above. Michael’s smooth, Wurlitzer-tickled blue-eyed soul approach might initially seem miles away from Trevor’s wayward and uninhibited performances and whisper-to-caterwaul vocalising (in some respects, it’s like Frank Ocean covering Kevin Coyne or John Cale at their most frothing). Still, if you’re familiar with Michael’s work on Trevor’s songs elsewhere, both the link and the sympathy are clearly intact; and it’s clear that their work together in Anawan (in which both Michael’s voice and Wurlitzer play a key role) paves a way towards Michael’s slant on the Rudder material. Check out his performance in the video for Anawan’s ‘Breaded Me’, below, and then compare it to his versions of a pair of Rudder Songs underneath (one exploring an unusual fissile threesome, the other obliquely fishing in a friend’s thoughts).

In addition to Michael the Rudder Band lineup includes guitar visionary Ben Seretan and fellow Benningtonians J.J. Beck and Matt Scott, plus Trevor Wilson himself on additional keyboards. Re the collaboration, Trevor comments “In many more ways than one, this is a repeat of a much-admired album from 1970, ‘Nilsson Sings Newman’. Harry Nilsson, inspired by the odd, rude composition style of Randy Newman, wanted to take the songs and re-imagine them with his signature vocal layering and general studio beautifying. These two songwriters, equal but so different in their contribution to musical history, united to create this album together without ego, without agenda. (Maybe. I hope.) As I will do (at the concert), Newman plays and sings on Nilsson’s adaptation of his own songs… with another bandleader.

“I think everyone should have the opportunity to do this with their form of expression. Not to get too 3rd-grade-after-school-assignment-y, but seriously, try it out. Ask one of your contemporaries, friends, colleagues if you can ‘cover’ their thing, and have them sit in the passenger seat somewhere during the process. Or the other way around. You’ll both learn a thousand things. Michael has a rare gift of seeing music on its own terms- terms that don’t exist within human realities- and he has certainly shown me things about my compositions that has changed my whole process. The band is sounding great, and I am so happy to be a part of it.”

There are two support acts. Folk songwriter Will Stratton will be playing songs drawn from his five full-length albums; while Jonah Parzen-Johnson (frequently seen as part of New York afrobeat ensemble Zongo Junction) will be bringing his lo-fi music for solo circular-breathing saxophone and analogue synthesizer, described as follows – “Imagine the raw energy of an Appalachian Folk choir, tempered by a lofi, minimal aesthetic inspired by the music of Bill Callahan… (Jonah) has meticulously constructed a world of warm memories remembered in a cold present, as he melds the evocative nature of folk music with the chilling power of experimentalism.” Judge for yourselves at the gig, or via the previews below.


Up-to-date information and tickets for the gig are available here – and if you can’t make it, you can view in on video stream here.

February 2013 – mini-album reviews – Lee Fletcher’s ‘The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes’ (“unstitched, re-embroidered, re-folded”)

9 Feb

Lee Fletcher: 'The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes'

Lee Fletcher: ‘The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes’

‘Faith In Worthless Things’ was one of 2012’s surprise pleasures. Lee Fletcher’s debut album was the late-blossoming distillation of years of work as engineer and confidant to assorted art-rock musicians, and of even more years absorbing influences and refining them in a budding songwriter’s heart.

What emerged was a sleek, assured and finely-honed planned-patchwork of an album. It pulled in sounds from touch guitars, Uillean pipes, crunchy rhythm loops, ukeleles, powdered trumpets and silky synthesizers; it mused on betrayals, work, bewitchment and people in general; and it drew on a wide but surprising coherent blend of string-quartet chamber pop, soul and trip hop, 1970s Scott Walker, King Crimson-flavoured progressive rock, electronica and Anglo-folk.

While Lee’s firm and expansive vision gave the album both shape and finish, it was also very much a group effort, achieved hand in hand with his singer wife Lisa plus the chameleonic touch guitarist/soundscaper Markus Reuter and a small battalion of interested musicians from around the world. This short album of follow-up remixes keeps that spirit, with a couple of returning collaborators and new reinventors let loose on the tracks.

Only two songs from ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ make it to this particular phase. There’s the title track – originally a humble state-of-the-world address sung by Lisa but dispatched by Lee, people-watching at the railway station in his Devon hometown, and sampling a picture of humanity from its wandering fragments on an ordinary morning. There’s also The Inner Voice, in which Lisa soars on a rich carpet of soul-inspired smoothness; delicately and beadily picking apart matters of confidence and collaboration, while unhitching – scuffed, but quietly determined – from a dragging entanglement. The latter was the album’s obvious single, so it’s interesting to see three different remixers work three different shades of pop out of it.

Of these, Brazilian proggers-turned-clubbers Worldengine offer perhaps the most satisfying reinvention – a slink-and-roll electronica take full of whispering creep, voice fuzz and closed-eye pulse beats. The smooth soul of the original is pared back in favour of odd, gently challenging chording and textures: as if Lisa’s vocal line has been gently unwound from its original branch and wrapped carefully around a new one. Imagine what might happen if David Torn had as much pop clout as Madonna does, and you’ll have some idea of where Worldengine take this.

Two other remixers take The Inner Voice further out, but perhaps with less originality. The mix from German DJ Ingo Vogelmann battles and switches restlessly between its whispering electronic-ambient chamber intro, heavily synthesized cyberpop and a naked acoustic strum. The onetime 4hero cohort Branwen Somatik offers a similarly morphing dance switchback – initially a slightly dubby hip-hop take with an eerie twist, then a transformation to minimally-sheathed soul-pop, finally melting away in a dubby whisper of liquefying beats.

There are no fewer than six versions of Faith In Worthless Things, including a return for Ingo Vogelmann who offers a mix replete with Orb/Jean Michel Jarre-flavoured electronica (strong on the breezy minimalism, and dappled with bits of dub and techno). Adrian Benavides has honed himself an industrial pop version full of collapsing sheet metal and drill bits. Fabio Trentini provides an ambient pop take with an art-pop tweak – part Japan (if the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ era took precedence) and part Crafty Guitarist. Lee’s words and Lisa’s sweet-but-stately vocals sit, unfazed, in these new cradles.

Having said that, this particular song is less suited to being strapped into dance, and other approaches are preferable. Under his Hollowcreature alias, David Picking seems to realise this; he keeps and highlights the train-swish from the intro, brings Lee’s own warm and pleasant guide vocals to the forefront for half of the time, and comes up with a subtly dubby version of the song’s English pastoral feel. The latter quality is something which Tim Motzer appears to have picked up on too, as he moves Faith In Worthless Things into a more British progressive rock area. This he does via a number of changes – jazz vibraphone, the ghost of a hard-rock riff and eventually a build up into a Pink Floyd blaze replete with Gilmourian guitar. It seems obvious, but there’s some clever sleight-of-hand here: Lisa is metamorphosed cunningly by the new arrangement into a leathered-up rock goddess, all without a change to her vocal part.

Tobias Reber, on the other hand, manages to be both daring and successful in his own mix, taking an unexpected creative risk and pulling it off. He contributes the best of the remixes on offer, as well as the most original. His reconstructive take on the songs sees it unstitched and re-embroidered, re-folded. The song is re-imagined over an uneasy sea-roll of structure. New chording, constructed from the components of the original piece, produces a striking new perspective; a different place from which Lee, through Lisa, can watch the world and see its unsettling currents ripple past and under him.

Each remix, though, gently unbuttons ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ again and reminds us of that collaborative feeling which suffused it. The rolling and friction between Lee’s ideas and where his accomplished collaborators took them – a journey in motion.

Lee Fletcher: ‘The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes’
Unsung Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only mini-album
Released: 5th February 2013

Get it from:
Bandcamp

Lee Fletcher online:
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October 2012 – album reviews – Lee Fletcher’s ‘Faith in Worthless Things’ (“rich and delicate”)

7 Oct

Lee Fletcher: 'Faith In Worthless Things'

Lee Fletcher: ‘Faith In Worthless Things’

And he came out from behind the console, and he spread out his dreams.

If you know Lee Fletcher already, it’s probably only in passing: maybe for the handful of mannered electro-pop tracks he and his wife Lisa have put out over the past decade as [halo]. More likely, you’ll know him for his extensive work as producer/engineer with centrozoon, Markus Reuter and with assorted King Crimson spin-offs including Tuner and Stick Men: well-established as a producer and engineer out at the more technical end of art-rock, you’d expect his own current music to be stark, or detached, or both.

It’s not just the question of his choice of colleague: it’s more that people in his position are generally there to get a job done, massaging and harassing slack musicians or their work into proper performance. If they’re of the more creative ilk, they might get to tweak their charges’ output into more original shapes. If they get around to putting out albums, these are likely to be back-to-basics vanity projects or all-star galleries of guest singers and studio flair – bought by fans for the tricks and the rarities, but then left to gather dust. Generally speaking, producers’ own records aren’t supposed to be romantic, aren’t supposed to be involved. Most especially, they’re not supposed to be revealing.

Lee Fletcher clearly has other ideas, and he won’t be doing quite what you expect of him.

Starting with the surface and working in… ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ certainly has the striking richness of sound you’d expect from someone of Lee’s experience. Live strings, wind instruments and solo cameos merge seamlessly with his own intricate programming and panoramic instrumentation in a fine blend of console wizardry and warm acoustic work. Rich and delicate arrangements encompass stirring contributions by guest players from right across the musical spectrum. Among others making their marks, the album boasts broad strokes and fine detail from art-rock guitarists Tim Motzer and Robert Fripp, jazz drift (from trumpeter Luca Calabrese, double bass player Oliver Klemp and drummer Matthias Macht), and sky-curve pedal steel playing from B. J. Cole. Equally memorable moments come when Uillean pipes (courtesy of Baka Beyond’s Alan Burton) and, to particular moving effect, Jacqueline Kershaw’s French horn are woven subtly into the mix, set against sonic glitch and pillowy atmospherics.

If any of this orchestrated, cross-disciplinary lushness suggests other precedents to you, you’re right. Anyone familiar with David Sylvian’s electro-acoustic songscapes in the 1980s (or who subsequently took on the likes of Jane Siberry, Caroline Lavelle or no-man, whose violinist Steve Bingham plays a prominent role here) will recognise the wellsprings and traditions from which ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ draws. Miracles On Trees (a nimble quiltwork canon of touch-guitar, pipes and vocal harmonies suggesting Kate Bush fronting King Crimson) brings in additional strands of clean New Age-y folktronica, while more neurotic, Crimsonic arpeggios are stitched through A Life On Loan. Elsewhere, you’ll find fleeting, delicately organised touches from industrial electronica and dancehall reggae (as if bled in from a wobbling radio dial) and ingredients from Lee’s recent forays into torch song (via David Lynch’s protégée Christa Bell).  There’s certainly a strong debt to Scott Walker’s luxuriant orchestral pop work, made explicit via an enthusiastically dreamy cover of Long About Now.

However, much of the sonic recipe is Lee’s own spin on things – a developing and broadening sonic signature which began to unveil itself earlier in the year on GRICE’s Fletcher-produced  ‘Propeller’ (which featured many of the same players and a similar production ethos). ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ is also shaped by two featured players in particular – historically, the other two beats of Lee’s musical heart. On touch guitar, Markus Reuter adds a broad catalogue of supporting instrumental parts: textured or clean, rhythmic or melodic, banked-up or solo. While integral to the album’s fabric, his playing  also fades skilfully out of the foreground – although he’s constantly present, it’s as if he’s seen only in brief flashes, running through the trees, keeping pace with the sound. Meanwhile, Lisa Fletcher takes centre-stage (as she did with [halo]) to provide almost all of the album’s vocals as well as acting as Lee’s muse and interpreter. She sings even the most painstaking lyric with the cool, classical, adult sensuality of a pop diva who might at any moment slide off her long black concert dress and walk, naked and magnificent, out into the sea.

In spite of all of this sterling support, if you drill down through the music (past all of the tasteful production stylings, the guest players and the ornamentation) you’ll find a songwriter’s album underneath. While his physical voice is present only as a few murmured harmonies-cum-guide vocals dropped across a handful of tracks, Lee Fletcher’s songwriting voice entirely dominates the album. It even has its own particular hallmarks – a sophisticated way with compositional patterns which takes as much from chanson and European music as it does from Anglo-American pop; plus a yen for long, looping melodic journeys across an extended succession of chords. Lyrically he follows the earnest, philosophical musings of prog song-poets such as Peter Hammill; immersing himself in concepts or thoughts and writing his way through them with shades of classic verse, occasionally knocking frictional sparks against the constraints of the surrounding pop music.

There’s an interesting pull-and-push between this ever-so-slightly awkward lyrical grain and Lisa’s glossy-smooth vocals, just enough of a catch and grind to put a polish on the one and a depth on the other. When both Fletchers team up as writers on The Inner Voice, there’s an extra lift, bringing in the kind of hi-concept soul soar you’d have expected from Minnie Riperton or Commodores, or indeed from Janelle Monáe (if the latter’s leant over from a soul background to look into art-pop, the Fletchers seem to be leaning the other way.) The cruising, creamy melody hides some sharp barbs : the song’s partly an elegant kiss-off to a past lover or collaborator, partly a “won’t-get-fooled-again” statement of intent and new faith and intent. “You did me a great favour, in a melancholic way,” sings Lisa, in cool and assured tones. “The lesson learned and actioned for today / is to listen to the inner voice and serve that impulse well./ Have courage in conviction, break the shell.” Gracious in retreat, but along the way a polite yet lethal line of stilettos are being inserted into a turned and oblivious back (like some kind of vengeful acupuncture).

While Lee’s other lyrical concerns occasionally stretch to brooding worksong (“marching up the hill all day, fetching pails of water for the crown / Until the playtime whistle sounds, and blows your hallowed dreams away”) and wide-eyed nature worship (“the seasons are aligning/ Shedding Mother Nature’s silver skin /bringing balance to the timing”) he’s at his best when he’s drifting into the hazy realm of the personal. Part of this touches on the mutability and contradictions of love – its ability, in any given moment, to contain frailty and fears alongside strength, devotion and enrapturement. On The Number, he and collaborator SiRenée set up a picture of the start of intimacy as a phone call into the unknown: “Hello, you’ve reached the number of my secret voice / And though I asked you not to call / Your instinct made the choice… / I knew you’d call, I knew you’d love me… Stranger on the line, I’ve known you always.” Dusted by Luca Calabrese’s  sprays of muted Jon Hassell-ish trumpet, SiRenée sings the words in a misty bank of close and teasing harmonies – an enigmatic telephone nymph, she spins a spell of reflected longing as if at any moment she could either become flesh or simply vanish.

At the other end of the scale, where love is sealed and secure (with spouse, friends, family or perhaps all together), there is Life’s A Long Time Short; a Markus Reuter co-write in which an encroaching chill of the knowledge of ageing and death begins to gnaw at that security. “Our time is fleeting – / a love so true is truly painful. / A hurt that’s so divine – / at once the symptom and remedy.” Against a mournful ominous French horn line and a decaying fall of twinkling, dying Reuter touch-guitar chords, the song gradually passes from innocence (“there is no end, all time descends – / the trick is not to care”) to a warning (“there is an end. / Make all amends”) while Lisa sings with a subtle and breathless sense of disquiet, like a flickering ghost. All along, Lee watches with a poignantly shifting mixture of love, devotion and horror. Caught up within the current of time, all he can do is celebrate and confirm the life and value he shares in the now, while watching the inevitable washing-away and mourning coming closer and closer: “And as you grow, /  I watch in rhapsody / the miracle you are…/Inside I’m screaming.” 

On other occasions, Lee looks further outside, though it’s not always a comfort. Peering at the rapacious dazzle of television and pop media on Is It Me (Or Is It You?) he gets burned for his pains, then frets and growls out a proggy sermon about the callousness of the wider world: “Such a passion for freedom and brutality… / we pillage the living, ever seeking, kiss and telling morality / besieging all senses with apathy.” It’s the album’s title track that provides him with the still point which he needs. Out at the railway station café from dawn till dusk, notepad in hand, he’s watching the universe go about its business. Rails lead away to both possibility and obscurity; travellers move from place to place, passing through crowds while wrapping themselves in solitude; and Lee is “dreaming of the perfect future /  tall on tales, and short on truth.”

Here, out in the flow, he plays observer to small, everyday aggravations and hints at family disappointments spawning both small aches and broken-up little personal worlds: “children crying, mothers braying / Fathers absent once again.” Here, too, he finds his sympathy renewed, his understanding broadened: “all at one with situation – / Circumstance breeds condemnation / of our fellow man.” Encompassed by the lives and voyages of others,  surrounded by the signs and signifiers of both possibility and stagnation, he comes to a quiet acceptance of human fallibility and connection – “we’re bound by time, though here alone – / many rivers run as one. / Faith to heal the cracks within, / praying for life’s worthless things.” A small and modest epiphany, it’s the heart of the album and the song that binds everything together – including Lee’s divided impulses as skilled producer, exploring songwriter and man with a heart. Affection and anger, dislocation and commonality, families and strangers, nature and the grind, all linked under a lovingly gilded arch of strings, soft voices and soundscapes.

Lee Fletcher: ‘Faith In Worthless Things’
Unsung Records, UR019CD (4260139121021)
CD/download album
Released: 1st October 2012

Buy it from:
Bandcamp

Lee Fletcher online:
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