Tag Archives: Steve Lawson

November 2017 – London and Birmingham instrumental giggery – Kabantu at 1901 Club (16th); Alex Roth double bill playing with Future Current and scoring Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ for Olie Brice & Ruth Goller (17th); Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett at Tower of Song (19th)

9 Nov

A quick sweep through three diverse mid-month gigs in London and Birmingham, covering duets of loop-bass and trumpet, some global acoustic fusion, and a double-bill of experimental guitar trio plus double-bass-accompanied dance piece…

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Kabantu, 16th November 2017

Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Kabantu
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Reinventing global sounds, rewriting the rulebook – winners of the Royal Over-Seas League Competition 2017, Kabantu (meaning “of the people”), is a five-piece hailing from Manchester who unravel new marriages of music from around the globe to celebrate the space where different cultures meet. Formed in 2014 at the Royal Northern College of Music and combining the virtuosity of classical training with the opportunity to explore music from around the world, Kabantu musically reflect their interest in global cultures, arrangement and improvisation.

“The instrumentation comprises violin (Katie Foster), cello (Abel Selaocoe), guitar (Ben Sayah), double bass (Ali McMath) and percussion (Delia Stevens). Vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond. Kabantu use music to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful sound. They have just recorded their debut album with Mercury-nominated producer Gerry Diver and very much look forward to releasing it alongside a UK-wide launch tour in February 2018.

“The programme will include Scotland/Good Call (a set of two tunes, one penned by the group’s Edinburgh-born violinist Katie Foster and one traditional, fused with Kabantu’s take on Scottish music, including bowed banjo woven with intricate rhythmic decoration) and Ulidzele (a traditional song brought to Kabantu by their South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, using a blend of African vocal harmonies preceded by vibrant chanting and percussion to tell the story of a funeral celebrating a life, rather than mourning it.”



 
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London Jazz Festival presents:
Kasia Witek’s ‘One Wall of Me’ (featuring Olie Brice & Ruth Goller playing music by Alex Roth) + Future Currents
Jazz Cafe POSK @ POSK (Polish Social & Cultural Association), 238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 0RF, England
Friday 17th November 2017, 7.30pm
information

Kasia Witek/Future Currents, 17th November 2017“Conceived specifically for a new company of three dancers and two musicians, Kasia Witek‘s new performance piece ‘One Wall of Me’ investigates and celebrates the intelligence of the body. Through the practice of embodied awareness, the performers awaken a sense of belonging, togetherness, and joy. Watch and listen as the meditation on endless interconnectivity unfolds before you.

“An original score by award-winning composer/improviser Alex Roth, drawing on the deep sonorities and physicality of double bass (played live by renowned improvisers and “double double bass team” Olie Brice and Ruth Goller), provides an integral counterpoint to Kasia’s highly physical choreography, danced by Elisa Vassena, Stella Papi and Tora Hed.

Future Currents is an electric guitar ensemble formed by Alex Roth to explore the full range of the instrument’s sonic potential. Bringing together three of the UK’s most acclaimed improvising guitarists, (Alex, Chris Montague and Chris Sharkey, who between them are members of Troyka, Sephiroth, trioVD, Otriad and Blue-Eyed Hawk), the group creates new music of extremes, informed as much by composers like Morton Feldman, Frank Zappa, Olivier Messiaen and Richard D James as by pioneering guitarists such as Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Marc Ducret and Bill Frisell.”


 

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Steve Lawson & Brian Corbett, 19th November 2017

Steve Lawson with Bryan Corbett
Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England
Sunday 19th November 2017, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here

Back at Tower Of Song in Birmingham, bass guitarist, loop musician and ToS/’Misfit City’ regular Steve Lawson embarks on a launch gig for his latest album ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’.

The sunny title may seem to counterpoint Steve’s recent set of more sombre-toned releases such as ‘If They Had Won’ and ‘Referendum’, mourning the enmity, deprival and confusion of Brexit and the austerity age (as well as providing a restful break before he reimmerses himself in the polemical communitarian thrash/protest metal of Torycore later in the month). However, it seems that the music is more of an extension of the work on his last full album ‘The Surrender Of Time’ (“dark, dissonant layers of sound coupled with glitchy, wonky hip-hop beats and odd time-signature chance-based loops that bring an even more complex set of relationships between the various layers at work”).

The title itself is a quote from and tribute to the late arts producer Roanne Dods (of the Jerwood Foundation and Small Is Beautiful) whom Steve describes as “one of the most relentlessly encouraging people I’ve ever come across… she brought a sense of possibility to every conversation, and alongside that was so, so good at actually making things happen, at organising and pulling together teams to make sure that those ideas, that impetus and all that amazing encouragement came to fruition. I think about her pretty much every day, as I do things that she encouraged me to do, as I reach to be the best that I can be in every area of my life, and pass on that encouragement to others.”

Joining Steve at Tower of Song is “one of my most favourite collaborators ever as special guest – Bryan Corbett on trumpet. Bryan is one of the most brilliant improvisors I’ve ever worked with – he has an otherworldly ability to arrange and orchestrate his sounds on the fly, using subtle effects and exemplary technique to lift everything he plays on to a higher level. It’s been way too long since we last played together, and this will be our first ever duo gig.”

The eticket deal includes a free download of If They Had Won (one of the tracks from ‘PS, You Are Brilliant’). Have an advance listen to it here…


 

October/November 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – post-various loops and shades from Rothko, Yellow6 and Darkroom (12th October); Moondog For Gamelan plus Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba duo (28th October); Steel Pan Fusion plays Philip Glass (23rd November)

4 Oct

Several longstanding Misfit City experimental favourites (all veterans of the liminal cross-encroachments between British post-rock, noise and electronic explorations during the 1990s) feature in a mid-month triple bill of shifting noise, words and melodies down at IKLECTIK.

Champion Version presents:
Edition 1: Rothko + Yellow6 + Darkroom
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 12th October 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Champion Versions Edition 1, 12th October 2017Though they’ve passed through a shifting variety of lineups and different instrumentation, Rothko are based around a single constant: Mark Beazley’s resonant post-industrial bass guitar, which speaks stern granite-y notes and impressionistic chthonic drones and blurs, sketching and deepen evocatic musical landscapes from unyielding post-punk city visions to soft-edged post-rock hillscapes.

On this occasion they’re appearing in an expanded version of the beautifully bleak words-and-shades trio last mentioned in ‘Misfit City’ just under a year ago (in which Mark was joined by recitateur Johnny Brown from Band of Holy Joy, and by Inga Tillere on projected visuals). In place for tonight’s show is a fourth member – Mark’s Low Bias colleague Graham Dowdall (a.k.a. Gagarin), whose synth wizardry’s brought him into collaboration with Pere Ubu, Suns of Arqa, Roshi and no less than two former Velvet Undergroundeers (Nico and John Cale).


 
Intermittent and elusive, yet steadily prolific, Jon Attwood’s solo guitar project Yellow6 has links with the undersung east London post-rock scene of the 1990s (which also spawned A.R. Kane, Disco Inferno, Moonshake and Bark Psychosis (BP’s drummer Mark Hartnett would later put in a Yellow6 stint). Moving away from his initial goth and anarcho-punk roots (tempered with soul), Jon was drawn into the world of minimalism, repetition and reverbed/distorted drone loops. Shaped equally by Jon’s natural humility and his “obsessive need to create” toward an artistic peak he’s not yet reached, Yellow6 has produced over fifty releases with results variously described as “gentle shape-shifting misery” and “beautiful, shimmering and blissful”.


 
With roots in Cambridge science culture, propulsive and unorthodox ambient duo Darkroom initially found their feet in the fertile 1990s ferment surrounding art-poppers No-Man (initially sporting the latter’s singer Tim Bowness as a member, and providing that particular scene’s experimental edge alongside Steven Wilson’s electrodrones as Bass Communion). Since then, like a wide-orbiting comet, synthworker Os and guitarist Michael Bearpark have forged their own idiosyncratic path in and out of various drone, loop, texture and improv clusters, as well as becoming in-house soundtrackers for brain investigations at the Hub. Moving on from their earlier minglings of boiling starstuff, ambient techno and gasping tidal experimental textures, their more recent music is moody, beating improvised electronica increasingly shaped by Mike and Os’ rediscovery of attenuated blues tones, troubled elongated Neil Young guitar churns and dark bass clarinet voicings. For more assorted ‘Misfit City’ froth and musings on Darkroom, click here. Less celebrated than their gigmates, they’ll be opening the show. They could just as well be closing it.


 
This concert has been set up by boutique vinyl art-music label Champion Version, who’ll have one of their limited-edition vinyl EP featuring all three acts available on the night.

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Towards the end of the month, there’s an intriguing reconnection between late twentieth-century New York and the Indonesian form which inspired so much of it…

Moondog Gamelan, 28th October 2017
Europalia Arts Festival Indonesia presents:
Iwan Gunawan & Stefan Lakatos’ ‘Moondog For Gamelan’ + Steve Lawson/Corey Mwamba
LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, St Luke’s, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 28th October 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Few musicians are the source of as much intrigue as Moondog. A blind man from Kansas transplanted to New York City, he dressed as a Viking and chose to live on the streets. His compositions reflect his experiences of hearing his way through the city – motifs borrowed from Jazz, Classical and Native American music unwind over the constant beating of a tom-tom drum, like the thumping of a subway train. Occasionally field recordings of traffic noise or crying babies sneak in, as if leaking through an open window. It’s the sound of a city, the sound of a wealth disparate parts coming together to create a complex whole – a kind of urban gamelan.

“For this concert, Moondog’s output is literally reimagined as gamelan by Iwan Gunawan (a reknowned contemporary Javanese gamelan composer known for combining the tradition with the use of electronics and computers) and Moondog’s friend and pupil Stefan Lakatos (who performs using a homemade percussion instrument given to him by the composer himself). Featuring instruments built especially for the occasion, this performance takes gamelan out of its traditional context, taking on Moondog’s experimental yet optimistic compositions. Almost minimalist in its construction – indeed, Moondog alleged that Phillip Glass once called him the “father of minimalism” – the influential outsider musician’s melodies resonate amid the controlled chaos of gamelan.”


 

In support, there’s a duo performance by another ‘Misfit City’ favourite – bass guitar looper Steve Lawson and experimental vibraphonist Corey Mwamba. Collaborators for at least a decade, they’re a pair of accessible yet stubborn musicians creating their own long-distance version of village music on the outskirts of the music business. Recorded/filmed evidence of what they do is surprisingly thin on the ground (I can’t find any) so you’ll have to go on word-of-mouth info about their past gigs. Expect some aspects taken from jazz and fed through sundry loops, delays and perky processors, but don’t expect them to be confined by that – their musical minds stretch from contemporary classical and process music to goofy tunes, and their textural tastes from lowdown murmur to ear-piercing noise. A big bucket to dip into.

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While we’re still on the topic of New York minimalism and Philip Glass, look out next month for what sounds like it’ll be an enthralling conjunction of Big Apple pulse and Caribbean tonal warmth…

Steel Pan Fusion Play Philip Glass, 23rd November 2017

‘Steel Pan Fusion Plays Philip Glass’
The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7PG, England
Thursday 23rd November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“One of the most influential and important composers of the twentieth century, Philip Glass is a pioneer of minimalist music alongside fellow luminaries Steve Reich and Terry Riley. With a body of work that stretches beyond contemporary classical music into film scores, operas and more, the source material is rich for reinterpretation. We have commissioned London based ensemble Steel Pan Fusion to perform a selection of works from Glass’ extensive repertoire, from his peerless ‘Glassworks’ to the soundtrack for ‘The Truman Show’.”



 

May 2017 – upcoming English gigs by or with Steve Lawson – Neil Murray masterclass + Steve’s Ley Lines trio in Kidderminster (May 2nd); Steve plays with Robert Logan (plus Surjit Sembi-Harding, Daniel Brooks and Dan Rogerson) in London (May 13th); Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu trio in Birmingham (May 14th)

22 Apr

Ever-gregarious solo bassist Steve Lawson (who’s been having a pretty busy spring already, with his earlier Birmingham Bass Night and a couple of new albums ready to go) has put out news of three further upcoming live appearances in England as solo player and collaborator. Collectively, they run the familiar Lawson gamut of jazz, ambient fusion, electronica, work with singer-songwriters… and plenty of talking.

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First up is a combined gig, masterclass and interview (with Steve on the interviewer end of the mic…)

Neil Murray masterclass + Ley Lines, 2nd May 2017

“Kidderminster College presents a masterclass with bass legend Neil Murray! Neil’s career is woven into the history of British rock, including his time as bassist for Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore & Brian May. His influential style helped shape the evolution of hard rock from the jazz rock crossover of the 70s in bands like Colosseum II through to Whitesnake’s era-defining ‘1987’ global smash. Neil will talk with Steve Lawson about his career, demonstrate some of the lines that made him one of the most sought-after bassists in the country, and share advice from his life in music.

“The second half of the evening will be a performance by Ley Lines – Steve Lawson, Andy Edwards and Phi Yaan-Zek are the bass/drums/guitar teachers at Kidderminster College, and have released two critically acclaimed albums as a trio. This is their long-awaited live debut outside of the college, and promises to be an enthralling high energy set of improvised music crossing many styles and sounds!”


 
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The Waiting, 13th May 2017

Steve continues:

“May 13th at The Waiting, in Hounslow will be a solo gig and a collaboration with synth genius Robert Logan – Robert and I have been talking about collaborating for a long time. I’m a huge fan of his solo work, and am really looking forward to seeing what we come up with!”

For those of you who aren’t immediately familiar with Robert, he’s a pretty outstanding talent in electronic music. Like many in the field, he earns much of his living from drama or documentary soundtracks (the kind after which you squint eagerly at rapidly scrolling credits. keen to catch the name of whoever’s responsible for the arresting background sounds) but he’s also made a backroom wizard’s name for himself via beats and texture work for the likes of Brigitte Fontaine, Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards and in particular Grace Jones’s ‘Hurricane’, as well as collaborations with Steve Roach and Raf & O.

Four albums into a parallel solo career (which began with 2007’s ‘Cognessence’, recorded while he was still a teenager), Robert’s music displays a startling mastery of broad and exciting strands, going from dubstep, techno thud and ocean-pop ambience to twisted beats, atonal arpeggiations and dark ambience via experiments with banjo and pocket trumpet tracks; plus a magisterial atmospheric and heft of intent drawing from reconstructed classical music.


 
As regards the host event, The Waiting is a monthly gig at Maswell Park Church, boasting particularly full evening bills with a Christian slant (if not necessarily in terms of lyrical fervency, at least in terms of the faith and society which drives and shapes the musicians). On the 13th, in addition to Steve and Robert’s contributions, there will be appearances by Surjit Sembi Harding (frontman with Chiswick pop band Under Control, currently leading his own Surj project) and by Daniel Brooks, a onetime Robert Logan production client who divides his own work between quizzical electro-pop (exemplified by the ‘Toys’ track below), grand digital popscapes and electronic atmospheres. Both men are sometime worship leaders, bringing some of those skills to their pop fronting and songwriting voices; and while it’s true that Christian pop can sometimes be a refuge for simpering blandness, neither Surjit nor Daniel subscribe to this, both being several cuts above.



 
Surjit’s Under Control bandmate Daniel Rogerson will also be on hand for a solo guitar set, plus there’s a two-hour open mic session before the gig for anyone who wants to try their luck.

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Back to Steve for word on the final May show:

Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu, 14th May 2017

“May 14th is a really special gig at Tower Of Song, with two of my favourite collaborators ever. Mike Outram (guitar) and Emre Ramazanoglu (drums) are true geniuses on their instruments – Mike and I recorded ‘Invenzioni’ back in 2010 but never played live. Emre and I met as part of a studio experimentation with Beardyman almost exactly a year ago. We played live in London last September and are really looking forward to playing again, and recording it properly for a live release.”

Here’s a trim of what I wrote last time the trio stepped out:

“Possessed of a boisterously convivial and adventurous set of guitar tones (as well as a spontaneous but eminently accessible creativity), Mike Outram is one of a number of contemporary electric guitarists who define themselves via the act of music rather than the reinforcement of genre. Although jazz enthusiasts will rightly admire him for his work with Nikki Iles, Tim Garland, Theo Travis’s Double Talk and Billy Bottle & The Multiple, Mike learns from and adds to whichever situation or artist he works with outside of jazz, be it soul pop with Carleen Anderson, latterday prog fusion with Steven Wilson or the classical/soundtrack work of composer Laura Rossi…. A committed solo performer since 2000, dedicated to presenting bass guitar as a standalone instrument, Steve has also been an enthusiastic and garrulous collaborator. His conversational fretless bass tones, Kaoss Pad rhythmic experiments and panoramic swathing loopscapes have meshed with a wide variety of partners from pianists, saxophonists, singers and drummers to electric kora players and a range of other amenable solo bassists. His own relaxed attitude to genre has resulted in a musical voice which strolls from place to place, touching on points from smooth-hipped jazz to art-rock, slick pop to noisy improv, dance electronica to ambient-aquatic sound painting, but never being tied down to any of them…. Emre Ramazanoglu, a multi-genre drummer, programmer, writer and producer… generally works (semi-invisibly) behind the scenes in the music industry, at the points where high-level musical chops, cunning production ideas and rapidly-evolving technology mesh with contemporary pop music production and bespoke event soundtracks. In between the demands of catwalk and chart, he fits in more esoteric, less overtly commercial work such as writing and shaping new records for reggae stalwarts Trojan, playing the Adrian Sherwood/remixological role on Martin France’s Spin Marvel jazztronica project, and co-running quirky sound design outfit Rattly’n’Raw.”

And here’s some of what they played on the night:



 
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Details on all three gigs below:

  • Neil Murray masterclass + Ley Lines – Worley’s @ The Swan, 56 High St, Stourport-On-Severn, DY13 8BX Tuesday 2nd May 2017, 7.00pm – free event – information
  • Steve Lawson + Surjit Sembi-Harding + Daniel Brooks + Robert Logan (& guests) + Dan Rogerson – The Waiting @ Maswell Park Church, corner of Heath Road and Inwood Road, Hounslow, London, TW3 1XN, England, Saturday 13th May 2017, 7.00pm (open mic from 5.00pm)information
  • Steve Lawson/Mike Outram/Emre Ramazanoglu – Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England, Sunday 14th May 2017, 7.00pminformation

 

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

9 Apr

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

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

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

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


 
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Birmingham Bass Night, 23rd April 2017

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

Xposed Club, 24th April 2017

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

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

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

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


 

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

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


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


 

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


 

September 2016 – upcoming jazz-ish gigs – Mike Outram Trio in London (7th); Steve Lawson album launch in Birmingham (11th)

29 Aug

A couple of imminent shows in or around jazz (and in or around London and Birmingham)…

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Way Out West presents:
The Mike Outram Trio
The Bull’s Head, 373 Lonsdale Road, Barnes, London, SW13 9PY, England
Wednesday 7th September 2016, 8.30pm
information

Possessed of a boisterously convivial and adventurous set of guitar tones (as well as a spontaneous but eminently accessible creativity), Mike Outram is one of a number of contemporary electric guitarists who define themselves via the act of music rather than the reinforcement of genre. Although jazz enthusiasts will rightly admire him for his work with Nikki Iles, Tim Garland, Theo Travis’s Double Talk and Billy Bottle & The Multiple, Mike learns from and adds to whichever situation or artist he works with outside of jazz, be it soul pop with Carleen Anderson, latterday prog fusion with Steven Wilson or the classical/soundtrack work of composer Laura Rossi. As well as pursuing a serious, thoughtful sideline in bass guitar playing – something which he’s come to take as seriously as his guitar work – Mike’s a teaching professor at several eminent colleges, and the instigator of Electric Campfire, an online music course which has rapidly billowed into a musical community in its own right.

Though this gig is billed as being Mike’s trio, it actually stems from a partnership of equals, and predominantly from a 2010 album called ‘Invenzioni’, a set of improvised duets between Mike and eclectic alt.fusion bassist Steve Lawson. A committed solo performer since 2000, dedicated to presenting bass guitar as a standalone instrument, Steve has also been an enthusiastic and garrulous collaborator. His conversational fretless bass tones, Kaoss Pad rhythmic experiments and panoramic swathing loopscapes have meshed with a wide variety of partners from pianists, saxophonists, singers and drummers to electric kora players and a range of other amenable solo bassists. His own relaxed attitude to genre has resulted in a musical voice which strolls from place to place, touching on points from smooth-hipped jazz to art-rock, slick pop to noisy improv, dance electronica to ambient-aquatic sound painting, but never being tied down to any of them.

The final member of the trio is Emre Ramazanoglu, a multi-genre drummer, programmer, writer and producer who generally works (semi-invisibly) behind the scenes in the music industry, at the points where high-level musical chops, cunning production ideas and rapidly-evolving technology mesh with contemporary pop music production and bespoke event soundtracks. In between the demands of catwalk and chart, he fits in more esoteric, less overtly commercial work such as writing and shaping new records for reggae stalwarts Trojan, playing the Adrian Sherwood/remixological role on Martin France’s Spin Marvel jazztronica project, and co-running quirky sound design outfit Rattly’n’Raw. However, Emre originally came to London as a highly skilled jobbing drummer, and this gig gives him the opportunity to work with his original talents (although you can also expect him to blend in something of what he’s learned since that time, and probably to come armed to the teeth with portable rhythm and sound-shaping technology).


 
You can hear the basis of this particular strand of music – albeit minus Emre’s drumming – on the five tracks of ‘Invenzione’, in which Mike and Steve float thoughtfully down a stream of jazz-tinted ambient invention (echoing at points David Torn, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck and perhaps a little Sonny Sharrock or Bill Frisell, but most often themselves) carrying out a loose, gently shaped conversation like two old buddies. I’m guessing that throwing Emre into the mix will probably pick up the relaxed rhythmic threads of this project, jerk them taut, and reign them back towards a purer jazz pulse; or something more along the lines of Mike’s skitter post-jazz-rock improv trio Snow Giants. The trio promise “an evening of world-class improvised music”: judging by the personalities involved, it’ll probably be laced with bonhomie, humour, informality and a general sense of being off the leash while not being too precious about it.

* * * * * * * *

A few nights later, Steve Lawson will be throwing an album launch show in his adopted hometown of Birmingham (and his adopted home venue Tower Of Song), and everyone’s invited.

Steve Lawson & guests
Tower of Song, 107 Pershore Road South, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30 3EL, England
Sunday 11th September 2016, 8.00pm
information

The album in question is ‘The Surrender Of Time’ – Steve’s fifteenth work of bass, loops and effects, and his second of 2016 (following this summer’s defiant, sometimes heartbroken album of instrumental reflections on the EU referendum). Out on September 5th, early copies of ‘The Surrender Of Time’ will come with a download of a side project, a single twenty-two minute track called Colony Collapse Disorder, Judging by the ‘Surrender Of Time’ excerpt below, Steve’s music is getting ever more unclassifiable at the edges: in this case glitchier, his bass shrouded and layered with drum effects and hard-rock distortions, with elements of experimental techno pulled apart and deliquesced by his jazz instincts.


 
You could read various things into this, including Steve’s increasing and frequently voiced disquiet at the fissile, wasteful and irrational state of the world (away from his bass, and frequently while still holding it, he’s a broad and assertive social media commentator, a vocal soapboxer and an outspoken humanitarian). Given that Colony Collapse Disorder is named after an inexplicable disintegration of bee colonies (and is variously and speculatively blamed on various causes including long-term pesticide effects, habitat destruction or ill-advised changes in beekeeping practises) you could see some of this recent work as moving into angrier, more sorrowful metaphors. But I’m speculating – and you certainly shouldn’t attend the gig expecting to see a man collapsed and sobbing over his pedalboard. Judging by the tone of most Lawson gigs, this will be puckish, celebratory, familial and musically immersive: and, at root, based around shareable melodies.


 
Steve promises “a fun night, plenty of hang time, maybe a special guest or two.” I reckon that it’s a pretty safe bet that his singer-songwriter wife Lobelia Lawson will be among the latter, but since Steve’s address book and musical dance-partner card stretches across a wide range of people from Michael Manring to Kristin Hersh via Cleveland Watkiss, Jon Thorne, Theo Travis and Daniel Berkman (and since he’s generally happy to play alongside whichever instrument and musician comes onstage with sufficient skill plus an open mind), expect anything.


 

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.


 

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