Tag Archives: Joe Downard

June 2017 – upcoming English gigs – the return of Pram with the immersive ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ event in Birmingham (June 3rd); Zarjaz Baby and Jon Slade/Night of the Comet in London (June 3rd); Arthur Russell’s ‘Calling Out Of Context’ revisited in London (June 7th)

23 May

Some shows and events to start June off. In Birmingham, experimental dream pop/post rock band Pram (one of the most original and charming groups ever to work in either genre) have resurfaced and are taking over an Edgbaston park for a very different kind of performance. Back in London there are opportunities to catch up with Zarjaz Baby (one of the wilder characters from the original wave of British post-punk) an acoustic set from Jon Slade (who’s navigated his way through a heap of scenes from art-punk to Riot Grrl to a thousand indie DJ nights); and a recreation of the cello/pop songs of Arthur Russell, one of the darlings of the 1980s New York loft music scene.

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Pram: 'Under The Blossom That Hangs On The Bough', 3rd June 2017

for-Wards, MAC Birmingham and Pram present:
Pram: ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’
Martineau Gardens, 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7UG, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 4:30pm
– free event – information here, here and here

“Composers and sonic artists Pram have been exploring south Birmingham with the help of local community groups to uncover the sounds of the locality. The results are both familiar and surprising.

“Let Pram take you on a journey through the city, a sound trail through the four wards of Birmingham’s Edgbaston district. Hear the world from the perspective of a bee as it flutters and forages. The snuffles of a tiny baby become the snores of a lion, the gurgle of a stream a mighty cataract. Come along and follow the woodland trail, bring a picnic and settle down for a performance inspired by the sound of the city as you’ve never heard it before.

“Set in the magical surroundings of Martineau Gardens, ‘Under the Blossom that Hangs on the Bough’ is an installation and performance by Pram, celebrating the sounds of Edgbaston. It will take place at Martineau Gardens on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd June, concluding at 6.30pm with a Pram performance inspired by sound recordings made in the wards of Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston and Bartley Green. Free admission if you register at Eventbrite…”

This isn’t quite the same Pram that charmed us and subverted pop for a surprisingly long stint in the ’90s and noughties across a string of albums which included ‘Dark Island’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ and a sound that seemed to be part child’s murmur, part clinking post-kosmische stroll and part friendly haunted house. Most obviously, singer and lyricist Rosie Cuckston (she who used to mount her keyboard on an ironing board at concerts) is absent, having moved on into academia and a more direct form of the social activism which the band’s eclectic inclusiveness and tendency to take philosophical side roads only hinted. That said, the rest of the band’s original creative core (multi-instrumentalists Matt Eaton, Sam Owen and Max Simpson) are all present, having spent the interim years of Pram downtime working with wonky loops as Two Dogs, creating film and theatre sound and making sonic art out of books with the Sound Book Project.

This also isn’t the first time that the post-Rosie Pram’s reappeared. Earlier in May they made an appearance at Imaginary Musics in Switzerland, playing a “music for Kopfkino” audio-visual set in a festival dedicated to “cinematic, recomposed and fictional musics”, and it seems as if losing Rosie’s quiet reflective voice and cocooned lyrics has shifted them further over into the areas suggested by Matt’s sound design and by Sam and Max’s live sound art. On-spec, it seems as if they’ve succeeded in becoming a kind of “post-band”, with a foot in their old live work, song-structures and performance coherence, but leaning towards something far more abstract and ego-free. ‘Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough’ sounds as if it will be something fascinating to be immersed in – an urban psychedelic afternoon stroll with the family, an aural refraction of Birmingham through leaves, greenery and company.

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Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade, 3rd June 2017

Zarjaz Baby + Jon Slade
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Saturday 3rd June 2017, 7.00pm
information

“An existentialist extravaganza featuring a solo acoustic set from Zarjaz Baby (Freakapuss and former Tronics). Zarjaz will be performing dark atmospheric songs, full of imagery, with jazz, blues, early ’60s beat and pop influences, with live performance artists, in a style not seen since the basement and candles days of Beatniks.

“Also featured on the night is a solo acoustic Love-Rock revival set from Jon Slade/Knight Of The Comet, incorporating songs from his former bands Huggy Bear and Comet Gain, plus a Fire Department number, some Electric Bull re-workings, as well as songs he wrote with Wolfy Jones.


 
“’60s European pop music in between sets, Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Gillian Hills. Expect sombre girls dressed in black and boys in Breton shirts.”

For more information contact incoming@freakapuss.com

For more on Zarjaz’s chequered life and career, have a read of this interview he did with ‘The Quietus’ three years ago, featuring accounts of brushes with mental illness, of releasing surreal post-punk songs with titles like Shark Fucks, of arguing with ‘2000AD’ over his stage name, and of having his image ripped off by Sigue Sigue Sputnik.


 
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Arthur Russell: 'Calling Out Of Context', 7th June 2017

XOYO Live and Milestones present:
‘Arthur Russell – A Classic Reinterpreted’
XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, St Lukes, London, EC2A 4AP, England
Wednesday 7th June 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“It’s been said that “Arthur’s songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.”

“Twenty-five years after Arthur Russell‘s death, some of the most exciting, forward-thinking faces in music are set to present a unique rendition of Arthur Russell’s timeless album ‘Calling Out Of Context’. A posthumous album that brought together twelve incredible tracks from across two previously unreleased LPs, ‘Calling Out Of Context’ represents Arthur in his prime. Two decades later and the music sounds as contemporary as ever – a huge inspiration for those performing on the night. We’re very excited to hear this new rendition.”

Bringing together elements of electropop, classical minimalism, post-disco, hip hop and singer-songwriter work, the ‘Calling Out Of Context’ songs span twenty years of Arthur’s composing and creative history while he was battling to fuse the parallel New York worlds of dance culture and art music between the late ’70s and the early ’90s – a pioneer of the freewheeling musical eclectism which today we pretty much take for granted. Take a look at this salvaged 1987 interview feature from the ‘Melody Maker’ for more on the topic, featuring reflections from Arthur and others on Indian music, the pulse shared by formal minimalism and New York dance clubs, and the social and cultural challenges of the time regarding blending “high” and “low” cultures.

The band for this London performance consists of Ashley Henry (keyboards), Midori Jaeger (cello), Alica Higgins (vocals), Sam Gardner (drums) and Joe Downard (bass).


 

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

26 Nov

Two London jazz-hops for Monday…

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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


 

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